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Dr. Giles's Blog

Reflections from Dr. C. Scot Giles, the Consulting Hypnotist and practice owner at Rev. C. Scot Giles, D.Min., LLC

Filtering by Category: Personal Reflections

Winter Finding

Charles Giles

"After a few rounds of this as the mead did it’s work, some of the warriors would begin to praise themselves, but the custom was to do this in a light hearted way that was obviously intended to be funny. People would boast about their foibles or exaggerate their accomplishments to the degree that everyone knew they were kidding."

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What you say?

Charles Giles

I’m hard of hearing. Have been for many years. I find that difficult to write because as disabilities go, being hard of hearing these days isn’t much of one. Technological advances have been amazing and with them I function almost as well a normally-hearing person. Still, people treat you differently if they know.

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2014 Solid Gold

Charles Giles

The presentations at the Solid Gold are always great and this year was no exception. Cal Banyon did a neat presentation on the Affect Bridge Regression technique, Wendy Packer presented her new work on hypnotically enhanced charisma, Tony DeMarco delivered a brilliant piece on Epidentics, Patricia MacIssacs shared her work on texting and cell phone use as a kind of addiction, Michael Ellner explained his approach to medical hypnotism. Don Mottin offered the latest on self-hypnotism in his usual high-energy style. Laura King shared her secrets for sports improvement hypnotism, and while that’s not my thing it works well for those who like that form of hypnotic practice. Wow! Solid Gold indeed.

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"Put a What, Where?"

Charles Giles

In celebration of passing a professional landmark, I decided to redo my office about five months ago. 

I wanted something more upscale, and I wanted everything to be environmentally correct. I wanted all metals to be at least half recycled, wood to be from sustainable growth forests, finishes to contain no volatile organic chemicals, and fabrics to be natural.

The problem was where to get stuff that met those specifications. Most of the really neat products are not available on the retail market. They are sold only to architects and designers.

Therefore, I needed to let a design professional create my next office for me. I'd never done anything like that.

I looked around and found a company (Enviornetx in Itasca) that sold environmentally-friendly office furniture on a business-to-business basis, and they recommended a designer....

...who walked into my self-designed office of black steel and glass and screamed. 

Well, she didn't actually scream. She just announced that it looked like the office of Darth Vader. "Who was your last decorator? Skeletor?" she asked.

"Well...you know...black goes with everything and one can usually find glass and metal furniture at the local office supply store, and..." At that point I gave up trying to justify myself. I told her to go to work.

She did. I've just completed my first week of working in the new office.

Actually, she really did hear me. Everything I told her about my work style and preferences is reflected in the finished design. There is a lot of wood--all from sustainable growth trees. The media cabinet had to be shipped from Ontario, but it is perfect. It's made of recycled steel finished with a textured paint that almost glows. The cockpit-like desk of rock maple from Izzydesign holds all my equipment perfectly, with the wires invisibly concealed in raceways suspended under the desk surface.

There's new art too. A "Tree of LIfe" sculpture hangs on the wall above my desk made from concrete by a local artist. Edmund Blair Leighton's 1901 painting "Accolade" hangs on another wall printed onto canvass. Two diplomas and one award were removed, and the other awards and diplomas were rearranged on the walls. 

It does look good. In fact better than good. There were some rough moments, as when she announced she intended to put a carved mahogany throne in the office. "You're going to put a what, where?" I said. "I don't think a throne is quite the style point I'm trying to capture in my office." She smiled and promptly ordered a museum reproduction celtic throne from somewhere in Great Britain. Here is a photo of what it looks like:

I've got to admit the throne works. It's not my working chair (she gave my aging back an Aeron Ergonometric Chair by Herman Miller) but the throne ties together the different woods in the office, adds a touch of whimsy as well as a curved line that breaks up the otherwise linear effect of the room. It also provides a place for a third person in the room to sit in case my hypnotic client wants to bring someone along.

Mostly the designer threw stuff out. The office is much more open. The closet was fitted for a Metro storage unit and electrified so that my shredder and other small electronics fit there. There is a gorgeous new rug from Europe, a lamp from Italy and even a new set of low-profile Bose stereo speakers.

So I'm glad I did this horrendously expensive thing. The office is stylish and uncluttered. It's a neat effect with just a few well-chosen pieces and I couldn't have done it myself.

Now if I can just remember where my stapler is kept I'll be in good shape.

If you want to get a sense of what the end result of all this looks like, I've updated the photo gallery to show the new console.

The Heart of the House Award

Charles Giles


Over the years I've acquired quite a collection of awards. My wife refers to one corner of my office as the "People Love Me" corner, as that's where I display all the plaques and framed awards I've managed to acquire.

Last night I received a very special award, and it's one that has touched me deeply. It will have a place of honor in my office. At its annual meeting, Wellness House of Hinsdale gave me its highest award. It's called the "Heart of the House Award." The photo above was taken last night along with Jeannie Cella, the Executive Director of Wellness House.

Wellness House is one of the premier centers for the emotional support of people who live with cancer in the Midwest. It is known throughout the mainstream cancer care community and this award has been given to a number of truly outstanding people in the field.

The award, given in conjunction with Harris Bank, takes the form of an engraved and framed tribute. Two copies are made. One is given to the person receiving the award, the other is displayed at Wellness House itself. Below is the text of the the 2006 award.

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The Heart of the House Award

Wellness House has been blessed to have made some wonderful friends throughout its nearly 16 years of existence--friends who appear at just the right time, to perform just the right task, responding to just the right need. These are volunteers who step up to make a significant difference in the life of the organization, the ones who provide a lasting impact on the quality of the programs that people dealing with cancer depend on while navigating their journey through treatment and beyond.

With so much of the difference between despair and hope dependent on being proactive and armed with empowering tools, Wellness House has been incredibly fortunate to count as a long-time friend the Reverend Dr. C. Scot Giles. From almost day one, this positive and powerful specialist in the hypnotic arts and sciences has been a constant at Wellness House, teaching people living with cancer to harness the power of their minds and get in touch with their own healing power.

In his private practice of teaching people the skill of self-hypnosis, Scot became frustrated with the inability to reach more patients. There has been a waiting list to get into his program for several years. His was a creative frustration which led him, in the mid-nineties, to propose a monthly self-hypnosis group at Wellness House to take place on Saturday mornings. From its inception, this group has been a huge success, allowing more people to benefit from learning the skill of self-hypnosis while responding to a cancer diagnosis.

In addition, Scot has been an abiding friend to the organization as it has moved through many stages of organizational growth and development. Filling the role of “advisor,” Scot has readily responded to invitations to help dig into issues and challenges, strengthening Wellness House in fulfilling its mission.

It is because of Scot’s knowledge, expertise, selfless willingness to share it and abiding presence in the life of Wellness House that Wellness House and Harris Hinsdale present the 2006 Heart of the House Award to Scot Giles.

Major Office Redecoration: July 3-July 8, 2006

Charles Giles

Dear Clients:

During the week of July 2-July 8th, my office will close to permit a comprehensive redecoration. I realize this change may be disconcerting for longer term clients, and I want you to know I welcome your feedback as I adjust and tweak the new design.

The most obvious change will be a slight repositioning of the client’s recliner and the addition of a new desk system from Izzydesign of Michigan. Several pieces of furniture will be removed. While the new desk will be in the same location as the old one, the office will feel simpler and less cluttered.

The high-tech Izzydesign desk contains integral power and wire organization yet has a very simple, table-like appearance. As Lindsay and I live our values, it was important that the new equipment be from a company that is ISO9000 certified as “green.” This means that metals are at least 50% recycled, wood is from sustainable growth forests, all construction materials are environmentally friendly and all finishes used are water-based. Izzydesign meets all of these requirements.

