for the love of cats

Did you know that today, August 17, 2019, is national Black Cat Appreciation Day? More on that in a moment. But first, I want to let you know that there is purpose and many good memories behind what I am writing here now:

This article is dedicated to an extraordinary being, Mia (2001-2019),

who taught me that cats are far more than their stereotypes.

Adventurous, wise, loyal, spirited – that’s what Mia immediately invokes within me.

She is missed.

There are several types of cats, big cats, small cats, and domesticated house cats. This article will focus on a few of them, and in particular, one I have dreamt with for years. Cougar, Mountain Lion, Puma, Panther – one mammal, many names! They are native to the Americas, therefore occupying a wide range of territories, from deserts to swamps to mountains. Furthermore, they literally have the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, aside from humans, of course. I live in a Northern California forest alongside this animal, although, I have been dreaming of these particular types of cats even when I previously resided in a highly populated city within the San Francisco Bay Area.

According to some animal facts provided by the San Diego Zoo, scientists classify these (Cougar, Mountain Lion, Puma, Panther) as small cats, because they purr like smaller cats do, rather than roar. These types of cans also squeak, yowl, hiss, mew, spit, and growl. Sounds like some house cats I have known! However, their slender body and calm demeanor are more like that of a cheetah; both cats would rather flee than fight, and both rarely confront humans.

img_4449Two nights ago, and to my surprise, Cheetah (a cat native to the other side of the planet) appeared in my dream. While not yet appearing to be fully grown, the facial patterning was remarkable. I gazed at his face and into his eyes. Near the end of the dream, we curled up together and went to sleep.

Within the big cat world, cheetahs are the sprinters, moving at incredible speeds. They can cover up to 22 feet in just one stride, thanks to their incredible flexible spines. Cheetahs are a nice mix of social and solitary. They are not as social as lions, but not as solitary as Pumas/Mountain Lions. One unique quality is that they do not have retractable claws like other big and small cats do. Unlike those cats, lions are quite social, living in prides, and are very good communicators – they talk to each other in many ways, one way is by their roar. A cub practices roaring early on, but it isn’t until it becomes about a year old that it can produce a serious roar.

Both big and small cats appear in the Tarot. Various tarot card decks depict these cats. I’ve seen a couple depictions of big cats within the major arcana in the Rider-Waite-Smith and Thoth decks. Major Arcana card VIII, Strength, in the RWS collection includes a lion. As for the Thoth deck, card XI, Lust, depicts what appears to be a chimera of sorts – a lion body with serpent tail. It’s a beast with seven heads. A nude woman lunges on the beast’s back. Also in the Thoth’s minor arcana, the Princess (aka Page) of Wands depicts a stunning fiery image. A woman pulls a tiger by the tale as she goes flying through flames, or so it appears. Wands are associated with action, doing, creative energy, and the element of fire. Now there is a Cat tarot deck featuring cute-looking housecats, but that’s a whole different story – ha! I do not own that deck. According to Peruvian shaman, don Oscar Miro-Quesada, if puma has come into your life, the sun or element of fire may also be powerful medicine to you. I do not know of a tarot deck that specifically includes our cat known by many names (that is, Cougar, Mountain Lion, Puma, Panther), aside from number 17 of the Medicine Card deck. Do you?

Cats are powerful and sleak, said to have excellent hunting prowness, insight and a keen awareness. In some metaphysical and spiritual circles, cats are also said to have an ability to see beyond ordinary perception – it’s their special power, their medicine. They have a long history associated with folk magic and women’s traditional ways. As the European Dark Age gave way to the roughly 700 year Inquisition period, cats were allegedly tortured and burned at the stake. Sometimes this practice took place alongside their owners who were accused of practicing those traditional ways. Often, these were poor country folk. Even though the inquisition faded away almost 200 years ago, there are still myths surrounding cats and women.

Cats of all types appear in people’s dreams offering comfort, console, reminders, and even instruction. In addition to my wild cat dreams, housecats often appear in the img_4441dreams of their owners. Bonnie and her cat Jessie still meet in dreams, even though Jessie died in 2012. Jessie was a tuxedo cat, meaning that the cat’s coat was mostly black with some white patterning on the front part of the body. Bonnie told me that Jessie often comes into her dreams. Mia has appeared in her mom’s (the owner’s) dreams throughout the years – even after she crossed over.

Even today, due to the myths, fears, and stereotypes, black cats are less likely to be adopted than cats of another color or patterning. So today, on Black Cat Appreciation Day, consider adopting a cat, black or not, in Mia’s honor. And seriously, go ahead…let a black cat cross your path!

