18 January 2011

Reaching Inside for Long-Lost Memories

I have always thought of myself as the sort for whom hypnosis would never work. For one thing, I have always been the type whose two feet are firmly planted on this thing we call reality. For another, I will have to bring you back momentarily to a time when many of you were not even born.

I was still a small kid and I used to hang around with my eldest sister and her troupe of fellow teenagers. Once, they were talking about this thing they referred to as hypnosis; and although I did not initially understand what the word meant, from the context of their discussions I inferred that it had something to do with making a person undergo a sort of sleep and with others then being able to dictate all sorts of things unto him.

At least, that was what I could make of it at the time. I also heard from their discussions that hypnosis worked quickly on some people; and not so quickly on others. In the spirit of fun, they bade one of the teenage boys to give it a try. His denial was instant and one I strangely remember to this day: “Ayaw ko ngâ! Baka paghubuin n’yo ako!”

And that, my friends, is the silly reason why on the rare occasions that I had attended any sort of sessions that involved making suggestions to the mind – and I do not even refer to hypnosis sessions – the very same mind had always been wary about letting go and instead had always preferred to keep alert and stay with reality. In other words, something inside my head was wary about being taken advantage of.

Allow me to digress by talking about this bubbly character we have on campus until tomorrow, an American guest who goes by the name Brother Camillus. I first met him more than a decade ago when I visited the St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga, a small town just outside San Francisco. I and the colleague I was with stayed with the Brothers, so we got around to socializing with them after school hours.

I heard from discussions among the Brothers in the community that Brother Camillus was some sort of a mystic. He was easy to talk to; so we got ourselves invited to his room for a pray-over one night.

I remember to this very day how the room looked. It was not necessarily messy; at the same time, neither was it orderly. In fact, it looked more like a hippie’s den than anything: dimly lit by small candles all around the place; and it may just be my mind playing tricks, but I do seem to remember the smell of incense.

Once Brother Camillus asked me to close my eyes and he placed both palms just above my head, everything became surreal. He started muttering under his breath a mixture of rapid-fire English prayers and mumbo-jumbo that – on any other occasion – would have had me breaking out into spontaneous laughter. Instead, I was enveloped by a feeling of other-worldly peacefulness, the warmth emanating from his palms filling my body with an inexplicable glow.

It was both creepy and edifying. I remember leaving the room feeling as though my whole body had lost its mass; that I was floating rather than walking, an ethereal being instead of one of flesh and blood.

This morning in my office, in broad daylight at that, he asked if he could do the pray-over again. Yes! Oh yes, Brother! Despite the absence of the candles and the incense and the brightness of the day, the pray-over had the exact same effect! Beautiful!

That was just the appetizer. In the afternoon, I attended a meditation session facilitated by Brother Camillus with fourteen other colleagues.

Meditation, of course, is not the same as hypnosis; albeit, with Brother Camillus teaching us how to meditate by giving us verbal instructions, the principles involved – I suppose – were more or less the same. His instructions, therefore, were no different from those that are issued to subjects undergoing hypnosis.

Close your eyes… Breathe deeply and slowly… Exhale… Take ten steps going down… Go back up again… Continue to breathe deeply and slowly… Imagine a door in front of you… Grab the knob and open the door…

Initially, the conscious part of my mind stayed alert, as though saying, “Oh no you don’t!” But in the darkened room and with everyone quiet, the gentle whir of the air-conditioning unit sounded louder and hypnotic in itself. Brother Camillus’ voice was persuasive; and when he asked us to open the door, I found myself walking into a lovely garden inside my head.

He gave instructions to use the moment for prayer, but my mind simply took over. Prayer? What prayer? Although Brother continued to talk, his voice started to sound distant and his words incoherent. Memories I had not thought of for the longest time started to just surface and dance around as vivid images inside my head.

There used to be a golf fairway and a green behind our house inside the Base when I was a small kid growing up. I saw images of myself with my mates playing tag along the fairway or hide-and-seek behind the tall trees in the picnic grove. I saw myself playing football using a deflated basketball, something we borrowed from the neighborhood. I also saw myself as an elementary kid with classmates having picnic with some nuns and our teachers; and was it just not odd that we had to go uptown to school then return in buses to the picnic grove when the place was just a few yards away from the back of our house.

I knew that I had fallen asleep; yet I could hear Brother’s voice in the distance so I also knew I was still awake. It was the strangest experience. Later, in a conversation with Brother Camillus, I told him that it was the first time I had ever allowed myself to let go, to be brought “under.”

The whole purpose of the activity was to teach us to be able to pray in such a way that prayer is not invaded by the problem-solving mind trying to deal with the everyday things we worry about as we go through life. I do not know about the prayer part of it; but to know that there is a way to dig inside one’s mind and reach for memories long-buried, that was a great gift in itself! It was the most marvelous learning experience.

That and an afternoon siesta during office hours… Kidding!!! Just kidding!!!

[For those interested in meditation, please visit http://www.brothercamillus.com/.]

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