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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Joining a women’s healing group

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Wasn't like this.

“If we have to look at our vaginas in a mirror,” said Esther, “I’m leaving.”

I’ve tried all sorts of New Agery with Esther in a past blog (and possibly a past life), like Healing My Embittered Soul With Song and Tapping Myself to Emotional Freedom below. Neither of us are fans of angels, spirit guides and unicorns, and Esther has issues with tolerance, so hopefully healing doesn’t involve any of the above, and/or touching our Sacred Feminine.

This must be a sign, though: waiting at Parliament Station, ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams starts warbling out of the tannoy. Why? That’s the anthem for the very slightly spiritual, isn’t it? The ones with the Only God Can Judge Me tattoos. Why? This has to be one of those coincidences I’ve started to look out for.

Once at the building, we’re asked to take off our shoes (Esther is wearing two stripy socks, I’m wearing one. Coincidence?) and we bunker down in a room with cushions laid out in a circle. There are eight women and one facilitator, who’s a new age counsellor. It soon emerges this is group therapy, in the form of shares and visualisation, with much of it anticipated to be “of a highly adult nature”.

As this is the first meet-up, there’s much discussion of the fairest way of doing things, which reminds me why I don’t like to travel with women – way too much conferring. Whoever speaks, it’s eventually determined, should be handed a talking stick to symbolise that they should not be interrupted. The facilitator hunts around the room for something.

“I hope this rather phallic candle isn’t upsetting anyone,” she murmurs as an afterthought, as it journeys obscenely around the room.

Now that's a talking stick.

Once we finally get started, I like this environment. I’m with eight very nurturing women, most here to find their “authentic self”. We’re using voices so unusually hushed and gentle that I’m lulled into a trance and become preoccupied for much of the session with trying to imagine what each lady would sound like down the pub after a few squawky chardonnays.

At first I’m a bit wistful. If this were a men’s group we’d be in the woods staring into a bollocking great bonfire and thrashing drums, Robert Bly-style. Even in this room there’s a rogue element of Lord of the Flies though. Everyone stiffens at the thought of outsiders joining next month, yet we’ve only known each other half an hour.

I’m a latecomer to sisterhood. I grew up with a fierce determination not to be anything like a woman, nor suffer the guilt by association, having observed close-up that men had all the luck, all the fun and the last word. Mum’d pipe up with the odd feminist comment at the dinner table, for my benefit, but I’d join in any derision. Naively, I thought I’d picked a side, the winning side. The battle lines were clearly drawn, and needs must.

Now I’m completely comfortable in this room, talking honestly – which is a relief, as a grown woman who believes she’s “one of the boys” tends to be a lost lamb indeed. I can feel the empathy emanating around us, and when one girl cries in exhaustion I just want to go over and stroke her hair. Instead we are instructed to picture a big sphere hovering in front of us all and imagine exhaling our bad thoughts into it. “You can make a noise if you like,” the facilitator urges, then gaily boots the thing out of the room.

I’m going to go back again, you know… and I won’t be writing about it.

Healing my embittered soul with song

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Over the years I’ve learned not to trust people who say “close your eyes and open your mouth”, but today at the joyful voice workshop I’m assured I’m in a safe environment.

This one-day course aims to help you heal yourself (your soul, rather than your gout) by the power of your own voice. Sometimes I’ll dream I’m singing, and it’s the most beautiful sound I ever heard. Something pure and unspoilt from years ago… You know… before the music DIED.

Anyway, in waking hours I’m in possession of a plaintive squawk with a blatant disregard for consonants, and my friend Esther is terrified of singing in public despite ordinarily being a gobshite, but with some gentle coaching (“gentle” is the operative word today), healer Chris gets all 15 of us here sounding like human panpipes.

After about an hour of cooing “ooooooooooooh” my head’s vibrating like I’m on a cheap pill, and this pulsing sensation starts travelling down my spine until all my cells expand and I feel like I’m going to fall over.

As soon as we’re all duly hypnotised, Chris whips out a synth and starts playing songs about angels and butterflies in minor keys. Eventually I feel a tear plop out down my cheek. This is supposed to happen.

