A curious girl’s ethnographic quest for stimulation, knowledge and the least common denominator…
(originally published on Austinist.com)
Why does my toe hurt? Like, really hurt? No mail again. Does my mailman hate me? My flowers are dead. Am I hungry? Crap. Forgot the new crossword puzzle. What the hell was up with that dream last night? Where was I? My iPod is still on! Annoying. Wait. Am I hungry?
– My Brain (from ‘My 40-Foot Walk From Car to Porch’ -Abr. ed.)
Disaster Mind: Our Instructor’s term for the annoying non-stop worrying and chatter that occurs in a person’s brain at any given moment, distracting us from important stuff like what the universe is trying to tell us and how many clogged chakras we have and why the moon is totally pissed right now and so forth.
As I returned home from my very first spoon bending workshop, I was close to convinced that Disaster Mind was the reason I hadn’t been able to bend my… fork.
Now there are two things I should mention right away:
- Apparently any piece of cutlery will do. Spoons are the most popular, but fork bending is pretty freaking cool.
- This wasn’t exactly the full-on Look, Ma, no hands 100% psychokinetic kind of spoon bending. This was hand-aided. A sort of Uri Geller Lite. You use your mind to direct energy into the spoon, and that makes it abnormally easy to bend. Then you go all twisty-twist.
The workshop started with a quick introduction… or testimonial… or… something. The meeting Host wanted to share a recent experience she’d had. Or, as she put it, she wanted to get linear with some non-linear stuff.
Here goes (I’ll do my best):
Earlier this week, her heart had expanded. A lot. It expanded and expanded and expanded and expanded. Her brain tried to resist. It didn’t want her to keep expanding, but she was, like, no, don’t resist: Open, open, open. She’s not a slave to her brain! So she stopped resisting. And then she finally felt love and infinity and how You Are Everything And Everything Is You, etc… She gave in to the river of infinity, and, well, it was… really cool.
Okay. Spoons. Now.
Our Host proceeded to introduce Our Instructor.
“So you’re all familiar with the concept that we’re all energy, right?” Our Instructor began.
“Everything is the same energy. It’s just vibrating at different rates. I am energy, and this bookcase is energy. Mine is just vibrating faster than its. But it’s all fluid. There’s no separation. There are no solids. Once we understand this, we can start to see that everything is changeable.”
She paused to let us process.
“Spoon bending is a metaphor for change,” she continued. “Internal and external changes both start with energyapplied to clear intent. Spoon bending shows us that everything is changeable as long we have clear intent.”
I couldn’t help but be distracted by the couple who’d just joined us. The woman held a big wooden staff. Think Moses. Or the kind of thing they ban from festivals. And she was wrapped in a white sheet-like contraption. She had a calm smile on her face- one that signifies either inner peace or really awesome drugs, or perhaps some causally-vague combination of the two.
The man was also dressed completely in white, though his shirt was technically eggshell (with sparkling-whiteintent). He had on bright white sneakers, which reminded me of when I see Tibetan monks using cell phones: It just seems wrong. And while the woman’s expression stuck me as peaceful, the man’s definitely edged toward paranoid.
Our Instructor continued, “I often see big strong men straining to bend their spoons, while little old ladies twist them easily. You see, there’s a difference between forcing something and working with it.”
Indeed. Preach on.
“I’d like to start with a grounding visualization exercise. It will help you understand how to send energy when we start working with the spoons.”
We began by picturing the bottoms of our spines extending downward, exiting our bodies and piercing the floor. They continued to move downward through the soil below, and then through rocks and underground streams, all the way to the center of the Earth’s fiery core.
Then we drew energy from the core up through our spine-roots, all the way back into our bodies. With each breath, more energy came until it filled us completely and exited through the tops of our heads in the form of trees. Each of us had an energy tree, branches and all, extending up through the ceiling and into the sky.
“Like everything else, visualization takes practice,” Our Instructor told us when we finished.
“You have to learn to ignore the chatter. You have to treat your brain like a puppy. Pat it on the head and say,Aww, that’s so cute, and then go on with what you were doing. If all goes well, it’ll eventually grow up…”
I felt my annoying, floppy-eared brain jump up and lick my face. Gross.
“So everyone find a partner, and we’ll practice sending and receiving energy. One person sit on the floor, the other stand behind her.”
