Fall Into Winter

When I see my friend Evy on our way to the office and I ask: "How are you doing?", she knows it is a real question, and her answer might be something like: "Sufficiently challenged!

This year has most certainly brought sufficient challenges. Only one thing is certain these days: everything is changing -- the climate, society, technology, economy, and even the geomagnetic field of the planet. What I have learned and observed about the human psyche shows me that nothing is more frightening to our survival self than the unpredictable, the unknowable. A little bit is fun, like going on a rollercoaster ride. It releases just enough adrenaline to make us feel alive, tingling with exitement. But changing everything at once is frightening.

Albert Einstein mused, the most important question is: is the universe benign? In other words: can we feel safe in a rapidly changing world?

Feeling safe is at the core of our pain perception.

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Springing forward into Summer


After a long, hard winter, we finally are experiencing the full glory of spring. Lush greens, beautiful blossoms, birds singing everywhere. Step out into nature and let yourself be restored!

New growth also is showing for my hopes and aspirations regarding the development of a Comprehensive Treatment Program, Montana style. During the first week of May I was blessed with the participation of a wonderful group of people in our first annual Somato-Emotional Release Study Group Retreat. I hoped that locating it at Boulder Hot Springs Inn and Spa just outside Boulder, Montana, would be an added incentive for CranioSacral Therapists to come together from far and wide to treat and get treated by fellow practitioners. I was right.

Of the original 11 participants, 7 stayed for all 4 days, and we decided not only to do it again next year, but also to get together sometime soon to offer multiple hands treatment for clients. The place and time has not been decided yet, but most likely it will be in my office in Missoula sometime this summer.

What is multiple hands treatment, and why do we do them? 

When you are suffering from the physical as well as emotional effects of trauma, the more resources you can recruit to help you heal, the bigger your chances of success.

Many people believe that only brutal attacks such as rape or beatings constitute trauma, but that is not so. Inadvertent separation from a parent through illness, death or divorce are traumatic for children. Emotional neglect from overworked or sick parents is traumatic. Accidents, surgeries, the loss of dear friends or pets, all of that can leave emotional and hidden physical scars in a body. Body and mind truly are not separate entities! 

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Light and Shadow

During the darkest time of the year, we light candles and string garlands of electric lights inside and out to celebrate the return of light. It makes the long nights more tolerable and downright cheerful. There can be great comfort in the winter season here in the northern hemisphere when we cuddle up around a fireplace and watch the flames dance.

Light and shadow are not opposing forces; they are inextricably bound together, dependent on one another. Light without shadow is amorphous, shapeless and featureless. Spirit dancing only in light cannot experience and grow. It cannot express its own fullness unless there is contrast.

Shadow and darkness are creations of Spirit as much as light is. They are not independent forces pitched in a battle against light. They are simply the light dimmed down as far as spiritually possible. That dimming down is the existential requirement for a world of infinite manifestation. It allows Spirit to express and experiment. Creativity is the essence and nature of Spirit.

Spirit has to create; it has no other choice. By doing so, it grows in Self-awareness.

Right now we are living in a time when the shades of grey seem to be intensified into starker and deeper contrasts day by day. Black and white thinking is prevalent, especially in politics. Fear turns more frequently into violence, locally and around the world. How do we deal with this as travelers on a spiritual path?

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The Tao of CST

What is the Tao? It is an ancient Chinese concept, which is most frequently translated as "The Way", as in "the way the world works". Natural order. The law of the Universe. One learns about it through personal experience and observation, not through reasoning and deduction. Lao Tsu proclaimed that the Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao. It has no commandments, no dogma, no formulas to apply. It is profoundly personal and universal at the same time.

When one is in harmony with the Tao, life flows effortlessly. When one resists the Tao, there is struggle, discord, suffering inside and out. So what does that have to do with CranioSacral Therapy (CST)? 

