Dreams as Medicine

Today’s blog feature my paper included in the 2nd annual Many World’s of Lucid Dreaming Conference which concluded just a couple of weeks ago. In case you missed the event, I’d love to share my paper with you here.

Dreams as Medicine:
How Conscious Dreaming Can Support One’s Journey Toward Wellness

Kimberly Mascaro, PhD

Introduction

Before I share some medicinal dreams, I’d like to take a moment to define terms I use when considering these phenomena, such as conscious dreaming, medicine, and wellness. I think of conscious dreaming as a practice of dreaming with awareness. Intentional participation in the dream arts may include such ritualized practices as attending to sleep hygiene, incubating and tracking dreams, in addition to dedicating time to developing skills, such as meditation, which enhances awareness of entering, exploring, and returning from the dream world. Experiencing various states of lucidity in the dream itself seems to come with the territory. With the terms medicine and wellness there are various definitions. Effective health practices center around wholeness, living well, and transformation. This is medicine. Dreams can be medicinal in that they support one along the path toward wellness.

We would all likely agree that dreams come in service. With this in mind, it is no surprise that dreams have been recognized as a potential diagnostic tool. Dreams which hint at or directly point to a diagnosis are nothing new – far from it! Examples hail across culture, time and place, going back to ancient times. Second century physician and philosopher, Galen, wrote about dreams as a medical diagnostic aid in his treatise On Diagnosis from Dreams. His theories were well respected and dominated European medicine for 1,500 years. There are many recent examples as well, such as the ‘monk dream’ described in the 2014 book Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing written by three- time breast cancer survivor Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos.

Pre-Diagnosis Dreaming

While the bulk of this paper will focus on dreams I personally recall which took place after a chronic illness diagnosis, first, I will share a few dreams from my dream journal that led up to that time. These four dreams prior to diagnosis seem to offer warnings or point to areas of concern – they are not shared in their entirety and parts of the dreams have been paraphrased. The first three are from March 2019 and the last one is from August 2019:

I’m in a house –it must be winter because of the heavy amount of snow. My parents are around. We eat dinner together as the sun sets. I ask them about the weird phenomenon occurring in the neighborhood. They don’t give me straight answers. I walk away irritated. After I press on and demand answers they tell me that I must keep the “right foot on the ground” to remain safe. I find this to be a strange response. I’m not even sure what the danger actually is!

A few nights later:

I’m in my vehicle and I’m the driver. I safely arrive at my destination but it’s overheated. I see the little symbol lit up indicating that the vehicle was operating too high. I worry about how I will get back/make the return trip. It’s best to drive slower and not use the air-conditioning system. It is necessary to look out for how much I drive and the manner in which I drive. This can prevent overheating.

About a week-and-a-half after:

I’m with a group of female friends. One of them does something that feels divinatory – a charting of some kind. It’s circular and reflects various symbols, images and words. I don’t recognize it, but it is something related to my health. They give me directions and instructions for something I need to do for my health. Do I need a special practitioner? Is it something huge? I need to figure out what my body needs …. I’m assured that this issue isn’t huge or life-threatening, but it is a message to attend to my body and psyche and to give it what it needs. I need to make adjustments, take certain vitamins or something but I don’t recall exactly.

That August, a tragedy unfolds in my dream apartment:

The toilet becomes clogged, and explodes. Feces shots upward about four feet high in a powerful stream, like a volcano erupting. There is a huge mess. I tell the landlord who connects me with a local company to correct the incident. But this team is only prepared for a minor incident and gives a superficial response. I’m pissed off by this so I give passioned speech regarding what I expect, as this incident is a big deal.

I take these dreams as warnings, poking at me to wake up in my day-to-day existence,
to be prepared for the unexpected, to stay grounded, listen to my inner signals, slow down, not rely on external systems too much, go see a physician and a nutritionist, not accept superficial or quick fixes, maintain boundaries, and to become a strong advocate for myself.

Post-Diagnosis Dreaming

In October of 2019, my health questions would be answered. I recalled dozens of dreams within the first month post-diagnosis. They flooded in, appearing to offer some direction. Here are a few:

I’m with my doctors at a live comedy performance, yet I don’t know who or what is on stage. We are laughing intensely and having really good time.

A week later in a dream,

I am dancing to salsa/timba (something I love to do in waking life) and showing people how to use a cold-press juicer. I also tell them the best combination of vegetables to use with the knowledge that they must be consumed for health reasons. That same night, I dream of swimming in a pool with others along with the explicit awareness that “We need to drain the pool as part of the cleaning process.”

