About a year or so ago I’d been wanting to go on a health-kick for a number of different reasons… Now fast forward to today, and after a couple of 40 day cleanses and the successful training and completion of the 2015 Hollywood Half Marathon I finally feel that perhaps I'm heading in the right direction. I am you could say (after producing bucketloads of self-improvement MP3s and spending 1000s of hours with hypnosis clients) finally walking the walk and talking the talk. Yet the peculiar thing is, it hasn’t been my lifestyle, age or (comparatively recent) fatherhood that has motivated me to change, but a simple title from a London Real podcast episode: “Your Diet Is Killing You”.
“Your Diet Is Killing You” is a most interesting LR episode where special guest Ben Pratt informs us how badly we (the general public) are eating. It’s a treasure trove of all kinds of useful nutritional insights. After watching it a couple of years ago I could sense the title hovering around me (from somewhere deep within my subconscious). Upon ordering that double cheeseburger: “your diet is killing you”… That lunchtime soda: “your diet is killing you”... Those Sour Cream & Onion Pringles: “your diet is killing you”… Yet whilst this ‘affirmation’ followed me everywhere I didn’t really do much about it until about a year or so ago when I suddenly thought: “wow, my diet is killing me”. Those nagging little words had blossomed into my (higher) consciousness and soon after I began my first 40 day cleanse and signed up for the Hollywood Half Marathon.
This whole experience got me thinking about what I do, the self-improvement meditations I produce, and the clients I see. Is there really some kind of magic-wand at play here where I give it a quick wave and people are changed upon hearing my words? Of course not; people have to want to change and then they have to take action and work towards that change. But rather than the overt change-work I do with my personal clients, I started thinking about subconscious change and how sometimes it’s what we hear when we’re not looking to change that proves to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’ve done Stop-Smoking sessions with people that haven’t worked… well not immediately anyway. Someone stops smoking for only a day and is disappointed. I’m disappointed! The session work has been done, the visualisations have been listened to and… life goes on as before. Then 6 months later out of the blue I get a phone call. “Charles, I want to thank-you, great news. I quit”. Sometimes suggestions, ideas, perspectives need time to fester… to settle. Your diet is killing you. And that got me thinking back again to London Real.
”If you’re in-flow with your own truth, then doors open effortlessly”. This quote from London Real guest Peter Sage has stuck with me for a quite a while now. Often I find myself sometimes using brute force or will power to try to get to where I want to be. It never works. However, when I close my eyes and think of this quote and take a few long lingering deep breaths, then suddenly everything seems so much more effortless. Of course those doors may still not open, but it doesn’t matter anymore if you’re in-flow with your own truth. Those doors were never meant to open…
The Peter Sage quote is just one of number of little nuggets of inspiration I’ve heard from various guests on London Real. The show’s original tag line stated that: “it’s about the journey” and I couldn’t agree more either from my own personal voyage or the insight I pass on to people in my circle. So when I hear Tim Freke say on London Real that “ Socrates is a big hero of mine because he knew he knew nothing” then I just nod (unconsciously). How powerful it is to be humble. Or when Daniel H Pink tells us that “we’re all natural salespeople… because we’re human each of us has a selling instinct, which means that anyone can master the basics of moving others” then I think: “yes I can, yes I will”. Moving forward. Possibility.
And if I’m feeling uninspired with my visualizations or MP3s, I think of the Tim Ferris London Real episode when he tells us that “If you can generate one idea you can generate more”. Indeed, I’ve even quoted this to clients on a number of occasions in my private clinical sessions. I find it amazing that even top Hollywood script-writers need to be given a little nudge once in a while. Or is it? It’s not rocket science of course but it’s always good to remind people of their capabilities and what comes naturally.
Living in LA I come across a lot of artistes who for one reason or another have given up on the dream. I often think about the David Allen episode when he said: ”The people who procrastinate the most, are the most sensitive, creative and intelligent people”. This is a great re-frame - something of an insult with a positive slant! I can feel the shift when I quote this to clients. And so it is that these (and other) ‘off-the-cuff’ comments from London Real episodes unexpectedly worm themselves into both my professional and personal life. Conversations, theories, arguments and words festering deep within my subconscious, waiting to be triggered by something random. Waiting… So until then and until the next blog always remember: “it’s about the journey”...
