spring break

While I’m no longer a student or faculty, taking a break as the spring season approaches is just what I needed. So that means no blogging (no articles written at all) for the month of March. Instead, I am surfing, almost daily, in Costa Rica this month, as well as relaxing, rejuvenating & reconnecting with myself. Just what a trauma therapist needs! Oh! And I still haven’t had any surfing or ocean dreams on this trip yet…maybe tonight.

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Pura Vida,

Kim

 

the near death experience

Greetings! It’s the two-year anniversary of Conscious Chimera! To mark the occasion, I decided to write about a topic that I have yet to include here – the near death experience. An author once told me that she considers the near-death experience to be “the book end” to the pre-birth experience. Her idea peaked my interest considering my research on announcing dreams and other communications parents report involving those yet-to-be born. While pre-birth experiences encompass a variety of phenomena associated with events prior to being born (reported visions, or spontaneous prenatal or pre-conception memories, for example), the near-death experience shines light on what may exist after death. Pre-birth experiences not only offer insight into fetal consciousness, but, also quite possibly reincarnation. A near death experience, on the other hand, can offer a post-death roadmap, shift one’s paradigm, and even diminish the fear of death altogether.

To truly understand a near death experience (NDE), consider the following perceptions: movement through space, light and darkness, intense emotion, sensing a presence, a strong conviction of having a new understanding of the nature of the universe. These are broad characteristics, or common features, found among NDE reports according to the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS). The IANDS website states,

“An NDE typically includes a sense of moving, often at great speed and usually through a dark space, into a fantastic landscape and encountering beings that may be perceived as sacred figures, deceased family members or friends, or unknown entities. A pinpoint of indescribable light may grow to surround the person in brilliant but not painful radiance; unlike physical light, it is not merely visual but is sensed as being an all-loving presence that many people define as the Supreme Being of their religious faith.”

Such profound psychological events contradict Western assumptions about the nature of reality, therefore we don’t often hear about things like this in daily conversation. When I am open and curious about near death and/or pre-birth experiences, I have found that people talk – sometimes even complete strangers have shared a profound experience with me. About three months ago, I was riding in a taxi making small talk with the driver. When he asked about my work and I told him of my background in psychology, he asked questions surrounding the mind-brain problem, also known as the hard problem of consciousness. Our lively dialogue continued and we seemed to build rapport quickly. After some minutes past, he spoke about two NDEs he had within the same week, both took place in a hospital bed. Both times, he floated above his body, saw his physical body below him (an out-of-body state which can be a precursor to an NDE) and heard the conversations in the surrounding areas. He told me that he had never, up until that time, experienced such a profound sense of peace. During the experience, he recognized that he did not want to return to his physical body, despite the medical staff’s efforts. When he finally did return to his body, he continued to experience that sense of great peace, and no longer had a fear of death. Since NDEs often have life-altering effects, I asked him about any noticeable changes in attitude or other aftereffects. I learned that he considered the top-ranking effects to be his ability to now live life with much less resistance or attachment to outcome, and that when his time to die approached, he would not fear it, but instead, embrace it because he knew he would be going somewhere serene and peaceful.

While NDEs appear to share many commonalities, they are never exactly the same. On rare occasions, some NDEs have been described as disturbing. From 1% to 15% of NDE reports may be considered distressing: a relatively small percentage. For more on this topic contact the International Association for Near Death Studies at iands.org. Their website contains a page specifically dedicated to distressing NDEs if you would like to understand more. In addition, the IANDS website contains dozens of NDE accounts from individuals so one can take in this truly diversified experience that has changed the lives of so many. Through those courageous enough to describe their experience and share it with the world, we all have the opportunity to learn about what may be waiting for us on the other side, through the veil.

 

Happy February – Happy Valentine’s Day,

Kim

 

meeting divinity

As the last Dream Salon (a monthly group I lead) was wrapping up for the evening, it was suggested that we discuss dreams with deities at an upcoming meeting. That suggestion led to what you are reading here. When initially gathering information, two books immediately came to mind: Conscious Dreaming (1996) by Robert Moss and Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming (2017) by Clare R. Johnson. Both Moss and Johnson are experienced lucid dreamers and their works include reports of deities appearing in the dreams of people from various walks of life.

Might we consider dreams as reflections of ourselves? Dreams are our personal mirrors, revealing everything about us, suggests Johnson (2017). One dreamer described “a field of Buddhas” (Johnson, 2017, p. 357) in her lucid dream. Dozens of huge red- robed Buddhas meditating in lotus position were initially thought to be stone until the dreamer noticed that they were breathing. Then, one turned toward her with open, light-filled eyes. Scared at first, the dreamer sensed they were a mystical, protective presence (Johnson, 2017). Awakening to inner power, connecting with the divine, or contemplating the divine within can be the result of such extraordinary dreams.

Moss (1996) notes that whether in a dream or vision, we see what we are schooled to see. Anthropologists call this “culture-pattern dreams,” he says (Moss, 1996, p. 246). A Christian might see angels or Jesus Christ, whereas a Buddhist might see a monk, and for a Muslim, prophet Muhammad.

