((See a further article: On Dreams and Dreamers and people who Dream on the blog for a slightly different slant to the article below))
Since the publication of Boudica I: Dreaming the Eagle, I have had increasing requests, from both sides of the Atlantic, for a further explanation of the practice and experience of dreaming in the twenty first century - so this is it:
Dreaming is a spiritual path. As with all genuine spiritual paths, it is all-consuming - which leads us directly to the first Universal Health Warning: Dreaming is not a game, it's not a fad, it's not a replacement for psychotherapy, it's absolutely not a means to escape the pressures and trauma inherent in living, nor is it a means to accumulate power, wealth and an infinite supply of free sex. To live daily in the eyes of the gods is extraordinarily rewarding but requires a steadily increasing amount of self-discipline, self-awareness and a willingness to change. Dreaming, in any of its various forms is life-changing so if what you're looking for is your current life unchanged but with an easier cash flow and an end to all emotional upheaval, this isn't the way to find it.
The principles of dreaming are immensely simple. The practice is probably simple too, once you can get out of your own way. I've never managed that so I'm not in a position to comment but it's worth trying. In essence, a true dreamer can move within and between the various, infinite realities at will, sustaining an existence in all of them equally. In so doing, she can ask for help from the gods in whatever may be her endeavour, bearing in mind that the first and most important question we need to ask is: 'what do you want of me?'
NB: We could go into great length as to the multi-valent nature of deity and, yes, I’m sure there's only one and, yes, I'm sure we're all part of it and, yes, a true dreamer will ultimately become boundless within infinite god-hood, but there are levels of practicality below that within which I find it simpler to define deity in separate parts and to approach them individually.
The means to dreaming are many and varied. Those most easily practised in our society are 'core' shamanic journeying techniques as taught by Michael Harner and his followers and the various lucid dreaming techniques. Lucid dreaming is becoming almost as fashionable as pseudo-shamanism; a dreamer in the shamanic sense strives to use lucid dreaming to form a closer connection with the gods or guiding spirits, in order better to ask for help. Lucid dream surfers seem, as far as I can tell, to aim for spectacular sex - the choice (clearly) is yours. The one avenue that is not safe in our culture is the use of 'medicine plants. We don't have the grounding or the understanding for that. Through use of shamanic journeying, lucid and other dreaming techniques and, ultimately, 'dreaming awake', the boundaries to this reality become flexible and translucent such that other realities can be entered at will – which is to say that altered states of consciousness can be entered at will.
Dreaming ethics are straightforward: only travel for a reason, even if that reason is simply to meet with your teachers/guides/helpers and to sit with them for a while. In general, tourism isn't a good idea – if you're going somewhere, know before hand why you're going and what you're going to ask for. Woolly questions receive woolly answers. Some dreamers are healers, some are counsellors, some simply dream to enhance the world around them at the behest of the gods. We have the large left brains, the problem solving abilities and the three-dimensional grounding in this version of reality. If the gods want something done here and now, it is generally easier for us to do it.
This is a field beset by charlatans, wannabes and overbearing egos, enter it with extreme care and check out every move before, during and after you make it. If you want to learn from those who have walked ahead, there is an increasing number of magazines, books and courses/workshops around the world. I'll run workshops on a regular basis - check below for dates and locations. There are others equally good, if not better.
Periodically, I write further on Dreaming Awake on the blog. Links are here:
On Dreams and Dreamers and people who Dream
And below are the details of the courses:Basic Dreaming Course at Holycombe and Poulstone Court Retreat Centre.
I run a series of courses in either of these two locations, plus a few more as we progress round the wheel in the more advanced courses. The Basic Foundation course is open to incomers.
A new Basic Foundation Course will be held in 2011 at Poulstone Court Retreat Centre -
NOTE: The course below is now full. I am building a waiting list which means that a) if someone drops out, you can have a place and b) if we get enough people on the waiting list, it'll trigger a new course. So contact me anyway if you're interested.
Dates: 11th - 13th March 2011
Time: Arrive 5:00 Friday, leave around 4:00 Sunday
Cost: £250 - £350 on a sliding scale - you decide where you are on that scale and if this is impossibly expensive, contact me.
For all other details, email me What?
These are fully residential, self-catering courses. Shamanic practise is almost impossible to learn from books and magazines, and so these courses are designed to give participants first hand experience of the first steps. We learn protection and grounding as an essential basic. Following this, we learn techniques to enable us to dream and journey so that we can begin to build our own geography of the other realities and to meet some early guides and helpers who can undertake the fuller teaching.
The long term aim of the full course programme (in which we experience all 10 locations of the basic medicine wheel in a series of courses spanning roughly a decade) is that we come to a place where we can each ask, 'What do you want of me?' of something that we trust wholly and implicitly, that we can hear the answer clearly and know how to act on it.
At this early stage, we are learning to ask basic questions and to ask for help to aid our own growth. The aim, as in all spiritual practise, is to strive ever towards personal healing and wholeness of self. As with all spiritual practise, this is rarely as easy as it sounds, is almost always a lengthy path and almost always involves some mistakes. We balance the knife edge and fall off. The key is to be able to recognise sooner rather than later when we've fallen and to step back on again.
