Friday, April 27, 2012

Hypnosis - Sleepwalking or daydream?

I was swimming to the bottom of a deep, deep blue ocean 
when suddenly a roast chicken came floating past... ...

Being hypnotized is like capturing the moment just before falling asleep, when the frontiers of dreaming and awake are blurred. My whole body was sedated by comfort.  As I lay sprawled out on soft leather, I was warm and cozy. Every inch, every muscle relaxed. I was a rag doll.  I had receptive awareness but was bound in a daydream trance.  I was overcome with a comfortable sensation like a child tucked into bed, eyes heavy after a long day. A slow, soothing, deep voice massaged my consciousness into submission.   As I was guided deeper into my consciousness, distracting thoughts had to be goaded out of my headspace.  "I am trying to reach the bottom of the sea so why am I thinking about what I'm making for dinner?"  There goes the roast chicken - irrelevant and intrusive.

It was half out of curiosity and half out of enthusiasm that I wandered into my first ever hypnosis session. There is actually an art to teetering on the edge of consciousness.  If you go too far along the continuum, you end up falling asleep and the process is useless as you are no longer receptive to the positive suggestions.   I must admit by the end I had slipped into sleep  and didn't hear the last part.     But it was my first time to be fair and I didn't know how far "under" I was supposed to be.  By the end, my head had fallen to the side of the chair, limp with  relaxation.  Its no wonder that the practice was named "hypnos" meaning sleep.

Are you handing over your mind to someone else's control?  I could scratch my nose if I wanted to, I could move, I could "wake up" and reject the ideas if I wanted to. But the truth was I was too comfortable to be bothered and the content was so positive I didn't need to.  I could hear the things that were being said to me.  I could picture everything.  I was in control.  This is why what a hypnotist says are called "suggestions". 

Perhaps hypnosis conjures up images of audience members turned into unaware puppets doing ridiculous things on a stage.  Or waking up from a magical trance with their pants down looking like a fool.  At first a feeling of vulnerability may stir enough fear to avoid the experience.  However, there is a distinction between stage hypnosis  and hypnotherapy. 

For the academics, I'm sure this all sounds rather fluffy.  Due to my scientific mind, of course , I started off with a little research.  I chose a hypnotherapist (not a stage hypnotist) who was registered with a professional organization and looked at qualifications and testimonials from clients.  I geeked it up with a cochrane literature search.  What caught my eye ( and prompted me to give it a go) was the success rate for weight reduction programs.  It appears that hypnosis in addition to diet/exercise/ behavioral programs gives more weight loss than just diet/exercise alone.  Even weight loss hypnotherapy alone has been reported to give subjects an average weight loss of almost 3 kgs.  However, the quality of studies still remains a bit sketchy and the effect seems to be seen only in low - moderate weight loss.   

Crossing to the dark side? - The sexier side of stage hypnosis

Death from hypnosis, schizophrenics loosing their mind, audience members becoming suicidal.  It's all the sensational aspect of stage hypnotherapy.  Here Jeremy Wheeler writes an expose on the darker side and dangers of stage hypnosis.  It's an entertaining read but not very evidence based. In my opinion, for someone to do something stupid on stage they must have wanted to do it because subjects are aware when hypnotized.  They are not puppets. To sum it up in a word, "mass hysteria".


Dare I mention it? Hypnobirthing - listening to docile tones whilst your little one forges their way towards the light. I had to hold my cynicism at bay while watching this video of a woman in active labour looking unbelievably zen and quiet while something the size of a pumpkin popped out of something, well, not the size of a pumpkin.

Perhaps this would be a good option for scientologists observing the belief of silent birth?

The verdict?

All in all, an expensive alternative to daydreaming in the sunshine.  A nice hour and a half of relaxation but no immediate effects after just one session.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Remembering an Old Friend - "How well he hears the silence"

Picking up an old Chopin piece was both uplifting  and heartbreaking.  It was like  seeing an old friend and recognizing his face but not remembering his name or anything about him.  I recognized the music but the contents were no longer automatic.  It was picking up a book in a foreign language - every word needing translation. 

 I was saddened to realize my fingers could no longer dance along the piano keys effortlessly while my mind wandered with the music.  Every note, every sharp was laboured. My fingers stumbling clumsily into formation. Every maneuver was thought and not felt.  Where once I was expert, I now humble myself to learner - re-learning music which I had previously performed in my sleep.  My fingers are rusty machinery coming out of storage.

Chopin, Rachmaninov.... I miss you both and I look forward to our re-acquaintance.

Rachmaninov's Op32 no12 waiting patiently for me at my piano.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Perishing Pigeage - a dying art or an art to die for?

Pigeage a pied : my senses being indulged

Grapes are like eyeballs.  
Not that I have stood on eyeballs - but if I had, this is how I would imagine them to feel.  At the start of the treading, the grapes are whole, bouncy globes playing beneath the feet.  By the end of a good tread, feet have sunken into a marinade of thin stained fluid stewed with twigs and pips.  A sensation commencing with whimsical massage and ending in gentle exfoliation. The stomper starts firmly held atop the mass of grapes and ends sunken towards the bottom of the barrel.

