Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Years ago, I quit making new year’s resolutions and began to focus on just one word a year instead. For me, resolutions felt more like a list of failures from the previous year rather than exciting possibilities for exploration in the new one.  It’s no surprise that I often abandoned them as soon as the weather warmed up.  I noticed that when I made resolutions, each one seemed to focus on an area of weakness in my life such as managing my weight, getting the house organized or developing a regular writing practice, rather than on the possibilities for growth and wholeness.  Once I started focusing on only one word at a time, something shifted and a new kind of creative energy entered the process.  Last year the word was STRENGTH.  This year, I will focus on RESILIENCY.  If you could pick only one word for 2012, what would it be?

Choosing just one word has been incredibly freeing, leaving ample room for improvisation while still giving me a sense of purpose and direction throughout the year.  This approach to planning is a little secret that I picked up while I was in the human development program at St. Mary’s University.

In this innovative graduate program, each student has the opportunity to create their own master’s degree.  For as long as I can remember, I have been passionately interested in the connection between creativity, dreams, healing, and the arts.  St. Mary’s allowed me to create a degree that fit my interests and needs perfectly.  At the heart of this program is the “contract” which serves as a kind of road map for one’s course of study.  Students must complete four contracts and a “position paper” in order to graduate.  A position paper is a kind of thesis that sums up where one currently is in relation to their creative exploration, knowing that the journey will continue to unfold in the years to come.

I quickly learned that if I tried to articulate every twist and turn of the material I intended to cover in a contract there wouldn’t be any room for the natural detours and surprises that often pop up.  By focusing instead on specific signposts along the way, such as embodiment, imagination, spirituality or dreaming, I had a clear sense of direction for each contract with enough room for the unexpected.  This approach to learning has become a tremendously helpful model for all areas of my life, including new year’s resolutions.

Since graduating from St. Mary’s, I have continued this practice of making a contract with myself for the coming year by choosing one word to focus on at a time.  Last year, the word was STRENGTH, which led me back to the gym.  Of course, I could have just made a resolution to exercise more, but that wasn’t nearly as helpful to me as focusing on learning more about nature of strength not only through readings but also through my own body.

In this way, I was able to bring a sense of curiosity and play with me into the health club rather than treating exercise as just another chore to be completed.  I really wanted to understand first hand what it means to cultivate strength in a body that often suffers from chronic pain.  How would becoming physically stronger affect my relationship with pain?  Could I learn to exercise in a way that wouldn’t create more pain in the process?  I soon learned that by doing less than I could more often than I would was the key to steady growth and increasing strength.

During my first pilates class, I naively thought that since I am quite flexible it would be relatively easy to begin.  I was appalled to discovered how weak I had become over the years of struggling with chronic joint pain.  Although I have always prided myself in my flexibility I didn’t realize how little muscle strength I had.  One day, when I stretched much further than I should have and couldn’t get back up, my pilates instructor warned me that too much flexibility without strength can actually be dangerous.  How counter intuitive!

It was one of those “Ah ha!” moments when things suddenly came together.  Her comment got me thinking about all the other areas of my life in which I am incredibly flexible but not terribly strong at maintaining boundaries for taking care of myself.   Where there other areas of my life in which had I lost core strength without realizing it while constantly bending to meet the needs of others in my family, work and daily life?  What latent strengths did I have that I could build on at this point in my life rather than starting from scratch?  These questions led to a renewed interest in studying Japanese and deepening my relationship with my husband, as well as reconnecting with my love of music and enduring interest in Zen, the arts and self cultivation.

By focusing on STRENGTH for an entire year, a new way of weaving the various strands of my life together naturally emerged.  As I have continued to cultivate strength in my physical body, a desire to build on strengths that I already have led me back into the daily study of Japanese in a way that fits into my life today in Minnesota.  I have fallen in love all over again with Japanese films and TV dramas thanks to all of the streaming sites on the internet.  I have also found myself drawn back into cooking from scratch daily in an effort to strengthen my overall heath and immunity.  Rather than deciding that I needed to LOSE weight, as I have vowed to do way too many times at New Year’s, I now find myself wanting to STRENGTHEN my overall sense of well being and enjoyment in the kitchen through home cooking, natural ingredients and a closer connection to the seasons through food.  It doesn’t hurt that many of the Japanese dramas I watch while cooking dinner focus on the role of food in Japanese culture as well!

So now as I begin 2012, I am curious about how strength and flexibility work together to create RESILIENCY.  I have learned that without flexibility AND strength, it is impossible to bounce back from the many challenges of life.  To celebrate this year of RESILIENCY, I recently participated in a resiliency training program at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, which was started by Dr. Henry Emmons and his team.  This program takes an integrative approach to cultivating resiliency for a greater sense of health and wholeness.  I am looking forward to seeing where RESILIENCY will take me in the coming year!


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Cut-Art By J. A. Christensen

I am currently teaching a class on Kiri-e (Japanese paper cutting) at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.  It is such a pleasure to slow down to the pace of paper, cutting one shape at a time.  In its purest form, Kiri-e allows us to literally hold the tension between the dark and light aspects of our lives while focusing on the simple art of cutting paper.

In Kiri-e, it is essential to have both dark and light in order to create a work of art.  Without contrast, it is impossible to see anything.  For example, try to imagine a picture of a black bear in a cave at night or a white polar bear in a dazzling blizzard and you get the idea.  Without contrast, an image is impossible to see, leaving us with just an intellectual concept rather than a work of art.

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In the same way that contrast is essential to all of the arts, contrast is also the key to living authentically in this world.  Experiencing fully the darks and lights of our lives can be a tremendous gift, allowing us to know what is really important.  Contrast brings the essence of our lives to the foreground.  When we embody both, rather than focusing only on the light or dark sides of life, we find a new kind of balance which is fully alive and healing for ourselves and those around us.  The root of the word “to heal” means to become whole.  By consciously embracing both the dark and light aspects of life, we become whole.

Another lesson Kiri-e teaches is how to slow down and really pay attention.  Because we are constantly moving between dark and light shapes while making Kiri-e, it is very easy to get confused and lose the way if we try to move ahead too quickly.  In order to create Kiri-e, it is essential to take things one step at a time.  Through the practice of cutting one shape at at time, we learn through our senses of touch, sight and sound, as well as through our posture and body position how to slow down and be fully present.  It also becomes clear very quickly that pushing through when we are tired or when we lose our focus can ruin an entire piece of work in an instant.  These lessons are learned non-verbally, through the body.  Later, if we stop to think about it, we may realize that through the act of cutting paper, one step at a time, we have come a little closer to who we really are in the process.  As is said in Zen, “train the body and the mind will follow”.

Like many of the Japanese arts, Kiri-e, when practiced mindfully, can become a very satisfying means of growth and transformation.  It’s also a really fun way to create satisfying works of art.  I am delighted to have the opportunity to share this humble art form with my students at MCBA.  I look forward to introducing more of the Japanese paper based arts into my classes in the future.

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Patricia Garfield

As I prepare for my upcoming trip to Japan, I will post articles here on  nightmares for those of you who have been affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami.  Each of the authors I will feature are active members of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.  In addition to being a founding member of IASD, Patricia is also a dear friend and beloved mentor.  She has a special place in her heart for the dreams of children.  Please visit her website for more information on her work, which is widely available in many languages, including Japanese.   If you have a Japanese spouse, as I do, it can be interesting to read her books in your respective languages and then discuss them afterwards. Dream sharing is a wonderful way to enrich marriage and family life.  I hope you enjoy the article!  Sheila

Guidelines for Coping with Nightmares After Trauma

Patricia Garfield, Ph.D.

Experts say that nightmares are normal after a trauma.

If you are having nightmares after the recent tragedy (or any other trauma), be assured it’s a natural reaction. Whenever people feel threatened and anxious, their minds try to cope with the situation. Having nightmares is actually a good sign that you are struggling to make sense of the horrific situation. It’s the brain’s way of attempting to accept the unacceptable. You might have dream replays of the traumatic event or other nightmares in which you or loved ones are hurt or in danger.

夢でわかる本当のあなた - The Universal Dream Key

You cannot change what has happened, but you can change your dreams about it.

The past is behind you, beyond your ability to change it. However, you can affect the present, which will in turn transform the future. Strange as it may seem, you can influence your dreams by planning your behavior in them and changing how you act during them. You can shift from the role of passive victim to one of active participant. Instead of running or hiding, you can overcome the dream danger. By transforming your dream, you develop more confidence in dealing with waking threats. You can focus your energy more directly on any waking problem you face.

夢学(ユメオロジー)―創造的な夢の見方と活用法 - Creative Dreaming

Start by changing any nightmare in some small way for the better.

Get help in your dream. Help yourself as much as you can. Find shelter. Ask other dream characters for assistance. Plan to help those in trouble in your nightmares. Save those in need. Treat the injured. Look for any positive image in the dream you had, such as trying to call for help. Build on this as a base for improving the dream. Picture the help arriving. As you take action in your nightmares you will be helping yourself to gather your resources for coping in the waking world.

Use your imagination to prepare for better dreams.

In the drowsy period before you fall asleep, picture your usual dream scenario. Now picture it changing for the better. Visualize what you could do to improve the dream. Find the lost dog. Break free from the kidnapper. Make telephone contact with rescuers. Make the dream better.

You have many more options in your dreams than you know.

What you do in your dreams makes a difference, just as it does in waking life. By changing your dream behavior you are improving your life skills.

Each nightmare you can change for the better is a step toward recovery from trauma.

Your dreams are an inner resource that can lead you through difficult times. Use them.

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After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, many people in Japan and throughout the world have been experiencing scary dreams.  This is a very good article on working with nightmares by my friend Alan Siegel.

For more excellent articles, please click here to visit Alan’s website.


Alan Siegel, Ph.D.

Copyrighted Excerpt from Dream Wisdom: Uncovering Life’s Answers in your Dreams
by Alan Siegel, Ph.D. (Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2003)

During a crisis or after a traumatic event, it is important to know nightmares are more common and upsetting. We experience each nightmare as a traumatic event and for those who have experienced violence, a natural disaster, accident or other trauma, posttraumatic nightmares rub salt on our emotional wounds. Keep in mind that moderately upsetting nightmares may actually be a positive sign of normal coping but very graphic nightmares that are repetitive and unchanging may signal an emotional impasse.

Nightmare remedies are self-help techniques that can help adults and children break the spell of their bad dreams and use them for personal growth and creative inspiration. A simple method for transforming nightmares is to use the 4 R’s of nightmare relief. Reassurance, Rescripting, Rehearsal, and Resolution.

Reassurance is the first and most important step. This breaks the spell of the nightmare by giving emotional reassurance and for family members or children, physical comforting may help as well. Once you feel reassured and the nightmare’s reign of terror has been overthrown, you can relax, become curious about the nightmares meaning and message and begin to approach the dream in a more playful manner.

Knowing that occasional nightmares are normal and their frequency and intensity may increase during crises may also be reassuring. A key factor, especially for children, is not to dismiss or ignore the nightmare with a message that “it’s just a dream” or you should just ignore it. Nightmares, especially during a life crisis are very hard to ignore. Reassurance paves the way for Rescripting the dream. Rescripting uses discussion, fantasy, writing, art, or drama to re-experience and revise different parts of the dream narrative with the goal of opening up new endings and directions. You can use techniques from the Experiential Dream Menu in Chapter 11 of Dream Wisdom, to transform and tame the most threatening interactions and moments in the nightmare. This can be as simple as experimenting with rewriting one or more new endings for the dream or may involve more elaborate free associations to link the conflicts in the nightmare to unresolved life issues.

The third R needed to implement a nightmare remedy is Rehearsal. This involves multiple forays and trials of rewriting and re-enacting the dream. If you are having nightmares about an auto accident or serious physical injury, imagining one new ending may only be the beginning. Depending on your creative inclinations, you may need to write out one or more new endings, sketch or paint the threatening elements in the dream or role play with a friend or with a psychotherapist or dream group. Creating new endings does not have to involve killing your dream adversary. The terrorist or robber or wild animal can be frozen or shackled. Walls, cages, force fields, or even magic wands can be made available as you rehearse dream solutions. Adults may need to loosen up their imagination but children take to this easily especially with adult guidance. And for children, non-violent strategies for subduing dream villains can model creative problem-solving strategies that do not necessarily emphasize violence.

Rehearsal is somewhat parallel to the phase of psychotherapy, called “working-through” which involves taking breakthrough insights and testing them out in a variety of ways with people and situations. When nightmares are extremely painful or repetitive or related to a profound trauma, rescripting and rehearsing dream solutions may need to be repeated before the nightmares subside. It is important to keep in mind that conjuring up one new fantasy ending for a dream is not going to solve a deep problem that may be causing the nightmares. However, even if dream rehearsals must be repeated for people who are suffering more severe trauma, even initial efforts at rescripting may in some cases, dramatically reduce the incidence of posttraumatic nightmares.

The final Nightmare Remedy “R” is Resolution. Discussion and various trials of rescripting and rehearsing solutions usually trigger insights about what life issues are causing the nightmares. At this point, the dreamer on her own or with the help of a friend or psychotherapist is ready to resolve the nightmare. Resolution occurs when the dreamer brainstorms and identifies behaviors they can further examine or try to change. Examples of resolution would be Lisa’s work-related nightmares series in Chapter 6, of Dream Wisdom, which included the dream, ‘Too Many Chefs Spoil the Stew”. After rescripting the dream, she realized, she had denied her assertive side and was being taken advantage of by the employees in her restaurant. After rehearsing various dream assertiveness strategies for rescripting the attacks of her wayward employees, she made a series of changes that led to exerting more clear authority at work and being more aware of her tendency to deny her assertive side.

We do not have to suffer nightmares in silence. Using the menu of techniques in this section and chapter 11 of Dream Wisdom, you can detoxify your nightmares, and use them as a source of insight and personal growth. In more acute situations, resolving nightmares can create breakthrough in dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic situation.


Whereas moderate nightmare activity may be a potentially healthy sign that the unconscious mind is actively coping with stress and change, frequent nightmares indicate unresolved conflicts that are overwhelming your child. When children’s nightmares persist, when their content is consistently violent or disturbing, and when the upsetting conflicts in the dreams never seem to change or even achieve partial resolution, it may be time to seek further help from a mental health specialist or pediatrician. Especially if there is no obvious stress in your child’s life, repetitive nightmares could also be caused by a reaction to drugs or a physical condition, so it is advisable to consult a physician to rule out medical causes when nightmares do not appear to have a psychological origin.

A further issue to consider is whether your child may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Many parents may confuse sleep disorders like sleepwalking and talking with nightmares which are more psychological in origin. Sleep disorders may or may not be accompanied by nightmares and are generally organic in origin. They are surprisingly common affecting over 15% of the United States population with 95% of all cases going undiagnosed. The International Classification of Sleep Disorders published in 199010, lists 84 conditions that interfere with sleep including Primary Snoring, Jet Lag, Restless Leg Syndrome, Narcolepsy and Sleep Apnea. Many sleep disorders such as Jet Lag will go away on their own. Others such as various forms of insomnia may reduce children’s ability to learn, lower their resistance to disease, and increase accident-proneness. Some sleep disorders may even be life-threatening such as sleep apnea. If you suspect that your child is having a sleep disorder11, speak to your pediatrician to determine if he or she needs to consult a board certified sleep specialist or to be evaluated in a sleep center12 13.

The current diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) includes Nightmare Disorder as an officially recognized affliction of both children and adults. Those who suffer from this disorder have “extremely frightening dreams, usually involving threats to survival, security, or self-esteem” that “generally occur during the second half of the sleep period,” and may cause “significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

Repetitive nightmares are often accompanied by other symptoms especially fears of going to sleep, anxieties or phobias. Increased nightmares can usually be linked to a recognizable stress in the child’s life such as absence or loss of a parent, suffering abuse or violence, marital or custody disputes in the family, social or academic difficulties at school, such as being teased or having an undiagnosed learning or attention problem.

Nightmares are more often like a vaccine than a poison. A vaccination infects us with a minute dose of a disease that mobilizes our antibodies and makes us more resistant to the virulence of smallpox or polio. As distressing as nightmares can be, they offer powerful information about issues that are distressing your child. When children share their nightmares and receive reassurance from their parents, they feel the emotional sting of the dream, but also begin the process of strengthening their psychological defenses and facing their fears with more resilience.

Gradually, a parent’s empathic response to their child’s nightmares can break the cycle of bad dreams and transform intensely negative experiences into triumphs of assertiveness and collaborative family problem-solving.

10.Diagnostic Classification Steering Committee, International Classification of Sleep Disorders: Diagnostic and Coding Manual (Rochester, MN: American Sleep Disorders Association, 1990).
11. Richard Ferber, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (New York: Simon and Shuster , 1985).
12. Christian Guilleminault, Sleep and its Disorders in Children (New York: Raven, 1987).
13. Charles Schaeffer, (editor), Clinical Handbook of Sleep Disorders in Children (New York: Jason Aronson, 1995).

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As many of you already already know, Japan is very dear to me.  My dream books, which are currently on display at the Bookhouse, are a real mixture of Japanese and Western influences, just like I am.

This Sunday, I will give a presentation on crisis dreams followed by time for questions and a group dreamwork exercise.  Together, we will explore how our dreams, on the collective level, are responding to the devastating events in Japan.

There is no charge for this event, but I will have a box available for donations to the Red Cross.  If you are unable to come, but would like to donate to relief efforts in Japan, click here.

If you are interested in learning more about what is going on in Japan, feel free to connect with me on Facebook. I’ve been posting stories, articles, images and poetry from friends in Japan.

Finally, I’m proud to say that my son Hiroshi immediately volunteered to go over to Japan and help with the US Navy.  He arrived safely in Japan a few days ago.  Please keep him and the people of Japan in your thoughts and prayers.
Date Sunday March 20, 2011
Time 3 PM
Place The Bookhouse in Dinkytown, 429 14th Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN  55414
Phone (612) 331-1430
Cost Free of charge, donations accepted for the Red Cross

Contact me at 952-412-4786 or e-mail me at SheilaAsato@comcast.net

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Video“Inception” premieres in Japan

July 20 – Leonardo DiCaprio talks about the box office blockbuster ”Inception” at the film’s premiere in Japan. Doug MacLaurin reports.  More…


DiCaprio says Japan perfect for ‘Inception’

(AFP) – 4 days ago

TOKYO — Leonardo DiCaprio hopes his mind-warp thriller “Inception” will be a hit in Japan, which has long shown a taste for anime fantasies and surreal works by its own master-director Akira Kurosawa.  More…


Ken Watanabe in Inception

Interview: Japanese Actor Ken Watanabe – Saito in Inception by Alex Billington

July 20, 2010

“Those of you that have seen Chris Nolan’s Inception already this past weekend know that Japanese actor Ken Watanabe plays a very vital role in the movie as the businessman Saito. ”  More…


Inception Premieres in Japan

Telegraph UK Video

“The stars of this summer’s blockbuster Inception, have been gracing the red carpet in Tokyo for the film’s Japanese debut.”  More…


Watanabe Steals the Show at Tokyo Premiere of ‘Inception’

By Kyung Lah, CNN, July 21, 2010

Tokyo, Japan (CNN) — Leonardo DiCaprio is the star of this summer’s blockbuster, “Inception.” But on the sweltering night at Tokyo’s premiere of the movie, you might have mistaken Ken Watanabe as the film’s top-billing actor.”  More…

There are also three good videos at this site as well related to the film.


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Please join me for a full day Healing Collage (sm) workshop

Date: Saturday March 27, 2010  

Time: 10 AM – 5 PM

Location: Monkey Bridge Arts, 6801 West Lake Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55426

Cost: $80, includes supplies

Registration: 952-412-4786 or e-mail me at SheilaAsato@comcast.net

In this workshop, you will:

  • Make your own Healing Collage (sm)
  • Learn about the unconscious compositional structure of a Healing Collage (sm)
  • Practice using a special nine point grid to discover meaning in your collage
  • Watch a demonstration of how the Healing Collage (sm) can be a way of working with dreams even in the absence of dream recall.
  • Hear how the Healing Collage (sm) came about as a unique distillation of Japanese collage therapy and two-dimensional design practices.

To learn more about the Healing Collage (sm) process and to read my award winning paper on the relationship between Healing Collage (sm) and dreams, please visit my website.

I look forward to sharing this fun and interesting process with you.

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