Spirit Bear Dreaming

Dreaming and related endeavors

Although we toss around the term “time” quite a bit, we don't actually have much of a handle on what time really is. We believe in this aspect or quality of experience called time, and we have machines to measure it passing, but then we use the fact that such machines measure time as a definition of time itself. Great thinkers leave us with prosaic and uninteresting descriptions of time. We don't know much about time at all and I am skeptical about any “logical” reasoning that fully depends on using ideas we have difficultly even defining.

Researchers have shown that the world we believe we are seeing is an image our brains assemble for our use. Likewise it has been shown that other parts of our minds respond to events in our environment without our conscious awareness. So, in many ways our perceptions of happenings around us are just a part of a larger context. Our desire for coherence and continuity helps build an image of the world that allows us to act and exist in the world. And that's a good thing as we might not be able to survive if we didn't have this ability.

In some ways the passing of time is only a perceptual experience. We've all been schooled in the notion of time as a path we travel. In Kurt Vonnegut's notorious novel, “Slaughterhouse Five” the character Billy Pilgrim experiences his life out of sequence, jumping from segment to segment of his lifeline, unstuck in time and experiencing it from a different point of view, moment to moment. You might think of it as being shifted out of the containing dimension of space/time and not bound to “travel” continuously through it in a linear fashion.

Why might you think you are not experiencing the same lack of linear sequence? And how would you prove it is so? We already know that the brain likes to keep things simple and coherent for us, so maybe it fiddles about with things to keep us on track in our daily life, giving us a comforting picture of a simple and easy to cope with reality.

So, what's my point? The common sense notion we have of living time in a linear and continuous manner may be just something our brains do for us to help us survive. I think that it is likely that we are more like Billy Pilgrim than we care to admit. That at a “higher” or more complex level of experience, time is not so rigid and linear. That consciousness is a bit more flexible and unbound. And more pointedly, in dreaming our consciousness has more flexibility to move as it will. It isn't moored in earthly “survival mode” and can wander in time and space and into probable timelines and different ways of experiencing reality.

But can I prove it to you? Not directly, but I know hundreds of people, literally, who would agree with me on this, and nearly all of them have arrived at this conclusion through studying their own dreams. What is required is to keep an ongoing dream journal and to study it to look for those dreams that play out situations that occur in what was then the future. You'll need to capture all dreams that are recalled because it is most often the case that the most mundane dream situations are the ones that show the best evidence.

If you keep a journal for a long time you'll easily gather hundreds of dreams like this and it will eventually not be such a big deal. When I have a dream like this I like to check the details to see if something is being emphasized that I would normally ignore. Those things often end up being useful things to investigate.

If you are interested in this subject and want to learn more about it and how to catch dreams like this, Robert Moss has written an excellent book on the subject, titled “Dreaming True”. I just checked and even though it was published in 2000, it is still in print and is the best book on the subject that I know.

So, after all that, to answer the question directly: Why are we dreaming the future? Because we are more than our waking earthy, linear consciousness. There is more going on in the mind than we suppose. Finally, the Dream Source is passing us information about the world and our life, and offering up new paths for growth and development.


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There are two general usages of “soul retrieval” as I’ve encountered the term, so it helps to try to delineate the different usages. First, within the practice of shamanism there is a process called a soul retrieval. Secondly, there is the notion of healing of the soul through whatever means the psyche uses, by itself or with the action of another person or group, spontaneously or by intent.

So, we can talk about the healing process or the process that is intended by a shamanic practitioner. I’ve experienced many of these permutations and the outcomes seem similar but the process is different. The feelings and experience vary and the results are hard to explain clearly, other than to say that some missing part returned and that I feel more like myself.

A spontaneous soul retrieval “just happens” and it is hard to pin down exactly how it happens. My experience is that it takes place over time and may be related to sincere efforts to improve one’s inner life through something like meditation or study of sacred or mystical topics, or through efforts at self healing. Or perhaps not, the actions of the deep parts of the self can be mysterious and trying to turn them into a recipe seems like a mistake to me.

I’m sure other people have different experiences, but for me the process just built up like water behind a dam, and then overflowed and it was hard to say why, exactly.

A soul retrieval mediated through the efforts of a shamanic practitioner is usually worked out through some ritual or process, according to the training and experience of the shamanic practitioner. I’ve done this many times and each one was unique and I had a different response each time.

The most intense one was conducted by my physician of that time, who had a lot of “alternative modalities” training and used this technique when required. She drummed and watched over me while I went back in time and relived an accident from when I was a small child. It was intensely emotional, and freeing, and I returned with a part of myself that had been “lost” in that accident. I returned streaming tears and in joy and strength. That was an amazing experience and I think it was because I was so ready to heal that part at some deep level.

I’ve also worked with shamanic practitioners who use a very specific ritual form. My involvement was to basically sit in attention and let them do all the work, and wait for them to bring back the missing part and install it back in me. This was a bit more subtle and involved a lot more ritual and overt actions and expressions on my part. Not as intense as returning to the accident, but also very effective. It lacked big drama and took a while to understand.

