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Dreamed 1994/2/4 by Chris Wayan


I just reread Sandra Miesel's Dreamrider (reissued as Shaman), one of the few seriously researched novels about shamans and dreamwork that I've found. It echoes much of my real life so vividly, I get upset--feel so inept, so inferior, next to these shamans, Kara and Lute and their reluctant pupil Ria... these fictional shamans!

Dream 1: Midway to Alpha Centauri

I'm on the first starship to Alpha Centauri. We're a long way out; even Jupiter's invisible now. The sun, dead astern, is just a bright star. We argue whether we could tell it's the nearest or not, without a computer or charts. It's very bright, but is it the brightest? I say it can't be because Sol's about as luminous as Alpha Centauri, and they're about equidistant now, and Sirius though further off has always been brighter. I forget that we're midway between Sol and Alpha Centauri, so they're each only two light years off, not four. Twice as close and four times as bright as Alpha Centauri is from Earth! So both may be brighter than Sirius, and Sol may still be (marginally) brightest. I don't know.

The crucial fact is, we're midway. We've been accelerating out of Sol's space all this way, instruments focused on home. Now the two stars are equally far, equally dim. This transition point is the darkest time. But not for long. Alpha Centauri will soon visibly dominate. It will be the sun.

Time to turn the ship around and begin decelerating. Oriented on our new sun. A sun we attained.

Of course I'm going through a Dark Night of the Soul! I'm halfway to Alpha Centauri!
The dream echoes a dream in SHAMAN. Ria dreams she's a reporter at Cape Canaveral for the first Mars mission. She feels a rush of joy and shouts "We're on our way!" She's starting her spiritual journey. I felt ashamed I'm not a real shaman like Ria and Lute. I can't even heal myself, let alone do much paranormal stuff beyond odd bits of telepathy and precognition. The dream reminds me: I'm more than on my way, and not to Mars either. Halfway to the stars! OK, I'm a space case... but a heroic one. Historic expedition! Dreamwork on ESP is more cutting-edge than I realize: lost amid daily details, in my interstellar night of the soul, I forget the immense fact of being an explorer at lightyears out. The dream hints my goal is NOT something familiar, like maturation or personal fulfilment--I'm pushing the limits. Heading for an alien sun no human being has ever walked under.

Time to reverse my orientation! So far, I've been past-looking. Shift to the future! Look ahead to the new sun. The dream emphasizes forward-looking, not just by the symbolic content, but by its setting in the future.

Yet, ironically, my first thought on waking was disappointment. After all, we were only half way to Alpha Centauri! Such is the cultural trance... Sketch of a creature with pointed ears, black mane and tail swimming in a green sea.

Dream 2: My Mentor's Advice

My mentor sits in the shadows, and says: "Shamanism is like sailing into the wind at an angle: a long fast reach, then a short tack to get upwind; or weaving on a handloom, where the thread goes in and then must be checked and tamped down before the next is thrown. Progress, then consolidate! Eat, then digest!"

And right now... I'm digesting. He uses different images, but his gist is the same as my previous dream--the darkest passage in interstellar space is also proof that I've gone "where no one's gone before." Disorientation and darkness are natural now.

My teacher adds "Shamans, unlike scientists, must not trust rules. If you get a regular routine, a set of firm laws, axioms, assumptions, and let them carry you along, you lose your own awareness of life. You stop swimming and sit on the raft you've built. Eventually, you forget how to swim.

"Better to stay limber and aware and don't let a raft of rules help too much." He explains that unlike Buddhism and other organized religions, shamans don't just observe and renounce. We act on our deepest inclinations, whatever they are, trusting our natures, like the animals we are: we become the wisest most alert animals we can be. With both human and animal senses, we're hybrids--centaurs. With hybrid vigor, we can guide our herds and packs. We act as...

Alpha Centaurs!


Why weaving and swimming? In Dreamrider, Kara the shaman weaves. She also uses the learn-to-swim metaphor. She constantly emphasizes practice--not rote learning, not theory. Only direct, scary, painful, practical experience teaches true magic.

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