At the David R. Collins Writers Conference, I took a workshop on “The Ecstatic Essay” with instructor Rachel Yoder.
For our last session, Rachel invited in hypnotist Sylvia Runkle to hypnotize the entire class as a group, and then have us do a set of writing exercises while under hypnosis.
Unfortunately I don’t think I was hypnotized, or even deeply relaxed. It bothered me that I was so keyed up or hyper-vigilant that I couldn’t be hypnotized.
One participant, who meditates regularly, said that people who didn’t think they were hypnotized probably were really hypnotized, that it’s not something dramatic, but I’m still pretty sure I was not hypnotized. Still the same usual struggle to ignore and override my critical mind and just let go.
Sylvia said that in her experience, very few people could not be hypnotized unless they had a serious medical issue, and that usually it was just a matter of different surroundings or a different hypnotist. So there is some hope.
Either way, here are the things I wrote during this experiment:
There are five lines across the sky, subtle and deep, both shimmering on the surface and hovering just beneath, like a giant mystical hand grazing its long pointed nails across the clouds. Clouds that are thin and gauzy, smooth stripes, rows of seed sowed by your staring, the beams from your eyes. It’s your hand that scraped across the sky, that created the furrows that you fall into, that strangers follow, sliding their feet in your footsteps, so that they can no longer tell which steps are yours and which are theirs. And you realize now what you didn’t before, that this is something you could always do, but you did not know what to call it, couldn’t summon the proper words, because the proper words did not exist, and will never exist until you create them. Your fingers in the dirt, smoothing a raised spiral, your symbol embossed in the earth, green and mossy.
Where did it go? A metallic ticking on either side of the tunnel she was in, blankets wrapped around her like a mummy, someone that loves you so much they tie you down so you won’t leave. Pretending until it becomes true. The way someone repeats a lie so often that even they believe it. You keep driving down the dark road, one lane going each way, headlights illuminating the tiny lizards that dart across the road in front of your car, behind your car, climbing across the windshields, sticky feet and tongues licking the glass. The same images repeat over and over, the same wind turbines looming in the distance, the same field of crimson lights pulsating in unison on the ground beneath them. You can’t do any of this on your own, can’t let go without the assistance of machines and the guidance of medical authorities, the only group of figures of authority who don’t have to prove why you should listen to them. Any failure of theirs to diagnose and treat you (let alone cure you) is really a failure of your body to fit into any of the verified valid categories. This is why you can’t let go.