Death Meditations and Instagram Photo Shoots: A Week Inside an Internet Spiritual Guru’s Costa Rican Healing Center

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Teal Swan and members of her intentional community at Swan’s Phila Retreat Center in Costa RicaPhoto: Nora Ballard/Matt Laumb (GMG/FMG)

Gizmodo’s investigative podcast The Gateway explores the career and influence of Teal Swan, a controversial internet spiritual guru. She’s built a global online following through her social media presence and her self-help YouTube videos aimed at people who are struggling with depression.

Some people become so enraptured with Swan’s videos and messages, they move to her Philia Center in Atenas, Costa Rica. The private estate is a healing center, but it also doubles as a spiritual startup—a sort of digital media company that creates more content to spread Swan’s teachings.

In the third episode of The Gateway, released today, Gizmodo spends a week at the Philia Center, observing one of the healing retreats, and getting to know some of Swan’s followers who leave their lives behind to help Swan build her empire.

You can listen to the episode here:

The Gateway is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio, or TuneIn. Subscribe now, so you can hear the next episode as soon as its available next week.

You can also listen to new episodes one week early and ad-free on Stitcher Premium. For a free month of listening, go to stitcherpremium.com/gatewayand use promo code ‘GATEWAY’.

The Gateway is hosted by Jennings Brown, produced by Jessica Glazer and Emily Pontecorvo, and edited by Bari Finkel of Pineapple Street Media. Mandana Mofidi is the Fusion Media Group Executive Director of Audio. Editorial oversight provided by Kelly Bourdet. Original score and mixing by Hannis Brown. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please email us at thegateway@gizmodo.com.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.