Ten-year-old Kira Cookson bites her tongue, her will focused on the fork clutched between her tiny hands. Slowly, the metal twists to match her contorted face and Kira lets out a triumphant yelp, thrusting her fists into their air.
As the crowd turns to look, their grins grow to match her own, their eyes locked on the pair of forks â€“â€“ bent like noodles â€“â€“ sheâ€™s raised to the sky. The room erupts with cheers and applause.
Soon, the only person in the room with a wider smile than Kira is facilitator Rikka Zimmerman, and Zimmermanâ€™s smile hasnâ€™t faded a bit all night.
Kira isnâ€™t the first of the group to bend a fork, but sheâ€™s far from last, so Zimmerman prods the crowd a little more. Let go of your judgments and limitations, she tells them. Be aware of the forkâ€™s energy and bend it like Kira did.
One by one, forks all over the room fold in half, snap in half, or twist into something akin to the Starship Enterprise. Zimmerman smiles a little wider.
The conference room at the Best Western University Inn in Fort Collins isnâ€™t the first place anyone would imagine 50 people would gather to learn to bend forks and bank accounts.
The drab walls and overflowing bowls of salsa, guacamole and M&Mâ€™s that serve as scenery for the fork-bending crew almost seem to mock the stereotypical spoon-bending backdrop of snowcapped peaks, grandiose mountain-top monasteries and bald, humming monks wrapped in orange robes.
But itâ€™s the simplicity of it all â€“â€“ the sheer averageness of the conference room â€“â€“ that event coordinator Cynthia Torp says makes these Access Consciousness seminars so appealing. You donâ€™t have to sit on a mountaintop to learn to unlock your own potential, she says, and thatâ€™s whatâ€™s so cool.
According to its website, Access Consciousness is an organization dedicated to creating a world of consciousness and oneness, where consciousness is an awareness of everything with judgment of nothing.
Founded by Gary Douglas in 1990, Access has since spread to incorporate clients from numerous continents, and to spread its message, Douglas and a score of facilitators hold workshops across the world.
Wednesday nightâ€™s gathering, affectionately dubbed a â€œwizard party,â€ is one of these workshops, and here the ever-grinning, over-the-top enthusiastic Zimmerman is Accessâ€™ mouthpiece.
Based out of California, Zimmerman has been a part of Access Consciousness for more than seven years. Before that she was running a photography business and playing a guitar in Santa Barbaraâ€™s coffee shops on the side.
But, though her music was a passion, Zimmerman said on stage she didnâ€™t really want people to hear her because she didnâ€™t want to be judged. Watching her in front of the Best Western crowd, youâ€™d never guess it, and it was her run-in with Access and the secrets of consciousness that really â€œskyrocketedâ€ her to where she is now: the cover of magazines, holding a record deal and, just recently, a spot on Punja Internet Radio, reaching 138 countries and 900,000 station listeners.
Zimmermanâ€™s own success drives her to spread Accessâ€™ message across the country and world, even in Fort Collinsâ€™ Best Western, because, she says, she wants people to actually like themselves, to find success in everything they desire and to pass no judgment on themselves or anything around them.
â€œThereâ€™s only one person powerful enough to stop you and thereâ€™s only one person powerful enough to set you free,â€ Zimmerman says,. â€œYou.â€
For the first four years of her facilitating career, Zimmerman says people ran away from her message. Now, she said, theyâ€™re running to her. The overstuffed conference room is a testament to that.
The secret to the universe, Zimmerman tells the crowd, is to unlock consciousness. Doing so requires asking questions, not seeking answers.
Ask, â€œhow does it get any better than this?â€ Zimmerman says, and the universe will respond, fulfilling your desires. Ask, â€œwhat else is possible?â€ and youâ€™ll achieve more than you thought possible.
For Zimmerman, itâ€™s all about being aware of energy. Letting go of judgments, being aware of your thoughts (98 percent of your thoughts come form other peopleâ€™s energy, she says) and asking questions allow individuals to manipulate the universe and take control of their own destiny, she says.
Removing barriers to success is simple, she says. All it takes is being conscious of the energy in everything.
â€œHaving the life youâ€™d totally like to have is easy,â€ Zimmerman says.
With the first part of her talk done, itâ€™s time for some hands-on experience.
Zimmerman and Torp pass out two cups of cheap, kick-you-in-the-head-hangover wine to everyone. She tells the crowd to focus on changing the wine in the first cup, to restructure it and turn it into something tastier. Crowd members sip on the first cup, put it down, raise the second, unchanged to their lips, and â€œblech,â€ â€œyechâ€ and â€œughâ€ fills the air.
Zimmerman keeps grinning.
Next, a bucket of forks and spoons makes its rounds around the room. Everyone from the six-foot-something bald man sitting in front to the toddler rambling around the back grabs a fork. Zimmerman tells the crowd to focus their minds on the forks, feeling the metalâ€™s energy, which will let them know when itâ€™s ready to bend.
The first few twist their forks with their hands and smile. The next few twist their spoons and smile. Kira bends her third fork, yelps, and smiles. More bend their forks and smile. Only a few like Sheila Berlin fail to bend their utensils, but even they share the enthusiasm of the rest of the crowd.
â€œThe spoon bending was definitely pretty cool, even though I didnâ€™t bend mine,â€ Berlin says.
Standing in front with a few twisted metal hunks in her hands, Zimmerman asks the crowd to imagine the full extent of their power. If they can change the molecular structure of wine and attune themselves to manipulate spoons with their minds, imagine what could be possible.
Whatâ€™s stopping you from bursting clouds, changing stoplights, transporting, avoiding speed traps, playing the stock market, manipulating your bank account or even cleaning up oil spills, she asks through her smile.
â€œWhat if we actually have the power to change everything?â€ she says.
After her first class two months ago, for Torp the event coordinator, consciousness has changed a lot, and Wednesdayâ€™s sessions was just the first of many she hopes to hold in Fort Collins. She said sheâ€™s invited many of her friends to explore consciousness and even hopes to bring a workshop to CSU sometime next semester.
The most rewarding part, she says, is helping other people realize they can do anything.
â€œItâ€™s much less about bending forks and more about bending your mind,â€ she says.
Standing against the wall, Zimmerman is still beaming.
Managing Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.