15 Hypnotists walked into a curry house.
with a famous American mentalist.
Sounds like the start of a joke, right?
But it actually happened – and I was one of those 15.
We were noisily crammed into an upstairs cubby-hole table meant for 10.
Many of us had only met yesterday – the first day of the weekend course.
Here we were on Sunday night catching bits of garlic naan thrown across the table – climbing over each other, to get to the loo.
The air was filled with spice, garlic, shrieks of laughter and genuinely outrageous stories.
I’ll go back a bit.
In my teens, I was a bit obsessed with Paul McKenna.
Read all his books, listened to the CDs.
I went to see Derren Brown 3 times.
(Never picked from the audience, which is frankly rude)
It’s always been a fascination.
When I inevitably did my professional hypnosis training, I had no idea HOW I was going to use it – only that I would.
Back then I taught BootCamps, dance classes and fitness things.
It didn’t seem overly congruous at the time.
The world is full of any number of other, underground worlds.
Hobbies with their own rock stars – that regular Muggles would never have heard of.
You probably know of one.
Hypnosis is one of those.
Hypnotists (the good ones, anyway) are always learning.
And this particular course wasn’t actually one about hypnosis –
but because of the ‘underground world’ thing, it just happened that we were all hypnotherapists.
The course was Mentalism.
We learned how to do cold reading, warm reading, card tricks… mind reading…
With history, story-telling, mythology, symbolism and cool stuff thrown in.
With a rock-star of his world.
Can I read your mind?
Is it a trick…?
Well… not exactly – it’s more of a technique.
Will I tell you how I do it?
Not even if you tickle me, and I’m mad ticklish.
The last afternoon took a delicious turn for the darker.
I was going to start this story with the description of 15 of us holding hands, making a table levitate,
but I wanted you to at least make it half way down, before I lost the religious people.
Can I conduct a completely convincing séance,
tell you things about yourself that I can’t possibly have known
and get messages from ‘the other side’?
Yep. Totally. I’m really good at that.
Am I psychic?
(disclaimer: I am not saying there is no such thing as psychic phenomena.
There may well be people who can do that stuff.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
Or am I just saying that to throw you off the scent?)
It’s always about the ritual.
The black tablecloth (spoilers – black tablecloths hide a multitude of strings)
The ethereal music.
The theatrics (spoilers – distraction is useful)
But the Indian restaurant was too.
Great service is ALL about ritual.
Tablecloths and cloches.
The tasting of the wine.
Chinking glasses – CHEERS!
Sharing bread, laughter, stories.
Making a speech.
Rituals are the things we do, because that’s how they are done.
We learn them from the people who went before us.
They tend to serve no practical purpose other than to unite those taking part in a shared experience.
The reasons behind them get lost to time.
We talked about Church last time.
So much ritual – it’s hard to see the joins.
– NYE Countdown then Auld Lang Syne (wtf) – the precise moment of the death of last year and the birth of the next marked by champagne and snogging.
– Exchanging presents – wrapping them up so you get the revealing moment of finding out how well you know their preferences
– Wetting the babies head (my short legged family toast: ‘long legs to the baby’)
– Cutting the wedding cake
– 2 minute silence for those we lost
– Clapping for the NHS
– Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue
– Athletes kissing a lucky penny, wearing lucky pants
– Pope kissing the ground to bless it
– Devotees kissing the Pope’s feet
– Waving – (fun fact: this started by us showing each other that we were not holding a weapon)
– Christening: Holy Water, Dunking/Anointing
– Prayers, with the right words, said the right way.
– The scattering of ashes
– Fraternity/sororiery/Brownies/Scouts/Masons initiation
– Freshers week – getting mortalled and having sex with everybody – to get the nerves out of the way.
– Morning coffee – with a favourite cup.
– Saying Mantras,
– Blowing out candles and making Wishes,
– The Law of Attraction
– The National Anthem
– Reiki, Massage, Raising your vibration
– Cheering a goal,
– Focussing your thoughts, harnessing energy
It’s a fun exercise to try to explain things
as if a recently landed alien had just asked you to:
Let’s try it with Christmas Ritual.
Lights outside houses (makes sense, it’s dark)
Holly and Ivy (yep – well, it’s around)
Carolling (but must be certain songs),
Trees in the living room (OK it’s starting to get weird)
Coordinating the largest, most complicated meal of the year
There must be sprouts.
That’s the only hard rule.
Pulling tubes of card with gunpowder in, filled with a hat, a bad joke and a rubbish toy.
Your arms are crossed to make it awkward.
It’s important that everyone wins, even if they don’t win.
And that the joke isn’t funny and the toy is tat.
A old flying dude, with small unpaid non-human slaves,
visits every house in the world, breaks in,
eats food and drinks alcohol,
you have to keep your eyes shut or he won’t, and brings you toys.
(Getting harder to pitch)
In the meantime lying to your children about the above, and colluding with the older children if they ‘no longer believe’.
Also distinguishing this dude from the dangerous ones who do some of the same things.
All to celebrate the birth of a child born 2000 years ago, to a virgin.
Also was the son of God.
Who had nothing to do with any of it.
But we never tell the children not to believe that.
Are you keeping up, alien?
Obligatory Queens Speech/Strictly/Dr Who Special while the person who cooked the food loads the dishwasher again.
Also something about the Coca-Cola lorry.
And Michael Bublé
That was cheeky.
Christmas is great.
But it’s such a mish-mash of old, new, Christianity, Paganism, happiness , consumerism, charity and stress,
it’s worth working out what you’re doing JUST because – you’re doing it.
When you stand back and examine – especially this year, unlike any of the others before..
And see that all of it was once made up.
That none of it is set in stone.
If the government can make things up as they go along –
then sure as hell (or heaven) you can do that in your own family.
If all of it is up for grabs
Can you identify with parts of the Christmas ritual you LOVE?
And which ones don’t work for you at all.
Is midnight mass a special moment for you – whether you believe in the stuff or not.
Or would you rather get a good night’s sleep.
Do you secretly hate turkey?
If some of it isn’t working for you, can you bin it off?
Are you damned if you’re staying in the kitchen all day?
You can make your own rituals,
every bit as rich and valid as the ones that someone else made up.
You get to do that.
Can you create your own theatre, symbolism, specialness and reverence.
If you had a clean slate, what would you do?
p.s. Next Time: The Bible
(if you missed the other Unbundlings – links below)
Christmas Unbundled 1) — AN INTRODUCTION https://www.facebook.com/WiseandGorgeousCoaching/posts/10157879495116814
Christmas Unbundled: 2) — CHURCH https://www.facebook.com/WiseandGorgeousCoaching/posts/10157895510791814
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