amulet-making as folkloric craft

This is part 3 of a 4-part blog on amulets & talismans.

As we saw in part 1, amulets come in many diverse shapes, sizes and materials. They hold natural virtues for warding off evil, guarding against negativity, and protecting the wearer or carrier from harm. Part 2 highlighted ways to cleanse amulets.

Have you enjoyed this blog series? If so, join me for the Dream Medicine Retreat I’ll be hosting in Mexico. Details are here: www.ConsciousChimera.com/Retreats

Now, let’s take a look at how we can get crafty and creative!

Customizing Your Own 

In addition to those examples of amulets described in part 1, an amulet pouch, medicine bag, or charm bag can be created. These are often worn around the neck, pinned to a person’s clothing, or placed in a pocket or under one’s pillow. These little bags/pouches can be filled with various items, such as herbs, flowers, crystals and icons. No sewing is required. Simply cut a piece of appropriate colored fabric into a square or circle. Felt, silk, or cotton work fine. Place the amulets of your choice in the center and use a six- to eight-inch string, ribbon or thin leather cord to tie the pouch together at the top. This can be done similar to a European sachet—I’ve been fond of those since I was a little girl. 

Choosing the Best Color for You

Traditional English as well as African American bags are often constructed with red fabric, however, colors correspond to particular attributes, so the use of red is not always necessary. Consider the following additional possibilities – these are just a few examples:

Photo by monicore on Pexels.com

* Blue for emotional and mental healing

* Green for financial success, prosperity, and physical health matters 

* Purple for confidence, power and success

* White for general protection and purity, or in place of any color

The color you choose in itself can serve as a reminder for what you want. So if I want to protect my physical body or protection around material matters, I’d go with green. If I need to protect my mental and emotional states, I would choose blue. Purple can serve as protection for my personal boundaries, self-esteem, or sense of self. This is the way I think about it, at least.

Today, not only do I carry amulets during the day when I feel I need them, but I often have them on or near me at night when I sleep. This can be one method to help protect people as they dream, go into deep meditative states or trance, or even embark on a conscious, intentional out-of-body experience. Part of maintaining health, in my opinion, is taking action to protect our energy bodies and psyche/soul. Working with amulets is one way to do so.

Thank you for reading part 3 of 4 – the next article (part 4) will focus on talismans. For fuller exploration of this subject, read Dream Medicine: The Intersection of Wellness and Consciousness (Toplight Books, 2021).

Have you enjoyed this blog series thus far? If so, consider joining me for the Dream Medicine Retreat I’ll be hosting at the beautiful Mar de Jade Wellness Resort in Chacala, Mexico. Details can be found here: www.ConsciousChimera.com/Retreats

the what and why of amulets

Welcome to part 1 of a 4-part blog series on amulets & talismans.

If I asked, point blank: Do you intentionally carry an amulet? You’d likely say no. It’s not something on the forefront of most people’s minds. Were you ever gifted a rabbit’s foot? I was, and as a child I carried it with me…at least for a while. Or maybe instead you whisper, “rabbit, rabbit” at the start of each month. Either way, calling in good luck, or repelling bad luck, with various objects is serious business within cultures across the globe.

These days it seems that amulets are somewhat increasing in popularity, yet again, these are not objects at the forefront of one’s mind. The rabbit’s foot as a good luck charm was quite popular in the United States and Great Britain for decades. The history of this particular amulet is not entirely certain and is connected to several possibilities.

So what exactly is an amulet anyway? 

An amulet is said to contain natural virtues used for warding off evil, guarding against negativity, and protecting the wearer or carrier from harm. As a protective object an amulet can come in many shapes and sizes. The power is within the material. In short, an amulet repels what we don’t want, claims Mary Grace Fahrun, author of Italian Folk Magic (2018).

Here are some examples of common amulets which are culturally and situationally dependent:

Coral

Vervain

Thyme

Garlic

A leaf of Bay/Laurel

A fresh or dried sprig of Rue

Amber

Silver and Gold

A stone, gem or crystal (such as quartz, amethyst, tourmaline, carnelian or onyx). 

Italian red coral is considered an amulet.

Amulets can offer protection in all states, whether in dream, meditative, visionary or waking states. Furthermore, amulets can serve as a general protective element as well as carry a unique function. One historical example is how fossilized amber was used for preventing nightmares with children. Another example could be the Italian corno or hunchback or the hand of Fatima, all of which are meant to provide a specific function—protection against evil eye. 

