Listening to the sumptuous splendour of the concertos he wrote for the piano, or the simple beauty of the melodic line that tows his Vocalise into every music lover’s heart, you’d imagine that Sergei Rachmaninoff was somebody like Mendelssohn – equipped with a silver spoon from the start, all set to sail through a life untroubled.
In some respects, yes, but in others, the comparison falls quickly away.
Just like Mendelssohn, whose extended family owned a bank, Rachmaninoff (who favoured this spelling as opposed to “Rachmaninov”) was born into prosperity.
His father was an officer in the Imperial Guard whose own father had had piano lessons from none other than that Irishman abroad John Field, inventor of the Nocturne.
Sergei’s mother was the daughter of a wealthy army general whose dowry included no fewer than five country estates.
The Mendelssohns managed money well. Things were rather different for the Rachmaninoffs.
The old boy was rather too fond of playing the high roller – a gambler and a womaniser, with a fondness for the hard stuff.
One by one, the estates had to be sold off, and the family ended up in modest surroundings in a cramped apartment in St Petersburg.
Sergei survived an outbreak of diphtheria which took the life of an elder sister. Another also died in childhood.
He needed a scholarship to get into the Conservatory in Moscow. Things were so tight he had to live in his teacher’s apartment.
Though he was a star student, misfortune seems to have had a way of dogging him wherever he turned. It was always a case of one step forward and two steps back.
Despite a bright start to his composing career – a first piano concerto written at the age of 17 placed him on a path of musical excellence – what should have been the crowning glory of his early years became a millstone round his neck.
His first symphony was eagerly awaited, and would be unveiled in St Petersburg. The highly respected composer Alexander Glazunov – a favourite of Rachmaninoff – was engaged to conduct the premiere. This was a mistake.
Glazunov didn’t rate the music, couldn’t be bothered to rehearse the orchestra properly, and when he took to the podium on the night, he’d obviously had one, if not two, too many.
The performance was a disaster, the reviews damning. Rachmaninoff, just about to turn 24, was devastated.
The symphony was never performed again in his lifetime. He couldn’t think about writing anything else.
He continued on the concert stage as a pianist – he was quite brilliant, with a prodigious hand span, renowned for the clarity of his playing – and turned his hand to conducting. But as far as composing was concerned, that was that.
At the urging of his wife, he eventually underwent hypnosis. That cured his writer’s block.
He returned in triumph with the breathtaking Piano Concerto No.3, performing it for the first time on a Sunday afternoon in New York in 1909.
Sergei Rachmaninoff was tall and slim, by all accounts a man whose successes weren’t reflected in his demeanour. His contemporary, Igor Stravinsky, famously referred to him as a six-and-a-half foot scowl.
But for a man who never got over his homesickness for Russia, any melancholy would have had a sound basis.
Driven out by the Revolution in 1917, he eventually found peace and creative space on the shores of Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.
He and his wife built their idyll there, a villa called ‘Senar’, abbreviations of their names, Sergei and Natalia, together with the “R” from Rachmaninoff.
With World War II looming, they couldn’t stay, and left in August 1939, never to return.
Sergei Rachmaninoff died in California in 1943, just days before his 70th birthday.
AN INDONESIAN housewife, Herlinawati, 53, was close to becoming a victim of hypnosis in Sukmajaya, a sub-district in Depok, West Java, Indonesia last Thursday.
Three men, who claimed to be from Brunei Darussalam, allegedly approached the woman and tried to hypnotise her by patting her back, Indonesian newspapers reported.
In describing the incident, Herlinawati said she was approached by the perpetrators as she was on her way home.
In the blink of an eye, her back was tapped and in a state of subconsciousness she followed the men into a car.
“Inside the car, the perpetrators said they were from Brunei and wanted to exchange some foreign currencies into Indonesian Rupiah.
“They also claimed that they could double whatever money she owns,” Sukmajaya Police Chief Bronet Kompol said.
Duped by the perpetrators, Herlinawati unknowingly surrendered two gold rings and a watch she was wearing.
“Upon doing so, the perpetrators promised that her belongings would be returned if she gave them the rest of her jewelleries kept at home. The victim was then driven to her house,” Bronet said.
Fortunately the plan failed when the hypnotic trance on Herlinawati disappeared as soon as one of her children patted her back.
“She awoke and screamed. The three men tried to escape. Members of the Public Unit of Indonesian National Police in the area arrested and brought them to a security post,” the police chief added.
Master Mind Advanced Hypnosis Institute is offering an open house and a workshop to celebrate the 15th Annual World Hypnotism Day. The public is invited to attend the event, which will be held Friday January 4 and 11, 2019. The open house is from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00p.m. Please feel free to visit us at 300 International Drive Suite 100 Williamsville, New York 14221 . Hypnosis is a fantastic way to generate healing and accelerate growth. The advent of a new year offers my fellow Buffalonians the perfect time to explore new techniques to achieve Relaxation, weight loss, peace of mind, prosperity, health and joy.
