Showing posts with label shamanic journey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shamanic journey. 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. 


    Dismemberment 


    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.



    Shamanic Heart, Altered Perception And Consciousness - What We Gain Access To When We Are In Alternate States



    When we consciously and deliberately practice altering our states, the information we can access is vast and complex, depending on our intent, the specific practice, the depth we reach, how often we practice, such as when we have a daily spiritual meditative practice, and, if we are skilled, which parts of the brain we deliberately activate. 


    As a result, the following can only give an overview of various states without pretending to be comprehensive. 


    • Within altered state experiences, the lines between what is normal and what is abnormal are blurry. 
    • While the descriptions, classifications, and maps we create are essential for our minds to make sense of such situations, they are ultimately simply maps that depict the territory rather than the land itself. 
    • The subconscious, unconscious, and collective unconscious are all forms of the subconscious mind. 
    • We obviously access personal information that is buried and concealed on various levels of the subconscious and unconscious realms in psychological terminology. 
    • Memories and previous experiences, pictures that follow a cognitive process, connections to a subject, strongly held beliefs, powerful emotions, and so on are all examples of this kind of information. 
    • We have access to these because, as previously said, we engage some regions of our brains while slowing down activity in others. If we, for example, stimulate the hippocampus and amygdala, which are involved in memory storage and emotions, we will feel intense emotions associated with certain memories. 
    • We may begin to re-associate the memory with the emotion and vice versa if the memory is detached, in the sense that it lives cognitively just as an experience without emotional connection, or if the emotionality existing in the form of an anxious reaction without a memory being connected to it. 
    • We may access connections we've made through time that are linked to that memory/experience and those emotions if we go a step farther. 


    In terms of therapy, the next stage would be to consciously integrate by reactivating our normal frontal lobes by, for example, questioning, comprehending, and rationalizing the experiences we experienced in the altered states. 


    • If we take a broader perspective of awareness, we may access regions of the unconscious – for want of a better term – that include data and knowledge that isn't always based on our own experiences. 
    • Those regions, according to Jung (1977), are the collective unconscious, which contains information that has never been in awareness and therefore has never been acquired individually. 
    • Heredity, whether in the form of genetically given information or, if we want to go even farther, the capacity to plug into and access knowledge that exists beyond the limits of our physical brain, is responsible for the content's existence. 


    The collective unconscious, according to Jung, contains pictures, potentials, and predispositions acquired from our ancestors, such as anxieties, attractions, and symbols. 

    It is universal, preexisting, and comparable in all people, and it manifests itself in archetypal form for us to see. 


    • Archetypes are universal images that may be recognized nearly everywhere in the globe - with minor changes. 
    • Archetypes, unlike memory memories of previous experiences, are not completely formed mental images. 
    • We convert them into visible pictures since they are rather "complexes." 
    • We can access the meaning we connect with archetypes when we start working with them, which is pretty universal. 


    Five major archetypes were identified by Jung: 


    1. the Self, the psyche's governing center and a promoter of individuation 

    2. the Shadow, which includes characteristics that the ego does not wish to associate with (e.g. anger, fear, brutality, sexual urges) 

    3. the Anima, a man's feminine mental picture 

    4. the Animus, a woman's male image in her mind 

    5. the Persona, which serves as a mask for the image and characteristics we project to the world. 


    There are many more archetypes. They occur in fairy tales, myths, legends, and folklore all throughout the globe. 

    The infant, the maiden, the hero, the mother, the crone, the wise old man, the wise old woman, the trickster, the mentor, the devil or monster, the redeemer, death, and rebirth are all well-known mythical archetypal themes and characters. 


    In shamanic terminology, both the personal and collective unconscious regions are important. 


    • The imagery of a modern shamanic journey, for example, has psychotherapeutic effects similar to those derived from Jung's concept of active imagination and other techniques, in that it creates a situation in which the client initiates a dialogue with archetypal material from his or her own unconscious. 
    • Most western therapists believe that the internal conversation with various characters encountered during a shamanic trip is a kind of contact with archetypal material that aids individuation. 
    • Traditional shamans would disagree, viewing the elements and events in the individual and communal unconscious as objective, actual occurrences – as a reality on another level.
    • Traditional shamans would also refer to some of those figures as ‘spirits,' seeing and feeling them inside the energy field of ‘All there is,' rather than within the limitations of the brain, a concept that, as I shall demonstrate later, may be more true than we previously thought. 


