The Double Doors

(Post #28 in the 31 in 31 blog challenge, read more about it here)

This is the time of year that I put the new class list together for the Wellness Room (our awesome high school program that allows kids to get bodywork, read more about it here, go ahead, I'll wait)

There are about 185 new freshman this year, and as I typed their names into the data base my mind drifted back to my first day in high school. (actually, I was in 7th grade. Our school was 7-12) It was overwhelming, scary, exciting, humbling (like we need more of that when we're 12) and just intense in every way. For many of these kids they are coming from small k-8 schools where they have been top dog for at least a year, and likely felt like the masters of their domain for the the last two or three. That changes for them today, their first day of 9th grade at the high school. They are folded in with four other towns, so most of the kids in their own class they won't know. They are suddenly at the bottom of the heap, being the youngest students in the school. It takes herculean courage just to walk in the door, and some of them will need a few trial runs before they actually get through it, but almost all of them will, and they'll keep coming back. Yes, they have to, and that's why they do, but they are also learning one of the most valuable lessons in life. Fear can be worked with. Fear can be faced, taken in, and overcome. 

That set of double doors on the school won't be the last scary door for them. In fact, it is my hope for them that they will find themselves in front of scary doors their whole life long. That they will take a deep breath, they will will themselves forward when everything in their body is telling them to run, and they will grab that handle and pull. When we step through, we leave fully half the fear on the other side of that door, and the rest is put on notice.

Where's your next set of double doors?


Comfort Zone

(This post is #23 in the 31 in 31 challenge, you can find more information about it here )

Comfort zones. We all have them, and it's a damn good thing too. It's where we rest, it's where we reflect, it's where we rejuvenate. It's the space where we know we are in control and that gives us what we need to let down. We have many of them, for different reasons, but the big this is your life version is the one to watch.

Let's say one of your places to unwind is on the couch (wearing that bathrobe that no one who has not seen you naked will ever see on you that you love) watching old movies. This is your place you can go when you need to unplug. Chances are you don't do this all day long every day, even though it's tempting. You have bills to pay, maybe kids or parents or pets or friends to care for, probably a job to do. If you spent months on end on that couch, sooner or later life comes knocking, not amused that you have been absent. So it's easier to keep the time spent here to what we need and no more.

Harder to see, but more crucial, is the bigger comfort zone. The one that you have become so comfy in that you don't recognize it for what it is. Your cage. The voice that tells you "you can't do that" is such an old friend that it's almost impossible to consider challenging it. The problem is, you actually can live your life in this place. You can arrange everything to fit in there with you. Your job, your hobbies, where you live, what you eat. They can all be part of the big cage that keeps you safe. But once in a while, it's really important to open the door. Stick your nose out, see what happens. Chances are if you take a walk around the outside of your cage you will get a better perspective on what's inside there, and if it's really working for you. A lot of it might be, but isn't it worth knowing for sure? And while you're out there looking around, you might find you feel different. A little more alive, a little more like what you remembered wanting to be like before you built that cage. Amazing things are happening out there. Things that you never thought you could have a part in. The good news is that you can always go back in, but you may find eventually that you no longer want to.

Just Show Up

One of the blogs I read everyday is by Seth Godin. He's the master of the short and sweet blog post that you will inevitably carry around with you all day, chewing on it like a piece of gum that refuses to lose it's flavor. (and he never seems to miss a day) Today's post is no exception. Here's the hook: "Your audacious life goals are fabulous. We're proud of you for having them. But it's possible that those goals are designed to distract you from the thing that's really frightening you--the shift in daily habits that would mean a re-invention of how you see yourself."

How often do we look for the big shift, the magic bullet, the life-changing experience that will mean everything after that is so much easier? Sometimes a catalyst is essential. This is what ritual is for, and always has been. But it doesn't mean that after you spend the three nights on the mountain without food or water, meet your spirit guides and find a flawless quartz crystal half buried in the dirt right where you were digging your fire pit that you go back home, flip on American Idol, open a beer and a bag Cheezits and expect your new life to walk through the door. It's about showing up. Every day. Even when it's boring or scary (and which do you prefer?). The rituals are there to sustain you when it gets hard, not to hand you a life on a platter. They help us mark milestones, they don't deliver them.