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Truth or Consequences

It has been almost three months already since I journeyed to the small town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. Like Hot Springs, MT, T or C is a small town that was founded in the middle of nowhere due to the rich mineral hotsprings in the area. Like Hot Springs, MT, it boasts several funky and lovingly restored hotels and resorts similar to The Symes Hot Springs Hotel and Alameda's Hot Springs Retreat. But T or C has something beyond that, which Hot Springs does not - not yet, anyway: A CranioSacral Therapy (CST) based center for alternative healing called Integrative Intentions. I traveled there for a week to attend a Comprehensive Treatment Program (CTP) as a support therapist, hoping to find out what that is, how it is done, and possibly how we might create something similar here in Montana. What I experienced was inspiring!

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Trust

Some people claim that love is the opposite of fear. I don’t agree.

Experience indicates that not just life, but also “the web of our love is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together”, to paraphrase Shakespeare. How often do we live in fear of losing what we love! Parents can attest to the panic that grips their heart when they hear their child was involved in an accident or diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease. Loving does not lessen the fear; on the contrary: It intensifies the fear of loss.

After two accidents I am afraid to ride my horse, despite the fact that I love her dearly, and I love to ride. Loving does not lessen my fear. Trust, however, gives me courage to get back in the saddle again. I am convinced the opposite of fear is trust.

What is trust? It is a conviction that ultimately the world is a safe place to explore. No matter what happens, I will be okay. Whatever life brings, I have the resources to deal with it.

This conviction is natural to a small child. But a traumatized person will lose trust and struggle long and hard to regain it.

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Albatross

The winds of change have been roaring for a while now. In the world outside we are witnessing super-hurricanes, super-typhoons, tornados, arctic blasts, and all kinds of unusual wind events. Internally, many of us are experiencing about the same. Every time I think I can set my sails and move forward with the wind at my back, the wind direction has already changed by the time my rigging is secured. What to do? I mean, after pulling my hair out and throwing a pity party for myself.

I got a little nudge from my Inner Wisdom and did a Google search for albatross.

Albatrosses are really amazing birds, when they are not hanging around your neck. They are the largest flying birds, some species with wingspans of nearly 12 feet. Albatrosses can cover over 1000 kilometers per day without moving a muscle for anything other than course adjustment. They hardly ever flap their wings. Effortlessly, they glide over the waves, using the wind to their advantage.

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Getting a Break

The energy has been intense this summer. I was not the only one having difficulties sleeping on more than one occasion. Many friends and clients reported that they simply could not calm down their thinking at night. So I have added an MP3 recording of a guided meditation for physical relaxation to my website. You can download it and listen to it during those sleepless nights. It might lull you to sleep, or it can help the body relax sufficiently to go into the restore-repair mode of the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system even while you are still awake. Insomniacs know that trying to sleep will do the exact opposite. So if you simply enjoy releasing the physical tension from your body while listening, you will at least get the benefits of rest and self-repair the body is supposed to do at night. 

Before the intense heat hit us in early summer, I went on a road trip to Colorado Springs to receive CranioSacral treatment myself from Avadhan Larson, one of the top teachers of the Upledger Institute International (UII). This was a part of my self-care commitment, and also a requirement of the Mentorship Program through the UII that I signed up for. I called it a "Treatment Intensive", four treatments in four days, lasting from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours each. Spacing the treatments so close together causes a build-up of intensity that takes you deep into your healing process. 

It was most successful! I have been feeling safe and at peace within myself ever since despite some abrupt changes to my summer plans.

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Self Realization

In October I participated in a Clinical Applications training in Colorado. We were 6 students, two teachers, and we worked on each other and clients for 5 days. At the end of the class I passed my final test for Techniques Certification. I am now the first Upledger Techniques Certified CranioSacral Therapist in Missoula!

When someone asked Dr. John Upledger what CranioSacral Therapy ultimately is all about, his answer was: "Self-realization."

