Psycho-Navigation: Theory, Clinical Observations and Personal Insight
by Tom Kenyon, M.A., published 2006
A note to the reader: This is the first entry of an on-going website article dealing with the topic of psycho-navigation. This ability of the human mind is so rich and complex, I intend to add to this piece from time to time. This first part is an Overview of Psycho-navigation, the three fundamental characteristics of this type of mental phenomena, a case study and some practical advice for those who wish to explore psycho-navigation for themselves. To check out future entries, just return to our website—www.tomkenyon.com and go the articles section and click on Psycho-navigation.
Psycho-navigation, simply stated, is the mental experience of moving through inner space (the perceived space of the mind). It can involve the movement backward or forward in time, and/or moving into different orientations of space other than is normally experienced. Sometimes psycho-navigations can involve shifting one’s sense of personal identity, thereby gaining abilities or insight not normally possessed by the individual. These states of mind or mental attention can also involve moving in or out of an experience (such as a memory or fantasy) in order to gain useful information. Psycho-navigation is a fascinating ability that seems to be inherent in human brain activity.
Research in psycho-neurology has demonstrated beyond a doubt that EEG activity in the alpha/theta range can stimulate a virtual cornucopia of non-ordinary phenomena—especially those conducive to psycho-navigation.
The reasons for this are rooted in our very neurophysiology. As brain activity slows down from the normal waking states of beta (12- 16HZ) into the more relaxed states of alpha (8-12HZ), there is a decrease in muscle tension, respiration, blood pressure and heart rate. There is also a decrease in stress hormones, like adrenaline. The entire physical organism relaxes, more or less, depending upon the depth of alpha and its duration.
Generally speaking, and based upon my own clinical observations as a psychotherapist over the last twenty-three years, I would say that alpha activity sustained for at least twenty minutes or so, generates the above mentioned relaxation effects for most people.
As an Ericksonian hypnosis practitioner, I would often guide my clients into profound altered states of attention through a combination of Ericksonian metaphorical language and a simple focus of attention on the part of my client. I would have him or her focus on the breath, for example, and an appendage, say an arm or a hand. This focus of mental attention shifted their neurological activity. The use of specific metaphorical language combined with focused attention on the part of the client caused radical shifts in brain processing to occur.
At various points in our sessions, clients would lose consciousness of the external environment, i.e. my office, and instead enter into a deep dream-like activity. I call these waking-dream states in that the person is indeed awake and often sitting, but the mental experience is very similar to a dream. Theoretically this is caused by an increase in theta activity (4-8HZ). Theta is a much slower brain state than alpha, and whereas alpha is characterized by a relaxed attention, theta leaves the person with an ever-decreasing awareness of the external environment. The inner mental realities of the individual become more vivid and in certain ranges of theta (usually the lower) the individual loses much of his or her conscious perceptual contact with the external world. This decreasing of external sensory-based awareness may simply be due to the fact that the next brain state down from Theta is Delta (0.5 – 4HZ).
In Delta, there is very little awareness of the external world. And in the lower ranges of Delta there is no awareness at all. The one notable exception to this, based on research in the area of mediation and sleep, has to do with meditators. It seems that experienced meditators often report a fourth state of consciousness, in which the body is experienced as asleep while the mind is aware of itself as the object of its own attention. This body of research comes mostly out of Maharishi International University and researchers studying the effects of transcendental meditation. The research is interesting but not conclusive at this time. However, based upon my own experience, as well as that of other meditators I personally know—who, like me, use many diverse meditation practices—this fourth state of consciousness is an experiential reality. But let’s turn our attention back to theta, as this is the brain state responsible for the experience of psycho-navigation.
First of all, whenever I say theta, alpha or whatever, I do not mean to imply that the entire brain is ever in this one energetic state. The terms alpha and theta are statistical markers. The brain is never in any single brain state (except perhaps during coma and, of course, death). But in an alive and normally functioning brain, there are numerous types of brain waves simultaneously being generated all over the place. Anyone who has seen an EEG Topographical Brain Map can see this clearly. If you haven’t seen one of these, I invite you to check out a sample on my website: www.tomkenyon.com click on the Acoustic Brain Research tab, and go to the paper entitled Anecdotal Study Of EEG Effects on ABR Wave Form. It presents three topographical EEGs, which you can view on line.
What becomes very clear through topographic brain mapping studies is that there are multiple ranges of activity taking place at any given moment in the neocortex. During EEG studies involving this particular type of technology (neuromapping), researchers compare all the raw data coming in via electrodes, and conduct a statistical analysis, which is usually done automatically by computer software. The result is a schematic representation of brainwave activity that shows the locations of EGG activity, which brain states are dominant in those areas, and the strength of those brain waves.
