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Daily Archives: October 27, 2011

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.