Finally, I’ve done a number of soul retrievals as part of a group where most of us were using the instructions of the teacher to do the work. We had specific instructions on what to do and just got on with it. I don’t know why, but when you are ready the soul or psyche just seems to do it.

In all of these cases, the personal experience was not the same, nor was the practice or form of the ritual. What was common was that there was something wounded or broken that was healed. The feeling was different for each and the impact was different for each.

I have a vague notion that the more fundamental the wound, the stronger is the feeling of the healing. But that might not be true, and I’ve had a few retrievals that were just vague and unclear. I've had some experiences that suggest I was healing a wound that resulted in my death. I'm not sure what to make of that, could it be some other life, some past life or alternative life? How can I confirm a thing like that? But it seems to have happened a few times and I now just assume they are symbolically powerful images. And that's fine, the healing is the major impact.

This is a complicated subject and coming to grips with it is not trivial, it took me years. I think that there is the process, and the results, and then the understanding that develops from a successful undertaking. The missing part has to be integrated back into the whole, and requires that we pay attention and act appropriately for the formerly missing part.

Finally, sometimes the retrieval fails to bring back the missing part. That could be caused by a variety of reasons, but if it happens we have to build support to fill the gap left by the missing part. I've not had to address this problem very often and don't have much to offer on this aspect, except to say that if you seek out a shamanic practitioner, seek one with as much experience as possible.

There much to this aspect of shamanic practice. Here's wishing you Sweet Soul Wholeness!


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The full question was: I had this weird dream where I saw this guy I knew long time ago as a kid and he wasn't what I expected him to be like. What does this mean?

I'm not sure what that specific dream means, but I can share a similar dream of mine. I once worked for a small business that was bought by a very large international corporation. One of our original leaders had been responsible for a lot of business dealings and financial matters and soon became the contact with the new layer of management. Since I had no direct contact with her I didn't think very much about her and just thought of her as a “managerial type.”

I had a dream where she was working behind the scenes to get us all pay increases and better benefits from our new parent company. Without recognition, she is working very hard to help coworkers who are having a hard time, and just doing many things to help everyone around her. When I woke I thought about this for a long while and considered that my opinion of her as “just” a managerial type was incorrect, or at least not the whole story. I'd have to reconsider my judgment of her and I did decide that she was doing a lot for the whole group without much notice.

In the “Active Dreaming” approach I use on dreams, dreams require action. I thought that the best I could do was to thank her directly for her hard work. So, I wandered over to her office when she wasn't busy and when I noticed her door was open I asked to talk. I thanked her for all of her hard work for us (we had all gotten good pay increases, we just didn't know she was the one who enabled it). Her jaw nearly hit the table and I was embarrassed to discover I was the first to show any gratitude. Even from the people who had direct knowledge of the situation! I had simply dreamed about it and used that dream to deduce the situation. She deserved a lot more and my little effort was greatly appreciated.

Well, that was the start of a new friendship and mutual respect. We've been friends for over a decade and even though I am not in business, per se, whenever I need business-type advice she's one of first I will ask. Without that dream I never would have considered talking to her directly.

I think that sometimes dreams can tell us information we are not paying attention to, or give us some extra insight on a situation. Overall, this dream taught me that I wasn't paying full attention to everyone around me and that I had a bit of bias about managers. But, because I used it as the basis for action, it helped me make a friend who is now part of my network. But more importantly it showed gratitude to someone who deserved it. Who knows, that might have been just what she needed that day. It certainly cheered her up that day, and if it did only that it was probably worth it.

So, if the dream about the person from long ago was my dream, I would think about how I picture the person. Is there more that I am not considering, and what should I do about it? What new aspects are being shown? Do I need to make contact? Or even just reevaluate my idea of that person?

Dreams demand action!


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This is an excellent question to struggle with. I’ve wrestled with these “reality questions” since I young and the struggle has driven me to explore many interesting byways of the human experience that I might otherwise have overlooked. In high school I encountered Chaung Tsu’s famous story, as translated by Burton Watson:

“Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn't know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.”

This tale is at least 2500 years old, so this question has been around for a long time. I assume that it has always been asked, ever since we revealed self-awareness and started to consider our experience.

I can’t give a definitive answer, but I can say that my understanding of the question changed radically once I started studying and working with shamanic dreamers. The folks I’ve worked with have a very general shamanic cosmology that permits great latitude in interpretation and use, and the concern is not with definitive facts so much as with the truth of personal experience and how it can be used to improve life.

Once you have had enough experience traveling through dreams and other dreamlike places, you see that the butterfly question is often interpreted as a dichotomy, but it actually isn’t. There is no need for one of them to be true, and there is no need to assert that dreaming is nothing but vague imagery and wish fulfillment, or whatever the current popular notion of dreaming claims. Dreams are real experiences, dreams are real places, dreams have many qualities that can be used as the dreamer likes, and dreams are open to study and exploration.

