to befriend one’s armor

Armor. It’s not a word I often hear, so I was a little surprised to dream of such a concept. Armor can be thought of as a protective layer intended to deflect or diffuse damaging forces. The phrase, a knight in shining armor evokes a strong image, yet armor can be many things. Surely, it can be more than a physical object. And ‘damaging forces’ entail more than swords or bullets. Armor, in a psychological sense, acts as a coping mechanism to protect from emotional pain.

While the word ‘armor’ is not part of my everyday vocabulary, the act of armoring is a frequent experience for most of us. It’s the way our unconscious distorts the body. It happens unconsciously. When do we, as people, armor ourselves? Armoring can take place when suppressing emotion, holding in truths, and inhibiting ourselves in various ways, to start. Armoring happens when our authentic self is not permissible or allowed.

Could long-term armoring lead to disease and illness? Some would say yes, as emotional experience has a relationship with physiology. As a result of armoring, we may encounter physical and physiological symptoms. Considering that what happens internally is expressed externally, in our posture, and musculature, we may become aware of a hunched back, tight jaw muscles, or an overall stiffness, for example. The impact of armoring can be invisible as well, such as when we do not allow a full exhale to happen. It’s good to know that releasing years of armoring is possible. These insights and ideas come from Wilhelm Reich and the field of somatic psychology. Somatic psychology gives great attention to the embodied self. Body-oriented therapies are shown to help greatly in this area.

Like body-oriented therapies, dreamwork also provides an opportunity to attend to one’s embodied self. In California, many licensed psychologists and psychotherapists are experienced dreamworkers, offering individual and group dreamwork sessions. There are various types of dreamwork – Gestalt dreamwork is one example. Through dreams, we can see ourselves in different ways. Dreams are said to reflect many things, such as unconscious processes, adaptation, attention needed in some aspect of the waking physical life, and much more. Dreams can be a source of guidance and even provide concrete information. Dreams can also reveal aspects of our authentic self. A dream may even prompt one to schedule an appointment with physician or a therapist. While dreamwork can take various forms, one way to begin (after recording the dream) is to focus on the imagery. Often there is a central image. Stay with the image and give it life in order to understand it at deeper levels. As an artist, I prefer to draw or paint my dreams. Others act out the dream in dream-like theater. With lucid dreaming, we can ask the dream to bring a healing figure to assist us, or to show us how to heal ourselves. These are just some of the possibilities.

Below, I’ll share a portion of one of my recent dreams and the evolving process that, for me, followed naturally. In the first part of my dream,

Damaging forces abound. An adolescent girl (who may represent one aspect of myself) is being protected by a small group of caring adults, both male and female. The adults work at the girl’s group home or residential treatment center. We are outdoors, in town somewhere, under the bright sun. In particular, one of the adult females (who I understand to be my primary self), is very concerned and protective of the girl. She gently places her arm around the girl, kissing her on the forehead with wet eyes, as the girl removes her body armor (in the form of a metal body suit, somewhat similar to chain mail).

In the dream state, I experienced this scenario with the body armor as the strong central image, leading me to pay attention to my own armoring, its potential health impact, and to begin to seek solutions. As part of my own dreamwork process, I felt compelled to img_1663recreate the metal body suit, which I did by knitting with some thin wire. Not easy! Later, I represented the image in a painting (shown here). This is just the beginning of re-establishing my relationship with armor – a concept I had set aside, for the most part, since graduate school.

There is no end to this story. Armor must first be known, even allied, before it can be shed. And in order to shed, one must create a safe environment (perhaps with a therapist) before the armor will even budge. If we allow it, we can see truth with our dream ‘eyes.’ Dreams have a way of making the unconscious, conscious. Dreamwork acknowledges that consciousness and the authentic self continue to develop. Evolving interpretations are at play.

May your dreams be your medicine,

Kim

*I’d like to thank Dr. Jennifer Tantia of New York for her consultation with this article. She can be reached at http://www.soma-psyche.com

hypnopompic inspiration

The science of sleep has continued to gain attention and over the past couple of decades the field of sleep medicine has experienced a boom. According to American Sleep Association, there are two forms of sleep related hallucinations: hypnogogic and hypnopompic. Some researchers, however, note that the term hallucination is unfitting because hallucinations only occur in the full waking state. Firstly, hypnogogia, is the term used to describe the state one experiences just before sleep. In this state, one may experience hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Secondly, hypnopompia, is the term used to describe the state one experiences upon waking. Sleep paralysis is common during this period, along with perceived complex visual imagery, and increased dream recall.

These sleep-related states can serve creative types well. My own experiences have resulted in decision making, speech writing, and artistic creativity. Others have discovered solutions to complex problems and have even composed musical pieces. When we pay attention and attend to the lived experience of these states, possibilities become endless.

Allow me to share a recent hypnopompic episode. As I was awakening one morning, I saw a strong and fairly clear image that puzzled me. There was a simple wooden wall or plank, with a bright red heart (like a paper valentine’s day-like cut-out heart) floating near the top-left side. To the right was a vertical column of silvery milagros or ex-voto. 649932E1-5FF1-4A6B-B0A3-2EA9E29E6F48Unfortunately, I could not hold on to the exact ones, but I’m certain that they were all body parts. There were at least four, but likely many more. I brought the image to my dream group and processed its many possible meanings. Still, the image stuck with me and I began to draw it, then paint it (I now have plans to construct it in the near future). Through the artistic process my relationship to the meaning behind the raw imagery developed. This style of dreamwork can evolve over a long period of time leading to greater insight and awareness of one’s soul journey. So much of this space remains private, but I am beginning to reveal more and more in time. This image, in its many forms will be on public display in two art exhibitions this spring and summer. I’m excited to share more of my inner work with others and discuss how sleep related states have created meaning in the lives of my community.

Shamans and practitioners of traditional ways do not necessarily label or compartmentalize the human experience the way the West does. No matter which labels (hallucinations, etc.) Western science applies, sleep related states have a long history of supporting spiritual growth and development in many areas (business, career, marriage, creativity). With a pen and paper by the bedside, and a set intention, so much can be unleashed.

 

Be well,

Kim

 

creativity and dreams

Has a dream ever inspired you in some way? Artists of all kinds, such as musical composers, poets, and fine artists, have used their dreams as sources of inspiration. From poetry and literature to painting and sculpture to music and dance, dreams can offer new ideas and make clever contributions. Many well-known writers — Clive Barker, Steven King, and Amy Tan — have credited their dreams for guidance and inspiration.

Recently, I decided to bring my dream images to life through creating fine art. After three vivid dreams featuring an anaconda, I knew I needed to take these experiences beyond my typical dream journal sketches. Since I am most comfortable using stretched canvas, I began there and allowed myself to explore imagery with oil pastels and other media. Not knowing where this would end up, I just kept playing with shape, movement and new materials. It turned out that I enjoyed the process and the final outcome, so much so, that I entered three pieces in a juried exhibition. Mascaro1To my surprise, two were accepted. A few months later, the two pieces you see here were displayed as part of a group art show in Southern California. Each participant was inspired by a dream or a series of dreams, which was reflected in their artwork.

I discovered that this entire process (first dreaming, journaling & sketching upon awakening, then talking about the dream, transforming it into a finished piece, and entering that piece in an art show) brought the dreams to life. The three anaconda dreams continued to unfold in the waking state each time I spoke about them, retold the dream sequences, or continued to develop the imagery. Engaging in the artistic process is one way to work with dreams. Mascaro2This may be the preferred way for those that consider themselves more visual than verbal.

Another way that creating art from a dream is beneficial is that it can bring new understanding and meaning to a dream from long ago, which may not have been understood at the time it initially took place. There is one particular dream I had two or three years ago that still leaves me confused. My plan for this summer is to paint that dream several times, making each version slightly different. My goal is simply to see what can be discovered through the process. Maybe it will help me consider a wider range of possible meanings or spark a flash of insight as to what the dream has to teach me. Once complete, or complete enough I should say, I will share it here with the ‘conscious chimera’ readers. Until then, happy dreaming!

~Kim

benefits to society

Beyond individual, personal gains, society, as a whole, has benefited from those who dream. Libraries are filled with publications highlighting inventions, discoveries, works of art, and more, which were influenced by dreams and visions. For example, German composer and theorist Richard Wagner (1813-1883) felt that his inspirations and music came from his dreams and intuition. Did you know that some major scientific and technical discoveries were the result of dreams? Here is a short list:

*Descartes’ philosophical and mathematical formulations

*Howe’s invention of the sewing machine

*Mazur’s mathematical proof of the Schoenflies Theorem

*Mendeleev’s contribution of the Periodic Table of Elements

*Huang’s computer using optical circuits

*Ramanujan’s mathematical discoveries that still influence polymer chemistry and computer science

*Profet’s evolutionary theory of menstruation

*Agassiz’s classification of a particular fossilized fish

A dream helped composer, violinist, and theorist, Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770), come out of a creative block. His best-known piece of work (a sonata) came out of a dream. In addition, the works of fantasy and horror fiction writer Clive Barker have been influenced by his dreams. From dreaming, Barker discovers images, which develop into scenes, thus they become starting places for his stories. Stephen King credits his dreams for several of 11026167_728276287293024_7486356982712230690_nhis creative works. King uses his dreams in many ways – whether to advance a story he’s working on, bring to life an odd dream situation, or disguise things symbolically – he understands that weaving together writing and dreaming can lead to success. Writer Amy Tan also knows the power of dreams. Her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was a best-seller, and some portions of it were inspired through dreams. When Tan becomes lost as to a story’s potential conclusion, she’ll take the story to bed with her to see if guidance surfaces while dreaming. Tan claims to easily recall her dreams and has experienced lucid dreaming. She understands that her dream-life supports her work as a novelist and that any time she needs material to work with, a dream will be there for her. For more stories about writers and their dreams, read Naomi Epel’s 1993 book titled Writer’s Dreaming.

As you can see, dreams may have effects on people, leading them to reconsider important decisions and even change the course of their lives, and ultimately the world. With this in mind, dreaming may be considered a gift to communities and nations alike. The same can be said for creative dreams that inspire art and propel other aspirations, such as athletics. For example, among professionals, dreams have been credited not only for completing key scenes in novels, entire musical pieces, and even athletic improvements among athletes. For more information about such nocturnal productivity, I suggest reading Deidre Barrett’s 2001 book titled The committee of sleep: How artists, scientists, and athletes use dreams for creative problem-solving. I never get tired of this exciting book!

Conscious Chimera’s August 2016 article discussed Announcing Dreams, as you may recall. Some announcing dreams have been credited for decision-making in the medical realm, from family planning decisions to prenatal genetic testing. Some pregnant women will tell you about how a powerful dream was the major factor leading to a decision about their fetus. No matter which time of transition or stage of life we find ourselves in, dreams can be a potent ally.

Unfortunately, such impactful dreams, once revealed, can lead to accusations of dishonesty or outright dismissal. One’s culture influences the origin of dreams and what one considers to be valid, or real. For those who actively engage dreams, the nightly assistance sometimes just keeps on coming, and can be a source of ongoing guidance. While the dreams of those listed in this article offered assistance and inspiration for good, next months Conscious Chimera article will address dreams that have been linked with destructive forces.

 

Spring wishes,

Kim