mindfulness in waking and dreaming

Happy new year! May 2019 bring you and yours much peace, good health, personal fulfillment, and joy. I’ve been working on this article for a couple months uncertain whether a more inspiring topic would come to me and take the place of this one. Then, like anyone with a burning new year’s resolution, I committed to action. For me, I (once again) joined a yoga center and embarked on a journey. After today’s class, I feel certain that this is the right topic to share with you at the beginning of another year, as January is for many people, a time of renewed commitment, planning, and setting the course for the new year ahead. Below, you’ll notice that I have some things to say about mindfulness – a practice I have been faithful to and in awe of, in both waking and sleep states, for the past 15+ years.

Take a seat for a moment…and just breath. As you softly gaze downward, do nothing else, except breath. Pay attention to the temperature of the air moving into the nostrils at each inhale. Notice the subtle movement of the belly as the lungs fill. Pause. Any sensations present at the moment just before exhalation? Exhale deelply, fully. Repeat, and repeat again as you move throughout the day.

Mindfulness is state – an active state of being with conscious observation. The instructions above are an example of just one way to begin. It can be considered a type of meditation, rooted in Eastern philosophy. It is not easy, yet remarkably simple. In img_3110mindfulness we bring our attention to present moment awareness, observing one thing or experience at a time –whether a thought, a feeling, a sensation- without interpretation, identification or judgment. We simply experience what is. Through this level of nonjudgmental observation without attachment to any of it, we can learn a great deal about the nature of being and the nature of mind. It may quickly become apparent that we typically follow our stream of thoughts, which are often out-of-control, and more often than not, in the fantasies of past or future. We are minimally aware of what’s living in the present moment, minimally aware of our own breath.

Through consistent mindfulness practice we awaken to our current experience, instead of looking into the past or toward the future. Busy city lifestyles don’t allow the room for such stillness, which is why I teach and practice this with almost every client I see. When we are determined to make room for mindful awareness, we reap the many benefits as noted in countless scientific publications.

Those that practice mindfulness meditation exercises often do so for the many known health benefits as evidenced by clinical trials. These include reductions in stress, anxiety,img_3111 pain, depression, insomnia and high blood pressure (hypertension). With continued practice, sleep and attention also improve, and this is where consistent mindfulness practice can support conscious, or lucid, dreaming.

Now how about mindfulness in the sleep state, during the time when the body slumbers? To dream mindfully, with conscious awareness, one must first be able to have basic dream recall, and, of course, be able to sustain awareness in the moment. Daytime mindfulness practice has supported my extraordinary dream experiences for years, so I am faithful to it. One must also be able to bring the body into a relaxed state so as to bring about sleep. The combination of relaxation and focused attention (at the same time) does wonders for conscious dream support. When the body can relax and fall asleep while simultaneously maintaining focus, a new world opens up to us. Here, for this January article, I’ll focus on just one way of going about this.

World-renowned dream researcher, Stephen LaBerge coined the term W.I.L.D., which stands for Wake-initiated Lucid Dream. LaBerge’s WILD technique can be practiced in order to do just that – enter a lucid dream (knowing we are dreaming while dreaming) straight from the waking state. This way, there is no loss of consciousness, so some very unique and unexpected sensations will be noticed. This is just one “style” of lucid dreaming, considered by some to be an advanced technique. Some would refer to this experience as an OBE, while others, a form of lucid dreaming. And for others, there would be no distinction made at all, as the experiences of consciousness are just that, resting along a continuum of soul existence.

For a WILD to occur, one maintains “continuous reflective consciousness while falling asleep,” notes LaBerge and DeGracia (2000). This is a rare event, when compared to becoming lucid from a non-lucid dream state (over 80% of lucid dreams occur this way). In addition, WILDs occur more often during afternoon naps and in the early morning hours. I believe that this is due to the body having already had some rest. Don’t let any of this discourage you. With practice a W.I.L.D. can take place – I have had many WILDs myself, the majority of which have taken place shortly after sunrise. That’s because I have set that time aside and know that I have had enough rest that I can maintain focus, without slipping into sleep as quickly as I do at night after a long day. While I have scheduled time for this activity, it’s worth knowing that others have reported experiencing a spontaneous WILD, just for the record.

When we dream like this, consciously, it is very possible to recall details of our daily lives. We can make a plan of action before sleep, then act on those plans when recalled in the conscious dream state. Imagine the many stimulating and profound experiences waiting for us in a lucid dream!

For the sequence of steps and detailed instruction, either go to LaBerge’s website: lucidity.com, pick up one of his books, or listen to him talk about the technique in a youtube.com video.

Remember, not only can mindfulness be practiced in the waking state, but it can also be practiced in the dream state. A plan of action could be that once we become aware of img_3109being conscious/lucid in the dream state, we sit and begin meditating, toning, or praying. I have found that the more mindful I become in one state, the more mindful I am in the other state (waking or sleeping). So, making an attempt to practice mindfulness 24 hours a day is possible.

Mindfulness exercises vary from highly structured to loosely structured – both offer the highlighted health benefits listed above. I recommend daily practice for several months while also keeping a journal to record reflections and anything newly discovered.

All the best on your 2019 journey!

Kim

~For more on mindfulness, refer to Joseph Goldstein, and Jack Kornfield, PhD and take a look at these resources:

mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356

psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201801/what-exactly-is-mindfulness-it-s-not-what-you-think

time.com/1556/the-mindful-revolution

~For more on lucid dreaming, check out the following:

Lucidity.com

dreaminglucid.com

deepluciddreaming.com

mossdreams.com

~You may enjoy reading the many books of Clare Johnson, PhD, Robert Moss, Robert Waggoner, and Stephen LaBerge, PhD.

 

tarot’s gift to the dream

For centuries, humans have turned to the Tarot. The Tarot has helped people understand complex situations, make crucial decisions, or point toward the direction of the highest good between difficult options or choices. As each year passes, new tarot and oracle decks are published. I have consulted the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (created in the early 1900s) for over two decades, having purchased it when I was 19 years-old. I also enjoy other decks with creative flare. Even after much experience and practice with other systems, Tarot cards are still my most trusted method for divination – I consider them a true guide for all life matters.

Like dreams, Tarot cards work in imagery and the readers personal relationship to that imagery. Like dreams, I trust the Tarot. I have used the cards to make swift decisions in major areas of my life, such as business, residential, financial, and relational. Some people consult the Tarot in order to make meaning of events that unfold during sleep, in the dream-world. One might ask Great Spirit/God/Creator a simple question, such as “What is the meaning of this dream?” or “What part of my life does this dream speak to?” followed by pulling one or more tarot cards to gain insight.

Sometimes, the dream world and tarot reading collide in various ways. In one case, I dreamt of a scenario that was unusual and surprising. I understood the dream to be significant and about power, but I did not understand its relation to any specific aspect of my life at that time. Two months later, in a professional tarot reading, I asked for guidance around career decision-making. The reader first pulled a card to represent me. The card’s image reflected the most startling and bizarre action in that dream. I was stunned. Then the reader pulled a second card to reflect what was blocking me and my creative power. It was a card representing addiction – the field in which I provided the most therapy hours each week in an inpatient setting. Every card following those first two reflected that I make a firm decision to get out sooner than later so that I may direct my energies toward other endeavors. img_2338

While I did not ask directly about any dreams during that tarot session, my higher self knew that I must somehow come to understand the dream, as it is a part of me yearning to be seen. And since I specifically asked about a career decision, what better way for the tarot to guide me than to reveal the card that was my dream and to show me what was getting in the way. I came to understand that the dream was about an inner conflict – I was giving my creative power to a cause that would suck me dry if I continued to allow it.

Sometimes we already know the answers to the big questions but need a little help to really see. The Tarot, like dreams, can assist and guide us. When we dedicate the time and attention to learn from and work with both – dreamwork and card reading – we can reap the benefits of joining the two forces together. Our physical eyes, after all, can sometimes get in the way of true sight and clear inner vision. But, still, we might just need a little extra help. When we need a bit more than dream medicine, as is sometimes the case, remember to turn to another old helpful friend, the Tarot.

 

Warmly,

Kim

the waking nightmare

It’s very likely you’ve had a dream of being chased, under the threat of harm. This is one of the most common nightmares. Nightmares often play out in a similar fashion.

A common script:

Dream turns scary.

Dreamer retreats, desperate to escape.

Dream continues to unfold in unbearable ways.

Dreamer resists and will do almost anything to change what is.

