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Dreaming: An Essential Skill

November, 2018

 

In “Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing,” I wrote a lot about my personal connection with my Dreamer. What follows is a sample from the book that is relevant to this article’s theme:

It was by practicing and studying shamanism that I learned to hear and identify the true voice of my own spirit, also called “Dreamer” or “Higher Self.” Through journeys, I met this luminous being and got to know her more intimately throughout the years. At first, I found it hard to believe that there was a part of me that could never be broken, hurt, screwed up, or depressed. I had the tendency to see her at first as something other than me–the way I saw Jesus or Mary as enlightened prophets. Her benevolence, beauty, and compassion bowled me over time and time again. You see, shamanic cultures have always known that there is a part of our beings that is pure spirit and they trained people to tap into the wisdom of the dreamer within. Our Dreamers know what our life purpose is in this lifetime and are the only ones who can guide us perfectly on our journey in order to accomplish our purpose.

At first, I had a lot of resistance to the idea that there is a part of me who absolutely knows what I am meant to be doing, how to do it, and how to accomplish it. I would follow my ego’s idea of what I should be doing and totally neglect to consult with my Dreamer to see if this plan of mine was even worthwhile. I learned the hard way that refusing to go in the direction that my Dreamer was sending me in was counterproductive and often painful. When I didn’t listen, I had a lot of messes to clean up in my life that took energy away from living my dreams.

Winnie the Pooh famously said: “Doing nothing leads to doing something.” Contrary to what most people believe, dreaming is not an idle activity. Whether we realize it or not, we are living in a spiritual soup of energy containing many layers of experience and knowing that we can access if we are able to quiet our inner worlds to listen. Dreaming is a vital practice for our time. The world we’ve created collectively as humans is in chaos. If dreaming unconsciously is how we created this mess, dreaming consciously–aware of the impact our thoughts, feelings, and actions are having on the dreaming matrix–is what will begin to turn around the reality we’ve created. The solutions to these problems are not outside of ourselves where we normally look to resolve issues: they are inside of us, accessed through our ever-present connection with the spiritual matrix of life.

While shamanic dreaming might sound like a New Age fad to some, this practice is, in fact, ancient and known to shamanic practitioners throughout the world. To give you a flavor of what this practice is about, I offer an Incan perspective by Alberto Villoldo on dreaming from his article “How Shamans Dream the World into Being”:

Whether you realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being. What we’re engaging in is not the sleeping dream we’re familiar with, but the waking dream we craft with our eyes open. When we’re unaware that we all share the power to co-create reality with the help of the Universe itself, that power slips away from us and our dream turns into a nightmare. We begin to feel we’re the victims of an unknown and frightening creation that we’re unable to influence or change. Events seem to control us and trap us. The only way to end this dreadful reality is to awaken to the fact that it, too, is a dream, and recognize our ability to write a better story, one that the Universe will work with us to manifest. The nature of the cosmos is such that whatever dream you have about yourself and the world will become reality. As soon as you awaken to your power to dream, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage. Then you can dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears. You can begin to create truly original dreams that germinate in your soul and bear fruit in your life.

What Villoldo describes here takes practice; just like any other skill, we must re-learn dreaming by putting our attention on it again. We live in a busy outer world. We inadvertently train the natural ability to dream out of our children when we tell them they don’t have time to dream, play, or rest. We keep them overscheduled and overtired in a continuous stream of doing so that there is no time for being. If we want to find the treasures hidden in our inner worlds, we must slow down, quiet ourselves and really listen deeply with our whole beings. This is why the world’s spiritual systems have built in practices that train reflection into our harried lives. Introspection takes us into the heart of dreaming. These reflective practices are the things people do every day to consciously interact with the spiritual aspect of life in order to learn more about the sacredness of living and their place within the Dream of Life. In order to connect with the spiritual aspect of the world around us, spiritual practices are embedded into daily living so they become habits as natural as brushing our teeth every day. Practicing spiritual hygiene is just as important as that of the physical variety.

Many spiritually-minded folks I’ve talked to feel they simply get sucked into mainstream reality unless they practice connecting to Great Spirit/God/Creator/Goddess/Allah/Yahweh on a daily basis. These folks set aside part of their day to tune into themselves. These intuitive practices that lead us straight into the healing arms of our Dreamers can include: singing spiritual music (i.e. chanting), meditation, contemplative practices (i.e. walking labyrinths and journaling), working with totem animals and spirit guides, drum journeys, prayer sessions and vigils, studying and discussing spiritual texts and teachings, playing instruments (i.e. drums, rattles, church organs), spiritual dances (i.e. Powwow and Sufi dances), working with archteypes presented in dreams to derive personal spiritual meaning, interpreting omens in nature, ceremony, ritual, rites of passage, pilgrimages, vision quests, and making spiritual art–to name a few.

