Ritual Body Postures: Empirical Study of a Neurophysiological Unique Altered State of Consciousness

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Abstract

This study examines ritual body postures (RBPs), a technique for the induction of a unique altered state of consciousness (ASC) characterized by the paradoxical arousal of a combined trophotropic and ergotropic trance. The objectives were (a) to test the specificity of RBPs, (b) to describe effects on daily life, and (c) to analyze experts and novices regarding the aforementioned objectives. The study was conducted over a ten-month period with 19 participants. Participant observation and open-ended interviews were conducted, and previous experiences with RBPs and ASCs were assessed. Experience-focused interviews were conducted with four novices and four experts. (a) No specificity of the RBPs was noted; (b) effects on daily life included higher awareness of the body, mind, and social interactions, above all a better understanding of the participant's biography, increased self-care and self-assertion, and higher levels of tolerance and acceptance; (c) novices described more tactile and nociceptive experiences, experts more visionary experiences. Considering effects on daily life, no differences were detected between novices and experts. ASC experiences while in RBPs serve the satisfaction of basic needs that are central to counseling and psychotherapy. Due to their unique paradoxical arousal, RBPs open up an independent research field for future studies on ASCs.

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