Dreaming Of A Different Sort
How do you recognize when you are living under the spell of a daydream?
Daydreams always contain a contract or agreement you make with life that goes like this: “When…then.”
“When I have more money…then I won’t be anxious.”
“When I am happy…then I will be grateful.”
“When we have new leadership…then we will be able to have a truthful conversation.” Or perhaps, “When I find my true love, or my true calling in life, or the perfect house, or job, then I will…”
A few years ago, I received a challenging medical diagnosis. In my travels through the Amazon I had picked up a dozen varieties of parasites. Until then, I was convinced that other people got old or sick but that surely would never happen to me. Now I was sick and in danger of dying, and feeling like an old man. In my prayers I said to God, “When I get well, then I will dedicate my life to being in service and helping others.”
But God does not like these bargains. I began to wake up from the daydream when I turned the “When…then” agreement around. I discovered that:
When I am grateful, then I am happy.
When I dedicate my life to service, then I become well.
When I speak truthfully, then I become a true leader.
I had to rededicate my life to a mission greater than myself before I could recover my health. I had to transform the nightmare of ill health to discover my sacred dream that would allow me to experience a new sense of purpose and meaning, even though I had no guarantee I would survive my illness or how long I would live.
A sacred dream launches you to a destiny beyond simply not dying, or of being reasonably happy as you strive to avoid discomfort. It encourages you to explore the mysteries of life and of love, to glimpse a reality beyond death and discover a timeless truth for yourself. It demands that you act boldly and courageously, and not collude with the consensual — that which everyone agrees on and no one questions — even though it is a popular story that traps us in daydreams that become nightmares.
How Do You Know When You Have Found A Sacred Dream?
Because it is much larger than you, and it feels impossible to accomplish all that you hope to achieve. A sacred dream launches you on a mission, as it did with Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi. “But I am not Gandhi,” you might say. True, you do not have to set a goal to lead a billion people to freedom. But what if your destiny is to do something far greater than you have imagined until this moment?
When you are ill, or sad, or depressed, it is hard to think of finding a sacred dream. Your dreams are smaller then. Getting back to where you once were seems “good enough.” I remember when I was in my healing crisis and could not take more than 50 steps before becoming exhausted. My dream then was to be able to walk around the block without feeling spent. Yet I was called to the greater dream, to be of service to others in whatever small way I could. How would I do that when I could hardly get out of bed and my doctors told me I would never hike in my beloved mountains again? I discovered that when you hold a sacred dream, the universe begins to actively conspire on your behalf to make the impossible doable. It offers you energy and skills that you never had available before. Soon I was able to walk around the block, and today I travel around the world bringing a little more beauty to everyone I meet — practicing the giveaway of beauty.
Discovering the sacred dream requires courage. You can no longer be a passive (and anxious) bystander watching others have a meaningful life. The sacred dream will not come knocking at your door: It requires that you leave the familiar and embark on a quest. It requires that you not compromise your integrity. It demands that you not allow yourself to be seduced by the easy path. It calls you to fight the lie that your daydream is adequate and will continue to keep you comfortable.
This is why it is called the way of the luminous warrior.
The sacred dream you will be shown is made from light. It is light at its purest, devoid of any form yet the source of all forms that we see around us. In the sacred dream, the real nature of water is light, just as the nature of earth is light, of fire is light, and of wind is light. As you explore the sacred dream, you realize that even the planets, the sun, the trees, and the whales are made of light wrapped tightly into matter. Light is the primordial stuff of the universe, which the sages can mold into form when they dream the world into being, similar to how the potter kneads clay and works it into a bowl.
The light of the sacred dream is known as the Primordial Light, and the Andean sages called it Ti (pronounced “tea” in English).
The Power Of Ti
When I was a student of anthropology, I learned that the Inka believed they were the children of the sun. Later I discovered that this was not accurate: a mistake had been made by well-intentioned academics. Ti is the light, and the sun god of the Inka was called In-Ti. The name means the “sun at midday,” when the light burns at its strongest, not the young light of the morning or the fading light of dusk. The sun is the source of light, but it is not the light. The flashlight is not the light beam. Remember that until recently we did not know that the sun is a ball of burning plasma that could hold 1,333,000 Earths within it. For many native people, the sun seems like a hole in the sky through which the light of the heavens spills and illuminates our world. The Inka believed they were children of the Ti.
Ti is different from the sun, just as the firelight is different from the log even though it is released from burning wood. You find the name Ti associated with ancient places like Titicaca, the sea on top of the world; Paititi, the lost Inka city of gold; and Tiwanaku, the most ancient Andean civilization.
According to lore, the power of Ti can create beauty, or heal the sick, or fabricate galaxies. This is the source of the power of the shamans. But it can also destroy if it is not used properly.
The sacred dream is said to be made with the light of Ti, and all you need to do to be reminded of it is gaze at the sun at daybreak, or at a shimmering star at night, or into a bonfire. It is a plan for the destiny of the cosmos and of every living being within it. It is a template for invisible cities of light and for peace and beauty throughout the cosmos. But this outcome is not written in stone; it is not guaranteed. It requires that each one of us hold our part of the dream of the possible future and endeavor to create it.
When Pachakuti, the ninth ruler of the Inka Empire, was a young man, he went on a vision quest into the mountains. On his way to the city of Cusco, he stopped at a magical well known as Susurpuqio. When he reached in to fill the pail with water to quench his thirst, he was blinded by a light and a voice revealed his destiny to him. He would extend the Inka territory into the greatest kingdom the Americas would ever know. It would be known as the Empire of the Sun and usher in the dawn of a millennium of peace in the Andes. But he would face great challenges. On his return to Cusco he discovered that the ancient enemies of the Inka, the Chanka people, were about to invade the city and his father and all the able-bodied people had abandoned the city of Cusco.
Pachakuti understood his destiny. But he had no idea how to fulfill it. The only people remaining in the city were the old and some urchin children. He assembled them into a ragtag army and the following day before sunrise attacked the unsuspecting Chanka, who were camped on the citadel of Sacsayhuamán above Cusco. The legends say that the stones came alive magically and hurled themselves at the invaders, who were driven away to their lands on the other side of the Apurimac River. Not a single life was lost.
Pachakuti would become the model of the luminous warrior, who has access to spiritual resources that come to his aid when he is fulfilling the destiny scripted in his sacred dream.
As it did with Pachakuti, the Primordial Light reveals to us our sacred dream and our destiny. And like Pachakuti, we must face apparently insurmountable challenges. And then we are asked to trust that the Ti will offer us the extraordinary help we need.
The shamans know that everything living is made of light that is tightly bound and packaged into matter. The more the shamans share their light with others, the freer they became from the nightmares that plague those caught in a limited dream of personal enrichment or comfort.
Early peoples were tempted to worship Ti because of its infinite generosity. But the Inka realized that you can’t worship the Primordial Light as a god, for that would mean denying your own nature as light bound into flesh. When you understand your nature, you shine with your own light, like the sun. And like the sun, which is the only thing that does not cast a shadow, you no longer project your dark sides and the unhealed parts of your psyche onto others.
In my own healing journey, I understood that like all people, I am made of the Primordial Light. Every cell in my body relishes this. And when I forget this for a moment, I contract. I begin to wonder who I am, what I am doing in this situation, and where I am going with my life. I see battles all around me that I feel I have to fight. When this occurs I try to be quiet and find the light within, and remember that my nature is identical to the Primordial Light. I am the light.
The Primordial Light holds boundless resources that are now available to you and allow you to create beauty in any way you choose.
Reprinted with permission from The Heart of the Shaman: Stories & Practices of the Luminous Warrior by Alberto Villoldo, published by Hay House (2018). For more information visit theheartoftheshaman.com.
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. Author of numerous best-selling books, including Shaman, Healer, Sage, The Four Insights, Courageous Dreaming and Power Up Your Brain, Alberto is the founder of The Four Winds Society, and directs the Center for Energy Medicine in Chile, where he investigates and practices the neuroscience of enlightenment. Visit www.