Both Gerald Gardner and Christopher Penczak speak of an 8-fold path, or eight different methods, for changing your consciousness. None of these eight methods is better or worse than any other. A person must discover which of the eight techniques works best for them.
Why Would Someone Want to Change Consciousness?
Higher or lower brain wave patterns are linked to mystical, paranormal, and supernatural experiences. Many people want and seek out these experiences because they feel as though they are either more complete or more connected to Divinity. In addition to these experiences, these states are also often linked to such benefits as improved concentration, better health, and increased psychic ability.
Two Ways Consciousness Changes
The eight methods fall into one of two categories. They slow the brain waves down (inhibitory) or speed the brain waves up (exhibitory). Let’s now consider the eight different ways of changing your brain wave patterns to induce a new state of consciousness.
The method that most people are familiar with is an inhibitory method that typically brings the person down to the alpha or theta state of mind. Meditation is indeed the most used method of shifting and changing consciousness. There are many ways to meditate, and all of them are aimed at lowering the brain wave frequency. Some people meditate in silence, and others meditate using words or specific body postures.
Pain ramps up the brain. It is an exhibitory way of entering into a new state of consciousness. Examples would include self-flagellation, getting tattoos or piercings, branding, pinching, slapping, and spanking. It is perhaps the method used least often by people. If it is used, it should be done so carefully and typically under the training or guidance of someone who is experienced with the method you’ll be using. While uncommon, it is also one of the oldest ways. For example, self-flagellation has been practiced for ages and by a variety of religious groups.
Sound is interesting. It can either slow the brain down or speed it up, depending on precisely what you are listening to. Classical music and slower, more harmonic, and melodic sounds slow the brain’s activity. In contrast, music that features tribal drumming and certain forms of trance and electronic music can speed the mind up. Music can either be listened to or participated in. For example, engaging in singing and chanting or drumming has just as much an impact as listening to it.
Sex increases brain wave activity. It doesn’t matter if it’s masturbation or intercourse. When a person is aware, it’s easy to feel the energy built up within the body and mind when engaged in sexual activity. Thus, one or both partners enter into a new state of consciousness.
Tantric and other forms of sexual spiritual practice, or even magick, are used by some. The idea is to focus on what one desires while engaged in the sexual act – knowing that the action amps up the energy and provides more power for the thought-form to manifest in physical reality. That is, provided one is capable of maintaining the focus on their desired manifestation, which is easily forgotten in the throes of sexual pleasure.
Isolation is another inhibitory method where one goes away from all other human contacts for a while. In extreme cases, it could be for years, if not an entire life. In less severe versions of isolation, you have traditions such as the Native American or Shamanic Vision Quest. The participant goes away for a much shorter period (usually no longer than a week, and many times only 24 hours). Specific religious or spiritual retreats also accomplishes the same goals.
Most body movement is going to speed up brain activity. Examples would include exercise, yoga, martial arts, tai chi, and even dancing. Belly dancing has become quite common these days, as is the desire for better health through exercise. This results in many people learning to and developing the ability to shift consciousness and not even realize fully what they are doing or how important it is in spiritual pursuits.
Some forms of meditation involve breath control where one breathes in, holds, exhales, and holds again for a certain count. This count can be anywhere from four to eight beats. In some Eastern traditions, this is called pranic breathing. Breathing such as this lowers the brain activity.
It is not the only method of breath control, however. In Quantum-Touch, breathing is done rapidly and rhythmically, similar to Lamaze breathing. Breathing in this manner increases brain wave activity.
In both cases, a shift of consciousness is not only possible but likely.
Other breath control methods include strangulation and holding the breath for an extended period, neither of which I would recommend.
Like breath control, intoxication can either increase or decrease brain activity. It largely depends on the substance one is using. A variety of substances can be seen as “intoxicating,” Which include hallucinogenics such as peyote or ayahuasca, various other herbs, and even alcohol such as wine or beer. These typically should only be used under the guidance of another more experienced person. They should also be done in a safe environment where others can observe you and make sure you are staying safe.
Lesser forms of intoxication, which are safer for most people to experiment with by themselves, are anything that impacts the sense of smell, such as incenses, oils, and flowers. Many would argue that depending on the scent, your mind and body will react differently, and great lengths have been taken by those who study these methods to document precisely how such smells typically impact the average individual.
Of course, many people combine two or more of these methods together.
My regular daily rituals, for example, involve morning exercise, meditation with slow music, isolation (for one to two hours), intoxication (incense), and breath control. The effects I have found are cumulative. So, in my opinion, using more than one method to shift consciousness is okay. Still, so long as it is done safely, it can be very spiritually satisfying.
In fact, it’s easy to see multiple methods involved in various spiritual or religious activities if you pay attention. Even the Catholic Church engages in meditation (prayer), sound (music and sometimes bells), body movement (kneeling, standing, sitting, repeat), and light intoxication (from both incense and the wine).
Thus it is possible to create rites, and ritual spiritual experiences tailored to your own likes and needs as well as be more aware of when a consciousness-altering experience could be occurring.