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

taemong

Parents, grandparents and other family members report dreams about children-to-be. Most often it is women who experience such dreams, typically occurring around the time of conception or during pregnancy. These episodes have been referred to as conceptions dreams, fertility dreams, and even announcing dreams. I consider announcing dreams to not only feature the child-to-be metaphorically (a small furry animal or a seed are examples), but to also serve as a communication between the baby and dreamer.

Taemong, or Korean birth dreams, first came to my attention from the 1989 book Oriental Birth Dreams by Fred Jeremy Seligson. Later, Associate professor, Loren Goodman, PhD, of Yonsei University expanded my view significantly. Taemong are part of a long oral history within Korean culture. They typically do not feature the child-to-be as a human baby, but instead as an animal or jewel for example. As the saying goes, “One cannot come into this world without first having been dreamt.” We can show the dreamer a lot about who we are and who we will become from such powerful dreams.

Not so long ago, Koreans, and others interested in taemong, have begun to collect and transcribe these stories. Dr. Goodman told me that taemong are not usually written down, but instead, passed on orally. He is one among many who recognize the importance of recording this extensive tradition so it does not become lost. Without doing so, it may very well likely die out as we become an evermore globalized society, abandoning traditional practices and culturally-specific ways of knowing.

Dr. Goodman expanded my view and understanding of this rich cultural tradition. He told me that many narrative elements emerge from taemong. Some of the elements stood out to me because I noticed that these elements also emerged from the announcing dream reports I have been collecting for the past decade. These ‘shared’ narrative elements are suddenness, brightness, brilliance or illumination, enormity (size) or miraculous proportions, vividness or a quality of being unforgettable, and reciprocal gaze. Consider the following dream (the full version was posted in June 2017). The dreamer saw an adult size baby boy kneeling on the floor by her bedside. The dreamer stated,

“He was leaning on my bed, watching my husband and I sleeping. When I got up to look at 17800279_10154857591042949_1533489294192211638_nhim, he calmly whispered, “I’m coming.” This freaked me out, because it was the first time a baby had ever appeared…”

This dreamer told me that the dream-baby appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, and was huge – nothing like the size of a typical baby. She said that the dream was vivid and truly unforgettable. The elements of suddenness, enormity, and quality of being unforgettable/vividness all exist here – these are common among taemong. Here, though, the baby-to-be speaks to the dreaming mother.

The following taemong was provided by Yoon Ha Park, a student of Dr. Goodman:

As I am walking alongside a lake, I see the clear sky suddenly change dark. I try to get a better look at what is happening above. From high above the sky, I spot an enormous dragon gracefully, yet powerfully, make its way towards the lake in front of me. It sinks in the lake and pulls out its head and looks at me directly in the eyes. Strangely, despite its vast size and figure, I don’t feel afraid.

The narrative elements here are suddenness, enormity, and reciprocal gaze.

The two dreams shared here (the first an announcing dream, and the second a taemong) share similar elements. This appears to be the case for many dreams that are recalled around the time of pregnancy, whether they are categorized as conception dreams, fertility dreams, announcing dreams, or Korean birth dreams. A thorough analysis to encompass all of these categories could provide an expanded understanding and further clarity. Until that happens, it is clear that these types of episodes are common and meaningful for so many families.

I wish to thank Fred Jeremy Seligson, Loren Goodman, Yoon Ha Park and the anonymous dreamer for their assistance, guidance and for sharing with me their experiences.

 

In the Spirit of Peace,

Kim

militant dreaming

As highlighted in last months blog article (April 2017), dreams have led to waking life actions in the service of humanity and have inspired a variety of creative pursuits. Sadly, dreams have also prompted others to act in violent ways. Dreams have been linked with the killings of individuals and groups, children included.

In June of 2016, I met Iain Edgar of Durham University. We were both presenting our work at the 33rd annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), held that year in Kerkrade, Netherlands. Dr. Edgar gave a presentation about the dreams and decision-making processes of radical, militant, or extremist individuals and group members. The May 2015 Garland, Texas attacker, Elton Simpson, for example, posted his dreams online, which indicated that martyrdom was near. The 2016 Brussels Metro bomber had dreams prompting him to act as well. In addition, dreams of Al-Qaeda members and Taliban leaders have been reported, including some of the most well-known jihadist commanders. Osama Bin Laden spoke about the dreams of his followers in one of the first videos released after 9/11. Bin Laden said,

Abu’l-Hassan al-Masri told me a year ago: “I saw in a dream, we were playing a soccer game against the Americans. When our team showed up in the field, they were all pilots.”

