The smell of chicken soup wafted through my dreams as I rolled over in bed late one evening. Though not so late as to be early morning when the dreaming state is strongest, I had fallen into dreaming early. I pulled the comforter up and over my exposed shoulders. For such a silent night, rather then feeling restful, I lay in bed listening, dreaming, and smelling real-time soup cooking in the kitchen. The coldness of the room was seeping into my dreaming and the smell of soup reminded me the crock-pot needed turned off. I knew without thought that the paralysis in my body meant I was dreaming deeply.
There was much to pay attention to this early January evening.
Suddenly, without warning, I startled. Someone knocked on the wall behind me just above the headboard! The sound was exactly the same as the sound a month ago and the month before that: two staccato raps on the wall. I lay frozen listening for any scuffle outside, any footsteps, or movement in the middle of the night that would tell me more about those two loud knocks on the bedroom wall.
“The two previous knocks came from different locations on the walls,” I thought, an odd thought given my heart was pounding and my eyes were gulping in the darkness to determine any movement from the window to my left. I lay riveted, listening as closely as a deer smelling the air before the mountain lion leaps.
The sound of knocking on my bedroom walls was strange but familiar. This was the third time I’d been awakened from a sound sleep by loud rapping—not three or four knocks but exactly two, no other outside sound, no scuffling, no voices.
Frozen, I remembered the lines outside my bedroom on the desert sand made with a rake the previous month in order to trap any footprints made by an interloper. Checking for footprints in the morning would help to confirm the incident hadn’t occurred in daily reality, but at this moment, my attention dropped to the shotgun underneath my bed.
Get up, grab the rifle, and look for the intruder? Oh God! I didn’t even know how to use the rifle. My neighbor had given it to me thinking I needed some kind of protection on the desert.
I remembered the conversation with my daughter the previous week: “Mom, give that shotgun back! You don’t know how to use it! Who would give you a shotgun knowing you know nothing about them? How irresponsible!” My intentions were to do just that but maybe, just maybe, this was the reason the shotgun was in my possession in the first place. My daughter had reminded me of the scenario that plays itself out repeatedly on the news: someone grabs a firearm and uses it without knowing clearly what is happening around them. Inevitably someone gets wounded or killed. No wonder half the country was demanding gun control. Not budging, I lay frozen and breathless under the comforter. The rifle stayed put, lying still as a rattlesnake stretched out in warm summer sand.
My mind darted this way and that trying to piece the three matching events within a context that made sense to me. Years ago a similar thing had occurred, except that rather than a knock behind my bed, a telephone rang out without a phone actually being in the room.
At the time the meaning was clear to me: CONTACT! Contact from another world. A summons. An invitation. “Welcome! Come on in!”
That had been 15 years ago. In the intervening years, I’d pursued that other world with a vengeance. Doing so had catapulted me into what Shamans call an alternative reality. I’d willingly entered that dreaming realm, embracing the perceptual shifts that moving from one reality to another induces. But nothing of the sort had happened for a while and the span of time with no contact made those incidences feel alien and seeped in suspicion and fear.
The next morning I went to look for footprints in the sand outside my bedroom. I was still looking to prove that the event had occurred in ordinary reality. Nothing! I saw the rake lines from the previous month. I saw footprints around the corner from a handyman who’d used the ladder placed alongside the house. I saw my own footprints from checking the propane level at the tank the previous week. But there were no footprints anywhere near my bedroom wall.
Those knocks had come from the mysterious, otherworldly, realm. They were not from an intruder and yet they weren’t from my nighttime dreams either. I had to come to terms with the fact that they weren’t “real” on a daily basis and yet neither were they from nighttime dreaming. They were from an alternative reality. Now it was up to me to determine their meaning or significance at this particular time in my life.
How does someone who has practiced Shamanic endeavors go about “reading” such an event? Of course, one would expect that with years of practice determining the specific meaning of an otherworldly event would come with ease—after all, that’s what Shamanism is all about: going into realms outside of daily reality for the purpose of communicating with those realms. Sometimes for healing, sometimes for wisdom, sometimes for joy: the journeys accessed knowledge unfamiliar or disconnected with daily reality. Many left those journeys for a Shaman to perform but many people practiced them for themselves. I was one that had journeyed myself, but that practice had come to an end several years ago.
The options for “reading” such an event were many and filtered through my awareness over the next few days but none of them resonated to the point of hitting home and actually being the message from my nocturnal visitor.
- Just dreaming, Jess. Give it no significance whatsoever.
- It’s an invitation, just as it was in the past.
- Pay attention! Something/someone is summoning you.
- The fear and suspicion are real—pursue practical education on gun use in order to protect yourself.
