In Native American cultures, The Great Spirit is a deity intertwined with the fabric of the Universe itself on the large scale and yet personally engaged with the web of living things and the world on an earthly scale. I am creating a spiritual practice by borrowing a little from the Buddhists and the practice of mindfulness, but mostly from the strong connection I feel for the worship of Earth as taught us by our first nations. For those who hunger for the connection of a spiritual practice from someone who is learning to braid her own.

The power of dreams to inform action

The Shaman and his assistant each took half of our group of 15 and stood before us in turn with a coffee can filled with pulsing sage smoke. They waved the vapor under and over us using a large feather, doing something a little different for each person. The Shaman applied a sweet and spicy oil to my forehead, neck and palms. Later he asked if any of us had dreamed of eagles. Several had. I had a Golden appear in the green way behind my house, watch me from a distance. He said he had felt them while smudging us.

Dreaming was an important part of indigenous culture, woven deep into tradition and spiritual practice.  Natives respected the guidance given in dream messages, because they believed they contained information that defined one’s destiny and indicated the route that should be taken. Children were taught to remember their dreams from an early age so they could decode and extract guidance from them.

There are two types of dreams. One type is literal (seeing something that will happen in the future). The other is symbolic, intuitive messages being told through the story of the dream.

One of the pressures of hanging out with a group of seekers was others’ reports of dreams, voices and visions. With none to tell about I began to feel underdeveloped or flawed. But I arrived at the first pre-breakfast dream interpretation session without a dream. I figured I could learn from others’ “readings.” My favorite dream that day came from a guy who told about his wife and grand daughter both getting an outlandish haircut and how upset he was with their choice. It gave our Shaman some pleasure to tease him about the message from the spirits—“let go of your need for order and control, and let go of others’ actions."

Ancient legend speaks of the Spider Woman, caretaker of the children and the people on the land. Eventually it became impossible for Spider Woman to reach all of the children, so the mothers and grandmothers wove magical webs for the children, using willow hoops and plants ties. The “dreamcatchers” would filter out all bad dreams. Even infants were provided protective charms.

At the end of the 30 hours of isolation on the land—a mini vision-question-- I asked Pacha Mama for a sign. “Bring me a dream. Show me that you hear me.”  Sure enough that night I dreamed! The first dream was disjointed about a flamboyant long-time male friend who in the first scene was playing some unknowable musical instrument with a child I knew. The next scene was this friend and I entering an apartment building where he was trying to charm someone out of a cat. He mounted the stairs in mud-caked tennis shoes to talk to the cat’s owner but I was unwilling to go upstairs because I didn’t want to mess up the white carpet with my own muddy boots. I waited on the main floor with a woman who seemed to be the apartment caretaker and who was obviously in love with my friend. The next scene was me waiting for my friend in the back of an open-air jeep, and realizing as he approached and I could see his face in the moonlight, I too was in love. Just as he jumped up into the open air and was about to kiss me, I awoke. The Shaman told me that my muddy boots friend was a more flamboyant me, the me I long to be when I let myself tromp around in my muddy boots.

The next night I dreamed again, a dream I had had before. When I try to leave my house my street that leads to the highway that leads to my teaching job, is filled with furniture, to the extent that I cannot move my car. When I seek out who is responsible for the chairs, tables, buffets, desks and hall trees in my way I am directed to ride in an SUV with a woman and two men to a separate location. The creepy balding guy sitting in the backseat with me tries to ask me out on a date, while the driver runs over a refrigerator standing in the parking lot of our destination. I never saw the perpetrators but I remember my plea about a class I was going to be late for if they didn't clear the street, and a postscript reminding them that the City was wasn't likely to approve the clutter either. Then I awoke. When I repeated my dream to the Shaman he said, “You've had this dream before?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“That’s easy. Spirit is telling you to quit teaching. You may go back to it, but right now your path is to quit.” His eyes were serious. His words made me cry. I knew, had known for some time, I needed to change directions.

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