Sandra Ingerman is an internationally renowned shamanic teacher and the author of many books. Her published works include The Book of Ceremony, Walking in Light, and Awakening to the Spirit World. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami speaks with Sandra about the upcoming online course Healing with Spiritual Light: The Shamanic Power of Transfiguration to Heal Ourselves, Each Other, and the Earth. Specifically, Sandra comments on transfiguration as a spiritual practice, highlighting how it can be a portal to both physical and environmental healing. Tami and Sandra talk about the inherently transforming power of light, as well as some of the scientific evidence around transfiguration. Finally, Sandra emphasizes the imperative to engage with transfiguration in the face of climate change and considers the future shape of human culture. (66 minutes)
Many people know about meditating during the day, but few are aware of the “nocturnal meditations.” They’ve been around for thousands of years, tucked away under the blanket of darkness. Until recently, the nocturnal practices have been secret, deemed too subtle for the West. But with the mindfulness revolution in full swing and meditation now in the public domain, these “dark” practices are finally coming to light in the modern world. What surprises most people is how deep and vast these nocturnal meditations are—and how applicable to daily life.
The practices start with lucid dreaming, which is when you wake up to the fact that you’re dreaming while still remaining in the dream. Once it was scientifically proven in 1975, lucid dreaming has gained traction in the West. Initially, lucid dreaming isn’t much of a meditation. Most people use it to indulge their fantasies—to fulfill their wildest dreams in the privacy of their own mind. At this entry level, lucid dreaming is the ultimate in home entertainment, where you become the writer, producer, director, and main actor in an Academy Award-winning production of your own mind.
But the higher levels of lucid dreaming have extraordinary psychological and even physical benefits. You can transform nightmares, rehearse things, resolve interpersonal issues, even improve athletic performance. Neuroscience has shown that you can use your mind to change your brain (neuroplasticity), and modern dream research continues to show that you can use your dreaming mind to enhance a host of daily psychological and physical activities. Lucid dreaming at this higher level is like going to night school.
With some proficiency in lucid dreaming you can progress into dream yoga,which is when dreams are used for spiritual transformation. While lucid dreaming is largely about self-fulfillment, dream yoga is all about self-transcendence. It’s been around for thousands of years, and the Buddha (the “awakened one”) was really the ultimate lucid dreamer.
Dream yoga, like lucid dreaming, progresses from beginning to advanced stages. A beginning yogi starts by addressing the question, “What are dreams made of?” They’re made of your mind. So, by working with your dreams at this refined level, you’re working to transform your mind. One early stage of dream yoga involves transforming the objects in your dreams, like changing a dream flower to a dream chair. In so doing, one discovers the malleable nature of mind and the truth of the saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they are never bent out of shape.” This is the “yoga” or “stretching” part of dream yoga, which develops increased pliability of mind.
One amazing quality of both lucid dreaming and dream yoga is that the benefits of what you do in your dreams don’t stay tucked into the nighttime mind. By changing a flower into a chair in your dreams (not as easy as it sounds!), you realize you can change anger into compassion in your life. In other words, your emotional states are not as solid as you think. They’re essentially as solid as a dream, and therefore as workable.
At higher levels of dream yoga, you use the “example dream” or “double delusion” of the nighttime dream to wake you up from the “real dream” or “primary delusion” of daily life—which is precisely what the Buddha did. You eventually come to the shattering conclusion that this is a dream. When seen properly—when you’re lucid to it—your waking reality is no more concrete than a dream. So a dream yogi lives by the maxim, “This is a dream; I am free; I can change.” It’s a liberating wake-up call, with profound implications for all of life.
For most people, lucid dreaming and dream yoga are enough. But for those wanting to go to “graduate school,” one can advance into sleep yoga(related to yoga nidra in Hinduism). As incredible as it may sound, this is when you learn how to become lucid in deep, dreamless sleep. In Buddhism this is called “luminosity yoga” and adheres to the teaching that fundamentally there is no darkness within—only light unseen. Sleep yoga turns on this nightlight, a luminosity so radiant that it eventually illuminates even the day. Scientists are currently trying to prove this outrageous claim with advanced meditators and dream yogis.
“Lucidity” is a code word for awareness. So, by working with any of these three practices, you’re working to cultivate greater awareness. And what doesn’t benefit with more awareness? All three of these practices engage the principle of bi-directionality, which is all about opening a two-way street between the daytime and nighttime mind. What we do during the day affects how we sleep and dream; and what we do when we sleep and dream affects how we live during the day. By becoming lucid to our dreams and to dreamless sleep, we’re secretly becoming more lucid or aware of our daily lives. So lucid dreaming leads to lucid living.
As fruitful as these three practices are, there is one final step for those wanting to take the deepest dive. With some proficiency in sleep yoga, one can advance into bardo yoga(“gap” yoga), which is when the darkness of sleep is used to prepare for the darkness of death. In Greek mythology, Thanatos (the god of death) and Hypnos (the god of sleep) aren’t just brothers—they’re twins. Death and sleep are intimately related. In Buddhism, death is referred to as “the dream at the end of time.” So bardo yoga, which is a Tibetan contribution, engages the tenet that dreamless means formless, and formless means deathless. Bardo yoga therefore introduces you to your formless/deathless nature—to who you really are. It points out the deepest part of you that doesn’t get old, sick, or die. Bardo yoga is a “dead end” practice that points out eternal life.
