Written by Kevin Viner, Mentalist
After my shows/experiences I create, people often come up to me to try and understand the secret of my “powers”. I frequently get a version of this question: “You don’t have to tell me how you do what you do, but can you tell me what is the nature of what you do? Is it a trick or is it something else? Is it something you can teach?”
When I hear this question, I smile inside and feel I’ve been successful in creating a temporary disruption of the ideas we have about reality J. In response to this question, therefore, I always try to give an answer that makes that question even stronger, and brings appreciation to that place of not knowing which makes us open to discover more.
For that reason, I never share the secret behind what I do as a Mentalist. Just as I won’t share the secret of how I climbed this rock wall in Moab, Utah a few days ago without any ropes or safety gear. I will just leave you in the Unknown – the state that I was in when looking at the overwhelming beauty I experienced there.
However, there is a secret which I thought could be worth sharing – not the secret of my “powers” – but the secret of my “SuperPower”.
First to say that I do not claim to have powers, as I see myself as an artist. However, I do have a SuperPower: As a Mentalist, and as a human being, I’ve always been interested to see things that lie below the surface. Things that we may not be able to see, feel, or touch, yet we know they are real and present: Love, Mystery, Purpose, the Universe… these are some of the intangible aspects of life that have captured my attention the most.
The SuperPower I am talking about is the ability to perceive the depth that lies below the surface. I experience this in all kinds of ways: looking below the surface of what motivates the actions and choices I make, striving to see what is beyond the initial impression or judgment of another person, contemplating the biggest questions about Life itself, who we are, why are here, and where we are going.
The secret to this SuperPower is a curiosity that is free from boundaries. It is penetrating, as it does not impose ideas at how things are and how things can be. It is what I strive to inspire with my work as a Mentalist, and as an Educator. It is my most intimate, precious secret.
It is not always easy and it does not always feel natural, even for me, even if it is my SuperPower, to be so curious… especially when I am tired or I make a mistake. I rather recoil, and be safe. We are conditioned to have boundaries, to limit life and what is possible, to put ourselves and others in a box, to label life. And yes we do need labels, we do need boundaries to function in society, to communicate, to live together. I am not denying that. But when we can at least temporarily suspend these boundaries and not impose our ideas on the vastness of who we are and what lies beyond what we see, touch, feel or think… so much more is possible.
People often ask me “but how do I do that?” There are two things that make this possible. The first is being able to temporarily and repeatedly suspend our ideas, our fears, and our desires. The other one is to make room for the truth of the bigness of life. If we are able to suspend our ideas, fears, and desires, our curiosity is freed from the boundaries these create. Likewise, if we are able to make space for the bigness of life, we will have the spaciousness that allows us to discover things that we would otherwise not be able to imagine before.
This may seem esoteric or distant, but my experience tells me that it is not. It may seem difficult, but it’s only because we have been trained to validate only what we can see, feel, rather than making room for the vastness of the unknown.
Try to apply this to your life, and see how much space it creates. For instance, try to suspend all your ideas and fears about death, and be curious to dig deeper. Or hold the bigness of Life as you think about someone really dear to you and see what you might uncover about who they really are that you have no idea about.
When I got married, I committed to myself that I would never put my wife in a box, and 10 years later, at times I look at her and still do not know who she really is, and that fills me with so much joy and anticipation of what I may discover.
There is a vulnerability in this kind of curiosity because by suspending what we think we know, our fears, and our desires, we make space for the vastness of who we are and our potential yet to manifest.
For me, this is so fundamentally important that I spend my time when I’m not performing running with my wife a nonprofit that creates this kind of space in public high schools. In an educational world there is so much pressure to have the “right” answers, it’s so important to have a space where students don’t have to know, a space where they can engage with the big questions about Life, and explore the vastness of who they are, who they can become and what they can contribute to the world.
There is an unspoken message in Education that misleads students, which is that we’ve basically figured out what life is and specifically how students’ lives should unfold. Society has laid out what students need to do, to study, to achieve until they are independent. Instead we should be honest about the bigness of life, that we haven’t figured it out, and create a space for a curiosity which can inspire them to truly take their lives into their own hands as well as interest them in their role in contributing to and shaping the future.