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Reflections Massage Therapy

The Beginning March 6, 2015

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:10 pm
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There is something that happens when your system settles into a place that it trusts. A place it doesn’t visit often, but it knows the way you know the creaks in the floor of the hallway upstairs in your childhood house, or who is coming up the stairs by the sound of their footfall. Your body knows this place, relishes this place, seeks this place out despite our greatest efforts to be anywhere but there.

It is a quiet place, this settling. It is nourishing and peaceful. And if you stay there long enough you begin to see that there is something even beneath the quiet. Some steady pulsing, slow and rhythmic, like the heartbeat of an ocean you once knew. The quieter you get, the louder it becomes. Maybe it starts in your solar plexus, beneath the quivering you feel just below your sternum. And slowly it spreads from here, spiraling outward until even the furthest reaches of your pinky toes feel full of this pulsing, feel full of presence.

And this fullness then begins to grow, to push out, to expand the boundaries of your body that you once thought we so solid. But in fact, here you are in this minute, growing, expanding. And in this expansion you feel a strength, a force moving beneath the pulsing, filling up these new boundaries. You push, stretch, breath, fill your lungs and feel that center point of the spiral soften to allow for more depth, more expansion. It is courage, yes, but deeper than that even, it is a trust in the strength that is coursing through every cell in your body. It is a trust in your ability to repair. It is a trust in your ability to inhabit your body. It is a trust in your inherent resiliency.

This, my friend, is a trust in your deepest capacity – for growth, for healing, for movement, for love, for repair, for presence. This is where we all come from.

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Where the Revolution Begins. July 25, 2013

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:02 pm
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Slowly, slowly, since returning home from India, I have stepped into a new role: facilitating and teaching yoga classes with a primary focus on nervous system engagement and regulation – cultivating a practice of meeting yourself exactly where you are. And what has unfolded in these few months since stepping back onto American soil has been profoundly reinforcing of the teachings that India offered to me, in all of her struggle and beauty.

Now teaching, I watch people move in their bodies, watch them feel what feels right, what their version of what I have just demonstrated and I know I am witnessing the experience of exploration. Self-exploration. Learning one’s capacity. And learning what it looks like to stretch that, to move that, to trust in the resilience that is inherent in our beings and to really begin to understand our capacity.

Not a capacity based on conditioning. Not one based on what someone else has told us about ourselves. Not a capacity that we understand based on comparing ourselves to others. No, this, this is deeper. This is quieter. This is subtler. And it’s one that I’ve been exploring in myself and feeling grateful to watch others explore in themselves.

I have spent the better part of the past 4 years taking care of myself – healing from a traumatic relationship, tending to some very old wounds and learning who I am underneath all of these layers of projected identities that I have taken on. And in that care-taking, I have come to be very gentle with myself – most of the time. I have developed the ability to listen to myself on a subtle level and as such, I am finely tuned to imbalances and am quick to try to re-balance.

I believe that when we learn to explore our capacity, to explore it for ourselves, to gain an embodied sense of it, that – that is when it all begins to shift. By our very nature, we humans are incredibly resilient. Organs can be removed, hearts can be stopped, bones can be broken, hearts can be broken – and all of this can heal. We can continue on in the face of all of this, and so much more. The challenge, then, is trusting that. Trusting our resiliency. Trusting in our capacity to move and bend and flex and heal and grow and love. Trusting in our ability to come back over and over, to wake up over and over – no matter how challenging it may feel.

I equate it to lung capacity. Hiking up a mountain, going for a long bike ride, running the trails near my home – all of these force my lungs to expand and contract, most often pushing the expansion beyond what I know to be my limit. And then I rest, my lungs take a break (kind of). Then I’m back at it again, the next day or the next week, and this time I know how far I can go and I get there, I get to that place where a day or week ago I felt resistance and this time I can go a little further.

It’s not about pushing, it’s about staying current. It’s about letting your body be exactly where it is in that moment. Holding it with radical acceptance – feeling and trusting both its capacity and resilience.

And this isn’t just about lung capacity, or bodies in general. This is about who we are as human beings and what we are truly capable of. It’s about trusting that capacity, living our lives from that place of deep knowing. That. That is where the revolution begins.

