Ruby Modesto grew up on the Martinez reservation in southern California. Her dreams called her to become a pul, or shaman, introducing her to the eagle that became her ally, giving her wings for flight. She did not need the medicine plants used by some shamans among her people, the Cahuilla, because she had her dreams.
The medicine plants were very strong. However, not all puls used power plants. That should be clear from the start. I am a pul myself but the “ally” as Castaneda calls it, the spiritual helper which distinguishes a pul from ordinary people, came to me through Dreaming not from the effects of a plant.
She learned that there are successive levels of dreaming, and that you achieve increasing clarity and get closer to the really good stuff when you go to level 3 or beyond. Her uncle was a dream shaman, and he taught her about “setting up dreaming” in order to get to those interesting levels. She explained the practice to anthropologist Guy Mount like this:
The way you do that is by remembering to tell yourself to go to sleep in your 1st level ordinary dream. You consciously tell yourself [inside the first dream] to lay down and go to sleep. Then you dream a second dream. This is the 2nd level and the prerequisite for real Dreaming. Uncle Charlie called this process “setting up dreaming:. You can tell yourself ahead of time where you want to go or what you want to see, or what you want to learn.
On the 3rd level you learn and see unusual things, not of this world. The hills and terrain are different. On both the 2nd and the 3rd dream levels you can talk to people and ask questions about what you want to know.
She adds that “during Dreaming the soul goes out of the body, so you have to be careful.” When she ws young, she dreamed to the 13th level but did not know how to come back. “I kept having different dreams and falling asleep [inside each level of dreaming] and going to another level.” In the course of this immense, multi-tiered experience, she met her shamanic ally, Ahswit, the eagle. But her spirit was lost in the dreamlands. For days she was semi-comatose, in a sleep from which no one could rouse her. Her father tried to bring her back to her body, but couldn’t. Finally Uncle Charlie – a specialist in soul retrieval – was able to find her spirit and put it back in her body.
When I woke up they made me promise not to Dream like that again, not until I knew how to get back by myself.
To do that, you must learn “how to dream and think simultaneously” so that you don’t forget where you left your body and your remember, whatever level of dreaming you are on, to give yourself clear direction to go back.
Once again, we see that dreaming is a discipline. To get to the different levels, ad return with gifts for this world, requires practice and attention to flight safety and navigation. While we all dream and can all gain from doing far more in dreaming, dreaming to the 13th level is not for the “innocent” and not to be recommended as nightly practice for anyone!
Quotes are from Ruby Modesto and Guy Mount, Not for Innocent Ears: Spiritual Traditions of a Desert Cahuilla Medicine Woman. Arcata, CA: Sweetlight Books, 1980