“Was that just you feeling sorry for yourself, though?” Esther asks during snack break. I knew I shouldn’t have filled her in on the previous few days’ unbloggables. I persist that there’s something undeniably restorative about singing, especially when you’ve a tendency to hammer yourself into the ground. I mean, maybe some regular joyful song about angels’ wings could be the long sought-after antidote to drugs and booze.

“You might want to take up cutting,” Esther says. “Or bulimia.”

After the break we’re told to pair up with a complete stranger, take both their hands, stand about 2mm apart, and drone at each other until we’re both resonating like a bell and pulling off harmonics. This should be hideously excruciating, eyeball to eyeball as we are, but it’s just one of those rare situations where there’s no room for self-consciousness. And hey – everyone’s had the curry dip and poppadoms.

Next step is to become a human theremin, with one person leading – dipping and warbling over octaves and making bizarro shapes with their mouths. The other person, intuitively, is just a split second behind them. Third step, we mirror each other’s freaky arm waves while doing all the above. Fourth step, hugs.

After lunch and a giant coffee, I find my patience is tested. “I bet Chris comments on the coffee,” Esther says as we tromp back in with our haul – and certainly he does. He attests that the power of gentle breathin’ and lovin’ allows people to quit all sorts of substances cold turkey though, so we may as well have this last hurrah.

With another two hours of ultra-vague discussion about good vibes and negative energy, and lots of head-buzzy sing-songs around the synth, I find I’m fighting waves of violence, while Esther later admits she was muttering the serenity prayer to make it through.

“Why is it that people think spirituality always has to involve angels and butterflies?” she tuts as we sprint off to the car afterwards. “What’s wrong with being a human being?”

Keeper? Adapting to such in-your-face intimacy was quite an eye-opener, and I did like the singing as a way of, um – ugh – getting in touch with yourself. I was banned from singing sweet hymns in the car as a child (ask me for my rendition of Give Me Oil In My Lamp), but no one can stop me now.

Tapping myself to emotional freedom

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The fact that I’ve come to investigate Emotional Freedom Techniques in this windswept Box Hill motel with Esther of all people, should suggest that I’ve come bearing a bucketload of pig’s blood to tip all over it.

Both of us pop a capillary at any pseudoscientific talk of angels, the law of attraction and whatnot, as evidenced by our recent experiment with healing our souls with song… So why do we keep coming back for more?

Maybe because we’re two reformed grog-botherers who’ve lost our religion. We once had blind faith, just like the good people we’re scathing of – faith that this time when we poured a rather large vodka, we wouldn’t end up making pricks of ourselves with our stockings at half mast. (I could metaphor on for a bit about worshipping at the altar of the bottle shop, but I won’t.) Maybe we do crave something new to believe in. Maybe, Esther worries, we have the God Gene.

The first hint that EFT might be the real deal is that this three-hour session with a husband and wife couple is free. Sure, you can buy the book, but it turns out there’s no hard sell.

I won’t use the couple’s real names, because I don’t tell them I’ll be writing about them. David and Anne used to practise Neuro-Linguistic Programming, till they “suspended their disbelief” and switched to Emotional Freedom Techniques – developed by a US realtor and NLP practitioner with no medical or psychological background – which promises to cure emotional and physical pain. The US military, for instance, has been using it on personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder.

During the opening spiel, about men and women across the States who have leapt out of wheelchairs and had pernicious diseases cured by EFT, I hear the word “tapping” and shrivel up inside. Doesn’t this involve touching people? I really should have looked into this before coming along.

Happily, tonight we’ll only be touching ourselves. We use our fingers to tap ourselves on meridian points on the hands, face and body while repeating a mantra. David gives us all a chocolate as an experiment. Most of us, upon holding it, start getting strong urges to eat it. First we do three rounds of tapping, the basic mantra of which is: “Even though I want to eat this chocolate, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

We’re told to take a bite of the chocolate. My brain usually lights up like a Christmas tree at this point, but I find the thing tastes flat and dull. Everyone else reports something similar; one bloke complains his tastes of cow. By golly, if we’ve been brainwashed, I hope we’ve done it ourselves.

