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!

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