Euphemistically, some people say things like “you have entered alpha, or theta.” While such labels may serve a purpose for those using them, such statements are, neurologically incorrect.
This may seem like an overly technical point to some (other than you scientists), but I feel such clarifications are a vital part of our understanding as we look at non-ordinary states of body and mind. Indeed, as we turn our attention to the mental phenomena of psycho-navigation, it is vital that we be grounded in our approach. We are not seeking some type of delusion here. Rather we are looking to develop an aspect of our own consciousness that allows us to think and perceive “outside the box.” And in my personal experience, nothing allows us to step outside the box as clearly as the mental act of psycho-navigation.
The Two Inter-locking Worlds of Theta
My ten years in brain research, under the auspices of Acoustic Brain Research, has created my personal conviction that theta waves create a dual-action within our neurophysiology. Theta activity both decreases our experience of the external environment, while opening the doors of perception into an inner world of sensory-based experience. It is as if the outer world disappears, and instead, a vivid and seemingly real inner world of attention opens before us.
Let me give you one example of psycho-navigation as I think it may help clarify some of the theoretical ideas I mentioned earlier. A woman, let’s call her Jane (not her real name), had been referred to be for depression. She had recently lost her husband who she had been married to for over twenty years. In the last years of his life, he had suffered a debilitating illness and his wife was his primary caregiver. Now he was gone, and she was bereft. Jane reported that she was almost afraid to leave her house or have social interactions with others. Her husband had, after all, been the sole focus of her attention all these years.
After talking a bit about her history and her current mental/emotional state, I played some pre-recorded music I had composed for the expressed purpose of generating altered states of awareness. As Jane showed signs of relaxing into the music, I began to speak to her in a low voice so as not to disturb her deepening state of relaxation. I used a method of constructing language called the Ericksonian Method. This way of using words and rhythm of delivery is based on the medical hypnosis work of Dr. Milton Erickson. Basically, the method creates metaphors that have built in messages for the unconscious mind. One of the beauties of Ericksonian-based metaphors is that they also deepen the trance state—driving the brain into the lower brain states of low alpha, theta, and at times, even into delta.
I began to tell Jane a story about a plant that had grown too large for its container.
At first, the plant was in shock as its old pot had been removed and the new pot had no boundaries. She (the plant) didn’t know what to do. But eventually her roots spread through the nurturing soil, drawing to itself everything it needed to grow. And in the end, after weaving this mind-bending story for about ten minutes, the plant blossomed in new ways.
As Jane entered into the trance state of internalized attention, her unconscious mind understood that the story about the plant was, in fact, a story about her. It took the message literally, and as Jane entered into the trance state even more deeply, her experience of herself and the world changed radically. She, me, and the room—all disappeared. I know this because after the session was over, we discussed her experience.
At a moment during the deepest part of the session, Jane turned into a plant. Her cognitive mind had been suspended, and she did not question the experience at all. She was a plant, and she was being repotted. As this occurred, she saw herself in another realm as a human moving backward through all her life experiences. She was somehow drawing to herself power or insight from these experiences in ways that she did not understand, but recognized nonetheless. And then she, as the plant, was taken up to God. In the shimmering white light of heaven, God forgave her for anything she thought she had done wrong while she had been caring for her husband. At this point, Jane started crying, and her tears eventually brought her out trance state and back to an awareness of herself and the room.
It was a deeply moving and freeing experience for her. And when it came time for her second appointment, she was no longer depressed. She was making new friends and rekindling old relationships. My work was done.
Now there are so many elements in this story that we could go into, including the truly fascinating inter-relationships between language and neuro-physiology. But the primary focus of this part of the article is to explore some of the more basic aspects of psycho-navigation. So let’s take a look at Jane’s experience as a means to discuss the fundamentals. (Note: If you are unfamiliar with Ericksonian metaphors and would like to experience them, check out the CD entitled, Freedom To Change, formerly called Freedom To Be. It contains three different Ericksonian stories designed to increase self-esteem and decrease self-sabotage. It is highly effective and a good example of the Ericksonian method.)
Neurology, Personal History and Intent
The first commonality in all psycho-navigational experiences, without exception, is the alteration of brain wave activity.
Jane’s experience of being a plant was, what I call, a non-ordinary experience. It is rare for most of us to experience ourselves as anything other than a human being. But in the more fluid brain states of alpha and especially theta, these types of experiences are more commonplace.