Now we’re going to move to an emotional problem. We’re asked to think back to something that traumatised us, at least three years ago, and isolate what emotion it made us feel. We rate how bad it’s making us feel right now with a mark out of 10. Then we drop the name of that emotion into the mantra: “Even though I feel xxx…” and tap through it while replaying the scene in our minds. This time, though, we imagine we’re tapping our younger selves. Afterwards we see if the mark out of 10 has gone down. And repeat.

David invites two people to the front to reveal what their trauma was and then be tapped through it. The first guy recounts a childhood humiliation, and reports his anxiety levels go down as he repeats the process. The girl refuses to talk about what happened to her and is close to tears.

David asks if he can perform the tapping on her himself, an uncomfortable moment, especially given her body language. He goes through three or four rounds, dropping in phrases like “I don’t feel I can trust people” and “I know I am safe here”, which seems manipulative. Meanwhile, we’re all slapping away at ourselves in front of her. It sounds like a porn film in here.

A few times, David loses my willingness. He insists that every experience we’ve had is imprinted inside us and could potentially be replayed like a movie. He talks of the time he worked at Amway. He references The Secret. Rationalising things like EFT, he chuckles, involves “rational lies”. And then there’s his account of being regressed to the womb. Lastly, I’m always suspicious of people who smile “Isn’t that interesting” when “um” would do just as well.

Keeper? I’m not sure yet if I feel beatific because I’ve spent gentle, quality time with myself (that doesn’t involve a cigarette or rolling around in bed), or because there’s something in this tapping lark. Hey – that chocolate thing was weird though.

POSTSCRIPT: Seven days later, I’ve had no desire to smoke. Isn’t that interesting?

Psychics Vs Mentalists: the rematch

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Derren: mentalist.

Here is an excellent post from Michael Witheford on uber-mentalist Derren Brown, versus world famous psychic John Edwards – a man South Park’s South Park’s Trey Parker said, “We literally did decide this guy was the worst. He was the worst guy in the world. There’s nothing you can do right now that’s worse than this.”

That’s a bit rich coming from Trey though, eh?

Witheford, by contrast, says of self-confessed confidence trickster Brown: “At some point I intend taking Derren hostage and, while waving a hot poker in his face, enquiring about how his dazzling set pieces are achieved. In a microsecond, of course, he’d have the poker in his own hands, and I’d be tied to a chair in a busy street with no trousers on.”

Here’s The Guardian on Derren Brown taking on faith healers in a new series.

John: psychic.

Psychics Vs. Mentalists

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I’m on a quest to crack open my monkey brain and slip in the spoon of spirituality (a hypnotherapist told me the unconscious mind responds well to metaphors… how’s yours doing?), but one area guaranteed to get me wriggling like a fish on a hook is clairvoyancy.

Here’s why.

“Many of the chronic health conditions and diseases that we experience in adulthood are rooted in childhood or the womb. I use many different techniques to remove these traumas and problems quickly and easily.”

“A Soul Inspired reading is an opportunity to connect with your Soul/Higher self, to gain, feel and see your life from a higher perspective through the energy of love and without the distractions of your personality.”

“Anything from minor complaints to life-threatening injuries can be treated or even cured through the use of psychic powers. Whether these powers come from God, the healer, or the Universe as a whole is a matter of debate, but that they work is certain to those who believe in them.”

“Psychic healing can help you obtain relief from physical or mental pain. The gifted psychic can see your aura and determine the source of pain. They use subtle energy to remove your pain.”

“Transcendence Healing is an individual process assessing powerful Universal energies in order to facilitate your healing at a soul level.”

Deep down I would rather believe than not believe, though. How awesome to think that someone could completely understand and anticipate you without all that awkward business of getting to know you. So I’m fully prepared to alter my perception at the slightest shred of evidence and raising of hairs. I’ve already been proved wrong with energy healing, as I’m convinced the chap in Byron Bay on Day One quelled my vagus nerve by the time I’d wobbled out his door. So maybe, as with teachers, hairdressers and cats, you’ve just got to meet the right psychic.

