Thursday, 17 December 2015

Dreams, Robert Moss and Regression, Wow!

I spent a full year faithfully recording my dreams in a dream journal. Dream journaling yielded many interesting connections to other areas of my life and my studies. Several of my dreams involved going on a journey, several involved various forms of secrets and hiding places and several involved interesting women. Most had great plots and inspired me to include elements of them in the fiction that I write. The settings of most of these dreams have been places like trains and hotels that seem vaguely familiar but more like a composite of places I have actually been rather than any particular real location. In many of the dreams, I was searching for something.

All of this travelling and searching really made me notice passages from Moss’s The Secret History of Dreaming such as where he notes “The map is inside the dream … but to follow it you must become a traveler in two worlds.” Meanwhile, mindfulness meditation seems to dovetail nicely with some of Moss’s remarks such as the comment that “Ayurvedic physicians maintain that we are deluded if we believe we are fully awake and conscious in our everyday lives”. This reminds me when I asked my Zen Dharma teacher about dreams and their place in mindfulness. Her reply was that before I started worrying about awareness in dreams, I had to wake up and become aware of reality. As Moss says, “What we think is reality is a mundane dream”.

My dreams seem to shift from those that are reflections of events of the day, to those that have some sort of deeper meaning or symbolism as the night goes by. It makes me agree with the Dalai Lama’s advice to pay attention only to those dreams that happen “around dawn”. Last year I finished writing a novel based upon a man who becomes obsessed with a vision in a dream and then strives to find the lady of his dreams in the real world. The novel’s structure is modeled upon the Hero’s Journey or the “Monomyth” showing a modern man’s voyage into another world that he is not sure has any basis in reality. The ancient philosopher Sinesius said “dreams show us the future, because dreams are experiences of soul”. An excellent summary of my protagonist’s hope that his dream girl is real.

Moss’s book also references past lives. I have experienced amazing regressions despite my initial reluctance to accept the likelihood that such remembered lives are real. I have made peace with the idea that even if not real, the past life regressions that I have personally experienced and helped guide others through represent direct communication with sources of wisdom within oneself – the subconscious or superconscious mind. Amoroso speaks of finding one’s soul purpose reflected in multiple lifetimes of experiences and I have found some semblance of that purpose for myself through regression work. Jewish mysticism holds that Gabriel is the bringer of dreams and the soul’s knowledge of its destiny. I cannot help but wonder if my dream locations that have vague familiarity are echoes of past experiences that point me to the future.


Amoroso, J. (2012). Awakening past lives. Virginia Beach, VA: 4th Dimension Press.

Apostrophe S Productions (Producer). (1988). Joseph Campbell and the power of myth. [DVD]: Available from Mystic Fire Video.

Moss, R. (2009). The secret history of dreaming. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Dance of Creator and Environment

Some theories of creativity put greater stock on the traits of the individual such as intelligence, personality, talent or genetics and others emphasize the confluence of factors including not only the individual, but also the environment and the field or domain of their creative work (Weisberg, 2006; Paine-Clemes, 2015). Although creativity happens within the environment that surrounds the creative person, I prefer to think that individual and environment are not only the prerequisites to creativity happening, but in fact the very basis of creativity. Our environment is interrelated with us at each moment of our experience. The premise of mindfulness suggests that each moment is an opportunity to truly live. Thus the best model of creativity for me is “the encounter of the intensely conscious human being with his or her world” (May, 1975).

My own creative experiences in work and play support this view.  Whether we shape our environment to support our creative ambitions or whether it surprises us with unexpected inspiration that calls us like a muse to creative acts, the product of individual and environment is what shapes the resulting work. This is most obvious perhaps in a dance partnership, where individual talent contributes along with the music, the partnership and the mood to produce the creative effect. The power of the environment is equally present in all creative work.
There is a lot of discussion around motivations or whether we are driven by innate need or some external reward to be creative (Weisberg, 2006). I think that this too is part of the environment that contributes to shaping the creative work. No matter whether my creative efforts are the product of employment or as part of a hobby, various creative works I have developed, contributed to or witnessed created by others prove this. A holistic view of the interaction we have with our surroundings is essential to consider how and why we are creative.


May, R. (1975). The courage to create. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Paine-Clemes, B. (2015). Creative synergy: Using art, science and philosophy to self-actualize your life. Virginia Beach, VA: 4th Dimension Press.

