Shamanism and Native Spirituality

One of the greatest gifts of dreaming is that it puts us in touch with soul. It takes us beyond the limited understanding of the everyday self and shows us who we are, what our soul’s purpose is in this life experience and what our heart truly yearns for. There is a word for this vital function of dreams in the language of the Huron, a dreaming people of North America. The word is ondinnonk, and it means a “secret wish of the soul”, especially as revealed in dreams. This expression takes us to the heart of healing.

By connecting with our dreams, and celebrating and acting on the information they gift to us, we bring the energy and magic of soul into our daily lives. As we allow our big dreams to take root in this world, we become whole and well, and start living our deeper story. As we help others to honor and celebrate their soul guidance, as revealed in dreams, we become healers and dreambringers.

Ancient dream healers understood that we are often out of touch, in our surface minds, with our deepest truths and our heart’s desires. Not knowing who we are, forgetting our soul’s purpose, we do terrible harm to ourselves and others. Dreams invite us to get back on the right track, the soul’s track. I learned about this many years ago when I asked for dream guidance in support of a narrow, ego-driven agenda.

I wanted inspiration for a commercial potboiler, a thriller that would follow the formula of a successful previous novel I had published. In my dream, I found myself in a banquet hall where a lavish feast for hundreds of people was being prepared in my honor. But there was a problem. In the dream restaurant, the master chef had walked out in disgust because he was bored with my menu.

The message, on waking, was clear. If I persisted in repeating myself – in using my creative gifts for a limited purpose – my deepest creative energy (the “master chef” of the dream) would bow out; the soul and its magic would be missing. I abandoned a major book project because that dream showed me it wasn’t “major” in the ways that serve the soul.

Dreaming not only renews our understanding of the soul’s purpose; it can literally bring the soul back home. From the shaman’s perspective, soul loss is the root cause of much illness and affliction in our lives. We suffer deep grief, heartbreak or abuse or trauma – and maybe then succumb to negative habits and addictions – and a part of our vital soul energy goes away. Chronic depression, lethargy, memory gaps, low resistance to illness and emotional numbness are among the most frequent symptoms of soul loss.

Our dreams can tell us which parts of ourselves may be missing, and when it is timely to bring them home. Recurring dreams in which we go back to a scene from our earlier lives may indicate that a part of us has remained there. Dreams in which we perceive a younger self as a separate individual may be nudging us to recognize and recover a part of ourselves we lost at that age. Sometimes we do not know who that beautiful child is – until we take a closer look.

Unfortunately, a common effect of soul loss is dream loss. Indeed the absence of dream recall is often a primary symptom of soul loss – as if the part of the sufferer that knows how to dream and travel in deeper reality has gone away, out of pain or disgust. It is fascinating and deeply rewarding to observe what can happen when people who have forgotten how to dream start dreaming again. This can amount to spontaneous soul recovery.

A middle-aged woman approached me for help. She told me, “I feel I have lost the part of me that can give trust and know joy.” As preparation for our meeting, I asked her to start a dream journal, although she had told me she had not remembered her dreams for many years. When she came to see me, she had succeeded in capturing just one tiny fragment from a dream.

She remembered that she was standing over a table, looking at three large-size “post-it” notes. Each had a typed message. But the ink had faded and she could not read the messages.

Slowly and carefully, I helped her to relax and encouraged her to try to go back inside her dream. Quite quickly, she found herself inside a room in the house where she had lived with her ex-husband prior to their divorce, almost twenty years before. Now she could read the typed messages. The first read in bold capitals, “YOU CAN DO IT.” They were all about living with heart, and trusting life.

She realized that she had left her ability to love and to trust in that room for nearly twenty years. I asked her what she needed to do. She told me, “I need to bring my heart out of that room and put it back in my body.” She gathered up the messages and made the motion of bringing them into her heart. As her hands crossed over the place of her heart, we both saw a sweet and gentle light shine out from her heart center. She trembled, eyes shining, and told me, “Something just came back. Something that was missing for twenty years.”

In the most literal sense, dreaming can make us whole. It not only connects us with lost or buried aspects of ourselves. It connects us with our larger identity – our Higher Self – and our larger purpose.

Honoring the secret wishes of the soul, as involved in dreams, requires us to learn some simple and powerful strategies such as the ones below:

Opening to dream guidance

Start a dream journal, if you are not keeping one already, and resolve to catch your dreams and write up your dream reports, giving each dream a title. You’ll find it very rewarding to dream with intention. Before going to sleep, write down a question or issue on which you would like some guidance. This can be specific (“Should I change my job?”) or general and open-hearted (“I open myself to the power of healing”). If you remember dreams from the night, see how they might relate back to your intention.

Learn simple steps to clarify dream messages

The all-important keys are:

  • Trust your feelings
  • Run a reality check
  • Go back inside your dream to get more information.

Your feelings, on first waking up, are an instant and usually impeccable guide to the general quality and urgency of the dream. Running a reality check means checking how elements in the dream relate to your waking life and – especially – checking to see whether the dream may be giving you a window into possible future events in waking reality.

We dream future events quite often, though few of us pay attention and fewer still are alive to the interesting possibility that if you can see the (possible) future you may be able to take action to change the future for the better. Finally, the best way to understand the full meaning of a dream is to learn to go back inside it, as you might step back into a room, take a good look around (while fully alert and conscious), and maybe talk to someone in the scene or dream the dream onward to healing or resolution.

Open a safe space to share and celebrate dreams with others

When we know that dreams show the wishes of the soul, we will surely want to support each other in honoring this guidance. Start sharing dreams with a friend, by email if necessary. Never presume to tell the other person what his or her dreams mean. Start by encouraging your partner to tell the dream as simply and clearly as possible, give it a title.

  • Ask what the dreamer felt when she first woke up.
  • Ask her to run a reality check to see whether there are messages about current situations in waking life, or possible future events.

Then offer your own thoughts and associations in a gentle way by always saying “if it were my dream” rather than laying down the law. Finally, ask your partner what she can now do – in a practical, positive way – to honor the dream and act on its guidance. With a little practice, you’ll find safe ways to bring dream-sharing to larger groups and start building a dream community. An office that starts the day with dream-sharing is a vastly more lively and creative space!

Always do something with your dreams!

Real dreamwork is about energy – about bringing vital energy from a deeper reality into the daylight world. In my workshops, we turn our dreams into stories, drawings and songs; we stage spontaneous dream theatre; and we agree on action plans to work with the guidance of our dreams and the powers that speak to us in dreams.

Sharing a dream with another person is already a step towards action. Writing yourself a personal motto inspired by a dream – a bumper sticker – is a further step. Buy the red shoes, make the phone call, plant those flowers, study the transformations of the Goddess or the Bear in myth and art, as your dreams may guide you, and you are taking a longer step on the road of soul, the only road to walk.

Author: Robert Moss

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