By Robert Bruce, 1999
17. The Trance State
A trance is a very simple and natural state of being, the state entered when the physical body goes to sleep while the mind stays awake. Very simply, the frequency of brain waves changes in response to the changed level of mental activity.
The less mental activity, the deeper the level of trance. Normal levels of consciousness cause a lot of bioelectrical activity, which is associated with the awake activity of the surface mind, called the beta level. When the trance state is entered, this activity is significantly reduced, causing many peculiar physical and mental sensations. Changes in brain-wave activity are measurable with an electroencephalograph, or EEG, machine.
The human brain has two halves, two hemispheres, each side associated with different physical and mental functions and abilities. The left side of the brain is the rational and logical problem-solving part, while the right side is the more emotional, creative, and intuitive part. I believe the trance state causes these two hemispheres to begin working together, synchronizing more strongly than they are able to in the normal waking state.
The more time spent in the trance state, the stronger the bioenergetic connections between hemispheres become, and the more easily the two hemispheres can work together. While the two hemispheres are linked, the mind becomes calmer, stronger, more whole and balanced.
This enhances the quality of thought, making it more profound and open to inspiration, while providing great clarity of mind – albeit in an altered state of consciousness. A deeply relaxed physical body with a clear mind holds this connected trance state longer than would naturally occur.
We all experience this every night, even if only briefly, while falling asleep. Most people don’t even notice this when it happens, but everyone knows how good it feels. Who does not enjoy falling asleep? Similarly, who does not enjoy entering the trance state? Trance is a delightfully blissful, comfortable, stress-free state of being, like submerging yourself in a pleasantly warm physical/mental spa or bath.
While falling asleep you will find, if you observe closely, that you begin losing yourself among rambling half-thoughts and impressions. Your body starts to feel heavy and warm and cozy and your thoughts become silly and meaningless. This happens right on the borderline of sleep, just before you lose coherence altogether and fall into the seeming oblivion of sleep. The heavy-body sensation is the sign you have entered the trance state. The mental incoherence (in the case of entering the trance state while falling asleep) is caused solely by mental and physical tiredness.
Once the physical body falls asleep, the center of waking consciousness transfers into the etheric body. This is best thought of as a type of inner-body projection. The heavy-body feeling of the trance state indicates that the center of waking consciousness has shifted one step away from its physical body and into the first of its subtle bodies, its etheric body.
This takes consciousness one step closer to the real-time projectable double.
Next time you are falling asleep, hold your forearms vertical with your elbows resting comfortably on the bed surface. This will keep you awake a little longer than normal. Observe what happens while you are falling asleep. You will experience the trance state for at least a few moments longer than usual before falling asleep, and for still longer if you are not too tired and can stay focused. If you relax and use the breath awareness technique while falling asleep, instead of allowing your mind to drift and ramble, you can drag out the falling-asleep process and stay in the trance state even longer.
As a part of projection training, it is necessary to learn how to put your body to sleep while remaining mentally awake and in control – in other words how to enter the trance state and stay awake. This can be a little tricky at first, but is not at all difficult if you follow the correct procedure and get some regular practice in.
The physical and mental tiredness that naturally causes the trance state while falling asleep can be replaced by a deep level of physical relaxation and a clear surface mind.
If you allow yourself to react to distracting sounds during trance work, you can develop a habitual response to them, becoming easily distracted and irritated. This can seriously affect your ability to enter and hold the trance state. It may cause you to use artificial aids like music or tapes to create just the right conditions for you before you can trance effectively. This will make your trance state dependent on those conditions. A dependency like this is an unhealthy trance habit, as it makes the habitual foundations of the trance state weak and sensitive, rather than strong and resilient.
If you are a beginner with no trance habits, please heed my advice on this. Accept sounds and let them wash over you, without tensing, reacting, or mentally complaining about them in any way. Accept and tolerate sounds kindly and without irritation. Look upon unavoidable distractions as valuable opportunities to test your powers of focus and concentration, as sound waves crashing gently over you. This problem will progressively ease with time and patience.
The need for total quiet denies the pleasure of trance meditation outdoors, amid all the many wonderful distractions of life: water gurgling over rocks, animal sounds, wind and storm sounds, rolling waves crashing on beaches, children’s sounds, and the sweet morning chorus of bird song. These are nature’s gift to us all, and all can be better appreciated in a tranced meditational state.
Different Levels of Trance
I have divided the trance state into three basic levels, and have used sensation descriptive names (rather than the more commonly used technical terms like alpha, beta, theta, and delta) for simplicity’s sake, and to help avoid confusion while working in these levels of trance. This will enable you to tell what level of trance you are in simply by noting the sensations you are experiencing.
The three basic levels of trance given here are meant as a basic guide for beginners only.
Light trance is the first level of trance, very similar to the daydream state. While relaxing, your physical body starts feeling warm, cozy, and lethargic. Your eyelids suddenly feel heavy and your eyes begin to glaze over and droop. A mild wave of heaviness and warmth flows over you. Your mind takes on a mildly fuzzy quality and tends to begin drifting. You have some slight difficulty focusing thoughts, especially if you are mentally tired and need sleep.