Later he was asked why he persisted in publishing and teaching his ground breaking techniques despite massive and vitriolic resistance from the medical establishment. He had a very successful private osteopathic practice and did not need to expose himself to attacks and ridicule from his peers. To this he responded that this work is a way to World Peace. He was willing to face the storm of opposition because he saw the greater picture as more important than his own comfort.

So how are Self-realization and World Peace related to one of so many manual therapies? 

(I intentionally capitalize the S in Self as a reference to the Soul-Self rather than the survival self or ego.)

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Inner Wisdom

May 22 to 25, 2014, I had the opportunity to participate in a Somato-Emotional Release workshop in Edmonton, Alberta, put on by the Upledger Institute. It combined elements of art therapy, gestalt therapy, psychosynthesis and craniosacral therapy. The principal intent of this combination is the facilitation of awareness of the many non-conscious influences from the psyche on our body. We are realizing repressed emotions in increments the psyche can handle. Why is that important in body work? 

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A New Mythology

“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.” 
– Joseph Campbell

Some people are content to live their lives without posing the questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? Why are we here? I am not one of them. Even as a small child I would stare into the mirror, probing deeply into the reflection of my own eyes, wondering who or what was looking back at me. Neither the old Judeo-Christian myth of God creating the world in 6 days, nor the newer myth of a basically meaningless materialistic world of random chance made much sense to me. Then I heard Joseph Campbell state that we need a new mythology for these changing times. And I saw the quote by another one of my heros:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
– 
Albert Einstein

I spent countless hours in "Deep Listening" to Nature – my Inner Wisdom, and whom or whatever informs my imagination. It is still a mystery to me. This is the story I dreamed up. You are welcome to enjoy it, and then be bold and make up your own.

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Radical Acceptance

Happy New Year Everybody!

I hope that 2014 brings even more happiness, harmony, peace, joy and kindness to humanity!

All these attributes already exist abundantly in our world. You won't see them in the evening "News". You are more likely to find them interacting with your family and neighbors, at work, in church, or among your friends. The degree of presence and expression varies, but when you look for the good in people, you will find it.

It takes practice to switch from our biologically pre-programmed focus on negativity to the search for positive reinforcements. Nature has endowed us with a brain that places emphasis on remembering negative experiences, so that we avoid them in the future to prevent further pain and injury. This is practical for basic survival, but when the focus on pain and its avoidance becomes overbearing, it turns into an ever shrinking cage, limiting creativity and playful exploration of our potential. So how do we claim our inner freedom?

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Gratitude

While swiftly sailing from one Turkey Fest to another propelled by a furious Hellgate wind at our backs here in Missoula, I am internally wrapping Thanksgiving gratitude and New Year's resolutions into one contemplation. Squeezed inbetween lies the return of Light to the world, and days getting longer by the minute - soon. And last not least, the next installation of "The Hobbit" is being released to the big screen just before my birthday. Oh yes, I have so much to be grateful for! Today, at sub-zero temperatures, firewood and space heaters are ranking right at the top of my list. 

Our world is changing faster and in more dramatic ways than ever before in human history. How quickly our best laid plans can change! How abruptly our expectations of continuity can be trashed! This realization can bring about anxiety and depression. How can you deal with that in a constructive way?

First and foremost, don't believe everything you think. When your mind conjures up frightful possible scenarios, bring yourself back into this present moment. Right here, right now, do you have what you need? If you don't have something, is it really true that you need it in this moment? Is it possible that the things you need will show up when you actually do need them? Cultivating an attitude of gratitude turns our creative energy towards that which we want more of. The most effective prayer is: "Thank You!"

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A time of learning

The last few months have kept me busy with three very different opportunities for continuing education: Lymph Drainage, Bodhicitta, and CranioSacral Therapy mouth work.

