I’m sipping tea at the Kripalu Center’s “Silent Breakfast,” watching my fellow yoginis saunter by with their cafeteria trays. I notice hard bodies, soft bodies, misshapen bodies, and bodies that have shopped hard at craft fairs, as evidenced by their tie-dyed togs and dangly earrings. Their T-shirt messages speak to me like fortune cookies: “Glass Half Full,” “True Happiness Goals,” “Grateful,” and even “Nantucket Beach Permit.”
This Stockbridge, Mass.-based yoga mecca offers workshops on everything from Ayurvedic training to chronic pain therapy. I’m here with the hopes of upgrading my spiritual GPS, otherwise known as my female intuition. My current software doesn’t seem capable of taking me anywhere new. I’m tired of the same old terrain. … Why can’t I accept my body? ... How can I have more patience with my kids? ... Why haven’t I found a new partner eight yearspost divorce? I long for more interesting “True Happiness Goals,” as the T-shirt put it, but formulating them proves elusive. Just then a hard body walks by with a T-shirt saying, “Be extraordinary.”
I consider this as I head to the workshop that beckoned to me from Kripalu’s spring/summer brochure: “Awaken Your Divinity Within, A Workshop in Self-Mastery with Paul Selig.”
Now for the Twilight Zone caveat: Paul Selig is a world-renowned channeler who has been featured on ABC’s Nightline. That’s right, he channels information from the Ascended Masters who know everything — including, I’m hoping, how yours truly can be extraordinary.
Which is how I found myself six weeks later, sitting with 40 others facing Selig. There is a book group of eight women from New Hampshire, a bubbly brunette who just completed chemo, and a mathematician who “feels stuck.” Nearly half are doing the workshop for a second time. A handful of others, including me, have never read his books.
“I’m here to find out why I’m here,” one admits, giggling.
“My intuition led me here,” said another.
For all of his mystical prowess, in person Selig is a shy, bearded man wearing jeans and a navy hoody. He tells us he was raised atheist in New York, earned a master’s degree from Yale, and taught college at NYU for 25 years. Then, in 1987 he had a spiritual experience that left him clairvoyant. Since then “the guides” have used him to dictate six books with titles like The Book of Truth, and The Book of Love and Creation. Amazon.com reviews describe them as “life changing.”
“How does it work?” someone asks.
“I’m taking dictation,” Selig explains matter-of-factly. “It’s like I’m a radio, and I can tune into their station.”
After a prayer of protection, Selig launches right in to the channeling, which is an odd sort of double talk. First he mumbles, quickly and quietly, and then repeats the sentence in a booming voice, using his hands and arms dramatically as he speaks. This goes on for 45 minutes and it’s hard to follow. There’s a lot about “raising our vibrations,” and “The divine is in everyone and everything.”
Just as suddenly, Paul snaps out of it. We discuss “the teaching.”
“Many of us are used to God being up in the clouds while we’re down here in the mud,” Paul explains. “But the guides are saying God is in the mud and in each of us.”
I’m reminded of the quote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience,” which authors like Eckhart Tolle and Marianne Williamson also have adapted.
Between the channeling sessions, we are invited to ask Paul questions about our own lives.
One woman is distraught about her sister who has Alzheimer’s disease. When Paul tunes into the sister’s energy, his expression changes dramatically, as if he’s the dazed sister.
“She wants you to know she’s OK,” he says. “She’s not able to make sense of anything, but she’s mildly entertained by what’s around her.”
Another woman inquires about the illiterate 14-year-old boy she tutors, wondering if she’s helping him. Paul tunes into his energy, and suddenly his affect is that of a laid-back teenager. “If you leave, he’ll feel like no one cares about him,” Paul says. “I see a school uniform. In the next seven months you will be able to advocate for him to change schools.” She bursts into tears.
Next we are asked to stand for our “attunement,” which is sort of like making a marriage vow to our higher selves. Following Paul’s lead, we whisper, “I know what I am in truth. I know who I am in truth. I know how I serve the truth,” followed by the phrase “I am free, I am free, I am free.”
Afterward Paul asks if anyone in the room felt the energy. Many raise their hands, but I do not. I only feel stiff from sitting so long.
On the last day, we get invited to “The higher classroom.” Paul asks us to close our eyes. As he channels a mile a minute, I feel like I’m on a plane during takeoff. My forehead feels pressure and I notice a bubbly carbonated sensation inside. It’s subtle, but I do now feel the energy others have been talking about.
On the count of three, we are asked to bring to mind the one thing holding us back from living a more fulfilled life.
“One,” he says, and my brain scrambles for the answer.
“Two,” he continues, and I’m panicking for the right word; is it fear, I wonder?
“Three,” he says.
And that’s when my word makes itself known: “Unworthiness.”
My ticket to living an extraordinary life is simply to believe I deserve it. Well, my friends tell me that all the time, but it’s easier said than done.
After the workshop ends, I return to the cafeteria and exchange contact information with the three women I became friendly with during different parts of the weekend: One is from the airport van; another is from a yoga class; and the third sat next to me at the workshop — all with the name Lisa.
A Google search brings me to a baby-name website that identifies the name’s meaning as “Pledge to God.”
Back in real life, I tell my friend Rebecca about my experience.
“Oh please!” she says. “He sounds like a total fraud.”
“What about all the Lisas?” I counter.
“Well, that’s weird,” she allows.
I settle back into the daily grind, grateful for the weekend getaway and my newfound awareness to let the day be my teacher. Lo and behold, three days later, I’m asked out on two dates. Now that’s divine.