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.

 

enhancing dreamtime

As the warmer months are wrapping up, and the cold weather approaches, we find ourselves spending more and more time indoors. During the fall and winter seasons, we may spend much of our leisure time reading by a cozy fire, or listening to music under a warm blanket. In such a comfortable environment, it’s easy to drift off to sleep, even if only for a few minutes. In this polyphasic space, dreams are sprinkled over the course of the day or evening. For many people, all it takes is one extraordinary dream to spark a life-long interest in dreaming. Whether that first extraordinary dream is a lucid one, a highly memorable, vivid dream, or one with lasting impact, there is a desire to understand and experience more. For a few, vivid dreams and even lucid dreams are the norm, although, this is not the case for the majority of the population who typically recall mundane, fragmented dreams. On average, I experience one or two extraordinary dreams a month since I had a disciplined practice in the past. Some dreamers, however, report an extraordinary dream each week, while others report only a few each year. No matter one’s experience, dreamtime can be enhanced in several ways. For this month (October), Conscious Chimera is dedicated to offering tips for enhancing dreamtime. For questions or comments regarding the list below, please post a comment here or send me an email. I hope to hear from you soon!

*Aroma

-Mugwart: According to Victoria H. Edwards, author of The Aromatherapy Companion, “smelling mugwart before retiring” may assist with dream recall. Edwards even suggests hanging some to dry near your bed.

-Lavendar: Well-known for its calming effect, smelling lavender essential oil right before naptime or bedtime can help us relax. A relaxed state is ideal because an anxious or racing mind can affect dreams.

-Neroli & Sandalwood: Using these essential oils in combination is said to stimulate extraordinary dreams. Rub a few drops on the forehead, or add the oils to a spray bottle with distilled water to use as a pillow mist.

*Meditation & Breathwork

-Track the breath, every inhalation and exhalation. To bring about a sense of peace and calm, follow each in-breath and out-breath with focused attention. After a few minutes of ding so, say out loud, “It’s easy to remember my dreams.” Setting an intention with mindful breathing works wonders.

*Deep relaxation/Hypnosis

-A way to relax the body entirely to prepare for dreamtime is to apply ‘progressive relaxation.’ This technique involves relaxing each muscle group, one by one. Move from the head down to the feet, or from the feet up to the head – either direction works just fine. Once the process is complete say out loud, “I recall my dreams with ease, and I notice how vivid they are,” or a similar statement five or more times. The idea here, is to move into a very relaxed, suggestive state so that you can ‘program’ your mind to recall dreams as you drift off.

*Crystals/Gems

-Amethyst: Tonight I’ll be sleeping with a quality piece of amethyst! Why? It’s known to support dream recall.

-Clear Quartz: Amplify dream imagery by keeping a clear quartz crystal under your pillow. Sometimes, I like to carry mine with me all day as well.

Last but not least, leave a pen and notepad nearby so every dream, regardless of length, can be recorded as soon as you awaken. It is important to log all details without judgment. This practice along can help with dream recall, and having a record of your dreams is also necessary for tracking precognitive elements (aka premonitions).

 

Wishing you a pleasant fall season,

Kim

the application of self-hypnosis

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

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

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

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

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

May you reap the benefits,

Kim