Making a Difference

I’m being nudged to share a newsletter that I recently received from Oren Jay Sofer, subject line: Can any of us make a difference? (Spoiler alert: we CAN!)

It’s a sweet and refreshing message, followed by an announcement of an upcoming communication course. While I haven’t taken “Say What You Mean”, I recently completed a different program of his which was incredibly helpful.

Without further adieu, I’ve copied and pasted his email below.

I’ve had a few conversations with close friends lately about the state of our world. 

While life offers so much to be joyful and appreciative for, and while humankind has made genuine progress worthy of celebration, the affects of the pandemic, the climate crisis, and income inequality are heavy. 

It’s hard to know what to do and easy to feel overwhelmed. 

Sometimes, when I feel stuck by the complex, daunting nature of the problems we face collectively, I remember a story I heard once as a kid. 

One day, after a big storm, a child was walking along the beach. The shoreline was scattered with starfish—thousands strewn up and down the beach, as far as the eye could see. 

Soon, the child came upon a neighbor, patiently picking up the starfish one at a time and tossing them back into the ocean. She watched, puzzled, and then asked: “Hey, what are you doing?” 

 “They’ll die out here. I’m helping to save them.” 

“But—there are so many,” she stammered. “How will you ever make a difference?”

The neighbor paused. She bent down, picked up a single starfish, looked at it, and gently tossed it back to the ocean. “There. To that one starfish, I just made all the difference in the world.” 

The child’s eyes lit up. She picked up a starfish, and threw it to the sea.

None of us have the power to change the course of history. No one can control the future. But we can make a difference in one another’s lives. Every generous act, every kind word, every patient breath makes a difference. 

One area we can all change in life is how we communicate. 

Think of the times when someone has really listened, offered a few words of appreciation, encouragement or reassurance. This can make the difference between sinking into despair and finding the strength to go on. 

Even when there are difficult things to say, we can find a way to speak with courage and love. 

Each year at this time I offer a special, live, 12-week online course, Say What You Mean. We go through my book chapter by chapter, learning how to make a difference in our world – one starfish at a time.

I invite you to join me. Every class includes time for questions and coaching. There are CEs for therapists and other mental health professionals, nurses, teachers, and many others. We’ve even set up discounts for those who register with a friend or small group, and scholarships for anyone who needs one.

If you want to learn and practice together, I’d love to see you there. You can learn more and sign up on my website here

Hope you can join me, 

Oren

Repeat Numbers, Signs and Manifestation

This super-helpful article came across my radar today. I’ve heard from a lot of clients lately who are seeking guidance via a sign from the Universe. Repeated numbers can be a potent message from a higher power, and these are some great tips for how to interpret the message. I especially love the accompanying affirmations!

Laura Bruno's Blog

So many clients book sessions after seeing number sequences, signs and other synchronicities. They want to know if they’re “crazy” for believing in things not yet seen based on repeat numbers, dreams or coincidences. I usually say something like, “No, you’re not crazy, but interpretation is key. Let’s explore.” I include here the most frequent number “meanings” I encounter, based on 17 years as a medical intuitive and synchronicity guide. Individual results can vary, as the whole picture remains important, but this list will give you a good start:

Repeating 1’s tell you to watch your thoughts because you’re in a manifestation gateway. If you like your thoughts, great! If the 111’s occur with negative thoughts, explore your fears to see if making adjustments now will troubleshoot and strengthen the overall feeling of your intention. If you seek liberation, joy, or success, lean into those feelings as primary rather than…

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Communicating with Both Kindness and Honesty

This is a hot topic amongst my friends, colleagues, students and clients.

How do we share our truth from the heart?

How do we interact as loving beings without being taken advantage of?

How do we ask for what we need and express our desires, fears and disappointments without clinging, blaming, or falling into codependency?

