an ethical imperative

When the latest edition of the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology magazine arrived in my mailbox, I scanned the front cover while nodding in approval. The cover highlighted the titles of articles in the way all magazine covers do. Yet this issue’s focus was clear: gun violence, self-care, smartphones and mental health, plus bold lettering for the words, dismantling racism: psychology’s urgent need. I thought how poignant and how necessary. These literary contributions are a must at this time. A recent newspaper scan or nightly news hour this month alone tells all; I need not say more. This month’s mail also contained correspondence related to current statistics on hate crimes and hate group activity in the U.S. sent from the Southern Poverty Law Center. While the COVID-19 pandemic we are all experiencing has stifled and slowed many things down, it did not appear to reduce violence and hate. I’m not suggesting it would or could, rather I am sharing a wish.

Living nonviolently is an active process – one that takes daily commitment and a lot of effort. Just because psychologists are experts in human behavior doesn’t mean we are not susceptible to making the same mistakes or errors in judgment as anyone else. While in a therapy session, we may feel grateful for being granted the privilege of supporting another’s development, fostering empathy or cultivating compassion, and yet we must do this inner work on and for ourselves. I believe everyone, no matter their position or role, should play a part in feeding the world’s people what is needed to blossom…to bloom. Unfortunately, we appear to be collectively withering in many ways. It appears we have forgotten that we exist both as individuals and as a collective. Many years ago I was taught loving-kindness meditation and recognize the ethical imperative of participating in this kind of practice now more than ever. If you agree, read on. Below, I will share with you how it is done.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Loving-kindness meditation sends compassion and love to others as well as to ourselves. We begin this practice as we would many other forms of silent sitting meditation, on the floor or in a chair. Then turn the attention inward, towards the breath. With each breath, notice a sense of relaxation coming in. Let go of mental chatter pulling you into the past or future. Stay with the breath, and since we begin this practice with ourselves, you may like to keep the focus on your heart center or imagine yourself as a young child. Then, recite the following inwardly, nonvocally, several times:

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May I be well in body and mind.

May I be at ease and happy.

Practice this each day for an entire week to become familiar and comfortable, allowing the love to grow over time. If it feels mechanical, that’s okay, just keep going. If you experience anger, frustration or sadness, allow it. Remember to be gentle. Keep going.

Once this process becomes a bit more comfortable – and it’s okay if you need more than one week – we add the second piece. Just as before, use your imagination again, this time to ‘see’ another person in your mind’s eye. While picturing that person, recite the following inwardly, nonvocally:

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May you be well in body and mind.

May you be at ease and happy.

Repeat this portion several times, just as you did for yourself.

To participate in this practice as it was intended, begin with yourself then, shift to the other (unless, for whatever reason, that becomes too difficult).

There you have it – a powerful tool that can be done anytime during one’s day and it takes just a few intentional minutes. That’s so little time when considering the resulting mental-emotional shift that remains lasting. What would the world be like if everyone made this a part of their day?

Since I have learned so much from Jack Kornfield, PhD I’m providing you with a link to his website where he provides additional details. Dr. Kornfield is a psychologist and has taught meditation for over four decades, in addition to his training as a Buddhist monk in several monasteries throughout Asia. I was initially introduced to loving-kindness by him. You may find Kornfield here: https://jackkornfield.com/meditation-lovingkindness/

One thing this world needs from us is more empathy and compassion. Through the practice of loving-kindness, we take a step in the right direction.

With benevolence,

Dr. Kim

does this look like your average free offer?

I know we are all struggling right now: After all we are amidst a global pandemic. On top of that six out of ten people in the United States are living with a chronic illness, according to the CDC. Knowing this, it is reasonable to believe that everyone of us here has been impacted in some way by chronic disease. Perhaps you are living with an auto-immune condition or maybe your parent suffered from cancer. Then there’s COVID – the icing on the mud pie. Unfortunately, chronic disease diagnoses are on the rise. The coronavirus numbers are paralyzing. Ugh! Our friends and family are vulnerable, as we are. It’s tempting to want to run away, hide and scream.

Do not despair. We are not powerless and we can heal. One way to support our bodies through this pandemic and beyond is by regular practice of some form of deep relaxation, gifting ourselves with silent stillness. I talk about this a lot. Why? Because I have seen for myself, in my own life and the lives of others, the lasting positive impact of self-care practices, such as meditation.

