The Heart of the Shaman: Stories and Practices of the Luminous Warrior

The Heart of the Shaman: Stories and Practices of the Luminous Warrior

by Alberto Villoldo Ph.D.


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The Heart of the Shaman will take you on a journey into the sacred world of the shaman, through stories, dreams, and ancient rites.

In his latest book, Alberto Villoldo sets his focus on the dreaming and time-travel practices of the medicine men and women of the Andes and Amazon, whose wisdom radically changed his worldview. Villoldo shares some of their time-honored teachings that emphasize the sacred dream: an ephemeral, yet powerful vision that has the potential to guide us to our purpose and show us our place in the universe.

The practices in this book will help you forge a sacred dream for yourself. They will help you craft a destiny infused with courage, and driven by vision. You’ll be invited to follow the footsteps of the luminous warrior and learn how to break out of the three nightmares surrounding love, death, and safety that have held you captive, and transform them into the experience of timeless freedom, known as the Primordial Light. This creative power exercised by shamans will lead you to create beauty and healing, and dream a new world into being.

When you transform these dreams and accept that life is ever changing, that your mortality is a given, and that no one except you can free you from fear—the chaos in your life turns to order, and beauty prevails.

“Wake up from the slumber you are living in, and dream with your eyes open so that all the possibilities of the future are available to you.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401952983
Publisher: Hay House Inc.
Publication date: 07/31/2018
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 646,855
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Alberto Villoldo has trained as a psychologist and medical anthropologist, and has studied the healing practices of the Amazon and the Andean shamans. Dr. Villoldo directs The Four Winds Society, where he trains individuals in the U.S. and Europe in the practice of shamanic energy medicine. He is the founder of the Light Body School, which has campuses in New York, California, Miami, and Germany. He directs the Center for Energy Medicine in Chile, where he investigates and practices the neuroscience of enlightenment. Dr. Villoldo has written numerous best-selling books, including Shaman, Healer, Sage; The Four Insights; Courageous Dreaming; Power Up Your Brain; and One Spirit Medicine. Website:

Read an Excerpt



There are three kinds of waking dreams: the nightmare, the daydream, and the sacred dream. Of these, only the sacred dream can help you fulfill your mission here on Earth. To live within a sacred dream requires that you understand that daydreams can feel pleasant but will turn into nightmares as the circumstances of your life change. As for the nightmares we all wish to avoid, they always begin as daydreams, but have since reached their expiration date and gone bad, like cheese left in the refrigerator for too long.

The daydream that turns into a nightmare can be the relationship or job that was so seductive but that now has become a dark hole you cannot get out of or change. A friend once told me, "My job is like a bad dream. I would like to wake up from it, but I need the sleep." The nightmare does not offer you much hope for things to be different. When you are trapped in it, you come to believe that the poor health you are experiencing is just part of getting old and you may as well get used to it, or that the boredom and frustration of your job or marriage is the price you have to pay for security. Or you might believe there is nothing you can do to change the divisive political climate or the violence happening in the world. The nightmare keeps you paralyzed. When you have a friend who is depressed, you can be nearly certain that they are caught in a nightmare they do not know how to wake up from, and that they are confusing for reality.

If we are trapped inside a toxic relationship, we begin to fantasize about what it could be like if things were different, and we start to use all of our powers of concentration to create a new reality. We imagine someone light and cheery coming into our lives, another chance to live the life we have missed out on. Then one day we run away with our new love, only to discover that this new daydream also has a sell-by date.

A daydream keeps you looking for something outside of yourself to make you feel complete.

The next daydream can masquerade as your hopes and aspirations, as your goals for getting your life in order. Writing down your success list, planning to improve your relationship, or strategizing about creating circumstances you tell yourself will be good for you and make your life better — all of these seem promising yet can turn into a nightmare. When you change the job or the partner, when you buy the house or the car, you might well find that you are still not happy or fulfilled. You get the picture. All that list making and hard work led you right back to unhappiness.

The daydream keeps you searching out of the corner of your eye for your true soul mate even after you are in a relationship. It has you continually looking for a new guru, a new diet, a new health regime — and wondering if there may be something out there in the world you are missing out on.

I have lived this daydream turned nightmare. In my 30s, I met someone and we thought we were in love. We believed love would make us happy and solve all our problems. I thought: When I find my soul mate, then I will be happy. I believed she was the one I had been waiting for all my life. Then one day I woke up and asked myself, Who is this person in my bed? It's certainly not the one I married, is it? The daydream had turned into one of my worst nightmares. Fortunately, there were no children involved, and we parted ways grudgingly, each holding the other responsible for the failure of the marriage. Perhaps you have experienced your own version of this nightmare.

The daydream may seem benign or even quite pleasant but is almost always a formula for disaster. And while daydreams sometimes do not turn into nightmares, they can keep us comfortable but not growing — and soon our lives feel stale and purposeless. Sometimes daydreams fool us, mimicking yet forestalling the courageous dreams that are most rewarding. We think we are leading a life of meaning, and then one day we realize it doesn't seem that way at all.

How do you recognize when you are living under the spell of a daydream?

Daydreams always contain a contract or agreement you make with life that goes like this: "When ... then."

