Issue 7        Dreams and Dreaming: the Shamanic Perspective               April 2007

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Bekki Shining Bearheart
Crow Swimsaway


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    and Spirit
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   Dreaming for Others
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This issue of our newsletter is devoted to the practice of dreaming in shamanic cultures. As Westerners we are given a very different view of dreams than in shamanic cultures. Dreams are highly valued by other cultures for their ability to enlighten us and provide cures for what ails us spiritually, emotionally and physically. Yet in NeoShamanic circles in the U.S., the tradition of shamanic dreaming is largely ignored.

In this issue we offer you three articles on shamanism and shamanic dreaming. The writers bring their unique backgrounds and perspectives to this complex subject. We have had the opportunity to work with each of them as shamanic dreamwork teachers and find what they have to offer invaluable. We trust you will too.

Chris Forester discusses how his personal involvement with dreaming and journeying evolved over time and how the two came to intersect.  Mary Pat Mann gives an overview of dreaming from a cross-cultural perspective, and shamanic approaches to dreamwork. Ramon Lopez discusses the tradition of shamanic dreamwork in Amazonian cultures, and how he has come to practice dreamwork in this way.

Bekki and Crow

Upcoming Issues of the Newsletter
I'm working hard these next few weeks to get the newsletter up to speed, so if you've been thinking about writing something for us, now's the time.

 May: Plant Spirits and the Green World deadline to submit: 7/20/2007
June: Journeys in Hungary deadline to submit: 7/29/2007
July: Living Shamanically: The Food Issue,
deadline to submit: 8/8/2007
We are looking for articles, reviews, etc on wild food and foraging; slow food; food as medicine (particluarly TCM and Ayurvedic approaches) for this issue
August: Healing Techniques, Take 2 , deadline to submit: 8/15/2007
We are looking for articles, reviews, etc on bodywork techniques, energy healing, and other techniques which complement or enhance shamanic healing
September: Integrating Shamanic Spiritual Practice into Mainstream Life and Culture, deadline to submit: 9/1/2007
Thanks to Michelle Sampson for suggesting this theme!

If you have an idea for a theme for an upcoming newsletter we'd love to hear from you.

to all the generous donors who made our Hungary trip possible:
Chris Forester
 Vijay Kalburgi+++Elspeth of Haven
Aria Walker+++
Abbey Crouse+++Neal Scott and Scott Lichtman
Esther Kuhre+++Joseph and Elaine Molnar+++ Irene Wrenner
Vanessa Curto+++Jean Tipton+++ David Russell+++Bill Kuhre and Sue Righi
Jan Parks+++ Imani White+++Papillon DeBoer+++Bob White+++
Dana Carlson
John Coppinger+++ Dorothy Hilliard+++Rik Fire
If we have forgotten anyone, please let us know as our list has gotten misplaced...

 also to the members of our Drumming Circle, who devoted hours of journeying time and lots of good energy and enthusiastic support to guide the process.

We could not have done it without you!

Congratulations to Anjali and the team at the Ayurveda Natural Health Center, which now has a web site:
The Center sponsors our workshops in the Beavercreek OH area, and offers many fine workshops and other services. We encourage you to check them out.

Dreaming, Shamanism and Spirit
Dr. Chris Forester

I have always had a deep interest in dreams, stemming from an active dream life and several instances of recurring, lucid and vivid dreams down the years.  Sometimes I explored these in the therapeutic context, mainly from a Jungian perspective.  What I’ve never been satisfied with, however, is any explanation for some of the most fascinating content of my dream life that did not involve Spirit.

One example is the way I have encountered the Dead in dreams. Usually I will be walking or driving along in a dream and am asked to turn down a particular road or walk a particular path. On following the instructions, everything becomes intensely clear and vivid across the spectrum of senses. I normally describe this as being “more real than real”, i.e. that the environment in the dream is much more vivid to the (internal) senses and has a greater feeling of reality that my sensory experiences of our “normal” consensus reality. It is when the dreams become ultra vivid that I then encounter and dialogue with the Dead, usually relatives, before retracing my steps in the dream world and entering a less vivid dream reality before waking.

