HJ: Shamanism in the West is typically thought of as a system of using sacred plants (read: psychedelics) as a way to gain spiritual wisdom, understanding and facilitate healing. While there certainly is an aspect of Shamanism in most traditional cultures that deals with the use of sacred teacher plants, this is not the only way in which Shaman’s work. Perhaps even more widely used than sacred visionary plants is drumming, sound, movement and ritual. While sacred plants are important, they are not the be all, end all method of spiritual attainment and, in fact, developing the ability to reach states of high spiritual awareness and consciousness without the use of plants is ultimately the goal, as this is entirely possible and preferable to a large degree.
Furthermore, these non-visionary methods ultimately teach us to learn how to connect to our inner wisdom, knowlegde and intuition, which is a powerful ability that is essential for anyone on the spiritual path. Of all the methods I have come across to access these deeper states of our being, Shamanic techniques are quite potent and can be used by anyone seeking to reveal deeper levels of reality and themselves. Intention, combined with powerful visualization, meditation and sound practices is a powerful force indeed, and one that Shaman’s know well.
By Mary Rivas | Unlimited Inner Power
Throughout history, shamans have taught that the answers we seek in life can be found within. Shamans discovered that through a practice called “shamanic journeying" we can reach higher states of consciousness and journey within to retrieve knowledge that can help us in our daily lives. Whether we need help with finding the right job, or romantic partner or making smart financial decisions, journeying can provide guidance for us.
What is a shamanic journey and how can it help you?
The shamanic journey is a technique for reaching the deeper mind states of theta and delta to get answers, insights and understanding about questions that are deeply important to us. The Journey is a meditative type state, but it’s not really “meditation" as meditation is commonly practiced today.
Common meditation practices require the participant to sit still or lie still, and the participant is passive. A shamanic journey, in contrast, does not require that the participant sit or lie in a certain position. With practice, journeying can be done while you walk or run, for example. Also, it is an active form of meditative practice where the participant actively seeks answers and insights.
The shamanic journey helps us to cross the bridge between our ordinary state of awareness to the deeper realms of our inner world. We all have this “bridge" within is. The sub-conscious mind serves as a link to the spiritual realm.
The objective of journeying is to avoid getting stuck on the bridge, as is common with traditional meditation. You want to cross this bridge rather than stay on it. And, once you do, you need to be active rather than passive. That is, you journey to interact with your higher self or spirit helpers, such as power animals or human teachers. During the journey, you ask for guidance, ideas, insights and answers to questions that are heartfelt.
When we enter the deeper mind states of theta and delta, we can more easily perceive communications, such as hunches, ideas, images and feelings of knowingness. A shamanic journey, in some ways, is similar to dreaming, but in journeying you are fully conscious and an active participant.
Traditionally, drum beats were used in shamanic journeying to induce deeper mind states, such as theta. Journeying can also be done without drum beats. Today, you can find audio recordings that teach journeying with and without the use of drums.
Mind Focus as Trance Induction
By Stefan Neil Klemenc | Kondor.de
You can focus your awareness and mind on various objects: pictures, power objects, mirrors or mantras. Mantram meditation is a hybrid form between rhythmic induction and the focussing method of inducing trance-states. The autogenic training and some fundamental techniques of imagination I am counting to the focussing methods, the method of relaxation after Jacobsen, too.
The concentration on pictures became widely known because of tibetan mandalas and thangkas which are being created just for this utilization. You can reach deep trance states by staring on the picture without any motion. You are gazing on the picture without moving the eyeballs or twinkling for as long as possible. Your gaze may wander upwards or downwards. Rest your eyeballs in the position, where this cannot happen anymore and start over with the exercise. After a few moments your eyes are going to water a lot. Just let it happen and ignore it. After the optical feedback set in you can explore your object of staring with open eyes further and deeper. In connection with entheogen substances this point of turning over is being experienced much more intense and the object opens up its spirits gestalt under your gaze. The experiences differ much from object to object. A mandala can become a gate to the spirits world, a mirror can reveal hidden parts of your personality and can help you in analyzing yourself. A black mirror can be used as a gate or window into the spirits world. Gazing on crystals, stones or power objects unlocks the hidden spirits and powers of these items and the allies unfold their ability of altering your consciousness. Sometimes I use the gazing technique with clients to confront them with their own shadow or simply diagnosing. Alongside this technique it is very useful to have a good control over your body which enables to remain in a position for relative long time. Remember the technique of asana used in indian yoga.
