grounding in the ashes

Let’s face it, 2020 continues as one scary, wild ride. We need to take care of ourselves and our families now more than ever. I’m writing this article from Northern California, where COVID continues to have a long, harsh impact, and where acres are scorched in just about every county. The air is very unsafe to breathe and bits of ash fall like a light dusting of snow. Even amidst the chaos and despair, there are ways we can care for our bodies and our mental health while simultaneously praying for rain. Staying present, mindful and grounded are some of those ways. Remember that you and I are not the only ones experiencing uncomfortable or negative feelings. And we surely are not the only one’s feeling unsettled or distracted. So, for one of my favorite techniques continue reading. You can share this with your children too!

Today, I want to share with you a simple, yet effective grounding technique known as 5 senses grounding. This technique was taught to me over a decade ago by Dr. Stephanie Covington. It’s one that I use anytime I need to get out of my head and into my body. This easy, yet brilliant, go-to technique brings quick results and has helped so many people return to their breath and body, plus lower the heart rate, when frenzied thoughts and intense worrying persist. Take a look at the graphic below!

Now if you’ve worked with me individually or in a group, you know how big I am on self-care, so you probably know this one. I’m curious how this technique – 5 senses grounding – has been helpful in your life. Do let me know. If you’d like to work with me this Fall and Winter season, contact me by clicking here, as it will take you to me services page.

In resilience,

Dr. Kim

the fall lineup: dr. kim’s top 10

Can you believe it? Fall is just around the corner! I have to be honest with you, I  worry that a Fall AND Winter season during this pandemic (with the accompanying power outages and California wildfires) will just be too much. How are you preparing? Are you even preparing?

One way I am preparing to shelter in place in the rain, snow and freezing cold (possibly without electricity) is by spending the month of September to order the books I want to read during those days and nights in isolation. Of course, I’ll be sure to have other necessities (extra candles, warm blankets, dozens of batteries for my battery operated lamps, and bottles of water). Let’s get back to what is important for a full inner life  – that is, BOOKS. Wonderful, amazing books! Yes, I am a reader and a true lover of books – not ebooks, but REAL BOOKS – The kind you need paper clips, highlighters, and handmade book markers for. So here, in this article, I want to share with you my top 10 nonfiction recommendations. You’ll find the list below, in no particular order, as they are all equally important to me:

1) Morning Altars: A 7-Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit through Nature, Art, and Ritual by Day Schildkret

  • For those days when the sky is clear and you feel drawn to go outside, consider creating a natural, earthy altar. By doing so, you practice the art of nonattachment, of letting go. This is important during these unprecedented times when we cannot make our usual predictions about tomorrow. Will a wildfire erupt in our neighborhood? Will a family member contract the coronavirus? Will power outages last several days? In this book, Schildkret walks us through the steps toward creating a beautiful natural piece of art. No glue needed! We use what we find in nature and when the creative process is complete, we give it back to the earth, allowing the winds and rain to take care of it. This is a lovely practice for all ages as well as for the entire family. If you find that constructing these kinds of altars are helpful in your life, for cultivating peace, beauty and nonattachment, why not make them a regular practice?

2) Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep by Kamini Desai, PhD

  • This books covers all you need to know for the deeply relaxing, transformative sleep-based meditation known as yoga nidra. This form of guided meditation is a foundational part of my life. Dr. Desai even has a yoga nidra app which includes 4 recorded meditations for a great price. I have it on my smartphone and use it weekly – once a week at the bare minimum. I have found this practice to be very nurturing and an anxiety reducer.

3) Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life by Robert Moss

  • While this book was released many years ago, it is still and always will be one of my favorites. Moss has written a dozen books on dreaming, but this is the best in my opinion. He covers just about everything related to dreaming with awareness, including working with your dream guides. This is an inspiring book and one I recommend on very bookshelf. I have a lot more to say about this wonderful book, so click on this link – it brings you to my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43JtsnOeO50

4) Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness by Clare R. Johnson, PhD

  • Lucid dreaming is a hot topic these days and there are several solid publications on the subject. Dr. Johnson’s book is the most comprehensive I have ever come across. As a psychologist with expertise in dreaming, I can say with certainty that this amazing guide will take beginning lucid dreamers to advanced lucid dreamers on a fun and intriguing adventure! Daylight hours are shortening with the approaching Fall season and these unprecedented times have allowed many people to sleep (and dream) more that before. I claim that this is the right time to train yourself to lucid dream, and this is the book to show you how. You won’t be disappointed!

5) Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein

  • The world is shifting all around us on so many levels. It’s time to wake up. We can no longer sleepwalk – it’s hurting the planet and hurting the children. While stuck indoors this fall and winter due to rain, snow, and the pandemic, why not dedicate 10-30 minutes a day learning to meditate? This can be done with a spouse, friend, or your bored teenagers. While there are much simpler books that teach mindfulness, this book is a classic. It is detailed and rooted in Buddhist teachings so that the reader comes away with an education in the history and philosophy of the origins.

6) Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases by Larry Burk, MD, CEHP and Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos

  • Here, a three time breast cancer survivor and a radiologist team up to deliver a book like never before. Since people are reporting higher dream recall this year, it is wise to track our dreams in search of what they may be telling us. Our bodies know things before our conscious, intellectual mind does – these messages can come through in the dream. Read this book and you’ll see for yourself. My video comments on this book can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXETJELQUgw&t=82s

7) Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep by Andrew Holecek

  • I can’t say enough about this amazing book. While Holecek teaches us that lucid dreaming can promote self-improvement, he takes a deep dive into how waking up in our dreams can lead to self-transcendence – a spiritual dream practice known as dream yoga. Eastern and Western lucid dream induction techniques are covered here so the reader walks away with plenty of opportunities to immediately delve into this life-changing art journey. This book is a gem, requiring a highlighter in my opinion – That speaks to the level of profound insights captured within these pages. Here’s where I say a little more about Holececk’s work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW9ymibgmUo

8) Dreams of Light: The Profound Daytime Practice of Lucid Dreaming by Andrew Holecek

  • A few years after Dream Yoga was released, Holecek delivers Dreams of Light: a perfect pairing for those on a conscious path to awakening to the true nature of reality. This book, like Holocek’s Dream Yoga, is also rooted in the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. A main difference is that this book focuses on the daytime practices more so than the nocturnal practices. Dream Yoga and Dreams of Light marry well together. By absorbing the information contained within these pages and actually doing the practices in a serious way, life as we know it changes in ways beyond what we imagine.

9) Radical Hope: 10 Healing Factors from Exceptional Survivors of Cancer and Other Diseases by Kelly A. Turner, PhD with Tracy White.

  • Dr. Turner’s previous book, Radical Remission, was fabulous and this new book on healing is just as wonderful. As the subtitle reflects, there are 10 things we can do to support our health and healing. This is one of those books that you gift to family members – it’s that necessary. I’d like to tell you about a favorite chapter, but truth is, I found all 10 chapters to be equally valuable. This books flows beautifully and I’d bet that you could read it cover to cover in under two weeks. Find my earlier blog on miraculous remissions here: https://consciouschimera.com/2020/06/15/in-remission-radical-style/

10) Italian Folk Magic by Mary-Grace Fahrun

  • You don’t have to have Italian ancestry to enjoy this book. The beauty of this book is that it serves as a reminder to all people and all groups that there are stories, rituals and beliefs that are carried deep within us to connect us to our past. Now if you have ‘lost’ Italian roots, allow this fun read to reacquaint you with your history. After reading Italian Folk Magic, I was inspired to continue asking questions about my family history and request the retelling of old stories. I gather that this book truly comes from the heart.

So that’s my top 10 – obviously, I recommend them all. Clearly my prized book collection features many publications on ‘the inner work.’ That’s what I love and that’s what Conscious Chimera is all about. What would you add to this list of Fall/Winter nonfiction recommendations for 2020? Let me know. I’m always looking for a good read!

Cheers to all my booklovers,

Kim

Here’s the link to get my book, Extraordinary Dreams: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/extraordinary-dreams/

got divine femininity?

We are living in a world lacking balance. This is especially true in modern Western society where patriarchy has imposed definitions of what it means to be feminine. I write from the United States, so my views are birthed from a lifetime of living in this nation. While living in this nation during this era affords so much, it lacks something img_5622deeper, something critical for long-term survival and prosperity. This lack is rooted in the spiritual (not to be confused with religious dogma). We have collectively lost our divine feminine soul.

When we talk about the divine feminine or feminine energy, we are not talking about gender. We are also not talking about modern depictions of women in media who often come across as insecure, jealous, sarcastic, competitive, bitter, resentful or catty – anything but harmonious or spiritually developed. What we are talking about are concepts beyond that, such as creativity, flexibility, wisdom, intuition, community relations, compassion, empathy, sensuality (senses not thought), cooperation and img_5620collaboration. Those qualities enliven feminine energy and when they are lived through the body and move the spirit, we touch the divine feminine.

When it comes to the feminine, it’s easy to lose touch with this part of ourselves. Masculine energies are highly rewarded in this society and have been for a couple thousand years now. Nothing is wrong with these energies when they are in balance with the feminine. As the first sentence highlighted, we are out of balance. Not all is lost though, as we have an opportunity each passing moment to reestablish equilibrium. 

