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How You Can Produce a Profound Shamanic Trance

by Joseph Bearwalker Wilson


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. While in this shamanic trance he is in complete control; 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 affects the physical world.

There are many ways to produce this altered or shamanic state of consciousness. I've found that the preliminary instructions in this paper are excellent preparations for other methods as well. I will include some of those other methods in later papers.

The shamanic trance is similar to but not the same as a self induced hypnotic trance. A classical, and fairly accurate descriptive definition of hypnosis is "a condition or state of selective hypersuggestibility brought about in an individual through the use of certain specific psychological or physical manipulations of the individual." The key words here are "selective hypersuggestibility." A trained hypnotherapist uses that selective hypersuggestibility in order to help bring about desired changes in an individual. On the other hand a shaman uses that state in order to fine tune his senses so that he can see, feel, hear, and smell more vividly while traveling in the other worlds.

I believe that you can induce in yourself a state of trance, at will, quickly and easily. You already know what it feels like because you have already been in trance many times, such as those times when you are driving down the road and suddenly realize that you have driven miles without being aware of it; or are reading a book, or watching television or a movie, and are so engrossed that you are not aware of your surroundings. Those are states of trance. Some of the deeper states feel like 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. All that is necessary for you to go into a shamanic trance is to show you how to bring about that same state of consciousness at will instead of unintentionally. These instructions are only one way. There are others.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICE

The ability to attain a shamanic 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 shamanic trance. You must train your mind to respond in accordance with your will in order to produce the ability to instantly produce a deep shamanic 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.

Read this manual several times. Become thoroughly familiar with all of the principals that it contains. Then begin your training by applying what you have learned in a systematic and progressive manner. You will be pleased with your rapid progress.

MEASURING THE TRANCE

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. Even though you will produce a deep trance in yourself you will not necessarily experience each of the symptoms given. Likewise you won't necessarily be aware of the ones you do experience in the order they are given. For convenience sake I've divided the depths of trance into four major sections of ten levels each, and, using terms borrowed from the hypnotic sciences, called them the Hypnodial, Light, Medium, and Deep trance states.

In the Hypnodial Trance (levels 1 through 10) 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.

In the Light Trance (levels 11 through 20) 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.

In the Medium Trance (levels 21 through 30) 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.

In the Deep Trance (levels 31 through 40) 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 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.

Although there are other signs and symptoms of each level of trance, the above are all that are necessary for our work.

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.

USING SUGGESTION TO ENTER TRANCE

Several years ago it was noticed that the feelings of relaxation, heaviness, and warmth occurred (in that order) in people just before they went to sleep, and just before they entered a hypnotic trance. Experiments showed that by producing these feelings by suggestion one could bring about the hypnotic or deeply relaxed state.

We are all aware of normal feelings of relaxation. The feeling of heaviness that you experience is actually a deeper muscular relaxation, and the feelings of warmth are even deeper relaxation, called vasorelaxation. This is the relaxation of your capillaries that allows more blood to flow, and thus creates the feeling of warmth.

The rules that follow will help you create the feelings of relaxation that are used in this form of self-induced trance. If you become thoroughly familiar with them you will have no trouble.

The suggestions you use on yourself should be more than words. They should be vividly imagined; incorporating as many of your senses (vision, sound, touch, emotion, and so forth) as you can.

All of the suggestions that you give yourself should be phrased in a positive manner. For example, if you want to induce a state of calm and peacefulness your suggestion might be, "I am getting more and more calm" or "I am at peace." As you repeat this suggestion to yourself you would imagine yourself being completely at peace, in some calm situation. The suggestion you use should not resemble the phrase, "I am not nervous." That type of suggestion is negative. It will cause your subconscious mind to imagine yourself in a nervous situation, rather than a calm, peaceful one. The subconscious mind grasps the most important word in a sentence. In the phrase, "I am not nervous," the subconscious mind picks up the word "nervous" giving it the greatest emphasis. If you say, "I am at peace," your mind stresses the word "peace."

All suggestions should be given to yourself in a passive manner. You should avoid conscious effort. This is what is called effortless concentration. Effortless concentration, in the words of an East Indian tradition, "smoothes the waves of the mind," thus aiding you to get into a deeply relaxed state. Nervousness results when the mind is jumping from one thing, or one subject, to another. When you concentrate on one thing, no matter how insignificant, your mind is soothed.

When you give yourself suggestions you should imagine the conditions under which the desired effects would normally take place. For example, if you give yourself the suggestion, "My right hand is warm," you would imagine the hand being warmed by the hot rays of the summer sun, being submerged in a nice warm pan of water, wrapped in an electric blanket, or perhaps even being warmed before a comfortable fire in the fireplace. For cold you might imagine the hand holding a snowball. Exactly which visualization you use is up to you. Once you choose a particular visualization to create the desired effect you should use the same one each time you practice. Don't switch back and forth between warm electric blankets and fireplaces.