    It's worth noting that Jung often referred to the collective unconscious as the objective psyche in this context. 

    To put it another way, the proper approach toward inner pictures, happenings, and conversations is to regard them as if they were genuine. 


    • When we get to the level of archetypal imagery, we realize how arbitrary the lines we make may be. 
    • Many therapists, I'm sure, have seen archetypal imagery when clients recount abusive events, particularly sexually abusive ones, especially if they occurred while they were young. 
    • The monster that enters the young kid's bedroom may be based on a nightmare experience, a monster from a TV show the child saw, an image for something completely different, or a description of the child's father who tortured him. 
    • In archetypal form, the tiny infant frequently accumulates frightening memories and experiences that it cannot make sense of. 
    • Although the angel or fairy who soothes the kid is an archetype, it's possible that the child's distress stems from a very genuine event.



    You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

    Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.



    Shamanic Heart, Altered Perception And Consciousness - Altered State Characteristics



    Certain features of changed states are worth learning about since they explain some of the events that occur when we change our state: 


    • improved absorption and decreased distractibility

    • narrower focus of attention 

    • less voluntary activity (mental and physical)

    • passive responsiveness 

    • relative effortlessness

    • reduction of internal dialogue

    • alteration of cognitive functions – facilitation of atypical modes of thinking 

    • enhanced imaginal processing – emergence of archetypal images 

    • modification of memory processing – increased activity in the memory regions of the brain • relative dominance of right hemisphere functioning

    • catalepsy – muscle stiffness 

    • dissociation – a split in the normal integrative functions of the mind

    • amnesia – memory loss or forgetting

    • hyperamnesia – very vivid remembering

    • analgesia – loss of sensation in a specific part of the body 


    Altered states are also interesting because they produce so-called "altered state phenomena," which can occur spontaneously or be induced, such as: 


    Looking at the above lists, which are by no means exhaustive, it becomes clear why working therapeutically directly inside altered states, particularly if we wish to access unconsciously stored information, seems to be more simpler and more effective than working with the brain in its regular condition. 

    Alternate states differ, and we have some influence over them, which improves with experience. 


    • We may, for example, slow down brain activity or raise activity in regions of the brain that are involved in ‘remembering' or ‘thinking in pictures,' or reduce activity in the portion of the brain that ‘experiences pain,' and so on and so forth, depending on what we concentrate on. 
    • We have direct access to disconnected, traumatic, and scary stuff when we utilize altered states directly in a therapeutic environment, and we offer clients the opportunity to expand their awareness in the process. 
    • We assist them in gaining access to a world that they would otherwise be unable to enter. It makes no difference whether we understand this world as being simply the personal subconscious or also the communal unconscious, or as being outside or within our brains at this time; what matters is that we offer clients the opportunity to extend their perception of their reality. 
    • We may urge traumatized individuals to remember incidents in order to cope with the very unpleasant feelings that may be unleashed. 

    Why do this without also allowing them to experience the benefits of altered states, such as profound relaxation, archetypal helpful figures, and a feeling of being a part of something greater and bigger, something that cares for their soul? 


    • Clients benefit from altered state experiences as long as appropriate integration and re-association are prioritized and the initial separation is not enforced. 
    • Many severely traumatized individuals visit New Age practitioners and join spiritual organizations, which is unsurprising. 

    For a long time, I assumed that this first represents an escape from emotional wounding into the realm of the spiritual, an avoidance of painful processes to heal emotional damage, and that this second represents a fit with their mental capacities, as many trauma survivors are used to dissociating from traumatizing realities by accessing and activating certain states. 

