shades of grey

With all that’s taking place in our world right now (pandemic, violence, loss of security and even life), it’s easy to slip. No, not with alcohol (although that might be happening much more lately), and no, not on a banana peel, but with our thinking. Negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions flourish in difficult times. If we don’t pay attention to our own thinking (metacognition), we are liable to continue along with the same mental errors.

There is a branch of psychology, known as cognitive psychology, which focuses on mental processes. Cognition, or thinking, shapes our behavior and feelings. Furthermore, thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are in a constant relationship: one affecting the other. If we think of a negative event repeatedly, replaying it over and over in our mind, for instance, we can bet that we’ll feel lousy for the rest of the day. If we feel lousy and are holding onto some ugly thoughts, how do you think we may act or behave toward others or in a stressful situation? From another angle, let’s say that we do something without thinking (against our better judgment), and are left feeling guilty or embarrassed. This can lead to becoming fixated on the event, perhaps even labeling ourselves, or calling ourselves names. A downward spiral has begun with thoughts, behaviors and feelings all fueling each other.

Several decades ago, research by psychologists Aaron Beck and David Burns lead to identification of some of the most common cognitive distortions and the problems they can cause. Here, I will describe a few of them.

Black-and-White Thinking: This dichotomous, either/or thought pattern is also known as all-or-nothing thinking. Things are good or bad, right or wrong – there is no room for any shade of grey. Because the middle ground has been ignored, and only two sides or outcomes are believed to exist, there is little possibility in finding reasonable ground.

Overgeneralization: Does your inner voice like to use the words “always,” “never,” “every,” or “all?” If so, be on the lookout for falling into the trap of overgeneralizing. One or two single events cannot provide a reliable conclusion. We need much more data to make solid generalizations. For example, if you are stood up on a blind date, that doesn’t mean that blind dating is unreliable or that every scheduled blind date will lead to being stood up.

Catastrophizing: When something unpleasant takes place in your life, do you twist it into something potentially ‘off-the-charts’ disastrous? “A person who is catastrophizing might fail an exam and immediately think he or she has likely failed the entire course. A person may not have even taken the exam yet and already believe he or she will fail—assuming the worst, or preemptively catastrophizing.” (borrowed from GoodTherpay.org)

Should Statements: It’s fairly common to direct ‘should statements’ toward ourselves and others, even though the end result is no fun. Be on the lookout for “should,” “must,” or “ought” because they indicate that you are operating here. “She should have told me sooner!” “I should have arrived to class earlier.” “He ought to thank me for all I’ve done for him.” “I must ace this mornings exam!” If you feel guilt, shame, frustration, anger or bitterness, examine your thinking. Is this cognitive distortion common in your mental life? Should statements serve no healthy purpose and typically lead to feeling lousy. Spot them, challenge them and see what you discover.

A full list can be found online in blogs at goodtherapy.org and psychologytoday.com.

From a cognitive therapy standpoint, we can get a grasp on this whirlwind by first identifying maladaptive thinking – those pesky patterns of thinking that do us no good. Without attention or correction, a negative outlook on life can develop. The correlation with depression comes as no surprise. And again, without attention or correction, these negative schemas are likely to stick around, sometimes for a lifetime. This is bad for one’s health and no good for anyone’s long-term well-being.

A beginning step toward resolution, is to slow down and live ‘in-the-moment’ in order to increase awareness of cognitive distortions as they rise. Every time I have shared the above list with a university student or psychotherapy client – I’m talking hundreds, if not thousands of times – each one of them has quickly identified the distortion(s) in which he or she frequently operates. Just know that these are THAT common. Each time I share these with others, I look at my own patterns of thinking again and again. I’m grateful for the practice because thought patterns can become habitual and need frequent examination. It’s good practice to shine a spotlight on shades of grey.

By tracking our thoughts, we have the opportunity to increase our awareness of our own thinking habits. Do they serve us or would it be best to make some changes? This awareness allows us to challenge ourselves and choose more adaptive thoughts for a more positive way of living and being. There is no shame in adopting more thoughtful, enlightened responses and charting a new course.