My shamanic experience of working with the Dead, though limited, follows a similar pattern: in approaching departed spirits, things in the shamanic journey become incredibly, sharply vivid.
Other than this experience, linking dreamwork and journeywork has proved very useful.  My first ever lower world journey involved me being taken by my ally past a cave in a cliff face. I asked my ally about the cave and was told it was the place to understand dreams. A short while later I journeyed and asked my ally for help interpreting a particular dream. I was flown back to the cave and, on entering, found myself re-entering the dream again but watching it as a spectator alongside my ally. The dream was very clear and I was able to remember some aspects I had forgotten and also, in dialogue with my ally, to gain a real perspective and understanding of the dream and its place in my life. Since then it has always helped to visit the cave for dream interpretation and also for a good way of recalling dreams.   I would urge anyone to ask their allies for help in dream interpretation and/or to be shown a place in the otherworlds where they can journey for dream guidance. It seems that the world of dreams and journeys overlap and that there is an objective reality beyond/behind/penetrating the subjective experience. 

Dreams and the Nature of Reality
Mary Pat Mann, Ph.D.

As shamans, we are travelers through other realms, journeying with focus and intention. Each night, we journey as well in our dreams… and yet we may pay little attention to these nonordinary worlds, or attend but fail to connect them with our shamanic work. Or perhaps you are a shamanic practitioner who integrates dreams and journeys. If so, you are part of a great and ancient tradition.

Dreams are vital shamanic experiences, playing key roles in the call to become a shaman, in divination and healing work, and in psychopomp. Many cultures still rely on intricate and detailed dream traditions, and modern psychology also offers information and techniques. But before diving into specifics, let’s look more closely at what dreams are and how they relate to ordinary and nonordinary reality.

In the modern West, we like to split things in two. When it comes to consciousness, we are either asleep or awake. While awake, we experience the real world. When asleep, we dream.

Shamans know there is more to reality than this simple dichotomy. Cognitive scientists and dream researchers know this as well: Consciousness is a continuum, and we ourselves are not always aware of whether we’re awake, asleep, or in some other state altogether. One of the key skills of the shaman is learning to navigate different forms of consciousness while keeping track of where you are.

Anthropologist and shaman Barbara Tedlock says the way a culture understands dreams tells us a lot about the way a culture understands reality.

For example, most people in the modern West believe the waking world is real and everything else is imaginary, which means fake or false, made up inside our heads with no reality outside our individual imaginations. Except in working with psychological health and illness, or sometimes in the creative arts, most Westerners believe only the “real” stuff, the waking world we experience through our senses, is important.

This relates, quite naturally, to our general belief that dreams are neither real nor important –– unless you are talking with a psychologist or creating art.

The Upanishads describe a very different order of reality. These sacred Hindu texts describe waking life as the least real of our experiences. Dreaming is more real, dreamless sleep is more real yet, and the most real of experiences is transcendence. In Mahayana Buddhism, both waking and dreaming are considered part of the illusory world, and transcendence the ultimate aim.

In these traditions, dreams become an important step on the way to transcendence, the first opportunity to realize that what we experience with our senses is only one aspect of a marvelous universe woven of complex illusions.

Early anthropologists claimed that “primitive” people could not distinguish between reality and fantasy, and used the importance given to dreams in these cultures as evidence of this. Yet now we know that the way ancient and tribal cultures understood dreams is more complex and more nuanced than our own, and closer to what science is discovering.

This is not to say all cultures understand or use dreams in the same way, for they do not. Differences across cultures have much to teach us about the world of dreaming.

The Ojibwa of Manitoba see dreams as actual experiences just as real as waking experiences. Memories of dreams become part of a person’s history just as memories of waking life do. Yet the Ojibwa clearly distinguish between waking and dreaming experiences –– it was the enthographers who became confused, in failing to ask what kind of memories were being shared.

The Zuni believe dreams point to what will happen, but this can be changed if the dream is told. So they share bad dreams and enlist others in finding ways to prevent the dream from entering waking reality. Good dreams are not shared, but remembered and rehearsed in the heart.

The Plains Indians saw dreams as events that happened on multiple planes, the sacred and the ordinary, in linear time and mythic time. At certain times of life, especially at the beginning of adulthood, people would cry for a vision, spending time alone in the wilderness until a dreamlike visionary state gave direction to the life path that would soon unfold.

Each of these traditions is different, and each offers a lesson to the modern West: That dreams are worthy of attention and carry important messages.

