got insomnia? turn down mind-body-spirit noise!

Is insomnia in your self-descriptive vocabulary? I hear this regularly among patients in my clinical practice. Maybe you experience insomnia or sleep next to someone who does. Sleep is natural, but why do so many people struggle with it? Insomnia seems to have become the new normal. Would you agree?

No one is alone here. Sleep disorders are a major concern for millions of people, including young children. Loss of restorative delta sleep (~ 0.1 – 4 hertz)  – that’s the deepest level of sleep –  and loss of REM sleep are both related to a slew health issues, both physical and mental. In Dr. Matthew Walker’s (2017) Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of  Sleep and Dreams, he writes, “No facet of the human body is spared the crippling, noxious harm of sleep loss” (p. 133). Sleep loss negatively affects all major systems of the body, including the immune and sympathetic nervous system. Research also shows how cancers are linked with getting 6 hours or less of sleep each night and over-exposure to light at night. There is good reason for making some changes!

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

But what is sleep? Sleep is holistic, intimately tied to many areas of life. This includes our relationship with the deepest part of our-self, our inner world.

The underlying organizational and foundational structure of sleep is natural  cycles or rhythms (think circadian, ultradian, etc.), body temperature, and a sense of inner peace, according to sleep specialist and clinical assistant professor, Dr. Rubin Naiman of University of Arizona.

Challenges to getting good sleep are much, much more than a biophysical issue. Most people these days are aware of the psychological consequences of sleep loss, such as increased thought distortions, and mood disturbances, as well as loss of attention, concentration, and memory. In children, sleep deprivation leads to what adults describe as ‘behavioral problems.’ It’s really the same with adults. But beyond this, how many are aware of the social and instinctual aspects of sleep?

For those with insomnia, we might consider what we have imposed upon ourselves. One question to ask ourself is “What do I consume?” Beyond consuming food (with lower nutritional value today than decades ago), we also (over)consume various forms of stimulation such as light (electricity, screen time), information (24 hour news), fluids, and energy (aka heat/arousal). Then there’s additional stressors – the good old fashioned kind – such as the quality of our relationships. Chronic inflammation, which underlies all major diseases, and hyperarousal (do you run hot?), which is behind insomnia, are associated with consuming excessive energy/stimulation (aka noise).

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The good news is that we can reset ourselves, just like a pendulum clock. Exposure to nature light early in the morning is the best way, according to some sleep specialists. Greet the sun each morning  – use the moment to connect with Source through meditation or prayer.

Last year I wrote an article which included 10 sleep hygiene tips – Find it here: https://dreamstudies.org/dreammedicine/

And here are a few additional suggestions. In the PM hours, get into a solid ‘sleep hygiene’ routine. Furthermore, use substitutions, such as swapping out coffee (or alcohol) for teas, elixirs, or mocktails. We can also add a 30 minute yoga nidra session into our day or evening. Yoga nidra is a guided sleep-based meditation that “helps restore autonomic nervous system balance,” according to yoga expert, Dr. Kamani Desai. Yoga nidra turns down the heat. This is one antidote for sleep loss (and the tension that builds with ongoing insomnia) since it is designed to gently guide practitioners into deep sleep. It’s so relaxing! If you’d like to join me for yoga nidra, email me. For almost three years now, I have facilitated free yoga nidra sessions. At this time, I invite you to my free, virtual yoga nidra offerings on Wednesdays (6pm Pacific Time) – since it’s online, you can enjoy the relaxation from the comfort of your home. If you prefer pre-recorded sessions, two links to audio recordings can be found near the middle of this page: https://consciouschimera.com/professionalservices/

Since insomnia is much more than a biomedical condition, if you’ve made positive bio-psycho-social-enviromental changes (you’ve turned down the noise) yet still struggle to sleep, you may consider melatonin therapy or pharmaceutical medication. If so, consult with a functional medicine doctor (FMD) or naturopathic doctor (ND) for proper melatonin usage (especially to learn about its anticancer properties) or with a psychiatrist for pharmaceuticals. Like physicians, psychiatrists have earned a M.D., however the vast majority of primary care physicians do not have the training in sleep and psychopharmacology. So, a psychiatrist is recommended. NDs and FMDs are extremely helpful as well. Remember that integrative care is highly supportive, so if you choose to use medication for sleep, you might want to continue with a sleep hygiene routine, and know you are always welcome to join my free online yoga nidra group. If you want to use psychotherapy to treat insomnia, there is also CBT-I, that is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia – the gold standard, with no side effects. I use CBT in my private practice when appropriate as do most therapists. Feel welcome to contact me for support here, especially if nightmares are involved – just click on the Therapy tab on my website, ConsciousChimera.com

Wishing you deep rest,

Dr. Kim

another dream conference begins…

Due to orchestrating a major relocation, I took about six weeks off from writing. The break was helpful. For a short while I forgot that I blog. Sometimes that happens in life – we turn our attention to pressing matters and lose touch with our routine. 

Now that things are starting to settle, I can give my full attention to what’s occurring at the moment. That is, the 39th annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). This year, it’s being held in Tucson, Arizona, at a beautiful resort, and Day 1 of 5 begins tomorrow evening. Join us for a day or even the full conference if you are nearby! 

What’s especially enticing is the keynote presenter line-up. I’m really excited to get to see Dr. Stephen LaBerge for the first time. He is one of the few researchers responsible for putting lucid dreaming on the map of western science. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, lucid dreaming is when a person is dreaming while knowing they are dreaming. Prior to LaBerge’s work at Stanford University’s Sleep Laboratory and the work of a handful of other dedicated scientists, the ability to dream fully conscious, that is lucidly, was highly doubted. Even with countless credible anecdotal reports of the phenomenon, those in academia and the sleep research field thought the notion of lucid dreaming was ridiculous. Today, lucid dreaming has been demonstrated in hundreds of sleep studies and has become a hot topic – you can find dozens of symposia on lucid dreaming at IASD conferences.

If you are not a natural lucid dreamer, not to worry. Lucid dreaming is a skill that can be taught. With practice, one can enhance that skill and, well…the amazing adventures await you. Sure, dreaming with awareness can make for great fun, yet it can also offer a space (a dream space, of course) to practice and develop talents and abilities such as improving your golf swing, developing a poem or new musical piece, exploring far away places, and solving challenging math problems. There’s much more one can do while lucid in a dream, but hopefully those examples were enough to whet your appetite.

During a spontaneous lucid dream not terribly long ago, I used my dream awareness to see if I could get some answers to health-related questions of great concern. My dream began as one typically does, then suddenly, something in the dream prompted lucidity and with that spark of awareness, I recalled the health challenge I was facing. I realized this was a precious opportunity, so I called out to the dream space: “Dreaming mind, how do I heal this condition?” and (after a response was given),  “Dreaming mind, what is the root cause of this condition?” The responses I received offered guidance, information, (and some surprises) so that I could consider how to proceed in my healing journey (If you plan to attend this year’s IASD conference, consider sitting in on Tuesday’s Health and Healing Dreams panel, where you’ll find me, along with two colleagues, sharing our research and personal experiences on this topic). 

So why wait until a diagnosis is given? Why not use lucid dreaming as a tool now, at this time in life, in order to inquire into what the physical body may need? There is so much to be explored and discovered through experiencing this phenomenon directly, personally. This is gnosis – knowing through direct experience – rather than through theory or someone else’s descriptions. Direct revelation is powerful, and very personal.

If you are interested in lucid dreaming and want to learn more, including the eastern perspectives and spiritual aspects of this practice (known as dream yoga), check out my book, Dream Medicine: The Intersection Between Wellness and Consciousness (2021). There, you will find multiple perspectives and see what the dozen plus professionals I interviewed have to say about dreaming. Dream Medicine also includes tips, techniques and strategies to get you lucid asap. 

May you know good health. May your dreams be your medicine!

~ Dr. Kim

Dream-based Wellness

Attention to wellness and health have really rose to the surface of human awareness these past two years. Blame it in COVID-19 or perhaps a long awaited shift in consciousness (that piece is of less importance). The value of this attentional shift is that more and more people appear to be taking their heath matters into their own hands. Health practices are vast, spreading across multiple levels, from physiological to spiritual. Recently, I wrote an article for Ryan’s Dream Studies Portal (see https://dreamstudies.org/ if you are unfamiliar with this website). The article I wrote is titled Cultivating your Dream-based Wellness Practice. There, I consider some of the various ways we can participate in our own wellness maintenance and healing, no matter our background or belief system.

Here is a short excerpt from that article: “For anyone’s dream-based wellness practice to bloom healthily, there are things we can do to move it along. I’d like to share some tips for supporting any sort of practice whether it be liminal dream experiences or lucid dreaming. A sleep hygiene routine is the foundation, so I have found. Below are some concrete things you can begin today to encourage the best of outcomes.”

The entire article can be found here: https://dreamstudies.org/dreammedicine/ . Now even if dreams or dreaming are not of high interest at the moment, what you’ll find there are ideas for maintaining wellness through the cold, dark, and sometimes stressful, weeks ahead. As you read over the 10 tips I listed, consider which of them are priority for you this season. Maybe you do many of these already! Or perhaps, these tips will inspire a reorganization of your evenings. It’s a great time to reassess as we enter this new, quickly approaching phase of the year…returning of the light.

