Introduction to Ecstatic Trance Postures

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by Laura Lee ©2020

Welcome! I’m Laura Lee, here to introduce you to the website of the Global Headquarters of The Cuyamungue Institute (CI), the home of Ecstatic Trance Postures (ETP)!  This six minute video provides an overview of Ecstatic Trance Postures. Our mission is to introduce all interested to an ancient technique to enter into Ecstatic Trance, using Postures from select ancient artifacts that we interpret as “ritual instructions” to deepen and focus the experience.

Thus, we call this “Ecstatic Trance Postures” (sometimes referred as Ritual Postures or Ritual Body Postures) as the activation ritual for throwing open an inner doorway to an “Alternate Reality” where we have a visionary “spirit journey” of deep meaning, joy, and wonder. Mystical states are not for mystics only! They are easily achievable and accessible for us all — they are our birthright, with our benevolent Universe calling us home on a regular basis. No doubt you’ve had a mystical experience or two spontaneously? Most of us have, and here we can “dial it up on demand.” We’re here to hand you the keys.
 “Ecstatic Trance” is an academic term referring to those inwardly focused experiences of oceanic oneness, that mystical connection to a living, intelligent Universe that speaks to us in so many ways. It speaks to all of us, in a language we know deep in our soul. That’s just one reason that achieving this state is surprisingly easy. We already know how to do this!

In the 1970’s the anthropologist Felicitas D. Goodman demonstrated that the capacity to enter into a state of ecstatic trance is built into our nervous system, our body-mind-soul, our very DNA. It can be achieved through a shift in our physiology. And that is something our nervous system knows how to do, when given the right cues. What’s more, she found, this was discovered long ago by our ancestors the world over going back 50,000 years or more. Goodman deduced the clues to put this story of our indigenous ancestors, and their simple technique, back on the table for all of us. While there are many avenues to achieve this state, this one needs no drugs, no plant medicine, no botanicals, no outside agents, no sitting on the proverbial mountain top or in a cave meditating. All time-honored avenues, all effective. Yet ours is for the every-man-and-woman, and requires only a simple ritual, and those postures decoded, and depicted, by select ancient artifacts. She went on to found the Cuyamungue Institute, and we are carrying on the mission of introducing this work to all who wish to learn more. And the best way to learn is to give it a try! In the meantime, please read on….

