Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Dreaming, Healing, and Indigeny: Part One

The Four Colors Dreaming the Earth by Erin Langley

Lucid Dreaming for the Earth began as a project in which lucid dreamers collectively donate our lucid dreams for bioremediation. This can take many forms--healing the Earth body and healing our human bodies, which are reflections of each other. After much experimentation, I have come to broaden my perspective of what Lucid Dreaming for the Earth means.

I would like to offer a conversation between me and dream educator Ryan Hurd as a way to illustrate an evolving understanding of health, wholeness, and lucidity.

1. Erin, tell me about when you started lucid dreaming, and the first impact these dreams had on your life.

As a teenager, I had many experiences we can call "lucid" or "dreaming," including visions, out of body experiences, sleep paralysis, precognitive dreams, lucid dreams, and clairvoyance. When I was 19, these phenomena really escalated. They filled me with terror and wonder, and sent me searching for people who could understand and support my way of being in the world. Because I didn't have a cultural context for visionary experiences, I felt very confused. I had difficulty because my dream life and my waking life seemed like two distinct, irreconcilable worlds. Plus, it seemed that no one around me could relate to my experiences. All the confusion--the megalomania, the masochism--comes from believe I'm separate from everything else, which is just not how life works.

Over the years, I have been blessed to meet many people who are practiced at navigating the lesser-acknowledged facets of reality. Many are elders, medicine people, or those who simply live in their hearts. For lots of human beings walking the earth today, "mystical" experiences are a normal and integrated part of life. In the words of Credo Mutwa, "Nothing is supernatural. Everything is natural."

by Kimi Pryor

2. Your background in indigenous ways of knowing helped frame these experiences. Can you speak a little about the process you went through that led you to see dreams as a pathway to ancestral knowledge and as a glimpse of our interconnection to all sentient beings?

Under the tutelage of Frank/Oneida elder, Dr. Apela Colorado, I got to remember that I am descended from a long line of native European and native American ancestors (and beyond). Strong people, beautiful people, gifted people. I always think I come from stars and stones. I identify strongly with the pre-Celtic Neolithic peoples, the de Dannan and the inhabitants of the Boyne River Valley. But when I introduce myself, I say something like, "On my mother's side, I am Celt and Ashkenazi Jew. On my father's side, I am Anglo-Saxon, Ashkenaz, Frank, Gaelig, Germanic, and Cherokee.

Recovering an animistic worldview (i.e., a world in which everything is alive) is very natural for me, and it has required a lot of work. So far, my process of decolonization has included treating dreams and waking life with equal respect and attention, identifying with a land and clan rather than a politic or nation, remembering my cultural stories as a framework for the world (in conjunction with the current Western scientific mythology), delving into my family's genealogy, immersing myself in the observation of nature, respecting and listening to the voices of my ancestors, learning Irish music and dance, celebrating ancestral holidays, using divination, creating ritual with other deeply-rooted tribal peoples, honoring elders, treating everything as alive and endowed with spirit, visiting my ancestral homelands, and recovering my family's tartan and ceremonial attire, and taking up the Bronze Age ceremonial horn, which I am looking to do now.

me with a dord at the Munster Fleadh Cheoil (festival) in Killarney, Ireland in July, 2014

When [the late] Tlakaelel, Mexica-Toltec wisdomkeeper, elder, and sundance chief came to town, I told him that my people lost our ceremonies, and asked how to recover them. Emanating pure love, Tlakaelel took my hand and explained, "You must must do a lot of research, keep looking with your heart. If you still do not find any ceremony, then you must create it. You must create it from your heart, with respect to the elders." So, I have been following his advice, mostly by reading my ancestors' sagas, folktales, and historical documents, familiarizing myself with our old languages, staying connected to the modern caretakers of my ancestors' stone monuments, looking to my dreams, and living in my heart.

me and Tlakaelel

I am learning that while we can recover some indigenous ways of knowing, we are now a global tribe, indigenous to the planet Earth. It is a new time, with new circumstances. We get to create something new. It is good to have strong roots as we do this. When we try to define the word "indigenous," it eludes us. Tlakaelel explained how the Toltecs and the Lakota were the same tribe, before one group migrated South. Does that mean that the Toltec are not an indigenous people? We are all a flow of land and sky. It is fun to study the migration patterns, the oral tradition of human beings, land-given art, science, and customs that inform a culture for a time. Do Europeans originate from the Siberian steppe? All of these terms, while they have value, eventually become arbitrary distinctions. But I still like to know the story.

