The Teal Swan Synchronization Workshop at Baruch Center for the Arts on March 5th opened with a musician playing Crystal Singing Bowls. He looked a bit like Jesus as he circled the bowls with his strikers.
The stage was flanked by red velvet curtains, ornate wood carvings and an inscription that read, "He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul. He that keepeth understanding shall find good."
About four hundred people sat in the 626 seat tiered Masonic Hall. Most of them were in their twenties, with only a few older people, and even fewer people of color.
We'll be doing some exercises to dive deep into our shadows, the emcee said.
My daughter grinned at me, knowing that this was exactly what I didn't want to do.
Leave your expectations of what a spiritual healer is at the door, the emcee said.
I had tried to listen to Teal Swan's videos a couple of times, but on both occasions slipped out of the room feeling less happy than before as she listed all the many failings of mankind, parents, and me.
Teal Swan's method of healing focuses on accepting all emotions as a part of our reality, and in particular delving deep into our negative or shadow emotions with the intention of accepting them, or transforming their origin in our minds. Teal Swan has created a "Completion Process" to help people do this. She has a cult following of people who call themselves Teal Tribers, and she encouraged them to seek each other out for support.
Swan entered the room amidst cheering, a slender, water-like figure dressed in a sleeveless white silk pants suit, her expressive tattooed arms gesturing to lower the applause. She opened her workshop with a statement about how shame is the major obstacle to loving relationships. Then she demonstrated a "shame ping pong match" in which she and a man traded shaming statements until one of them left.
Leaving is the ultimate shaming statement, Teal said. It's saying you're not even worthy enough for me to stay in the room with you.
After the first group exercise in which we shared about shaming experiences in groups of three, Teal began the main part of the workshop, which was calling people up from the audience to ask questions. Each person would be given half an hour, after which time the emcee would sit in the chair beside them like a shadow, indicating it was time for them to leave.
Four rows back, bald, maybe something blue around your neck, Teal said, holding her hand towards the center of the room. The man walked up to the red chair beside Teal's padded green armchair.
I want to know about my gift to the world, he said.
How does an ant get to another continent? Teal asked. An ant doesn't have the concept of how it can reach another continent. But airplanes are a concept to us, so for humans, getting an ant to another continent is easy.
The next woman joined Teal on stage.
You had a parent who was humbling, Teal said. You learned that the only way to feel good is to feel bad about yourself. Feeling good makes me a bad person. Abuse is so painful, we become our own abusers so it's predictable. It's the ultimate white flag.
The woman looked as if she was searching for a way to compute this new understanding of herself.
I'd have a much bigger audience if I healed people, Teal said, which I'm perfectly capable of doing. I could heal everyone in this audience. But they'd only remain well for a number of days before the patterns recreated the illness. Energy works only in tandem with emotions.
The next person to sit with Teal was a woman who worked in a juvenile detention center. I noticed the security guard in a suit chewing gum on the side. I wondered what he was thinking about all this.
I never tell people their purpose, Teal said. But I'm going to break the mold with you. Your purpose is to open a center. It will be a franchise.
The audience applauded.
You will never be comfortable in your current situation, Teal said, but you will learn from it how the system functions.
The next person was called to the stage.
I don't know my purpose, she said.
What if your purpose is to be okay with what is, Teal said. This entire time space reality has been running on desire. The Universe wants to know about the possibilities outside of desire.
The girl looked close to tears.
What if I hate what is? she asked. What if I can't like it?
Why is that so difficult for you, Teal asked, to just be okay with what is. One day I went out to sit on a park bench in a place where there was a lot of suffering and a lot of homeless people. It was uncomfortable for me because I hate littering, and there was a lot of litter. I focused on a cigarette butt and tried to see something positive about it, and I realized it could provide a moment of relief to someone in pain. Then I tried to look beyond what I knew about the cigarette butt and see it as an object. There's a scene in American Beauty where the boy is just looking at a plastic bag blowing in the wind. I looked at the way the cigarette butt was rolling in the wind, and I saw it as something that had given its life unconditionally.
