Haggling, Hubbub & Tranquility

Isn’t it odd how you can find peace and relaxation in unexpected places, which when you come to think about it is actually the best time to find them. If you were expecting peace then perhaps it loses value, becoming more of a top-up to an existing tranquillity than a way of unwinding the stresses and strains of a hectic life, especially when the particular hecticity, (made up word, surely), is an unfamiliar one.

And what better location for this experience than Marrakesh, city of a million souls all living life at pace, with traffic following rules that aren’t apparent and appear to be effectively ignored at will, reminiscent of the Black Pearl and the Pirates Code: more guideline than actual rules. The walk from our hotel near the train station, along streets named after kings, throws you into the mayhem in short order with strikers from a nearby Riad drumming their protest to passers-by and onlookers from dawn until dusk and beyond. The main road, Mohamed VI is filled with noisy smoky cars, mopeds by the hundred and the more than occasional donkey and cart ferrying their wares and passengers alike into and out of the city centre.

By the time you reach the Medina walls, you are thoroughly conditioned to hubbub and start to notice the narrowing streets, the non-too-subtle aroma of freshly passing horses passing whatever it is that horses pass into the little sacks strategically slung under their tails. Whilst this no doubt keeps the streets cleaner, it carries the smell of fermenting dung around announcing its presence to give you a warning of the obligatory haggling about to begin for a horse-taxi ride you had no idea was a part of your future.

Suffice it to say that by the time you’ve found yourself seated in a Jemaa el F’na food stall with “Number One One Seven takes you to heaven” ringing in your ears as a waiter convincingly suggests a series of dishes you’ve never tried before and sincerely hope will be edible, (they were, very much so – try it, the food was great and remarkably good value), the noise and pestering for money in exchange for some unasked for entertainment subsides into a background rhythm which gradually lulls you with its gently hypnotic ambience.

Given that the restaurants, traders, and entertainers have been doing this in Jemaa el F’na square for hundreds of years, I found myself wondering whether the music, chatter and scents from the nearby Marrakesh souks have organically evolved to create the exact trance needed to most efficiently part tourists and locals alike from their Dirhams.

Of course our western sensibilities made us more susceptible to the feigned outrage and disappointment that is so central to the well tuned haggle and we dutifully found ourselves being lead ever deeper through the souks by a series of amenable locals who just happened to be going our way until were inevitably led via an non-too impromptu tour of the tanneries to the back room of a happy carpet trader’s shop.

Fortunately by this time we had developed a little talent for turning down fabulous bargains which-we’d-never-find-again-madam-just-look-at-the-fine-Berber-quality and managed to leave with just as many Dirhams as we’d entered with and strangely, not in possession of a Berber handmade carpet. Our guide however was very aware that we were now a long way from Jemaa el F’na and having missed out on his no doubt sizeable carpeting commission, made the most of this to add weight to his haggling.

We left the tanneries both guideless and somewhat lighter in the Dirham department, not much wiser as to how to get back. Apparently we’d haggled too hard for him feel any sense of obligation to return us to where he and his team had steered us off course. Never mind. There’s always a bright side. We saw and experienced parts of Marrakesh we’d have missed otherwise, judging by the complete lack of tourists en route.

After spending the best part of an hour on our first morning planning our day, Mohammed, the only one-legged Grand Taxi driver who seems to have camped outside the hotel since enthusiastically greeting us the previous day, persuaded us, (well, persuaded Richard actually, as it turned out a really good call: nice one), to abandon our plans so that he could fulfil the age-old saying and seeing as they wouldn’t come to Marrakech, dutifully took us to the mountains.

As this post seems to have evolved in part into a tourist guide, (it does get to the point eventually, honest; bear with me), I would highly recommend the Atlas mountains in the hands of a knowledgeable taxi driver. You get far more out of the trip, as does he from the various places he decides you need to see on the way but then that’s all part of the experience isn’t it? If you happen to be staying in the Riad Mogador Opera, wonderfully confused with Riad MacDonald’s by one of our late night taxis causing much hilarity and renegotiation, then Mohammed is for you. The combination of gentle good humour, in-depth knowledge and a desire to ensure you want to use him again the next day, he gives good value and a good opportunity to practice a haggle or two.