For the past year, I have been offering free guided meditation sessions online, via Zoom, to anyone impacted in any way by chronic illness. I want to extend this free offer to you, followers of Conscious Chimera. Every Wednesday at 6pm (Pacific Time) at group of us gather online and I lead a profoundly relaxing guided experience, in the yoga nidra fashion. A series of body, breath, and awareness techniques bring about the deepest level of relaxation in this ‘sleep-based’ meditation. All you have to do is lie down, get cozy, and close your eyes. This is an ancient practice of non-doing, delivering profound benefits for mind, body, and spirit in a short as 40 minutes. You’ll leave the experience feeling peaceful and renewed. The world really needs this right now.

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the emotional benefits of meditation:

  • Gain a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Build skills to manage your stress
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Focus on the present
  • Reduce negative emotions
  • Increase imagination and creativity
  • Increase patience and tolerance

The world really needs this right now! In addition, meditation may also help people manage the following symptoms and conditions, as suggested by some research, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

That’s an impressive list. Ask your doctors if they are aware of additional benefits and how often they believe you should meditate in order to gain such benefits. You  may even choose to bring this article with you: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

If you’d like to receive my weekly email invitation with Zoom link, sent me your email address and I will add you to the list. There is no obligation to attend and every session is 100% free-of-charge. Pop in on any session that fits your schedule – attend as many or as few as you like. All I ask is that you arrive on time because once we begin, I do not admit anyone into the session. Understandably, latecomers disturb everyone.

If you chose to get on my list and attend, let me know how you liked it. Furthermore, you may share this with a friend. Who is the one person in your life that needs this the most?

Last but not least, I understand that before signing up, you may want to prepare yourself, or start off slowly…and perhaps you may want to get to know me a little. That’s just fine. If that’s the case, consider checking out my YouTube channel. There you can find my 3 part video series titled ‘Let’s Breathe.’ That series offers a solid kick-start! Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5uiyWhrG8N8gNsYbZbGK8w

Meditation…it’s what the world needs more of.

~Dr. Kim

P.S. After years of studying and practicing various forms of meditation, such as mindfulness, Tai Chi, concentrative/focused meditation, and even mantra meditation, I turned my attention to the ancient sleep-based meditation of yoga nidra. I spend all of 2019 learning this form of guided meditation under Kamini Desai, PhD, and John Vosler, allowing me to earn my certification in the Integrative Amrit Method of Yoga Nidra (I AM Yoga Nidra). Since 2019, I have led group yoga nidra sessions for free throughout all of 2020, and now into 2021. If you’d like to know more about this method, please reach out.

the fall lineup: dr. kim’s top 10

Can you believe it? Fall is just around the corner! I have to be honest with you, I  worry that a Fall AND Winter season during this pandemic (with the accompanying power outages and California wildfires) will just be too much. How are you preparing? Are you even preparing?

One way I am preparing to shelter in place in the rain, snow and freezing cold (possibly without electricity) is by spending the month of September to order the books I want to read during those days and nights in isolation. Of course, I’ll be sure to have other necessities (extra candles, warm blankets, dozens of batteries for my battery operated lamps, and bottles of water). Let’s get back to what is important for a full inner life  – that is, BOOKS. Wonderful, amazing books! Yes, I am a reader and a true lover of books – not ebooks, but REAL BOOKS – The kind you need paper clips, highlighters, and handmade book markers for. So here, in this article, I want to share with you my top 10 nonfiction recommendations. You’ll find the list below, in no particular order, as they are all equally important to me:

1) Morning Altars: A 7-Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit through Nature, Art, and Ritual by Day Schildkret

  • For those days when the sky is clear and you feel drawn to go outside, consider creating a natural, earthy altar. By doing so, you practice the art of nonattachment, of letting go. This is important during these unprecedented times when we cannot make our usual predictions about tomorrow. Will a wildfire erupt in our neighborhood? Will a family member contract the coronavirus? Will power outages last several days? In this book, Schildkret walks us through the steps toward creating a beautiful natural piece of art. No glue needed! We use what we find in nature and when the creative process is complete, we give it back to the earth, allowing the winds and rain to take care of it. This is a lovely practice for all ages as well as for the entire family. If you find that constructing these kinds of altars are helpful in your life, for cultivating peace, beauty and nonattachment, why not make them a regular practice?

2) Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep by Kamini Desai, PhD

  • This books covers all you need to know for the deeply relaxing, transformative sleep-based meditation known as yoga nidra. This form of guided meditation is a foundational part of my life. Dr. Desai even has a yoga nidra app which includes 4 recorded meditations for a great price. I have it on my smartphone and use it weekly – once a week at the bare minimum. I have found this practice to be very nurturing and an anxiety reducer.

3) Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life by Robert Moss

  • While this book was released many years ago, it is still and always will be one of my favorites. Moss has written a dozen books on dreaming, but this is the best in my opinion. He covers just about everything related to dreaming with awareness, including working with your dream guides. This is an inspiring book and one I recommend on very bookshelf. I have a lot more to say about this wonderful book, so click on this link – it brings you to my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43JtsnOeO50

4) Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness by Clare R. Johnson, PhD

  • Lucid dreaming is a hot topic these days and there are several solid publications on the subject. Dr. Johnson’s book is the most comprehensive I have ever come across. As a psychologist with expertise in dreaming, I can say with certainty that this amazing guide will take beginning lucid dreamers to advanced lucid dreamers on a fun and intriguing adventure! Daylight hours are shortening with the approaching Fall season and these unprecedented times have allowed many people to sleep (and dream) more that before. I claim that this is the right time to train yourself to lucid dream, and this is the book to show you how. You won’t be disappointed!

5) Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein

  • The world is shifting all around us on so many levels. It’s time to wake up. We can no longer sleepwalk – it’s hurting the planet and hurting the children. While stuck indoors this fall and winter due to rain, snow, and the pandemic, why not dedicate 10-30 minutes a day learning to meditate? This can be done with a spouse, friend, or your bored teenagers. While there are much simpler books that teach mindfulness, this book is a classic. It is detailed and rooted in Buddhist teachings so that the reader comes away with an education in the history and philosophy of the origins.

6) Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases by Larry Burk, MD, CEHP and Kathleen O’Keefe Kanavos

  • Here, a three time breast cancer survivor and a radiologist team up to deliver a book like never before. Since people are reporting higher dream recall this year, it is wise to track our dreams in search of what they may be telling us. Our bodies know things before our conscious, intellectual mind does – these messages can come through in the dream. Read this book and you’ll see for yourself. My video comments on this book can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXETJELQUgw&t=82s

7) Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep by Andrew Holecek

  • I can’t say enough about this amazing book. While Holecek teaches us that lucid dreaming can promote self-improvement, he takes a deep dive into how waking up in our dreams can lead to self-transcendence – a spiritual dream practice known as dream yoga. Eastern and Western lucid dream induction techniques are covered here so the reader walks away with plenty of opportunities to immediately delve into this life-changing art journey. This book is a gem, requiring a highlighter in my opinion – That speaks to the level of profound insights captured within these pages. Here’s where I say a little more about Holececk’s work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW9ymibgmUo

8) Dreams of Light: The Profound Daytime Practice of Lucid Dreaming by Andrew Holecek

  • A few years after Dream Yoga was released, Holecek delivers Dreams of Light: a perfect pairing for those on a conscious path to awakening to the true nature of reality. This book, like Holocek’s Dream Yoga, is also rooted in the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. A main difference is that this book focuses on the daytime practices more so than the nocturnal practices. Dream Yoga and Dreams of Light marry well together. By absorbing the information contained within these pages and actually doing the practices in a serious way, life as we know it changes in ways beyond what we imagine.

9) Radical Hope: 10 Healing Factors from Exceptional Survivors of Cancer and Other Diseases by Kelly A. Turner, PhD with Tracy White.

  • Dr. Turner’s previous book, Radical Remission, was fabulous and this new book on healing is just as wonderful. As the subtitle reflects, there are 10 things we can do to support our health and healing. This is one of those books that you gift to family members – it’s that necessary. I’d like to tell you about a favorite chapter, but truth is, I found all 10 chapters to be equally valuable. This books flows beautifully and I’d bet that you could read it cover to cover in under two weeks. Find my earlier blog on miraculous remissions here: https://consciouschimera.com/2020/06/15/in-remission-radical-style/

10) Italian Folk Magic by Mary-Grace Fahrun

  • You don’t have to have Italian ancestry to enjoy this book. The beauty of this book is that it serves as a reminder to all people and all groups that there are stories, rituals and beliefs that are carried deep within us to connect us to our past. Now if you have ‘lost’ Italian roots, allow this fun read to reacquaint you with your history. After reading Italian Folk Magic, I was inspired to continue asking questions about my family history and request the retelling of old stories. I gather that this book truly comes from the heart.