This is something we work on frequently in Reiki sessions. I like to link the heart and throat chakras while setting an intention for honest and kind communication. Most of us learned to do one or the other. Some are comfortable telling the truth, but might be insensitive in the process. Others are consistently kind, but rarely speak up when feelings are hurt.

Learning to stand our ground and remain considerate and compassionate is a skill that can be developed. This weekend I listened to an excellent podcast about this very thing. Rick Hanson’s Being Well Podcast: Friendly and Fearless in Relationships. I found it to be incredibly helpful.

Rick is a neuropsychologist and a Buddhist. His work is a fascinating intersection of eastern spiritual practices and the modern science of how the brain works and what we can do to maximize our potential. I’m just finishing up his year-long Growing the Good online meditation course and learning so much!

In this podcast, he and his son interview Dr. Daniel Ellenberg. “Daniel has been a practicing marriage and family therapist for over 30 years, and is the co-founder of Relationships That Work, and the founder and director of Strength With Heart men’s groups. He’s led workshops at the Esalen Institute, Spirit Rock, the Association of Humanistic Psychology, Stanford University, and, of all places, NASA, and is the co-author of Lovers for Life: Creating Lasting Passion, Trust, and True Partnership.”

(I couldn’t resist ordering this book despite the fact that I have about 30 other books waiting to be read. Perhaps it’s time to Reiki my book collecting addiction?)

If you prefer a more passive and receptive route, contact me to schedule a Reiki treatment, either in-person or long-distance, and we can use an energetic approach to upgrading your communication skills. If you’re more of a-roll-up-your-sleeves type, find yourself a Reiki class and soon you can be treating yourself on a daily basis. Or if you’d simply like some practical tips, do check out the podcast.

The problem I have with massage…

“The problem I have with massage…” is not exactly the phrase I wanted to hear from a new client! (Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?!) “…is that I’m unable to verbalize when the pressure is too deep.”

“Aaaah… I can total relate! I’ve experienced this frequently myself.” (I sigh with both relief and empathy!) She went on to explain that even when the therapist invites her to speak up, she just can’t do it and ends up feeling sore for days afterward.

Many of us were not raised in an environment that supported us voicing our needs and desires. Sometimes it wasn’t safe to do so. Programming begins at a very young age, and when we receive the message that our preferences don’t matter, we might adapt by shutting down to protect ourselves. Children might learn to keep their requests quiet out of fear of upsetting the adult in charge, and choose instead a strategy of remaining silent in order to be accepted. Heartbreakingly, we might internalize the message that we don’t deserve to be comfortable or nurtured or that nobody cares what we need.

This cycle can be broken if we intervene, but many of our childhood coping mechanisms run on auto-pilot until challenged. Massage is already a tricky situation because the receiver is in a vulnerable position, both physically and emotionally. Once the relaxation response kicks in, our rational thought and speech centers are subdued. It’s easy to feel that the therapist is the authority who holds all the power, and to slip into the erroneous belief that they know what is best. We’re certainly trained to think this way by the western medicine model.

You are the authority on your body! Please remember this!

I commended this woman for her awareness and for having the courage not only to show up, but to share this with me. Given that I use a gentle pressure and am able to tune in to the nervous system’s response, I felt confident that we could successfully work together. We negotiated a new strategy in which I would ask if she’d like less pressure because she said it felt easy for her to answer “yes” if that were the case.

For the same reason, I ask if a client is feeling chilly rather than if they’re warm enough. I’ve witnessed again and again that someone will say they’re fine only to discover goose bumps moments later. Sometimes the reply is that they don’t want me to go to any trouble or to interrupt the flow. Please believe me when I say that any qualified, caring massage therapist does not want you shivering or flinching on the table!

We can all learn to be more sensitive to one anther’s needs and recognize the difficulty that many people have asking for what they want. Posing a question so that they may respond with “yes” will be helpful for those with a people pleaser coping mechanism. (There’s a lot of us out there!) I find that slowing down, listening deeply without intent to formulate a reply, and tuning in to body language is beneficial.