 

Why I Love My Job April 5, 2012

Filed under: Balance,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:13 pm
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I’m a massage therapist, right? So why don’t I write more about massage and bodies and things that are related to bodywork? Well, I’ll tell you. I do. Want to know what I love about being a bodyworker? Yes, the flexible schedule and short work-days are a plus, as is the fact that I’ve got a skill to trade that 99% of people looooove. But what I really love about the work, what actually motivates me to walk to my office regardless of my energy level or whatever else I’ve got bouncing around in my head, is the chance that I get a few times a day to be a witness to someone else learning themselves. Because underneath it all, that’s what bodywork is. It’s an hour or an hour and a half where our main focus is on our felt sense experience of what it means to be in this body. I am working on your quad and as I’m pressing into the muscles, you feel your edges – that’s your physical boundary. And sometimes, when I’m working and I’ve moved on to somewhere else and it feels like I’m still where I was a moment ago, that tells you something about your energetic boundaries, too. When I get into a good place and you say, “Wow, I didn’t even know that was sore.” Well, guess what? Our bodies get tired of talking if no one’s listening. So when you receive bodywork it’s like learning to listen to yourself. It’s learning what feels good and what doesn’t, for yourself, not what someone is telling you should feel good or not. It’s slowing down enough to listen to your nervous systems, and for you and me to let our nervous systems talk to each other. And sure, a massage feels good, I will be the first to own that, but what if some of what feels good is not just the kneading of muscles but of the time and space to connect back to ourselves. To shed the ego for just an hour and rest into the essence of who we are. What if that is actually what gives us that jello-y feeling at the end of the session.

And I, as a practitioner, am endlessly grateful for the opportunity to be witness to such learning, to such connection. I am grateful to get to hold space for another’s process, knowing that this, this knowing, this is what will help our community and our planet. This shedding of the shell and accessing true nature, that’s where we connect and that’s where change occurs. So, any opportunity I have to be a part of that, to witness that, I’m there. And any opportunity to share what I’ve learned in that process (both my own and others), I’ll share.

So, sure, I don’t talk a lot about massage stuff, but I do. Because it’s all related. Massage to me is about connecting: to ourselves and through that to one another. So when I write about community or I write about balance or I write about boundaries, I’m connecting to that hour where ego gets hung up on the coat rack with your shirt and pants, tucked neatly away with your shoes, and what we’re left with is beautiful connection to self and other. And that is where revolution happens.

 

Theory and Practice. Talking and Walking. March 26, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:23 pm
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Theory and practice. Lately I’ve been finding myself aware of this pairing – not a binary or a dichotomy and certainly not hinting at any sort of mutual exclusivity, but two friends I tend to meet for coffee pretty regularly these days. Theory is better about showing up. Theory is always on time and guaranteed always has plenty to say. Theory is easy and comfortable to be around, even when it’s challenging. Theory and my head are like two peas in a pod. We can talk until the cows come home about what it means to live open-heartedly and what it looks like to step into vulnerability. We’re really good about talking about that…

Practice on the other hand. Practice is that sometimes-flakey friend who is pretty much always late and only really shows up because we’ve had to have a few conversations about its reliability. Practice and I generally get a cup of tea (we gave up coffee 4 months ago) in our to-go cups and go for a walk.

Theory and I talk. Practice and I walk.

And sometimes I don’t want to walk. Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to engage with practice, so I choose sides and hang out with theory and it’s more comfortable.

But lately I’ve been getting…bored with theory. I know, I know! How is that possible?! Theory is entertaining and engaging and exciting and stimulating. All of that is true, certainly. But theory lacks action and as Spring has decided to show up big time here in Boulder, my body is needing action. Shake off the winter, stretch and move and clear the hibernation from my system and get back into the practice of living, of being in this world.

So practice and I are meeting more regularly lately, and theory comes along too, and the three of us are engaging in the process of what it means to unite theory and practice – have practice teach me how to integrate theory – and live from that place. It’s exciting, actually. And challenging. Hanging out with practice sometimes feels like moving my body in a new way. Like I’ve had an injury that I’ve been guarding, but it’s healed now and I am learning this new mobility that is possible.

I was talking to a teacher of mine recently about something I struggle with and she asked me if my belief was really the way things are or if it was my circumstance at one point and is no longer. Of course, being the wise one that she is, she hit the nail on the head and it was another moment of recognizing the places that I still get stuck. Just because something was a certain way does not mean that it is still that way, but sometimes it takes reframing it and actively engaging with now to realize that things have shifted. Over and over.

So, here I go back to Theory and Practice. Theory can help us recognize patterns and learn how to repattern, but it’s practice more often than not that helps us see when we’re actually somewhere new. That what we’ve always held that we’ve known is in fact different. Because by engaging with practice we’re actively participating in the evolution of our lives. Practice is integrating theory into our systems and living from that place.

Need a more concrete example? I went to yoga tonight. I’ve been going to this class now for about 3 months, my first foray into more advanced classes after 3 years of practicing yoga. I’m pretty diligent about it, but every Monday afternoon I get a little trepidatious. It pushes my edges, makes me feel uneasy, mostly because it invites in all of the really loud insecurities that I’m good at quieting when I stay within my comfort zone. But I started going to this class because it was time to move from theory to practice. Intellectually I’ve been exploring what it means to find my edge and to inhabit my body, to know my body and be present with it. But it’s hard to know what it’s capable of if I keep it comfortable, ya know? So in a way, going to this yoga class, with all the attendant uncertainty and self-doubt is my way of engaging with the practice of knowing and exploring my body as well as the Self that inhabits it that gets doubtful and insecure. It gives me a chance to be present with myself and to witness the voices that try to keep me from stepping outside my comfort zone. It’s rewarding like I’d never imagined. In part because I’m learning to integrate the theory of presence and self-awareness.

It’s hard. No two ways about it. Like I said, sometimes I don’t want to go for a walk. Sometimes I just want to cradle a cup of hot tea in my hands and talk. But that’s why practice is a practice, right? It’s not necessarily supposed to be easy and sometimes we’re really not good at it, but we keep at it. We keep at it and through that we learn how to show up for ourselves and we learn to trust that. We learn to see what’s right in front of us, to be with it, and we learn that there’s room for all of this – the talking and the walking.

 

Taking it to the next level* February 6, 2012

Filed under: Balance,CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:03 pm
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*The title of this also happens to be my self-designated theme for 2012

I’m learning to stay put these days. You could call it a practice. A practice of allowing a subtle and slow network of tendrils to root down into this soil that my feet have trodden these 6 years. A practice of allowing the familiar to be home. A practice of unpacking with no intention of repacking at some arbitrarily designated time in the future.

It might seem strange that I have to practice staying in one place, but let me tell you, even though my address has been within the confines of this one state for the past 6 years, my eyes and heart have been elsewhere. And within me there has been a part that never really unpacked, never really settled in, never really let this feel like home. I’ve always thought that I’m supposed to wander. I’m supposed to explore and discover and create and re-create home over and over again until I decide to stop. Boulder was the first stop on what was going to be a multi-year journey exploring what it means to create a home. Ironic, really, that I thought bouncing from place to place would be how I learned about creating home. But it also meant a safety in always being able to leave – never being tied too strongly to a place that I could just up and leave whenever I wanted. Self-preservation at its finest.

But instead, for various reasons, I came to Boulder and stayed. I stayed for a relationship. And then I stayed to finish massage school. And then I stayed to give myself a little time to figure out what to do next, where to go. And then I stayed to study CranioSacral. And that is coming to an end shortly. This spring I will be free from my tie to Boulder, free to head on to the next destination, free to go out in search of home. Free to find…what I have here.

But time is starting to do funny things as I inch into my next decade. Suddenly the feeling of having known a person or a place for multiple years feels…rich. I have friends getting married soon and I have been witness to their relationships from the beginning. And the idea of getting to watching those relationships make the transition into marriage and then possibly the creation of families, I want to see that. I want to get to be a witness to the unfolding lives of those I love. And by not saying, “Where to next?” I am allowing that time to play out as it will.

In that expanse of time, there is space for depth. There is room for me to allow these relationships that I’ve cultivated, be they clients or friends, to go deeper. Because there’s time, there’s time to allow for the organic process of depth, there’s time to get to know people on a new level. To encounter a depth that comes, not from a shared intense experience, but rather from sharing in the small victories and little deaths that we encounter on a daily basis.

So, I am here now, I have unpacked my bags and let myself be held by a space that is familiar yet constantly changing.

For so long (perhaps since I moved here) I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Boulder. I wanted Boulder to be something else. I wanted it to be somewhere else. But, ultimately, what it really came down to was that I wanted me to be something else. So perhaps this finding home in a place that I’ve actually called home for years now, really speaks more to finding home in my own skin. It is less about what an external place is, or could be, and more about where I am internally.

It means letting myself rest into the familiarity of my external environment while also trusting my own evolutionary process. For years, the most transformational times that I had were when I was traveling, moving, pushing myself to the edge of my comfort zone, and then jumping out of it.  And so I was convinced that to keep growing, I had to keep going.

I talk a lot about processes. Processes and practices and how there’s really no end point to anything (expecting of course for the ultimate end point) when it comes to our personal evolution and consciousness. I asked a Cranio mentor recently if you can ever not go deeper. She just looked at me and smiled and asked what I thought. Of course not. There’s always a new layer to uncover, explore, rest into.

So, these days, I’m learning how to go down instead of forward, in instead of out. It’s hard. It’s harder than packing a bag and leaving; harder in some ways than being in a foreign country and not speaking the language. It’s harder because there’s nowhere to run when it’s hard, no next town to explore and get lost in, and no train to physically move me into a new place. There’s no avoiding the monsters that take this opportunity of stillness to make an appearance. It’s hard because the foreign country is my own self and I am exploring this territory in a way that I never have before. But, I’m exploring it in this way, in part, because the space that I am in these days in familiar. I am not learning a new grocery store, or the fastest back-roads route across town. I’ve done that. I’ve spent 6 years doing that. I have built the foundation in a lot of ways that allows me to deepen in to this place and explore its depths, and my own in the process.

So often we come to a point, a divide, and we can either chose to move forward or deepen in. I ask you to think, which do you most often choose? Do you go to the depths when there is a pause in movement? Or do you say, “Ok, what’s next?” I think that both modes hold a purpose and there’s a need for both, certainly. But, if you’re like me and your tendency is to say, “Ok, here I am at a resting point. What comes next? Where am I going now?” I invite you to deepen into that pause. And you just might find that even in depths there is movement. In stillness there is change and potency. Staying put and going in doesn’t mean inviting stagnancy. In fact, quite the opposite. By staying put just a little bit longer an entirely new world may unfold before you. And if not, you can always pack your bag and go looking for one elsewhere.

 

Exploring rigidity January 28, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:39 am
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“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” – James Baldwin

This quote has resurfaced in my life after almost a year and it just so happens to jive beautifully with where my mind has been these days. So, I thought I’d bring it in again, revisiting the notion of nothing ever being fixed. That’s what happens when nothing is ever fixed, we get to revisit old places and see what’s changed.

Last week my yoga teacher asked, over and over, “Where is your rigidity?” The third time I was in a standing forward fold in a completely different position than I’d ever been in when approaching that pose, and initially, after cursing the universe, I responded in my head “It’s in my @#$#!% hamstrings!” But, instead of shouting that into her encouraging face, I breathed and sunk deeper into the pose and it was then that I understood what she meant.

Where is your rigidity? In that moment, my rigidity was around doing a pose in a different way. It was in the fact that I wanted to move in a different way than she was telling me, solely because that’s the way I’ve always done it. I was out of the groove that I’d so diligently created by executing the same motion over and over again. My rigidity was in the fact that I was so focused on the discomfort of trying this pose in a new way that I failed to recognize the depth and openness I was finding in places in myself that that pose usually never accessed.

Sometimes rigidity can show up in the form of pathologizing. The most clear definition of pathologizing is to “Regard or treat (someone or something) as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy.” And we do this all the time in our bodies and minds. We fixate on pain or patterns, feeling that it’s wrong that they exist. And we fixate on changing them, making them be something else, making them go away. And often in the process of them, we make ourselves wrong, for having or experiences that which we’re pathologizing. But here’s the thing. Those patterns are there for a reason, they are your system’s way of managing its experience, and they are, in essence, a brilliant mechanism – a learned behavior or pattern. And we may not like them, or want them there, but they served a purpose at one time. Maybe they no longer serve us and then we enter into the work of letting go. But that’s awfully challenging when we’re so fixated on changing them. That seems contradictory, I know. But, let me explain. When we fixate on something, we hold it in place. We focus our attention on it, we get myopic, and we take away any space that thing might need to shift into something else. Because here’s the thing, and I know it’s not the first time I’ve said this here, everything’s always changing, all the time. Even that which we’re pathologizing. And by fixating on it, we don’t let it change.

So, my curiosity these days is around the small ways that we can make space for those things we once pathologized. Give them a little bit of room in some way to do things differently, and see what happens. Be encouraging of their shift, instead of judgmental of the reasons they’re there

Listen, as a control freak I am well aware that this is a daunting task. The idea of stepping back and letting something unfold as it will, as it needs to, with no say on my part, it’s frankly a bit difficult for me to grasp sometimes. Particularly as a massage therapist, I’m trained to think that I need to do something to a muscle or a joint to effect some change. But CranioSacral is teaching me that in fact sometimes the most powerful doing comes in simply listening, supporting and trusting that the body knows exactly what it needs to do to move out of a pattern. My most powerful doing is in being present with the entire process. And I have to tell you, that is no easy task.

So, I return again to this question of rigidity. Is my rigidity in thinking that I need to do something, always? Is it in not feeling safe enough to relinquish my illusion of control? Is my rigidity fundamentally in not trusting the very system that I am in contact with – be it my own or someone else’s?