And don't forget: “your diet is killing you”.
Here's a relaxing script I wrote awhile ago that one of these days I'll make into an MP3. In the meantime feel free to record it for yourself if you get the inclination. Remember though that the language is hypnotic in nature and so under no circumstances should you listen back or read this whilst driving or operating heavy machinery...
"...Ok, so to begin all you need to do is get comfortable, close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax your jaw… and now relax your fingers… and now relax your feet… take another fresh breath and allow your whole body to be still… calm… relaxed…
Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth...
And now counting to 4 as you breathe in and 4 as you breathe out I want you to take a slow, easy deep breath. 1, 2, 3, 4… 4, 3, 2, 1.
And now a second breath… long and slow - still counting to 4 as you breathe in and 4 as you breathe out - just be aware of the coolness of the in-breath and the warmness of the out-breath…
And finally a 3rd slow deep breath…
Deeper and deeper, you’re feeling more and more relaxed…And as you lie here feeling so at ease, you realise what a wonderful place this is to come to. To take stock, to re-vitalize, and to take control of any stress by simply breathing deeply and relaxing completely.
Drifting, drifting - you’re letting go now of any blocks or barriers to learning and every positive suggestion that you hear will sink deeply down into the unconscious part of your mind with lasting effect...
Ahhh: the unconscious mind – what a superb job it does of taking care of us… of looking out for us. It controls our bodily functions and organs and it maintains this amazing library of everything that has ever happened to us - a library of personal information that all our everyday thoughts and behaviors are based upon… Brilliant things can and do happen in our mind you know?
Now your unconscious is also the place from where all stress and anxiety originates… I mean one does not consciously decide to be stressed. One consciously… intellectually… decides to de-stress… to relax… now!
So let’s see what can be done to decrease those levels of stress… If you will, I’d like you to accompany me on a journey, a journey to the deepest part of your unconscious mind.
So just imagine yourself going there now as easily and as effortlessly as you like… Going inside and floating and drifting down, deeper and deeper down…drifting and floating.
Perhaps like an intrepid explorer traversing through a watery jungle of roots and branches in the Amazon, or an astronaut floating in the quietness of space or a lone yachtsman bobbing on a vast ocean of life… getting to where you need to go as gently as a petal falling from a flower. (Drifting and floating… deeper and deeper down.)
It feels so good to discover and to learn about this place that is soooo close. This place that is part of you. (Your primitive mind!)
How fascinating it is as you drift down into the avenues of your unconscious and witness the hybrid of activity that is happening here: clusters of neurons and atoms whizzing up and down neural networks… millions and trillions of chemical reactions and nerve cells all working for your greater good. (The engine room of your soul.)
A wise man once dreamt of the electrons in his brain creating a huge television screen in the deepest part of his unconscious mind with many words and images flashing across this screen too fast for one to consciously see. Perhaps you can imagine something similar?
These words and images are information being transmitted to different parts of your mind and body - your unconscious is always watching over you, you know… always driving you… nurturing and caring for you… at all times.
How fascinating and wonderful you find the workings of your inner mind, because now you understand now that when you’re being happy, positive and motivated your brain produces lots of serotonin and dopamine – these are chemical responses in your brain that make you feel successful, secure and healthy.
And you also see that when you’re feeling unnecessarily anxious the primitive unconscious part of your brain produces lots of adrenalin that in turn causes stress.
A little anxiety is ok sometimes in everyday life for our protection and survival, but too much simply has no use at all. And so from this moment on you decide to let any excess stress just simply fade away, to de-stress completely.
So delete those negative images and words on that screen and instead highlight those images of just how you would like to be. Feeling calm, feeling relaxed, being in-control…
Your unconscious mind is always willing to learn and to do whatever it needs to protect you, for that is its highest purpose. And you realise now that you have all the resources and understandings you need from deep within to dissolve stress into nothing…
So do that now: just allow the ‘stress production factory’ from within to slow down, to fade away and for all those neural networks to re-align in just the right way for that screen in your inner mind to show only your favorite programs of your brilliant self…
And now, I’d like you to float higher and higher to the intellectual part of your brain. To that part of you where you have complete control and power, to that part of you where you’re able to assess and deal with any stressful situation that might arise with a calm and positive mind.
