sacred dreamwork

I’m on a train. Several extended family members (all deceased relatives who have died during different periods of my life) enter through doors, but not all at once. Some are already seated, while others enter through different train doors on the same long train car. We quietly acknowledge each other. The train is moving again. Some prepare to exit as the train approaches its next stop. Then, they begin to leave, some together, some solo, getting off at different stops, exiting through different doors. I am not going with them. I do not protest. After all, I know they are dead. I have my own stop, my own door. I have some awareness that I am dreaming.

In both November 2016 and 2017, conscious chimera turned attention toward some aspect of visitation dreams, shrine/altar-making, or contact with the deceased. This makes sense given the time of year. So now, as the month of the dead wraps up for 2018, attention returns to these phenomena. Above, is one of a handful of easily recalled visitation dreams that contain several of my deceased relatives all together, in the same dream space.

From my research, I learned that visitation dreams most often arise in the context of major life transitions and loss (e.g. bereaved individuals as well as those in the dying process). Jeanne Van Bronkhorst’s book Dreams at the threshold: Guidance, comfort and healing at the end of life (2015) is a notable example, providing rich information about visitations reported among these groups. The Canadian author, who worked as a hospice social worker and bereavement counselor, describes how visitation dreams bring comfort to the bereaved as well as confidence to those who are moving toward death.

In 2011, Patrick McNamara authored a Psychology Today article titled Visitation dreams: Can dreams carry messages from loved-ones who have died? McNamara shares his own experiences with visitation dreams of his parents. Each dream occurred about 6 months after each death. Even with his strong Western scientific background, he “could not shake the conviction” that true communication between he and his dead mother and father took place. Like many researchers and scholars of dreams, McNamara is aware of how little research has been carried out on this topic, all the while knowing that these types of dreams can be very helpful. He states that experiencing a visitation dream can carry a bereaved person to “successful resolution of the grieving process.”

What can one make of a visitation dream outside of bereavement or end-of-life concerns? One commonality among the visitation dreams reported by those grieving, near death, and others (who are not experiencing grief or loss) is the appearance of, along with some form of communication with, the deceased. In such cases, the deceased individual often appears more youthful and in good health. After a neighbor-acquaintance had died, he greeted me in a dream. Effortlessly moving toward me, his body was in better shape than it had been the last time I saw him alive. His essence felt light and jovial.

Another commonality among the visitation dreams of those grieving, near death, and others is that the dream structure is organized and clear. This was the case for my neighborly visitation dream, along with other visitation dreams I have experienced. None have been outlandish, disorganized, or outrageous.

While these sorts of experiences may imply a broad spiritual perspective and a conviction of after-life realities for many bereaved individuals, they may also offer the same for those not experiencing any kind of grief or loss, or those outside of deprived conditions. My neighbors dream visit served as a reminder that there is much more to see (and sense) than our physical eyes can show us. A vivid dream visitation has the potential to impact anyone! As conscious, soulful beings, these visitations can open doors and change lives.

What can be done so that meaningful dreams become more than a distant, fading memory? Having over a dozen books (perhaps even over two dozen) published on various aspects, traditions, and perspectives on dreams and dreaming, Robert Moss is known to assert, “dreams require action” – A motto by which he lives. Having learned img_2801much from his time with Iroquois, Moss writes that tending to dreams was the first order of the day for the community. Whether grief is resolved or unresolved, visitation dreams, like all big dreams, require action. We can honor our dreams and those that visit us in many ways.

A most basic, yet important way, is to document our dreams and title them. This can be done in a fancy journal or on a simple notepad, or even with a smart phone voice memo app. In addition, we may even decide to share them with others.

As an artist, I really enjoy getting creative with actions prompted by a dream. Making small altars or shrines (or adding to an already existing one) is a favorite. It is a popular as well as traditional action throughout November, especially. Altar-making allows for photos of our dream visitors to be displayed and embellished. Altars and shrines also provide a space to hold objects that may have once belonged to the deceased, as well as items the deceased favors. This space can act as a place to pray, remember, or meditate.

In a ‘working’ altar, these objects and items can be fresh flowers, water, and food, for example. Some even leave alcohol and cigarettes at the altar. In caring for any ‘working’ IMG_1883shrine or altar, it is necessary to keep the space clean and to replace foods, water, and flowers daily-to-weekly. By honoring deceased loved ones in this way, it is like we are making the statement that the relationship is important no matter on what side of the veil we exist, and that we appreciate such dream visits. Furthermore, such action and attention may prompt additional, similar dreams.

Whether we are actively grieving, aware that we are near the end of our own life, or in neither of those places at the present moment, a space exists to turn our attention toward the journey of the soul. I consider this kind of dreamwork as sacred. Truly, it is a way of life.

 

I hope your November dream-life was meaningful and memorable.

Kim

today’s meditation

Last month (Nov. 2017), I concluded the Conscious Chimera article by revealing my openness for dreaming with a deceased loved one that night. I awoke the next morning, November 1st, surprised, yet appreciative, for during an early morning dream I answered a phone call from my deceased paternal grandmother. Wow – I dream with her so rarely! In the dream, we spoke briefly, similar to our phone calls when she was living. She told me she was fine and asked how the family was doing. After our check-in, and knowing that everyone was doing well in general, we ended the conversation. Then, I woke up. This dream was not nearly as profound as the dream I had immediately prior to her death, but I am always grateful for whatever way the grandmother-granddaughter relationship can continue. For this month, I decided to write about an important practice: mediation. A meditation routine supports dreamwork as well as good health. So, that is what I present here, today.

As I sat this morning, on my turquoise cushion, tracking my breathing – each inhale and each exhale – I realized I had not written on this aspect on conscious experience since conscious chimera began. “Not now,” said an inner voice, silently disciplining the mind. As any experienced meditator knows, another distracting thought is just around the corner. Anything to take us away from the task of following the breath, or staying with img_2452present awareness. New associations, distant memories, dinner planning – it doesn’t matter, we know distractions arise. While simple, disciplining the mind is no easy task. We learn to gently become the boss of our conscious attention. The mind can argue with us about this. “You can do this meditation thing later, the kitchen needs cleaning… weren’t you supposed to call your mother!” Staying with the practice is an important aspect of the practice itself. Additionally, as we increase awareness in the waking state, we may discover increased awareness in the dream state.

Over the past decade or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been taught meditation, as a sitting practice, by contemporary mindfulness practitioners as well as by those immersed in Buddhist-centered traditions (Tibetan Shambhala is one example). But that is not how I began. At 19, my introduction to meditation began with primarily movement-based practices. My Tai Chi and Qi Gong instructors were exactly what I needed in my early years. Back then, it was difficult for me to sit still and nearly impossible to jump right in to tracking thoughts and disengaging mental chatter. Those early experiences served me well and built the foundation for what was to come. Later, in the mid-2000s, I was introduced to a focusing type of meditation, which involved vocalizing vowels (e.g. “Aaaaaaaaahh”). This proved effective in many ways. The practice was active, but in a new way, and the shift in the mediation space was palpable, thus reinforcing. Dedication to those exercises, as a result, took dreamtime to a new level, giving rise to desired lucid experiences.

From my own history of meditation, I have come to view the mind as sort of an entity, with its own agenda. It doesn’t want to sit still. It doesn’t want to go quiet. For me, it seems to enjoy planning for the future and fantasizing about adventure. Fortunately, with practice, there is noticed improvement. Not only can our health and general functioning improve, but we come to see that we do not have to react to the junk life throws our way. There is no need to respond to that mental ‘director’ that does not 12079055_842446395876012_8916130318488297582_nalways know what is best for us. After all, it is not our true essence. The irony is that through sustained, ongoing meditation practice, we come to experience truth, connection to the all and everything…our true essence, our very nature. And sometimes, our practice can lead to a creative project, like a written piece for a blog, such as this one.

If you have never meditated before, but want to start, commit to 10 minutes a day to start. Literally, schedule it – put it on your calendar. Then, at the appropriate time, silence the phone, TV, radio, etc., find a comfortable place to sit, set a timer for 10 minutes, and simply focus on your breath. Mentally track each inhale and exhale. When you catch the mind wandering, come back to the breath. It’s not a contest – if the mind wants to judge or ridicule, fine, but the task for the 10 minute period is to focus on the breath, so just come back that rhythmic cycle again and again, as often as needed. After a solid week (or month) increase the sitting time by 5 minutes. See what you discover from the simple daily 10 minute routine. You might discover something new, when in dreaming or waking.

