“Indigenous people don’t learn by looking outside themselves; instead, they learn how to remember the knowledge they already possess.”
–Malidoma Somé (Dagara elder and shaman)
I’ve been practicing and studying earth-based spiritual systems since 2000. In the process of trying to heal from deep depression and addiction, I’ve worked with many different teachers from many of the world’s traditions. In my darkest moments, I needed older, wiser, and mostly healed guides who could help me learn to listen to my inner wise one (A.K.A. Dreamer, High Self). When I was struggling the most on my life journey, I leaned heavily on their knowledge to get through those times and I am so grateful to this day for each and every one of them. Their ability to be patient, resourceful, and benevolent is the reason I am still here, healthy and free.
Although my spiritual teachers varied in the knowledge they shared with me and their methods, they’ve all been consistent in insisting on one principle: the real guide on any individual’s journey is their Dreamer. Whenever I had questions that needed answering, they always pointed me to my inner wisdom first. Sometimes, they would add to my original statement with information from their own lived experiences. However, more often, they would simply say: “See: You know already so go and do what your Dreamer told you to do.” It wasn’t unusual for them to send me out on ceremony to find the answers I was looking for when my inner guidance wasn’t feeling so clear.
One of my first tasks when I started studying shamanism was to identify the sound of my Dreamer’s voice. This may sound like a simple task to some readers, and perhaps it is for some people. I had so many different and competing voices in my head that this seemed to be an insurmountable mission. When I sat in silence, I heard voices of teachers, family members, mentors, friends and others throughout my life who thought they knew better than I did what I needed. By the time I was in my twenties, I had convinced myself that they were right. So much so, in fact, that I was lost; my inner compass felt broken. The most vicious voice was that of my own ego. In Gregg Henriques’ article “The Elements of Ego Functioning,” he describes the ego in this way:
“Freud conceived of the ego as the psychological apparatus that regulated sexual and aggressive impulses and navigated the tension between those impulses and the demands and values of society. A more modern conception that is certainly related to Freud’s is to consider the ego as the self-consciousness system. The self-consciousness system is the narrating portion of human consciousness that reflects on one’s thoughts, feelings and actions and inhibits or legitimizes them to one’s self and to others. In this sense, ego is very similar to what is meant by the term identity, and ego functioning refers to the components of the self-consciousness system that relate directly to mental health.”
I realized that my ego had succeeded in convincing me that any decision I made that went against the confines of the identity it had created for me was a threat to my very life. On my blog, I wrote an entry entitled “Going Mental” in 2012. It describes the practice I began of having conversations with my ego like I would with one of my younger students to discover what it needed and how I can make it feel safe while still doing the bidding of my Dreamer. I saw that my ego was just trying to survive and keep “us” alive and this helped me to find compassion for it.
On the other hand, my Dreamer’s voice is always calm, benevolent, wise and sometimes firm but never cruel. She talks to me the way a loving parent would talk to a child. When I am making choices that are causing me to stray from my Sacred Dream (my life’s purpose), she gently pokes me. If I am not listening because I am preoccupied with mundane life tasks or if I heard her but choose to ignore her counsel, the messages come in a more insistent and often chaotic way until I correct my course. Thankfully, I usually don’t have to wait until my health declines, my relationships descend into a three-ring circus or I am in financial distress to learn these lessons any more. My daily spiritual practices keep me tuned in to my Dreamer’s voice so I can make mostly wise choices day by day.
I often remind worried parents about this fact in my work with families: They are not in control of their children’s journeys. This is tricky because parents are also responsible for the health and well-being of their children until they are eighteen in our society. As parents and guardians, it is easy to think we know better. And I often note that despite having parents who do lots right, some children still go down unfathomable paths. I have seen this a lot in my twenty-year career as a teacher. What I have faith in is that our souls* are ancient and wise; many of us have lived many lifetimes and Great Spirit is patient in letting us come back again and again to this Earth plane to refine our characters. I don’t know if this resonates for you but this feels true to me: Elders have told me that ultimately on a spiritual level, each of us has a life purpose that only our Dreamers know.
When we validate a child’s interests, wonderings, and learning inclinations, we are following the direction of their Dreamer. I think one place where a lot of us adults get stuck is when we expect that children will have the same inclinations that we do or we rescue them from making mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Our Dreamers are also leading us in very unique ways according to our own life purposes, which may be really different than those of our children. Our children might need to make certain mistakes in order to learn what they came here to learn in this lifetime. While it’s hard to watch people we love make choices that cause suffering for them, it can also be a powerful life lesson in learning how to honour another’s path while staying firmly on our own as individuals. If we keep leaning into our healing in every lifetime, eventually we might not even need to reincarnate. Until then, I am glad my Dreamer is with me every step of the way.
*Please note that when I speak of the “soul” here, I mean the original essence of who we are that is made of light and can never be harmed. This aspect of us is always with Spirit, even as we reincarnate. Our Dreamers represent the essence of our soul; they travel the spirit world and guide us in our incarnations. I like to think of my soul as being the part of me that stays anchored to the Divine always.
Engracio, Jennifer. “Going Mental” December 2012
Henriques, Gregg. “The Elements of Ego Functioning.” Psychology Today. June 2013.
Above art: “Ancestor Spirits” by Willow Arlenea
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”
For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com