Your visualizations should flow like a steady stream of film. In other words, you daydream as if you are watching a movie of your hand in a basin of warm water or whatever it's warm situation is. The more vivid your mental images are, the stronger will be the effect. Likewise, the more you practice, the more vivid your mental images will become. See my paper on How You Can Develop a Powerful Shamanic Mind for aids to developing vivid mental images.

The suggestions you use should be repeated like a mantra. For example, when you produce warmth in your right hand the suggestion would be, "My right hand is warm. My right hand is warm. My right hand is warm. Etc." This type of suggestion should be repeated for approximately 60 to 90 seconds before you move on to another part of the body.

You should first strive to produce the required feeling in the particular part of the body, and then strive to produce that feeling more and more quickly. Eventually the results will be instantaneous.

You need to learn to establish mental contact with each part of your body. Some people will find this easy; others somewhat more difficult, but everyone will be able to do it. To do so, follow this procedure. Close your eyes and visualize your right hand. Mentally feel your right hand as completely as possible. If it is difficult for you to establish mental contact in this manner; keep your eyes closed and touch your right hand with your left. Caress it and feel the sensations. Then remove your left and continue to feel the sensations left by the touching. In this manner you have established mental contact. This is also a good exercise to help you to develop the skill of vivid visualization or imagination.

When you give yourself suggestions simply observe the effect on your body. Cooperate with yourself by allowing the suggestions to produce results without resistance.

The method described here creates the deeply relaxed trance state in a progressive manner. Initially the suggestions will correspond to the physiological results that you expect to produce. The pattern you will use is designed to first establish a feeling of relaxation; second, a feeling of heaviness; and third, a feeling of warmth. By following this pattern you will increase the total relaxation of your body and mind.

In order to familiarize yourself with the feelings you will be creating mentally, you should first experience the feelings physically. This will allow your mind to reproduce the feelings by memory and make your mental results appear more quickly.

For physical relaxation you might first tense the muscles you want to relax, observe the tension, and then relax them and let your mind dwell on the feeling of relaxation that occurs after tension.

For heaviness you might put the appropriate part of your body under a pile of heavy blankets; or if you are at a sandy beach, bury yourself in sand and feel the heaviness that way.

For warmth, actually warm the various parts of your body using a warm bath, electric blanket, heating pad, hot water bottle, or fire place.

These methods will also help you to establish mental contact with the parts of the body you are affecting.

You should use this familiarization method only once or twice to establish the memory pattern, and then use only the suggestion method.

BEGINNING PRACTICES

Before you begin your training you must first find an appropriate place. This should be a quiet room, with reduced lighting. Next you should remove or loosen all restrictive clothing, and lie down. Your legs should be slightly apart and relaxed, with some support under the knees. Use a comfortable pillow to support your head. Your arms should lie relaxed and slightly bent beside your trunk. Your fingers should be slightly spread apart and flexed, not touching the trunk.

Laying in that comfortable position repeat several times to yourself the formula, "As I practice these exercises I will go deeper and deeper into the trance state. Although I am going into the trance state I will remain aware of everything that I say and do. When I return to normal consciousness. I will remember clearly and completely everything that I have experienced." This formula will counter the effect of falling asleep or not remembering that some people experience when starting to practice these techniques.

RELAXATION

Now, produce in yourself a feeling of physical relaxation by consciously relaxing yourself. To do this, establish mental contact with your right hand (left if left handed) by visualizing and mentally feeling it according to the method given in the previous chapter. Now imagine your right hand relaxing. Keep visualizing this and mentally repeat the words "My right hand is relaxing." for 60 to 90 seconds or until you feel your hand relaxing, whichever is sooner.

If you have difficulty mentally feeling your hand relaxing, tighten your hand into a fist as tight as you can, direct all of your attention into your fist, then release the tension and feel the hand relaxing. Let your mind dwell on the feeling of relaxation in that hand, and mentally repeat, "My right hand is relaxing." several times. You should use this muscle tightening and relaxing technique only if absolutely necessary, and then only once or twice in your early training. If you continue to use it you may create a psychological "set:" making the technique necessary before entering trance. This is time consuming and detrimental to your goal of producing the trance state in the shortest possible time.

Practice this exercise two or three times per day until you produce the feeling of heaviness in your right hand. After you have produced a feeling of relaxation in your right hand proceed to each part of your body in the order I have listed below. Do not continue to any formula until you have produced the feeling of relaxation, at least slightly, by the formula preceding it. Produce relaxation in each part of your body until you can do your entire body in one session.

