Starry, starry dreamtime

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Modern physics is describing what the ancient wisdom keepers 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 that we experience with our senses. Alberto Villoldo

Space. The final frontier… to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. Captain James T. Kirk

I’ve made no secret of the fact that when I started exploring the third eye chakra, this Star Trek sound byte was my in. I think it was Patrick Stewart’s dulcet tones, and the the vision of infinite space, of an starry indigo sky, and that sense of endless possibilities. Space has always captivated and fascinated me. The possibility that there was a space that vast within me, well…

And although the third eye is by no means a place that no one has gone before, it certainly feels like that when you begin to explore it.

I know this isn’t Patrick Stewart, but you gotta love the kitsch!

Our society has such a fear of the dark. Whether the dark depths of the ocean, or deep space. And yet the dark is where everything is born. From chaos, from the void, in it all creation stories begin, before the first sound and the first light, when there was only darkness, pregnant with possibilities.

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. Oscar Wilde

Many moons ago, I did a shamanic journey with my old flame, I went to a dark space, to the void. At the time, used to more elaborate, visual journeys, I mistakenly thought nothing had happened. Perhaps the proximity of my beloved had prevented me from letting go of the physical world and making the transition to the otherworld? I thought. It was like that with us, that buzzy energy when our bodies were close, it was rather distracting.

And yet, it wasn’t nothingness. The place I journeyed to had a substance and a heat to it. It had a pressure, it was pitch black, with only the tiniest pin-pricks of light, but it had so much presence. I remember being a little baffled and even disappointed at the time. My beloved had such a vivid journey to tell and I had, well, a whole lot of indescribable nothingness.

Close your eyes,
then you will find the way. Puyallup Indian myth

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Months later when I started studying Shamanic Journeying with Sandra Ingerman, I read an account by another student of such a journey. Sandra explained that this place is known as the ‘void’ and it is where we can go to ‘dream’ reality into being. It is a place of potential energy, before it takes form.

To me this concept of ‘dreaming’ creation from the void of pure potential, is the essence of the third eye chakra, it is vast, and yet it contains everything, and more specifically the possibilities of everything.

The shaman is a self-reliant explorer of the endless mansions of a magnificent hidden universe. Michael Harner

In Sanskit, Ajna translates as both “perceive” and “command”, and is considered the centre of intuition and intellect. It is the centre of inner vision and dreaming. This chakra is known as the ‘third eye,’ an energy centre situated between the brows, that has major significance in the energy anatomy of several religions and belief systems.

In the Taoist Qigong, the highest Dantian (energy centre) is located at this position. This is one of three ‘furnaces’ that converts the different sorts of energy in the body. In this Dantian, the spiritual shen energy is converted into wuji, the infinite space of void.

If you have insight, you use your inner eye, your inner ear, to pierce to the heart of things. Chuang Tzu 

Within the Sufi system of Lataif-e-sitta (the six subtleties) there exists a Lataif known as Khafi, or arcane subtlety, in this same position, and is related to mystical intuition.

According to the Kabbalah, there are two sephirot (emanating spheres) located at this level, associated with the left and right parts of the face. They are called Chokmah (wisdom), and Binah (understanding). [Wikipedia]

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This is your database of where you create your reality. This is your mission control. Caroline Myss

In Theosophy the third eye is related to the pineal gland. Philosopher René Descartes believed the pineal gland to be the “principal seat of the soul” and also viewed it as the third eye.

In the Celtic Chakras as described by Elen Sentier, “The brow is the meeting place that holds all the energies of the chakras.” In shamanic traditions, the word for ‘shaman’ was often ‘one who has the eye’ or ‘one who sees’ suggesting the use of this inner vision. 

The Iroquois have, properly speaking only a single divinity – the dream. To it they render their submission, and follow all its orders with the utmost exactness. Jacques Fremin

In the Indigenous Australian cultures, it is referred to as the “strong eye” and is both a tool for seeing the spirit world, as well as a form of deep-looking at the landscape, that caused a shift in consciousness into a meditative or trance-like state. Quartz crystals placed on the third eye to awaken visionary skills was common in some tribes.