Dreams have also played a vital role in ancestral knowledge for me. Not only have recently-deceased ancestors given me information about my family in dreams, but my indigenous ancestors heavily emphasized dreaming as a way of knowing. By respecting my dreams, I respect my ancestors. I respect life. One of the greatest gifts I have given myself is the longterm discipline of tracking my dreams, which has taught me so much about the personalized language of my dreaming. After years of studying my dreams against the corresponding events of waking life, I have learned that bird-people bring good tidings, grocery stores symbolize abundance, and rollerskating means freedom. That said, symbols aren't static. They can evolve in meaning over time, and they have many layers. 

artist unknown

Often personal symbols can also be cross-cultural symbols. For example, I noticed that when I dreamed of foxes, difficulties could soon arise in life. I thought perhaps this was my own personal harbinger of complication, but I learned from two experienced teachers from Asian traditions (one Daoist/Chan and one Tibetan) that foxes usually carry a "negative portent" in their traditions as well. For me, this is a poignant illustration of our interconnectedness, that dream symbols can come to us, and that we can interpret them.

Accurately dreaming someone else's life circumstances also shows us our interconnectivity. We dream of someone, and the content of the dream turns out to be true, whether literally or symbolically. We don't have to "do" anything about this; we can just hold what we see with respect. If the dreams feel invasive, we can work on improving our boundaries or create a small ritual to protect ourselves from the intruding energy. Sometimes I will have a dream that describes a person's illness to me, or how to treat it. I can use this information if an appropriate context arises, i.e., the person comes to me for advice, or I run into them out of the blue, etc. 

Dreams also show us we're connected because we all dream. Humans and animals (and who-knows-what-else) share in dreaming. Even more fundamentally, dreams show us the transient nature of reality. Have you ever tried to examine something closely in a lucid dream? Elements shift and change, and I can never quite pin anything down. This exaggerates a truth of waking life: things seem distinct at first, but on closer inspection, we see that all life is really made up of an endless flow of relationships. 

Lucid dreaming shows us how our thoughts and feelings can affect our environment. There really is no separation between us and our surroundings. If I am fearful or angry, my dream will reflect and magnify my own feelings back to me. If I project love, the scene changes in kind. This holds true in waking life as well. I do not mean that joyful dreams are good and scary dreams are bad. Dreaming makes sure that we experience the host of human emotions, especially those that we prefer not to feel while we are awake. Our emotions connect us as human beings. We are all in the same boat, working with similar materials and limitations.

by Diane Sudyka

3. In your blog "Lucid Dreaming for the Earth," you have documented your process of engaging lucid dreaming as a way to dream for the earth. How has your view changed as you went deeper into this journey?

As I have gone deeper into the journey, I have learned that lucid dreaming is not necessarily a hallmark of spiritual evolution. Somtimes it can even indicate imbalance. Having a baby provided me with consistent access to lucid dreaming for about two years, simply because I was too exhausted to sleep deeply. Often, my body didn't have enough energy to fall asleep. And if I did happen to fall asleep, I was still awake, i.e., lucid. Since I was spending so much time lucid, I figured, why not experiment with ways of healing? I wanted to recall this sacred art of my ancestors, who exacted physical curing powers from the dream world. This well-documented "shamanic" phenomena happens all over the world.

I decided to start using my lucid dreams to restore the environment because I felt so sad seeing our disregard for the Earth. I wanted to make use of the tremendous power and flexibility we find in lucid dreaming to "heal" people and the world. I had fun experimenting with ways of doing this, and learned a lot in the process. While I see that we have great potential to heal within lucid dreams, now I also recognize that the impulse to fix things isn't always appropriate. Sometimes an over-eager desire to heal can undermine innate perfection or correct timing. Not only that, but when my enthusiasm is out of balance, I'm only dissipating my own reserves. Expending a lot of effort in the dreamworld isn't actually very helpful if I am exhausted in the waking world.

artist unknown

Something else I've learned along the way is the importance of continuity. I am learning that the ways I can help most are often unseen. Continuous presence is farther reaching than alternating bouts of output and recovery. Plus, stable presence encourages naturally-arising opportunities for healing, rather than contrived or forced ones. If I listen for how to create balance, then my responses to life will be helpful for all beings. In making decisions with all of us in mind, I might have to do something that is personally difficult, requires a lot of effort, or upsets an existing order. As long as I'm letting life cue and contextualize these movements, they'll be appropriate. Most of the time, my actions can be relaxed and invisible. Of course, I don't always succeed (far from it), and that has its place, too. I question "success" and "failure" in general.

Finally, I have learned to check my motives for what I share. If I am sharing something just so I can show off, it's not really serving the community. Right now, I am being more conservative and private with my dreams, which doesn't exactly help my blog thrive, but I'm willing to live with that.

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