The seven years I spent doing doctoral work alone left me deeply rooted in the head, even though the program was somewhat balanced in that my clinical psychology concentration was somatic psychology – a highly intuitive embodied practice. That said, my personal journey to further restore a masculine-feminine energetic balance has led img_5610me in a few directions. I had found myself drawn to meditate on the Goddess: Gaia, Brigid, Diana/Artemis, among others – this surfaced years ago. This year, I have returned to bring home an aspect of my Roman Catholic roots. That is turning my attention back to the Blessed Mother, Mother Mary, the Madonna. In addition to meditation and contemplation, I have opened myself to a kind of creativity that blends these ingredients by crafting small shrines in Her honor. As a longtime artist and craftsperson, I see how my consciousness shifts when I get into ‘the art zone.’ Time freezes, senses come alive, thoughts cease, and something bigger opens. This is just my current way of doing things and experiencing the mysteries of the process. I am no expert when it comes to the Divine Feminine. Like everyone else, I search for meaning.

While my story and my journey are incomplete (is anything ever complete?), I hope it, along with the photos of my work, inspire you to reconnect to the feminine energy within, in your own unique way. We can revive, reunite, restore and rebuild at any age, at any time. It’s not gone, although sometimes it gets lost. I want to proclaim that we, as humans, have created a balanced world, but I cannot — At least not yet. What are you doing today to bring more balance to your one-of-a-kind life and to this beautiful world?

 

Compassionately yours,

Dr. Kim

For a free 12 minute guided meditation, CLICK HERE.

To see my shrines for sale, CLICK HERE.

To get my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE.

5 tips for sanity in the summer of 2020

So here I am, blogging in my home away from home in an attempt to escape the Jones Fire. One of my favorite months (August) is now entwined with anxiety. Last summer was just as unnerving. I just love living in a forested, mountainous region, but I am a city-girl after all, having been born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. While I love my new community, I have noticed that I am definitely much more uneasy than the locals when it comes to forces of nature. That’s just a fact, whether it is a family of bears at my front door, a wildfire, or the random pine tree dropping some of its branches on my roof. Furthermore, as I sit here and blog so soon after having evacuated from my home, I can’t help but wonder…what is wrong with me? Shouldn’t I be focused on something else?

This article is one attempt to stay sane amidst this pandemic and the start of wildfire season. Below, I will share with you 5 tips for wellness and sanity – things that I practice every day. I will lay out each tip in the order in which I do them.

  • 1) Immediately upon waking up I remain still and see what dreams I recall. If nothing is clearly recalled, I notice how I feel. I don’t care if I wake up at 8am or sadly, much much earlier as a result of worry. Why? Dreams or the feeling they give off can tell me a lot with regard to what I should focus on that day. For example, did I wake up with a sense of dread and feel compelled to pack or recheck my ‘go-bag’? If yes, then I do it! Did I wake up to recall a seemingly random scenario? If so, I pay attention. You see, dreams can provide precognitive elements – that’s a glimpse of a future event. So many people (both those in the United States and the Middle East) recalled dream predictions of 9/11, and other disasters. So when I wake up in the middle of the night or the morning, I take notice. It is okay to act on information from dreams. They just might be helping me out!
  • 2) Once awake and moving about, I list 10 things I am grateful for. Sometimes, the list doesn’t change much from day-to-day. That’s alright. The point is that I take a minute or two to set this tone. I like to do this while I enjoy my morning tea. The positivity and humility carry me throughout the day ahead. I can easily return to those thoughts of life’s simple blessings whenever I need to.
  • 3) I’m told over and over that I am what I eat, so I start the day with a healthy boost. I have both a juicer and a Vitamix, but that isn’t necessary. One appliance will do. This month I have turned toward my Vitamix almost daily. I toss in organic broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, and berries. Once blended, I sip my vegetables while knowing that I have given myself a healthy phytonutrient blast. If I eat something that’s not so healthy later that day, I don’t feel so bad about it. Important side note: if you can afford organic fruits and vegetables, it’s worth it. I read a lot about food politics, but I won’t get into that here. Trust me, buying organic is worth your money!
  • 4) A period dedicated to some form of meditation acts as a reset when the day becomes hectic or unmanageable. Before diving into work or leaving the house, add a 10 to 15 minute time block to the calendar. This makes it more likely to happen. I’m sure you’ve noticed that as well. The e-calendar on my smart phone is a placeholder for wellness-related activities, not just appointments and tasks. Honor this time that is set for self-care. For support, I sometimes use an app while other times I choose walking meditation or sit down for conscious breathing time. This tip alone does wonders for our physiology, supporting the parasympathetic nervous system (that’s ‘the brakes’ or the part that supports ‘rest and digest’). I consider any form of meditation a foundation healthcare practice. Switch out the afternoon coffee break for a meditation break. You’ll get a much healthier level of support to finish out the workday.
  • 5) It’s blazing hot outside, so to finish my day I head outdoors around sundown. During that time, I water the garden, toss around the tennis ball with my Border Collie, or go for a neighborhood stroll. This kind of gentle movement and down time allows me to reflect and process the day behind me. Now that it’s evening time, I can return to step 2 if I need to. There’s no harm in that.

