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Category Archives: Touchy feely

Blubbing in a towelly nook

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‘Pranic healing and massage’ may sound as though it involves a forefinger and the perineum, but in actual fact it’s about removing energy blockages in the whole body and resolving deep-rooted emotional issues.

Regular readers will be aware of my pathological fear of New Age men, but Greg (name changed!) comes recommended by my two work chums, Sheridan and Gemima (real names!), who always come into the office next day looking flushed and fanning themselves. I can see why when Greg opens the door; he’s like Hollywood’s idea of a New Age man, if the New Age man was in Oceans 11.

We have a bit of a chat about what to expect. When a practitioner says: “You might find you cry, but that’s okay,” which they invariably do, I take it with a pinch of salt. It always reminds me of my first boyfriend waggling two fingers at me and announcing his unfailing ability to satisfy a woman thusly. If you don’t cry or orgasm gratefully, are you the failure?

I hop up onto a massage table in Greg’s house in just my undies and lie on my back under a towel. He walks me through some guided meditation that’s by the book, but still, I feel a bit like I’m being hypnotised. Thoughts start getting surreal and I keep morphing into Sheridan and then Gemima, who’ve both lain in this very spot. Maybe their psychic shadows are imprinting on me. It’s really off-putting. (“Maybe something awful happened on that table and you were disassociating,” James at the train station coffee cart says later.)

The pranic healing itself is done hands-off, other than occasional light touches on my head, but when Greg lubes up to segue into the massage, I freak out a bit. When a woman’s massaged my head or hands in a spa treatment I’ve enjoyed it, but having a man do something so intimate without getting me shitfaced first is incredibly confronting. And this goes on for three hours. Have you any idea how massaged you can become in three hours? There are 206 bones in the human body, and Greg swizzle-sticks them all, with no earlobe or toe left unturned. In fact, I can confidently say he now knows my body more intimately than any man I’ve ever slept with, with the exception of my sexual organs – although I’m sure he gave them a sly massage through some meridian point. Sometimes his hands tremble with the force of whatever’s coming out of them. I amuse myself by trying to zap him back with some piping hot lifeforce of my own.

My critical mind keeps piping up to mock my attempts at being pure consciousness. What if he’s rubbing himself right in front of your face? … Shut up, he can hear you, you know … He must be so bored, you should apologise and leave… This is rubbish; nothing’s happening … What’s that? Is that his leg?

Then, of course, something strange happens. It’s when Greg works from my lower back, up my arms and to my hands that I start crying, facedown in that towelly nook. I’ve barely got time for a We’re not really going to do this, are we? when I feel a bottomless well of grief and loneliness; not just the pinpricks of self-pity that can be willed out when one is laid horizontal and feeling a bit vulnerable, but grief bleeding out of my eyeballs and filling my mouth. Quietly. My fingers curl softly around his arm. He’s gentle, respectful and non-intrusive. I want him to stop touching me and not leave me at the same time.

Through the hole in the table I discover there’s a flower to look at, which my tears are plopping into. There’s some kind of card with writing on it as well, but my eyes are too blurry. Thankfully, when Greg moves onto my legs the feeling goes and I’m lulled into a vegetative state.

Afterwards, after I’ve got dressed, Greg pulls out a chart and shows me where the energy blockages were. He doesn’t need to tell me; I could feel which bits were stiff as a board and resisting arrest. But he tells me what that’s likely to mean, depending on which meridian lines and chakras are affected. He correctly identifies what memories came up for me, and reports on images he saw, which I was seeing, too.

The more time that goes by as I journey home and go about my business the next day, the more I’m able to rationalise the experience as coincidence, general knowledge and the law of probability… but it should be noted that at the time, I was buying it. Or if not entirely buying it, definitely putting it on lay-by. And as Greg says, “Our critical mind doesn’t want us freeing ourselves of the traps we’ve made.”

As a side note:
Greg gives an explanation of how we recreate our past experiences over and over as our lives spiral through time. Our DNA’s a spiral, he says, and so is the universe. The planets rotate around the sun, but beyond that the universe is spiraling, and so history keeps on repeating itself until we can gain some perspective by ascending up the six spheres of consciousness. It’s a theory favoured by David Icke.