    After speaking with and working with a number of trauma survivors, I still believe this reasoning is valid, but I also understand that many instinctively recognize that the spiritual component is comforting, that it places the suffering they have experienced in a larger context, and that some spiritual practices can help to release mental/emotional trauma on a much deeper level, provided they also cater to the needs of those who are suffering. 


    You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

    Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.



    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.



    Shamanic Heart, Altered Perception And Consciousness - The Shamanic State





    Shamans from all around the globe operate in and with altered states of consciousness, and they've been dubbed "masters of ecstasy". 


    • These shaman's working worlds are seen as reality, which may be accessed at whim, investigated and mastered via lengthy, arduous trainings, and then used for healing, divination, blessing, creating, and rebalancing . 
    • The shaman experiences and perceives the world within the rules of those worlds, which are based on linked and interconnected energies, fields, and essences and translated into spirit-beings, archetypal pictures, and mystical tales while in a 'ecstatic condition.' 
    • The shaman, unlike some of the spirit-possessed healers, has a "dual state of awareness". 
    • In modern words, the shaman is in control of all processes of fully awake consciousness, including as speech, memory, and knowledge of his surroundings, while also being in a profoundly altered condition. 


    When we consider the degree of state alteration that occurs, as I shall demonstrate later, this is far from a given. It takes several years to achieve the degree of expertise that traditional shamans have. 

    • The traditional shaman has gone on a long trip before he can call himself a shaman and use his abilities. 
    • He's battled demons, been to the underworld, explored death and rebirth, perfected his mind and body, and now he's ready to begin his job after this time of training, instruction, and initiation. 
    • Traditional, indigenous shamans may have been the first people we know of to go on what Campbell called the hero's journey, acquiring and developing all of the above-mentioned techniques and more throughout the many stages of the trip. 
    • Shamans continue their travels throughout their lives, healing themselves and others in the process, connecting with the energies that form the planet and all living creatures, and trying to restore balance and harmony for and within the tribe, as well as expanding their awareness. 

    The call, like the hero's quest, starts with the shaman's trip. 


    • A future shaman's call may come in the form of a vision, a dream, a life-changing event, or, in some instances, even before the shaman's birth. 
    • Whatever shape the call takes, it seems to be a terrifying moment, since it is often accompanied by an initiation crisis, which we would now refer to as a "spiritual emergency." 
    • Anthropologists who have studied shamanism in different cultures have vividly described the varied, severe mental and bodily abnormalities that occurred during the first crisis. 
    • Attacks, hallucinations, prophetic dreams, and significant changes in behavior, such as seeking isolation or being absent minded, may continue for weeks, months, or even years. 

    The training starts after the initiation crisis. 


    • The long training of a traditional shaman, which is frequently aided by an experienced instructor as well as spirit teachers, requires discipline and persistence. 
    • A period of isolation, fasting or a drastic change in food, and inquiring for visions are all part of the process. 
    • Overcoming fears and worries, as well as learning to regulate emotions, are important components. 
    • Some initiation rituals require overcoming one's natural survival instinct. 
    • The apprentice shaman learns to deal with dreams, visions, and the spirits who live in ‘All there is,' as well as the culture's mythology, rituals, teachings, and cosmology. 


    The shaman reaches severe altered states of consciousness throughout his training, dismembers and remembers, has out-of-body experiences, and nearly invariably experiences near death and is reincarnated. 

    • He gathers spirit assistants such as power animals, guides, ancestor spirits, and others, gets to know them well, and learns how to work with them. 

    Toughening the body, cultivating the mind, conquering cravings, facing fears, and cultivating capacities such as concentration and endurance are all necessary for the shaman to emerge from his training with awareness of his "essence," which we now call the "true self," as well as the essence of "All there is," in all of its infinite manifestations. 

    • He emerges with personal strength and freedom, including mastery over himself, control over spirits, and fearlessness, as well as awareness of 'this other reality,' the individual and communal psyche and consciousness, which we can only begin to fathom.


    You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

    Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.



    Shamanism Today



    Why is shamanism, in all of its forms, becoming more popular? What is the reason behind this now? 


