In order to journey to the other dimensions of existence a Shaman induces an altered state of consciousness in himself similar to a state of self-hypnosis called a state of flow. While in this state of flow, or Shamanic Trance, he is in complete control. He is able to take his consciousness and subtle bodies into nonphysical reality where he visits the heavens and hells of existence, communicates with and controls spirits, gains information, retrieves souls, and makes subtle changes in reality which may affect the physical world.
Properties of the Shamanic altered state of consciousness are:
- There is a sense of egolessness. It is as if a person feels as if they are merging with people and objects around them. As if they are in a single state of consciousness.
- A distorted sense of time and space of time. There is a breakdown of normal boundaries. Intuition takes over in situations where a rational approach was the normal operating model.
- Extraordinary psychic and other mental powers.
- An intense and accurate sensitivity to the emotional states of others.
- A trance like state often called The State Of Flow.
In a state of flow, you feel as if you have actually become one with the activity you are focused on. You may lose track of your body, emotions, sense of time and even of your physical location. When you are giving everything you can to a particular vision or challenge, you become free of fear and anxiety. You have no room in your consciousness for boredom. Many people who function in this way speak of it as a “drug free high” that comes from the rhythm that seems to be part and parcel of working at this l00% level.
Many people relate to this to activities as simple as tying your shoes, to something more complicated such as driving a car. There is an “automatic pilot” effect. When tying your shoe, you JUST tie your shoe. When driving you know where you are going and you are driving effectively and safely and yet your mind is not intensely focused on the road. This is still attention to detail and focus, but it is different than intense concentration. It is not the type of concentration that creates great mental strain. The easiest way to describe “state of flow” is that you function at a level of excellence with ease .
The lighter trance states feel like those times when you are reading a book, or watching television or a movie, and are so engrossed that you are not aware of your surroundings. The deeper trances feel similar to how you feel when you are first waking up in the morning. You are aware that you are awake, your imagery is vivid and dreamlike, and you feel relaxed, calm, and good.
The ability to attain and control a trance is the result of cumulative conditioning and mental training.
A weight lifter trains himself by practicing daily. He begins by lifting relatively light weights and progresses to heavier and heavier ones. Eventually he is able to lift a 200 pound weight above his head with relative ease. By working in this manner he has trained his muscles to respond according to his will. After he has reached his goal he can maintain the ability by practicing only two or three times per week. If he stops practicing entirely his muscles will gradually loose their conditioning and strength and, after a time, he will no longer be able to lift the weight. By reestablishing a routine of practice he will bring his ability back to where it was.
This same principle applies to the trance state. You train your mind to respond in accordance with your will in order to produce the ability to develop a deep trance. This is done by daily practice. It may take some time and effort to establish that ability, but once you have it you will be able to maintain it by practicing only once or twice per week. If you stop practicing entirely your ability will gradually lessen. Like the weight lifter you will need to begin a more regular practice in order to reestablish your abilities.
When you go into any trance you gradually progress from ordinary consciousness into deeper levels. It’s convenient to have a means of measuring the depth of your trance, so the paragraphs that follow outline some of the symptoms found at various depths. For convenience sake I’ve divided the depths of trance into four major sections, and, using terms borrowed from the hypnotic sciences, called them the Hypnodial, Light, Medium, and Deep Trance states:
- Hypnodial Trance: You progress from ordinary consciousness through the following steps: feeling physically relaxed, drowsy, your mind becomes relaxed and you may feel apathetic or indifferent, your arms and legs start to feel heavy, you may have a tendency to stare blankly, and have a disinclination to move your limbs. As you border this and the Light Trance your breathing becomes slower and deeper, and your pulse rate slows.
- Light Trance: You progress to a reluctance to move, speak, think or act. You may experience some involuntary twitching of your mouth or jaw, and sometimes of the eyes. You will feel a heaviness throughout your entire body and a partial feeling of detachment. You may also experience visual illusions. As you border this and the Medium Trance you recognize that you are in a trance, but may find that feeling hard to describe.
- Medium Trance: You definitely recognize that you are in a trance and may experience partial amnesia unless you consciously choose not to. By giving yourself the proper suggestions you can make any part of your body insensitive to pain, and can experience the illusions of touching, tasting, and smelling. You will be more sensitive to variations in atmospheric pressure and temperature changes. As you border this and the Deep Trance you may experience complete catalepsy of your limbs or body. In other words, if your limbs or body positions are changed you will leave them in the new position until they are changed again.
- Deep Trance: You can have the ability to open your eyes without affecting the trance. You will also have the ability to control such body functions as heart beat, blood pressure, digestion, and body temperature. You can make your body and limbs completely rigid. You will be able to recall lost memories and experience age regression. Here you can vividly experience the sensation of lightness, floating, or flying. You can also experience both positive and negative visual and auditory hallucinations both while in the trance, and, if given the proper suggestions, after awakening from the trance state. (A positive hallucination is when you are told that you see something that is not there, and you see it. A negative hallucination is when you are told that you do not see something that is there, and you do not.) In this state you can also stimulate dreams and visions, both during the trance state and (upon proper suggestion) later in your natural sleep.
Each depth of trance has valuable uses. For example, in the Light and Medium Trances you can learn to begin practical Shamanic Journeying so that you can see, hear, touch and smell experiences in the worlds which border ours. In those trance states these journeys will feel similar to a fantasy or daydream and you may wonder if it is real, or just your imagination. As you train yourself to deepen the trance the journeys become more vivid, until, in the Deep Trance, they look and feel as though they are taking place in physical reality.
The above quote by John Bearwalker, in the last sentence, referring to a Shaman’s ability to fly, reads in part “…until, in the Deep Trance, they look and feel as though they are taking place in physical reality” with the emphasis on “look” and “feel.”
If you follow the Shamanic Journey as outlined in Zen, the Buddha, and Shamanism there is a relatively interesting tid-bit left unmentioned that is highly related. And that is when the Wanderling awakened the next morning in the trees there was actual in-reality beach sand gripped in the palm of his hand, yet the spot he was found was at least seven miles inland from any sandy beach and several thousand feet up the mountain. However, the night before sand was scooped on a pass over Lime Cay during the journey.
Such a phenomenon, that is, having something physical in your possession following a similar experience, is termed Apportation IF the experience did NOT transpire on the conventional plane as the Wanderling’s seems to have done. For a definition of Apportation and one person’s attempt to explain a like phenomenon as it transpired with her, see The White Stone. In the realm of things Zen, visit Do You Think Flying in the Sky Is Magical? by Venerable Master Hsing Yun.
Ellie Crystal writes:
“Shamanic Flight, is in most instances NOT an experience of an inner imaginary landscape, but IS the shamans’s flight beyond the limitations of the physical body.”
That is to say, NOT “a look and feel,” but actually taking place.