We spend a third of our lives in sleep. If you live to be 90, you’ve slept for 30 years. Imagine what you could do if you had even a fraction of that time. We spend 25% of our sleep time in dreams, which adds up to about a month a year. Think of what you could do if you added a month to each year! That’s real “overtime.”
The nocturnal meditations are cutting-edge practices. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker writes, “It is possible that lucid dreamers represent the next iteration in Homo sapiens’ evolution.” How evolutionary does that make lucid sleepers, let alone lucid “die-ers”? Do you want to be the first one on your block to take the lead in evolution? Then open your eyes to the dark, engage the nocturnal meditations, and discover the leading light within.
Greeting the cardinal directions is a common practice in shamanic cultures. There is no one right way shamans greet the directions. Honoring the directions was often based on weather patterns in the local area, specifically which direction the wind entered the land.
I encourage you to find your own way to greet the directions. We all know East is the direction of the rising sun and West is the direction of the setting sun. The direction away from the equator reminds us of winter and cold, while the opposite direction invokes a feeling of warmth.
Some people make medicine wheels that they stand within when doing ceremonial work. You might find objects in nature such as a feather, rock, or crystal. Or you might light a candle or put out a bowl of water to honor qualities you feel represent a given direction.
An Exercise to Call in the Directions
As you did when calling in helping spirits, take some time to reﬂect on the directions.
Stand and face East. Close your eyes and place your hands on your heart. As you focus your imagination on the East and the rising sun, what feelings emerge for you?
Turn South and let your imagination soak in the qualities that come to you associated with the South.
Face West and take a deep breath and exhale. In your mind’s eye, see and feel the sun setting. What associations does this bring to you?
Next, face North and observe how you feel in your heart. What meaning does the North hold for you?
In some cultures, the direction of Below is greeted to honor Earth.
And the direction of Above is welcomed to honor Sky.
Lastly, the direction of Within is acknowledged to honor the power of spirit and divine light that resides in each us.
Sandra Ingerman, MA, is an award-winning author of 12 books, including Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, Medicine for the Earth,Walking in Light, and The Book of Ceremony. She is the presenter of several audio programs produced by Sounds True, and she is the creator of the Transmutation App. Sandra is a world-renowned teacher of shamanism and has been teaching for more than 30 years. She has taught workshops internationally on shamanic journeying, healing, and reversing environmental pollution using spiritual methods. Sandra is recognized for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture, addressing the needs of our times.
Sandra is known for gathering the global spiritual community together to perform powerful transformative ceremonies, as well as inspiring us to stand strong in unity so we do our own spiritual and social activism work while keeping a vision of hope and being a light in the world.
She is passionate about helping people to reconnect with nature. Since the 1980s, thousands of people have healed from past and present traumas through the classic cross-cultural shamanic healing method Sandra teaches called “Soul Retrieval.”
She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and professional mental health counselor. She is also a board-certified expert on traumatic stress. She was awarded the 2007 Peace Award from the Global Foundation for Integrative Medicine. Sandra was chosen as one of the Top 10 Spiritual Leaders of 2013 by Spirituality and Health magazine.
Sandra has had two new books released in 2018. The Hidden Worlds was co-written with Katherine Wood and is a novel written for young adults to help them navigate the changing world. The Book of Ceremony was written for a shamanic and general audience on how to bring the sacred into daily life by performing shamanic ceremonies designed for our times and the challenges we are facing today.
John Lockley is a traditional healer, or sangoma, from the Xhosa lineage in South Africa, the same tribe that gave us Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He runs “Ubuntu” (humanity) workshops worldwide, helping people connect to their ancestors, the earth, and one another. His mission in the Western world could be summed up in the Xhosa word “Masiyembo”—involving a profound remembering of the human spirit. As John says, “When people can remember their dreams and connect to their life purpose, then their true vocation surfaces; namely being in service and acting as guardians to our planet.” With Sounds True, John has published Leopard Warrior: A Journey into the African Teachings of Ancestry, Instinct, and Dreams. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, John speaks with Tami Simon about his startling journey to becoming a sangoma and what he learned while caught between two cultures in apartheid-era South Africa. They speak on what it means to honor one’s ancestors and how life takes on a new richness with that practice. Finally, John sings a blessing song called “The Great Spirit,” inviting listeners to share in its calling. (69 minutes)
Caroline Myss is a bestselling author, medical intuitive, and leading voice in the fields of energy medicine, human potential, and spiritual exploration. Together with author Andrew Harvey, Caroline has partnered with Sounds True to create The Shadow Course: An Eight-Week Journey to Know Yourself and Bring Light to the World. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Caroline about this upcoming online course and how it guides participants in a deep exploration of the aspects of themselves that they have disowned or denied. They discuss the ways that Shadow issues such as greed, entitlement, envy, and self-absorption show up in everyday life and can even manifest as symptoms of physical illness. Finally, Caroline explains how bringing awareness to our personal Shadows is the first step in initiating deeply needed social changes for our world. (72 minutes)