So that’s my top 10 – obviously, I recommend them all. Clearly my prized book collection features many publications on ‘the inner work.’ That’s what I love and that’s what Conscious Chimera is all about. What would you add to this list of Fall/Winter nonfiction recommendations for 2020? Let me know. I’m always looking for a good read!

Cheers to all my booklovers,

Kim

Here’s the link to get my book, Extraordinary Dreams: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/extraordinary-dreams/

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.

5 tips for sanity in the summer of 2020

So here I am, blogging in my home away from home in an attempt to escape the Jones Fire. One of my favorite months (August) is now entwined with anxiety. Last summer was just as unnerving. I just love living in a forested, mountainous region, but I am a city-girl after all, having been born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. While I love my new community, I have noticed that I am definitely much more uneasy than the locals when it comes to forces of nature. That’s just a fact, whether it is a family of bears at my front door, a wildfire, or the random pine tree dropping some of its branches on my roof. Furthermore, as I sit here and blog so soon after having evacuated from my home, I can’t help but wonder…what is wrong with me? Shouldn’t I be focused on something else?

This article is one attempt to stay sane amidst this pandemic and the start of wildfire season. Below, I will share with you 5 tips for wellness and sanity – things that I practice every day. I will lay out each tip in the order in which I do them.

  • 1) Immediately upon waking up I remain still and see what dreams I recall. If nothing is clearly recalled, I notice how I feel. I don’t care if I wake up at 8am or sadly, much much earlier as a result of worry. Why? Dreams or the feeling they give off can tell me a lot with regard to what I should focus on that day. For example, did I wake up with a sense of dread and feel compelled to pack or recheck my ‘go-bag’? If yes, then I do it! Did I wake up to recall a seemingly random scenario? If so, I pay attention. You see, dreams can provide precognitive elements – that’s a glimpse of a future event. So many people (both those in the United States and the Middle East) recalled dream predictions of 9/11, and other disasters. So when I wake up in the middle of the night or the morning, I take notice. It is okay to act on information from dreams. They just might be helping me out!
  • 2) Once awake and moving about, I list 10 things I am grateful for. Sometimes, the list doesn’t change much from day-to-day. That’s alright. The point is that I take a minute or two to set this tone. I like to do this while I enjoy my morning tea. The positivity and humility carry me throughout the day ahead. I can easily return to those thoughts of life’s simple blessings whenever I need to.
  • 3) I’m told over and over that I am what I eat, so I start the day with a healthy boost. I have both a juicer and a Vitamix, but that isn’t necessary. One appliance will do. This month I have turned toward my Vitamix almost daily. I toss in organic broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, and berries. Once blended, I sip my vegetables while knowing that I have given myself a healthy phytonutrient blast. If I eat something that’s not so healthy later that day, I don’t feel so bad about it. Important side note: if you can afford organic fruits and vegetables, it’s worth it. I read a lot about food politics, but I won’t get into that here. Trust me, buying organic is worth your money!
  • 4) A period dedicated to some form of meditation acts as a reset when the day becomes hectic or unmanageable. Before diving into work or leaving the house, add a 10 to 15 minute time block to the calendar. This makes it more likely to happen. I’m sure you’ve noticed that as well. The e-calendar on my smart phone is a placeholder for wellness-related activities, not just appointments and tasks. Honor this time that is set for self-care. For support, I sometimes use an app while other times I choose walking meditation or sit down for conscious breathing time. This tip alone does wonders for our physiology, supporting the parasympathetic nervous system (that’s ‘the brakes’ or the part that supports ‘rest and digest’). I consider any form of meditation a foundation healthcare practice. Switch out the afternoon coffee break for a meditation break. You’ll get a much healthier level of support to finish out the workday.
  • 5) It’s blazing hot outside, so to finish my day I head outdoors around sundown. During that time, I water the garden, toss around the tennis ball with my Border Collie, or go for a neighborhood stroll. This kind of gentle movement and down time allows me to reflect and process the day behind me. Now that it’s evening time, I can return to step 2 if I need to. There’s no harm in that.

