Shamanism: Trance with or without psychoactive substances
Psychoactive substances are unfortunately still overly linked to the negative term "drugs", where it is interesting to note in this context, that the American term for drugs means "medicine".
For almost half a year I have been living in a yurt in Slovenia. When I look back on my life in the city, I realize what I missed all that time and what I strongly longed for: feeling more connected to nature. Well, I have since then found this and I am very grateful for it.
Meanwhile, it is winter and I wake up in the morning with an icicle hanging from my nose. Cold clouds of breath float through the round shaped room, which is fortunately light thanks to the windows that face south. The sight of the muggy ridge and snowy treetops makes me feel peaceful.
The slow rhythm of this season is quite noticeable, the many times being outside and the cold make me feel clear. My energy level decreases as the sun begins to sink in the afternoon. My sleep rhythm has changed drastically and sometimes I feel like a little marmot hibernating.
The power of nature is everywhere
For me, being more connected to nature means being more aware of the wisdom and hidden powers of the world of plants, animals and natural elements. At home in the city, I was already trying to pay attention to this. The lessons I can learn from the "wild", whether this is the freedom of a pigeon flying overhead or a bunch of weeds finding their way among the asphalt. Or a fresh wind blowing through my hair.
The pristine nature of the environment here, makes it easier for me to sink into this connectedness. Getting up at night, quickly putting on something warm, and going outside to admire a bright sky full of stars. A shooting star is like a prayer from the universe. Or hearing the owls that greet and warn each other with their strange calls. And the silence, in which I even hold my breath to avoid producing a sound. One dry twig cracking sounds like thunder.
The encounter with the Shamanic drum
During my stay here I came into contact with several interesting people. All are close to nature and were happy to show me how they walk their life path. Because of my interest in psychedelics and spirituality, I easily got involved in interesting conversations. People talked about their experiences with Ayahuasca and San Pedro and the important lessons they learned. What stuck with me most was the encounter with the shamanic drum. A beautiful instrument, made from the skin of a deer, a beautifully shaped wooden handle. Handmade. The sound that came from it was deep and powerful. The swell of the sheet penetrated deeply and the low, slow rhythm had something primal and pervasive about it. As with psychedelics, it is possible to use the drum to enter another state of consciousness and have a deeply healing experience.
The rhythm of the drum has been compared to the heartbeat, the very beginning, the sign of life. As a baby in the womb, you first became aware of a rhythm. A rhythm that was not heard but felt, so close to the mother's body and heartbeat. The purpose of drumming is: to enter a trance. It can be seen as a state of consciousness where the "gates" are more open to other frequencies of the universe.
For shamans, therefore, the drum is an instrument for traveling, learning and healing. Rhythmic drumming is also a way to break down the ego more. It can be seen as a form of meditation where there is strong living in the Now.
Drumming is often done in a group, as it were in a ceremony where people together go along to the rhythm. This has been done for centuries in communities. The rhythm allows the body to free itself from its stiff posture and allows the limbs to move again. This happens spontaneously.
A beautiful story I came across took place in Senegal. In a village, people gathered every evening, at the foot of a large, special tree. They called it the Tree of Peace. The residents all brought drums, rattles and sticks. In a circle, they each began to play their own instrument and create their rhythm, creating a cacophony of rhythms. As everyone's intention was to keep peace and create harmony, something interesting soon emerged: at some point, the diverse sounds melted together into one beautiful whole.
Trance on the dance floor
Even today, people move in groups to rhythms that promote a state of trance. Although a loud party with electronic music gives off a very different vibe than attending a shamanic drum ceremony, at its root it may be stimulating a change in state of consciousness.
For most revelers, it has been a long time since they've gone wild on the dance floor. Can you remember the times when you let yourself get completely carried away with the rhythm? With or without drugs, the night gave you wings so you could fly away from the daily grind.
When I think back on my nightlife, there have been a number of times that I went into a trance, let myself go completely. The time that stays with me the most is one of the last live performances I attended before the pandemic hit. This was in Brussels. The drummer of Lightning Bolt was banging away with such speed that it almost seemed as if his cymbals were flying to pieces. The rhythm of the drum took over my whole body and I moved, as if I could not stop. The space I was in seemed to dissolve and I became one with the sound of the drum. Thoughts faded, I was no longer concerned with the people around me, with the future or the past. There was only this moment, this feeling of pure ecstasy.
The music ended and I came back down to earth. I realized how absorbed I had been in the moment and how the drum had carried me away.
Kratom and ecstatic dancing
It was an evening without alcohol or other hard drugs. Instead, I had taken Kratom and it proved to be a perfect choice to stimulate this trance I was in.
Kratom is a tree whose leaves have been used for centuries in Asia for its versatile properties. In low doses, it produces a stimulating and energizing effect, while in high doses it is sedative and relaxing. The analgesic properties of kratom are also interesting for people who use opiates and want to quit them. From my own experience I found out that kratom and dancing are a golden combination for me to get totally immersed in the moment.
Microdosing with psilocybin in the woods
Meanwhile, parties with rhythms that can put you in a trance have been dead for some time. Also, the peace and quiet of nature makes me feel less in need of loudness, crowds and bright colors. Perhaps you recognize yourself in the longing for silence, in which your own heartbeat becomes audible again.
I haven't enjoyed a strong dose of psychedelics in a long time either, it will come when the time is right. Occasionally I take a walk and a microdose of mushrooms, just enough to expand my consciousness a bit and create more openness to connect with my surroundings. It's always very special what can emerge then. Until now I have always gone together with my friend and being together takes on another dimension under the influence of psilocybin. We are two children playing and listening to the forest.