Within the following two weeks, I dreamt of other problems while being aware in the dream of my condition: toilets that (still) wouldn’t flush, delicious bakery items appearing as skulls with the reminder that I must not eat baked good or anything with sugar, and people dumping their work on me. Dreams also reminded me of my body needing nourishment, and in the month following the diagnosis, my dreams explicitly reminded me that I need to “eat cauliflower” and “collard greens” – vegetables I rarely-if-ever consumed. If felt strange to be standing in the local market selecting them while having no idea how to cook or prepare them.

During that period (and even to this day), I’ve engaged these dreams, following their instructions. I now watch much more comedy, include dance regularly into each day, drink organic, cold-pressed green juice most days, consume 10 times more vegetables than ever before, attend to gut-health, and completely avoid gluten and sugar. Turns out, these are all beneficial for optimal health and wellness. I learned this to be true as I read more and engaged health practitioners. Part of the wellness journey is accepting help. I had always wanted to solicit health services but now I had an excuse to do what I had always wanted but previously told myself I didn’t have the time or money.

As time passed and the calendar turned to 2020 there were even more dreams following the diagnosis. Around this time, I was becoming a strong advocate for my health and read about a dozen books on the particular condition I was dealing with. I dug in deep and felt as if I put myself back in doctorate school. Some of my doctors told me to stop reading and instead partake in joyful, nonmental activity. That was hard to do. As I continued to expand my education on root causes, treatment options (naturopathic, holistic vs medical model approaches to illness), I log many more dreams.

A Lucid Dreaming Incubation

December 2019, just before the new year, brought with it a lucid dream with the highest level of consciousness I experienced that year. In the dream, I am standing in my house, the one I still live in today. Lucidity is triggered. Once I became lucid, I asked the dreaming consciousness itself, “How do I heal this condition?” Followed by, “What is the root cause of this condition?” The responses were interesting. As for the first question about healing, I float upward, put myself in lotus position and begin to meditate. Then the dream scene/space collapses and there I am again hovering lotus position in the black void, continuing to meditate.

I feel soothed…it’s so nice and peaceful. Then I see a human figure dusted in white (chalk or paint?), hovering, sitting in lotus position as one would for meditation – it’s like a mirror image of myself, but all white. Not long after, I am back in the original dream scene. So, I ask the second question about root cause. From the upper left, an alien-like face flashes…it’s a bit reptilian, unlike a cartoon alien. This is some other type of creature or entity. I become emotionally aroused and lucidity fades. However, as I begin to enter physical waking state and sense myself lying in my bed, there is energy surging through my hands. I place my hands over my heart-center and take the energy in.

About six weeks later in February 2020, a puzzling dream is recalled, as I know nothing about car mechanics:

I need a catalytic converter. My Uncle X appears and places the order. When they arrive, I see that there are many of them. There are more than I believe I need, but he tells me “That’s how they come, in a package.”

This is where the internet is a blessing – I now know what these devices do. Because catalytic converters change harmful components from an engine’s emissions into safe gasses, and my dream indicated that I need more than one, I was able to acknowledge many life shifts were necessary for me to survive the chronic illness.

And the Dreams Go On . . .

In early November 2020, when considering whether to get another MRI sooner. rather than later, all-the-while weighing the pros and cons of risking COVID exposure from visiting a major medical center, I would fall asleep with this question on my mind. Dream incubation has often been very helpful for wellness-related concerns. The next morning, I recalled a dream showing me a physician I had never met. I was surprised because I rarely dream of medical professionals in sickness or in health. In the dream, the physician is a white, middle-aged female, about my height, with a short, brown hair cut into the style of a ‘bob.’ I sense she is a N.D. (a naturopathic doctor). She holds an unfamiliar device in her hand used to measure tumor size. I ask her if I should rush to get an MRI done. She says, “Nah, no rush.” I wake up in bed that morning with a diminished sense of urgency feeling that my current treatment plan is good enough for this time. While I still planned to get an MRI, I was no longer anxious about the exact timing.

From the set of dreams above, I chose to practice meditation more regularly, be aware of outside influences, seriously look at additional changes I needed to make in my life, but also know that my efforts were working – no need to rush to out for imaging at that time.

By 2021, I felt much more settled into a new lifestyle routine. A dream in January that year left me feeling like I was on the right track. I felt less threatened by the chronic illness and more confident in my ability to manage this wellness journey. The following dream was a rather long one, however what stood out most being in a scene with family and a long-time friend. My mother announces, “We want to reward you.” As I sit with surprise and wonder, several deceased family members arrive. They are all here for me! Even though I am aware of my health status in this dream, I am still not sure what I am being rewarded for. I had close relationships with those deceased in the dream and I feel love. In the dream I am aware of the blessings and good fortune bestowed upon my in this life time, yet am told a “much bigger reward is coming.” Three months later, in the waking state, a color doppler ultrasound reveals the tumor is without blood veins, meaning it is likely inactive, or non-threatening.