So drift high now to the summit of your intellectual brain, and experience what an amazing place this is to operate from. Stress has no part in our lives when we operate from the conscious intellectual part of our mind.
So float there now to this wise place you know so well, and as you enjoy this tremendous vantage point, I’d like you to look a little way into the future, and I want you to witness the new you carrying on in a happy stress free manner.
See yourself enjoying an easy stress free life right now. Feeling so in-control, so vital and so alive…
Your work is pleasurable and comes easily to you now, and at home you enjoy going about your tasks in an eager yet relaxed manner. See yourself there right now.
Nothing fazes you anymore, and what greater balance and harmony you now have. Your positive and you’re moving forward now without any restrictions or barriers - achieving your goals and realizing your dreams and ambitions easily and effortlessly.
You approach stressful situations now in a peaceful and relaxed way, and you express yourself in a constructive and easy manner. Just enjoy these thoughts and feelings now… See what your see, hear what your hear and feel what your feel…
And from this turret of knowledge you realise how amazed your family and friends are at this wonderful transformation that has taken place within you. A problem shared is a problem halved and your relationships are now rich and full of understanding.
You see different points of view now, and you understand that having greater flexibility and awareness means having greater influence and control. And you realise that sometimes it’s best not to invest yourself totally in those areas in which you only have partial influence.
And as you continue to watch the new you, you see that you have all the resources you need from deep within to succeed. So from now on there will be no more excuses, only results, and there will be no more failures, only feedback.
You prioritize your problems, sorting out what really matters in your life - setting goals and making plans and no longer concerning yourself with those things that you cannot control.
You speak up and openly now with a calm, considered authority. You focus on positive thoughts and the pleasant things that happen to you.
You find more leisure time for yourself, and you realise the importance of deep relaxation, of daily exercise, of a good 7 or 8 hours sleep every night, of eating healthily and of a steady routine.
You realise that by taking charge of your mind, you’ve reduced stress in a calm and a relaxed way. By operating from your conscious mind you have greater control over your thoughts, behaviours and emotions, and you can deal with any situation in a calm and relaxed way.
Life is easy when we run our lives intellectually. So just enjoy now being the strong, confident, relaxed and stress free person that you that you already are!
So now, when you’re confronted with a stressful situation, you pause and breathe deeply and gather your thoughts and look and listen and evaluate the situation from a number of different perspectives and you deal with it in a calm and constructive way.
The way you were dealing with things in the past just wasn’t working for you and now you have the knowledge and the tools to deal with any situation that might arise...
So perhaps for a moment, you can imagine a stressful time you may have encountered in the past and you can see how well the-future-you deals with it right now.
By breathing deeply, gathering your thoughts and evaluating it from all the right angles… It’s so much easier to deal with now, and in fact it might not even seem like a stressful situation at all.
(Time gives us all kinds of new perspectives – and you may find that last weeks problems just seem so insignificant or at least different now do they not?)
And so as you enjoy this brilliant new you from this mountain peak of your mind - I want to share a secret with you - the future is already here, and that person is already you.
So become what you are and step into this future brilliant image of a stress free you and feel the new you connecting and radiating and integrating with your entire being.
From the top of your head all the way down to the tips of your toes, just feel all those neurons and atoms whizzing around – making the precise neurological connections that are needed to awaken those brilliant resources from deep within.
Imagine yourself looking down on that screen deep in your unconscious mind which is flashing and relaying all those positive images and signals and words of the new stress free you.
Faster and faster, and then even faster.
Eventually the screen clears and the words: “I’m ready” appear in large letters... Yes, you are ready… You are ready now to de-stress and deal successfully with any problems in a calm and relaxed and intelligent way. I’m ready… I’m ready.
In a moment I’m going to count up from 1 to 10 and with each number you will become more awake, and on the count of 9 you will open your eyes and on the count of 10 you will be wide awake.
You may choose though to continue relaxing here knowing that when you eventually do awake you will be feeling refreshed and invigorated and able to deal with any situations that might arise in a calm and considered many.
