We human beings spend most of our lives awake in a common state of consciousness, because most of our humanity understands that it is the “normal” state, but advances in science show that our brain produces its own substances, vehicles to change the mind.
I understand that the search for different states of consciousness is part of human nature. We can observe this in children, in the games of spinning until they are dizzy, when they try to hold their breath, etc.
I believe that the human being is a searcher for experiences, some seek to face the dangers of nature, in religious ecstasy, in extreme sports, in sex, in dances, in music, in sports. The same is true in psychedelic experiences, with permitted drugs like alcohol, with meditation practices. It is a legitimate part of the human condition
The altered states of consciousness in shamanism, which here I prefer to call * Sacred States of Consciousness *, involve not only trance, but the ability to travel in unusual reality with the aim of meeting animal spirits, plants, mentors, gain insights, for cures, etc. These include out-of-body experiences, shape-shifting, transformation into animals, time travel (past or future).
Altered states of consciousness include varying degrees; Stanley Kryppner even classifies several different states of consciousness. It is through these states that we are able to connect with our myths, symbols, our inner truth. We have managed to expand our perception to the mysteries that are kept within ourselves. We learn to feel, see and hear the energy.
We reconnect with the Sacred and with the creative source of everything that happens to us, we reach deep levels of our being.
Eliade speaks of ecstasy, Castañeda of nagual. Nirvana, samadhi, alpha, trance, satori, cosmic consciousness, supraconsciousness, and other names, for the same manifestation.
Shamans understand the connection of body, soul and mind, in a sacred, spiritual way. The shaman's work has a therapeutic effect in inducing altered states of consciousness and creating images that communicate with tissues and organs, and even cells to promote changes.
There are several techniques or rituals to reach deeper states of consciousness, among them: drums, dances, fasts, power plants, breaths, body postures, and others. Through these sacred states we reach a divine experience, we access a source of Higher Wisdom, we heal our bodies, we know ourselves better through visions, we expand our consciousness.
Michael Harner in his book The Way of the Shaman,, calls the altered state of consciousness (EAC), as the Shamanic State of Consciousness (EXC). He compares the EXC and the Common State of Consciousness (ECC), to what Castaneda called "Unusual Reality and Common Reality".
Harner exemplifies the difference between these states, through animals, dragons, griffins and other animals that we would consider mythical when we are in ECC, but that are “real” when we are in EXC
Carlos Castañeda narrated a universe that was one and at the same time double: the tonal and the nagual. The tonal represents everything we capture and perceive daily, the ordinary world.
The nagual is what exists, but we are rarely able to perceive it, it is the non-ordinary or extraordinary world, the realm of the unknown. The nagual cannot be perceived rationally. It is the sensation that goes beyond reason, making any kind of questioning irrelevant. Whether it's true or not!
“Dreaming”, which was referred to by Castañeda, is the synthesis of art that he learned from don Juan Matus. It means crossing the limits of everyday perception, penetrating the tonal and nagual layers, being able to fly leaving the body still.
The ways of shamanism are, above all, spiritual. Shamanic practice includes the ability to enter and leave altered states. In shamanism, the disease is considered to originate in the spiritual world. The greatest attention is not paid to the symptoms, or the disease itself, but the loss of personal power that allowed the disease to invade.
Feelings, thoughts and images can actually cause the release of chemicals. A chemical balance is essential for maintaining health. Images and visions are used as instruments to restructure the meaning of a situation, so that it ceases to create suffering.
The images transmit messages understood by the immune system. They link conscious thoughts to white blood cells. Health is being in harmony with the worldview. It is an intuitive perception of the Universe and All Its Relationships.
In shamanism we learn to communicate with animals, plants, stars and minerals, we know death and life and we see no difference between them. We expand beyond the ordinary state of consciousness to experience the vibrations of the Universe.