The Path of the Non-Dual Shaman
Part 4: What is Realness?
One of the questions that comes up when people begin to journey into the inner-world, have experiences and interact with inner-world beings is, "Is this real?"
Given this, a discussion of what “real” means is helpful to integrate the experiences.
Rather than thinking in an all or nothing, real or not real way, I would like you to imagine that what is real is on a spectrum from zero to 10. Human beings are designed to look at the outer-world to stay alive and to acquire food, shelter, and companionship. Measuring this, then, the outer physical world is a 10.
For example, you're looking at a rock. In the material world, this would is a 10. On the spectrum of “real,” that makes it feel very real.
And then as you move down towards zero, let's say you get to nine or eight. Those would be the things that are labels for things in the outer world. So let's just call them the names of things.
I mean that a rock is not actually really the word rock.
That's just a word that we use to describe a thing. A rock is just what it is. It just is. So the concepts we have for the physical world, the framework that we lay over the top of the world also feels very real to us. But it's actually only in our mind.
It becomes less solid. So we're going to say that it's slightly further down on the “real” spectrum.
And then you have all those feelings that come and go. They could be anywhere between six, seven, eight, nine. What's interesting about them is that when you energetically feel something, it also affects your body, chemically.
You could have a feeling that might feel like it's a six, seven or eight on the “real” spectrum that has a consequence that's a 10 in your body.
For example, you feel something that you're nervous or anxious about, and then your body has a “realness” 10 reaction.
Moving further down the “real” scale now, let's talk about the inner-world, which is a lot like dreaming. When you're in a dream, you believe the dream is real. And you have physiological responses to it. Oftentimes, people wake up from dreams or nightmares, and they say, "Thank goodness that wasn't real!"
So the “realness” factor goes from 10 (physical world), and then suddenly drops down to about a 2 on the spectrum. This is great, but your whole system, your whole perceptual system believed in it while it was happening and you thought it was real.
And then there is lucid dreaming, where a person actually wakes up in the middle of their dream and realizes, "Oh, I'm dreaming." And they most likely re-enter the dream and continue from where they were interrupted.
That interruption doesn't make it seem like the dream is less real, in the sense that they're floating around in their inner-world and experiencing that inner-world, they just happen to know that it's actually in the dream world, and maybe they have some control over it and can do a number of different things within the dream, such as directionalize it.
So you're in a dream, and maybe you're experiencing that dream as a 10. Then you wake up inside your dream, and you're like, "Oh, okay. Well, gee, this is actually like a five, six, or seven now," because of the physiological response to the dream.
When you interact with a being in the inner-world, you are essentially interacting with something that you might experience between a 3 and a 10, depending on if you're actually in a dream at night while you're asleep.
Now if you put yourself into a trance by closing your eyes, and focusing on your inner-world and you alter your brainwaves a little bit as you go further in, you might experience those things in the inner-world as five, six, seven, eight or even nine.
Now here's the thing that's important:
Anything on the inner-world you experience can have an effect on your physiological state, your mental state, and/or your emotional state. This is great because if you experience circumstances and places that are empowering and full of positive energy and positive archetypal energy, then you can be physiologically infused with those positive energies, and you can bring them into your outer-world state. That can have an incredible effect on your life in the outer-world.
People use this technique of innerworld or imaginal exploration and practice all the time.
Athletes use it to train themselves to perform better,
people use it to prepare themselves to give speeches,
all kinds of different things.
So the question is, when you go into the inner-world, are these Beings that we interact with real?
Well, the answer is yes and no.
Yes, in the sense that when you interact with some aspect of yourself in your own unconscious, then it probably behooves you to treat it with respect, just like you'd like to be treated with respect in your outer-world. So treat it like it's real, just as you'd like to be treated if you were real and if you were in somebody's dream.
Then, are they ultimately real?
This comes down to this question of, and the issue of non-duality.
They're not ultimately real anymore than anybody else is ultimately real, in the sense that we all share the same awareness.
Even so, it seems like most beings we run into in the outer-world are not necessarily aware that they are a part of unity consciousness, inherently.
But, are they real in the sense that they can have an effect on you?
Are they real in the sense that they have a body of some kind?
They have a body of energy impressions, whatever you want to call it, whatever a dream-body is made out of.
Do they have a physical body like ours?
Can their actions affect your physical body?
And are they aware that they're also made of pure awareness?
Just like someone you meet in the outer-world may or may not be aware that they're made of pure awareness.
That leads us to the final piece of this, which is, are they autonomous?
A lot of times what people mean by real is..."If they're just figments of my imagination, then they're not real." And "Yes, they could be aspects of yourself that you're talking to." And that is different. That's in your own unconscious material that you're dealing with.
But when you interact with an actual inner-world Being that's objectively part of the inner-world, in the sense that it exists whether you're there or not, then essentially it's no different than interacting with someone in the outer-world.
You want to be aware of that Being's autonomy and capacity for working with you, just like anybody in the outer-world can work with you.
The only way to determine whether that's the truth and whether that's “real,” in the final sense, is to do the work itself and find out.
Most modern-day people come from a place of, "That is not real."
Not that it can't have an effect on you, but that those Beings don't have an autonomous existence.
