Compass Dreamwork

Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Tag: visualization

Dreaming and Journeying

drum 04In the last post (“Shamanic Dream Perspectives”), I began a series of articles that will explore shamanism as it relates to dreamwork. I mentioned briefly that a shaman’s task is “to facilitate communication and alignment with Spirit, on behalf of the larger community (and individuals)—especially where that connection has been damaged,” and “shamans journey into ‘other worlds’… where an experience of Spirit is more accessible, and they return bringing what they have learned from those experiences to be applied in concrete ways for healing and restoration.”

This week, I’ll focus on what is meant by “journeying,” and briefly consider some similarities and differences between journeying and dreaming. It’s important to understand that although shamans use journeying as a primary tool to fulfill their healing role in community, this tool—like dreamwork—can also be a meaningful spiritual practice for non-shamans. Just as a person who pays attention to dreams does not have to be a professional dreamworker, a person who journeys is not necessarily a shaman!

In fact, a shaman must develop a wide range of tools and skills, in addition to journeying—according to the unique calling of the individual shaman and the particular needs of her/his community. Each shaman may have a specific set of specialized skills (such as dreamwork, plant medicine, etc.), but journeying is an essential practice that might be considered a prerequisite to all other shamanic arts.

Journeying can be hard to define. In the broadest terms, it refers to a process of entering an altered state and traveling to “other worlds.” The “altered state” might be anything from a profound trance to a gentle shift in orientation allowing visual, auditory, or sensory experiences outside ordinary consciousness to occur.

Describing journeying as “creative imagination” or “visualization” would be controversial, since, from a shamanic perspective, the experiences one encounters in a journey are real—the “other worlds” are real—they are not “made up” by the conscious mind. However, this reality includes non-physical experiences (“non-ordinary reality”) that many non-shamanic cultures would call “imaginary,” so it could be just a question of semantics.

The “other worlds” explored in journeying, like the worlds explored in dreams, are absolutely real in the sense that they can be experienced as meaningful, and can offer insights and information not available to the conscious mind in physical reality. Continue reading

Dreaming and Daydreaming to the Sound of the Ocean

desk and oceanI’ve got the window open to catch the breeze, but I’m easily distracted by sounds outside—tinny jangle of radio plus the occasional weed whacker—so I’m listening to some white noise of ocean waves to muffle the noise of the neighborhood. What kind of dream might this be, if this were a dream? I hear the shush and rush of ocean, and imagine waves lapping at my back door. There’s a print of the ocean hanging above my desk, facing me—so I can easily imagine the waves sweeping in from all directions. This is okay, because it’s warm and sunny. The breeze is easy, and the waves are gentle. My desk is a dinghy, riding in and out with each sliding swell. This is great. But it’s a daydream, not a dream.

What’s the difference between a daydream and a dream? Here’s one way of making the distinction: a daydream is an imaginative diversion, while a dream is an actual event. I make up the scenes of a daydream, and they tend to make sense, because my conscious mind tends to make sense of things. But with a dream, my conscious mind is present more as observer (the one who may or may not remember the dream) than as creator. The dream occurs in the same way that daily life occurs—I can assent to it and participate wholeheartedly, or I can dissent, and wrestle with it until I wake up, but it doesn’t require my consent in order to continue. Continue reading

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