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

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