In conclusion, dreams can be considered medicinal in that they support health-related practices in many ways. Never once did I recall a dream that directed me to do something my medical team thought ill-advised. Yes, that’s right, I share my dreams with my medical team. If they are rude, dismissive, or insulting, they will no longer be on my treatment team. In my opinion, a conscious dreaming practice is supportive for anyone’s journey toward wellness. Lastly, as we make our way closer to present time, mid-2021, an exciting occurrence takes place: a toilet (finally) flushes and in that dream I know that the pipes are all clear.

Kimberly R. Mascaro, PhD, LMFT is a psychotherapist, author, artist, and educator with 20 years of professional experience in mental and behavioral health. She is passionate about wellness and spiritual development holding certifications in hypnotherapy and yoga nidra. Dr. Mascaro is the author of Extraordinary Dreams. Contact her at https://consciouschimera.com/

lucid mind

October came and went in a flash. November always sneaks up on me! Because my attention was elsewhere (preparing for the sacred days of Oct. 31st through Nov. 2nd), along with celebrating the arrival of my latest book, Dream Medicine, there was not one single blog posted in October. But here I am, back at it again.

The release of my latest book, Dream Medicine, was notable. Like the Fall season release of Extraordinary Dreams, I had expected the hard copies of Dream Medicine to arrive closer to Winter, however, copies of Dream Medicine were found in a box on my front porch on the evening of Oct. 28th – a wonderful surprise. No matter the year, the last week of October will always be a sensitive time. Here’s why. Two years ago during that very same week, I spent a few days setting up a large six foot altar dedicated to deceased family for the Nevada County Annual Altar Show. While in the middle of constructing it, I spoke with a doctor on my cell phone who revealed a breast cancer diagnosis. The timing was striking. As I offered thanks and prayers to my deceased loved ones, I stood there alone, wondering in silence whether I would be joining them sooner rather than later.

After taking that call, I moved more slowly for the rest of the evening, continuing to build my family altar while keeping to myself and making minimal contact with others in the room. That entire evening was very dream-like. For the rest of that evening I existed in a space like never before. The following days were spent in meditation for the most part, listening deeply.

The next two years were an adventure into ‘the medical underworld’ as one physician friend referred to it. From day one, I chose to heal through the path of alternative medicine – a huge part of that being dedicated to tracking and responding to the wisdom of my nocturnal dreams (and later, shamanic journeys). Dream Medicine reveals much of my internal process of mind-body-spirit healing over a span of almost two years. Page 62 contains a lucid dream recollection that was so powerful for me that I ended up creating a four-foot by four-foot painting of the experience. Here it is, with me standing by holding up copies of Dream Medicine:

I remain contemplative and in wonderment. The timely arrival of this book – a finished piece of soulful work – manifests as a reminder that no matter what happens, I will be okay. Even through uncertainty and what appears as tragedy, the human spirit can light up and soar. Every year, that very last week of October will be a time for gratitude, for affirming life and acknowledging how fragile life is, and recognizing how at any moment, one can cross the veil never to return to the physical. While I am here, I will make the most of it. I will thrive.

Dream Medicine is endorsed by my teachers, colleagues, and mentors, Stanley Krippner, Clare Johnson and Robert Moss. To each of them and my holistic treatment team, I am oh so grateful. If you would like to order a copy of Dream Medicine – hot-off-the-press, you may do so here: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/dream-medicine/

Thank you for reading my blog,

Kim

season of dreams

Well, my Northern Hemisphere readers, we’ve just passed the autumnal equinox entering the season of Fall officially as a powerful full moon was overhead. This time each year is always a turning point for me as reflected in mother nature. I live in a forested area of Northern California so each day I notice trees – lots of them – browning, drying up, losing leaves along their branches that seem to be sagging oh so subtly. Nature is reminding me that soon, it will be time to sleep, hibernate, slow down and stay indoors. I’m been more accepting of what this turning point means. My preference is, and has always been, the creative burst of springtime and the sun’s invitation to play outdoors under its rays. Still, I accept that all things are in perpetual change as the cycles of nature continually turn. So that I do not slip into gloom I have learned to prepare for the colder, darker months. It’s around this time that I stock up on candles, baking supplies, art supplies, fine yarns and embroidery floss, purchase a half-dozen good books, a few blank journals, and bookmark recipes that require a hot oven. I also mentally recommit to scheduling in self-care and personal development practices, such as meditation, so that my week is truly work-life balanced. Last, but not least, I consider online workshops and conferences I want to attend so I can stretch my mind. Consider me a life-long leaner!

