developing your intuition

The term intuition is arising in many discussions lately regardless of how misunderstood it is. These brewing discussions conceptualizing intuition can sometimes seem messy, complex, intricate. One question I hear often revolves around how one can distinguish a reliable ‘intuitive hit’ from anxiety-provoked perception, sensation and chatter. This is important to consider given that so many people make big decisions based off of intuition By understanding what intuition is and how it works, we can come to rely on it. Here, in this article, I’ll share some definitions, science, and my thoughts on this hot topic.

I think of intuition as an evolutionary, life-promoting sixth sense also referred to, by some, as “a gut feeling.” This kind of insightful perception is immediate – it does not involve reasoning, critical thinking, or reflection. But how is intuition experienced? Intuition can arrive as a felt sense, an inner voice, or even as visual imagery. Furthermore, intuitive knowledge arises in a nonverbal flash without having links to a memory or emotional pattern.

The foundation of intuition is in the body. The body and intuition are very much connected. Neural correlates, particularly the tenth cranial nerve (aka vagus nerve), are involved. This extra special nerve travels far, running from the brain downward to organs and the gut. So, it is our organs, nerves, and brain that form a multi-way communication system. Remember, the brain is not the only one sending out messages. Knowing this, we can work with other locations in the body to further develop our intuition. 

Key to truly understanding the complexities of intuitive process includes familiarity with the nervous system, therefore, I will include a little about it here. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) has three parts—the enteric, the sympathetic and the para-sympathetic. The enteric, sometimes called the intrinsic nervous system, is a complex system of 100 million nerves that regulate digestive activity. The enteric system transmits and processes messages in addition to other functions. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for action, such as defending ourselves or running away from danger, so blood pressure increases, digestion slows down, and the heart beats faster, while the parasympathetic is like put- ting on the brakes—resting and digesting, for instance. Here, pulse rate decreases, blood pressure slows, and food can be digested. The ANS is always working so that our body’s internal functions behave normally. 

Here is where our behavior and lifestyle come in to play. Many of us have lost our relationship to ourselves, especially our own bodies. Knowing that the parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve are not isolated, overly busy lifestyles (always being on the go) lead to a nervous system that is activated (Over-activation of the sympathetic is tied to health problems, but that is for another article). From that activated place, it is impossible to remain fully embodied and tune in to our deeper ways of knowing. Thoughts are much faster than the rhythm of the body! One way to counteract this and regulate ourselves is through conscious breathing which slows the heart rate. Nature can help too! Pair that with exercises for grounding, which are done by attending to sensation. Through these processes we can think more clearly and increase embodiment, thus giving ourselves the opportunity to further develop our intuitive ability, because they slow us down. It’s just what we need to develop intuition that is clean and clear.

Side note: if the idea of embodiment is new for you, read this – Embodiment is both a state and a process. It is inhabiting the body and locating ourselves. At this very moment, notice what your body is experiencing—that’s embodiment.

Always remember, intuition is connected to the body. Do not confuse intuitive hits with information emerging from states of anxiety or old schemas and perceptions. With continued practice, we come into deeper relationship with the body, attuning to our inner awareness more and more. When we do the work, we can come to trust our intuition, I believe, given the right circumstances. 

I’ll close with the words of friend and colleague, New York based Somatic Psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Frank Tantia: Considering the body as “a gateway between consciousness and unconsciousness, and when those two parts from our thoughts to our emotions to our embodied experience can speak to each other, we can start to find a more holistic way of living in ourselves.”

May 2022 bring fulfillment and growth,

Dr. Kim

PS. Two things: In my new book, Dream Medicine, you’ll find an entire chapter on intuitive development. So, if this topic is important to you and you can carve out some reading time this season – a luxury these days – order the book here: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/dream-medicine/

I teach skills for developing intuition in my California private practice. If you are a CA resident and would like to work with me one-on-one, just click on that tab found within this website. 

