Hypnotist Misha Tuesday puts us under his spell for Mystic Nights 

click to enlarge Misha Tuesday.

Courtesy of Misha Tuesday

Misha Tuesday.

Within minutes of meeting Misha Tuesday, I become a human magnet. My hands meld together, my arm refuses to bend, and my mind is surprisingly OK with what felt like relinquished control. With a few strategic snaps of his fingers while under the instruction of his soothing yet authoritative voice, my posture softens and suddenly I can see myself opening doors. Completely awake, eyes closed, I am fucking hypnotized.

"I will tell you that hypnosis is not sleep," Tuesday explains before his demonstration. "A trance does not involve a blackout. It involves focus, it involves concentration, it involves imagination. It's not a battle of wills, it's not something I'm trying to get control over your mind. Hypnosis isn't something I do to you. It's not a power I have. I just provide a framework and guidance to get your mind to do that thing that it can do so well anyway."

The Ypsilanti-based magician, mystic artist, and certified hypnotist describes a trance as a naturally occurring brain activity. What Tuesday offers through his learned techniques is simply to activate it. In short, hypnosis engages the unconscious mind.

"Anytime you watch a TV show, when you feel the emotions the characters are feeling, that's a form of trance," he says. "When you drive somewhere on autopilot [and] you get where you're going, that's a form of trance. Sometimes you're so focused on reading, somebody has to call your name a couple of times before you respond. Well, really, anytime we're lost in thought — these are all examples of trance."

Before we begin, he likens the process of being hypnotized to being on a surfboard: "I'm going to provide the waves and you're going to stay on that surfboard as long as you can."

Though I am moderately afraid of water and am not the most agile swimmer, I'm OK with this metaphor. I was asked to stand with my feet shoulder-width apart and clasp my hands a foot in front of my face. On his command, I would extend my index fingers up and that the tips would feel magnetized.

"I don't want you to just put them together to please me," he says. "But I don't want you to fight it too much either. The purpose is for you to feel the sensation."

And just like that, my index fingers slowly met — like magnets. With a snap of his fingers I shake it off. We do it again, though this time, Tuesday instructs me to make a fist and straighten my arm. He tells me that I would not be able to bend it nor would he be able to bend it if he tried. My left arm suddenly feels like it has a steel bar running through the center, and the more he talks the stiffer it becomes. I imagine an anvil crashing down on me, and even then, I know my arm would not give to its weight. Tuesday snaps his fingers, and my left arm returns to its normal state, folding at my elbow.

In the most incredible exercise, I'm asked to press on Tuesday's palm and forget the sensation of a chair beneath me.

"Close your eyes," he says. "Sleep. Relax. Deeper, deeper down, all the way down, floating, flying, drifting, dreaming."

My default rigid spinal posture slumps, and I'm overcome with a sense of calm. It feels almost as if I had never experienced a moment of worry, panic, or fear in my entire life. As Tuesday describes a long journey involving windows and doors and untapped skills and abilities, I see myself standing in the darkness of my mind, actively searching for what I wanted. The first word that comes to mind is "communication." While I pride myself on being a skilled communicator, I have to imagine in this relaxed state, there is a reason why that word jumped out at me.

Tuesday tells me I will begin to feel fitter and stronger with each day after this exercise, and my confidence will grow and that I will have access to new abilities. As he tells me this, Tuesday taps the nape of my neck like morse code while counting to five — at which point I return back to the room with literal doors and windows.

"How do you feel?"

I laugh and tell him how I had seen myself.

"You're an explorer of inner space," he says, as if bestowing me with some sort of psychedelic medal of honor. To be honest, it feels pretty damn cool.

The public will be able to experience similar mind tricks as Tuesday gears up for a monthly stage show at Ann Arbor's Masonic venue, Zal Gaz Grotto. "Mystic Nights" is described as being an "immersive exploration beyond reality" filled with mind reading, hypnosis, clairvoyant readings, and philosophical magic. Though much of Tuesday's skill is based on 20 years of practice, professional training, and his insatiable fascination with neuroscience, he says he was seemingly born with mystic inclinations.