In this blog, I will tell you about one I plan to attend and another one where I will be presenting. I was excited to learn that next month a day-long psychotherapy workshop will take place which is focused on gender-sensitive treatment. Since my clinical focus is on women’s issues and women’s unique responses to trauma and other conditions, these gender-specific workshops are most welcome. Thank you PESI.com.

My own presentation will be included in an online conference that also begins next month, and it’s quite different from what I introduced above, although what the two do have is common is WELLNESS. October 30th begins the Many Worlds of Lucid Dreaming multi-day event featuring 15 diverse presenters. See: https://www.glidewing.com/iasd/lucid_dreaming_conference.html

During this event I will present a paper titled Dreams as medicine: How conscious dreaming can support one’s journey toward wellness. Whether you or someone you love has been impacted by disease or illness, this presentation will show how dreams can alert, warn, and even guide one toward improving health. Other presenters will also focus on wellness, such as reducing stress and relieving pain with the support of dreams. I hope you consider attending!

Autumn and Winter are great times to dive into dream-based practices such as improving sleep hygiene, utilizing dream incubation techniques, or committing to keeping a dream journal. After all, there is naturally more darkness, the nights are longer. Less daylight suggests going inward. Dreamwork pairs perfectly with this period of the year. So to my fellow summer-lovers, I remind you, not all is lost!

Dream big,

Dr. Kim

from fluorescent bulbs to sunshine

Do you crave time in nature? If you live in any major city, I’d expect so. After all, our ancestors experienced the bioelectric connection with the earth’s healing negative charge on a regular basis simply by the way they lived. Today, so many of us rarely get the benefits of absorbing all the healthy goodness nature has to offer. After spending years craving regular escapes from city life to rejuvenate in natural settings, I made a bold decision and did something about it.

Before I relocated my home from the city to a higher elevation in the mountains with its many forests, lakes and rivers, I had to dedicate my weekends to traveling away from town and into nature. While I very much looked forward to my weekend escapes, the preparation to do so took work. This included the hours spent navigating traffic just to get out of town. Now don’t get me wrong, I was completely aware of what I would be giving up my making such a permanent move; the theaters, museums, easy access to my friends, and endless array of amazing cafes and restaurants, the arts and the dance scene, to name a few. But my body and intuition directed me to move away so that I may live in a natural environment. 

Upon reflection I recall that before my move, there were times when my feet never touched the ground, like when I worked a job on the 7th floor and slept in an apartment on the 2nd floor. You can imagine how, before my move, engaging in nature-based practices, such as forest bathing, gardening, earthing, and water-based rituals, were practically impossible to achieve on a daily or even weekly basis. It was hard on some days to even see the sun shine. These practices became even more seriously integrated into my way of life when I was diagnosed with a serious chronic illness in 2019. When you glimpse the ending of something (in this case, life itself), you wake up to what you love and what you hold dear. Ancient whispers of impermanence and life cycles pointed me to look outside. The seasons were showing me how to live. Merging with nature has become central and through doing so, I allowed one of my former rituals to transform in to a newer version. That is, creating mandalas. Years ago, when sitting and waiting for the next client in my therapy office, I would design, and then color-in, mandalas in a sketchbook. This ‘sacred circle’ art brought on a sense of calm, order and focus. It’s a form of meditation. Creative energy flowed. By engaging in this practice, I felt evermore ready to support my next client through the trauma work. 

After relocating to the mountains, creating ‘nature mandalas’ or ‘plant mandalas’ became the natural evolution. Keeping with this ritual, albeit in a new outdoor container, allowed me to move off of the paper and into nature herself. And because my new therapy office is in a forested yurt, I can collect natural materials and begin designing in between client sessions as a way to stay present and grounded. Plus, I get my forest bathing time in!  

Now it isn’t necessary to live in a forest to begin such a practice. If you work or live near a sizable park or even the ocean, that is great. The photos shown in this blog are from nature mandalas I made in different locations – on the beach and in the mountains. In each case, I would have never realized how much color, texture, variety there was all around me had I not dedicated time to really opening my eyes and exploring the space I was inhabiting. 

Ready to begin? Beyond the purposes of calming, focusing, or grounding, consider whether you want to set an intention. Maybe you’d like to dedicate the creation to someone or something. Take a moment to sit with this possibility. Aside from that, all that is needed is you…and if you feel it is necessary, a bowl or basket to carry what you collect. From there, find a flat surface to arrange the mandala and begin laying pieces out in a way that is geometric and balanced. People commonly work in a circular pattern in 4s, 6s, or 8s. When finished, you might want to take a photograph before you allow the wind and the earth (or sometimes an ocean wave) to take them back from where they originated…mother nature herself. Nonattachment is an aspect of the ‘nature mandala’ practice. Wind, rain and waves encourage us to let go, honoring the universal truth that all is in perpetual change. Nothing is permanent.