Yet, sometimes, the opposite occurs. Moss provides an example – a Methodist woman who dreamt of the Hindu Shakti. Shakti’s appearance was surprising because it does not fit within Methodist confines. Whether culturally congruent or not, the energetic essence behind the ‘mask’ is real and can have a profound impact on the seer. Deity dreams might call the dreamer to a new path or they might remind the dreamer of the path they have fallen from. Sometimes, those that recognize many pantheons dream of a wide range of gods and goddesses, even ones in which no previous relationship exists.

At times an experience of the divine is without an identity, such as seeing a bright light or sensing a spiritual force in the dream. Such an encounter can be equally powerful. When we are lucid and consciously dreaming, we have the opportunity to question the divine source. Questions about the nature of reality, what happens when we die, or what our true purpose is in this lifetime, can be asked to a deity, a spiritual force, or the light itself. For deeper inquiry, I recommend reading Chapter 23 in Johnson’s latest book, Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming.

Whether dreaming lucidly or not, an experience of the divine may be incubated or arise spontaneously. However they manifest, such dreams are considered a true gift. If you would like to share your experience in an upcoming article, here, with Conscious Chimera, please contact me.

Happy new year,

Kim

today’s meditation

Last month (Nov. 2017), I concluded the Conscious Chimera article by revealing my openness for dreaming with a deceased loved one that night. I awoke the next morning, November 1st, surprised, yet appreciative, for during an early morning dream I answered a phone call from my deceased paternal grandmother. Wow – I dream with her so rarely! In the dream, we spoke briefly, similar to our phone calls when she was living. She told me she was fine and asked how the family was doing. After our check-in, and knowing that everyone was doing well in general, we ended the conversation. Then, I woke up. This dream was not nearly as profound as the dream I had immediately prior to her death, but I am always grateful for whatever way the grandmother-granddaughter relationship can continue. For this month, I decided to write about an important practice: mediation. A meditation routine supports dreamwork as well as good health. So, that is what I present here, today.

As I sat this morning, on my turquoise cushion, tracking my breathing – each inhale and each exhale – I realized I had not written on this aspect on conscious experience since conscious chimera began. “Not now,” said an inner voice, silently disciplining the mind. As any experienced meditator knows, another distracting thought is just around the corner. Anything to take us away from the task of following the breath, or staying with img_2452present awareness. New associations, distant memories, dinner planning – it doesn’t matter, we know distractions arise. While simple, disciplining the mind is no easy task. We learn to gently become the boss of our conscious attention. The mind can argue with us about this. “You can do this meditation thing later, the kitchen needs cleaning… weren’t you supposed to call your mother!” Staying with the practice is an important aspect of the practice itself. Additionally, as we increase awareness in the waking state, we may discover increased awareness in the dream state.

Over the past decade or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been taught meditation, as a sitting practice, by contemporary mindfulness practitioners as well as by those immersed in Buddhist-centered traditions (Tibetan Shambhala is one example). But that is not how I began. At 19, my introduction to meditation began with primarily movement-based practices. My Tai Chi and Qi Gong instructors were exactly what I needed in my early years. Back then, it was difficult for me to sit still and nearly impossible to jump right in to tracking thoughts and disengaging mental chatter. Those early experiences served me well and built the foundation for what was to come. Later, in the mid-2000s, I was introduced to a focusing type of meditation, which involved vocalizing vowels (e.g. “Aaaaaaaaahh”). This proved effective in many ways. The practice was active, but in a new way, and the shift in the mediation space was palpable, thus reinforcing. Dedication to those exercises, as a result, took dreamtime to a new level, giving rise to desired lucid experiences.

From my own history of meditation, I have come to view the mind as sort of an entity, with its own agenda. It doesn’t want to sit still. It doesn’t want to go quiet. For me, it seems to enjoy planning for the future and fantasizing about adventure. Fortunately, with practice, there is noticed improvement. Not only can our health and general functioning improve, but we come to see that we do not have to react to the junk life throws our way. There is no need to respond to that mental ‘director’ that does not 12079055_842446395876012_8916130318488297582_nalways know what is best for us. After all, it is not our true essence. The irony is that through sustained, ongoing meditation practice, we come to experience truth, connection to the all and everything…our true essence, our very nature. And sometimes, our practice can lead to a creative project, like a written piece for a blog, such as this one.

If you have never meditated before, but want to start, commit to 10 minutes a day to start. Literally, schedule it – put it on your calendar. Then, at the appropriate time, silence the phone, TV, radio, etc., find a comfortable place to sit, set a timer for 10 minutes, and simply focus on your breath. Mentally track each inhale and exhale. When you catch the mind wandering, come back to the breath. It’s not a contest – if the mind wants to judge or ridicule, fine, but the task for the 10 minute period is to focus on the breath, so just come back that rhythmic cycle again and again, as often as needed. After a solid week (or month) increase the sitting time by 5 minutes. See what you discover from the simple daily 10 minute routine. You might discover something new, when in dreaming or waking.

Questions? Comments? Contact me! I’d love to hear how your meditation practice has enhanced your lived experience, whether asleep or awake.