What spiritual practices do you already do on a daily basis? How do you use the information intuited from these sessions to take action to change your waking dreams? What is not working in your life? Take those problems into your contemplative practices to see what solutions your Dreamer can show you. Consider trying some of these other practices listed in this article to see if they work better for you. For example, some people do their best introspective work when they are moving their bodies, in which case sacred dance or walking ceremonies like labyrinths might be a better fit. Most importantly, when you need motivation, remember the intent behind the practices stated so eloquently by Villoldo:

Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the Universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. What science is now discovering describes what the ancient wisdomkeepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world. Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world that we experience with our senses. Like the Aborigines, the Earthkeepers live in a world where the dreamtime has not been pushed into the domain of sleep like it has for us. They know that all of creation arises from, and returns to, this dreamtime. The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself. For the Earthkeepers, dreaming reality is not only an ability but a duty, one we must perform with grace and love so that our grandchildren will inherit a world where they can live in peace and abundance.

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’S Shamanic Journey into Healing on Amazon

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About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life”

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Does My Life Belong to Me?!

April, 2018

DOES MY LIFE BELONG TO ME?!

 

We are on Easter Break. My 17-year old son needs to do revisions for his upcoming A Levels in Physics and Further Maths. He works best alongside someone so we divide up the kitchen table between us. I decided to write this piece because I had been pondering the question for some time. My son decides to play some music to help things along. “Is that Shakira?!” – “No Mum, it is Fat Rat! That is a DJ by the way. I doubt you know anyone I listen too…” I adore silence when I am writing but, as usual, it was not to be!

 

This may sound like a weird question with an obvious answer! Of course my life belongs to me, right?!

In theory it does yes, but being alive means making choices and choices bring commitments. The moment I choose to have children, those children are entitled to a large chunk of my time, energy and life force. The moment I choose to get married, a new unit with an overarching spirit all of its own comes into being: The Marriage (as well as two separate individuals). This is why the sum is always more than the parts combined. The dynamic multiplies again once a couple has children: there is now a Family, as well as two, three, four or five individuals…. There are now five people having relationships with four rather significant others.

The moment I choose a profession and invest in training in that profession I need to accept the demands and boundaries of that profession. Being a medical doctor, nurse or midwife will mean working night shifts in hospitals. Even a plumber will get phone calls about emergencies at all hours. An undertaker cannot so easily take time off either as people will not stop dying over major holidays.

As a shamanic practitioner I, too, used to get emergency phone calls at all hours. As a mother of young children working from home (with no hospital and no team to divide the workload) I eventually learned to take my home phone number off-line and to make an agreement with myself regarding what “opening hours” I operated and how many emergencies a week I can fit in at short notice (if any!) This is called drawing lines and operating healthy boundaries! (By now I also have a team of three people dividing up work in my practice).

So yes my life belongs to me but for my life to belong to ‘me and me alone’ I would need to stay single, not have children (or elderly parents) and perhaps embark on a life as a self-sufficient recluse in a very inaccessible area. (And when emergencies occurred I would have to deal with those on my own – or not be able deal with them and perhaps suffer serious illness or injury without receiving medical attention or loving care from another person). Yet, these are choices some people make to get away from the maddening demands of modern life. (A percentage of people have always done this, long before “modern” times, they have become trappers, sailors or “desert saints” and walked away from their communities). My own husband has one brother who went to sea at age 16 and reappeared years later with a Japanese wife (he then abandoned to raise three children completely on her own in Sweden). Today we call this commitment-phobia and yes, commitment is scary!

Yet, there is a level even beyond this web of social interactions, beyond being a member of a family and community. This is the point where people who follow a spiritual path may well see things differently from what is considered the norm in our society. Since western society embraced science as ‘our new religion’, the Church and priests have lost the control they exerted for many centuries. We no longer believe in Hell or live in sin. We don’t go to confession either. Only few people today believe that a male fearsome god will judge our souls once we die. In many ways this has liberated us and allowed a much higher level of individual expression, which can only be a good thing (to my mind). Having said, that: collectively speaking we have also lost the concept that we owe gratitude to our Maker and that we did not incarnate on this planet just to please ourselves and inflate our egos…

It is my personal belief, shared by many people following a committed spiritual path (of any description and not necessarily a religion!) that we come to Earth to be of service. That we all have unique gifts, our own unique energy, that is required at this time. This is because we all vibrate and operate in a larger Web of Life where all sentient beings are connected and together create (co-create) both reality and the future, the world our children’s children are to inherit.

