From despair to enlightenment, the story of Teal Swan

Diagnosed as schizophrenic at the age of 16, Teal Swan was banished to a life of closed psychiatric institutions. Through perseverance, a desire to heal and feats of extraordinary mental strength, Swan rose above her grievous circumstances and carved a brave new path for herself. Today she is one of the most influential spiritual teachers in the world.

Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the United States in 1984, Teal Swan was always different from the children that surrounded her. From a young age, she would often see, feel, or hear things beyond what others could perceive through their own five senses. She would she auras, hear entities and observe departed souls.

Her parents viewed life through a scientific lens where mysticism and esotericism were more a deterrent than a unique gift. Swan’s aptitude for the supernatural was not seen as something special, but rather a hindrance to be shunned.

A childhood of absolute solitude

It didn’t help that when Swan was four years old, her parents received a job offer to serve as forest rangers on the border of Idaho and Utah. Not only was the Mormon community they moved into geographically remote, but it was also mentally isolating for such a unique little girl.

Swan continued to behave in what was seen as unusual by the traditionalist community. On the first day of school, for example, Swan transmitted a message to her teacher from that teacher’s deceased father. News of this strange girl spread throughout the religious community like wildfire.

Supernatural forces were seen as divine communication in this community but were only transmitted through men. A woman who possessed these powers were seen as demonic and dangerous which led Swan to be expelled from the community. She was forbidden from playing with the other children her age. Even her parents were shunned from social life and found it difficult to cope with this isolation. Swan found this estrangement severely alienating which led her to drastic measures.  

“When I was a child, I was lonely and miserable, and I even tried to commit suicide a few times,” she says. “Growing up, I looked at people, and it seemed as if everyone had figured out how to have relationships. All of them had friends and partners. It seemed like they belonged to their family. It wasn’t until I founded the concept of an intentional community and traveled around the world that it struck me. No matter which country I visited or what the background of the people I met, all of them reported the same feeling of total isolation. I understood that my situation was not a single incident and that it was, in fact, an epidemic.”

Generating indifference to suffering

Swan’s childhood isolation was amplified when, shortly after moving to her new home, she was introduced to a sadist masked as an upstanding member of society. To everyone else, this notable persona in the community was just another handsome and charismatic man, but underneath this squeaky clean facade, he was active in Satanic cults and partook in psychopathic behavior.

He quickly latched on to Swan, using her extrasensory abilities as a front for his deranged exploits. He was seen as a role model to this odd little lost girl. To Swan he was her captor, performing heinous rituals and monstrous mind games on her and several other children.

Swan testifies that it was at the tender age of six that she was first raped by this detestable man. He would threaten Swan, telling her that if she said anything to anyone he would murder her parents. Disillusioned, Swan withdrew into herself, knowing that she was helpless and that there was no escape.

This cycle of torture went on for another 13 years. Beyond being abused herself, Swan witnessed her abuser murder five other children which cemented her fear and obedience.

Although she was physically abused countless times, it was the psychological torture that really made an impression. Her capture’s favorite twisted game was called “mind space” where he would throw the poor children naked in a deep hole in the ground, hands and ankles cuffed, for an uncertain amount of time.

After years of continuous torture, Swan became indifferent to suffering. She would shut off her mind, becoming a shell of who she was. Yet with all this distress came a moment of hope.

One day when she was forced into the “mind space,” she noticed that the more she ran away from the negative feelings, the more she would suffer, and that despair was, in fact, a result of an ongoing emotional numbness.  On this particular day, she decided to do the opposite and concentrate harder on her undesirable and disturbing emotions.

At first, the sensations crushed her, psychologically wounding her to no end, but instead of retreating to a place of numbing distress, she plunged deeper into that feeling of loneliness. She dove deeper and deeper until she reached the bottom of the abyss and could go no further. It was here that she finally learned to accept her situation, finding her most profound answer.

“I began to see precisely how loneliness is at the root of all human suffering, and that all pain boils down to a separation of some kind, which has enormous implications for the way we perceive relationships, because, to hurt the other, one has to feel separate from that person. Thus, for every crime to occur, for every war that’s ever started, for every mass shooting, there first has to be the condition of the perception of separation.”

