Working with our Shamanic Dreams
(A developing reflection, written from the time of this dream in March 2017 until now.)
As I’ve shared in past blog posts about dreams, they serve many purposes. Some of these include precognitive dreams. There was the vivid dream I shared about the elderly woman, Joy, with whom I came eye to eye with, as her biplane spun through the air, right before crashing. The details of that dream were so vivid, as were the emotions - to the point that I scoured the news until I found a story whose details exactly aligned with the images in my dream, except one detail - the adult child flying the plane was female, not male. Other dreams include visitations from those who have crossed over, like I describe in my book, when my friend Sandy spoke telepathically with me in a dream, sharing what she was experiencing on the other side. Dreams can assist us in solving problems and communicating with our guides.
I also use dreams with my intuitive reading clients. Several days before an appointment, I will invite my guides and theirs to share information with me in my dreams that may be helpful to my clients. Often their guides will show themselves to me, or I will have dreams that I know don’t relate to me, but are for their benefit.
Occasionally, dreams are filled with highly symbolic meaning and content that leave a deep and lasting impression. I like to “work” with these dreams, for I believe they are leading me to some new understanding or path that I have yet to uncover. Working a dream may include sharing it with a therapist or with close friends to get their impressions. It may include looking for similar images in your daily reality, to see if there is a connection. It may mean doing some guided imagery to return to the dream, and perhaps ask questions of the people or animals there.
Here, I will share a dream I had in March, 2017, and discuss how I am still “working the dream” over a year later, to assist me in the midst of a major transition (I ended a relationship, my son moved out of state, and I am preparing to leave my job, but had felt stuck, tired and unmotivated. Until I had this dream, that is…)
The dream: I was driving my Jetta through a large, rectangular, black gravel parking lot at dusk. I saw a sign indicating the property had recently been returned to Native Americans by the US government. As I drove through the large rectangular lot, I saw a steep dirt road ahead of me, which I began climbing. I drove faster and faster over rocks and gravel that were getting larger, as the hill became very steep. I was scared but exhilarated. Suddenly I was riding bareback on a huge black stallion. It leapt into the air over a "blind" hill and when it landed, I was tossed onto the edge of a very high mesa, landing on a brightly colored blanket covering a mattress, right next to a Native American man. He’d been camping there but bade me farewell as he departed and invited me to stay.
As I gathered myself, I saw the dusk sky was brilliant pink, purple, blue, yellow and orange. Around me, as far as the eye could see and down in the valley below were small groups of Native American men kneeling on colorful woven blankets, conducting peace pipe ceremonies. Before he left, I asked the man if it was alright for me to be there, as a woman and as a white. He replied with the Lakota term, “”Mitakuye oyasin” (we are all related) and said, “All are welcome here”. Then we started talking about muskets and the Three Musketeers (one for all and all for one? or “we are all related”?). Then I noticed how the silhouette of the peace pipe looks like a musket at first glance, but is a tool for peace, not a weapon of war. The man got up and bade farewell, and the dream ended with me sitting on the blanket, taking in the beauty of my surroundings.
To begin working with the dream, I made a list of possible associations, of which there were many including Standing Rock and personal associations to weapons, nature, and horses.
Upon deeper reflection, I asked myself a lot of questions. What was the role of the horse? Why a peace pipe ceremony? Why meet a Native American man who told me I was welcome, although I was not a man or Native American. Would I meet a Native American and/or be in ceremony with Native Americans? What was the dream trying to communicate in the way of my own “path” and hopes of becoming a healer, writer and public speaker, rather than a full time social services program director?
Doing some research, I found this piece on the internet about pipe ceremony and the meaning of facing west/sunset/night, and feel it holds meaning relevant to the dream and to what's happening in our world right now (personally and nationally/globally): (ENJOY)!
Black is the color of the west Where the sun goes down. Black is darkness, release, spirit protection. In the darkness, the spirit beings come to us.
The spirit beings warn us, Protect us, foretell for us, release for us. They are the spirit helpers to Wakan Tanka.
Black is the cup of water; The life-giving rains come from the west, Where the thunder beings live. Water is life.
Black stands for the spirit world Which we shall all enter someday. What we do or do not do upon this earth, We shall carry with us over into that spirit world. We shall all join together and either be Ashamed or proud of how we treated one another, How we respected or disrespected our Mother Earth, How we respected or disrespected all living things That are made by the Great Creator, Wakan Tanka.
We will see each other And yet know each other in the spirit world. Those we have harmed, They will remind us for eternity. Therefore we must walk the path of truth With one another.
The west is where our spiritual wisdom comes from If we care to seek it.
