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/

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

mindful intentions for 2017

Happy new year! May 2017 be filled with good health, inner peace, creativity, and prosperity for you and your loved ones. I just now realized that conscious chimera is almost a year old – 2016 flew by – incredible!

Last year I touched on the use of affirmative statements in self-hypnosis (see ‘the application of self-hypnosis’ released on June 1, 2016). Now, as a new year begins, let’s expand on this idea. Our use of language, whether it’s self-talk or something said aloud, can help or hinder. For example, negative self-talk and particular thought patterns are associated with depression and other disorders. As people all over the United States are making new years resolutions, why not resolve to add affirmative and positive language use to our ‘to-do’ list? Speaking to ourselves and others with more positive and affirmative language is not only easier to process and even more kind, but it can carve a path for greater success. This is especially true for young children, who process much slower than adults. Often, children are told “don’t run,” “don’t hit,” or “don’t fall.” Run, Hit and Fall are processed first, and more easily and quickly. If we are to change these directives to affirmative ones, we are more likely to see the results we want. Therefore, they can become, “Walk please,” “Use safe hands,” or “Hold on tight” (or “Pay attention,” for example).

Consider how often we may say or hear something like this: “You’re not dumb.” Or “I’m not stupid, but…” In either case, the ‘not’ is processed afterward, and more importantly, the mind moves the listener (with mental self-talk, that listener is you) in the direction of the dominant thought, no matter if the statement is in the positive or negative. Essentially, we are hearing “You’re dumb” or “I’m stupid” first. Just as was done above, these statements can be changed to “You’re smart,” or “I’m capable, but…” or any other positive and affirmative configuration.

Non-affirmative language dominates the many cultures. Making a change to state what you do want takes a little practice and attention – with time and practice, it will become the norm. Other common examples and how they can be worded differently are:

Don’t worry.  -> It will work out.

Don’t be nervous.  -> Remain calm. Or stay relaxed and breathe.

Don’t hesitate to call/ask for help, etc.  -> Call anytime/I can help.

Don’t forget to _________.  -> Remember to _________.

These are some ideas. Of course, every situation is unique and more appropriate adjustments may be necessary.

Affirmative and positive language takes a leading role in hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis (or any other tool one uses for personal growth and making positive changes). As we think about, describe and list our new years resolutions, we can attain them with much more ease when they are in positive and affirmative language. For the most common resolutions, such as exercise, setting time limits, specific routines, and a daily log can help with motivation, specificity, and accountability. These are examples of particular points one would attend to when doing self-hypnosis, or working with a hypnotherapist. When I was young, I heard many adults talk about starting diets after the new year. They would list off certain foods they would not eat (Cake, French fries, sugary cereal, milk shakes, candy bars). Whether the list was actual or a mentally rehearsed one, the foods to be avoided held a special status and were constantly given attention. A higher success rate could be expected if the list contained healthy alternatives (hard-boiled egg, hearty salad, vegetable juice, fruit smoothie, grilled veggies). In short, the goal is to focus on what we will do and how it will get done in affirmative language.

When it comes to dreamwork, some want to increase dream recall frequency or increase awareness and lucidity. Like hypnotherapy, I work in a similar way here. First, it is understood that all recollections are to be recoded. All value judgments are set aside because often people only write what has been judged as good enough, or worthy of recording. Then, once we recognize that pitfall, mental scripts and exercises for increasing recall and awareness are created. They are worded in affirmative and positive language that is specific and attainable. For example, “As soon as I wake up, I will write down my dream and include every detail” (referring to the journal and pen on the nightstand). By setting intentions in these ways, we directly support the attainment of our most desired goals.

 

All good things in the new year,

Kim

premonition dreams

Beyond the mundane fragments sometimes recalled from a previous night’s dream, are unusual experiences that take place more often than one might expect. Extraordinary dreams are fairly common and reported by people everywhere, of every age group and in just about any place in the world. One of my favorite dream books is Extraordinary Dreams and How to Work With Them by Stanley Krippner, Fariba Bogzaran, and Andre Percia de Carvalho. They discuss specific categories of dreams (that overlap at times) such as creative dreams, lucid dreams, pregnancy dreams, healing dreams, telepathic dreams, clairvoyant dreams, precognitive dreams, and more. Among these categories are dreams that serve as premonitions, which are often referred to as precognitive dreams. Jeanne Van Bronkhorst’s first book titled Premonitions in Daily Life contains a section on dream premonitions as well. She normalizes this common human experience that frequently gets lumped into the magical or mysterious.