I hope you use these 5 tips as you move forward into this stressful fire season alongside the pandemic. Everyone, everywhere, can use a little help from time to time. I am happy that I shared some of the activities and behaviors that have helped me move toward a heathy lifestyle. Wishing you and your loved ones wellness, safety, and good fortune, from California.

 

Cali Love,

Dr. Kim

For my free guided meditation recordings, CLICK HERE!

For my previous article on breathing and breathwork, Click here.

To purchase my book Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE.

breathing for health

No one needs to convince us why we need to breathe. Sometimes, however, we need convincing as to why we should do it consciously, with awareness. Study after study shows us that intentional, abdominal breathing has direct affects on the body – this is good news. After all, it is free and can be done anywhere, at any time. Stress doesn’t have to get the best of us! By just a few minutes spent each day on the practices I’ll be describing below, one can invoke healing in the immune and nervous systems. This stuff calms the mind as well. Don’t we all need that, especially during this time?

When I demonstrate these techniques to my patients, I first begin by putting one hand on my chest and the other hand on my abdomen. This sort of check-in tells me whether I’mPhoto on 7-27-20 at 7.34 PM #2 breathing into my chest (shallow breathing) or whether I am taking a fuller breath in so that my belly expands (this is what we want). If my breathing is in my chest, I can consciously imagine my next inhalation moving deeper down into my body. I do this – as many breaths as it takes – until abdominal breathing is comfortable. Try it for yourself now. See what I mean?

From there, I love to move on to the 4:8 breathing technique. This is done by inhaling for 4 seconds, pausing for a second, then exhaling for 8 seconds. Simple, right? I like to do this for about 5 rounds or so. At that point I am really starting to notice the effects. The 4:8 breathing technique is so wonderfully calming.

Another way to encourage this kind of slow, rhythmic breathing is to use visualization. This was taught to me by one of my best yoga nidra teachers, Kamini Desai, PhD. With each exhalation, image that you are blowing the air out through a straw. So that’s inhaling through the nose, pausing for a second, then exhaling with softly pursed lips as if blowing through a straw. Really see that breath being pushed out through a skinny tube to slow everything down.

Another technique that involves counting, but in a much different way, is to count each inhalation and exhalation. Work downward, from 10 down to one. Some people recommend counting only the inhalations or the exhalations, while others recommend counting both. So, it would look like mentally/silently saying to yourself ‘10 I am inhaling…10 I am exhaling…9 I am inhaling…9 I am exhaling…8 I am inhaling,…’ and so on. When I was training in hypnotherapy, I was reminded that counting down (not up) was important to encourage greater levels of relaxation.

We all know that stress equals disease onset. In our overly-stressed society, conscious breathing has become a necessity. Not only do our bodies benefit, so do our minds. After all, the mind and body are linked – they make up a whole. You could even say that they are ONE. While these techniques are for anytime and anywhere, I find that they are perfect upon waking up each morning as well as at bedtime. That’s because an AM breathing practice sets the tone for the day, while the PM practice supports the melting away of stress and the day’s residue. It even adds to a solid sleep hygiene routine. With consistent practice, I expect that you will see a difference. I know I did.

If you’d like one-on-one coaching for stress management or support with your health goals, contact me. I can assist you in breathwork and in building a mediation practice. I offer guided imagery, hypnotherapy, and yoga nidra (a sleep-based meditation), in addition to counseling services.

 

Here’s to your health,

Kim

To order my book, Extraordinary Dreams, click here.

spirituality’s hidden mask

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

You are never alone. You are eternally connected with everyone. – Amit Ray

Surely you’ve heard sayings like these before. But have you considered how spirituality intersects with social justice? To believe that the two are separate is a mistake, conveniently ignoring centuries of oppression. Spirituality cannot be divorced from social justice and civil rights issues. To do so is a form of spiritual bypassing, a psychological defense mechanism which does harm.

Spiritual bypassing is a term coined by psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher, John Welwood, in the early 1980s. Spiritual bypassing is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid unresolved emotional issues and wounds in addition to avoidance of negative or painful feelings. By spiritually bypassing these issues, one sidesteps the difficult inner work, thus adopting more comfortable and “positive” feelings and concepts. Sound familiar? In my experience, it is not uncommon among those in spiritual communities (many of which are White-led, co-opted new-age communities). While this defense mechanism can occur within an individual, it can also live among groups of people. For example, a well-meaning, highly educated, yoga-devoted White man once suggested that attention should be placed on one’s spiritual essence or core rather than concerning oneself with immediate issues in communities of color: the lack of food, safe housing, and job opportunities. Promoting individualism and ignoring the tangible essentials is toxic.

