You Can’t Force Connection

One of my dearest friends came to receive a Reiki treatment from me last week. This woman is one of the most empowered, self- motivated, passionate, and compassionate people I have ever met. Being in the same room with her is a cross between grandma’s baked cookies and sunbathing on a tropical beach. It’s just delicious. The fact that she enjoys and appreciates my work is the ultimate compliment.

We talked for quite some time before the hands-on portion of the treatment. I find that active listening and empathic connection beforehand amplifies the energy. She wanted clarity about changes in her life and also support to focus on solutions rather problems. I really enjoy helping people fine-tune their intentions to get the most from a session. Also, it really helps me decide on a loose treatment plan, which generally morphs into something else entirely, but I am always guided on how to begin based on each client’s words.

I was lead to do chakra balancing to enhance the connection between her being and the world at large. It is quite common for me to be guided to do this with my clients. No doubt I am influenced by my own fascination with the chakra system and my reverence for the potency of this work. As I reached the crown chakra, I noticed an intense resistance. I had never felt anything quite like this and it captured my attention immediately. Her other energy centers had responded to the Reiki with opening and acceptance. I was perplexed.

Then I remembered that my friend is agnostic. She is unsure of the presence of a divine being in this world. The crown chakra is the location where our connection to God originates. It makes perfect sense that her crown would react with suspicion (her word, not mine!) I immediately dropped this course of action. Clearly her spirit was not interested in having an open crown chakra and it certainly is not my place to override her wishes. I don’t actually think I could have won this battle if I had tried. Reiki can do no harm and must be willingly accepted. I do suspect that if I had continued, there would have been some dissonance, possibly even some kick-back. Not for her, but for me.

Once again, the wisdom of Reiki has impressed me. It is truly divinely guided life force energy. And it always knows exactly what each person needs.

Bodywork for Headaches & Migraines

I really enjoy working with clients who are plagued with frequent headaches or migraines. I know how debilitating this condition can be, and when someone is nursing an aching head, it seems to dull all aspects of life. It really is a joy to watch a person sink into relaxation as the pain begins to dissipate. Frown lines are erased and an expression of serenity emerges. The vast majority of clients I see while working at a spa are visiting the area, and it is unlikely that I will see them again. I don’t really know, or even expect, that the results they experience are permanent, but offering temporary relief and the hope that change is possible is a gift in and of itself.

Triggers for headaches are numerous. Dehydration is perhaps the #1 culprit, and obviously water is the cure. However, massage can still be of use in these cases by stimulating the release of toxins and relaxing tense muscles that build up due to the pain. Hormonal imbalance is another frequent contributor to headaches. Once again, I believe bodywork can be helpful through detoxification (a healthy liver can better clean the blood of excess hormones) and deep relaxation can counterbalance the excess of adrenaline and cortisol many people experience in their daily lives. Often clients claim stress itself is the source of their headache problems. This is where elevating relaxing massage to the level of health care maintenance can be of true benefit. Staying ahead of the stress is the most effective way I know of to prevent headaches (along with drinking plenty of water and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption).

Migraines seem to be a bit more mysterious than headaches. Science is still trying to understand this incapacitating condition. Many people become aware of hormones or certain foods as triggers, and are able to utilize this knowledge to prevent migraines. Others seem to be at the mercy of unpredictable onset. I still believe that whatever the actual trigger may be, lowering overall stress can help prevent migraines, or at least diminish the frequency, intensity, and duration of them. It seems the body can handle a certain level of stress, and if people are able to keep their stress below the threshold, they have a much better chance of avoiding this painful condition.

I’ve found that about 90% of my clients who complain of frequent headaches or migraines have congestion and tension held in their faces and heads. No big surprise there. I spend a good deal of time exploring the scalp for trigger points and stuck fascia and almost always am rewarded with a deep breath or sigh. Often times I find a hot mess in the small muscles at the base of the skull which, when given the opportunity, unwind themselves spontaneously. Tension around the temples and the jaw is very common, along with extreme tightness in the neck and upper shoulders. It’s not difficult to find the spots that need attention, but the unhurried pace, patience, diligence, and gentleness necessary to achieve release are necessary qualities that are easy to overlook.

