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Class/Book Notes – Levels of Awareness, Trances and Journeying, Part 2

Written by Joseph Carrabis

We put ourselves in the Circle. Enter from the Eastern Door. Circle the fire once, always clockwise. When leaving, always circle once, clockwise, then leave by the Western Door.

This is part 2 in an arc on Levels of Awareness, Trances and Journeying. Part 1 dealt with different kinds of trance states and how they can be useful in the initial stages of study, much like training wheels when you’re learning to ride a bike, and like training wheels, (what most people consider) trance states should eventually be discarded in order to ride trailbikes, enter races, et cetera. Part 2 deals with what I call “Working” journeying (as in “shamanic work”) and continues our exploration of Levels of Awareness.

I mentioned in Part 1 that trance states achieved through drumming, dancing, breathing, singing, meditation, movement are all excellent. However, not all lend themselves to shamanic journeying without practice (and again I need to be specific; the kind of shamanic journeying we teach, something I’ll cover in future posts. As one of our weekend training students said, “I’ve taken journeying classes before and they were nothing like this. Now I know what journeying is suppose to be. Thank you for that Power!”). Also, while drumming, dancing, breathing, singing, meditation, movement, et cetera, will get you an altered state of consciousness (in the traditional sense), not all will give you Levels of Awareness and Levels of Awareness is what’s used for most of the shamanic work I’m familiar with.

Altered States of Consciousness and Levels of Awareness
In all cases, a trance state is an altered state of consciousness (in the traditional sense as understood by most people in the psychologic and neurologic sciences). Human consciousness occurs in the most recently developed parts of our brains (from an evolutionary standpoint). We can achieve altered states of consciousness – changing how we perceive reality – several ways. Most people think of “altered states of consciousness” as something that happens when you take mind-altering substances.

Probably true and not the best route, me thinks.

First, if your path to some altered state of consciousness requires a foreign substance, your altered state is going to be limited by the nature of the substance. It’s quicker for me to drive from Boston to New York by taking highways, definitely, but by taking highways I limit what kinds of experiences I’ll have on my journey. In essence, the only experiences I can have are those allowed by the highway system. That might be okay if my purpose in taking the journey is to get to some particular destination (sometimes it is) but the funny thing about such journeying to some specific place is that I have to know that place exists, where it is and how to get there from where I am.

This means I either have to read a map, rely on a GPS, ask directions, let someone who knows the way drive, any and all of which mean I’m not relying on myself to get there, I’m trusting someone else’s ideas, methods, suggestions, which now means my experiences will be limited to those this other person is willing to give me or let me experience.

Again, not so good, me thinks.

But perhaps the biggest challenge I have with using foreign substances is that if you do them often enough then you come to rely on them. They may be good training wheels but few people ever take them off their bike. Eventually people can’t achieve an altered state without them. Remember that there are lots of different kinds of trance states? You ever met a drunk or pothead or addict of some kind or another?

Congrats, you’ve encountered someone in a trance state and specifically an altered state of consciousness. Ask them why they drink or smoke or do any drug and they’ll answer something like “it makes me feel better” or “I feel better” or “I stop caring” or “I can forget” or … and all are references to altered states of consciousness. For one to feel better, one must first be unsatisfied with how one feels to begin with, to stop caring, to forget, all are statements of people who’d probably like to journey and are choosing (in my opinion) the easy way out.

Personally, I think addictions are the aboriginals way of getting back at colonizing, imperializing cultures. The colonizing culture came in and, to prove their god was more powerful than the aboriginals’ gods, they took up tobacco, alcohol, hallucinogens, tea, opium, coffee, …, whatever the aboriginals used as part of their belief system, the colonizers took it up to demonstrate how ineffective and pointless that aboriginal belief system was.

And now we’re getting into performing the rituals without knowing the ceremonies and that’s an entirely different thing that I’ve covered elsewhere, so let me sum this aside up with “Addictions occur because the imperializing culture copied the ritual – drinking, smoking, whatever – without understanding the ceremony that the ritual was the externalization of, hence are performing acts without understanding their purpose (remind me to tell you about The Dancing Bears at World’s End sometime. It’s a disturbing story about the power of rituals without ceremonies and how they can control us).

My goal is my journey, my path is my prize.

But the highways aren’t the only way to get from Boston to New York and the more I stay off them the more I can experience that doesn’t require them. If my purpose in taking the journey is solely to get to some destination then that destination becomes my prize, the journey itself means nothing. I’m missing out on a lot along the way.