Weisberg, R.W. (2006). Creativity: Understanding innovation in problem solving, science, invention and the arts. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Your Attention Please

The authors of Living Deeply identify four essential elements of transformative practices: intention, discipline, guidance, and attention. Of the four, I think that ‘attention’ is the most interesting. The other essential elements are like the precursors to practice; you mast have the intention to practice in the first place, you must apply the discipline of regularity in your practice and you must practice under the guidance of some teaching or mentor, however attention is like the result of actual practice. When you practice, you can enter a state of attention to yourself and your interaction with others and the world that is vital to being able to establish an alternative worldview. You may not be able to establish attention without the practice that requires the other three elements, but your ability to achieve transformative experiences depends upon attention. Instantaneous transformation may happen without the benefit of a practice, but I would say not without the benefit of attention, regardless of how or how swiftly it is achieved.


Schlitz, M., Vieten, C., & Amorak, T. (2007). Living deeply: The art and science of transformation in everyday life. Oakland: Noetic Books/New Harbinger Publications Inc.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Using Your Brain

Scientists can summarize how the brain works in carrying out simple tasks like picking up a pencil. The thought of picking up the pencil arises; the eyes locate the pencil; the occipital lobe registers the image; the temporal lobe finds past associations that lead to new thoughts or choices arising; the frontal lobe maintains attention while it also works with the parietal lobe to initiate the body movement to reach for the pencil and to establish the sensory anticipation in the fingers of what the pencil will feel like when finally grasped; the parietal lobe confirms the feeling of the pencil in the hand; and the cerebellum simultaneously directs fine motor control to actually reach out and grasp the pencil. Throughout the process, electrochemical activity is ongoing through the nerve cells as neurotransmitters pass the messages required to coordinate this symphony of activity.  Once the pencil is grasped, however, the actual creative process to use that pencil to write or sketch or tap out a rhythm becomes more mysterious. Andreasen describes the understanding of how creativity happens as “hunches, buttressed by modest evidence”.
          My own use of hypnosis to access a person’s subconscious allows exploration of associations, episodic memory and free associations. Hypnotic induction provides access to memories of events in a trance state that were not physically experienced (whether considered past life experiences or fantasies). Inner life explorations such as dreamwork and meditation can also demonstrate these aspects of the mind. I believe that creativity stems from some access to unconscious mental places where words, thoughts, and ideas can combine freely and take shape as creative output. I also believe that like any mental process or learned skill, neural pathways can be built and strengthened by repeated use, so once one starts to create, one can get better at it just as repeated hypnotic inductions make it easier for a subject to enter the trance state. Similarly, post hypnotic suggestions can help us better access and make use of our own subconscious associations. We can use such creative processes and supports to keep our brains active, if not evolving using our natural ability of neuroplasticity.
          Ultimately, creativity is the product of the creative person interacting with their specific environment including both internal and external factors. Nature and nurture work together to shape the human mind. Similarly, I think that the brain’s chemistry and the unique personal circumstances of each individual work together to shape creative work.

Amoroso, J. (2012). Awakening past lives. Virginia Beach, VA: 4th Dimension Press.

Andreasen, N.C. (2005). The Creative Brain. New York, NY: Plume.

Dispenza, J. (2007). Evolve your brain: The science of changing your mind. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc.

Hinshaw, S.P. (2010). Origins of the human mind: Course guidebook. Chantilly, VA: The Great Courses.

Kappas, J.G. (2009). Professional hypnotism manual: Introducing physical and emotional suggestibility and sexuality (5th Ed.). Tarzana, CA: Panorama Publishing Company.

May, R. (1975). The courage to create. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Hopes and Dreams

As a hypnotherapist, I believe that everyone's dream symbols are unique. This is rather strongly and clearly supported by the fact that dreams are direct communication in the language of the subconscious mind. Also, stronger meaning behind the dreams that come later in the night is explained by the stages of REM sleep that occur during the night. It is not until the third stage of REM sleep that "Venting Dreams" where there is stronger potential for symbolic meaning and presentation of what the subconscious is trying to communicate occur. The typical timing of this later stage of REM sleep puts it close to dawn for many of us.

The Ashanti culture says that "dream incidents are real events". It makes me wonder how much of the symbolic messaging of our dreams is being driven by the proactive work of focused meditation, positive affirmations, or setting our own intentions before we start to dream as opposed to just receiving what the subconscious chooses to present. This is the true power of the dream quest. It is not just a matter of learning from your dreams, but of actively directing them to help augment what you are trying to achieve. That is pretty cool and aligns nicely with ancient Tibetan “dream yoga” that says that dreaming provides us unlimited possibilities. Even though we can make changes to our dreams, we should always try to drive those changes toward the positive support of our goals. It is important to have both hopes and dreams.


Hypnosis Motivation Institute (Producer). (2006). Dream therapy. [DVD]: Available from Panorama Publishing Company.

Moss, R. (2009). The secret history of dreaming. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Reed, H. (2005). Dream solutions! dream realizations!: The original dream quest guidebook. Mouth of Wilson, VA: Hermes Home Press.

Wangyal, T. (1998). The Tibetan yogas of dream and sleep. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

What are you doing to stimulate your own Creativity?

This past Spring, I had the great experience of being in a creativity class with a group of insanely creative people. Just interactive with creative folks is in itself inspiring. Being in beautiful Andalucia at the same time wasn't bad either. The two experiences gave me a few ideas about inspiring and stimulating greater creativity in my life.

1. Spend more time in nature. Strolling through a beautiful countryside or city park while visiting Spain reminded me of how much the colors, the smells and even subtle changes of the air all influence my creative spirit. There are plenty of places closer to home where I can spend some time outdoors. It just took a transatlantic flight to bring that point home to me.

2. Walk. Lately I have fallen out of the habit of long walks. Such times of introspection and walking meditation help me recharge, allow time to examine all the angles of some issue or idea and are good for mind, body and spirit. I'm getting back to doing that and combining it with item 1, and from a practical perspective, with exercising my active dogs!

3. Find a focal point every day. Instead of letting the day get away from me, mired in routine, I resolve to find some point of focus each day. I'll look at things differently. I'll look at different things. Maybe I'll even look different. While waiting for admission to the show at the Royal Equestrian School in Jerez, crowds of visitors were watching riders warming up horses in an outdoor ring. I saw one guy that had his back to the great horses and riding being demonstrated as he took closeup photos of some flowers beside the warm up ring. My wife thought that was very funny. I thought it was interesting that he alone was following his own course rather than being part of the crowd watching what was behind his back. I want to be more like that guy.

What can you do that is simple, achievable and realistic on a daily basis to stimulate your own creativity?

Thursday, 1 October 2015

How Personal Mythology can Help or Hinder

Our families give us not only DNA, but also personal history and personal mythology. As our minds re-interpret and smooth the edges of facts from our memories and as we take in stories that have grown and shrunk in the telling as family legends, we build up internal stories and we add to them our subconscious associations. Positive and negative memories are collected and attached to ideas that may be from our own past memories, from phobias and fantasies, or from elements of our lineage. The smell of apple pie baking in granny’s kitchen can become locked in the subconscious as a positive association with feelings of love and warmth and childhood delight. Such a positive association may not be consciously understood or even remembered, but it can still make millions of people smile and feel at home when they smell cinnamon and therefore be highly profitable for potpourri makers.

From my ancestors’ experiences of valuing self-reliance and assuming the roles of providers and protectors of their children and families, I can see the genesis of some of my own attitudes. Although I have no children for which to provide and protect, I grew up with a strong sense of self-reliance and a sense that I must ensure the safety and success of my household. I believe that these aspects of my personal mythology have helped motivate me to provide support to my partner and have contributed significantly to our business successes over the years.

Considering these reflections alongside the experiences I have had in meditation, dream work and regression hypnosis, I can see how some of my own elements of personal mythology have also limited my willingness to engage with others and to share with them over the years. If one is defensive, closed and mistrustful of others, it is hard to focus on the positive and to benefit from the sharing of positive energies. It is hard to tell whether the personal mythology strengthens behavior patterns, or whether behavior patterns reinforce the personal mythology. I think that both are true. In order to truly make changes, one must recognize the underlying personal mythology.  Know thyself!

Hypnosis provides a proven method of accessing the subconscious directly in order to explore, understand and begin to make changes to the internal associations that you have that may be limiting you in some way. Unfounded fears or phobias such as fear of the water or (most commonly) of public speaking affect many people and most could not explain the source or reason for their feelings. Hypnosis is a safe, effective and powerful tool to help you better understand yourself, tap into the usually hidden resources of your own mind and help you make positive changes in your life. All those powerful associations embedded in your personal mythology don’t need to remain inaccessible.


Davenport, L. (2009). Healing and transformation through self-guided imagery. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.