Depth psychologist Stephen Aizenstat has developed what he calls dream tending rather than dream analysis or dream work. Aizenstat says dreams are alive, beings in their own right, not merely creations of our individual consciousness. Everything dreams––people, animals, mountains, rivers––which is another way of realizing that everything is ensouled and awake. This complex and various universe which is dreaming forms a World Consciousness broader and deeper than the Collective Unconsciousness that Jung saw connecting all human beings.

These living dreams of the World Consciousness call for tending, both our attention and our care. Approaching the dream as something happening now, we can enter into its reality and ask to learn more about what it has to teach us. And this is not very different from how we enter the Lower World, or Upper World, or any shamanic reality. So if you are not paying much attention to your dreams right now, I invite you to begin noticing, remembering and tending to your dreams as a way to add a new dimension to your shamanic practice.

Dreaming for Others
Ramon Lopez

Dreaming for Others is a way of doing shamanic dreamwork that I have practiced for years with very good results. I want to describe this method to you but before I go on some clarifications may be of help.

Dreaming for Others has been practiced for centuries among the tribal societies of Amazonia. Being a Puerto Rican, I believe that the best shamanic practice is a respectful incorporation of a person’s ethnic shamanic tradition. I don’t believe in appropiating shamanic techniques from cultures that are not directly related to my own history, although I understand that this a controversial issue. Since my shamanic historical background is related to the Taino Indians of the Caribbean -and since their culture was the result of multiple migrations from the manioc cultures of  South America- I trace my shamanic ancestry in corresponding terms. In other words, I feel an empathy with tropical South American Shamanism and my personal shamanic practice is a contemporary expression of these roots, pun intended.

Dreaming for Others is based on community shamanism. This implies that the shaman is known and respected and deals with the healing needs of the people from a position of authority and respect. In modern terms, this means that the shaman and the “patient” know and trust each other. I do not recommend Dreaming for Others for week-end worshops or any situation where the participants are unkown among themselves. For this reason, I employ the term “neighbor” as opposed to “patient” or “client”.

The healing process requires that the shaman and the neighbor meet more than once. On the first meeting, the neighbor brings to the shaman a situation that requires healing for a condition and/or relationship in physical and/or spiritual terms. The shaman listens very carefully and attentively and promises to dream about it. The dreaming happens as soon as possible, i.e. as soon as the shaman can prepare properly for a night of dreaming. In the next meeting, the shaman tells the dream or dreams of the night. It is my experience that all the dreams of a single night are related and form a coherent and healing whole. It is not uncommon for me to base an interpretation on a sucession of three to six dreams from one night. Six dreams can be considered six stages of one bigger dream. I must insist that Dreaming for Others requires ritual preparation before sleep. Otherwise, the coherence of succesive dreams is at risk, or worse, may disintegrate into randomness.

A conversation between the shaman and the neighbor follows and it can take different directions. One direction that is definitively wrong is to try to please the neighbor as so many “shamans” who offer services for money do. Only a very exprienced dream interpreter can do Dreaming for Others. His/her duty is to gather energies of respect and humillity in order to connect with the message of Spirit, the original source of interpretation. Wether the message pleases, annoys or challenges the neighbor is not for the shaman to decide. The conversation with the neighbor can bring forward important clues for the healing process, specially if there are positive connections between the dream(s) of the shaman and the neighbor’s own dreams. Also, the neighbor reaction to the shaman dreams can be illuminating.

Shamanic dreaming is a form of shamanic journeying. Both are based on soul travel. The difference is that in shamanic dreaming we open ourselves totally to whatever Spirit wants to communicate without the interference of our concious desires and/or intentions. In shamanic dreaming, all entities that appear -animate or inanimate- are spirits in themselves and can be addressed for messages.

The next step is for both shaman and neighbor to re-enter the shaman dream(s). Here, drumming, rattling, gazing and other forms of transition to non-ordinary reality are useful. In this stage, the shaman actively enters the healing dream(s) and  transforms the images/entities both visually, verbally and musically (out loud) so that the neighbor can follow the process of transformation. These transformations are the cures dictated by Spirit. The shaman is responsible for transmitting the message faithfully,whether this pleases the neighbor or not, specially when the message calls for the neighbor to balance her/his own sense of responsibility for the healing to take place. At the same time, the shaman is also responsible to be open, encouraging and attentive: she/he must be an efficient facilitator. If the shaman receives a healing song and/or is told to engage in other forms of communication for the neighbor, this is the time to perform his/her shamanic arts.

