I cringe when I use the word shaman. It has become generic and meaningless, heartily misapplied. Even the shamans of Siberia weren't called shamans. They were called kam. So, when I use this vague gesture of a word, it is to allure you into an exploration of our innate power and magic, and into a deeper journey of dreaming and decolonization. Incidentally, I am not a shaman. When I say "shamanizing," I mean interfacing reality as an animist--as though everything is gloriously alive.
Speaking of terminology, I was recently talking to dreamer-extraordinaire Jenniffer ClarOscura. We agreed that the term "lucid dreaming" does not feel native to us, either. I wonder what my people would have called it; maybe it required no special term. People try to create distinctions between waking and dreaming, between dreams and lucid dreams, between lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences, between vision and visions, between life and death. But it's all life. Lucidity is an inherent condition. There is nothing to escape and nowhere to go.
I have been reflecting lately on how context affects our capacity as dreamers. While our traditional cultures had an embedded demand for our skill set, as well as an established protocol for empowerment and initiation, now we make our own way. It is less distinct, more open.
For some, maybe this is fun and feels like freedom. For others, perhaps like loss, or like being lost, or like skimming the surface of our dreaming capacity. I see fewer people engaging old-school dream curing techniques or psychopomp(ery?), and more entering fields of education, complementary medicine, psychology, and the arts. Now people come together from all parts of the world on the internet. God, I love the internet. An elder recently reminded me that people used to come together with the inner-net. How nice that we have both. The inner-net does not have to atrophy just because we have the internet.
The land plays a very strong role in our dreams. Each place has a different "dreaming." Perhaps we cannot be initiated by the land, but we can be animated by the land in a way that alters our expression in a very inclusive/expansive yet culturally-specific way. Homeland journeys are the perfect way to experience this.
Certain places are loci of lore, whose very vantages invoke eons of ceremonial use. Words fail me here, but these sites enable something like a partial retrieval of an initiatory current. Here in America (Turtle Island), I am interested in the chaotic quality that comes from so many different cultural currents crossing, which are different even from the land, which was and is so fundamental to the dreaming traditions of our ancestors. America (a broad, political stroke–the concept of a nation) has this schizophrenic dissonance which is just part of our substrate. It is different to dream in a land that knows who it is.
"Lucid dreaming" is a way of life. (By the way, we're dreaming.) It's fun to plumb the depths, and to have big plans and questions on the horizon. That way, we won't end up wondering what to do with our next limited window of endless possibility. (And we won't default to flying, having sex with hapless dream figures, or trying to convince people that we're dreaming.) We can do so much more. Remembering this re-establishes the wild dreamways of our ancestors. It doesn't require huge effort, just awareness of an intergenerational group endeavor. When more of us inquire about the old/timeless dreamways, or use dreaming as cultural excavation, we're making these established pathways easier for each other to access and navigate.
I like to keep a short-list of agendas for my next lucid dream so I'm not overwhelmed by possibilities. Here's my current top three:
1. Picking up pieces of me. I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from when my daughter had a stroke. It surfaced with a vengeance during a recent trip to the Emergency Room (for a minor injury). I want to go meet, greet, and literally collect myself from the time of the incident. Dissociation is common during trauma. "Lucid dreaming" has always been the perfect venue for soul retrieval.
2. Visiting my dead friend. Our departed loved ones are close at hand during this season, which makes ancestral dreaming more available. I miss my dear friend and want to give her a hug.
3. Experiencing tetrachromacy. Some women have four cones (color receptors) instead of three, which means they can see around 100 million more colors than we three-coned people can. What's that like? I love to be reminded of my limitations. Is there a way to go beyond them? I don't know, but I love exploring the loophole clauses of the universe.
In waking life, read your people's lore (folk and fairy tales, epic poems, etc.) to get a sense of your native stories and idea-structures. If you have no sense of your indigenous history or cosmology, ancestral dreaming won't hold much meaning. Build a strong container to hold the depths of your dreaming. Here are some more exhilarating prompts for unearthing ancient dreamways:
- Practice non-conceptual meditation to absorb the energy and illusion of the dreamscape
- Call upon your inner energy to heal [whatever is going on in your body, mind, spirit]
- Go inside the fairy mounds of Ireland [or visit important cultural sites of your heritage]
- Face your fear or ask your dream antagonist a question
- Ask what's beyond the dream
- Practice tolerating tremendous catalytic energies to prepare for the transformation of death
- Meet influential [literary, scientific, artistic, or spiritual figures]
- Meet with a god(dess) [and be prepared for anything; know your lore first!]
- Let that animal eat you
- Practice shape-shifting; pick an animal
- Ask for initiation, empowerment, and protection from your benevolent dreaming-ancestors
- Experiment with different protective energies to see how they function [violet flame, white light, energetic invisibility, amulets]
- Receive a symbol or amulet
- Swap contact information with other dream figures
- Chant a mantra to experience its function and impact
- Give your patients remedies in dreams, or ask them what they need, or ask how to proceed with difficult cases [with their waking life permission]
- Check in on grandma
- Go assure the future generations that we the ancestors love them
- Ask to see, have, or hold your next [book, painting, musical score, scientific breakthrough]
- Ask for a name
- Be love
- Become sound
- Experiment with different emotions to feel their impact on your surroundings; generalize this to waking life]
- Arrange a meet-up with a friend for some mutual lucid dreaming
- Walk through walls [and other exercises to strengthen will]
- Ask to feel the depth of your lineage
- Visit another time [past or future]
- Visit yourself in a parallel world/universe
- Go to the Moon
- Be projected into space as energy by a satellite dish
- Visit your favorite star systems
- Ask how bugs metabolize time/space
- Ask where the living traditions of your people are kept
- Fly over the Earth like a comet, blessing all sentient beings
- Ask to bear witness to "lost" ceremonies
- Meet the fairies [but don't eat the food]
What would you add, modern person? How are you paving the ancient and inherited dreamways?