We can also learn to express our concerns upfront and ask for help when we have difficulty. This can be a stretch from our comfort zone for sure, but if you believe your massage therapist will not respond supportively, it’s probably a hint to find one that will. Speaking to the therapist before booking a session can shed some light on their listening skills and activating intuition can serve as a filtering process.

Massage shouldn’t hurt! (Not unless you want it to, and even then it’s debatable. That’s a discussion for another day.) I’m here to advocate for everyone everywhere to speak up for themselves and ask for what they need. If you find words are elusive in a session, try a simple “Ouch!” And if that is not respected, “STOP”. There is absolutely no need to suffer in silence on the table. Life is painful enough as it is, there’s no reason to endure more at the hands (or elbows) of a hired professional.

Living Pain Free Summit

I’ve spent the past 34 years exploring strategies to avoid pain. Over time I’ve come to recognize that the debilitating back pain I experienced for the first time in eighth grade was a blessing as it led me down the path of holistic wellness, alternative and complementary medicine, and body-mind-spirit healing. I’ve learned how to prevent discomfort in my own body and have spent 15 years helping my clients do the same. All without relying on numbing symptoms with pharmaceuticals.

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Last month I took a workshop, Positional Release for Chronic Pain, with Lee Albert. His teachings are very much aligned with my own beliefs and experiences. In fact, he didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know; rather he validated many vague concepts that had yet to been given shape and structure in my mind. I’m thrilled to have some new tools both for myself and for my clients.

Today I received an email that Lee is going to be participating in a NO cost online series of 20 experts in the field of holistic healing. “Isn’t it time to find out what options are available so you can get your quality of life back and start living the life you deserve?” is the invitation from his newsletter. If you want to experience something different than what you currently are experiencing, it’s necessary to DO something different. Perhaps one of these speakers will have the key that fits your lock.

The summit begins May 14. You can register here. Pain is a message that something is out of balance. Learning to decode the message and correct the imbalance is very often possible with the help of alternative, holistic therapies. I’ve found tremendous relief through yoga, meditation, prayer, contemplation, nutrition, plant medicine, Swedish massage, and Reiki. When I stick to my regime, the chronic back pain that plagued me throughout my youth is but a memory. If there’s a chance that yours could be too, wouldn’t you want to find out?

It Starts with the Spirit

As I continue to immerse myself in the realm of healing, I am noticing more and more how it all starts with the spirit. As my own personal practice deepens I am uncovering spiritual wounds, some of which are decades, even lifetimes, old. As I work on these issues, repairing the damage from the countless times I abandoned or betrayed myself to please another or gave up on my dreams because they seemed too improbable or difficult, I notice the subsequent emotional and mental distress that developed. As this pain lingered in my psyche, sometimes it settled into my body in the corresponding chakra or organ and caused physical ailments or discomfort.

For example, lately I have been feeling tightness in my neck. When I turn my head there is a crunchy sound and some limitation in the range of motion. Attempts to remedy this from the outside have achieved only temporary results. That’s because it’s a symptom of a deeper issue. Stretching or massaging the muscles feels great and of course is beneficial to the body. However, as I sit with the pain and open to the meaning it carries, I realize it is actually the result of a lifetime of being afraid to express my true self blocking energy flow in my throat chakra. This fear is perhaps justified due to previous experiences, but now it is not serving my highest good and it’s time to let it go. No amount of bodywork will cure pain that stems from spiritual misalignment. Reiki, on the other hand, uses divinely guided life force energy to heal the original wound, and reminds me of my true nature, which is fearless.

