When I was invited to see David Sauvage’s ‘Empath’, a one-man show of energy reading meets performance art, I wasn’t sure what to expect. An intuitive myself - that is, a person who reads energy for a living like David does - it’d been drilled into me that an exchange like the one I was about to witness should happen only in the most sacred of settings. Yet here I was, at a Venice boutique after dark, with music and drinks and pretty people in outfits, about to watch a man act out the very intimate emotions of the woman seated in front of him. As he got on stage, I crossed my arms and looked away. But all eyes (and phones) were on David and soon I realized I had no choice but to watch as he began to flail his arms, speak in a tone that was not his, out-ing the deepest darkest feelings of his subject, who, to my surprise, was glowing. I turned to the people behind me, hoping to make eye contact with someone who might be able to express the same level of discomfort I was feeling. No such luck. Everyone was fixated on the stage with amazement. As I turned back to watch, it occurred to me that I couldexperience the feeling of emotional recognition I’d just been looking for - it was being displayed right in front of me.
When the show was over, a crowd formed by the stage. They were waiting for their chance to be read by David. ‘Did you enjoy the show?’ I asked a young tattooed woman, ‘Oh my god! Loved.’ She was gushing, ‘You know, my sister does readings. But she uses words to describe what she sees, and I think words don’t always tell the whole story. When David uses his body to show what he’s reading, it’s like I really understand.’ Soon, I was talking to a psychologist, she was expressing disappointment with her field. She explained she was beginning to work with David, but wasn’t sure in what capacity. I asked what drew her to him. ‘Well, I’ve never met a professional Empath before.’ Neither had I, come to think of it. While there isn’t a set job title given to those of us who read energy for a living - we’re usually confined to words like Intuitive, Psychic, Medium, Channeler, even Tarot Readers and Reiki Healers - it’s true I’d never come across anyone with the word Empath written on their business card. Especially since it’s generally thought of as a trait people like us have to manage. My new friend continued, ‘So, I’m an Empath. And I don’t know if I’m totally comfortable with it. It’s nice to see someone display this type of thing so openly.’ We chatted for awhile and she described her hopes for science to explain Empaths. Here was another person craving recognition, to see an accurate reflection of herself, and to be told it’s ok. Even to have an audience cheer for it. It was beautiful.
Finally, David was done with his readings and I made my way over to where he was chatting with a man who didn’t seem to fit. He was older, dressed in a sport coat, and seemed to be shouting even as he was talking about the neighborhood he grew up in in Queens (David lives in Manhattan) before he came West to work in entertainment. He spit a little bit as he told us he could watch David all day. I asked if he thought he’d witnessed magic. ‘No, it must be that David has a gift for picking up on things. Seems unique but also pretty normal to me. I like it.’ And I did too. For I was not expecting such openness.
When David asked me what I thought of his work, he braced himself. It seems there are mixed reactions to what he does. But for a woman like me who grew up sensitive, who does what she does to empower others like myself, like David and my new psychologist friend, I could not help but fall in love with the spectacle of it, with how it opened people, even if it was outside my comfort zone. I asked David what drives him to do what he does. He told me he’s an artist, someone who craves expression. ‘But why so focused on emotion?’ I asked. At that, he closed his eyes, and I suddenly felt heavy in my own heart. I knew it was a cue to pay close attention. His eyes reddened a bit, ‘In my family, we weren’t given permission to feel our emotions. When I reflect anger or sadness back at someone, it’s like I’m telling them it’s ok, that they’re ok.’ And then he looked down, retreating for a second, and gave me the space to consider how many millions are out there, just like him. The first time I met David, it was at a book launch. A sign hung on the wall behind him that read, ‘To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.’ That couldn’t be more true.
Post written for SFYogaMag.com