The beginning of a new life

After her deep insight and eventual escape from her capture at the age of 19, Swan set out to understand loneliness at a molecular level. The journey took her deep into the jungle of Costa Rica where undertook a shamanic path into the very core of her being to truly understand the concept of loneliness.

Her new life led to a path of regeneration and self-discovery. The notes she returned with from her three-year voyage became her best-selling book, “The Anatomy of Loneliness.” In the book, she deconstructs the concept of loneliness, explaining what creates the overwhelming feeling of seclusion. She then offers various ways to overcome that feeling, leading to a genuine connection with others.

Along with her journey into the jungle, Swan also underwent many years of therapy with experts in the field of cult ritual trauma. All the while the extrasensory abilities she was gifted with from a young age never left, and she learned to harness them at a more conscious and mature level. Swan used her evolved skills to help others who had similarly scarring pasts by offering one-on-one sessions.

The crowd at her clinic expanded to the point that she knew her experiences were helpful to a larger community. Eager to make this knowledge more accessible to people who could not afford individual sessions, she ventured out into the world of social media. Through the use of this new platform, primarily YouTube, her followers grew exponentially.

She started to regularly upload long, advanced videos on various subjects in the fields of spirituality and psychology. As a natural progression, Swan formalized her unique psychological healing technique into what she called “The completion process.” Spiritual seekers from around the world used this approach to treat and release the trauma that they had experienced.

In her previous book, “The Completion Process,” titled after her new technique, she described methods of emotional bodywork using guided imagery and the “inner child” approach, a technique that Swan was treated by and found extremely helpful in her healing process. This methodology gained recognition in the psychology and psychotherapy circles.

The inevitable controversy

While her status as a spiritual guru has increased over time, garnering the nickname “The Spiritual Catalyst” and even being ranked number 27 in Watkins’ 100 Spiritual List, she has become a controversial figure.

Her decision to reveal her childhood history, going into each horrifying detail, along with mention of her connection with aliens and about her past life incarnations, garnered much controversy. Some critics have accused her of fabricating her entire childhood story as there is no hard evidence to testify to the horrors she experienced.

Others have called her out as being a model in search of fame and wealth through the spiritual guru channel, manipulating the naive and vulnerable. Her worst accusation is due to the misunderstanding regarding her message of suicide, alleging that she encourages people to take their lives.

There is no middle ground when it comes to Swan, you are either part of “Teal’s Tribe,” promoting her authentic life ideology, or you’re an enemy trying to make her life unbearable.

“The amount of bad publicity I get is a huge problem for me,” states Swan with a whisper of affliction. “I have been uninvited from speeches, and some people in the industry refuse to work with me based on the level of controversy that surrounds me. I’m blacklisted in my field, but what bothers me more than anything is the effect of all this on my son. The press has made me a dangerous cult leader, and so parents prohibit their children from coming to our house or my son from visiting their children.”

While the media has helped her gain a large following, it has also impacted her negatively, resulting in the parents at her son’s school trying to involve social services. The situation became so bad in Costa Rica, where she opened her spiritual center and intentional community,  that the government even decided to interject, purporting a case of child abuse. She has even had armed attackers trying to hurt her during public appearances physically.

Despite all the attempts to tarnish her name, Swan continues to conduct workshops around the world, as well as write books and produce content daily.

“I’m not here for personal pleasure. Otherwise, I would quit this business and concentrate on baking pies, which I would rather do some days. There is no other life for me than this; it runs in my veins. When I’m on stage playing my little chess game to free whoever is sitting opposite me from their paradigm, I am in my natural place and can continue for as long as I am alive.”

Distance through a spiritual bypass

The biggest contrast between Swan and other spiritual teachers is the fact that she does not sugarcoat what life is all about. While her contemporaries focus on a feel-good attitude of positive thinking, she would rather hit it where it hurts, going straight to the center of their pain in order to truly heal.