In early September I spent 4 days in San Francisco taking the Level 3 course in Lymph Drainage Therapy as taught by the Chikly Institute. The main difference between this form of lymph drainage to other LDT techniques is the focus on palpation skills. That means therapists learn to feel the minute rhythmic pulses of the lymph just below the skin and the direction of its flow to assist in the body's self-regulation rather than impose their own ideas of what your body "should" be doing. We ask the intelligence of the body how we can assist in optimizing function, and then we use the lightest touch to support any changes that happen spontaneously.

Through such a respectful approach we avoid doing accidental damage to the delicate lymph system, while simultaneously creating a profoundly relaxing experience for our clients. The "touchy-feely stuff", as a good friend and colleague of mine calls palpation, requires a good deal of patience and practice. Fortunately, I have already gained much through my CranioSacral experience.

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Before Enlightenment - Endarkenment

Do you follow the news, or are you tired of the daily dose of negativity and avoid it? Even if we studiously ignore the media it feels at times like we are stuck in a rut. Rather than moving forward into the Age of Enlightenment, sometimes it appears as if we were trapped in the Dark Ages.

Despair not. The times they really are a'changing. They just don't do it in a straight linear fashion. Not much in life does. Everything oscillates: Upswing to downturn and back up, contraction-expansion-contraction again. This holds true in small ways, like our own emotional experience, as well as for large historical movements, and nature's evolutionary cycles spanning millions of years. All-that-is vibrates. We wish we could omit the down-swinging part of the experience, but that seems to go against the laws of nature. All we can do is ride the waves. So what to do when we feel down, tense, scared, depressed and compressed in our energy?

Breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. This too shall pass. Let your shoulders drop an inch, your jaw relax, your rib cage expand. Stay present in this moment and observe your mind's activities with some objectivity. You are not what you think. Your brain does the thinking, but you are not your brain anymore than the computer is the programmer. Watch your thoughts run through habitual patterns, old familiar tunes, over and over again. That's what brains do. Remind yourself that those thought patterns are not who you are. The patterns can be changed. And that too does not happen all at once. 

Our main patterns or life lessons have to be played out until we are really, truly done with them. As long as they hold any emotional drama, they are not played out yet. When we see ourselves repeating them once more and we are getting bored, then we know we are just about done. When we have learned all we can learn from them, then we are done. Only then do the habitual patterns disappear. So how do we hasten the demise of our antiquated, troublesome patterns?

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Transformations

The last few months have been challenging, to say the least. Tremendous growth opportunity have been presenting themselves, some in uplifting ways, others were more difficult to handle. The difference, I found, lies in our level of resistance. I observed this in my own experience as well as in witnessing others, friends and clients alike. As wave after wave of energy is washing over the planet and through our bodies, the ability to surf those waves rather than opposing them makes the difference between "hanging ten" and having a marvelous time, or getting knocked down, dragged along gasping and flailing. I have done both.

The human mind is designed to keep our bodies alive and functioning in this world. It relies on previous experience to do its job. Whatever coping strategy has worked in the past to help us survive and meet our needs is the one our mind tells us to repeat again and again. For most of the coping strategies there comes a point when they simply quit working. Whether we learned to be over-achievers, control freeks, escape artists, martyrs or rescuers, for example, eventually the body gets tired, and the soul is satiated with the old story. Something within us calls for change. At this point in history, we are actually called to do more than change.

A caterpillar grows incrementally, eating everything in its path, being a consummate consumer. It is quite an expert at being caterpillar by the time it feels this strange new urge to quit eating, find a place to spin a crysalis, and go through a complete metamorphosis. The lucky caterpillar has no brain to tell it that it is about to die, be completely annialated. It is not terrified by the anticipation of turning its structure into amorphous stem cell goo in hopes that something totally new and different will spontaneously compose itself within the chrysalis it is happily weaving because its instincts tell it to. 