Be well,

Dr. Kim

say YES first!

I recently attended an inspiring online summit so I’m eager to share a memory with you!

Among many wonderfully soulful speakers, Shift Network’s 2021 Shamanic Wisdom Summit featured Reverend Deborah L. Johnson. Her presentation, You Are The Verb, sparked motivation and inspiration. Shawna Bluestar Newcomb hosted Rev. Johnson’s talk first began with prayer, then continued by turning attention to ‘The Call.’ This kind of ‘Call’ is not a phone call, but rather the kind of inner, spiritual call that can scare the crap out of anyone. This kind of call feels bigger than you are, and by surrendering to the call, life changes forever. Rev. Johnson proclaimed, “Say yes first, then faint!” This yes, is a sacred yes. After just the first nine minutes of her talk, I was invested – I knew I wanted to stay and take it all in.

Rev. Johnson used the fire triangle as a metaphor for explaining this spiritual, inner call (This was somewhat poignant as I was tuning in to her presentation from northern California at the start of wildfire season). Using the fire triangle reference, she he explained that to keep the fire burning within, you have to have all three: Heat, Fuel, Oxygen. Rev. Johnson elaborated on each of the three components: 

The HEAT isn’t fun or pretty. It is often disruptive. It pushes and moves you up and on. This kind of heat won’t settle for the status quo. 

The FUEL is what sustains you and nurtures you, such as self-care and discipline.

The OXYGEN is the transcendent place. It breathes – there is air. It’s the place of inspiration. 

In life you need all of this – heat, fuel, oxygen. Often, we play these roles in life at the same time, Rev. Johnson says.

At this point in her talk, I am struck as a memorable dream from 2018 flooded into consciousness. I’ll share the bulk of it with you here – In the dream,

A group of people call me over to them, as it is time to go, so I go to them (leaving what I was doing behind). We cross a threshold-like space and we are now outside walking on a path. As we continue along the trail, it’s apparent there is a sacrifice. I recognize it, noticing it has been moved or touched. I want to fix this – it is special looking – but I’m afraid to touch it. I see some  thick rope and dead snake bodies with small skulls all around. Upon first glance it could look scary, but it is not. It’s an earthen altar of sorts. A female (appearing as a combo of two spiritual female friends of mine occupying one body) jumps in to straighten it up. There is a bowl where the fire has been burned out so we get that fire going in the tiny bowl and I offer to keep the fire alive. It’s like I proclaim this to the dream space. I have the dead body of a snake to offer the fire to keep it going. We break the snake body up and place it on top go the fire as an offering. I have mixed feelings (including some sadness) about this act because I realize the snake body  will turn to ashes and be gone forever. Is it better to just lay the snake body at the altar? That’s what it looks like, an altar. It’s very earthy and pretty intense looking. 

This was such a powerful dream that I not only logged it and sketched it in my dream journal immediately, but I later created a collage to reflect it in greater detail. This image shows the first sketch in my dream journal with the collage I made later below.

Rev. Johnson acknowledges the fear we experience when we wake up to ‘the call.’ Today, snakes are feared by many, yet historically and across cultures, snakes are symbols of transformation and healing – they shed their skin and become anew. Serpents play significant roles in creation myths across the globe and are connected to spirituality. Serpent power, mystic fire, and primordial energy live in the same realm. After my serpent-fire dream, I knew something was unfolding but it would take dedication to the inner work to make progress.’

Don’t be afraid of that which in you feels like it must be burned up, consumed, released. “Everybody wants to transform, but nobody wants to change,” she said. Rev. Johnson continued, “We can’t heal what we don’t feel.” Events in our waking lives and in our dreaming lives can deliver ‘the call’ as well as guide us in transformative journeys if we allow it. As we move forward along the path, we can reference the fire triangle to consider how we draw from the component of Heat, Fuel and Oxygen in order to keep the fire burning within. Without one of them, the fire dies.

You may recall the old reminder: What we resist, persists. So Rev. Johnson reminds us to keep our heart open and “stay engaged.” Everyone wants to spend time on the external, “but it’s the internal that we have to spend most of our time with,” she said. Even when we are called through vivid nocturnal dreams or unshakable waking life events, fear can cause us to turn away and deny, or resist it through a slew of numbing devices. To the contrary, it is by turning toward, staying present, and surrendering to ‘the call’ while trusting in a conscious loving multiverse that allows for us to live our most magnificent life and witness as our biggest dreams come true.   

In love and transformation,

Dr. Kim

2 dreamy announcements

A couple exciting things are unfolding over here!