 

Here’s to clear thinking,

Kim

To get my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE.

essential oil essentials

Ahhh, the aroma of lavender in the air – the luxurious sensation as the oil touches the skin… Unless that sends you into anaphylactic shock (Woah!). Yep, essential oils are all the rage these days. From claims of ailment alleviation to promises of enlightenment, essential oils are praised to the 10th degree. I absolutely love essential oils and use them often. Per client request, or having been granted permission to do so, I have also used them in both individual and group therapy sessions. Other times, I use essential oils before a therapy session to help me prepare, or afterward to release the day’s residue. A saltwater-essential oil bath does wonders!

While essential oils can do a ton of good, unfortunately, there are loads of misconceptions regarding them. During this time, especially, with the stress brought on by COVID-19, we are all looking for relief. Grabbing a few bottles of essential oils might be someone’s go-to remedy for a mental or emotional boost. This is a wonderful use for img_5326those properly educated on their use, thus aware of the benefits and possible drawbacks. When it comes to essential oils, use caution and consult with a professional before diving in. My biggest concern is that many people are ingesting synthetic essential oils, whereby making them anything but essential! Essential oils are for external use only and should be diluted with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, for example) or lotion. Before using essential oils, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have any health conditions.

To help me uncover some of the BS surrounding essential oil use and the many unfounded claims, I interviewed Lisa Mandelbaum, L.Ac., DPLOM of Nevada County, California. Lisa is a licensed acupuncturist, functional medicine practitioner, and is certified in Oriental Medicine. She has studied essential oils extensively, even beyond her formal academic years.

When people ask me about the best essential oils for relaxation and for calming themselves before bed (both physically and mentally), lavender immediately comes to mind. Lisa confirmed, “Lavender is the key for sleep.” She added, “I also like grounding the bottom of the feet with black spruce.” What a lovely bedtime ritual.

Others wish to know which essential oils will help them stay asleep through the night. They’re sick and tired of waking up at three or four in the morning! This can be a tricky area. Lisa told me that this is “…hard to say because people wake up for different reasons.” If someone wakes up from pain, Lisa recommends frankincense. However if the awakening is due to anxiety, she suggests bergamot. While for grief, Lisa recommends geranium.

On a different note, there are essential oils that help with grounding anytime of the day or night. Cedar is one I have used for this purpose. Lisa highly recommends anything deep and rooty, such as black spruce and frankincense.

One of my favorite essential oils assists in opening the third eye. Just dab a drop of clary sage essential oil at the brow center, lie back and relax. Lisa taught me that one!

I wanted to know which oils were Lisa’s most loved. One of Lisa’s favorite essential oils is bergamot. She said, “It is super relaxing and fits everyone’s constitution. You place it near the tip of the ear.” Sometimes we just need to wake up and get going though. Lisa told me that placing a drop of “…rosemary on the top of the head is great for a burst of energy.”

In this May 2020 blog article, only a handful of essential oils have been named. Below, I will list just a few of them alongside some of their functions according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Bergamot: Regulates Qi; settling to the heart; balancing to the spirit.

Black Spruce: Strengthens lung and kidney; expels phlegm; strengthens the spirit.

Clary Sage: Activates Qi and blood; harmonizes the spirit.

Frankincense: Activates Qi and blood; Strengthens the spirit.

Lavender: Activates Qi; clears heat; calms the spirit.

You may soon find these wonderful oils ‘essential’ to your life, as I have mine. For more information on essential oil properties and functions or continuing education units for acupuncture and oriental medicine healthcare professionals, visit Snow Lotus at snowlotus.org.

For information on essential oil warnings and risks, here is one popular report: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20170809/essential-oils-natural-doesnt-mean-risk-free

coping holistically though COVID-19

Here we are, living day by day with ‘shelter-in-place.’ The news reminds us to play it safe by wearing masks and gloves, keep the six foot minimum distance when in public, and most of all to stay home. In addition, media sources show us what to fear most and blast the death toll constantly. This provides information, sure – yet it can also increase stress and elevate fear, obviously. During these times, it is crucial that we learn to take really good care of ourselves, from the physical and mental, to the emotional and spiritual. This doesn’t need to cost a penny, nor does it need to become a burden. You can find a free 12 minute guided imagery experience at the top of my product page – or just click here.