I suspect this will be the last office design I ever have to do, and I wanted to do it right so that I can work the next two decades in comfort and efficiency.

Please bear with me through any chaos that may result from this sort of complete redecoration. My consultants tell me they expect the change to go smoothly.

The Fountains of Bellagio

Charles Giles

Today I am back from the best vacation I've ever had. Clergy have weird schedules under the best of circumstances because we work evenings, weekends and most holidays. As our services are often committed months in advance for client sessions, workshops or ceremonies, getting vacation time is difficult and requires a lot of planning.

This year Lindsay and I decided we would take a February vacation to somewhere warm. February is a month that needs all the help it can get, and we decided to spend a week in a luxury hotel in Las Vegas. Neither of us opposes gambling but neither of us much enjoys it either. The attraction was the fine dining and entertainment.

We'd been to Las Vegas before on business, but we wanted to pamper ourselves this time. We took upscale accommodations at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The Bellagio is an Italian themed hotel, famous for its luxury (the bathroom we had was larger than my office, featuring a deep tub and separate glass steam shower).

In front of the Bellagio there is an artificial lake. In the lake are circles and rows of lights and high-pressure nozzles. Throughout the day the lights and nozzles emerge from under the water and a glorious dancing water show is performed, set to music. It is truly astounding to see. Our room overlooked the Fountains of Bellagio, and we could see the show until the finale at midnight. Here is a photo taken from the window in our room:

I even enjoyed the irony of returning to our hotel one evening to watch the Fountain show set to the old Shaker Hymn "Simple Gifts." The irony was seeing thousands of pounds of water, blasted stories high in the sky by tons of hydraulic pressure from an artificial lake in the middle of a desert, while the music played "When true Simplicity is gained,..." There is nothing "simple" about the Fountains of Bellagio.

It was a wonderful time. We saw several Cirque du Soleil performances from terrific seats and toured an exhibition of landscape paintings at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art that included several by Corot, Monet and Renoir, and a magnificent van Gogh (his "Houses at Auvers") that I'd never seen before.

I experienced some of the best dining of my life. I'm a former chef and my standards are high. Five Star restaurants are nothing new to me. We dined at the Eiffel Tower, Le Cirque, Picasso, Jasmine and Shintaro.

I expected the experience at the two world-famous restaurants, Le Cirque and Picasso, to be wonderful and they were. Chef Julian Serrano did an artful job for us at Picasso. Yet I found myself really impressed with Le Cirque and Chef Sirio Maccioni who presented us with what I can only say was the finest French meal of my life. I can not even imagine better.

Very pleasant surprises awaited us at Jasmine and Shintaro as well. I know Chinese and Japanese cuisine although I do not prepare that style of food myself. Our meal at Jasmine was a magical time as the restaurant overlooked the main circle of the Fountains of Bellagio and is gorgeous. Imperial Peking Duck is a favorite and this one was outstanding, as was the Sharkfin Soup and the Green Tea and Pistachio Creme Brule. I am a sushi fan, but I never had better sushi than I had at Shintaro.

We plan to do this again next year in combination with a tour of the Grand Canyon. We will return to Le Cirque, Jasmine and Shintaro and to try some of the other restaurants we didn't have time to get to this year. But we are home now, very pleased with our trip (and also pleased to be home).

Backups

Charles Giles

Most computer users quickly learn the importance of backing up data, but you'd be surprised...

I recall an episode of "Sex and the City" where Carrie has a hard disk crash on her Macintosh Powerbook and discovers that no one ever told her to back up her data.

A friend of mine had a similar experience some years back. He called to ask what a "Drive C unusable" error message was, as that's what appeared on his screen when he tried to boot up his computer.

What it meant was that his hard disk had crashed. He asked if I'd install a new one for him and I agreed.

I asked if his data was backed up, and he said not to worry because he had good backup software. So off I went to pay him a visit, stopping at the store to pick up a new drive for him.