One of the things we repeatedly learn is that everything, everything, everything is your teacher, you decide what the lesson is. Your path is one of your teachers, your journey is the lesson. Sure, it’s nice to have those quick and easy lessons and, sorry, they rarely stick with you long enough to serve you down the road (oy, bad pun).

Think about the things you’ve learned best, the things that are always there with you. Are they the things that were so simple the first time through that you didn’t have to work to get them or were they the ones that required effort, that “fought back” (as one of my math professors use to say), that forced you to think in new ways and come up with solutions you didn’t know existed?

The other challenge with an altered state of consciousness is that it occurs in the singular. It is an altered state of consciousness. I’ve never met or encountered anyone who had simultaneous multiple states of consciousness and it’s that simultaneous multiple part that leads to journeying both in and out of trance states.

Shamanic Work (“Working Journeys”) require Levels of Awareness, not trances.

Levels of Awareness is that simultaneous multiple part made manifest. One can have several levels of awareness, each one in an altered state. Or perhaps each level of awareness is an altered state, I don’t know.

What I do know is that you can have multiple levels of awareness, each attentive to a different thing, simultaneously. People who’ve worked and studied with me are familiar with my use of multiple levels of awareness. I will sometimes superimpose one reality on another reality, on another and another, so on and so on, to answer questions, to see things that are either in this reality or at a distance in this reality (similar but not identical to clairvoyance), to divine or discern something, to communicate with someone or something (this can sometimes be similar but not identical to clairaudience).

For example, a friend recently shared a discomfiting dream and asked if I could provide any insight. I offered to go looking and let them know if I found anything. I received information twice. Both came while I was walking our dog, one level of awareness monitoring traffic and such in this reality, another level of awareness “working” on my friend’s behalf.

Sometimes, when working and studying with someone, they’ll notice that I go wide. Going wide is an aspect of using several levels of awareness simultaneously to do whatever is required of me at that moment. One of the ways I describe this hearkens back to being a toddler in my paternal grandmother’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon. My dad had eleven surviving siblings and usually each of them would come over with their families for the big, Sunday family meal. There could be anywhere from ten to twenty to more conversations going on simultaneously.

Yet every individual at the table was paying attention to all the conversations, they’d enter and leave different conversations seamlessly, never missing a note, never skipping a beat, and at any one time a given individual would be a central contributor to six or seven simultaneous conversations.

Amazing! And that, to me, is my best description of Going Wide. The only difference (that I’m aware of) is that you Go Wide to access information not in your immediate environment (not at the kitchen table or in common memory), and that’s what shamanic work, working journeying and Levels of Awareness are all about.

Bringing it all back to “How does this affect me, Joseph?”
The thing to remember is that you don’t need to go into a trance to do shamanic work. Being able to travel to other realities but leaving yourself vulnerable in this reality isn’t a good survival strategy, at least not in this reality. Levels of Awareness allow you to do much shamanic work (again, what I sometimes call “Working Journeying”) and (at least in my case) it took a bit of time to do intentionally rather than it just happening and my wondering what was going on or how it happened. Part of training, study and practice is learning how to take what one may be able to do but not control and making it controllable. Remember learning to walk? Probably not and you know you did at some point. But you fell on your bum or toppled over when you were learning, too. Someone helped you back up and praised you for the small steps you could take.

That’s what we’re here for, studying, training, practicing, helping you back up and praising you when you take your first, small steps.

Next up, Questing, Intentional and Functional Journeying.

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Joseph Carrabis

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  • Joseph, when you were walking your dog, was your focus just on the traffic with the “working” going on in the background in a more non-conscious way, or is it that we must learn to split our focus across levels of awareness? (or is it something else completely). Similarly with the multiple conversations example, were people’s focus moving from one conversation to the next? Or was everyone splitting their focus multiple ways and applying equal conscious attention all around the room?

    I wonder if focus is like having a certain amount of water where we can have one glass full of water, or split the water across multiple glasses with less in each glass – and with Practice we can get more water.

    • “Focus” is a conscious acrtivity, “awareness” is a non-conscious activity until trained into consciousness. You may remember a training where I was talking with you, watching you, making suggestions and simultaneously playing solitaire, no hesitation in my placement of the cards, and I won the game.
      I was focusing on neither, I was aware of both.
      Hope that helps.