If you work with dreams of your own, and of others who are close to you, you can map out the many kinds of realities that you find in dreaming, Once you do that you can test the qualities of dream realities. I won’t go into a long explanation of my experience, but will pick just one example that deals with an aspect of dream reality that is close to waking realty, dimensionality.

Long ago I read in a Jane Roberts book on dreaming that one aspect of dream reality is that if you observe carefully you can watch the space of the dream expand and change. So for a few days I set myself an intention before sleep to observe this phenomenon. It took a few nights for it to occur and I found myself in a familiar light industrial part of town full of twisty alleys. When turning a corner I carefully observed that the sides of the alley were quickly assembled behind the person I was primarily focused on, and that the space of the dream also expanded behind them.

Since that dream I've repeated this kind of investigation many times. In some dreams the “physical” forms are created just in time and you can see it happening if you observe in a detached way. There are a lot of oddities in scale and dimension in some dreams. I once found myself in a dream that was somewhere between 2D and 3D and I can't even explain that clearly, it is too weird for words. Likewise, the flow of time is not always like waking time. I've had dreams where time could flow in any direction and I had to learn to reverse time to get back to solving a problem. And dreams within dreams? Multiple parallel realities? This kind of stretching of reality has been common among the dreamers I know.

The point here isn't that these things are a new definition of reality that others must accept. This is only one small corner of what is possible if you choose to work with the idea that dreams are real in their own right and are real places. Your mileage may vary and I won’t tell you what you should experience, please test it yourself.

Over the last few decades I've worked with many hundreds of dreamers, working in their own grassroots way to develop skills navigating in these other realities. I can't say why any of them choose to do so, but I can say that one of my reasons is to develop greater flexibility of consiousness and to expand my notions of reality to include more and more possibilities. I feel that this has paid off greatly for my own inner understanding and growth, and that has turned dreaming into a very functional tool for dealing with those things that life throws at you.


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My experience has been that the divisions between “visitations” and other kinds of dreams of the dead are not always so clear-cut. I've definitely had visits from the spirits of the departed, usually right around their passing, where things seem real and yet also dream-like. But more common have been the dreams with a special glow to them and amazing feelings when dreaming with a loved one who has passed. In both cases you wake with the feeling of certainty. The feeling of love and connection are not mistaken, I think.

I've had many, many dreams of the dead, both of those I know and those who I have seemingly just met in dreaming. Sometime there is the feeling that the soul is a bit lost, probably because they had no maps or ideas of what to do after passing. I've also met the dead who seem to be keeping near our earth for their own purposes, ofttimes continuing their efforts of improving things behind the scenes.

Dreaming with the dead is not so uncommon, I think, but is not taken so seriously by us “modern” people anymore, but it is a very common experience. One only has to scratch the surface of dreaming to see it. I've casually shared my experiences with groups of people, usually during a meal when the topic arises, and a few will chime in. But most will talk to me privately about their experiences as if it were a taboo subject. It isn't. We are closer to the dead than we suppose.

I'd say that in all of these cases the best way to judge what is going on is to go by the feeling you have on waking. You need to tune into feeling before other “educated” parts of your mind start editing the feeling and redefining it along socially acceptable lines. This might take practice if your mind tends to automatically conform feeling into acceptable norms. So you might have to develop the habit of learning not to edit the feelings and just sit with them and allow them to be non-conforming.

My experience is that feeling and imagination and intuition are undervalued, and so these “muscles” can get weak. You need to exercise them and build them up so that they will help you discern these “soul things” like these visitations of those who have passed. Once you develop them a bit, the differences in “mode” are easier to spot. This is greatly helped by keeping a dream journal and doing dreamwork on your dreams. Short of that, I can say that many of the dreamers I have worked with see a great variety of dreams with the departed.

One of my favorite books on this and related topics is “The Dreamer's Book of the Dead” by Robert Moss. It is still in print, so it might be worth a look if you are very interested in this area. Full disclosure, I am a big fan of Robert's work and have attended his workshops and retreats a number of times. Your own experience will teach you the most, but having some maps like this book, maps that cover the territory from the view of experienced dreamers will help you develop your own understanding of what is going on. And that is best kind of understanding.


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Just last night I shared a dream with another dreamer on the other side of the world. I've had many shared dreams since I began actively working with dreams and working with other dreamers. When you begin to recall and record dreams and share them with others you find that this is a very common experience. However, since we don't spend a lot of our time sharing dreams and talking about dreams, we miss a lot of what is happening, and it seems rare and unusual. You don't often share dreams with other people who you don't know well in your waking life, so you never notice the sharing that is taking place.

So, my take on the question, the way it can happen is that dreams are real experiences. It is common to talk about dreams in a belittling or demeaning way, “You're dreaming!” someone might say as a put-down. But this just exposes that the speaker believes that dreams are not worth much and of no real consequence. It seems that many people subscribe to the idea that the mind is fixed in the brain, which is some kind of computer, and that dreams are just 'bad' or 'weird' output from that machine.