The use of sound and music as a means to alter brain state has a long history, as well as a scientifically documented basis. It is not in the scope of this article to discuss them, but if you want some solid neurological information about the relationships between our neurology and sound, then I would suggest two sources—an article on psychoacoustics entitled Constructs of ABR Technology which you can find on my website under the Acoustic Brain Research tab, and/or my book Brain States (New Leaf Publishing).
In any event, sound and music can and does alter brain state. When I played the music for Jane in my office, I was stimulating a part of her brain called the RAS, reticular activating system, which then altered brain wave activity in her neocortex. Her brain was driven, if you will, into an altered brain state, characterized, no doubt, by increases in low alpha and theta. Coupled with the language patterns of Ericksonian hypnosis, Jane’s brain generated profound increases of theta activity, as exhibited by her loss of awareness regarding her external reality. It was here, in the mind-altering space of theta, that she experienced herself as a plant and was taken up into heaven and before God.
Psycho-navigational experiences are strongly affected by personal history.
When Jane told me about her experience after she had come out of trance, I asked her how she had experienced God. She told me that he was vividly clear to her. He had white hair, a long white beard and a flowing white robe. She felt a deep abiding sense of peace in his presence, something she said, she had never experienced before.
I had asked her this question as part of my on-going personal and informal research into the Face of the Divine. After over twenty years of such research, something stands out, namely the incredible diversity of people’s experiences when they encounter their version of Divinity.
Jane’s experience of turning into a plant and going up into heaven to meet God was a classic psycho-navigation experience, although one doesn’t have to run into the Divine in order to have such experiences. A lot of these mental events do not have anything remotely spiritual or religious about them. But they all share the alteration of perceived time and space as well as a different experience of self-identity.
While Jane was busy being a plant, she was also in another realm of her mind. She was moving backwards through time to gather power and insight from her past experiences. She saw and felt this happening even though she did not know how such a thing could occur.
This splitting of identity in psycho-navigation is quite common. When people undergoing a psycho-navigation move outside of themselves to go forward or backward in time, they often see or experience themselves as both in time and out-of-time. This simply doesn’t make sense to someone in normal waking brain state. But to someone in an altered state of mind, characterized by strong increases in theta activity, such abilities are self-evident. They don’t have to be explained. They are directly experienced, even if they violate previous personal ideas about the nature of time and space.
Experiences in psycho-navigation are generated out of an interaction between altered brain state, personal history and intent.
When Jane entered her psycho-navigational experience, it was in the context of healing. She had come to see a therapist for depression, and the event took place in his office (namely, mine).
It is this setting of intention that is crucial for psycho-navigational experiences to occur. They don’t just usually happen. Something triggers them.
One of my premises is that psycho-navigation is an inherent ability of the human mind. All that is required is a stimulus and the right environment.
Indeed, under the right conditions, Jane could have experienced her psycho-navigational event in a number of places, including a church service where there was music, or perhaps in a dream.
The Three Elements of Successful Psycho-navigation
Personal history takes care of itself in psycho-navigation. It is the filter and the information-pool through which and from which all experiences are created. So there is no need to deal with it directly. It is just part of the tapestry that comprises mental experience—especially during psycho-navigations.
The other three elements need your attention, however, because they are the means by which you generate, consciously or unconsciously, the experiences of psycho-navigation.
The three crucial elements for anyone attempting psycho-navigation are:
1) a means to alter brain wave activity so that it enters the lower ranges of alpha
and theta activity
2) a clear intent on what is to be explored, i.e. a particular problem, a memory, a
3) a proven methodology
Ah, the power of right method. This is indeed a topic of immense proportions. There are so many ways to get to Wonderland (the Magic Window of Alpha and Theta), I doubt that I could ever explore them all, no matter how long this article becomes.
If you are seriously interested in psycho-navigation, I would say to explore as many ways of producing it as possible. The more techniques you have tucked in your back pocket, so to speak, the more effective you will be. When you find a pathway, don’t rest on your laurels. Find new ones.
Having said that, I will offer a few simple principles that will help you get started. The first of these is the first crucial element I mentioned earlier—changing brain state. If you are an experienced meditator, you already do this whenever you enter the meditative state. What may be different here, is that stillness is not the final destination. Inner silence is just the entryway, the threshold into another different kind of mental state.
Another very effective way to alter brain wave activity is through specific forms of music and/or sound patterns. This is another vast topic; but simply said, it needs to be music without words and with a pattern or rhythm that is continuous, slow and unchanging. This type of music is not entertaining in the usual sense. Rather it is entraining, in that it is a means to an end, a way to slow down brain wave activity. There is a virtual plethora of musical compositions out there, some of them quite good, and most of them, quite frankly, pretty rank. If listening to a piece of music makes you feel relaxed and inner directed, then you may have stumbled onto something that will work for you.
