Altered States

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Our consciousness, what we are aware of and with, is an ever changing flow.

Whether we chose to or not, our conscious awareness varies during the day. Some of the most obvious changes we experience are those of waking and sleeping. We also have dreaming and day-dreaming states which we’re familiar with.

When measuring the electrical activity of our brains, there are several distinct rhythms which correspond with our conscious sense. These are labeled Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta.

The Beta state is ‘normal’ everyday state, where we’re regarded as fully conscious of our body, thoughts, time, environment etc.

I emphasis the word normal, as in terms of consciouness this is a relative term, depending on your perspective.

When we relax and close our eyes, we enter a light meditative state where our brain wave rhythm slows down to a state called Alpha.

A third and deeper, half-awake / half-asleep state is known as a Theta state. Here the brain’s rhythms have slowed further, we are somewhat conscious but our body is immobile.

Deeper still is our fully asleep state, known as Delta. In this state we are largely unconscious, our bodies are immobile.

Exploring and moving around these mental states of conscious is very much the aim of techniques such as meditation, hypnosis and shamanic practices.

Indeed, you could say that one of the aims of these practices, is to stay conscious whilst diving into the unconscious aspects of our being. This is the level of symbolism, intuition and mystical experiences.

Some of the applications of this are to discover more about ourselves, in a theapeutic context to change an unwanted habit and in a creative process to stimulate our imagination and creative faculty.

Another way of thinking of consciouness is by the level of being which we are dominantly aware of, or coming from. There are different views on this, but one possible model is to consider ourselves as body, emotions, intellect, soul and spirit. We have the potential to access all of these levels of consciouness.

These are very much an holistic whole, however where we are focused can differ greatly during each day, and especially during the different phases of our lifetime.

Where we are coming from, in terms of body, emotions, intellect, soul and spirit, ties in very closely with who or what we think we are, and this in turn will have a powerful effect on our behaviour, attitudes, value systems etc.

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