So 1,2,3, just begin to bring your awareness back into the room, 4,5,6, just start to stretch and move a little and 7,8, 9 open your eyes open your eyes, and 10 your wide awake. Wide awake.
(c) 2015 Charles Whobrey / My Sunny Mind
Though it seems strange to say it, I actually have smoking to thank for introducing me to guided visualizations, hypnosis and ultimately mindfulness. I smoked perhaps 10-30 cigarettes a day for a number of years and had been thinking about quitting for most of that time. I used to say to myself: "when I sort my life out, that's when I'll quit smoking…" But it actually worked out quite the opposite. When I quit smoking was when I began the process of sorting my life out.
Having tried and failed with 'will power' I thought I'd give hypnosis a go. I wasn't expecting much, so you can imagine my surprise when it actually worked! I didn't really know anything about hypnosis other then an old book from the 1980s that someone had given me about the basics of self-hypnosis. The route to success seemed pretty clear: create some empowering visions of me as a healthy non-smoker, find a comfortable space to relax with some soft music playing in the background, and then just drift off for a little while with only these 'stop smoking visions' as company. To me, this seemed too easy, too basic, but I persevered twice a day, every day, for a week and things soon began to change! I didn't seem to reach for a cigarette as much as I used to, and when I did, for some reason I was questioning why I wanted it. And then when I lit it, it didn't seem to taste the same anymore. These changes didn't happen all in one go, but subtly over the first week, and then strongly into the second week, when I had actually already stopped my self-hypnosis sessions.
I had this fear about quitting smoking that my life would never ever be the same again. How could I cope without cigarettes - all my friends smoked. How could I create, socialize, laugh and deal with sadness without the assistance of cigarettes? Cigarettes had become such an integral part of my life and I was worried about a life without them. I imagined weeks of painful solitude as I entered this new chapter, already preparing myself to fail and thinking of excuses to start again… But it wasn't like that all, in fact, thanks to hypnosis, quitting smoking was incredibly easy! After my week's worth of self-imposed-hypnosis sessions which preceded another week of highly conscious thinking about this bad habit, I just… stopped! It was as simple as that in the end. There was no 'last cigarette' or 'closing ceremony' or a throwing away of a half full packet or even avoidance of smokers. One day I just didn't feel like smoking anymore. I was done. Smoking had left my life, not with a bang, but in fact with a whimper. The war I was expecting to fight in my quest to quit was actually won with diplomacy. It really was that easy.
This almost effortless experience of quitting smoking sparked an interest for me in hypnosis and the power of the human brain. I had this tremendous urge to learn more about the workings of the subconscious mind. I was already making meditation and ambient music and so combining this creativity with neuroscience seemed the way forward. I didn't know it at the time, but the week I quit smoking was also the same week My Sunny Mind was conceived. Originally my plan was just to make an MP3 for my own personal use to perhaps help me if I ever felt like reaching for a cigarette, but as it turned out, those weaker days never came, and in fact I ended up giving a recording of my "Stop Smoking" MP3 to a few friends who all came back with glowing reports about how much they liked it. "Wow" I thought to myself, "other people might like this to."
After recording that first Stop Smoking MP3 I decided to up the ante and begin studying hypnosis full-time. Soon after that, I opened a clinic in England and began dealing with real clients - many of whom I helped quit smoking. These early years, as I absorbed a wealth of client information including their fears around smoking, became fundamental in improving and developing the My Sunny Mind "Stop Smoking Now" MP3. I was able to sort through the wheat from the chaff - the smokescreens if you will - when it came to the working of the unconscious mind and the process of smoking cessation. Those 'workings' soon became my "Stop Smoking Now" MP3 as it is today, the process though I will save for another blog…
The next stage in the creation of an effective meditation or guided visualization is to record the music that sits behind the voice. This for me is a very separate process. I'm continually producing and recording pieces of music completely independent of a script or subject (before putting them away for later use). When I then need some music I will look through my library and select what I feel is most apt. Some tunes will work better with certain scripts and my final choice here is very much an intuitive one. For example, the refreshing uplifting feel of the music for the "Mind Clean" title meant that it suited that theme perfectly.