There are many layers to a person – people are complex creatures. The complexity increases as groups and communities form. Psychologist Carl Jung used the term ‘the shadow’ to describe unconscious aspects of ourselves – those aspects we have denied, rejected, despised, or disowned. Without conscious awareness the shadow continues to live – it is hidden. Think of triggers – what are you triggered by? When we disown or cannot tolerate an aspect of ourselves, or our group’s history, it easily gets projected onto other people or other groups. Hate, fear and prejudice are example’s of the shadow operating. Other people become mirrors – they trigger us, giving us a glimpse of our shadow. When we consider how much of what we see in our world today as manifested projections, it’s stunning.

Mindfulness practice can be a first step in beginning to see our shadow because as we slow down, turn inward, and increase awareness we can ‘catch’ projections (even as they are happening in the moment). A simple mindfulness exercise for beginners can be sitting quietly for about 10 minutes with closed eyes and focus on the breath. Notice what arises without judgment (thoughts, memories, future plans, desires, judgments) and return to your breath. With practice, moment-to-moment awareness increases which supports the shadow work process.

While it is easy to judge the shadow as something bad, let’s instead acknowledge that the shadow is just part of being human. It is neither good nor bad. It just is, like the sun rising to bring light and setting to give darkness. When we get a glimpse of our personal or collective shadow it can throw us off, and it can sting! We begin to become aware of our inner moral conflicts. To avoid the discomfort of all this, we are liable to defend ourselves from the pain by using the defense mechanism, spiritual bypassing.

In order to evolve in meaningful ways, we must be grounded in this world and we must face those aspects that we do not want to own. This is the way through these difficult times. ‘Love and light’ is wonderful, but it is not enough. Turning a blind eye to the collective pain currently surfacing only keeps us in denial longer, and it keeps us disengaged from our whole being. Taking meaningful compassionate action rooted in justice for all people is required. To sit back is taking a privileged position. To go silent, to not act, in times of injustice denies our interconnected spiritual nature.

The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.  ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Dr. Z (drzphd.com) has produced some great videos on #ShadowWork. Here is a link to part 1 of her 6 part series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHPn5Jtzyhw

Do you reside in California? I am available for individual counseling services for those interested in shadow work.

 

~Kim

in remission, radical-style

How do people get diagnosed with a terrible disease, forgoing any kind of conventional/allopathic treatment, only to later discover that there is no evidence of that disease? One year, it’s stage four, the next year it is gone – how does this happen? Radical remissions have boggled the mind, however, the spontaneous disappearance of disease is now much more well-documented than it was a half-century ago. The Institute of Noetic Sciences published a report in May 1987: Brendan O’Regan’s lecture, titled Healing, Remission and Miracle Cures. Yes, these types of spontaneous remissions were

fashion woman notebook pen
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

thought to be miracles by some, yet in the medical community these remissions were often considered to result from misdiagnosis. In some cases even, amazing healing stories were silenced.

Miracle, luck, or otherwise, let us look at what these individuals have done – their behaviors, beliefs and practices – that have likely been responsible for such a miracle to have taken place. Since the 1980s, science has demonstrated that the mind and body are connected and in communication with each other. It’s appropriate to consider the mind and body to be a unified whole. Understanding this helps digest what we will see below.

Dr. Kelly Turner’s 2014 book Radical Remissions and her 2020 book Radical Hope outline the key factors for healing. In Turner’s multifaceted definition of radical remission, one component includes those who healed from cancer (and other serious diseases) without conventional treatment. More and more attention is being placed on how we can empower ourselves to increase responsibility for our own health and healing. So, let’s review the 1O factors that emerged from Turner’s work. They are:

  • Radically changing your diet
  • Taking control of your health

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  • Following your intuition
  • Using herbs and supplements
  • Releasing suppressed emotions
  • Increasing positive emotions
  • Embracing social support
  • Deepening your spiritual connection
  • Having a strong reason to live

and

  • Incorporating exercise into your life

These healing factors need no additional explanation, however, if you are facing an illness, I encourage reading Turner’s books sooner than later. These books are so inspirational and will answer the dozens of questions likely forming in your mind right now. Could these factors reported by Turner bring an individual from a late stage cancer diagnosis to having no evidence of disease (NED)?

woman meditating in the outdoors
Photo by Oluremi Adebayo on Pexels.com

There are no definitive conclusions – Turner’s research was not causal. At the same time, I feel great promise. We seem to be heading in the right direction here. I attend to each of these 10 factors almost every day of the week. By simply aligning myself with them, I feel at my best.

If you are well, taking these 10 factors seriously could keep you that way. In terms of prevention, why not take action by making these key factors a part of your life. Notice how many of the factors are psycho-social-spiritual? These emerge frequently in my private practice, given my work as a psychologist and psychotherapist. For the other two factors (herbs, supplements, diet), consult with a Naturopathic Physician and Registered Dietician to get professional guidance. I cannot stress this point enough! Lastly, remember that if you have a diagnosis and find yourself on the journey towards healing, know that you do not have to make that journey alone. Allow others to support you and walk beside you along your path.

 

To your health,

Kim

 

If you would like holistic support, see my services by CLICKING HERE.

To get my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE

 

 

shades of grey

With all that’s taking place in our world right now (pandemic, violence, loss of security and even life), it’s easy to slip. No, not with alcohol (although that might be happening much more lately), and no, not on a banana peel, but with our thinking. Negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions flourish in difficult times. If we don’t pay attention to our own thinking (metacognition), we are liable to continue along with the same mental errors.

There is a branch of psychology, known as cognitive psychology, which focuses on mental processes. Cognition, or thinking, shapes our behavior and feelings. Furthermore, thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are in a constant relationship: one affecting the other. If we think of a negative event repeatedly, replaying it over and over in our mind, for instance, we can bet that we’ll feel lousy for the rest of the day. If we feel lousy and are holding onto some ugly thoughts, how do you think we may act or behave toward others or in a stressful situation? From another angle, let’s say that we do something without thinking (against our better judgment), and are left feeling guilty or embarrassed. This can lead to becoming fixated on the event, perhaps even labeling ourselves, or calling ourselves names. A downward spiral has begun with thoughts, behaviors and feelings all fueling each other.

Several decades ago, research by psychologists Aaron Beck and David Burns lead to identification of some of the most common cognitive distortions and the problems they can cause. Here, I will describe a few of them.

Black-and-White Thinking: This dichotomous, either/or thought pattern is also known as all-or-nothing thinking. Things are good or bad, right or wrong – there is no room for any shade of grey. Because the middle ground has been ignored, and only two sides or outcomes are believed to exist, there is little possibility in finding reasonable ground.

Overgeneralization: Does your inner voice like to use the words “always,” “never,” “every,” or “all?” If so, be on the lookout for falling into the trap of overgeneralizing. One or two single events cannot provide a reliable conclusion. We need much more data to make solid generalizations. For example, if you are stood up on a blind date, that doesn’t mean that blind dating is unreliable or that every scheduled blind date will lead to being stood up.

Catastrophizing: When something unpleasant takes place in your life, do you twist it into something potentially ‘off-the-charts’ disastrous? “A person who is catastrophizing might fail an exam and immediately think he or she has likely failed the entire course. A person may not have even taken the exam yet and already believe he or she will fail—assuming the worst, or preemptively catastrophizing.” (borrowed from GoodTherpay.org)

Should Statements: It’s fairly common to direct ‘should statements’ toward ourselves and others, even though the end result is no fun. Be on the lookout for “should,” “must,” or “ought” because they indicate that you are operating here. “She should have told me sooner!” “I should have arrived to class earlier.” “He ought to thank me for all I’ve done for him.” “I must ace this mornings exam!” If you feel guilt, shame, frustration, anger or bitterness, examine your thinking. Is this cognitive distortion common in your mental life? Should statements serve no healthy purpose and typically lead to feeling lousy. Spot them, challenge them and see what you discover.

A full list can be found online in blogs at goodtherapy.org and psychologytoday.com.

From a cognitive therapy standpoint, we can get a grasp on this whirlwind by first identifying maladaptive thinking – those pesky patterns of thinking that do us no good. Without attention or correction, a negative outlook on life can develop. The correlation with depression comes as no surprise. And again, without attention or correction, these negative schemas are likely to stick around, sometimes for a lifetime. This is bad for one’s health and no good for anyone’s long-term well-being.

A beginning step toward resolution, is to slow down and live ‘in-the-moment’ in order to increase awareness of cognitive distortions as they rise. Every time I have shared the above list with a university student or psychotherapy client – I’m talking hundreds, if not thousands of times – each one of them has quickly identified the distortion(s) in which he or she frequently operates. Just know that these are THAT common. Each time I share these with others, I look at my own patterns of thinking again and again. I’m grateful for the practice because thought patterns can become habitual and need frequent examination. It’s good practice to shine a spotlight on shades of grey.

By tracking our thoughts, we have the opportunity to increase our awareness of our own thinking habits. Do they serve us or would it be best to make some changes? This awareness allows us to challenge ourselves and choose more adaptive thoughts for a more positive way of living and being. There is no shame in adopting more thoughtful, enlightened responses and charting a new course.

 

Here’s to clear thinking,

Kim

To get my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE.

essential oil essentials

Ahhh, the aroma of lavender in the air – the luxurious sensation as the oil touches the skin… Unless that sends you into anaphylactic shock (Woah!). Yep, essential oils are all the rage these days. From claims of ailment alleviation to promises of enlightenment, essential oils are praised to the 10th degree. I absolutely love essential oils and use them often. Per client request, or having been granted permission to do so, I have also used them in both individual and group therapy sessions. Other times, I use essential oils before a therapy session to help me prepare, or afterward to release the day’s residue. A saltwater-essential oil bath does wonders!

