, , ,
Altered States of Consciousness
Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) or Non-Ordinary Trance, is the various practice(s) in which ones body and mind are in occupation beyond the means of its normal functioning. In other words, your state of mind is pertaining to higher wavelengths and different forms of activity than it is when you are normally awake.
Although you are not in your normal or awake state, your mind is still alert and able to recognize function as you are still in a cognitive and conscious form; just a subtle form and not your usual wakeful condition.
To fully understand what altered states are, one needs to recognize what a conscious mind is versus an unconscious mind. A conscious mind is one that is able to view, interpret and fully comprehend the environment around them while being able to interact with this environment along with their senses and the body. Unconsciousness is to potentially lose this ability altogether.
In an ASC, you are exploring levels of the conscious mind. This state is temporary. Like many of the minds states of functioning, altered states are typically achieved through intentional methods, techniques and procedures although it can be reached through unintentional methods such as illness or near death experience, NDE.
Despite if it was intentional or unintentional, a common thread amongstreaching ASC is perceiving the environment differently. As the mind will in most instances, have the individual experience a scope of similar phenomena including: sudden change in emotional expression/feelings, integral cognitive processing and additionally decoupling of sensory processing.
The History of ASC
From what we know, ASC has been part of the cognitive repertoire for the past 100,000 years or projected by most historians and archeologists to be even longer. Some of the earliest evidences of altered states is of tribal art depicting their people having associated visual hallucinations to heal the sick, reach the divine or contact the deceased.
There have been archeological findings of all sorts of artifacts solidifying the various types and uses of ASC through many parts and areas of the world including the Tongans & South Pacifics, Pre-Mayan Societies, The Olmecs, Basotho S. African tribes, and Neolithic/Post Ice Age Western Europe.
Today, these cultural and historical pieces have been carried through traditions such as various types of cultural shamanism or religious practices that are either reconstructed or carried on as they were from generation to generation (closed practices).This type of ASC and trancing is commonly termed Institutionalized ASC by anthropologists due to the fact they carry similar phenomena mentioned previously however are distinguished by their interworkings within a specific cultural practice. Generally, Institutionalized ASC/Trance is broken down into categories; journeying/travel or spirit possession.
These cultural and historical pieces have been carried through traditions such as various types of cultural shamanism or religious practices that are either reconstructed or carried on as they were from generation to generation [closed practices] . This type of ASC and trancing is commonly termed Institutionalized ASC by anthropologists due to the fact they carry similar phenomena mentioned previously however are distinguished by their inter workings within a specific cultural practice. Generally, Institutionalized ASC/Trance is broken down into categories; journeying/travel or spirit possession. In some cultural practices, the two categories collide with one another and are often used together with a myriad of other procedures to induce altered states.
Journeying/Travel is typically where the subtle mind and body are able to detach itself and carry to otherworlds, realms [spirit realm] in which the regular conscious mind cannot interpret easily. Spirit Possession is where the spirit worker or shaman calls on a spirit to invade their body to then aid them in healing, exercise, personal discovery, interpretations, contacting other spirits, interacting with the divine and other divinatory purposes.
Not only do these artifacts link the fragments between our relations and specific continuing practices to ancient peoples from around the globe, but it likewise plays a fundamental factor in the human-social to human-spiritual linkage that is still being pieced together and understood by researchers, practitioners, etc. to this day.
Understanding ASC Through Brainwaves
At the root of all of the minds functions are the biological interworking of neurons, synapses and synchronized electrical impulses communicating together known as brainwaves. Our brainwaves change depending upon the activities we are doing; such as sleeping, listening to music, working out, organizing data and so on.
Brainwaves are ultimately spectrums of consciousness. They additionally can measure consciousness and varying forms of consciousness and unconsciousness through hertz (Hz). Hertz are the waves measured by the cyclic speed per minute of the brains level of activity and response.
- Gamma Waves (32-80 Hz):
These are the fastest brainwaves and are compared to the frequency to that of playing a woodwind instrument. The activity of the brain in this state is where the mind is able to simultaneously comprehend and perceive information rapidly and even through multiple rhythms. Not much is really known about this brainwave other than that much of it has to do with the limbic system which involves emotional encounters to high level of activity/stimulation.
- Beta Waves (12-38 Hz):
The Beta brainwaves are also known as our waking consciousness in the sense that these dominate our brains daily functions. This type of cycling is what is required of basic motor functions and tasks. Majority being judgement, decision making, analytics and basic logic. Beta Waves are broken down into three categories. Lower beta is typical function, Beta being figuring something out or problem solving and Hi-Beta being anxiety, depression or even experiencing stressful situations.