However, many other points of view are possible. In the ancient world there were many who saw imagination as a third aspect of mind, along with thinking and feeling. It was seen as a real dimension of mind and part of actual reality and not a part of only the thinking self, or the fuzzy 'bad' thinking as many characterize it these days.

A view of imagination as a powerful and active part of our lives persists in many native cultures and groups that have not been westernized and modernized. In this view dreams are real things, real experiences, real places. The imaginal realms and can be private or shared and also be permanent or temporary. If you read ancient texts in this light they no longer seem metaphorical, since the authors are speaking about real places.

So sharing a dream with someone, especially someone close to us, is not strange, but is a part of our common heritage. We all can feel and think, and although it is not considered a major aspect of our Self in the modern western world, we can all imagine. The more we work on feeling, the better able we are to feel. The more we work on thinking, the better able we are to think. And, like the other aspects, the more we work on imagination, the better able we are to use imagination and work in the imaginal realms.

If you want to delve into this you should look at the French scholar of the prior generation, Henry Corbin. There are decent translations of his books, and a number of websites cover his ideas about the persisting reality of the imaginal realms. And the philosopher Synesius of Cyrene, who was a student of Hypatia and eventually became a bishop in the early Christian church wrote on this. Some call him “Saint Synesios” and he wrote a book titled “On Dreams” where he delves into the reality of imagination and dreaming. In his view the imagination is the closest we can get to the divine and the sacred, and it is higher and more real in some sense.

My experience is that we share dreams with others quite often. Those we love and those who share the same goals will often find a common imaginal place to meet. In my circles of dreamers, those who are devoting effort to delve into the depths of dreaming, sharing dreams is quite common. Many of us find ourselves in dream schools in the dream world. I sent my friend, who I mentioned above and who lives in New Zealand, an email this morning telling her that I met her in a dream class. She wrote back with her experience. It was colored by her style of dreaming, and did not occur at the same hour, but was essentially the same place and the same group of people. Can I prove it to you? No, but I can tell you that this is quite common, and that you can test it yourself by paying more attention to your dreaming and working with other dreamers.

If I dreamed the same dream as my close friend or relative I would take it as a hint to pay attention to my dreams, and to look afresh at what I share with them in our lives, and the events of the shared dream. There are many adventures to be had in this kind of dreaming, but you need to record your dreams and share them with someone else who does the same.


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Shamanic practice involves both personal and inner efforts, and a broader approach of working for and with others. The traditional role of shamanic practitioner is to act as intermediary between the community and their adjacent supernatural realms.

It is certainly possible to bootstrap yourself into shamanic techniques with some helpful books and media, but you will eventually and probably, in order to get deeper into the experience, need to make it about more than just your own experience. My path was to start on my own and eventually to travel to nearby places to study with good teachers. I eventually found a local group, seeded around a local shamanic teacher, which met regularly and worked to common purposes.

First, just a bit about the term shamanism. There is the academic study of shamanism, there is the practice of shamanism in native cultures, and there is the use of shamanic techniques by modern western people. The first is fascinating and worth study, especially so if you have the desire to become an academic. The second is worthy of respect and honor, but is not appropriate for others to push their way into that world, nor is it correct to try to wear such a mantle and propose oneself as a representative for people who have their own voices.

The third use, however, is where we can find a place for study and practice as it has been recreated from the fundamental shamanic techniques of all people. Shamanic techniques are the oldest spiritual technology we know about, and we find it at the roots of all great traditions. The spirits want us to participate in this great adventure which is accessible to most people.

A primary notion of shamanic practice is that through the use of shamanic techniques we can send part of our selves to other realms. While there we can interact with spirits to find balance, healing, and help with problems for oneself and others surrounding us in our day-to-day lives. Shamanic practice is not a replacement for day-to-day life, but is for augmenting that life and expanding one's capability and capacity for growth and development.

The basic shamanic technique is to use repetitive sound to put the mind into a state where some part of the mind, a part other than the self-focused chattering voice, seeks into the other worlds. The shamanic universe takes different forms based upon the culture, the traditions, and personal idiosyncrasies, but the basic form divides the world into three broad “worlds”.

First, the lower world, often found “below” us and commonly the source of Animal Helpers. The “above” world is often the place to find Teachers. And the “middle” world includes the day-to-day world and surrounding “planes” that shade off into other related realms. Generally a beginner should avoid the middle world and focus the lower world and perhaps the upper world if desired. Traveling to these worlds is called journeying.

