Seek Out the Music.

As I hem and haw about whether I should attend another concert this weekend, I think back to the words that I wrote right after attending U2 – and right in the wake of the death of Chris Cornell.  After watching Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam get inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.

And I can think of tons of reasons why I shouldn’t drive to Las Vegas to see Mumford and Sons.  Its too much money.  I just got home from a week long trip.  I am headed to three more concerts in the next two months.  It is a hella long drive. My husband may kill me if I leave again. (not really, but maybe.)

And then I remember how the music makes me feel.

And I recall a line from Tom Waits –

“Money is just something you throw off the back of the train.”

So, while I continue to sit in deliberation – I’ll leave you with my thoughts on music, and why I’m obsessed.

 

 

Seek out music that moves you.

That brings you to you knees.

Makes you weep.

And scream.

And run wildly through the streets.

Seek out the music that makes you rage agains that which is unjust.  That demands action and movement.  A voice that will be heard.

A song for the revolution.

Seek out music that swells your heart.  That which you can’t resist running into the arms of your loved one.  That binds you together in the throws of passion.

Seek out music that you can see in the trees.  The oceans.  The mountains.  The music and the melodies that move the very nature that we are from and that which we will return.

Find the pulse.

The needles.

The throb.

Find the music that can melt your very flesh from the inside out.

Seek out that music and let it change you.  Find it in the moment.  Witness the artistry live.  It will change your bones.  Your very core will shift and shudder and you will never be the same.

And don’t try to return.

Keep seeking out that which changes you.

Allow your self to be drawn to the addiction –

                                                                                                                               – you might forget.

Time, money or obligations might call to you.  Keep those voices at bay.  Hold on to the music like it was the very breathe in your chest.

It is life.

10 Things Your Massage Therapist Wants You to Know

1.  Talk to Us.

Not in the Chatty Cathy kind of way (unless that is your jam, we are happy to oblige).  We want you to fully enjoy your time on the table –  so share your goals with us.  Do you want to fall asleep? No problem.  Have an injury? Please let us know.  Has your left hamstring been driving you crazy?  We can help!  If something feels good or if the pressure is too much – speak up.    Please don’t lay on the table and hope we can read your mind.  We want to make this the best experience possible.

2.  Clothing Optional.

Take as much of your clothing off as you feel comfortable but please know that if you want your back massaged and you come in with a sports bra, there is a good chance we are not going to be able to give your back the attention it needs.  Same goes for shorts or underwear.  If you come in and want your glutes worked on, it will be challenging to make that happen if your entire booty is covered.  Your therapist will be able to drape you so that nothing is exposed and you maximize the area to be massaged.

3.  Don’t Forget Your Jewelry!

This means your watch, your necklace, your bracelets and your earrings.  You will have a much better experience if there is nothing hindering the massage.  Did you know that having your ears massaged allows the plates of your skull to shift (super helpful for headaches!)  Not easy if you have an ear full of gold.    And nothing feels more funky than having your neck worked on, only to have the therapist try and maneuver around the tiny chain clinging to your skin.  Best rule of thumb…leave it all at home (even the wedding ring!)

4.  Turn Your Phone OFF!

Vibrate is not the same a OFF.  Nothing will break the spell you are under like hearing a phone vibrating in your bag.  When you hear that little buzz a tiny piece of you comes out of the bliss your are feeling and starts to wonder/worry about who is trying to contact you.  Give yourself the gift of 60 (or 90) minutes of uninterrupted relaxation.  You deserve it!

5.  Give Your Tootsies Some Loving.

Take a peek at your feet.  If your heels are a little roughed up, please help us help you.  Many of us live in sandals or flip flops…dry weather can build up a hard shell on your little piggies.  What works wonders? Try a pumice stone (pick one up at the local pharmacy) Keep that little magic rock in your shower and give your feet a little love when you cleanse.  Your feet and your therapist will thank you.

6.  Hot Water (before and after).

If you have the time, hop in the shower before coming in for your massage.  Better yet…take a bath if that is accessible to you.  While it is nice to be clean for your massage, the primary reason is it relaxes your muscles.  It allows your body and mind to prepare for the healing that is about to happen.  And a bath with epsom salts after your massage is a cherry on top. You will be amazed what soaking in a tub will do for your muscles as they continue to heal and it helps flush out the toxins that have been pulled up.

7.  Shaving Isn’t Necessary.

Your prickles don’t bother us.  Please don’t worry about trying to be hairless before coming in for your massage.

8.  Show Your Love for Your Therapist.

Massaging is a very emotional and labor intensive job – and we love what we do.  Healing is something that is a calling for most therapists.  But there is a ton of energy transference and physical work that happens during a massage.  Most therapists in a spa setting earn a very small percentage of what the massage is costing the client.  And at many locations, they are getting minimum wage when they are not booked.  If your therapist is rocking your world – feel free to shower them with (dollar bills) love.

9.  Repeat. Again and Again.

Your body is going to get the best benefits if you are consistent with your massages.  Unfortunately, there are many folks who only get bodywork as a “treat”.  For an anniversary or on vacation.  Massage, along with other types of bodywork, is very healing and necessary for maintaining a healthy and happy body.  Try to think of massage as a lifestyle choice – similar to working out or eating healthy.  Set the time aside and keep the commitment.  (Like going to the dentist but SO MUCH BETTER!)  Ideally, have a date with your therapist once a month.

