intention + affirmation = empowerment

So I see that I got a little behind on blogging. I’ve been so focused on yoga nidra and the homework requirements between the courses/workshops that time flew right on by! I’m delighted to share with you that I recently completed the 100 hour (basic level) certification in IAM yoga nidra, recognized by Yoga Alliance (IAM stands for Integrative Amrit Method). Now I am back at home, ready to return to my writing. Earlier in 2019, I blogged about dream yoga, yoga nidra and related practices, so I won’t go into definitions here. Instead, I will write about a specific aspect: #intention and #affirmation.

Before we jump in, I’d like to make a distinction for clarification. Scholarly journals include studies revealing the effects of self-affirmations for a variety of behaviors. Within social psychology, self-affirmation theory looks at how people adapt to threats or information related to one’s self-concept. People are motivated to maintain integrity of the self. Sometimes the effect of self-affirmation is impressive, other times, neutral. Much of the research is focused on health outcomes like smoking cessation, appointment attendance, dietary and exercise regimens. Basically, when it comes to cognitions, or human thought processes, healthy self-talk and positive language use can’t hurt. It reaches into concepts of self-adequacy and self-integrity. On the flip side, we know that harmful, negative thoughts have an ugly impact on human development, adaptation, and success potential. I needed to mention self-affirmation theory (similar to cognitive dissonance theory) so that we know what we are NOT talking about. Instead, what we are talking about today, is something much more conscious. Something closer to a personal motto or mantra, if you will.

I’ve been thinking a lot about intentions and affirmations, and how these ideas extend beyond ego to touch on the transpersonal or spiritual. I’ve used intentions and affirmations with clients and with myself over the years in a variety of ways. They have supported my daily routines, meditations, and everyday attitudes. There is a difference between these two terms – intention and affirmation – but sometimes they are used interchangeably. Kamini Desai of the Amrit Yoga Insitute taught me that by consciously withdrawing attention from our tendencies, and instead placing attention/action in the direction we want to go, we thereby set intention. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology, an intention is any directedness in one’s thoughts or behaviors, whether or not this involves conscious decision-making. Simply put, an intention is a direction (without a specific endpoint). Intention is in opposition to reaction. It’s important that an intention resonates deeply, with all parts of us, so it can be a focal point for a long time. I often include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in my psychotherapy practice – in those cases, intention setting typically involves deliberate decision-making. I recall one client who struggled with follow-through all her life (this was ongoing) and feared that she would not graduate (a new, specific goal). We worked on practicing new behaviors over several sessions. Even img_4580though this memory is a few years old, I recall that the intention we used was something like ‘I persist and complete tasks with ease.’ Like the photo here, we have to climb our way out of things and it can feel tiring with life’s hurdles, but our perception matters. We can sprinkle our climb with rose petals (gentle intention supported with loving affirmation). When cultivating an appropriate intention for hypnotherapy or a meditation practice such as yoga nidra, I often rely more on intuition. This is because I am operating from a bit of a different space – after all with CBT, it’s more analytical. In both cases, for me, there is embodiment, mirroring, and attunement, yet CBT adds analysis of thought and behavior. When I relax and tap in to the heart center, and get out of my head, I have found that a trusted intention naturally emerges for myself or for a client or group. Here are some examples that one of my yoga teachers, Dr. Desai, shared with me:

I am timeless presence.

I am a carrier of peace.

I rest in the power of divine presence.

I recognize the way the universe supports me.

I ask for what I need.

Trust that you’ll know it’s the right one when you sense its resonance, perhaps through a subtle shift in the body. Keep it short and concise if possible. Ask yourself, Does this intention help me grow, become better, relax into life? If yes, then you are on the right track. I still recall this one from when I was working toward hypnotherapy certification in 2005: I am open, intimate and connected with others. Anytime my thumb and forefinger touch (anchoring), that phrase immediately comes into my awareness. That has grown to become, I stand in wholeness for 2019. Both of these intentions have served me for many months, and in the first example, many years. They allow me to settle in to my body and engage the world as it is.

As stated, intention and affirmation are terms often used interchangeably, yet to be technical, the specific distinction is that affirmations support the intention. Mornings are a wonderful time to set an intention, and throughout the day, one to three affirmations can be repeated to support that intention. Alternatively, one can simply return to the original intention. Or one can bring in the affirmation throughout the day.