Feinstein, D., & Krippner, S. (2008). Personal mythology: Discovering the guiding stories of your past -- creating a vision for your future (3rd Ed.). Santa Rosa, CA: Energy Psychology Press/Elite Books.

Yapko, M.D. (2011). Mindfulness and hypnosis: The power of suggestion to transform experience. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Putting Some Pepper into Your Practice

I engage in sitting and walking meditative practice regularly. I spent 2 years as a student with a Soto Zen monastery practicing very disciplined mindfulness meditation (Hoshin, 1994). After that, I explored the Shambhala community and have been trained as a Level II warrior in the "Way of Shambhala" (Trungpa, 1984). I find the contrasts between these Buddhist schools and their approach to meditation very interesting.

My studies at Atlantic University exposed me to Jack Kornfield (Kornfield, 2008). Using his approach to meditation was like trying a favorite dish at a new restaurant. It was familiar, but with some new nuances. It has been a long time since I sat with the explicit direction of a teacher (from Kornfield's CD) in mind. In my past experience the approach was to recognize and let go of anything that arises during sitting practice (thoughts, physical sensations, emotions, etc.) Trying to enact this new style where you spend more time thinking about your distractions led me to lots of thinking about how many different paths there are and lots of reverie about my past meditations, instruction and experience. Oops, thinking, thinking, thinking...oops thinking some more.

For those who are new to meditation, take heart, you can't go wrong! Even those who have spent years in practice can still have wandering mind, idle thoughts and fantasies sneak in and catch them. What a playground the mind is. The neat part is to not let ego beat you for having a wandering mind or praise you when you have meditated 'really well'. That is all illusion and story telling by the voice in your head.

I like to sit for 30 minutes, in order to push past the natural 20 minute attention span of the average adult (this is how the Zen monastery trained me). For longer sittings, 30 minutes of practice are alternated by 15 minutes of walking practice. I use a timer so that I am not distracted by wondering how much time has passed. Time sometimes passes very fast and sometimes very slowly in my meditative experience. I like to use a Tibetan singing bowl to chime the start of my practice. The slow fade of the tone of the gong marks the passage from everyday mind to mindful sitting awareness.

As far as my schedule of meditation goes, 30 minutes of sitting while my partner tends the animals (we run a boarding stable) can vary exactly when it happens but usually after supper in the evening. I supplement this with walking in at least 10 minute intervals two or three times during the day, usually once in the morning and once in the mid afternoon, when afternoon sleepiness tries to creep in. I am presently commuting for an hour in each direction, and I try to use at least part of my driving time, to drive mindfully. In contrast to the Zen monastery that aims to be always mindful, but applies very strong rules to how and where to meditate, Shambhala training says to practice mindfulness meditation whenever you can, wherever you can, (even if you can only grab five minutes of meditation at a stop light!) So I really have peppered my personal practice with what I like about each discipline I have studied.


Hoshin, A. (1994). The straight path. Ottawa, Canada: Great Matter Publications.

Kornfield, J. (2008). Meditation for beginners. Boulder, CO: Sounds True Inc.

Trungpa, C. (1984). Shambhala: The sacred path of the warrior. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications Inc.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Mindfulness & Meditation

If you have ever experienced the situation of driving on "auto-pilot", when you arrive at your destination without really recalling the journey itself; or if you have ever had a daydream and failed to hear or observe something that was going on around you at the time, then you can appreciate the difference between being mindful and not being mindful. Being mindful means living in the moment and fully experiencing each moment as it is. Frequently we do not keep our attention on the present moment as our minds get busy wondering or worrying about the future or rehashing what has happened in the past.

When we speak of mindfulness, we are seeking to recognize that the past is over and the future has not yet happened. We may miss the experience of the present if we allow our minds to wander into those states of memory about what has been or fantasy about what may be. To counter those tendencies to miss out on present experience, we may practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is about practicing keeping the mind in the present to fully experience reality moment by moment.

Unlike meditation methods that have you focus on particular words or ideas or on particular images, mindfulness meditation is best undertaken by trying not to focus the mind upon any particular thought or idea. Instead, we seek to experience each thought and idea as it arises; recognize each of them for what it is and then move on, rather than dwelling upon them. When you try to experience each present moment, you may find that it is a challenging thing to do. There are many thoughts, feelings and ideas that want the attention of our minds. As if that was not enough to distract us from the pursuit of being mindful, our bodies also seek the attention of our minds with complaints like being cold or itchy or hungry or having physical pain and discomfort that are difficult sensations to ignore. The world around us is also fighting to draw our attention with noises or sights that can send our minds scurrying off into reaction, thinking or otherwise leaving behind our attention to the moment. Mindfulness seeks not to suppress or ignore, but rather to notice the thoughts you have, the physical sensations and the environment around you and to experience them -- as well as your reaction to them -- as they occur.