10.  Falling Asleep is OK!

By all means.  Pass out.  It is okay by us!  (And snoring is totally allowed and welcomed).  There is something really lovely when a new mom or dad comes in and are able to find enough relaxation to get in a quick 60 minute nap.  You all work so hard and if you need to place to rest your head for an hour or so, we will gladly make you comfortable.

“Was that the sensitive spot you were telling me about?”

 

Have any tips or stories?? I would love to hear them!  Feel free to comment and share!

Live. (from the Rose Bowl)

I am a lover of live music.  The vibrations of the different sounds does something to my physical body that makes me feel like my soul and my mind and my blood lines up – they sync, finding the purest rhythm.

Because I am an introvert to the core, I have to REALLY love a band or an artist to put up with the crowds of people, the traffic and the mayhem that can occur at a concert.  The entire scene can make me spin into anxiety but I find space and zone out (or dive in) as soon as the music starts.  This is why, if I have the option, I choose to purchase seats in general admission (the pit).  No seats, no restrictions.  I can get as close (or as far) away from the people as I want.  I can pulse with the other bodies in movement or I can find a space to move on my own.  It affords me the freedom to truly experience the music in the most authentic way.

So this past week I went to two concerts…last weekend was Billy Joel (not my absolute favorite but he is my husband’s favorite and we had a great seats and it was a fairly mellow experience).  Plus, Pink and Axl Rose both made guest appearances and that just made my night.

Fast forward to this weekend.  U2.  At the Rose Bowl.  The Joshua Tree Tour.  And the opening act is one of my favorite bands – The Lumineers.  Done and done.  I purchased GA tickets a few months ago from StubHub (as U2 sells out ASAP) and even though they were a grip ($400 a piece) I felt it was well worth it to see two of my favs.

About a week ago our tickets arrived in the mail via FedEx and inside was an AMEX gift card and instructions on how to use the card to enter the venue.  Stubhub assured us that even though this was a new way to enter the venue, there would be no problem and all we had to do was scan the card at the gate and we were in.

Fast-forward to Saturday morning.  The hubby and I decided to pack up the bicycles and park a couple miles away and bike in, to avoid the craziness that had been promised to concert-goers.  It was a beautiful ride in through the canyon and the Rose Bowl provided a bike valet free of charge.  Score.

As we drank our beers out of red solo cups on the walk to the gate, we congratulated ourselves on perfect planning and epic timing.  The line for gate A was starting to gain the heft of a giant boa constrictor and we jumped into the belly of the snake.  Gates opened an hour and a half before the Lumineers were scheduled to start and being that we had pit tickets, we wanted to get as close to the front as possible.  After an hour of waiting in line we finally made it to the front.  I proudly handed over my AMEX gift card and smiled at the hubby…soon, my love.  Soon we would be dancing our little hearts out.

“Ma’am.  This card isn’t valid at this gate.  You have to go to gate B.”

Um. What?

The attendant handed that card back to me and scooted me away.  To gate B.  Where there was another line.  Another. Long. Line.

We pleaded our case with the next attendant who allowed us to move to the Express Line (not much quicker, but saved us about 20 minutes).

I handed the card over to the next ticket taker, fingers crossed.  A horrendous beep sounded (one that seemed utterly familiar).  The card was handed back.

“This card is invalid.”

Steam started to fill up my ears and I struggled to not run through the gates to the Pit Promised Land that was just across the way.

“What are we supposed to do?” (I asked in a not so calm tone).

Will Call Resolutions.  Another. Really. Long. Line.

At this point I was pulling up Stubhub’s number and I was ready to lash out on the first poor soul who picked up the phone.  To keep this part of the story short I’ll sum it up:  After two hang ups (or what they claim was a disconnection) one long hold, two new tickets sent to my email, entrance in to the stadium two hours later (without wristbands), a dash around the entire exterior of the field to find more wristbands, (a random run in with dear friends), we FINALLY MADE IT TO THE FLOOR.  And would you be surprised if I told you we were HELLA FAR AWAY.  Like, behind the lighting and camera people.  Fortunately, we arrived just as The Lumineers were taking the stage and soon we were enveloped in the pulse of the drums and the piano and the guitar and Neyla’s sweet sweet cello.  It all started to melt away.

After The Lumineers finished their set, we began the wait for the main act.  People started filling in around us and I could feel myself becoming agitated with the crowd and lack of view.  I figured the best thing to do at this point was to step away, use the restroom (the holy fucking shit, you have got to be kidding me, the line is longer than the one to get in the stadium!) and grab a quick snack.

As I returned from my trek and handed my love his hotdog, the lights serendipitously went out and the crowd roared.  And then it didn’t matter anymore.  The lines, the waiting, the heat, the frustration, the emotions all came to a halt.  And then this:

(the original video from Sunday Bloody Sunday circa 1971)

U2 is a band of passion.  Of fight and fury. They move something so deep in my soul (and clearly, I am not alone).  They are masters of evoking the rawest of emotions in people, which is why they will go down as, arguably, the greatest band in history.  They are the pulse of the people.  And in a time where our country, and the world, is in state of turmoil, U2 provides the hymns and the battle cries and the prayers.

And when Bono’s voice tears through – “I can’t believe the news today/I can’t close my eyes and make it go away/How long, how long must we sing this song?”  It is an awakening.  A call to arms.  And we are all ready and willing to come together behind this foursome and go to war.

I stood behind my man, arms around his neck and I cried.  Tears came streaming down my face.  I bawled like a child.  I cried for everything I can’t put into words.  For all the injustices I feel I can’t fight against.  For all of the different wars I feel like I need to wage.  For the utter debilitating and crushing nothingness that overtakes me.  For Chris Cornell.  For love.  For helplessness.  For it all.

Just as all these emotions rise up through New Year’s Day and Pride, and just when I am ready to grab my weapon of choice and head off into the darkness of despair and rage against the night, the set illuminates.  50 yards of paneling across the stage casts a brilliant glow against the faces of thousands.  A highway in black and white through the California desert soars out in front of us and we are all taken away on a journey to Joshua Tree, Where the Streets Have No Name.

(I encourage your to watch this as you get a small sense of the enormity of the stage and music)

And I have not stopped crying.  Literally, I have spent the last 20 minutes in tears and I have crossed through every emotion.  I feel like my heart and soul have been taken out, dragged through every potent piece of history, rinsed off with identity and solitude, and thrust back into my chest.

Chris Cornell was one of the artists that molded my very impressionable musical youth.  I was a daughter of grunge.  I can remember sitting in the darkness of my closet reading the lyrics of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden on many occasions.  I felt the connection of angst and loneliness, and found relief in discovering I was not alone in my teenage desperation.  So it was a continued rollercoaster of a night when Bono spoke of Chris and his musical legacy.  Of his family and his sweet soul.  Of the cruel reality of depression.  And then dedicated a ballad of love and loss to an MTV Generation of mourners.

The night came to an end complete with a bike crash and a rip roaring headache.  Neither are worth the keystrokes compared to the prayers we had just witnessed.

A few years ago, I bought a set of mala beads (traditional Hindu prayer beads) from a tiny store off an island in Stockholm.  I started a tradition of wearing them to all of the concerts that I attend, keeping an account of each experience in a journal I hope to pass on to my niece one day.  I wore those beads this weekend and I know that the energy from the entire event will stay with them forever.  And hopefully these words can offer some dim recreation of the magic we were part of.

“You gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking, scream without raising your voice.”

To the Women In My Life

I am blessed beyond words to have an amazing tribe of women in my life.  There are some that I only see or speak to once or twice a year and others whom I am fortunate enough to visit with multiple times a month.  This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time with two very special warriors in Northern California. Both have been long time friends – over 15 years – and I wasn’t able to truly process the gratitude I feel for their presence on this life path until I returned home.

One of these dear friends – a former teammate and forever partner in crime – gifted me with a beautiful piece of prose, and I wanted to put it out there in cyber-space.  So full of love and transparency, it isn’t often we have people in our lives that see us in such a manner, and then are able to put it into words.  While the introvert in me would prefer to keep this silent and close to my heart, I think of this as a gift to all my female friends.  Qualities I see in each of you and celebrate in your uniquness.

women-tribe_feature

 

Kimberly – 

A sorcerer, with a wand & a whistle. Juxtaposed between the realities of adamantly enforcing the rules and defiantly breaking them.

A stiff, swift motion to indicate your error, followed by and exotic, erotic tickle of a touch.  She signals a shift, pointing to the direction of a new destination.

Dense hair.  Taught, tan tummy.  Flexible, flawless, fidgeting feet.  Fat ass.  Substantial shoulders.  Wide back.  Thick fingers. Unending eyelashes.  Perfect figure.  Flexing features. Curved spine.  Erratic eyebrows.  Dancing with the divine.

As constant is her care, her spirit rotates in an unending cycle.  Apologizes.  Unapologetic.  Apologizes.  Unapologetic.

An unexpected trinket.  A treasure.  A reassuring gaze.  Calligraphy and glitter and stickers.  An enduring hug, an awkward exchange.

Bonny pins, barettes and Barbazon.  Sadness.  Anxiety. Comfort. Consideration. Clean clothes, fresh flowers, dishes done.  Blue eyeshadow. Red lip. See through shirts.  Disparate drawings on her vessel.  Flip Flops. Flip Flops. Flip Flops.

Fear, shame, insecurity, doubt. Integrity, pride, consistency.  Risk taker, deal breaker.  Deep thinker, whiskey drinker.  A self-proclaimed dirty hippy who arrives sixteen minutes early to every engagement.

A soul satisfied in the knowledge that the struggle is not searching, exploring and yearning.  The struggle exists in the absence of searching, exploring and yearning.

Yummy, juicy, gluttonous gratification.  Deep delight in bread and butter.  Sumptuous pleasure in a small gesture.  Giving is the gift.  Quick shift to glance downward to avoid the stare that infiltrates an introvert shield.  Head high, authoritatively demanding respect.  Daring a response.

Loyalty, devotion, councils contentment in the mundane.  A pull to play.  A call to action.  A notion to be naughty.  Horses.  Hardwood.  Flights.  Farms.  Beaches.  Barns.  Familiarity.  First names.  Distance, clear disdain.

Wiccan.  Woman.  Wander.  Wonder.

Mother of Magic.  Birther of Beauty.  Daughter of Danger.  Sister of Strength.  Partner to Passion.

 

Hold close the relationships that provide the breath to fly on.  Hold even closer those who see you and love you and cherish and celebrate your flaws.  Keep breeding strength in your tribe.  Uplift and support and foster love.  There is always room for more love.  Always.

Touch (Weeks – Who Knows?)

I have given up trying to keep track on the weeks of this blog.  I know I am several weeks behind and ultimately, this blog has veered off the “monetary” track.  What I have found is that my life and my passions and my money are all directly related and so to reflect on something that is not singularly about cash money, it is indirectly related to value and wealth.

