Dr Glenville Ashby, Contributor
I inhaled deeply, exhaling through my mouth. With eyes closed and seated upright, I followed the indirect commands of the well-pitched and cadenced voice that counted down from 10 to one.
My awareness was effortlessly shifted to a place of quietude.
"You are now in a state of relaxation, in a place that you find most appealing and comforting." His modulation was seamless. His words tapered off. I drifted towards that scene of bliss, my senses fully engrossed.
The induction was completed. I was in the Alpha state and now an initiate of the Silva Method
The man behind that instrumental voice was the sartorially dressed and renowned motivational guru, 66-year-old Tony Mitchell, a certified instructor who appeared to have drunk from the fountain of youth.
"You are what you create, knowingly or unknowingly," he said. It is hardly a new message. It has always been the mantra of channelled spirit guides such as Seth and Lazarus.
It has been devoutly embraced by movements such as Christian Science and The Science of the Mind. What then distinguishes the Silva Method from the rest?
Mitchell didn't flinch.
"Unlike Christian Science and other mental modalities, we enjoy a broad appeal."
While it contains spiritual properties, The Silva method is stripped of all religious elements although "it has remarkably increased the faith of practitioners".
Mitchell also emphasised that the Silva movement does not dissuade members from seeking medical help when stricken with illnesses.
"While we have specific techniques for insomnia, addiction, migraine headaches, pain management, and even the control of blood flow in traumatic experiences, we work in concert with contemporary medicine."
Created in 1944 by Jose Silva, who Mitchell called "an uneducated genius who improved on the psychological and spiritual techniques of hypnotherapy and yoga", the programme synthesises self-hypnosis, positive thinking, and the art of visualisation.
Success is based on what learned men and women have long discovered: "The law of attraction determines our station in life." Simply put: We bring about fortune or disaster based on our thoughts. "Too many of us sabotage our dreams through self-doubt and other forms of mental poisoning," argued Mitchell.
"It is important to prioritise your goals with confidence and faith in your God-given potential," he emphasised.
"You will be amazed at what the power of channelled thoughts can accomplish. In a deep level of meditation, you can realise your dreams.
"You must use all your senses when creating your mental picture and visualise your desired outcome of a situation, not the process."
Mitchell was anecdotal at times, recalling the experience of Cynthia Stafford, who, in 2007, willed herself, through visualisation, to win the lotto - a massive sum of US$112 million dollars.
"While she might not have been a graduate of our method, she used the fundamental principles of creating her own reality."
He also veered towards psycho-dynamics.
"If someone is always trapped in bad relationships, it means that there is an element in the subconscious mind that is attracting negativity.
"It must be identified and addressed through self-analysis and using the techniques that we offer."
Mitchell conceded that the Silva approach is not a magical formula. "It requires daily practice until it becomes part of your natural routine - like brushing your teeth."
Mitchell visualises at least twice daily - five minutes per session but will increase the duration when presented with a situation that demands some exigency.
He added that there are "astounding healing powers for those who dedicate their energy to the system".
Mitchell related curative sessions where practitioners were able to identify the specific ailment of someone when showed a card that concealed his or her name, gender, and location.
"We have had an impressive 85 per cent accuracy rate. We have seen individuals suffering with life-long ailments, including cancer, reverse their ill fortunes."
Such feats, he said, take practice but can be accomplished once the practitioner is operating at the Alpha or subconscious level.
"You have the ability to go beyond time and space," he asserted.
"This is the law behind absent or remote healing." He likened it to prayer "but in a heightened state of consciousness".
The Silva Method, he explained, is more of a philosophy than a religion. He also hinted at comparisons to yoga.
"While yoga is passive, the Silva Method is dynamic, using specific techniques to create desired results."
In adopting a mind-matter approach, the Silva Method advocates that meditation should be performed in a seated position with hands placed on the thighs while bringing the thumb, index, and middle fingers together.
Mitchell simplified the physiological process behind this posture:
"The energy of the body leaves through the hands. The positioning of the fingers momentarily stops the energy flow and redirects it internally. This triggers the first step towards deeper awareness."
No philosophical or spiritual practice is without detractors.
The Silva approach has been maligned by religious fundamentalists. In fact, Jose Silva was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
Critics have also warned against unscrupulous teachers who can prey on the minds of vulnerable students. That the Silva approach does not make use of biofeedback equipment has also raised doubts about its scientific claims.
Teachers cannot be certain if practitioners have really entered the Alpha state, some have argued.
In today's stress-riddled world where countless lives are debilitated by physical and emotional discomfort, a myriad of spiritual practices have emerged, touting their brand of panacea. Many have quietly disappeared, while others have persevered for decades - reinventing themselves to address ever changing personal and social demands - while defying critics along the way.
The Silva Method is one such movement. Surely, it has withstood the test of time
Dr Ashby is the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Interfaith Council. You may send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby.