self-care

Happy new year to you all! This month’s article is not about resolutions, but about something we should be doing regularly (and probably should have been doing all along): that is self-care of the mind, body, emotions and spirit. It’s never too late to start – anytime is a good time. How about now?

Sure, it’s nice to take a steamy bubble bath, or buy something nice for ourself when we can afford it, even indulge in a sweet treat, or get a mani-pedi…you name it. However, caring for the self goes much deeper. I was exposed to this concept around 1999 or 2000 after having worked in the child abuse prevention and trauma field for a brief period of time. For the last 20 years, I have had a self-care regimen of some kind. Still, I have been treated for vicarious traumatization (VT) and secondary traumatic stress (STS)/compassion fatigue (CF) due to all the exposures in my field and my particular work as a trauma therapist over the years, in addition to my own history. Life can be complicated and we can be complicated creatures. No one self-care routine is best. They can differ drastically from individual to individual. One routine may feel sufficient for months, then suddenly more support may be needed in one or more areas. A lot of what professionals teach regarding self-care, we can learn on our own with some research and thoughtful consideration. If you are experiences symptoms of VT, STS/CF, consult with a professional – that is a licensed psychologist or licensed psychotherapist specializing in trauma. After all, it is an opportunity to have another offer evaluation, new ideas and emotional support through a heightened self-care process.

Sometimes, self-care is divided up into physical, mental, emotional, spiritual categories, which is alright, but I prefer to look at things differently because one action, or domain, can support each of these categories.

One major self-care domain is Time in Nature. Getting regular time in the great outdoors and away from busy city life can do wonders for our nervous system and for calming theIMG-4846 mind and the emotions. Taking in fresh air while surrounded by plants and trees is a gift in itself. We can connect spiritually in nature as well. After all, everything is alive. Some people I know go camping (sleeping on the ground directly) every season while others dedicate a weekend day to beach walks, forest trail running or engaging in the practice known as Earthing. Earthing, sometimes also referred to as Grounding, is basically walking barefoot on dirt or grass (not on concrete) for example, like our ancestors did. The last time I did this, it was 45 degrees outside. My feet felt the chill of the ground, but I was bundled up everywhere else, so I was fine. The practice of Earthing is recommended in order to absorb some earth energy, as the planet is negatively charged. IMG-4842The build up of positively charged free radicals throughout the day can be tamed through Earthing due to it’s antioxidant effect. It’s an anti-inflammatory technique! Instead of coffee, try 15 minutes of Earthing in the afternoon as a caffeine substituting self-experiment for relieving grogginess. If getting your shoes off is impossible, do not give up – do it with bare hands instead.

Another major domain in my life is Organic Whole Food, Plant-based Eating. I used to complain (a lot) that organic purchases were too expensive, and that I didn’t have time to cook. Then I had a wake-up call teaching me that buying cheap food on the fly can lead to expensive medical treatments needed to correct a problem I encouraged through my behavior and choices. The inflammatory garbage I was putting in my mouth most days came with a cost. Basically, it’s pay now or pay later with a potentially bigger cost. This decade, it is even more critical since hundreds of new chemicals are being introduced into the environment each year. We know (for years now actually) that babies are born with toxins in their umbilical cord blood. Pregnant mothers’ blood carries many toxic chemicals too, of course. This develops by way of environmental exposures, one being the pesticides in processed and conventional foods. Thinking more about costs, some organic choices are very affordable, such as bulk beans, grains, and even certain fruits and vegetables are similarly priced to conventional. If it’s possible to grocery shop with a friend or family member with similar interests, the experience can be educational, curious, and maybe even fun. Eating as clean as possible offers benefits not just for physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. It’s true – consuming organic foods can be a support for optimal mental and emotional functioning.

An additional major domain is what I’ll label as Cleaning. Our entire being –mind, body, emotions, spirit – can benefit from regular cleaning. By cleaning, I mean committing to actions that invoke reflection, gratitude, clarity, protection, and especially release. Here are some examples:

Unstructured, reflective journaling,

Warm epsom and Celtic sea salt baths,

Writing gratitude lists (at least 10 things I am grateful for),

Mindfulness practices including meditation and guided imagery,

Energetic services such as Reiki or acupuncture,

Tracking dreams and looking for patterns and themes,

Adopting a short home-based energy medicine routine (see November 2019 article),

Getting lost in a craft such as knitting, painting, or coloring mandalas.

That’s only eight examples, but naturally, there are dozens and dozens of ways to clean. I clean daily-to-weekly. How about you?

Most of the ideas I have shared here can be combined in a variety of ways and many of them support more than just one aspect of ourselves. What you see here is by no means an exhaustive list, so add to it, and please share your ideas with me. Remember, a solid self-care routine can be done at-home and cost nothing, or if you have extra funds, hiring a service provider can be very nice.

Everyone wants their personal compass pointed in the direction of good health, happiness, meaning and connection. The power to make changes lies within each one of us. There is no rule saying that changes must be drastic or come all at once. Every small step we make in the right direction for our lives and the lives of our loved ones is well worth it in my book. May this new year bring all good things your way!

