Just before leaving for my first Indigenous Mind residency in Maui, a giant lizard came to me in a very frightening dream:

A Tyrannosaurus Rex chases me through the lush, green backyard of a large white house. The beast has come to devour me. I try to hide behind a small paper partition with two holes in it. It tears the paper away, and now I am hiding behind only two holes. I run upstairs into the bathroom and lock myself in, but a little boy who lives at the house shows the dinosaur where I am hiding.

Once in Hawaii, my elders told me I’d had an initiation dream. Although I could stall the ordeal of being devoured, this little death was inevitable. The boy in my dream had shown the Mo’o my hiding place, after all. My teachers encouraged me to face this fierce reptilian messenger the next time it appeared.

Apela Colorado, founder of the Indigenous Mind Master’s program (formerly of Naropa University) and Keola Sequiera, Kahuna and master carver, taught me that reptiles are manifestations of the Mo’o, a 36-foot long black lizard, who guards Maui and the Indigenous Mind program. Apela and Keola live where the rulers of Maui once dwelled; their land neighbors the king’s pond and abode of the Mo’o. This powerful being has come into many Indigenous Mind students’ dreams in one form or another. Because we conduct our ancestral remembrance work on this sacred part of the Earth, the lizard guides it to a large extent.

Here in Maui, the uncomfortable process of decolonizing my Western mind had already begun. For the next several years I wrestled with the pervasive effects of colonialism on my thoughts, language, and assumptions. I learned the stories of my ancestors, and gleaned from sitting with native elders how my own people may have walked in the world. Slowly, I felt myself being remade in my whole mind. Much of my guidance also came through dreams. Just as I was about to leave for my ancestral journey to Ireland, the Mo’o came for me again:

I am standing on my back porch as a group of nine ravens flies by. They fly playfully in elaborate configurations. A gigantic raven soars toward me. By the time she reaches the deck, she’s at least 20 feet long. She crashes to the porch with a thud, then changes into a baby raven, still giant. Again she falls, and makes her final transformation into a huge, black crocodile. The lizard has come to devour me. This time I’m ready. Through my rising terror, I remind myself that were I awake I’d scold myself for not allowing the Mo’o to eat me. So, I summon all my courage, and submit to the crocodile’s jaws as they clench down first on my arms, then my stomach, then my legs. Finally, I am inside the belly of the lizard.

Through the rigorous process of coming undone, and with the guidance of my patient elders, I’d found the strength to meet the Mo’o. Merging with her gave me such a powerful jolt of energy that my dream body could not tolerate the experience. I woke up in bed, feeling exhilarated. I gratefully accepted the gift of this dream, and made an offering of thanks to the Raven and Mo’o messengers. Now I felt ready for my ancestral journey.

As soon as I landed in Ireland, I could literally breathe easier. Never had I felt so at home anywhere on Earth. It was as though my bones were made of the place. During my summer stay, I’d often walk to the sacred sites, since the journey on foot felt like part of the pilgrimage. One night, I decided to make the solitary trek through faerie country to the ancient megalithic site called Brú na Boinne to watch a lunar eclipse. I scaled the nine-foot gate, atop which the local archeological and historical society smears thick slime to deter “interlopers” like me. Once inside, I felt compelled to take off my shoes and climb up the sacred mound itself. I remember lying on my back and watching the constellation Cygnus glide gracefully overhead from atop this holy hill.

A few days later, I went back to Brú na Boinne, and noticed that the mound was covered in stinging nettles. Yet, I’d felt only its comfort as I clambered to the top and reclined there. The miracle of this protection describes so much of journey in Ireland. This land took care of me like a mother. She and I were one. I was inside my whole mind, inside the belly of the Mo’o. Together we walked in beauty on my ancestral soil. Once, our tribes created rites of passage for us to confront our fears and become full-fledged human beings with fiercely courageous hearts. Now, dreams present a way for us to explore these critical opportunities to mature. Remembering these potent thresholds holds an ancient key to the miracle of the human experience, in which our greatest fears become our strongest allies.