My advise to anyone who suffers from frequent headaches or migraines is pretty basic. It involves lifestyle changes that eliminate, or at least manage, the contributing causes. Hydration, posture, exercise, stretching, and finding outlets to release stress and anger are the obvious solutions for many clients. Sometimes a change in diet is helpful when allergies are the trigger. Fresh air and avoiding chemicals which are all too prevalent in household products may also help.

I find it’s much more effective and empowering to teach clients how to prevent pain than causing them to rely on bodywork as the sole remedy. Of course, massage is a tremendous tool that belongs in the overall program. Reiki is super-effective too, especially when there is an emotional, mental, or spiritual contribution. (And there almost always is, but that is another topic altogether…) Pain is an indication that something is out of balance. I encourage people to address the imbalance at its source rather than struggling to alleviate the symptoms.

Can You Fix Me?

The other day I received a phone call from a man I had never met inquiring about the price of a 30 minute deep tissue massage. He had hurt his shoulder playing racquetball and wanted a session where the therapist “goes deep, real deep, even if it hurts.” In short, he wanted to know if I could “fix” him, in 30 minutes or less, and do it first thing in the morning so that it wouldn’t interfere with his plans for the day. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t believe that aggressive bodywork is effective. Once the nervous system perceives the potential for pain, the fight or flight reflex kicks in, and the muscles tense. Tense muscles are counter-productive to massage and essentially eliminate the possibility of any healing benefits.

The short answer, I told him, was: No. I cannot fix you. I explained that I didn’t know enough about his situation or physical condition to promise any specific results. I have repeatedly witnessed the power of bodywork to alleviate pain and support recovery from sports injuries. Softening the tissues allows increased circulation and relaxation, both of which are key to healing. Yet, this process takes time and a gentle approach, especially for deep work. I’ve found that most people are only beginning to relax at the 30 minute mark and that the real benefits of a session happen after that. I don’t offer a 30 minute massage, and certainly not a deep tissue one, because time and time again, I have observed that the body reacts protectively, thereby preventing the desired results.

Since this is obviously not the answer he wanted to hear, he did not book a session with me. I’ve come to realize over the years that I’m not a good match for all clients, especially the type A/ no pain, no gain folks, and it’s better for everyone if we figure this out up front. I have no doubts that he found another therapist to work with, and suspect that if anything, he is in more pain today. What I regret most is that I didn’t have the opportunity to explain that no one can “fix” anyone else. Massage facilitates healing when clients are ready and willing to allow it. Yet it is ultimately up to them to receive the healing benefits and integrate them into their daily lives. Posture, habits, repetitive motion, sports, and the myriad of activities in life that create imbalance or injury easily outweigh the hour spent on the table. I can help people feel better. 98% of my clients  report improvement after a session. Yet once they walk out the door, the “fixing” is up to them.

Shoulder Pain Vanquished

For the past year, I’ve been experiencing chronic achiness and occasional pain underneath my left shoulder blade. I’ve tried a wide variety of treatments such as massage, Reiki, cranio-sacral, acupuncture, and chiropractic adjustments. I’ve practiced yoga nearly daily, and concentrated on releasing mental/emotional issues that no doubt contributed to the problem. Yet the discomfort persisted. As a bodyworker, I’m well versed in muscle anatomy and body mechanics. As a yogini of twenty years, I consider myself to have a fair amount of body awareness. This issue was both frustrating and humbling, as I judged myself for not being able to “fix” it. Also, it was beginning to cost me money in the form of lost revenue when I was too tired or achy to do a massage.