As I concentrate on this concept during my daily self-treatment and Reiki meditation, I can slowly feel the tension melting away as my muscles no longer feel the need to protect me from condemnation or restrain me from speaking my truth. I feel chronic low-level stress and anxiety that I’ve come to accept as normal begin to fade as I remember that it is safe for me to speak my truth. I am growing to realize that many people will not care to hear what I have to say, and that’s just fine. I’m not saying it for them, although if they are ready, my words might benefit their well-being. I am speaking the words I do for me, because it is my path to share the wisdom I receive from Spirit, whether it is received or not. Interestingly enough, as I freely communicate from the heart, I am discovering the path to recovery from all that ails me. Truth is medicine and as I tend to my spirit, all else is healed.

 

Speak UP!!

I can’t express strongly enough how important it is for clients to speak up during a bodywork session if they are uncomfortable for any reason or think their needs are not being met. If you are receiving a treatment, that time is for you, for your healing and benefit, and you are ultimately in control. Clients often tell me that they are nervous about their massage because the last time they were on the table, it hurt, and they were afraid to speak up. I am here to encourage you to never ever, never ever allow someone else, even a trained professional that you have hired, hurt you. And if they try to tell you to breathe through it or that pain is necessary to achieve your results, you have the power to end the session.

Over the past eleven years, I’ve had a handful of complaints from clients. The befuddling thing is, usually they don’t complain to me, but to the front desk. After the session is over. And after it is possible to rectify the situation. Someone complained once that I used too much oil, another that the lights were too bright, and one that there was too much noise in the spa. Once I passed a man I had just massaged in the waiting area, seething because his wife hadn’t come out yet. Her therapist was gifting her with extra time, and he was so angry about waiting that he complained I shorted his time, even though he was happy when we parted. These episodes were all quirky issues that I couldn’t really have done much to fix. The legitimate complaint that surfaces once or twice every year or so is that I didn’t use enough pressure.

I’m pretty tuned in to a client’s nervous system and am reading their muscles’ responses during a massage. Generally, I am using enough pressure to encourage release without triggering a defensive reaction. That means that I never want my client to feel pain while on the table; they might very well feel some discomfort if their goal is therapy for an injury or unsticking a long term stuck-ness; but not actual pain. So naturally the client who believes “if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not working” is not a good match for me. Overall, I’m pretty good at weeding this personality type out, and either educating them to my approach, or admitting that I can’t meet their needs. Sometimes, though, they slip through the cracks, and end up feeling frustrated on my table.

The reason I encourage people to speak up, is not to demand that I do what they want, but to at least make it possible. If someone is wanting more pressure than I am willing to deliver, if they ask, I can explain my reasons. If theydisagree, and the session is just beginning, we can stop, and they can go on their way without paying, and find a more suitable match. A few weeks ago, I was working on a woman who had run a marathon the day before. Essentially, her muscles were traumatized. She asked for more pressure, and I slightly increased to the maximum I felt appropriate, and she commented “yeah, that’s good.” She answered “good” to my check-in during her turn-over, and again at the end. But she told the front desk that she kept waiting for more pressure. If she had repeated her request, or been truthful during the check-ins, I would have explained that I was worried about impeding circulation in muscles that desperately needed fresh oxygen delivered and toxins to be carried away, that her fight or flight response was already right on the edge, and that I was supporting her desired goal of relaxation and circulation by using a medium-firm pressure. If she disagreed with my technique, I would have offered to stop then and there. We were only 15 minutes into a 60 minute session, so I wouldn’t have charged her and she could have booked with a more aggressive therapist.

It is really important that clients learn to stand up for themselves. Don’t be afraid to speak up, especially if the bodywork is hurting and you haven’t requested an intense session. Don’t ever let your therapist bully you, or believe that they know more than you do about your own body. If your temperature or position is uncomfortable, let us know- we can help you! We don’t want you to be shivering or wish your head was half an inch higher. It is our job to make you comfortable. It is your job to tell us if you are not. If you have special needs, it’s best to discuss them ahead of time so the therapist can decline or be prepared as they see fit. If you’re wanting something and you’re not getting it- ASK! Don’t wait until it’s over and too late. You might not receive exactly what you’re wanting, but at least you won’t have to pay for something you don’t.