“You can’t make yourself fall asleep.”
Those were pretty much the first words certified hypnotherapist Alexandra Janelli told me on the phone.
“The harder you try, the more you’re using your logical mind to make it happen,” Janelli, who practices at Modrn Sanctuary on West 27th Street, explained. “[Sleep is] an innate part of us that comes from a subconscious area.”
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That made sense to me, but before I entrusted my “subconscious area” to a stranger, I wanted to know more about hypnosis. I don’t want to wake up and bark like a dog every time my editor says, “deadline.”
After explaining that hypnosis, a state of acute focus, is more “guided meditation” than parlor tricks, Janelli offered me a recording, typically costing her clients anywhere from $15 to $45, that I could listen to at home.
That night, I did my usual routine: I popped my earbuds in and hit play. I breathed and concentrated on Janelli’s soothing voice … and then I woke up several hours later. I never even made it to the end of the recording before I conked out.
Second night, same thing. I was excited, so I made an appointment with Janelli for an initial session – 85 minutes for $395.
I’m not going to lie, I expected things to maybe get a little weird, but the office was serene and seemed like it would put even the most skittish at ease.
We started our time together by talking. Janelli patiently explained, answered questions and basically talked to me like a human. We joked, shared things about our lives… basically, we had a conversation.
“OK, when does the incense and gong come out?” I wondered. “I don’t see a couch. What if she asks me to lift my arms and I don’t? Am I going to do something strange while our photographer is in the room?”
There was no incense. No gong. Not even a couch. Staying in the same office, I tipped my chair back and got comfortable while Janelli told me I was right where I needed to be. She put my mind at ease by reassuring me I had nothing else to do for that moment. She gave me permission to acknowledge the thoughts that might invade my peace.
That was a huge moment for me. I’m the person who gets a massage, determined to clear my mind, but end up spending an hour trying to frustratingly figure out why I can’t keep my thoughts from wandering. It’s exhausting.
At one point, Janelli told me to imagine the light from my third eye soothing me. Later on, I said, “You know when you told me to think about melting butter?”
Janelli laughed and assured me she never once talked about butter.
As Janelli guided me, I remembered her advice on not getting stuck on what I thought was expected of me. If I can’t see the staircase, so what? I can still imagine myself descending into calm with each breath.
After bringing me back to a more awakened state, Janelli told me I could open my eyes whenever I was ready. “I don’t want to,” I mumbled.
Eventually, I complied and was amazed at how relaxed I was. I once again felt the chair supporting me and realized I forgot to suck in my gut while the photographer was snapping pictures.
And my anxiety baseline was basement level as opposed to penthouse high during the work day.
Since that session (but not because of it), I’ve made some changes in my personal life, found a new apartment, started packing up my life in Queens and hired movers to take me and the cats to Brooklyn. Again, having a hard time sleeping, I tried the recording.
It didn’t work. I doused my air mattress with aromatherapy scents gifted to me by Essence of Vali. I placed the lavender, marjoram, cedarwood and ylang-ylang balm under my nose. I stuffed an oil-dabbed tissue into my pillow case. I did some light stretches. I took pictures of my cats. (OK, so that one has no scientific basis, but they looked really cute).
As one of Metros editor's put it, "Trances are, hypnosis maynot be the answer either." (We love puns).
For now, I’m going to remember that, as Janelli said, sometimes it just won’t work. You can’t make yourself sleep and, like a man afraid to ask his doctor for Viagra, I can’t let performance-anxiety win.
Modrn Sanctuary in NoMad is offering free classes on March 1 "to help New Yorkers accomplish their 2017 de-stress, relax, revitalize and reach their health and wellness goals."
I’ll admit, learning these sleep techniques at this moment in my life is basically putting them under the most rigorous of testing. I've been living on Seamless after "donating" to the gym for a few months, but in a few days, I’ll be in a new spot, with a new mattress on a real bed and hopefully, covered in sleeping cats, I’ll be snoring at a decent hour instead of watching the sun come up with my half-empty pint of Arctic Zero.