I got to his house and installed the drive. Then I said, "Give me your backups and we'll get your data restored to the drive."

He handed me an unopened copy of a Windows backup program. "Here you go" he said. "The salesman said we'd need this eventually."

He thought that simply owning backup software somehow protected his data. No one had every explained to him that he had to install the program on his computer and run it.

I'm almost paranoid when it comes to backing up my data. I do a daily backup to a removable hard disk and to my iMac disc on the Apple Internet Server. Even if my house burns down, I can still recover my data from my iMac account as it's sitting on a secure site on the Internet.

I've even started backing up my recording of client sessions. These days most people record audio onto a computer hard disk and then burn a copy of the recording to CD using a process audio professionals call "bouncing."

This works great for most purposes (I use it to create my master recordings), but as it can take 15 minutes to "bounce" a recording of a 30 minute hypnotic session, a hypnotist can't record that way if you want to do a real-time recording of a session that you give to a client.

Real-time CD burners exist but judging by my conversations with Tech Support, a lot of people are having trouble. It seems that some of the companies that make the CD-R blank disc media have lowered the standards and the media contain more defects. If a real-time CD burner hits a bad CD it stops, and you've lost the recording you were trying to make.

My solution is to back up all my recording. Everything sent to the CD burner for recording is also automatically sent to a solid-state recorder (a Marantz PMD 570) where it is recorded onto a reusable flash memory card. If anything goes wrong with the CD burn, I've still got a copy of the recording that I can bring into my computer and burn from there.

Backups are a good thing in other areas of life as well. It's good to have a backup business plan, a backup workout routine (for when the usual one hurts too much), backup clothing (for when you spill coffee all over your best suit), etc. It seems to me that a little paranoia can be a helpful thing.

The Twelfth Night

Charles Giles

We leave our Christmas Tree and Yule Wreath up at my home until the end of the Yuletide.

The Yuletide is the period that begins on the first Sunday in Advent and lasts until the Twelfth Day of Christmas, which is also called Epiphany (January 6th). Epiphany celebrates the legendary arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem.

In our day and age we do not do much with the Twelve Days of Christmas but in Medieval times they were a very big deal. The Twelfth Night Court was the most important social festival in the year.

On the Twelfth Night the King and Queen would appear in Court dressed in finery that had been kept secret. Their clothing would set the fashion tone for the rest of the year and tailors and seamstresses would become very busy over the next several weeks as the nobility changed their wardrobes to match.

On the Twelfth Night squires received the "accolade" and were made knights, young men were "priested" by undergoing ordination. Initial and final vows were taken by nuns and monks. Even apprentices who had completed their time of service were raised to journeyman rank in their chosen trade, and journeymen might be acclaimed masters. It was a time of beginnings.

I've always enjoyed this tradition and so we keep it in a small way at the Bates/Giles household. It is when I do my practice evaluation and set my goals for the new year. I spend hours with my personal journal evaluating how my life is unfolding and decide about any changes I want to make to keep my life focused on what I believe is important. I also make a special effort with my cooking and put festive meals on the table accompanied with hot cider and wines I've been saving for the season.

On January 6th, the Yuletide ends and we enter what the church calls "Ordinary Time" which extends until Ash Wednesday. Here in Chicago this time tends to be a cold, dark and wet time and getting through it has its own special challenges.

But we've not there yet. As I write this it is still within the Twelve Days of Christmas and I intend to enjoy them fully.

Unplugging the Christmas Machine

Charles Giles

Early in our marriage Lindsay and I decided we would "unplug the Christmas Machine," which is clergy-speak for keeping Christmas as a religious celebration rather than a commercial holiday.

Like many people of faith I don't much like the commercialization of Christmas. I actively dislike the trend to "expand" the holiday shopping season by putting up Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween or Thanksgiving. Merchants call this "season treason" and say it makes them money. I don't care. I don't like it at all. One year I sent out Christmas cards that wished everyone a "Merry Peak Judeo-Christian Retail Season" to make it clear how far from the spirit of Christmas I thought things had gotten.

