He can swallow swords and fluorescent light tubes, read people’s minds, bend spoons with his thoughts and dangle from meat hooks inserted into his back.

He is the Space Cowboy, otherwise known as Chayne Hultgren to his mum.

It all began when, as a child in Byron Bay, he enjoyed playing mind tricks on his parents, and by the age of eight he had his own show at the Byron Bay markets.

I was just playing mind games with people and seeing how their thoughts worked. Anyone can do it but I’d just been practising, he said.

I’ve always had a fascination for the extreme and bizarre.

Around the age of 15 he started training for sword swallowing.

Basically I did meditation and learnt how to isolate and focus on internal muscles that are usually involuntary, he said.

I threw up every day for about three years training my gag reflex. The training process isn’t so pleasant, but I guess that’s why there are so few sword swallowers. There are only 42 in the world.

In his new show at the Sydney Opera House, Mind Bending, Hultgren also swallows fluorescent light tubes -“ still plugged in to electricity, so when they go inside him his organs can be seen glowing through his skin. It’s certainly not something for the faint hearted.

Since glass tube swallowing has been recorded since the 1930s, there’s been a few deaths. There’s electricity and glass involved, and a mercury compound gas, he explained.

The longest sword he’s ever swallowed was 72cm, which reached an inch below his belly button. When I swallow a stack of swords at once, eight or 10 or more, I can feel my heart pressing against them, he said.

It’s very precarious, but I get a rush from it.

He also gets a rush from having four meat hooks put into his back and being lifted off the ground. The trick is not to control the pain, Hultgren said, but to learn to love it.

It’s not a bad pain when I put myself into that situation. It just becomes an extreme sensation.

It’s about accepting what it is. The problem with pain is the association with something going wrong. As long as you know everything’s okay, you can make pain into what you want.

Space Cowboy: Mind Bending runs from 10 to 14 May at The Studio, Sydney Opera House. Bookings on 9250 7777 or at the Sydney Opera House website.

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