Rhymes with Sewage, Part 1: Eating Sushi

Hypnosis and meditation are mostly the same thing

Earlier this month, I went to the “New Living Expo” in San Francisco. In plainer terms, it was a new-age fair. Or, as Penn Jillette would pronounce it, “newage” (rhymes with “sewage”). I had been to one of these before, probably in 2004, so I was overdue to return.

The tricky thing about this newage stuff is finding the wheat among the chaff. Yes, there really is wheat there (or at least there used to be). Several things that we now accept as normal made their first appearances in American society among the aura-oozing, crystal-loving, brain-lapse set. Yoga might be the best example of this, but there are others (which I’m too lazy to look up right now).

I also have a fascination with fringe topics. Since I live an evidence-driven life, I love to check out stuff for myself and gather my own data. This led me, for example, to try out self-hypnosis way back in the ’80s. I discovered that (despite James Randi’s protestations to the contrary) hypnosis is very real and not some cheap stage trick (What passes itself off as stage hypnosis is not hypnosis at all but some very powerful group psychology.).

I’m not sure if hypnosis can actually serve a purpose beyond relaxation, though. There are those who claim you can use it to quit smoking or lose weight. I didn’t need either of those, so I didn’t try it.

The hypnotic state alone can be fun to play with. I’m able to go pretty deep, which I guess not everybody is able to do. I can go deep enough to completely shut down all of my tactile senses. I feel like a brain just floating in space. Trippy, man! Who needs chemical assistance to enter an altered state of consciousness? I can do it with sheer brainpower. (Soon I will be able to shoot lightning bolts out of my eyes! Then the world will tremble!)

You don’t have to be a floating brain, either. You can enter any realm your imagination can dream up. My best experience happened one day when I was trying to reach that ultra-deep state. The common induction techniques have you imagine yourself going down, such as riding down an escalator. You have to visualize yourself descending. If you’re doing it right, this will be accompanied by a sensation of sinking.

On that fateful day, I was lying on my bed and talking myself deeper and deeper. I used the escalator visualization at first, but it only got me partway. Then I noticed that it felt like my body was sinking through the bed. I immediately conjured up some visuals to reinforce that sensation. I imagined myself sinking through the floor, under the house, and then down through the ground. I went deeper and deeper until I hit groundwater. I discovered that I was in an underground cavern, with fresh, cool water, glowing walls, and surprisingly fresh air. And what else was in this subterranean aquatic paradise? The only thing that could make it better, of course. Mermaids!

And these aren’t your crappy TV-censored puritanical mermaids with hooter-shells. No! These were real mermaids! With short hair!

Mermaids and manatees are NOT the same thing.

No. I said short hair!

The best part of all was that the fish part started just a tiny bit lower than is normally depicted, if you get my meaning.

As you can see, you never know where your explorations will take you, if you open your mind and follow your curiosity.

I need to emphasize that I suffer no delusions that mermaids exist. They don’t. That entire episode was pure imagination.

[Tomorrow: I go to the newage fair. Six years ago.]

14 Responses to “Rhymes with Sewage, Part 1: Eating Sushi”

  1. Thomas Says:

    I’m not doubting that your experiences were legitimate.

    But, could you provide some data in regards to brain activity and hypnosis? Without it, you’re making a statement from personal anecdote and doing so without really offering an operational definition of “hypnosis” and, well, you know better.

  2. Ron Britton Says:

    It’s a state of relaxation characterized by alpha brainwaves.

    Yes, this is an anecdotal experience. I’m not claiming it’s real because I experienced it. I’m claiming it’s real because it has been studied and documented in the laboratory. My anecdote is just an illustration of what the experience is like.

  3. J. A. Baker Says:

    As you can see, you never know where your explorations will take you, if you open your mind and follow your curiosity.

    And sometimes when you come out of a trance, you discover that you’ve had a Happy Ending™, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    The original version of this story left less to the imagination.

  5. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Wait… Mermaid sex is possible via hypnosis?

    Why hasn’t anybody told me about this before?!

  6. Ron Britton Says:

    Some of life’s mysteries must be discovered on your own.

  7. Lindsay Says:

    Hmmm…I’ve used something similar to self hypnosis to help myself sleep…I always imagine layers of blankets being covered over my body, and with each layer it gets darker and darker. The hypnosis part sounds cool…how could I achieve it without putting myself to sleep?

  8. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I think I’m basically unhypnotizable, unfortunately. I’ve tried a bunch of related self relaxation stuff, but by the time they get to “clear your mind” or “concentrate on this ” my mind says “wtf? how do you do that?”

    I’m constantly thinking about stuff and jumping form topic to topic. I can’t stop it! It’s like my mind is in 5th gear and it doesn’t ever move. Doesn’t bother me, but it does impede my ability to get to that sort of state. Maybe it’s some sort of ADHD type of thing, except I’ve never been diagnosed with that and I don’t have problems learning as a result of it.

  9. Ron Britton Says:


    The hypnosis part sounds cool…how could I achieve it without putting myself to sleep?

    You might not be able to. A lot of people fall asleep under hypnosis. The thing to do is try it at a time of day that you aren’t tired and don’t normally sleep.