A very dear friend of mine once said to me, “Don’t pathologize your neuroses.” Let me tell you that in and of itself is a practice. But here’s the thing. All of those things that we pathologize, all of those things that we make wrong, we learned them – either consciously or unconsciously. And as such, we can learn something else, some other way of being, of coping, of managing, of surviving, of existing and expressing. It is absolutely possible. After all, you did it once before.

 

both/and – on embodying dualities January 12, 2012

Filed under: CranioSacral,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 11:14 pm
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It’s been just over a month now since my last CranioSacral training and it almost feels that it’s taken that long to digest and integrate the profound work that was undertaken at the beginning of December.

Part of why Cranio gets me all jazzed up is because it’s full of all kinds of interesting information (at least I, an anatomy nerd, find it interesting) about the human body. And I like to relay that information sometimes, so I’ll pass this one along to you, dear reader. Your mandible (the jaw bone) fits into your pelvic bone. That’s right. I said it. Everyone’s is unique to themselves, but each person’s mandible fits snug into their pelvic bowl. What?!?! Yup.

Now this happens to me a lot in Cranio training, I learn something about the body and then can’t get it out of my head. And this time, I am so fascinated by that design that I can’t help but ponder what the intention is and what the ramifications are that a place that is the facilitator of self-expression directly correlates to the core of our core, the basin in which all of our undigested experiences are held. To quote Stone: “In the pelvic basin at the bottom is the sum total force accumulation of sensory tension and emotional frustration.” I’ll give you a moment with that thought, but I will also say, this is no coincidence in my book and here’s where I go with it.

We hold an enormous amount in our pelvis, that’s not news to anyone who has attempted to do a yoga pose or hula-hoop. Our hips go on lock down, perhaps as an attempt to keep us upright, keep us stable, keep us moving through the world at break-neck speed, in essence keep us able to keep doing what we’re doing – regardless of whether or not it is actually serving us. And like-wise, what do you do when there is something that you need to say and you can’t say it for whatever reason? Clench down your jaw, grit your teeth, bite your tongue. Again, allowing the status quo to maintain, for better or worse. All of which result in capping off the top end of a chain that stems from holding deep in the core. Even if you haven’t actually been present at the birth of a child, I’m sure you’ve got some grasp of the birthing process and the screaming that often takes place. Think of that. The woman is trying to release something from her pelvis and her jaw loosens to allow her mouth to open and whatever agony she may be feeling in the moment to escape by means of a tribal scream. Release.

Do our jaws correlate with our pelvi (I’m not actually sure that’s the correct pluralization but I’m going to roll with it) to give us a means of releasing the experiences that we hold in them? Perhaps. It’s certainly something to think about.  Perhaps it is once again the brilliance in our design shining through that we have a built-in release valve. And a way to access trauma indirectly. Since the jaw reflexes to the pelvis, one might hold tension in the jaw that is a referral from the pelvis, but that also means that by working the jaw one could access a part of the whole that may be too activated to receive direct work. How brilliant is that?!

But I think there’s something deeper to it. I think there’s something in this design that speaks to embodying dualities. How, you may be asking, can I make that jump? But, hear me out. The north pole and the south both, up/down, top/bottom – we of course contain dualities (as a side note, I’m choosing not to delve into the possibilities of multiplicities rather than dualities – that’s a whole different entry), but this correlation of mandible and pelvis illustrate not only how those dualities are embodied, but how they relate to one another, how they communicate and connect and share the burden and joy of their roles in our design. And I think this is an important thing to consider when it comes to dualities – the ways in which they support each other. I won’t get into the clichés of light needing darkness in order to help it shine the brighter (see previous post), but I think you get where I’m going with this. So here in the body we have a beautiful example of two areas that are both highly charged and can be enormously sensitive, helping each other out.

I realize that I get really fired up about weird stuff, but I’m going to just throw it out there to you: maybe while you’re out walking or sitting or settled nicely into pigeon pose (or trying to convince your hip flexors to get on board to do a tele turn), invite your awareness into your pelvis, see what’s happening there – no judgment, just witness. And then move up to your jaw and see what you notice – move back and forth between to two with curiosity visualizing the shape of your pelvic bowl and your mandible. I have a feeling that amazing things are possible when that channel is connected. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to both give voice to your pelvis and give deep core support to your voice.

And maybe still there is the possibility of a deeper embodiment of duality and embracing of “both/and” rather than “either/or.” I think there is something intrinsically related to release and ease when we can open to the dualities that are inherent in our systems and recognize that there’s room for all of it. Sometimes creating space for something just means making connections.

 

 

 

 
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