mindfulness

Everything I have shared here over the past four years, through the Conscious Chimera blog, has had an impact on my life. Every anniversary article, like the one I am writing this month, is extra special because they highlight subjects that are not only impactful, but have a special status in my life. Lucid sleep was the topic of Conscious Chimera’s 3rd anniversary article, and this month, for our 4th anniversary article, I will focus on mindfulness – it’s been over a year since I wrote on this subject. Mindfulness is a term that some have come to dislike. Is it because it is unclear, in vogue, an umbrella term, or something else? I don’t know, yet in this article I will provide some credible definitions and explanations to start. Mindfulness is so important because without an aware, mindful state, maintaining lucidity in dreams can be nearly impossible. Mindfulness practices support conscious dreaming and a conscious waking life.

So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness may be considered both a trait and a state of being, as well as a skill, and it may also be considered a practice or style of meditation. Through the cultivation of such a state, mindfulness expert Joseph Goldstein (1993) explains that mindfulness “uncovers the characteristic nature of experience itself.” But let’s not jump too far ahead. Becoming more mindful can be simple.

There are numerous ways to enter this “wakeful” state: anything that brings attention into the here-and-now by way of body, breath, and sensation, Goldstein (2013) explains. Consider these additional explanations by others in the field:

Mindfulness is bringing “neutral attention and non-judgmental awareness to body, breath, and sensations as well as anything passing through the field of awareness” (Desai, 2017, p. 230). Jon Kabat-Zinn, in a 2012 interview, stated, “Mindfulness is about love and loving life.” How perfect for this time of year – I’m a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Rick Hansen explains mindfulness in simple terms. He says, mindfulness means “being able to stay in the present moment, moment after moment after moment.” Sounds easy, but even simple tasks like this can be challenging. After all, most human minds are used to doing what they want to do, whether that be fixating on an issue from the past or imagining what can be cooked for dinner later that day.

Even with the simplest and most clear definitions, mindfulness is a huge topic, to include a variety of diverse practices, with no single agreed upon meaning (Davidson & Kaszniak, 2015). Disciplines such as yoga, tai chi, or qi gong cultivate mindfulness. Anyone can benefit from these.

As a psychologist who serves a lot of parents in my psychotherapy practice, I often get asked if mindfulness can be taught to children, and how to go about that. Yes, we can definitely teach mindfulness to children. According to Goldstein (2013), second graders have said, “Mindfulness really gets me calm,” and “Mindfulness helps me get better grades.” Isn’t that what every parent wants to hear? Other children have said “Mindfulness helps me calm down when I get upset. It also helps me with sports and to go to sleep at night.” Further more, second graders have stated, “Mindfulness is the best thing I have done in my life,” and “I love mindfulness.”

Both adults and elementary school aged children can begin their mindfulness journey in the simplest of ways. For example, attending to sensation while washing your hands is img_4983one way. What does the soap feel like on the skin? And the sensation of the water running over the skin? Is the water hot, warm, cool, or cold? Another way of practicing mindfulness is to ring a chime or bell, then stay completely focused on the sound until it is no longer detectable. After, notice all other sounds in the environment. A third example could be to smell some things in your environment and really stay with the scent. If your lunch is in front of you, that makes this easy. If not, look for flowers during a walk, or a bouquet at the office. From the two photos here, you probably have an idea of what I love to smell – haha! Seriously, if you are at all like me, you might even carry a sachet of dried flowers or an essential oil in your bag. This is one of the reasons why I make dream pillows (see my product page for an idea). A final example for this article would be to stay connected to your breath. Notice each inhalation and each exhalation. Are you img_4965taking long deep abdominal breaths, or are they shallow, in the chest? Just noticing and staying connected to the senses and the body are ways of entering a mindful state. I hope you are encouraged to bring mindfulness into your daily life.