Yesterday I participated in a one hour posture clinic that was taught by a yoga teacher whose knowledge of alignment is spectacular. I was re-introduced to my estranged serratus anterior. This is not a well-known muscle as it is barely accessible from the outside. It is however, an important postural muscle and essentially attaches the scapula to the rib cage. The simple act of bringing my awareness to this neglected area of my body enabled me to create more balance in my torso and allowed my scapula to rest comfortably on my back. I enjoyed a wonderful bike ride home feeling like I fit together correctly once again.

Later in the day I noticed an enhanced ability to transmit healing Reiki energy to a client as I wasn’t distracted by discomfort in my body. My neck and thoracic spine self-adjusted while I was doing some gentle yoga before bed and I slept deeply and woke refreshed. I know that posture is a constant battle of awareness vs. gravity and bad habits, and that I have a lot of work ahead of me. Yet today I am delighted that my pain is diminished by 90% and I have a new tool to help myself. I am overjoyed to have yet another reminder that comfort is the reward of creating balance and that lasting change comes from the inside.

Reiki on the Fly

Earlier today I burned myself. About 40% of the back of hand met the tea kettle that had just come to a boil. And stuck there for a second or two. Now, I’m not ashamed to say that I cursed like a sailor. Horrific expletives flew out of my mouth. Then I remembered who I am. I took a deep breath, ran some cool water over the burn, and activated the healing power of Reiki. Here’s the thing; I had the perfect day off planned and I just didn’t have time for an actual treatment. By some miracle of planets aligning, I had carved out enough time to watch a movie before I rode my bike around the peninsula to watch the sunset. There was no wiggle room in my timeline; the sun would not wait for me. Plus I have two prenatal massages scheduled tomorrow, for which I will be kneading (pun intended!) my knuckles.

So, I activated the symbol that we use to send Reiki through time and space and intended for the healing to continue until it wasn’t needed anymore. Sure, I dabbed on some aloe and lavender oil. I have nothing to prove and use all the tools available to me at any given time. Then I sat down and watched my two hour movie, occasionally remembering to boost the on-going healing. Then I bicycled along the coast, arriving just in time to revel in the sight of the orange sun sinking into the Pacific. As I am preparing to bid the world good night, I will charge up my Reiki crystal to keep the healing energy flowing while I sleep.

I am quite confident that I will have full use of my hand tomorrow. It might be a bit red, maybe a bit sore when touched, but I know from experience that the damage has been minimized. There are so many great things about Reiki, but one that I love the most is that it works anywhere, anytime, always. Sure, the power of ritual may amplify the results, but after years of use and developing an intimate relationship with this energy, all I need to do is intend for it to flow. And without a doubt, flow it will. What a blessing it is to have access to such a beautiful, reliable technique. Now that I’ve had a chance to report on this special benefit of Reiki, I do hope I won’t need to personally experience the emergency uses of it anymore. Seriously. I get it! I know it’s at my disposal and that’s enough for me.

Update: I wrote this last night, and wanted to review it with fresh eyes today for final edits before posting. When I woke up this morning, I had completely forgotten that I had burned my hand until I washed it in hot water. I did feel a slight twinge of discomfort in that moment. However, I am delighted to report that there are no blisters nor any redness and I am able to apply pressure without any pain. Thank you, thank you, thank you Reiki!

Reiki for Caregivers

Some of the most profound changes I see in my Reiki practice come when I work with caregivers. Whether amateur or professional, full or part time, people who take care of others give a lot of themselves, and unfortunately often take on unwanted and unnecessary energy during their acts of service. Parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, bodyworkers, councilors, and ministers are just a few examples of what I am referring to. Often the type of person who is drawn to such fields is sensitive, empathic, generous, and loving. They want to help others, and if they’re not careful, they do so at great personal cost.