There are many ways to enter a shamanic journey trance, the most popular being a frame drum played at a steady number of beats per second. After sufficient practice one can enter a light trance while playing the drum, but to go deeper, or when first learning, one needs someone else to drum. Many people use a recording of drumming with headphones. More on this later, but the recordings you need to use are explicitly NOT musical, they are always labeled something like Drumming For Journeying. Music with a non-repetitive rhythm or melody will usually engage your music-listening self, but what you actually want is something somewhat boring and loud enough to shut out the inner monologue and let your inner vision journey on. This sound is the vehicle that you will ride on. Once you are journeying the drumming shifts to the background.

Aside from a sonic vehicle, you need to focus your intent. Especially when first starting out, you need to avoid drifting and need to have something to lead you on. Think of your intent as a light that will illuminate the path to the place you need to visit. As your skill matures you may find other modes of using your awareness, but at first you need to focus and your intent should lead you to your goal.

Without a teacher to start you on specific attainable and useful goals and offer technical advice, you will have to be disciplined to stay on track. But if you study up on shamanic practice and work with your experiences you should be able to find a set of worthwhile goals to lead you forward.

If you're reading this and feeling that journeying is “just” fantasy, then you need to learn to shift your critical thinking so that it doesn't block or filter your experiences while you are having them. Beginners need good critical thinking to help them develop discernment, but the critical thinking needs to stand to the side and observe well while journeying, without interference.

The potential problem here is that the critical thinking part wants to define experience to have it conform with expectations while it is occurring. This will sometimes lead you into boring and meaningless areas, and you may miss important things as you prejudge your experience. If you tell your critical thinking part that it can comment all that it wants AFTER the journey is done and recorded, then your experience will lead you to more interesting places, and you will have more fun and learn more.

You should keep a journal of all your journeys. This is critical! I prefer something with a stiff cover to make writing easy no matter where I am, and some people use big blank page books so that they can draw important images. No matter what, you need to keep a journal and write it all down. You will eventually have too much material to recall, so you must write it down. Eventually your journals will reveal new aspects of your path that you might otherwise have overlooked. I keep one big journal with journeys and dreams and notes from my study and relevant courses I might take. It pays over and over as you go on. I cannot overstate this, write it all down!

The first journeys should be to the underworld. Very often the initial journeys for beginners will be to start with the image of a place in the natural world that can lead underground. Pick a place you feel strongly about or find beautiful or attractive. A place like a cave or opening in the earth, a waterfall, or a tree base with an entrance is common. If you think of a place or first see an inner image as you read this, then that is a good place to start. You will journey to this place and somehow enter, open, or dig into the earth. If you have no success, consider alternative places and try a new one next time. I know some practitioners who have used the same place on every journey, and others who have multiple points of entry or who have shifted their entry point over time.

You start by listening to the drumming and relaxing. You will eventually develop a routine to get you going, but what I commonly see people doing is to take some relaxing breaths until they feel calm and centered. Many people cover their eyes, some like to lie on their backs, some sit in a comfortable chair or sit on a meditation pad or blankets. I prefer to sit cross-legged on a few cushions on the floor. Sometimes I like back support, and I ofter wear a sleep mask if light is bothering me. Many people have a blanket to keep warm to compensate for lowered body temperature while you are “away”.

Some people have a little pre-flight checklist in mind and I like to check out my body then review my plans until I am sure I have them in mind. Initially, many people “dig in” to feel comfortable and then focus on the drumming while keeping their intent in mind. As you sit and just let the drumming take over, your inner “vision” will activate. You may feel your attention start to move or flow. Then, when you feel ready, you journey to your destination. Remember, use your intent to help you navigate. If you have trouble, just “ask” for help using your inner voice. You can use it to state your intent.

The first journey is often about getting acclimatized and just “looking” around. Some people see with inner sight, some hear things, some have other sensory experiences or use some inner form of knowing. You can try this journey a number of times until you feel that you have traveled into the ground or sense that you are “under” the earth.

Some people have vivid experiences right off the bat, other require a number of tries until it starts to make sense. Perhaps you will see something definite or meet someone. If so, mentally ask them who they are and what they have to tell you. Perhaps it will seem realistic, or not. It is all OK, let it be what it is. It is like learning to play the harmonica, nobody can directly show you the inside part, you have to learn how to trust and verify what you experience and work from there by doing it. Allow yourself the luxury of trying again as much as you need or like.

The underworld is definitely not the traditional religious view of hell or a place like that. It is a place, and it is “below,” and you don't need to add much more to it than that. In my personal spiritual cosmology I tend to assign it a certain place and purpose, but you should grow you own understanding through experience, study and contemplation.

Once you have a bit of experience entering the underworld you can go to the next step. This second intent is to seek out an Animal Helper. Some teachers tell you to travel around until you see the same Animal three times. Some are not so strict. Go by feeling and need and maybe by what you lack.

When you meet an Animal Helper, and it may take time so don't stress about it, understand that this is a relationship, so it might not be just sweetness and light. In my first journey I met a large and intense Animal that was confrontational and who tested me in some unpleasant ways, but who also immediately changed me in a positive way. But many of my day-to-day relationships are like this, too, they come with conflict and great energy and are sometime a bit too intense, so it is no surprise that this happened to me while journeying. Many others that I know have large and powerful helpers full of sweetness and support and power. It is impossible to predict specifics, but I think we tend to get what we need at that moment.