Apotropaic (aka protective) magic refers to the power to avert evil or harmful influences, bad luck, misfortune, or the evil eye. The popularity is evident, even today, by the vast number of apotropaic amulets and talismans sold worldwide. A very early example comes from ancient Greece in the 4th-century BCE – a relief showing Asklepios performing a healing ritual with a serpent and two apotropaic eyes above. These talismanic ‘eyes’ were also commonly found on ancient Greek vases and throughout parts of the Mediterranean region. See part 4 of this 4-part blog series for more on talismans.

From my visit to the archeological museum in Thessaloniki, 2019.

In the book The High Magic of Talismans and Amulets, Lecouteux (2005) provides some history on the origins of the word amulet: In the first century BCE, we come across the Latin word amuletum, derived from amoliri, meaning to protect, to drive away. Considering what amulets are and are not, the most striking example I’ve come across is revealed below. What you see is below is from an excerpt from my 2021 book, Dream Medicine:

Considering the notion of general protective capacities, let’s turn to Celtic traditions for a moment. Healing, wisdom and truth are sourced from severed heads. The most extreme example of an amulet I have ever come across, unsurprisingly, is that of a human skull fragment. According to Tom Cowan, author of Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit (1993), ancient Celts were well known for “their cult of the severed head” (p. 35); they flaunted the heads of enemies from their horses or their own necks. Celtic warriors wore human skull fragments as amulets. Sometimes the entire head was placed on a gatepost, outside a doorway, or on top of a stake for protection. In belief systems where the soul is immortal, residing in the head while alive on earth, it is not surprising that claiming or keeping one’s head “was the same as possessing that person’s soul, spirit and personal power, analogous to the practice found among some cultures of eating the heart or brain of a noble warrior or admired enemy in order to ingest his strength” (Cowan, 1993, p. 36). How about that for a power object!

Now that you know what amulets are and why people carry them, we’ll turn our attention to their care in the next part fo this blog series.

~Dr. Kim

Consider joining the Dream Medicine retreat in Mexico this Fall – we are booking now, so get all the details here: www.ConsciousChimera.com/Retreats

Thank you for reading part 1 of this 4-part blog series. The next part (2) will place attention on the cleaning of amulets. For fuller exploration of this subject, read Dream Medicine: The Intersection of Wellness and Consciousness (Toplight Books, 2021).

#traditionalways

#magic

#power

#ritual

#amulets

#ancientgreece

#talismans

#goodluck

#folkmagic

#craft

#folkloric

#protection

#evileye

#Asklepios 

#rabbit-rabbit

#apotropaic 

8 perspectives on your dreams

Dreaming is hot this year. Actually, the world of dreams and the dreaming mind has received great attention since sheltering in place began. While everyone dreams every night, some people report little-to-no recall. Many people only started paying attention to the dream lives with the arrival of 2020. Sheltering in place led to increased sleep among certain people who noticed an increase in dream recall. If attending to dreams is new for you, you may wonder what it all means. To help, I will share eight perspectives on the function of dreams.

The psychodynamic perspectives seem to be most familiar to dreamers. Freud would have said that dreams express hidden instincts and reflect one’s instinctual drives. Wish fulfillment may have played a part in the conversation analysts of Freudian dream theory. Around that time, Jung developed his own ideas. He is credited with the Compensatory or Complementary Hypothesis which suggests that dreams are a natural expression of our imagination. Furthermore, dreams, he would tell us, integrate our conscious and unconscious lives.

As time went on, and science further developed, Hobson’s Activation-synthesis Hypothesis claimed that dreams were not as meaningful as once believed because dreams arose from neurochemical changes in the brain, nothing more. But this wasn’t the only explanation for dreaming. A cognitive perspective emerged where Hall posited that dreams are continuous with the dreamer’s waking concepts, meaning that one’s dreams reflect one’s waking life concerns. This is known as the Continuity Hypothesis. Attention has been given to developmental perspectives as well, so theories of information processing and dreams are also important to consider. In this territory, we marry dreams with memory consolidation. We can’t deny that dreaming plays an important role in the life of every human. Dreams help process and organize stimuli from the day as well as help us store information into memory. Let us not forget the role dreams play in human evolution! Dreaming has an adaptive function and threat stimulation theories abound. Consider all that dreams do here: Dreams help us adapt to current life situations and circumstances; Dreams provide an opportunity to perceive and avoid threats; From a social aspect, dreams allow for practice and even the strengthening of social bonds. It is not necessary to recall every dream because much of this takes place below conscious awareness. Have you ever wondered how dreams might aid in the processing of emotions? Hartmann’s contributions towards emotional processing theories are worthy of attention. Did you know that dreams help us to process emotional experiences and even adapt to them? Dreams partly do this because they integrate recent emotional experiences with other past experiences – ie they’re very associative. Furthermore, dreams can help us to solve problems in that way (though more emotional problems/conflicts in life). On a personal note, my dreams have been very valuable for such reasons.

Transpersonal psychology has something to say about dreaming as well. Images and symbols are part of us and reveal the dynamics of our inner life. Dreams show us, in symbolic form, all of the different personalities that interact within us and make up our total self.

Last, but not least, are perspectives on dreaming that emerge from traditional ways of knowing and indigenous cultures around the world. Here, we acknowledge soul and spirit, and the interconnectedness of all beings. Dreams serve to guide and offer spiritual sustenance. When we dream, our soul may travel. These perspectives are more fluid. There is little or no separation among waking and dreaming states, or those in between.

So, are you recalling your dreams lately? If so, I hope you are keeping a dream diary! When reflecting on your dreams, refer to this article as often as you like. There are several perspectives to consider! Consider one or all of them when determining the meaning of your dreams.

If you’d like to take a deep dive, and have a blast doing so, you may want to attend my October dream retreat in Mexico. Information can be found here: https://consciouschimera.com/retreats/

I wish you a rich dream life,

Dr. Kim

season of dreams

Well, my Northern Hemisphere readers, we’ve just passed the autumnal equinox entering the season of Fall officially as a powerful full moon was overhead. This time each year is always a turning point for me as reflected in mother nature. I live in a forested area of Northern California so each day I notice trees – lots of them – browning, drying up, losing leaves along their branches that seem to be sagging oh so subtly. Nature is reminding me that soon, it will be time to sleep, hibernate, slow down and stay indoors. I’m been more accepting of what this turning point means. My preference is, and has always been, the creative burst of springtime and the sun’s invitation to play outdoors under its rays. Still, I accept that all things are in perpetual change as the cycles of nature continually turn. So that I do not slip into gloom I have learned to prepare for the colder, darker months. It’s around this time that I stock up on candles, baking supplies, art supplies, fine yarns and embroidery floss, purchase a half-dozen good books, a few blank journals, and bookmark recipes that require a hot oven. I also mentally recommit to scheduling in self-care and personal development practices, such as meditation, so that my week is truly work-life balanced. Last, but not least, I consider online workshops and conferences I want to attend so I can stretch my mind. Consider me a life-long leaner!

In this blog, I will tell you about one I plan to attend and another one where I will be presenting. I was excited to learn that next month a day-long psychotherapy workshop will take place which is focused on gender-sensitive treatment. Since my clinical focus is on women’s issues and women’s unique responses to trauma and other conditions, these gender-specific workshops are most welcome. Thank you PESI.com.

My own presentation will be included in an online conference that also begins next month, and it’s quite different from what I introduced above, although what the two do have is common is WELLNESS. October 30th begins the Many Worlds of Lucid Dreaming multi-day event featuring 15 diverse presenters. See: https://www.glidewing.com/iasd/lucid_dreaming_conference.html

During this event I will present a paper titled Dreams as medicine: How conscious dreaming can support one’s journey toward wellness. Whether you or someone you love has been impacted by disease or illness, this presentation will show how dreams can alert, warn, and even guide one toward improving health. Other presenters will also focus on wellness, such as reducing stress and relieving pain with the support of dreams. I hope you consider attending!

Autumn and Winter are great times to dive into dream-based practices such as improving sleep hygiene, utilizing dream incubation techniques, or committing to keeping a dream journal. After all, there is naturally more darkness, the nights are longer. Less daylight suggests going inward. Dreamwork pairs perfectly with this period of the year. So to my fellow summer-lovers, I remind you, not all is lost!

Dream big,

Dr. Kim

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.

dreamy greek delights

After the annual international dream conference of the IASD, held in the Netherlands this year, I visited Greece. Greece has been on my bucket list for over a decade. Finally, I made it! With only five days to spare, I stuck to the North East area of the country, exploring the city of Thessaloniki and Halkidiki peninsula. Time in the sea was, of course, a must. I also  wanted to see with my own eyes evidence of a long lost dream culture.

e0329c47-1757-43f0-a42a-cf5d6894bf48I spent time speaking with young Greeks, and even a few older ones. As I walked through downtown Thessaloniki, not for from Aristotle Square by the sea, I walk past 4th century monuments and wait…what?… yes, vendors selling Native American dreamcatchers. What a surprise! Young, contemporary Greeks call these oneiropagida yet they do not have a similar object from their own, forgotten, ancient dream-focused culture. Evidence for this lost culture is mostly found in museums nowadays, especially within the boundaries of my recent trip. One man, who is in his 20s, shared two opposing views of today’s Greek people. Dreams either mean little-to-nothing, he told me, or dreams must be interpreted, as they hold significance for some. For the latter group, oneirokritis or dream dictionaries, however, are popular. He considered those who use dream interpretation to be “superstitious,” yet as we spoke further, I understood that this term was not necessarily negative. The 21 year-old woman who was selling dreamcatchers, among other objects and souveniers, told me that for her and her friends, dreams were not meaningful. She said that her mother, however, carries a belief that night dreams are worth paying attention to and may lead to an action if they seemed meaningful. This isn’t a daily practice though, as some dreams hold more weight than other dreams.

A middle-aged cab driver from a small mountain town told me that contemporary Greeks today look at the old God/Goddess culture as “fairytales.” That old mythology is not a part of our contemporary belief system whatsoever, he conveyed. With regard to dreams, he said that this is also mostly ignored, yet for some Greeks, “powerful dreams” are given more attention. Those vivid, or easily recalled, types of dreams may need interpretation. The dream may be placed in one of two categories: good or bad. Dreams are judged, polarized, it seems. An example of a good dream may involve flying, he said, while a dream of a snake may be viewed as bad. I commented on how serpents were held in high regard, in the past, for their healing and transformative qualities. He agreed, but said “times have changed.” He attributed this shift in perspective to religious changes, particularly the rise of Christianity.

Thessaloniki’s archeological museum staff provided stimulating discussion regarding the Greek history of dreaming. Two women working in the museum shop shared some img_4201information about the healing nature of snakes as we looked at a marble relief being sold there, which features Asclepius. A fourth century BCE relief depicts three stages of healing of a patient by the god Asclepius with two apotropaic eyes above. The healing ritual shown here appears to depict Asclepius giving injections and using snake venom as a healing substance. Some believe that Asclepius could transform into a healing serpent himself. The original can be found in the sanctuary of Amphiaraos at Oropos (Attica). Apotropaic magic refers to the power to avert evil or harmful influences, bad luck, misfortune, or the evil eye. Its popularity is evident, even today, by the vast number of apotropaic amulets sold worldwide. Other copies of votive offerings to Asclepius also feature the serpent. Snakes can be found in numerous pieces img_4203of jewelry (bracelets and earrings in particular) worn by the ancient Greek/Macedonian peoples. We discussed how the serpent, or snake, was considered a strong healing, transformative force historically, yet with the arrival of Christianity, this all changed. From then on, snakes were primarily associated with women and evil, or the devil, thus connecting the two. This myth continues to hold strong today. Then, she asked for me to help her understand a puzzling dream of her own. I say that I’m honored to listen, but cannot interpret another’s dream, as I am not the author of it. She agrees that dreams belong to the dreamer, and continues. We play the game, “If it were my dream,” and have an enlightening discussion. She smiles as her eyes widen, img_4202expressing thanks for my view on this dream, as if it were my own, revealing a positive resolution in the end. Dreams belong to the dreamer, yes, and isn’t it wonderful to have those that will listen and take them seriously. For these exchanges offer fresh insights and perspectives. I was delighted over my time spent in the museum and with it’s employees – they had much to say about Asclepius and healing, while the others I spoke with knew little, or nothing at all of that part of local ancient history.

My time in Greece will continue…hopefully within a year or two. Athens and the oracles and sanctuaries of the area are at the top of my list. Have you traveled to the ancient Greek regions where healing and dreaming were once so common? If so, tell us about it. Comments and discussion here are always welcome.

Happy Summer,

Kim

To order my book, CLICK HERE.

immersed in yoga nidra

Having recently completed a five-day immersion workshop in Yoga Nidra (sleep yoga), I am feeling inspired to share my experience. First, let me tell you how it all began, months prior to the workshop. Dr. Kamini Desai of the Amrit Yoga Institute is author of Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep (Lotus Press, 2017) – what some have called ‘The Bible of Yoga Nidra.” Many months ago I purchased this book to learn more about the topic and to prepare for an article I was writing. The deeper my investigation into the thousands-of-years-old practice of yoga nidra, the more I wanted to dive in. Shortly after purchasing the book, I saw that Dr. Desai would soon be leading a Yoga Nidra immersion with John Vosler at Esalen Institute. Wanting an in-depth experience for myself, I enrolled immediately!

I arrived at Esalen on a Sunday, in the late afternoon, but early enough to settle in before the workshop officially kicked off. I say kicked off, but really it was a lovely slow-paced unfolding. If you have never been to Esalen, image the Garden of Eden, cliffside, and you’ll get the idea. Soon enough, the attendees (myself included) were all on our backs, comfortably secure on our yoga mats with blankets or eye pillows. As the first taste of yoga nidra for the week is delivered, I rest deeply, allowing my thoughts to dissolve. A rumifloaty sensation accompanying peaceful stillness, along with the sense of spaciousness, is deeply relaxing. This is a space I have become familiar with from years of meditation, hypnosis, and conscious sleep-based practices I’ve been taught by Gnostic mystics, Taoists and Buddhists. Some of the particular breathing techniques, mantras, and visualizations were new and aroused my curiosity. I thought, well Kim, welcome to the meditation limb of yoga. An important reminder was that no matter which spiritual lineage or framework the ancients originated from, the end result is that of knowing great peace and making contact with soul, regardless of the particular strategy applied. All used toning, visualizations, and the breath in some fashion or another and while the precise technique differs from place to place across time, the end result is similar if not exactly the same. For me, this realization brings a sense of wholeness, humility and a profound tranquility. Over the next five days, attendees are taught core principles of a deep form of meditation, known as yoga nidra, and concepts concerning health and spirituality, including the subtle bodies, karma, and much more. We also learn how regenerative states and healing of the body are supported by yoga nidra, as practitioner’s brain waves slow down significantly, some even down into delta brain wave states during a yoga nidra practice. This is important because when we sleep each night, we only get about 20 minutes of delta – the most restorative brain wave state. By inducing yoga nidra for a short period during the day, we can add several additional minutes of the beneficial delta state, as the body sleeps while the mind remains conscious. This space is where healing suggestions can be incorporated – here the mind-body complex responds without having to do anything. What a delight this immersive workshop was, especially due to the class receiving two yoga nidras each day – one in the AM and another in the PM. All stressors seemed to melt away as each day passed. After a yoga nidra session, which are typically 30-45 minutes in length, I feel so comfortably relaxed, focused and recharged. I walk away with the firm knowing that my body has been given the gift of additional support and good care.

In this fast-paced world with its many demands and easy access to a slew of mind-numbing distractions, I believe we are in desperate need of quality restoration and time/space to ground, breath, and connect to ourselves and those around us. What better way to prioritize our health than with yoga nidra? To encourage my personal commitment to this practice for my wellbeing and to offer yoga nidra to others, I am currently working toward certification via the Integrative Amrit Method. If you have wanted to try yoga nidra, let me know. From now until September, I am offering one free online session (up to 45 minutes) to those that follow Conscious Chimera. Message me if you are interested. As I type this month’s blog, I’m reminded of Ram Dass, who says, “We’re all just walking each other home.” So, no need to feel shy – reach out – I’m happy to be of support!

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers worldwide,

Kim

dreams save lives

A recent series of events, including dreams of colleages, friends, as well as dreams of my own, inspired the writing of this article (after interviewing Dr. Burk) at this particular time. My hope is that we continue to trust our fullest human potentials, including how dreams can help us see diseases developing, heal them, and even better, warn us to change course prior to an illness developing!

It was spring 2018 when I was introduced to Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos (dream teacher and three-time breast cancer survivor). Our introduction was online, as I was invited to be a guest on her webTV program (see kathleenokeefekanavos.com) featuring upcoming conference presenters of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). Just a couple of months later, I met Larry Burk, MD, CEHP, a holistic radiologist, at the IASD conference (asdreams.com), which took place in Arizona. Both were in attendance and promoting their recently published book Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases. It was hot-off-the-press and I knew I just had to read it. Needless to say, I read the book and must tell you that I hadn’t read anything quite like it. This book is filled with startling true stories of men and women whose dreams predicted disease and, for some, even guided them through the healing process. The authors want to bring dreaming back into Western medicine, giving dreams the attention they deserve. I wanted to learn more about the studies currently taking place, so I interviewed Dr. Burk in April 2019. Here is what he shared with me.

