Sometimes we must lose our mind in order to change our mind. Thus we naturally seek altered states because we naturally seek healing. It is in altered states of consciousness that healing and transformation may occur.
Altered states of consciousness involve moving from logical, rational, cognitive thinking to a instinctual, creative, imaginative, and intuitive receiving. In an altered state of consciousness we may access and dwell in the unconscious or the collective realms. Altered states of consciousness are induced by things like chanting, drumming, dancing, running, psychedelic plants, the nighttime dreaming, giving birth and dying.
We initiate altered states when we activate the limbic brain by rhythmical activity. Rhythm, we can then see, is pretty essential to human well-being. In my doctorate research, I discovered that children who are diagnosed with ADHD are rhythm seekers. And it is rhythm that naturally makes their condition better.
Altered states of consciousness are conducive to both psychological and physical healing. When we go into an altered state, we are able to to effectively change a subconscious imprint or unconscious belief. For example, by repeating mantras, we permeate the barrier of the conscious mind, giving us access to what lay underneath or even what lay outside of.
Altered states are needed in healing because the conscious mind often does not have the kind of power needed to change things, as behavior is typically driven by the unconscious and by emotions. When we push the small, limited and fixed conscious mind out of the way, even briefly, we create room for the hidden or masked to take center stage. We make room for something grander, all-encompassing, expansive, mystical and inclusive.
As a psychologist, I can tell you that it is the mind that can get in the way of healing. Changing our mind about something may not always be easy, but is a healing step. Sometimes thoughts and beliefs are not serving us, however, they have become rigid, established, and well trodden, repeating themselves like a broken record. In therapy we aim to loosen and shaken them a little bit, unleashing their hold, and freeing the mind to romp and play in a space which is actually more beautiful and happier.
Altered states of consciousness play a major role in our original medicine, by shamans and traditional healers around the world. Fortunately one can still enter a Native American prayer lodge, visit a Peruvian shaman for peyote ceremony, or go out to an ecstatic kirtan on a Friday night. We also have contemporary methods in our day to day psychotherapy practices for entering altered states.
These practices include some of our mind body therapies. The mind body therapies which we will use allow for the expression of the unconscious, and in essence, unraveling and unveiling of the unconscious into conscious awareness. We too can enter the altered state to give voice to the unconscious. When the unconscious enters into the territory of consciousness, then we encounter real metamorphosis and profound healing.