Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I like to say that everyone is a shaman. To one degree or another, we really are. It's a birthright. We sense the subtle energies and respond, as in the case of everyone rushing to get in line at the supermarket at the same moment in time. It doesn't always correspond to something occurring externally. We follow the flows of energy even when we aren't at all conscious of it.

We dance is alignment with the weather even if we don't want to. Sometimes the phone rings and we know immediately who is calling, or wake up from a nightmare, shaky and sweating, knowing someone we love is in trouble. We say something after which the person we're with says, "I was just thinking about that!" Yeah, we are shamans. Some of us practice more than others.

We humans have many birthrights, some of them remain unclaimed in my society at least. It's sad, it really is. 

Another among these talents is the universal power of human beings to bring healing to another person simply by placing hands on the body of the person who is suffering. I always ask my students to think about the first thing they do after whacking an elbow (for instance). Almost always, we cup the injured elbow in the palm of the hand on the uninjured arm. What are we doing?

When a mother lays her cool hand on the feverish forehead of a child, what is she doing? When we sit with a friend who is grieving or depressed, it's instinctual to lay a hand on that person's arm or shoulder. Why? What are we doing?

Those of us who practice healing arts spend time noticing what happens when we touch a suffering person. Sometimes the palms heat up or feel buzzy or as if an electrical current is passing from the palm to the other person. Tracing the current backwards, up through the arms, inevitably leads us to the heart, the center of soul, the kingdom or queendom of compassion and love in humans.

I've tried tracing the electricity beyond the heart but so far have not had success in understanding where that silky, pearl-like, soothing, soft flame of healing energy originates. I may never know - which is OK with me. What's important is to mindfully lay my hands on my clients, whether they're receiving vigorous massage or the most gentle kind of Reiki I'm capable of delivering.

Place a hand, right now, on your own heart. Breathe, relax your jaw, and notice what happens next. Remember this is subtle; it won't be as obvious as, say, crushing a beer can on your forehead. Something subtle and beautiful definitely happens.

Oh the marvelous, universal human power of the hands to heal! I'm in awe of it every day.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Scuse me while I kiss the sky

It irks me when people talk about how great it is to "get out into nature," as if we are not a part of the natural world. We certainly are! Like many species we manipulate the environment so as to be more comfortable. We have large brains and opposable thumbs, hence our constructions are in certain ways more sophisticated than beaver dams or bird nests, but in some ways not nearly as miraculous. Think of the beehive, the ant hill. Wow. I love robins' nests - they're so beautifully put together, very cohesive - and they do all that with their beaks? Wow.

The only way it's possible to reconnect with our place in the natural order is by spending time outdoors. It's grounding and orienting, even when the weather is too hot, cold, windy, rainy or whatever. Noticing the quality of light, time of day, season and temperature is an experience we are wired for. It brings us into our bodies, recalibrates the metabolism, helps us act in harmonious accordance with the environment on many levels.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors exhibit a hearty vitality that wanes in those who don't. Sadly there are a lot of people who spend their days moving from one hermetically sealed building to a car and then back to another building. Indoor people (those who spend less than a half hour outdoors every day) strike me as vague, fuzzy around the edges, while outdoor people are vivid and engaged.

The life of the mind is great, but the animal of the body needs plenty of outside time in order to be healthy. In the book The Secret Garden, a young boy is healed simply by spending time outdoors in a beautiful garden, breathing fresh air and taking in the sunshine and blue sky. In Tibetan medicine, gazing at the blue sky is thought to cure depression and malaise. I believe it!

Today, venture out. For citizens of the U.S. this is a holiday during which outdoor picnics are common. Check out not only the barbecue and beer, but the sky. Check out the light, the clouds, notice whether the heat or cool is pleasant, annoying or downright oppressive. Listen to the sounds - birds, barking dogs, laughing people, sirens, traffic. Have a walk around the block.

By remembering that we are a part of the natural world, we become more compassionate. Our bodies remember better how to adapt to different environments, we become stronger and more resilient, and more fully alive.

Break free of the box shaped room today, yes? I say yes. Shalom.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Ah the lowly bivalve. I'm talking about oysters, just for a minute - please bear with me.

The oyster is not a handsome animal, nor particularly refined in terms we humans can understand. It is not heroic or even notable except for one thing. You know what I'm going to say next. When something that doesn't belong somehow trespasses the fortress of the oyster's shell, the animal becomes irate, as much as bivalves can. It responds by creating something wondrous and impossible, the pearl.

Reiki is not dramatic or heroic, but it is wondrous and also kind of impossible. We Reiki practitioners lay our hands on our clients' bodies. If we are at level II or beyond, we visualize the Reiki symbols, but that's all we do.

Something happens. To the places where the receiver is irritated or hurting physically, emotionally or spiritually, a smooth, violet/white, not quite visible light flows from our hands. This pearly light wraps itself around pain, subsequently creating the energetic equivalent of a pearl. These Reiki pearls allow the receiver to regroup at every level. The receiver's energy settles, body softens and mind rests. A session of Reiki creates spaciousness, grace and a lustrous harmony. During a session of Reiki, the receiver has access to trust. It isn't heroic, but it definitely is wondrous and kind of impossible, like the pearl.

Surely this is the craziest thing ever written about Reiki, though that said, almost everything ever written about Reiki sounds ridiculous. Have you googled it? For heaven's sake!

Reiki is an art. As such, it can not be explained. What is beauty? What is love? What is healing? If you have language to accurately describe these ineffables, please write the book the rest of us have longed for throughout our history.

Reiki is subtle. What it does and how it works can not be defined by the language available at this moment in time.

My metaphor is poetic, hence not exactly scientific. The National Institutes of Health has completed several - at least five - studies of the impact of Reiki. The results are inconclusive, of course. The summaries always include vague statements such as: "Reiki aided in relaxation." So what?

Reiki does not fit into the prevailing medical framework of pathologizing, diagnosing, then treating according to a very specific plan. For those who demand answers when they get sick, I can see it would be easy to dismiss. I tell my students to consider wine aficionados, how they say a certain wine is heady or possesses floral notes, is redolent of earth, berries, with soft tannins or a soft finish. What is a soft finish? I've even heard wine described as tasting like leather. I can't imagine that's good, but apparently to wine aficionados, it is.

I could go on but I'm sure you get my point here, that people who really know and understand wine can only describe the flavors poetically.

Since my first attunement in 2002, I have used Reiki every day, allowing the pearly light to move from my hands to my clients, the earth, trees, animals, even the Washington Monument. Reiki is not a big heroic form of healing, yet it packs a wallop. It can never do any harm, that's for sure.

Reiki has become widely accepted in mainstream medicine, even though there is really no scientific data to support the practice, even though no one can explain or define it. That really speaks to how accessible it is, how helpful it is.

I am a Reiki Master/Teacher. I use Reiki every day, I teach Reiki as often as I can. I love words but words do not do it justice. Reiki will probably not save the world, but for those who need to wrap their aches and pains with light, it is just the ticket. Believe me.


Friday, May 18, 2012

An ongoing sense of urgency

Yesterday I was thinking about how in the past, people weren't as afraid of time as we are now. Faced with the reality that it would take five generations to build the cathedral, or three generations to complete the embroidery on a ceremonial robe, folks nodded their heads and set to work. It was alright to spend an entire life working on the same project. It was OK on some level or another to know that they could contribute to a project they would not see completed during their lives. By taking that stance, perhaps they could imagine being a part of history, who knows?

It's almost inconceivable to imagine this state of mind now. We rush and push, we set the most unreasonable deadlines for every project and are furious when we figure out things will take longer than expected.

Yes adrenalin is fun, at least it is for a little while. It's a natural high that kicks us into gear. A surge in adrenalin is meant to help us deal with emergencies but can not sustain us over the long haul. Living life in warp drive at all times is exhausting on every level, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Do you know how to relax and take your time? Here at the beginning of the 21st century in my society, people have to practice relaxing - it feels very unnatural to the over-amped. Relaxing feels unproductive, wasteful, pointless. I assure you it isn't! Even one afternoon a week of relaxation is something many people feel guilty about. It's crazy.

Our insistence on being worked up all the time is one reason why reflux, indigestion, constipation are such pervasive problems. As we rush from one situation to the next, always doing, working, racing, hurrying, the body assigns energy to muscles while whatever it was we ate while running down the sidewalk sits like a stone in the stomach. At last the body will dump an overload of acid into the stomach in an attempt to break down the food into bits that can be absorbed. The overload of acids in the midst of what the body reads as a state of emergency will inevitably result in some kind of stomach ache. This explains the great popularity of Pepsid, Rolaids, Alka Seltzer (do they still make it?) and other digestive medicines.

A nice stroll after dinner is a great idea and will do a lot more for your digestion than moving from the table to the couch. Going for a run is crazy. Do you know how to stroll? If you are an urban American I'm sure you know how to power walk, but do you know how to amble and stroll, stop and gaze at the sky or the trees? Do you stop to smell the roses?

Rushing around, pushing, hurrying ALL the time makes us anxious and fearful. Our heads and stomachs ache, and even if we're able to be 'more productive,' (whatever that means) the fruits of our labors are never as sublime as they could be if we had taken our time, thought through the steps involved, moved steadily rather than speedily towards completion.

Take your time, ok? Save the adrenalin rush for moments when you actually need it, will you please? Life is short and can be so much sweeter if only you will slow down to appreciate it. Will you give it a go?

May all beings be happy
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be healthy
May all beings be filled with love.

May it be so. Shalom.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The art of the Art

Being a massage therapist requires a harmonious combination of talents. We need to be technically proficient and physically strong enough to do the work. We need to know anatomy and physiology. I wouldn't put myself into the hands of a massage person who didn't know her anatomy.

In addition to the technical sculpture we engage in, we need to also know how to dance. During a session, the client lies still while the therapist is in almost constant motion. It's an interesting dynamic. We lean in, then back off, we move from the head of the table to the foot, from side to side. We position a pillow under the knees, respectfully tuck the drape as needed. I can tell you from years of experience as a receiver of massage that the sessions in which the therapist moves smoothly, rhythmically and mindfully from one thing to the next are far more effective than sessions with less artful practitioners.

I'm thinking this morning about how essentially artful we homo sapiens are, how we began doing drawings on the cave wall the very second we figured out how. We hollowed out sticks, poked holes and played music, we started dancing a very long time ago. Why? Artful expression is a significant facet of who we are as a species.

It's not just massage therapy that, at its best, is both a science and an art.

Of course for those who prefer to lean into what is rational, art and artists are a bit problematic - or a lot! Art can't be measured and examined scientifically. Art is almost purely subjective. If you asked me why I benefit substantially more from a massage that's rhythmic and follows a graceful trajectory - like a symphony or a ballet - than a series of massage techniques, I could not explain it. Maybe it has something to do with the multiple rhythms that are a part of everyone's physiology. Probably it does. I also think that as a human being, I respond to art and that I'm healed by art as much as by technique.

I've received so many terrible massages that mostly had to do with a lack of artful expression by the therapist. There are many reasons why this happens. Some people aren't dancers. They want to heal others; it isn't their fault, but they just can't access the art of massage. In most cases I think it's because the therapist is completely burned out, overscheduled, fried. When I receive massages from therapists who are on auto pilot, I barely benefit from the work, no matter how skilled the therapist is technically.

The confluence of skilled technique and artful dance in massage therapy is a sublime experience that becomes more than a sum of its parts.

Art is slippery, there is no language that adequately describes its impact, but I believe in my heart of hearts that we can't live fully without it. May you take in something beautiful today, through your eyes, ears, nose or skin, please. And may you express yourself creatively in some way or another. May it be so!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Stand up straight

Remember your mother or grade school teacher or coach or other adult authority figure telling you to stop slouching and stand up straight? It's really good advice!

I'm not talking about being stiff as a board, or unnaturally stretched out. If you don't know what I mean, please stand up, lift your chin so that it's parallel with the floor, let your head rest comfortably on your spine which might mean you need to pull your head backwards a little bit. Move your head around until it feels comfortable. Let your spine nestle comfortably into your hips. Again you might have to move a little bit to find that position. Sway back and forth, do a couple of spirals with your hips, then let them come to rest comfortably. Let your feet relax and make solid contact with the floor. You can't do this while wearing heels, so kick off your shoes, please.

