Mind-body disciplines that center on the attainment of special states of consciousness to achieve therapeutic objectives are increasingly embraced. Meditation, hypnosis, self-hypnosis, yoga and Autogenics all link to special psycho-physical states that, once reached, facilitate positive personal changes. To simplify matters, we will call practitioners of these and related disciplines “meditators.”
The 20-Item Scale is based on the reports derived from over 500 personal experiences of people who have entered trance states using various methods. The central thrust of the Scale is firstly, to help meditators identify aspects of trance characteristics that resonate with their aptitudes, and secondly, to assist in evaluating progress over time.
Meditation evokes practices designed to bring about harmonious entente with the physical self via the mind’s internal forays, and to open channels into what may be called the “Higher Self,” whatever that may be for each one of us. Most meditation styles first draw upon relaxed focused attentiveness in a process that expands the reaches of relaxation and accesses personal organismic energies. Meditative practices vary widely according to the disciplines spawning them. Focusing upon the flow of breath in a context of kindled awareness is a revered meditative method paving the way to opening the gates of meditative trance states. Progressive levels of higher clarity attained via meditation are apt to open new perspectives relative to self-identity.
Medical hypnosis is increasingly recognized as a powerful healing modality with applications in numerous fields of medicine. It is utilized for pain control, preparing patients for surgery and easing medical stress. Medical hypnosis instills therapeutic mental imagery strengthening recovery. Hypnosis may be called the most potent non-pharmacological relaxant known to science, allowing the mind to penetrate the far reaches of the nervous system thus infusing bodily organs with higher balance and function.
Self-hypnosis is a mental skill enabling the individual to self-guide into hypnoid trance states. In self-hypnosis, executive functions of the mind, such as decision making, learn to connect to forms of awareness always present within ourselves, but normally out of reach. Learning to attain deeper states of psycho-physical relaxation, paired with focusing on dedicated mental imagery, allows for the creative rewiring of brain-mind networks.
Yoga. Yoga embodies pathways to the mind-body interface that makes possible the emergence of higher expressions of health and vitality. Honed for millennia, yoga postures tap into energy channels that function below our levels of awareness. The deepest roots of yoga systems have long centered on the attainment of “mental states of high emancipation.”
Autogenics is sometimes called “Western Yoga. “Developed some hundred years ago by Swiss and German physicians, Autogenic Training was developed to bring about hypnotic mind states by willfully recreating the sensations reported by deeply hypnotized individuals. Dissolving bodily stress and alleviating psychosomatic conditions such as hypertension were the initial (successful) goals of Autogenics. First inviting trance via creating selected bodily sensations such as arm heaviness and warmth, Autogenics further evolved to encourage the quest for transcendent mind states.
Meditation, hypnosis, self-hypnosis, yoga and Autogenics, all have the capacity to create special states of consciousness belonging to the family of “Therapeutic Trances.” Seemingly separate disciplines, they are found, on closer look, to share common principles. While there is a spectrum of trance-like states that the human mind can assume, therapeutic trances are given this appellation because they embody properties that promote health and well-being,, and importantly, stimulate the expansion of one’s “higher self.”
By no means do the experiences included in the Scale provide an exhaustive repertory of all varieties of trance phenomena open to humans. Clusters of trance experiences have been grouped in statistical fashion, with emphasis lent to those that favor the realization of more potent trance dimensions.
The Scale is composed of 20 subscales, each of which is graded from (0) to (5). The goal is not to reach 100. Rather, it is to discover the meditator’s aptitudes. Once a trance phenomenon has been discovered, it is encouraged to manifest in subsequent meditative forays. Experiences during trance states may vary widely from one individual to the next, and within the same individual in the progression of training. Every meditator needs to fully realize that achieving therapeutic trance is a creative process, akin to a sculptor who, starting from a marble block, diligently shapes a masterpiece in time.
The Scale is usually self-administered a short time after a trance experience. The meditator, once exiting from the trance, retroactively recaptures its elements and grades them according to the Scale. (0) is indicative of no appreciable change from one’s usual waking state, while a reading of (5) represents a maximal change in that subscale. Progress may then be depicted in graph form.
Usually, only a limited number of subscales are expressed in the individual trance experience Those are the ones that the meditator is best to focus upon and develop. Trances, like fingerprints, manifest themselves in unique ways in every individual. The very highest manifestations of trance, however, may prove to be universal in their final expression.
The following eight scales are referrable to sensations usually associated with the physical body. They include modifications of individual sensory modalities, but as trance depth progresses, they tend to involve global bodily experiences.
Muscular Relaxation: This is a subjective evaluation of global bodily relaxation. Relaxation, as an all-encompassing dimension involving all levels of the body-mind, has no boundaries. Relaxation, however, signifies more than the common notion of muscular repose. Relaxation starts at the beginning level of the neuromuscular system and moves inwardly to involve our autonomic (robotic) nervous system. Eventually cognition and emotions are relaxed to reach states of therapeutic trance.