What stood out most to me from this beautiful passage was the connection of my dream to what is happening at Standing Rock, with our land protectors fighting for clean water and respect for our mother earth. The other thing that stood out was spiritual guides. I have now “asked” the horse and the Native American to join my tribe of spirit guides, and help me navigate this new chapter of my life. I asked the horse for strength and courage, as he had shown me in my dream. I asked the Native American for permission to work respectfully with shamanism and Native American traditions such as plant medicine. He gave me his blessing. I also find it interesting that both were male, representing for me, action and forward movement.
Here’s what happened next.
I took a trip to San Juan Island, where I had never been, to visit an old love interest. After many years of invitations to visit, the time was right. I had ended a relationship in January and my son had made the final move out of my house and out of the state...I found myself unfettered for the first time in well over 20 years. Why not see if there was something there yet to explore? Sarena lives on a beautiful farm replete with a camel, an alpaca and five dogs. The island is picturesque and quaint, as one would imagine.
When I mentioned that I’d like to go horseback riding, she took me to a horse ranch and I was surprised to see a nearly identical version of my dream. Although I’d never seen a black gravel horse arena, theirs looked exactly like the gravel “parking lot” in my dream. Beyond the arena, was a stable with 5 horses, and beyond that, were hills much like the one I climbed in my dream. We were unable to ride due to high winds, however petting the horses was magical and made me wonder if the dream was prophetic in the sense that I might move to San Juan Island, rekindle my romance, and commune with horses and nature. Or perhaps it was merely prophetic of this visit itself. I decided that this is not a path I will pursue, but will say that my weekend with Sarena (and the island herself) was healing and loving at a time that I needed it.
Soon, I attended a women’s spiritual retreat. The retreat was held at a large residence in the Oakland hills. Following the detailed directions, I climbed up, over, down, and around, and up again until I arrived at a remote staging area that doubled as a parking lot. It, too, looked like the parking lot in my dream. Once parked, we were instructed to climb a (horse) trail up the hill. As it turns out, the house backs up to Anthony Chabot Park, and one house had a horse in the backyard! I climbed the hill, eventually following the trail into the backyard of a mediterranean style home up on a vista. The first workshop leader spoke of her love for riding horses and that she earned so much money in her healing arts career that she was able to spend a lot of time riding! That’s what I want to be doing. Yes. Here was yet another strong connection to my dream and to my soul’s desires.
The focus of the retreat was women entrepreneurs who work in the healing and arts. The final workshop was facilitated by the Lakota elder and shaman, Dr. Maria Michael. Here I was in a circle with 50 women, and I had the honor of standing next to Dr. Maria, holding her hand, and being in deep ceremony with her. She spoke of the importance of non-native women doing healing work with white people in our world at this time, and she took us through an initiation ceremony that moved me so deeply I cried as I imagined myself become one with the huge trees that surrounded us, rooted to the ground, but reaching for the sky and channeling pure love through my body. It was a truly transcendent experience.
And yet another tie to my dream, where I sat with Native American (Lakota?) in ceremony. I now (later in 2017) frequent the hilly trail behind the house, stop to feed and pet “my” horse, and meditate as I contemplate my future.
There’s yet another interesting connection to the big horse (and the brilliant sunset) in my dream. After my relationship ended in January, a friendship I had developed over the previous years with a friend of my ex, blossomed. Karen has become a trusted and dear friend, seeing me through recent transitions and challenges, and I have come to rely on her strength, consistency, warmth, humor and advice. We email frequently and she uses the handle, “Docbar”.
I only recently thought to ask her the meaning of Docbar, and she said that Doc Bar was a Quarter Horse stallion that was bred to be a racehorse, became an outstanding halter horse, and in his sire career revolutionized the cutting horse industry. Karen met Doc Bar, standing a full 14.3 hands (!), as a child and developed a connection to him, thus the moniker.
One evening, I took Karen to visit “my” horse up on the trail, and driving us home, I spontaneously pulled over at the entrance to a ridge trail recently recommended to me by a friend. It happened to be shortly after 8pm and when we walked out onto the ridge, we were astonished to find ourselves on open land, viewing the most brilliant orange and pink sunset, which grew more bright and dramatic with each passing moment.
We walked the trail, transfixed by the colorful sunset and the black silhouettes of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline, twinkling Treasure Island, and Mt. Tamalpais. Again, this scene was much like my dream of the brilliant sunset on the mesa.
My dream horse had dropped me gently onto a soft blanket with a mattress on it. I have so many times in recent years said, “I just want a soft place to land”, in regard to a romantic relationship. Interestingly, Karen told me that she is making a “nice soft mattress” for her camper van, and I will be the first guest to sleep on it when we go camping next weekend. Dreams are holographic, and as such, I believe the sunset and the horse in my dream also represent my trusted friend who has been so helpful to me, as I climb up the steep metaphorical hill of major transformation.
My work with the dream continued, my seeking clues and signs about my destiny which I knew this dream foretold.
