self-care

Happy new year to you all! This month’s article is not about resolutions, but about something we should be doing regularly (and probably should have been doing all along): that is self-care of the mind, body, emotions and spirit. It’s never too late to start – anytime is a good time. How about now?

Sure, it’s nice to take a steamy bubble bath, or buy something nice for ourself when we can afford it, even indulge in a sweet treat, or get a mani-pedi…you name it. However, caring for the self goes much deeper. I was exposed to this concept around 1999 or 2000 after having worked in the child abuse prevention and trauma field for a brief period of time. For the last 20 years, I have had a self-care regimen of some kind. Still, I have been treated for vicarious traumatization (VT) and secondary traumatic stress (STS)/compassion fatigue (CF) due to all the exposures in my field and my particular work as a trauma therapist over the years, in addition to my own history. Life can be complicated and we can be complicated creatures. No one self-care routine is best. They can differ drastically from individual to individual. One routine may feel sufficient for months, then suddenly more support may be needed in one or more areas. A lot of what professionals teach regarding self-care, we can learn on our own with some research and thoughtful consideration. If you are experiences symptoms of VT, STS/CF, consult with a professional – that is a licensed psychologist or licensed psychotherapist specializing in trauma. After all, it is an opportunity to have another offer evaluation, new ideas and emotional support through a heightened self-care process.

Sometimes, self-care is divided up into physical, mental, emotional, spiritual categories, which is alright, but I prefer to look at things differently because one action, or domain, can support each of these categories.

One major self-care domain is Time in Nature. Getting regular time in the great outdoors and away from busy city life can do wonders for our nervous system and for calming theIMG-4846 mind and the emotions. Taking in fresh air while surrounded by plants and trees is a gift in itself. We can connect spiritually in nature as well. After all, everything is alive. Some people I know go camping (sleeping on the ground directly) every season while others dedicate a weekend day to beach walks, forest trail running or engaging in the practice known as Earthing. Earthing, sometimes also referred to as Grounding, is basically walking barefoot on dirt or grass (not on concrete) for example, like our ancestors did. The last time I did this, it was 45 degrees outside. My feet felt the chill of the ground, but I was bundled up everywhere else, so I was fine. The practice of Earthing is recommended in order to absorb some earth energy, as the planet is negatively charged. IMG-4842The build up of positively charged free radicals throughout the day can be tamed through Earthing due to it’s antioxidant effect. It’s an anti-inflammatory technique! Instead of coffee, try 15 minutes of Earthing in the afternoon as a caffeine substituting self-experiment for relieving grogginess. If getting your shoes off is impossible, do not give up – do it with bare hands instead.

Another major domain in my life is Organic Whole Food, Plant-based Eating. I used to complain (a lot) that organic purchases were too expensive, and that I didn’t have time to cook. Then I had a wake-up call teaching me that buying cheap food on the fly can lead to expensive medical treatments needed to correct a problem I encouraged through my behavior and choices. The inflammatory garbage I was putting in my mouth most days came with a cost. Basically, it’s pay now or pay later with a potentially bigger cost. This decade, it is even more critical since hundreds of new chemicals are being introduced into the environment each year. We know (for years now actually) that babies are born with toxins in their umbilical cord blood. Pregnant mothers’ blood carries many toxic chemicals too, of course. This develops by way of environmental exposures, one being the pesticides in processed and conventional foods. Thinking more about costs, some organic choices are very affordable, such as bulk beans, grains, and even certain fruits and vegetables are similarly priced to conventional. If it’s possible to grocery shop with a friend or family member with similar interests, the experience can be educational, curious, and maybe even fun. Eating as clean as possible offers benefits not just for physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. It’s true – consuming organic foods can be a support for optimal mental and emotional functioning.

An additional major domain is what I’ll label as Cleaning. Our entire being –mind, body, emotions, spirit – can benefit from regular cleaning. By cleaning, I mean committing to actions that invoke reflection, gratitude, clarity, protection, and especially release. Here are some examples:

Unstructured, reflective journaling,

Warm epsom and Celtic sea salt baths,

Writing gratitude lists (at least 10 things I am grateful for),

Mindfulness practices including meditation and guided imagery,

Energetic services such as Reiki or acupuncture,

Tracking dreams and looking for patterns and themes,

Adopting a short home-based energy medicine routine (see November 2019 article),

Getting lost in a craft such as knitting, painting, or coloring mandalas.

That’s only eight examples, but naturally, there are dozens and dozens of ways to clean. I clean daily-to-weekly. How about you?

Most of the ideas I have shared here can be combined in a variety of ways and many of them support more than just one aspect of ourselves. What you see here is by no means an exhaustive list, so add to it, and please share your ideas with me. Remember, a solid self-care routine can be done at-home and cost nothing, or if you have extra funds, hiring a service provider can be very nice.