"When I have more money ... then I won't be anxious." "When I am happy ... then I will be grateful." "When we have new leadership ... then we will be able to have a truthful conversation." Or perhaps, "When I find my true love, or my true calling in life, or the perfect house, or job ... then I will _________________________."

A few years ago, I received a challenging medical diagnosis. In my travels through the Amazon I had picked up a dozen varieties of parasites. Until then, I was convinced that other people got old or sick but that surely would never happen to me. Now I was sick and in danger of dying, and feeling like an old man. In my prayers I said to God, "When I get well, then I will dedicate my life to being in service and helping others."

But God does not like these bargains. I began to wake up from the daydream when I turned the "When ... then" agreement around.

I discovered that:

When I am grateful, then I am happy.

When I dedicate my life to service, then I become well.

When I speak truthfully, then I become a true leader.

I had to rededicate my life to a mission greater than myself before I could recover my health. I had to transform the nightmare of ill health to discover my sacred dream that would allow me to experience a new sense of purpose and meaning, even though I had no guarantee I would survive my illness or how long I would live.

A sacred dream launches you to a destiny beyond simply not dying, or of being reasonably happy as you strive to avoid discomfort. It encourages you to explore the mysteries of life and of love, to glimpse a reality beyond death and discover a timeless truth for yourself. It demands that you act boldly and courageously, and not collude with the consensual — that which everyone agrees on and no one questions — even though it is a popular story that traps us in daydreams that become nightmares.

How do you know when you have found a sacred dream?

Because it is much larger than you, and it feels impossible to accomplish all that you hope to achieve. A sacred dream launches you on a mission, as it did with Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma 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?

When you are ill, or sad, or depressed, it is hard to think of finding a sacred dream. Your dreams are smaller then. Getting back to where you once were seems "good enough." I remember when I was in my healing crisis and could not take more than 50 steps before becoming exhausted. My dream then was to be able to walk around the block without feeling spent. Yet I was called to the greater dream, to be of service to others in whatever small way I could. How would I do that when I could hardly get out of bed and my doctors told me I would never hike in my beloved mountains again? I discovered that when you hold a sacred dream, the universe begins to actively conspire on your behalf to make the impossible doable. It offers you energy and skills that you never had available before. Soon I was able to walk around the block, and today I travel around the world bringing a little more beauty to everyone I meet — practicing the giveaway of beauty, which you will learn about later in this book.

Discovering the sacred dream requires courage. You can no longer be a passive (and anxious) 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 not compromise your integrity. It demands that you 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.

This is why it is called the way of the luminous warrior.

Breaking Out of the Daydream

The following exercise will help you break out of the "When ... then" equation and stop wrestling with a daydream that is slowly turning into a nightmare. You do this by flipping the contract you have made with yourself that stipulates when you will be happy or healthy or at peace. What you wish for should not be conditional on anything.

Fill in the blanks for yourself so you can discover three core agreements that you have made with yourself and that need to be broken today:

When I __________________, then I will __________________.

When I __________________, then I will __________________.

When I __________________, then I will __________________.

If this were to be a book to help you feel better about yourself, we would stop here. You would have a simple formula for being happy. But this book is not only about daydreams and waking up from the nightmares you are living. It is about discovering your sacred dream.

Look again at the agreements you have made. Were you conscious of them?

Now, cross off the beginning of each sentence so that it starts with "I will":

I will __________________.

I will __________________.

I will __________________.

You have new goals now — ones that you can achieve in this moment. I discovered my goals were:

I will be grateful.

I will dedicate my life to service.

I will speak truthfully.

Unlike other goals, these do not require you to plan how you will bring them about. Instead, you commit to them and take advantage of every opportunity to make them true today. You practice gratitude. You dedicate your life to service. You speak truthfully — and so on. Your excuses for delaying the life you wish to lead are to be left behind now.

Do not skip this first exercise; it frees you to recognize and transform the three nightmares that will help you discover your sacred dream.

Ending Our Shared Nightmares

• The daydream of security turned into the nightmare of insecurity — how do you stay safe in a dangerous world?

• The daydream of permanence turned into the nightmare of death — why does everything, including your life, have to end?

• The daydream of love that is unconditional turned into the nightmare of conditioned love — how will you find the one you love, and who will love you as you are?

The three nightmares I have just described are not only personal — they are at the heart of our modern society. Safety, health, and love are things we all want yet cannot seem to find enough of. We end up feeling scared and insecure, trying in vain to secure safety for ourselves in a world that is not under our control. We fear death and the signs that we are slipping and sliding toward the finish line, desperately wishing that we could ignore signs of aging and deterioration. We fear being rejected by others and ending up alone and unloved. We try to hedge our bets in relationships so we feel we are getting as much as we are giving — and we end up ruining them. These are the nightmares we fall into despite our efforts to avoid pain and experience happiness.

When we begin to explore each of these nightmares, we are launched on a journey of discovery that can lead us to the sacred dream — which is what each of us most seeks. Like Parsifal in the time of King Arthur, we can discover our Holy Grail — our sacred dream — but we must be brave and follow the unmarked trail to the castle, not the path that has been left by others after their unsuccessful quest.

