I’m standing outside a smart house just off Wimpole Street, round the corner from Harley Street. I check the number again. There’s no sign, not even a discrete brass plaque. I press the intercom.
‘Hello,’ says the tinny voice.
‘Er, is this Inner Sound? ‘
Warm and fuzzy, huh? Well two can play at that game.
I walk in, footsteps echoing. It’s like the Marie Celeste. Wend my way up the stairs and finally see someone, a youngish man at a desk. I walk over, say hello and stick out my hand. He shakes it half-heartedly, looking pointedly at my feet.
‘Could you change out of your boots please? There are slippers out there.’ He points back the way I came. ‘Er, sure…’ I wander back and see there’s a (small) sign instructing the shift. It isn’t the best of starts and the guy behind the desk really definitely doesn't get my inner sounds humming happily.
This is the Inner Sound Foundation and I’m here to check out a Qi treatment. Apparently it’s an ancient Korean technique in which the ‘Master’ presses acupressure points in your body while using a breathing technique to transmit energy via sound. It has good results, I’m told, with all manner of ailments, including insomnia, arthritis, stress, back pain, ME (have you noticed how it's okay to call it ME again?) and intolerances. Intolerances eh? I have a few of those.
I’m given a form to fill in and offered tea, juice or water…there’s lots of fruit everywhere too. It's all very...abundant. But I’m still not feeling the love.
Then Master Kim comes out to fetch me. She could be any age, wearing a long blue skirt and a gleaming white linen shirt. Her room is all very girly, with pink cushions and embroidered coasters but my eye keeps getting drawn to the large box of tissues in a frilly lacey case that puts me in mind of Aunty Dot’s loo roll holder.
‘Do people cry?’ I say, eyeing the frills.
‘Oh yes,’ she beams. ‘Lots.’
We sit down (her on a chair, me on the sofa next to the frilly tissues) and she shuts her eyes. She looks pained. Actually she looks in severe pain. She yawns. She swallows. She twitches. And then she burps loudly.
‘This is quite serious,’ she says, shaking her head at me. I feel an overwhelming urge to apologise. I’ve made this serene erstwhile smiling woman burp in anguish. Her eyes shut and off we go again. Sigh. Yawn. Swallow. Twitch. Burp. Very loudly.
Turns out I’m a bad case of appallingly low energy. Eyes, liver, kidneys, digestion – all screwed basically. But why, I ask?
She smiles pityingly. ‘Emotional pain. Deep emotional pain.’
Then I’m on the couch, fully clothed for once. Does that make it any less intense? Er, no. She starts on my stomach and, eee, aaaa, ooooo, uuuuughghghgh. That HURTS. She prods deep into the area around my navel and her burping and yawning intensifies. I, meanwhile, am fighting a strong urge to fart in a companionable way – a kind of symphony of body noises? As if reading my mind, she ups the ante and goes in for some deep throat retching, like a cat coughing up a hair ball. I clench my buttocks and keep quiet. I made a woman retch?? She moves all over my body – it’s a firm but (apart from the stomach bit) not painful touch, an insistent rubbing and pushing, all accompanied by a whooshing sound that comes from her stomach.
Treatments are usually swift – usually around 15 minutes – but this seems to be going on for a long, long time. Is time stretching? But when I check my watch I see an hour has passed. I’m obviously a really serious case. Oh dear indeed.
She explains that my vital energy is so low that I cannot digest food properly. It will also affect my sleep, my concentration and my sense of emotional peace.
‘Are you cold?’ she asks. Er, is the pope Catholic? I nod meekly.
‘Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear.’
She gazes at me and I feel like a six year old. ‘You’re very lovely,’ she says, by way of a consolation prize. ‘Very lovely. Just so so tired. What is your nationality?’
Huh? That came out of left-field. ‘Er, sort of English I suppose.’
‘Er, why? What did you think I was?’
‘Well, the Irish are very friendly people.’
This is becoming more blissfully weird by the moment. I ask her what I need to do to stop being so tired and Irish.
‘More treatment,’ she says firmly. ‘I can’t recharge your battery in just one session.’
I resist the urge to burp in agreement.
PS - thanks to Anonymous for posting a link to this report on InnerSound (formerly Ki Health), claiming that it had brain-washed people into handing over huge sums of money. That kinda explains a lot.