I looked around. Couple to my left. Couple to my right. Woman with stick across from me. Creepy dude with white shoes. Creepy dude with no shoes… I eventually found a suitable partner.
“I guess I’ll sit on the floor first,” I told her. She took her place behind me.
Our Instructor told all of us to close our eyes, and she told those of us on the floor to visualize sending energy out of the tops of our heads again. Those who were standing were supposed to hover their hands above our heads and feel our energy.
“People sense energy in many different ways. Some feel temperature changes, some see colors… Feel it grow as your partner sends it up to the ceiling,” she instructed.
I pictured the Earth’s core, and I pulled fiery goodness up through my spine and out through my head.
Then she told us to stop sending energy; this was called dampening. I felt like a natural dampener.
We sent and dampened a few more times as a group, and then she told us to mix it up a bit- to have our partners try to guess which we were doing.
“Are you dampening?” My Partner asked.
“Um, well, I’m really just kind of neutral,” I told her. It was a lot harder to concentrate when I was on my own. Finally, it was time to switch.
I placed my hands about a foot and a half above my partner’s head and felt the air all around her. It felt slightly… dense… When Our Instructor told her to send, the denseness got taller. And warmer. My fingers tingled.
I’m totally imagining this, said my puppy brain.
Our Instructor said to dampen, and I felt the column of denseness shrink. It got colder, too. My hands fell back to just above her head.
When time for the free-for-all, I waited to sense a change. Then I suddenly felt the dense column of warmness rise again. I went out on a limb and asked, “So, are you sending right now?”
“Yes,” she told me.
“Cool!” I said a bit too loudly.
After a few seconds, I felt the familiar cold collapse. I asked, “Did you just start dampening?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Seriously?” I almost shouted.
My puppy brain was now kind of sulking in the corner. It was totally weird, but I was psyched.
When we were finished, Our Instructor asked us how we’d done. One girl said she’d kept guessing the opposite of what her partner was doing.
“There are some people who sense opposites,” Our Instructor explained. “It’s an important thing to learn about yourself.”
“Couldn’t she just be wrong?” The Class Skeptic blurted out.
“Of course,” she replied. “But some people consistently sense opposite energy… Let’s move on to the spoons.”
She dumped a bag of cutlery out onto the floor. I scanned the pile and picked out the thickest fork I could find. I wanted to be sure I couldn’t possibly bend it without help. The Skeptic took a thick one, too.
“Now hold it with both hands and keep pulsing the metal with your thumbs so you’ll noticed the difference when it becomes easy to bend.”
She led us through four different exercises.
First, we pictured the energy rising up from the Earth again, filling our arms with fire. It flowed into our elbows and our wrists and into the spoons. Then she led a chant of “Bend! Bend! Bend!” That’s when the magic was supposed to happen.
And it worked for some people. They held their utensils in the air and we all oohed and aahed. Some were impressively twisted and curled, while some looked pretty lame. The guy next to me had simply bent his in half: very unconvincing.
Take two: This time she told us all to laugh hysterically in order to bring up our energy levels. Some people seemed to be really good at laughing for no reason. I was not one of those people.
After this, one girl who was approximately half my size held up a spoon that was almost unrecognizable.There’s no way she could have done that on her own, right? I was confused. I turned to the guy on my left.
“Can I, like, touch your spoon?” I asked. He handed it to me. It was about as thick as mine, but he’d bent two little loops in the middle. Weird.
For the third try, we were supposed to pretend we were wild animals and that we were totally pissed because our babies were being taken from us. People grunted and stomped around. I couldn’t even fake-participate in that one.
Still more people held up bent forks and spoons. The girl that was half my size had now broken her spoon in half. I stared, slack-jawed, as she signed a Discovery Channel documentary contract with her right hand while fashioning a self-portrait out of spoon pieces with her left.
And for the final act, we went back to method number one. I closed my eyes and I concentrated as hard as I could.
“Bend! Bend! Bend!” they shouted.
Maybe? Maybe it’s starting to bend?
But I opened my eyes and saw the same stupid unaltered fork.
I can’t be the only one, I thought, turning around just in time to see The Class Skeptic holding up his own unbent spoon and silently shaking his head.
18 males, 28 females
Song with favorite lyrical spoon bending reference:
Nanci – Toad The Wet Sprocket
Creepiest moment in a You Tube spoon bending tutorial:
Around 6:56 in this wonderful piece.