You can proceed similar with mantras. Repeat the mantram in your mind as long as it fills your whole soul. Then it unfolds it mind altering effect and time ends. Trance is not necessarily induced in the first moments and attempts. It takes its time to let oneself in the powers of the verbal mantram. Another kind of mantram are the long spells and invocations. As an example I am mentioning the enochian calls. The call shows its effect if vibrated and weaved. Singing of melodies or spirit-songs belongs to the mantric effects and focussing by concentration technique, too. The rhythmic repetition of the few songlines induces a good trance state after some moments. The ghost-dance movement used this effect in combination with dancing and the method of multiactivity, mentioned below.
Autogenic training emphasizes the relaxation and calmness. There are many pages dealing with this very popular and easy to learn technique of relaxation. If you want to read some intro in this method, visit Bearwalkers Page. AT used in the right context endeepens the trance experience.
If you are versed in magical techniques you know of the common way of teaching and attaining imaginatory abilities. You start with imagine single items (such as an apple) and checking it with all your sense subsequently: first try to smell it, then feel it, see it, touch it and so on. Slowly the intensity is being raised on this way. Personally I think this way is rather doubtful of being really succesfull. Our brain has the innate ability of multitasking. Joseph Wilson described in his book “Chaos Ritual” a very interesting alternative way of teaching imagination. His frame of exercises is based upon keeping two or more senses completely active and releasing the third one to itself (being associating freely consequently). The passive watching on this third sense is the trick to be learned because this channel is the channel the spirits will use to communicate. I use this technique in the following way: During my shamanic seances I drum and sing. My inner sight is released and associates freely in the spirits-world – without expectations and ego. Results are astonishing. The ghost-dance movement used singing, rhythmic movements and optical sensations to induce trance.
Rhythm as Trance-Induction Technique
I divide the rhythmic stimulation of trance in three categories: body rhythm, acustic and optical rhythms. Each of these will be treated here. Please note that rhythmical trance induction can provoke epileptic states. If you have any epileptic disease, then keep of from trance-induction by rhythmic methods.
The body-rhythms inducing trance-states
Generally there are the dance and the shaking or swaying of the body mentioned as trance-inducing techniques that use bodily rhythms as medium. Dancing and swaying are the two natural ways of expressing rhythm with the body. The trance walking and hyperventilation as two special kinds of trance working are belonging to this category, too.
It is well-known that dancing is one of the best ways of getting into trance. Everyone who is used to visit discos is familiar with this effect. Traditionally the Sufis use a kind of whirling dance to induce trance very quick. In spite of whirling the whole body the shaking of the head produces similar effects (hi there, headbangers!). The various voodoo-cults throughout the world use the rhythmic dance, too. Music is frequently being used as the vital part of inducing trance (see below), besides the dance. The photography shows voodoosi in Benin which dance the bird-dance and are fully in trance during the dance. The dancers are already in deep trance when they start to dance the bird-dance – the music already has done its job. They know the rites and the music deep in the bones from their earliest childhood. The “Certainty” or belief and the experience are deeply anchored and trance and possession can take place much easier. The more you can identify yourself with the things happening the easier it is to get into trance. Some people with “rhythm in the blood” can fell much easier in trance then others. Some others are in such deep states of trance that it is difficult to come down for them again.
Shaking and Swaying is another kind of inducing trance (or a sign of deep trance). Jan Fries called this “Seiðr”, a term used in old nordic resources, translated as “seething” or “cooking”. Seething is the best term to describe the ecstatic sensations and experiences you have during seiðr Practitioners were called “Seiðmadr”, “Seiðberandi”, “Seiðman” or the female form “Seiðkona”. During the early middle-ages these art already was nearly extincted here in Germany. The trance expresses itself with shuddering, swaying or intense shaking of the body. The bushmen from the Kalahari desert, the San and the !Kung, induce the trance first by dancing and hyperventilation. After the trance kicked in, they begin to shake and sway. They call this state “KIA” — a term Spare used for describing the atmospheric ego. Within KIA the thoughts come to an end and Spares “Neither-Neither” is being reached. The ego is dead and KIA acts freely. The frequency of the shaking also determines the trance-experience: slow swaying induces different states then fast shaking or shuddering.