A Pennsylvania native, Tuesday grew up in what his parents believed to be a "haunted house," and from the age of 12, he began performing tricks at neighborhood events and birthday parties. Following a run-in at Detroit's Dirty Show as a dance performer (yes — Tuesday is a man of many tricks) he embarked on establishing an entertainment LLC in Chicago, where he would book princesses and clowns for parties before returning to Michigan to start a family and book himself exclusively.

He is quick to cite LSD master Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson's "Eight-Circuit Model of Consciousness," beat novelist Ken Kesey, and references a quote by playwright George Bernard Shaw as a means to "justify a lot of his weirdness": "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

"People often go for the easy explanation, and sometimes people do need answers," he says. "But it's my goal to try to get people to stay agnostic as long as possible. There's no reason for truth to be the default top value. A lot of people who are atheist, who are hardcore materialists, they think, well, 'That's not true, that's not real.' But that doesn't mean it's not meaningful or it's not important. I think they just allowed the default top value in their life to be truth, which I sometimes like to call a petty devotion to facts."

Tuesday addresses the less trippy and more modern applications of hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, which are commonly associated with quitting smoking, weight loss, and stress relief. The activation of the unconscious mind, while able to break habits, can also lend itself to self-improvement and goal-orientation, much like meditation. "Neurons that fire together wire together," Tuesday says of the phenomenon. When I ask if the powers of hypnosis could be harnessed to erase an ex-boyfriend or, say, "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas from my memory, he doesn't completely dismiss the possibility.

"You're talking about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Let's go in there and zap out the memories that I don't want anymore," he says. "What you can do is put it into the background. If you can bring something into awareness, you can put it out of awareness."

Tuesday compares pain or trauma as an "email" from the body and hypnosis as a notification setting — in other words, a choice.

"It's very important that we identify whether it's useful pain or useless pain because pain has a very important function for the body," he says. "Pain is an alert to investigate. Your nervous system can alert you that this is something that's going on and if it's useless pain, if it's pain that's not serving you anymore, you can mark that email 'read.' Turn off that notification. It won't be gone from your knowledge and from your memory, but it will be gone from troubling you."

While hypnosis has associations with self-help and betterment and is frequently used as entertainment, Tuesday lets me in on a lesser-known industry secret — you can get yourself high without drugs.

"I won't do it because I'll get high and I won't be able to complete the interview, but I can basically just get high by will because I've learned how to open that door," he says. "So, one of my favorite things to do is to go to Home Depot and then I'll access that state. I won't smoke, but I'll just access that high state. And then I walk around Home Depot as though I'm from the far future and it's an anthropological museum. It's so fun. You should really try it."

For his final trick, Tuesday informs me that he has one item in his blazer pocket. He lists off four items and gives me an opportunity to guess which it is. From the list, I select a coin. I reach into his pocket and pull out an old skeleton key he had purchased at a nearby antiques shop. He lays the key in the palm of his hand and points at it. The key begins to turn. There are no visible strings above or below and Tuesday does not have a magnet hidden in his hand that I could see. He then asks me to put my hand out and focus my breathing and places the key in my hand. The key magically turns as it did in his. Was it haunted? Possibly. Did I do it? Was it Tuesday? Our shared electromagnetic field? Or was it a parlor ruse? The answer is all and none of the above.

"We have these brains, and for whatever reasons we evolved to have this religious impulse and have this capacity for all these way-out experiences," he says. "You don't have to put an explanation on it. You can seek these experiences, you can enjoy these experiences as long as you're seeking out experiences that are meaningful, that are adding positive value to you and your community and the people around you. I see no reason to tell people that what they believe isn't true."

"I prefer to leave it more ambiguous because to me it's more exciting," he says. "I love not knowing."

Misha Tuesday's monthly Mystic Nights begins at 8 p.m. starting Wednesday, Feb. 20 at Zal Gaz Grotto; 2070 W. Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor; 734-663-1202; mishatuesday.com; Tickets are $10.

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