When geographically distinct cultures from the world over express such similar associations with this energy centre, it implies a commonality in their direct experience. Which suggests to me that there is a distinctive character to this energy centre that can be tapped into regardless of cultural or religious bias.

Our imagination flies – we are its shadow on the earth. Vladimir Nabokov

The third eye Chakradance is a dance of ecstatic and altered states of consciousness reached through trance-dance. The dance of the third eye is the dance of the intuitive mind. In this dance we let go of the physical world and take the journey into the psychic world of our imagination.

Sandra Ingerman says that shamans dance to shake off their everyday lives and to free themselves from the anchor of their ego-mind which keeps us rooted in ordinary reality.

We journey in order to see, to understand, or to touch our intuition at its essence. And we can bring that clear sight back into reality with us.

In our visions, and our dreams, in the archetypal images that resonate with us, our unconscious speaks to us of a deeper truth than our physical senses perceive.

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem

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The nature of the third eye chakra is spacious and vast. It feels like anything is possible, the energy is so light and free-flowing.

This chakra governs mental functions of sight and visual recall, including the memory. It is located in the centre of the forehead – inside the head, radiating inwards, it’s focus is self-reflection and inner sight. When something is seen in the mind’s eye, or in a dream, it is being ‘seen’ by Ajna.

The third eye chakra is said to be the centre of perception, that intuitive sixth sense of just knowing, without knowing how we know. It is also the centre of our dreams and memory recall, the chakra where we can tap into archetypal energies. Through active use of our imagination, we can gain command over our vision of the world.

Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

It is in Ajna that we tap into the ‘collective unconscious’ and the world of archetypes. During the Chakradance we work with an archetypal energy in order to allow that energy to enter the physical body and move through it. By embodying archetypal energies in the meditative dance space, we can gain insight into how these energies are manifesting in our lives.

Accessing the full power of the imagination is a gift inherent in all of us. The ‘command’ function of Ajna relates to the powers of visual imagination. This allows us to shift from left-brain rational cognition to right-brain creative thinking. This is the shift into our inner visionary. Yes, you DO have one!

Whilst to the modern Western mindset, the concepts of archetypes and a collective unconscious sit more comfortably, in shamanic cultures these encounters are seen as a communion with spirits, power animals, and totems.

Since the so-called Age of Enlightenment, our shaky anthropocentric, rationalist egos have been brainwashed to forget what ‘primitive’ cultures once understood: Animals can be manifestations of celestial beings in disguise; they possess supernatural abilities, and they can be our spiritual guides and healers. Zeena Schreck

In Australian indigenous cultures this interconnection of people, land, and spirit is part of the what westerners call the Dreamtime, The Dreaming. In truth there is no one ‘Dreaming’, as each tribe and nation had its own Dreamings, specific to the land they dwell on.

Across the many indigenous Australians languages, there is no word for time. So although the ‘Dreamings’ contain creation stories, they are possess power and currency beyond time, and these stories and the spirits they convey have depth and relevance to all aspects of life.

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The ‘Dreaming’ contains the creation stories in which the Ancestor Spirits came to the earth in human form and as they moved through the land, they created the animals, plants, rocks and other forms of the land that we know today.

In the beginning all was dark. The earth was flat and bare. There was no life, no death. The sun, the moon, and the stars, all of life, the ancestors, slept beneath the earth.

When the eternal ancestors awoke, in the ‘Dreamtime’, they wandered the earth, sometimes in animal form – as kangaroos, or emus, or lizards — sometimes in human shape, sometimes part animal and human, sometimes as part human and plant.

The spirits that make up ‘The Dreaming’ are eternal, existing in the past, the present, and the future equally. Christine Nicholls writes that ‘The Dreaming’ is conceptualised as “an eternal and continuing process involving the maintenance of life forces, embodied or symbolised as people, spirits, other natural species, or natural phenomena such as rocks, waterholes or constellations.”