While essential oils can do a ton of good, unfortunately, there are loads of misconceptions regarding them. During this time, especially, with the stress brought on by COVID-19, we are all looking for relief. Grabbing a few bottles of essential oils might be someone’s go-to remedy for a mental or emotional boost. This is a wonderful use for img_5326those properly educated on their use, thus aware of the benefits and possible drawbacks. When it comes to essential oils, use caution and consult with a professional before diving in. My biggest concern is that many people are ingesting synthetic essential oils, whereby making them anything but essential! Essential oils are for external use only and should be diluted with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, for example) or lotion. Before using essential oils, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have any health conditions.

To help me uncover some of the BS surrounding essential oil use and the many unfounded claims, I interviewed Lisa Mandelbaum, L.Ac., DPLOM of Nevada County, California. Lisa is a licensed acupuncturist, functional medicine practitioner, and is certified in Oriental Medicine. She has studied essential oils extensively, even beyond her formal academic years.

When people ask me about the best essential oils for relaxation and for calming themselves before bed (both physically and mentally), lavender immediately comes to mind. Lisa confirmed, “Lavender is the key for sleep.” She added, “I also like grounding the bottom of the feet with black spruce.” What a lovely bedtime ritual.

Others wish to know which essential oils will help them stay asleep through the night. They’re sick and tired of waking up at three or four in the morning! This can be a tricky area. Lisa told me that this is “…hard to say because people wake up for different reasons.” If someone wakes up from pain, Lisa recommends frankincense. However if the awakening is due to anxiety, she suggests bergamot. While for grief, Lisa recommends geranium.

On a different note, there are essential oils that help with grounding anytime of the day or night. Cedar is one I have used for this purpose. Lisa highly recommends anything deep and rooty, such as black spruce and frankincense.

One of my favorite essential oils assists in opening the third eye. Just dab a drop of clary sage essential oil at the brow center, lie back and relax. Lisa taught me that one!

I wanted to know which oils were Lisa’s most loved. One of Lisa’s favorite essential oils is bergamot. She said, “It is super relaxing and fits everyone’s constitution. You place it near the tip of the ear.” Sometimes we just need to wake up and get going though. Lisa told me that placing a drop of “…rosemary on the top of the head is great for a burst of energy.”

In this May 2020 blog article, only a handful of essential oils have been named. Below, I will list just a few of them alongside some of their functions according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Bergamot: Regulates Qi; settling to the heart; balancing to the spirit.

Black Spruce: Strengthens lung and kidney; expels phlegm; strengthens the spirit.

Clary Sage: Activates Qi and blood; harmonizes the spirit.

Frankincense: Activates Qi and blood; Strengthens the spirit.

Lavender: Activates Qi; clears heat; calms the spirit.

You may soon find these wonderful oils ‘essential’ to your life, as I have mine. For more information on essential oil properties and functions or continuing education units for acupuncture and oriental medicine healthcare professionals, visit Snow Lotus at snowlotus.org.

For information on essential oil warnings and risks, here is one popular report: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20170809/essential-oils-natural-doesnt-mean-risk-free

does your pet talk to you?

This past month has brought many new experiences – isolation, restricted movement, heavier reliance on technology, and more. Almost all of the information flying towards us at warp speed, in addition to the COVID death toll, is about how we must take care of ourselves. Expert after expert is giving us instruction. As a psychologist, I think about this stuff a lot, but sometimes I just need to go somewhere different, take a new route, if you will.

So, with that said, let’s have some fun here. When we think of the concept consciousness, it’s typically human consciousness. How often do you ponder animal consciousness? Furthermore, how often do you think deeply about how humans can tap into the consciousness of animals? This article is about just that. Here, I will introduce you to Leslie Rolleri, an experienced pet communicator, who helps cat and dog owners understand their pet’s most intimate desires and needs. But first, let’s look into what pet communication is all about.

Pet, or animal, communication is the phenomenon whereby a human comes to know an animals thoughts and feelings as well as their energy and sometimes confusing behavior. Have you ever felt that your pet is trying to telling you something, but you just couldn’t figure it out? Most animal owners have had this experience more than once, and it can be frustrating.

Many animal communicators are also energy workers, psychic mediums, or animal behaviorists, and empathic. I know, that’s a wide spectrum, but it’s what I have found in my research and in speaking with pet communicators. These phenomena are all related.

My last dog, Sage, was an American Rottweiler. Sage met Leslie on a couple of occasions and liked her very much. Sage behaved differently when Leslie was around, especially when Leslie turned her attention toward Sage. It wasn’t strange behavior, per se, just different, and in a subtle way. I spoke with Leslie about her experience as a hired pet communicator. She explained how she works with an animal:

“I have had a strong connection to animals my entire life and found I have the ability to understand them and connect on a deeper level.  I’ve noticed all my life that pets would gravitate towards me and trust me. I studied an energy release work for pets under a pet chiropractor, which uses unconditional love to release physical tension helping pets to IMG_0521be more in the present.  I’ve also studied Theta Healing, a modality that uses the theta brain wave for intuitive healing. This modality works with animals to communicate in pictures. Yes, animals communicate in pictures and many understand words but they respond to energy and pictures immediately. Pets are simple, really. Most desire the walk you promised or a toy, or even a blanket they like to sleep on. Just like people they have personalities and motivations and dislikes. I have found that people also need to be worked on in order to help the animal’s situation and, when possible, I like to work with the whole family. I have a deep respect for animals and all life and feel a need to convey their wishes and desires. Often people want a dog or cat to behave a certain way and get upset when they don’t.  It’s all about reading their body language because they are always reading yours.”