- Perceptible relaxation of at least one part of the body, such as arms, legs, back.
- Mild relaxation of several bodily parts.
- Substantial widespread relaxation, including inner chest, abdomen and pelvis.
- Deep global body relaxation.
- Intense relaxation never attained. A reading of is paired with a statement such as, “I have never been so relaxed in my entire life.”:
Body Deceleration. The body slows down allowing physical tranquility to emerge. There is progressive disinclination to move and to speak, a gradual gravitation of the body toward stillness. Heart and respiratory rates reach deep base levels. Blood pressure eases off. Awareness stays kindled.
- Barely perceptible slowdown of breathing and heart rate.
- Notable slowdown and synchronicity of breathing and heart rates.
- Entire body feels decelerated.
- Comfortable immobility, stillness.
- Profound blissful stillness in a context of acute sentience.
Body Heaviness/Buoyancy. Initially, there may be sensations of heaviness. Later, sensations of lightness (buoyancy). Paradoxically, both these sensations can coexist. As trance progresses, lightness, the sensation of floating, usually takes precedence and is often dramatically experienced as levitation.
- Barely perceptible sensation of heaviness or lightness in arms and/or legs.
- Lightness or heaviness extends to entire body.
- Merging of heaviness and lightness into a novel sensation.
- Floating, weightless sensation.
- Sensation of airborne drifting or flying while staying still:
Breathing Connectiveness. The feelings linked to breathing are progressively intensified.
- Perceptible awareness of chest/abdominal motions involved with breathing.
- Perception of air touching the inside of the lungs.
- Awareness of spine movements with breathing.
- Intense merging with the flow and rhythmicity of breathing.
- Sensations of energy flowing in the body with each breath.
Body Volume Perception. Body volume involves the experience of the internal space that the body occupies Eyes closed, in the normal waking state, this volume has a certain constancy. In trance, modifications of this volume are experienced.
- Awareness of the internal configuration of the body.
- Perceptible expansion (at times contraction) of body volume.
- Enhanced awareness of connection between breathing and body volume.
- Body volume occupies ever greater space.
- The boundaries of the body feel like they extend beyond physical confines.
Perception of Body Configuration: The representation of the shape of the body usually undergoes transformation during trance. In the normal waking state, eyes closed, the shape of the body is well delineated in the mind’s eye. In trance, parts merge. Arms, legs, thorax, abdomen, and head become fused. This fusion points to a phenomenon that can be called “total body awareness.”
- General awareness of one’s body configuration.
- Arms are felt in their entirety rather than in their separate elements. Sensations of blending of the hand, arm and shoulder musculature into a unified whole.
- Blending of consciousness of arms and legs. Beginning merging of the extremities with the rest of the body.
- Simultaneous, sometimes instantaneous merging awareness of the entire body.
- The body, totally unified in awareness, feels like a force field.
Perceived Body Temperature: Within trance, sensations of warmth or coolness emerge. The experience is somewhat different from the application of a heating pad or an ice pack. Warmth is experienced as “psychic heat,” coolness as “psychic coolness”. Either dimension may accompany progressive trance states.
- Perceptible heat or coolness in one or both arms.
- Definite heat or coolness in both arms.
- Heat or coolness in both arms and legs.
- Notable sensations of warmth or coolness through entire body.
- Merging of warmth and coolness to produce a novel body-wide experience.
Organ Awareness: This dimension of trance is an extension of the breathing awareness mentioned above. This awareness diffuses progressively to other bodily spaces, extending to various organ system such as the gastro-intestinal, the genito-urinary and the cardio-vascular.
- Awareness of lungs.
- Added awareness of the heart region.
- Added awareness of abdominal region.
- Awareness of other structures or organ systems: sexual organs, the spinal cord, structures inside of head.
- Experience of ease of mental travel to any of the body’s organ system.
The following five items refer to perceptions associated with the mind’s cognitive dimensions. Output of language relaxes and the flow of words ebbs. Emotions grow quieter, then attain stillness. In deep trance, there is a pervasive sense of harmony which is perceived as independent of thoughts, emotions, and mood.
Relation to Surroundings. The perception of the environment’s presence recedes. The mind’s attachment to its surroundings is redirected.
- The feeling of direct connection with the environment relaxes
- Beginning autonomy from surroundings is experienced.
- Surroundings begin to feel substantially removed from attentiveness.
- Surroundings take up a minimal portion of awareness.
- Surroundings feel nonexistent and devoid of relevance.
Language Flow. The mind’s usual spontaneous generation of words, thoughts and memory streams relaxes. In the deepest therapeutic trances, the mind’s language output is nil.
- Increased awareness of words/phrases as they intrude on meditative quest.
