The hallmark of a shamanic trance is that it is induced. Consequently, shamanic practitioners and journeyers are very interested in different ways of inducing trance. I’ve tried some different methods myself, one of which I haven’t seen mentioned in this context, so I thought I’d share.
Probably the most common method used by modern North American practitioners is drumming. Live drumming, either performed by oneself or a partner, is excellent, but I’ve always used a drumming track and headphones. Shamanic drumming tracks are readily available and are said to be just as useful as live drumming, though I imagine that drumming for oneself adds to the rhythmic, hypnotic experience. That said, I know I could never keep up drumming and journeying at the same time!
Another method is the use of consciousness-altering chemicals, otherwise known as plant medicine, entheogens, or psychedelics. One needs caution and know-how to go down this path. In addition to research, one ought to speak with the plant spirits themselves as well, otherwise you are doing no more than just taking a drug. What I’ve tried is mild — a so-called flying ointment of my own making — but has produced some good results. Still, I don’t use it often.
Rather, my favourite method for inducing trance is through the act of sweating. I don’t know the physical mechanics of why it works, though I can guess at things like changes in hydration, electrolytes, and body temperature. It’s definitely not a unique idea, but I haven’t seen in mentioned in the wealth of literature available on how to journey. Certainly great physical exertion and exercise would be a great way to sweat and alter your consciousness, but I take an easier route (and perhaps safer one, given that I faint easily). I simply take a very hot (but not uncomfortable) bath. It brings up my heart rate and aids my poor blood circulation for starters. Then, as I begin to sweat more, I find my focus sharpening and the Otherworlds coming within close reach.
Naturally, everyone works differently. I’d be very interested to hear of other ways of inducing trance, or your experiences of what works best. Happy journeying!