You may already be familiar with the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). If not, please check them out! I’m so excited to be presenting at the IASD conference again this year, only this time the conference is virtual. This allows those to attend from anywhere in the world without the time and cost of travel and lodging, so long as there is a decent internet connection. I hope this year is accessible to you and you are able to attend. I’ll be leading a Yoga Nidra workshop on Sunday, June 13th. This sleep-based meditation supports relaxation, focus, and of course, dreaming.

Here’s the direct link: http://iasdconferences.org/

My second and final ‘dreamy announcement’ for today is that I have received the image to the cover of my upcoming book. The cover art design team at McFarland and Toplight Books are brilliant as far as I’m concerned. Dream Medicine: The Intersection of Wellness and Consciousness is on its way to print now. It is scheduled to be available to all around the new year.

Writing Dream Medicine was a labor of love and one of great vulnerability. It chronicles my personal journey through an earth-shattering illness, highlighting the dreams and visions that carried me through (although the ride is not over yet). Dream Medicine also includes interviews with over a dozen professionals, dreamers, shamanic practitioners and cancer survivors. Finally, the book notes action steps, behaviors and activities that have been helpful along this path. Side note: these actions and activities are a focal point in the retreats and workshops I lead. Check out the September retreat in Hawaii here.

That’s my latest news. Thanks for being here with me! I wish you wellness and many blessings.

Dr. Kim

Birthing Resiliency

Those of you that follow Conscious Chimera closely may have noticed that zero blogging took place in the month of April. Why? Self-care, that’s why. I often write about self-care and talk with my clients about self-care – it’s a topic I love to teach and preach. I thought it was time I cared for my own mind-body-spirit by taking a little break, so I did. 

This week though, I’ve been feeling really inspired by something, and that is, resiliency. Some people are so amazingly resilient, while others…not so much. Knowing how parents water seeds of resiliency in their children, I thought posting this blog today, on Mother’s Day, was just right…a way to acknowledge moms everywhere.

There are many books on this topic, encouraging resiliency. I’m even reading one now. It’s titled Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, And Happiness by Rick Hanson, PhD. Maybe you’ve read it too. This book unexpectedly arrived in my mailbox – a surprise birthday gift from my friend, Rachelle. Dr. Hanson describes resiliency in his book as one’s ability to “cope with adversity and push through challenges in the pursuit of opportunities.” He says mental resources such as “determination, self-worth, and kindness” contribute to resiliency. The American Psychological Association (APA) provides information on resiliency, as one would expect. They write “Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.” The APA suggests focusing on connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning as core components of resilience-building.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies! There will likely be significant emotional distress along the road toward resiliency, and those that make positive progress along this road took actions steps – that is, they made that necessary changes in their behaviors and in their thinking. Resilience and well-being go hand-in-hand. So that the blog doesn’t read like an academic essay entirely, I asked acquaintances, and even some strangers, all living with or managing cancer, about their thoughts on resiliency. I asked specifically whether they believed they were resilient and what that meant to them. Here is what five female ‘thrivers’ had to share:

One woman explained that for her, resilience is when one keeps going throughout the most challenging moments. She said, “When the demons of despair threaten to destroy your world, you keep going. Through the darkest night you continue on, finding light in the bleakest shadows. Eventually you find your way reborn through the transcendental flames that threaten to extinguish your soul. Reborn like the Phoenix from the flames.”

Another woman experiencing painful side effects of chemotherapy didn’t even want to walk. Creative inspiration came to her and she pushed through on her worst day. What did she do? She teamed up with a neighbor, dressed herself in lights, “grabbed karaoke equipment and sang Rock with You” in public. Families came out to see what was going on, and those passing by began to dance and sing with her “giving standing ovations.” She said, “Resilience is in yourself and those who celebrate you even when they don’t even know you. Resiliency is busting moves and music that fill the heart with joy so much that you forget being sick and are now a leader.”

Having managed breast cancer for 14 years using both alternative and conventional medicine, one woman told me how resilience requires a willingness “to move in unexpected ways and to be willing to change our mindset on a regular basis and accommodate to new realities.” She feels positive and enjoys “every moment of life no matter what!”

Gratitude for each and every day seems to become the norm for many cancer ‘thrivers.’ Another  woman, seven and a half years in, said, I get to “open my eyes.” For her, that alone is evidence of her resiliency.

Faith and connecting with Spirit also helps people thrive. “My resiliency as a three-time breast cancer survivor comes from my belief in a Higher Power,” said one woman. She continued, “Although the medical community and the tests on which they relied missed my cancer all three times, my dreams told me I had it and my Spirit Guides, dressed as Franciscan Monks, urged me to get additional testing. Both my ‘monks’ and my doctors saved my life.” This woman reminds us, “there is life-after-life, guardian angels, and spirit guides. I have seen them all in my dreams that saved my life. Follow your dreams.”  