 

2020 blessings to you and yours,

Kim

#selfcare

intention + affirmation = empowerment

So I see that I got a little behind on blogging. I’ve been so focused on yoga nidra and the homework requirements between the courses/workshops that time flew right on by! I’m delighted to share with you that I recently completed the 100 hour (basic level) certification in IAM yoga nidra, recognized by Yoga Alliance (IAM stands for Integrative Amrit Method). Now I am back at home, ready to return to my writing. Earlier in 2019, I blogged about dream yoga, yoga nidra and related practices, so I won’t go into definitions here. Instead, I will write about a specific aspect: #intention and #affirmation.

Before we jump in, I’d like to make a distinction for clarification. Scholarly journals include studies revealing the effects of self-affirmations for a variety of behaviors. Within social psychology, self-affirmation theory looks at how people adapt to threats or information related to one’s self-concept. People are motivated to maintain integrity of the self. Sometimes the effect of self-affirmation is impressive, other times, neutral. Much of the research is focused on health outcomes like smoking cessation, appointment attendance, dietary and exercise regimens. Basically, when it comes to cognitions, or human thought processes, healthy self-talk and positive language use can’t hurt. It reaches into concepts of self-adequacy and self-integrity. On the flip side, we know that harmful, negative thoughts have an ugly impact on human development, adaptation, and success potential. I needed to mention self-affirmation theory (similar to cognitive dissonance theory) so that we know what we are NOT talking about. Instead, what we are talking about today, is something much more conscious. Something closer to a personal motto or mantra, if you will.

I’ve been thinking a lot about intentions and affirmations, and how these ideas extend beyond ego to touch on the transpersonal or spiritual. I’ve used intentions and affirmations with clients and with myself over the years in a variety of ways. They have supported my daily routines, meditations, and everyday attitudes. There is a difference between these two terms – intention and affirmation – but sometimes they are used interchangeably. Kamini Desai of the Amrit Yoga Insitute taught me that by consciously withdrawing attention from our tendencies, and instead placing attention/action in the direction we want to go, we thereby set intention. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology, an intention is any directedness in one’s thoughts or behaviors, whether or not this involves conscious decision-making. Simply put, an intention is a direction (without a specific endpoint). Intention is in opposition to reaction. It’s important that an intention resonates deeply, with all parts of us, so it can be a focal point for a long time. I often include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in my psychotherapy practice – in those cases, intention setting typically involves deliberate decision-making. I recall one client who struggled with follow-through all her life (this was ongoing) and feared that she would not graduate (a new, specific goal). We worked on practicing new behaviors over several sessions. Even img_4580though this memory is a few years old, I recall that the intention we used was something like ‘I persist and complete tasks with ease.’ Like the photo here, we have to climb our way out of things and it can feel tiring with life’s hurdles, but our perception matters. We can sprinkle our climb with rose petals (gentle intention supported with loving affirmation). When cultivating an appropriate intention for hypnotherapy or a meditation practice such as yoga nidra, I often rely more on intuition. This is because I am operating from a bit of a different space – after all with CBT, it’s more analytical. In both cases, for me, there is embodiment, mirroring, and attunement, yet CBT adds analysis of thought and behavior. When I relax and tap in to the heart center, and get out of my head, I have found that a trusted intention naturally emerges for myself or for a client or group. Here are some examples that one of my yoga teachers, Dr. Desai, shared with me:

I am timeless presence.

I am a carrier of peace.

I rest in the power of divine presence.

I recognize the way the universe supports me.

I ask for what I need.

Trust that you’ll know it’s the right one when you sense its resonance, perhaps through a subtle shift in the body. Keep it short and concise if possible. Ask yourself, Does this intention help me grow, become better, relax into life? If yes, then you are on the right track. I still recall this one from when I was working toward hypnotherapy certification in 2005: I am open, intimate and connected with others. Anytime my thumb and forefinger touch (anchoring), that phrase immediately comes into my awareness. That has grown to become, I stand in wholeness for 2019. Both of these intentions have served me for many months, and in the first example, many years. They allow me to settle in to my body and engage the world as it is.

As stated, intention and affirmation are terms often used interchangeably, yet to be technical, the specific distinction is that affirmations support the intention. Mornings are a wonderful time to set an intention, and throughout the day, one to three affirmations can be repeated to support that intention. Alternatively, one can simply return to the original intention. Or one can bring in the affirmation throughout the day.

Affirmations I have used with others when facilitating yoga nidra, or in my own practice are,

I open my heart completely and surrender fully and embrace totally what is present.

My body is the light – my heart is unconditionally open.

I shift out of reactivity and accept what is.

I am the designer of my destiny.

I trust the wisdom of my body to heal itself.

Everyday, in every way, I get better and better. (This final example might make a nice intention as well).

