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.

I’m Too Busy

I am a huge proponent of self-care and actively participating in creating my own well-being. When I share my strategies with others, the most common response I hear is, “I don’t have time to do all that. I’m too busy.” It seems to me that when we are most busy, it is when we most benefit from paying attention to the needs of our bodies, minds, and spirits. Today I need to leave my house by 8:20 to give a massage at 9:00. (Now this is quite unusual. Generally my day starts later.) My last massage of the day begins at 6:30 pm. It will be a rather long day, even with a few substantial breaks throughout. I realized that I absolutely cannot skimp on my routine. And if I can do it all before 8:20 am, so can most  people. At least those without young dependents.

I have already given myself a Reiki treatment, and tuned-up my crystals that are supercharging long-distance Reiki for a few clients. (https://pamelahipp.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/supercharged/). I’ve hydrated myself with warm lemon water, rinsed my sinuses with the neti pot, sat at my altar connecting with the divine and getting clear about my intentions. I briefly practiced pranayama, meditated, bounced on the rebounder, and did a condensed strengthening yoga series. As these words came bubbling up during savasana, I decided to postpone the walk I often take to feel the first rays of sunlight until later this afternoon. Self-care does not need to be rigid. It does need to be a priority, prepared for (I set myself up for success the night before and make sure I have quick and easy meals ready to go.), and practiced daily for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

In general, it seems best to avoid the pitfalls of TV (trust me, I haven’t seen the news in years. You will survive, perhaps even thrive by not subjecting yourself to world tragedies before breakfast) or Facebook. I usually don’t even turn on my computer or look at my phone until my routine is complete. Today I needed to share these words, and have set a timer for 30 minutes to allow time for creative expression without sacrificing anything. My breakfast is leftovers from dinner the other night, waiting to be heated on the stove, and eaten while sitting down, and chewed thoroughly. While the sauce pot is simmering, I will pack my lunch and a snack to keep my body fueled in a healthy way. I can be washed and dressed in about 15 minutes as superficial appearances are not a priority. Yes, I will comb my hair & brush my teeth, but I do not feel the need to poof or smear or primp. I probably will not get to the dishes this morning and that’s ok.

I have honored the body temple with nourishment, hydration, and movement and aligned my spirit with my mental/emotional body, and clearly seen the day I wish to create. And I had fun doing it. And best of all, I did it out of love for myself and the joy of feeling great and being energized all day long, not fear of illness or punishment or judgement.

Supercharged

I’m excited to a have a new tool in my healing toolbox. I’ve learned to charge crystals with Reiki to send energy. After choosing the stones (or more accurately being chosen by the stones) I wish to work with, I cleanse them with Reiki, intention, and rock salt to remove any impurities they may have absorbed in the past. Then it’s quite simple to program them to absorb and transmit healing energy. One of the great things about Reiki is that it is not hampered by the dimensions of time and space. With the use of the long-distance symbol learned by level II Reiki students, healing may be sent anywhere and perhaps more interestingly, anywhen. This can be done without the use of crystals, but I’m noticing more powerful effects with the stones’ assistance.

After practicing on myself and close friends, I’m feeling more and more respect and awe for this amazing technique. A friend I haven’t seen in over six months asked if I could give her a massage for her birthday. It was a rather last-minute request that I was unable to accommodate due to a previous engagement. Wanting to offer her something to contribute to her celebration of birth, I offered to “program” a crystal to send Reiki over the course of her birthday. We chose the time of her birth as a starting point, and I set up the treatment to begin then and continue over the next 24 hours. Alas, I do not have the luxury or stamina to spend all my time in meditation healing my friends. That’s where the crystals come in; once charged with Reiki and intention, they keep the energy flowing continuously.

While I was charging the rose quartz that volunteered for this mission, I was overcome by a sudden and overpowering itching sensation in my left knee. Man, it was crazy intense! I’ve learned to recognize bodily sensations of unknown origin to be clues. This clearly was not my itch, but guidance from a higher power to tune-in to her knees. When I plugged into her energy field, I did notice stagnant energy in her right leg, but nothing in particular with her left knee. I was puzzled, but continued programming the quartz to do its thing.

Now, keep in mind that I haven’t seen this woman in ages and that she mentioned absolutely no specifics about her physical health in our communications. When I asked afterwards if she had any idea why my left knee was outrageously itchy, she replied, “I don’t know. It’s my right knee that hurts.” Aha! There was an actual issue with knee pain. I realized that during the time I was charging the quartz, I imagined her facing me, so my body was mirroring hers. My left knee was facing her right. Of course! It makes perfect sense. What a great learning opportunity! I’ve learned to see the client in my mind’s eye standing in front of me, so that I am looking at their back to avoid any confusion over bilateral body parts. And even more importantly, I’ve been reminded yet again to trust Reiki and my intuition to guide me and the healing to exactly where it needs to go.

She later reported that her knee is much better. Why am I not surprised?!?!

Spiritual Growth

For the past three months, I have been working with a fellow suffering from the darkness of depression. He reported feeling completely apathetic and fatigued all the time. He called me after hearing about Reiki from a colleague and decided that it was worth a try. He was getting desperate as several months on prescription meds had made no improvement in his mood or energy level.  Each session he announces that he is shifting and beginning to feel more like himself. He is showing an interest in moderate exercise, small social gatherings, and hobbies that had been completely absent on the day we met. In fact, when I asked him what activities brought the most joy into his life, he looked at me blankly and was unable to respond.

Last week his intention for the session surprised me. He wanted to focus on spiritual growth. Now, this is by no means an unusual request for a Reiki session. In fact, it’s one that is so aligned with the principles of Reiki, that I believe it is a natural side-effect of all Reiki sessions. My surprise derived from the fact that he had not mentioned any interest in spirituality or expansion of consciousness at all during previous sessions. His intentions had been strictly in the mental/emotional realm. As a practitioner, I am keenly aware of my client’s needs and comfort zone, and am able to meet them where they are. Reiki is amazingly versatile and can be used for physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and/or energetic purposes with ease. He asked for help balancing the psyche, so that is what I focused on while knowing that his spirit was also receiving a dose of healing.

I believe that as his mind grew more clear and his emotions more balanced, he naturally came to realize that the source of his distress was spiritual in nature. I also believe that Reiki helped guide him toward this realization when he was ready to receive it. He is now understanding with more and more clarity that his lifestyle for many years was not aligned with his spirit. He ignored the increasingly demanding messages from his intuition that he was off track, not wishing to be bothered with making changes, until finally his discomfort became so intense that he sought the healing that would help him return to himself. Now that he is aware that an injured spirit is the underlying factor of his depression, he can begin to make small, simple changes to his daily life that will correct his trajectory, putting him back on his own evolutionary path.

I’m truly amazed at how this process unfolded organically, in just the right time and space for him to understand and be willing to accept his mission of re-alignment. The healing energy of Reiki is spiritually guided and therefore allows each of us to receive exactly what we need, exactly when we need it most. And that is the beauty of this work! There is nothing to do except allow it to flow. The Divine takes care of the details. However, it is ultimately up to each of us to follow through with the action we have been guided to take.