The problem is, I’ve failed to be rendered wide-eyed by the triumvirate of revelations psychics always wheel out to women in their thirties:

1)    You’re having doubts about a man

2)    You’re thinking about buying a house

3)    You’re unhappy in your job and thinking about going for another

You may also be worrying about a friend, be musing on vague plans to travel or move to the sea, and be thinking about starting a family… although no one’s leveled that last one at me.

That’s because of cold reading; the art (they’d call it science) of making high probability guesses about someone’s life by their appearance and reactions.

Psychics beadily eye my slovenly dress code and inky arms and deduce I’m a raging pisshead. “You need to start taking it easy on your body,” they’ll say with concern, shuffling cards and prescribing early nights. One of the perks of being a toothsome teetotaller is smugness, so imagine how sensational I feel when a psychic wheels out that old chestnut. For this reason I reckon I’m a fantastic litmus test for psychics – you should take me along before you agree to hand over your money.

Here’s an interview I did with a mentalist – a man who happily admits to leading a person’s train of thought with imperceptible cues (and a good grasp of neuro-linguistic programming), reading the nuances of their face and body in turn, to see if he’s on the right track. The accomplished accompanying patter allows him to slither and weasel his way out of any wrong turn, barely detected.

No such luck today here in Glebe. I can’t believe this $30-for-20-mins psychic is talking solely about me, yet I’m still bored.

We get onto the subject of some japester persistently vandalising my property, and she proposes I call on “his royal hotness” the Archangel Michael. I’m to visualise a deep blue cloak draped around my possessions, which will render them invisible. Sorted.

The Archangel Michael.

“Take a big lump of rose quartz,” she says, doing the very same. “And hold it in your right hand.”

Awesome. Are we going to make a fist around it and learn how to throw a loaded right hook?

“See all the lines in it? They directly link up to your brain stems.” She gauges my reaction for a beat. “You can tell this crystal your intention and it will project it out to the universe.”

I feel like I’m on the phone to a telecaller, or a boring band I’m interviewing. “Okay, thanks then. Okay thanks. Thanks. Yep, yep, no, that’s all,” I say, lowering the metaphysical telephone receiver. Keep talking and I’m going to have to blow a whistle down it in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Nonintuitively, she bids me ask another question.

Psychic ‘n’ Parma Night in the outer suburbs

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Pinched from my last venture, the new-adventure-every-day-for-a-year account, Hey Man, Now You’re Really Living

“So how long have you known you’re a white witch?” the psychic asks me over her shoulder as we hurry through the pub for my 10-minute sesh in a back room. As opening lines go I reckon it’s up there with “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” So good, she uses it on my mate later.

One archangel, two spirit guides and a medieval past-life later, I’m moving on to the tarot reader – it’s $30 for a counter meal and two readings at this pub out in the ‘burbs. This reader bears an unnerving resemblance to Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom as she pins me with a stare and says: “You think you’ve reached rock bottom already, but you haven’t.”

Predicting a spell in rehab and a short-lived career selling drugs for bikers, she doesn’t pull her punches. What’s more, she seems to be almost imperceptibly vibrating her head as she cranes closer, giving off a weird strobe effect.

“You’ve had two abortions … no … miscarriages … no … you can’t have children because of all the drugs …  no … you don’t WANT children!” she finishes triumphantly.

“You think men are only good for one thing; you tend to flip either way [for the record, I’m quite particular about only flipping one way] and you’re fed up of being told to just get over it.” She fixes me an extra beady one. “You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?”

Jeez, someone’s been watching too much Underbelly, I’d wager. Jacki did nail my upbringing with further detail, but then, I can immediately sniff out someone with a back-story like mine, too – you don’t have to be a psychic, or a grifter.

That Mitchell and Webb Look: homeopathic A&E

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Barometer of Belief as of Oct 2011

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Belief: Meditation, yoga, tai chi, NLP, ley lines, astrology, acupuncture, feng shui, Tantra

Unsure: Healing, auras, live blood analysis, kinesiology, reiki, EFT, EMDR, palmistry, crystals, homeopathy, personal vibration, biodynamic energy

No way: Angels, spirit guides, clairvoyancy, runes, past lives, tarot


Poking my Pineal Gland

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Got a third eye tattoo? Pull up a chair!

