Bearing down on Active Dreaming by Robert Moss: A Review

If you haven’t read a book by Robert Moss yet, you’re in for a treat. His latest title, Active Dreaming: journeying beyond self-limitation to a life of wild freedom, is a welcome distillation of his approach to dreamwork. At once useful, playful and threaded with captivating storytelling, Active Dreaming is a guide for rediscovering your innate ability to live your dreams like they really mattered.

Because, as Moss might say, they may be the only thing that does.

The Stories of Our Lives

“You are going to learn an approach to life that I call Active Dreaming. This approach includes paying attention to night dreams, but it is not only, or even essentially, about what happens at night. It is a method for conscious living. When you become an active dreamer, you’ll notice that the world speaks to you in a different way.” (p. xii)

This different way, Moss suggests, begins with noticing that we live our lives as characters in a great cosmic story, but we often do not recognize the roles we play. By becoming an active dreamer, we become a chooser of our stories, rather than a victim of the limitations others have imposed on us.

“We learn to recognize that, whatever situation we are in, we always have a choice. We choose to stop running from the monster in our dreams—who may turn out to be our own power hunting us—when we brave up and turn around to confront it.” (p. xiii)

From Conscious to Lucid

Interestingly, for the first time in any of his books, Moss adopts the phrase lucid dreaming. For years, he rejected this phrase because of the pop-cultural associations of lucidity with controlling your dreams, a practice that Moss finds distasteful and unbalanced.

“It is utterly misguided to seek to put the control freak that is the ego in charge of something immeasurably wiser and deeper than itself.” (p.4)

Moss credits Robert Waggoner’s mature discussion of lucidity in Lucid Dreaming: gateway to the inner self as a cultural turning point away from the control model of lucid dreaming.

He also nods to my own influence, suggesting, “I am going to borrow a phrase employed by one of my friends in the lucid dreaming fraternity, who refers to my ‘shamanic lucid dreaming adventures.’” (p. 50)  (See my article here that Moss is referring to; as well as this blog post).

I am honored to be a small part of this cultural milieu that is ushering in a more holistic—and appropriate—recognition of self-awareness in dreaming as more than an enactment of a schema or a rational conquest of a primitive world, but rather an ability that comes with a wide range of cultural and transpersonal possibilities.

Parsing Shamanic dreaming

Bear shaman, by American painter George Catlin (1796-1872)

Moss defines shamanic carefully. As an ex-history professor, he knows the term has been used and abused.

“I am using the adjective here [shamanic] to describe a method for shifting consciousness in order to enter non-ordinary reality for purposes that include the care and recovery of the soul.” (p. 51)

Moss doesn’t ever claim he is a shaman per se, although he sometimes refers to himself as shamanic practitioner in interviews and the press.

He walks a tightrope, steering away from cultural appropriation while managing to not prematurely chop off our own (Western) access to shamanic waters either.

This is not a tightrope of postmodern political correctness, but one drawn through his own lifetime of experience in procuring natural and “altered” states of consciousness, including not only sleeping dreams, but also those visions that happen at the boundary between sleep and wakefulness, as well as those accessed through sonic driving with the drum.

Moss walks the walk, and his mission is to wake up the slumbering West to this aspect of reality, so we can start taking responsibility for our actions on this planet.

Stories Bearing Fruit

Admittedly, his stories sometimes have a fanciful air to them, and can strain credulity. I notice my inner skeptic constantly at war with my intuitive self when I read Moss.

This confusion of reason may be purposeful; it’s a function of good storytelling, allowing for deeper processes to emerge from the fractured Western ego.

After reading his book, I dreamed I was in a workshop with Moss:

Outside a house, I found a bearskin hanging on a rack. I presented it to Robert inside a long wooden house, and he told me it was mine. He motioned to put it down.  I laid the skin down on the ground and laid on top of it and began to dream a new dream…

The dream goes on, and is followed two days later by another powerful dream that awakened something old in me that has been slumbering a long time.

Soon afterwards, Moss wrote a blog post about shamanic dreaming, reminding us, “Built into the language of the Earth’s oldest people, is the understanding that the heart of the shaman’s power lies in his or her ability to dream. In our everyday modern lives, we stand at the edge of such power, when we dream and remember to do something with our dreams.”

The image used at the top of this blog post? A historic painting of a shaman wearing a bearskin.

I felt the shivers crawl up my back, recognizing the image from my dream.

This is the kind of thing that regular happens around Robert Moss; his influence is immediate, authentically reawakening our own innate dreaming abilities.

So if you’re the skeptical type who, like me, nonetheless finds yourself circling shamanic dreaming like a moth around a flame, I encourage you to look precisely where the discomfort arises.

Here, as Moss suggests, we may find our own forgotten abilities, and claims to our own untapped power.

Moss’s book goes farther and deeper than I have room to suggest here today. But I guarantee the book will delight, challenge and instruct you how to hone your dreaming abilities, awake and asleep, and in between worlds.

Find Active Dreaming on Amazon.

Cover image “Bear” by Daliborlev (CC).


  1. Dave Luczak says

    I attended Robert Moss’s Shamanic Lucid Dreaming workshop in Madison, WI in March of this year. I found him to be above all a fantastic story teller, an engaged workshop leader (he remembered all 25 participant’s names upon hearing them once on introduction) and an impish master of ceremonies.

    I returned home after the weekend tired and renewed, and dreamed like a son-of-a-bitch. At one point that night I woke up from a dead sleep because I heard someone shouting my name from outside my house. I got out of bed to peek around the bedroom door for an angle to the outside, which of course was all quiet.

    If anyone has the opportunity, a weekend with Mr. Moss is highly recommended!

    • Ryan Hurd says

      hey Dave, thanks for commenting. SOB dreaming… that made me laugh. so I agree about seeing Moss in person! He comes by the International Dream Conference on odd years and his workshops and presentations are always insightful. When I read his books now, I hear his voice in my head, and I read with the cadence of his speech. a cool effect.

  2. eileen buggy says

    Hi, i came across ur site after lookin for info about what kind of dream i experienced this morning. I was awake and dreaming at the same time. I was able to relate to my partner a specific piece of info i received in the dream so i wouldn’t forget it upon waking”waking up” the info i received i didn’t understand the words or its meaning but after googling it it turned out to be an ancient medical procedures that could possibly help my condition. I had no idea that i could dream and be awake simultaneously and it has me thinking what else can i do. Yesterday i had only asked archangel metatron to open all doors for me in every area of my life and it seems he has. Any more info on this would be truly appreciated. Much thanks and kind regards, eileen.

  3. says

    Hallo Ryan,

    Thank you for writing this informative piece on the Active Dreaming book by Robert Moss. I am organising an Active Dreaming workshop at Utrecht, 16 & 17 February 2013.
    To get informed about Active Dreaming and the workshop at Utrecht I created a Facebook page where people can get to your website and this section of your website: Active Dreaming Workshop Utrecht: