02. Foreward by Robert Moss

“SHE WHO DREAMS” by Wanda BurchTrade Paper, $14.95New World Library, www.newworldlibrary.comToll-free ordering: 1-800-972-6657 Ext. 52

Through Dreaming into Healing

Dreaming is healing. Our bodies speak to us in dreams, giving us early warning of symptoms we might develop, showing us what they need to stay well. Dreams give us fresh and powerful images for self-healing. Dreams are also the language of the soul; they put us in touch with wells of memory and sources of creativity and energy far beyond the clutter and confusion of the little everyday mind. Beyond this, dreams are experiences of the soul, and can take us —sleeping or hyper-awake —into realms where we can have direct access to sacred healers and teachers.
These themes and possibilities come vividly alive in Wanda Burch’s brave and beautiful book She Who Dreams, which is both the narrative of a personal journey into healing through dreaming and an incitement to bring the gifts of active dreaming into our everyday lives.
I have been sharing dreams with Wanda since early in 1987, and I know the depth of experience and the deeps of dreaming from which this book flows. Her dreams diagnosed a life-threatening illness (breast cancer) a year before the doctors found symptoms. Her dreams guided her choice of treatment, gave her powerful imagery for self-healing and recovery, enabled her to grow a creative relationship with her physicians and awakened her to a deeper life and a vital engagement with the world as a dream-bringer —one of those who creates a safe space for others to open to the gifts of dreaming, and can bring a dream to someone in need of a dream.
Her personal story is quite fascinating. Her first dream mentor was her Irish-American grandmother, a "wise woman" of the Alabama hill country. Later she met the dreamers of the Iroquois, one of whom appeared at her back door in the form of a white wolf.
But it is the story of everyday trials, more than the extraordinary elements in this book, that will touch the hearts of many readers and bring them practical guidance that is urgently needed. Wanda shows how dreams can get us through. One of her most valuable contributions to the literature of healing and recovery is to show us how we can use the self-healing tools that flow from dreamwork to support conventional medical treatments, smoothing the process and reducing adverse side-effects. For this alone, She Who Dreams is an invaluable resource for healthcare professionals, therapists, healers and caregivers.

