Art July 17, 2014
Many of the world’s great minds came up with life-changing inventions and inspirations whilst in an altered state of consciousness — meaning they literally dreamt them up. From Isaac Newton to Archimedes, there are countless examples of inspiration that seemed to come from nowhere while the mind was doing something wholly unrelated. And yet the creativity lies within us; it is there but sometimes eludes us, slipping from our minds like water through our fingers.
How would it feel to be able to enter an altered state of consciousness (ASC) and not only retrieve those thoughts, but emerge refreshed, recharged and ready to create? You’re probably thinking I’m going to tell you about a meditation technique that you need to practice for many years, or a diet that forbids any tasty morsel touching your lips again. Fear not: this is easy and requires nothing more than five minutes and your ears.
Most people experience an ASC every day, like when we are daydreaming or driving.
Twenty years of research and development have led to the use of consciously designed therapeutic sound. The British Academy of Sound Therapy has championed research on the use of sound as a therapeutic tool since 1994, and throughout this time we have developed specific techniques that help relax the system and place the listener into a deep and yet controllable altered state of consciousness. Most people experience an ASC every day, like when we are daydreaming or driving from point A to point B, but not remembering chunks of the journey (scary but true!). This type of ASC is fleeting and hard to maintain, but might well have been the ASC that Archimedes and Newton slipped into when retrieving their world-changing ideas.
Another form of ASC can be induced by hallucinogens such as LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and MDMA, which can’t be easily controlled and of course isn’t currently legally available to prescribe. Meditation places people into an ASC but this method can take a long time to master and can be difficult to maintain when the mind is racing and our creativity is constantly pressurized by deadlines.
Research has shown that five minutes or more in an ASC…not only recharges the body and mind, but also reduces stress.
A sound-induced ASC is natural, gentle and doesn’t have to last hours. The listener is in full control. There are also no known harmful side effects and most people can enter an ASC without a great deal of effort.
Famous ASC artists include Hugh Jackman and Paul McCartney, who profess to enjoy slipping into a meditation-induced ASC on a regular basis. Research has shown that five minutes or more in an ASC, where the predominant brainwave frequency is Alpha or Theta, not only recharges the body and mind, but also reduces stress by lowering heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. As a result, it may help alleviate stress-related symptoms. It enables the listener to access the higher levels of consciousness that are connected with openness, art, nature, creativity, abstract thinking and positive mood.
Ideally we should spend two periods of at least five minutes in an ASC every day. We all have a built-in natural body clock and it’s been shown that 11:30 AM and 3 PM are when we can get the most from a sound-induced ASC “trip.” Instead of accessing ASC during these times, what do we usually do? Turn to caffeine, which forces our brainwaves to maintain Beta and even Gamma frequencies. Too much Beta without enough Alpha can cause burn-out.
You are aiming for the “between worlds” drifty feeling similar to the one just before sleep.
To prepare yourself you need a pair of good headphones or in-ear buds. Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes as this enables the brainwaves to slip into a lower frequency more easily. Search your music collection for open, spacious music without complex harmony or too much driving rhythm. You ideally need to choose tracks that are over five minutes long as this is the time it takes for your brainwaves to settle down. Do your best to stay conscious; you are aiming for the “between worlds” drifty feeling similar to the one just before sleep.
And for a deeper, scientifically backed ASC relaxation experience, click below. This piece was part of a research project looking at sound-induced ASC in relation to consciousness:
When you come back, take a few deep breaths, open your eyes and slowly bring yourself back to a more conscious state. Wiggle fingers and toes, stretch, stand up. You may feel a little spaced out or woozy, this is normal as your brainwaves are rebooting and coming back to a predominately more conscious, aware and alert state.
Sound-induced ASC is a newly emerging field and is set to be a major development in health and wellbeing. I am currently working on an innovative project to introduce creative and chill-out “sound-stations” for a well-known communications company, where employees can tune in to ASC by putting on headphones for a few minutes, emerging refreshed, relaxed and ready to create.
Follow @lyzcooper for more on sound therapy and creativity, and stay tuned for more on the topic of Musical Communication on the blog this month!