In the himalayan regions there were some lamas who used to run over long distances without getting tired. The rhythm of walking or running can induce a trance-state, too. After a certain time of running – which varies much – a rhythm takes control of the walker and is no longer subject to fatigue. The distances covered can be tremendous. The 100 km walks or the extreme marathons are an example. Very important is the goal of your walk. It is not possible to run further after you reached the mark you wanted to reach. I myself used the stars as a fixation-point during my own walks …
Another method of inducing Trance is hyperventilation. On one side this technique uses a fast rhythm of breathing, but the trigger of the trance is much more the hypocapnia you get because of a reduced pCO2 in your blood. Signs of it are: paraesthesia of extremities (tickling) and the mouth, headache, pawlike hand-position and generalized cramps (hyperventilationic tetania). Hyperventilation in combination with Seið or Dance improves the trance. During trance the ventilation patterns changes again, but is still keeping the state up for a time. It is a secure way of inducing trance – except if you are hysteric or otherwise mentally ill.
The rhythmic drumming is a sound heard in most drumming circles of modern shamanism. Often the trance-inducing power of the drum is being explained by the influence, certain beating frequencies have on the brain-wave patterns of the listener. A rhythm of 4 to 5 bps is said to be necessary. Also if someone works at a machine or near rhythmic sounds, produced by machines, the person is easily falling in a trance-like state, too. Most of the time these people are in a trance, but with a strong relation to the activities they are doing. Bodily, optical and acoustical stimulation are playing together then. Within the voodoo culture more complicated and faster rhythms are preferred for trance induction. The drum is not the great trance-inducing instrument for shamans, as always is being stated loudly. Very often other instruments are used like rattles, sticks, bows, singing bowls, didjeridoos or the voice. Siberian shamans are already in deep trance, before even reaching for their drums. Often they are in a seið-like trance. Nearly any rhythmic sound produced by literally anything can be used to entrance the audience. It is not clear, why mankind reacts with altered states of consciousness while listening to rhythms. The physiologic explanation with α, β and θ waves and the influence of the rhythms of these is a shaky construct and not at all the last theory to be formulated. An interesting note, by the way: During the first nine months of life inside the womb of our mother we all have heard a steady rhythm just nearby: the beating of her heart. Perhaps the key to our trance-states is hidden there.
Leading over to the optical stimulations I mention the guided meditation and hypnose as acoustic ways of inducing trance. With modulated speaking the listener can easily be led into various levels of trance. Within most techniques of hypnose suggestive speaking is a vital part. Another form of rhythmic induction is Mesmers magnetism – which I consider a mixed form of sensoric, optic, suggestive and other influences.
Optical Induction of Trance
Rhythmical movements, being watched, can induce trance as easy as the other described methods. The swinging pendulum in hypnotic therapy is well-known as an example. Rhythmic dances and dancers, sun-rays reflected from a body of water, waves on the high-sea, rhythmic flashes (dream-machine!) are all belonging to the optical induction method. Siberian shamanism use the head-gear for additional trance-induction. Leathery fringes hang in front of the eyes of the shaman and move with each movement of the shaman. The shaman can see better with these.
Hemispheric Synchronisation as Trance-Induction Technique
I utilize hemi-Sync® as an efficient and most valuable method of inducing deep trance-states for shamanizing and other practical works like OOBEs. Hemi-Sync® was invented, researched by Robert Monroe and is still being improved in the Monroe Institutes (TMI). The founder of the institue, Robert Monroe himself, wrote three books about his experiences with “Out of Body Experiences” (OOBE – he invented the term) and his thoughts and conclusions about what he experienced since the 50’s. His three books are: “Journeys Out Of The Body”, “Far Journeys” and “Ultimate Journey”. Monroe managed to use Hemi-Sync® to induce controlled altered states of consciousness that are required for OOBEs.
Hemi-Sync® is a certain acoustic trance-induction technique that become possible with modern methods of playback and reproduction in stereo. Monroe discovered various different states of consciousness that can be reached by acoustical hemispheric synchronisation. At the beginning you need the Hemi-Sync® tracks that induce the various “Focus-states” and to learn the procedure of reaching them. With sufficient training you can reach these altered states without the technical cruch, which is only one goal of the whole Hemi-Sync®technique. The technical and physiological backgrounds of this trance-technique is explained on the website of the TMI. It would lead to far away trying to explain all of it here.
The synchronisation of both hemispheres of the brain can be achieved by using slightly different frequencies at the right and the left ear. For example, you hear with your right ear a frequency of 200 Hertz in your headset and your left ear hears a frequency of 204 Hertz. The difference of 4 Hertz can be heard as an oscillation because your brain tries to harmonize both frequencies. The effect results in a synchronized brain. The easiest state of synchronized trance is named “Focus 3” – both hemispheres are synchronized. “Focus 10” is the first important trance-state to us. It is characterized by your body asleep and your mind wake and alert. There are many deeper trance-states also relevant for shamanic works – I have described them in my book, which I sometimes publish in english, too. In all of them at least I cannot move any limb or other part of my body.