meditate while you ZZZ

How many people would say meditation and sleep make strange bedfellows? A lot, I’d gather. Allow me to convince you that those people would be wrong!

Sleeping and meditating have the potential to blend together easily in the right conditions. With practice, it is very possible to be aware in a lovely meditative conscious space while the brain is in deep sleep. Enter the fascinating realm of Yoga Nidra, a centuries old practice, brought to us by people of India.

So what exactly is Yoga Nidra, you may be wondering?

Yoga Nidra is a sleep-based meditation designed to remove mental and emotional disturbance and rejuvenate the body. Yoga Nidra is composed of a structured series of breath, body and awareness techniques which progressively drop you into deeper brainwaves where your thoughts effortlessly move further away from you. It is in this gap between the thoughts that you can effortlessly experience restful meditation.  The body can deeply heal and rejuvenate, excess mental stimulation ceases and you awaken energized and focused. The more we rest as the silence behind the mind, the less we are disturbed by its unhelpful chatter—even while awake. Like meditation, Yoga Nidra can be used for medical, restorative and spiritual benefits alike to support one’s own goals and intentions.

What makes Yoga Nidra unique?

Most styles of meditation simply involve observing and allowing thoughts from a place of silent stillness. However, Yoga Nidra effects shifts from the state of meditation with the use of intention. In Yoga Nidra you are free from identification with deep-seated thought patterns that are constantly shaping and creating your mind, emotions, and even your body. With the use of intention you can consciously plant a seed to shape and create the state of your mind, emotions and body from the subtlest states of being very quickly and easily. This style of Yoga Nidra I was taught by Kamini Desai, PhD, and John Vosler is called the Integrative Amrit Method (IAM). They say it is like making changes to water versus ice.

The big difference with this particular method is that the focus is on energy as the point of entry into meditation. This released energy in the body increases the healing potential available during an I AM Yoga Nidra™ and typically takes most practitioners into deeper states of meditation more quickly. That is why this style is often known as “the deep one”.

You can learn more about this method here: https://amrityoga.org/yoga-nidra/

Let’s look into the process of Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra is practiced in a comfortable lying down position. Typically, one lies on a yoga mat on the floor with just a little padding under the head so that the spine stays in alignment. Something under the knees allows for extra comfort as well – some use a pillow or bolster for this. For those that cannot lie comfortably on the floor, a bed, couch or reclining chair are preferred. During yoga nidra body temperature may drop, so having a blanket next to you in case you need it is a good idea. Some people also like to use an eye pillow for extra darkness – I love eye pillows!. As the yoga nidra experience begins, you will be guided through a series of breathing exercises and simple instructions. Some of these include visual imagery or a scan of the body, which occupies the mind and prevents it from becoming involved in the usual mind-chatter that absorbs our ordinary consciousness. Within a short time, you become submerged in the alpha state…then go even deeper.

Ah…it’s sooo relaxing.

Now if you’ve read this far, let me tell you why I’m blogging on this topic today. Firstly, it is my three-year anniversary of earning my Yoga Nidra Certification. When I entered this whole yoga nidra thing seriously, it was early 2019, and honestly, I wasn’t sure why I was propelled to do it. But before the year came to an end, I understood. This brings me to the second reason. The following month, after earning my certification in September 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As you can imagine, I had some big decisions to make and, naturally, anxious energy flowed through me night and day. So guess what? I used Yoga Nidra (sometimes twice a day) to calm my nerves and instill a state of calm. I had the direct and long-term experience to discover how effective it is. Through Yoga Nidra, I was able to relax and focus much more so than I was at that time able to with other forms of meditation I knew so well. To this day, I offer free Yoga Nidra every Wednesday to a growing online community. You’re invited! Just reach out.

Lastly, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to my teachers at the Amrit Yoga Institute. Check them out here: https://amrityoga.org/

Jai Bhagwan,

Dr. Kim

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

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

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

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

Wishing you deep rest,

Dr. Kim

another dream conference begins…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Dr. Kim

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

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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