Nat Lawson blindfolded himself for nine days, in order to learn contact mind reading in a fraction of the normal time. The techniques he created, and the method of learning is brand new. No one has ever done anything like this before or since.
The inspiration for blind came from a few sources. The first came from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_E3zxx2l9g which shows a man named Daniel Kish riding a bike. There is very little that is remarkable about him except that he was born without eyes, and can navigate the world using sonar. I found this to be absolutely fascinating. Even though I have 20/20 vision, when I saw this video my head started spinning.
After lots of research, and conversations with Research Neuroscientists, Neurologists, and Neurobiologists, I hypothesized that visual deprivation would significantly expedite the learning process of Contact Mind Reading. (A digestible and interesting read:
The first and greatest problem that had to be solved before I could start blind was the problem of darkness. It is one thing to say you will spend nine days in absolute darkness but quite another to actually create darkness. I learned very quickly that the best blindfolds allow light in, and at best bring everything to a grey hue. I needed absolute black. On top of that, I needed a way to change blindfolds, to shower, and to comfortably sleep without light reaching my eyes. If any light: a sliver of light under a door, or the luminescence on a watch face, even the electric arc’s created when pulling duct tape from a roll, reached my eyes, the entire project would be ruined; all the progress made up to that point would be lost.
- To shower, I spray-painted swim goggles black on both sides, then stuffed them with black felt.
- To walk around in normal life, I bought a heavy duty, memory foam blindfold, and devised a way of using black duct tape and gauze to seal my eyes shut.
- To sleep, I sealed “Tough strips, extra large” Band-Aids over my eyes, and then placed a low profile sleep mask over that.
- To change blindfolds, my father and I made a “Blackout room” in my basement out of plywood, then used black duct tape to seal the seams, and made a light lock out of two heavy shipping blankets to cover the entrance. The night before the start date.
Once the light problem was solved I was ready to start.
I put the blindfold at 7:46am on June 21st, 2016 in the recording studio of hit music radio station 97.9, the Q-morning show.
Q-Morning show opening broadcast video (Coming Soon)
After the broadcast in Portland, I was driven home. I incredibly nervous on the car ride home, for some reason a John Steinbeck quote kept coming to mind. “Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it.” I realized a few minutes too late that I hate stepped in my own trap.
I arrived at my house in Rockport at approximately 10:30am. And spent most of the rest of the day sleeping. I felt overwhelmingly tired, and slept from Noon to 6:00. Then woke up to eat dinner, and promptly went back to bed for a full night’s sleep.
I believe that the exhaustion was a combination of a release from the stress of getting the project ready to go, and the fact that I was in total darkness. It is a lot harder to keep your heavy eyelids from closing when it is impossible to tell if your eyes are open or not.
On the second day, I woke up at a normal time(about 6:00), asked Siri what time it was, and then went back to sleep. Like the day before, I was completely exhausted. By the time I got out of bed it was 10:17am. I never sleep that late in my normal life. After getting out of bed I walked down two flights of stairs to the basement, where I changed from my sleep blindfold to my shower blindfold in the blackout room. Then I walked back up the two flights of stairs to the shower. Showering took a little bit longer than normal, but I was surprised at how easily I could find everything and tell which shampoo was which. (I have four siblings that all use the same shower, so there is an abundance of shampoos and conditioners in the shower). After brushing my teeth, and changing into clothes for the day I walked back to the blackout room to put my blindfold on for the day. This entire process took about an hour and 1:15 minutes the first day, but by the ninth I could do it in 28 minutes.
I spent most of day two listening to a Carl Hiaasen audiobook “Bad Monkey” and walking around my house, mapping it all out in my head.
That evening I went to my voice lesson, and sang for an hour. As seen in the documentary, my teacher was surprised at the improvements I have made in the absence of vision. Because my brain was not dealing with sight, I was able to focus much more on my hearing. I could hear the size of the room, and the reverberations off of the piano chords. In a way, I was able to accomplish a very limited version of what Daniel Kish uses to navigate through his life. I could “see” the room, only by listening to echo’s.
Day three was the hardest day of the project. I had strange hallucinations, like I was dreaming but also awake. People sounded far away, and I felt completely alone. For more than three hours I saw pink balloons, I was walking through thousands and thousands of pink balloons. If I was ever going to give up on the project, it would have been the afternoon of the third day.
On the morning of the fourth day, I stepped out of a car in downtown camden Maine, and approached the first stranger I would ever perform for blindfolded. I was trying to read a card from their thoughts, using contact mind reading for the first time in the real world. I failed miserably with the first guy. So I tried another person, and failed with them too. Actually, by the end of that day I had attempted “card reads” with twenty six people, and only had success with one, which was about what I expected.
The next day I tried again and my ratio got better. I nailed twelve out of sixteen. The learning curve on mentalism is steep, and sometimes it takes self induced temporary blindness to learn anything at all but when it works the pay off is incredible.
Uncut card read performance (coming soon)
After my relative success on the street on day five, I felt confident with the Micro-Contact Mind Reading technique that I had developed. It was reliable enough to perform on TV. So I went to Portland and performed my card read, successfully, on CBS’s “Good Day Maine” hosted by Jana Barnello, roughly thirty thousand people were watching.
Broadcast video from CBS 13 (Coming soon)
Even though no light ever reached my retina’s during the nine days, I did not spend the time in the dark. On day seven, I was brushing my teeth in the morning and all of the sudden a greenish blue orb floated in my vision. I first thought that my blindfold was letting light in, but soon realized that that wasn’t possible. Rob Burgess had told me to look out for something like this. He said it was similar to fantom limb pain, that it was simply the nerves in the retina getting “bored” and firing at random. Later, I found that the hallucinations were symptoms of something called Charles Bonnet syndrome. Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) involves visual hallucinations due to eye disease, usually associated with a sharp decline in vision. I was experiencing symptoms not because of eye disease, but I still had a sharp decline in vision. (more information at http://patient.info/doctor/charles-bonnet-syndrome-pro)
On the third day the hallucinations were fairly simple, a ball of blue and green color danced in my vision on and off as the day went on. As the experiment progressed however, the hallucinations became more and more complex.
Once I had the card read down, I decided it was time to move onto more complicated information. I wanted to be able to read a word, any word in the entire english language. I hit the streets again, with my camera men guiding over obstacles and keeping me clear of docks I went out again and found a whole new batch of strangers. Dozens of them thought of words, and I pretty much messed up every single one. By the end of the day, however, I had created a series of techniques that seemed to be working. For the first time in history, around noon, a human being used micro contact mind reading to correctly discern a thought of word.
On the ninth day I went back to the Q-morning show, and removed my blindfold. But first, I performed a word read on air. Watch the whole performance below.
Closing broadcast on the Q-morning show (Coming Soon)
Blind was a success, in more ways than one. I was able to develop a branch of mentalism that did not exist before. By the end I could function in my life without sight. I could entertain myself, brush my teeth, make food, and get dressed, all without fumbling or being slowed by my lack of sight.
In the closing interview you can see that my eyes look dead. As Lori said “You look messed up!” The closing interview happened about two hours after I removed the blindfold, and my eyes looked bad, but they were even worse just minutes before. When I arrived at home (one hour after removing the blindfold) my eyes weren’t tracking together, my left eye was actually moving more slowly than my right. It took a full week for my eyes to return to normal.
As for the CMR, I use it all the time now, in my stage show and my close-up act. It is just as reliable as it was during blind but I am finding it almost impossible to make progress as quickly as I could in the dark.