It is crucial that the re-entering sessions finishes with a resolution. If the neighbor needs to do anything in preparation for another healing session, the shaman must state this very clearly. The transition back to ordinary reality must also be clearly defined. As with any genuine healing, processes are more important than events. The healing ritual may generate further dreaming for both parts and this must be adressed if necessary.

Dreaming for Others is one method among many. A responsible shaman is aware of this and chooses healing strategies according to particular situations. Group dreamwork, free association, Jungian symbolic analysis, tribal dream enactment, and artistic representation are some of the forms available. A reputed dictionay of symbols may be useful too. These tools can help in establishing the connections between the personal-social-cultural-archetypical levels of dream interpretation.

Intellectual reasoning can also be convenient but only as long as the reality of the infinite mystery of Spirit is kept in mind. A good contemporary shaman is always aware of theory.

“Last night I dreamt about you” can be much more than a casual topic of conversation. It can be a true form of giving and healing.

Ramon Lopez is a Puerto Rican activist who lives in the Island and also works with Puerto Rican communities in the United States. He is a cultural anthrolpologist and a well-known writer. His Shamanic practice is a hybrid system of community-memory-healing through songwriting, storytelling, tapestry weaving, oral history and dreamwork. Ramon was initiated into shamanism during a severe health crisis due to sarcoidosis.

Activist Alert

If you've not yet gotten involved in the issues of gas efficiency for cars or renewable technology for cars, here are some good reasons to do so. There are better ways to reduce our dependence on oil than using ethanol-- like making cars that need less fuel to run, and working with renewable sources. And reducing your oil needs overall, by recycling, re-using and buying smart (buy products with less packaging for instance).


  • In the past 12 months, the global corn price has doubled.
  • Because corn is the most common animal feed, this affects the price of milk, cheese, eggs, meat, as well as corn-based sweeteners and cereals.
  • In the U.S., milk prices have nearly doubled.
  • Butter prices in Europe have spiked by 40%.
  • Pork prices in China are up 20%.
  • In Mexico there have been riots in response to a 60% rise in the cost of tortillas.
  • In six of the past seven years, global grain consumption has exceeded production. As a result world grain reserves have dwindled to 57 days. This is the lowest level of grain reserves in 34 years.
  • While the UN lists 34 countries as needing food aid, 30% of next year's grain harvest in the U.S. will be converted to ethanol to fuel cars.

"I have taken the Earth and Water workshops. There are journeys; there are always journeys, but the most impressive thing to me about the workshops is their after affects. I came away with a grounding technique I use daily. It sets the mood for the day. The things I have experienced are hard to put into words, but it seems nature speaks more clearly to me or maybe I understand better now. Messages are everywhere--- carried by the crow that flies off the stop sign and swoops in front of my car to land on the stop sign again, then proceeds to caw at me, and the pair of ducks walking across a parking lot. Guess it’s time to stop and have some fun. As with all the workshops I’ve taken with Bekki and Crow I’ve been able to discover things that I couldn’t in any other way."
                                                                                    --From an attendee of the Norfolk Elemental Series

Bekki's Art

This bag features a rhodocrosite cabochon and garnet beads on the fringes. It was made for heart healing, to blend the spiritual energies of the crown chakra together with the heart chakra, and ground those energies through the root chakra.

Activist's Corner
Stop Global Warming

Stop Global Warming is an online organization that is working to do just that. The latest newsletter offered this tip:

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We urge you to check them out.

Upcoming Workshops
See our Schedule for more information and how to register.
July 21-22  
Air Elementals in Shamanic Practice at the Mystical Attic, Norfolk VA
July 28-29  Rooted in the Heart, Seeded in the Soul in Haycock, Upper Bucks County, PA
August 4-5 Fundamentals of Shamanism at the Mystical Attic, Norfolk VA
August 11-12  Fire Elementals in Shamanic Practice at the Mystical Attic, Norfolk VA
September 29- October 14 Two-Week Advanced Shamanic Healing Intensive Training at Dragon Waters
October 20-21 Fire Elementals in Shamanic Practice in Haycock, Upper Bucks County, PA
November 3-4  
Circle of the Ancestors at Dragon Wate

Dreaming the Journey: Dream Workshop Review
Neal Scott, Norfolk VA

The weekend of May 11th through May 13th, I attended a workshop on Shamanic Dreaming led by Mary Pat Mann and Bekki Shining Bearheart.  I have to admit, I did not connect well with the material presented, largely because of physical tiredness (I did not sleep well the nights just before and during the workshop) and partly because I perceived the energy at the workshop to be lower, quieter than most I have attended.

