ENTERING AN ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS is key to many spiritual and wellness practices, including but definitely not limited to Shamanism.
Alpha states are the doorway to shamanic journeying.
When we enter this state, we are more open and receptive to energies outside of ourselves.
But what exactly does this mean? Our brain activity is measured in waves, and the frequency of these waves changes based on how alert or awake we are at any given moment.
If you are more alert, your brain waves emit at a higher frequency.
The less alert you are, the slower your brain waves, with the slowest being when you are in your deepest sleep.
The more you can lower your brain waves while remaining awake, the deeper the trance state you can access.
The unit of measure for brain waves is hertz, which is a measure of cycles per second.
When we are fully awake and alert, we are in a beta state, with brain waves measuring approximately 15 to 40 Hz.
In an alpha state, we are awake but more relaxed and receptive.
This happens at approximately 9 to 14 Hz. When our brain waves drop below 8 Hz, we enter a theta state, which usually indicates a deep trance, but can happen during daydreaming.
When we are in a deep sleep, we enter a delta state, with brain waves generally measuring between 1.5 and 4 Hz.
There are many ways to enter an alpha state, including mental exercises, breathing techniques, meditation, and more.
One popular technique for achieving an alpha state is square or box breathing, a technique that has been adopted so widely, it is used by Navy SEALs for stress reduction.
This method is based on very intentional and rhythmic breathing.
In Shamanism, the primary method for inducing an alpha state is through sonic driving. In a nutshell, sonic driving is the use of repetitive, rhythmic percussion, usually performed with a drum or a rattle.
The drumming performed for shamanic journeying includes different drumbeats that mark different moments in the journey.
We start off the journey with four rapid drumrolls.
In my training, these are four rapid drumrolls of four beats each, signaling a greeting to the four cardinal directions.
I have also seen a variation of the opening, with four drumrolls of seven beats.
After the opening drumbeats, we move into the main drumming, which runs for about 15 to 30 minutes.
This drumming should be rapid and repetitive.
In his teachings, Michael Harner recommends a drumbeat of approximately 205 to 220 beats per minute.
Jim PathFinder Ewing suggests approximately 180 beats per minute.
I have experimented with slower and faster beats and prefer to focus on a beat that “feels” right rather than counting beats.
If you find the drumbeat is pulling you out of a beta state and into a trance, then it is effective.
As you listen to different recordings, or live drumming if you have the opportunity, or even start experimenting with drumming yourself, you will discover your own preference.
Once the 15 to 30 minutes are up, the drummer signals to the journeyer that is it time to return to ordinary reality.
This is referred to as the callback.
The drummer stops the repetitive drumming, performs the same set of four drumrolls from the opening sequence, and immediately goes into very rapid repetitive drumming for about 30 to 60 seconds.
This should be fast, indicating that journeyers should retrace their steps back to Middle World.
The journey then ends with a final set of four drumrolls.
To many indigenous cultures, the drumbeat reflects the pulse of Mother Earth.
Drumming has been a part of human rituals for millennia and has the ability to reconnect us to our roots.
It is part of our ancestral knowledge, which has been passed down in our DNA. 7 ORDINARY AND NON-ORDINARY REALITY: WHAT IS JOURNEYI