We are super excited to talk about our latest project: “Altered States of Consciousness: Exploring Our Reality”.
This book and exhibition will profile individuals throughout the world that intentionally enter altered states of consciousness solely for the collective purpose of self-reflection and healing of themselves or others.
Since the beginning of time, individuals in all cultures have found different means of entering these extraordinary realms to receive visions and messages. From Tibetan Buddhist lamas to the African tribe of the Bwiti, we have found all cultures and religions share the common desire to achieve a higher level of consciousness, whether through meditation, plant medicine or other creative means.
We have been highly fortunate to cross paths with many of these highly intuitive (Western society may refer to them as psychic or gifted) individuals from different parts of the world and felt drawn to profile them in our next project. The authentic individuals are typically incredibly secretive and often quite difficult to find. The meeting with the Mongolian shaman we have later this year only came to fruition after multiple long visits to the country and traveling very deep into the nomadic countryside.
We have been fortunate to witness some indescribable events with some of these special people and wanted to deepen our understanding of the experience.
It is a thought that we all share a common curiosity, and almost a primal desire to understand these other realms.
Through imagery and stories, we aim to:
- Visually profile portraits of the beautiful people that can enter these states, and return to tell of their journeys
- Tell the stories of how these unique individuals came to realize their calling
- Explore the methods used by certain individuals in different regions and their thoughts on the meanings behind the visions
- Attempt to explain the worlds people enter, the messages that people receive and what these people do with this guidance, whether for healing, personal growth, or community guidance for others…
- Explore the history of these substances and rituals and the legality in different regions
So far, our journey with this project has taken us to Mongolia to spend a week in a monastery with a Tibetan Buddhist lama, a week in Central America drinking Ayahuasca with shamans, time with a world-renowned whirling dervish in Egypt, and lastly, extensive time with a Balinese village spiritual healer, an intermediary to the spirit world…
We look forward to more big experiences this year! In addition to our scheduled tour expeditions, we will also have the chance to profile more of these special individuals. In March, we will interview and photograph a bomoh and shaman elders in a small village in rural Malaysia. During our March expedition group, we will travel to Bhutan where we will speak with and photograph a Bhutanese shaman and then on to rural India to meet with a sadhu. With our Mongolian tour groups in June, we will travel deep into nomadic Mongolia to meet with the elusive, indigenous shaman. And in the fall, we will travel to Gabon, Africa to speak with the Bwiti tribesmen, who, along with their president, use a root called Iboga to enter their highly altered state, (the Bwiti tribe has a uniquely peaceful society due to their ritual use of the plant).
We are excited for the journey in 2019!
Trance and other altered states of consciousness are strongly associated with healing practices of shamans, a subset of magico-religious healers. Among shamans, trances are usually induced by mechanisms such as singing, chanting, drumming, or dancing, after which the shaman in training or practice collapses and becomes unconscious and has intense visual experiences. These experiences presumably induce a state of relaxation that replaces fast brain activity in the front areas of the brain with slow wave activity representing more emotional information (Winkelman 1986; Winkelman 2006)
Different methods are used to induce trances cross-culturally. These methods can require excessive physical movement (including shamanic drumming and dancing mentioned above), but may also involve sleep deprivation, fasting, sleep, and psychoactive drugs (Winkelman 1986).
We always love to hear from people that have interesting stories to share. Please reach out!
Todd and Ruth Rafalovich