Everyone really loved the cards, but I didn't like being that much of a curmudgeon.

For my wife and me, Christmas is a simple, deeply-felt affair. Charles Dickens was a member of my denomination and his "A Christmas Carol" where Scrooge learns to "keep" Christmas by finding its meaning in his heart is something we believe. We try to "keep" Christmas at our household by making it a time for charity and affection.

We send carefully-selected Christmas cards to family members and a few intimate friends. We give gifts, but only to family or those like family, and the gifts are low key. Usually the gifts we give come from the bookstore or gourmet shop. We give generously to select holiday charities.

We do have a Christmas tree, but it's small. It's actually an artificial half-tree that hangs on the wall out of the reach of cats. We decorate it with handmade ornaments we've collected over the years. We can tell you the story behind each one.

Mostly, our holiday centers around the Advent Wreath that is on top of our Dining Room table. As the Sundays in Advent count down to Christmas, we light one of the candles until all four are ablaze. I make the wreath myself, and add fresh-baked cookies to the center as the season advances. I follow an old Norse recipe for the cookies, and make them in traditional shapes: rooster, boar, horseman, hunter, a spinning wheel, a tree and a man and woman.

On Christmas Eve we both get home late from our church services. I serve up mugs of hot mulled cider, we open any gifts, put on Christmas music and let the holiday lights shine into the night. Christmas Day will feature a late breakfast with fresh baked pastry and for dinner I roast a traditional goose and serve it up with a flaming fruit sauce. I don't miss the commercial things because God has blessed us, and knowing that is what really matters in the "keeping" of Christmas.

Changing the Name

Charles Giles

From several e-mails I've received it's obvious that some of my colleagues have noticed that over the past month my practice has undergone a name change. It's true. I didn't make a big deal about it because I really thought few would even notice.

But some have noticed. I'm now working as a nonprofit Limited Liability Company that has been built around my name.

For the past 16 years I've run my practice as part of an association of practices called Counseling Ministries, Incorporated. It's been a good association and I've benefited from my years with the company. So this is a happy parting and I wish my former associates nothing but good.

When one is starting out in the profession there is a benefit to being part of a company or organization. It helps others take you seriously and the moral support you get from your associates is important. However, as time passes there comes a point when you need to ask yourself if continuing to be part of someone else's organization remains a good idea. After a while your name, not a company name, needs to become the "trademark" of your work.

I had some help in getting to this decision. I've always valued consultation. After ten years of practice I became a client of a wonderful and insightful practice consultant, Lynn Grodzki (www.privatepracticesuccess.com) and the help she gave me was invaluable. This time around I did an internal consultation using resources from the National Guild of Hypnotists and I want to thank Dr. Damon for his support in my taking a hard look at where my practice was and where it needed to go. Also, colleagues who have not taken a look at the work of the Guild's marketing expert, Elsom Eldridge, are missing out on a good thing. I can't recommend his book The Obvious Expert highly enough (www.obvious-expert.com).

So, with a little help from friends I've repositioned my practice, changing the sort of corporation I use in the process. The option to form a Limited Liability Company in the United States only became available in 1997, and it's a far better format for me than the corporate structure I had been using.

So, from now on my practice name is Rev. C. Scot Giles, D.Min., LLC (I'll use "CSGilesLLC" for short) and my new domain name is www.csgiles.org. If you get a minute, change your Address Book listing for me as I'm not planning on keeping the old domain name forever.

Everything else remains the same in my practice. I'm not even going to re-arrange my desk. But I do plan on adding some new services and products as we enter the New Year.

Back from Convention

Charles Giles

I’m just back from the 54th convention of the National Guild of Hypnotists. This is the largest hypnotism gathering in the world with more than 2000 persons in attendance. The convention was in a new location this year at a Trade Show and Convention Center in Massachusetts. The Guild long ago outgrew the hotels in its home state of New Hampshire. Even in the new large facility, the hallways were crowded and the hotel, and two others close by, sold out.