Happy Solstice everyone! May your inner light shine bright!

~Dr. Kim

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.

breathing for health

No one needs to convince us why we need to breathe. Sometimes, however, we need convincing as to why we should do it consciously, with awareness. Study after study shows us that intentional, abdominal breathing has direct affects on the body – this is good news. After all, it is free and can be done anywhere, at any time. Stress doesn’t have to get the best of us! By just a few minutes spent each day on the practices I’ll be describing below, one can invoke healing in the immune and nervous systems. This stuff calms the mind as well. Don’t we all need that, especially during this time?

When I demonstrate these techniques to my patients, I first begin by putting one hand on my chest and the other hand on my abdomen. This sort of check-in tells me whether I’mPhoto on 7-27-20 at 7.34 PM #2 breathing into my chest (shallow breathing) or whether I am taking a fuller breath in so that my belly expands (this is what we want). If my breathing is in my chest, I can consciously imagine my next inhalation moving deeper down into my body. I do this – as many breaths as it takes – until abdominal breathing is comfortable. Try it for yourself now. See what I mean?

From there, I love to move on to the 4:8 breathing technique. This is done by inhaling for 4 seconds, pausing for a second, then exhaling for 8 seconds. Simple, right? I like to do this for about 5 rounds or so. At that point I am really starting to notice the effects. The 4:8 breathing technique is so wonderfully calming.

Another way to encourage this kind of slow, rhythmic breathing is to use visualization. This was taught to me by one of my best yoga nidra teachers, Kamini Desai, PhD. With each exhalation, image that you are blowing the air out through a straw. So that’s inhaling through the nose, pausing for a second, then exhaling with softly pursed lips as if blowing through a straw. Really see that breath being pushed out through a skinny tube to slow everything down.

Another technique that involves counting, but in a much different way, is to count each inhalation and exhalation. Work downward, from 10 down to one. Some people recommend counting only the inhalations or the exhalations, while others recommend counting both. So, it would look like mentally/silently saying to yourself ‘10 I am inhaling…10 I am exhaling…9 I am inhaling…9 I am exhaling…8 I am inhaling,…’ and so on. When I was training in hypnotherapy, I was reminded that counting down (not up) was important to encourage greater levels of relaxation.

We all know that stress equals disease onset. In our overly-stressed society, conscious breathing has become a necessity. Not only do our bodies benefit, so do our minds. After all, the mind and body are linked – they make up a whole. You could even say that they are ONE. While these techniques are for anytime and anywhere, I find that they are perfect upon waking up each morning as well as at bedtime. That’s because an AM breathing practice sets the tone for the day, while the PM practice supports the melting away of stress and the day’s residue. It even adds to a solid sleep hygiene routine. With consistent practice, I expect that you will see a difference. I know I did.

If you’d like one-on-one coaching for stress management or support with your health goals, contact me. I can assist you in breathwork and in building a mediation practice. I offer guided imagery, hypnotherapy, and yoga nidra (a sleep-based meditation), in addition to counseling services.

 

Here’s to your health,

Kim

To order my book, Extraordinary Dreams, click here.

spirituality’s hidden mask

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

You are never alone. You are eternally connected with everyone. – Amit Ray

Surely you’ve heard sayings like these before. But have you considered how spirituality intersects with social justice? To believe that the two are separate is a mistake, conveniently ignoring centuries of oppression. Spirituality cannot be divorced from social justice and civil rights issues. To do so is a form of spiritual bypassing, a psychological defense mechanism which does harm.

Spiritual bypassing is a term coined by psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher, John Welwood, in the early 1980s. Spiritual bypassing is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid unresolved emotional issues and wounds in addition to avoidance of negative or painful feelings. By spiritually bypassing these issues, one sidesteps the difficult inner work, thus adopting more comfortable and “positive” feelings and concepts. Sound familiar? In my experience, it is not uncommon among those in spiritual communities (many of which are White-led, co-opted new-age communities). While this defense mechanism can occur within an individual, it can also live among groups of people. For example, a well-meaning, highly educated, yoga-devoted White man once suggested that attention should be placed on one’s spiritual essence or core rather than concerning oneself with immediate issues in communities of color: the lack of food, safe housing, and job opportunities. Promoting individualism and ignoring the tangible essentials is toxic.