Imagine a filament extending upwards from the crown of your head. Imagine that this thread very gently lifts your head, while gravity holds you securely to the earth. Now put your shoulders back a bit and engage your stomach muscles. You don't have to suck in your stomach, just engage the muscles so you can feel your core. Take a deep breath and smile.

You're doing your body a big favor. Only when standing fully extended can your internal organs function well. They need the space. When you stand up straight, the discs between your vertebrae get a little more room, too. 

You don't have to stand up straight all the time. Go ahead and slouch sometimes, but make a comfortable, upright posture your body's default. It takes some practice but is well worth it. You will walk more comfortably, think more clearly, digest your food more efficiently. We are built to stand up straight.

You will also make a much better impression on others when you're upright. When you see a person slumped forwards, shoulders curled inwards, chin on chest - collapsed, in other words - what is your first impression? Yeah.

I tell my clients to stand up straight before walking into the conference room for a meeting, or when arriving for a job interview or performance review. Relaxed, fully extended posture commands respect. It's instinctual. It also helps with self confidence. I had a therapist who insisted I should not worry in the middle of the night while lying in bed. She said a "passive posture" only increases worry. She told me if I wanted to worry, I should get out of bed and stand up straight. You would be surprised how hard it is to indulge in worry when fully upright.

Fully extended, upright posture is one of the basic pieces of self-care and self-respect. Our species evolved over hundreds of thousands of years so we could stand up straight. I hope you will stretch up to your full height today and every day. Shalom.

Monday, May 7, 2012

PR Spokesperson for Old Age

One of the reasons old age is reviled in our society is that people believe old age is going to be, should be, just like the rest of adulthood. But it isn't supposed to be the same at all! Why would we believe that?

Through the decade of the 20s, we homo sapiens establish ourselves as adults, begin the process of putting roots down, completing our educations, building our fiefdoms, finding mates and getting a grip on the world of adult responsibility.

In our 30s we expand our fiefdoms, climb the ladders of success, spiral outwards in all directions until our lives are so busy, so full, active and demanding, we're ready to blow a fuse.

Then come the 40s. Middle age. Yeah. Many people continue the work of the 30s, expanding outwards, but the major task of that decade is building character. In order to get old, you MUST have character, hence the 40s are challenging. They're great years in which, simply by accruing the mileage, those paying attention are at last mature enough to face the truth, that life is passing by.

In their 40s, people look at their lives in shock. Wait! What about the plan to live half the year in Paris by age 40? What about the career as a brain surgeon or opera singer? During the 40s, the lovely fantasies of youth shrivel up and drop away. The mid-life crisis is borne of this visceral experience of mortality. We can dye our hair, buy a sports car, have an affair - none of any of that has the slightest impact on the inexorable passage of time. In the 40s, people begin to gather wisdom. You have to or you won't make it to old age!

The 50s are great. All those musings about the life not lived are no longer that interesting. People in their 50s often find themselves able to accept their lives and understand completely that things could be worse, or better, but are probably pretty fine just as they are. I have loved my 50s.

I know plenty of Washingtonians in their 50s who are struggling with the idea of slowing down a little bit, taking things down a notch. They're still flogging themselves at work, exercising harder than ever before, trying to Make. Time. Stop. I wish them well, but please! It's exhausting to work so hard once we've reached the 50 year mark. It's natural to slow down. Those who learn to kick back little by little will be far better prepared for retirement than those who must go full tilt into everything at all times. No wonder they think aging is so awful!

Can we dance gracefully with the passage of time? Why not? Why should early old age be exactly like early middle age?

I look forward to my 60s but have no idea what's ahead since what I read and see advertised makes it seem like I'm doomed to slather on the "anti-aging" creams, swallow anti-aging potions, dig in my heels and fight the clock for the rest of my lifetime. Ah. Just as with the mid-life crisis, I doubt seriously that any of these strategies do anything but make people feel worse. I suppose it's possible I will someday think longingly about plastic surgery, but I kind of doubt it. Yes - watching the body age is unnerving at times. Living inside an aging body is equally unnerving at times. At other times it's a blessing. I do NOT miss hormones!

The aging mind is excellent!

Here's the thing: every age has its pluses and minuses. That includes old age. My intention is to get into it as much as possible, savor the salty concentration of my youthful juiciness. I plan to laugh more with each passing year, to let go. In very old age I see myself cooking, reading, listening to a lot of music and smoking as much dope as I damn well please. Marijuana will be legal by then, I'm sure of it.

Old age is going to be fine! What's the big deal? You tell me. Shalom.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The power of dreams

I was sitting with a man made of glass. He was a very sad man.

I wish I could remember more of the dream - these were the words I jotted down quickly in the middle of the night on the pad of paper I keep next to the bed.

Do you remember your dreams? Do you think about them, wonder what they're doing for you? Are they a form of mental digestion, do they help release emotions you try to rein in during the day? Are they messages from your soul or higher self, encouraging you to seek health and wholeness, showing you how? Or perhaps they are separate realities. I've always loved the idea of dreamtime, that while we sleep, we travel to another universe.

Who knows what they are or what they mean? I expect there's a little of all of the above in most people's dreams. One thing sleep researchers know for certain is that if we don't dream, we become psychotic. We have to dream in order to be healthy. That fact intrigues me. If my dreams keep me out of the loony bin, I want to remember the content and at least try to glean some wisdom from the vast recesses of my unconscious mind. Oh yeah.

For those who are interested in beginning to explore the layers of possible meaning in dreams, I highly recommend Anne Hill's fantastic little book, What to Do When Dreams Go Bad. I'm sure if you get the book there will be a link to her website. She has helped me out with a couple of serious dreams, consulting with me by phone. Thank you Anne!

Try to avoid reading books that spell out exactly what every dream symbol means. Dreams are highly personal. Sometimes in a dream, a cigar is just a cigar. Instead of looking it up, check in with yourself. How did you feel in the dream? Ask yourself how you would describe the cigar to an alien from another planet, someone who would have no clue what a cigar is or what it might signify. It's an interesting technique. I also like inserting "part of myself" after every noun, "ego part of myself" after "me" or "I."

The ego part of myself picked up the matchbox part of myself and lit the cigar part of myself.


There are many ways of working with dreams. They are worthy of notice and respect. And they can be great guides, clueing us in about topics and issues that the conscious mind part of myself has decided are not worthy of notice. Dreams are powerful, and they are free! Check them out.

Sleep well tonight, and sweet dreams. Shalom.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sit down with your sorrows

Grief is a difficult, sloppy, miserable experience that is wretchedly uncomfortable. Whether it's one of life's whopping griefs, such as follows the death of someone you loved dearly, or one of the lesser griefs, i.e. sorrows that follow disappointments, missed opportunities, fallings out, or everything inbetween - the sadness left in the wake of broken relationships, homesickness after a move to a new city, the tumultuous emotions that follow the experience of illness or injury - no matter what level or quality your griefs possess, they all suck!!

Might as well tell the truth about it, hey?

But the thing is, if you stuff your grief, try to ignore it or "get over it," at some point you're likely to regret it. Stuffed, unprocessed, unexamined grief does you no good physically, emotionally or spiritually. The only thing that benefits from stuffing grief is the mind. It is very selfish of the ego to decide every other part of ourselves must suffer so it can be comfortable with its story of the world. I get what the Buddhists mean when they say ego is a problem. It really is!

It's extremely rigorous work, sitting down with your sorrows small and large. It can be formidable. For some people, the process might feel literally dangerous. I remember that feeling, but I was in therapy at the time. Every week I had 50 minutes in which I could unload the great rivers, bays and oceans of grief I was dragging around. My recommendation for those who want to try would be to establish a solid rapport with a therapist, massage therapist, or acupuncturist. Get into a routine of self care that can support the frightening moments that always accompany self awareness.

I'm not against medical intervention for those so weighed down by grief they can't even manage to brush their teeth in the morning. But it should be a temporary situation. The meds should be prescribed in order to break a pattern. Once the chemical pattern is broken, self care and introspection, supervised by a health care professional, should be ongoing. Only with aggressive self care can an actively grieving person keep from becoming dependent on those wondrous drugs.

Of course there are those so deeply dysfunctional they have to take the drugs. I'm not talking about that end of the spectrum. I mean all of us more or less normal folks who have our ups and downs. One thing we regular people don't do much in my society is sit down honestly with our sorrows. And we are so much the worse for it.

Be kind to yourselves today, please? Shalom.