#intuition

Dream-based Wellness

Attention to wellness and health have really rose to the surface of human awareness these past two years. Blame it in COVID-19 or perhaps a long awaited shift in consciousness (that piece is of less importance). The value of this attentional shift is that more and more people appear to be taking their heath matters into their own hands. Health practices are vast, spreading across multiple levels, from physiological to spiritual. Recently, I wrote an article for Ryan’s Dream Studies Portal (see https://dreamstudies.org/ if you are unfamiliar with this website). The article I wrote is titled Cultivating your Dream-based Wellness Practice. There, I consider some of the various ways we can participate in our own wellness maintenance and healing, no matter our background or belief system.

Here is a short excerpt from that article: “For anyone’s dream-based wellness practice to bloom healthily, there are things we can do to move it along. I’d like to share some tips for supporting any sort of practice whether it be liminal dream experiences or lucid dreaming. A sleep hygiene routine is the foundation, so I have found. Below are some concrete things you can begin today to encourage the best of outcomes.”

The entire article can be found here: https://dreamstudies.org/dreammedicine/ . Now even if dreams or dreaming are not of high interest at the moment, what you’ll find there are ideas for maintaining wellness through the cold, dark, and sometimes stressful, weeks ahead. As you read over the 10 tips I listed, consider which of them are priority for you this season. Maybe you do many of these already! Or perhaps, these tips will inspire a reorganization of your evenings. It’s a great time to reassess as we enter this new, quickly approaching phase of the year…returning of the light.

Happy Solstice everyone! May your inner light shine bright!

~Dr. Kim

season of dreams

Well, my Northern Hemisphere readers, we’ve just passed the autumnal equinox entering the season of Fall officially as a powerful full moon was overhead. This time each year is always a turning point for me as reflected in mother nature. I live in a forested area of Northern California so each day I notice trees – lots of them – browning, drying up, losing leaves along their branches that seem to be sagging oh so subtly. Nature is reminding me that soon, it will be time to sleep, hibernate, slow down and stay indoors. I’m been more accepting of what this turning point means. My preference is, and has always been, the creative burst of springtime and the sun’s invitation to play outdoors under its rays. Still, I accept that all things are in perpetual change as the cycles of nature continually turn. So that I do not slip into gloom I have learned to prepare for the colder, darker months. It’s around this time that I stock up on candles, baking supplies, art supplies, fine yarns and embroidery floss, purchase a half-dozen good books, a few blank journals, and bookmark recipes that require a hot oven. I also mentally recommit to scheduling in self-care and personal development practices, such as meditation, so that my week is truly work-life balanced. Last, but not least, I consider online workshops and conferences I want to attend so I can stretch my mind. Consider me a life-long leaner!

In this blog, I will tell you about one I plan to attend and another one where I will be presenting. I was excited to learn that next month a day-long psychotherapy workshop will take place which is focused on gender-sensitive treatment. Since my clinical focus is on women’s issues and women’s unique responses to trauma and other conditions, these gender-specific workshops are most welcome. Thank you PESI.com.

My own presentation will be included in an online conference that also begins next month, and it’s quite different from what I introduced above, although what the two do have is common is WELLNESS. October 30th begins the Many Worlds of Lucid Dreaming multi-day event featuring 15 diverse presenters. See: https://www.glidewing.com/iasd/lucid_dreaming_conference.html

During this event I will present a paper titled Dreams as medicine: How conscious dreaming can support one’s journey toward wellness. Whether you or someone you love has been impacted by disease or illness, this presentation will show how dreams can alert, warn, and even guide one toward improving health. Other presenters will also focus on wellness, such as reducing stress and relieving pain with the support of dreams. I hope you consider attending!

Autumn and Winter are great times to dive into dream-based practices such as improving sleep hygiene, utilizing dream incubation techniques, or committing to keeping a dream journal. After all, there is naturally more darkness, the nights are longer. Less daylight suggests going inward. Dreamwork pairs perfectly with this period of the year. So to my fellow summer-lovers, I remind you, not all is lost!