Also, says Greg, our DNA carries the imprints of our parents, grandparents and ancestors, whose experiences become our own. It’s an idea I first heard from strange Theta-Healer and DNA restrander Maria. It’s not dissimilar to the idea that DNA replicates at a distance, which has been posited by Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier (argh! Nobel Prize science and pseudoscience collide. Now I feel even more wobbly), recently backed up by Professor Jeff Reimer at the University of Sydney. Psychic slayer James Randi disagrees with the idea of DNA teleportation, needless to say, drawing comparisons with homeopaths’ claims that water has memory.

Ho ho ha ha ha: joining a laughter club

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In my youth, my hatred of humankind was such that I would rather sit next to a turd than my fellow man. I know this exactly to be true, because one morning upon jumping on the tube at Hounslow East, I discovered some early bird scoundrel had lovingly laid a massive brown log upon one of the seats.

Brilliant, I thought. If I sit opposite that, no one will come near a 10m radius of me.

I cracked open a can of cider. Result.

Around the time of the turd, these new seat designs were introduced on the tube. Conspiracy theorists claimed the patterns were designed to look like the letters ‘S’ ‘E’ and ‘X’.

You’d think, then, that a laughter club in the middle of a park in country Victoria would be a cognitive challenge. However, I’ve come to realise since those youthful days that a) being open-minded and friendly to others can bring surprises and delights, b) the world neither owes me nor is out to get me, and c) amphetamines are best left alone.

I’ve come to investigate the club with Lucy and Stampy, who are game for a, uh, laugh, even if that means joining in with a group of 12 pensioners and oddballs at 8.30 on a Saturday morning. We’re conducted by a couple who have been laughter club devotees for years. “It releases… enzymes,” Barry says with a note of uncertainty. He slaps his beer gut. “Keeps you fit, as well.”

Gathering in a big circle, we’re run through a series of exercises: running around like an aeroplane with our arms outstretched and our “hahahahahaha” being the splutter of the propellor; having imaginary pillow fights, guffawing all the while; and running up to each other, staring into each other’s eyes, while tittering behind our hands “like Japanese women”. It’s all a bit manic and alarming, but so far, nothing ruptured.

In between each bout we retake our positions in the circle and clap with cupped hands (so that the vibrations run up our arms), chanting: “ho ho ha ha ha, ho ho ha ha ha”.

The idea, of course, is that faking merriment within the diaphragm region can fool the brain into releasing feel-good endorphins and boosting immunity. In fact, while laughter is now an innate instinct that comes into effect at around three or four months of age,  Robert Provine, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, theorises that the panting of chimpanzees as they play developed into laughter as our ancestors developed speech as a way of relieving stress and communicating our playful intent.

More exercises, back here in the park: roaring in a jolly manner like Father Christmas; doing a dance – “of your preference” – around the circle; mimicking a kookaburra and a meerkat, chortling and mincing our way over invisible hot coals; and chuckling in an imaginary elevator, into which we are crammed with all 12 others.

Towards the end, we’re instructed to use our laughter for the power of good. “Does anyone know of anybody who could do with some healing laughter?” Barry calls out.

“A double fatality!” one woman practically screams before anyone else gets a chance to think. “There was a double fatality in the newspaper last night. Car crash. Tragic.”

I’m not going to allege this lady may also be a funeral gatecrasher, combing the papers for meaningful moments, but as Stampy notes later, the laughter club does seem to be full of lonely types.

Focusing our energy, we laugh at increasing volume, rushing towards the centre of the circle, arms outstretched. We do that a few times, cackling our intent at the bereaved families.

Afterwards, the three of us compare notes and find: 1) we feel like we’ve had a fairly pleasing aerobic workout, 2) we felt a bit like we were in a cult, and 3) none of us found the laughter siblings-at-the-dinner-table contagious, which was a bit disappointing. But for a recovering gelotophobe, it’s a nice hurdle to hop.