As soon as you start to react to a distracting thought, feeling, sensation or external stimulus, you leave mindfulness and begin to listen to an internal story that your mind starts to tell you. The stories may be long or short. They may be based on past experiences good or bad. They may be flights of fancy about what may happen or should happen. They may be mundane like wondering what to have for dinner, or they may be detailed dreams about the person who lives across the street. None of the stories we unconsciously tell ourselves demonstrate mindfulness. Ironically, even when we tell ourselves that we are being mindful, it is just another story!

How to Practice Mindfulness

To spend more waking attention within each moment as it happens, one must practice. To practice mindfulness, start by assuming a comfortable position, sitting up straight. You want to be comfortable to minimize the immediate complaints that your body will start making otherwise. You want to sit up straight to pay attention. Face the wall. You do not need to have anything pretty to look at. In fact, having something to look at is just a source of more stories for your mind to weave. Set a timer for ten minutes and then let your gaze focus midway between you and the wall. Take a breath and release it. Notice how the breath felt and how it sounded going in and out of your body. Keep breathing and let your attention be on each breath as it happens. Do not count the breaths. Do not try to make them fast or slow. Just breathe. Breathing is a good place to start exploring mindfulness, because breathing happens automatically, whether we think about it or not. It keeps happening as long as we live. Breathe in and breathe out. Notice each breath.

As you notice each breath, you may find that your mind wanders. You may start thinking about better ways that you could be spending your time or start congratulating yourself on how well you are doing at breathing. You may be distracted by sounds or other distractions or by sensations you experience. Each time that you catch yourself paying attention to anything other than the breath, notice what you have done and bring the attention back to the breath. Try to stay still and just experience the feelings and thoughts that arise. Notice your own reaction when you catch your focus wandering. Do not praise or condemn yourself for distractions. Just notice them and let your attention come back to the breath. Continue doing this until the timer rings.

When the timer rings, stretch and reflect upon your experience. You may have found that the time seemed much longer or shorter than you expected. You may have found the experience to be interesting or that it fuels your creativity. You may have found it ridiculously boring. Whatever your reaction to the experience, use it as an opportunity for further mindfulness. Look at your reaction in the moment of its occurrence rather than trying to recapture the past few minutes or plan for what you will do next.

The typical adult human has been said to have a natural attention span of approximately 20 minutes. To truly practice mindfulness, you need to stretch your mind beyond that natural attention span. There could have been many distractions or few that arose in your first ten minute session. Next time, set your timer for 30 minutes in order to force yourself beyond the comfortable natural attention span and see what happens. The procedure remains the same. Bring your attention to the breath. Do not fixate upon the breath or on anything else. When you notice wandering thoughts, feelings or reactions, acknowledge them and return your attention to the breath. With a longer session you may find that you have different experiences or just more of the same.

Using Mindfulness

Regular mindfulness practice can help improve mental and physical health. It can help reduce stress by reminding you to take each moment as it comes. It has been clinically proven to reduce blood pressure, as it has for me. It can also provide you with a feeling of mental refreshment or rejuvenation.

As you become more familiar with the way that you experience it in your own mind and body, you can begin to apply it like any skill. Being mindful can help you be more attentive to others. It can make you a better listener if you try to pay attention to what someone is saying instead of thinking about what you will say or what you should have said. It can help you recognize other facets of communication like tone or body language that you may overlook if you are not being aware within the present. It can heighten your own sensory awareness by making you notice things that you may not have seen, heard or felt before.

With practice, you can use mindfulness to enhance your own creativity or to explore your own thoughts and emotions by setting an intention before you begin to practice. Always use the breath as your touchstone, but use mindfulness to recognize what you are thinking or feeling about the topic or the intent of your meditation. You may want to keep a journal close by so that when you finish your practice you can record what you noticed during the session.

As with any practice, mindfulness is not something that can be mastered in one or two practice sessions. It is easy to say "be mindful" and yet it can take a lifetime or more to actually experience each present moment as it occurs. The benefits of doing so can be life changing. After all, life is nothing but a series of present moments, one after another. If we fail to experience them as they occur, then we are always living in the past or dreaming about the future and we may miss the life we have been given.