Patterns of light and color (hypnagogic imagery) are seen occasionally during the light-trance state. Mind’s-eye visions may also be seen if natural clairvoyant potential is present. Cobweb-like tickling is occasionally felt in the facial and neck areas, caused by energy movement through the energetic support structures of the brow and crown centers. (The trance state on its own causes an increased flow of energy, hence the resulting sensations.)
With this level of trance comes a mild, whole-body feeling of warm comfortable fuzziness and a slight dissociation from the physical body and the surrounding environment. Time appears to slow down a little and sounds appear to be slightly louder and from further away than they really are. Once light trance stabilizes it is easily held for long periods of time. Great internal mental clarity can be attained with it, as long as tiredness is not a problem. This is the trance state most usually attained during early-light meditations and led-group meditations. If this level of trance is accompanied by a deep-enough state of physical relaxation, conscious-exit projection becomes possible.
This level of trance, while easily held, is also quite delicate and easily broken. Physical movement, even walking and talking, must be slow and deliberate to hold the light-trance state.
The full-trance state has many similarities with light trance, but trance sensations are more pronounced. Entry into full trance is marked by a quite noticeable wave of bodily heaviness and a very slight falling sensation. This comes on fairly quickly, like a warm, heavy wave flowing through you, seeming to sap your physical and mental strength as your body falls away into sleep.
Concentration and mental focus are needed at this point to stop the mind from following its body into sleep. Your sense of time changes, slowing down or speeding up, depending on your level of mental tiredness. If you are tired, time tends to speed up; otherwise, it tends to slow. You become noticeably dissociated from your physical body and its environment.
Your sense of background atmosphere changes noticeably the moment you enter the full-trance state. The room around you feels like it has suddenly become much larger, thicker, and emptier. Background sounds take on a muffled, faraway quality, something like they would if a cardboard box were gently lowered over your head without touching or disturbing you.
You may feel a muffled, bone-deep tickling sensation in your arms and legs if you move them to ease your physical body during trance, similar to how it feels when an arm or leg falls asleep, but not at all painful. Some physical movement is still possible, but takes more effort and feels like it’s happening in slow motion. If you manage to stand during full trance (no mean feat, but still possible), you can hardly feel your legs at all. If you can manage to walk (also possible), it feels like you are walking on two huge pillows that used to be your legs. Any kind of physical activity tends to erode the depth of trance, unless done in a slow and dreamy way.
Sharp sounds cause an uncomfortable sensation in the stomach and solar plexus that can feel almost like a physical blow if you allow yourself to react to it. (This sound sensitivity can be reduced only by experience gained through regular trance meditation.) Your thoughts begin to feel different, more sluggish than normal yet extremely clear. This is caused by the surface mind shutting down and revealing a more profound level of mind.
Holding your mind clear and focused is the real trick to staying awake and mentally functional. If you do not concentrate and stay focused, you will tend toward fantasizing and drifting off among weak and meaningless thoughts. When you first start experiencing trance states, you need to concentrate, forcibly holding your mind awake without allowing yourself to tense up physically or mentally.
Hypnagogic imagery is seen behind closed eyelids, in the mind’s eye, as are occasional visions. REM (rapid eye movement) activity happens sporadically; when it does, fragments of dream imagery occasionally intrude into the mind’s eye. This can indicate a sleep deficit, meaning the physical mind lacks energy, has fallen asleep, and is now dreaming.
Ignore REM as best you can if it starts. It normally comes and goes in bouts of a few minutes each, sometimes longer. REM feels like the eyes are fluttering and buzzing beneath their eyelids. This can be very distracting when it occurs in the trance state. If it becomes a problem, gently rub the fingers and thumbs of each hand together and take a couple of deep breaths, stretching and moving your body slightly and resettling it. This slight physical activity is usually enough to stop REM and shut down the dream mind, while allowing trance and development work to continue. This procedure also helps reduce the level of trance. When REM stops, cease all physical movement and continue with your trance meditation.
You will be spending most of your time somewhere between the light-trance and full-trance states. As you gain ability and experience, this level will vary. The ability to put yourself into a full trance is very progressive, like most developed abilities.
It has to be worked at, but with regular practice can be reached quickly and easily.
Deep trance starts with the symptoms of the full-trance state, which become noticeably more pronounced as you fall into a much deeper level of trance. There are many odd sensations associated with deep trance, felt in many combinations: with whole-body coldness and a continual falling sensation being common.
The deep-trance state is not dangerous. It cannot hurt you any more than deep sleep can. It is very difficult to get into the deep-trance state, even deliberately. It could not reasonably be expected to happen spontaneously or accidentally to one who has not yet mastered the full-trance state. But the symptoms associated with deep trance are often so strong that they can be frightening if you do not know what is happening.