- Alpha Waves (8-12 Hz)
This is the brainwaves of relaxation, basic mediations, daydreaming and lighter forms of altered states of consciousness for most individuals. Physically, this is a creative and emotional state where the body is relaxed and fanatical in activity. Many neuroscientists find that these brainwaves are integral of the human mind and body in overall coordination as a rested system.
- Theta Waves (3-8 Hz)
Theta brainwaves are the most dominate brainwaves in deeper meditations and our REM sleep. They are often thought of as the gateway of learning our own memory and being able to experience influences from the external world beyond our regular consciousness. This is the main brainwave for ASC/trance. While the body is awake, this is trance- while the body is not, it is our dream state. These brainwaves are much slower which allow the subconscious and conscious to bridge and gain a form of intuitive introspect.
- Delta Waves (.5-3 Hz):
These are one of the lowest brainwaves that can be clearly studied. In other words, this is the most baseline of living. This is unconsciousness and it is not possible to be conscious during this cycling. It is thought in Delta, you are in a coma or having deep heavy sleep. Some advanced forms of shamanic journeys and possessions perhaps come to this level.
Types of Altered States of Consciousness
What counts as an altered state or a non-ordinary trance then? Well there are probably way more things than you think that can be considered forms of them.
I would like you to take under heavy consideration however, that just because these things can be types of ASCs does not mean that just because they are forms of ASC/trance makes that every time you may experience them an altered state of consciousness.
- Deep Meditation, Hypnosis
- REM Sleep, Lucid Dreams
- Astral Projection/Travel
- High Fever, Extreme Illness, Coma
- NDE: Near Death Experience
- Childbirth, Sexual Euphoria, Panic Attack
- Sleep, Nutrients and Oxygen Deprivation
- Severe Psychosis and Epilepsy
How Can I Achieve ASC/Trance?
When people think of ASC, they either usually think of deep and tranquil meditations or of hardcore psychedelics and hippie subculture. These stereotypes are not wrong however, as they are indeed part of the many fabrics and forms that make up altered states as well as trances. The possibilities and ways to induce and thus enhance an altered state of consciousness are truly endless, as many techniques are catered to the individual and how they can advance to the subtle body and mind.
Everyones biological and thus neurological composition is different, meaning that what works for one person may not work for another person. Peoples emotional and physical states enable them to be able to have individualized ways to achieve altered states/non-ordinary trance. Below are going to be a list of a few ways for one to intentionally reach an altered state.
You are not limited to these, nor is any one technique right. You also can try to combine a few techniques to help you reach your desired state. Before even attempting ASC/Trance, you should take into consideration your personal wellbeing. Its been suggested that going right into something like this without building up the proper tools and skills can be disastrous for the user; not only potentially unsuccessful or frustrating but can be detrimental to your health.
I urge you to assess your wellbeing before trying some forms of altered states of consciousness.
- Meditation: Any form and any level-low/deep; (TM, Kundalini, HRM, GM, etc.) relax yourself, lay down, sit-up or do whatever puts you in a mindful state.
- Rhythm: Rhythmic or repetitive beats or movements. Typically in the form of music, drumming beats, dancing or just erratic motion.
- Breath: Breathing exercises, these usually experimental in short and fast breaths or low and shallow breaths. Breathing exercises help with visualization which easily allows for projection.
- Ascetics: Shocking your body and essentially exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations to almost force yourself into an unfamiliar state. I do not recommend this to those unfamiliar and will not go into more details, so if you wish to know more about it you can PM me.
- Ritual: Chanting or using spells, elixirs, etc. to help induce a particular state. Perhaps you consecrate a sacred space for preforming your ASC and ritual for it.
- Visualization: Use imagery to displace yourself anywhere you would like or displace specific people or articles in your mind to aid you.
- Eye Fixation: Place an object, perhaps an effigy or symbolic article in front of you and do not let your attention shift. Focus only on what you have placed in front of you, perhaps even ask yourself questions about the article. This allows your brain to become relaxed.
- Evocation/Possession: By spirit or deity.
- Aroma: Light some incense or diffuse some essential oils. Scent and your brains association with particular smells can trigger specific activity.
- Hallucinogens & Substance: This obviously can induce an altered state. Especially depending on the substance, dosage, etc.
Resources & Additional Readings
Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide by Sandra Ingerman
Altered States of Consciousness HRAF.Yale- Carol R. Ember, Christina Carolus
States of Consciousness by Charles T. Tart