Questions? Comments? Contact me! I’d love to hear how your meditation practice has enhanced your lived experience, whether asleep or awake.

~Kim

enhancing dreamtime

As the warmer months are wrapping up, and the cold weather approaches, we find ourselves spending more and more time indoors. During the fall and winter seasons, we may spend much of our leisure time reading by a cozy fire, or listening to music under a warm blanket. In such a comfortable environment, it’s easy to drift off to sleep, even if only for a few minutes. In this polyphasic space, dreams are sprinkled over the course of the day or evening. For many people, all it takes is one extraordinary dream to spark a life-long interest in dreaming. Whether that first extraordinary dream is a lucid one, a highly memorable, vivid dream, or one with lasting impact, there is a desire to understand and experience more. For a few, vivid dreams and even lucid dreams are the norm, although, this is not the case for the majority of the population who typically recall mundane, fragmented dreams. On average, I experience one or two extraordinary dreams a month since I had a disciplined practice in the past. Some dreamers, however, report an extraordinary dream each week, while others report only a few each year. No matter one’s experience, dreamtime can be enhanced in several ways. For this month (October), Conscious Chimera is dedicated to offering tips for enhancing dreamtime. For questions or comments regarding the list below, please post a comment here or send me an email. I hope to hear from you soon!

*Aroma

-Mugwart: According to Victoria H. Edwards, author of The Aromatherapy Companion, “smelling mugwart before retiring” may assist with dream recall. Edwards even suggests hanging some to dry near your bed.

-Lavendar: Well-known for its calming effect, smelling lavender essential oil right before naptime or bedtime can help us relax. A relaxed state is ideal because an anxious or racing mind can affect dreams.

-Neroli & Sandalwood: Using these essential oils in combination is said to stimulate extraordinary dreams. Rub a few drops on the forehead, or add the oils to a spray bottle with distilled water to use as a pillow mist.

*Meditation & Breathwork

-Track the breath, every inhalation and exhalation. To bring about a sense of peace and calm, follow each in-breath and out-breath with focused attention. After a few minutes of ding so, say out loud, “It’s easy to remember my dreams.” Setting an intention with mindful breathing works wonders.

*Deep relaxation/Hypnosis

-A way to relax the body entirely to prepare for dreamtime is to apply ‘progressive relaxation.’ This technique involves relaxing each muscle group, one by one. Move from the head down to the feet, or from the feet up to the head – either direction works just fine. Once the process is complete say out loud, “I recall my dreams with ease, and I notice how vivid they are,” or a similar statement five or more times. The idea here, is to move into a very relaxed, suggestive state so that you can ‘program’ your mind to recall dreams as you drift off.

*Crystals/Gems

-Amethyst: Tonight I’ll be sleeping with a quality piece of amethyst! Why? It’s known to support dream recall.

-Clear Quartz: Amplify dream imagery by keeping a clear quartz crystal under your pillow. Sometimes, I like to carry mine with me all day as well.

Last but not least, leave a pen and notepad nearby so every dream, regardless of length, can be recorded as soon as you awaken. It is important to log all details without judgment. This practice along can help with dream recall, and having a record of your dreams is also necessary for tracking precognitive elements (aka premonitions).

 

Wishing you a pleasant fall season,

Kim

the application of self-hypnosis

Self-hypnosis is another valuable tool. As the name implies, you do it yourself – no need to make an appointment, buy a CD, or download an app! I often utilize self-hypnosis before any event or experience that provokes some nervousness, such as an interview, teaching a large class, public speaking, or giving a presentation at a conference with unfamiliar faces. Self-hypnosis has also assisted me at home, when I am not sleeping well, or want to encourage a particular mood, attitude, or inspiration. There are many ways to use self-hypnosis – there is not just one “right” way. It is important to do what feels safe and comforting.