It’s an energizing time for me. I’m on the Advisory Board of the Guild and so my time at the convention is often taken up with meetings. As I oversee the legislative and governmental concerns program of the Guild, I’m connected virtually to Guild members all over the nation. At the convention I have the chance to meet the people I’ve been working with over the year and to see what they actually look like.

I was especially proud this year at the Awards Banquet when two of my students, Mike Redell and Lynsi Eastburn both received awards. Mike got the award for political work and Lynsi got the Research Award for her work in using hypnotism to increase fertility. Both have gone on to become solid professionals and Lynsi now has her own state-licensed hypnotism school in Colorado.

So I felt proud, and sort of...well, old.

Over the years I’ve somehow managed to win most of the awards bestowed by the Guild, including the two highest—the President's Award and the Rexford North Award for Lifetime Achievement. As one can basically only receive an award once, a number of long-time members have gotten so many awards we are no longer in the running. Therefore, I was surprised when I heard my name called at the Banquet. I was elevated into the Order of Braid along with a short list of others.

The Order is named after James Braid, the Scottish physician who gave hypnotism its name in the nineteenth century, arguing in an authoritative book that the old name “Mesmerism” should be abandoned.

Guild members who have completed four decades of service to professional hypnotism, or who have won the major awards, are eligible for appointment to the Order of Braid. The Order is an honor society within professional hypnotism and it nominates the people who receive Guild awards.

Shortly after receiving the blue collar and medallion given to members of the Order of Braid I was greeted by one of the venerable older members who welcomed me into “the old fa*ts club.” I was pretty happy about it. It made me feel proud, and sort of....well, old.

Rounding out the convention was another opportunity to teach the curriculum for complementary medical hypnotism in the post-convention institute. I’m really inspired by the high quality of people who are in training today to be hypnotists. Some of the students this year were the best I have ever taught.

I also had the chance to sneak off for a fine dinner at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury. This is the establishment on the old Boston Post Road made famous by the widely read book of poems published in 1863 by Henry Longfellow called TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN. If you ever have the chance to dine there do so. The Lobster Pot Pie was a delight, and the Blueberry Pie was amazing.

Cancer Survivors Day Reflections

Charles Giles

I am just back from the Triumph Over Cancer Cancer Survivors Day celebration held by the Medical Center of the University of Chicago.

This was the fifteenth year I have been invited to host a table in the exhibition hall to let participants know about my work. There is a lot of competition to get invitations among medical practices, drug companies and community agencies, and I’m always pleased when the invitation arrives each year.

More than a thousand cancer patients and their significant others attend this event held at the Westin Hotel in the “Magnificent Mile” of downtown Chicago. It’s an upscale event. This year one of the speakers was United States Senator Barack Obama, the rising star of the Democratic Party. The host was CBS News anchor Jon Duncanson and the keynote address was given by actress (and cancer survivor) Meredith Baxter from the hit show “Family Ties.” The food is not bad either.

One of the most moving moments of the event is the calling of the Role of Survivors. In a room that seats more than a thousand people, the Master of Ceremonies asks people who have survived cancer one year to stand, then two years, then three. The role goes all the way up to twenty year survivors of cancer. At the end of the role call there are hundreds and hundreds of people standing who have been victorious over cancer. As someone who works with the cancer community a lot, this is inspiring.

This year I decided my table in the exhibition hall needed a facelift and so I retired the display originally made for me by the Marketing Department of La Grange Memorial Hospital a decade ago and created a new one (there is a photo in the Teaching and Events section of this web site). This year I also had the results of my 10-year outcomes study to show off, where people with cancer in my hospital program did better medically if they saw a hypnotist as well as a physician. That study has been well received, and at this point enough people have looked at it critically that I’m really confident of the results.

