I was at the lowest ebb, ever. My parents died. My family fractured along fault lines based on ancient grudges and current gripes. I had just arrived back in Manhattan and could barely drag myself along the street. I would never again (I was sure of it) have confidence, energy, hope, or even the ability to get out of bed in the morning.
On a mysterious and dusty bit of Broadway sidewalk, on one of those ubiquitous tables of books that sprout even in snowstorms, my eye was caught by a bright red cover. The title was Self Hypnosis, the Complete Manual for Health and Self-Change, and the authors are Brian M. Alman and Peter Lambrou, both PhDs.
“I’ll give it to you for five,” the bookseller said.
“Do you really need that?” my husband asked, the obligatory husband question.
“Yes,” I said, and the man placed the book into my hands.
In the year since, I’ve read and re-read the book daily, trying out every exercise, and then starting over. I learned to shut out the sirens and cabs of Broadway, the cell phone conversations of neighbors, and even, just slightly, to relax on a dentist’s chair. Eventually, as the authors suggest, I wrote goals and dreams.
The authors never tell you what to do. They claim the subconscious or inner self doesn’t like being bossed around.
Once, in the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, Washington, I heard about a workshop. I figured the people who attended would be alternative types, with frizzy partly-gray hair, if women, and hair tied in a pony-tail, if men. Instead, the men were wearing neat khakis and sport shirts. The women wore what conservative women in Port Townsend wear, and their hair was not particularly frizzy. Maybe they smoothed it with what I've learned in Manhattan to call product.
As in: "Your hair is frizzy, Kirie. You need to buy some product."
The most conservative-looking couple of them all led us in the rudiments of something called qigong. They talked about healing energy, pronounced “chi.” None of it involved much talking, and we did not socialize after the group. The couple had studied with Luke Chan, and his book, 101 Miracles of Natural Healing, was available for sale. For several months, on into summer, half a dozen of us continued to meet.