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.

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

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

To order my book, click here!

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

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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.