    The easiest way to try it is to buy a relaxation hypnosis CD. Try to buy from a company that doesn’t also sell CDs for contacting your alien mentor or traveling with leprechauns. There seems to be fewer and fewer non-flaky companies in that business.

  10. Ron Britton Says:


    I think I’m basically unhypnotizable, unfortunately. I’ve tried a bunch of related self relaxation stuff, but by the time they get to “clear your mind” or “concentrate on this ” my mind says “wtf? how do you do that?”

    I’m convinced that hypnosis and meditation are the exact same mental state. In meditation, though, you’re supposed to blank your mind. I have no idea how to do that. I don’t think it’s possible. Maybe it’s easier for some people, because their minds are almost blank to begin with.

    I’m constantly thinking about stuff and jumping form topic to topic. I can’t stop it! It’s like my mind is in 5th gear and it doesn’t ever move.

    You’re describing me exactly, yet I’m able to go under. In hypnosis, you’re going on a guided visualization trip (although you can be your own guide). You always have something to concentrate on.

    I’m not sure how I’m able to do it. Normally, my brain is working on four or five problems simultaneously. I have no control over that. I think of it as a computer multi-processing. Each thread is vying for my attention. My awareness is always riding whichever thread is the loudest. I’m often jumping thoughts every few seconds. I tend to bounce around among those thoughts. It’s like I’m channel surfing in my brain. If something even newer and shinier comes along, I guess my brain jettisons the least interesting of those four or five and replaces it with the new one.

    I’m not sure how I’m able to quiet those other threads when I go under. I probably don’t completely. Maybe that’s why this isn’t something I’ve played around with lately. There are always at least four other things more interesting than riding down an escalator.

  11. Parrotlover77 Says:

    That’s exactly how my brain works.

    Maybe there’s hope for me yet. I might want to give it another go at some point. I know a few people who have done self-meditation and/or hypnosis and all quite enjoy the experience and find it very relaxing. I could really go for something that would help me unwind without having to reach for a beer. 😉

    Interesting hypothesis about the meditation = self-hypnosis. From what little I know, there are some very noticible similarities. It would be very interesting to compare EEGs to see if they are the same state.

    On a slightly related side-note, I did have a very interesting altered state of mind (non-drug induced) once that others might be interested in exploring. My friends and I were working on a completely lame horror movie with our handycam and crappy halloween masks back in college. This was before everybody did that and uploaded it to YouTube. Anyway, for one scene, we used a strobe light to simulate lightning. And at the apex of when the cheezy monster appeared on screen, the strobe light stayed on, so you could see him. We left it on for a rather long time while we just talked and joked around between scenes. I think it was maybe 5 minutes into it, I noticed I felt a little weird. I would have to describe it as feeling lighter, like I was floating when I would walk around. I asked my friends and they were experiencing the same thing. A little while later, Everything just seemed “clearer” and I felt more “focused.” I used quotes there because although I perceived this, it’s very possible, like being drunk, I was actually impared and the subjective experience was not the actual case. We started to get a little freaked out because these feelings kept getting stronger as we just sat there in that dark strobing room, so we turned off the strobe. Within five seconds, those feelings were gone.

    Obviously, if you are epileptic, Don’t Try This At Home (TM).

    Later on, I learned about something called The Dream Machine that was popular in the 60s and 70s and induced the same sort of altered state of consciousness. It’s not a strobe, but it seems to exploit the same sort of fast visual “on/off” stimulation that we got with the strobe.

    Interesting stuff. I’d be interested to know the scientific explanation. According to Wikipedia, it’s due to the oscillation producing the afforementioned alpha waves. The link to the reference is broken, so I can’t tell if that’s a decent authoritative source, or just a woo explanation, like quantum tachyons.

  12. Ron Britton Says:

    I had a dream machine back in the 90s (I told you I like to explore this stuff). It was a mask that you place over your eyes and ears. You’re supposed to keep your eyes closed. It had LEDs that flashed, which you would see through your closed eyelids. It had spacey music that would play through the headphones. They claimed it would put you into an altered state. I never felt anything beyond mild hypnosis. I never saw colors or experienced anything trippy.

    The gadget was cheaply made (despite costing over $100) and broke after a few months.

    Somebody was demoing one at the newage fair, but I don’t know why. He apparently was not selling it. In fact, I never did figure out what he was selling. Not a very effective technique.

  13. Ivan Stoikov - Allan Bard Says:

    Nice experience! Thanks for sharing! Yet, I have to say that mermaids do exist…;) in our minds, not in our dull reality…;). Oftentimes imaginary things are more real than the real ones…. Why did you imagine mermaids with short hair? It’s really weird… sorry, if that sounds stupid, I just think mermaids are the most gracious creatures one could imagine, it was no chance that they appeared in your imagination…
    I tried to meditate too, though not very successful, but when I succeded there were mermaids too in my imaginary fantasies! Probably that’s because I’m really fond of mermaids since childhood, I was in love with one then that helped me write my 1st book Tale of The Rock Pieces. Glorious creatures they are! Best wishes! LET THE WONDERFUL NOISE OF THE SEA ALWAYS SOUNDS IN YOUR EARS! (a greeting of the water dragons’ hunters – my Tale Of The Rock Pieces).

  14. Ron Britton Says:

    Why did you imagine mermaids with short hair?

    Well you see, Ivan, the long hair blocks the view…