Tag Archives: altered state

I Wish I Knew What I Did….

A thing happened today, while I was leading my taiji class through the form—one of those things I don’t understand but would oh, so, like to.

When we do the form (Yang-style long form) during the second half of class, I talk. I describe what I am doing, sometimes name the move or point out that we’re in a section of repetition, or make suggestions regarding weight distribution or body alignment. Nothing is scripted. It’s whatever comes into my mind as something that might be helpful to say, depending on who has come to class.

Today, about two-thirds of the way into the form, I felt something shift. I knew I had entered an altered state of consciousness. I relaxed into lightness of body and mind. I felt a quiet within me and around me. I was still talking, but I said less. I felt very good, very complete. After class, I went up to my apartment and did a bit more taiji and then sat on the sofa for a time with my eyes closed. Gradually the state dissolved, and within an hour, I was at my computer going through emails.

I wish I knew how I had reached that state so that I could return to it at will, but I don’t.

I do think one factor may have been that, as I spoke our way through the form, I was emphasizing sinking, sitting down into the hips, relaxing the shoulders, pausing for a moment to really settle into a posture. I was doing this partly for myself, although I had not planned to, and partly for one of the students who had said at our last class, when I talked about relaxing the shoulders, that a therapist once told her she carried all her emotional problems in her shoulders.

I suspect that sinking, relaxing, grounding may have been key to this morning’s experience in part because a couple of weeks ago, about two thirds of the way into doing the form with my long-time Saturday morning taiji partner, I similarly entered a similar state. That time, because nothing had seemed to be going well, I had decided that maybe I should just focus on my feet, and the shifting of weight from one to the other.

Of course, I tried the same approach the following Saturday to absolutely no avail. I guess connecting with earth may be key, but not a guarantee.

One more experience comes to mind, one that happened more than a month ago during a 3-hour meditation session at the convent where I go for Zen-style sitting.

About two-thirds (hmmm… there’s that fraction again)—anyway, about two-thirds of the way into the first half of the session, I entered into a delicious space—soft, quiet, relaxed, accepting. It had the same quality of being separate from my normal awareness as did the two taiji experiences. As I was in it, I knew that it was wonderful and also that it would not last, but that that was OK.

Though I am grateful for all three experiences, in a small way they trouble me because they are akin to some of the more extreme experiences I had two and a half years ago—experiences that a neurologist labeled “spells” when he told me he didn’t think I had epilepsy even though I had had two “unusual” EEGs.

So what is it, what is it, what is it that I am experiencing?

Brain deviance or spiritual growth?

It seems possible that the sole meaning of experiences like the one I had today is that the 3 pound mass of tissue inside my skull has gotten a bit wonky in some of its particulars as a result of my various practices. My brain gets wonky; my perception of reality shifts; I feel good; end of story.

Of course, it is also possible—and, I hope, true—that there is some greater, objective reality that I may somehow be able to access as a result of my various practices.

It would be nice if there was more than just me, my brain and I….


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Qigong zombie?

Qigong zombie?

At a recent half-hour demonstration talk about Shibashi Taiji Qigong, a woman asked me if it could put you in a trance.

She caught me totally off-guard.

I’m teaching a lovely, gentle set of movements to help people relax and experience flow. Am I trying to induce trances?

That sounds like zombies or the circus.

But, well….

I said yes, I think I’m in a trance sometimes—depending, of course, on what you mean by the word “trance.” If you mean an altered state of consciousness, then, yes, I do go into a trance when I do qigong, but I don’t fall over or begin to drool or otherwise lose control of my body or mind.

I didn’t do a very good job of explaining what I meant and now am worried that I may have frightened some people. I may also have oversold what I can offer as a teacher because the woman said, “Oh, good, I want trances.”

But when I do qigong, I experience my body in a different manner, as moving smoothly and effortlessly through a somewhat dense medium, and I feel an expansiveness, an all-is-OK open-heartedness that I wish I could feel more of when I’m living the rest of my life. My brain relaxes along with my body; my thinking becomes less analytical and more creative.

By some definitions of trance, this would qualify. It is an altered state of consciousness—as are many other states that we all find ourselves in from time to time.

I’m in an altered state when I become lost in thought, watch an episode of “Sherlock” or drink a glass of wine.

People who are meditating or praying or playing a video game or crazy in love are also in altered states.

Some altered states are clearly better than others: They feel better and they have better consequences.

I enjoy my qigong states, and I’ve yet to find a negative consequence….

Well, that’s not entirely true. I sometimes lose track of how many times we’ve done a particular movement when I’m leading Shibashi Taiji Qigong, and if the qigong I’m doing is taiji and I lose my place in the linear sequence of moves, I sometimes have difficulty figuring out how to get back on track.


Am I a zombie?

You be the judge….

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