sacred dreamwork

I’m on a train. Several extended family members (all deceased relatives who have died during different periods of my life) enter through doors, but not all at once. Some are already seated, while others enter through different train doors on the same long train car. We quietly acknowledge each other. The train is moving again. Some prepare to exit as the train approaches its next stop. Then, they begin to leave, some together, some solo, getting off at different stops, exiting through different doors. I am not going with them. I do not protest. After all, I know they are dead. I have my own stop, my own door. I have some awareness that I am dreaming.

In both November 2016 and 2017, conscious chimera turned attention toward some aspect of visitation dreams, shrine/altar-making, or contact with the deceased. This makes sense given the time of year. So now, as the month of the dead wraps up for 2018, attention returns to these phenomena. Above, is one of a handful of easily recalled visitation dreams that contain several of my deceased relatives all together, in the same dream space.

From my research, I learned that visitation dreams most often arise in the context of major life transitions and loss (e.g. bereaved individuals as well as those in the dying process). Jeanne Van Bronkhorst’s book Dreams at the threshold: Guidance, comfort and healing at the end of life (2015) is a notable example, providing rich information about visitations reported among these groups. The Canadian author, who worked as a hospice social worker and bereavement counselor, describes how visitation dreams bring comfort to the bereaved as well as confidence to those who are moving toward death.

In 2011, Patrick McNamara authored a Psychology Today article titled Visitation dreams: Can dreams carry messages from loved-ones who have died? McNamara shares his own experiences with visitation dreams of his parents. Each dream occurred about 6 months after each death. Even with his strong Western scientific background, he “could not shake the conviction” that true communication between he and his dead mother and father took place. Like many researchers and scholars of dreams, McNamara is aware of how little research has been carried out on this topic, all the while knowing that these types of dreams can be very helpful. He states that experiencing a visitation dream can carry a bereaved person to “successful resolution of the grieving process.”

What can one make of a visitation dream outside of bereavement or end-of-life concerns? One commonality among the visitation dreams reported by those grieving, near death, and others (who are not experiencing grief or loss) is the appearance of, along with some form of communication with, the deceased. In such cases, the deceased individual often appears more youthful and in good health. After a neighbor-acquaintance had died, he greeted me in a dream. Effortlessly moving toward me, his body was in better shape than it had been the last time I saw him alive. His essence felt light and jovial.

Another commonality among the visitation dreams of those grieving, near death, and others is that the dream structure is organized and clear. This was the case for my neighborly visitation dream, along with other visitation dreams I have experienced. None have been outlandish, disorganized, or outrageous.

While these sorts of experiences may imply a broad spiritual perspective and a conviction of after-life realities for many bereaved individuals, they may also offer the same for those not experiencing any kind of grief or loss, or those outside of deprived conditions. My neighbors dream visit served as a reminder that there is much more to see (and sense) than our physical eyes can show us. A vivid dream visitation has the potential to impact anyone! As conscious, soulful beings, these visitations can open doors and change lives.

What can be done so that meaningful dreams become more than a distant, fading memory? Having over a dozen books (perhaps even over two dozen) published on various aspects, traditions, and perspectives on dreams and dreaming, Robert Moss is known to assert, “dreams require action” – A motto by which he lives. Having learned img_2801much from his time with Iroquois, Moss writes that tending to dreams was the first order of the day for the community. Whether grief is resolved or unresolved, visitation dreams, like all big dreams, require action. We can honor our dreams and those that visit us in many ways.

A most basic, yet important way, is to document our dreams and title them. This can be done in a fancy journal or on a simple notepad, or even with a smart phone voice memo app. In addition, we may even decide to share them with others.

As an artist, I really enjoy getting creative with actions prompted by a dream. Making small altars or shrines (or adding to an already existing one) is a favorite. It is a popular as well as traditional action throughout November, especially. Altar-making allows for photos of our dream visitors to be displayed and embellished. Altars and shrines also provide a space to hold objects that may have once belonged to the deceased, as well as items the deceased favors. This space can act as a place to pray, remember, or meditate.

In a ‘working’ altar, these objects and items can be fresh flowers, water, and food, for example. Some even leave alcohol and cigarettes at the altar. In caring for any ‘working’ IMG_1883shrine or altar, it is necessary to keep the space clean and to replace foods, water, and flowers daily-to-weekly. By honoring deceased loved ones in this way, it is like we are making the statement that the relationship is important no matter on what side of the veil we exist, and that we appreciate such dream visits. Furthermore, such action and attention may prompt additional, similar dreams.

Whether we are actively grieving, aware that we are near the end of our own life, or in neither of those places at the present moment, a space exists to turn our attention toward the journey of the soul. I consider this kind of dreamwork as sacred. Truly, it is a way of life.