If you want to try out one of my recordings, I would suggest Infinite Pool, which is alternately called Activate the Holographic Mind in some versions—notably when it is purchased as part of the ABR Library. This psycho-acoustic recording sets up a very complex tonal matrix that is absolutely perfect for the act of psycho-navigation. In fact, as an acoustic path for producing psycho-navigational states of mind, I don’t think anything comes close. But then of course, it is me saying that. Oh well.
Anyway, back to the point. You can alter your brain wave activity to enter the ideal brain state for psycho-navigation through meditation and/or psycho-acoustics.
I personally prefer the two above methods, but there are others. If you have a sound and light machine, sometimes called a brain entrainment device, you can certainly use it to increase alpha and theta activity.
A side bar here—I imagine that some of my readers might be experimenting with the use of drugs to stimulate non-ordinary states of mind. While there is no doubt that drugs can and do alter brain wave activity as well as neurotransmitter patterns, these methods lack something crucial. Besides being illegal in many places, and in addition to their possible neuro-toxic effects, drugs do not increase your locus of self-control. This term basically refers to your ability to control your own experience. Drugs can produce mind-altering states, no doubt. But you are not in control of them. And when the high has passed, you cannot re-enter those states at will. This is because your brain/mind did not learn how to create those states to begin with. But if you learn how to control your own brain wave activity, at will, then you really have something. Then you are a true psycho-naut, as someone recently introduced himself. Until you learn how to control your own trips into the inner realms of consciousness, you are at the effect of your transportation device or material. My suggestion is to take hold of the wheel of your own mind and don’t surrender it to some drug, cult, religion or, for that matter, your television.
Assuming that you have chosen a method to alter brain state, you will now need to be clear on your intention. Psycho-navigation is a fantastic mental tool, and although you can just explore inner space to see what happens, you can also be practical. You can use psycho-navigation as a means to gain information and insight about virtually anything. Just set your intention before beginning and much of the phenomena that arise will be related to your intent.
Rituals of the Mind
Psycho-navigations involve moving through perceived inner space. And just as when moving through physical space, you need to have a system of keeping track of where you are. If, for example, you were to drive a car to some distant location, you would probably use a map to locate your position in relationship to where you are going. If you were to fly a plane, you would need to locate your position not only in relation to your flight path, but also in relation to your altitude.
The fundamental marker for traveling through inner space is a threshold of some kind. This mental image delineates normally perceived space from the non-ordinary space of psycho-navigation. When you cross the threshold, you enter another world, one filled with magic and immense possibilities. Perceived space is more fluid here. Time is malleable, and one can move forward or backward, or even up and out of perceived time altogether. You can also go back into the memory of a past event and experience it from different perspectives. This gaining of perspective provides information that may not be available to you when you are stuck in a two-dimensional time-line.
You can even go forward in time and experience various possible time-lines, all of which are expressions of future possibilities and probabilities.
As you enter more deeply into this inner space of the mind, you can experience extraordinary transformations of personal identity. You can, for instance, become a flying creature, unbounded by gravity and then go off into other worlds. You might even become a demi-god or some other kind of ultra-human. These types of explorations can be very powerful in that you can bring information and new ways of being back to your normal sense of personal identity.
The Threshold is essentially a mind ritual. It is a signal to your unconscious mind that you are choosing to move into a new mental space, an inner realm where the laws of time and space are not what they are in normally perceived reality. Indeed, it is this alteration of perceived time and space that is the weft and weave that allows psycho-navigations to take place to begin with.
Below are two types of thresholds. They are a simple means to enter psycho-navigational space, but there are hundreds of ways to do this. I offer these two because they are relatively simple to construct in the imagination, and are quite useful for beginners. In future additions to this article, I will present more complex methods.
Sensory Modalities and the Creation of Thresholds
I am going to explore this topic further in the future, but it is important to mention the basic concept here. And what is this basic concept? It is that each human being creates the experience of inner space through his or her primary sensory modality. This means that if you a visualizer, you will see the thresholds and what’s on the other side. If you are a feeler (kinesthetic), you might not see anything at all in your mind’s eye. Rather, you will tend to have feeling sensations about the threshold. If you hear an inner voice describing your experiences, then you are auditory, and you may not see or feel anything. You might just hear a voice describing the threshold and the worlds that dwell
on the other side. It is also quite possible to experience a combination of any or all of these modalities. A fourth possibility is to perceive the threshold through none of the senses, but rather through direct mental revelation or gnosis. This is a kind of knowing. You simply know what the threshold is, what it looks like and what lies on the other side. In pure gnosis, there is no direct sensory information.