I learned very early in my massage career how important clean boundaries are. I had excellent tools to clear my energy field and prevent my clients’ issues from affecting me. Yet there were days when I was tired, overworked, or stressed out that my boundaries were weak and I got “slimed”. I remember one day in particular when all four of my clients had neck pain as their primary complaint, and later that night, so did I! Alas, it’s not always so easy to track stray energy. Sometimes we feel drained, funky, tired, cranky, or just “off” for no obvious reason. Especially when working with clients who are in pain, it is easy to over-give or pick up vibes that don’t belong to us. I think we can all agree that this serves no one. We can never suffer enough to alleviate someone else’s suffering. It just doesn’t work that way.

Reiki is the most powerful technique I have experienced for clearing any unwanted energies from our auras, bodies, hearts, and souls. It re-establishes healthy energy flow within, connects us to natural cosmic vibrations, and releases any excess junk that we may have picked up inadvertently. Reiki helps us return to ourselves and renew our connection to Spirit. What’s even more exciting in my eyes, is that regular Reiki “tune-ups” can keep our energy fields vibrant and shiny and our protective force fields healthy and strong. It’s so much easier, more comfortable, more convenient, more balanced to prevent ourselves from allowing unwanted energy in than to release it once it is already present. There is enough pain, discomfort and disease in the world already; we don’t need to absorb any of it in the process of helping others.

It’s Not What You Think!

Yesterday I worked with five different massage clients. Four of them complained of stiffness, tightness, and/or pain in their right necks and shoulders- the top of the shoulder, around the top inner corner of the scapula, and up the back of the neck. (In case you’re wondering, I do know the technical terms for these body parts, but wish to keep this blog accessible to the average person who might not.) The fifth client just wanted an overall relaxing massage, but I did find tension in that same area on him as well. The four who presented with pain obviously wanted me to focus on the troublesome area, and one of them said she would be delighted if I spent the entire time squeezing her traps because they hurt so much.

This is a common problem in our modern culture. Our bodies were not designed to sit all day at a keyboard, nor to be exposed to constant stress, nor bombarded ceaselessly with visual and auditory stimulation. Shoulders creep up to the ears, chins jut forward, upper backs round. Slouching happens, seemingly naturally, without constant awareness. Chronic postural challenges overburden the antagonist, or opposite, muscles to keep us upright, and the result are painful. Bodywork is an excellent technique for addressing these issues.

Yet… there’s a piece of the puzzle that often gets overlooked. It’s not what you think! Or rather, the problem is often not where we feel the pain. Merely rubbing, squeezing, or pummeling the overstretched and achy muscles does not address the imbalance at its source. Certainly it does provide relief and accelerates the release of toxins and the flow of fresh blood and oxygen, which is important; but targeting the symptom does not allow for any lasting change to occur.

I noticed in all five of my clients yesterday that the muscles on the left side, in the front of their necks were super tight. This is the exact opposite location of the complaint that the right back of the neck hurt. I was personally not surprised to find this. I noticed such patterns in the beginning of my career after doing the first two or three hundred sessions. Yet the clients were incredulous. They had no idea that tightness in their pecs and anterior deltoids and anterior necks were causing the pain. I explained that the body craves structural balance and that overuse in one area creates a reaction in the body that is often felt in the weaker, opposite muscles. (I am reminded of Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” and wish I had a better understanding of science so I could tie it in here. Alas, I don’t, so I will leave that to someone else and stick with the experiential data at my disposal.)

These revelations have led me to believe in the power of a full body massage. It’s all connected! An imbalance in the right ankle can ricochet up the body, lodging eventually in the neck or jaw. Imbalance in one area of the body affects the surrounding areas. Sometimes it is the surrounding areas that complain more loudly and capture our attention. Of course it is important to acknowledge the pain that a client is feeling and to address that area. AND it is equally as important, if not more so, to look at the big picture and question why? Why is the right shoulder tight? Where is the tension originating? How can this structure be supported in returning to neutral? Once we begin to explore these arenas, the benefits resulting from bodywork grow exponentially.