When I initially write the music for my MP3 downloads I do so on a guitar or keyboard. I find that slow tempos and lingering progressions are the most conducive to relaxation. When written, I will record the progression (i.e. chord sequence) before overdubbing it with a number of different melodies (on various instruments). I record on a Mac with Logic Pro software which I find very user friendly. Musically, I like to use lots of reverb to create a soothing ambience. I most enjoy this stage since I experience a real sense of artistic freedom as varying notes, melodies and tones assimilate and resonate. The eventual end result will be a 6-8 minute piece of recorded music that I will then file away until needed. With some of the Relaxed Flying Series titles I didn't even use any music at all - but instead real life airport and airplane sounds. And of course some very effective visualizations have simply been a lone voice. Some producers use 'binaural beats' which many believe have a greater impact on our mood or mental state. The key word here (as it is with most creative things) is 'believe'.
Recording A Hypnotic Voice
The next stage is to record myself reading the script. Ideally I'd like to record the script in one sitting, but invariably there will be odd lines that I need to do again. (I'm a little bit of a perfectionist here and probably re-do more lines then I need to!) I use a Shure SM7B microphone. SM7B's are great for voice-over work and are very popular in the talk-radio industry. Bizarrely enough Michael Jackson also used one of these microphones when he recorded 'Thriller'! I'm very interested in the tone of my voice and I like to get a very up, close and personal feel. Very rarely do I put any reverb on my voice. I like a clean, deep voice tone that tends to resonate more with the listener. There's a whole movement happening at the moment called 'ASMR' (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). In layman's terms, ASMR is essentially a whispered way of talking which leads to a pleasant tingling in the brain. The effects of ASMR have not been scientifically tested and so it is only a 'claimed biological phenomenon'. But have you ever noticed how good it feels when someone whispers in your ear? For me this is simply the way I prefer to record my voice and is not necessarily the only way for effective results.
Arranging The Guided Visualization
Before I begin recording my voice I will loop my 6-8 minute piece of music three or four times so that it runs at about 30 minutes in length. This gives me plenty of time then to do the voice-over. After I have recorded the vocal I will then arrange the music that sits beneath my voice. I will take different layers of sound out, or add more as the script progresses. For example, if there is a relaxing countdown from 10 to 1, I might slowly take different instruments out or even decrease the volume so essentially one might hear only my voice by the time I say the number "1". This gives the effect of feeling deeply relaxed and connected with the subconscious part of the mind. Conversely, as an induction reaches its sometimes glorious conclusion the music may build to a crescendo. This of course also has the added affect of bringing the listener back to a normal waking state. I have no set rules for the shape and form of the music, it's more of an intuitive process that years of experience in musical production has given me.
Once the voice has been recorded and the music has been arranged, I may then 'cut and paste' odd poignant parts of the vocal and put them in other parts of the induction behind the main vocal. I'll use reverb on these parts and sometimes have a certain word or sentence coming out of just the left or right speaker / headphone. The idea here is to have suggestions sink even more deeply into the subconscious. You can hear this done to great effect on my "Rejuvenate" MP3. Some people have a fear of hypnosis because they feel they are going to be made to do something they don't want to do. That hypnotherapy can affect us this way is a myth. Listeners are conscious throughout the whole process and they will immediately 'wake-up' if they hear something untoward. i.e. "You will now rob a bank"! Trance-work can only assist you in doing what you already want to do. Now if you really did want to rob a bank…!
Relax, Listen, Change
Finally the MP3 will then be 'mastered'. This is a post-recording process where the levels and EQs of the MP3 are standardized so making the recording 'ok' to listen to on a number of different devices. e.g. iPod, radio, smart phone, home stereo. Ideally my downloads are best listened to through headphones so the listener can get the full stereo effect. But this is not imperative. Sometimes there will have to be a little bit of real life testing out in the field. This was certainly true with my 'Driving Range Coach' and 'Inflight-Relaxation' titles which are meant to be listened to whilst practicing golf or actually flying on an aircraft. A number of times after testing I've had to re-write sections and so re-record my voice before finally settling on the finished MP3s as they are today. As I have already mentioned earlier, with all my titles it's about getting a fine balance in bringing all these elements together. Experience (and my dad) has shown me that what seems to work well for me, generally works for other people too. And that is how I make my downloads.
