How Shamans Dream the World into Being


 

We are what we think.

Everything we are arises from our thoughts.

With our thinking we create the world.

–Buddha

 

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.

Courageous
dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the Universe
where everything exists in a latent or potential state. Physicists understand
that in the quantum world nothing is "real" until it is observed. The distinct
packets of energy known as "quanta" (which consist of particles of matter as
well as light) are neither "here" nor "there"; in a sense, they are everywhere
in space-time until you or I decide to observe them. When we take note of them,
we tease them out of the web of infinite possibilities and collapse them into
an event that exists while we witness it.
These energy "quanta" like to link up with each other once they've
selected a particular form of manifestation. As soon as they manifest, reality
becomes fixed: A particle is "here" instead of possibly everywhere.

But
quantum events do not occur in the laboratory only. They also happen inside our
brain, on this page, and everywhere around us. Even if they are separated by
millions of miles, or by days or weeks, these quanta of energy remain
intimately linked, so that if you interact with one, you affect the entire
system that this energy is part of. When you access any part of the dream, the
great matrix of energy, you can change reality and alter the entire dream.

Modern physics is
describing 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.

We
went into extraordinary detail to dream our universe into being. Immediately
after the Big Bang, 99.99 percent of all matter and antimatter in the cosmos
went on to annihilate each other. The stars and galaxies that we see around us
are the minute portion of matter that remained. Had the ratio of matter to
space in the Universe changed by even one-billionth of a percent, the laws of
physics that permit life to emerge would not have been possible. The Big Bang
had to be so finely tuned, so perfectly orchestrated and calculated, as to
produce only 1 part of matter in 10 to the 50th power of stardust.
This is 10 followed by 50 zeroes, no more and no less. That this occurred
purely by chance is possible only if we contemplate the existence of a very
large number of universes in the cosmos, where an improbable event such as the
creation of our own universe would have been plausible!

What's
even more baffling is the fine tuning of the parameters of the universe that
occurred, particularly here on the surface of the earth, which has maintained a
perfect temperature balance between the freezing and boiling point of water for
more than a billion years. The unlikelihood of these ratios that permit life to
appear suggests the presence of an intelligent force. The Earthkeepers call this
the Infinite Source, or Infinity.

The shamans with whom I have studied in the Andes and the Amazon believe that we
can only access the power of this force by raising our level of consciousness.
When we do so, we become aware that we're like a drop of water in a vast,
divine ocean, distinct yet immersed in something much larger than ourselves.
It's only when we experience our connection to Infinity that we're able to
dream powerfully. In fact, it's our sense of separation from Infinity that
makes us become trapped in a nightmare in the first place. If this sounds like
circular thinking, you are right. Which came first, the nightmare or the sense
of separation from Infinity? The answer is that they occur simultaneously.

To end the
nightmare, to reclaim our power of dreaming reality and craft a better reality,
we need more than an intellectual understanding of how this process works. We
need to have a visceral understanding of our dreaming power and experience it
in every cell of our body. In fact, the intellectual understanding of our
ability to create reality mimics but forestalls the kind of dreaming we're
capable of. If we don't get beyond mere intellectual understanding of this
concept, we'll end up lowering the bar and creating a far less glorious and
beautiful experience of the world than we're capable of crafting. With a
visceral understanding of our power to dream, we recognize that we can share this
experience of Infinity right here, right now, and stop feeling disassociated
and disconnected.

It takes courage
to taste Infinity. According to Greek mythology, the gods swiftly punished any
mortal who dared to ascend Olympus and taste divine
power. Yet they ultimately rewarded those who had the courage to step into
their realm, such as Hercules and Psyche. Similarly, in Judeo-Christian lore,
when Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and eaten of the fruit of the tree of
knowledge of good and evil, making us become like God, the Lord threw them out
of the Garden of Eden "lest he [mankind] put forth his hand and take also of
the tree of life, and eat, and live forever, and become as one of us." Despite
this original sin of humanity, we are promised a chance to dwell in Heaven at
the end of time, where we can be reunited with our Creator.

Once you
experience courageous dreaming, you realize that everything in your life is unfolding with
perfect synchronicity. Events may not be working out the way you would like,
but within the scheme of your life, things happen in superlative harmony. You
miss your train on your way to work the day that terrorists strike the World
Trade Center
and survive, as happened to a student of mine. Or, your child tells you he has
been accepted to the college of his choice the same week you get the promotion
you've wanted.

Moreover, when you
experience dreaming, you discover that your problems are no longer overwhelming
you or defining your life. While the difficulties in your life feel very real,
you always have the choice to create a heroic story about your relationship to
them instead of a disempowering tale of suffering. You'll recognize that you
can stop being a victim, or trying to fix the world all on your own, or feeling
vindictive toward those who harmed you. You'll see that your life is exactly as
it should be right now, and you'll be able to let go of all the stories that
keep you feeling trapped and unhappy, and venting in your therapist's office.
You'll begin to practice dreaming the world into being, and everything will
change.

The Earthkeepers
believe that the world is real, but only because you are dreaming it into
being. But dreaming the world requires an act of courage. When we lack courage,
we have to settle for the world that is being dreamed by our culture or by our
genes. We feel we have to settle for the nightmare. To dream courageously, you
must be willing to use your heart. Otherwise, your dream will stall at the
level of emotions, and of thinking too much, planning too much, and worrying
endlessly. Then your dream will turn into a nightmare or a mere daydream,
trapping you or drifting away while you wonder, "What happened?"

I remember one of my early trips to the
Amazon. I was then a young anthropologist investigating the healing practices
of the shamans of the rainforest. I had decided to use myself as a subject. I
explained to the jungle medicine man that, as a child, I had fled my country of
birth because of a communist revolution. I had seen bloodshed in the streets,
and been terrified by gunfire in the night. Since then, I had suffered from
recurring nightmares in which armed men would force their way into my home and
take away my loved ones. I was in my late twenties, and had been unable to
enter into a lasting relationship for fear I would lose the person I loved,
just like in my nightmare. During one healing ceremony, the shaman explained to
me that like everyone, I can either have what I want, or the reasons why I
can't.

"You are too enamored of your story," the old
man said to me. "Until you dare to dream a different dream, all you will have
will be the nightmare." That evening, he showed me how I could craft a
different story for myself, one in which I had been tempered by adversity, and
in which my experiences had taught me to have compassion for others who were
suffering.

"The first step to dream a new dream is to
create a new story, in which you are not playing the part of the victim," he
explained.

Then he helped me
to realize that I was not only dreaming my life, but I was also dreaming the
entire cosmos into being, just as it was dreaming me.

Although your mind
resists it, the fact is that you have a choice between having the life you want
or having the reasons you can't have that life. You can have joy and peace, or
you can have that big black bag full of all the sorrowful incidents and
accidents that happened to you in your childhood or in your last relationship.
You can have your wounds or you can have your glory. You can live the life of a
victim, burdened by the traumas of your past, or you can live the life of a
hero, but you can't do both. If you want to feel empowered, you need to make a
conscious decision to dream a sacred dream and practice courage.

Courageous dreaming happens at a
state of perception that the Earthkeepers refer to as the level of hummingbird. The hummingbird is an
archetype for the heroic journeyer whose purpose is to fly toward spiritual
maturity. Like any traveler, you will inevitably take some wrong turns, but
each time you return to the recognition that you are dreaming your reality, you
will deepen your understanding of the journey and feel more committed to it.
You'll be able to embrace the ever-shifting landscape around you with
equanimity and a sense of humor, and even experience grace.

Photo by hypergurl, courtesy of Creative Commons License.