Riding on the breeze there came the distant rumble of bongos. But instead of the familiar knot of repulsion in my gut, I found myself imagining the satisfaction the bongo botherers were getting out of interlocking their rhythms and looping into infinity, like psychedelic fractals.

“Thank god,” said a fellow diner when infinity petered out; but at this they started up again, which made me titter and root for the bongo botherers.

I drained the ubiquitous latte and set off to follow the sound.

Richard was not from anywhere in particular, but a citizen of planet earth. To be fair he didn’t utter this himself, but I deduced it from his rough, brown legs, straggly goatee and faraway stare. He perched on a rock, looked out to sea and requested a rolling paper. I shifted over to sit next to him and threw sticks for his sandy dog, which was wearing a bandana. The sun was setting epically over Mount Warning. Richard requested some tobacco.

This lovely photo of my new friends provoked vile threats about glassings and chasing people with flamethrowers when I posted it on Facebook.

“Get here earlier tomorrow,” he said. “You need to absorb some vitamin D from the sun and decalcify your pineal gland. That’s your third eye. It calcifies as you get older.” I pictured it scabbed and scaly as a cuttlefish bone behind my chickenpox scar.

Richard gave me a lentil pie he’d salvaged from a dumpster behind the bakery and cracked one open himself.

I thought about what to say other than, “And what do you do?”

“This is all just a figment of our imagination,” he offered before I could come up with anything. He swept his hand out at the shimmering horizon. “What we see here, we have created. Think about taking acid or mushrooms, and how differently you see things then.

“We’re all made up of energy,” he continued. “Like golden light. Sometimes when we meet someone with the wrong energy we’re like lightsabers, you know? Shwwwwung, shwwwwung. But we’re all just drops in the ocean. How do I know? I’ve read enough books and had enough conversations to be sure.”

It helped that Richard was good looking, in the same way that market researchers recruit hot young students to wield clipboards and bounce into your path. Sometimes you’ll weaken and listen. Richard talked some more about the meaning of life, and then drifted off. “Maybe your reason for coming to Byron Bay was for us to have this conversation,” he said in parting.

I wandered off into the sun’s crimson haze, and had a think about my pineal gland. The ancient Egyptians called it the Eye of Horus; the Freemasons depicted the All-Seeing Eye of the Great Architect of the Universe on the dollar bill. It’s known as the Third Eye of clairvoyance, or the Crown Chakra in the Hindu religion and sees metaphysical reality, not physical reality. Metaphysically, your soul leaves your body through it; physically, it secretes melatonin and serotonin, regulating sleep and mood. I want to see if I can get mine picking up stuff my other senses can’t.

How to stimulate your pineal gland without drugs, according to the internet 

  • Musically, the pineal gland resonates to the frequency of B. Get a tuning fork and ‘om’ along.
  • It emits a violet/white frequency, so enjoys having amethyst, charoite, dumorierite and quartz crystals of the same hue placed over it for up to 90 minutes.
  • Burn or massage in essential oils of mugwort, sandalwood, lavender, frankincense, myrrh, pine, oakmoss, and Himalayan cedar.
  • Consume chamomile, pine bark, lavender bud, wild indigo bark, violet, licorice and ginseng.
  • Tape a small, gold-plated magnet over your PG and wear for a few hours throughout the day.
  • Hold the pointed side of a quartz or amethyst crystal to the pineal gland while looking up to the morning sun.
  • Chant.
  • Have Tantric sex.
  • Rub milk snow on the male’s pineal gland. Milk snow is vaginal fluid, just quietly.

That’s all on the ‘to do’ list.

Conclusion: You know, I think I did go to Byron Bay to meet Richard, as sitting and talking to anyone on a pile of rocks while the sun goes down is quite out of character.

Further reading: This is the most concise, well-balanced article I found on the third eye: