krishna das “ maa durga ” H u m a n i t i e s

krishna das “ maa durga ” H u m a n i t i e s


You’ll try out a few different forms of meditation and music to explore what happens in your body (your heartrate, breathing, muscle tension) in each practice. Then, you’ll reflect on peers’ experiences to come to some conclusions about altered states of consciousness (in this learning journal, we’ll try for alpha states, or relaxation states).


Anthropologists use an approach called phenomenology to study the human experience and consciousness. Frequently, this involves both asking others for details about how they feel and experience specific tasks as well as the research trying those tasks out to understand how it feels or is experienced in their own body. You’ll use this approach so that you understand what this methodology is like for anthropologists and also so that you can better personally relate to the topic of altered states of consciousness.



Immediately after this discussion in the topical module is a link to a reading in the library, “The Rave” (I will provide the pdf), that describes Hudson’s ethnographic work among people who attend secular raves. Hudson proposes that while rave is not religious, it can be considered a spiritual experience for some people that uses altered states of consciousness.

You’ll need to use this reading to help you with the assignment. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the following (some advice- for your own notes, try summarizing in a couple sentences your responses to the following questions):

  • How have academics understood rave? How do ravers understand it? How does Hudson’s method help him understand the meaning and experience of rave “from the inside”?
  • What is the relationship of rave to altered states of consciousness? What is the relationship of rave to spiritual healing?

Meditation (Two Parts)

You will be led through a series of experiences that induce light altered states for some people. Let yourself go into each experience, but note how you feel in your body. You might keep a piece of scratch paper near you to jot down your observations after each exercise:

  • What happens to your thoughts?
  • What does your heart rate feel like? Your muscles?
  • How do you feel in your chair?

Begin each of the meditation exercises by sitting in a chair that is not too deep or squashy (like a dining or office chair). Place your feet flat on the floor (or let them dangle if you’re short). Do not cross your legs (this raises your blood pressure). Do not cross your arms. Rest your hands gently in your lap (palms up or down is fine). Your back should be straight but comfortable, like each vertebrae is stacked on top of the one below it — no slouching backward or forward, and no leaning to either side. It looks like this:

Alternative text in detail precedes the image

Begin by deepening and slowing your breathing. Try four count breaths: four seconds in, four seconds pause, four seconds out, four seconds pause.

Religious and Secular Music

Finally, you’re going to listen to several types of religious and secular music. These work best if you have headphones. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, please skip the music portion and move to the alternate section on visual and movement repetition, which follows this section.

What do you notice about your feelings in your body in each piece of music? What is similar about the music (not words) across both pieces? Can you identify what connects the music to your feelings?

Shamanic Drumming (3 minutes)

Hindu: Krishna Das “Maa Durga” (4 minutes)

Christian: Hillsong UNITED “Our God is an Awesome God” (3 minutes)

Electronic trance dance music (3 minutes)

Visual and Movement Repetition: for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

These experiences demonstrate three forms of visual repetition used for invoking altered states of consciousness — one religious, one that is sometimes spiritual and sometimes secular, and one secular. While these are generally paired with music, I’d like you to reflect on the visual and movement repetition elements and how they impact your thoughts and feelings in your body.

Sufi Spinning (religious):

Fire Tribe (some Fire Tribe members consider this a spiritual performance, while others consider it a secular one):

Electric Daisy Festival (secular, watch the first five minutes or click around in the video to see different uses of repetition in light):

Part 1.

In your original post:

Describe your experiences in each of the meditations and with each of the pieces of music OR the visual/movement pieces. Reflect on any commonalities and differences across these various methods of inducing altered states. Be sure to be detailed enough to help other classmates see if there were similarities or differences to you. Your response should be a few sentences on EVERY meditation AND EVERY piece of music or visual/movement piece (music or visual/movement, not both — unless you want to!)

Part 2.

Then, respond to a classmate’s post:

Find a classmate’s post that has not had a response yet. Review what they posted.

Read and reflect on at least five of your classmates’ posts, then respond to one of those classmates. Comment on commonalities and differences that you noted across your experience and those of others, including both the classmate you respond to and across the other posts you read. Your response should be about 2 paragraphs

  • What did you hold in common as a group? What was different person to person?
  • What do you think this variability and commonality means in terms of culturally constructed meaning making (ways that people make meaning of experiences based on their unique cultural training) vs. biologically/neurologically common “hardware” that structures our experience?
  • What did you notice about similarities across the pieces of music OR visual/movement pieces, and how do you think these similarities work to alter people’s consciousness?
  • Considering Hudson’s arguments in his article, and considering the options here include secular or broadly used (not explicitly religious) practices, how can secular events or practices be used to create spiritual experience?