The so-called New Age movement doses out a sort of “Spiritual Novocain” to its followers, only allowing them to scratch the surface of their deeper issues. This is only a temporary solution as the unconscious can never really just disappear. What you try to suppress will eventually and inevitably catch up to you, causing more suffering. Swan has labeled this as “a spiritual bypass” that distances people from their painful feelings.

She explains further by stating that “all organisms in the universe are created to go away from pain and towards pleasure. The trouble is that we’ve started associating pain with our humanity, with being in the body, with having an emotion, and built a coping mechanism to keep us away from those parts in ourselves. However, coping mechanism do not encourage healing, because they create separation instead of integration, leaving us powerless.

“Religion and spirituality have evolved from this need, to give people comfort, but here lies the irony; the spirituality that kept them away from suffering will push them back in. It is inevitable when you walk in the path of awakening.”

She continues on the topic of a spiritual bypass by stating that “emotions serve as a kind of guidance system or compass that shows us which way to go, and through emotional language, a person learns his or her inner truth. If we are not taught to be present with our feelings and emotions, we will not be able to create authentic lives for ourselves.”

The emotional presence Swan talks about touches on all aspects of life, especially education. According to her, parents teach their children, due to a lack of knowledge, to abandon their inner voice as part of the socialization process.

“Then we wonder,” she states persistently, “how come a 20-year-old boy doesn’t know what he wants to do or what his interests are, and at the worst resort to drugs. The parents then hold their heads in amazement. Parents teach children to ignore their emotions, forcing them to remain without a compass. However, it is not the parents’ fault – they are also the product of a spiritually inadequate childhood, so the blind lead the blind for generations.

“Our instinct as parents is to get angry at the child when he or she does something wrong, especially if it is directed at the parents. If we could stop our automatic response and validate the child’s emotion first, we would teach them not to be afraid of ‘negative’ emotions, which will make the child feel alive, as if they exist in their parents’ eyes. Emotional invalidation breeds shame, and we are all embedded in shame to some degree. Some people grow up in homes that push them so hard and far from their authentic being; they are the ones who suffer from eating disorders, addictions, and the like.”

The creation of an intentional community

Swan’s search for understanding her trauma and loneliness led her on a lesser trodden path as a spiritual mentor while being a fulltime mother. In order to continue and extend her personal growth, she started to create a new community of like-minded individuals – the intentional community.  

She explains that “for thousands of years, our survival was dependant on one another. We lived in large communities, which is the natural state of living for humans. We don’t like the powerlessness that comes with saying: ‘I need this from you,’ and not being able to get it. We became entirely addicted to the concept of independence as a social value, and that is dangerous, to put it mildly.

“The process of modernization,” she continues adamantly, “replaced codependency in the accumulation of private property. We’ve moved out of the community, out of the tribe, out of the extended family structure into a single family home unit, and the aftermath is a broken home. We are moving more and more toward isolation, which is reflected in a massive rise in suicides, mass shootings, addictions, and so on.”

She goes on with a tender warning. “People do not like to hear these truths and would prefer to get approval for their alienated situation. For example, when a single mother is sitting in front of me, she expects me to say, ‘You can do it alone,’ but we were not meant to live like that. As a single parent, it hurts me to shout it, but this is the reality.”

Intentional community is a group of individuals whose members are committed to the same agreed upon goal. The community shares a single mission to spread Swan’s messages and promote her ideas publicly and in everyday practice. The community members strive to uphold Swan’s teachings to avoid ego struggles, as often happens in social communes.

Confrontations arise no doubt, but Swan has created a technique called “shadow work” in order to combat these clashes. It’s a common fact that in every community people start fighting. This is essentially an ego battle. This dark side of each person’s character Teal calls their shadow.

Shadow work is the process of not ignoring one’s shadow aspect but rather confronting this dark side head on and encouraging the person to solve his or her issues.

When you have an issue with another person, you need to consider whether you are really having issues with that person or if it is just a reflection of your own negative emotions and feelings – your shadow. In this way, you “use” the other person to help with your spiritual process by acknowledging all parts of yourself, especially the hidden ones.