    In a nutshell, we may say that humans have an inherent desire to grow into ‘all that we can become,' and that we have reached a point when a shift in awareness and a change in our way of life are unavoidable if we are to continue to progress – or even live – as a species. 


    • Over the past two millennia, our efforts have shifted to a greater emphasis on material reality, economic progress, consumerism, and scientifically oriented mental development. 
    • This has resulted in materially prosperous civilizations while neglecting our inner and spiritual growth. We've lost touch with the Earth, our souls, and the holy both inside and beyond, and we've lost our sense of greater meaning and purpose. 

    The shamanic archetype, that deep knowing pattern inside us, reminds us of how it felt to be focused on soul and spirit, immersed in a community, and feeling ourselves as a vital component of life. 

    It serves as a reminder of what we must return to on our human journey in order to become balanced and complete. 


    We have reached a point in human evolution where many of us are beginning to recognize that our materialistic worldviews, societal economic structures, and one-sided development have resulted in a slew of ecological, economic, social, and political issues, as well as, most importantly, "soulless" societies. 


    We paid a far greater price than can be described in any framework described by mere words. 


    • Environmental catastrophe, animal extinction, the destruction and uprooting of virtually all indigenous civilizations across the globe, slavery's brutality, religious crusades, horrific global wars, and more all tell their own stories.
    • Even our much-lauded economic growth has now resulted in unprecedented wealth disparity, with 1% of the world's population owning 48% of the world's wealth.  
    • We pay a hefty price even in affluent nations where we enjoy a large part of the produced riches. We've hit new highs in terms of so-called "mental illnesses," with depression and anxiety disorders leading the way, followed by loneliness and isolation. 
    • The strain to be 'well adjusted' in a culture that denies one's soul is taking its toll. 


    I find it unsurprising that soul suffering, which has long been ignored at best and denied at worst in contemporary society, is now showing up in the consulting rooms of medical practitioners, therapists, and psychiatrists in the form of psychosomatic pains, diffuse emotional disturbances, hopelessness, disenchantment, and energy depletion as a result of psychosomatic pains, diffuse emotional disturbances, hopelessness, disenchantment, and depletion of energy. 


    • We would not exist as a society if we did not study and feed the mind, according to Jung. He saw, as do many others now, that we would lose our souls in the process. 
    • When we engage in shamanism, we learn that there is no such thing as ‘wholeness,' no good human growth, no ultimate pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment without nurturing our souls, extending our awareness, and seeing ourselves as an integral part of the whole. 

    The shamanic archetype is stirring inside the human psyche because it symbolizes what we've lost: 


    • Our connection to the Earth, nature, our soul, and the holy. 
    • It embodies all our disjointed mind yearns for. 
    • It is a symbol of mystery, enchantment, and community. 
    • It symbolizes our desire to break through our brains' restricting cognitive and ego boundaries, to change our states and allow our awareness soar, so that we may experience the holy in all of its awe-inspiring forms. 
    • It symbolizes the human desire to move beyond the mundane and into the realm of the miraculous. 
    • It symbolizes our ability to create our own reality via our imagination. 


    As you read these words, the shamanic soul inside you' has already woken and is requesting time and space to grow in order for your journey to unfold. It's time to get started.


    You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

    Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.



    Modern Shamanism - A Living Practice



    Since the initial wave of Western interest pushed shamanism to the fore, it has seen a massive rebirth as well as many modifications. 

    It has drawn innumerable spiritual searchers as well as increasing attention – and acceptance – from anthropologists, medical practitioners, psychologists, physicists, biologists, and therapists as it has grown more urban, global, and digitally linked. 

    Many westerners started to bring back what they had learnt from indigenous shamans, mostly in South America, and practice shamanism themselves in the 1970s and 1980s, conducting courses and workshops and establishing schools, centers, and foundations. 


    We now have a second generation of shamanic instructors all across the Western world thanks to these institutions. 