Dream big,

Dr. Kim

journeys into the imaginal

Do you ever think about how different our lives would be if we were born several hundred years ago? That’s a lot to think about, I know. How about specifically with regard to health and healing? What did people do before modern medicine, psychiatry, and wellness coaching? Who or what did they seek out in order to get well? Historically, healers across the globe have gone by many names. In this short article, I will focus on a particular type of healer, a practitioner of traditional ways, sometimes referred to as ‘shaman.’ For shamans, healing is equivalent to transformation, not simply focusing on curing an ailment (Kalweit, 1992).

Shamanism has an extensive history (evidence suggests going back tens of thousands of years) on every continent of the world. The word ‘shaman’ comes from the language of the Tungus people of Siberia (Harner, 1980, 1990), although, the word ‘shaman’ however is not typically used by shaman’s themselves (it can be considered bad luck) and traditionally, it is not a role one volunteers for (Ingerman, 2004, 2008). Basically, one does not chose shamanism, it chooses you. Shaman’s, appointed by their communities, act in service of those communities on many levels. Shaman’s are also skilled dreamers. Restoring balance (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) is among the many duties performed. Duties can take place in dream consciousness or others states of consciousness, such as a shamanic state of consciousness.

Whether we call them shamanic journeys, imaginal journeys, ecstatic journeys, or something else, humans across time and place have known how to travel to, entering and exiting, otherworldly realms, or unseen worlds. This is done in order to gain access to a wide variety of information, ask for spiritual help and support, and heal themselves, their families and communities. These unseen realms have been referred to by different names across the globe, such as “Other World” in Celtic Shamanism and the “Dreamtime” in Australian Aboriginal tradition (Ingerman, 2004, 2008). These ‘other’ locales can be divided into three major territories: Lower, Middle, and Upper Worlds. Each ‘world’ has something different to reveal to us or teach us. The ‘laws’ we have come to know and expect, do not apply any longer. The community-appointed shaman is considered an expert in navigating these realms. Diverse communities across the world have used various means to assist the shaman in altering consciousness in order to begin the journey. Most commonly repetitious, monotonous sounds, such as those created by a rattle or drum, or chanting, are used.

One can experience a shamanic journey without being appointed shaman, and many do, myself included. As one who uses hypnosis and various types of meditation and breathwork for my own benefit (and offers these services to my clients), it is clear that there are similarities and differences among these trance-like ‘altered states.’ An ability to concentrate is key! Learning the skills to enter a shamanic state of consciousness with intent and purpose, and return to the ordinary state of consciousness can be taught by experienced practitioners and skills can be honed by dedicated students. After all, these are natural conditions. That being said, the worlds entered through a shamanic state of consciousness are not playgrounds and there is a lot to learn before jumping onboard.

Restoring wholeness, coming into balance and harmony with the universe, as well as our full creative potential can be supported through shamanic journeying, as the practice supports us moving forward in our own soul’s journey (Ingerman, 1991).

If this topic interests you, and you would like to learn more, I recommend reading the books written by Michael Harner, Holger Kalweit, Sandra Ingerman, and Robert Moss, for starters. If you want additional references and resources, contact me.

As we approach Samhain, Dia de Los Muertos, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, I wish peace and harmony to you and to all of your family members and ancestors, whether embodied or otherwise.

~Dr. Kim

got divine femininity?

We are living in a world lacking balance. This is especially true in modern Western society where patriarchy has imposed definitions of what it means to be feminine. I write from the United States, so my views are birthed from a lifetime of living in this nation. While living in this nation during this era affords so much, it lacks something img_5622deeper, something critical for long-term survival and prosperity. This lack is rooted in the spiritual (not to be confused with religious dogma). We have collectively lost our divine feminine soul.

When we talk about the divine feminine or feminine energy, we are not talking about gender. We are also not talking about modern depictions of women in media who often come across as insecure, jealous, sarcastic, competitive, bitter, resentful or catty – anything but harmonious or spiritually developed. What we are talking about are concepts beyond that, such as creativity, flexibility, wisdom, intuition, community relations, compassion, empathy, sensuality (senses not thought), cooperation and img_5620collaboration. Those qualities enliven feminine energy and when they are lived through the body and move the spirit, we touch the divine feminine.

