Showing posts with label Dismemberment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dismemberment. Show all posts

Shamanic Heart, Altered Perception And Consciousness - Dismemberment, Visions, and Near Death Experiences

    Dismemberment, Visions, and Near Death Experiences are examples of extreme altered states of consciousness. Taking the changing of brain processes a step further, we reach a world of changed states that seem to be beyond our usual state-shifting ability. 

    As viewed by Eliade (1964), Harner (1982), and others, the shamanic trip, or'shaman's flight,' takes him beyond the body into the quantum world of 'All there is.' 

    Shamans, particularly traditional ones, acquire an extraordinary capacity to change their moods in significant ways, as far as I can tell. 

    Dismemberment experiences, visions, and near-death experiences are the closest we can get to imagining and describing such radically changed states. 

    • Shamans who have had extensive training in order to experience and acquaint themselves with such states seem to be able to not only control and operate inside such states, but also to re-experience them at will. 
    • They also seem to recall events that occurred while in such altered states, which is not usually the case when humans enter profound trance states. 
    • The shaman's method of seeing and defining the world and operating within it is informed by these profound trance states, as well as the wisdom and learning that comes from investigating 'All there is' in this way. 
    • As a result, it's crucial to take a quick look at severely altered state events including dismemberments, visions, and near-death experiences. I'll do so based on my own experiences as well as research. 


    For the most of my adult life, I've been engaged in 'altered state experiences.' When I was younger and living in ashrams in India, I started my search for them. 

    Since then, I've practiced Vipassana meditation and mindfulness on and off, attended numerous spiritual groups, seminars, and trainings, apprenticed to shamans in South and North America, and had clinical hypnosis training, which I've taught for many years. 

    I experienced altered state experiences that showed me the critical distinction between imagination and vision. 

    I had moments of utter terror that revealed the depths of the human darkness, as well as ones of utter joy that led to enlightenment. 

    I had an early, terrifying experience of dismemberment and subsequently, a near-death experience. Both of them made an indelible impression on me. 

    • In my mid-twenties, I had a terrifying experience in India. I took part in a Vipassana meditation group for seven days, during which we meditated for 10 hours a day, observed our breath, and practiced awareness. 
    • Meditations were only broken up by the consumption of rice and vegetables, as well as contemplative walks. 
    • After months of eating a limited diet and participating in different spiritual activities to purify my body and mind, I awoke one night and was instantly overwhelmed by an experience that seemed very genuine and began without warning. 
    • I began to shatter into many, many pieces, then reassembled; then I was blasted apart again, then reassembled, and so on. 
    • I'm not sure how long this went on for; it might have been a long time, since light was breaking when I recovered control. 
    • I vividly recall how terrified I was at the time. It was tough for me to think logically. It seemed as though I had lost control of my mind. Whatever was going on with my body was occurring without my being able to stop it. 
    • Parts of me raced across the cosmos at breakneck speed, returning without my being able to feel that I was being reassembled properly. 
    • My legs were in the wrong position; I was missing pieces of myself; I was very cold, then tremendously hot. I was likewise unable to converse. 
    • I recall attempting to get up but falling backwards and laying on my back, unable to move any of my muscles and wanting to get up. 
    • My whole body felt paralyzed. I was still splintering into a thousand pieces visually, and all I could feel was dread. I began to shake at one point. 
    • My heart was racing, and I knew I was having a panic attack somewhere in the back of my mind (I had never had one before). 
    • My arms were trembling as I attempted to move them. Tears streamed down my cheeks, which was the first sign that my face wasn't being torn to shreds as it flew through space. I attempted to take deep breaths and concentrate on recovering my voice in order to wake someone up, but it was in vain. 
    • We were in a dormitory, and after what seemed like an eternity and for no apparent reason, the girl on the bed next to me appeared to feel that something was amiss. 1 She approached me and inquired about my well-being. Still shaking and unable to talk, I shook my head, but realized I was responding properly to her inquiry. 
    • This understanding, along with some very calming visions of light whirls all about me, appeared to gradually bring me back to a more normal state of awareness. 
    • The girl went to fetch the meditation leader, who sat with me for a time, rubbing my right arm softly, explaining, and soothingly talking to me. 
    • My "left brain" was finally engaged, and I was able to respond to questions in monosyllabic form. My heart rate decreased, and the sensation of my body breaking faded away. 
    • I sipped some sweet tea and fell asleep after feeling someone cover me with the saree that had fallen off the bed. I awoke weak and in agony in the afternoon, as if all of my muscles had been stretched and exposed to new activity. 

    This was my first time being in an uncontrollable, profoundly changed condition. I had no prior experience with dismemberment at the time. 