To prepare, I do as I would when preparing for a client or patient. I may “spritz” the space and my body with a lavender water concoction (other essential oils such as wild orange, clary sage, grapefruit, or rosemary are just fine, of course), gaze at a beautiful image of something from nature (a flower, mountains, etc.), set an intention, light a candle of a particular color (orange for grounding and focus; blue or violet for the higher realms), play chimes, use my voice (vowel mantras are a personal favorite), place a special crystal in my hand or pocket, and/or burn a little IMG_1883sage. Before beginning, I like to say words of gratitude for what is happening, such as, “Thank you for such deep, restful sleep,” or “I’m grateful for this sense of peace and belonging.”

Next, since I am working with myself here, I find a comfortable place to sit or lie down and notice how my body feels against the respective surface (back against chair, feet planted on floor). Once situated, I begin an induction by counting down from 20 to 1. In between some numbers, I add phrases, such as “12, 11, doubling my relaxation with 10, 9, 8, going deeper now with 7, 6, 5, 4, feeling so relaxed and peaceful, 3, 2, 1.” After counting down, I speak aloud some phrases that are meant to assist me in what I need. For example, “This relaxed and peaceful state remains with me as I walk into the classroom.” Another example, “As I sit in front of my laptop and begin typing, creation flows from within. Peace and joy expand, and I find that it is easy to access all the right words and ideas.”

After a few target sentences or phrases are spoken, I tell myself that I will count from one up to five, and that when I reach five I will open my eyes and feel energized, relaxed, peaceful, or whatever state that matches the intention. So, if I want to begin writing productively, I may use “energized.” On the other hand, if I want to fall asleep, I may use “relaxed,” or “at peace.” Once this process is complete, I always say a word of thanks.

Self-hypnosis methods can get very creative, but keep your intentions straightforward and simple. At all times, use affirmative statements – avoid negatives, and non-affirmative statements. Remember, the mind/psyche moves toward the dominant thought. For example, when we hear the words “Don’t run,” we first process the word “run.” Avoid such phrasing, in general. Instead, say aloud what you want! In this case, “walk.” We can create what we want in affirmative language, so plan out the statements to be used in self-hypnosis. For someone desiring a better nights sleep, for example, I suggest the following. Instead of “you won’t wake up in the middle of the night,” try something like, “sleeping through the night happens easily,” and/or “any noise or movement during the night helps me sleep even more deeply.” Keeping your intentions clear and your language affirmative will better the experience. Make it enjoyable and have fun with it!

May you reap the benefits,

Kim

a pathway to lucid dreaming

From an extraordinary dream to a hypnotic state, chimera made a meaningful presence in my life. Numerous others have seen significant images of people, animals, and more, in dreams, hypnosis, and other non-ordinary states of consciousness. Anyone can wait for a particular image to reappear, although at times, one is moved to act and discover more sooner than later. While there are a variety of techniques and practices that exist to propel such a journey, lucid dreaming is one such pathway to regain access.

In his preface to his first book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, Robert Waggoner (2009) writes that lucid dreaming is “the ability to become consciously aware of dreaming while in the dream state.” Stephen LaBerge, has researched this phenomenon for decades. In one of his books, Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life, he states that “lucid dreamers can consciously influence the outcome of their dreams” (2004, p. 3).

These books, among several others, offer tips and techniques for lucid dreaming success. In my experience, a daily concentration meditation practice has been very helpful. Whether it is counting each breath, walking slowly and mindfully with intention, focusing on an object (candle flame, flower, glass of water), or vocalizing a mantra, the act of focused attention itself brings about benefits. In addition, attending to the present moment through intentional awareness, whether you are showering or doing the dishes, enhances faculties needed for awareness in the dream state.

If you are new to this, start small. Consistent shorter periods of time are better than skipping days or nothing at all, or inconsistently practicing for longer periods. Try for five minutes a day, then 10 the following week and so on. An hour a day is wonderful, and can be split into a morning and evening practice (30 minutes each). In addition to gaining enhanced experiences in dreamtime, your physiology will thank you too, as such practices are known to relieve stress and bring a sense of peace and calmness.

If you want to learn more about an image or experience you’ve had in an ordinary, typical dream state, dreaming with awareness, or lucidly, can allow for such conscious engagement. If you’ve had such an experience, and are moved to share it, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy dreaming,

Kim