For more Information visit www.Master-Mind.us or call (716) 247-6610
Hypnosis, demystified: More than just a party trick, hypnosis in a therapeutic setting can alleviate anxiety, phobias, PTSD, and more.
People come to hypnosis for a grab-bag of reasons. Smoking cessation. Emotional eating. Fear of flying. Achieving “flow” or peak performance as an artist or athlete. For Ann of West Hurley (who prefers to go by her first name), it was stage fright that led her to the hypnotist’s chair last summer. She was preparing to have an adult Bat Mitzvah, something she hadn’t done as a child and really wanted to do, yet performance anxiety was getting in the way. “I wasn’t sleeping well, and it was overwhelming to the point where I was avoiding the work I had to do,” she says. “Time management went out the window, and fear took over.”
About six weeks before Ann’s big day at the synagogue, a friend, a “very wise woman,” suggested that she try hypnosis to allay her anxiety. “It never would have come into my own mind to do this,” Ann says. “She made the call right then and there. I didn’t have much time to think about it.”
“Somehow, in the process of talking, I started to relax,” she says. “I don’t know if I’d call it being in a trance; it was just very deep relaxation.”
Tapping into the Unconscious Mind
Hypnosis in a private, therapeutic session is nothing like the stage tricks we’ve seen on TV. You’ll never see a watch swinging from a chain, or be ordered to perform silly or outrageous acts, such as clucking like a chicken in front of a live studio audience. Trances don’t always feel like trances so much as a state of relaxed awareness. People don’t lose control and become the sleep-walking marionettes of a hypnotist-showman.
“There are so many misconceptions about hypnosis,” “The use of the trance or hypnotic state goes back to ancient practitioners—medicine people and healers and shamans from tribal cultures from around world. They were getting themselves and people in their community into an altered state, where they could contact the vast resources of what they would have called the spirit world, but that we would now call the unconscious mind. They used it for healing.”
Hypnosis success stories are mainly anecdotal, yet we’re beginning to understand what’s happening in the brain when people enter a hypnotic state. In 2016, researchers at Stanford University published a study that found changes in certain areas of the brain in subjects undergoing guided hypnosis sessions similar to those used by practitioners to treat anxiety, pain, or trauma. Some describe the process as going from beta (active and alert) to more alpha and theta (relaxed and dreamlike) brainwaves. The Stanford researchers also noted that some people are more susceptible to hypnosis than others, possibly standing to absorb more benefits from it.
No two people are alike, and not all hypnosis is alike either. “I gather information from people to understand what they need, because I don’t use a boilerplate approach,” says Blum. He uses a client-centered method known as Ericksonian hypnosis, which is more permissive than the old-school “authoritarian” style. So rather than giving commands such as “You are feeling sleepy” or “Your eyes are getting heavier,” he makes suggestions. “I might say, ‘I wonder if you can imagine yourself now as a nonsmoker in the future.’ It’s about giving the person a chance to make choices.” Blum notes that most people only need two or three sessions to effect change. “This is short-term, solution-oriented work. You’re addressing what you want and how you can change to get that.”
Waking Up from Trauma
Some mental health practitioners add hypnosis to their toolbox because it can help people go deep quickly and get to the source of their core issues. Stephanie Kristal, a certified hypnotherapist and counselor based in Kingston and High Falls, combines hypnosis with mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to instigate change at the root level. “Hypnosis is a deep state, but there’s nothing scary about it,” she says. “It’s similar to spacing out while watching a movie or becoming absorbed in a really good book. You drop below the level of the constantly chattering mind to a place in the subconscious that’s more open to suggestion.” Hypnotherapy takes hypnosis one step further by working with the mind-body connection and utilizing the modality of hypnosis for change, growth, and healing.
People see Kristal for a variety of reasons, including common motivators like smoking cessation, overeating, and phobias, but her primary practice is with trauma. “When we have a trauma, we take on certain beliefs about ourselves, and we have associated thoughts and feelings because of it. It forms a neural loop that we keep repeating, which keeps us locked into being unhappy and limited in our lives,” she explains. “Hypnotherapy can be a process that begins to dissolve those old neural loops that are no longer serving us and are keeping us from reaching our desired states, and replaces them with healthier ways of thinking, feeling, believing, and being in our life.” It’s a way of flipping the switch on those neural pathways, so we’re not stuck in past traumas but can move forward with empowered awareness.
When Luis Mojica of West Saugerties first came to Kristal, he was dealing with emotional fallout from complex trauma related to childhood sexual abuse. “I was having extreme anxiety, trouble sleeping, and issues in my relationship,” he says. “When Stephanie explained hypnotherapy, the idea of it really worked for me. I liked how you bypassed the brain to get to the body, and I felt like I could heal faster than I would with a decade of therapy.” Mojica had two counseling sessions with Kristal that helped her get to know him before embarking on a single yet powerful hypnotherapy experience. During the session, he lay back in a chair that made him feel like he was floating. Kristal held an eagle feather and told him to look at the feather while she counted backwards from 10. “By the time she hit ‘one,’ I was in a different state,” he says. “Her voice was like a narrative force in a waking dream.” People involved in the trauma entered the dream, but he felt safe and wasn’t triggered. He could walk through the trauma and reclaim it, calling upon his adult self to comfort the little boy that he once was.
