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Achieving Shamanic Consciousness

by Michael Drake

Shamanism is based on the principle that the spiritual world may be contacted through the inner senses in ecstatic trance. Shamanic consciousness is a term that's often used to refer to the state of mind into which shamans enter when they journey to reach another shamanic reality where the spirits dwell. This is done in order to gain wisdom, healing techniques, and other vital information that can benefit the community. To understand shamanic states of consciousness, it is necessary to first understand shamanic paradigm.

Shamanism represents a universal conceptual framework found among indigenous tribal humans. It includes the belief that the natural world has two aspects: ordinary everyday awareness, formed by our habitual behaviors, patterns of belief, social norms, and cultural conditioning, and a second non-ordinary awareness accessed through altered states, or trance, induced by shamanic practices such as rhythmic stimulation. This second-order awareness can be developed over time or appear all at once, but once it is discerned the world is never the same.

Simply put, shamanic consciousness integrates ordinary conscious awareness with the transcendent realm of the collective unconscious, the infinite creative matrix of all that we are and have ever been. Recent studies by some of the world's foremost scholars on shamanism reveal that the contemporary world still hungers for transcendent experiences because the shamanic narrative is hard-wired in us all. Study results demonstrate that the cross-cultural manifestations of shamanism and its contemporary appeal are rooted in innate functions of the brain, mind, and consciousness.

The Technology of Transcendence

The capacity to enter a trance or ecstatic state is a natural manifestation of human consciousness. Our journeying ability is part of our human heritage! The ability to enter trance states makes us a human -- not a shaman. What makes shamans unique is their mastery over an otherwise normal human trait. Traditionally, shamans used various techniques to induce trance, many of which would be considered harsh or undesirable by most people today. Examples include fasting, dehydration, sleep deprivation, and the use of hallucinogens.

Fortunately there are easier ways to achieve shamanic consciousness. Thanks to a new technology called binaural beats, you can now enter transcendent states of awareness by listening to binaural brainwave entrainment recordings. Binaural beats recordings are designed to stimulate the production of brainwaves associated with shamanic states of consciousness by presenting the brain with two tones close in frequency, one to each ear. The two hemispheres of the brain detect the difference between them as a third frequency, and then entrain to this binaural beat rather than the audible tones.

Brainwave entrainment synchronizes the two cerebral hemispheres, integrating conscious and unconscious awareness. The ability to access unconscious information through symbols and imagery facilitates psychological integration and a reintegration of self. In his book, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing, Michael Winkelman reports that brainwave entrainment also synchronizes the frontal and lower areas of the brain, integrating nonverbal information from lower brain structures into the frontal cortex, producing "feelings of insight, understanding, integration, certainty, conviction, and truth, which surpass ordinary understandings and tend to persist long after the experience, often providing foundational insights for religious and cultural traditions."

Try a Synthesized Binaural Beats Journey

My extensive research into brainwave entrainment technology culminated in a new digital recording to support the listener in making shamanic journeys. Created using software based synthesis and binaural technology, Shamanic Consciousness: Synthesized Binaural Beats Journey consists of a collection of evocative sounds combined with brainwave entrainment tones for inducing a 4.5 Hz theta brainwave cycle. Theta activity reflects the dreamlike state between wakefulness and sleep. Theta rhythms are associated with the deepest states of shamanic consciousness. Binaural beats can induce profoundly deep altered states within minutes and support the listener in making shamanic journeys. All you need is a pair of stereo headphones and a comfortable chair. The recording does the rest.

Beginning the Spirit Journey

The shamanic journey is a time-honored method of inner consultation. It is a way of communicating with your inner self and retrieving information. Your inner self is in constant communication with all aspects of your environment, seen and unseen. You need only journey within to find answers to your questions.

Begin your journey by sitting in a dimly lit space and wearing headphones. Reflect for a moment on the purpose of your journey, and then begin listening to the video. Focus your attention on the drifting soundscape, then close your eyes and feel yourself being carried away by the sounds. It will take a few minutes for brain waves to synchronize with the binaural beat. Once you enter a trance state, you may experience a change in body temperature, feel energy flowing through your body, or find yourself twitching or rocking. It is not uncommon to hear sounds or voices. You may see colorful patterns, symbolic images, or dreamlike visions.

When you hear the sound of the Tibetan bell callback, begin your return journey. Try to retrace the same route back; otherwise you might have trouble remembering the details of your journey. In some cases, your journey experiences will be clear and easy to understand. At other times, your journey may be dreamlike and full of symbolism. Interpret such journeys as you would any dream. Look for possible associations related to each symbol or image. The key is to observe whatever happens without trying to analyze the experience. Like developing any skill, journeying takes practice. Nothing may happen on your first journeys. You may only experience darkness. When this happens, simply try again at a different time. Step-by-step instructions for making shamanic journeys are explained in my book, The Shamanic Drum.

Download mp3 at CD Baby--Shamanic Consciousness: Synthesized Binaural Beats Journey, 16 min., $0.99.

Download mp3 at Amazon--Shamanic Consciousness: Synthesized Binaural Beats Journey, 16 min., $0.99.

Listen to a sample from Shamanic Consciousness: Synthesized Binaural Beats Journey

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