reflections on working with the living & the dead

The year has flown by and here we are, again, at that time when so many of the world’s people turn their attention to the dead. Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, All Soul’s Day, All Saint’s Day, Festival of Hungry Ghosts (recently passed) – each one is different, but they each share some similar elements, and sometimes similar activities, such an making offerings or prayer.

Connecting with a deceased loved one is possible, no matter whether you engage in hypnosis, dreaming, deep prayer, imaginal journeying, altar-making, or use a black mirror, the fire place, quartz crystals, or what-have-you. Regardless of the object used or state induced, even a brief connection can hold tremendous meaning for those grieving or for those simply wanting to remember. My most preferred methods are dreaming and hypnosis, as both have offered positive experiences along with profound and memorable results. Any method, tool, or nonordinary conscious state can be accessed individually, but group work also holds promise, especially with an experienced therapist, medicine person, or guide.Il tavolo

One potent ritual involves constructing an altar. While I currently offer altar-making in individual psychotherapy sessions, many years ago, I co-led an altar-making and process group with another therapist. The attendees comprised of teenagers and pre-adolescents with unresolved grief/loss issues from loosing a parent or family member to ‘the life’ – a term referring to street life, addiction, overdose. Even though some of the participant’s parents died during the participant’s early childhood years, there was no shortage of memorabilia, stories, or recollections. The act of constructing the altar itself elicited spontaneous memories of shared experiences that were previously believed to be forgotten. By this, I mean that when asked directly to share a story from long ago, many children could not produce one, however, that all changed when they entered this collective ‘sacred’ container, or space, where the memory of the deceased was very much alive. Near the end of the weeks-long process, the attendees reported that the experience left them feeling closer to the deceased loved one, and this turned tears into smiles. Gratitude and peace were married in this new way of remembering.

Large-scale community altar-making has also left an impression. I participated in these activities in Arizona. I discovered that community bonds strengthen in meaningful ways when people join together to make offerings, blessings, or witness one another in prayer to deceased loved ones. These sizable collective altars were modifiable and continued to expand for days. They were multi-cultural in the truest sense. While I am no longer an Arizona resident, I still know the ritual continues, and I sit here in California today, Nonnityping this, shifting through recollections.

At this time, as I turn my attention to the dead, seven female elders immediately come to mind: Mary, Anne, Eva, Florinda, ‘Nonni’/Netta, Maria, and Censina. I feel so fortunate to hold a clear memory of each one, even though most of them (and their spouses) transitioned when I was still a child. Also at this time, I add extra flowers, fresh water, and dust off the prayer cards on the family altar that stands year-round in my home. If I am extra lucky, I will get a visit…who knows, maybe even in tonight’s dream.

 

May the veil be thin,

Kim

announcing dreams

The voice was crystal clear and he could be seen sitting, just a few feet in the distance. “I’m your baby, and my name is Todd,” said the dream child to the sleeping woman. Upon awakening, she knew that this strikingly vivid dream would be remembered always.

Across time and place, in some form or another, reports of extraordinary experiences, such as vivid, memorable dreams, visions (both in or out of hypnopompic and hypnagogic states), out-of-body experiences or lucid projections, and even near-death experiences, have included communication with, or the announcement of, a future child or a baby-to-be. Such “annunciations” often take place in the dream state and are referred to as announcing dreams. It’s a fairly common phenomenon, even today.

Announcing dreams, similar to fertility or conception dreams, take place during pregnancy or soon before it. Men, women, and grandparents have reported such memorable experiences, which may be visual, sensory or auditory, or a combination. Announcing dreams are usually more vivid than ordinary dreams and often leave the dreamer with the belief that genuine communication has taken place – they are more than just mundane dreams about babies. Fertility and conception dreams refer to something more broad, such as a dream of ripe fruit, or animals, implying that conception has taken place. Tae mong, for example, has a long history – they are conception dreams often reported by expectant mothers and fathers in Korea. One study from the early 1990s found that 57.5% of pregnant women had experienced Tae mong. That percentage increases when expectant men and other family members are included. Such dreams, confirming pregnancy, were reported to Kitzinger during her fieldwork in Jamaica during the 1970s. Some very early examples are found in the bible, but usually involve an angel proclaiming conception has taken place.

