Dancing the Dream
Dancing the Dream: The Seven Sacred Paths Of Human Transformation
by Jamie Sams
San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1998
Reviewed by Rev. Monica McDowell
Feeling adrift and rudderless as former guidance systems (spiritual beliefs and practices) were failing me, I wondered how I was going to find my way through the new waters I was in. No one I spoke to could point me in the right direction, but as the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Dancing the Dream was such a teacher for me, crossing my path at the perfect time—of course!
In this book, Jamie Sams sets out to accomplish the seemingly impossible: “to draw the map of consciousness that applies to every person on every path” (xii). Having read Dancing the Dream several times, I still cannot say that I have the knowledge to assess whether or not she reached her goal. What I can say is that it is the most comprehensive and substantive spiritual resource I’ve studied in a long time, and I know it will continue to be an extremely important guide for me as I continue on my own journey.
Sams is a Native American medicine woman of Seneca and Cherokee descent and is well known as the coauthor of the best-selling Animal Medicine Cards. In Dancing the Dream, she offers a Western indigenous model of faith and interspirituality. Although Sams sees “all life experiences as initiations that lead us to becoming whole human beings” (13), she outlines seven major initiations that correspond to the seven directions of the Native medicine wheel. These stages of faith are neither linear nor hierarchical. Rather they spiral back again and again, ever widening into larger and more integral paradigms of perception and personal responsibility.
After a few foundational chapters of introduction that include excellent teaching about different types of dark nights of the soul, each following chapter explains one of the seven initiations. Two of her underlying beliefs are significant to note: (1) all paths and levels and people are of equal value to the unfolding divine plan in the universe, and (2) we are led into new spiritual lessons on the basis of our impeccability in holding to past learned lessons and our personal creeds. Advancing integrity thus means more challenging—and joyful—lessons to come.
Not for the faint of heart, this book is advanced material for spiritual directors and spiritual directees alike. A discerning spiritual director could certainly use portions of the book for less experienced spiritual directees, as there is an abundance of valuable material for beginners to intermediates in the first half of the book. It is also decidedly interspiritual, meaning that those who hold fast to one particular religious tradition might have difficulty with Sams’ expansive, all-inclusive worldview.
I highly recommend this book for everyone who seeks a clear, balanced framework that encapsulates the spiritual journey from first acknowledgement of the soul to later awareness of universal consciousness. As our world undergoes radical global shifts at all levels of our human experience, many people are searching for direction that can help navigate new waters. Sams has provided a remarkable contribution to this need in Dancing the Dream. Although published more than ten years ago, this seminal work is more relevant and essential today than ever before.
Rev. Monica McDowell, MDiv, is an ordained minister in Seattle, Washington, USA, energy healer, spiritual director, writer, and speaker. The author of My Karma Ran Over My Dogma: Lessons Learned by a Whistle-Blowing Minister Turned Mystic, she was the first ordained minister in the United States to be granted civil rights in a federal ruling.