Whether being chased by a hungry, wild animal, serial killer, or scary monster, we run – and fast! Would it be a surprise if I told you that not every runs away? Would it shock you if I told you that some dreamers turn directly toward what is feared?

By facing what, at first, seems scary and instead, engaging with it, transformation is possible. What we resist, persists, as the saying goes. The old habit of turning away is challenged. By refusing to acknowledge or listen to the messages of the dream source, we are likely to continue to be chased, haunted, or frightened. Imagine what could unfold by regarding nightmarish dream figures as helpful messengers. With some attention and gentle confrontation, once startling figures, may turn out to be the bearers of important news, or carry personal messages meant to be shared with the dreamer. For example, the dreamer may learn of a developing illness in need of medical attention, or an addiction spinning out of control, or an aspect of oneself needing acknowledgment and care, all as a result of engaging a frightening or bothersome dream figure.

But why, if we are meant to understand something, wouldn’t the dream figure appear in a more gentle form? If it did, would we pay attention? In his book, Conscious dreaming: A spiritual path for everyday life, Robert Moss suggests that dreamers ask, “What am I running from?” People so often run from things that cannot be controlled. img_1914Also consider that if we run when chased, could we be running away from an aspect of ourself? Behaviors and attitudes in waking life closely reflect those in dreams, and the behaviors and attitudes in dream states are a familiar reflection of waking life. Avoidance or denial in the dream state, for instance, is likely to spill over into the waking state, and vice versa. In addition, one’s most unpleasant aspects, false ego, or unhealthy choices may manifest in unattractive, dirty, or even ugly imagery. Such imagery cannot be ignored. Yes, we wake up frightened, but we remember.

What better way to gain insight into all of this then to ask the dream adversary itself? With some lucidity or conscious awareness in the dream, we can ask, “What message do you have for me?” “Why are you chasing me?” Or, “What do you represent?” Dreams have so much to offer – they can reveal so much to those who are willing to listen and pat attention. What do we have to lose? After all, by fleeing in either state – dream or waking – a similar challenge will await us on the other side. For instance, we may notice addictions or unhealthy behavioral distractions surface when the nightmare is not confronted. In the end, there is nowhere to hide. Moss asks, “What are the shapes of your deepest fears and insecurities?” He adds, “You can count on your dreams to show them to you, over and over, until you have grown beyond them. Thus nightmares often present recurring themes. You are falling – maybe because you don’t yet realize you can fly.” I believe that dreams have a way of acting as a compass would. The highest compass – the soul’s compass – will always steer us in the direction of growth and toward the highest good.

Interested in working with dreams? Psychologists and psychotherapists specializing in dreamwork can be found all over the world. The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) – the world’s largest professional dream association – is a good place to start. As an IASD Board Member, I can help you find a dreamworker near you. My services are currently being offered in San Francisco and Nevada City, California. Email me anytime!

Additionally, the IASD will be offering an online dream conference from September 23 through October 7, 2018. The online platform allows for greater accessibility to those around the world, so I am really excited to connect with other dreamers abroad. I will be presenting a paper titled ‘Extraordinary Announcing Dreams.’ For more information, visit http://iasdconferences.org/psi2018/

Please consider joining us,

Kim

 

 

 

 

hypnopompic inspiration

The science of sleep has continued to gain attention and over the past couple of decades the field of sleep medicine has experienced a boom. According to American Sleep Association, there are two forms of sleep related hallucinations: hypnogogic and hypnopompic. Some researchers, however, note that the term hallucination is unfitting because hallucinations only occur in the full waking state. Firstly, hypnogogia, is the term used to describe the state one experiences just before sleep. In this state, one may experience hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Secondly, hypnopompia, is the term used to describe the state one experiences upon waking. Sleep paralysis is common during this period, along with perceived complex visual imagery, and increased dream recall.

These sleep-related states can serve creative types well. My own experiences have resulted in decision making, speech writing, and artistic creativity. Others have discovered solutions to complex problems and have even composed musical pieces. When we pay attention and attend to the lived experience of these states, possibilities become endless.

