Body World

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There it was, standing before me, still and lifeless yet pulsing and glowing with the life energy that it once embodied. Brain, spinal cord, brachial branches spreading out across the shoulder girdle, reaching down the arms into hands. The nerves of the torso reaching and spreading across the chest, the back and abdomen.

And then Sciatic Nerve, branching off the spinal cord where it would have passed the sacrum. It was thick and strong and vital-looking, a twin on each side branching into rivulets and streams down both legs and into the feet where it touched and met with the ground.

“Hello,” I said, and the tears pulsed down my cheeks.

“Hello,” Sciatic Nerve pulsed back. Old, intimate friends meeting face to face for the first time.

We’d encountered each other many times a day for the past 20 years. Me prodding and coaxing. Sciatic Nerve sometimes yielding, allowing itself to be soothed and relieved. Sometimes not. Always there for me, waiting in its bed of muscle, blood, and bone beneath the skin’s surface.

You see, I’m a massage therapist. Working with the unseeable pains of the body is what I do. Sometimes the pain is emotional. Sometimes it’s physical. Either way, Sciatic Nerve is the source of much of it.

We have a regular conversation, Sciatic Nerve and I. Silently, in my head, and led by my hands, forearms, and fingers. We talk, cajole, and coax. An ongoing conversation. A friendship. Life-long companions.

My daughters, Marleigh and Delaney, and I had flown to Amsterdam for this experience. To experience the Body World’s Happiness Project exhibit. A six story museum in the heart of Amsterdam, my favorite city, exhibiting, well, real dead bodies. I know, it sounds weird. Crazy. Maybe gross. But these bodies, pristinely preserved and dissected into various organ systems and posed in motion and action are a work of genius and an absolute beauty to behold. To see the body from the inside out was, for me, magic.

An absolute joy.

When I see a person, I see the form of the their muscle and tissues through their clothing and through their skin. It’s not something I talk about because, not surprisingly, it tends to make people self-conscious. I also wonder at the function of their heart, their lungs, (and my own as well) as I see their chests and stomachs rise and fall with their breaths.

I am amazed each day by the wonders of our bodies: the growth of hair and nails, the blossoming of a bruise through its rainbow of colors, the healing and re-sealing of damaged skin, the coordinated movement of torso and limbs to stand, walk, run, dance; our ability to reach and grasp, to touch and feel the roughness of sandpaper, the coolness of water, the gentle warmth of a lover; I wonder at the formation of words on our tongues, our incomprehensible ability to create, comprehend and interpret language, conversation, the written word, art…

I am awed by our form and by what lies beneath our surfaces- the raw, pulsing dynamism that coordinates our existence, our movements, our thoughts, our emotions, our survival, our growth. Scientists can break this down into atoms and formulas.

But to me it’s magic and art. Beauty and wonder. Balance and harmony. When the balance is off there’s dysfunction, pain, illness, disease.

These are things I think about each day. These are the things I imagine, beneath the surface as my hands coax muscles and emotions into a healthier, relaxed place. These are the things I finally saw before my eyes in the Happiness Exhibit.

We were here as a family, celebrating our last summer together before Marleigh’s senior year of high school. It was Marleigh and Delaney’s first trip to Europe in the friendliest of towns- Amsterdam, with its shining canals, its curving cobbled streets and gingerbread architecture. Each day we wandered these lovely streets in search of an exotic lunch, the perfect pastry, Anne Frank, street musicians, a good tattoo shop, a great photo. Perpetually smiling, laughing, and loving each others’ company.

Our family of three. The pride and love I feel when I look at these two amazing young women (my daughters!) overwhelms me. And here we all were together, sharing this experience. They were as excited as I was.

I’d have loved to send a snapshot of us into the distant past. To myself when I first embarked on the trek into single-parenting. I was so scared, terrified even, alone in foreign terrain. Solely responsible for these two brilliant little girls. Could I do them justice? Could I care for them well? The snapshot would have assured me, “Yes, you can do this. Your family will flourish.”

I’ve been pulled to Amsterdam all my life, but it was this exhibit that really yanked us across the ocean and back to this wonderful town for our summer holiday.

So here I was, standing in front of the first exhibit of the Happiness Project in Amsterdam, weeping and conversing with Sciatic Nerve. I felt like Harry Potter chatting with the snake at the zoo then looking around and realizing no one else could hear the snake’s words. It was like that.

“Hello,” I said, “It’s so good to finally see you!”

“Hello,” Sciatic replied.

“Hello, hello, hello,” it echoed and pulsed.

I was filled with its vibrancy, its vitality and its life. I was awed and in love. I stood there weeping with joy simply to be in its visual presence.

I caught up with Marleigh and Delaney a little later.

“Girls,” I said, still wiping at my tears “this is going to take me a really long time. You can head back to the apartment whenever you want. I’m gong to be here a long time I think.”