The Dreaming’ or ‘the Dreamtime’ indicates a psychic state in which or during which contact is made with the ancestral spirits, or the Law, or that special period of the beginning. Mudrooroo

‘The Dreaming’ exists always and is deeply connected to the land, the land, animals, trees, rocks and plant life, all having their own spirit, the spirit that lives in all things. Humans and animals, plants, landscape features, and elements such as wind and fire, are all temporary incarnations of spirits which have always existed and will continue to exist after the material form is gone.

Once the Ancestor spirits had created the world, they became the trees, the stars, rocks, watering holes or living things. These are the sacred places of Aboriginal culture, the ‘Dreaming’ is never-ending, linking the past and the present, the people and the land. These beliefs form the foundation of all Aboriginal religions.  

Even humans have an associated primordial form, or totem. A person’s totem is more than just a symbol; it is an essential aspect of their being. Similar to the shamanistic concept of power animals. These totem animals are representative of the animal – meaning a kangaroo totem represents all kangaroos, the archetypal essence of kangaroo, not just an individual animal – and provide power and protection to their human connections.

Even though the ‘Dreamings’ vary, the Aboriginal people were also hugely interconnected.

For example, the Tingari are a group of Ancestral elders of the ‘Dreaming’ who travelled over vast stretches of the country, performing rituals and creating and shaping particular sites. Tingari is a Pintupi word in which the ‘Tingari’ is a creation myth, which refers to this group of Ancestral elders who embarked upon numerous journeys through the vast lands of the Gibson and Western Deserts.

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Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything godlike about God, it is that. He dared to imagine everything. Henry Miller

The Tingari stories embody a vast network of ‘Dreaming’ songlines that traverse the Western Desert region of Australia. A songline is one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky), which mark the route followed by Ancestral elders during the ‘Dreaming’. These formed both the knowledge and geographical maps of the people.

Songlines enable navigation across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. In some cases, the paths of these ancestral creator-beings are said to be evident from their marks on the land, such as large depressions, which are said to be their footprints.

By singing these songs, Indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia’s interior. Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different Indigenous peoples, who may speak different languages and have different cultural traditions.

…the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks’ or ‘Songlines’; to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Lore’. Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes – and so singing the world into existence. Bruce Chatwin

Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of the song are said to be in those different languages. Languages are not a barrier because the rhythm and melody of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes.

Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking on this songline and observing the land. They express the living presence of the place. In this way songlines, much like the Celtic bardic tradition of place-name stories, are used to journey with the living spirits of the land, the deities, and the Ancestors. Traditional Aboriginal people regard all land as sacred, and the songs must be continually sung to keep the land “alive”.

The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and painting. 

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The Jukurrpa [The Dreaming] is an all-embracing concept that provides rules for living, a moral code, as well as rules for interacting with the natural environment. The philosophy behind it is holistic – the Jukurrpa provides for a total, integrated way of life. It is important to understand that, for Warlpiri and other Aboriginal people living in remote Aboriginal settlements, The Dreaming isn’t something that has been consigned to the past but is a lived daily reality. We, the Warlpiri people, believe in the Jukurrpa to this day. Jeannie Herbert Nungarrayi

The narrative of these ‘dreamings’ – or stories or myths as we from Western cultures tend to think of them – are grounded in the land itself and draw upon the topographical features of the land and the sky to form creation and other land-based narratives that inform the peoples’ lives in every way, from practical matters of hunting and migrating, to their ethics and morality, to their spiritual lives.

Furthermore, as scientists from all over the world, including NASA are realising, these cultures have been recording valuable astronomy data in their ‘Dreaming’ stories for over 50,000. Check out this TedX talk by astronomer Duane Hamacher:

Speaking of cultural astronomy, the Pleiades is the brightest constellation of stars in the sky, and has been recorded in cultures as diverse as the Egyptian, Greek, Hopi, Mayan, Lakota, Japanese, Maori and Australian Aboriginal, since the beginning of human history.