My only warning would be, be careful with that.
From the shamanic perspective, inner-world animas and beings are real indeed, and autonomous.
Even if you have doubts about autonomous realness, which is fine as you begin, doubt will push you to search for an experimental answer rather than taking my word for it.
So while your jury is still out, act like they are real and they will then act like they are real. Which means that when you experientially have enough data to allow your mind to open to their realness you will not be in shock. You will have just moved your world into a more receptive, broad view of the Universe rather than having your modern-day perspective come crashing down all around you.
As you do expand you will develop relationships that guide and help you.
Both relationships with parts of your own higher self or soul, and then, also, beings that have gone before and have gone to more refined inner world places of existence.
This next question naturally, and dramatically arises:
“But what if I'm daydreaming, or I put myself in a setting and I imagine the setting like it's a city, or a forest, or some other environment, and it's not a still picture, but things and people are moving, and I'm not controlling their movements, but I could also go into the inner-world and imagine that some being moves to the right. When I do that, am I then violating that being's autonomy?”
Relax! Most of the time when you first enter, you are inside your own autonomous imaginal egg (reference blog post: Part Three: What is The Soul). That's the simplest way of describing it. So when you're daydreaming, you're working within what's right around you and in you.
That egg is almost like an art studio, a crafting studio, where you can imagine things and create stuff. I call it the common room and I also conceive of it as an inner castle with a variety of rooms for various purposes which we will explore later.
In theory, let's say you're in your crafting studio, and you're working on a creative problem. Say you're trying to figure out the solution to it, and then you essentially pray. "Hey, I need help," Well, that awareness, which is aware of everything, can manifest the help coming to you through pure inspiration into your inner studio.
That can come directly through the top of the egg, right into your own head.
Let's say you are inspired by a particular, albeit deceased artist, maybe Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci, and while you are studying their work you're especially inspired by something, and you want to connect with that Being's wisdom and knowledge. There's no reason to believe that anything gets lost.
So you're in your egg, and you're sitting there in your studio, which is your imagination, and you start thinking “I wonder what Leonardo da Vinci would say about this." And then you decide to connect with Leonardo da Vinci and the essence of what he would bring to the table. There's no reason to believe you couldn't do that.
There's no way to prove it, yes or no, but if you get some inspired idea and you begin to have a conversation with Leonardo da Vinci, and it shows up that way and you work with it, then, "Okay, it's working." And of course, you'd want to treat Leonardo like he's really Leonardo in order to get the best out of that.
Authors do this a lot when they write a book.
There's an author who wrote a book about James Baldwin, a great African American writer from the 20th century, and he was interviewed recently. And the guy interviewing him, who works at Princeton, asked, "Why James Baldwin?"
And he said, "Well, I've read all his books, and he's really important. He's the greatest philosopher of Black America, helping people make sense of what our circumstances are."
He further recalled, "Yeah. I felt like Baldwin and I wrote this book together, because I spent so much time with him in my imagination."
There you go. Baldwin's dead but in the inner-world he is accessible, depending on how you approach it.
So at some point, once something actually feels like it's functioning in a very real way that's supportive of you, you actually just grow out of asking the question of what's real and what's not, because it just doesn't matter anymore.
What you do care about, and what is more important to you, is whether or not it has an effect, and whether or not you can do anything with it.
So you just say something like, "Okay, let's assume everything is real, and just work with it to get the best we can."
And then you learn to treat everything on the inside and the outside with respect, which is essentially a shamanic perspective.
Shamanism is practical in its approach to producing results.
Of course, you still need to have boundaries and take responsibility for yourself.
You can go into your imaginal world in your studio, and create a city in which you can imagine yourself.
Here’s what I do:
There are certain places in the world that are really beautiful, like an island in Greece with an incredible view. And this is in my little private egg. I go in and experience myself sitting and observing that view, and I can enjoy the sunset, which is perpetually setting in my egg. It's totally beautiful.
Well, that changes my worldview, it makes me feel better about everything, and eventually it acquires a virtual life of its own.
The more I visit it, the easier it is to return to.
In my own individual little egg I'm making it increasingly more real by investing energy into it. (Just like a project that you spent time with that you brought into the outer-world.)
If I started drawing and painting that view, it would become even more real on the “real” scale, because now I'm doing a painting of it, bringing it into form in the outer-world.
An Exercise for You:
Find yourself seated comfortably, eyes closed, relaxed, hands resting easily in your lap.
Recall a favorite landscape or scene you have visited in the outer-world.
Spend time filling in as many details as you can remember.
See it in motion, coming to life.
What colors do you see?
What does it smell like?
Are you in a forest? Or near an ocean?
How do you feel as you look at this scene?
Are you calm? Relaxed? Excited?
Now look around and begin to interact with the scenery.
What can you do?
What can you cause to happen?
Is there someone with whom you can converse?
Is there an ice cream vendor from whom you can get a sweet treat?
Perhaps there is a bicycle you can ride.
Allow your imagination to bring realness to the scene
Notice any physiological responses you have to this form of inquiry.
The more you practice, the better you will become at engaging your inner-world.
Up next: Part 5: Last Chance Press: Finding meaning and purpose with the soul’s guidance.