However, what I was proudest of was the fact that after all these years my practice is still here, and that it’s important enough that one of the greatest medical centers in the world wants to include it in their celebration. That’s a real high for me. When I began there were not too many people who thought I could make a success of it. After all, I’m a clergyman not a physician and that raised a lot of eyebrows.

The very first year the University of Chicago asked me to play a role in the Triumph Over Cancer celebration there were many other professionals there who were offering mental health services to the cancer community. They are all gone now. Their practices have closed.

Mostly, these folks were psychologists or counselors who thought they would apply the techniques of conventional psychotherapy to cancer patients. The idea was to diagnose the patients as having depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder and bill the insurance company to get paid.

The only problem with this elegant scheme is that as far as I know it’s never worked anywhere it’s been tried.

Cancer patients are not mentally ill. Being upset or worried are normal, not abnormal, reactions to having cancer. Not only does “uncovering” psychotherapy not help, it can actually make the mood (and I suspect the physical health) of the person living with cancer worse by dredging up things from the past that are best left to another time. In my experience, people who have cancer quickly figure this out.

What helps is motivational coaching combined with very precise hypnotic interventions to enhance resilience, and that’s what professional hypnotists do. The work has less to do with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, and more to do with scripture and the books written by Napoleon Hill, the Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Emile Coue’.

But years ago this wasn’t believed. In fact, at the very first Triumph Over Cancer event I was taken aside by a psychologist who was part a hypnosis organization that limits its membership to psychologists and physicians (and looks down its nose at the National Guild of Hypnotists). He said, “Little minister, you don’t belong here. You don’t know what you’re doing. But if you want to learn, just watch my dust.”

Well, his “dust” is all there is to see, as his practice has long since dried up and blown away. I try not to cackle about that as such emotions are not good for my spiritual health. However, I’ll be honest enough to acknowledge that the memory now makes me smile.

One of the organizers of the Triumph Over Cancer event and I were chatting over a cup of coffee before the doors opened. She commented on the fact that of all the practices who were interested in “psychosocial oncology,” years ago only the big nonprofit wellness centers and I remain. I laughed at this, and said that perhaps I should put a quote from Melville’s Moby Dick on my table. It would be the passage where Ishmael says “and I alone have survived to tell the tale.”

But I truly hope it doesn’t stay that way.

My dream is that more professional hypnotists will get involved in cancer care, and I do what I can to train them. Unfortunately, there are not many hypnotists in the world when compared to the vast number of other helping professions. However, someday I believe that will change. In the years I’ve practiced I’ve seen hypnotism go from being a “suspect” practice in medical circles to one that is widely recognized as helpful. Now all we have to do is convince enough people to train as practitioners so that the supply of professional hypnotists catches up to the demand.

Why is there a candle in your candy dish?

Charles Giles

If you were to visit of church of my denomination you would probably encounter a symbol you might find puzzling. The symbol is of a chalice, surmounted by a flame. Here is an example:

Through years of use, the Flaming Chalice has become an informal symbol of the Unitarian Universalist form of Protestantism. As we are a tradition that does not do a lot with symbols, we make the most of the few we have. Therefore, you will often see a Flaming Chalice displayed in our congregations. Some congregations begin worship by symbolically lighting the chalice, and many members wear the symbol as jewelry or display it in their homes.

Lindsay and I do this too. Whenever either of us leads worship we wear Flaming Chalice jewelry, We have a light gatherer of stained glass hanging in our front window that displays this symbol, and we have a sculpture of a Flaming Chalice made of cobalt blue glass on our dining room table most of the time. Both of our churches have Flaming Chalices in the sanctuary. At Countryside Church in Palatine we have a bronze sculpture, while at the Geneva Church my wife’s congregation uses one made of olive wood from Jerusalem set on a glass base that contains a copy of the church’s historic membership book.

The big problem with this symbol is that you sort of have to be a member of the club to know what it is. No matter how the artist tried to make it look majestic, a flaming chalice sculpture does look a bit strange. Those of us who keep one around get used to answering the question, “Why is there a candle in your candy dish?”