We move in and out of mildly altered states on average of 50 times a day. So says brain-mind science. It’s so natural and easy, so much a part of our day, that we often don’t recognize altered states as so different from our ordinary waking state. Ever had a daydream, in which you were watching a “movie reel” play before your eyes? Were you so deep in that you forgot where you were? Ever get so engrossed in a creative task that hours went by, yet it felt like five minutes? “Suspended disbelief” is how we describe the mild trance of being transported by engaging live theatre. And “transported” is an apt term also for gazing at magnificent scenes of Nature, or absorbing music that strikes deep chords in our heart. And of course those peak moments of being struck by sheer bliss, feeling as boundless as the Universe, beyond time and space, fully at one with The All, when the blinders fall momentarily from our eyes to behold that which is beyond words, beyond time and space as we know it. The fact that so many of us have spontaneously fallen into mild trances and full-tilt mystical moments demonstrates how natural, how easily accessible they are.
This is territory we all know, and there are many ways to get there. Our work is about accessing that state directly, without plant medicine, without drugs, without botanicals, without outside agents or intermediaries. No spending years on the proverbial mountain top or cave meditating. Time-honored and effective. But we have another way — a ritual delivering the “access codes” to open that portal deep within, ourselves. And we can “dial up on demand” such mystical states because our physiology is what supports these experiences and we’ve long known how to invite our body/mind/soul to willingly, happily, enter into altered states.
A Glimpse at the Physiological Shift Supporting the Experience of Ecstatic Trance
It sure feels like a whole lot more is going on than what we have so far found in the lab — and this was a long time ago, in 1983 and 1990 when Goodman was invited into laboratories at the Universities of Munich and Vienna. Think of all the strides in the field since then! So what verification have we so far found that this state is anchored by a physiological shift? EEG Brain waves, blood chemistry, energy output, and more. Here’s the run-down:
“Waking Dream” is an apt description of both the experience of this trance, and the merging of the two distinct brain waves that seem to support it. Two brain waves that do not usually dance together, because they are normally found on opposite sides of our daily clock, separated by night and day. So the hybrid state of the brain centers that support our ordinary waking state, Beta Waves, along with those brain activity centers that support deep-sleep dreaming. Theta Waves, is an indicator that something interesting is going on in our trance state. As we marvel at how, with eyes closed, we can so vividly “see” a vision in trance, then that inner screen upon which we dream and imagine turning on with the Theta brain waves, while we are still in Beta brain wave mode to witness it consciously, is part of the answer.
Then there’s the paradoxical effect with blood pressure and pulse rate. Usually they either simultaneously both go up or both go down but rarely do they go in opposite directions. Yet that’s what we see, with blood pressure lowering, within safe limits, and pulse rate rising, similar to the effect of running fast. This too makes some sense, for in trance we are in a deeply relaxed state, yet energized, with a whole lot going on, and a lot of energy burned! This is one reason that involves only 15 minutes of the active, high-energy phase with sonic driving. We get a glimpse of just how much energy in another study that found the microvolt (mv) output of the brain can increase ten fold — from 250 mv in ordinary waking mode, peaking at upwards of 2,500 mv in trance. This can be explained to some degree by noting that each of our waking and dreaming centers alone burn a lot of fuel, so when active at the same time, and peaking, must be a very high-energy state. No wonder we describe it “launching”!
What all who dive into ETP find is a sense of well-being and joy, a sense of calm and uplight that lasts for hours afterwards. We can see the reasons for this in the huge surge of beta-endorphins, the body’s own biochemicals of well-being that are measurable in the blood. This follows a minor surge, then dramatic drop of cortisol and the stress hormones. “Ecstatic Trance” then is well named.
Goodman reports that no matter which of the many postures that make up the CI Canon this same physiological shift is found. And it starts to happens with surprising alacrity! When two long-time CI teachers, professional nurses who arrived at CI one summer with a suitcase full of non-invasive biofeedback equipment tested Paul and myself, (thankfully, no blood was drawn) they reported that at the first stroke of the rattle they could see their instruments start to move. How readily our body reads the cues and begins this shift. Yes, we can feel the gears moving in the first few minutes of the trance, and how interesting it will be to go back to the lab. We’re open to invitations!
Meet Your Guides 
Paul and I have served as Co-Directors of the Cuyamungue Institute since 2011. We worked directly with Goodman for the last decade of her life. We have taught this work around the world since 2000, with ten of those  summers primarily at CI for the workshop season. We look forward to what the next decade will bring, as the Internet and Zoom brings together our global, growing community.
Join our vibrant global community and enjoy ongoing free, weekly ETP Sessions Q&A Discussions, Roundtable discussions, special guest talks, podcasts, articles, special events, and a range of advanced classes, including how to introduce and host this work for your friends and colleagues. Many find more joy, empowerment, clarity, grace and wisdom within the Altered Reality, which spills into our Ordinary Reality. Many wish to bring ETP into their chosen field, be it therapy, wellness, hospice, life coaching, inventing, working with animals, the environment, teaching, art, music, writing, teaching, voice, history, art history, archeology, anthropology, brain-mind and consciousness research, the wisdom
traditions, self-actualization, and more!
Black Elk, the Lakota medicine man and visionary, tells of “the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. This is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world”.
About the practice of Ecstatic Trance Postures:
  • this is not a daily practice, not a replacement for your daily practice
  • it is compatible with all other consciousness raising practices, when done separately
  • there is no belief system, no dogma, no -isms with this work
  • no drugs, no botanicals, no plant medicine, no substances needed for this
  • no intermediaries are needed for this, no one between you and the direct experience
  • direct access is a sacred trust between you and the Universe, the “spirits”
  • you define for yourself, within your own worldview, what the “spirits” are
  • we are handing you the keys to open a portal that already exists within you
  • we recognize there are many portals, this is but an ancient one, reclaimed
  • we hope this becomes a valued tool in your repertoire!
Dictionary Definitions of Ecstasy and Ecstatic Trance
ec·stat·ic /ekˈstadik,ikˈstadik/
      adjective: ecstatic
  1. feeling or expressing overwhelming happiness or joyful excitement. “ecstatic fans filled the stadium”.  
  2. involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence.”an ecstatic vision”
Etymology/Origin of Word
Medieval Latin ecstaticus from Classical Greek ekstatikos
refers to Ex: outside, Stasis: normal state. So, stepping outside our normal state of being. 
Definition: noun. ecstasy; plural ecstasies 
  1. Ecstasy – an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement. “there was a look of ecstasy on his face”
  2. an emotional or religious frenzy or trance-like state, originally one involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence.
    Similar: rapture, bliss, elation, euphoria,
    cloud nine, seventh heaven, transports, rhapsodies, joy, joyousness, jubilation, exultation, heave, paradise, delight
    Opposite: misery
  3. The word ecstasy and ecstatic is used in its original meaning, which is based on the Greek ex-stasis, meaning ‘outside of yourself’, outside of the everyday world. The ecstatic trance brings with it a shift in our perception, a way of becoming aware of a reality outside of the world of the ordinary, and the mundane. The trance makes us able to perceive the continuum of life, from what has been called non-ordinary reality, a reality which has been known to co-exist with our physical reality throughout time.