season of dreams

Well, my Northern Hemisphere readers, we’ve just passed the autumnal equinox entering the season of Fall officially as a powerful full moon was overhead. This time each year is always a turning point for me as reflected in mother nature. I live in a forested area of Northern California so each day I notice trees – lots of them – browning, drying up, losing leaves along their branches that seem to be sagging oh so subtly. Nature is reminding me that soon, it will be time to sleep, hibernate, slow down and stay indoors. I’m been more accepting of what this turning point means. My preference is, and has always been, the creative burst of springtime and the sun’s invitation to play outdoors under its rays. Still, I accept that all things are in perpetual change as the cycles of nature continually turn. So that I do not slip into gloom I have learned to prepare for the colder, darker months. It’s around this time that I stock up on candles, baking supplies, art supplies, fine yarns and embroidery floss, purchase a half-dozen good books, a few blank journals, and bookmark recipes that require a hot oven. I also mentally recommit to scheduling in self-care and personal development practices, such as meditation, so that my week is truly work-life balanced. Last, but not least, I consider online workshops and conferences I want to attend so I can stretch my mind. Consider me a life-long leaner!

In this blog, I will tell you about one I plan to attend and another one where I will be presenting. I was excited to learn that next month a day-long psychotherapy workshop will take place which is focused on gender-sensitive treatment. Since my clinical focus is on women’s issues and women’s unique responses to trauma and other conditions, these gender-specific workshops are most welcome. Thank you PESI.com.

My own presentation will be included in an online conference that also begins next month, and it’s quite different from what I introduced above, although what the two do have is common is WELLNESS. October 30th begins the Many Worlds of Lucid Dreaming multi-day event featuring 15 diverse presenters. See: https://www.glidewing.com/iasd/lucid_dreaming_conference.html

During this event I will present a paper titled Dreams as medicine: How conscious dreaming can support one’s journey toward wellness. Whether you or someone you love has been impacted by disease or illness, this presentation will show how dreams can alert, warn, and even guide one toward improving health. Other presenters will also focus on wellness, such as reducing stress and relieving pain with the support of dreams. I hope you consider attending!

Autumn and Winter are great times to dive into dream-based practices such as improving sleep hygiene, utilizing dream incubation techniques, or committing to keeping a dream journal. After all, there is naturally more darkness, the nights are longer. Less daylight suggests going inward. Dreamwork pairs perfectly with this period of the year. So to my fellow summer-lovers, I remind you, not all is lost!

Dream big,

Dr. Kim

spirituality’s hidden mask

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

You are never alone. You are eternally connected with everyone. – Amit Ray

Surely you’ve heard sayings like these before. But have you considered how spirituality intersects with social justice? To believe that the two are separate is a mistake, conveniently ignoring centuries of oppression. Spirituality cannot be divorced from social justice and civil rights issues. To do so is a form of spiritual bypassing, a psychological defense mechanism which does harm.

Spiritual bypassing is a term coined by psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher, John Welwood, in the early 1980s. Spiritual bypassing is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid unresolved emotional issues and wounds in addition to avoidance of negative or painful feelings. By spiritually bypassing these issues, one sidesteps the difficult inner work, thus adopting more comfortable and “positive” feelings and concepts. Sound familiar? In my experience, it is not uncommon among those in spiritual communities (many of which are White-led, co-opted new-age communities). While this defense mechanism can occur within an individual, it can also live among groups of people. For example, a well-meaning, highly educated, yoga-devoted White man once suggested that attention should be placed on one’s spiritual essence or core rather than concerning oneself with immediate issues in communities of color: the lack of food, safe housing, and job opportunities. Promoting individualism and ignoring the tangible essentials is toxic.

There are many layers to a person – people are complex creatures. The complexity increases as groups and communities form. Psychologist Carl Jung used the term ‘the shadow’ to describe unconscious aspects of ourselves – those aspects we have denied, rejected, despised, or disowned. Without conscious awareness the shadow continues to live – it is hidden. Think of triggers – what are you triggered by? When we disown or cannot tolerate an aspect of ourselves, or our group’s history, it easily gets projected onto other people or other groups. Hate, fear and prejudice are example’s of the shadow operating. Other people become mirrors – they trigger us, giving us a glimpse of our shadow. When we consider how much of what we see in our world today as manifested projections, it’s stunning.

Mindfulness practice can be a first step in beginning to see our shadow because as we slow down, turn inward, and increase awareness we can ‘catch’ projections (even as they are happening in the moment). A simple mindfulness exercise for beginners can be sitting quietly for about 10 minutes with closed eyes and focus on the breath. Notice what arises without judgment (thoughts, memories, future plans, desires, judgments) and return to your breath. With practice, moment-to-moment awareness increases which supports the shadow work process.

While it is easy to judge the shadow as something bad, let’s instead acknowledge that the shadow is just part of being human. It is neither good nor bad. It just is, like the sun rising to bring light and setting to give darkness. When we get a glimpse of our personal or collective shadow it can throw us off, and it can sting! We begin to become aware of our inner moral conflicts. To avoid the discomfort of all this, we are liable to defend ourselves from the pain by using the defense mechanism, spiritual bypassing.

In order to evolve in meaningful ways, we must be grounded in this world and we must face those aspects that we do not want to own. This is the way through these difficult times. ‘Love and light’ is wonderful, but it is not enough. Turning a blind eye to the collective pain currently surfacing only keeps us in denial longer, and it keeps us disengaged from our whole being. Taking meaningful compassionate action rooted in justice for all people is required. To sit back is taking a privileged position. To go silent, to not act, in times of injustice denies our interconnected spiritual nature.

The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.  ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Dr. Z (drzphd.com) has produced some great videos on #ShadowWork. Here is a link to part 1 of her 6 part series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHPn5Jtzyhw

Do you reside in California? I am available for individual counseling services for those interested in shadow work.

 

~Kim