When we sink into the blissfulness of meditation, when we daydream, when we listen to soothing music that sets our soul at peace … What exactly is happening in our brain? And how can we use this knowledge as a springboard to spend more time connecting to the source, and experiencing a higher level of consciousness, to promote greater peace and happiness in our every day life?
Scientists have confirmed that all matter is made of up energy, and this energy is found in the form of waves or vibrations. The brain is an electrochemical organ and its activity can be measured in waves. These are the brain waves that you may have seen on charts like this one:
Image: "Sleep Stage N3" by NascarEd
There are four categories of brain waves, and each one corresponds to a different level of awareness:
Beta: 13-40 Hz, the fastest brain waves. This corresponds to an alert waking state. This is how we experience life throughout most of the day in our fast-paced modern culture.
Alpha: 8-13 Hz. This level of brain activity occurs when you are relaxed but still generally alert, including reflection, daydreaming, light meditation, during creative and artistic processes, when you spend time in nature, and when you exercise.
Theta: 4-8 Hz. This level is associated with deeper meditation, inspired creativity and imagination, the first stage of sleep, and mystical or intuitive perception.
Delta: 0.5-4 Hz, the slowest brain waves. This occurs when we are in deep sleep, as well as in deep trance and processes of self-healing.
The Importance of Theta and Delta Brain Wave States
As our brain moves from Beta to Alpha and then into the slower brain states, we move away from daily reality and the busy linear mind and into a more open, symbolic, and insightful level of consciousness.
“As your brain waves slow further to Theta, you find understanding about the nature of your true self. The ego begins to 'die' and be replaced by soul awareness. It’s been shown that when the mind turns inward and focuses on self-reflection and inner processes, your brain waves shift from Beta to Alpha to Theta, especially as outside stimuli are shut out. Meditators often drop into deep Theta states and report that they feel unity within themselves and with all other beings. It’s ironic that when viewed from our normal waking consciousness point of view, the deeper states appear sleeplike and trancelike, yet when we become conscious within them, a much more expansive awareness awakens.
Experiencing the Delta state brings experiences of being out of body; your sense of self expands to become collective and universal. There is no time or space, and you can easily shift into other dimensions of awareness. It’s not easy to achieve these deep states while alert and conscious, as Delta takes you into a unified, nonindividualized awareness that is overwhelming to the ego – and falling asleep instead of exploring the experience is often a comfortable ‘escape.’ Delta might be thought of as physics’ many-worlds quantum reality in which all parallel worlds coexist and evolve simultaneously.”
Dreaming to Guide Our Waking Lives
In November 2015, I attended a special event hosted by the Pachamama Alliance in San Francisco titled “Shamanism In the Modern World: A Conversation with Indigenous Leaders.”
The presenters included:
- John Perkins, a former chief economist who has received training from master shamans around the world
- David Tucker, Director of Pachamama Journeys
- Manari Ushigua, indigenous leader and dream shaman of the Sápara people in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador
- Patricia Gualingua, a Kichwa woman from the community of Sarayaku, Ecuador who has spoken about environment and human rights issues before the United Nations and in other global forums; and
- Narcisa Mashienta, a member of the Shuar people and creator of the Jungle Mamas program.
Manari Ushigua spoke about his ability for lucid dreaming, in which he has sufficient alertness during his dreams to direct the events, find deeper meaning, and awaken with full memory of what occurred in the dream. Manari has had many dream experiences imparting wisdom about the actions that we need to take globally in order to preserve the rainforest and the planet.
Both Manari and Patricia Gualingua were born and grew up in indigenous cultures that emphasize the importance of dreaming and dream interpretation in order to guide their community in their waking lives. They instructed the group very strongly that we need to remember our dreams and explore our dreams in order to live more meaningful lives, more connected to the source. Manari said that the single most important thing for people to remember is:
Dreaming in Other Cultures
Different cultures have widely varied interpretations of dreams and the importance of dreaming. The Dreamtime of the Aboriginal Australians, for example, is “A kind of time out of time … That time before the world itself was entirely awake.” During that time, the Ancestors emerged and made their marks upon the land, forming mountains and valleys, rivers and forests. When a baby is born in their culture, she inherits a particular stretch of the Dreamtime song—a stretch of the Earth—as her own personal property, which belongs to no one else. The child is one with the Ancestor who shaped that tract of land. No matter how far away she ventures over the years, at the end of her life she will return to the place of her conception, “to sing [her]self back into the land.”
Another culture, the Sng’oi people of Malaysia, believe that the dream world is real and the waking world is an illusion. They believe that they travel to the real world each night in order to bring back experiences that will help them to know what to do in the shadow world, the waking world. They gather together at dusk in small huts, softly touching, leaning against each other, arms draped over one another as they fall asleep. In the morning light, those who slept near each other form a small circle and, while still drowsy, share their dreams with one another. Often it occurs that several of them have the same dream, or similar dreams. What they dreamed about will frequently come true in some way during the following day, or provide needed guidance to the community.
The Achuar people of Ecuador are a true “dream culture” like the Sng’oi. They wake every morning at 3 or 4 a.m., several hours before sunrise, to share a herbal infusion made from the wayusa plant and begin a ceremony to share their dreams and plan their day communally. Dream sharing is considered a social responsibility, as one person’s dream may have an impact on another person or even on the entire community. The Achuar believe that the two realities—waking and dreaming—are one continuous existence, and that dreaming and sharing the dreams with each other help to reveal underlying layers of meaning in their world. If a dream is negative, the dreamer has a chance to re-dream as many times as needed until they receive a dream that is acceptable to them or to the community. It is key to the Achuar belief system that we can all re-write our lives if we choose to do so.
In all of these cultural beliefs about dreaming, there is a softening of the edges of what we in modern society consider “reality.” There is an opening to powerful magic, a trusting in the collective wisdom shared by people and the Earth. There is less resistance; more acceptance of what the heart knows. The dream interpretations are layered and woven into a story of hope for the days and years ahead, with guidance for the people coming from an ever-present source of wisdom.
Guidance for a Troubled World
Returning now to the Shamanism In the Modern World event, this was an eye-opening and transformative experience for me, in bringing to light the reality of the power that each person has to connect with the infinite forces that created us, and to go beyond our visible reality to create true transformation in our lives. Journeying within ourselves, and experiencing heightened levels of consciousness, is critical for all of us in order to connect with the deep wisdom that is readily available to us but often forgotten or misunderstood in our modern culture.
Often today, those who venture into alternate realities are consider strange or “disconnected.” But let’s look more deeply at the reality of our lives. Are we not more cut off now than ever before in human history from nature and its wisdom?
I believe the answer, for all people, is to venture inward in whatever method is most meaningful for you. That may be meditating, guided visualization, shamanic journeying, spending time outdoors, doing yoga, singing, dancing, or anything that makes you feel most alive. However it is that YOU find that soft, insistent voice of intuition inside yourself; however YOU feel you can best connect with the universe, God, or your chosen divine presence … Whatever form that takes for YOU, it is so important at this time in history to make this a regular practice in your life, in order to bring back the connection with the source and wisdom that we are so lacking in our modern world.
Here are a few selected quotes from the event to give you an idea of the power and presence of what was shared:
David Tucker: “We need teachers and guides in our lives. [In our modern society,] We don’t acknowledge rites of passage that are essential to the human experience. When new energies and changes come into our lives, it becomes a crisis if we don’t have guidance. Shamanism is the only worldview big enough to hold the upcoming transformation.”
Patricia Gualinga: “We need to stop talking about spirituality and start doing it, and bring heaven to Earth, and make great change.”
Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was when John Perkins said:
Enhanced Consciousness in Your Own Life
It is important for each of us to experiment with deeper levels of consciousness that may not be openly discussed in our society or in our social circles. Only through exploring deeper levels of awareness can we truly come to know our own power, and appreciate the limitless potential of our own being. This in turn leads to a greater love for all people because we learn to see the spark of magic that burns within everyone, and if we are patient and kind and fully conscious, perhaps we can even encourage others in our lives to go deeper and explore their own spark, to discover their hidden and eternal power.
This is how we will effect real change on our planet: By starting with oneself, and then expanding to a point of sharing your deepest wisdom with others. Each of us has limitless potential to transform the world, to enhance and enliven the light all around us.
It is our responsibility, and our purpose in this lifetime, to do so.
Find your spark and discover the meaningful life YOU were meant to live. Learn more about the DISCOVER YOUR MAGIC online course by clicking here.