Sleep and Dream Journals

Before we get back to discussing Energy Work and Protection, I’d like to take a couple of blog posts to talk about another useful skill that a shaman needs to develop, that is “shamanistic dreaming”.

To do that we must first talk about something we all do, that is sleep.

Unless you have a physiological or health problem, the act of sleeping is something you spend a significant time doing almost every day. Hopefully you don’t.

(If you do, you may want to delay any study of shamanism until you have worked through those. While some shamanistic practices can help with basic insomnia or irregular sleep patterns, you’ll be dealing with altered states of consciousness in your study which should not be attempted lightly.)

Most of us sleep about a third of our life in a sleeping state. I usually average 5-6 hours a day, though I been trying to increase that to at least 8. Not only does getting 8 hours keep you more rested and relaxed but in a time of pandemic, it can keep you alive. Your immune system actually requires a certain amount of sleep to reset itself and work at top form. Scrimping on that sleep can contribute to becoming ill.

Not only is sleep important for your physical health, they are also important for your mental health as well. Your mind uses the downtime to process the day’s events and filter out what’s important and what’s not. Dreams play an important part in that upkeep but how is still subject to much debate.

For shamans, sleep and dreams are an important realm to learn to work in effectively. Remember, I said shamans don’t have to understand “how” something works to use it, just that it “does” work. Dreams are the same, you might not know how or why you dream, but you can learn how to use that time to get stuff done.

Getting a handle on your dreams isn’t something that you can do in a weekend, like the basics of energy work. Its going to be something you will work on day to day for probably a year or so but its an essential skill you should master.

Understanding Dreamtime

We have all had dreams. Some are just random collections of images while others are detailed and clear to the point we think it is the Real World. Why this is so, is complicated if you ask scientist who study dreams.

What they really means is “We just don’t know”.

Yet you don’t have to know why we dream to use them but it is helpful to understand a bit about the how we dream, primarily the various stages of sleep and how to recognize them.

Most people have heard of REM sleep aka “Rapid Eye Movement”. This is the period where we have our dreams. Its called that because during this period, you can be observed having movement of the eyes under your closed eye lids. Perhaps you are experiencing your dreams as if it were real, and like the Real World, you are looking constantly around.

What some might not know is that during REM state, your mind actually locks the body up from moving. The tossing and turning you do in your sleep happens in non REM states. I’m guessing the mind knows you might get up and wander off if it let you move, lol.

More importantly for developing your skill at using Dreamtime as a shaman tool, is to recognize the two pseudo dream state, the hypnagogic and the hypnopompic state. The first is the state you are in when first falling asleep. Its that semi sleep phase where you aren’t quite asleep. Your mind as it winds down, can throw up images and scenes that seem like dreams but aren’t. The hypnopomic state is the period when you are just waking up, and you can have similar false dreams. Neither of these are useful as a shamanistic tool as lucid dreaming, though the hynagogic phase can help you pre-load a situation you wish to work on into your mind before fully dreaming.

Pre-lucid Dreaming and The “Reality Check”

“Lucid” dreaming is the state in which you are fully conscious that you are dreaming and can affect and direct the outcome of that dream. Most of us only have 2 or 3 such dreams in a year. Often the moment you consciously realize you are dreaming, you will awaken. With practice you can stop that, and even increase the number of lucid dreams you have.

More common is a state of “Pre-lucid” dreaming. A point where your dream is so vivid and real that it you almost question whether it is. What we want to do is cross the divide between those vivid almost waking dreams and the complete package of lucid dreaming.

Strictly speaking, being aware you are dreaming is not lucid dreaming. You can be aware that you are dreaming, and yet be a passive passenger to your unconscious. These dreams can be quite fun, but are not what a shaman needs. There must be a measure of actual conscious control to be able to use dreams as a tool.

One method of taking control, is to train yourself into a habit of questioning whether what you are experiencing is a dream or is it reality through. You do this by intentionally asking yourself “Am I Dreaming?” through out your day, and tying that question into certain events which happen in your Life on an everyday occurrence.

We all use our keys each day. We all open a door each day. We all check the time. We all do many repetitive tasks each of which can be used as a trigger to ask the question “Am I Dreaming”.

James Endredy in his article Shamanic Dreaming: How to Expand Into Higher Consciousness While You Sleep recommends twenty one triggers, but you can make a list of as many as you need. The objective is to have 3-4 easily remembered triggers for each day of the week. Review that day’s triggers in the morning after you get up, then as the day progresses when ever a trigger comes up, stop and consciously ask yourself “Am I Dreaming?”.

Naturally the answer is going to be “No”. What is happening though is you are establishing a habit which with luck, will carry over into your dreams. If one of your triggers is “When I open a door”, and you’ve done that repeatedly for several weeks, when you come across a door in your dream state, there’s a good chance your will reflexively stop and ask yourself “Am I Dreaming?”. This will give your conscious mind the opportunity to take control of the dream.

The more intent and energy you put into performing your reality checks, the more effective they will be. You can even pair them up with a physical gesture. One good one is to immediately look at your hands. Hands are one of those things which you never seem to notice while dreaming. Intentionally making the gesture a part of your reality checks will re-enforce the act.

Try to do the checks about twenty times a day. If you find an action which doesn’t happen much, then replace it with one that does.

Preparing Yourself To Dream

Just as you wouldn’t try and go on a jog without some preparation (and practice), you shouldn’t try and do focused dreaming without some appropriate preparations.