“The members of the community agreed that the priority is to keep me in performance mode. Sometimes they follow my lead and other times it’s a council-based decision. That’s the way to avoid tyranny. Every community makes mistakes, it’s inevitable, but I love this way of life, it’s the best decision I’ve made. I have no idea how I lived before, and I do not understand how people raise children otherwise.”

Inside the intentional community

Swan’s philosophy is shared by members of the community who practice what they preach. Corina, a member of Swan’s community, states, “our lives are centered around the vision of promoting positive change in the world by the emotional, mental and physical transformation of pain. When we are not working, we invest time in connecting, in spiritual growth, and nature walks.”

The antagonism that Swan evokes influences the atmosphere in the community. Just like many other members of the community, Corina knows all to well this external criticism stating that, “it saddens me to see the backlash that Teal gets knowing how considerate, loving and caring she is, but we use the comments as an opportunity to reflect and to see where and how we can meet people best in their lives.”

Corina has confidence that Swan’s help will advocate change in the world. “I believe,” she says with a warm heart, “that she is one of the greatest advocates of our time for positive world change. Teal has the background, wisdom, and attunement to reach the people best. As a single person, I can only do so much. However, coming together with people from all over the world and combining our unique skills to move forward as a union is what creates the most sustainable impact.”

Another member of the community, Gabija, is an IT Consultant that discovered Swan through her videos on YouTube. She talks about working with Swan, stating that it “is meaningful to me, and the opportunity to help others has a lasting and profound impact on my life. I’m happy to have her as one of my friends; it’s one of those connections that you know will last a lifetime.”

Gabija believes that in the future there will be more intentional communities. “I think that in general,” she explains, “the millennial generation is interested in sustainability, actually caring for each other’s emotions, real connection and these are things that are very closely related to the mindset of living in a community.

“In Scandinavian countries, it’s pretty common to live together in communities, or at least to have communal spaces in apartment buildings, including both communal events or simple hangouts. I’ve lived in Denmark for a few years, and it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to live communally, so considering those countries as current trendsetters in innovation I can see how it would spread even further.”

The significant advantage of community life, she says, is access to additional resources – people who can meet different needs.

“There is always someone available to talk to, to hang out with or to help with whatever is needed. More people means more talent is available in different areas. Sharing responsibilities makes things a lot easier as you can choose to take on the responsibilities that you are good at. On a practical level, it’s a lot cheaper to live together. Simply put, it’s just so much more fun to live in a community and what is life about other than following your joy.”

The idea of an intentional community has been gaining traction around the world. Swan travels the globe spreading her ideas and carrying out workshops.

An energy diagnosis for Israel

Before every workshop, Swan offers an energetic evaluation of the country in which the event takes place. While she did not physically visit Israel, this author requested an energetic diagnosis of his home country.

“When I look at Israelis from a collective consciousness perspective, the issue of personal success is very strong. Israelis grow up to believe that their financial success reflects their value and that if they do not reach a certain level of wealth and career achievement, they are not worthy of being loved.

“We see it in the United States as well, but in Israel, it’s more extreme, and people are desperate to receive love through achieving goals. The only thing is that this love can hardly be fulfilled because it is not true love of the person, but rather a reflection of what they have accomplished. Children grow up anxious about who they will be in the future which damages their sense of intrinsic value. So they earn that sense of belonging through competition, by being better than others.”

The connection of this competitive drive is pertinent, says Swan, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which she believes lies on the dark side of that perfectionist consciousness.


“If the ego is convinced that it has to be the best at something and will achieve success at any cost, every time it is challenged to see itself in lower light, it may react violently, defending its position with the utmost seriousness, so as not to feel inferior.

“Resolving a conflict,” she believes, “requires every side to agree to see the other as a part of him or herself. It will require giving up the idea of being right as the only condition to meet one’s needs.”

If you would like to learn more about Teal Swan and her intentional community, you can visit her website, Youtube channel, Facebook or Instagram page.

*This interview was published in the magazine different life in Isreal, January 2019.

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