I hope you use these 5 tips as you move forward into this stressful fire season alongside the pandemic. Everyone, everywhere, can use a little help from time to time. I am happy that I shared some of the activities and behaviors that have helped me move toward a heathy lifestyle. Wishing you and your loved ones wellness, safety, and good fortune, from California.

 

Cali Love,

Dr. Kim

For my free guided meditation recordings, CLICK HERE!

For my previous article on breathing and breathwork, Click here.

To purchase my book Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK 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!

boosting your dreams

Sometimes we dreamers need a little extra support. Maybe it’s constant morning noise from outside, or the ongoing use of alarms, that has lead to poor dream recall. No matter the reason or situation, nature’s helpers do exist. With that said, I must remind you that this article is not meant nor is it intended to persuade or provide medical information. I make no claims regarding the effectiveness of anything listed in the article – for all I know, results could be a result of placebo effects. Always consult a physician or medical professional for advice regarding supplements or consumables. Now on with the blogging!

When I need a dream boost, I either place my amethyst or high-charged quartz crystal, img_3694also known as a Herkimer Diamond, under the covers with me. Both stones are credited for enhancing dream recall as well as vivid qualities of the dream itself. I have found that to be the case in my experience when working with these stones. Those are my top two go-to stones. Others swear by any kind of quartz crystal. Part of creating a space for conscious dreaming is the preparation ritual. It’s easy to bypass this part, yet intention is a key element behind any and all rituals. For example, I sometimes burn a mugwort leaf in my bedroom – it’s a highly regarded ancient incense, you know! I’ve also used locally-crafted tinctures as well as essential oil based body oils infused with mugwort. No matter what I use, it is necessary to set the intention for the goal to manifest.

img_3695See it already happening!

Write it down.

Proclaim it: “I recall my dreams.”

Our beliefs and intention make a world of difference.

Intention + Practice + Plant helpers = Success.

Being part of the world’s largest professional dream organization, the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), I can attest to the dozens of products that are on the market claiming to bring on dream recall and increased lucidity. Having never tried anything beyond what I mentioned above, I became curious and changed my tune this year. One company I recently encountered is dreamleaf (see luciddreamleaf.com). img_3696-1Their mission is directed toward human consciousness – specifically increasing it through the method of dreaming. The founder and co-founder have experienced lucid dreams and understand the great potential that accessing conscious dream states have for humanity. Since I couldn’t agree more, I turned to them when I found myself in a slump, with significantly reduced dream recall and a low level of awareness in my dreams (What I mean by that, is that when a dream scene turned so bizarre where I would normally question whether I was dreaming, I did not. That meant no lucid dream for me!). But, also, as I said, I was just deeply curious, having never tried a dietary supplement created solely for lucid dreaming. It sounded exciting. Some authors who write about dreaming have expressed the benefits dreamleaf’s featured red pill/blue pill product called dreamleaf. I decided to purchase it. So far, I have not experienced the results I was hoping for, yet I have only used each supplement about a half-dozen times. I’m sure I’ll give it another shot soon.

What I have found to be very effective for enhancing dream lucidity, outside of the world of plants and supplements, is maintaining a consistent meditation practice. And I don’t just mean a disciplined sitting practice, although those are excellent, but committing to daily mindfulness-based exercises. I was taught several variations during my training by teachers coming out of the Buddhist, Yogic, and Gnostic traditions. The variety helps alleviate boredom to some extent, however the key is discipline.

I can’t help but notice how quickly people will flock to anything that delivers a quick and easy solution/resolution, or brings on an altered state of consciousness. I’m sure you have too…ah, the human condition. Like so many, I have lived on both sides of the fence. The long, long road of disciplined training and sitting practices versus the popping of a img_3698pill (the dreamleaf dietary supplement in my case). Call me old-fashioned, haha, but I must admit that I feel best when I know that I have worked for the results. At the same time, sometimes I just want a break from it all without losing the benefits. This year, I’ll settle on experiencing both. But I won’t lie – truth is, I have found the most impactful, memorable lessons of human consciousness capability by going the long route. Through harnessing the skills, extraordinary experiences are also replicable, and can be done at will by more advanced practitioners. Waking up is a process. By just relying on external consumables, when the pills run out, what then? The conflict is real – LOL. When I give myself a hard time, I remind myself that nature is here for us. We are nature. Medicinal plants have helped people in numerous ways for millennia. When coupled with intention – the power of the mind – there is no stopping us from expanding consciousness.