Whether you have been diagnosed with cancer or love someone who has, please remember that there is hope. Our resiliency is birthed from within and from the support we receive from those all around us. You are not alone.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Kim

an ethical imperative

When the latest edition of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology magazine arrived in my mailbox, I scanned the front cover while nodding in approval. The cover highlighted the titles of articles in the way all magazine covers do. Yet this issue’s focus was clear: gun violence, self-care, smartphones and mental health, plus bold lettering for the words, dismantling racism: psychology’s urgent need. I thought how poignant and how necessary. These literary contributions are a must at this time. A recent newspaper scan or nightly news hour this month alone tells all; I need not say more. This month’s mail also contained correspondence related to current statistics on hate crimes and hate group activity in the U.S. sent from the Southern Poverty Law Center. While the COVID-19 pandemic we are all experiencing has stifled and slowed many things down, it did not appear to reduce violence and hate. I’m not suggesting it would or could, rather I am sharing a wish.

Living nonviolently is an active process – one that takes daily commitment and a lot of effort. Just because psychologists are experts in human behavior doesn’t mean we are not susceptible to making the same mistakes or errors in judgment as anyone else. While in a therapy session, we may feel grateful for being granted the privilege of supporting another’s development, fostering empathy or cultivating compassion, and yet we must do this inner work on and for ourselves. I believe everyone, no matter their position or role, should play a part in feeding the world’s people what is needed to blossom…to bloom. Unfortunately, we appear to be collectively withering in many ways. It appears we have forgotten that we exist both as individuals and as a collective. Many years ago I was taught loving-kindness meditation and recognize the ethical imperative of participating in this kind of practice now more than ever. If you agree, read on. Below, I will share with you how it is done.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Loving-kindness meditation sends compassion and love to others as well as to ourselves. We begin this practice as we would many other forms of silent sitting meditation, on the floor or in a chair. Then turn the attention inward, towards the breath. With each breath, notice a sense of relaxation coming in. Let go of mental chatter pulling you into the past or future. Stay with the breath, and since we begin this practice with ourselves, you may like to keep the focus on your heart center or imagine yourself as a young child. Then, recite the following inwardly, nonvocally, several times:

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May I be well in body and mind.

May I be at ease and happy.

Practice this each day for an entire week to become familiar and comfortable, allowing the love to grow over time. If it feels mechanical, that’s okay, just keep going. If you experience anger, frustration or sadness, allow it. Remember to be gentle. Keep going.

Once this process becomes a bit more comfortable – and it’s okay if you need more than one week – we add the second piece. Just as before, use your imagination again, this time to ‘see’ another person in your mind’s eye. While picturing that person, recite the following inwardly, nonvocally:

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May you be well in body and mind.

May you be at ease and happy.

Repeat this portion several times, just as you did for yourself.

To participate in this practice as it was intended, begin with yourself then, shift to the other (unless, for whatever reason, that becomes too difficult).

There you have it – a powerful tool that can be done anytime during one’s day and it takes just a few intentional minutes. That’s so little time when considering the resulting mental-emotional shift that remains lasting. What would the world be like if everyone made this a part of their day?

Since I have learned so much from Jack Kornfield, PhD I’m providing you with a link to his website where he provides additional details. Dr. Kornfield is a psychologist and has taught meditation for over four decades, in addition to his training as a Buddhist monk in several monasteries throughout Asia. I was initially introduced to loving-kindness by him. You may find Kornfield here: https://jackkornfield.com/meditation-lovingkindness/

One thing this world needs from us is more empathy and compassion. Through the practice of loving-kindness, we take a step in the right direction.

With benevolence,

Dr. Kim

my # 1 go-to mudra

Sacred hand gestures are seen across cultures and in most traditions of the world, dating as far back as ancient Egyptian times. In India, mudras have been used in various contexts and have played several important roles. Here, I will touch on the role of hand mudras in relation to the spiritual. From tantric practice to meditation/prayer and yoga, hand mudras are powerful tools. There are dozens upon dozens of them. In this article, I will turn toward those noted in traditions within the continent of Asia.

It’s only been about a decade since I truly immersed myself in the practice of yoga. Like so many Californians, my yoga journey began with Asana – that’s the physical postures/poses (by far the most well-known of the 8 limbs of yoga). I must admit, I didn’t really like it nor was I ever drawn to it. The same is true now. However, I attended classes for years because it was a way to bond with friends or simply add some movement into my day. As I continued attending yoga classes, somatic psychology courses, and meditation groups, I was introduced to other limbs of yoga, such as Yama, Niyama, Pranayama and the meditation limbs – these practices grabbed hold of my attention. I also recognized similarities among these and other schools of thought promoting inner development and spiritual growth. It was during this period that I was introduced to mudras.