Therefore I believe that I am here to serve and to evolve (meaning to learn, to grow in awareness) but I am also here to play my part in a larger whole. This means that I am currently wearing a human coat here on Earth for reasons beyond the personal level of relationships and raising children and so forth.

I have an on-going dialogue with my helping spirits about this and they say that I am here to be a spiritual teacher and teach others about living from a place of profound creativity and joyful creation. Along the way I also turned out to have a bit of a “freak talent” for healing work – but personally I see that as the journey back to creativity and living in joy. Being ill or dis-eased is the flip side of that coin. Once people re-discover their innate ability to create they can create healthy vibrant reality (as well as art, poetry or music etc.) and this will trigger the process of self-healing (activating the Inner Healer). Once I became aware of this key principle I switched my focus from offering one-to-one healing sessions to teaching larger groups.

The spirits making my life purpose crystal clear has been helpful because it has allowed me to focus and drop many things that are not my cup of tea in this lifetime. Out with dinner parties but roll on classes and powerful ceremonies!

The fly in the ointment is that “the hermit gene” runs strong in me. Before I fall asleep I fantasize about retreating to place far (FAR) from civilization and turning my back on the world. I am a profoundly solitary person, happiest alone in my studio or alone in the Forest. My idea of heaven is to be dropped in a completely inaccessible place with enough food supplies, fire wood and art materials for months – so I can immerse myself in creative process without distractions. It is when we are truly alone, without company, without internet, without external noise that we hear the voices of the spirits more clearly. So yeah, that is my dirty secret! I find it hard to always be on call. As a mother of three teenagers this is and will remain my reality – and I actively (happily!) chose it! The contradiction runs deep in me and this solitary trait runs in my family. My middle son has got a bad case of this “affliction” as well!

Having many students (and some clients) as well as children means working long hours every day again (often including weekends). I often look around me at people I perceive to have “easier lives”. Hang on! Let me rephrase this: lives with less pressure and way more leisure time. Here I am thinking of women who call themselves a “full time mother” of two teens aged 16 and 18 (with one about to leave home!) Or a woman whose children left home 20 years ago but she never returned to work (in the conventional sense). She shuttles between her garden and her yoga lessons. To my mind these are ladies of leisure. You may of course disagree.

On one level you could say: they raised their babies and their husband earns good money (so there is no financial need to work) – why not settle into a life of gardening and coffee mornings? Or another level I think: but aren’t they uniquely positioned to really make contribution to larger society? They have good health, many skills and financial security… they HAVE IT ALL! Why not use these things for the larger good of others than themselves?

Am I being judgemental here?? I know this is and remains one of my shadow aspects, (the flip side of being visionary) so it is a definite possibility. Not everyone has my driven personality and (what some have called) a supernatural energy level). Not everyone feels called to grapple with the bigger issues in our world (such as clearing family lines of centuries worth of accumulated trauma or contributing to paradigm shifts – or at least imagining that one is doing so!)

Cycling back to where I started, I think the question this article poses can only be answered by individuals in a very individual way. We all have different personalities, different star signs and different circumstances and dreams too. What I do know is that in my own life I continue to learn (fast and furiously) because I am a teacher, because I am in constant interactions with students and teens from a place of holding responsibility. It has been said that we teach what we most need to learn and probably my greatest passion in life is learning and becoming the best person I can possibly be, by the time I die. (And what I am in the process of becoming is not going to please everyone!)

I also truly believe that if everyone embraced life in this way – the world would be a better place. I am not going to apologise for thinking that! So… to answer my own question: my life force belongs to me (meaning I choose what – and whom! – I spend time and energy on) but my life ultimately belongs to Mother Earth and Spirit as much as it belongs to me personally. I am in service to Life – not the other way around. I would not have it any other way…

 

My son has decided to go on break. He says: “Mum, could you please take over as my dragon slayer for a moment because I need to nip out for a moment?!” Fat Rat has gone silent. Outside the window snow is falling upwards…

*Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, Easter Sunday 2017

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About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Norseshamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Art Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.

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www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)