I’d like to see more about holistic self-care from the media during times like these. I think the increase in online ‘happy hours’ and classes of all sorts has been really helpful as a way to build comradery, decrease lonliness, keep life as consistent as possible, and offer an alternative to television. There are some really creative outlets out there! For example, just about any form of physical exercise can do wonders for our mental and emotional states while ‘doing right’ for the body. Most people know this. Personally, I’m not a fan of the gym; I prefer exercises I can do in or near my home. Some of my favorites include mindful stretching and yoga, hiking, and dancing. Learning certain practices, even something totally new, can be done online. Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or yoga are just a few examples that bring with them a positive holistic impact. Mindful movement that attends to the breath does wonders! Most recently, I was invited to an online Zumba class and a group of friends decided to attend on the same day. Now that’s an energy release combined with laughter and emotional support!

Considering mental and emotional states, I think about my habit of overscheduling. I’ve been considered a “go-go-go” kind of person most of my life. It took a serious illness for me to learn to say “No” and seriously scale back. Furthermore, from my years teaching Cognitive Psychology, I knew that multi-tasking was not any faster than completing one task at a time. In fact, with multi-tasking we are worse off. Most people are doing too much. I knew I was too, but also struggled with making lasting change in this area. I’m hopeful that this virus will pass sooner than later, but until it does pass, we can use this time to ask ourselves how would we want to spend our time (especially if we knew we had so little of it left). So, if you need to say “No, thanks, not today” in response to an online invite of any kind, that is okay!

On a spiritual level, “living every day” becomes a way of life, especially for those most closely impacted by COVID-19. I’m talking about those that are currently ill or know someone who has been infected, along with every single person that is working to get us all through this: Nurses, mental health professionals, grocery store clerks, bankers, gas station attendants, and other service workers come to my mind immediately. How about for you? Those that cannot #StayHome during this crisis, may not be feeling isolated, but may be feeling incredible levels of stress. They may just want to sleep during the off hours and that is alright – sleep is very healthy. While on duty, conscious, abdominal breathing or slipping in a three minute mindfulness break while in the bathroom (I’m very serious about that) may be all that is possible. Do not underestimate the value of just these alone! If you are on the front lines, know that I am here for you and will gladly send free, pre-recorded guided mediations your way – just send me your email address through my services page. In addition, limiting exposure to politics and news stations can help reduce anxiety and relieve mental tension. You probably hear more than enough at work! Recognize what sources provide quality information as opposed to hype and drama.

Here are some additional ideas that can make life a little better when feeling alone, lonely or isolated, or in need of a little nurturing:

  • Get sucked into fantasy with a good book. Maybe reread one that you put back on the shelf years ago. I’ve been doing this lately and have even come across ones that I never read in the first place!
  • Begin journaling. Some prompts are as simple as “What am I feeling today? How is this similar or different than yesterday?” Other people use journals to write a letter to your future self. Project yourself in 5 years. What are your hopes and dreams for 2025? And of course there is dream journaling. Have you wanted to start engaging your dream life more? This just might be the time. Journaling our dreams is a great IMG_2508practice. Dreams are like a mirror, reflecting our inner world. They are the language of the soul. Dream plots and imagery are also inspirations for poetry, story-telling and art.
  • Take a sensuous bath – add oils, flowers, herbs or sea salts to the bath water. Allow yourself to soak away. Light candles or bring a good book for additional relaxation.
  • Write letters, the old-fashioned way, and snail-mail them. No text messaging this time! When was the last time you did this? I bet it’s been years. If you have old, used greeting cards, cutting them at the fold, turns the front side with design or picture, into a postcard. No need for stationary.
  • Spend time in nature. When was the last time you did a nature walk in your town? Get outside and notice what’s in bloom. Take in the spirit of mother nature, commune with her aliveness. If you have kids, a spontaneous treasure hunt or eye spy game is fun. Some kids love to collect leaves, bark and other tidbits to make a collage. Got glue?
  • If at all possible, allow yourself to sleep in! After all, you probably are not commuting to work or school (unless you work in particular industries, that is). That commute time, whether it be 30 minutes or an hour, can go toward increase shut-eye. This is healthy on so many levels and who knows, maybe you’ll have dream visitors – friends and family that, during these time, feel so far away. Give a dream hug! It can feel just as warm and beautiful…
  • Find a recipe you’ve always wanted to try and make it. Got any neglected cookbooks on your books shelf? This becomes extra fun with kids involved, so long as the adults feel calm and patient (Ha!). Or even better, go online and enter someone else’s kitchen – cook right along with them.
  • Consider doing a craft. This can really take our mind away from problems we are currently facing. Arts and crafts pull me into ‘the zone’ and I loose all track of time. How perfect on a rainy weekend! Consider this easy craft: Turn your attention to img_5155that stack of old magazines and catalogs lying around the house and simply rip out the images. Find glue or tape and a piece of cardboard, paper, or poster board (If you’ve ordered anything online recently, these can often be found in packing material once your product arrives) Once you’ve collected those, you are ready to begin constructing a vision board. The basics of vision board making include imagining what you want to complete or accomplish within the next 3-6 months. Be as specific and concrete as possible. From there, find images that reflect this. The idea is to create a board of images that move us in the direction we want to go. Imagery is powerful, so I suggest avoiding (or seriously limiting) the use of words or phrases – try to stick solely with images. I’ve made vision boards for my biggest goals: finishing a PhD program, getting published, finding the perfect home, and more.