“We know Mom!” they said. “We love it too. Take your time. We’ll wait for you.”

My two beauties.

They understood. They got it. I hoped for a minute that I was this patient and understanding with them when they were little. Worried that I hadn’t been. Then brushed that away and hugged them. Held them for a minute.

We took our time wandering through the six stories of the exhibit wondering at the beauty and glory and gore of our bodies, in sickness and in health. We each went at our own pace and met-up from time to time to smile, to marvel at something, to share a thought, to nod. We lingered at the gift shop, bought another book on anatomy, and took some pictures.

But before leaving the exhibit, we stole back up the stairs to revisit Sciatic Nerve and say goodbye. And then, of course, we each took our own two home with us.

I’d been back home for a couple of months and shared the story of meeting Sciatic Nerve with many friends. One friend pointed out that in a city of so many Old Masters I was gaga over an anatomy exhibit. And it’s true. Meeting Sciatic Nerve was, for me, greater even than experiencing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

Then one Friday night, sitting on my couch watching a documentary on the guru Yoganandya I realized a little more deeply what my experience had been about. Yoganandya said something about our brain and spinal cord being where and how God or the Divine enter our body. And I thought, “Yes. This I know.”

Looking at Sciatic Nerve and the nervous system in Amsterdam, looking at all the exhibits of the body in fact, was for me like looking at the face of God.

How strange it feels to write that. But how simple and true and real. To me the Divine lives in our flesh and bones and echoes in and out of us through our energy. I feel it strongly. Revel in it. Wonder at it. And on that joyful afternoon in Amsterdam, I saw it for the first time. Face to Face.

When Life Fills Up

themetapicture.com via pinterest

themetapicture.com
via pinterest  US Space Station in front of the moon

 

Yesterday, I posted a photo from my morning hike.  Deb posted the response, “Thankfully it energized you so that you could return circulation to the right side of my body!  THANK YOU!”   Thank YOU, Deb.  That comment totally made my day.  It reminded me how the little things we do for ourselves really do make a difference.

You see, I’ve been really busy lately.  As a friend put it, I’ve “had my hands full.”  Which is terrific if you’re a massage therapist. It means you’re helping a lot of people, which is why you do what you do.  A full schedule also means you’re  paying your bills and your taxes and that you can join that CSA and that you’re actually going to be able to send your daughter to Costa Rica in the spring.  But a full schedule also means long days.  And that frequently means making sacrifices elsewhere.  Like not making it to your daughters’ soccer games.  And eating ramen noodles or cereal for dinner.   Like not discovering the vacuum had died until the dog hair and dust bunnies were thick in the corners.  Like being a little tired and preoccupied when your daughters are talking about an incident in biology and not really hearing them.

Thank goodness for small pleasures and blessings.  Morning walks in the woods.  Cooking potato latkes for breakfast with Delaney on her day off.  Watching the Space Station cross the night sky with friends.  Breakfast sandwiches at the river with a neighbor.  The smile on a client’s face when the pain is gone. Game night.  Pinterest.  Consumer Reports arriving in the mail with “Vacuums” as their headline.  Amazon.com.  Clear blue skies.  $.10 off on a gallon of gas.  FaceTime.  A cup of hot tea.  My meditation cushion.  Not needing to light the wood furnace even though it’s mid-October. These are the things that re-charge me, that fill me up, that nourish me.  Some I seek out.  Some are gifts.  This is the good stuff that keeps me going so that I can do the good stuff I need to do.  What fills you up in hectic times?  What keeps you going?

Ah Wonderful Day

Drinking in the view.

Drinking it all in.

Standing on the rocky overlook today when I took this picture, it felt like a great thirst was being quenched.  The expansive view, the biting air, the warm sunshine; it was all nourishing me.  Not just my body, but my heart and spirit as well.  It felt like something deep inside was smiling, laughing.  Joy.  I felt joy.

This day was joyful beginning to end.  My birthday.  Shared with people I love and who love me back.  Notes, messages, phone calls, and visits from friends and family near and far, as well.  It was all delicious and fun and truly fed my soul and spirit.  Oh happy day!   I thank each and every one who touched my life today.  I wish the same joy to all of you who read this.  I just can’t stop smiling.

