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Awareness Magazine
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Courageous Dreaming
How Shamans Dream the World into Being

By Alberto Villoldo, PhD


We are what we think.
Everything we are arises from our thoughts.
With our thinking we create the world.
— Buddha

Whether you realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being. What we’re engaging in is not the sleeping dream we’re familiar with, but the waking dream we craft with our eyes open. When we’re unaware that we all share the power to co-create the reality with the help of the Universe itself, that power slips away from us and our dream turns into a nightmare.

We begin to feel that we’re the victims of an unknown and frightening creation that we’re unable to influence or change. Events seem to control us and trap us. The only way to end this dreadful reality is to awaken to the fact that it, too, is a dream, and recognize our ability to write a better story, one that the Universe will work with us to manifest. The nature of the cosmos is such that any dream you have about yourself and the world will become reality.

As soon as you awaken to your power to dream, you begin to flex the muscles of your courage. Then you can dream bravely: letting go of your limiting beliefs and pushing past your fears. You can begin to create truly original dreams that germinate in your soul and bear fruit in your life.

Courageous dreaming allows you to create from the source, the quantum soup of the Universe where everything exists in a latent or potential state. Physicists understand that in the quantum world nothing is “real” until it is observed. But quantum events do not occur in the laboratory only. They also happen inside our brain, on this page, and everywhere around us. When you access any part of the dream, the great matrix of energy, you can change reality and alter the entire dream.

Modern physics is describing what the ancient wisdomkeepers of the Americas have long known. These shamans, known as the Earthkeepers, say that we are dreaming the world into being through the very act of witnessing it. Scientists believe that we are only able to do this in the very small, subatomic world.

Shamans understand that we also dream the larger world we experience with our senses. Like the Aborigines, the Earthkeepers live in a world where the dreamtime has not been pushed into the domain of sleep like it has for us. They know all of creation arises from, and returns to, this dreamtime.

The dreamtime, the creative matrix, does not exist in a place outside of us. Rather, it infuses all matter and energy, connecting every creature, every rock, every star, and every ray of light
or bit of cosmic dust. The power to dream is the power to participate in creation itself. For the Earthkeepers, dreaming reality is not only an ability but a duty, and one we must perform with grace and love so our grandchildren will inherit a world where they can live in peace and abundance.

We went into extraordinary detail to dream our universe into being. The Big Bang had to be so finely tuned, so perfectly orchestrated and calculated, as to produce only 1 part of matter in 10 to the 50th power of stardust. This is 10 followed by 50 zeroes, no more or no less. What is even more baffling is the fine tuning of the parameters of the universe that occurred, particularly here on the surface of the earth, which has maintained a perfect temperature balance between the freezing and boiling point of water for more than a billion years. The unlikeliness of these ratios that permit life to appear suggests the presence of an intelligent force. The Earthkeepers call this the Infinite Source, or Infinity.

The shamans I’ve studied with in the Andes and the Amazon believe that we can only access the power of this force by raising our level of consciousness. When we do so, we become aware that we are like a drop of water in a vast, divine ocean, distinct yet immersed in something much larger than ourselves.

It’s only when we experience our connection to Infinity that we’re able to dream powerfully. In fact, it’s our sense of separation from Infinity that makes us become trapped in a nightmare in the first place. To end the nightmare, to reclaim our power of dreaming reality and craft a better reality, we need more than an intellectual understanding of how this process works.

We need to have a visceral understanding of our dreaming power and experience it in every cell of our body. In fact, the intellectual understanding of our ability to create reality mimics but forestalls the kind of dreaming we’re capable of. If we don’t get beyond mere intellectual understanding of this concept, we’ll end up lowering the bar and creating a far less glorious and beautiful experience of the world than we are capable of crafting.

With a visceral understanding of our power to dream, we recognize that we can share the experience of Infinity right here, right now, and stop feeling disassociated and disconnected. It takes courage to taste Infinity.

The Earthkeepers believe that the world is real, but only because you are dreaming it into being. Dreaming the world requires an act of courage. When we lack courage, we have to settle for the world that is being dreamed by our culture or by our genes. We feel we have to settle for the nightmare. To dream courageously, you must be willing to use your heart. Otherwise, your dream will stall at the level of emotions, and of thinking too much, planning too much, and worrying endlessly. Then your dream will turn into a nightmare or a mere daydream, trapping you or drifting away while you wonder, “What happened?”

Although your mind resists it, the fact is that you have a choice between having the life you want or having the reasons you can’t have that life. You can have joy and peace, or you can have that big black bag full of all the sorrowful incidents and accidents that happened to you in your childhood or in your last relationship.

You can have your wounds or you can have your glory. You can live the life of a victim, burdened by the traumas of your past, or you can live the life of a hero, but you can’t do both. If you want to feel empowered, you need to make a conscious decision to dream a sacred dream and practice courage.

(Excerpted from Courageous Dreaming: How Shamans Dream The World Into Being)

Alberto Villoldo, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and psychologist who has studied the spiritual practices of the Amazon and the Andes for more than 25 years. Founder of The Four Winds Society, he instructs individuals throughout the world in the practice of energy medicine. He has written numerous best-selling books, including Shaman, Healer, Sage; The Four Insights, Courageous Dreaming and Power Up Your Brain. Visit: