Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Self-Hypnosis For Well-Being
What do yoga, transcendental meditation and self-hypnosis have in common? Only an expert could explain in a convincing, substantive way; but the Footloose Forester will venture his version of an answer: Each practice is a deliberate activity with the effect of reaching the sub-conscious state of the practitioners’ minds. The destination of all three activities is the same--the sub-conscious mind. How one gets there is what is different. It is akin to entering a common room in a house from three different locations outside and from three different doors. On the outside, the scenery may be different but once inside, the surroundings are the same.
The conscious objective of undertaking a session in yoga might be for physical conditioning, but it requires a mental discipline to retain the sometimes uncomfortable positions that are part of that conditioning. In truth, yoga involves both physical and mental discipline. Enduing some of the positions for an extended period of time does indeed require mental discipline, although the practitioner might not be aware of it.
Transcendental meditation is a two-dollar word that essentially implies the act of meditation that has the purpose of transcending from one mental state to another. Everyone has meditated at some time or other, but transcendental meditation is a purpose-driven activity that takes longer; and usually has a specific theme. One enters the room through a particular door to sub-consciousness. Once inside the room, the practitioner concentrates of the activities that brought him/her there, in the first place.
In recent months, experts have been expanding the domain of understanding about what is at stake, who may benefit from meditation, yoga, and a relatively new approach known as mindfullness. More important, their findings indicate that very young children may benefit in important ways. The accompanying story, taken from the 16 February 2015 issue of TIME magazine, refers to them as mini-meditators.
In self-hypnosis, the preparations required to enter into the state of sub-consciousness follow a sequence whose elements have been written into various guides to success. Not that everyone who reads the guide(s) will succeed, just as reading a golf instruction manual will not make you into a professional golfer. The guides tell you the fundamentals and the steps to take to maximize your efforts. But it requires some practice to become proficient; fortunately the steps are easy to learn and some pay-off can be expected early on.
Among the various practitioners of self-hypnosis, most would agree that step-by-step procedures are advisable in order to achieve a state of sub-consciousness; and that the depth of that state varies from shallow to deep. The deeper the state, the more effective is the experience. In general, self-hypnosis is shallower, by comparison, than a hypnotic state induced by another person. Professional hypnotists make use of the advantages of deep hypnosis as administered by a second party; and often spend considerable time and effort honing their skills to become certified or clinical hypnotists. Since hypnosis is a mind-altering technique that actually involves changes in brain chemistry, there is some justification for hypnotists to be licensed to practice on others. But second-party hypnosis is beyond the scope of this chronicle, so will not be discussed further.
Some listed procedures for conducting self-hypnosis:
1. Choose a private, quiet place in which to conduct a session.
2. Dress comfortably to avoid discomfort that might result during a long session.
3. Sit or lie comfortably.
4. Focus your thoughts by concentrating on a place or time in the past that was serene, beautiful and cheerful. Such a place should also be known as safe, warm, and happy in all respects.
5. Use a mantra to quickly focus your thoughts on the task at hand. A mantra is a word or phrase that can easily be remembered. The use of a mantra can later be used to short-circuit some of the other preparations.
Once the steps are learned, it is possible to streamline the procedures. The sequence then becomes:
Mantra > sub-conscious state > focus on purpose for hypnosis > post-hypnosis suggestion (optional) > post-hypnotic consciousness > act on post-hypnotic suggestion
Personal examples of past episodes of self-hypnosis by the Footloose Forester tended to be those related to changing his mood. For example, after a stormy session with his thesis advisor about the laboratory procedures he had spent a week or more following and then was asked to abandon, the Footloose Forester was in need of a change of mood. So, as he set off for home on his bicycle at the end of his workday, he decided to leave thoughts of the lab behind him. He induced a hypnotic state while peddling somewhat angrily in rush hour traffic. But by the time he reached the more pleasant surroundings of the pedestrian Ala Wai Canal sidewalk promenade, he was feeling much better.
He was still invested in his sub-consciousness at that point, yet was aware that he had to slow down at those upcoming places where steps that were cut into the sidewalk led down to the water level of the canal. But although he was aware that he was going too fast as he attempted to negotiate the first set of steps, he didn’t care because he was feeling so good. Down he went, as he failed to make the necessary zig-zag maneuver. He still didn’t care. The altered mood was so much better than the previous one that he didn’t even cuss when he fell.
Mental discipline was one of the expectations he was hoping for; and physical endurance was only one aspect of that discipline. The Footloose Forester believes that marathon runners practice self-hypnosis, although they may not be aware that they are doing so. Undoubtedly, it requires mental as well as physical discipline to participate in marathons. Yet, for the Footloose Forester, more modest achievements were his quests. He wanted to be able to sustain an exercise regimen that was beyond the limits of his beckoning pain. He wanted to discipline himself to do a few more push-ups, a few more chin-ups and to endure slogging uphill a little longer, before he had to rest. So, he decided to see if self-hypnosis would improve on the status quo.
He decided to perform an objective trial. He would lie on the outdoor bench adjacent to the study desk he normally occupied at the Hamilton Research Library. The bench was seldom used and he knew that it would be private enough, since he could see it from his favorite desk and through the full-length glass windows of the library.
Starting from a lying position on his back on the wooden bench, he went through the drill to reach his sub-conscious state. After he checked to ascertain that he was in a sub-conscious state, he put his trial to the test with the aid of a stop-watch which was on the ground next to the bench. At time zero, the Footloose Forester raised his closed and outstretched legs about six inches into the air and held them there until he told his sub-conscious self that he had had enough. Twenty minutes had passed since time zero. It was not a guess….the stop-watch told him so.
Other aspects of the applications of self-hypnosis will be shared by the Footloose Forester in Part III of this series. In the meantime, the same self-described and inquisitive Footloose Forester has since learned that the expression “mind over matter” more correctly refers to mind over brain. The science of Neurobiology has recently confirmed that we can alter our own brain chemistry by thinking in ways that lead to changes in brain hormones, can turn certain genes on or off, and we ourselves can re-wire the brain synapses in the regions of the brain where those thoughts reside.