A dream friendship

My friendship with Wanda began with dreams, and deepened immeasurably through the sharing of dreams. Both only children, we found in each other the sister and brother that each had longed for in childhood. It is quite possible that we were dreaming of each other at that time, decades before we first met in the physical world, in March, 1987.
We met in a year when (as they say in West Africa) “the ancestors move into the realm of the living”–when death is close and the veils between the worlds are thin. It was the year my father died, and the year Wanda was called to help her own father prepare for his journey beyond death. It was the year I started dreaming of people who had lived and fought and loved centuries before, on the land where I was living, and it was these ancestral dreams that led me directly to Wanda.
I had recently moved to a farm on the edge of Mohawk country, in upstate New York, to get away from the clutter of big cities. I started dreaming of people who had lived in that neighborhood in an earlier time. In some of these dreams, I met ancient healers and shamans who spoke to me in a language I did not know, which proved to be an archaic form of the Mohawk Indian language. When I had studied enough Mohawk to interpret these dreams, I learned that the Mohawk word for a healer or shaman is atetshents, meaning “one who dreams”. I discovered that in the traditional practice of the First Peoples of the Northeast dreaming is regarded as central to healing. In Iroquois tradition, it is understood that dreams show us “the secret wishes of the soul”and it is believed that it is the duty of a caring community to gather round a dreamer, help her recognize the soul’s wishes, and take action to honor them.
One of the people I met in my dreams was an imposing white man who sometimes appeared dressed like a colonial gentleman or a British general, at other times like a Mohawk Indian. Through a chance discovery in a used bookstore, I was able to identify my dream character. His name was Sir William Johnson, and he lived among the Mohawk as King’s Superintendent of Indians in the time of the French and Indian Wars. I had never heard of Johnson before I started dreaming his world so vividly that I eventually wrote novels about him. My dreams spurred me to intensive research, and soon to visit Johnson Hall, Sir William’s last home in the Mohawk Valley, where I first met Wanda. She was a gentle, soft-spoken Southerner who had been curator of this historic site for many years, and knew Johnson and the Iroquois Indians very well.
We quickly discovered we had more in common than an affinity with some of the people who had lived on the Indian frontier in an earlier time.
Wanda and I had both grown up listening to our dreams. We had both known, since early childhood, that the dream world is a real world and that it is possible to travel into that world, quite consciously, in journeys beyond the body and beyond the laws of physical reality.
Soon we were sharing dreams. I told Wanda a night vision in which I flew on the wings of a red-tailed hawk to meet a healing woman who instructed me in her own language, spreading wampum belts to confirm her teachings. Wanda told me a dream in which she approached a native shaman with flowers in her hands, which turned into a baby, and then into a belt of wampum.
Within days, we were sharing as if we had known each other all our lives. We knew the colors and textures of each other's dreaming. I suspected that Wanda was the sister whose absence was so painful in childhood, yet whose presence I also sensed, behind the veil we penetrate in dreams.
I told Wanda how I survived a series of near-death experiences in childhood, and was healed through a vision of a living serpent-staff that filled the sky. We found we had both had the experience of entering other life experiences –past and future –in our dreams, and of traveling, again and again, to the same locales in the dreamspace, as if we were leading continuous lives in other realities.
Wanda told me a big dream from her childhood. Aged nine, she dreamed of a boy with brown hair who was drowning in very shallow water near a boat. In her dream, she reached in and helped pull him up. As she spoke, I was plunged back into one of the most vivid memories of my Australian boyhood. In my waking life, around that time, I fell from a gangway leading to a fishing boat into shallow water. No one above could understand that I was drowning, since the water was so shallow and I was anyway a good swimmer. But scenes of my life flashed before me and as my awareness swirled, I moved from terror into a dreamy surrender –until someone reached down and pulled me up and they pumped the water out of me. Wanda asked me several years later, “Have I been dreaming of you all my life?”
As our friendship developed, we were able to validate and confirm each other’s experiences, and benefited richly from the insight and energy that flows from sharing dreams on a regular basis and helping each other to read their messages and take appropriate action to honor the dreams.
In the society in which Wanda and I had grown up, we were not often encouraged to tell our dreams, let alone honor them as gateways to soul healing, though each of us was blessed to have at least one family member who believed in dreams and intuition. So we had to improvise processes to release the gifts of our dreams. We were both avid readers and researchers, but we did not find what we needed in other people’s books. We found it in our daily practice, and in our dream journals.
We noticed that both of us frequently dreamed waking events before they happened, and agreed on the importance of running a reality check on all dream material, asking “Is it possible that any of this could happen in waking life?”in order to identify messages about the future that could be life-supporting and even life-preserving. In She Who Dreams, Wanda shares many instructive stories about the workings of dream precognition. She not only describes how dreams provided accurate diagnosis of a developing illness long before physical symptoms were detected; she shares many examples of dreaming incidents, large and small, before they manifested in waking life. She makes us aware that dreaming the future is entirely natural. More important, she reminds us that the future we see in dreams is actually a possible future, a future that can sometimes be reshaped for the better if we get the details clear and take appropriate action to avoid an unwanted event, or manifest a desired outcome.
As Wanda and I continued to share dreams, several times a week –in person, on the phone, and by fax or mail (in the years before we had email) –I became aware that her gifts as a psychic dreamer extended beyond dreaming the future. She often had clear sightings of things happening at a distance. On many occasions, I noticed she was able to “drop in”on me and observe what I was doing, waking or sleeping. For example: after some dreams of my Scottish ancestors, I was up in the middle of the night, studying photos and descriptions of a castle in the Western Borders that had belonged to my father’s clan. In the morning, I received a detailed report from Wanda of a dream in which she met me within the walls of an ancient castle; her description of the landscape closely matched the territory I had been researching. On another night, I was caught up in a thrilling dream adventure in which I was granted a place in a circle around a purple fire in a circle of warrior-kings and given a cloak-pin that was fastened to my left shoulder. The next day –unaware of my dream, except through her own dreaming –Wanda shared a detailed account of a dream in which she saw me seated before a purple fire and watches as a cloak-pin was fastened to my left shoulder. The accuracy of her spontaneous sightings might have made me uneasy had she not become a close and trusted friend!
We began to experiment with entering each other’s psychic space consciously and intentionally, and found that it is not only relatively easy to do this –with practice –but that in this way it is possible to bring through guidance, healing and confirmation of the objective reality of experiences beyond the physical plane.
In the years after our first encounter, Wanda and I also found ourselves traveling deeper into a realm that is familiar to many dreamers, but sadly neglected by our mainstream culture: dreaming with the departed. Wanda’s grandmother returned to her again and again in dreams to offer her vital guidance on modes of healing –including the use of specific herbs –and the nature of the soul, just as my father returned to me again and again (after his death in November 1987) offering help to the family. I was privileged to share in Wanda’s wonderful work with her own father as he approached death. The night before his final crisis, I dreamed that Wanda’s father had become a minister of religion; Wanda called me the next morning to tell me she was flying to Memphis to be at his bedside, and that he had been praying intensely over the previous days. While Wanda played the role of guide to her father in his last months, he returned to her as a guide from the other side, giving her a clear warning about her disease, and later introducing her to other resources and allies, including an animal guardian.
We were learning and confirming so much about dreams in those early years. But neither of us had yet realized that Wanda’s work with her dreams was giving her tools that would save her life.