So where does the peace and relaxation come in? Obviously there are a variety of cafe’s and restaurants which give cooler distance form the noise and bustle of everyday Marrakesh but for me it came with a trip to the Jardin Majorelle, previously owned and restored by Yves Saint-Laurent. Now this may not be to everyone’s taste, nor would everyone find it quite as relaxing. And really that’s the point.

You see, relaxation or trance induction isn’t a one size fits all experience. This is why you may find that some relaxation CDs or yoga meditations work better for others than for you. You might even find that some of them actually wind you up rather than relax you. Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t like being told how to relax by someone who doesn’t really know me.

Despite the personality reading skills that many Hypnotherapists possess, it’s incredibly difficulty to predict the exact set of images, sounds, aromas and textures which take you into trance of any sort. It’s best left to delicate suggestion, guidance, gauging progress and adjusting as you go. This doesn’t lend itself easily to pre-recorded words or indeed actual experience. Have you ever been somewhere with your partner and found something really relaxing and meaningful only to discover they were completely unmoved and wonder what on earth you’re on about.

Back at the Jardin Majorelle. Ochre-red concrete paths weave through a series of different   beds each planted to reflect different moods dotted with brightly coloured pots, birds singing and scents designed to lull you into a restful peace. Or not.

The first plants are all bamboo and every stem within reach has graffiti carved into it. It’s cooler than outside but feels messy and claustrophobic. To be honest, I didn’t like it at all. The bright pots, blue and yellow primary colours staring at you from the red concrete paths, belligerent and attention grabbing. It was definitely adding to the stresses. Time to cut losses and leave? Maybe. Give it time.

And then a strange thing happens. After you’ve walked around the paths and come to the ponds with Terrapins and Carp, there’s a small open space with paths leading off in several directions around corners to who knows where. There are glimpses of blue buildings. Fifteen varieties of bird sing to each other and the sun hides behind the shading trees. Richard was standing there transfixed. Gill had wandered straight past it and Debbie was nowhere to be seen. Something about this space and the journey into it spoke. But only to one of us.

My place turned put to be just around the corner before the cafe with the camp waiter, where workmen were scraping old bright yellow paint off an urn onto the ochre-red concrete. It lay powdered and sprinkled on the floor for only a couple of seconds before it was unceremoniously swept up and binned. But the colours, shade, textures and birdsong caught me and told me just how relaxed I was, right then, just for an instant. I can still see it. It’s still relaxing.

Gill and Debbie’s best places were entirely different, not even in this garden. Not that they didn’t enjoy it, just that it didn’t speak to them in the same way.

And this is the fine line that needs be trodden in Cognitive Hypnotherapy. Eliciting the exact trance state which will be best for a given intervention at a given time for a particular client is a skill which needs practice and the client’s active participation.

A bespoke trance is the most effective as it targets every nuance of every phrase specifically to the needs of the client in the way that helps it arrive in their unconscious as purely as is possible. This is what makes it so effective, whatever your particular difficulty; stress, anxiety, pain, fertility – and as we Hypnotherapists can’t actually see into your thoughts, hear what you’re saying to yourself, feel what you feel, this not the easiest feat to accomplish. This is one of the main reasons why it isn’t possible to hypnotise someone who just doesn’t want to participate in any way.

So rather than trust to a one size fits all self-help book or generic CD, come and see someone who will tailor the entire experience specifically to you and only you. And seeing as this is Marrakech; “Sir! Your unconscious knows it’s worth every Dirham! This is the best trance in the entire Souk. Do you know how long it takes to become a skilled Cognitive Hypnotherapist? This is a trance we design just for you and your beautiful wife sir! Not to fit anyone else, Madam, it is only for you. Surely you cannot waste this chance! It will truly change your life, Madam. Just try it on, it will fit perfectly! If you walk away now, Sir, Madam, you will only look back with regret…..”

…On the other hand, I launch my new website on Wednesday.

Come and take a look. You might be surprised…

...but was it good for you too?© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

…but was it good for you too?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013