In the last few weeks I have taken a 10 day trip to New York to participate in a 50hr Hands-On Assisting Course at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in Manhattan.  In that training we had different sessions that covered Restorative Yoga, Reflexology, Thai Massage, Aromatherapy as well as general techniques for offering assists/enhancements during a traditional yoga class.  When I returned, I also accepted a new job at a local spa.  While I am only massaging 4 days a week (for a total of 24 hours) I have found a deeper reverence for being in a position to offer healing touch to people.  Below are thoughts that I have been churning in my mind for some time as I have been going deeper into my yoga and massage education.  

I come from a family of clairvoyant healers and through my own experience, I have seen first hand that most people are starving to be touched.  Outside of the touch that people experience in their romantic relationships with their partners, there is rarely any other physical contact that we, as a collective group, experience during our daily lives.  Sure, we might hug our friends.  Maybe a handshake with a colleague or coworker.  But in the state of our current world, we do not touch nor do we accept touch on a consistent or regular basis.  Feel free to continue reading below:

Bobby Fischer Quote

The Essence (and Ethics) of Touch

THE GOOD

I crave to be touched.  Whenever I go to a yoga class, I silently beg the teacher to come by and lay their hands on me.  I will sit on my mat and use all my telekinetic powers to draw that instructor my way, just to feel those healing hands.  It never has to be much – a light hand on the back of my heart, a thumb in the crease of my hip to draw it back into alignment or encourage space, a soft weight to my shoulders to remind me to release the grip in my traps.

In the last year, I have started taking spin classes and I found myself consistently drawn to two different instructors.  Why was I, along with countless other people, drawn to their classes?   Yes, they had amazing music.  Yes, they kicked my ass.  But that was a common thread in all of the classes at that studio.  WHY THEM?  I realized – they both touched me.  It is very difficult to offer effective touch in a spin class.  There really isn’t the opportunity to correct or enhance like in a yoga class, except through the voice.  So what was it about the touch of these instructors that kept me coming back for more?

In almost every class I take with either of them, I feel seen.  It might be that one will place hand over mine on the handle bars during a difficult sprint.  Or one might put a hand on my back while climbing a hill.  In both cases, I realized, the touch represents the value of being acknowledged (and other, physiological responses).  Some will argue that I should be in spin, or yoga, or anything else, for myself.  Not for the benefit of someone else or for recognition.  And I do have a few instructors I will go to, in spite of the absence of touch.  I will attend a yoga class with a teacher who does not offer assists and I can/will have a great experience.  But I am continually drawn to those teachers that connect with me in a physical way.

A Small Bit of Science Behind the Benefits of Touch

I have recently become a LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist) which allowed me more extensive training in anatomy and physiology along with a deeper understanding of why the body craves touch.  And how it can help, not only the body on the gross, physical level, but also on an emotional and spiritual level.

So why do we want to be touched?

First, the great hormone – oxytocin, which is produced naturally in the body (in all genders) and stimulates the production of a neurotransmitter that has been called “the Bliss Molecule”.  Located in the hypothalamus – the part of the brain that is responsible for the secretion of the pituitary hormones (helping with blood-pressure, along with other crucial functions).  It is commonly known as the Love Hormone and is produced during childbirth and breastfeeding, as well as other physical interactions, driving the social bonds of attachment between people.  Physical touch increases levels of trust and makes us feel close to another person.

hypothalamus

 

Touch also reduces the physical symptoms of stress by activating the pressure receptors (Pacinian corpuscles) just below the surface of the skin.  These signals go directly to the Vagus nerve, which is a nerve bundle deep in the brain.  The vagus sometimes is called “the wanderer” because it has branches that wander throughout the body to several internal organs, including the heart. And it’s the vagus nerve that then slows the heart down and decreases blood pressure – buffering the physical symptoms associated with stress and helping to activate our parasympathetic nervous system.

Vagus Nerves

 

Along with reducing the symptoms of stress and creating Oxytocin, physical touch also activates the orbitofrontal cortex (located just above the eyes) which also process pleasant smells and sweet tastes.  It processes emotion and reward as it relates to decision making.  So when we are touched, we associate this with being rewarded.  Makes sense when an instructor puts a hand on us in a tough spin class!  It provides us with stimulation in the part of the brain that connects us to reward.

orbitofrontal crotex

There are so many studies out there that go in-depth on the benefits of touch and the physiological effects – we have just skimmed over the surface.

 

The Hugging Rule

There is a saying by Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

 

Hugs

 

Now, 12 hugs a day may seem like a stretch for most of us – especially in our busy and intense lives, but this brings me back to the craving that many of us feel in a class setting.  Within our busy schedules, many of us find time to carve out an hour or so for a class at a gym or studio.  We make this a priority…the opportunity to sweat and release some tension from our hectic lives and many of us are usually drawn to classes or instructors whom connect with their students in some way.

While in New York I had the opportunity to attend a couple of classes with a friend of mine.  Both classes were favorites of hers.  She enjoys both instructors and makes it a point to fit them into her extremely busy schedule.  They are very well educated in the field of yoga, have many years of experience and are highly regarded in the community.  At the end of the first class I felt amazing.  Rejuvenated, clear, uplifted and accomplished. I already knew that this was largely due to the simple fact that he offered me a hands-on assist.  In fact, I am quite certain he was able to do that for every student in that class.  I remember being in a deep pose and I was feeling like I was going to just drop onto my head in exhaustion and he came by and offered physical support.  Not a ton, but enough that it encouraged me to breath and to sit with what was happening in my body.  Looking at it from a scientific lens, it activated a physiological reward response and one that increased trust and bonding.  A side note – this class was packed.