Rewriting a life contract

After Wanda’s dreams had provided specific diagnosis of her illness –but before her doctors had confirmed that diagnosis –she followed a waking dream by flying off to West Africa as a volunteer with an archeological team. On the eve of her plane trip, I wrote a quotation from Plotinus in my journal: “The soul has the power to conform to her character the destiny allotted to her.”
This, on its deepest level, is what you will find unfolding here. Wanda tells her story with absolute candor, sometimes seasoned with sardonic humor, as she describes herself trying and rejecting fake boobs after her modified radical mastectomy, or hanging a wig on a stuffed bunny when her hair started falling out during the chemotherapy. She doesn’t flinch from describing her moments of fear and bitter disappointment, the times when she felt her best dreams had ceased to work for her. Anyone who has undergone an illness like hers will be grateful for the honesty and practicality with which she describes the everyday ordeals and humiliations she suffered. Don’t expect soap bubble romance or easy miracles in this book. As Wanda tells it, her dreams led her down a hard road. In place of a miracle, she devised what she tellingly describes as a “healing cocktail”in which she was able to draw on her dreams and inner resources in support of the medical intervention she believed to be unavoidable.
No easy road, but one that led her out of death, by giving her the courage and clarity to conform her destiny to the depth and character of soul.
Her account of the dreams in which she was reminded of the terms of her soul’s contract and finally permitted (after profound ordeal and testing) to negotiate a life extension is breathtaking. She and I both believe that her terrifying dream encounter with the envoy of her personal Death literally enabled her to extend her tenure on life, and avoid the death, at age 43, for which her dreams had been rehearsing her for two decades.
Wanda’s decision to write this book and to share her gifts as a dream helper with those around her –as she does with great generosity in many environments, with neighbors and colleagues, with cancer patients and survivors, and as a workshop leader - are part of her honoring of that tremendous dream. Her story encourages us to examine our own sacred contracts and recover the knowledge that belonged to us before we entered this life experience.
Dreaming to heal your life
When you have finished reading this book, you’ll have no doubt about the healing power of dreams. You’ll have received powerful confirmation that in night dreams, we have access to a personal doctor who makes house calls, provides an impeccable diagnosis of our physical, emotional, and spiritual condition, and doesn’t charge a cent. You’ll know that dreams can provide accurate diagnosis of our ailments, often long before physical symptoms have developed. You’ll have learned that dreams are a wonderful source of fresh, spontaneous imagery for healing –imagery the body believes because it comes from deep within ourselves.
You will not only be inspired by Wanda’s example; you’ll be able to work with effective and original meditations and exercises you can use to enter a state of wide-awake dreaming that can be profoundly relaxing and healing. My personal favorite among the guided journeys Wanda offers is “The Healing Pool”, derived from her extraordinary experience of being led into an encounter with an angelic being at the pool of Bethesda. I have listened to her lead a whole group into this healing pool, and I have seen everyone present emerge refreshed and renewed.
Wanda not only offers her own example and imagery; she urges us to craft fresh visualizations for healing from our spontaneous dreams and visions, and to record our own meditations in our own voices, which may appeal to the body because they are so familiar.
Beyond all else, the message of She Who Dreams is that dreaming is everyday practice, a practice that can be profoundly energizing, wonderful fun, and can build deep and nurturing relationships.
© Robert Moss 2003