 

Dream big,

Kim

dreamy greek delights

After the annual international dream conference of the IASD, held in the Netherlands this year, I visited Greece. Greece has been on my bucket list for over a decade. Finally, I made it! With only five days to spare, I stuck to the North East area of the country, exploring the city of Thessaloniki and Halkidiki peninsula. Time in the sea was, of course, a must. I also  wanted to see with my own eyes evidence of a long lost dream culture.

e0329c47-1757-43f0-a42a-cf5d6894bf48I spent time speaking with young Greeks, and even a few older ones. As I walked through downtown Thessaloniki, not for from Aristotle Square by the sea, I walk past 4th century monuments and wait…what?… yes, vendors selling Native American dreamcatchers. What a surprise! Young, contemporary Greeks call these oneiropagida yet they do not have a similar object from their own, forgotten, ancient dream-focused culture. Evidence for this lost culture is mostly found in museums nowadays, especially within the boundaries of my recent trip. One man, who is in his 20s, shared two opposing views of today’s Greek people. Dreams either mean little-to-nothing, he told me, or dreams must be interpreted, as they hold significance for some. For the latter group, oneirokritis or dream dictionaries, however, are popular. He considered those who use dream interpretation to be “superstitious,” yet as we spoke further, I understood that this term was not necessarily negative. The 21 year-old woman who was selling dreamcatchers, among other objects and souveniers, told me that for her and her friends, dreams were not meaningful. She said that her mother, however, carries a belief that night dreams are worth paying attention to and may lead to an action if they seemed meaningful. This isn’t a daily practice though, as some dreams hold more weight than other dreams.

A middle-aged cab driver from a small mountain town told me that contemporary Greeks today look at the old God/Goddess culture as “fairytales.” That old mythology is not a part of our contemporary belief system whatsoever, he conveyed. With regard to dreams, he said that this is also mostly ignored, yet for some Greeks, “powerful dreams” are given more attention. Those vivid, or easily recalled, types of dreams may need interpretation. The dream may be placed in one of two categories: good or bad. Dreams are judged, polarized, it seems. An example of a good dream may involve flying, he said, while a dream of a snake may be viewed as bad. I commented on how serpents were held in high regard, in the past, for their healing and transformative qualities. He agreed, but said “times have changed.” He attributed this shift in perspective to religious changes, particularly the rise of Christianity.

Thessaloniki’s archeological museum staff provided stimulating discussion regarding the Greek history of dreaming. Two women working in the museum shop shared some img_4201information about the healing nature of snakes as we looked at a marble relief being sold there, which features Asclepius. A fourth century BCE relief depicts three stages of healing of a patient by the god Asclepius with two apotropaic eyes above. The healing ritual shown here appears to depict Asclepius giving injections and using snake venom as a healing substance. Some believe that Asclepius could transform into a healing serpent himself. The original can be found in the sanctuary of Amphiaraos at Oropos (Attica). Apotropaic magic refers to the power to avert evil or harmful influences, bad luck, misfortune, or the evil eye. Its popularity is evident, even today, by the vast number of apotropaic amulets sold worldwide. Other copies of votive offerings to Asclepius also feature the serpent. Snakes can be found in numerous pieces img_4203of jewelry (bracelets and earrings in particular) worn by the ancient Greek/Macedonian peoples. We discussed how the serpent, or snake, was considered a strong healing, transformative force historically, yet with the arrival of Christianity, this all changed. From then on, snakes were primarily associated with women and evil, or the devil, thus connecting the two. This myth continues to hold strong today. Then, she asked for me to help her understand a puzzling dream of her own. I say that I’m honored to listen, but cannot interpret another’s dream, as I am not the author of it. She agrees that dreams belong to the dreamer, and continues. We play the game, “If it were my dream,” and have an enlightening discussion. She smiles as her eyes widen, img_4202expressing thanks for my view on this dream, as if it were my own, revealing a positive resolution in the end. Dreams belong to the dreamer, yes, and isn’t it wonderful to have those that will listen and take them seriously. For these exchanges offer fresh insights and perspectives. I was delighted over my time spent in the museum and with it’s employees – they had much to say about Asclepius and healing, while the others I spoke with knew little, or nothing at all of that part of local ancient history.

My time in Greece will continue…hopefully within a year or two. Athens and the oracles and sanctuaries of the area are at the top of my list. Have you traveled to the ancient Greek regions where healing and dreaming were once so common? If so, tell us about it. Comments and discussion here are always welcome.