It is vital to understand this. Psycho-navigation is not a visualization. You don’t need to see anything. If you do, fine. But if you don’t, don’t worry about it. Go with the sense that seems most natural to you.
Crossing the Threshold
Imagine yourself moving through a door or a portal. As you do so, you mentally tell yourself that you are crossing over from your everyday world into another world.
If you have set your intention, i.e. what you wish to explore, this other world will reflect or hold images and information about your expressed desire. It is that simple. Once you cross over the threshold, you follow your intuition and move in the directions that call you. From here, you just go with the flow. Allow yourself to experience what arises before you in this other space.
The Up and Down Staircase
This is a fascinating threshold because it accomplishes two things simultaneously. First, it delineates the line between ordinary perceived space and the extraordinary space of psycho-navigation. This is the primary function of all thresholds. Secondly, however, this particular method also sets the direction of movement.
You imagine yourself moving up or down a flight of stairs. If you want to be artistic about it, you can imagine a spiral staircase or some other fanciful form. The important thing is to either move up or down.
Your unconscious mind interprets this direction of movement as a directive or command to move into that type of inner space. Moving down will activate the unconscious mind to reveal what it holds—memories and primal psychological forces.
Moving upward activates what is sometimes called the super-conscious or higher mind. This is the realm of light, angels, and elevating perception.
Indigenous shamans often refer to these two worlds as the Underworld and the Celestial World. In future additions to this article, I plan to discuss some fascinating aspects of cultural anthropology as it relates to shamanism and the art of psycho-navigation. But let’s return our attention, for now, back to the basics.
Putting It Altogether
Before you begin to psycho-navigate, I suggest you set your intention. Decide what you wish to retrieve in terms of information or insight. I also suggest you keep a Psycho-navigation Journal close by. After you finish each session, write down some notes to jog your memory when you read over them again. This type of journal can be invaluable since much of the content and imagery that reveals itself to you in psycho-navigations will be related to your intention. It is best to write down the essence of your experiences shortly after you come out of them. This is because psycho-navigations are generated out of altered states of consciousness—very much like dreams. And like dreams, details can easily be forgotten.
This is due to the fact that certain types of memory are tied to specific mental and emotional states. When you are psycho-navigating, you are in a very precise nesting of neurological events and their resulting states of mind. When you exit those states of mind, the memories of those experiences become less vivid and crucial information that seemed self-apparent quickly becomes lost.
In a typical psycho-navigation session, you will most likely sit up. It is certainly possible to psycho-navigate lying down, but as your brain waves slow down, there may be a temptation to go to sleep. While this type of sleep and the dreams they generate are, no doubt, interesting, they are not psycho-navigations. Psycho-navigations are not free falls into altered states of mind, but rather they are controlled and self-directed journeys into the inner spaces of consciousness itself.
Alter your brain state. You want to increase alpha and theta activity. This is the neurological foundation for all psycho-navigation regardless of the form or the tradition it comes from. So make sure you are using a method that produces and sustains this type of alpha/theta increase. For most persons, especially beginners, this probably means using psycho-acoustic music created for the sole purpose of increasing this type of neurological activity.
As you feel yourself slip into the more relaxed states of mind and body that are typical of increased alpha and theta activity, imagine one of the thresholds. Move across the threshold and begin to explore what you find in the space beyond the portal.
Space is the final frontier. And not just outer space, but inner space as well. Psycho-navigation, to borrow a phrase from Aldous Huxley, quickly opens the doors of perception. Through these inner portals of the mind, new worlds of paradox and magic await you. There are treasures here—new insights, new ways of being and new ways of viewing yourself and the world. Although the vistas that will open before you can be breathtaking and awe-inspiring, it is what you do with what you have discovered that matters most. And so it is, I believe, that those of us who take up the act of psycho-navigation may face our greatest challenge—here in that odd land between the everyday world that we live in and the non-ordinary and extraordinary worlds that exist within us.
There is both wonder and danger in the spaces that open before you through the act of psycho-navigation. The wonder will be self-evident; the danger is more hidden.
It is simply due to the fact that for some of us, the inner worlds of being are more desirable than the outer world of everyday life with all of its inherent complications and challenges. This may be especially true as we enter a new planetary and collective period of greater uncertainty and conflict. And yet it is here in the foundry of life-experience that knowledge is gained and wisdom is forged. Thus, to use psycho-navigation as an escape from reality would indeed be unfortunate. It is, I think, a most wondrous thing to build a bridge between our inner worlds of being and the outer world of life. Both worlds are enriched when there is a free flow of commerce between them. And the world we all live in is sorely in need of this new form of currency.