Mary Pat did the majority of the teaching, with Bekki chiming in with anecdotes from her own experience in working with dreams.  We learned how to incubate a dream:  using journeywork and intention to help make a dream that will help us with particular problems.  We also learned tips to help us remember dreams upon awakening, how to recall details.  Mary Pat also taught us several different approaches to interpreting our dreams.

As we ended the session Friday evening, we journeyed to an ally to assist us in incubating a specific dream, as well as techniques to help make that happen.  I was told specific things to do such as eat dark chocolate just before bed (Yay!) and to use the few minutes I get between the time I wake up and the alarm going off to recall my dreams. 

I did not sleep well at all that night.  The restlessness of both my partner and myself, the ambiguity of my intent (which included my reluctance to make the changes I asked the dream to show me) and other events I cannot recall created a perfect storm of insomnia that left me with only 3 hours of sleep.  Not only did I lack a dream to discuss on Saturday, but also I was drowsy the entire day.

On Saturday, we learned specific techniques for sharing dreams that would help the dreamer recall more details and give us information we could use for interpretation.  A specific technique used was; after the dream has been shared (using a first person, present tense simple narrative story), clarifying questions answered, emotions raised by the dream shared, we had to tell the dreamer what we would want to know ‘if it were my dream’.  This simple rethinking alone helped most of us with interpreting our personal dreams by adding a perspective we had not yet considered. 

We also journeyed to acquire a specific dream ally and a way to access the information contained in our dreams.  I was given a well-stocked, private library in a house on an island, where a librarian is on call to assist me with dream and journey related questions.  Though I do not feel particularly competent at this work, I was informed that interpreting my own and other’s dreams would be a large part of my shamanic practice.

We then worked with a dream that was shared by Bekki.  Using the techniques minimally described above, our new specific dream ally, other allies and the ‘library’, I was able to get into Bekki’s dream and perhaps provide some clarity for her.  I had difficulty entering the dream itself; it took several attempts to find an entry point where the information could come to me. 

On Sunday, I journeyed into a personal dream (one that I had the night before, finally getting a decent night’s sleep).  I entered the dream as a non-participant, and was able to see points of view that were not available in the dream itself.  I also gained a new upper world teacher who assisted with interpreting a dream for Mary Pat.

We finished the day with a journey to our dream ally, asking specifics on how he wished to be honored, and other types of journey work with which he can assist.  The journey ended with all my lower world allies expressing their understanding of the craziness that was my life at that time.

I would recommend this workshop to any shamanic student that wishes to delve further into dreams and dream work.  Students that have studied with Bekki and Crow should know however, that Mary Pat has a different style of teaching and that this means some adjustments must be made.  Thank you to Mary Pat Mann and Bekki Shining Bearheart for making this workshop available.  Thank you also to Vijay and Lee for being such excellent hosts for the entire weekend.

Church of Earth Healing Newsletter Guidelines for Authors

Our newsletter is a monthly publication which  includes articles, book reviews, workshop profiles and reviews, news of current and upcoming events and stuff that is really hot that we feel you need to know about. We focus on alternative healing and other work of the church and ourselves, though we cast our net widely.

We love to write and have lots of good material to share.  We also value your outlook, talents, and opinions so we welcome contributions.  These may include specific material we request from you, our readers. We welcome all kinds of material, preferably on our monthly topic. If you are submitting something on the topic, we must receive it before the deadline. If it is of general interest we will fit it in as soon as we can. Articles on topic receive first priority.

We work in Microsoft Word; that is the most convenient electronic form to receive material in.  If you need to use another form please ask first. Format is quite open.  Please place the title, author (in exactly the form you want your name to appear - including degrees, professional designations, etc.) and a very brief bio at the beginning of your offering. Please keep it fairly short and snappy, since we have limited space. We will read everything we receive before publishing it.  We would prefer not to have to edit for intelligibility or length.

                 All Contents Copyright Church of Earth Healing 2006