Shamans believe that an enlightened person not only speaks truth but recognizes and understands the true nature of reality both when awake and when asleep.
Amazon sages speak of learning to dream with open eyes. They feel it is unfortunate that people in the West have stuffed dreaming time into the domain of sleep, where clouded consciousness inhibits recollections and blurs the images and insights that dreams are meant to reveal. Even when we recall dreams, the waking mind cannot grasp the few images that linger after many long hours of adventuring while asleep. The sages point out that the enlightened person is fully awake even while asleep, while the unenlightened human is fully asleep even while awake.
These sages believe that if we become lucid in our dreams, we can begin to change their tone and direction. Once we learn to change our sleeping dreams, we can begin to change our waking dreams. Then we begin to dream—awake and asleep—of our world with greater originality and lucidity. We guide our dreams to extraordinary domains where we learn from great teachers, visit distant lands, communicate (without electronic devices) with friends across the world, and meet with deceased ancestors.
Dreams come to us nightly, whether we are aware of them or not. They also come to us in the form of daydreams. Shamans respect their dreams—both of the nighttime and the daytime—because they contain messages from the spirit and the biosphere. To draw life from your dreams, I recommend two exercises: Dream Yoga and Lucid Dreaming. Through this Dream Yoga exercise, you will be able to better recall your dreams and will prepare yourself for the next exercise, Lucid Dreaming.
Exercise: Dream Yoga
Set your clock to awaken you five or ten minutes earlier than usual, ideally with gentle music rather than a radio talk show host or an alarming buzzer. When you awaken, come out of your sleep slowly and luxuriously, basking in the afterglow of your dreams, relishing the flavors, scents, and images that linger in the early morning from your dreamtime adventures.
If you do not recall your dreams easily, try the following technique. Drink one half a glass of water before you go to bed and tell yourself, “When I wake up, I will drink the other half glass and remember my dreams.” Keep a notebook by the side of your bed. As soon as you wake up in the morning, drink the rest of the water and lie in bed with your eyes closed, allowing your dream images to flow back into awareness. If you are likely to get up during the night to go to the bathroom, keep a recorder next to your bed and dictate the essentials of any interrupted dream.
When you do open your eyes, do so gently. Take a few moments to write what you recall in your dream journal, always using the present tense, as if you were still dreaming as you write, even if your dreams seem fuzzy or blurry at first. As you do this exercise, you might be amazed at how much more you recall as you write.
Lucid dreaming is important because it helps us bring consciousness and awareness into our dreams. Once we learn lucid dreaming, dreams no longer just “happen” to us. As we realize we are dreaming, we are able to guide and direct our dreams. Lucid dreaming is the first of three steps in the shaman’s dream practices. The second is to bring awareness into your dreamless sleep, when you have no dream images in your awareness. The third is to bring your dreaming practice (not your dreams but the skill of dreaming) into your waking state, to understand that you are dreaming the world into being at all times.
Through lucid dreaming, shamans can agree to convene on a certain night at a place of power in nature. They may use a crystal or some other beautiful stone to facilitate their dream meeting. When they compare notes in the following days or weeks, they recognize that they had indeed shared the same psychic space and were able to recall what the others had said or done.
Exercise: Lucid Dreaming
Select a stone—perhaps a beautiful crystal—with no sharp edges and that fits nicely in the palm of your hands so that you can rub your hands together while holding it. When you go to bed, set your intention to dream lucidly. For example, you might decide to dream about being in a mountain in the Himalayas, or perhaps a home you lived in during your childhood, or about visiting with relatives who are no longer living. You can also determine to visit a “university” where you will go to receive teaching and training. As you concentrate, blow into your stone with a soft breath and ask your subconscious mind to bring the image of the stone into your dreams.
Hold the stone in your hand while you go to sleep. During the night, the stone will fall out of your hand and end up somewhere in the bed. If you turn over and lie on it, you will likely surface from your deep sleep momentarily. Take the stone into your hands. Imagine that you are bringing it with you into your dreams, and reassert your intention to dream lucidly. After a few tries, you will find that the stone will begin to appear in your dreams. You will realize that you are dreaming while you are in the dream. And, with time, you will become able to steer your dreams in your intended direction. To succeed, you must practice this exercise daily.