Research on mindfulness reflects numerous benefits of a sustained mindfulness practice for both body and mind. If you live in Northern California, consider attending my upcoming March presentation: The Art of Presence 101

Interested in knowing more about mindful-based practice? Write to me at kmascarophd@gmail.com

May you be mindfully aware in your daily tasks and your wildest dreams,

Kim

To order my book, click here!

do you have a lucid mindset?

More and more people are becoming familiar with the concept of lucid dreaming, or dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. Would you like to learn how to experience this wonderfully amazing state? For starters, there are some basics to understand as you dive in. This month’s article will feature Dr. Clare Johnson’s “golden tools” for a lucid mindset, particularly, the first of her three golden tools: Intent.

Now before taking a good look at our intention for dreaming consciously, it is necessary to note the importance of using a dream journal. Logging dreams as a daily practice builds our relationship with them. By doing so, we are essentially telling ourselves how important our dreams are and that they are worthy of our attention and our time. Some people use a basic notepad, but I like to use journals that are special and more decorative or unique from the everyday notebooks that I use to jot down ideas or thoughts. This spring, I met Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios in Grass Valley, California. img_1823I was amazed by his craftsmanship, and the time he dedicated to making one-of-a-kind handmade books and journals. I thought, “Now this is a real dream journal – one to hold my most meaningful lucid dreams.” Here is Al in the construction process.

Once we are well on our way to recording our dreams, no matter how vague, short, or mundane, we can trust that more will come. Once we make this habitual, it’s a fine time to seriously consider our intention – Dr. Johnson’s first golden tool. She notes that setting a basic intention such as, “I want to have a lucid dream” is too broad, too empty. Instead, get specific and bring the intention alive by feeling excitement and liveliness for the journey you are embarking on. Furthermore, investigate the specific action you want to take in the lucid dream. Spend time thinking about this action as you go about your day. For example, I decided that I wanted to visit Egypt’s Giza Plateau the next time I became lucid in a dream. And how would I do this? By lucidly flying in my dream body, of course! During my waking hours, in preparation, I spent time looking at colorful photos of the pyramids and wondered what it would be like to fly across the country and the sea. Would I be able to control my speed? Would I be able to see the ground and sea below? (In one particularly memorable experience, I found that, yes, I was able to do these things in my lucid dream excursion to the Giza Plateau, and it was truly amazing).

Before going to sleep, lie quietly and imagine successfully experiencing your chosen action. This sets a strong intention, and the likelihood of recalling your plan in the dream state will be higher. Dr. Johnson reminds us that sometimes we prefer not to change the lucid dream, instead going along with whatever unfolds. If this is the case, as we lie down, we can imagine how awesome it would be to explore the lucid dream space, consciously taking in the details. Do not underestimate the practice of visualization. It really does support conscious dream experiences.

Another way of setting intent is to draw a picture or make a collage of your intended lucid dream action, according to Dr. Johnson. I have yet to do this, but plan to start adding this creative element to my repertoire, as it sounds powerfully effective. What a way to engage willpower, curiosity and enthusiasm!

Finally, we can elicit assistance from our dreaming mind. Offer gratitude for a fulfilling lucid dream, or “strike a deal,” as Dr. Johnson suggests. For example, ask your dreaming mind to help you become lucid in exchange for keeping a consistent dream journaling practice. You may begin noticing lucidity cues. Dr. Johnson began making mixed media collages to enhance her dream imagery, only later to notice that the collages began to turn up in her dreams as a cue to become lucid. She shares other striking examples, so, I suggest taking a look at her book to discover them.

I hope this has inspired you to set an intention for your dream life, as we may spend anywhere between 45-60 hours a week sleeping. Dreaming lucidly, consciously, can change not just the way we experience sleep, but the way we experience the waking state, our day-to day existence. Truly, it can change our lives.

Wishing you restful sleep and peaceful dreams,

Kim

*Find Dr. Clare Johnson’s second and third ‘golden tools for a lucid mindset’ in her book Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness.

*To reach Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios directly (and see photos of his gorgeous hand-crafted journals), email him at davinchstudios@gmail.com