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Paxson has been teaching classes and leading rituals on trance work for more than twenty years.

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She is the co-author, along with Marion Zimmer Bradley, of Priestess of Avalon and has continued the immensely popular Mists of Avalon series on her own. The ability to move from the ordinary into an altered state of consciousness is one of the most valuable skills in both magic and religion.

From the ceremonial magician to the shaman, using trance work to explore inner realms is essential to the magical process of healing, transcendence, and wisdom desired throughout diverse occult and spiritual traditions. Trance-Portation offers a comprehensive and multi-spirited way to enter the inner realm. Drawing on examples from varied traditions, from Western Mystery to Native American, Ancient Celtic to Eastern Mysticism, and peppered with folk lore and tales from popular science fiction stories, Trance-Portation explores spiritual journey work extensively, offering readers the chance to find their own ways into the inner realm, encounter their own guides and fellow travelers, and create divine relationships with the deities and gods and goddesses that they meet.

Altering Consciousness Grounding and Centering Relaxation. Chapter Four TrancePerceptions. Chapter Six Native Guides. Chapter Seven Getting Along in the Culture.

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Chapter Eight Mapping the Inner Worlds. Chapter Nine Fellow Travelers. Neuroscience continues to explore what goes on in the brain when we act, think, and feel, without conclusively answering this question. It is more practical, perhaps, to define ordinary consciousness as the state in which we not only process external stimuli, but are sufficiently aware of our own bodies to respond to our environment and be aware of that awareness. In this state, you not only can go about your daily activities; you can contemplate aspects of yourself perceptible to others, like your appearance, and those that are purely personal, like your feelings.

From the literature, it is apparent that even what Michael Harner calls "consensus reality" is capable of extensive subdivision and analysis. The limitation of consciousness, powerful focus, and the liberation of the unconscious are all part of normal human experience.

How, then, do we define the altered states that we call trance? We encounter this term, not only in discussions of religion or magic, but in areas such as music and psychology as well. Historically, however, the context in which people are most likely to seek an alternative way of experiencing reality is spiritual—what my friend Ember has dubbed "altared" consciousness.

The literature of all religions includes techniques for prayer and meditation whose purpose is to bring peace or put people in contact with their gods. The training methods developed in Asia for yoga and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola are two examples of highly developed spiritual training systems. In magical practice, trance states are used for a variety of purposes, from enabling people to perceive beings or energies that are not noticed as opposed to not present in ordinary consciousness, to creating or journeying in "inner" worlds, to setting the human personality aside and allowing another to move in.

When we engage in trance work, we intentionally alter the way we experience the world. Fortunately, or unfortunately, what we will be referring to in this book as "trance" includes a variety of states of consciousness about which science has had relatively little to say. The phrase "altered state of consciousness" used by Charles Tart for those mental states in which people feel that the quality of the way in which they experience the world is different from ordinary awareness comes closest to describing what I mean here.

Altered states of consciousness include a wide variety of experiences, many of which most readers will already have encountered without seeing any necessity to give them a name. In addition to the state of mind in which you know you are aware, you may, on any given day, experience a variety of levels involving the limitation of consciousness through focus on other things—reading, working on a computer, running, or driving a car.

When you are enthralled by a book or a movie, you feel the emotions and thoughts of the characters rather than your own.

Trance Portation Learning Navigate World by Diana Paxson

Many activities require a mental focus so complete that you lose awareness of yourself and your body as well. We perceive all these activities as ordinary. Everyone engages in them. Dreaming, for instance, is an altered state that we all experience spontaneously. For some people, the boundaries between the waking world and the inner realities are thin.

Others have difficulty remembering even those visions that occur while they are sleeping. But everyone dreams, whether or not they remember it. I contend that anyone who can enter the world of dreams can, with training, access altered states at will and exercise control over what happens while they are in them.

When our minds are anchored in our bodies, physical factors play a role in how they behave. Any traveler contemplating a strenuous journey will take his or her physical condition into account when planning. Factors like blood sugar, hormones, sleep, biorhythms, and general physical condition can affect your ability to go into or stay out of trance. However, we must remember that, although we are all the same in many ways, we each have distinct characteristics that affect how we will respond to the exercises.

In other words, at any point in the lessons, your mileage may vary. This is to be expected, and does not imply a value judgment regarding your ability. Who goes into trance?

As we have seen above, everyone experiences some altered states spontaneously. The ability to shift from one level of consciousness to another is wired into the human brain. But if we define trance as those states that are not part of most people's experience, we begin to find a broader spectrum of abilities. Virtually all humans can use their hands to make marks with a pencil and their voices to make sounds.

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But some have a "natural" ability to draw recognizable pictures or to sing on key. For them, becoming an artist or a singer is easy. With the right kind of training, however, almost anyone can learn to draw or sing.

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We find the same range of abilities in trance work. For some people, getting beyond what Michael Harner calls "consensus reality" is very difficult, whereas others seem to have trouble staying connected to the ordinary world. Some call those for whom trance is so easy as to sometimes become a problem "trance sluts" and those who are so firmly grounded they feel stuck to the floor "cement heads. In fact, most people fall somewhere in the middle, depending on a variety of factors—including everything from body mass to psychological history, and such physical variations as blood-sugar levels, physical condition, and biological cycles.

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Trance-portation: Learning to Navigate the Inner World

Age may also have an influence—children are often more open than those who are older. Those who believe their heads are "closed" should not envy those whose heads are naturally "open," and the latter should not wish their feet were nailed to the ground. Those whose dominant mode of perception is aural or kinesthetic are no less talented than those who work primarily with visual imagery. With experience, we learn to identify levels of consciousness and what we can do with them.


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By developing those skills that do not come easily, we learn to travel in all terrains and all weathers. Those of us who feel the call to practice magic or walk a spiritual path are moving out of the safe world of consensus reality. Although the curriculum at Hogwarts bears little resemblance to any kind of real magic, the psychological divide between the Muggle and Wizard cultures is something that most of us have experienced. We must accept the fact that many consider those who intentionally loosen their grip on ordinary reality crazed.

For many years, ethnographers studying shamanic practice assumed that the shamans were crazy. And sometimes they were right. A case in point is the story of the anthropologist who went looking for a shaman and ended up interviewing the village idiot. Don't let these messages from the dominant culture deter you, but rather use them as a signal for healthy self-examination. A runner pays attention to odd twinges that may signal a problem; you should do the same. You must distinguish the problems caused by psychic work from those stemming from physiology or personal history.

The purpose of self-evaluation is to make you aware of the kinds of things that can have an effect on spiritual work. Given that caveat, we'll take a practical approach to psychic experience.

Rather than asking whether something is "real," let's ask whether it is useful.