 

I hope your November dream-life was meaningful and memorable.

Kim

tarot’s gift to the dream

For centuries, humans have turned to the Tarot. The Tarot has helped people understand complex situations, make crucial decisions, or point toward the direction of the highest good between difficult options or choices. As each year passes, new tarot and oracle decks are published. I have consulted the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (created in the early 1900s) for over two decades, having purchased it when I was 19 years-old. I also enjoy other decks with creative flare. Even after much experience and practice with other systems, Tarot cards are still my most trusted method for divination – I consider them a true guide for all life matters.

Like dreams, Tarot cards work in imagery and the readers personal relationship to that imagery. Like dreams, I trust the Tarot. I have used the cards to make swift decisions in major areas of my life, such as business, residential, financial, and relational. Some people consult the Tarot in order to make meaning of events that unfold during sleep, in the dream-world. One might ask Great Spirit/God/Creator a simple question, such as “What is the meaning of this dream?” or “What part of my life does this dream speak to?” followed by pulling one or more tarot cards to gain insight.

Sometimes, the dream world and tarot reading collide in various ways. In one case, I dreamt of a scenario that was unusual and surprising. I understood the dream to be significant and about power, but I did not understand its relation to any specific aspect of my life at that time. Two months later, in a professional tarot reading, I asked for guidance around career decision-making. The reader first pulled a card to represent me. The card’s image reflected the most startling and bizarre action in that dream. I was stunned. Then the reader pulled a second card to reflect what was blocking me and my creative power. It was a card representing addiction – the field in which I provided the most therapy hours each week in an inpatient setting. Every card following those first two reflected that I make a firm decision to get out sooner than later so that I may direct my energies toward other endeavors. img_2338

While I did not ask directly about any dreams during that tarot session, my higher self knew that I must somehow come to understand the dream, as it is a part of me yearning to be seen. And since I specifically asked about a career decision, what better way for the tarot to guide me than to reveal the card that was my dream and to show me what was getting in the way. I came to understand that the dream was about an inner conflict – I was giving my creative power to a cause that would suck me dry if I continued to allow it.

Sometimes we already know the answers to the big questions but need a little help to really see. The Tarot, like dreams, can assist and guide us. When we dedicate the time and attention to learn from and work with both – dreamwork and card reading – we can reap the benefits of joining the two forces together. Our physical eyes, after all, can sometimes get in the way of true sight and clear inner vision. But, still, we might just need a little extra help. When we need a bit more than dream medicine, as is sometimes the case, remember to turn to another old helpful friend, the Tarot.

 

Warmly,

Kim

the waking nightmare

It’s very likely you’ve had a dream of being chased, under the threat of harm. This is one of the most common nightmares. Nightmares often play out in a similar fashion.

A common script:

Dream turns scary.

Dreamer retreats, desperate to escape.

Dream continues to unfold in unbearable ways.

Dreamer resists and will do almost anything to change what is.

Whether being chased by a hungry, wild animal, serial killer, or scary monster, we run – and fast! Would it be a surprise if I told you that not every runs away? Would it shock you if I told you that some dreamers turn directly toward what is feared?

By facing what, at first, seems scary and instead, engaging with it, transformation is possible. What we resist, persists, as the saying goes. The old habit of turning away is challenged. By refusing to acknowledge or listen to the messages of the dream source, we are likely to continue to be chased, haunted, or frightened. Imagine what could unfold by regarding nightmarish dream figures as helpful messengers. With some attention and gentle confrontation, once startling figures, may turn out to be the bearers of important news, or carry personal messages meant to be shared with the dreamer. For example, the dreamer may learn of a developing illness in need of medical attention, or an addiction spinning out of control, or an aspect of oneself needing acknowledgment and care, all as a result of engaging a frightening or bothersome dream figure.

But why, if we are meant to understand something, wouldn’t the dream figure appear in a more gentle form? If it did, would we pay attention? In his book, Conscious dreaming: A spiritual path for everyday life, Robert Moss suggests that dreamers ask, “What am I running from?” People so often run from things that cannot be controlled. img_1914Also consider that if we run when chased, could we be running away from an aspect of ourself? Behaviors and attitudes in waking life closely reflect those in dreams, and the behaviors and attitudes in dream states are a familiar reflection of waking life. Avoidance or denial in the dream state, for instance, is likely to spill over into the waking state, and vice versa. In addition, one’s most unpleasant aspects, false ego, or unhealthy choices may manifest in unattractive, dirty, or even ugly imagery. Such imagery cannot be ignored. Yes, we wake up frightened, but we remember.