We aim to create an atmosphere within which active dreaming can take place which is why the courses are residential.
Shamanic practise is non-denominational, depending on a direct connection between the practitioner and the spirits/guides/gods. However, because I work within a medicine wheel tradition and find the grounding of that constructive, the courses will be taught within that framework.
Anyone can come as long as they're 21 or over and not taking any mind-altering pharmaceuticals, either recreational or prescription. Tea, coffee, chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol don't count in the above ban, except for the duration of the course and, ideally, for at least two days either side. Try not to book anything big in the days immediately after. It takes a while to come back to consensus reality.
2010: Earth/West Gate, Holycombe: August 13th - 15th - by invitation only
August Camp: 16th - 22nd, by invitation only.
Basic Healing course - dates tba, early 2011
Basic Foundation course: 11th - 13th March 2011, Poulstone Court Retreat Centre.
Earth/West Gate Holycombe: 1st - 3rd April 2011
Advanced Healing Group - 26th - 30th May, Poulstone Court Retreat Centre
North/Wind gate, Summer 2011, dates and venue tba
Cost for all weekend courses in 2010 - 2011 will be £250 - £350 on a sliding scale, you decide where you are on the scale. Cost includes two nights accommodation at the two venues and all food. Meals will be vegetarian with a dairy-free option. If you have an allergy, please tell me. Please note that rooms are shared. There is a limited supply of single rooms - in Holycombe, these come at at a £15 surcharge which you pay directly to Sally, in Poulstone Court, it's £10 and you pay it to me. A deposit of £130 will hold your place, but contact me for full details before you try to send money.
How to book?
Contact Manda at: email@example.comRECOMMENDED READING
Sacred Hoop Magazine is an excellent basic resource: http://www.sacredhoop.org
Robert Moss remains the best - if not the only - author whose books on intentional dreaming from a shamanic view point are worth reading. (most other dreaming books have no shamanic content)
'Dreamgates' and 'Conscious Dreaming' by Robert Moss are must-reads if you can get hold of them.
His later book 'Dreaming True' is an excellent, detailed presentation of precognitive dreaming - indeed all dreaming - and is well worth reading.
In addition, his 'Dreamways of the Iroquois' is probably the among the most powerful descriptions of what it is to be a western dreamer using shamanic techniques, and is immensely worthwhile.
'The three 'Only' things' is an update on the others, and has the advantage of being readily available. He is still the most honest of all those writing about dreaming, and the most useful.
Even if you have no interest in dreaming as an art and practise, his book, 'The Dreamers' Book of the Dead' is essential reading for anyone who is alive and likely to die some day -which is everyone. Get it, read it, think about it and then act on it.
• 'Plant Spirit Medicine
' by Eliot Cowan is very good indeed - highly recommended. Eliot trained for 12 years with a Huichol medicine healer. This book was written in the early days, but is powerful nonetheless.
• 'Soul Retrieval', 'Welcome Home' and 'Medicine for the Earth by Sandra Ingermann are a tad Californian and I wouldn't take the fluffy bunny rabbits to heart, but still some seminal work. Best read in order.
• 'Dancing the Dream' by Jamie Sams is an excellent summary of shamanic work written from genuine experience.
• 'The Reluctant Shaman' by Kay Cordell Whitaker is also well worth a read.
• Books by: Michael Harner, Joan Halifax and Leo Rutherford give an outline of shamanism.
• Books by Carlos Castenada are worth reading for historical background - this is part of modern shamanic history and it's useful to know the vocabulary and concepts, having said which, they're confusing and monumentally misogynistic, so don't take them to heart.
• For basic, heart-based meditation, any books by Pema Chodron (an American Buddhist nun) are highly recommended, particularly, 'When Things Fall Apart' and 'The Places that Scare You'
• 'Earth as Lover, Earth as friend' by Joanna Macy is an exceptionally good book on the need to envision the coming cataclysm of peak oil and climate change as a way to a new future, not a catastrophe - and of how to do it. Her web site is also worth a visit.
'The Great Turning' by David Korten takes her ideas further.
'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris is a scathing indictment of the major world religions and their propensity for violence, with at its core, the message that spirituality is a science that can - and must - be learned by us all.
• Chris Luttichau, is a Danish teacher based in Cornwall. Chris is one of the few genuine dreamers and the only other teacher I've found who teaches effective, practical dreaming safely and sanely in the UK. His website is: "http://www.northerndrum.com". Thoroughly recommended. This man is the real thing.
• Jonathan Horwitz, is another Dane who teaches in London. He runs some basic and advanced courses on 'core' shamanic journeying techniques and applications in the UK and Scandinavia. His website is: http://www.shamanism.dk.
• Leo Rutherford and Eagles' Wing run several year-long courses as well as weekend workshops. http://www.shamanism.co.uk.
• The Sacred Trust arrange a number of Harner-based workshops throughout the year in the UK. http://www.sacredtrust.org.