In the opening chapter of my first published book that I wrote back in 2004, I wrote an introductory chapter dominated by a story about an experience I had when living and working on a Kibbutz when I was a teenager. Anyhow, just recently, I was given a bunch of photographs that were taken from that time when I was 19 years old and living on the Kibbutz, working on a banana plantation. I tell lots of my students about this experience and so thought I’d share the first few pages of the introduction of my first book The Secrets Of Self-Hypnosis. 2016 Edit: Please note, that book has now been greatly superceded by my book The Science of Self-Hypnosis: The Evidence Based Way to Hypnotise Yourself (2015) which is a far more accurate, researched and up to date account and application of self-hypnosis.
I want to share a story with you, which tells of an important experience in my life.
It was an extremely hot, humid morning in Israel as I clung to the back of the tractor being taken to my first days work in the banana plantation. I had to squint as the sun was coming up and this helped stop the dust getting into my eyes.
When travelling in the early 1990s I had decided to go and live on a kibbutz for a few months. A London based company called project 42 organised for English people to go and do this and made it a lot easier to get accepted to join a kibbutz. Kibbutz’s were originally to help build and restore Israel and were very much mini communes that were self-sufficient. The majority of kibbutzniks (people who lived on the kibbutz) were Israeli, but they welcomed volunteers from all over the world and in return for their work and skills, they would provide shelter and food and a minimal wage, kind of like pocket money.
I chose to attend a medium sized kibbutz just south of the city of Haifa, a place called Nachsholim. It was traditional, which meant I could really get a deeper understanding about the culture and ideology. It was also in central Israel so that I could travel to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, The Golan Heights, Nazareth, the sea of Galilee, have adventures in my spare time as well as get to Egypt, Syria and Jordan after my minimum period of time was up serving on the kibbutz. They ask for a minimum period of work so that there is consistency and stability within the kibbutz.
Upon arrival in any kibbutz, they firstly show you to your accommodation, which you have to share with another volunteer. Next up, the Kibbutz volunteer organisers allocate you a working role. I was told that fruit picking was hard work but good hours and as I liked to be outdoors I agreed to do this and fancied it more than kitchens, wash rooms or other indoor environments that you get allocated when new. You had to work your way up to better jobs!
You could work in the fields with Lychees, Avacados or Bananas. Part of the year was spent reaping the crop; part of it was in maintenance of the fields and the fruit. Some of the work was spent readying for future crops. I said I wanted to work on the banana plantation. It was picking season when I was there, and I had an image in my mind that this would be nice. I imagined myself roaming freely around the plantation with a basket in one arm, lazily filling it with bananas while conversing with fellow workers about their interesting journeys and how they came to be at the stage they were now at in their lives.
This image began to be shattered when I was told by several of the Kibbutz elders that I would not be able to cope with the banana plantation work. It was the time of year for picking the crop and was very physically demanding apparently. They told me that after the picking season was over, in a few weeks, I could work there tending to the baby trees. Some rather ragged Arabic workers from Yemen who were hardened to Banana plantation work also advised the kibbutz elders I that I was in fact too thin, and that coming from England, unused to manual labour, I would not be able to handle it.
This made me want to do it even more. I was sure that this would be good for me to do. I insisted and persisted and finally they gave in and accepted that I needed to be shown it and told me I could come back after the first day to change my mind when I wanted to be assigned elsewhere.
Upon telling my newly made friends among the kibbutz at a welcome meal they held for another new volunteer and I that evening, I was starting to feel apprehensive hearing all the banana plantation horror stories that I was being told. I got picked up at 5am the next morning. We went out in the early morning sunrise on a truck followed by tractors filled with workers.
Now let me explain some basic facts here; Bananas are picked when they are green and hard, they then ripen on their way to the markets for their sale. They are not in a bunch of 5 bananas as I buy them in the supermarkets here in the UK. Far from it, they hang in the trees in bunches that weigh 50-100kgs. Some bunches weighed as much as I did. Finally, have you ever seen a banana tree? They are tall. The bunches of bananas are up high in those trees.
So knowing that, let me now explain how they are picked. The head guy, in this case was a short stocky man wielding a long stick with a shortened scythe-like blade on the end, chooses which we field we work in, then he walks up the lines of banana trees and us pickers follow him in line. He spots a bunch that is at the right time in its life to be picked. The first worker in the queue then has to stand underneath the bunch and catch it when the leader cuts its stem with his long scythe.
These bunches are hard, they are heavy and they are falling at some pace. You then have to put the bunch on your shoulder, carry it all the way across that particular field of banana trees (the pathways are covered with thick and dense foliage and long, fallen banana tree leaves) to where the tractors are. You hold out the bunch with quivering breath, straight, out held shaking arms at full length, a bit like an exercise of endurance that you see on the world strongest man competition, while they are tied to a rail to hang. Then you go back, join the line of pickers and you do it all again. It is done for several hours until the sun comes up fully and it is too hot to work and then you go home to the kibbutz, stained with banana leaf juices and bruised, fatigued and extremely tired. Banana picking is the part of the season that is fairly brief and so it has to be done quickly, rapidly to bring in as much of the crop as possible in as short a period of time as possible.