    • Traditional shamans and teachers from Mexico and South America began to travel to the United States and Europe to spread their teachings, while Hopi, Lakota, and Navajo elders and teachers sent increasingly urgent ecological messages to the world, attracting seekers and inspiring foundations, schools, and courses in the United States and Europe. 
    • In the 1990s, publications like Luisah Teish's Carnival of the Spirit, which exposed the world to the Yoruba sacred traditions, and Malidoma Somé's writings on the Dagara people brought African shamanism to the fore.  
    • Shamanism from the Far East, Tibet, and Nepal, which includes fascinating Buddhist components, has made its way into mainstream modern shamanism in the past 20 years or so. 
    • Australian Aboriginal instructors may now be found on social media and at conferences, while shamans and their teachings have grown more widely available in Mongolia and Siberia. 

    Parallel to this, many Western shamanic practitioners and instructors have been bringing groups of seekers to study from traditional shamans in different areas of the globe, while traditional shamans have been opening their doors to a growing number of individuals. 


    • This has now nearly reached the level of mass tourism, particularly in Mexico, the Amazon, and the Andes. 
    • We are now witnessing shamanism being incorporated into different movements and fields in diverse ways, adding to the mind-boggling variety. 
    • Shamanic cosmology has been integrated into the awareness movement. 
    • Ethnomedicine is becoming more popular throughout the globe. Shamanic ideas of human consciousness have been integrated into strands of transpersonal psychology. 
    • The Earth-based components have been widely embraced by the ecology movement. 
    • The modern world's interconnectedness is mirrored in contemporary shamanism's mixes and combinations, the intertwining of the ancient and the new. 


    Contemporary shamanism's characteristics 


    Because modern shamanism is such a mixed bag, it's difficult to describe it exactly, but we may compare it to traditional shamanism and learn about the parallels and contrasts, as most literature does. 


    • Western shamanic practitioners and instructors are not shamans in the classic sense (I prefer the word "shamanic practitioner" instead). 
    • They are neither descended from shaman lineages, nor have they undergone the deep initiation rituals and lengthy training periods that traditional shamans have through. 
    • They aren't part of traditional indigenous groups, therefore their work isn't grounded in "location and custom." 

    Western shamanic methods are more focused on the growth and healing of the individual, in accordance with the shift away from groups and toward the individual. 



    Despite this, much of the ancient shamanic methods' worldview, goals, and instruments are shared by modern shamanic approaches. 


    • They strive for completeness in the same way as traditional shamans do, concentrating on the integration of the mind/body with the soul/spirit and the entire person with the larger field of spirit. 
    • They also labor for the community, but in a broader sense or by establishing communities with a particular purpose, such as the numerous circles that exist locally across the Western world. 
    • They also use altered states to create a portal between realms, expand our awareness, and help us comprehend our own nature, all while returning us to a soul-centered way of existence that is linked to Earth, spirit, and the holy. 
    • In terms of working with spirits and spirit allies, as well as the usage of a wide variety of tools established within traditional shamanism, contemporary shamanism is similar to traditional shamanism. 
    • It incorporates myths, tales, and archetypal symbols, as well as trance dancing, vision quests, wilderness camps, lucid dreaming, natural hallucinogens, different energy healing methods, medicine wheel teachings, and other techniques. 



    Traditional shamans and contemporary shamanic practitioners and instructors both recognize that the teachings ultimately originate from spirit. 


    • Even if they are competent in their trade, excellent practitioners will always work with the aid of spirit, and effective teaching will enhance the student's spirit connection. 
    • We can use the vast knowledge that is increasingly being passed on to us by traditional shamans for our own healing and development, as long as we understand that shamanism is about spirit, soul, Earth, connection, consciousness, and community. 
    • The teachings and practices developed over millennia belong to us all, as they are derived from Earth and spirit, and we can use the vast knowledge that is increasingly being passed on to us by traditional shamans for our own healing and development. 
    • Contemporary shamanism is about discovering our own methods of integrating those important, timeless, and universal lessons into our life. 

    Our lives grow more enchanted, meaningful, purposeful, and genuine when we engage in shamanic practices, and we assume our proper positions as positive co-creators in the evolving flow of life, linked to and in harmony with spirit – and our own spirit.


    You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

    Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.