Reiki, Reiki, Reiki, Reiki

This past week has been all about Reiki for me. I’ve spent time each morning charging crystals to send healing energy to friends near and far as well as to support several of my own goals. One of my biggest intentions for this year is promote my Reiki practice. At first I felt silly using Reiki to guide me towards creating a successful, prosperous business, but then I realized that this was exactly the optimal path for me. You see, I just love sharing healing energy with others. I enjoy seeing the relaxed look on people’s faces after a session and listening to the feedback of what has shifted for them since their last treatment. I have a gift for moving energy blockages and for listening to and understanding the deepest needs behind someone’s requests. And I have a genuine desire to uplift the vibration not only of my clients and my immediate surroundings, but of the planet at large.

Using Reiki to attract the perfect clients benefits an ever-expanding circle of recipients. It might begin with me and the person receiving the healing, but I have seen how the effects ripple outward, touching the lives of spouses and co-workers, children, pets, and even strangers. I truly believe it is my life purpose to share these gifts with as many people as possible. If it were also my career, I would have more time and energy to share with people who need my healing touch. My day job interferes with my being the best practitioner I can be.

So I have decided to shift my focus from how I can earn more money to get ahead financially, to how I can best serve the most people. I suspect in the end, my path will lead to both greater service and more abundance. I also truly and deeply believe that there is enough for us all to live comfortable, enjoyable, secure lifestyles while doing what we love. The directions to get there might seem a bit scary. Right now, I’m being called to reduce the number of hours at the spa where I earn the majority of my income. Yet I trust that Reiki will guide me through this transition process.

So now I am a Reiki junkie! I use it when designing promotional materials, writing this blog, editing my website, searching for an office to share, and when praying to attract the clients who need me. I Reiki myself to become more aligned with Spirit and a better channel for the energy. I Reiki my phone, my calendar, my checkbook, my laptop… each and every tool I use to communicate my offerings to the community. Honest to goodness, I Reiki my sheets while folding them and my massage table and essential oils as I prepare for a session. I Reiki the water I serve to clients and the glasses I serve it in. Yesterday a new friend came to my home to receive a massage. She is also a Reiki Master and was excited to learn that I do combo massage/Reiki sessions. Before she even got in the door she said, “I can feel the energy all the way out here.” I made a joke that even my apartment has a big aura. 🙂

So, yes. Reiki, Reiki, Reiki, Reiki. Any challenge or goal or even mundane tasks are improved by the healing that is possible with divine guidance. This morning I awoke to the lovely sound of rain on my roof. We have had an extremely dry “rainy season” this year in California, and I know many healers have been using their skills to draw down moisture from the skies. I know in my heart that my Reiki infused prayers helped. There are no limits to the power of love, especially when boosted with spiritually guided life-force energy. Thank you Reiki!

Less is More

“Less is More.” This is a seemingly- heretical philosophy I learned while studying the gentle, energetic bodywork called Ortho-Bionomy. Over the course of giving more than 6,000 massages in the last ten years, I realize that this quite frequently applies to sessions I have given and received. I could expand this theory into many aspects of my life as well, but that is too big a task for this post. How I can most efficiently interpret the phrase “less is more” as it relates to massage in my humble opinion, is to say that bodies very often are more responsive to a gentle touch than to extreme pressure. When I say very often, I mean in 99% of the time, in my experience. Very often.

Yet, popular culture would have us believe that more is always better, or worse yet, “no pain, no gain”. This is essentially the antithesis of my work. Which is not to say that I never go deep, or that every moment of a therapeutic session is luxuriously pleasant. It’s sometimes uncomfortable to restore deep, postural muscles to their original, lengthened state. However, my approach is a slow, gentle one that works with the client’s ability to let go and breathe deeply. I call it a sneak attack and when performed well, the muscles don’t react because they never even knew I was coming. Once the nervous system perceives pain, or even anticipates pain, the fight or flight reflex kicks in and muscles tense, adrenaline is released, and the mind becomes super- alert. This is the exact opposite of the relaxation response in which stress and tension are released and the muscles soften.