The Allure

Something about the texture, sensation and smell of it all appeals to one's primal urges.  It is something akin to the childhood desires to roll in the dirt, play in the mud or eat snails (hmm to the latter, I still do that!).   Not to mention, the  divine beauty benefits of vinotherapy & wine spas.

On a more cerebral level, the tradition and romantic notion of manual vinification further draws you in.  Although quicker automatic machinery has taken over many vineyards, many traditional and premium wines are still produced manually, particularly in Europe.  I still remember  being called up to join the vendange when I lived in France.  I liked the notion of specifically hand picked grapes being gathered for a long artful process of bottling the perfect wine made with love by a discerning vintner.  I  also knew it was the quintessential French experience - the comradeship of les vendengers, eating rustic vineyard fare, and being part of an age old process  culminating in one of the finest products and biggest endowments of France.   It would be like becoming part of history.  However, the long hard days, frostbitten fingers and  destroyed backs sufficiently deterred me from joining the Beaujolais crew.  Ever the lady, I could be found abroad at a spa house whilst my comrades heroically filled crates back at the vineyard..

Twinkle Toes & Treading

Once the grapes are picked, they must be crushed to release specific elements and start primary fermentation.  Having humans physically stand on the grapes (foot treading as opposed to machines) is a gentler, more even process which doesn't crush the pips  (this releases oil and astringency which affects the flavor).  Clearly, this requires more labour and time to get through large volumes of grapes (tons!).  
As you have seen from my photo, I am all game for naked feet and grapes.
However, are you ready
for..... .....
 full naked swimming in your wine?


Pigeage is the french term for crushing grapes in the lagers (open fermentation tanks).  While fermenting, the liquid accumulates at the bottom and the skins and solids float to the top forming le chapeau  or the cap.  This requires a "punch down" to mix the cap back into the liquid.  What most people don't realize is that this can be traditionally done by someone swimming through the mixture ....  nude.  And yes, this is still practiced in some vineyards.
Don't believe me? See "The sensual side of pinot noir" and 
"Waiter, there's a naked woman in my wine" about a woman's experience performing naked pigeage in commercial pinot noir or here in Australia.  Apparently full body immersion is important to find areas of over heating in the tank as well as mix, and the warmth and CO2 bubbles make it a pleasant jacuzzi experience.

Much like that first realisation that santa doesn't exist, or first being told where babies come from many readers would rather have the bliss of ignorance on the naked pigeage matter.

To Perish or to Pigeage?

However, Pigeage is a dying art (literally and figuratively) so after ruminating,  I have compiled  my very own list of the dangers of pigeage (as if I haven't put you off enough already!).

My top 3 dangers of pigeage:

1. Death - (no I'm not kidding) 


Amateurs have died from treading grapes when rendered unconscious from the Carbon dioxide released from the crushing.  Read Here  about the tragic end to two wine enthusiasts (Moulin & Dachin) in the throws of traditional stomping.  I suppose there are worse ways of dying than gradually falling permanently asleep in a large tub of wine.

2. Public Health & Hygiene

Dirty, fungal, hairy feet in your merlot?
Naked bodies and pubic hair in your pinot gris?

Does drinking a glass of vino now traumatize you with images of skin cells, hair, sweat and microbes that don't belong to you?

Well, it's alcohol! The same thing in your hand santiser, in the swabs you use to clean skin before a procedure.  The same chemical compound that I use to sterile scrub before an operation.  Microbes e.g. tinea and cells etc.. don't survive in the fermenting alcohol, anaerobic, carbon dioxide environment.  To quote Cork Jester in relation to port: " [the alcohol] content is high enough to kill both toe jam and jock itch, though some feel those are part of the ineffable bouquet of Old World wine".

This practice has been outlawed in many states due to food, hygiene and safety standards but many traditional vineyards still practice.  Some vintners say they " only use beautiful women".  This at least takes your mind away from a borat character with a fungal infection swimming in your wine.

3. Accidental Injury

So intoxicating is the joy of grape stomping that some people either overexert themselves in the tramping effort, twirl too much or indulge too much in prior tastings.  This poor reporter has struggled to get employment and live down this horrible incident while reporting on live television.

Enfin, after all that, salut! chin-chin! drink up!


Friday, April 13, 2012

In vino veritas

A day in Croatia

After harboring a secret desire to feel the squishing of grapes between my toes and emerging marinated in pre-wine, I finally experienced my first wine stomping session at a vineyard.

Wine, grapes, petanque, cured meats, dancing, singing, music, Mediterranean - all part of my day in Croatia.

From Dalmation for a day,

Featuring: photos of the talent of Kralj Tomislav

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Bienvenue a ma boudoir!
Welcome to my inner sanctuary.

Here, please have a macaroon or a patisserie. Will you take tea?

This - my room, is a place of story telling, reflection, inspiration, remembering and most of all noticing (noticing the sky today, noticing that person you've known forever, noticing something new on a road you've walked a thousand times) - all the things a lady does reclining in her chaise lounge in the company of her inner circle!

Thank you for your company and please accept my ongoing invitation to visit.

From me to you with pearls, lace, silk, and love,