When I was in high school, a hypnotist came for the school assembly. I was immediately intrigued and when they asked for volunteers to be hypnotized (and then paraded around onstage) my hand immediately shot up.
A group of about 30 of us were led into a portable classroom and were told to sit at a desk with our eyes closed. He led us through a relaxing meditation and then gave us some suggestions – “Your right arm is getting lighter and lighter. It is like a helium balloon, so light it is floating into the air… “
The kids with their arms highest in the air were chosen to be in the performance. I immediately worried as we marched onto the stage – Was I really hypnotized? Was I just faking it? I’m such a rule follower maybe I just did what he said because I was being good… I don’t feel hypnotized.
But there we were, in front of the entire school, seated in little chairs ready to make asses of ourselves. I had seen one of these assemblies before and they mostly centered around having your peers cluck like chickens on stage. I vowed not to do that.
He hypnotized us a bit more and then started giving us suggestions – “You are a Russian ballet troupe! We are so excited you are visiting our school! Why don’t you show us what you’ve got?”
I love dancing… I thought as I pirouetted around the stage. I’m such a good dancer!
Then his voice again. “This is your pilot speaking. We are climbing to an altitude of 20,000 feet and it’s getting very cold in the cabin.” We all started shivering in our chairs.
It went on like this for a while.
Then the hypnotist walked straight up to me and whispered, “Do you have any back problems?” I shook my head no. “Good,” he said and took my hand, leading me to the front of the stage. He had already placed two chairs there, about 3 feet apart, facing one another. He stood me between them and put the microphone down so only I could hear him. “You are a steel bar. You are made of steel. Straighten up, you’re a steel bar!” I straightened my body and nodded yes.
What happens next I have cobbled together from my own memory and what my friends in the audience told me they witnessed. You ready? This is where it gets weird.
My memory is that he lay my body between the chairs – head resting on one and feet on the other. I remember repeating to myself over and over again, I’m a steel bar. I’m a steel bar. Straighten up, you’re a steel bar! At one point, I could feel him pressing on my stomach, showing everyone how strong and steel-like I was.
But get this. Apparently, this six foot tall man had stood on my stomach. (I was a steel bar after all, so what’s the big deal, right?) Oh, and he jumped up and down on me. (I was probably 5 feet tall and 100 pounds of the time)
“What did he do?” I asked my friends after the assembly. “It was crazy!” they replied. “He was jumping on you! How did you do that?”
I had no idea and only fuzzy memories of chanting to myself.
Decades later, on a layover in Queretero, I met a Mexican man who told me he was a hypnotist. “Do you do school assemblies?” I asked excitedly, ” And make the kids do silly stuff on stage?” He nodded yes. Then I described my steel bar experience. “Was that real?” I asked him. “Did that really happen?”
He smiled knowingly. “We are so much more powerful than we realize.”
This is a message I’ve needed to hear so many times in my life. Maybe I needed to hear it today and that’s why this story is finding its way back to me. Maybe you need to hear it too – You are so much more powerful than you realize.
The trees told me this when I moved into my new house.
The angels told me this when my marriage was falling apart.
You are so much more powerful than you realize.
We have so many stories that get in the way – You’re doing it wrong, you’re failing, you should be doing more, you should be different…
But really, we are so powerful and tender all at the same time. I’m holding both right now in myself, in this moment. I can feel the tears burning my eyes as I write and I feel the truth of my power as well. They are inextricably tied- the softness and the strength.