The Mayans, Cherokee, and Hopi believe that their ancestors come from the Pleiades. The ancient Mayans and Egyptians built pyramids aligned with the stars of the Pleiades. They are known in Egypt as the Seven Midwives.  In China and Greece they are known as the Seven Sisters. 

According to Philip A. Clarke, there have been over fifty versions of the indigenous Pleiades dreaming stories recorded in Australia, most of them mirror the trend of associations with seven sisters who were chased into the sky through a variety of causes. The element most versions share is that a group of young women/girls are fleeing from either a single man or a group of men. In parts of the Kimberley Aboriginal people consider that an “old man,” the planet Venus, chases the youngest of the Plieades sisters across the night sky. 

We have five senses in which we glory and which we recognize and celebrate, senses that constitute the sensible world for us. But there are other senses – secret senses, sixth senses, if you will – equally vital, but unrecognized, and unlauded. Oliver Sacks

It is fascinating to me that such geographically disparate cultures share such common stories for this constellation. In many of these cultures, certainly the Australian and Native American, they believed that the ‘sky-world’ was in direct communication with us, teaching us these ‘dreamings.’

So what does all this have to do with me? I’m glad you asked. You see, despite appearances to the contrary, I am keenly sensitive of cultural (mis)appropriation. It worried at first me about Chakradance, drawing upon an Indian tradition, well I’m not Indian nor was I raised in that culture, so to alleviate this feeling of assuming another culture, I have been investigating what links I might find for the chakras in my ancestral Celtic heritage.

Yet somehow, as I practise Chakradance in my studio, what I seem to be connecting with more and more, is not just my ancestral traditions, but the spirit of the land.

I am a little reticent to write in too much detail about what I’m experiencing, it’s nascent and sacred, but it is sufficient to say it’s a very Australian connection, to this land and it’s people.

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And of course, it makes sense. Shamanism is very much about connecting with nature spirits, and if researching the ‘dreamings’ of the First Australians has taught me anything, it is that this land that I have been raised on is full of spirit, every rock, every river, every land mass, every tree has a story. As I lead ceremonies, as I ask for the spirits of the land to bless my space and bless my rites, of course the inevitable has happened, I have entered into a relationship with them.

The more I journey and tap into these unseen realms, the more I tend to agree that all living things are imbued in spirit, are in possession of consciousness, and are capable of communicating, if only we can remember how to see with our strong eye. Perhaps at some time we will transcend cultural barriers and reclaim our connection to spirit through direct experience, with both our ancestors and the ancestral spirits of whatever land we find ourselves in.

Close both eyes. Look from the other eye. Rumi

 

Affirmations from Natalie Southgate

The answers to all my questions lie within me.

I trust my insight and intuition.

I see clearly both in the physical and subtle worlds.

I see and understand the “big picture”.

My intellect is a powerful tool for good.

I envision and create beauty and goodness.

I am open to experiencing non-ordinary reality.

I trust my inner self to guide and protect me.

My imagination is vivid and powerful.

I am open to the wisdom within me.

 

Bless!

 

Images:

Wild Bush Yam Dreaming by Colleen Wallace Nungari

Alma Nungarrayi Granites, Yanjirlpirri or Napaljarri-warnu Jukurrpa (Star or Seven Sisters Dreaming)

Dreamtime Sisters by Colleen Wallace Nungari

Tingari – Karrkurritinytja (Lake MacDonald)  by George Ward Tjungurrayi

Wayamba the Turtle by Peter Muraay Djeripi Mulcahy

Tingari – Karrkurritinytja by Anatjari Tjampitjinpa 

Mundagatta Kulliwari by Michael J Donelly

Seven Sisters by Maggi Yilpi

 

Sources:

Introduction to Aboriginal Religion

An Overview of Australian Aboriginal Ethnoastronomy

Dreamtime and The Dreaming – an introduction

What is the Dreamtime or The Dreaming?

 

Check out Melbourne’s own Stonehenge:

Aboriginal Astronomy:

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