Bin Laden continued,

He [Al-Masri] didn’t know anything about the operation until he heard it on the radio. He said the game went on and we defeated them. That was a good omen for us.

According to Edgar, “Dreams can facilitate conversions, either into Islam or into militant jihadism” and have confirmed and legitimized radical group membership and action. “Dreams of heavenly spaces and the glorious reception of the martyrs are reported; dead friends appear with metaphysical information” Edgar wrote. Many militant Islamists and Jihadis attach a considerable amount of significance to dreams, as they are an important part of their religious experience. Futhermore, Islamic State/Daesh sympathizers have discussed dreams on Twitter, and it is quite possible that dreams impact the decisions made by these group members as well. For more information, there is a section in Edgar’s book The Dream in Islam: From Qur’anic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration that gives attention to these topics. On an important note, Edgar reminds us that “not all Muslims who believe they have true dreams about jihad or martyrdom, become militants. For some radicalized individuals, however, a dream or series of dreams can be a catalyst for taking up arms.”

More recently, on December 26, 2016, People magazine reported that a Texas man recently accused of the murder of his wife and infant son had a dream in which he decapitated his wife and her father. Less than two weeks after revealing this dream to one of his co-workers, he allegedly murdered his wife and their baby. Their bodies were found in the master bedroom with knife wounds to their necks (see article by Harris, 2016). This differs from the reports above, yet in the end, two people were murdered – and one was a baby.

While a dream cannot push anyone into action, it can bring forth imagery associated with a wish, fantasy, or desire, no matter how terrible. When one can ‘see’ a terrible act committed in the mind’s eye, through dream, how might that experience alone affect a person? Some would be absolutely startled and describe the episode as a nightmare, but that may not be the case for everyone.

When I first learned of dreaming being linked with militant action, I was surprised. The connection just never occurred to me. Dreams, as we can see, can mean different things to different people. Dreams do not force one to commit violent acts, however, dreams can be a source of inspiration and provide confirmation for those already contemplating particular actions. In the end, the interpretation of a dream varies from individual to individual. In an effort to grow as evermore-conscious beings, may we dream of peace and for peace.

 

Toward non-violence,

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

beyond five senses

Not all dreams are mundane or ordinary. Sometimes our dreams can be quite extraordinary. Extraordinary dreaming may include perceptions that occur outside of the five senses. Dreams in which one is clairvoyant, telepathic, precognitive, lucid, miraculously healed, or shown details of a past existence are just some examples of extraordinary dreams. For clarity, let’s define some terms. According to Dean Radin, Clairvoyance is “receiving information from a distance, beyond the reach of the ordinary senses.” Telepathy can be understood as two minds exchanging information, or the transmission of thought to another or knowing the thoughts of another. Precognition includes foreknowledge of an event, and is sometimes called a premonition. Lucidity in a dream state takes place when the dreamer knows that he/she is dreaming.

Extraordinary dreams may also be highly creative and the dreamer may be shown solutions to challenging problems. In contemporary Western societies, it is commonplace that, when one shares these types of dreams, they are not often believed or well received. After all, contemporary Westerners, typically, have been taught that these experiences are not real or rational, yet, extraordinary dreams have been reported across time and place. These episodes may startle or shake some people; however, extraordinary dream occurrences, especially precognitive (or premonition) dreams, have so much to offer humanity. They can prepare us for difficult times ahead and possibly prevent accidents, illnesses, or disasters. For example, precognitive dreams about 9/11 and the twin tower attacks were shared and some reported them to authorities, yet the dreamers were often laughed at. Instead of prompting action, they were dismissed. For those who want to understand more about premonitions, in general, I recommend Premonitions in Daily Life by Jeanne Van Bronkhorst. Van Bronkhorst (2012) dedicates a section to learning to become more aware of premonitions in daily life along with techniques for “finding premonitions” – one of the four techniques is with dreaming. I introduced this book in September 2016, so it may be already familiar to you.