While mudras, in general, support self-care, empowerment, and help one to recharge and re-energize, they can also help draw one inward during yoga practice. Their use can channel the energy flow of the body, thus impacting mood, as holding a mudra position actually stimulates different parts of the body. Years later, when I began studying yoga nidra (a sleep-based meditation) it was easy to notice how certain hand mudras could help me prepare for this type of mediation practice.

According to an article by Linda Sparrowe and Nubia Teixeira in Yoga Journal (May 5, 2020), “Every mudra has a particular purpose and moves the energy in a specific way throughout the body to create subtle physical, mental, and emotional changes. For example, if you come into your meditation practice feeling agitated or anxious, placing your palms face down on your thighs will usually calm and ground your energy. If you feel sluggish or sleepy, a palms-up mudra might enliven you.”

Today, I want to share one particular hand mudra that was initially taught to me by Dr. Delaney during our time together from 2008 to 2010. She was the first psychologist to ever speak to me about the power of mudras and raved about one mudra in particular that is known for benefiting the heart, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It has become my go-to! I made a short video to demonstrate, so click here. Or see the embedded video below:

This is best done with both hands, sitting with straight spine and with eyes closed. Make an intention for healing the heart while holding this mudra, and do some conscious deep breathing for about 3 minutes. The time can be extended with practice and can be done a few times each day. I hope you discover something beautiful – enjoy!

In addition to those noted above, my inspiration for writing this article also came from Sabrina Mesko’s book Healing mudras: Yoga for your hands (2000), as well as Gertrud Hirschi’s booklet with mudra card set titled Mudras for body, mind & spirit: The handy course in yoga (2006/2014).

With joy & a warm heart,

~Dr. Kim

celebrating our 5 year anniversay with ancestral work

We are celebrating our 5 year anniversary here at Conscious Chimera. Thank you for following this blog and for your support. We do not walk this life journey alone…we are here because of each other and because of our ancestors. You may already be familiar with my devotion to ancestral work, so i can’t help but share some exciting news: Another amazing soulful summit is just around the corner! This month we turn toward our ancestors and healing in the Ancestral Healing Summit hosted by The Shift Network. Below you will find information about the event and the link to register for FREE. You can attend as many or as few presentations as you like, so why not sign up and be inspired!

RSVP here for the Ancestral Healing Summit — at no charge: https://shiftnetwork.infusionsoft.com/go/ahs21a22143/a22143

I’m honored to be among today’s leading ancestral healing experts and inspiring teachers — including Suzanne Giesemann, Thomas Huebl, Eileen McKusick, Langston Kahn, Dr. Dawson Church, Bernadette Pleasant, Cherie Aimée, Robert Moss, Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, Mark Anthony, JD, Sandra Ingerman, Deborah King,and many more — sharing new practices and insights for connecting with the wise and loving among your ancestors. 

We’ll show you how your ancestors can help you work through the reparations necessary for you and your family to live happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives, while also benefiting future generations of your bloodline, the global community, and even our beautiful Earth..

I hope you’ll participate in this timely online gathering presented by The Shift Network.

During this fascinating 5-day event, you’ll:

  • Dive deep into the power of personal and intergenerational trauma — and the real possibility of collective healing when we address it at the root
  • Receive fascinating information about the epigenetics of trauma… and how to find resolution and peace in this lifetime
  • Draw on the wisdom of Family Constellations work to dissolve unhealthy family loyalty patterns
  • Reconnect to a sense of belonging, healing, completion, and orientation in today’s chaotic and confusing world
  • Explore the ways our ancestral stories manifest in issues of self-confidence, choosing our love partner, career, business, money mindset, and health
  • Receive supportive guidance to heal your family tree of wounding from sexual abuse or other forms of violence
  • Learn about First Nations’ complex wisdom traditions that inspire healing and personal transformation
  • Gain a sense of how racial healing work can act as a salve for both past damage and future healing
  • Transform intergenerational burdens into ancestral blessings
  • Explore African, Jewish, Native American, and many other perspectives on ancestral healing
  • And much more…

Whether you’re new to ancestral repair work or you already incorporate it in your life, the visionary speakers in this summit will bring to light the curative powers of ancestral healing — helping you shift your present and our future.

Join me and this amazing gathering of other presenters to discover the tools you need to cultivate more connection… harmonize your body, mind, and spirit… and heal wounds from the past that can literally change your genetic destiny.

RSVP here for the Ancestral Healing Summit — at no charge: https://shiftnetwork.infusionsoft.com/go/ahs21a22143/a22143

Please join in and let me know which presentation inspired you most!

Dr. Kim