Precognitive, or premonition, dreams have been reported since antiquity. In fact, several examples can be found in the Bible. Some of these types of dreams predict national disasters or important world events, but most often, precognitive dreams reveal average, everyday, or oth11222183_845240965596555_714619458751132206_nerwise insignificant future events to the dreamer. For example, a dream may show an old childhood friend calling, and that evening you are left a voicemail from that person. Or you may dream of visiting a new, unidentifiable place with unique details, then find yourself there the following weekend. Sometimes, though, precognitive dreams may serve to warn. One dreamer reported dreaming of being threatened in a bank during a hold up, and then lived through that frightening experience the next day while conducting business in a bank! Precognitive dreams can be metaphorical, not just literal, so, all dream material can hold value. In addition, future events can be amenable to change – Nothing is set in stone.

Can a dream actually be a forecast? Should such dreams be trusted? Are they delusions or a coincidence, or just a normal, natural part of the human experience? Ancient dreamworkers, as well as contemporary psychologists, have been concerned with these matters. To learn whether our premonitory dreams hold predictive value, we can track them. By writing down the dreams we recall each morning, we are more likely to remember them, especially if they seem insignificant. Once your daily log exists, you can reference the dreams later. I keep a notebook on the nightstand with a couple pens. Upon awaking, I write down all I recall without judgment. Then I put the date at the top and, finally, read what I’ve written to reflect on content, and identify themes, as well as attitudes and feelings. This practice can assist us in connecting dream events with waking life ones. The more this is practiced consistently, the easier it becomes, and eventually it may even be possible to sense a connection between waking and dreaming experiences. Because memory can easily become distorted, including memory for time sequencing, it’s wise to have a healthy sense of skepticism. However, a daily practice of noting all dream details immediately upon awakening, as mentioned above, can show that the dream took place before the waking life event. With time, this helps us trust our precognitive experiences and encourages continuation of the practice.

 

Wishing you memorable dreams,

Kim

reflections on the out-of-body experience

Have you ever had a dream, and in that dream suddenly realized that you were dreaming? If so, maybe that simple realization alone woke you up. Or, maybe you realized that you could do anything you wanted because you were in a dream. Perhaps, you’ve experienced something a little different – that being, you maintained awareness while falling asleep and immediately found yourself in a dream-like state, one in which you could control in any way you like…one in which you could have a valuable question about life answered. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. In fact, you are just like thousands upon thousands of others. Such experiences have been reported for centuries all across the globe.

There is debate over whether lucid dreams (LD) and out-of-body experiences (OBEs), sometimes referred to as lucid projections and several other names, are essentially the same or similar. While much of the Western literature I’ve read makes a distinction IMG_2614between the two, and describes the features marking their differences, it’s easy to understand how some groups and societies do not separate these phenomena. Numerous anthropological reports from all over the world highlight the widely held belief that the psyche moves about, or travels, while the body sleeps. This takes place, they say, whether we remember it or not, and we may be partially, incompletely, or completely aware during the occurrence itself. This notion of one’s psyche leaving the physical body and moving about does not sit well for a lot of secular individuals, as it implies the existence of something spiritual. That very idea may be behind such proposed distinctions. No matter what we believe to be taking place, or where we find ourselves in this debate, people of all ages report unique experiences that scientists are attempting to explain.

Until 2005, I had few unprovoked or incubated anomalous nocturnal experiences. The occurrences I can recall were unwanted and occurred spontaneously during the night hours. In fact, for the first 30-something years of my life, I wasn’t sure what had happened. To this day, I specifically remember two somewhat frightening experiences that I now recognize to have likely been lucid projections or OBEs. Still, some would prefer to categorize them as lucid dreams, and that is just fine too. Both experiences took place at night while lying in unfamiliar beds. The first took place during a family vacation in Bishop, California when I was eight years old. The second anomalous experience I can still recall happened when I was about 20 years old while visiting someone in Bend, Oregon. Not only do children report such experiences, but adults have claimed that experiences like these took place while they were children or during adolescence. Like so many others, I had not had past discussions or debate with others who had these experiences, nor knowledge of scholarly books or articles – basically, I knew little, if anything, on the topic. During those times, I had no clue as to what might have had occurred. A lot has changed from then until now. In my early and mid 30s, after some practical skill development and training, however, I had several provoked/planned OBEs, LDs, and highly vivid dreams and tended to view them as the same phenomenon…like shades of grey.