What better way to gain insight into all of this then to ask the dream adversary itself? With some lucidity or conscious awareness in the dream, we can ask, “What message do you have for me?” “Why are you chasing me?” Or, “What do you represent?” Dreams have so much to offer – they can reveal so much to those who are willing to listen and pat attention. What do we have to lose? After all, by fleeing in either state – dream or waking – a similar challenge will await us on the other side. For instance, we may notice addictions or unhealthy behavioral distractions surface when the nightmare is not confronted. In the end, there is nowhere to hide. Moss asks, “What are the shapes of your deepest fears and insecurities?” He adds, “You can count on your dreams to show them to you, over and over, until you have grown beyond them. Thus nightmares often present recurring themes. You are falling – maybe because you don’t yet realize you can fly.” I believe that dreams have a way of acting as a compass would. The highest compass – the soul’s compass – will always steer us in the direction of growth and toward the highest good.

Interested in working with dreams? Psychologists and psychotherapists specializing in dreamwork can be found all over the world. The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) – the world’s largest professional dream association – is a good place to start. As an IASD Board Member, I can help you find a dreamworker near you. My services are currently being offered in San Francisco and Nevada City, California. Email me anytime!

Additionally, the IASD will be offering an online dream conference from September 23 through October 7, 2018. The online platform allows for greater accessibility to those around the world, so I am really excited to connect with other dreamers abroad. I will be presenting a paper titled ‘Extraordinary Announcing Dreams.’ For more information, visit http://iasdconferences.org/psi2018/

Please consider joining us,

Kim

 

 

 

 

my IASD conference experience

Last week, I returned from the 35th annual conference of the IASD, that is, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which was held in Arizona this year. img_1928IASD conferences hold a special place in my heart, not only for the cutting-edge workshops and research presentations (such as Dr. Krippner’s shown here), but also for the soulful attendees as well. To spend 5 days with a large group of professionals, who hold such love for dreams and dreaming, is precious indeed. The interdisciplinary inclusion really makes these events special. Discussing dream research and holding space for dreamwork processes with so many psychologists, anthropologists, students, physicians, authors, psychiatrists, artists, psychotherapists and other healers is a true learning experience. It was img_1918also exciting to deliver a workshop and share my recently published book, Extraordinary Dreams, with people from all over the world – those I only get to see once a year. And while I have been attending IASD conferences since 2012, this year I became a Board member. There will be much to learn in this new position.

Something I habitually do before departing for an IASD conference is to chose a recent ‘big’ dream that I will focus on or work with during dreamwork process workshops. One year, for example, I chose a memorable tornado dream, and this year, I chose my most recent, which has turned out to be the most potent, mountain lion dream. While I gain a great deal of intellectual stimulation from the research presentations, it is the dreamwork sessions that leave me relating to my ‘big’ dreams much more deeply than before I arrived. They help me to keep the evolving relationship with the dream characters alive and come to deeper levels of meaning.

Many art-centered dream workshops I have attended, and loved, include two dimensional creations, such as, creative writing, drawing, painting, collage. This year, there was one workshop I attended that incorporated a three dimensional quality. The workshop leader brought 3-D pieces (woodscraps, beads, pipecleaners, sticks, tissue paper), and with these, the attendees were asked to create the dream or reflect dream characters three-dimensionally. This made a real difference for me because I could show others aspects of my mountain lion dream in ways that were difficult two-dimensionally. What’s more, I could move the pieces around when needed. This allowed me to ‘communicate’ in ways I had not been able to before and helped me to understand the greater ‘constellation’ of the dream in a new way.

Sometimes, we may not be able to find the time to create 3-D objects of all dream characters from scratch, but we may be able to use other 3-D objects already at hand, such as children’s toys lying around the house (or the therapy office for those of us that work with children). Small dolls, stuffed animals, Lego figurines, etc. can take the place of hand-made objects. This can be beneficial to the dreamer, who may not have access to other means of exploring dreams in 3-D space, such as in group work. In groups, each member can play the roll of a dream character for the dreamer. That, too, is a luxury, because dream groups are not held in every city, every week or month, let allow ones with a Gestalt orientation. Without willing participant bodies consistently available or personalized hand-made dream representations, easily available objects could suffice. Do any of you relate to your dreams in this way? I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it out because it left a strong impression.

In addition to workshops, other creative activities abound at IASD conferences. There is img_2033a dream telepathy contest modeled off of New York’s Maimonides Medical Center telepathy experiments from decades ago under Dr. Ullman and Dr. Krippner (here I am with Maureen, “the sender” for this years contest), a dream art exhibition featuring fine art in various media from artists worldwide, and on the final evening, a dream ball where attendees dress in a costume from a dream and are invited to share the dream if desired. If you missed us this year, you can find us –and the fun- next year. IASD’s 2019 conference will be held in Kerkrade, Netherlands. For more information, go to www.asdreams.org

 

Hope to see you there,

Kim

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

 

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/