Everyone wants their personal compass pointed in the direction of good health, happiness, meaning and connection. The power to make changes lies within each one of us. There is no rule saying that changes must be drastic or come all at once. Every small step we make in the right direction for our lives and the lives of our loved ones is well worth it in my book. May this new year bring all good things your way!

 

2020 blessings to you and yours,

Kim

#selfcare

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

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

dreaming in recovery

While working as a trauma therapist at a non-profit agency for substance abuse recovery, I meet all kinds of women. The clientele are highly diverse, yet they come together in their recovery journey. Whether in an individual or a group therapy session, the topic of dreaming often emerges even though I do not advertise my experience as a dreamworker or dream researcher. Dreams in early and mid-stages of recovery surface and are shared. The question often asked is “why now?” and “what does this mean?”

“Dreams belong to the dreamer,” I state, “so you are the one to determine that.” My offer to share some prominent theories, in order to generate ideas, is met with approval. One perspective of dreaming is that dreams come in service of evolution. They act as a protective evolutionary factor. In this case, if a woman is striving to stay clean (and recover from long-term drug abuse), a drug-of-choice dream might remind her of her purpose and this most pressing issue.

In the dream, sometimes the dreamer simply looks at, or holds, a bag containing the drug-of-choice; other times she prepares to consume the illicit drug, but awakens before doing so. And even other times, dreamers use the drug while in the dream state .Perhaps these three examples represent levels or stages of recovery integration. Or, perhaps they exist simply to encourage the dreamer to progress in some way.

In the first example, some of these dreamers have spoken about a feeling of mastery or pride in that they could be so close to such a dangerously tempting substance, yet not act impulsively or have any desire to do so. In the second example, dreamers have reported feeling worried about their dream activities (e.g. chopping a line; preparing a syringe), only to become increasingly vigilant in their recovery work. The third and final example can leave the dreamer with much confusion and fear. One woman reported smoking crack cocaine in a dream, and while slowing waking up (aka hypnopompic state), she touched her face, perceiving it as thinner and sunken in. This perception led her heart to race and body to jolt out of bed in fear. The dream, she said, upon reflection, supported her recovery by scaring her out of thoughts of using. The cravings dissipated for some time and she made several statements about her commitment to her recovery.

Substance abuse is like a slow death. It is, essentially, self-harm and the illicit drug is the weapon. For those living with addiction, the drug-of-choice is extremely powerful – powerful enough to hijack, sabotage, and rob a person of their own life. If dreams do serve evolution, then a dream centered around the relationship and power dynamic between the drug and the dreamer, may support relapse prevention or prepare the dreamer for what could come.

Addiction is a chronic disease. It can cause disability and premature death, but it can be managed and people do recover. The resources listed below can offer help and provide information, however, they are just a starting place.

http://www.asam.org

http://www.na.org

http://www.smartrecovery.org

http://www.womenforsobriety.org/beta2/

taemong

Parents, grandparents and other family members report dreams about children-to-be. Most often it is women who experience such dreams, typically occurring around the time of conception or during pregnancy. These episodes have been referred to as conceptions dreams, fertility dreams, and even announcing dreams. I consider announcing dreams to not only feature the child-to-be metaphorically (a small furry animal or a seed are examples), but to also serve as a communication between the baby and dreamer.

Taemong, or Korean birth dreams, first came to my attention from the 1989 book Oriental Birth Dreams by Fred Jeremy Seligson. Later, Associate professor, Loren Goodman, PhD, of Yonsei University expanded my view significantly. Taemong are part of a long oral history within Korean culture. They typically do not feature the child-to-be as a human baby, but instead as an animal or jewel for example. As the saying goes, “One cannot come into this world without first having been dreamt.” We can show the dreamer a lot about who we are and who we will become from such powerful dreams.

Not so long ago, Koreans, and others interested in taemong, have begun to collect and transcribe these stories. Dr. Goodman told me that taemong are not usually written down, but instead, passed on orally. He is one among many who recognize the importance of recording this extensive tradition so it does not become lost. Without doing so, it may very well likely die out as we become an evermore globalized society, abandoning traditional practices and culturally-specific ways of knowing.

Dr. Goodman expanded my view and understanding of this rich cultural tradition. He told me that many narrative elements emerge from taemong. Some of the elements stood out to me because I noticed that these elements also emerged from the announcing dream reports I have been collecting for the past decade. These ‘shared’ narrative elements are suddenness, brightness, brilliance or illumination, enormity (size) or miraculous proportions, vividness or a quality of being unforgettable, and reciprocal gaze. Consider the following dream (the full version was posted in June 2017). The dreamer saw an adult size baby boy kneeling on the floor by her bedside. The dreamer stated,

“He was leaning on my bed, watching my husband and I sleeping. When I got up to look at 17800279_10154857591042949_1533489294192211638_nhim, he calmly whispered, “I’m coming.” This freaked me out, because it was the first time a baby had ever appeared…”

This dreamer told me that the dream-baby appeared suddenly, out of nowhere, and was huge – nothing like the size of a typical baby. She said that the dream was vivid and truly unforgettable. The elements of suddenness, enormity, and quality of being unforgettable/vividness all exist here – these are common among taemong. Here, though, the baby-to-be speaks to the dreaming mother.