Another factor worth bearing in mind at this point is that the banana plantation is highly valued as a main source of revenue for the relatively poor kibbutz. Any damaged crop represents a significant loss. Being stuck in the back end of Israel at a young age with 12 Arabic workers and 10 further Israeli kibbutzniks who I did not know and had never seen before except on films at that stage in my life, who were all scrutinising my every move, I suspected that I might not arrive home if I dropped a bunch of bananas or did not catch a bunch right. The only training I received was having the privilege of going last in the line and watching all the others do it. I was so nervous. It was extremely humid too, not conducive to calming down.
At this point, I noted the skill, I followed the technique, I even did some mental mock-ups of how I would do this. Catching it on the chest and shoulder, easing the fall and then shunting the load on to my shoulder to be carried.
So, there I am; pale skinned, lanky, redhead English guy, perspiring through nerves, standing at the foot of a banana tree with a bunch being cut methodically above me. My feet were positioned as correctly as I could get them. A bunch that must have been 70 kg comes flying through the air and lands directly on the bone of my shoulder and the entire bunch snaps in half across my shoulder. My legs give way and I stumble, slip and fall to the floor covered in a bunch.
I am sworn at, shouted at, cursed at in a variety of tongues. In fact, the group leader screamed at me. Additionally, one of the Arabic Yemenese workers told me in his pigeon English that he did tell me so. I then had the extremely hard task of carrying a broken bunch of bananas (effectively two bunches) to the tractors. I was advised by a more sympathetic co-worker to sit out until the break and then I would get a lift back to the kibbutz to be assigned some other work.
No way. I decided to walk back to the workers line in the field, under the shade of the large banana tree leaves and joined the queue again. I was wet through with sweat. It was pouring off me; everyone else was as dry as one of the fallen, brown leaves crunching and rustling beneath our feet. No-one spoke to me at all. In fact, if anything I got hostile looks from unshaved, yellow tooth men with scars who all looked more like mercenaries than farmers to me at that naïve stage of my life. My fear had gone, I had already taken my life into my own hands and no way was I going to spend the next 3 months seeing all of these guys around the kibbutz having them think;
“There is that bloke who could not hack it on the banana plantation, we showed him the meaning of real work…”
The leader of the team looked at me with such apprehension and I could see I irritated him, when he cut the next bunch for me, I could tell he was hoping it would weaken my resolve and beat me into submission. I felt like I had a place in a Rocky film at this point.
Now, I caught the next flying heavy bunch of bananas and gripped onto it tighter than I have ever held anything. I carried it down to the tractors and it was very painful, very hard and I questioned my ability to be able to do this for the next 4 hours.
But I did.
I carried those bunches in silence, save for a few groans and expletives, for the next four hours. I even carried on while the other workers had their smoking breaks. At one stage I even had to hold my left arm up with my right arm, as I got ready to catch a bunch as my left arm felt so tired and numb.
At the end of the shift, Fauzi, the guy who bemoaned me in the morning, assembled a small gas cooking stove on the ground in what became a daily ritual and he heated up water and made coffee that was quite unlike anything I had ever tasted before in my life, it was like coffee flavoured medicine with a thick layer of tough grit at the bottom. It also had an effect on me that meant despite being heavily tired and fatigued, I also was now wide-awake and wired up.
We sat in the sun sipping our tiny glasses of coffee and they chatted in their home tongues and I looked around and felt good. No one said much to me that day, there was certainly no “well done” or anything of the sort, I had not done anything more than they had to do every single day after all. However, I became one of the “banana team” as I called it. The other volunteers from across the world were amazed that I had survived. When we walked into the dining hall that lunchtime (the working day for me was 5am- 1pm) it was with a real sense of achievement and pride. The kibbutz elders looked on and chatted to my fellow workers about my efforts and they did not mention it again.
I worked there six days a week doing this kind of work. Here’s a picture at the end of one working day towards the end of my time there.
I always had a red face following my work, partly due to my exertions and partly due to my natural complexion and colouring. This combined with the fact that I was quite a livewire at social functions and traditional gatherings meant that I was nicknamed “The little devil” by all the kibbutzniks and received a lot of respect for my work and effort. I was regularly invited to private meals with families and learned a lot about them and myself during that time. I talked about my work to the others as if it was something that I just did and in fact, I developed some camaraderie with my fellow banana team members.
This story of mine demonstrates huge amounts of self-hypnosis being used in many different ways that were unknown to me consciously at the time. At that stage in my life I had no idea what self-hypnosis was as I had not yet discovered it. Yet the experience was one filled with self-hypnosis, internal communication and drawing upon resources that already existed within me. We all communicate with ourselves in our own way, it is just that we are not always progressive with ourselves or positive in the right ways. We all do things that require our resources to be channelled from time to time. This book shows you how to do it consciously, all the time; how to achieve excellence at will, that is; to know that you are doing it.
End of quote from book. Though not the end of the book’s introduction.
Here’s a picture taken the same day as the one above.