- Progressive perceptible language output slowdown.
- Notable diminution of word output and sentence formation.
- Awareness markedly withdrawn from language.
- Complete word silence in the context of profound peacefulness, with the perception of “I exist apart from the language of my thoughts.”
Time Flow. The sense of time elapsing is relaxed in trance. In the deepest trances time feels as if it is standing still.
- Perceptible lapses in the experience of the continuity of time.
- At times, initial increased awareness of time passing, most often followed by decrease, with periods of absent or being “off time.”
- Marked decrease in time awareness with frequent periods of silent or absent time.
- Sensation of time occasionally “standing still. “
- Sensation of the irrelevance of time passing, in the context of feeling ….. by this novel perception:
Emotions: Emotions undergo relaxation in therapeutic trances. Their intensity wanes, and emotional quietude emerges. In the most profound trance, the experiencing mind separates itself from emotions. Mood, the ongoing background emotional tone progressively moves toward a peaceful neutrality.
- At times, initial increase in awareness of pre-trance emotional residues. But with meditative perseverance, a gradual lowering of emotional intensity.
- Perceptible softening of emotional tonality.
- Notable emotional stillness with emerging feelings of harmony.
- Pervasive neutrality of mood with emerging serenity.
- Disconnection of awareness from emotions and mood, with the feeling that “I am separate from my emotions.”
Mental Imagery. This subscale measures the mind’s potential for the creation of imagery, which is intensified in trance. Imagery in trance often reaches intensities found in dreams.
- Eyes-closed visual inner space and/or of auditory space.
- Awareness of visual images, colors, sounds or even music is slightly kindled.
- Images begin to appear as they may do in dreams.
- Ability to hold eidetic images and/or sounds begins. Merging of colors, sounds and other senses to obtain novel amalgamations, called synesthesia. Colors are more intense and localized in different parts of the body.
- Images and sounds experienced contain a notion of universal significance.
The following seven items refer to perceptions belonging to what may be called the highest levels of human consciousness. These experiences are described as transcendental, or otherwise “ineffable.” Because descriptive terms to denote these complex experiences are often unavailable in our language, the meditator is asked to intuitively grade the intensity of their manifestation on a scale of (0) to (5).
Perception of Energy. Progression into trance can lead to experiences of energy. Energy is often described as currents, waves, pleasant static electricity or vibrations coursing through the body. Descriptive terms include feelings of personal power, force and vitality. In the maximal range of this subscale, the feeling of mental energy reaches concentrated intensity:
Locus of Self. The experiencing of oneself borrows from several dimensions, some physical, some psychological, others spiritual. This subscale gauges the feeling of self in relation to personality as an entity which has transitoriness. In trance, the personal attachment to one’s personality relaxes, sometimes profoundly. In the most intense manifestation of this scale, it may be stated “My personality has a relationship to me, but it is not me”:
Clarity. In this progression the central feature is a feeling of clarity of understanding. The knowing of self becomes independent of logic or fact. The progression continues At the most intense level of this subscale, conundrums or koans such as “Has the universe always existed?” become understandable:
Happiness and Joy: Happiness and joy, as experiences, do not require logical reasons for their existence. This Scale progression begins with gravitating to feelings such as acceptance, gratitude and empathy, moving to feelings of enthusiasm and optimism for life, and evolves to fundamental joyfulness.
Empathy and Love. This dimension of trance begins with feelings of affection, compassion, and empathy with humankind, and ultimately, to feelings of love for all life:
Peacefulness and Order. This progression begins with feelings of calm, evolving to include experiences of tranquility, serenity, and ultimately, to profound feelings of peacefulness. While normally life on earth and events in the cosmos may feel chaotic, experience within this item is an unusual and welcome sense of universal order.
Experiencing “Pure Consciousness.” In the experience of “Pure Consciousness” the meditator experiences awareness energy without its usual contents. In the highest manifestation of this trance state there are no perceptions of thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories. It is as if consciousness has been distilled into a purified elixir. The sense of oneself, in the waking state, includes the feeling of separateness from others and distinctiveness in society of individuation. With trance progression, this feeling of separateness recedes. Feelings of unification or amalgamation take its place. The usual perspective of self-centering gives way to feelings of oneness and unity with and within all of life:
Readers are invited to send their commentaries regarding this scale. Personal reports related to the experiencing of any one of the dimensions of trance as outlined above, or any others, are most welcomed. This scale is open to ongoing evaluation and modification predicated on the feedback. Participants are invited to send their suggestions and comments to the following mail address: email@example.com
Gérard Sunnen, M.D., is a medically trained psychotherapist working in New York City. Certified in psychiatry and neurology and a dedicated meditator, he writes about the clinical uses of medical hypnosis, meditation, Autogenics, and yoga. Please consult his websites for more information at: