As a shamanic practitioner, I wish to understand trance and look to history for inspiration. I look towards those ancestors who lived before agriculture, the hunter gatherers. A time when shamanism was synonymous with everyday life. For thousands and thousands of years, humans have appreciated that there’s another state, another experience available within the human sphere, beyond our physical expression, and it happens during trance.
Trance is a part of our lives even today, but we rationalise it as something ‘other’. To our forebears it was as real as what we call ‘normal’ everyday life. They saw how powerful this state of consciousness is, they understood the possibilities and embraced it.
I’m especially interested in learning how to intensify the trance state in today’s world without the aid of hallucinogens. I’ve realised there are numerous ways we can go deep into trance, especially when we layer the methods.
Breathing is a hugely fundamental tool, as is repetitive percussive sound at about four beats per second. These are my usual techniques when I’m doing shamanic work. Another layer is sensory deprivation, wearing gear that renders us unable to see or hear. Of course, if we are free-floating in a large tank of salt water in the dark, that’s going to do it, but that’s too impractical for the most part, so I’ll give that a miss since my bath isn’t big enough.
The shamanic trance intensive retreat kicks off with a vision quest, a powerful way to induce trance in itself. One of the ways it does this is to induce a state of fear. The idea is spending anything from a night to five days and nights alone, without human contact, with little or no food and only water to drink, with no comforts and staying awake the whole time, in a state of meditation and contemplation. Staying with ourselves. And that’s the scariest bit, having nothing to distract us from ourselves. We live in a world where there’s so much to fill us up so that we’re not having to be with ourselves, TV, radio, music, books, phone, computer, social life, activities, food, alcohol. We keep ourselves engaged to avoid having too much emptiness when who-knows-what can emerge from within us. Vision quest is all about being with ourselves good and proper. And that’s something that can take us into trance. Some crazy things happened to me on my first vision quest, things like hearing the rain make melodious music and feeling a lot of presences with me.
Sweatlodge is all about breathing and heat and fire. Sweatlodge is ceremonial. Ritual and ceremony are also trance-inducing through the power of repetition, focus and building the intensity of the energy. Sweatlodge is a purifying experience but also brings us into a deeper state of consciousness. Like vision quest, sweatlodge induces increased levels of fear because it can be difficult to breathe and manage the heat and one can feel trapped in a small space. The heat can be challenging and along with possible dehydration, it’s easy to find oneself becoming dizzy and light-headed. Trance-invoking percussive sound and chanting are also used during sweatlodge.
Trance dancing and drumming in a repetitive rhythm around a fire is a powerful experience, especially at night. Group shamanic trance dances always induce deep and profound trance states and are ideal for undergoing shamanic journeys.
Finally, I’m learning currently about postures and what they contribute towards shamanic trance experience. It was back in 2018 at a London workshop that I first found myself working with movement during meditations, activations and journeys. I’ve found correlations from a number of sources that endorse either body movements or postures during meditation or journeying to create a potent focus and energetic alignment for a particular purpose. This work can create powerful and intensive trance states and I intend to write a more detailed post on the subject in the future.
The intention of trance is to achieve as deep a state of consciousness as possible, in order to open oneself up to the non-physical world. In doing so, it’s possible to really boost one’s capacity to experience otherworld reality and beings. An even stronger connection with ones’ spirit guides is reached. That’s why the trance intensive retreat spends several days creating deep trance states, so that participants can intensify their connection with elemental and nature beings such as tree and plant spirits, landscape guardians and the energies of earth, air, fire and water. These beings don’t exist at a physical level and therefore we can’t communicate with them that way. They exist at the emotional energy level and by inducing a non-physical energy stance, we are able to experience and communicate with these and other beings. Nature beings and elementals are teachers and have gifts to give. Where plants are concerned, this is paramount for healing. Where elementals are concerned this is a way to achieve healing, balance and harmony for humanity and planet Earth.