Fast forward to the second class.  Again, very highly regarded instructor.  But he never once put a hand on anyone.  In fact, he never looked up or came off of his mat.  And I found myself sulking like a child.  Bitter that I had showed up for a class in which I had such high expectations, to be so frustrated that I abandoned my own practice in a rebellious-type act against him.  (I don’t think he cared I was throwing a fit).  This class didn’t have more than 10 people in attendance.

Now, my fault for letting someone affect me so much I let go of all of my own integrity and self-motivation while on my mat.  But it made me really sit down and think about why I was so upset and why it was so important to me to have an instructor that saw me on some level.  As I reflected about all of the instructors that had influenced me over the years there was that common denominator – acknowledgement and connection.  And the ones that I continue to practice and study with – they have all put hands on me.

I have attended two very separate trainings that specialized in hands-on assists (both in opposite parts of the country).  Each one I enrolled in because I took one class with an instructor and they performed some sort of assist that left me craving the knowledge that they had.  I needed to know how they created that connection.  My background is in bodywork so I wouldn’t expect everyone to just follow a teacher all over the world to study hands-on assists but it is very common in our yoga climate for students to follow their teachers on retreats and get-aways, and I can guarantee you that these teachers are connecting on some level with those students.

THE BAD (AND THE UGLY)

While I am a cheerleader for touch – bodywork, massage, hands-on assists in yoga class, etc.  it would be irresponsible of me to not address the dark side of the subject.

There is a huge uphill battle that Licensed Massage Therapists are fighting.  The constant joke about a “happy ending” haunts the integrity of our industry and there is always going to be a warding off of creeps looking for more.  Most people are familiar with the gross misconception of what a massage therapist offers but there is less talk of abuse is in the yoga community.

One day, in the depths of my yoga passion, I begged a good friend of mine to try a class with me.  I adored this particular instructor and had been taking his classes for a couple of years.  While he offered a very difficult and strenuous class, I felt like it would be a great yoga introduction for my friend.

After an amazing class I was floating on a yoga high and I asked her what she thought.  She confessed to me that when he offered her hands-on assists she felt creeped out.  I reassured her that some yoga assists can be intimate but it was all for the benefit of alignment and that it felt awkward because she hadn’t been practice and wasn’t used to it.  I even told her she was lucky she was getting so much attention, that it was awesome to be receiving so much “help”.  She came with me a few more times and each time she voiced that she felt like something was off, that the things he was doing felt sexual.

Fast forward several months later and this instructor (very prominent in the community) was no longer teaching public classes.  There wasn’t a ton of talk about his absence it but it was clear that there had been complaints from numerous students about the way that he had touched them and that the various studios had decided to no longer offer his classes.

This is not an isolated case of claimed sexual misconduct in the yoga community. The names/places/dates can be changed in this particular story and a similar one will pop up in almost every city where there is a yoga class.  I witnessed it first hand with an instructor on my last trip to New York.  We look at teachers with a ton of awe and reverence and trust that they have our best interests in mind and when boundaries are crossed, we stay silent or endure, for many personal reasons.

This is where touch can become dangerous.  While it produces oxytocin – that wonderful hormone that increases the feeling of emotional closeness with another person – it also allows openness to bad boundaries and/or harmful touch at the same time and this is where trauma can occur.

While the majority of this article is geared towards sharing my opinions on the benefits of touch, I want to clearly state that touch is not and may not be beneficial for everyone.  Those that have experienced trauma or abuse do not fall into the category that I am generally speaking to.  As teachers and therapists of various types of bodywork, we have an enormous responsibility with every person we come across and lay hands on.  How we set intention and respond to each situation should be approached with great care and pure love.

Assists

I used to teach a class that became popular for many reasons.  It was held late on Monday nights, lit by candlelight and donation-based.  It was a gentle flow and folks generally enjoyed it.  I believe that along with the above components, the reason people came back each week was because I offered an assist to everyone at the end of the practice in savasana.  Nothing big.  I simply put hands on the temples and forehead, set intention and offered a short cranial sacral release.  Gentle and appealing to all.

Or so I thought.

After about a year of teaching this class I was kinda feeling myself and my amazing savasana assist.  I thought it was my go-to yoga teacher move.  Later that year I was enrolled in a hands-on assisting course and the instructor told us all to pair up and give each other our favorite savasana assist.  This was it…I was going to wow the socks off my partner.  She would remember this assist as the best she had ever had.  As I laid my hands on her forehead I felt her flinch a little.  And as I moved my hands down to her ears she clearly cringed.  I shrugged off both these indications that something was wrong.  I went in for the money move – fingers on the occipital ridge and traction from the base of the skull.

oxyput assist

She screamed.

HOLY. FUCK.

Well, I was certain there was no way I was ever going to touch anyone in my life again. NEVER. EVER.

Thankfully we were in a space that we could give each other feedback and she had reveled to me that she had previous trauma in her life and touching her in that way triggered it.  Feeling terrible and apologizing profusely I really questioned my choice in careers.  How could I ever put hands on another person?  Had I been aware of the signs she was giving me in the beginning I could have avoided triggering her.