    I just knew this wasn't a "dream" in the traditional sense, but it did get more dreamy as the intensity of the experience waned, with strangely calming light and vibrations whirling about. 

    Nonetheless, I couldn't place it in any perspective at the time, other than to say that something was different thereafter. I grew more confident in myself, and although I became more conscious of the body's fragility and the mind's power, I felt overall stronger and, more significantly, less frightened, more focused, and more grateful of my existence following the experience. 

    Although my experience appears minor in comparison to most stories, I would now categorize it as a dismemberment experience, a symbolic metamorphosis play, as recounted in many mythical traditions. 

    • Dionysus was ripped apart by the Titans in Greek mythology, but his heart was saved by Athena, Goddess of Wisdom. The Egyptian story of Osiris, the king who was dismembered and supernaturally revived to produce his son Horus, depicts this scenario. 
    • The Inuit Indians of the Arctic commemorate Takanakapsaluk, the dismembered goddess whose many unconnected pieces gave shape to all marine animals, while the world itself was formed out of the goddess Tlaltecuhtli's fragmented parts in pre-Aztec mythology. 
    • Siberian shamans viewed dismemberment as an important part of initiation, and is well recognized for bringing "ecstatic trance postures" to our attention. 
    • The archetype's universality, many Westerners who had spontaneous dismemberment visions were always destined to be healers of some kind. 
    • Shamans have frequently been critically ill and have suffered greatly for longer periods of time while undergoing their bio-psychic transformation, which culminates in a dismemberment experience that represents a turning point of change towards a spiritual state of being. 

    Our primal anxieties are triggered by dismemberment experiences. 

    Dismemberment, at its most fundamental level, dismantles our previous identity; it removes the superfluous, the dispossessed, and the disjointed, forcing us to confront the naked core. 

    Knowing who we really are is the remedy for amputation. 

    After a dismemberment experience, our sense of who we are, our self-concept, changes dramatically, and transformational processes of this magnitude, assist us in transforming our consciousness by assisting us in synthesizing the fragmented, separated parts of our psyche into a harmonious whole, regaining that original unity at the core of our being. 

    Because this is the shaman's job, he has to go through it personally.

    Joan Halifax discusses the shaman as a healed healer, a person who has gone through a personal change, recovering the shattered parts of his or her body and mind and integrating various levels of existence, in similar words. 

    Indigenous traditional shamans are known for their ability to integrate the mind, body, and soul with the soul and spirit, the ordinary with the extraordinary, the individual with the community, and nature with the unseen, the historical with the mystical, and the past with the future and present. 

    Visions & Visualization During a Vision Quest

    Here I had my first ‘real' vision, something that was more than just a visualization in a trance. 

    • Of course, visualizations change our condition, but they are usually more powerful when the individual is already in an altered state when they are asked to picture something. 
    • Visualizations may be very stunning when a person is visually oriented and in a profound altered state. 
    • If the individual is not visually oriented, the experience becomes more of a ‘sensing' one.
    • Visualizations seem to be within our control, in the sense that we can make them go away, alter them, or move on from them, and they are always affected and set up by the original purpose, whether they be memories, visual trips, archetypal pictures, or symbols. 

    A vision is unique. 

    • It comes out of nowhere, with no warning, and it has a distinct quality. 
    • It's simply there, and its intensity extends far beyond what can be seen. It made me feel as though I were enchanted. 
    • I couldn't have altered the vision, moved on, or impacted it in any way. It wasn't anything I'saw,' but rather something that took control. 
    • It also came with an insight that wasn't an idea or a picture. 
    • The realization arrived in the form of a feeling of "total knowledge." 

    My life was transformed by the image. I'll never know if the decision I made based on the vision was the correct one or not, but it seemed like I had no option but to act on the insight the vision provided. 

    • I haven't had many visions, but I learnt the difference between a vision and a visualization, and I realized that we can experience much more than we allow ourselves to, and that those types of experiences have a significant effect on how we view the world and ourselves within it. 
    • When I got the opportunity to study with an Ecuadorian shaman, he told me about a vision that had profoundly altered his life. 
    • He saw the vision while meditating and connecting with a spirit at his "power spot," which was a lake at the base of one of the mountains with which he works. 
    • He saw himself instructing the Eagle's people in his vision. Educating the people of the Eagle, in his opinion, meant teaching those from North America. 
    • He had never met anybody from North America at the time of this vision, but he knew he would have to honor the vision when the time came, and, as these things go in the linked world, people started to come to visit him and he began to teach them his healing techniques a few years later.
    • It's fascinating how he handled the location where he had his vision. 
    • He makes pilgrimages there, treating the lake's water as holy and using the herbs and plants that grow there for healing. 
    • When he works, he visualizes and connects with the location of his vision, particularly when he works with non-indigenous people, he leaves offerings for the spirits of the land. 

    Visions are life-changing events. 

    Black Elk, a Lakota, is without a doubt the most well-known shamanic vision.

    • Black Elk Speaks (Neidhardt 1988), a book by Neidhardt that was originally published in 1932 and has since been reprinted many times (with a new Kindle version currently available), is a revelation. 
    • I highly suggest it because it not only depicts the deep insights and foresights that shaped Black Elk into the great visionary, healer, and amazing man that he was, but it also recounts the medicine man and shaman Black Elk's successive visions and the price he paid. 
    • He had his first vision when he was four years old, and during his second vision, when he was approximately nine years old, he was ill for 12 days, unconscious and battling death. 
    • The six grandfathers appeared in his vision, symbolizing the West, South, North, East, Sky, and Earth. Each of them gave him abilities and showed him how the world worked. 
    • He was shown a lot, and he later recounts his "weirdness" to his own people, as well as his inability to put into words the pictures, emotions, and words given to him, which he vividly recalled.
    • There are also accounts of other tribal members recalling the transformation of the nine-year-old boy, who fell sick as a child and grew up to become a grandpa. 

    Black Elk, like all great visionaries, had to act on his visions; he had to endure the agony, as well as the grandeur and wisdom that comes with such deep state shifts, and, as far as I can tell, much of what he predicted came true. 

    Near-Death Experiences 

    NDEs are transformational because they alter our perception of who we are, our self-image, and, in most instances, our view of the world, according to a large body of research.

    • We can't comprehend shamanism without considering the concept of death and rebirth. 
    • NDEs are the closest we can go to imagining their experiences, so I'll go through everything we know about them quickly. 
    • NDEs have been shown to have transformational consequences. 
    • They seem to alter people's self-perceptions, sense of identity, and worldviews. 
    • Shamans who intentionally travel through them will always have a perspective of the world that is beyond ordinary, manifested reality. 

    There is a growing body of people who talk about transcendental experiences of their consciousness travelling into realms that are beyond the boundaries of the body, from Jung's account in his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961) to the accounts collected by Kübler-Ross (1997) and Moody (2001), who compared 150 NDEs. 

    They typically describe exiting the body and entering the light. NDEs are transformative in terms of worldview and attitudes because people often evaluate their life, feel euphoric and serene, and occasionally have spirit beings about them. 

    Van Lommel, a renowned cardiologist at Arnhem's Rijnstate Hospital, is one of the most recent specialists to challenge our understanding of consciousness. 

    • He confronts us with evidence that seems to confirm that consciousness is not encapsulated by the boundaries of the physical brain in his highly acclaimed book Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (2010), citing that 18% (62 patients) of 344 cardiac arrest survivors had recollections of events that occurred during the time they were clinically dead. 
    • He also mentions additional findings in a report given to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, such as an American study of 116 survivors, of which 10% had recollections during the time of cardiac arrest. 

    The majority of the patients described NDE-like experiences, such as being aware of being dead, feeling very happy, traveling down a tunnel, interacting with departed relatives, being out of the body, encountering "the light," and/or having a life review. 

    • Van Lommel conducted a two-year and eight-year follow-up research to determine if the "change in attitude toward life and death after an NDE is the consequence of experiencing an NDE or the result of cardiac arrest itself". 
    • The outcomes were as expected: following a time of consolidation, those patients who experienced an NDE exhibited no dread of death, a strong belief in a hereafter, and a shift in their perspective on what matters in life. 
    • Love and compassion for oneself, others, and nature had taken hold, and they displayed heightened intuitive abilities. 
    • Like Raymond Moody and others before him, Van Lommel examines all of the proposed hypotheses, particularly those of a physiological and neurophysiological character, and concludes that the "unproven" premise that consciousness and memory are located in the brain should be addressed. 
    • He also concludes (and I'll return to this point later) that there is a solid case for awareness being experienced in another realm beyond death. 
    • Alternatively, in his words, "the finding that consciousness may be experienced independently of brain activity may possibly cause a major shift in the scientific paradigm of western medicine". 

    Before we can appreciate shamanism, we must first recognize that extreme altered state experiences of this type inform the shamanic state of consciousness, and that the major cognitive shifts that occur during dismemberment experiences, visions, and, especially, NDEs, lead to major shifts in how we see ourselves and the world around us. 

    As research continues, it appears that brain functions can be permanently altered, and that traditional shamans, as well as some contemporary shamanic practitioners, exhibit the characteristics of seekers who practice spiritual approaches, such as caring for others, decreased materialism, lack of fear of death, profoundly different worldviews, and awakenment.

    You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

    Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.