Happy Summer,

Kim

boosting your dreams

Sometimes we dreamers need a little extra support. Maybe it’s constant morning noise from outside, or the ongoing use of alarms, that has lead to poor dream recall. No matter the reason or situation, nature’s helpers do exist. With that said, I must remind you that this article is not meant nor is it intended to persuade or provide medical information. I make no claims regarding the effectiveness of anything listed in the article – for all I know, results could be a result of placebo effects. Always consult a physician or medical professional for advice regarding supplements or consumables. Now on with the blogging!

When I need a dream boost, I either place my amethyst or high-charged quartz crystal, img_3694also known as a Herkimer Diamond, under the covers with me. Both stones are credited for enhancing dream recall as well as vivid qualities of the dream itself. I have found that to be the case in my experience when working with these stones. Those are my top two go-to stones. Others swear by any kind of quartz crystal. Part of creating a space for conscious dreaming is the preparation ritual. It’s easy to bypass this part, yet intention is a key element behind any and all rituals. For example, I sometimes burn a mugwort leaf in my bedroom – it’s a highly regarded ancient incense, you know! I’ve also used locally-crafted tinctures as well as essential oil based body oils infused with mugwort. No matter what I use, it is necessary to set the intention for the goal to manifest.

img_3695See it already happening!

Write it down.

Proclaim it: “I recall my dreams.”

Our beliefs and intention make a world of difference.

Intention + Practice + Plant helpers = Success.

Being part of the world’s largest professional dream organization, the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), I can attest to the dozens of products that are on the market claiming to bring on dream recall and increased lucidity. Having never tried anything beyond what I mentioned above, I became curious and changed my tune this year. One company I recently encountered is dreamleaf (see luciddreamleaf.com). img_3696-1Their mission is directed toward human consciousness – specifically increasing it through the method of dreaming. The founder and co-founder have experienced lucid dreams and understand the great potential that accessing conscious dream states have for humanity. Since I couldn’t agree more, I turned to them when I found myself in a slump, with significantly reduced dream recall and a low level of awareness in my dreams (What I mean by that, is that when a dream scene turned so bizarre where I would normally question whether I was dreaming, I did not. That meant no lucid dream for me!). But, also, as I said, I was just deeply curious, having never tried a dietary supplement created solely for lucid dreaming. It sounded exciting. Some authors who write about dreaming have expressed the benefits dreamleaf’s featured red pill/blue pill product called dreamleaf. I decided to purchase it. So far, I have not experienced the results I was hoping for, yet I have only used each supplement about a half-dozen times. I’m sure I’ll give it another shot soon.

What I have found to be very effective for enhancing dream lucidity, outside of the world of plants and supplements, is maintaining a consistent meditation practice. And I don’t just mean a disciplined sitting practice, although those are excellent, but committing to daily mindfulness-based exercises. I was taught several variations during my training by teachers coming out of the Buddhist, Yogic, and Gnostic traditions. The variety helps alleviate boredom to some extent, however the key is discipline.

I can’t help but notice how quickly people will flock to anything that delivers a quick and easy solution/resolution, or brings on an altered state of consciousness. I’m sure you have too…ah, the human condition. Like so many, I have lived on both sides of the fence. The long, long road of disciplined training and sitting practices versus the popping of a img_3698pill (the dreamleaf dietary supplement in my case). Call me old-fashioned, haha, but I must admit that I feel best when I know that I have worked for the results. At the same time, sometimes I just want a break from it all without losing the benefits. This year, I’ll settle on experiencing both. But I won’t lie – truth is, I have found the most impactful, memorable lessons of human consciousness capability by going the long route. Through harnessing the skills, extraordinary experiences are also replicable, and can be done at will by more advanced practitioners. Waking up is a process. By just relying on external consumables, when the pills run out, what then? The conflict is real – LOL. When I give myself a hard time, I remind myself that nature is here for us. We are nature. Medicinal plants have helped people in numerous ways for millennia. When coupled with intention – the power of the mind – there is no stopping us from expanding consciousness.

There hasn’t been a dream enhancement article at conscious chimera since October 2016, so I thought it was time. If you have an opinion or comment, please post it here – I love hearing from my readers!

