KIRAN ATMA: Altered State
Showing posts with label Altered State. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Altered State. Show all posts

Shamanic Heart, Altered Perception And Consciousness - What Exactly Are Perceptual Alterations?



If we wish to acquire any knowledge of shamanism, whether traditional or modern, we must first grasp what altered states are. 


  • It's always been a puzzle to me why we've gone so far away from appreciating, investigating, and using altered states of consciousness in the West as a society. 
  • Since the dawn of the age of reason and enlightenment, and with the advancement of science, it seems that we have failed to explore the human mind's full potential. 
  • We have thrown away the baby with the bathwater in our rush to demystify our understanding of the workings of the world, robbing ourselves of insights and information that can only be accessible inside such situations. 
  • ‘Non-ordinary states of consciousness (NOSCs) have played an essential part in creating the cultural and spiritual life of our species,' says Tim Read of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. 


All civilizations, with the exception of our own western scientific culture, have appreciated the insights gained from these states of consciousness.' 


All people are capable of experiencing altered states, which are very normal. In fact, we do it on a regular basis without even realizing it. 

The ability to experience altered states of consciousness is part of our species' psychobiological heritage, and scholars like Weil (1972) and Siegel (1989) go even further, claiming that we have an innate desire to experience altered states as a species, which I tend to agree with. 


Many people, at all levels of society, are looking for trance experiences. 


  • Religious activities all across the globe produce altered states of consciousness, and meditation and other spiritual practices have long since ceased to be the province of spiritual searchers and sages, becoming mainstream practices in different forms. 
  • Generations of young people have discovered methods to enjoy altered states, whether via mind-altering substances, visiting parties and festivals that include trance dance music, or engaging in high-endurance or high-risk activities. 
  • If we allow our brain to remain in an altered state for a period of time, such as that generated by meditation, yoga, or shutting our eyes and drifting away while listening to music, we feel fed.
  •  Endurance and high-risk encounters energize and thrill us. 
  • When we meditate, trance-dance, or concentrate fully on a creative activity, we feel linked to something deeper, broader, or greater.
  • Even if the hypnosis was simple, I have never dealt with a client in hypnosis sessions who did not find the experience of being in an altered state to be pleasant. 
  • Even if it provoked powerful emotions or brought previously dissociated material to the surface, I can't recall any hypnosis student who didn't like trance. 

I have never encountered a member of a group, whether shamanically oriented or not, who did not feel as if a new universe had opened up for him or her, which was, if not euphoric, definitely fascinating and consciousness-expanding. 


Not only do we seek out altered state experiences, but our brain also changes our state in a variety of circumstances and when doing various activities. 

For example, Paul McCartney said that one of history's most renowned songs, "Yesterday," was written in a dream without any conscious effort. 

He recalled it when he awoke, still in the hypnopompic state, a condition in which the brain exists between sleeping and awake. 


When artists create, they change their condition by focusing completely on the task at hand and engaging the regions of the brain that deal with images and emotions. In fact, no creative effort is complete without some degree of brain change. 


When our brain engages our survival systems, our brain undergoes significant change. 

When we are in a life-threatening or traumatic circumstance, our brain changes its state spontaneously and autonomously to create settings that will give us the greatest chance of survival. It will trigger the so-called "fight or flight" reaction, making us physically capable of running or fighting. 

To aid us even more, it will detach us from physical pain, numb our emotional perceptions and reactions, particularly those of dread and worry, and concentrate our attention on the one thing that counts in such a situation: survival. 

When we examine the underlying processes of emotionally unpleasant problems, the words "dissociation" and "repression" emerge as forerunners. 

The majority of long-term trauma reactions are dissociative. 


The condition must be changed in order to produce what we term dissociation, which is the non-integration of material into the regular, integrative functioning of the brain, and many psychiatric and psychosomatic illnesses are based on it. 


Changing our mental state is essentially the same as generating different brain activity from those that predominate while we are awake and engaged on receiving and processing information from our surroundings. 

Our brain functions may change in subtle ways, such as when we daydream or engage in a creative activity, or they can change dramatically, such as when we are completely shocked or experience an NDE. 

Electroencephalography (EEG) can be used to assess states since it tells us how many brain-wave cycles we generate each second. 

With brain waves fluctuating between 14 and 30 cycles (Hz) per second, the Beta state is the typical, externally oriented state of an adult. When we relax, such as during meditation or daydreaming, our brainwaves shift to the Alpha frequency, which lasts 8–13 cycles per second. 


In a profound meditative trance state, such as the one we experience shortly before falling asleep, theta waves become prominent, and Delta waves, which are less than 4 cycles per second, are measured while we sleep. 

We can now see which brain areas are active and which are less active when we change our state using various methods using fMRI images. 

According to studies on brain plasticity, individuals who engage in meditation and other altered state activities for extended periods of time exhibit activity changes that seem to be lasting, as well as persistent changes in brain structure. 


Buddhist monks, for example, experienced ‘permanent emotional improvement, by activating the left anterior portion of the brain – the portion most associated with joy' , and brain scans of 20 Buddhist meditators revealed that the parts of the brain associated with attention, awareness of selves, and compassion for all living things were activated.


You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.