The following taemong was provided by Yoon Ha Park, a student of Dr. Goodman:

As I am walking alongside a lake, I see the clear sky suddenly change dark. I try to get a better look at what is happening above. From high above the sky, I spot an enormous dragon gracefully, yet powerfully, make its way towards the lake in front of me. It sinks in the lake and pulls out its head and looks at me directly in the eyes. Strangely, despite its vast size and figure, I don’t feel afraid.

The narrative elements here are suddenness, enormity, and reciprocal gaze.

The two dreams shared here (the first an announcing dream, and the second a taemong) share similar elements. This appears to be the case for many dreams that are recalled around the time of pregnancy, whether they are categorized as conception dreams, fertility dreams, announcing dreams, or Korean birth dreams. A thorough analysis to encompass all of these categories could provide an expanded understanding and further clarity. Until that happens, it is clear that these types of episodes are common and meaningful for so many families.

I wish to thank Fred Jeremy Seligson, Loren Goodman, Yoon Ha Park and the anonymous dreamer for their assistance, guidance and for sharing with me their experiences.

 

In the Spirit of Peace,

Kim

dreaming at conception…and beyond

Dreams that indicate conception or fertility are more common than one might think. This informal category of dreams is shared among men and women across the globe. Some cultures expect such a dream before a child can be conceived or even born. For other groups, such dreams may come as a surprise. The following story was told to me recently and is filled with emotion for this dreamer.

Newly wed Amalia loves her job as a school teacher and adores children. She planned to start a family not long after the wedding because she is in her mid-30s and has been very excited, for quite some time, to have her first child. Amalia said that that year was filled with frustration because conceiving did not occur as easily or quickly as she expected. As time passed, however, Amalia experienced a striking dream in which an adult size baby boy knelt on the floor by her bedside. “He was leaning on my bed, watching my husband and I sleeping. When I got up to look at him, he calmly whispered, “I’m coming.” This freaked me out, because it was the first time a baby had ever appeared in my dreams,” she said.

Amalia wasn’t sure if the dream was supposed to reassure her, inspire hope, or encourage her to keep trying. She had many feelings, including anger and sadness. Amalia said, “I felt like that dream was a tease and maybe just a sign of my subconscious longing for a baby. To our surprise, I conceived the next month.”

“The entire thing sure has been a miracle,” she continued. At 10 weeks pregnant, Amalia openly spoke about how she hoped for a baby girl, even though her husband desired a boy. She said, “I had gone to the doctor for a check up and was a little upset that they didn’t do a sonogram – just a heartbeat check. I wanted to see the baby, as I was honestly still shocked that I was pregnant. I didn’t believe it. As if the 15 extra pounds, constant exhaustion, profound hunger, nausea, and stiffness wasn’t enough to convince me!” Upon returning home, after the check-up, Amalia rested, meditated, and thought about how much she wanted to see the baby growing inside her. That night she had another dream.

Amalia reported, “In my dream, I was laying in my bed right next to my husband. Then my husband put his hand on my belly and his hand turned into a sonogram. Immediately, my husband and I both went into my body and into my uterus. It was so intense and real looking. When we were in there, we saw the baby hooked to the umbilical cord and everything. I saw the face and all of its body. I then looked down between the legs and saw a little pee pee.”

She continued, “Right then, my husband was just crawling into the bed for real [in the physical waking state]. He comes home from work after midnight. I suddenly woke up and with eyes still closed, I casually muttered to him, “Papi, I just met the baby, it’s a boy.” He chuckled a little bit and held me to fall back asleep. When we woke up, he said I was talking in my sleep, and I told him, “No, I really did meet the baby” and shared what I remembered. I explained that it seemed so real and that I even remember his face. He thinks I’m crazy. I was hoping that I was losing it too and that the dream was nothing.”

Three weeks later, the genetics test came back to show that Amalia was carrying a male fetus. This affirmed what was ‘seen’ in the first and second dream. Amalia told me that her and her husband cannot agree on a name and that they have only come up with a handful of possibilities. Amalia hopes that the baby boy will return to her in another dream and share his name, or possibly, a name he would like.

Dreams around the time of conception can mean so many things. For Amalia, uncertainty, a range of strong emotions, hope and inspiration were intermingled. In addition, what might such occurrences imply about the baby him/herself? This all depends on culture, of course, and whether one integrates dreaming into larger life concepts of meaning, purpose, and existence.

 

Here’s to dreaming,

Kim