Unfortunately this happens a lot in yoga classes and I think it scares a lot of new instructors away from touching their students.  There a few tools to help avoid these types of situations (offering tags for students mats so they can decline hands-on assists, asking those who don’t want to be touched to place a hand on their belly in the beginning of class, etc.)  but there are going to be times where the connection isn’t there are we are at risk for negatively affecting our students. But I truly believe we have to keep offering.  We have to hold space for those that need to be touched.  We need to continue to educate ourselves and to seek out courses that offer support and tools for those that have experience trauma.  This is a dark side of the industry and in order to sustain the integrity of the practice, we have to better ourselves.

no thanks

The Future

Touch is healing, there is no doubt about that.  From a scientific background or a spiritual point of view, the human experience is about connection.  We crave closeness, to be able to trust and to allow support from another person.  In any capacity, find a way to bring touch into your life.  Get a massage, find a yoga class and get a wonderful assist, go to Grit Cycle and take Matt or Dani’s class (there really isn’t a bad instructor there!)  Find ways to connect.  The physical and emotional benefits are amazing and your body, mind and spirit will thank you.

Massage Benefits

 

Freedom (Week Eight and Nine)

I have had a busy couple of weeks.  Spending last weekend at meetings for basketball and then a short (but epic!) trip to Yosemite, I have been on the go go go.  So this week’s blog is combining together weeks 8 and 9.

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When I started this challenge a few months ago, the goal was to assign myself a budget and then stick to it…recording the struggles and the realities of trying to manage money during a time of slow income.  In all honesty, so many other things came up in lieu of my financial situation, although always related in some way.

And it wasn’t any different this last couple of weeks.  I have definitely overspent in the last month or so.  Not anything unnecessary or extravagant but I did purchase my flight for a trip to Iceland and had to spend some money on things for the home, as well as a trip to Philly!  With the details unimportant, I found myself thinking that it was time to find employment if I wanted to continue to play.

So, with my shiny new massage license, I applied for two jobs.  One was at a typical “Massage Envy” type spa and the other was for a new company called Soothe.  If you haven’t heard of it, Soothe is essentially “Uber” for massage.  You log on to an app and pick a time for a therapist to come to you, whether at your home or hotel.  It is really brilliant for folks that travel a ton or need some flexibility when scheduling a massage.  For a therapist, this means I only work when I am free.  I log on to the app and then accept appointments as they arise.

Each job has benefits.  A spa offers consistency.  Somewhere to go each day.  Everything set up, lotions, linens, etc.  No laundry and a steady stream of clientele.  A company like Soothe offers flexibility and a higher pay scale.  But the therapist is responsible for getting to a different location each time, transporting a table, as well as the overhead of laundry, gas and mileage.

So I interviewed at the spa first.  I went in last Wednesday and talked with the assistant manager and then gave her a 30 minute massage.  The manager called Thursday as I was driving up to Yosemite with my mom and offered me the job.  Instinctually I felt I should accept the offer immediately, simply out of fear and scarcity.  A ton of things came up in my head, “What if I never got another offer?” “I should take the job, there might be someone waiting to swoop it up.” “I need money, I should start right away.”  All reactions based in a mindset of LACK OF and NOT ENOUGH.   A small (very very tiny) voice in the back of my head whispered “This doesn’t feel good…this isn’t what we want.”  But my fear screamed back “BUT WE NEED A JOB!”  Having my mom in the car with me helped give me the courage to ask the manager to give me the weekend to accept the offer since I was traveling.  She was gracious and said to get back to her on Monday.

And so I started ping ponging back and forth…

I should get the job.  I need the money.  I should have structure.  They will train me in hot stone massage.  I will gain experience.  Yada yada yada.

And that little voice kept whispering, “but but but – that doesn’t feel good.”

I continued to go back to one of the main reasons I wanted to become a massage therapist – freedom.  I wanted the freedom to live the life that was important to me.  To be able to experience all the opportunities that became available to me.  To embrace impulsiveness.  I could not honor those things if I moved having a job to the top of the list.  I needed another solution.

So I applied at Soothe and while I was in the car I set up an interview for Monday morning.  And then I was able to let go of expectations and decisions and dove into the moment.  A moment that consisted of a 3:00am wake up call to start hiking to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite.  A 5,000 ft gain in elevation and 22 miles round trip (don’t forget the 400 ft of cables up the steep side of the massive rock) I didn’t have time or energy to be anything but in the moment.  I’ll be totally honest – it was one of the scariest things I have ever attempted. We spent 16 hours hiking; arriving and departing the trailhead in the dark.  But so absolutely worth it.

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So after such an amazing weekend I was feeling even more torn about accepting the position at the spa.  Could I give experiences up for stability?

Forward to my interview with Soothe.  In theory, ideal for my situation.  Accept massages only when I am available.  Higher pay rate.  Flexibility galore.  Sold.  I was offered and accepted the position with Soothe and then graciously declined the previous job offer from the spa.  And I pranced home with my new employment thinking that the offers were going to be rolling in!

Ehem.  Not quite.

While I have been sitting here, typing and doing some computer work, my phone has dinged 5 times with massage offers.  And all 5 times the massage was swooped up by another therapist before I could even pick up my phone.  This is clearly going to be ruthless.  And I may need to shift my expectations.  So we will see.  I am going to give it my best shot for at least a month and then reevaluate.

Meanwhile, if any of you cyber babes are needing some bodywork, feel free to reach out.  I am booking sessions either in my home studio or I can come to you.  Look for the “On the Table Offerings” to the left of this column and shoot me an email, we can set something up!

Wealth (Week Seven Recap)

I spent the past weekend in Philadelphia with a dear friend of mine and when I got a chance to sit back and process the whirlwind trip I realized how wealthy I am – and I am not talking cash money.  I am talking wealthy in relationships.  Wealth in the deep connections have been made and continue to be cultivated.  On this trip, I not only got to spend time with my friend but I ended up meeting three other amazing young women and my heart is home and full of feminine energy.

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Meeting people is not easy for me.  I struggle to connect on deeper level and I feel myself go into a panic when ever I am in a large group and have to make small talk.  I have learned to come out of my comfort zone, but it isn’t an easy task and not something that comes naturally to me.  So when I had the opportunity to sit in the grass and just connect with these four women, underneath trees that were born 300 years ago and a new moon, my heart was happy.

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And so feeling full on beautiful, female camaraderie – I returned home.  And as I unpacked my bag and pulled my laundry into the basket, a white piece of paper fell out.  A love note from my friend.  Showing appreciation and gratitude for our friendship these past 10 years.  I didn’t think I could fill up anymore with love.  It isn’t often that you come across people that you “know” from another time.

Photo on 7-5-16 at 9.14 PM

I believe that we choose people before we come into this life.  We seek out a tribe and make a pact, promising each other that we will find one another and offer support down the path.  (Sometimes that doesn’t look all flowery and happy.  Sometimes, these people show up to help us learn a lesson or grow and it is hard).  But then, there are those times where you meet a member of your tribe and it is like you have known them forever.  It is the absolute best!  And there is nothing more valuable than girlfriends.  When you find those treasures, hold on tight!  Life is meant to be lived barefoot in the grass with them.

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So here I am, finally home and eternally grateful for the reminder that I am blessed with a tribe of strong, beautiful woman.  Sending love to each and everyone of you.  Some far and visits  infrequent but I hold you close to my heart and you are in my thoughts often.  So much love.

we all move forward when

we recognize how resilient

and striking the women

around us are

-rupi kaur

Food (Week Six Recap)

It is always such a struggle to balance between eating healthy and eating cheap.  When I started to shift my focus on saving money I found myself drifting to inexpensive food.  Typically that would mean food I could get a good deal on – fast food.  It is easy to eat out for under $5 but that usually means 2 tacos or a hamburger from Taco Bell or McDonalds.  And we all know – that is not real food.  BUT.  It is cheap!  I was getting frustrated as I was trying to figure out how to purchase enough groceries for the week and still offer some sort of variety in the meals.  We were eating the same thing every day because when you buy food for 2 people, the quantity is enough to supply us for a full week. Boring. And I would usually end up throwing a ton of stuff out. Such waste.

I recently made the decision to change my diet to one that is plant-based.  This meaning that I am cutting out all animal proteins. (no dairy, eggs, meat, etc.) I did this several years ago and I found that my body reacted well to the change.  After a year, I drifted back to a more main-stream way of eating as I was struggling to maintain the lifestyle while traveling.  I was eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches way too often and a wide array of vegetables was hard to find in the dead of winter in the northern states.  And so I fell back into what was easy.  I always said that the reason I was “vegan” was that it felt better in my body, which was why I think it was easy to leave the diet after awhile.

As a yoga teacher I try to live by the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali (a sage from about 400 CE).  Part of the Sutras describes the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  The first being the Yamas.  (The 3rd Sutra is Āsana, which is what most westerners are typically familiar with – the actual yoga poses themselves).  The Yamas outline the ethical rules of yoga, or moral guidelines.  The first of the Yamas is Ahimsā.  Ahimasā translates into non-violence or non-harming of all living beings.  It has always been easy for me to not harm or want to harm other humans. (I sometimes fail when I am driving in traffic.)  And it has also been easy for me to have compassion for all living things.  But it has been a struggle to translate that into what I am actually consuming.  It is much simpler for me to play ignorant to the things that I was eating.  But it has grown harder and harder for me to convince myself that it is okay to eat animals and not think about what they go through in order to be that piece of meat on my plate.

I realize that this is not going to be a popular concept for a lot of people that may be reading this blog.  I want to make it very clear that I am not judging anyone for their choices, I am simply offering my story and how I arrived at this decision.

About 2 weeks ago I had a mini meltdown on a trip out to Arizona to see my sister and mom.  We were flying over Chino and had stopped for fuel and as I looked down from the plane, I saw dirt pasture next to dirt pasture for miles and miles.  And in these dirt fields were hundreds and hundreds of cows packed together, trying to find shade under small, metal covers.  It was over 110 degrees that day.  And I started to cry.  I just couldn’t ignore it anymore.  It was absolutely breaking my heart.  I was having the same feeling when I would watch TV and the commercial for all the abused animals in the world came on, asking for donations.  And in the background, Sarah McLaughlin was singing “In the arms of the angels…” Ugh.  I would turn the channel as soon as I could because I could not bear to see those poor shaking puppies, cowering in the corner of their cage.  I couldn’t change the channel on this.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.

And so I made a choice.  A choice that is important to me and my values.  And my health.  And in all honesty, a lot gentler on my pocketbook.  It is so much cheaper to buy plant based products.  Fresh greens are enormously cheaper than fresh meat.  And if I don’t use them, I feel a little less guilty throwing them into the compost.