Early on, Dr. Burk had a few close friends who had dreams warning them of breast cancer – I’m thinking, this research is personal. Furthermore, Burk himself is a dreamer and has a strong relationship with his dream-life, using them for guidance. He has been tracking his dreams for over 30 years. Knowing that dreams have guided Burk through his life, I asked him about his decision to leave his education direction position at Duke in 2004 only to return to Duke in 2015. His decision to leave Duke (Integrative Medicine Center) was propelled by a series of synchronicities, while his decision to return to Duke (University Medical Center) was supported by a dream. When unsure whether to return and accept the offer to return to Duke, he decided to use a dream incubation technique – writing a question in his dream journal regarding the decision needed to be made. You can read Burk’s entire dream in Dreams That Can Save Your Life. We discuss our trust in dream incubation as well as synchronicity. At that point, I share with him ways I use the Tarot to guide me and to help me understand my dreams at a deeper level. Burk and I have both attended, and very much appreciated, the Tarot and Dreams workshops at IASD conferences. We also both own a copy of Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Our appreciation for dream journaling, synchronicity, art, and Tarot, bring our discussion to life. We acknowledge that there are so many ways to work with dreams!

Like my own journey, Burk has trusted dreams to guide in career decisions. In addition, Burk was guided by dreams during the editing process of his first book, Let Magic Happen: Adventures in Healing with a Holistic Radiologist (2012). He recalls a series of initially puzzling dreams that led him to make particular wise decisions.

I wondered if he has lost colleague-friends over his deep interest and belief in predictive dreams. In 1987, when his interest in alternative ways started to develop things were alright. Burk believed he was protected from harsh feedback during those years. No serious push-back came up until 1996, when his work in mind-body medicine peaked. In 1999, however, some wanted him fired! These days, Western medicine has not progressed much with regard to dreams and health.

We both highly recommend keeping a dream diary, and sharing warning dreams with others, especially your medical doctor. Overall, Western medicine is not very friendly towards the use of dreams as diagnostic tools, yet the countless reports of how they have saved lives warrants taking a more open-minded approach. Case in point, Burk’s TEDx talk in Raleigh, NC (2016), was eventually censored/banned, claiming that it was unscientific. His TEDx coaches encouraged him to be very conservative and to approach everyone in the audience as a skeptic. They encouraged him to wear a suit even, instead of the informal shirt he had chosen. Burk shares with me how he complied with the demands, and believes he approached his presentation conservatively. You can find his TedX talk on YouTube today. I hope you watch it and see for yourself. We both watched Dr. Christopher Kerr’s Tedx talk (Buffalo), I See Dead People. This talk focused on dreams of the dying in palliative care. So some areas of medicine are more open-minded.

In 2012, Burk’s interest in this area developed. With a few stories in hand, he began research on dreams and medical implications in 2013, which was published two years later. Burk credits Bob Van de Castle and Stanley Krippner as initial inspirations and cheerleaders of his work! Van de Castle suggested he present his research at an IASD conference, yet had passed away before he was able to publish his paper. More recently, he conducted a three-month pilot study on dreams of women who are having breast biopsies. This was submitted to an academic journal awaiting decision. How many women are actually having dreams related to their breasts before biopsies? How many women are even writing them down, or keeping a dream journal? We know some women who are having warning dreams! But, without logging dreams how could anyone know?

In addition to research, Burk is also very passionate about doing his healing work with tapping (He has his version of EFT, called EDANVIR) and dreams. One of his early online clients was suffering greatly. She had recurring dreams of childhood trauma and abuse provoking deep feelings of anger, and lived with fears of not being able to make it on her own. Fear and anger were in the forefront. Burk taught her to tap on these emotions. Following the session, the client reported powerful healing dreams where she becomes rescuer with superpowers. Her harsh medical symptoms vanish and her lifestyle improves greatly. With this case, Burk said, the dreams tell you what to tap on, then later, tell you if the treatment is working. This is one of many examples of dreams coming in service as tools for diagnosis and recovery processes.

I hope the information and stories here have prompted you to begin or continue using a dream journal and to trust in your dreams. Dr. Burk can be contacted via his website: larryburk.com. Take a look – you are sure to be intrigued and educated within its pages.

May Your Dreams Be Your Medicine,

Kim

Dr. Dillard’s IDL

In February 2019, I was fortunate enough to have a lengthy discussion with Dr. Joseph Dillard on lucid dreaming, dream yoga, yoga nidra, and his approach called Integral Deep Listening (IDL). Here, for Conscious Chimera’s March 2019 article, I share with you the highlights. If you haven’t yet, please take a look at last month’s article, as February reflects part one of this two-part report. In addition, it might be helpful to take a look at Dillard’s work, particularly these two web pages:

www.integraldeelplistening.com/dr-joseph-dillard and www.integraldeeplistening.com/three-transformative-world-views.

Dillard believes dreaming to be “our most misunderstood and underutilized, innate capability.” He begins by summarizing some core points. In the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, life is seen as a dream. Yoga, as a psychospiritual discipline, can wake us up out of an existence of perpetual sleepwalking. The Buddhist and Hindu worldviews are derived from Shamanism, which assumes a fundamental cosmological dualism – that is, an underworld of demons and devils, and an overworld of angels and deities. Trance and dreaming allow shamans to access communication with these worlds. Shamanistic approaches to dream yoga are concrete and literal; what you experience in a dream is a reality in another dimension. Most traditional approaches, whether they are Amer-Indian shamanistic, Siberian or whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Tibetan Buddhist approaches, will focus on the objective concreteness of experiences and further divide dreaming into either spiritual or mundane categories. You’ll find that again and again wherever you look at them.

This traditional approach to dreamwork and dream yoga is in opposition to the Western psychological approach, which sees everything in a dream or interior, psychological experience, as a self-aspect, sub-personality, or “shadow.” Dillard adds that these two approaches generate a fundamental division in approaches to dreamwork, with the first tending to view dreams as either sacred, spiritual, and highly meaningful, or secular, profane, and meaningless, while the second emphasizing ownership and the self-created nature of experience in order to foster responsibility and personal empowerment.

According to Dillard, Tibetan Dream Yoga is divided into two different categories – one is the category associated the great Tibetan yogi Milarepa, which emphasizes gaining power to awaken out of samsara, or the clinging to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, by waking up in your dreams. In this way, lucid dreaming becomes a tool for waking up. He states that, “The idea is to wake up in your waking life. You can rehearse this and learn how to do it by waking up in a dream, to realize that you are dreaming, and have various experiences which will teach you that you have control.” “Consequently, you’ll start to wake up in your waking life and to differentiate the dream-nature, the illusory-nature of waking life from dream life.” The “Milarepa” approach focuses on the steps or injunctions of the yoga of waking up while you are dreaming.

Now, Dillard gives attention to the second Tibetan dream yoga category known as Tibetan Deity Yoga. In short, with this approach one meditates on a bodhisattva or the Buddha, internalizes a mandala, in addition to many other details, recalling colors, shapes, figures, etc., in order to embody and become the deity. One tries to fuse with, or become the consciousness of the deity, Dillard explains. In Tibetan Deity Yoga this work uses sacred elements from within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The distinction between sacred and secular (whether in dream or waking or meditative states) is apparent, as it is in the shamanic traditions. (For a more in-depth discussion of these two types of Tibetan dream yoga, see http://www.integraldeeplistening.com/tibetan-dream-yoga/)

IDL does not make this distinction. Through the use of its interviewing protocols, we learn to listen to the perspective of an element first, before judging it to be sacred or not. Without deep listening, we may just be projecting our biases onto the element or experience. IDL is a nonjudgmental approach to dreamwork. It attempts to be objective by not assuming that dream elements are good or evil, or that they are aspects of ourselves.

Deep listening is a dream yoga that embodies or identifies with the perspective of the elements in a dream, or mystical or near-death experience (NDE), or even a waking life issue. We can interview these elements/perspectives in an integral, deep way. By “integral,” Dillard is referring to Ken Wilber’s work surrounding lines of development, stages of development, and the 4 quadrants (internal-collective, internal-individual, external-collective, external-individual).

IDL involves interviewing protocols for one or multiple dream or life issue elements. The first variety, single element interviewing, is derived from the second, multiple element interviewing, which is called “Dream Sociometry.” It was created in 1980 and is based on J.L. Moreno’s sociometric methodology. The relationships among dream elements or those constituting some personal or collective issue, such as 9/11, can be depicted in a diagram called a Dream Sociogram. For further details, see Dream Sociometry and Understanding the Dream Sociogram (Routledge, 2018), or visit Dillard’s website: www.integraldeeplistening.com for examples of both types of protocols as well as computer assisted formats for doing both sorts of interviews yourself.

Character interviewing can also be done while one is lucid in a dream. When lucid, we merge with the element so that we suspend our own perception of our experience and view it from the world view of other embedded, relevant perspectives. The results can be stunning. Lifelong nightmares can go away for good with just one interview. Agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and toxic life scripts can be reframed in ways that open up healing, balance, and transformation.

