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JULY 266 2009




Le wis Gordon Pugh, an e nvironme ntalist and swim mer, has hone dd the abbility to raise his b od y te mp e rature b y almost 2ºC. Pug h swam a kilome tre in the wate rs of the North Pole without the aid of a drysuit or wetsuit. L


LICK fingers and sleight of hand, secrets of magic passed down through the generations, travelling entertainers who’ve leant their art from gypsies, stage magicians sawing in half their sequinned assistants, necromancers who call up the dead to console the living and hypnotists who manipulate their subjects and mesmerise their audiences. Tricksters have always had a place in society. A man who’s developed a comfortable niche on British television is Derren Brown. After studying law and German at Bristol University he decided to make a go of being a mentalist full-time. His speciality is hypnosis, something he seems to do quite speedily – and, using his powers of manipulation, he gets audiences to do exactly what he wants. One of his tricks is to stop people in the London Underground and ask them what’s in a box while putting his hand on their shoulder, just like the Vulcan pinch that Mr Spock of Star Trek enjoys administering. The trick is not about the box, rather it’s about his ability to hypnotise people so quickly. They fall under his spell, wake up and wonder what just happened. David Copperfield can seemingly make jumbo jets disappear and walk through the Great Wall of China. How does he do it? The tricks are up his sleeve. Well not quite, but through careful use of smoke, mirrors and the odd rope and harness, virtually any illusion can be achieved. It boils down to getting people to believe. In the US, two sisters made a fortune in the 1800s making people believe they could summon the spirits. They kept their tricks not up their sleeves but in their dainty socks. Keeping their hands on the table and their knees neatly together under the table, they’d click their toes loudly saying that the sounds were spirits tapping on the walls. For decades they got away with it – and even when they were found out, people still insisted they had extraordinary powers. Dr Cecilia Gericke believes in men-

Tricks of the mind Veruska De V Vita Our world is one of our imagining – and hypnosis can change all the rules,writes V tal fitness. It helped her survive cancer, double pneumonia and a stroke. She’s a practising hypnotherapist who considers mind fitness to be as important as body fitness. “As a practitioner I need to be able to see wider than the physical so I meditate for half an hour most mornings. “The mind is very powerful, but to harness this power one needs self-discipline,” she explains. Gericke’s aim is to help people live optimal lives without being stuck in a rut of depression and/or addiction. She steers them into a state of hypnosis where brainwaves go from the regular beta waves to the much slower alpha waves. Through a systemic approach she talks her clients through their issues. The issues are uncovered and Gericke helps her client overcome them with their mind. According to clinical hypnotherapist Marietta Hindy, three things are needed for a person to be hypnotised therapeutically – imagination, concentration and belief. “Belief is the most important factor for someone to be hypnotised, from then on I can access the brainwaves that operate non-critically, the alpha waves, those that occur seconds before sleep.” Hindy explains that phobias and addictions are habits, and these are taught to the mind. “Habits are hooked up to familiarity. People start smoking because they associate it with something pleasurable, even if at first it doesn’t taste good. “The mind hooks an emotion to the act. Through the emotive hook, a person magnifies the picture and recycles it in their minds and a habit is formed. “Phobias are also a habit and like addictions these can be unhooked

Hyppnotherappist Ce cilia Gericke at her p ractice in Jo burg. through hypnotherapy,” she says. “Many people come to me with anxiety and depression, some are a manifestations of childhood issues where they had a frightening chemical reaction in their mind and body, a strong emotion, and they are blocked, unable to let go and move on. Through hypnotherapy, the mind can learn to let go and the depression evaporates. “The conscious mind is tied to the five senses, picking up stimuli from the outside world. In the conscious state we are always questioning and creating images in our minds. Images are the blueprints of our lives and if they can be altered through the use of imagination, habits can be changed and the body and mind can heal,” says Hindy. A man who spent his life in and out of prison for selling drugs went to Hindy for help. In prison, he worked his


way up the ranks to “prison king”, a position that gave him power over other inmates. He decided who lived and who died. Hypnotherapy helped him reintegrate into society. For Hindy, the mind is powerful and with it one can control the automatic workings of the body. “If you are cut, you can stop the bleeding with your mind, you can control your blood pressure, you can limit pain, you can have surgery without an anaesthetic,” she says. Lewis Gordon Pugh, an environmentalist and swimmer, has honed the ability to raise his body temperature by almost 2ºC . Pugh swam a kilometre in the waters of the geographic North Pole without the aid of a drysuit or wetsuit. Wearing only a Speedo, swimming cap and goggles, he swam in below 0ºC water and stepped out without losing so

much as a fingertip to frostbite. “I pictured my life ahead of me and then looked at the life behind me and I decided that I wanted to bring the realities of global warming to people everywhere and I was going to do this by being the first person to complete a long distance swim at the North Pole. “It took many years of training, but by staying focused and meditating everyday, I did it. It’s all about setting goals and working towards them,” explains Pugh. Pugh manages to elevate his core body temperature by 1.4ºC. This phenomenon is known as anticipatory thermogenesis. He does this by listening to Puff Daddy on his iPod. It’s the aggression that gets his temperature pumped up. “As soon as I enter cold water my body shunts all my warm blood to my core to protect my vital organs. It then generates incredible heat,” he explains. Pugh brings new meaning to acclimatisation. Perhaps he was a polar bear in a past life. Past life regression falls under the realm of hypnotherapy. Letting the worms out the can or opening Pandora’s many boxes can be an uneasy experience, especially when those worms have burrowed deep, but, according to Steve Lyons, a hypnotherapist who also has a Master’s degree in health management, the unburdening of ties to the past brings huge relief to peoples’ lives. “I was initially sceptical. I have a business background, so I’m very analytical and then I saw it for myself. I hypnotised someone and they went into their past lives. I was then hypnotised and regressed to three past lives,” explains Lyons.

Lyons saw himself in a cave and went through the process of how that life ended – he was a caveman who starved to death. He reckons his overweight body is a result of that life. In another life he was a woman living in twelfth century Europe. In another, he was again a man. “A man once came to me for anger management. I hypnotised him and while I was asking him questions, his voice and intonation changed. He had a spirit inside him from a past life and it was this entity that gave him his aggressive streak. “They had an unfulfilled contract and the spirit was hanging around. I was petrified, but I got straight to the point and asked the relevant questions. The spirit left him,” says Lyons. Through the mind, the actions and reactions of the body can be controlled. During the Hindu festival of Holi, followers go into a trance-like state, putting hooks through their skin and hanging lemons on them, or pushing long needles through their tongues without bleeding or seeming to feel pain. “Religion and mysticism teach us how to meditate, go into trance, breathe slowly and pray. These are also ways of managing stress. Through hypnosis, the first thing I teach my clients is how to chill. Most people come to me and say ‘I’m stressed’ and find solace in alcohol and cigarettes. Stress usually underlies depression and anxiety and, if stress is eliminated, the perception of the world changes for the better,” says Lyons. English rugby player Johnny Wilkinson performs a ritual every time he approaches the ball – he clasps his hands in front of him. “In his mind the crowd noise disappears, the goal posts look wide and his body performs the perfect kick,” says Lyons who has helped a golfer improve his swing and a 19-year-old skateboarder improve his balance. Perhaps it’s mass hypnosis that makes the magician’s tricks appear real. Or maybe it’s our minds playing tricks on us. Through mind control perceptions can be altered, points of view changed. If this is the case, should we believe that not all is what it seems?




Unpacking politics of self in Sibande exhibition Page 27

Deepa Mehtta’s Heaven on Earth Page 28

Volunteer buffalo round-ups Page 30

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