~Kim

immersed in yoga nidra

Having recently completed a five-day immersion workshop in Yoga Nidra (sleep yoga), I am feeling inspired to share my experience. First, let me tell you how it all began, months prior to the workshop. Dr. Kamini Desai of the Amrit Yoga Institute is author of Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep (Lotus Press, 2017) – what some have called ‘The Bible of Yoga Nidra.” Many months ago I purchased this book to learn more about the topic and to prepare for an article I was writing. The deeper my investigation into the thousands-of-years-old practice of yoga nidra, the more I wanted to dive in. Shortly after purchasing the book, I saw that Dr. Desai would soon be leading a Yoga Nidra immersion with John Vosler at Esalen Institute. Wanting an in-depth experience for myself, I enrolled immediately!

I arrived at Esalen on a Sunday, in the late afternoon, but early enough to settle in before the workshop officially kicked off. I say kicked off, but really it was a lovely slow-paced unfolding. If you have never been to Esalen, image the Garden of Eden, cliffside, and you’ll get the idea. Soon enough, the attendees (myself included) were all on our backs, comfortably secure on our yoga mats with blankets or eye pillows. As the first taste of yoga nidra for the week is delivered, I rest deeply, allowing my thoughts to dissolve. A rumifloaty sensation accompanying peaceful stillness, along with the sense of spaciousness, is deeply relaxing. This is a space I have become familiar with from years of meditation, hypnosis, and conscious sleep-based practices I’ve been taught by Gnostic mystics, Taoists and Buddhists. Some of the particular breathing techniques, mantras, and visualizations were new and aroused my curiosity. I thought, well Kim, welcome to the meditation limb of yoga. An important reminder was that no matter which spiritual lineage or framework the ancients originated from, the end result is that of knowing great peace and making contact with soul, regardless of the particular strategy applied. All used toning, visualizations, and the breath in some fashion or another and while the precise technique differs from place to place across time, the end result is similar if not exactly the same. For me, this realization brings a sense of wholeness, humility and a profound tranquility. Over the next five days, attendees are taught core principles of a deep form of meditation, known as yoga nidra, and concepts concerning health and spirituality, including the subtle bodies, karma, and much more. We also learn how regenerative states and healing of the body are supported by yoga nidra, as practitioner’s brain waves slow down significantly, some even down into delta brain wave states during a yoga nidra practice. This is important because when we sleep each night, we only get about 20 minutes of delta – the most restorative brain wave state. By inducing yoga nidra for a short period during the day, we can add several additional minutes of the beneficial delta state, as the body sleeps while the mind remains conscious. This space is where healing suggestions can be incorporated – here the mind-body complex responds without having to do anything. What a delight this immersive workshop was, especially due to the class receiving two yoga nidras each day – one in the AM and another in the PM. All stressors seemed to melt away as each day passed. After a yoga nidra session, which are typically 30-45 minutes in length, I feel so comfortably relaxed, focused and recharged. I walk away with the firm knowing that my body has been given the gift of additional support and good care.

In this fast-paced world with its many demands and easy access to a slew of mind-numbing distractions, I believe we are in desperate need of quality restoration and time/space to ground, breath, and connect to ourselves and those around us. What better way to prioritize our health than with yoga nidra? To encourage my personal commitment to this practice for my wellbeing and to offer yoga nidra to others, I am currently working toward certification via the Integrative Amrit Method. If you have wanted to try yoga nidra, let me know. From now until September, I am offering one free online session (up to 45 minutes) to those that follow Conscious Chimera. Message me if you are interested. As I type this month’s blog, I’m reminded of Ram Dass, who says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” So, no need to feel shy – reach out – I’m happy to be of support!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers worldwide,

Kim

dreams save lives

A recent series of events, including dreams of colleages, friends, as well as dreams of my own, inspired the writing of this article (after interviewing Dr. Burk) at this particular time. My hope is that we continue to trust our fullest human potentials, including how dreams can help us see diseases developing, heal them, and even better, warn us to change course prior to an illness developing!

It was spring 2018 when I was introduced to Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos (dream teacher and three-time breast cancer survivor). Our introduction was online, as I was invited to be a guest on her webTV program (see kathleenokeefekanavos.com) featuring upcoming conference presenters of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). Just a couple of months later, I met Larry Burk, MD, CEHP, a holistic radiologist, at the IASD conference (asdreams.com), which took place in Arizona. Both were in attendance and promoting their recently published book Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases. It was hot-off-the-press and I knew I just had to read it. Needless to say, I read the book and must tell you that I hadn’t read anything quite like it. This book is filled with startling true stories of men and women whose dreams predicted disease and, for some, even guided them through the healing process. The authors want to bring dreaming back into Western medicine, giving dreams the attention they deserve. I wanted to learn more about the studies currently taking place, so I interviewed Dr. Burk in April 2019. Here is what he shared with me.