The two approaches of Tibetan Buddhism to dream yoga largely fall within the shamanic tradition that we are having illusory experiences regarding objectively real states. There really are gods and demons and they really do appear in our dreams. But these in turn are aspects of a cosmic dream of maya. The other broad approach to lucid dreaming and dream yoga in general is the Western psychological approach, which is the opposite, which says that you are dealing with self-aspects. Dillard’s approach, Integral Deep Listening (IDL), holds a third perspective and that is that what we experience in a dream is “ontologically indeterminate” – that is, “we can treat dream elements like self-aspects, yet to a certain extent they are, at the same time, more than self-aspects, in that the perspective, or world view, of different elements within the dream, disclosed when we become and interview them, includes our own perspective, but transcends it, in that every interviewed perspective adds its own world view to our own.” Simply put, we do not know the dream element’s nature of being. Is it “real” or a self creation, both, or neither? Therefore, to immediately reduce it to a self-aspect is reductionistic, while assuming that some dream about our deceased aunt Mildred, really was her communicating from the other side, is also reductionistic. Mildred could be real or a self-creation, both, or neither; we don’t know. However, if we become and interview aunt Mildred, we will at least have the benefit of a perspective more in a position to know than we are.

Dillard’s approach is phenomenalistic, meaning that we recognize and suspend our assumptions about why we dream and what a dream means. For instance, we do not begin by assuming dreams are symbolic or that aunt Mildred is a symbol. We attempt to withdraw our projections and get out of our own way so that we can practice listening to different dream, mystical, and waking perspectives in a way that is deep and integral. Such a phenomenological approach is based on respect, which is in turn based on the principle of reciprocity: treating others, including dream elements, with the same degree of respect that we would hope others would treat us.

Dillard believes that IDL has the potential to move us away from a psychologically geocentric perspective, or pre-Copernican worldview, toward a psychologically heliocentric, Copernican worldview (which is much less egocentric, but still Self-centered), and even beyond this toward a multi-perspectival, holonic, approach by which every point in the universe is the center of the universe. The purpose is to decentralize the self, expanding, freeing, and opening our worldview significantly. This is why IDL is multi-perspectival in its orientation, as well as phenomenological.

At this point, I inserted my thoughts about yoga nidra (sleep yoga) into the discussion. Yoga nidra allows one to experience a formless self (See the February article for a brief introduction to yoga nidra). While the value of what yoga nidra can teach us is apparent, Dillard does not believe that yoga nidra shifts worldviews in such drastic ways. He asks, “What’s the change agent?” Even when aware in deep sleep, a long-time yoga nidra practitioner still experiences the phenomenon out of his/her cultural and social framework and life assumptions. Dillard adds, “What do you do about the perceptual framework of the self you’re stuck in, regardless of your state of consciousness?” IDL supports the stepping out of the waking, acculturated self, so that we don’t act out of its interpretations of our experience. When we disidentify and suspend the assumptions of the culturally, socially scripted self, more creative options can come up in our choice frameworks. Dillard states, “It is as if our everyday mind moves into the clear and spontaneous space musicians and athletes experience when they are in a state of flow, or that nidra yoga cultivates as a formless ground of all possibilities. This is an extraordinarily fecund and creative space, in which we no longer block access to perspectives that are not stuck in ways that we are stuck.” Dillard designed IDL to support people in waking up in the here and now so we can become more fully alive. It’s all about “healing, balancing, and transformation,” highlights Dillard. He considers everything to be sacred, but not from a place of polarizing the spiritual from the profane. “Vomit and spit can be sacred, in that they can teach us something, if we get out of the way and listen.” “Everything we experience in any state can be approached as a vehicle to help us to wake us up.” Through IDL we use the self as a tool to thin the self by laying it aside and becoming, or identifying with, different perspectives, whether they arise from dream or waking experience, over and over again! This is the opposite of grasping or maintaining control. Because most of our childhood was about learning to be in control, and because society places high value on having control and fears states of loss of control, learning a practice that surrenders both the self and hands control to completely foreign perspectives can scare people away.

Near the end of our conversation, we touch on NDEs, mystical experiences, and OBEs, in addition to how IDL can help those with depression, or anxiety. No matter how we label an experience, why not view our body as a vehicle for growth? Dillard sums it up by claiming, “All experiences are emerging potentials. All are my teachers.”

 

I want to thank Dr. Joseph Dillard for his time and for such stimulating discussion. By Dillard sharing his extensive experience and through his lively input, Conscious Chimera’s 3rd anniversary article (especially part two) has turned out to be quite special and memorable.

 

In Gratitude,

Kim

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.