When it comes to the feminine, it’s easy to lose touch with this part of ourselves. Masculine energies are highly rewarded in this society and have been for a couple thousand years now. Nothing is wrong with these energies when they are in balance with the feminine. As the first sentence highlighted, we are out of balance. Not all is lost though, as we have an opportunity each passing moment to reestablish equilibrium. 

The seven years I spent doing doctoral work alone left me deeply rooted in the head, even though the program was somewhat balanced in that my clinical psychology concentration was somatic psychology – a highly intuitive embodied practice. That said, my personal journey to further restore a masculine-feminine energetic balance has led img_5610me in a few directions. I had found myself drawn to meditate on the Goddess: Gaia, Brigid, Diana/Artemis, among others – this surfaced years ago. This year, I have returned to bring home an aspect of my Roman Catholic roots. That is turning my attention back to the Blessed Mother, Mother Mary, the Madonna. In addition to meditation and contemplation, I have opened myself to a kind of creativity that blends these ingredients by crafting small shrines in Her honor. As a longtime artist and craftsperson, I see how my consciousness shifts when I get into ‘the art zone.’ Time freezes, senses come alive, thoughts cease, and something bigger opens. This is just my current way of doing things and experiencing the mysteries of the process. I am no expert when it comes to the Divine Feminine. Like everyone else, I search for meaning.

While my story and my journey are incomplete (is anything ever complete?), I hope it, along with the photos of my work, inspire you to reconnect to the feminine energy within, in your own unique way. We can revive, reunite, restore and rebuild at any age, at any time. It’s not gone, although sometimes it gets lost. I want to proclaim that we, as humans, have created a balanced world, but I cannot — At least not yet. What are you doing today to bring more balance to your one-of-a-kind life and to this beautiful world?

 

Compassionately yours,

Dr. Kim

For a free 12 minute guided meditation, CLICK HERE.

To see my shrines for sale, CLICK HERE.

To get my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE.

breathing for health

No one needs to convince us why we need to breathe. Sometimes, however, we need convincing as to why we should do it consciously, with awareness. Study after study shows us that intentional, abdominal breathing has direct affects on the body – this is good news. After all, it is free and can be done anywhere, at any time. Stress doesn’t have to get the best of us! By just a few minutes spent each day on the practices I’ll be describing below, one can invoke healing in the immune and nervous systems. This stuff calms the mind as well. Don’t we all need that, especially during this time?

When I demonstrate these techniques to my patients, I first begin by putting one hand on my chest and the other hand on my abdomen. This sort of check-in tells me whether I’mPhoto on 7-27-20 at 7.34 PM #2 breathing into my chest (shallow breathing) or whether I am taking a fuller breath in so that my belly expands (this is what we want). If my breathing is in my chest, I can consciously imagine my next inhalation moving deeper down into my body. I do this – as many breaths as it takes – until abdominal breathing is comfortable. Try it for yourself now. See what I mean?

From there, I love to move on to the 4:8 breathing technique. This is done by inhaling for 4 seconds, pausing for a second, then exhaling for 8 seconds. Simple, right? I like to do this for about 5 rounds or so. At that point I am really starting to notice the effects. The 4:8 breathing technique is so wonderfully calming.

Another way to encourage this kind of slow, rhythmic breathing is to use visualization. This was taught to me by one of my best yoga nidra teachers, Kamini Desai, PhD. With each exhalation, image that you are blowing the air out through a straw. So that’s inhaling through the nose, pausing for a second, then exhaling with softly pursed lips as if blowing through a straw. Really see that breath being pushed out through a skinny tube to slow everything down.

Another technique that involves counting, but in a much different way, is to count each inhalation and exhalation. Work downward, from 10 down to one. Some people recommend counting only the inhalations or the exhalations, while others recommend counting both. So, it would look like mentally/silently saying to yourself ‘10 I am inhaling…10 I am exhaling…9 I am inhaling…9 I am exhaling…8 I am inhaling,…’ and so on. When I was training in hypnotherapy, I was reminded that counting down (not up) was important to encourage greater levels of relaxation.

