Several years ago, I had the opportunity to apprentice with a healer named Ginevee, an Aboriginal woman of high degree in the Australian Outback. Much of our work together was about “dreaming,” the sacred practice of a people that is tens of thousands of years old. This dreaming is central to Aboriginal belief and understanding of life, how the universe and the Earth came into being, what the origins of their land and their ancestors are, how the Creator gods and goddesses intend for people to live.
Aborigines believe that the world was originally conceived in the dreamtime, a mythology which informs every aspect of their lives: their laws, their spirituality, how they use the land and their taboos. Aborigines born today will explore the dreamtime in much the same way as their ancestors did, and their ancestors before them, through sacred dreaming and the oral traditions of their people, learning about their sacred selves.
Ginevee did not work with me to teach me Aboriginal dreaming, the customs, the people or their sacredness, nor how to enter their dreamtime, and I do not teach Aboriginal dreaming in my work with others. What she taught me is how to approach dreaming as a conscious activity with all of the power of my own sacred intent, how to transcend the boundaries of my conscious mind IN a conscious, intended way, in order to explore the deeper truths and meanings to my life.
Throughout history and across the world, shamans everywhere have always considered dreaming to be a conscious activity, not an unconscious one. It is the bridge to a higher consciousness in every aspect of life. Through my work with shaman women from cultures as diverse as the Australian Outback, Nepal, the far north of Canada, the Mayan Yucatan and Guatemala, I have learned that conscious dreaming is one of the great universals that is shared by peoples of shamanic tradition, everywhere. Nobody owns the truth, just as nobody owns God, the Great Spirit, the divine harmony and essence of life. There are many different and wonderful spiritual pathways which embrace so many of the same teachings, just expressed in different ways. All of them lead, I believe, to the same place, the place where we are one with Great Spirit and all that is in the universe, the place within ourselves where we are one with all of life.
Conscious dreaming is a practice that is accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, if you are willing to work at it, whether you have been raised in a shamanic culture that considers dreaming to be as fundamental to life as breathing, or in the Western tradition where dreaming is so often relegated to what our minds do to entertain themselves while our bodies rest. When you practice conscious dreaming, you learn to go into your dreams to learn about your sacred self – how you think, how your emotions grow as you move towards enlightenment.
It can sometimes be very difficult for people in the Western world to understand this kind of dreaming, because we have no frame of reference either in our experience or our language. In English, we have one word, “dream,” which we use when we are talking about the thoughts, images and emotions that we experience while we are asleep, in a state of unconsciousness, not consciousness. We use “dream” to explain what Webster’s Dictionary calls “a visionary creation of the imagination,” our daydreams, something which is not real, although I believe that the Wright brothers would strongly disagree with you if you were to say to them that their daydreams were not real! Always remember this, if you can dream it, you can do it. We use the word “dream” to describe our reveries, when we are “released from reality” while we while away the hours doing nothing. And we use the word “dream” when we talk about our vision, as in our hope for a better world.
There is no sense of the word “dream” in our contemporary language that connotes transcending the boundaries of our conscious mind in a conscious, intended way to enter a higher realm of consciousness to gather information. In fact, there are a lot of people who would tell you that such an endeavor is pure fantasy.
Shamanic dreaming is exactly about learning how to transcend the boundaries of your conscious mind in a conscious, intended way, and it has been practiced by totally sane people all over the world for millennia. It is a state of consciousness that just about everyone who has ever lived has experienced at one time or another, although in our culture we usually do not realize it when it happens and so we tend either to ignore or discount as fantasy the images and information that came to us.
You can enter into a state of conscious dreaming in a couple of different ways. Carlos Castaneda wrote about it extensively in his work with his teacher, Don Juan Matus, through the use of selected hallucinogens, and he was stunned when Don Juan told him that he could have accomplished the same thing without using any drugs. My teachers, the 44 shaman women of the Sisterhood of the Shields, did not use drugs in their work with me, and I never use them. Instead, they taught me a series of chants, sounds, breathwork and focused concentration to relax my mind and body so that I can move beyond the limits of my conscious minds and enter other worlds, other realms of consciousness in such a way that I am able to interact with the beings I meet there and remember my experiences when I come back into my conscious mind. Many people refer to this as having an “out of body” experience, and indeed, when I am in the dreamtime I am not aware of my physical body. Instead, the whole of my consciousness is in another realm altogether, although I, Lynn Andrews, continue to breathe in my own body, and it is to my own body that I return when I come out of the dreaming.
When you learn conscious dreaming, you move to a higher level of spirituality, a higher understanding of your own sacredness and the role which sacredness plays in your life. You learn to trust the messages as well as the messengers, the spirits of the ancestors and sacred beings that you meet who give you information that will help you in your daily life. You learn to walk with one foot planted firmly in the physical world and one foot in the world of spirit in order to become whole and healed within yourself.
Through conscious dreaming, you rediscover the magic of your original nature, who you truly are in this world and what the great dream is for your own life. It is about waking up from the dream of all of the conditioning, fears and distractions that anesthetize you, and finding yourself in the very real dream of your own sacred truth.