The order and appropriate formulas are:
"My right hand is relaxing."
"My right arm is relaxing."
"My left hand is relaxing."
"My left arm is relaxing."
"My right foot is relaxing."
"My right leg is relaxing."
"My left foot is relaxing."
"My left leg is relaxing."
"My back and neck are relaxing."
Now, reinforce the feelings of relaxation with the formulas:
"My hands and arms are relaxing."
"My feet and legs are relaxing."
"My entire body is relaxing."
Each time you do this exercise make it a goal to reduce the time it takes you to relax. Soon you will be able to produce complete body relaxation using only one repetition of the last three formulas.

HEAVINESS

The next step is to produce a feeling of heaviness in the same way you produced relaxation.

First, relax yourself thoroughly by using all of the relaxing formulas above. Then, reestablish mental contact with your dominate hand. Now mentally feel your hand being heavy. If you familiarized yourself with the feeling of heaviness by putting your hand under a pile of heavy blankets or burying it in sand you would now imagine your hand being in that situation.

Keep this visualization and mentally repeat the words, "My right hand is heavy." for 60 to 90 seconds or until you feel your hand becoming heavy, whichever is sooner. Don't be discouraged if you don't feel the heaviness immediately. Practice this exercise two or three times per day until you produce the feeling of heaviness in your right hand, then go on to the next part of your body. Produce heaviness in each part of your body mentioned below in that order, until you can produce heaviness in your entire body in one session.

The order and appropriate formulas are:
"My right hand is heavy."
"My right arm is heavy."
"My left hand is heavy."
"My left arm is heavy."
"My right foot is heavy."
"My right leg is heavy."
"My left foot is heavy."
"My left leg is heavy."
"My back and neck are heavy."
Now, reinforce the feelings of heaviness with the formulas:
"My hands and arms are heavy."
"My feet and legs are heavy."
"My entire body is heavy."
During your practice you may notice that various parts of your body spontaneously become heavy as you repeat one of the formulas. For example, as you repeat the formula, "My right arm is heavy," you may also feel your left arm becoming heavy. This is a good sign of rapid development. You may also spontaneously feel warmth in various parts of your body while working on a formula of heaviness. Soon you will find that you can produce the feeling of heaviness in your entire body with only the last three formulas.

WARMTH

After you have produced the feeling of heaviness in your body you may begin with the formulas for producing warmth. The method is identical, except for the visualizations. Here the visualizations are of the various parts of your body being in a warm situation.

The order and appropriate formulas are:
"My right hand is warm."
"My right arm is warm."
"My left hand is warm."
"My left arm is warm."
"My right foot is warm."
"My right leg is warm."
"My left foot is warm."
"My left leg is warm."
"My back and neck are warm."
Now, reinforce the feelings of warmth with the formulas:
"My hands and arms are warm."
"My feet and legs are warm."
"My entire body is warm."
At this point you may also include the formula, "My solar plexus is warm." The solar plexus, composed of neuroid matter like the brain, is located just behind the stomach. You may familiarize yourself with the feeling of warmth in that area by laying your hand, or a heating pad, on your stomach just below your rib cage. The solar plexus controls such emotions as love, calmness, good moods, and joy. When you produce a feeling of warmth in that area you stimulate an overall good emotional feeling.

Again you may notice spontaneous feelings of warmth in various parts of your body in addition to the ones which are the object of your concentration. This is a sign of rapid development of the necessary abilities.

Much sooner than you think you will be able to produce the required feelings instantly, simply by visualizing and thinking the appropriate formulas, "My entire body is relaxed," "My entire body is heavy," "and "My entire body is warm."

BREATHING AND HEARTBEAT

After you have produced the feeling of warmth in your entire body the next step is to concentrate on the function of breathing and heartbeat. This control produces further feelings of peace and relaxation.

First go through the formulas producing relaxation, heaviness, and warmth. Then establish mental contact with your chest and lungs, and suggest to yourself:
"My breathing is calm and regular."
Of course you should use the appropriate visualization.

When this step is completed and good results are noted, visualize your heart beating slowly and regularly, and use the formula:
"My heart beats slowly and regularly."
You will notice that very soon you are aware of a very peaceful, slow heart beat.

After this step the formula is:
"I feel at peace."
and after that,
"My forehead feels cool."
Before using this last formula you may want to familiarize yourself with a cool feeling in that area by placing a cold wash cloth on your forehead.

YOUR INTERNAL TIME MECHANISM

When you have reached this point you will be able to do a variety of things; such as use your body's time mechanism. To practice this start with experiments in waking up at a specific time.

