Darkness, a mixed blessing, engulfs me. I can't be seen. Nor can I see through the thick, heavy murkiness. Knee high grass and brambles slash my bare legs and feet, tangling me, slowing me as I race through the night. I hear and feel The Man pounding behind me, so close the ground shakes. Huge, powerful legs crash through the brush behind mine. I gasp for breath, trying to pull warm summer-night air into my aching lungs. Terror pounds through my heart. Night after night I run from The Man. Tonight he's within yards of me; so close hair prickles on the nape of my neck. I dare not look back for fear of stumbling. The night air whistles behind me, cries from the slashing knife. I've felt that knife before. Felt it pierce my skin. But his eyes --- his eyes pierce my soul.
Fear ices through me. Pushing my head forward, extending my neck, I drop down on all fours. I can see in the darkness now and watch as my arms grow thick, black fur. I watch my fingers curl under my palms and form massive paws. Strong, graceful muscles ripple across my back and haunches as I run.
I know now that I'm dreaming, that I'm lucid dreaming. Lucid, I choose to stay in the dream. No longer am I Sue Jamieson, woman, fleeing from a murderous predator. I'm Black Panther; strong and powerful.
The wet grass brushes under my belly as I run. My panther ears hear small creatures scurrying underground as my paws pad the earth above them. Earth scents fill my nostrils as easy breaths syncopate with my gait. Low guttural sounds vibrate through my throat. I sense The Man, knife in hand, arm raised, preparing to leap at me from behind.
Arcing to the left and spinning around, I face him. Fierce, primal power surges through me. I stand my ground, muscles taut, ready to spring and stare into the black holes of The Man's eyes. Roiling up from deep in my belly a panther scream shatters the night stillness. I lunge.
The Man, startled by my screaming attack drops his knife and fades like smoke into the darkness. He will not return. I know this in my dream. Satisfied and still lucid, I turn and roam into the night.
Sometime during the night, I fade out of the dream into a dreamless, restful sleep. In the morning I awaken and remember. Power-filled, feline, I pad downstairs on Panther feet to make my coffee and start my day.
The above dream came to me nearly twenty-five years ago during a particularly difficult period of my life in which I felt powerless. I did not know then, that the dream was a classic shamanic shape-shifting dream. The experience, the feeling, of being Black Panther, powerful and power filled, stayed with me for weeks, helping me navigate through the crisis in my life. Family, friends, and colleagues noticed a difference in my demeanor. A friend remarked, “Sue, you move like a cat.” Little did she know.