Thoughts are matched with thoughts. I really want to explain how thoughts work to you guys.
Question this thought: There's no purpose to life if nothing is changing, if it's not going anywhere. Can you prove this?
Buddha discovered beingness and said that doing was a distraction.
The girl looked devastated.
So this is not the ultimate purpose, right? she asked
If someone asks me what their purpose is, Teal said, the chance of them finding out is slim to none.
There is no wonderful moment without a crisis. What if someone had an accident and broke every bone in his body and spent six months in rehab, but out of that discovered his purpose of being a physical therapist. You're sitting there saying my life is a piece of shit. I'm saying you're literally on your path. Make a journal of loving what is. The entire audience, in holding on to their desperation to fix it, is holding on to the problem.
The emcee came up and said, We all parade around up here like we're perfect but sometimes I feel like I'm a technicolor broken mosquito.
After the break the next person came to the chair. The security guard was now sitting with the emcee, looking fully involved.
Why is it so difficult to feel loved? the girl asked.
You weren't loved by the people who were supposed to love you the most, Teal said, so how can you trust anyone else to? You need to be doing trauma work.
I don't want to work 9-5, the girl said. I want to stay in bed all day.
Teal suggested various possibilities for work that might fit the girl's requirements but her expression indicated that she literally meant she wanted to stay in bed.
Third row, man with facial hair, Teal indicated for the next speaker.
The man said that his wife felt lonely and Teal asked his wife to join him on the stage.
I know it's my fault, the wife said. I'm trying to get used to being all right by myself.
I don't agree with that at all, Teal said. You will never feel all right without him, and the only time you will try to feel all right without him is when you feel hurt by his lack of presence.
Husbands, never stop pursuing your wives.
The audience applauded this.
No woman wants to ask a man for attention, Teal said, or stand between a man and what he wants. When a man wants a woman, he has this intense focus. He finds out everything about her and what she likes. The woman buys into that. That is what she agreed to when she agreed to marry you. But you're already onto the next thing, and now you're focusing on whatever creative pursuit you have. You don't have to be with her all the time. But put aside a time every day, even an hour, when you are fully focused on her.
The man took his wife's hand.
Men in the audience, Teal said, if you want to find the craziest, most off balance woman, just give her all your attention and take it away. If you want a woman who says you can do whatever you want, be truly intimate with her.
Intimacy. In to me see.
The closer you get to someone the more secure they are, and the more autonomy they can handle.
One of the final speakers was a masseur who wanted to be a father. But he wanted to do it the "messy" way, with a friend rather than with an unknown surrogate because he wanted his child to know its mother.
How many people here had a mother who was a nightmare, Teal asked the audience.
About three quarters of the audience raised their hands. I looked at my daughter beside me, and thankfully she wasn't among them.
You don't come to a workshop like this unless you have suffered trauma. How many are here to heal from the damage their mothers did?
Again about three quarters of the audience raised their hands. I started to feel very uncomfortable.
The masseur had a pain in his hand, and he asked Teal to look at it. She held his hand, and I hoped that I might see evidence of her healing powers in action. She told him the problem was in his elbow and that an acupuncturist could easily resolve the issue. She also told him that he didn't like being a masseur, although he claimed that he loved it. Teal led the main through a guided exploration of this.
Tap into the part of you that doesn't like doing massage, she said. How do you feel?
Tired, he said.
Good, she said. You're tired of reaching out to people without anyone reaching back in return. Now think about how you feel when you're going to give a massage.
Relaxed, he said.
Really? From this side of yourself that doesn't like massage. How do you really feel?
Secure, he said.
It's a transaction, she said. Do you really feel comfortable?
When it was time to close the workshop, Teal said, "Be willing to go to those places that cause you pain because..."
I can't remember the reason.