Affirmations I have used with others when facilitating yoga nidra, or in my own practice are,

I open my heart completely and surrender fully and embrace totally what is present.

My body is the light – my heart is unconditionally open.

I shift out of reactivity and accept what is.

I am the designer of my destiny.

I trust the wisdom of my body to heal itself.

Everyday, in every way, I get better and better. (This final example might make a nice intention as well).

As long as there is total resonance while using affirmative, positive language, you can’t really go wrong. Just remember that an intention is like an orientation on a compass, which is often long-term, whereas an affirmation supports that direction and can change daily.

Intentions and affirmations can be written down and read or said aloud, proclaiming it to the universe. I say that it’s best to do both! They are often inserted in a hypnotherapy or yoga nidra session. Intentions and affirmations for future use might even emerge naturally as I guide my clients to the surface of awareness near the end of a session. For this reason, I advise keeping a notepad and pen at arm’s length.

When I teach on how to construct a vision board, intentions and affirmations are at the forefront. Even though a vision board is usually crafted in support of a specific goal with img_4549an end date, one can also be created as a reminder to keep our internal compass pointed in a particular direction. Think empowerment! Daily affirmations can enhance and fuel the totality of the vision board experience. This visual tool is as powerful as intentions and affirmations themselves. To learn more, write me or attend my vision board class in Auburn, CA this December.

Happy Fall,

Kim

dream theory

 

For the month of November, Conscious Chimera is featuring a recent article written by Roshan Fernandez and Sarah Young of Monte Vista High School. This article appears in El Estoque, a publication of Monte Vista High School (Cupertino, CA), and includes interviews of IASD board members, myself included. I hope you enjoy the article – I think they did a fantastic job.

 

Dream Theory

Experts interpret the meaning and importance of dreams

Roshan Fernandez and Sarah Young
October 24, 2018

When she found herself wondering whether her relationship was healthy, whether there would be a future, she turned to an unlikely source for guidance: her dreams.

“I asked [myself] when I was asleep, ‘Dreaming mind, show me what I need to know about this situation.’ And then in the dream, my boyfriend at the time was driving unsafely in the car, and [he] brought us to our home, which was a barren shack. And there was a little more detail, but that helped me think, ‘Ok I’m being cared for or driven in an unsafe manner to a place with nothing.’ And that’s all I needed to know.”

Dr. Kimberly Mascaro, a board member for the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), cited this anecdote from her personal life as a way of explaining how dreams can be helpful. In addition to the scenario above, she explains that dreams have helped her make important decisions about her career.

But beyond the helpful aspect of dreams, Mascaro’s interest has shifted towards the field of extraordinary dreams, a category which includes the more unusual types of dreaming. Among these are precognitive dreams, which is when one dreams of an event that may happen in the future. Though there is anecdotal evidence that people may foresee extreme catastrophes in their dreams, she says precognitive dreams are usually more mellow.

“[Some] people saw 9/11 in their dreams before it happened and they couldn’t make sense of the event, they just did not understand what they were seeing,” Mascaro said. “[But] what we find is in precognitive dreams is usually … basic stuff like … the wrong package being delivered to your door. It’s really benign stuff like that.”

The science behind precognitive dreams is still unclear, but Mascaro believes the answers lie within theoretical physics. Research in this field can help explain how a dream can predict a future event.

“We contemporary Westerners really only have one understanding of time, which is very linear,” Mascaro said. “Other cultures have a different understanding of time which is not linear — it may be a sort of circle or something like that.”

Although precognitive dreams have not been clearly defined, Mascaro explains that it’s still important to pursue research in these types of fields and emphasizes the the importance of paying attention to one’s dreams. Her IASD colleague, Athena Kolinski, expands on this, explaining that one dreams about the things that are important to them.

“Your intuition speaks to you from whatever you know and whatever you understand,” Kolinski said. “So as you gain more information on these subjects, it can speak to you, sending you symbols [through your dreams].”