There are many layers to a person – people are complex creatures. The complexity increases as groups and communities form. Psychologist Carl Jung used the term ‘the shadow’ to describe unconscious aspects of ourselves – those aspects we have denied, rejected, despised, or disowned. Without conscious awareness the shadow continues to live – it is hidden. Think of triggers – what are you triggered by? When we disown or cannot tolerate an aspect of ourselves, or our group’s history, it easily gets projected onto other people or other groups. Hate, fear and prejudice are example’s of the shadow operating. Other people become mirrors – they trigger us, giving us a glimpse of our shadow. When we consider how much of what we see in our world today as manifested projections, it’s stunning.

Mindfulness practice can be a first step in beginning to see our shadow because as we slow down, turn inward, and increase awareness we can ‘catch’ projections (even as they are happening in the moment). A simple mindfulness exercise for beginners can be sitting quietly for about 10 minutes with closed eyes and focus on the breath. Notice what arises without judgment (thoughts, memories, future plans, desires, judgments) and return to your breath. With practice, moment-to-moment awareness increases which supports the shadow work process.

While it is easy to judge the shadow as something bad, let’s instead acknowledge that the shadow is just part of being human. It is neither good nor bad. It just is, like the sun rising to bring light and setting to give darkness. When we get a glimpse of our personal or collective shadow it can throw us off, and it can sting! We begin to become aware of our inner moral conflicts. To avoid the discomfort of all this, we are liable to defend ourselves from the pain by using the defense mechanism, spiritual bypassing.

In order to evolve in meaningful ways, we must be grounded in this world and we must face those aspects that we do not want to own. This is the way through these difficult times. ‘Love and light’ is wonderful, but it is not enough. Turning a blind eye to the collective pain currently surfacing only keeps us in denial longer, and it keeps us disengaged from our whole being. Taking meaningful compassionate action rooted in justice for all people is required. To sit back is taking a privileged position. To go silent, to not act, in times of injustice denies our interconnected spiritual nature.

The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.  ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Dr. Z (drzphd.com) has produced some great videos on #ShadowWork. Here is a link to part 1 of her 6 part series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHPn5Jtzyhw

Do you reside in California? I am available for individual counseling services for those interested in shadow work.

 

~Kim

in remission, radical-style

How do people get diagnosed with a terrible disease, forgoing any kind of conventional/allopathic treatment, only to later discover that there is no evidence of that disease? One year, it’s stage four, the next year it is gone – how does this happen? Radical remissions have boggled the mind, however, the spontaneous disappearance of disease is now much more well-documented than it was a half-century ago. The Institute of Noetic Sciences published a report in May 1987: Brendan O’Regan’s lecture, titled Healing, Remission and Miracle Cures. Yes, these types of spontaneous remissions were

fashion woman notebook pen
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thought to be miracles by some, yet in the medical community these remissions were often considered to result from misdiagnosis. In some cases even, amazing healing stories were silenced.

Miracle, luck, or otherwise, let us look at what these individuals have done – their behaviors, beliefs and practices – that have likely been responsible for such a miracle to have taken place. Since the 1980s, science has demonstrated that the mind and body are connected and in communication with each other. It’s appropriate to consider the mind and body to be a unified whole. Understanding this helps digest what we will see below.

Dr. Kelly Turner’s 2014 book Radical Remissions and her 2020 book Radical Hope outline the key factors for healing. In Turner’s multifaceted definition of radical remission, one component includes those who healed from cancer (and other serious diseases) without conventional treatment. More and more attention is being placed on how we can empower ourselves to increase responsibility for our own health and healing. So, let’s review the 1O factors that emerged from Turner’s work. They are:

  • Radically changing your diet
  • Taking control of your health

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  • Following your intuition
  • Using herbs and supplements
  • Releasing suppressed emotions
  • Increasing positive emotions
  • Embracing social support
  • Deepening your spiritual connection
  • Having a strong reason to live

and

  • Incorporating exercise into your life

These healing factors need no additional explanation, however, if you are facing an illness, I encourage reading Turner’s books sooner than later. These books are so inspirational and will answer the dozens of questions likely forming in your mind right now. Could these factors reported by Turner bring an individual from a late stage cancer diagnosis to having no evidence of disease (NED)?

woman meditating in the outdoors
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There are no definitive conclusions – Turner’s research was not causal. At the same time, I feel great promise. We seem to be heading in the right direction here. I attend to each of these 10 factors almost every day of the week. By simply aligning myself with them, I feel at my best.