What felt like a very vivid 10-minute dream was a two-and-a-half-hour session. “You’re in an altered state, but it’s one that you are navigating; it’s very much in your control,” he says. “When I came out, my body felt so clear and at peace. It was like I was finally awake. The trauma had me sleepwalking for so many years. I felt like I was someone I wasn’t.” After the session, his anxiety vanished and his relationship with his wife deepened. He says the trauma is still there but much more manageable; he is no longer forgetting, rediscovering, and reliving it. A holistic therapist himself, as well as a musician, Mojica now recommends Kristal to his clients for everything from trouble sleeping and recurring nightmares to unresolved heartbreak or grief.
Good Trances and Bad Trances
Hypnotherapy can be transformative for some people, but Kristal notes that it is not a magic wand—and it is not effective for everyone. “Whether it’s the modality that works for you, no one can guarantee that,” she says. “But the more that you’re open and willing to develop resources and tools to help strengthen the process, the more effective it is.” She is trained in two approaches: transpersonal hypnotherapy, which works on a psycho-emotional level to help people get unstuck and dissolve old ways of being, and medical hypnotherapy, which uses hypnosis to help people deal with fears and issues surrounding life-threatening illnesses and treatments. “It’s not something I’m doing to someone,” she explains. “I work with people to help them access their own inner wisdom for guidance. Really, the only person who can hypnotize you is yourself.”
Blum jokes that he often calls the process “de-hypnosis,” because the practice is about helping people wake up from the trances they’re already in. “There are good trances and there are bad trances,” he says. “A bad trance has a lot of limitations. Good trances are empowering trances.” He once worked with someone who had to overcome the idea that she couldn’t go to college, since no one in her family had done so, and not being able to go was an early hypnotic suggestion that had come from her parents. Suggestions like these can come from teachers, politicians, and the culture at large. “Hypnosis is kind of an adjustable wrench,” he says. “Once you have it, you can use it for a variety of applications.” Blum is also trained in sound healing, and with certain clients he might use music and sound as an adjunct to hypnosis.
Encouraged by her success with dispelling performance anxiety, Ann says she will return to Blum for hypnosis as she prepares for an upcoming surgery. She hopes it will work just as well as it did for her Bat Mitzvah. “I needed help and I was open to receiving help,” she says. “When you do something like this, I think you have to be ready. I don’t know if this works for everybody. In a million years, I couldn’t have imagined this outcome for myself.”
During the days leading up to Easter, the most sacred day in Christianity, the heavens have been presenting a stunning light show.
We are able to see five planets with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. And Saturday night – just hours before Easter sunrise services – we are being treated to a blue moon. That’s the name given to the second full moon in a month, something that happens roughly every 2.7 years
Moreover, this Easter’s blue moon is extra special, because it is the second one this year. The next time two blue moons occur in one year will be 2037.
There’s no denying the Bible commonly associates major events with anomalous astronomical and meteorological upheavals. But as a scientist and Christian, I’m always wary about giving too much importance to celestial signs and wonders. I certainly don’t believe in astrology.
That said, the astonishing celestial fireworks brightening this year’s Holy Week inspire me in three ways.
First, they remind me that if people are truly seeking evidence for God’s existence – including atheists, many of whom claim no such evidence exists – they only need to look up at the night sky. As it says in Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
It is certainly possible to explain the universe without any reference to a creator; but it’s like enjoying a sumptuous meal without giving any credit to the chef. Today, in an effort to avoid mentioning a creator, scientists are having to believe in unobservable notions such as imaginary time, 11-dimensional cosmologies, and quantum reservoirs that are at once nothing and everything.
How are these any less far-out than believing historical accounts that Jesus existed and rose from the dead?
Second, this week’s eye-popping events remind me that Christianity is the most inclusive and egalitarian religion imaginable. Just as the splendors of the night sky can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, without any viewing aids, Christians believe God’s love is freely available to anyone, anywhere, without the need of a privileged pedigree, guru, or some exemplary amount of karma.
As explained in the book of Ephesians, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith … not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Finally, the extraordinary celestial light show that we are in the midst of reminds me that our solar system offers a perfect metaphor for how we are to behave toward one another.
Absent the sun, absent God, we are as dark as the far side of the moon. But just as the desolate, gray lunar surface is able to reflect the light of the sun, we are made to reflect God’s love in the world.
So look up at the night sky and drink in its deep, inspiring message: This Easter, the creator of the universe is calling on all of us – Christian and non-Christian alike – to shine brightly with kindness and compassion and not just once in a blue moon, but every day we are alive.
Michael Guillen Ph.D., former Emmy-winning ABC News Science Editor, taught physics at Harvard and is now president of Spectacular Science Productions.
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