‘…we have discovered that
In order for the trance experience to be instituted
The posture has to be done exactly
the way the model-
the piece of art-
If we are careless,
Or even if during a trance
We change some feature of the posture-
Drop an arm or shift a leg-
The experience disappears,
Much as an image leaves a television screen
If the electricity goes out…
This observation and similar ones
Underscore the fact
That the complex forms of the ritual postures
Are not some oddity,
Something we can play with as we please.
The exact forms of these postures
have been part of human religious observances
from time immemorial.
From Felicitas Goodman’s foreword
to Ecstatic Trance Postures,
An Alternate Reality Workbook
by Belinda Gore
The importance of the precise way we hold our hands and feet during the trance experience was made apparent to me when I was trying out the Rune Stances to see which, if any, would work as ecstatic trance postures. Holding both palms together overhead when first experimenting with the stance associated with the rune Othala had no apparent impact during breathing exercises, meditation, or guided imagery. However, I was informed consistently and pointedly that the instant the driving beat (180-210 beats per minute) of the rattle began, allowing the palms to touch each other when the arms were held overhead resulted in a ‘posture of great irritation’ instead of a visionary experience. A little experimentation showed that whether standing up or lying down:
- Those holding their arms overhead with the elbows bent and the backs of the hands touching had no complaints.
- Those holding their arms straight overhead with the palms facing but NOT touching had no complaints.
Remembering my own experience with one version of Asian meditative movements where female students were directed to step gracefully raising the arms overhead with the palms out, I spent yet more time perusing the internet. I found that in general in martial arts movements where the arms are raised overhead tend to be performed with the palms facing outward. Ancient images of people with their bent arms upraised with palms out were sparse but I did find:
- Depictions of the Egyptian Isis showing her with feathered arms upraised and the palms facing outwards
It seems our shared essential human body really has not changed so very much over the millennia. Then I went over the reports from various postures that I had accumulated. It seems that:
- Lying on your back with arms and legs outstretched with palms up and ankles relaxed inspired no complaints.
- Standing or lying on your back with the legs apart and the arms held out to the sides needs tension in the hands to spark the visionary experience. Palms front while pointing the fingers towards the feet works.
- Lying on your back with arms outspread asymmetrically and legs together needs both the palms down and the ankles bent to direct the trance experience.
Then I decided to look at a couple of the postures shown with the person lying face down:
- Lying on your stomach with legs together and arms bent overhead with the palms touching the ground inspired no complaints
- Lying on your stomach with legs together and the arms out, elbows bent downward at 90o out to the side done with the palms up inspired no complaints
It does seem that these face down postures can be intensified by crossing and/or bending the ankles. I have stuck with straight-kneed positions for this comparison, I find it curious that opening and closing the legs and/the knees does not seem to have the same drastic and consistent affect that changing the position and tension of the ankles, hands and wrists does. Unfortunately, academically rigorous experiments demand a type of narrowed focus and controlled environment that my circumstances rarely permit. The process of recruiting and explaining my intentions to newcomers is also made just that much more difficult by the interminable background static of resistance to, and/or appropriation of, my work from the Cuyamungue Institute board members. So I have not pursued the consequences of all possible variations enough to be able to be able to discuss how they might affect the visionary experience.
What I can say is that each of our human hands and feet are truly complex, having an average of 33 bones and 66 joint surfaces that are held together by a multi-faceted network of connective tissue, muscles, nerves, blood and lymph vessels. Those seeking to understand memory and consciousness have theorized that the fluid-filled hollow spiral proteins in the microtubules within each cell and those that constitute the entirety of the connective tissue that holds our bodies together can all function as quantum computers. Given the amount of information a computer that works on a simple binary (on/off) basis can store and manipulate, I am not surprised that apparently small changes in our infinitely more complex human body can orchestrate major changes in our experiences.
I advise participants in my visionary sessions to pay close attention to how their body responds to the combination of position and stimulation from the drum or rattle. The importance of this was brought home to me when I was doing a private session with a particularly skeptical sort who suddenly sprang into the air, spun 180o degrees, and landed across the room facing me, breathing hard, and crouched to spring again, mere moments after I began to rattle. When I asked what was up, they demanded to know were ‘that’ came from. I had to explain that I was not necessarily aware of the particulars of their personal visionary experience so they would have to explain a little more before I could respond appropriately.
It turned out that their first sensation upon hearing the rattle start was an intense itch on their left ankle. When they followed my instructions and asked what the itch wanted to tell them instead of reaching down and scratching it, they abruptly found themselves on the Mongolian plains watching their grandmother ride towards them. When she came close enough to begin to tell them who they were and what their spiritual tasks were, they looked down and discovered that they too were mounted Mongolians. That change self-perception was what sent them flying out of the vision and across the room in a panic.
Once again, they demanded to know where the vision came from. All I could say was apparently the key was held in their left ankle and that what first grabs our attention as discomfort, stress, and/or tension can open the doorway to the full-on visionary experience. Paying true attention to the effects of how we position and handle ourselves is infinitely rewarding and inspiring as our body is truly a sacred vessel with many doorways to extra-ordinary experiences.
In closing, as always,
While my intent is to inform and educate and
I welcome those who share links to my work and new readers,
my work is copywrited.
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