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Monday, May 16th, 2011

Time Event
10:55p
Changing your stories ...
Back in the '80s I did a good bit of archaeological and metaphysical traveling, and a significant chunk of this was on trips organized by Alberto Villoldo and (eventually) his The Four Winds Society. Interestingly (to me, at least), much of the material in his earlier books came from events on some of those journeys. Over the years his books (he now has a dozen or so out) have moved from being “journal-based” and into a more philosophical stance, and this is certainly in that mode.

While I am certainly conversant in the sorts of things that Alberto has been writing of late, I've probably not worked directly with him in the better part of a decade, so there is a degree of disconnect here, vs. when he was dealing with more specific “Incan” tribal shamanism of various stripes. Over the years his activities have spread out across a wider spectrum of native teachings and traditions and has come up with a non-specific “umbrella” name for these sources, “The Earthkeepers”. While this, obviously, spares him a lot of “backgrounding” cultural details on his material here, and gives him a great deal of “wiggle room”, I find myself wondering how much of what is owed to whom and how much of this is a newage amalgam arising from Alberto's workshops.

I had fairly high hopes for Courageous Dreaming: How Shamans Dream the World into Being, having recently read Steiger's Kahuna Magic, which had a substantial “dreaming reality” aspect to it, and I was hoping that this would involve similar concepts as expressed by a native tradition in which I'd had some training, perhaps something akin to those elements within the Castaneda corpus. However, this is more in the “new age workshop” vein, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn't what I was hoping for, and so did sort of “lose me” part way through.

Alberto frames Dreaming here, not so much in an otherworldly mode as in almost a “law of attraction” dynamic, with “dreams” being one's stories, and how these can be modified change the outcomes they are drawing in. He discusses some classic teaching stories and then defines “three stock characters” that he sees come up time and again in his consulting practice, that of “the bully”, “the victim”, and “the rescuer”. These roles become important when you look at one's stories from a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic programming) stance, in that the repetition of one's stories reinforces the identification with those forms.

As you look at the seemingly unalterable facts of your life, you might say, “but I'm not making excuses. These facts are real.” They may indeed be very real to you. However, it's easy to confuse the past with the present and the future, perceiving facts in a fixed reality when they may not be facts at all. Your “facts” are simply beliefs rooted in memories.

Your brain doesn't distinguish between what's happening in the present moment and what you're experiencing as you retell a story about the past. Neuroscientists are discovering that at a synaptic level, a real and a recalled event both register in the neocortex and the limbic system in the same way, with the same intensity. … In fact, every time you relive and old hurt, it reinforces that synaptic pathway.
At this point he introduces the concept of the Luminous Energy Field (familiar to those who have read assorted shamanic books), and ties in this sort of reinforcement as cords within the LEF that will continue old, painful, destructive patterns long past their time. This then folds into the classic “four directions” elements, here envisioned as symbolic of four levels of consciousness, waking, dreaming, a lucid in-between state, and dreamless sleep, expressed as the Eagle - dreamless sleep or stillness, the Hummingbird - the dreaming state, the Jaguar - the lucid state between dreaming and sleeping, and the Serpent - our ordinary waking awareness. Each of these levels of consciousness has it's own form of “courage”, the Eagle has Spirit courage, the Hummingbird has Soul courage, the Jaguar has Intellectual, Moral, or Emotional courage, and the Serpent has standard physical courage.

This takes us up to about 2/3rds of the way through Courageous Dreaming and, frankly it's here that I started to get a bit lost (right at the point where “Part II: From Dreaming to Courageous Action” kicks in). This contains four chapters, “Courage as Action”, “Practice Truth”, “Clean Up Your River”, and “Be Ready to Die at Any Moment” all of which have bits and pieces of classic new age and eastern wisdom, as well as the occasional shamanic practice, but I somehow found it very hard to follow. A good deal of this was based on what “the Earthkeepers believe” and less grounded in the approaches of the first half of the book. This could, of course “just be me” not connecting with a more symbolically structured modality, but it felt like having driven through a fascinating landscape smack into a thick fog bank to me.

Obviously, this might be more “for you” than it was for me … again, it wasn't a “bad” book, but I'd gone into it hoping for something more specific and substantial, and ended up finding it a bit of a melange of many elements that were not necessarily finding a point where they were in sync. Courageous Dreaming is only a couple of years old at this point, so could still be out in the brick and mortar vendors, but the on-line guys have it at about 1/3rd off of cover (and you can get a “very good” used copy of the hardback for under a buck). This is an interesting book, and could be quite appealing to those with pronounced “new age” sensibilities, so it might be something you'll want to check out.


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