Announcing dreams appear to be common and even expected in Aboriginal Australia, especially among men. In the United States, men have reported announcing dreams as well, although few are found in the literature. One Brazilian man living in the U.K. recently dreamt that he was holding his daughter-to-be in his arms, which, upon awakening, enhanced his sense of excitement for the approaching birth. His daughter was born in spring of this year. Some announcing dream reports include future children expressing wishes and desires, asking questions, providing information, or simply watching or looking at the parent. Women often report announcing dreams and these reports are much easier to locate.

Announcing dreams are found among reincarnation cases as well. The father of reincarnation studies, the late Ian Stevenson, found announcing dreams to be present across just about every culture and nation he studied, although, as expected, their content and timing varied. Announcing dreams are among the most common signs of reincarnation in tribal societies and sometimes past-life identifications are made on the basis of them alone (Matlock, 2016). While announcing dreams are most often reported by women within the reincarnation literature, men, too, experience such dreams. The late anthropologist, Jane C. Goodale, spent about 50 years with the Tiwi, Melville Island’s aboriginal people. She asked a mother whether a man ever dreamed of his child before his wife told him she was pregnant. Goodale’s field notes included a unique dream that a mother had shared with her. A pitapitui (spirit child) told his father-to-be in a dream that he had been crippled during a World War II aerial attack and would be born after he was healed. In the meantime, the pitapitui would send his youngest siblings first. “When he was eventually born his father recognized him because of his crooked leg” (Jane C. Goodale’s 1954 Tiwi Island field notes).

For my doctoral dissertation, I conducted a study on the announcing dream experience and their impact. In 2012 and 2013 I solicited pregnant women or those working with them, such as doulas and midwives, to request participation in the study. Dream reports were collected online so the questionnaire was available world-wide, although fluency in English was necessary for inclusion in the study, in addition to other requirements. In the end, 22 participants were included in the study. While a variety of themes were present in the dream reports, after analysis it was evident that some of the dreams had a great impact on some of the pregnant dreamers. This was especially the case for first-time mothers and those with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. Not only that, but these dreams appeared to be responsible for decisions made about the pregnancy. This was the case during my informal pilot study as well. For example, several women reported that contemplating abortion ceased, or plans to terminate the pregnancy were cancelled, as a result of the dream. Another woman made a prenatal medical decision as a result to her dream. Lower level decisions, such as the name of the child, were also influenced by dreams collected during the pilot study. For those uncertain about being pregnant, themes of confidence and affirmation, bonding and connection, emerged. A few years ago, a pregnant Native American woman living in the Southwest shared with me that she had reservations and generalized fears about being pregnant and becoming a mother, until several announcing dreams began. Her announcing dreams were recurrent and visual, instead of auditory. She claimed that during these dreams she always “saw” the same black-haired male toddler. She reported that he would just look at her with a smile, and then a sense of calmness and comfort would come over her. Even after awakening, these feelings lasted throughout the day. This young woman believed that her newly found sense of peace and joy at becoming a mother was the direct result of the dreams. She claimed that her fears and reservations severely diminished. This experience helped her; she decided that she could be a good mother after all. Prediction of fetal sex is common, as well, in announcing dreams. In almost every case that I have come across, the fetal sex in the dream matches the sex of the baby that is later born, just the the cases mentioned above.

In general, annunciations not only focus on the immediate moment, but may point to the past and to the future. This is indicated in reincarnation literature and within announcing dream reports recently collected. How might announcing dreams be of service to humanity? It is possible that announcing dreams support emotional investment, for both parents, and especially during early stages of pregnancy before the baby is felt moving or the woman’s body changes. This emotional investment can be thought of as a protective evolutionary factor because women that feel connected to the fetus are more likely to make healthy choices. Furthermore, pregnancy can be stressful – after all, it is a major life transition. With this in mind, announcing dreams may offer assurance and serve as an adaptive mechanism by helping to cope during such a transition.

 

Warmly,

Kim

 

 

reflections on the out-of-body experience

Have you ever had a dream, and in that dream suddenly realized that you were dreaming? If so, maybe that simple realization alone woke you up. Or, maybe you realized that you could do anything you wanted because you were in a dream. Perhaps, you’ve experienced something a little different – that being, you maintained awareness while falling asleep and immediately found yourself in a dream-like state, one in which you could control in any way you like…one in which you could have a valuable question about life answered. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. In fact, you are just like thousands upon thousands of others. Such experiences have been reported for centuries all across the globe.

There is debate over whether lucid dreams (LD) and out-of-body experiences (OBEs), sometimes referred to as lucid projections and several other names, are essentially the same or similar. While much of the Western literature I’ve read makes a distinction IMG_2614between the two, and describes the features marking their differences, it’s easy to understand how some groups and societies do not separate these phenomena. Numerous anthropological reports from all over the world highlight the widely held belief that the psyche moves about, or travels, while the body sleeps. This takes place, they say, whether we remember it or not, and we may be partially, incompletely, or completely aware during the occurrence itself. This notion of one’s psyche leaving the physical body and moving about does not sit well for a lot of secular individuals, as it implies the existence of something spiritual. That very idea may be behind such proposed distinctions. No matter what we believe to be taking place, or where we find ourselves in this debate, people of all ages report unique experiences that scientists are attempting to explain.

Until 2005, I had few unprovoked or incubated anomalous nocturnal experiences. The occurrences I can recall were unwanted and occurred spontaneously during the night hours. In fact, for the first 30-something years of my life, I wasn’t sure what had happened. To this day, I specifically remember two somewhat frightening experiences that I now recognize to have likely been lucid projections or OBEs. Still, some would prefer to categorize them as lucid dreams, and that is just fine too. Both experiences took place at night while lying in unfamiliar beds. The first took place during a family vacation in Bishop, California when I was eight years old. The second anomalous experience I can still recall happened when I was about 20 years old while visiting someone in Bend, Oregon. Not only do children report such experiences, but adults have claimed that experiences like these took place while they were children or during adolescence. Like so many others, I had not had past discussions or debate with others who had these experiences, nor knowledge of scholarly books or articles – basically, I knew little, if anything, on the topic. During those times, I had no clue as to what might have had occurred. A lot has changed from then until now. In my early and mid 30s, after some practical skill development and training, however, I had several provoked/planned OBEs, LDs, and highly vivid dreams and tended to view them as the same phenomenon…like shades of grey.

More recently, with additional first-hand experiences, and increasing education on these topics, I’ve come to understand further the OBE and LD distinction. OBEs are called by various names depending on one’s orientation (soul flight, soul travel, lucid projections, unfolding, astral travel, astral projection, spirit-walking, or dream visions). OBEs, or lucid projections, have been reported to occur at least once in one’s lifetime for about 10%-20% of the population, but is rarely acknowledged or discussed in contemporary Western culture. Lucid dreaming may be the Western term that is more often used, as it seems more comfortable for that culture. OBEs/lucid projections can be spontaneous, forced, or provoked, and it is possible, although rare, that one has the experience while awake (a family member of mine told me about his experience that, to his surprise, spontaneously took place while he sat in his desk at school). Reports also coincide with near-death experiences. Understandably, such variations can be confusing. The two phenomena, the OBE and LD, share some features, but also have distinctions reported in the literature. Some would say, however, that the level of conscious awareness determines how the experience is labeled. For example, if one maintains an aware, alert mind while the body falls to sleep, they might label it as an OBE. But if one’s mind and body falls asleep, then during sleep, the dream state or R.E.M., they become aware, it would wind up being labeled as a LD, more often than not. Generally speaking, this is how we’ve compartmentalized such phenomena in Western culture. This compartmentalization doesn’t really happen in indigenous societies, as it seems unnecessary and irrelevant because after all, if the soul wanders during sleep, the person’s awareness of what’s taking place may be there from the very beginning or their awareness flows in and out during part of the sleep cycle.

In my early 30s, I worked very hard to provoke an OBE or lucid projection, as well as a LD. I practiced a variety of concentration-based meditations for months, usually dedicating over an hour a day to the practices. It paid off with time, effort and practice, and even trail and error. Having had no success at night, even after dozens of attempts, I decided to dedicate one sunny weekend morning to pursue an experience. That morning after waking up, I did a series of exercises in bed – concentration on the heart, vowel mantras, and visualization of a place – all taught to me, at that time, by experienced instructors of GnosticWeb (a group offering free courses on these topics). That morning included a few hours of unsuccessful attempts, probably because I really wasn’t sure what was about to take place and likely gave up too quickly. All of this occurred with some degree of frustration, before I actually succeeded. In fact, I recall telling myself, that I would try ‘one more time’ before ‘giving up’ for the day. So I pushed forward, lying in bed, trying to fall asleep while I kept my mind awake – quite the disciplined act. The initial experience of maintaining this level of awareness was extremely interesting to say the least, especially due to new and unfamiliar sensations. My heartbeat became more intense and this intensity was accompanied by a soft buzzing or vibrating sensation. These sensations seemed to gently propel me forward at one point in the experience. I don’t recall hearing any sounds or voices at that moment, which are, among other sensations, often reported by others, according to research done by the International Academy of Consciousness. Basically, I popped up and walked out of bed with the awareness that something was different. To confirm, I did a reality check (which was something I was taught to do and often done during the day) by pulling one of my fingers. I did this right there in my bedroom, as I was certain that something was quite different and suspected that I had projected. My finger stretched like firm putty and became long, then sprung back as I let it go. Well that confirmed it! Next, I walked out of my bedroom, and then realizing walking wasn’t necessary, I hovered about a foot above the floor, floating down the stairs with the awareness that I had accomplished what I set out to experience. I was really checking out the environment I found myself in. A lot looked the same, but laws of gravity obviously did not apply. What took place from there, I consider personal, and meant just for me, so I will keep the rest of the story to myself for now. Anyway, that is how it began for me.

I’m not sure how many minutes went by, but it felt like quite a while. The experience ended when I became uncertain and a little fearful of what I saw, and my vision turned somewhat cloudy (this might imply loss of awareness, according to the IAC, and there are tips on how to re-establish it). I found myself immediately back in my bed and opened my eyes, feeling awe-struck. I then recorded the experience in the dream journal kept by my bed. From that day forward, my world-view began to shift.

While slowly gaining more experience, including how to dream with greater levels of lucidity, I did not focus on differences between the two phenomena. LDs and lucid projections or OBEs seemed to have more in common thanIMG_2499 not, and I continue to believe they still do. In the end, it may all come down to varying levels of conscious awareness. Many indigenous cultures do not compartmentalize or make so many concrete categorizations with regard to these phenomena as we do in the West. Still, it helps to be aware of the particular features of these experiences and track them in a journal in order to learn from others, whether it’s shared experiences or research, as well as from ourselves and our own lived experience.

There are researchers in several nations that currently study these unique human experiences in sleep laboratories. For example, the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC) operates a large site in the Alentejo region of Portugal. I had the privilege of visiting the IAC Research Campus a few weeks ago (June 2016) and was given an extensive tour of the facilities, including their impressive laboratories. For more information about what this particular organization has to offer, explore their website at iacworld.org. These days, publications focusing on these extraordinary experiences are on the rise. A simple online search can point to numerous books, websites, and courses. For example, deepluciddreaming.com offers free access to a wonderful book titled Consciousness Beyond the Body, and so much more.

 

Happy soul-travels,

Kim
Continue reading

the application of self-hypnosis

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

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

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

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

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

May you reap the benefits,

Kim

hypnosis 101

Some readers may be unfamiliar with hypnosis and hypnotherapy, and since I recently completed an advanced hypnotherapy certification program, I’m really excited to write about it (again). It’s a topic close to my heart. In this month’s article, some definitions and key points are offered. This information is taken from one of my hypnosis lectures presented in a course I taught for 6 years at Arizona State University. Much of this was taught to me by my talented hypnotherapy instructor, Marilyn Gordon.

Hypnosis is a tool used to induce a non-ordinary state of consciousness (also known as an altered state of consciousness). It involves deep relaxation coupled with concentration. Brain waves, breathing, and heart rate slow down. The body may feel light or heavy. The eyelids may flutter and the eyes may become teary. Hypnotic states vary – one can go into a light trance or a very deep one, but being asleep is not being in hypnosis. The hypnotist may include the use of mental/visual imagery, sound (music, chimes), counting down numbers, touch, or simply their voice.

Hypnosis can be used to explore the deep inner mind, or subconscious, and make changes in one’s life. Usually, one issue becomes the focus for a session, or series of sessions. Some people work with a hypnotist or hypnotherapist to manage pain, enhance performance, support healing post-surgery, quit smoking or drinking, and even to reduce stress, release fears, contact inner peace, connect with deeper purpose and meaning in life, or explore the root of unwanted behaviors. For some, one session may result in noticeable change, while, for others, several sessions are more productive. The state of hypnosis is a tender one, and should be approached with grace and respect.

images-1 2

Some hypnotists and hypnotherapists differ in style. For example, some professionals may be directive in the session, while others have a more spontaneous or non-directive, client-centered approach, serving as a “tour guide” and interacting with whatever material arises at the time. Either way, in hypnosis, you are always in control of your behavior. At no point can a hypnotist make you do something you don’t want to do.

Beyond the helping professions, this tool has been used in medical settings, dentistry, and historically, in criminal investigations. For published articles and more information, go to www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov, www.pubmed.gov, and www.ncjrs.gov, and enter the relevant search terms.

If you are a psychologist, or psychotherapist, certification in hypnotherapy can be especially valuable. For those in the SF Bay Area, I recommend certification through the Center for Hypnotherapy in Oakland, CA. Contacting the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) is also advised. The NGH can provide helpful legal information so all clinicians practice lawfully.

Because hypnotherapy can be valuable for a variety of reasons and to a wide population, including children, I strongly recommend looking into it. You never know what you’ll come across – remember my surprise?

With gratitude,

Kim

 

welcoming deceased loved ones in hypnosis

Earlier, I wrote about significant images, whether animal or human (or beyond), that may appear in dream or hypnosis. While separated by time, chimera was a significant image that appeared to me in both states. However, chimera was far from the only one.

While deceased loved ones may appear to us in dreams or visions, they may also appear when in hypnosis. Around the time I became certified in hypnotherapy in 2005, I had a beautiful experience. Another student of hypnosis was working with me that day and after the brief induction, I felt relaxed and comfortable. I hadn’t dropped deeply, but I definitely felt the enjoyable effects of the hypnotic state.

For this experience, I chose to make contact with a heaviness I had been carrying in my heart region for some time. I wanted to understand it and transform it into something positive and light. After exploring it in a light hypnotic state, the hypnotherapist asked my deep inner mind to reveal an image, sensation, or message that could assist me and my heart. To my surprise, my dear Uncle Joe appeared, along with his boat – I was so happy to see him! In my core, I knew everything would be okay and relaxed into the experience. Carefully and gently, the heaviness was removed from my heart center and placed in his boat before he drove it out into the middle of the lake where it was released.

IMG_1873This memory has stayed with me for over 10 years now. But it didn’t end there. Before being guided back to my ordinary state of consciousness, I thanked my uncle for his help and then attended to the empty space that was left after the removal. In hypnosis, I imagined soft golden and white light filling the space and unifying my center. With gratitude, I opened my eyes and thanked the hypnotherapist as well.

While one can ask for assistance from a particular person, spirit, power object, or animal, it is also possible that one just appears. This was the case for me that day. Sometimes we can be surprised! We can trust that whatever appears to us, in whatever way, is just right…just what we need at that moment.

In loving memory,

Kim

a pathway to lucid dreaming

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

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

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

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

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

Happy dreaming,

Kim