Q & A
WITH DR. ALBERTO VILLOLDO

Q: What is the difference between religious teachings and spiritual traditions?

A: Spiritual traditions, including shamanism, are founded on our experience, not on sacred texts or the experiences of others. Religion on the other hand is founded in faith and belief, not on experience. Some scholars consider today’s religions as a codification of the teachings of the ancient shamans.

Q: What is a sacred dream?

A: The shamans of Peru teach that the sacred dream is a map to the future that has the potential to guide us to our purpose and show us our place in the universe. They believe that each of us is given a fragment of the sacred dream, but we tend to forget that we have it, and we get lost in nightmares of our own making.

Q: How do we find our sacred dream?

A: First, we must awaken from the slumber we live in, and accept that the dreams we believe to be true—dreams of security, permanence and unconditional love—are not reality. Then, we must transform these dreams, and accept that life is ever changing, that our mortality is a given, and that no one can liberate us from a life of fear and insecurity except ourselves.

Q: How do we know when we have found our sacred dream?

A: You will know because it is much larger than you, and may even feel impossible to accomplish all that you hope to achieve. A sacred dream launches you on a mission, like it did with Martin Luther King, and 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?

Q: What is a “shared nightmare”?

A: There are three daydreams at the heart of modern society which invariably become living nightmares. We all want to be safe, avoid premature death, and be loved without conditions. We end up feeling scared and insecure, trying in vain to find safety for ourselves in a world that is not in our control. We fear death and the signs that we are sliding toward the end, desperately wishing that we could ignore symptoms of aging and deterioration. We fear being rejected by others and ending up alone and unloved, irrational though that fear may be when we examine it in the light of all the love we have within us and around us. We try to hedge our bets in relationships so that we feel we get more than we give—and end up ruining them. These are the shared nightmares we fall into despite our efforts to avoid pain and experience happiness. To overcome these nightmares, we must each discover our sacred dream and become a luminous warrior.

Q: Who are the luminous warriors?

A: Luminous warriors are men and women who have discovered their purpose and place in the universe. They know how to heal suffering. They have tapped into the creative power of the cosmos and can create beauty in the world. They dare to speak the inconvenient truths, uphold universal values that honor all life, and perform daily acts of courage in these times when cowardice has become heroic. Awake and strong, they are ready to face the challenges before them, armed with the light of understanding their true nature.

Q: What does it mean to “create beauty in the world”?

A: You can create beauty in any way you choose. Some do it by healing the sick, others by teaching, others by comforting the dying, or those who are suffering. Others do it by creating beautiful ideas, by dreaming of cities in the clouds like Machu Picchu, and by learning the movement of the stars. The Laika create beauty and peace where there is conflict and strife.

Q: What is Pacha?

A: Pacha is the ancient concept of infinite spacetime. For the Laika, time is intertwined with space; it is fluid—a living torrent that flows through us and that the Laika learned to navigate. Shamans can take spiritual journeys through the river of time to accomplish any task—in the past, the future and places in between. Pacha is the basis of the word Pachamama, or Mother Earth, our home in time and space.

Q: How do shamans know if their spiritual journeys through spacetime are real?

A: When you rush into the future or the past in a shamanic journey, it is hard to tell what is real. When I started my shamanic training, I often asked myself, “Is this real, or am I making all of this up?” Shamans train carefully to retain clarity after returning from a journey and to prevent themselves from becoming terrified by the ghosts of the past that inhabit these realms, or seduced by temptations in the future.

Q: What are the three practices of the luminous warrior?

A: The first is Truth—always speak your truth, even if it has become inconvenient. The second is Beauty—see beauty everywhere. When everyone sees only darkness, point out the flickering flame that lies hidden in the shadows. The third is Love—the most powerful force of the Universe. Find something to love in everyone, even the most loathsome human being you know of.

Q: What is “paying it forward”?

A: Paying it forward is sometimes thought of as making deposits into your spiritual bank account, where you have credits that you can spend when the going gets rough. But the best way to practice paying it forward is without expecting anything in return. Give freely, without attachment. Give without needing to post about it on social media and paying attention to how many likes, shares, and comments your post gets.

Q: What is meant by “dreaming the world into being”?

A: Whether we realize it or not, we are all dreaming the world into being, although most people have lost the ability to guide the dream, and are, as a result, at the mercy of the collective nightmare. Students of shamanism learn how to awaken the ability to dream with their eyes open and share in the power to co-create reality with the help of the Universe. We all have a choice between having the life we want or creating the reasons why we can’t have that life. You can have your wounds, or you can have your glory. But you can’t do both. In order to feel empowered, we need to make a conscious decision to dream a sacred dream and practice courage.

Q: What is the Way of the Luminous Warrior?

A: The Way of the Luminous Warrior requires courage. You can no longer be a passive 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 do not compromise your integrity. It demands that you do 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.

Q: What is a despacho?

A: The despacho is a gift for the organizing principles of the Universe and constitutes the central axis of energetic exchange for healing, reestablishing perfect ayni (right relationship), or protection. Similar to a mandala, the despacho holds symbolic elements and the prayers of the participants. The despacho ceremony, in its physical beauty, is a journey to the soul of nature, and with the assistance of the spirit world, we explore the energetic inner workings and symbolism of each element of our offerings. As the elements are added to the despacho, the vibration of the participants raises. The despacho becomes a living prayer that brings energy shifts and healing.

Q: What is a shaman?

A: A self-realized person, a seer and healer, who has discovered the ways of Spirit through inner awakening. The shaman’s path is one of power and direct engagement with the forces of Spirit in its own domain, in infinity. A shaman experiences the visible and invisible realms, and knows that ordinary and non-ordinary realities permeate and suffuse each other.

Q: How does one become a shaman?

A: By going through your own deep emotional healing. You cannot be a shaman if you hold the world responsible for your fate or misfortune.

Q: What gifts distinguish a shaman?

A: The ability to look at what everyone else is looking at and think something different. The courage to live by your convictions. The understanding of how the visible world is born from the invisible world of energy.

Q: What was your inspiration to write this book and why now?

A: Many people have replaced the sacred dream with a dream of fame and fortune, power and Facebook likes. Meanwhile we are facing global crises—from climate change to species extinction to war, famine, and disease—all of which are calling us to dream a new dream for ourselves and the world. In these dark times, the sacred dream is calling us to remember what is real: the underlying harmony of existence. This wisdom is so simple and straightforward, yet it has been hidden for hundreds of years.

Q: What is the luminous energy field?

A: The energy field is the matrix that organizes the body the same way that iron filings are organized by a magnet on a piece of glass. It’s an information field that surrounds all living beings, and determines how we will heal, how we will age, and how we will die. It is also known as an “aura,” or “halo.”