It is a huge goal of mine to re-educate the public about the myth of more pressure being the antidote to soreness or pain. The object of healing or releasing tension is not how much “you can take” but rather how much you can release. Bracing yourself to experience deep work in the name of relief is as effective as drinking a triple shot of espresso and riding a roller coaster to help you sleep. People in our society are already super-stressed. Aggressive bodywork is perceived by the nervous system as more stress and most certainly does not create relaxation. It might create an absence of busy thoughts because the mind is focused on sensations, just as being in an emergency situation would focus the mind. This is not the same as relaxation, letting go, feeling safe, or being at peace; and these are the conditions necessary for healing to take place.

Somewhere humans have gotten off track and started believing that having more stuff is the key to happiness, that doing more is the key to freedom, that punishing our bodies will make us healthy. It is beyond time that we re-evaluate our beliefs according to our current values and the reality that we seem to be less happy, less free, less healthy than ever. I encourage everyone to take time out of their busy schedules to experience true relaxation in the form of a flowing, soothing Swedish massage and to feel the true benefits of escaping the adrenaline loop and enjoying the peacefulness that is our natural state. And begin to think about how doing less, spending less, feeling less pain can actually be more. More healthy. And more you.

Reiki for Goals

Reiki is often described as a hands-on healing technique for stress relief and relaxation. While this is absolutely true, it is not the whole truth. This divinely guided energy removes mental and emotional blockages and reestablishes alignment with our spirit. The Reiki symbols can be used to support us in achieving our goals, provided those goals are aligned with our highest purpose and highest good. If we agree to take action towards these goals by committing to healthy lifestyle changes, the power is amplified even further.

I want to further explain this lofty idea with practical examples that I have witnessed in my own life as well as in my friends’ and clients’ lives. I also want to be clear that while Reiki can be used to support someone release addictive behavior such as alcohol or tobacco, it is not a magical quick-fix. It is one ingredient in a recipe (a powerful and effective ingredient, for sure); not the recipe itself. Energywork can only help people as much as they are willing to help themselves. And it is not a substitute for professional medical care. A compliment, but not a substitute.

After reviewing my session notes from the past two months, I am pleasantly surprised at the full spectrum of challenges that I’ve used Reiki to ease. “Stuckness” is a complaint I often here from my clients. Reiki can help illuminate as well as blast through areas where we are blocked or unclear. In fact, clarity is another hot topic. Often times people know that they have strayed from their paths, but are unsure how to get back. Reiki can help dispel the fog and activate the intuitive center allowing us to receive guidance from a higher source. “Monkey mind” is a Buddhist term for the constant loop of thoughts that play repeatedly in our heads, contributing to anxiety and tension and insomnia. We all have it, although less and less with awareness and mindfulness practice. Reiki can help calm those busy monkeys down.

Weight loss, or more specifically overeating, can be addressed during a series of treatments, as can major trauma (physical, emotional, or spiritual) that has been held in the body over time. I’ve helped a client experience a more harmonious relationship with her ex, mainly through shifting her own expectations and releasing pain points that triggered her for years. I’ve used Reiki to support concrete goals such as relieving knee or shoulder pain as well as more mystical goals like spiritual growth or finding one’s life purpose. In my eyes, any goal that is in alignment with the principals of love, joy, peace, freedom, and equality can benefit from the added boost of healing energy. Finding a new home or vehicle or job, attracting the perfect clients or friends, planning the ideal vacation, conceiving a healthy child, feeling at ease in day to day life, releasing old resentment or guilt, finding a spiritually connected life partner, feeling confident during a presentation or exam, …. I could go on and on! But I think you get the idea. Reiki for goals. It helps.