If you are ever worried that you might be going too deep, simply feel yourself moving upward, slowly moving your head, mouth, fingers, and toes, progressively restoring movement to your body until you can pull yourself out of trance completely. If movement is extremely difficult, or if you feel totally paralyzed, you have most probably projected but missed the exit out of your body; you may even have experienced vibrations earlier. In this case, concentrate on moving a single big toe. Ibis will pull back your projected double and end paralysis. If all efforts to pull out of deep trance fail, do not panic.
Simply allow yourself to fall asleep and you will wake up shortly after, well rested and none the worse for wear.
Common Trance Problems
Most common trance problems stem from the three main problem areas given below. These come mainly from our modern Western lifestyle.
They must be addressed and overcome before you can successfully operate in the trance state and hold it strongly enough to achieve conscious-exit projection.
Falling Asleep during Trance
This very common problem is usually caused by a sleep deficit. Although you may feel fine, there is always a possibility you have not been getting enough sleep. (Most people don’t.) If you have a sleep deficit, you normally have very little trouble entering the trance state, even if you do not attain a state of deep physical relaxation first, because you are mentally overtired.
But you usually have trouble maintaining mental coherence and operating in the trance state once it is attained. Your mind will lack mental vitality and will be unable to hold itself together. You will tend to lose control very easily and will often just fall sleep for the main part of your trance meditation.
It may be easier to induce the trance state when the body and mind are tired, but mental coherence and control during trance are very limited if a sleep deficit is present. The oblivion of sleep is the ever-present companion of the tired trancer. Overtired-ness can easily cause a natural trance state all on its own. Trance, after all, is an extremely natural thing that everyone does while falling asleep. Because of the lack of mental vitality, in this case the trance state is too unstable to allow the operator enough control to do any kind of serious work.
Many people, when they meditate, find their meditations naturally end after a set period of time. They usually have very little awareness of the passing of time, or even of what takes place during the major part of their trance meditations. They remember falling into trance and feeling totally blissful for a while, before coming back to earth later, feeling relaxed and refreshed. After entering the trance state, they simply have had a pleasant trancelike nap.
The obvious solution is to get more sleep, then return to trance practice wide awake and refreshed. If this is difficult, try changing the time of day you practice trance exercises. Doing trance exercises in the morning, or just after a refreshing nap, will usually solve most sleep-deficit-related trance problems.
Many people wake an hour or so early each day for this purpose. They get up, do a little exercise, shower, then do their meditation, trance and energy work. They find trance meditation far more successful when done early in the morning, due to a combination of natural deep physical relaxation and the mentally refreshed state of mind brought on by a good night’s sleep. Deep physical relaxation and a clear, fresh mind are essential ingredients for successful trance work.
For these same reasons, projection attempts are also usually more successful at this time of day. Some people find projection easier if they go to bed early and set their alarm to wake them during the night. They wake up, holding on to the deeply relaxed state induced by sleep, and immediately attempt a projection. In this case, all preliminary exercises can be skipped, with the projector going straight to projection technique – usually with good results.
This points out just how important to projection deep physical relaxation and a stable trance state are.
Inability to Enter Trance
An inability to enter the trance state is usually caused by an insufficient level of deep physical relaxation, and/or by poor concentration and mental relaxation skills. Whatever your trance problem, examine it and identify weak areas. Then, return to the relevant sections of this book and repeat the necessary exercises until these problems are rectified.
Practice, practice, practice, is my very best advice here. If you have worked through all the exercises in this section but find you still cannot get into the trance state, please don’t give up. Go back to the beginning and start over again if you have to. Redo the lessons and exercises one at a time and don’t rush them. This may seem a laborious process, but you must be patient with yourself. Everyone has a different psychological makeup and it is impossible to generalize, or to compare one person’s progress with another.
Do not measure your progress against the progress of another. Take your time and work at your own speed. Some people take to trance work like a duck to water, while others find they really have to work at it to achieve the levels of relaxation and mental clarity trance requires.
But, you can master the trance state if you learn the individual skills and practice regularly.
Falling into Trance Too Easily
This is an occasional side effect of long-term development work. If a person spends a lot of time in trance, the trance state eventually becomes second nature and is then very easily attained. People with this tendency can find themselves accidentally sliding into the trance state many times each day, at the drop of the proverbial hat. If not checked, this can cause frequent dissociation from reality, which is an unhealthy way to live. This can become a serious psychological disorder and may require professional treatment if it is not addressed.
A sleep deficit will compound this problem. The best way to stop accidental trance is to be aware of it and to watch out for it, especially at the times it is most likely to occur, e.g., while driving, watching TV, waiting, traveling, etc. Be ready to work against this, pulling yourself out of trance the moment you feel it coming on.
Physical and mental activity focusing on the world and people around you is the best way to avoid accidentally falling into the trance state. If this problem arises, my best advice is to take a break from all development exercises and meditation, especially trance work, for a few weeks.
During this break, concentrate on physical life and activity, catching up on your sleep, and doing all the odd jobs and visiting you have been putting off till later.