Alternative States

In her book Meditation for Beginners: Techniques for Awareness, Mindfulness & Relaxation (©2002),  Dr. Stephanie Clement muses a bit about altered states of mind:

In the sixties, we thought an altered state of mind was something induced by drugs. Not that drugs are anything new; alcoholic beverages alter one’s consciousness, and they have been around since about the beginning of recorded history or longer. Opiates have been used for both medicinal and recreational purposes since the first century or earlier. Coffee and chocolate alter the brain’s chemistry, and thus the state of consciousness. Some of us are affected by the weather.

With the introduction of Hinduism and Buddhism in the West, we have incorporated some of the basic principles of mind-altering practices into our daily language. We joke about good or bad karma (a Sanskrit term). Whe we say, “Give me space,” oftentimes what we really mean is “Give me both the time and space I need to think.”

Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we alter our minds with television, the Internet, and electronic games. Using technology, we can enter a virtual reality and experience something very like the real deal. We use aromatherapy to soothe our bodies and minds. We use headphones to shut out ambient reality and to create a different one for ourselves. We have dozens of ways to tune in, tune out, and turn on.

Actually, we enter an altered state of consciousness very frequently.

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