Some people have mythological Animal Helpers, or creatures they cannot identify or which don't seem like they should be living beings. That's quite all right, I find that the reasons become clear over time, so don't stress or try to make journeying conform to expectations. See what it brings you.

Many shamanic practitioners meet and work with many Animal Helpers over time, so don't automatically buy into the notion that you have one Animal Helper or are locked in somehow. Some folks call them Power Animals, but I prefer Helper as it is a more accurate description, in my experience. Once you have met an Animal Helper you can ask them to show you what you need to know and ask them for help any time you need it. This is important: ask for help when needed. Ask them what they need and what they can do. If you want to develop deeper skills, you have someone who can help you, so build a relationship.

Once you have an Animal Helper you can more easily explore the underworld or focus in on learning specific things you need to help you in your life. Some teachers will have you journey to the upper world to meet a Teacher or a Higher Self to ask advice. You should ask your Animal Helper to lead you to the upper world. They should be able to lead you there but might not come with you, or only come part way with you. Teachers generally offer help and advice, but my feeling is you should not bother them with trite questions. Shamanic practice should lead to improvements in other areas of your life, so don't be afraid to ask for help about jobs or mundane subjects or fixing problems. The spirits want you to succeed!

I do suggest avoiding travel in the middle world until you have experience, and you have one or more strong Helpers. It is a good policy to always be accompanied by at least one Animal Helper on every journey. They will be able to help you understand things when you are unsure and will warn you when appropriate. More than once I've had a helper jump out in front of me and become powerful when they see a problem that I missed. It is important to develop some close relationships with Helpers and to have fun and play when possible. Spend some time running or flying or swimming with them, as fits them. Relationships in the spirit realms require discernment as they do in the day-to-day world, so don't take them for granted.

Beyond these things, you are only limited by imagination and your goals. One of my favorite journeys is to revisit dreams that have given me a strong feeling and which I feel need some deeper understanding. I learned this technique from Robert Moss and have used it hundreds of time to get more information and to query a dream for more help.

I have had marked success reentering nightmares, which from my perspective are dreams that frighten you to get your attention about something important. I've also had great success journeying into tarot cards, runes, the lives of my ancestors, stories from great mythologies and travel throughout time and space. There really is no limit, and it can open you to vast areas of knowledge of which you have been unaware. And it also requires lots of study and research as a result!

If there are no teachers in your area, and you have made some journeys and feel a calling to this practice, then seek out teachers who do workshops in reachable locales. Making an effort pays off, I find. I work with a local teachers and my circle of peers now, but when I first started out I had to travel many hundreds of miles to attend the odd weekend workshop to learn more and share with other kindred souls. I've also participated in a few online groups and have even done some journeys with friends on the other side of the globe over the internet. Working with others greatly increases your learning as it gives you confirmation about what is working, and that really opens up things in a nice way.

This piece has gone on quite enough, so here are a few resources. I first learned to journey on my own as I was studying deeper into dreaming and discovered the “Dreamgates” audiobook by Robert Moss, which included a good introduction to journeying as a way to revisit dreams. I've attended a number of his workshops that mix dreaming and shamanism and have read most of his books and have learned much from Robert.

For something a bit more focused on shamanic practices, per se, I think that “Awakening To The Spirit World: The Shamanic Path Of Direct Revelation” by Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman covers a lot of territory and includes a drumming CD that you can use. Both are well-known practitioners who have written a lot and are worth some attention and study, I've read many of both of their books. This book was published around 2010, so there are possibly many used copies around if price is an issue.

I've also found books by Tom Cowan to be worth reading. Michael Harner's “Way Of The Shaman” is the foundation book for a lot of the modern efforts and most serious practitioners have read it. He also has produced a series of journeying recordings of drums and of rattles that are very good. His Foundation for Shamanic Studies is worth checking out and includes links to classes and teachers all over the world.

If you just want an inexpensive drumming track to start out you can locate Frauke Rotwein's “Shamanic Journey Drumming 3” album on Amazon and download track 2, “Multiple Drumming” for 99 cents. It is 30 minutes long, which is plenty long for a beginner.

As a recording to use for journeying I prefer “Shamanic Journey Drumming: Spirit Passages” by Evelyn Rysdyk and C. Allie Knowlton, which is includes a callback that you can trigger with a button press, to skip forward, when you are journeying. A callback is a nice thing to lead you back from a journey. (I have a friend who always keeps a bit of chocolate around to nibble on while they are writing up their journey on return. Fun and grounding!)

Just these few people are a good start and will naturally lead you to others. Best of luck!


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This is a rich and deep area of study that usually requires making some amount of effort if one expects some level of reward and achievement. Some of the oldest human writings concerns dreams and their meanings, and over the ages many approaches to dreaming have been developed.

