In this blog:
- Why we alter our level of consciousness
- How we alter our level of consciousness
- Conscious, subconscious, and unconscious minds
- An overview of brain rhythms
- How to find what works for you
- Beware of the false guru
- My personal journey
- Final word
Why we alter our level of consciousness
Our level of consciousness naturally changes throughout the day as we cycle through different brain rhythms. However, humans have engaged in a wide range of practices to deliberately alter their level of consciousness throughout the ages. This may have been done as a part of a ceremony, celebration, rites of passage, shamanic, or spiritual work. Much of this has been lost in modern western society but past practices have begun to regain interest and popularity in recent times. Every day, many of us engage in various practices to alter our consciousness for different reasons. From students and shift workers trying to stay awake when their natural body and brain rhythm is telling them it is time to rest, to those who seek calm and relief from stress, anxiety, panic, or hectic ‘switched on’ lives. For many the aim of altering consciousness is to increase wellbeing, to connect to a deeper, spiritual aspect within ourselves, or personal development. I believe our desire to alter our consciousness stems from our inherent need for a greater connection to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us. For some who may feel drawn to alter their consciousness it can manifest in unhealthy and unsatisfying ways such as regular binge drinking or illicit drug use.
How we alter our level of consciousness
The following list is not exhaustive, it is an example of practices and methods we may engage with to alter our level of consciousness.
- Hypnotic trance
- Binaural beats
- Sound (bowls, drumming)
- Breath work
- Healing modalities (Reiki, Pranic Healing, etc.)
- Sensory deprivation (Pratyahara, the 5th element of Patanjali’s 8 limbs, also known as the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses)
- Time spent in nature
The above methods can be practiced free from any spiritual connections, or they may be undertaken as part of a spiritual/religious practice. Often these methods are combined or practised simultaneously. Retreats are often held in or close to nature and can include any number or combination of practices. There is a rich abundance of knowledgeable and gifted practitioners around us, and we have access to information at the tip of our fingers through our devices. How wonderful is that! Everyone’s journey may be different, there is no one way that will resonate or work for everyone and there is no one way or practice that is better than another.
Conscious, Subconscious, and Unconscious Minds
Our conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind can work in wonderful harmony. However, sometimes they disagree, and it can feel as though we are fighting with ourselves. Altering our level of consciousness can assist us to gain greater understanding of who we are, make changes at a deeper level, and it can be profoundly healing when done appropriately. When attempting to implement a decision you have made consciously to change something when the subconscious mind is continuing to apply old habits, behaviours, and beliefs can be challenging. Altering our level of consciousness can provide us with the opportunity to integrate all parts of ourselves, to learn acceptance of our different facets, and offer access to deeper knowledge.
THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND: Carl Jung discussed our collective unconscious, information that is universally shared. Genetically inherited information including deep beliefs, instincts, and ancestral knowledge. Archetypes, symbols, imagery, are passed down from our ancestors through the unconscious.
THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND: The subconscious mind is memories, behaviours, emotions, intuition. Its language is metaphoric and symbolic. Time is less relevant to the subconscious mind than the conscious mind. That’s why you may have a vivid memory from many years ago that feels like it happened yesterday, but something you perceive as unimportant that isn’t attached to any emotion that happened more recently is vague.
THE CONSCIOUS MIND: The conscious mind is logical, rational, now oriented.
An Overview of the Brain rhythms
Our brain cycles through various brain rhythms throughout a 24-hour period. We move through different cycles through the day and night, perhaps most noticeably when our brain rhythm slows at the end of our day as we move towards sleep, or when we are waking up. When you want to alter your level of consciousness, it involves engaging with a practice that will help you to achieve this on purpose, instead of waiting for your brain to alter into a different state spontaneously. Each brain wave is suited to certain activities, and all are equally important to our wellbeing and functioning. Many issues can arise from our modern lifestyle that interferes with our natural brain waves. Alcohol, various sleep medications, use of technology, shift work, are just a few of the things that can alter your natural brain rhythms and have an impact on your wellbeing.
GAMMA BRAIN WAVES greater than 30 Hertz: Unlike the other brain rhythms, Gamma is associated with all areas of the brain. It is associated with memory and Gamma occurs when we need to use all our brain to process certain types of information.