Are you already engaged in any of these practices? Let me know what works best for you!

 

Wishing you wellness and inner peace,

Kim

My book, Extraordinary Dreams, can be purchased here!

 

the body is always there

When you think about your life, what has been your guiding compass? Maybe it has changed over time, or evolved in some way. Our bodies can be this guiding compass, serving our highest good.

Our bodies are tools or vehicles providing us tangible or visual form to a feeling, a quality, or a state of being. How does this come about? Well, first know that the body is not the servant to the brain, as some believe. Through the practice of embodiment, and getting out of our head, we attend to sensations. From this calm, quiet space, we can gain new knowledge.

Let’s try a simple exercise: As you continue to read the next paragraph, maintain awareness of your posture. Be in your body fully, as you make any physical adjustments, scratch an itch, or shift your weight.

Yes, the body can produce new knowledge if we are patient and make room for it – areas of experience in which we were previously unaware can come forward. Embodiment is a non-verbal human trait. It is the present time felt experience of awareness in a moment as it is happening (Tantia, 2011). Embodied knowledge precedes cognitive awareness. Some have said that our autonomic nervous system is the system of the lived experience. By practicing the skills of embodiment, we may discover that some sensations do not have names or commonly used descriptive elements. That’s okay! One client I worked with earlier this week, used the term “Crinkly” to described his inner experience which was a combination of sensation with visual form located in a specific area of his body. Staying deeply in his body and experiencing what was manifesting in that moment provided him with information beyond what his thoughts, beliefs and judgments could offer. This bodily information system helped him make a decision about something he needed to do; The decision being an informed one from both his intelligence and his inner awareness.

Goldstein (1993) noted, “Practicing mindfulness of the body is one of the easiest ways to stay present in daily life…Our body is quite obvious as an object of attention, not subtle img_5092like thoughts and emotions. We can stay aware of the body easily, but only if we remember to do so” (p. 139). Are you still aware of your posture, in this moment?

With practice, we can experience embodiment while going about our day. If you are new to this, I invite you to put your electronic device down and close your eyes if that is comfortable for you. Take a few conscious abdominal breaths. Notice various sensations. Any areas of tension or numbness in the body? This is a beginning step which can expand embodied awareness with time dedicated to practicing.

Remember, the body is always there. Consider it a trusted guide, a lifelong friend, a forbearer of self-knowledge.

May we continue to blossom along with the coming spring season,

Kim

To order my book, CLICK HERE.

References:

Goldstein, J. (1993). Insight meditation: The practice of freedom. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Tantia, J. F. (2011). Viva Las Vagus!: The innervation of embodied clinical intuition. The USA Body Psychotherapy Journal, 10(1), 29-37.

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

To order my book, click here!