In the modern era one only has to scratch the surface to find many methods and groups or “schools” devoted to this rich seam of human experience. Having spent decades on my personal quest in dreaming, it has been the foundation of every profitable spiritual effort I have made since beginning to focus on dreaming.

I started with the works of Patricia Garfield and Jeremy Taylor, who I see as advocates of the modern “people's” style of dreamwork. I then worked my way through the dreaming books of Jane Roberts and then to the shamanic approach of Robert Moss. I have developed some definite ideas about how one can approach dreaming and develop some basic skills that will help one navigate life in a better way.

The most basic skill is to record every dream you recall. These dream reports grow in value the longer you keep a dream journal and review it. If you don't record dream reports you're missing the bulk of their value and will never have the joy of being surprised by what you find there in the future.

The second thing is to find people with whom you can share dreams in a friendly way. Garfield and Taylor and Moss go into a lot of detail on the hows and whys of this part. Suffice it to say that friendly and non-judgemental sharing that does not try to impose some other's meaning on your dreams will help you find more value as you work on your dreams.

Thirdly, you need to act. Your Dream Source sends dreams to you to help you and if you ignore them or fail to assign the importance to them that they deserve, they will fade or become trite. I have dreams that date from my childhood that I still work with, since they continue to provide valuable insight and advice that have helped me over and over.

And finally, I want to point out that the word “meaning” doesn't do the study of dreaming justice. Just assigning meaning is, at worst, a form of categorization that lacks real value. If we approach a poem by assuming that looking up the definition of every word in the poem will reveal “the meaning of the poem” we'll be quite disappointed.

Dreams are not just like the stories one finds in a book that can be interpreted as a way to understand “the meaning” or to simply entertain. They can be that, no doubt, but when you actively engage your dreams and see them as real events that occur in a real dream space, it opens up new avenues of development and understanding in your life. I have had many important dreams for which I, and my dreamer friends, have not been able to clearly understand or assign some kind of meaning to, but which have led me into areas I would have never found using my waking mind.

Jung reportedly claimed that of the many things that interested him, only if his dreams led him that way would he devote himself to working in earnest on something. I also find this to be true, that my dreams are great signposts to the passages of life and are worth deep study and extended work. So, I want and expect more than simply meaning from dreams and I do indeed find that, and more, in dreaming.


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I cannot claim to have meaningless dreams in any stage of life. Given “meaningless” dreams and “I don't perceive the meaning” of a dream, how do you distinguish between those two states? How can you definitely confirm there is no meaning?

If you keep a dream journal for a long time, then reading old “meaningless” dreams will sometimes reveal patterns and meanings that you didn't see at the time. Also, sharing dreams will often reveal a different aspect of the dream that is meaningful, and sometime very much more meaningful.

I think it is too easy to simply say something is meaningless, it is often something that authorities or powerful people say to put down others' point of view or experience. So, overall, I think it is better to be a bit cautious with the term “meaningless”.

I don't reject the idea that there are meaningless dreams, only that the context of dreaming is not like reading the day's weather report. Dreams can be so different from waking experience that we can't just say that any dream report was truly meaningless. Rather, dreaming can encompass great complexity and grand inner narratives that work out over months or years or decades.

Dreams can also operate in a very nuanced way and be greatly influenced by our waking lives and impulses from unexamined areas of our lives. The decisions we make about what dreams are permitted to mean will change our dreaming. If you are convinced dreams are meaningless or random, then you will likely tend to dream in ways that at least seem like that. Contrariwise, delving into dreaming in depth will likely open dreams up in unanticipated levels of meaning and new sorts of experience. And these two approaches are only two of many, many ways we might feel about dreaming. I think it likely that each individual has their own unique style of dreaming.

It is also useful to recognize that a dream itself and the waking report of dream are not the same thing. One is an experience and the other is the telling of the experience. I sometimes find myself just waking and “unraveling” a dream of parallel events or multiple points of view, which are then put into some kind of narrative order in my mind so that I can record them in linear fashion in my journal.

And I've had dreams where time and space are distorted in some way, and again, they need re-framing somehow in order to journal them, and some aspect of self has a way of doing this. Not that all dreams are like this, but it can be difficult to go back into a dream that doesn't conform to our waking notions of normal reality. And this ignores the feeling aspect of dreaming itself and the way we feel about a dream on waking.

Given the above, the question seems more interesting in terms of how dreaming changes over time. I can think of many motifs and patterns that have changed over time in my own dreaming, and ways in which my engagement with dreaming has changed my style of dreaming. The way I recall dreams from childhood are of almost cartoon-like movies. Dreams from adolescence seem to involve the adjustment to adulthood and the many physical and social changes taking place in a life. I recall that a lot of these dreams seemed to focus on problems. My early adult dreams shifted to inner experience and had a more spiritual character as I defined distinct adult roles in my own life.