Allow me to share a recent hypnopompic episode. As I was awakening one morning, I saw a strong and fairly clear image that puzzled me. There was a simple wooden wall or plank, with a bright red heart (like a paper valentine’s day-like cut-out heart) floating near the top-left side. To the right was a vertical column of silvery milagros or ex-voto. 649932E1-5FF1-4A6B-B0A3-2EA9E29E6F48Unfortunately, I could not hold on to the exact ones, but I’m certain that they were all body parts. There were at least four, but likely many more. I brought the image to my dream group and processed its many possible meanings. Still, the image stuck with me and I began to draw it, then paint it (I now have plans to construct it in the near future). Through the artistic process my relationship to the meaning behind the raw imagery developed. This style of dreamwork can evolve over a long period of time leading to greater insight and awareness of one’s soul journey. So much of this space remains private, but I am beginning to reveal more and more in time. This image, in its many forms will be on public display in two art exhibitions this spring and summer. I’m excited to share more of my inner work with others and discuss how sleep related states have created meaning in the lives of my community.

Shamans and practitioners of traditional ways do not necessarily label or compartmentalize the human experience the way the West does. No matter which labels (hallucinations, etc.) Western science applies, sleep related states have a long history of supporting spiritual growth and development in many areas (business, career, marriage, creativity). With a pen and paper by the bedside, and a set intention, so much can be unleashed.

 

Be well,

Kim

 

the near death experience

Greetings! It’s the two-year anniversary of Conscious Chimera! To mark the occasion, I decided to write about a topic that I have yet to include here – the near death experience. An author once told me that she considers the near-death experience to be “the book end” to the pre-birth experience. Her idea peaked my interest considering my research on announcing dreams and other communications parents report involving those yet-to-be born. While pre-birth experiences encompass a variety of phenomena associated with events prior to being born (reported visions, or spontaneous prenatal or pre-conception memories, for example), the near-death experience shines light on what may exist after death. Pre-birth experiences not only offer insight into fetal consciousness, but, also quite possibly reincarnation. A near death experience, on the other hand, can offer a post-death roadmap, shift one’s paradigm, and even diminish the fear of death altogether.

To truly understand a near death experience (NDE), consider the following perceptions: movement through space, light and darkness, intense emotion, sensing a presence, a strong conviction of having a new understanding of the nature of the universe. These are broad characteristics, or common features, found among NDE reports according to the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS). The IANDS website states,

“An NDE typically includes a sense of moving, often at great speed and usually through a dark space, into a fantastic landscape and encountering beings that may be perceived as sacred figures, deceased family members or friends, or unknown entities. A pinpoint of indescribable light may grow to surround the person in brilliant but not painful radiance; unlike physical light, it is not merely visual but is sensed as being an all-loving presence that many people define as the Supreme Being of their religious faith.”

Such profound psychological events contradict Western assumptions about the nature of reality, therefore we don’t often hear about things like this in daily conversation. When I am open and curious about near death and/or pre-birth experiences, I have found that people talk – sometimes even complete strangers have shared a profound experience with me. About three months ago, I was riding in a taxi making small talk with the driver. When he asked about my work and I told him of my background in psychology, he asked questions surrounding the mind-brain problem, also known as the hard problem of consciousness. Our lively dialogue continued and we seemed to build rapport quickly. After some minutes past, he spoke about two NDEs he had within the same week, both took place in a hospital bed. Both times, he floated above his body, saw his physical body below him (an out-of-body state which can be a precursor to an NDE) and heard the conversations in the surrounding areas. He told me that he had never, up until that time, experienced such a profound sense of peace. During the experience, he recognized that he did not want to return to his physical body, despite the medical staff’s efforts. When he finally did return to his body, he continued to experience that sense of great peace, and no longer had a fear of death. Since NDEs often have life-altering effects, I asked him about any noticeable changes in attitude or other aftereffects. I learned that he considered the top-ranking effects to be his ability to now live life with much less resistance or attachment to outcome, and that when his time to die approached, he would not fear it, but instead, embrace it because he knew he would be going somewhere serene and peaceful.

While NDEs appear to share many commonalities, they are never exactly the same. On rare occasions, some NDEs have been described as disturbing. From 1% to 15% of NDE reports may be considered distressing: a relatively small percentage. For more on this topic contact the International Association for Near Death Studies at iands.org. Their website contains a page specifically dedicated to distressing NDEs if you would like to understand more. In addition, the IANDS website contains dozens of NDE accounts from individuals so one can take in this truly diversified experience that has changed the lives of so many. Through those courageous enough to describe their experience and share it with the world, we all have the opportunity to learn about what may be waiting for us on the other side, through the veil.

 

Happy February – Happy Valentine’s Day,

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