The Art of Dreaming

The Art of Dreaming

by Michael Berman

One of the reasons why we go on journeys is because we can learn from such experiences, and this applies to both journeys undertaken in this reality as well as to journeys into other realities – of the shamanic kind.

According to research, published in the academic journal Cell Biology, it has been found that people who dream about a new task perform it better on waking than those who do not dream, and there is no reason why this should not apply to “waking dreams” too:

Volunteers were asked to learn the layout of a 3D computer maze so they could find their way within the virtual space several hours later. Those allowed to take a nap and who also remembered dreaming of the task, found their way to a landmark quicker. The researchers think the dreams are a sign that unconscious parts of the brain are working hard to process information about the task.

Dr Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School, one of the authors of the paper, said dreams may be a marker that the brain is working on the same problem at many levels. He said: “The dreams might reflect the brain’s attempt to find associations for the memories that could make them more useful in the future.”

Co-author Dr Erin Wamsley said the study suggests our non-conscious brain works on the things that it deems are most important. “Every day we are gathering and encountering tremendous amounts of information and new experiences,” she said. “It would seem that our dreams are asking the question, ‘How do I use this information to inform my life?” Taken from Dreams ‘can help with learning’ (Story from BBC NEWS [accessed 23/4/10]).

Interestingly, this is the same question we ask ourselves when returning to this reality after a shamanic journey, and shamanic practitioners have probably been doing this ever since the earth was first peopled.


“Once, in a house, there was a wedding festival. The musicians sat in a corner and played upon their instruments, the guests danced to the music, and were merry, and the house was filled with joy. But a deaf man passed outside the house; he looked in through the window and saw the people whirling about the room, leaping, and throwing about their arms. ‘See how they fling themselves about!’ he cried, ‘it is a house filled with madmen!’ For he could not hear the music to which they danced.” (An extract from “The Mad Dancers” in Meyer Levin’s The Golden Mountain: Marvellous Tales of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem and of his great-grandson Rabbi Nachmann, New York: Behrman House Inc. Publishers [1932]).

Michael Berman PhD works as a teacher and a writer. Publications include The Power of Metaphor for Crown House, The Nature of Shamanism and the Shamanic Story for Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Shamanic Journeys through the Caucasus and Georgia through its Folktales for O-Books, and All God’s Creatures: Stories Old and New for Pendraig Publishing. Although Michael trained as a Core Shamanic Counsellor with the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies under Jonathan Horwitz, these days his focus is more on the academic side of shamanism, with a particular interest in the folktales with shamanic themes told by and collected from the peoples of the Caucasus. For more information please visit

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