Dreams from my late twenties and early thirties had a particular focus on learning things. I had many hundreds of dreams of adventures in a version of my beautiful old high school building, meeting people and learning new things and going to and from classes. This was a time when I was working on my new career and marriage. Later, becoming a parent, I was rather chaotic in both waking and dreaming life and I have not formed a specific notion of the dreams of that time, other than not getting enough sleep. Which might explain the lack of good ideas about that time's dreaming. After that I had a period of work dreams, and many, many dreams of being on a college campus, a return to the learning theme.

Right around the start of middle age I realized that my lifelong desire to go deeper into dreaming would never be fulfilled if I didn't start very soon, so I started journaling and going to dream groups and workshops. I noted that as I engaged, my dreams first went through stages of getting longer and more baroque and extravagant, then getting shorter and more pointed. As I worked deeper with dreaming I noted that I'd have themes that that would play out over time, either characters or situations would recur in a way which seemed formed to provide discovery for someone who worked with dreams. Again, I am dreaming I am in classes, but often on a mountain or a wilderness park, and with other dreamers, some that I know and share dreaming with in waking life.

At this point the dreaming seems to be working in multiple parallel directions. I now seem to have a weekly dream about career or work. I also have dreams that seem clearly pointing to my spiritual life and to my major relationships, and so on. It is now as if my Dream Source knows what's going on in my life and that, as I am trying to keep up on everything, it does commentary on my life and the things arriving and departing my life at the time.

At every point in my life I've had Big Dreams, the kind of dream that stays with you your whole life and helps determine you life choices. I don't know how common this is, but I can look at a handful of dreams from every decade of my life and see how they are like lighthouses to guide me in the open sea. I've met many other people working with dreams who say something similar, so I imagine it is common but perhaps not something most people comment on or share with others.

Finally, this seems like a fruitful area of study. I wish there were more information available on this topic. I have not read all of Patricia Garfield's books, but she was such a prolific dreamer who journaled her dreams, and had done it for so many decades, that I suspect she might have a lot of interesting things to say on the subject. I have one of her books lying unread on the shelf near my desk and this makes me want to bump it up in my to-read list.


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Yes, dream sharing is possible. It occurs because dreams are real events that take place in different aspects of reality which some of us call the imaginal realms.

Imagination is not a wispy confusion of the rational mind lost in the edges of awareness, but an important part of the mind in its own right. Imagination deals with different facets of reality than those the rational waking mind normally inhabits.

Sometimes I like to think of the imagination as something like a set of senses that not only perceive the imaginal realms, but allow us to manipulate and operate in those realms. The philosopher Synesius of Cyrene had the view that the imagination is the part of the mind closest to the divine, and it is higher and more real in some sense.

If you look at dreaming as part of the functioning of the imagination, then it makes sense that people, especially those who have close relationships, can not only create or visit a place in the imaginal realms, but can visit that place simultaneously. In the dream circles I belong to this is a very common activity and many of us attend the same “dream classrooms” at the same time. To fit in a bit of extra learning while we are dreaming, I suppose.

My partner and I sometimes share dream vacations to fulfill our unrequited wanderlust. We were just dreaming together in some version of Greece over the weekend and I particularly enjoyed touring some ancient temple sites we found there.

If we dream together, outside the constraints of waking time and space, can we get clues about the future from these dreams? I say yes, quite often dreams show us bits of probable futures. How do we confirm this? By keeping a dream journal for a while and revisiting it you'll see that it is quite common. However, it isn't always clear what is going on, and I find that it takes a bit of work to find some utility in dreams of the future. Sometimes we get a warning about what may occur if we don't keep our attention sharp. Sometimes we get a foretaste of what is coming, perhaps to prepare us.

Most of my dreams of the future seem to be boring bits of mundane life, like driving home from work or chatting with friends. I wonder if these mundane snapshots occur as training. They are not critical, but if you keep a journal you can start to capture these dreams and develop an approach to working with them. I often wonder if the feeling of déjà vu is just that, a sudden recognition of something already experienced in a dream. I've read that déjà vu means “already seen” so it makes sense to me that the term means just that.

Dreaming of the future is a complex topic and there is too much to say in a page of text. Briefly, I think our conception of time is flawed, and we need to learn more about that. Dreams are not bound to our waking time-space framework, so the imaginal faculty can wander a bit, unconstrained by waking notions of what is right.

It is tricky to learn to deal with these kinds of dreams, so be careful not to adopt a fatalistic view that the future is fixed to what a dream initially seems to suggest. It may or may not, but as Scrooge says, why show me these things if they cannot be changed?

The dream teacher, Robert Moss, has written an excellent book on the subject of dreaming the future titled “Dreaming True”. It was published nearly two decades ago but is still in print. It is the best book on the subject that I know. Most of what I've learned comes from working with the many ideas presented in this book, and by keeping a long term dream journal and comparing dreams and reality. I think that's the best way to approach the topic.

Discover it yourself by testing the ideas!


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