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

 

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

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

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