 

 

Healing the World

Yesterday, I finished a 21 day Meditation exercise with Deepak Chopra.  It wasn’t one-on-one, but it felt like it.  Along with dozens of thousands of others, I joined Deepak daily via the internet for a guided meditation exercise.  It was a lovely, deepening experience.  I also love that he taught me more sanskrit mantras.  Those mantras are wonderfully helpful to me to quiet my mind when it gets too busy.  They help me center, and ground myself.  I have a number of other tools that assist with that too, but that’s another day’s writing.  At the close of our 21 days “together”, Deepak told us:  “As you elevate your abundant consciousness, you do your part to heal the world.”  I love this notion.  And I firmly believe it’s true.  It takes my little mantra of “when we take care of ourselves, we can take care of all the other things so much better” to another level.  My spiritual counselor, Mary Muncil, has worked with me over the past few years to understand that when I “vibrate at a higher level” I not only raise my own spiritual awareness, but I also help clear the way for others to do the same.  That too is the same notion that Deepak is expressing.  Taking care of ourselves, vibrating at a higher frequency, elevating our consciousness.  These are things we do for ourselves.  They are not “selfish” in a negative way that detracts from others’ experiences.  These things we do for ourselves to help ourselves actually help everyone on some level.  When we heal ourselves, we help heal humanity and the planet.  When we are happy and joyful, we share that and help raise others to that place.  Joy is contagious.  Love is epidemic.  Health is expansive.

Have a wonderful day.  Take really good care of yourself.  You are healing the world.

Health and the Holidays

I can’t wait to get back into my studio today.  I’m so looking forward to seeing my clients!  It’s been lovely having some free time to share with family and friends, but I’m glad to have something I love to return to now that my friends have returned to England, my girls are back at school, and there’s turkey soup in the freezer.

I love what this holiday stands for, and what it does for people.  I know there’s a lot of over-stuffing ourselves, I know that family gatherings might come with their own stresses, and I am not a fan of all the shopping and commercial rigamarole.  Yet I love the essence of this holiday!  A time to gather friends and family together.  A time to think of and talk about what we’re grateful for.  A time to share a wonderful meal together.  This, to me, is a key component of health.  Surrounding ourselves with people we love.  Laughing.  Talking.  Catching-up.  Going for walks together.  Enjoying the day.  This is renewing and rejuvenating.  This is part of good health.  This is a wonderful way to experience a holiday.  But, perhaps more importantly, it is a good way to live each day.  Maybe instead of a roasted turkey, the meal will be a bowl of soup.  Maybe instead of extended family and friends from afar, it will just be you and a close friend or spouse or children.  I’m looking back at what I loved most about this Thanksgiving and I want to bring a piece of that into my daily life.  The gratitude, the laughter, the closeness, the joy.  To me, joy equates with health.  What did you love most about the holiday?  What gave you joy?  I’m going to ask you to bring a piece of that into your life today.  For your good health.  May you share some time with someone you love.  May you connect with a friend.  May you create some time in all the business to enjoy the day. May you go for that run, hike that trail, ski that slope.  May you call that friend, sing that song, yell that phrase.  Whatever it is, please find it, and experience it!  That’s taking good care of yourself.  That’s good health.

Have a wonderful day, and take really good care of yourself.

Feeling Great!

I felt amazingly great when I took this photo at Haceta Head in Oregon!

When she left after her massage yesterday evening, one of my clients said she felt like “a million million million bucks!!!!!!”.  Now THAT’s what it’s all about.  When you feel great, people around you feel better too.  When you feel great, you do everything better.  When you feel great, you’re reminded of the possibilities that life holds.

My goal and intention in both my personal and professional life is to spread, expand, and support good health, joy, feeling great.  I hope you have a wonderful day!  Take really good care of yourself.

Excited. Bewildered. Thrilled. A little scared?

I’ve been practicing massage therapy for the better part of 20 years.  I love my work.  It’s every bit as nourishing for me as it is for my clients, I believe.   I’m also a very private person.  I’ve never advertised my work.  All my clients have found me via the recommendations of other clients.  I worked out of my home for 15 years.  I’m a single parent and this set-up enabled me to work full time while also being present at home for my two daughters.  What a blessing.  But as my children matured into teenagers and became more independent, it became clear that it was also time for me to move the practice out of our home.  I teamed up with another massage therapist and a spiritual counsellor for two years.  It was wonderful to share space with other like-minded professionals.  But as things grew and changed, they found it necessary to move on.  I found myself the sole occupant of a large, wonderful office space.  Time to move out?  Heck no!!!!!!!  Time to grow!  There’s so much more I want to do!  So much I want to share! I have thousands upon thousands  of hours of hands-on time with clients.  I know the human body.  I know health.  I know stress-relief.  I know joy and fear and heart break and love and healing and peace.  Yet….  Putting myself “out there” is a big bridge for me to cross.  I wrote this blog daily for over a week before I mentioned it to anyone.  I held my first meditation circle with three hours notice to the general public.  I don’t have a sign, or any mention of my practice on the outside of my building.  I find myself wondering if anyone reads the blog.  Fears.  Inhibitions.  I have much to share with you.  I have much to discuss about health, wellness, peace of mind.  I have gifts and talents and knowledge of healing and health.  One foot in front of the other.  Gratitude for the support to grow and expand.  Gratitude for the clients who return weekly, biweekly, monthly year after year because the works has such a positive impact on their lives.