Before you do this experiment, and all of the following ones, you must progressively produce the feelings of relaxation, heaviness, warmth, calm and regular breathing, slow and steady heartbeat, peace, and coolness in the forehead. Doing this effectively places you in a trance state.

Select a time at which you wish to wake up. For this example, lets say you selected 6:00 AM. Your formula in this case would be "Tomorrow morning I will wake up at 6:00 AM." After producing coolness in the forehead, repeat the formula for about 60 to 90 seconds while you visualize a clock reading 6:00 AM. Visualize yourself waking up in the morning, looking at the clock, and seeing that the hour is indeed 6:00 AM. Imagine yourself getting up, feeling good, rested, refreshed, and proud that you awoke successfully at 6:00 AM. Imagine that the accomplishment brings a feeling of joy as all successful accomplishments should. When you first start this experiment you should continue to set your alarm clock as a safeguard , but for five minutes later to give yourself a chance. Soon you will discover that you no longer need it.

You may also use this time mechanism in shamanic work. For example, a day or two before you plan a ceremony or journey produce the deeply relaxed state, then give yourself a suggestion something like, "Tomorrow at 9:00 PM I will do a ceremony. I will do an excellent job. When I call the spirits they will really appear. I will visualize clearly and completely the results that I desire." While repeating this formula several times visualize yourself performing the ceremony at the planned time, calling the spirits and seeing them appear in front of you, and seeing actually happen all of the results that you want from the ritual. Formulas of that nature will set the time mechanism of your body to make use of your shamanic powers at the right time.

The same technique can be applied to all areas of your daily life such as accomplishing a job, giving a speech, applying for employment, giving an interview, or anything else that you would like.

DEEPENING THE TRANCE

After you have learned to use your body's time mechanism you will have proved to yourself that you can put yourself into a trance and produce results. The next step is to deepen this state.

After you have created coolness in your forehead, take the following experiments in order. In each of them you will first let your subconscious choose what you will see, and then direct your subconscious to show you specifics. Start with colors.

COLORS

After you have created coolness in your forehead, repeat the formula, "I see a color," until you see a color of some sort in your minds eye. After that happens, change the general formula to a specific one such as, "I see red." and repeat it until that color appears in your mind. Then change to other specific colors such as blue, yellow, green or any other one you want. Initially you may get a mixture of colors along with the one you specified, but with practice you will be able to see only those which you named. This is a deeper level of trance than that which you created by the relaxation exercises alone.

OBJECTS

Now that you can visualize specific colors by using the appropriate formula you may proceed to concrete objects. As with colors, first let your subconscious choose what object you will see by using the general formula: "I see an object." Repeat this formula until you see some object in your minds eye. When you see whatever it is that your subconscious chose, change the formula to something specific, such as a car. The formula would then be, "I see a car." After the image of a car appears in your mind, change the formula to a variety of other common objects such as a table, chair, couch, house, or any other neutral object you choose. After you have done this with several neutral objects change the formula to objects that have some meaning for you personally, such as your car. The formula would be, "I see my car.", or table, chair, statue, drum, rattle, feathers, and so forth. By following these exercises you will have deepened your trance state even more.

PEOPLE

After you are proficient with objects you may progress to the visualizations of people. Again let your subconscious decide what person you will visualize by using the general formula, "I see a person." Repeat this formula until your subconscious chooses a person for you to see in your minds eye. When you can see an unspecified person by using this formula, change it to direct your subconscious to someone specific. Start with a neutral person, someone you know, but to whom you do not have an emotional attachment. Such a formula would be something like, "I see my letter carrier." (or waiter, or car wash attendant, or retail clerk, and so forth.) Perform this experiment with a variety of neutral people until you can see each of them in your minds eye after using the appropriate formula. After you can produce visions of a variety of neutral people, proceed to people you like. Now your formula will be something like "I see my husband," or "I see my wife." Again practice with a variety of people you like such as mother, father, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, priest, priestess or anyone else you life. This deepens your trance state even more.

EMOTIONS

With practice you will find yourself in an extremely deep trance state where you will be able to produce vivid three dimensional solid effects. In this deep trance state you can also consciously develop emotions, creating lasting positive feelings such as good moods, calmness, joy, sexual arousal, happiness and so forth. You need to be cautious here because negative emotional states such as anxiety, anger, fear, depression, hatred can also be developed in this state. I recommend working on changing these emotions only under the guidance of a licensed clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Lack of experience and knowledge can cause lasting harmful effects.

RETURNING TO NORMAL CONSCIOUSNESS

Any time you are practicing these exercises and want to return to normal consciousness all that is necessary is to imagine yourself gradually returning to normal awareness, retaining full memory of everything you have experienced.

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