As long as there is total resonance while using affirmative, positive language, you can’t really go wrong. Just remember that an intention is like an orientation on a compass, which is often long-term, whereas an affirmation supports that direction and can change daily.

Intentions and affirmations can be written down and read or said aloud, proclaiming it to the universe. I say that it’s best to do both! They are often inserted in a hypnotherapy or yoga nidra session. Intentions and affirmations for future use might even emerge naturally as I guide my clients to the surface of awareness near the end of a session. For this reason, I advise keeping a notepad and pen at arm’s length.

When I teach on how to construct a vision board, intentions and affirmations are at the forefront. Even though a vision board is usually crafted in support of a specific goal with img_4549an end date, one can also be created as a reminder to keep our internal compass pointed in a particular direction. Think empowerment! Daily affirmations can enhance and fuel the totality of the vision board experience. This visual tool is as powerful as intentions and affirmations themselves. To learn more, write me or attend my vision board class in Auburn, CA this December.

Happy Fall,

Kim

Dream Salon in Oakland

Join me tomorrow evening at the Raven’s Wing on Grand Ave. in Oakland for this free event! Every third Wednesday of the month, we come together to explore the world of dreams. Each week is structured differently, sometimes lecture, discussion, activity, or a blend of all three. If you would like to suggest a particular dream-related topic for the evening, contact me. Hope to see you there!

do you have a lucid mindset?

More and more people are becoming familiar with the concept of lucid dreaming, or dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. Would you like to learn how to experience this wonderfully amazing state? For starters, there are some basics to understand as you dive in. This month’s article will feature Dr. Clare Johnson’s “golden tools” for a lucid mindset, particularly, the first of her three golden tools: Intent.

Now before taking a good look at our intention for dreaming consciously, it is necessary to note the importance of using a dream journal. Logging dreams as a daily practice builds our relationship with them. By doing so, we are essentially telling ourselves how important our dreams are and that they are worthy of our attention and our time. Some people use a basic notepad, but I like to use journals that are special and more decorative or unique from the everyday notebooks that I use to jot down ideas or thoughts. This spring, I met Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios in Grass Valley, California. img_1823I was amazed by his craftsmanship, and the time he dedicated to making one-of-a-kind handmade books and journals. I thought, “Now this is a real dream journal – one to hold my most meaningful lucid dreams.” Here is Al in the construction process.

Once we are well on our way to recording our dreams, no matter how vague, short, or mundane, we can trust that more will come. Once we make this habitual, it’s a fine time to seriously consider our intention – Dr. Johnson’s first golden tool. She notes that setting a basic intention such as, “I want to have a lucid dream” is too broad, too empty. Instead, get specific and bring the intention alive by feeling excitement and liveliness for the journey you are embarking on. Furthermore, investigate the specific action you want to take in the lucid dream. Spend time thinking about this action as you go about your day. For example, I decided that I wanted to visit Egypt’s Giza Plateau the next time I became lucid in a dream. And how would I do this? By lucidly flying in my dream body, of course! During my waking hours, in preparation, I spent time looking at colorful photos of the pyramids and wondered what it would be like to fly across the country and the sea. Would I be able to control my speed? Would I be able to see the ground and sea below? (In one particularly memorable experience, I found that, yes, I was able to do these things in my lucid dream excursion to the Giza Plateau, and it was truly amazing).

Before going to sleep, lie quietly and imagine successfully experiencing your chosen action. This sets a strong intention, and the likelihood of recalling your plan in the dream state will be higher. Dr. Johnson reminds us that sometimes we prefer not to change the lucid dream, instead going along with whatever unfolds. If this is the case, as we lie down, we can imagine how awesome it would be to explore the lucid dream space, consciously taking in the details. Do not underestimate the practice of visualization. It really does support conscious dream experiences.

Another way of setting intent is to draw a picture or make a collage of your intended lucid dream action, according to Dr. Johnson. I have yet to do this, but plan to start adding this creative element to my repertoire, as it sounds powerfully effective. What a way to engage willpower, curiosity and enthusiasm!

Finally, we can elicit assistance from our dreaming mind. Offer gratitude for a fulfilling lucid dream, or “strike a deal,” as Dr. Johnson suggests. For example, ask your dreaming mind to help you become lucid in exchange for keeping a consistent dream journaling practice. You may begin noticing lucidity cues. Dr. Johnson began making mixed media collages to enhance her dream imagery, only later to notice that the collages began to turn up in her dreams as a cue to become lucid. She shares other striking examples, so, I suggest taking a look at her book to discover them.

I hope this has inspired you to set an intention for your dream life, as we may spend anywhere between 45-60 hours a week sleeping. Dreaming lucidly, consciously, can change not just the way we experience sleep, but the way we experience the waking state, our day-to day existence. Truly, it can change our lives.

Wishing you restful sleep and peaceful dreams,

Kim

*Find Dr. Clare Johnson’s second and third ‘golden tools for a lucid mindset’ in her book Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness.

*To reach Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios directly (and see photos of his gorgeous hand-crafted journals), email him at davinchstudios@gmail.com

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