    Shamanic Traditions



    Shamanism in its traditional form is a global phenomenon. Accounts from the past Our understanding of shamanism in indigenous societies is limited, but we do have reports from early European visitors to many areas of the globe, as well as current academic research. 


    • Recently, reports from shamans descending from traditional lineages from all over the globe have surfaced. 
    • Early European encounters with tribal shamans, which began in the 16th century, are significant records because they have shaped public perceptions of shamanism for generations, and continue to do so to some degree now. 
    • The Europeans were terrified by the euphoric rites, magical ceremonies, strange healing techniques, foreign chants, masks and ceremonial attire, drumming, trance dances, and weird visions. 
    • They associated shamanic activities with witchcraft and consorting with the devil, reflecting that dread as well as the Christian theological beliefs of the period. 
    • Later, during the Age of Enlightenment, most Europeans condemned shamans of being either tricksters and charlatans or psychotics and schizophrenics, in line with the new "logical thinking." 


    It took a long time for the western perception of shamans to shift. 


    Between 1930 and 1950, anthropologists, ethnologists, psychologists, and biologists started on a more intensive study of the surviving indigenous civilizations across the globe, learning their languages, interviewing shamans, and documenting their own studies. 


    • For example, in 1932, John Neihardt published the now-famous life story of Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux medicine man, revealing him as a great visionary, healer, and leader, and in 1949, Claude Lévi-Strauss, a renowned French anthropologist, compared shamans to psychoanalysts, emphasizing their vast knowledge of the human mind and finally putting to rest the notion that they were insane.\
    • Most significant, anthropological studies revealed that, despite cultural variations, all shamans claimed to converse with spirits for the sake of their society. 

    Shamanism, however, did not get the recognition it deserved until the second part of the twentieth century: 


    • Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, published in 1951 and still a major reference work today, provided a synthesis of cross-cultural research while dispelling many misconceptions and prejudices, and coined the term "masters of ecstasy" to describe shamans' altered states and soul flights to other worlds. 

    While Eliade's book sparked professional interest, it was Carlos Castaneda's 1969 book The Teachings of Don Juan: 

    • A Yaqui Way of Knowledge that sparked unprecedented public interest and inspired Western spiritual seekers and researchers to live with indigenous peoples, "study" shamans, and participate in (mostly plant-induced) ceremonies and quests. 
    • Shamans functioned as psycho-spiritual and physical healers, ritualists, mythologists, mediums, and visionaries, utilizing their talents for the benefit of their tribes, according to later accounts, and were pioneers in investigating the human mind's broader potential. 

    Traditional shamanism's characteristics 


    These and other research have revealed that traditional shamans throughout the globe share similar cosmologies, working methods, and traits, while not being a culturally homogeneous group. 


    • Traditional shamanism is a global method for expanding awareness, connecting with energy other realms, and working with such forces for the good of a community and its members' health and peace. Shamans are therefore regarded as world-bridges and guardians of the group's spiritual, psychological, and ecological balance, as well as the individual members'. 
    • Shamans in indigenous cultures rely on nature, the spirit realms, and their tribes for survival. Indigenous traditional shamans, who either come from a bloodline or are "selected by spirit," are known for their dependency. 
    • Their initiation is lengthy and severe, and they often go through a time of change accompanied by a life-threatening mental or physical sickness, which leads to death and rebirth experiences in highly altered states of consciousness. 
    • Shamans had – and continue to have – a wide understanding of the natural and spiritual realms, which they use in their work as healers, visionaries, divinatory practitioners, ritualists and ceremonialists, mythologists, mediums, dreamers, psychics, psychopomps, artists, manifestors, and instructors. 
    • They utilize a variety of talents and methods to ‘fly' to the spirit realms, operate within them, and connect the worlds. 
    • Smoke and herbs, rituals and ceremony, power tools and clothing, trance dance and trance movements, merging with and shapeshifting into nature spirits and animal spirits, close connections with ancestral spirits and spirit allies, ingestion of hallucinogenic sacred plants, and the vibrations of drum rhythms, sounds, and voices are all examples of these.


    You may also want to read more about Shamanism here.

    Be sure to check out my writings on religion here.