I sat there on the stage as Paul continued to move fast. He asked me, while I was in this strangely heightened state, to run a series of visualisations. In one, he told me to pick a writer that I really admired. To look at that writer and see how they moved, see how they talked, think about what I admired of their work. When I had done so, and had a clear image of what that writer was like, he told me to step into that writer and experience the world from that writer’s point of view.
He told me to notice really clearly what it felt like to be that writer, and to notice what learnings I could take from the experience. I remember I chose Graham Greene. Paul asked me to allow the learnings I could take from being that writer to “encode into my neurology” so that I could take those learnings with me into the future.
I did the same with another writer. Who else should I choose but William Shakespeare, this time? And finally there was Louis De Bernieres, whom I have admired for years.
The next part of the trance had me visualising sitting in a room with a script that I was working on, and finding that I was with the agents and editors of writers that I really admired. We were all sitting and watching a movie of something I had written, and I found myself entering the minds of those agents and editors, to get a sense of what it was that they really wanted. Again, I was invited to take these learnings and “encode them into my neurology”.
Then Paul asked me to visualise myself writing. “Do you work with a computer or a pen?” he asked. I opted for the computer, although I told him that I work with a pen as well. Paul told me to see myself working at my desk, or wherever it is that is most comfortable for me, and feeling how easy it is to write. To experience the feeling of ideas coming to my mind easily and quickly, and seeing myself enjoying writing a wonderful piece of work. He told me to see myself day after day, and then week after week far into the future as I built up the experience, noticing how each day seemed easier than the one before.
Then he took me through the process of working the manuscript up, correcting it, tidying it, submitting it – and finally having it published. He asked me to take inside myself and keep it there, so that I always held a clear expectation of what the future would bring.
Next, he asked me to visualise the cover of my book, and to imagine holding it in my hands. What colour, he asked, was the book? Then he asked me to imagine, as I held it in my hands, seeing the title page. And there it was: my future work in my mind and in my hands.
And that is about as much of the trance as I remember. He did, at some point tell me that I should integrate the changes into my lfe only at the rate and speed that was appropriate for me. Then he put me down deep again at some point, and finally, after much intense imaginative work, the session was finished, I was blinking at the crowd, and Paul was saying to me.
“So, there, how does that feel?”
I was out of my head. I could only think of one thing. The question he asked me, I ignored, because what struck me now was that this had happened pretty much as I had imagined it would happen, now, on this day, with Paul. It was, I realised, a really significant day for me.
“Today is my 40th birthday,” I answered without answering his question.
The audience looked surprised and confused by the answer. Paul gestured to give me a clap, and suddenly he was announcing with a whirl of friendly patter and talk that it was time to break for lunch.
I stood on the stage, not knowing what to do as a swirl of people started to move by me. It seemed as if I could feel all of their eyes on me, as if my consciousness had somehow been massively expanded or as if I was hallucinating on some wonderful and terrible drug. I saw someone come from the back of the crowd and shake my hand, and say he was Ben, and I heard him ask me how I was. But I just wanted to pull away from everyone, but didn’t know what to do or what to say. It was all so intense, and the room seemed to be a nightmare of overwhelming sensations, sights and sounds.
Then two faces appeared from the crowd and two arms seemed to gather me up. The pair were a blonde woman called Wendy, and a bald man called Stephen.
“We’re going for lunch. Do you want to come for lunch with us?” They asked.
I felt like a child or an animal. My brain wasn’t functioning how it normally did – and I went on an instinct that it was okay to trust them. I wasn’t processing information, analysing and responding as I normally would. It was as if I was a savage, a creature of little understanding. So I followed them along like the little animal or the lost child I had become, and we went to a restaurant at the far end of a long road. And all the while I could hardly say a word, and I looked around me with eyes that seemed to be seeing the world for the first time. There seemed to be no comprehension in my mind. Just an overwhelming sense of confusion, and grief and pain and anguish.
A little later I was sitting in a cafe with them drinking some fruit juice. And I wept and grizzled like a child as I drank it through a straw.