Altering our perception: a question of brain activity - The shamanic consciousness and world-view - The World of Shamanism

Shamanism Made Easy: Awaken and Develop the Shamanic Force Within - Christa Mackinnon 2018

Altering our perception: a question of brain activity
The shamanic consciousness and world-view
The World of Shamanism

To understand shamanism it is important to remember that shamanic work, whether contemporary or traditional, forms a bridge between energetic other realms and manifest reality. Much of the psycho-spiritual work of shamanism therefore relies on accessing those deeper realms and the beneficial forces within them. This requires altering our perception.

Altering our perception: a question of brain activity

There is nothing strange or magical about altering our perception — it is a natural function of the brain. All it requires is a shift away from the type of brain activity that dominates when we are awake and focused on perceiving and processing input from our environment. It can be a mild shift, such as when we daydream, meditate or create, or it can be profound, such as when our brain perceives a serious threat and goes into survival mode, or when we dream at night, or have a near-death experience (NDE).

Basic altered states of perception can be measured with electroencephalography (EEG), which gives us information about the number of brainwave cycles/rhythmic pulses we produce per second (on the Hertz scale):

· The beta state is the normal, outwardly focused state of an adult, with brainwaves oscillating roughly between 13 and 38 cycles per second.

· We exhibit brainwaves in the alpha frequency, about 8—12 cycles per second, when we relax, meditate, daydream, focus intently on a creative activity or perform a ceremony. This state is also known as the ’here and now’ state.

· Theta waves, 4—7 cycles per second, become dominant in ’twilight’ states, such as the ones we experience just before falling asleep, in very deep meditation or when we are lucid dreaming (when we are dreaming and know we are dreaming). They have also been measured during intense contemporary shamanic journeys.

· Delta waves, fewer than 4 cycles per second, are generated when we sleep. They have also been measured in ’death and rebirth’ rituals in shamanism.

Recently, via functioning magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans, we have also been able to observe which brain regions are active and which are less active when we alter our state. Research demonstrates that people who have been involved in meditation and similar spiritual practices over long periods of time, or have had extreme experiences such as NDEs, display positive changes in the brain that seem to be permanent.1

We also know that when we focus inwardly, we automatically increase the electronic activity in certain parts of our brain (e.g. memory parts and visual parts) whilst calming down the activity in other parts (e.g. parts that process information from our environment or ’logical thinking parts’).