Monday, 9/11, at 6pm, I sit in a chair in a gallery on the Lower East Side. Across from me is another chair, identical and empty. I cross my legs, yogi-style (halfway, anyway) and meditate. I feel my body, feel my legs, hear some talking in the next room, hear the neon lights, sense their brightness. If there are thoughts, they run like this:
I hope this goes well. I'm sure it's going to be fine. Everything is set. Nothing more you can do. You're doing this. I hope this goes well. If it doesn't go well, that's okay too. This is an experiment.
Someone walks into the gallery. I nod my head, inviting her. I thank her for being the first to join me. She sits down.
"I'm going to close my eyes, tune into your feelings, and tell you what I feel is going on. I'm going to do it one layer at a time. You'll see these feelings express themselves through my body." I can tell I don't need to say anymore. "You read the artist statement?" I ask her. I had written up a page on what I was doing, called it my artist statement, printed it out and left 50 copies in the front room.
I close my eyes, imagine everything I'm carrying, my emotions, my energy, descending through my legs, through the floor, into the earth. I affirm that I am here to serve -- I use the word as an incantation. My body does the rest.
"Right now you're feeling calm, open and curious." My thumbs connect with my forefingers; my elbows pull my arms back to my chest; my heart expands outward; and my neck tilts forward. I feel a soft serenity not my own.
I read about 30 people in three hours. For the first time, after two years of doing this, I am reading people in public. People come in, get a reading or don't get a reading, and watch. At its peak, there are 50 people watching. The women in the reception area were supposed to make you check your phone, swapping it for a ticket, but after an hour, they stopped insisting. Still, quiet pervades. Everyone is paying very close attention. It feels sacred.
But I wonder. What the hell am I doing? Twisting my body into shapes to reflect people's feelings back at them? It looks weirder than it sounds -- and it sounds weird. I am embarrassed sometimes. I make mistakes sometimes. Sometimes I doubt whether I have a gift at all. To write this feels vulnerable. To question myself. But I do question myself. I feel a person's feelings, and I feel my doubt at the same time. I get lost.
I insist on a clear intention. I am here to serve each person, every time. My ego comes in: I'm here to show I can do this. My inner child, too: I'm here because it's fun, because I want to try something I haven't tried. My inner achiever: because I had a vision of this moment, and it feels good to do what I envisioned.
Oh, and I'm here because VICE is here, too.
VICE has come to film a documentary about empaths. They called two weeks before, hoping I would do more than just an interview. They wondered if I could do something visual. I told them I was planning on a show. I could push the show forward if they wanted to film it? They came with two cameras and a host, Hannah, who sits down in front of me, nervous as hell, her mind spinning. And sadness, I feel in her. I see it in her eyes, too.
Do I want to be a star? Why have I set this all up for cameras? How come I'm working with a publicist, my friend Mandie, to promote me? Oh, the tendency to hide self-aggrandizement behind a mission. Still, I have a mission. I am here to connect people with their feelings. To permit them to have their feelings with no judgement. And I'm here to show people magic is real. But I have another reason, too. I'm here to show people I am special, to be acknowledged as special, even as I disappear into the other at my most special. I want to be recognized for my transcendant moments of genuine egolessness.
A woman sits down wearing all black. I feel something different than the other readings. A force, like a field, pushes me back. "I don't know what's happening," I confess.
I try again. Again, the force. Should I go through it? Could I? The force forces me away for a reason. "I can't figure you out. Maybe I'm not supposed to?" I'm back in my head, thinking. I'm failing to be present. But I'm comfortable failing. I give that to myself. Failure is part of the show. I go back into myself, that is to say, into her. "You're lost in there, alone. You don't trust me. But you came to me to be seen. You go to lots of people like me, hoping to be seen."
Where does this information come from? My tendency to tell stories? Intuition? This woman's spirit guides, speaking through me? I don't know how I know it. But I know it.
"You can't depend on anyone to see what's happening with you." She meets my look with a look of acceptance. It's just a look. She feigns everything so well, she doesn't know she's feigning.
"No more gurus for you," I say. The crowd chuckles. They get the irony.
I feel relief, thinking about what I did. I envisioned doing readings as performance art. I never envisioned doing readings in front of an audience -- I was thinking one-on-ones -- but this pushed me deeper. When I left the gallery, I felt like I didn't need to do this again. Didn't ever need to read people again. I made my statement, whatever that statement was.
The next show is October 14 - 16, 6pm to 8pm each night, at ABXY.