- It’s a tease from a world you explored for many years.
- What meaning do you want it to have? A projection of my own wishes and desires is a possible explanation, but when I project my wishes and desires the outcome is that I don’t ever possess them—they are always outside of my reach. They simply become unreachable: the carrot dangling in front of the horse’s nose.
- And, if not projections, what are my wishes and desires that come from a knock on the wall? Owning them is altogether different than projecting them.
The next evening I went to sleep with little concern about outside knocking. The pattern looked like it occurred in 4-6 week increments. No rapping that evening and I slept soundly. But that didn’t answer for why the incident had occurred.
I decided then to do consciously what all of us do unconsciously: create my own reality. I was not victim to unsolicited contact from an alternative reality that was malevolent. That’s what my fear would have me believe. Following along with ‘creating my own reality’ the explanation for the knocks from the list above that most appealed to me was #7: “What were my wishes and desires that come from an unsolicited knock on the wall in the middle of the night?”
What came from answering that question not only surprised me but it pointed to a much larger principle that operates within Shamanism.
First, what were my wishes from the occurrence of such an event? When anyone knocks on my front door, the knock is often from someone that I’m expecting to see. Often, it is from someone that I’m looking forward to spending time with. When it is not from someone I’m expecting then it is from someone who is looking forward to seeing me: the event is prompted out of a mutual desire to see one another and possibly spend time together. My desire would be to have someone contact me from their own desire to be with me—not from obligation, not to correct or to teach, but because we have something to share with one another.
Second, the time frame in which the knocks occurred told me something. Those knocks came at a time in the evening from which I’m most prepared to communicate with the mysterious realm of non-ordinary reality. That time frame in the early hours of the morning is when I’m most likely to be in delta sleep—or the time of night when a human being’s sleep rhythm is most attuned to otherworldly realms. In other words, in order for me to hear from that other world, or alternate reality, “It” contacted me at the most opportune time for me to hear—and it was successful at doing so.
What if I changed my focus to, “This is cool; these events haven’t occurred for awhile and I’ve missed them” rather than, “What is the “meaning” of this event?” To carry that thought further, why had that type of experience stopped occurring in the first place? Maybe I’d quit knocking on that door and now it was time to reopen it once more.
Yes! That would be something I wanted to have happen. It’s desirable in a relationship when the contact is mutual rather than one party always doing the calling and asking for time, or information, or feedback from the other party.
Third, if I was to shift the meaning of the entire event how would that change the event itself? This is what is meant by, “creating our own reality”. Events don’t happen that are driven by an outside source that governs our lives. This is the underlying premise that many religions teach and is the reason so many people pursue those religions. Many people want to be told how to live, what decisions to make; they want a system that will relieve them of the mystery of life that carries so much unknown. Events happen driven by aspects of who and what we are, not from an outside source telling us what to do or what to believe. That’s the mystery of Shamanism. By the nature of our volitional will, we can pay attention to events in our lives that, in turn, contribute to how our life unfolds.
This is a BIG realization so let me see if I can describe it again in a way that is clear and concise. Earlier I said that Shamanism is about human beings going into realms that are different from daily reality and communicating with those realms. We do that for many reasons: healing, curiosity, communication, knowledge, gaining understanding, and seeking spiritual contact. I’ve always approached contact from the stance that I’m asking something from those realms, something that I was unable to do or to provide on my own.
But what if those realms contact us for the same reasons? When we search outside of ourselves for the very things we have inside we diminish our own power. The error in our thinking then takes hold: we go to those realms because we believe we are lacking or we go to those realms because we’re looking for something or someone. Somehow a mysterious realm that operates outside of our daily lives has what we think we don’t have! That presumption leaves us in the position to want something outside of ourselves and to believe we don’t have what we’re seeking in the first place.
But what if that assumption is incorrect? What if the situation were opposite? That alternative reality is coming to me—and it doesn’t mean that “they” want something from me beyond simple contact or to communicate with me. What if they are curious about human beings? What if they simply want to make contact? What if that other realm is not seeking to teach, to school, or to advise me on anything?
If this was indeed the scenario that is presented by knocking on my bedroom wall at the most opportune time for me to hear those knocks, I can let go of, “What does it mean?” There is no hierarchy! There is no sacred realm whose responsibility it is to “show me the way”! Being a traveler in both realms allows me and allows “them” to make contact, to communicate, to enjoy, support, and to relate to each other, not as teacher/student or follower/leader but as co-equals who have the wherewithal to be “in-relation” with one another.
What a liberating realization!
The next time I awaken to knocking on my bedroom walls I will respond differently than the three previous times it has occurred. The next time it happens I will say aloud, “Come in! Let’s talk. I’m glad you’re here!”