And so the training commenced, each day usually following a similar pattern: Richard Bandler frequently taking the stage in the morning and regaling us with stories that were outlandish, but just feasible. Tales of schizophrenics cured by meeting them in their model of the world and then taking the logic of their model to the limit. Tales of Richard discovering how some of the world’s masters in personal change did what they did. Tales of liberation, of hope, of laughter, of violence and irreverence. Story on story on story – scintillating, shifting, continually holding our attention and taking our minds down new paths that we hadn’t previously considered. And underneath it all, a continual message telling us how to make the problems that we might face in our lives feel less relevant, less obstructive, less real. And patterning, with his talk and with his jokes, a new way of thinking.
It was as if Richard Bandler, in the weaving of his stories was weaving for each of us an alternative reality. Getting us to make connections in places that we wouldn’t previously have made connections – so that the things that seemed at one point able to hold us back were somehow no longer important, while at the same time those previous “blocks” offered us new opportunities to grow and to expand as people. We were shown how to seize new opportunities as they came to hand, and to live a life in full rich Technicolor, with opportunities continually opening themselves to our minds. Realising that where we thought there was only one option, one way to behave, there was a multitude of choices, and that it was down to us to take the most useful ones. But Richard actually said very little of this. He just told stories, stories and more stories about the way the world is, could be and will be.
His lessons were hypnotic, scintillating, captivating, hilarious and uplifting. At the end of the morning session on the first day I already felt a sense of complete wonderment at what I was experiencing. This from me: the guy who had been the compulsive mistruster, the analyser who took things to pieces.
It felt to me as if, at last, I was having the academic approach to life that had been drummed into me at university, finally and irrevocably dismantled. It was wonderful. A liberation and a wow factor. An adventure and a realisation. All in a hotel conference room in London.
In the afternoon, Paul McKenna and life coach Michael Neill worked with us. Paul continually worked up the feel-good factor inside of us – teaching us how to make ourselves laugh whenever we wanted to, taking ourselves to a place of comfort and ease at the centre of our beings where all things were possible. He spent time showing us how to laugh ecstatically at life in general, an approach that he was to do each and every day. How good ten minutes of laughter is for the soul! I had had no idea, that just by choosing to laugh I could take control of so much more of my life. As if the chemicals that were released in my brain at such ecstatic and delirious moments could somehow dissolve the pain of the previous years. Dissolve my frustrations, dissolve my limitations and cause the brain to somehow reboot and start running more positive, delightful life-oriented routines and sub-routines. Life was just brighter and more fun. The realisation grew in me each day.
The process was disorienting, too. At the end of the first day, Paul did something that he was to repeat every day: a trance. Talking in his hypnotic voice, taking us down through layers of relaxation to a place of stillness and quiet where the creative, imaginative and regenerative processes of life could start to provide a new interpretation.
I remember, on my first day, as Paul wound up the afternoon session, he invited us to go into trance in our chairs. I had done this so many time before with the CD and with Paul’s voice, that I thought it would just be another CD session – but with the novelty of Paul actually being there. Just a little chance to let myself relax deeply.
And so he began to talk, and he went through the usual routines of getting us to relax, and count backwards from three hundred, and getting us to notice words, to notice noticing words… and so on.
After a while I was moving through a snowbound landscape. I was on a sleigh being pulled along a road, and on either side of the road or country track, were icebound trees glistening in the blue light of the ice blue sky. Everything around me was still, and strange, and silent, and frozen – a frozen landscape that was beautiful. And the sleigh moved on in the snow, and I could feel the cold wind against my skin, and there was a blue line across the horizon, a thin pale blue line in the pale blue snow that was the horizon. And on the horizon was a building – perhaps a dacha or a house – I don’t know what it was, but a building of some significance – and I was moving towards it in the snow. I could hear my breathing in my ears, and the steady slide of the runners on the ice, and the gentle pad pad pad of the hooves in soft snow. I travelled on, becoming aware of a sense of purpose that I didn’t understand. A sense of feeling an emotion that was utterly true, utterly sure – and yet having no sense of what that emotion could be attached to – except to the blue landscape, and the cold snow stretching smooth away for miles beyond the trees lining the track. There was no danger here, only the place itself, moving by me, not fast, not slow, just a steady dream-like glide. I seemed to be travelling for hours, wrapped in furs. And I felt a deep sense of calm and contentment, a detached focus, in a way that I had not done for years…
Quickly the scene faded, and I was back in the training room again, and Paul was winding up his hypnotic induction.
I was staring at the carpet beneath my feet – a rich red and green in contrast to the blue white that I had been experiencing. I didn’t know where I was for maybe ten seconds, because that other snowbound world had seemed so very real – and this one, this one was the dream. I tried for a moment to draw the other place back into reality, but then realised that this was the reality that I was to have, now, and that other had melted away – its images as strong in my memory as joy in childhood.
It was a moment of deep deep trance in which – I don’t know – maybe I had started dreaming. I had never known anything like it before, this waking dream. It was amazing.
When I went home that night and got into bed I couldn’t sleep for hours, lying and staring at the wall, and feeling energised and vibrant. Eventually, I closed my eyes and slept for about two hours and awoke refreshed and contented.
Something new was going on in my mind.
And boy did it feel good.