BETA BRAIN WAVES 13-30 Hertz: Beta is suited for many types of cognitive tasks in which you need to be ‘switched on’ and is used during analytical problem solving. For those who experience anxiety they can spend too much time in the higher levels of Beta brain waves.
ALPHA BRAIN WAVES 8-12 Hertz: Alpha may be experienced when you are ‘chilling out’, reading a book, meditating, and relaxing. You are relaxed and simultaneously alert. The Alpha rhythm is associated with healing and mind/body balance.
THETA BRAIN WAVES 4-8 Hertz: Theta brains are most prevalent when we dream. Hypnotic trance occurs when Theta brain waves are engaged. Hypnotic trance can occur through a hypnotic induction, or spontaneously during the day when engaged in tasks where the conscious and subconscious minds can temporarily engage in different activities. During Theta we can find ourselves daydreaming, engaging with our creativity, and communicating with our spiritual selves.
DELTA BRAIN WAVES Less than 4 Hertz: Delta brain waves are the slowest of the brain frequencies and occur most often during the deepest stage of sleep and is a dreamless state. It is a time of deep physical and mental rest.
How to find what works for you
There are many roads that will lead you up to the top of the mountain, and the path you decide to take needs to be congruent and resonate with you. Just because one practice or method works for another doesn’t mean it is the best one for you. Trial and error may be involved, or you may know intuitively what you need before you begin. There is much you can do alone, and there are other practices where it is beneficial to engage with an experienced, trained practitioner, teacher, or guide. Working with a trained practitioner that you resonate with can be of immense benefit regardless of if you are beginning your journey or have travelled along this path for a while. If have tried a few different approaches but they didn’t feel like they were for you, take what you need from them, what resonates, and then continue to explore and learn.
Be aware of the false Guru
Never give your power away to another! I cannot stress this enough. A wonderful teacher on my journey told me “If your teacher does not encourage you to question everything, including what they are teaching you, stay away”. Unfortunately, there are those who will pray on the vulnerable, trusting and/or traumatised amongst us for their own personal gain. Not all are what or who they claim to be.
Things to look out for are:
- Insisting that you engage with a practice, despite that you have expressed to them that it makes you uncomfortable.
- Stay far away from those who do not respect your “no”
- They require you to engage in a practice or activity that puts your wellbeing or health at risk.
- They pressure you into spending more money than you can afford.
- They ask you to recruit friends or family into the practice and may encourage you to distance yourself from others who do not engage with the practice.
- Those who want to use a perceived position of power over you, this includes emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, sexually, and financially. They may claim that they know better and that it is for your own good. No!
There are those who have valuable knowledge they can share with you, and they may support you on your journey. But NO individual is better than another because of the knowledge they have. Be alert for manipulation and those who attempt to put themselves into a position of power over you.
My Personal Journey
Most of the work I do involves facilitating the opportunity to alter a client’s level of consciousness. Assisting clients to become self-empowered is something I find immensely rewarding. My personal journey into this work began over 25 years ago when I was searching for a way out of anxiety and panic attacks. I found a small, second-hand book about meditation. Since I first opened that little book, meditation has been regular part of my daily life. Soon after I began meditating, I attended my first yoga class and the practice resonated with me on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. I completed my teacher training in 2003 and my love of Hatha Yoga has taken me on a wonderful journey of sharing this practice with others. I have a fascination with our mind/body connection and the self-empowerment that is possible when we alter our level of consciousness. In my desire for knowledge and a deeper understanding of consciousness I became qualified as a hypnotherapist. I have also gained qualifications in counselling, coaching, and I am a Reiki Master. These are the tools that I have found profoundly helpful in my life, and they have all taken me to a deeper level of understanding about myself. I am always learning, continuing to search for knowledge, experiences, and wonderful connections with other humans on their journey.
Engaging in practices that alter your level of consciousness can result in wonderful experiences. However, for some it can create feelings of discomfort, or that too much is happening all at once. This can occur spontaneously or after many years of dedicated practice. If you have difficulty in integrating or understanding an experience, there is no need for you to go through this alone. Reach out for assistance when you need it.
I am a hypnotherapist, counsellor, yoga, and meditation teacher. Contact me for a free 30-minute consultation (no sales, no obligation) to discuss how I may be able to assist you. Phone and online sessions are available on weekdays and weekends.
Inner Mind Therapies
PH 0403 357 656