The term 'trance' may be associated with meditation, magic, energetic flow and prayer. It may also be related to the earlier generic term, altered states of consciousness, which is no longer used in 'Consciousness Studies' discourse.
Today hypnotherapists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, sports psychologists and NLP practitioners, amongst others, use various forms of trances.
Neurolinguistic Programming (or NLP) is a further development of Milton Erickson's hypnotherapy, for which, however, he did not provide an orthodox methodology. Erickson would put his patients in trance with short stories. While keeping the ego of his patients occupied, he would target his healing messages straight at their unconscious mind, which he believed to have considerable self-healing powers. In this way he healed himself of the paralysis that affected him when young and to which he did finally succumb later in life.
Trance states have also long been used by shamans, mystics, and fakirs in healing rituals, being particularly cultivated in some religions, such as Tibetan Buddhism.
Some anthropologists and religion scholars define a shaman as an intermediary between the natural and spiritual world, who travels between worlds in a trance state. Once in the spirit world, the shaman would commune with the spirits for assistance in healing, hunting or weather management.
Achieving ecstatic trances is a major activity of shamans, who use ecstasy for such purposes as traveling via the axis mundi to heaven or the underworld, guiding or otherwise interacting with spirits, clairvoyance, and healing. Some shamans use drugs from such plants as peyote and cannabis or certain mushrooms in their attempts to reach ecstasy, while others rely on such non-chemical means as ritual, music, dance, ascetic practices, or visual designs as aids to mental discipline.
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India, still consults an oracle (spirit, deity or entity that enters mediums) known as the Nechung Oracle, which is considered the official state oracle of the government of Tibet. He gives a complete description of the process of trance and possession in his book Freedom in Exile.
Edgar Cayce (1877 - 1945) was an American psychic who claimed to channel answers to questions on subjects such as health, astrology, reincarnation, and Atlantis while in a kind of sleep trance. Cayce's methods involved lying down and entering into what appeared to be a trance or sleep state.
Trance has been shown to be very psychologically beneficial, by helping to relieve built up stress, allowing one to reflect on life issues without censorship or guilt, and generally giving the psyche respite from operating at alpha or delta states. Generally, one is only in a theta state for a period of minutes, right before going to sleep, and when waking up. Being in a theta state for 15 minutes is considered to be an 'extended period'. With the use of auditory driving, or other meditative techniques, this time can be extended significantly.