~Kim

reflections on working with the living & the dead

The year has flown by and here we are, again, at that time when so many of the world’s people turn their attention to the dead. Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s Day, Festival of Hungry Ghosts (recently passed) – each one is different, but they each share some similar elements, and sometimes similar activities, such an making offerings or prayer.

Connecting with a deceased loved one is possible, no matter whether you engage in hypnosis, dreaming, deep prayer, imaginal journeying, altar-making, or use a black mirror, the fire place, quartz crystals, or what-have-you. Regardless of the object used or state induced, even a brief connection can hold tremendous meaning for those grieving or for those simply wanting to remember. My most preferred methods are dreaming and hypnosis, as both have offered positive experiences along with profound and memorable results. Any method, tool, or nonordinary conscious state can be accessed individually, but group work also holds promise, especially with an experienced therapist, medicine person, or guide.Il tavolo

One potent ritual involves constructing an altar. While I currently offer altar-making in individual psychotherapy sessions, many years ago, I co-led an altar-making and process group with another therapist. The attendees comprised of teenagers and pre-adolescents with unresolved grief/loss issues from loosing a parent or family member to ‘the life’ – a term referring to street life, addiction, overdose. Even though some of the participant’s parents died during the participant’s early childhood years, there was no shortage of memorabilia, stories, or recollections. The act of constructing the altar itself elicited spontaneous memories of shared experiences that were previously believed to be forgotten. By this, I mean that when asked directly to share a story from long ago, many children could not produce one, however, that all changed when they entered this collective ‘sacred’ container, or space, where the memory of the deceased was very much alive. Near the end of the weeks-long process, the attendees reported that the experience left them feeling closer to the deceased loved one, and this turned tears into smiles. Gratitude and peace were married in this new way of remembering.

Large-scale community altar-making has also left an impression. I participated in these activities in Arizona. I discovered that community bonds strengthen in meaningful ways when people join together to make offerings, blessings, or witness one another in prayer to deceased loved ones. These sizable collective altars were modifiable and continued to expand for days. They were multi-cultural in the truest sense. While I am no longer an Arizona resident, I still know the ritual continues, and I sit here in California today, Nonnityping this, shifting through recollections.

At this time, as I turn my attention to the dead, seven female elders immediately come to mind: Mary, Anne, Eva, Florinda, ‘Nonni’/Netta, Maria, and Censina. I feel so fortunate to hold a clear memory of each one, even though most of them (and their spouses) transitioned when I was still a child. Also at this time, I add extra flowers, fresh water, and dust off the prayer cards on the family altar that stands year-round in my home. If I am extra lucky, I will get a visit…who knows, maybe even in tonight’s dream.

 

May the veil be thin,

Kim

dreaming in recovery

While working as a trauma therapist at a non-profit agency for substance abuse recovery, I meet all kinds of women. The clientele are highly diverse, yet they come together in their recovery journey. Whether in an individual or a group therapy session, the topic of dreaming often emerges even though I do not advertise my experience as a dreamworker or dream researcher. Dreams in early and mid-stages of recovery surface and are shared. The question often asked is “why now?” and “what does this mean?”

“Dreams belong to the dreamer,” I state, “so you are the one to determine that.” My offer to share some prominent theories, in order to generate ideas, is met with approval. One perspective of dreaming is that dreams come in service of evolution. They act as a protective evolutionary factor. In this case, if a woman is striving to stay clean (and recover from long-term drug abuse), a drug-of-choice dream might remind her of her purpose and this most pressing issue.

In the dream, sometimes the dreamer simply looks at, or holds, a bag containing the drug-of-choice; other times she prepares to consume the illicit drug, but awakens before doing so. And even other times, dreamers use the drug while in the dream state .Perhaps these three examples represent levels or stages of recovery integration. Or, perhaps they exist simply to encourage the dreamer to progress in some way.

In the first example, some of these dreamers have spoken about a feeling of mastery or pride in that they could be so close to such a dangerously tempting substance, yet not act impulsively or have any desire to do so. In the second example, dreamers have reported feeling worried about their dream activities (e.g. chopping a line; preparing a syringe), only to become increasingly vigilant in their recovery work. The third and final example can leave the dreamer with much confusion and fear. One woman reported smoking crack cocaine in a dream, and while slowing waking up (aka hypnopompic state), she touched her face, perceiving it as thinner and sunken in. This perception led her heart to race and body to jolt out of bed in fear. The dream, she said, upon reflection, supported her recovery by scaring her out of thoughts of using. The cravings dissipated for some time and she made several statements about her commitment to her recovery.

Substance abuse is like a slow death. It is, essentially, self-harm and the illicit drug is the weapon. For those living with addiction, the drug-of-choice is extremely powerful – powerful enough to hijack, sabotage, and rob a person of their own life. If dreams do serve evolution, then a dream centered around the relationship and power dynamic between the drug and the dreamer, may support relapse prevention or prepare the dreamer for what could come.

Addiction is a chronic disease. It can cause disability and premature death, but it can be managed and people do recover. The resources listed below can offer help and provide information, however, they are just a starting place.

http://www.asam.org

http://www.na.org

http://www.smartrecovery.org

http://www.womenforsobriety.org/beta2/