Early on, Dr. Burk had a few close friends who had dreams warning them of breast cancer – I’m thinking, this research is personal. Furthermore, Burk himself is a dreamer and has a strong relationship with his dream-life, using them for guidance. He has been tracking his dreams for over 30 years. Knowing that dreams have guided Burk through his life, I asked him about his decision to leave his education direction position at Duke in 2004 only to return to Duke in 2015. His decision to leave Duke (Integrative Medicine Center) was propelled by a series of synchronicities, while his decision to return to Duke (University Medical Center) was supported by a dream. When unsure whether to return and accept the offer to return to Duke, he decided to use a dream incubation technique – writing a question in his dream journal regarding the decision needed to be made. You can read Burk’s entire dream in Dreams That Can Save Your Life. We discuss our trust in dream incubation as well as synchronicity. At that point, I share with him ways I use the Tarot to guide me and to help me understand my dreams at a deeper level. Burk and I have both attended, and very much appreciated, the Tarot and Dreams workshops at IASD conferences. We also both own a copy of Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Our appreciation for dream journaling, synchronicity, art, and Tarot, bring our discussion to life. We acknowledge that there are so many ways to work with dreams!

Like my own journey, Burk has trusted dreams to guide in career decisions. In addition, Burk was guided by dreams during the editing process of his first book, Let Magic Happen: Adventures in Healing with a Holistic Radiologist (2012). He recalls a series of initially puzzling dreams that led him to make particular wise decisions.

I wondered if he has lost colleague-friends over his deep interest and belief in predictive dreams. In 1987, when his interest in alternative ways started to develop things were alright. Burk believed he was protected from harsh feedback during those years. No serious push-back came up until 1996, when his work in mind-body medicine peaked. In 1999, however, some wanted him fired! These days, Western medicine has not progressed much with regard to dreams and health.

We both highly recommend keeping a dream diary, and sharing warning dreams with others, especially your medical doctor. Overall, Western medicine is not very friendly towards the use of dreams as diagnostic tools, yet the countless reports of how they have saved lives warrants taking a more open-minded approach. Case in point, Burk’s TEDx talk in Raleigh, NC (2016), was eventually censored/banned, claiming that it was unscientific. His TEDx coaches encouraged him to be very conservative and to approach everyone in the audience as a skeptic. They encouraged him to wear a suit even, instead of the informal shirt he had chosen. Burk shares with me how he complied with the demands, and believes he approached his presentation conservatively. You can find his TedX talk on YouTube today. I hope you watch it and see for yourself. We both watched Dr. Christopher Kerr’s Tedx talk (Buffalo), I See Dead People. This talk focused on dreams of the dying in palliative care. So some areas of medicine are more open-minded.

In 2012, Burk’s interest in this area developed. With a few stories in hand, he began research on dreams and medical implications in 2013, which was published two years later. Burk credits Bob Van de Castle and Stanley Krippner as initial inspirations and cheerleaders of his work! Van de Castle suggested he present his research at an IASD conference, yet had passed away before he was able to publish his paper. More recently, he conducted a three-month pilot study on dreams of women who are having breast biopsies. This was submitted to an academic journal awaiting decision. How many women are actually having dreams related to their breasts before biopsies? How many women are even writing them down, or keeping a dream journal? We know some women who are having warning dreams! But, without logging dreams how could anyone know?

In addition to research, Burk is also very passionate about doing his healing work with tapping (He has his version of EFT, called EDANVIR) and dreams. One of his early online clients was suffering greatly. She had recurring dreams of childhood trauma and abuse provoking deep feelings of anger, and lived with fears of not being able to make it on her own. Fear and anger were in the forefront. Burk taught her to tap on these emotions. Following the session, the client reported powerful healing dreams where she becomes rescuer with superpowers. Her harsh medical symptoms vanish and her lifestyle improves greatly. With this case, Burk said, the dreams tell you what to tap on, then later, tell you if the treatment is working. This is one of many examples of dreams coming in service as tools for diagnosis and recovery processes.

I hope the information and stories here have prompted you to begin or continue using a dream journal and to trust in your dreams. Dr. Burk can be contacted via his website: larryburk.com. Take a look – you are sure to be intrigued and educated within its pages.

May Your Dreams Be Your Medicine,

Kim