by Ivan Granger
The word "trance" immediately conjures a variety of images, from mindlessly shuffling zombies to shamans wild with ecstatic vision to blissfully meditation yogis. What is trance, really? Trance, at its core, is our perception of reality, but at a very deep level.
The most common misunderstanding about trance is the assumption that it is other than our normal day-to-day awareness, that it is an altered state of awareness.
The truth is that we are always in trance, but most of the time we are in the mass trance of consensus reality. We tend to operate within an unconsciously agreed to cultural perception of reality that we are introduced to in infancy, initiated into during early childhood, and confirmed in during adolescence. The shades of this default trance state vary slightly from culture to culture, but the variations are becoming less distinct under the unifying power of mass communication and world travel.
Spend an afternoon sitting on a bench in a shopping mall and watch the people go by. What do you see? A family rushing to catch a movie. Some teenagers laughing and whispering. A business woman with purposeful stride and eyes straight ahead. Just let the panorama of people go by and really watch them, their expressions, movements and tones of voice.
Without judgment, what can you tell about their trance states? After an hour or so, you've probably cataloged a lot of states, but spend a while longer and you'll start to recognize that you're really just watching many slight variations of the dominant trance -- consensus reality. Most aren't really interacting with reality in fundamentally different ways. It is as if the people you are watching have their minds tuned to the same octave but are playing slightly different notes with varying degrees of skill.
Although this consensus trance has long since become habit, it is actually a lot of work to maintain. We use subtle trance inducing techniques all the time. How many fast food restaurant jingles play through your head? How often do you catch your thoughts racing around, chattering in high-speed circles? Some people spend hours running these trance inducing exercises without even recognizing it. Some people spend lifetimes.
But the human mind, your mind, is capable of tuning itself to higher and higher octaves. The obvious question is, how? A simple way we do it all the time is through sleep and dreaming. When you go to sleep you don't stop perceiving or interacting with that perceived reality. But there is no doubt that your way of perceiving, what you perceive, has radically shifted. When you go to sleep, you are leaving behind the standard consensus trance and entering a more personal dream trance. Pay attention to your dream states, especially the point at which your consciousness shifts -- just on the edge of sleep -- and you will discover a lot about trance.
Another trance shifting technique people play with is the use of narcotics. Let me be blunt: This is extremely dangerous and, for most people, self-destructive. Yes, mind-altering substances can induce significant shifts in trance states. The danger is that just as the resonance or octave of your trance state can rise, without balance or healthy intention it can also fall -- and drugs require no balance and little intention. Then there is the problem of externalizing your power. Every single soul has the God-given power to direct its perception and interaction with reality, but resorting to external substances to accomplish this task saps the will. It cultivates the belief that a particular substance is necessary to attain a particular trance state. Drug use to experience altered reality cultivates imbalanced trance states and the belief that our reality is incomplete without taking these substances.
A significant part of the spiritual path is recognizing and understanding trance states and learning how to direct them with balance, patience, always toward the more divine octaves of perception. Different traditions may use different language to describe this, but they all stress the importance of attention and digging beneath the crust of surface awareness. As you pay attention to this, you will discover that most of life is the shifting from one trance state to another. The more we learn to do this with intention, even in simple ways, the more we cultivate the ability to do this in more profound ways.
As we trance-form, we transform. With each transformation, we perceive our environment, our world, our reality in new ways. And we see ourselves in new ways as a result.
The problem is that we've become habituated to a handful of trance states
within a relatively low octave of perceived reality. But we can strive
toward the higher trances as experienced by the masters, saints and sages
of all times. We must simply choose our direction and . . . transform!
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