What are they? Are they harmful, or do they help us live better?
(2 minutes reading time)
Altered states, which we can also define as “other” consciousness, are, contrary to what one might think, essential to our sanity. Without them we are drawn into the pain and suffering of attachment, and the limitations of bounded awareness.
An altered state is a shift of consciousness into a different reality with its different laws of energy. Meditation is a good e.g., it produces different brain–wave activity, with its corresponding physiological changes. The sometime dramatic changes in the functioning of Mind Body take us into a different physiological state where we view the world inside and outside much differently.
This change of viewpoint is necessary to our life because our tendency to see life from a linear and therefore, fixed limited perspective creates the rigidity of fixed views giving rise to the “stuckness” of karmic attachment. Altered state keep us changing, a flow of consciousness through the full range of multidimensionality. This flow is constantly changing which produces a holographic view of life.
Balance is the key to integration of multidimensionality. We are here in human body in order to naster the human experience. Waking states of consciousness is that state of life that gives rise to action, conscious thought and fulfillment.
As mentioned before, if we are limited to only waking, dreaming and deep sleep states of consciousness, we have a tendency toward fixation and rigidity. We need a shift of consciousness into state beyond the 3 “normal” states of consciousness. Altered states bring expansion, growth and balance.
The expansion of consciousness is one of function of altered states. Getting clear, awake, being able to move into multidimensional experience in order to see many points of view and corresponding relativity of the phenomenal world. Emotionally, it releases attachments to intense feelings, allows us to let go of our stuck issues such as judgment, anger, fear, etc.. Mentally, it helps us realize that truth is relative. Physically, altered states can take us into different physiological states that provide a different functioning that not only expand our ability to function in a variety of ways, but help to “loosen us up” so we are more flexible, adaptable and less habitual. We may be able to rest more deeply, or allow the activity of mind to calm down or be stimulated into more creativity, or open to unconscious material, or open to latent potentials, such as psychic abilities.
Many times altered states are purposely created by: mental practice, such as meditation, by chemical means, or physical activities such as breathing, exorcises, jogging, yoga asanas. Altering the physiology can alter the consciousness and vice-versa.
With all these different approaches, a major concern is dependency and addiction. If an altered state becomes a means of escape then we create the steps toward addiction. Or, if we use it to the extent that we exit waking state of human life and live “somewhere else”, again we are leaving a state of integration and balance and have put our life in an unevolving position.
The addictive cravings, physiologically and psychologically, are due to a lack of integration, to stuck places that are not flowing with energy and change. The alcoholic, the heroin addict, even the medication addict, may be using the induced altered state as an escape or a “fix” to feel better. Instead of an altered state helping to prepare for life, to balance places of imbalance, or integrate and expand our multidimensional awareness, altered states become counterproductive. The key is always consciousness. When consciousness is growing and flowing, it will promote life. But with all good things, we can abuse and misuse them. Proper use, which may vary with the individual, keeps us efficiently moving forward with skill.
The addict who just stays stoned all day or who meditate all day is not living waking state with its challenges and purposes. The passion for life to fulfill its purpose is lost because we’re not in the here and now, not present to fulfill our soul’s work on this plane. For the rare few, we may have completed our task and therefore, can “retire” into the simplicity of ecstatic union, but for most of us, we have work to do.
If we only work, we burn out, or get in the stickiness of life. So altered state provide us with a relieving of the pressure of the boundaries, a fresh point of view, a respite. They may simply disengage us from the seriousness of it all, or may provide us with a fresh approach or new answers. But, the shifting of gears is necessary to the reliance on a single gear dissolves it away, prematurely.
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