Our brains are well equiped to balance check books, get to the airport on time for the flight we booked months ago, or follow instructions for "some assembly required" as translated from Chinese. They are not prepared for the transformation that is approaching us these days. We will not sprout wings anytime soon. But our internal personality structure, our ego, is facing a complete metamorphosis. Who we thought we were is much too limited, and for the future of humanity, unsustainable. Our brains cannot be in charge of the metamorphosis. They are also not able to stop the process. They just make it far more difficult than it needs to be. What makes things easier is trust in the wisdom of the heart, and confidence in an intelligence far beyond our comprehension that is entirely benign and loving.

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Heal the Healers

The last few weeks, months, and years have been rather exciting for those of us who are riding the waves of change. Most of my fellow healthcare providers have stated one way or another that they have been "sufficiently challenged" lately between their patients' needs and their own growing pains. Healing is an ongoing process of evolution for all of us, and as the speed of life accelerates, we as providers have to stay at least two steps ahead of our clients to continue to be of use to them.

Challenge provides opportunity, but also pressure and stress. It is difficult to stay present, compassionate, and effective when we are running on empty due to persistent overload. So for the month of April, I am offering my fellow healthcare practitioners, including (but not limited to) MDs, NDs, DOs, DCs, PACs, PTs, OTs, SLPs, LMTs, LCPCs, and all the highly skilled holistic healthcare providers without letters behind their names to come in for a little R&R with energy infusion on my table.

What I am offering is a free 90 minutes of deep relaxation, a chance to get out of our heads, into our bodies, and in touch with the amazing intelligence which informs all of our 70 trillion cells in their remarkable dance of life-sustaining cooperation. First come first serve, so call me for an appointment when you are ready for some TLC.

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My definition of healing

The official definition of healing consists of

  • To make sound or whole,
  • To restore to health or soundness,
  • To cure a disease or disorder,
  • To cause an undesirable condition to be overcome.

In the Annals of Family Medicine I found an in depth study of "The Meaning of Healing" presented by Thomas R. Egnew, EdD, LICSW. His conclusion was:

Healing may be operationally defined as the personal experience of the transcendence of suffering. Physicians can enhance their abilities as healers by recognizing, diagnosing, minimizing, and relieving suffering, as well as helping patients transcend suffering.

You can check out the entire article, if you wish, at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1466870/ 

The transcendence of suffering. How does one get there? This definition makes it very obvious that taking a pill, or smoking some weed, is not the path to true healing. Legal or illegal pain medications serve the purpose of temporarily alleviating pain, but the issue is: Temporarily, it is a way to cope with, not to heal, the underlying condition. The pain always comes back as soon as the chemical effect wears off. When we are dealing with a surgical intervention or a broken bone, for example, this temporary pain relief is essential and the humane thing to do. But how do we deal with the long term suffering of chronic pain, whether it is physical or emotional? How do we "make sound or whole" as medical professionals? 

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The Heart of Healing

Shana's Heart of Healing may seem like an unusual name for a physical therapy practice. When I decided to go into private practice again, I sat down for a long time to become very clear in my mind about what it is I have to offer to this community, which is already so richly blessed with medical professionals of every persuasion.

Missoula has one of the highest rates of medical professionals per capita of any city in the US, I have been told. From surgeons to Reiki practitioners, we are a beautifully diverse community of health oriented people. Like attracts like. This is why I feel so at home in this town. I love it that I am not the lone candle in the darkness.

But it poses the question: Does Missoula really need one more physical therapist? Or one more holistic healthcare provider? May be not. But what about a physical therapist who is also a holistic health care provider?

In my long and diverse experience as a physical therapist I observed very quickly that healing is something the body does with, without, and sometimes despite, medical assistance. Or it doesn't.

I vividly remember a patient I worked with in the Internal Medicine Clinic of our University during my PT education. She had extremely poor circulation, and her stump from a previous amputation had turned black. Her last surgery had attempted to restore circulation to the stump some 10 days before I met her. When the surgeon removed her stitches, the wound simply fell open like a carved roast. No healing had taken place, despite the best care possible. The woman died 3 days later.

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