Now, I will say that I went a little crazy on the groceries this week.  A friend recommended a great little app that has awesome plant-based recipes and I have decided to up my cooking game.  So I went out and spent over $100 in new spices and some core staples for my pantry.

Curry Spice

Too Soon?

And so I begin this new way of fueling my body and my soul.  In just the last week I have new clarity.  Like a soft fog has lifted from my body.  I feel better about my choices and like I can rest a little easier.  All I can do is change me.  Make me and my life, my focus.  Live a life I find truth and value in.  And live consciously.

I want to make it clear that I truly believe that everyone has a choice in how they live their life.  I know many people who are farmers who have raised their own food and find a reverence in the circle of life.  Those who honor the animal and what they provide for sustenance.  I respect that way of life and those choices.  I am simply sharing what my choices are and how I came to those decisions.  I really want to thank the friends I have whom are plant-based or vegan and all the info they have provided me in the start of this journey.  I love the support and all the yummy recipes.

Organization (Week Five Recap)

So I will be the first to admit it.  I am not the greatest at keeping records.  I hate numbers.  I hate keeping track of them.  I hate records and percentages and columns and adding and subtracting.

Get the point?

BUT.  Since I have three separate business, all which I am an independent contractor for, I have to kinda pay attention.  Taxes are a nightmare.  And so are all the expenses that go along with being an independent contractor.  So I sucked it up and hired someone to do my taxes this year.  (I know, I know.  I hate numbers and I have been doing my own taxes for the last 20 years?  I get it. Makes no sense.)

So I took a financial step forward and am working with someone to make sure I am doing all the things little things correct and that I am keeping my money!  I am sure that by doing my own taxes in the past I have given the government more money than I should have.  And since I need to be an excellent record keeper (and I am far from achieving that status) I have enlisted the help of a handy little app called BizXpenseTracker.  It is an app on my iPhone and iPad that allows me to keep track of all of my expenses in real time.  If I go to a dinner for work, all I need to do is take a picture of the receipt and enter it onto my device.  It keeps track of all the categories and then I can export it to my computer and it calculates everything at the end of the year.  The only problem is I am lazy and so I end up with two weeks of receipts that need to be entered…I’m working on being more efficient.

I am sure there are other convenient and efficient ways to keep track of expenses but this is one that I have found works for me.  And I think that the whole point is that I realized no one can be good at everything.  I consider myself an artist.  A dreamer and a visionary.  Typically, someone that is left-brain dominant struggles with the right-brain stuff.  The numbers, the organization, the practical aspects of life.  Neither is better than the other but I have come to recognize that I need help with these things.  No little magic fairy is going to come in on April 16 (is that right?? or is it the 15th??) and POOF! do my taxes with no help from me.

This is my life…my dreams…all my hard work and I am the only one that is responsible for making sure the backend is handled correctly.  And so, I have decided to get some help from experts.

OK…

Now that we got that boring monetary logistical post out of the way…let’s get back to feeling all the feels.  Here is a picture of a puppy to feel better.

 

puppies

Orlando

I am not exactly sure how to act like nothing happened today.

I am sitting here at my computer and I have 10 different things that I wanted to write about this week in regards to how I was doing with my 5 Month Money Challenge.  But when I try to think of a clever, thoughtful or poignant message…all that keeps coming up for me is “What the fuck is the point?”  It is so small, so meaningless, so absolutely unimportant in the wake of what has transpired in Orlando early this morning.  It doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if I stayed on budget.  It doesn’t matter if I had a bad day and struggled to not indulge and have a Starbucks.

50 people lost their lives this morning in a SENSELESS ACT OF VIOLENCE.

50 families were told this morning that they had a loved one who DIED in a place where they felt SAFE.

50 hearts stopped beating because someone doesn’t like the LBGTQ community.

YOU HATE A GROUP OF PEOPLE SO YOU KILL THEM???

I just cannot wrap my head around it.  And I know that this is not the first (and more upsetting, won’t be the last) time a group has been brutally attacked like this.  But I sit in total frustration because I don’t know what to do.  I am tired of changing my social media profile to show solidarity.  I am tired of hashtags #prayingforanothercity/country/group.  I am tired of hearing about death and then being sad about it and then talking with other like-minded people in frustration.  I feel hopeless.  Helpless.

I teach from a place of love.  I try to live coming from a space of love. Love for all beings, bodies, religions, choices.  My mom has a beautiful saying “all paths lead to God” (or whatever/whomever you believe).  So I find it so difficult to try and understand where hate can be so vast that it is demonstrated in violent action.

And I don’t know what to do.

My Facebook feed is covered with people’s opinions about gun control and terrorism and theories and calls for action.  Petitions and vigils and fundraising and signups.  All out of a place of wanting to help, to make the world better.

But how do you teach love?

I am fortunate that the group of friends I hold dear (and even the general population in my geographical location) are like-minded folks.  I don’t have a broad representation of different views on my social media pages.  So, when something happens, most of the opinions coming through my feed are views that I hold in high regard and agree with.  So to speak out and say “We need to act out of love and not hate,” everyone I am close with (or even associated with) echoes that same message.

How do we reach those that don’t share those values?  How do we reach the people that view a group (or race or religion) with such hate that an act of violence is the only answer?  That murder is the only answer?  I want to scream.

I know this question is one that everyone asks – If we had the answer we would have world peace.  I just feel so heartbroken and so helpless that all I can do is keep trying to live in a manner that cultivates love.

I don’t have the answer and in all honesty, I feel defeated.