– Bedrooms Are Special

Too many people just lump their bedrooms into the generic “its a room in my house” when in reality your bedroom is the one room you spend the most time in during your day.

Why not treat it as such?

Clean out the distractions and especially get rid of the television or your computer laptop. Get some good sheets and comfortable pillows. Put on some incense. Turn your bedroom into a place you can relax and not some place cluttered with distractions.

– Clean Your Body Of The Day’s Debris

Just as the air outside has a host of contaminates and pollution that’s good to get off you at the end of the day, your mind picks up a load of mental and physic gunk that you should rid yourself of before bedtime. Its actually residue which stains your ethereal body, not the physical but we’ll talk about the different layers you have in a later post.

If you are sweaty and physically soiled from your day, then unless you’ve done it on coming home, take a cleaning shower. Wash up and get the normal grime off you. Make it hot if you like and let the water work out the aches of your muscles.

Before you do though, gather a wash cloth or two, a large bowl, some ice and some kosher salt. Put these on the basin before you shower.

Once you’ve finished your physical wash, and this can include brushing your teeth and other personal hygiene, add water to the ice. Then add a little kosher salt. Stir this up.

Cold water is the best for removing physic gunk, the colder the better actually. Take the wash cloth and begin wiping your body down. Start with the face and neck, rinsing the wash cloth as you do. Imagine it picking up the stresses and interference you felt throughout your day from where it stained your inner body. Rinse out the cloth regularly.

Don’t be surprised if the water in the bowl begins to get dirty. Physic gunk can manifest itself when you do this. Continue down your body until you get it all. I like to spend a bit of time on my feet. One, I’m on them all day long and giving them a bit of tender care is good for them, and two, the World we live in has so much random energy and stress out there, its good to separate our bodies from it.

I’d recommend if you can turn out the light and use a candle to see by while you do the cleaning. It puts you into a more relaxed mood and unnatural light of your computer or television. That light disrupts you body’s natural rhythm and contributes to poor sleep.

Greer recommends you take this water outside, to pour it onto a large and healthy tree. The tree will act to dissipate the gunk and render it inert. Might not be easy, depending on your situation. If you need to, flush it down the toilet. You can say a brief banishing like “May this cause no harm” three times over it if you wish.

– Cleaning Your Mind Of The Day’s Debris

Once you’ve done your body cleaning, you will want to do the same with your mind. Here is a simple ritual which will help you.

(Again, this is from James Endredy in his article Shamanic Dreaming: How to Expand Into Higher Consciousness While You Sleep .)

  1. Find a comfortable position on the edge of your bed. Begin by just letting your mind go where it will. I like to do some simple breathing, in through the nose, hold briefly, then exhale thru the mouth, hold briefly and repeat.
  2. When you are ready, begin visualizing the day’s events. How was your morning? What problems came up and how did you deal with them? Did you handle them well or is there something you would do differently, now that you are looking back? Allow yourself the time to process what went on. Forgive yourself if you felt you did it poorly and congratulate yourself on things you did well.
  3. This second part is something too many of us forget. We dwell on the negatives and not on the positives. This just reinforces that which we give attention. Let go of the negative but by all means give yourself a pat for the things you successfully.
  4. If a certain problem or event sticks with you, take both hands and put them to your face, palms inward. Imagine the problem as a ball of energy. See it collect in between your palms. Once you have it visualized, cup your hands over it and draw it away from you. Push it out and imagine it gently dissipating in the air in front of you. Do it again if the problem is still in your mind.
  5. Don’t rush, take your time and try and put yourself in a clear and positive state of mind.
  6. When you are ready, stand. Take your hands and slowly bring them down your body, beginning at your head and working to your feet. Imagine the stress and energy flowing out of you. Do this slowly or rapidly, what ever feels correct for you. Do it several times until you feel yourself relaxed and refreshed.

Just before you get into bed and get comfortable, say to yourself with Intent “I will remember my dreams tonight”. Say this several time. This will remind yourself to do just that. I add a personal part which is a brief devotional to the spirits who are my patrons and allies, thanking them for their protection and guidance.

You should be ready to dream now.

We’re going to stop here, and continue into “Mugwort and Lucid Dreaming” in our next post.

For now I did want to cover one final thing.

Dream Journals

Recently, I began to keep a Dream Journal. You should too.

The act of writing on a regular basis aka “Journaling” has become popular in the last decade for all sorts of people as a way to relieve stress and solve problems in their mental and physical life.

For practitioners of the occult its an even more important activity. Writing down your experiences is a much older tradition, one stretching back to pre-history. Those early journals are one way we know so much about the practices of those who came before us.

Starting your own journal will provide you with a way to go back and review what happens to you. When you start to explore magic and the occult, strange things happen. You won’t always know why they did when they do occur. The reasons and causes may take time to manifest.

With dreams especially, you are traveling an ocean of dark and murky waters at first, and like old seafarers the navigational “Rudder” or book you make will be invaluable.

Buy a journal. Buy a good pen too which you just use to write in it. Keep it handy but also keep it safe where others won’t come across it. Write your name and something that speaks to you on the first page.

For now, just begin by writing what you remember each time you awake about any dreams you had. Don’t worry too much about form or content. Don’t worry if you can’t remember it all, or even if you don’t have a dream the previous night. Just focus on the act of writing.

We’ll talk more about your journal and the things to put in it, in the next blog post. Until then, Dream.