More recently, with additional first-hand experiences, and increasing education on these topics, I’ve come to understand further the OBE and LD distinction. OBEs are called by various names depending on one’s orientation (soul flight, soul travel, lucid projections, unfolding, astral travel, astral projection, spirit-walking, or dream visions). OBEs, or lucid projections, have been reported to occur at least once in one’s lifetime for about 10%-20% of the population, but is rarely acknowledged or discussed in contemporary Western culture. Lucid dreaming may be the Western term that is more often used, as it seems more comfortable for that culture. OBEs/lucid projections can be spontaneous, forced, or provoked, and it is possible, although rare, that one has the experience while awake (a family member of mine told me about his experience that, to his surprise, spontaneously took place while he sat in his desk at school). Reports also coincide with near-death experiences. Understandably, such variations can be confusing. The two phenomena, the OBE and LD, share some features, but also have distinctions reported in the literature. Some would say, however, that the level of conscious awareness determines how the experience is labeled. For example, if one maintains an aware, alert mind while the body falls to sleep, they might label it as an OBE. But if one’s mind and body falls asleep, then during sleep, the dream state or R.E.M., they become aware, it would wind up being labeled as a LD, more often than not. Generally speaking, this is how we’ve compartmentalized such phenomena in Western culture. This compartmentalization doesn’t really happen in indigenous societies, as it seems unnecessary and irrelevant because after all, if the soul wanders during sleep, the person’s awareness of what’s taking place may be there from the very beginning or their awareness flows in and out during part of the sleep cycle.

In my early 30s, I worked very hard to provoke an OBE or lucid projection, as well as a LD. I practiced a variety of concentration-based meditations for months, usually dedicating over an hour a day to the practices. It paid off with time, effort and practice, and even trail and error. Having had no success at night, even after dozens of attempts, I decided to dedicate one sunny weekend morning to pursue an experience. That morning after waking up, I did a series of exercises in bed – concentration on the heart, vowel mantras, and visualization of a place – all taught to me, at that time, by experienced instructors of GnosticWeb (a group offering free courses on these topics). That morning included a few hours of unsuccessful attempts, probably because I really wasn’t sure what was about to take place and likely gave up too quickly. All of this occurred with some degree of frustration, before I actually succeeded. In fact, I recall telling myself, that I would try ‘one more time’ before ‘giving up’ for the day. So I pushed forward, lying in bed, trying to fall asleep while I kept my mind awake – quite the disciplined act. The initial experience of maintaining this level of awareness was extremely interesting to say the least, especially due to new and unfamiliar sensations. My heartbeat became more intense and this intensity was accompanied by a soft buzzing or vibrating sensation. These sensations seemed to gently propel me forward at one point in the experience. I don’t recall hearing any sounds or voices at that moment, which are, among other sensations, often reported by others, according to research done by the International Academy of Consciousness. Basically, I popped up and walked out of bed with the awareness that something was different. To confirm, I did a reality check (which was something I was taught to do and often done during the day) by pulling one of my fingers. I did this right there in my bedroom, as I was certain that something was quite different and suspected that I had projected. My finger stretched like firm putty and became long, then sprung back as I let it go. Well that confirmed it! Next, I walked out of my bedroom, and then realizing walking wasn’t necessary, I hovered about a foot above the floor, floating down the stairs with the awareness that I had accomplished what I set out to experience. I was really checking out the environment I found myself in. A lot looked the same, but laws of gravity obviously did not apply. What took place from there, I consider personal, and meant just for me, so I will keep the rest of the story to myself for now. Anyway, that is how it began for me.

I’m not sure how many minutes went by, but it felt like quite a while. The experience ended when I became uncertain and a little fearful of what I saw, and my vision turned somewhat cloudy (this might imply loss of awareness, according to the IAC, and there are tips on how to re-establish it). I found myself immediately back in my bed and opened my eyes, feeling awe-struck. I then recorded the experience in the dream journal kept by my bed. From that day forward, my world-view began to shift.

While slowly gaining more experience, including how to dream with greater levels of lucidity, I did not focus on differences between the two phenomena. LDs and lucid projections or OBEs seemed to have more in common thanIMG_2499 not, and I continue to believe they still do. In the end, it may all come down to varying levels of conscious awareness. Many indigenous cultures do not compartmentalize or make so many concrete categorizations with regard to these phenomena as we do in the West. Still, it helps to be aware of the particular features of these experiences and track them in a journal in order to learn from others, whether it’s shared experiences or research, as well as from ourselves and our own lived experience.

There are researchers in several nations that currently study these unique human experiences in sleep laboratories. For example, the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC) operates a large site in the Alentejo region of Portugal. I had the privilege of visiting the IAC Research Campus a few weeks ago (June 2016) and was given an extensive tour of the facilities, including their impressive laboratories. For more information about what this particular organization has to offer, explore their website at iacworld.org. These days, publications focusing on these extraordinary experiences are on the rise. A simple online search can point to numerous books, websites, and courses. For example, deepluciddreaming.com offers free access to a wonderful book titled Consciousness Beyond the Body, and so much more.

 

Happy soul-travels,

Kim
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