For anyone interested, here’s the tale:

In the late 1300s a man named Jon Hus was ordained as a Catholic priest in what is now called Hungary but was then called Transylvania. In 1401 he was appointed as the Rector of his school. However, with time he came to believe that reform was needed in the church. Anticipating the Protestant Reformation by more than a century he began to hold services in common language instead of Latin, and when he offered his congregation communion he offered not only the bread, but gave the chalice of wine too.

Not surprisingly, he came to a bad end. He was tried for heresy and burned at the stake by civil and church authorities. However his followers kept his memory going by devising a symbol—the chalice of communion crowned by the flame of his martyrdom. To this day the Flaming Chalice is a symbol you can find in Eastern Europe.

Eventually, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church and the Protestant Reformation began. Christianity would never be the same. For the intellectual grounding of his thought Luther appealed to the work of Jon Hus, and the Flaming Chalice became a small part of Protestant Christianity.

Centuries pass. In 1941 a group of our church people formed themselves into the Unitarian Service Committee. They tried to help Eastern Europeans, among them both Unitarians and Jews, seeking to escape Nazi persecution. The Rev. Charles Joy, Executive Director of the Service Committee, ran a secret network of couriers and agents to do this from his office in Lisbon. He realized he needed a symbol that would let his operatives recognize each other. He asked an Austrian artist, Hans Deutsch, to help him design something.

Taking a page from Protestant history, Deutsch designed a cross-like chalice crowned by a flame. In his official explanation of the symbol, Joy wrote "the holy oil burning in the chalice is a symbol of helpfulness and sacrifice…The fact that it remotely suggests a cross was not in his [Deutsch’s] mind, but to me this also has merit. We do not limit our work to Christians. Indeed, at the present moment, our work is nine-tenths for the Jews, yet we do stem from the Christian tradition, and the cross does symbolize Christianity and its central theme of sacrificial love."

From that point it caught on among us.

I enjoy the symbol, although I sometimes think my fellow Unitarian Universalists get a bit carried away with it. It is not, after all, a sacred symbol. It’s more like a corporate logo. While I feel it has a role, some people regard it with a reverence that troubles me. Yet for all that it does have a place in my home, and that’s why there is a candle in my candy dish.

What Does That Symbol Mean?

Charles Giles

The square symbol you see in places on this website and on the printed materials for my practice is one form of a design called a “Celtic Knot.” It’s an ancient symbol among the Celtic peoples who primarily come from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This is my own ethnic heritage and so it’s a symbol I adopted as my practice logo decades ago. Here it is again so you can get a good look at it.

The original meaning of the Celtic Knot, a looping design that has neither beginning nor end, probably was the interconnection of all life into a great living system of people, animals, plants and environment. Later, when Christianity came to Celtic lands the church adopted the symbol to mean eternal life and you will often see different forms of it in stained glass windows. I like both meanings.

I’m a liberal Protestant clergyman (Unitarian Universalist) from a small denomination that goes back to American Revolutionary times. Many of the founding patriots of Revolutionary America were associated with it: Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Clara Barton and more. However, this tradition doesn’t do much with symbols. Mostly, we use images from nature to express spiritual feelings. This became even more common among us after the 1838 “Divinity School Address” by one of our ministers, Ralph Waldo Emerson where he spoke of an American model for spirituality. He said:

“In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life. The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the tint of flowers. The air is full of birds, and sweet with the breath of the pine, the balm-of-Gilead, and the new hay. Night brings no gloom to the heart with its welcome shade. Through the transparent darkness the stars pour their almost spiritual rays.”

I follow this tradition and use symbols sparingly. About the only symbols you see in my work are the Celtic Knot as a practice logo, the cross and stylized images of a flaming chalice, which is the logo of my denomination. Beyond that, the beauty of nature does it for me, and that’s why this web site is full of images of rainbows, sunshine, starry nights and forests.