The good news is that we all get to make choices everyday. When we truly understand this, about every aspect of our lives, then each day becomes a little more interesting. Who do you want to be? What do you want from your time here? How will you create this? We all get feeling stuck sometimes, and that can be a cozy place to hang out because it means we don't have to do anything. Almost always there is something we can do to make a shift. We can make a plan, then make a list, then do the stuff on the list.

Me? Today I'm drinking water. (OK, I'm drinking water with some red juice in it because plain water, especially first thing in the morning, makes me nauseous) I don't drink enough water, and I'm going to change that and see what happens. See, it doesn't have to be earth-shattering. That's the point. Baby steps.

Pit Bulls, Rough Pasts and Storage Wars

A lot of folks have issues with pit bulls because they feel that through years of being trained to fight, they have a genetic predisposition in that direction. I tend to lean more in the direction of what the owner is like, rather than focusing on the breed of dog, but I understand the idea behind the concern. This gets sticky when you apply it to humans though. So sticky in fact that I have written and erased the same sentence three times now, so I'll move on in a different direction. Let's just say a kind hand and a gentle heart can be a much needed balm to human and beast alike. I've had many folks on my table who are working through past trauma. It gets stored up until there's no where for it to go, then it starts to leak. This is usually when the trouble starts. Sometimes when we release some of this stored trauma it can feel great, (other times it can feel...not so great, but it's still essential) and once the pressure valve has been opened, and the initial burst gets moved, the rest can escape at a pace that feels more manageable.

You know those TV shows where people bid on abandoned storage units, gambling they will find treasure, or at least make a meager profit? Sometimes our bodies are like this. We keep packing things in that we don't want to deal with, and then sometimes we abandon it. But the "stuff" doesn't go away. Sooner or later we need to open the locker. The first step is admitting to ourselves that this place exists, and that we still have the key, deep down in our pocket with the 23 cents, the ball of lint and the guitar pick.



* The photo of the sweet fur pig is Bruno, he's the dear dog of good friends and the sweetest boy ever, this is a smile, not a snarl.

Holding Space

What do you do when a client has an emotional and/or physical release? I'm new to massage, but I have five years of experience working with clients on my table, mostly with Reiki and Shamanic healing work. I have had many clients break down emotionally during a session, and a few who have had panic/anxiety attack reaction as well. The strength and beauty in our work is our ability to create a safe environment. A place where the client's body, as well as their mind, feels like it's OK to let down. Sometimes it can be hard to know what your client needs when they are in the throes of an emotional release. Often, at least for the client, when this happens it can be unexpected and scary and what we need to do to help with that will vary with the situation.  As body workers we are nurturing by design, we have good instincts around this. Trust it, this is what you are here for. One of the most important things that I teach my Reiki students is not to go into that anxiety place with the client. Recognize that their bodies are moving trauma that has been with them a long time and allow them to release it how they need to. Don't rush it. Understanding that your client is not having a medical emergency is essential. Anyone who works in this way needs to have at least basic first aid training so they can recognize the signs of an actual medical emergency. This will allow you to remain calm and grounded so you can hold the space your client needs.

Sometimes the client will be understandably scared by the experience, they might be crying, hyperventilating, dizzy, their limbs might be tingling. Reassure them that this will pass. Try to get them to slow their breathing. If it's appropriate place your hand (or their own) on their belly and ask them to breathe into it. Placing the other hand under them, sandwiching their abdomen, is often helpful. Try to get them back into their bodies. Water and a bite or two of something sweet can help to regulate their blood sugar. (see, candy and health care CAN coexist!) Usually keeping physical contact in some way helps, but again using your instincts is the best course of action. Watch their body language to see what they need. At the end of the session, be sure to have a conversation about this. reassure them that this is a positive thing. Our bodies have an incredible ability to protect us from trauma, we can store hurt away in places that can keep us safe and allow us to move on with our lives. Sooner or later though, some of that needs to move. Creating an environment where this can happen is a gift to your client, and an amazingly humbling experience for the practitioner. Going after this kind of reaction should never be the goal (unless you are specifically doing somato-emotional release work) but we should all be able to hold a clear, strong and loving space for this work when it occurs.