In order to put those pieces together, the IASD holds conferences that attract people from all over the world. Through both an annual conference as well as numerous regional conferences, people have the opportunity to delve deeper into the different areas of dreams through seminars, workshops and presentations. These conferences are held across the world, including past events in Anaheim, Calif., Scottsdale, Ariz. and the 2019 conference will be held in the Netherlands.

Personally, Kolinski enjoys workshops where people share their dreams and the entire group discusses them. She emphasizes, however, that nobody else has the right to definitively tell someone what their dream means –– they can only offer their opinion.

“The dreamer is always the ultimate authority of their dream, so nobody has the right to say ‘this is what your dream means absolutely,’ that’s not how it works,” Kolinski said.

Even when someone else is sharing their dream, Kolinski says that she is still gaining something from it. Because we all have different ideas about the way the world works, she says hearing someone else’s point of view is beneficial.

“When we’re hearing a dream, we’re interpreting it from what we know in our own mind,” Kolinski said. “When I or anybody gives an example of what the dream means, we have to own our projection, so we have to say ‘If this were my dream, I think it means ‘blank.’”

Dr. Angel Morgan, another member of the IASD, is a firm believer in what she calls ‘dream circles.’ With a group of people listening, the dreamer explains their dream and the others listen, reflecting on what they believe it means. According to Morgan, these can be powerful interactions that really help the dreamer gain understanding. She recalls a particular example, where the group was re-enacting the scene of a girl’s nightmare.

“She had a dream that a troll and a dragon were chasing her around a coffee table … so she cast a boy in the group as the dragon and a girl in the group as a troll. I asked her how she felt, and she said I feel scared, I feel helpless, I feel silly,” Morgan said. “And I said why don’t you turn around and chase them, and she said OK. And [after that] they all started laughing because it was funny, and it just made her feel so much better about the dream.”

This kind of ‘therapy’ seems to be helpful, but one thing the IASD discourages is dream dictionaries. These are books that people may reference to find the meaning of particular symbols that appear in their dreams. Morgan and Kolinski encourage group discussion, as opposed to referencing a dream dictionary, because every person’s mind works in a different way.

“Say for instance, you dream of a rose. And then the dream book says its about love and fertility, so you’re already set in that that’s what it means. But the reality is, what if I’m dreaming about a rose, and the rose reminds me of my grandmother named Rose,” Kolinski said. “So we always need to look at the personal meaning, not just what happens in our dream but deeper, what is that symbol connecting us to, what is it saying. That’s something only you know.”

Dr. Steven Nouriani agrees with this as a practicing psychotherapist. He believes that dreams have multiple layers to them, originating from an individual’s life and relationships and stemming from the state of unconsciousness.

“There’s this whole theoretical model that we have [an] unconscious and [a] conscious,” Nouriani said. “We believe dreams come from … the unconscious — the psyche is [constantly] trying to balance our consciousness with our unconsciousness.”

Nouriani follows the Jungian belief, a way of thinking that emphasizes the individual psyche and personal quest for wholeness. Following this, dreams reflect the unconscious and internal conflicts. When he hears a client’s dream, Nouriani takes a deeper look at the symbols from a Jungian perspective.

“Jungians have an amplification method in which we go beyond the symbols and try to apply what we know about mythology and fairytales and culture,” Nouriani said. “So, for example, the dog [symbol] can have different stories in fairy tales or mythology, and then we bring these other kind of associations at the cultural level to understand what other meanings these symbols might have.”

Similar to Kolinski, Nouriani looks for symbols in dreams and what these symbols mean to the individual.

“No two dreams are alike; they are always different,” Nouriani said. “The same way that your thumbprint is different from someone else’s — you have the same thumb as other people but the thumb print is still different, and so you have to have a certain level of expertise to decipher the meaning.”

One thing all of these experts share in common is they all encourage individuals to record their dreams and think about their meaning. With dreams being so intrinsically connected to the unique individual, Kolinski, Mascaro, Morgan and Nouriani are there to provide guidance, but never insert meaning.

“We all believe dreams are just there and we can understand them — we have to work with the person to understand,” Nouriani said. “It’s good for people to be interested in dreams because they constantly try to help us be more conscious; I encourage everyone to pay attention to their dreams and wonder what they mean. They help us grow and they help us develop.”

 

Many blessings this Samhain, Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day & All Saint’s Day,

Kim