Meanwhile, my son was in a major crisis. My step-mother was repeatedly hospitalized for a hip replacement surgery gone very bad, and was on the verge of death over many months. And I needed to leave a job I loved because of a toxic boss and unrealistic workload demands. Frankly, I was burned out and traumatized.
I continued working with the dream images.
In December, I found a Medicine Path group in Berkeley and started participating in co-ed wachuma & peace pipe ceremonies facilitated by two couples, and found the experience incredibly empowering and clarifying. I continue to participate in wachuma ceremonies and will soon live on the property of a friend and fellow healer and artist, with whom I will continue working in ceremony and ritual. I left my job at the end of September, 2017, sold my home, decompressed, and took a couple of meaningful trips. In October 2017, I attended a 10 day spiritual retreat in the jungle of southern Mexico, where I received deep emotional healing from a Mexican shaman through a series of indigenous healing rituals, and where I received physical healing from painful arthritis in a traditional Temescal (sweat lodge).
Because of this experience, I was able to be with my step-mother throughout November 2017, to help her prepare for yet another surgery. I was able to be fully present and at ease with her, and I know that my presence contributed to her successful surgical outcome and general well-being. She seemed to thrive with my presence. And because she slept so much, I was able to have a mini-retreat with myself, where I did a lot of reading, writing and art making. What a gift to us both. (And as I write in July 2018, I have returned to be with her again).
Meanwhile, my relationship with Karen continued to deepen, and we spent a lot of time exploring the wilderness and being in nature together; activities which calmed my adrenals and provided respite from a perilous time. We spent a beautiful, connected week in gorgeous San Miguel de Allende where one night we stood on the rooftop terrace in the pouring rain, looking down upon the numerous church steeples and laughed about the constant barking, cockadoodle-doing and fireworks of an enchanted city that never seemed to sleep. Six months later, she helped me prepare my house for sale, and we spent many days working on major projects with intermittent laughter and spontaneous dancing, and me expressing my gratitude with home cooked meals.
After some fits and starts about where to live and work, I decided to remain in my Oakland community while focusing on my art, writing, healing work, and horses (I have since discovered several equestrian centers in the Oakland Hills and will start horseback riding lessons next month). I’ve been fortunate to be able to take nearly one year off from full time employment (thanks to the sale of my house and consulting work that I’m enjoying).
Now, writing again nearly 5 years later in June, 2022, life has transformed due to COVID. I have deepened my relationship to horses. I’ve enjoyed two road trips to Nevada. One, to Spanish Springs where Karen and I off-roaded deep into the wilderness and encountered a huge and fast galloping herd of wild horses. We followed them until we could see them no longer, dust kicking up high into the sky. Then, another trip to Virginia City in February, where I encountered three wild horses frolicking right on the edge of the highway. Finally, we returned to Nevada and Virginia City, in hopes of seeing the wild horses again, and we were not disappointed. Driving north of Virginia City, we encountered a herd of around 40 wild horses resting in a meadow, and who we watched for quite some time, grazing, dust bathing, and even laying down, sleeping. Our presence didn’t bother them at all. I felt their peaceful, powerful presence deeply within my own body. I find I feel most happy when I am in the desert among the horses, and need to return there frequently.
Recently, I was scanning Facebook and a stunning painting appeared, by artist Anita Otilia Rodriguez, one that looked uncannily like my dream.
Seeing this as synchronous, I went to her website and discovered that she is not only a painter, but is from Taos, the magical last place I visited just weeks before the onset of COVID, and had felt deeply connected to ever since. Additionally, she is also a psychic and tarot reader, so I reached out to her, introduced myself, told her about my connection to her painting, and asked for a reading. I am now reading her book, Coyota in the Kitchen, a memoir and cookbook, which is deepening my connection to the unique culture of Taos, and I hope to return soon, and to nearby Chimayo where I made my pilgrimage in February 2020, right before COVID.
The years since my dream have been filled with learning to ask for help, and receiving support and love from others. I have been on my knees at times. I’ve spent a lot of time praying. I’ve spent a lot of time in deep introspection and cultivating faith in the face of much uncertainty and frankly, trauma. Interestingly, when I started consulting, I was tasked with developing a curriculum on trauma, compassion fatigue and self-care. How fitting! I got to deeply examine my relationship with myself - to look at the nature of my self-talk, how I was feeding and caring for my body, mind, and soul. If I was going to write and teach this stuff, I’d have to put it into practice, too. I developed deeper self-compassion.. I began to feel better, stronger, and my vitality increased. I also forgive myself for making some ridiculous decisions.
Looking back on my dream, I see that it was a holographic representation of what was to come and maybe even a promise that in the end, I’d find that “soft place to land” through my relationship with the horse as well as my relationship with myself and my own spirituality. The horse represented strength and support, while my riding it bareback up that steep hill represented the faith and courage I needed to demonstrate in my life.
And the desert continues to call my name.