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

#empowerment

To order my book, click here!

dreamy greek delights

After the annual international dream conference of the IASD, held in the Netherlands this year, I visited Greece. Greece has been on my bucket list for over a decade. Finally, I made it! With only five days to spare, I stuck to the North East area of the country, exploring the city of Thessaloniki and Halkidiki peninsula. Time in the sea was, of course, a must. I also  wanted to see with my own eyes evidence of a long lost dream culture.

e0329c47-1757-43f0-a42a-cf5d6894bf48I spent time speaking with young Greeks, and even a few older ones. As I walked through downtown Thessaloniki, not for from Aristotle Square by the sea, I walk past 4th century monuments and wait…what?… yes, vendors selling Native American dreamcatchers. What a surprise! Young, contemporary Greeks call these oneiropagida yet they do not have a similar object from their own, forgotten, ancient dream-focused culture. Evidence for this lost culture is mostly found in museums nowadays, especially within the boundaries of my recent trip. One man, who is in his 20s, shared two opposing views of today’s Greek people. Dreams either mean little-to-nothing, he told me, or dreams must be interpreted, as they hold significance for some. For the latter group, oneirokritis or dream dictionaries, however, are popular. He considered those who use dream interpretation to be “superstitious,” yet as we spoke further, I understood that this term was not necessarily negative. The 21 year-old woman who was selling dreamcatchers, among other objects and souveniers, told me that for her and her friends, dreams were not meaningful. She said that her mother, however, carries a belief that night dreams are worth paying attention to and may lead to an action if they seemed meaningful. This isn’t a daily practice though, as some dreams hold more weight than other dreams.

A middle-aged cab driver from a small mountain town told me that contemporary Greeks today look at the old God/Goddess culture as “fairytales.” That old mythology is not a part of our contemporary belief system whatsoever, he conveyed. With regard to dreams, he said that this is also mostly ignored, yet for some Greeks, “powerful dreams” are given more attention. Those vivid, or easily recalled, types of dreams may need interpretation. The dream may be placed in one of two categories: good or bad. Dreams are judged, polarized, it seems. An example of a good dream may involve flying, he said, while a dream of a snake may be viewed as bad. I commented on how serpents were held in high regard, in the past, for their healing and transformative qualities. He agreed, but said “times have changed.” He attributed this shift in perspective to religious changes, particularly the rise of Christianity.

Thessaloniki’s archeological museum staff provided stimulating discussion regarding the Greek history of dreaming. Two women working in the museum shop shared some img_4201information about the healing nature of snakes as we looked at a marble relief being sold there, which features Asclepius. A fourth century BCE relief depicts three stages of healing of a patient by the god Asclepius with two apotropaic eyes above. The healing ritual shown here appears to depict Asclepius giving injections and using snake venom as a healing substance. Some believe that Asclepius could transform into a healing serpent himself. The original can be found in the sanctuary of Amphiaraos at Oropos (Attica). Apotropaic magic refers to the power to avert evil or harmful influences, bad luck, misfortune, or the evil eye. Its popularity is evident, even today, by the vast number of apotropaic amulets sold worldwide. Other copies of votive offerings to Asclepius also feature the serpent. Snakes can be found in numerous pieces img_4203of jewelry (bracelets and earrings in particular) worn by the ancient Greek/Macedonian peoples. We discussed how the serpent, or snake, was considered a strong healing, transformative force historically, yet with the arrival of Christianity, this all changed. From then on, snakes were primarily associated with women and evil, or the devil, thus connecting the two. This myth continues to hold strong today. Then, she asked for me to help her understand a puzzling dream of her own. I say that I’m honored to listen, but cannot interpret another’s dream, as I am not the author of it. She agrees that dreams belong to the dreamer, and continues. We play the game, “If it were my dream,” and have an enlightening discussion. She smiles as her eyes widen, img_4202expressing thanks for my view on this dream, as if it were my own, revealing a positive resolution in the end. Dreams belong to the dreamer, yes, and isn’t it wonderful to have those that will listen and take them seriously. For these exchanges offer fresh insights and perspectives. I was delighted over my time spent in the museum and with it’s employees – they had much to say about Asclepius and healing, while the others I spoke with knew little, or nothing at all of that part of local ancient history.

My time in Greece will continue…hopefully within a year or two. Athens and the oracles and sanctuaries of the area are at the top of my list. Have you traveled to the ancient Greek regions where healing and dreaming were once so common? If so, tell us about it. Comments and discussion here are always welcome.

Happy Summer,

Kim

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