If you are true to the quest, you are shown your sacred dream. You become a luminous warrior. You find that whatever the challenge, spiritual resources are available to you — which allows you to find your courage and step forth into your destiny, allied with Spirit in the task of dreaming a new world into being.

The sacred dream you will be shown is made from light. It is light at its purest, devoid of any form yet the source of all forms that we see around us. In the sacred dream, the real nature of water is light, just as the nature of earth is light, of fire is light, and of wind is light. As you explore the sacred dream, you realize that even the planets, the sun, the trees, and the whales are made of light wrapped tightly into matter. Light is the primordial "stuff" of the universe, which the sages can mold into form when they "dream the world into being," similar to how the potter kneads clay and works it into a bowl.

The light of the sacred dream is known as the Primordial Light, and the Andean sages called it Ti (pronounced tea in English).

I know this sounds complicated. So let's review.

Our daydreams can turn into nightmares. Even the best of them eventually sour. The first exercise to transform the nightmare is to break the "When ... then" contract we have made with ourselves.

I invite you to do the "When ... then" exercise for yourself now. Begin to wake up from your daydreams by declaring "I will." Then continue reading.

Freeing yourself from the old contract launches you on a journey to find your sacred dream and discover the power of Ti.

Well, you say, this sounds like a winning proposition. I discover my sacred dream and have the keys to the unlimited power of creation. I become a luminous warrior, with no enemies. Sounds pretty good ...

And then you realize that it comes with a mandate to create beauty, to heal suffering, to dream worlds into being — beginning with your world.

The Power of Ti

When I was a student of anthropology, I learned that the Inka believed they were the children of the sun. Later I discovered that this was not accurate: a mistake had been made by well-intentioned academics. Ti is the light, and the sun god of the Inka was called In-Ti. The name means the sun at midday, when the light burns at its strongest, not the young light of the morning or the fading light of dusk. The sun is the source of light, but it is not the light. The flashlight is not the light beam. Remember that until recently we did not know that the sun is a ball of burning plasma that could hold 1,333,000 Earths within it. For many native people, the sun seems like a hole in the sky through which the light of the heavens spills and illuminates our world. The Inka believed they were children of the Ti.

Ti is different from the sun, just as the firelight is different from the log even though it is released from burning wood. You find the name Ti associated with ancient places like Titicaca, the sea on top of the world; Paititi, the lost Inka city of gold; and Tiwanaku, the most ancient Andean civilization.

According to lore, the power of Ti can create beauty, or heal the sick, or fabricate galaxies. This is the source of the power of the shamans. But it can also destroy if it is not used properly.

The sacred dream is said to be made with the light of Ti, and all you need to do to be reminded of it is gaze at the sun at daybreak, or at a shimmering star at night, or into a bonfire. It is a plan for the destiny of the cosmos and of every living being within it. It is a template for invisible cities of light and for peace and beauty throughout the cosmos. But this outcome is not written in stone; it is not guaranteed. It requires that each one of us hold our part of the dream of the possible future and endeavor to create it.

When Pachakuti, the ninth ruler of the Inka Empire, was a young man, he went on a vision quest into the mountains. On his way to the city of Cusco, he stopped at a magical well known as Susurpuqio. When he reached in to fill the pail with water to quench his thirst, he was blinded by a light and a voice revealed his destiny to him. He would extend the Inka territory into the greatest kingdom the Americas would ever know. It would be known as the Empire of the Sun and usher in the dawn of a millennium of peace in the Andes. But he would face great challenges. On his return to Cusco he discovered that the ancient enemies of the Inka, the Chanka people, were about to invade the city and his father and all the able-bodied people had abandoned the city of Cusco.

Pachakuti understood his destiny. But he had no idea how to fulfill it. The only people remaining in the city were the old and some urchin children. He assembled them into a ragtag army and the following day before sunrise attacked the unsuspecting Chanka, who were camped on the citadel of Sacsayhuamán above Cusco. The legends say that the stones came alive magically and hurled themselves at the invaders, who were driven away to their lands on the other side of the Apurimac River. Not a single life was lost.

Pachakuti would become the model of the luminous warrior, who has access to spiritual resources that come to his aid when he is fulfilling the destiny scripted in his sacred dream.


Excerpted from "The Heart of the Shaman"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Alberto Villoldo.
Excerpted by permission of HAY HOUSE, INC..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 Dreaming of a Different Sort 1

Chapter 2 The Nature of Time 19

Chapter 3 Ancient Dreamers and Mysterious Civilizations 41

Chapter 4 Creating a Dream, Creating a Legend 53

Chapter 5 Waking from a Bad Dream 73

Chapter 6 Transforming the Dream of Security, Discovering I Am 83

Chapter 7 Transforming the Dream of Permanence, Discovering Infinity 101

Chapter 8 Transforming the Dream of Love That Is Unconditional, Discovering Fearlessness 121

Chapter 9 Dreaming the World into Being 147

Conclusion: The Daily Practices of the Luminous Warrior 157

Endnotes 167

Acknowledgments 169

About the Author 171


Coconut Grove, FL / Chile

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