There hasn’t been a dream enhancement article at conscious chimera since October 2016, so I thought it was time. If you have an opinion or comment, please post it here – I love hearing from my readers!

~Kim

To order my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE.

immersed in yoga nidra

Having recently completed a five-day immersion workshop in Yoga Nidra (sleep yoga), I am feeling inspired to share my experience. First, let me tell you how it all began, months prior to the workshop. Dr. Kamini Desai of the Amrit Yoga Institute is author of Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep (Lotus Press, 2017) – what some have called ‘The Bible of Yoga Nidra.” Many months ago I purchased this book to learn more about the topic and to prepare for an article I was writing. The deeper my investigation into the thousands-of-years-old practice of yoga nidra, the more I wanted to dive in. Shortly after purchasing the book, I saw that Dr. Desai would soon be leading a Yoga Nidra immersion with John Vosler at Esalen Institute. Wanting an in-depth experience for myself, I enrolled immediately!

I arrived at Esalen on a Sunday, in the late afternoon, but early enough to settle in before the workshop officially kicked off. I say kicked off, but really it was a lovely slow-paced unfolding. If you have never been to Esalen, image the Garden of Eden, cliffside, and you’ll get the idea. Soon enough, the attendees (myself included) were all on our backs, comfortably secure on our yoga mats with blankets or eye pillows. As the first taste of yoga nidra for the week is delivered, I rest deeply, allowing my thoughts to dissolve. A rumifloaty sensation accompanying peaceful stillness, along with the sense of spaciousness, is deeply relaxing. This is a space I have become familiar with from years of meditation, hypnosis, and conscious sleep-based practices I’ve been taught by Gnostic mystics, Taoists and Buddhists. Some of the particular breathing techniques, mantras, and visualizations were new and aroused my curiosity. I thought, well Kim, welcome to the meditation limb of yoga. An important reminder was that no matter which spiritual lineage or framework the ancients originated from, the end result is that of knowing great peace and making contact with soul, regardless of the particular strategy applied. All used toning, visualizations, and the breath in some fashion or another and while the precise technique differs from place to place across time, the end result is similar if not exactly the same. For me, this realization brings a sense of wholeness, humility and a profound tranquility. Over the next five days, attendees are taught core principles of a deep form of meditation, known as yoga nidra, and concepts concerning health and spirituality, including the subtle bodies, karma, and much more. We also learn how regenerative states and healing of the body are supported by yoga nidra, as practitioner’s brain waves slow down significantly, some even down into delta brain wave states during a yoga nidra practice. This is important because when we sleep each night, we only get about 20 minutes of delta – the most restorative brain wave state. By inducing yoga nidra for a short period during the day, we can add several additional minutes of the beneficial delta state, as the body sleeps while the mind remains conscious. This space is where healing suggestions can be incorporated – here the mind-body complex responds without having to do anything. What a delight this immersive workshop was, especially due to the class receiving two yoga nidras each day – one in the AM and another in the PM. All stressors seemed to melt away as each day passed. After a yoga nidra session, which are typically 30-45 minutes in length, I feel so comfortably relaxed, focused and recharged. I walk away with the firm knowing that my body has been given the gift of additional support and good care.

In this fast-paced world with its many demands and easy access to a slew of mind-numbing distractions, I believe we are in desperate need of quality restoration and time/space to ground, breath, and connect to ourselves and those around us. What better way to prioritize our health than with yoga nidra? To encourage my personal commitment to this practice for my wellbeing and to offer yoga nidra to others, I am currently working toward certification via the Integrative Amrit Method. If you have wanted to try yoga nidra, let me know. From now until September, I am offering one free online session (up to 45 minutes) to those that follow Conscious Chimera. Message me if you are interested. As I type this month’s blog, I’m reminded of Ram Dass, who says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” So, no need to feel shy – reach out – I’m happy to be of support!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers worldwide,

Kim