Some precognitive or premonitions dreams may repeat themselves leaving the dreamer to ponder its meaning. Rebecca had such an experience. It has been unforgettable! With regard to her recurring dream, she told me,

“When I was seven or eight, I had a reoccurring dream. I do not remember much of the dream. I know that it was a little different each time, but the ending was always the same. I was in the middle of the desert sitting on cement steps with nothing else around but the desert. I was sitting on the steps and my leg was on the shoulder of a very large man.”

It wasn’t until Rebecca’s adolescence that the dream made sense to her, but it also left some big questions unanswered. She said:

“When I was 16, my parents sent me on a wilderness survival program, one of those tough love things for ‘bad kids.’ I was in Big Ben National Park in Texas, in the desert. I fell within my first few days there. They would not pull me out of the program to take me to see a doctor. I had to hike around for another couple weeks all day, every day. My ankles were the size of grapefruits. I was in a lot of pain. They told me I was a wimp and to quit whining. Finally after nearly 3 weeks, they brought me into base camp. It was just a trailer in the middle of the desert with some cement stairs leading up to the trailer door. There was nothing else around, just desert. There was not even a road. I sat on the cement steps with my leg on the shoulder of one of the workers while he wrapped my ankles in ace bandages. He was a very large man. This experience was just like my dream. The dream I had had about 8 years prior. That really got me thinking. Here I was at a tough love wilderness program for bad kids at 16, I dreamt this around the ago of eight… Was I destined to be a bad kid? ”

To this day, Rebecca asks herself that question – was she destined to be sent away on that program…to be a bad kid? What might these types of dreams imply about destiny, self-determination, one’s fate, and Western concepts of time and space? Could this dream have helped to serve Rebecca as a kind of mental and emotional preparation for what was to come?

Some of these particular types of extraordinary dreams can obviously overlap; thus, they are not easily compartmentalized. In the Dream Laboratory of the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, years of experimental research into dream telepathy was conducted in the 1960s and ‘70s. From those studies, certain telepathic dreams also appeared as precognitive. For details, read Dream Telepathy by Ullman, Krippner & Vaughan (2002). A single dream may contain img_2361elements of telepathy, clairvoyance, or more. Bernard Gittelson reported a case by a woman on a farm in Oregon:

At 3:40 A.M., the woman suddenly awoke by the sound of people screaming. The sound quickly vanished, but she felt a smoky, unpleasant taste in her mouth. She woke her husband, and together they scoured the farm but found nothing irregular. That evening on a television newscast, they heard about a plant explosion that started a huge chemical fire which killed six people. The explosion
had occurred at 3:40 A.M. (as cited on page 92 of The conscious universe: The scientific truth of psychic phenomena by Dean Radin, 1997).

I don’t come across such profound dreams as these often, but when I do, they are not quickly forgotten. When one has an experience like this, I imagine that trust in dream wisdom rises to another level entirely.

 

Until next time,

Kim

 

 

dream flying

When flying in a dream, we might move from one place to another very quickly. This is, of course, possible during a lucid dream, since the dreamer can speed up or slow down at will. In several dreams, I have decided to ‘fly’ to a particular place almost immediately after becoming lucid. Usually, the destination is quite far, so I fly across states or nations. During this type of flight, I can see the land or clouds below, even stars sometimes. Flying through space is an unforgettable experience.

img_2314Of course, we are not limited by this planet alone. We can fly into deep space or to other planets. Many years ago, a woman told me that she flew to the planet Venus in her lucid dream and was certain that some kind of life form existed there. I became quite curious, but to this day, I have never made it there.

We can even announce to the dream, “Take me where I need to be.” Then, we may be transported to another location to investigate or to learn something. There really is no limit. With such a question, posed to the dream itself, we might travel instantaneously and have little awareness of flying or any other form of transportation. You never know. What is certain, is that you are safe and free from any physical harm during such adventures.

For those new to lucid dream flying, I suggest testing this out in smaller ways – easy does it. For example, instead of flying to the moon, try flying to a rooftop near by and hover img_2405above it. Look around and see what you notice. If instead, you find yourself lucid in a more natural landscape, fly to the top of a tree or mountain. Notice what can be observed from this new vantage point. No matter what happens, you can wake up (returning to the physical waking state) simply by saying, “I want to wake up now.” That’s what I said during my first recognizable lucid dream and I immediately found my awareness there in my bed. My eyes opened and the episode was over.

Happy dreaming,

Kim