Leslie continues, “When I first work with a client and their pet, I inform them that I will be checking in on their pet 15 or so minutes before the session to check in and see what the pet wants to show me and communicate.  I do this because once I’m there the client may distract my clear communication with the animal. It also gives me a chance to see if my intuition is correct, as I’ve never met the animal before. Usually this involves knowing their address and name and getting permission from the owner to work with their animal. When I’m working I’m sending unconditional love. Dogs are very loyal so they need permission from their owners to convey this is okay and a gift.  Before I leave to see a client I go into a Theta state at home and command I connect to an animal and once I’ve remotely located the pet I will first come into their space and ask for their spirit name and if It is okay to work with them. Then I will ask them intuitively to show me what is going on and what they would like to communicate to their owners and I will also do a body scan if there are physical problems. This takes just a few minuets and usually what I get are quick images of things and sometimes words like walk. Yes, most dogs just want a walk! Sometimes I will see a toy, say a grey teddy bear and a leash, or maybe a window and a particular colored blanket. Just like people pets have connections to their toys and situations and will let me know what they are missing or what is important to them. For example, I will jot down some notes like grey toy, walk, and also any physical areas I notice are dark. I don’t put labels on the areas unless I’m told something (for example, “it’s a blockage”), but often I’m not told it’s cancer. I just see the blockage and then I command Creator/Source to remove it in the highest and best way.”

When asked whether she believes anyone can learn to do this work, Leslie said, “I have always been very intuitive but anyone can learn this skill – it just takes some practice.”

Leslie commented on an animals diet. Considering pet food choices, Leslie added, “Most dry pet foods are not good for pets. Canned can be better however, dehydrated and homemade with fresh ingredients are the best.  I recall my Grandfather making his dogs food in a big pot on the stove. Today’s dry dog food is a rather new thing for our pets to digest, historically speaking. Raw is also a great alternative as most animals are hunting their food and eating it fresh, uncooked.  We all should be eating foods that are 70% hydration so eating dry food is the hardest on your pet so make sure they have plenty of fresh water.”

Leslie continued, elaborating on her experience working with pets, especially how injury and illness come into play. She shared that, “Often our animals take on some of our problems – they think they’re helping us. Yes, they can physically take on your illness – they are trying to help you. I will usually have difficulty finding cats as they sometimes don’t want to do the work and instead they will want to stay in a comfort zone. Once I’m able to connect with them (sometimes physically, sometimes remotely if they are hiding), they will usually come out and just stare at me wide-eyed as they realize I’m working with them. I usually do the energy release to get them calm and centered then I will convey their owner’s desires and also tell their owners their issues. Sometimes they feel like an outsider, sometimes they miss a family member and other times they just want that blanket back on the bed so they will sleep there again. Usually the client notices a shift in the animal within a few hours and over the next few days. I usually get info on time frames regarding illness or injury. Often within the session I will convey to the client the information that I’ve received (i.e. the cyst will burst, or the animals will get along and finally sleep together, or return home). Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s more obvious.”

So what can pet owners do? Leslie suggests, “You can help your pet so much by hearing what I’ve told you and then using your ability to visualize and communicate with your pet.  I realize it takes some work but they are already seeing your thoughts and reading your body language – you just need to be aware of it more.  For example, you’re trying to get your dog to drop the ball but it just wants to play and make you chase it around instead of listening to you.  Instead of getting upset or yelling, remain calm and send an image of your dog dropping the ball in your hand, your dog will pick up on the image far quicker then any verbal command especially if you are angry or making different deep or high pitched sounds. Also, if you notice your pet doesn’t like something. l always respect their boundaries. When you think about it this is what we would all like our experience to be so respecting your pets boundaries does wonders for you also in finding your own boundaries.”

When asked about her business location and services, Leslie stated, “I live and work in Sonoma County, California, but I can also do this work remotely, over the phone. If this interests you, be sure you are home when we plan a session. I prefer this because I have had check-ins where the client isn’t home yet and when I’ve connected they are traveling in a car, which can be disorienting for the pet.  When you are moving like this, time and space are influences making it more difficult. If you’re interested in learning more, Theta Healing books and classes are amazing. I encourage you to explore and try visualization with your pets and see how your connections deepen.”

Leslie Rolleri can be reached at 707-478-3218.

 

Light & love,

Kim