Thursday, May 7, 2009

Seven Crows:
A Simple Example of an Altered State of Consciousness
TAYCE McQUAID 42060545

One Crow is ill news
Two Crows mirth
Three Crows a wedding
Four Crows a birth
Five Crows for riches
Six Crows a thief
Seven Crows a journey
Eight Crows for grief
Nine Crows a secret
Ten Crows for sorrow
Eleven Crows for true love
Twelve's a new day tomorrow

After two nights of sleep deprivation in preparation for an experience in an altered state of consciousness, my body was taken over and my mind was taken on a journey through myself, though I did not know it at the time. With what felt like sleep rippling through my fatigued limbs, soothing my muscles; images flooded into my mind. The room I was in dimmed, I was surrounded by people, and yet alone – barely aware of their presence. One by one seven crows flew in through the door, stopping in front of me, staring into my soul. How long they remained, I could not say – but it seemed like an hour and it seemed like a second, time had ceased to exist. A lucid dream, the likes of which I had never before experienced, and although I wasn’t sure exactly what I was experiencing, I knew then that this was what I had been waiting for.

Aside from pharmacological means, such as LSD, or attending a class, such as hot yoga, there are many other physiological methods which may result in alterations of consciousness – or lead to short (or long) term losses of consciousness all together including auditory and visual hallucinations and states of trance with time awareness also effected. These may include sexual activity and orgasm, along with extreme environmental conditions – including starvation, exposure to extreme temperatures and weather conditions, along with sleep deprivation. During a normal cycle of sleep and wakefulness the variations of vigilance would not normally induce an altered state of consciousness, however with extreme sleep deprivation; one may experience short episodes of immediate sleep onset (defined by Oswald (1969) as a Micro Sleep) or suffer hallucinations and trance-like experiences (Vaitl et al., 2005 pp.1-8)

Thompson (1995) refers to the function of dreaming as, not only for the dreamer’s health and well being but also as a tool to heal and resolve inner conflicts. Lucid dreams, in particular, are dreams in which the dreamer knows that they dreaming. These dreams are vivid, with intense colour, smells, touch, taste and so on. Lucid dreams give the dreamer a degree of control – which, once mastered in the dream, can be taken back to the dreamer’s wakeful state to achieve similar results (Thompson M., 1995 pp. 6-11)

When I returned to what I knew as real all I felt was confusion. Although I was absolutely sure that this was what I had been waiting for more than forty-eight hours to experience, I didn’t have any idea why – to me it felt like everything had happened, and yet nothing had happened. The seven crows I had seen meant nothing to me and I was angry and upset, feeling like I had wasted so much time over nothing. But being new to altered states of consciousness I remained as positive as I could, not knowing what I was meant to feel, or find and I began to research seven crows, and the first thing I found, almost immediately after I began my search, was an anonymous folk poem (above) “... Seven crows a journey...” Another rendition of the same poem read the same except for the line, “Seven crows a story, yet to be told”. It seemed that I would have to wait, this was just my first trance-like experience and it felt like I was being bottle fed. But I was exhausted and I knew that my body was right, although I longed to keep going and find out more, I knew that all I needed right now was sleep.

This experience shows that you don’t need to travel far from home, or associate with people that may make you feel uncomfortable to have an experience just as meaningful or spiritual. To me this experience was perfect – I had never been down the path of altered states or trances before, I was brand new to the whole experience and as this occasion was orchestrated entirely by myself, my body and my mind was in control, and it knew just how much I could take. I was entirely in control of my own experience and for me that was perfect. While in the future I may investigate further into altered states of consciousness and seek out different ways of finding and achieving them, for my first attempt, a non-pharmacological, self-controlled, natural approach was the way.

Vaitl, D., Birbaumer, N., Jamieson, G. A., Gruzelier, J., Kotchoubey, B., Kuebler, A., Lehmann, D., Miltner, W. H. R., Ott, U., Puetz, P., Sammer, G., Strauch, I., Strehl, U., Wackermann, J., Weiss, T. Psychobiology of Altered States of Consciousness, Psychological Bulletin Vol. 131, No. 1, pp. 98-127, 2005
[Electronic Copy: Accessed 8/5/2009 p1-8]

Thompson, M. Dreamer’s Dictionary, Sunburst Handguides, pp 6-11, 1995

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