We all know that stress equals disease onset. In our overly-stressed society, conscious breathing has become a necessity. Not only do our bodies benefit, so do our minds. After all, the mind and body are linked – they make up a whole. You could even say that they are ONE. While these techniques are for anytime and anywhere, I find that they are perfect upon waking up each morning as well as at bedtime. That’s because an AM breathing practice sets the tone for the day, while the PM practice supports the melting away of stress and the day’s residue. It even adds to a solid sleep hygiene routine. With consistent practice, I expect that you will see a difference. I know I did.

If you’d like one-on-one coaching for stress management or support with your health goals, contact me. I can assist you in breathwork and in building a mediation practice. I offer guided imagery, hypnotherapy, and yoga nidra (a sleep-based meditation), in addition to counseling services.

 

Here’s to your health,

Kim

To order my book, Extraordinary Dreams, click here.

in remission, radical-style

How do people get diagnosed with a terrible disease, forgoing any kind of conventional/allopathic treatment, only to later discover that there is no evidence of that disease? One year, it’s stage four, the next year it is gone – how does this happen? Radical remissions have boggled the mind, however, the spontaneous disappearance of disease is now much more well-documented than it was a half-century ago. The Institute of Noetic Sciences published a report in May 1987: Brendan O’Regan’s lecture, titled Healing, Remission and Miracle Cures. Yes, these types of spontaneous remissions were

fashion woman notebook pen
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thought to be miracles by some, yet in the medical community these remissions were often considered to result from misdiagnosis. In some cases even, amazing healing stories were silenced.

Miracle, luck, or otherwise, let us look at what these individuals have done – their behaviors, beliefs and practices – that have likely been responsible for such a miracle to have taken place. Since the 1980s, science has demonstrated that the mind and body are connected and in communication with each other. It’s appropriate to consider the mind and body to be a unified whole. Understanding this helps digest what we will see below.

Dr. Kelly Turner’s 2014 book Radical Remissions and her 2020 book Radical Hope outline the key factors for healing. In Turner’s multifaceted definition of radical remission, one component includes those who healed from cancer (and other serious diseases) without conventional treatment. More and more attention is being placed on how we can empower ourselves to increase responsibility for our own health and healing. So, let’s review the 1O factors that emerged from Turner’s work. They are:

  • Radically changing your diet
  • Taking control of your health

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  • Following your intuition
  • Using herbs and supplements
  • Releasing suppressed emotions
  • Increasing positive emotions
  • Embracing social support
  • Deepening your spiritual connection
  • Having a strong reason to live

and

  • Incorporating exercise into your life

These healing factors need no additional explanation, however, if you are facing an illness, I encourage reading Turner’s books sooner than later. These books are so inspirational and will answer the dozens of questions likely forming in your mind right now. Could these factors reported by Turner bring an individual from a late stage cancer diagnosis to having no evidence of disease (NED)?

woman meditating in the outdoors
Photo by Oluremi Adebayo on Pexels.com

There are no definitive conclusions – Turner’s research was not causal. At the same time, I feel great promise. We seem to be heading in the right direction here. I attend to each of these 10 factors almost every day of the week. By simply aligning myself with them, I feel at my best.

If you are well, taking these 10 factors seriously could keep you that way. In terms of prevention, why not take action by making these key factors a part of your life. Notice how many of the factors are psycho-social-spiritual? These emerge frequently in my private practice, given my work as a psychologist and psychotherapist. For the other two factors (herbs, supplements, diet), consult with a Naturopathic Physician and Registered Dietician to get professional guidance. I cannot stress this point enough! Lastly, remember that if you have a diagnosis and find yourself on the journey towards healing, know that you do not have to make that journey alone. Allow others to support you and walk beside you along your path.

 

To your health,

Kim

 

If you would like holistic support, see my services by CLICKING HERE.

To get my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE

 

 

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!