If you are well, taking these 10 factors seriously could keep you that way. In terms of prevention, why not take action by making these key factors a part of your life. Notice how many of the factors are psycho-social-spiritual? These emerge frequently in my private practice, given my work as a psychologist and psychotherapist. For the other two factors (herbs, supplements, diet), consult with a Naturopathic Physician and Registered Dietician to get professional guidance. I cannot stress this point enough! Lastly, remember that if you have a diagnosis and find yourself on the journey towards healing, know that you do not have to make that journey alone. Allow others to support you and walk beside you along your path.

 

To your health,

Kim

 

If you would like holistic support, see my services by CLICKING HERE.

To get my book, Extraordinary Dreams, CLICK HERE

 

 

shades of grey

With all that’s taking place in our world right now (pandemic, violence, loss of security and even life), it’s easy to slip. No, not with alcohol (although that might be happening much more lately), and no, not on a banana peel, but with our thinking. Negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions flourish in difficult times. If we don’t pay attention to our own thinking (metacognition), we are liable to continue along with the same mental errors.

There is a branch of psychology, known as cognitive psychology, which focuses on mental processes. Cognition, or thinking, shapes our behavior and feelings. Furthermore, thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are in a constant relationship: one affecting the other. If we think of a negative event repeatedly, replaying it over and over in our mind, for instance, we can bet that we’ll feel lousy for the rest of the day. If we feel lousy and are holding onto some ugly thoughts, how do you think we may act or behave toward others or in a stressful situation? From another angle, let’s say that we do something without thinking (against our better judgment), and are left feeling guilty or embarrassed. This can lead to becoming fixated on the event, perhaps even labeling ourselves, or calling ourselves names. A downward spiral has begun with thoughts, behaviors and feelings all fueling each other.

Several decades ago, research by psychologists Aaron Beck and David Burns lead to identification of some of the most common cognitive distortions and the problems they can cause. Here, I will describe a few of them.

Black-and-White Thinking: This dichotomous, either/or thought pattern is also known as all-or-nothing thinking. Things are good or bad, right or wrong – there is no room for any shade of grey. Because the middle ground has been ignored, and only two sides or outcomes are believed to exist, there is little possibility in finding reasonable ground.

Overgeneralization: Does your inner voice like to use the words “always,” “never,” “every,” or “all?” If so, be on the lookout for falling into the trap of overgeneralizing. One or two single events cannot provide a reliable conclusion. We need much more data to make solid generalizations. For example, if you are stood up on a blind date, that doesn’t mean that blind dating is unreliable or that every scheduled blind date will lead to being stood up.

Catastrophizing: When something unpleasant takes place in your life, do you twist it into something potentially ‘off-the-charts’ disastrous? “A person who is catastrophizing might fail an exam and immediately think he or she has likely failed the entire course. A person may not have even taken the exam yet and already believe he or she will fail—assuming the worst, or preemptively catastrophizing.” (borrowed from GoodTherpay.org)

Should Statements: It’s fairly common to direct ‘should statements’ toward ourselves and others, even though the end result is no fun. Be on the lookout for “should,” “must,” or “ought” because they indicate that you are operating here. “She should have told me sooner!” “I should have arrived to class earlier.” “He ought to thank me for all I’ve done for him.” “I must ace this mornings exam!” If you feel guilt, shame, frustration, anger or bitterness, examine your thinking. Is this cognitive distortion common in your mental life? Should statements serve no healthy purpose and typically lead to feeling lousy. Spot them, challenge them and see what you discover.

A full list can be found online in blogs at goodtherapy.org and psychologytoday.com.

From a cognitive therapy standpoint, we can get a grasp on this whirlwind by first identifying maladaptive thinking – those pesky patterns of thinking that do us no good. Without attention or correction, a negative outlook on life can develop. The correlation with depression comes as no surprise. And again, without attention or correction, these negative schemas are likely to stick around, sometimes for a lifetime. This is bad for one’s health and no good for anyone’s long-term well-being.

A beginning step toward resolution, is to slow down and live ‘in-the-moment’ in order to increase awareness of cognitive distortions as they rise. Every time I have shared the above list with a university student or psychotherapy client – I’m talking hundreds, if not thousands of times – each one of them has quickly identified the distortion(s) in which he or she frequently operates. Just know that these are THAT common. Each time I share these with others, I look at my own patterns of thinking again and again. I’m grateful for the practice because thought patterns can become habitual and need frequent examination. It’s good practice to shine a spotlight on shades of grey.

By tracking our thoughts, we have the opportunity to increase our awareness of our own thinking habits. Do they serve us or would it be best to make some changes? This awareness allows us to challenge ourselves and choose more adaptive thoughts for a more positive way of living and being. There is no shame in adopting more thoughtful, enlightened responses and charting a new course.

 

Here’s to clear thinking,

Kim

To get 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.

mindfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kim

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