I was out playing with my son at the local park last week and I got chatting with a fellow parent about guided visualizations. Now just as I was about to leave and take my son home for his dinner, the friendly parent asked me how I actually created my visualizations. "What was the inspiration behind them… how do you choose a particular subject… how did the music come into being?" I sat there for a few moments thinking: "Hmmm, how can I answer this question as simply and concisely as possible in the very short time I have available?" I looked at my curious inquisitor, smiled, and said "with love".
Choosing a visualization
The process of producing a self-help audio MP3 (from inspiration to creation) is a very interesting one that has a number of distinctly different stages. The first is choosing a subject, and for me this is simply based upon selecting an area that moves me personally combined with a demand for it from the general public. For example, the inspiration for my "Relaxing The Economic Blues" MP3 first arose during the 2008 financial melt-down. Not only was I meeting and reading about a great of people suffering due to events beyond their control, I myself was feeling a little stressed out by the gloomy economic outlook. I wanted to guard myself against the whims of the banks and the governments and in-turn learn to save or spend money a little more wisely.
I've always believed that if I can create something that interests me, then chances are they'll be quite a few other people who would be interested too. My dad, whose been buying and selling furniture for almost 50 years, told me many years ago: "If I see a chair and like it, then you can pretty much guarantee they'll be another 200 people out there who will like it to". This little insight has stuck with me for probably over 25 years, except as I get older and the world gets bigger (yet smaller through social media!) I realise that that 200 is actually a few thousand, or even hundreds of thousands and probably millions.
Writing a good guided-visualization script
So upon having the inspiration for the MP3, the next stage is to actually write the script. A good guided visualization capable of creating significant change will incorporate a number of similar styles and techniques whatever the actual subject is. All of my titles use language which resonates at the subconscious level. Also, all of my MP3s utilize at least one of the most powerful tried and tested audio relaxation exercises researched. This might for example be a diaphragmatic breathing exercise or a progressive body relaxation. I use elements of NLP (neuro-linguistic-programming), mindfulness, guided visualization, direct & indirect suggestion and solution-focused hypnosis / coaching. The key is to get a fine balance. The more I practice and write, the easier and more seamless it becomes.
All of these approaches are then combined with my studies, personal insights and ongoing research into the actual issue I'm working on. Perhaps the most valuable information in the creation of my MP3s is that which I've obtained directly from actual clients who I have seen in my own private practice. Here I have first hand experience at what actually works. For ongoing research I keep up to date with both developments or findings regarding the brain and the mind-body-sprit connection, and the actual subject I'm addressing. I'm constantly looking at government findings, recommended articles and research from reputable private institutions. A great deal of people have a fear around flying purely because they cannot conceive how this mass of metal gets in the air in the first place. Many 'fear of flying' courses therefore teach people the mechanics of flying. My "Stop Smoking Now" MP3 is a good example of how I combined a lot of different avenues of information. You can't simply say to someone: "You're feeling very relaxed, now stop smoking". To change behaviors, people need to be educated. I include such information in my scripts.
Traditional hypnosis scripts versus modern guided-visualizations
The next step is combining all of this information and then arranging it into the induction. There are no hard and fast rules here since use of the correct language will always sink into the subconscious. More traditional hypnosis scripts will begin with some kind of relaxation exercise, before 'a deepener' then relaxes the listener still further. (An example of 'a deepener' may be a slow count from 10 down to 1, which creates the illusion for the subconscious mind of descending into a deeper state of relaxation). Finally, positive imagery, suggestions, metaphors or affirmations will tackle the issue. A guided visualization or a classic meditation might develop more quickly as far as the actual subject matter is concerned. The key is that the listener is relaxed. I do spend the first section of my scripts relaxing the listener, but I also like to start addressing the issue early on as well. Your subconscious mind is always open to receiving positive information. To that end there are some effective visualizations out there that are only 5-10 minutes in length. Mine generally run at about 25 minutes. There are also some pretty good ones which are a great deal longer.
The next stage is to record the music that sits behind the voice. This for me is a very separate process and I'll show you how I do that in part 2 of this blog...