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Sustainability Through Kaizen: Step Seven of Having a Life You Love

… Continued from “10 Steps to Having a Life You Love”




By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

Anybody can succeed, at least once in a while. But consistent and lasting success in life comes only from a commitment to daily improvement; by being open to and not frightened away, by change; by striving to become a little bit wiser each day. Success means many things to different people but I propose that it is the constant increase in the quality of every aspect of our life – our health, our wealth, our knowledge, and our relationships— including one’s relationship with one ’s self. I am not talking about huge improvements. What I am talking about are very small incremental daily improvements that add up to a Big Life Worth Loving (BLWL).

How do we get ourselves to consistently act in a way that causes us to increase the quality of our life and our enjoyment of it? It is by committing to the philosophy of Kaizen.

kaizen meaning But what on earth is Kaizen? Kaizen is a Japanese term that literally stands for “Constant and Never-ending Improvement.” The term, made popular by the Toyota Company during the days of its breakthrough into the American auto market, loosely translates to “change for the better” and is a slow-and-steady method of encouraging success in workplaces. In those who follow Kaizen, people at all levels of an organization—from the cleaning crew to the company president—use key fundamentals to make productive changes, improve attitudes and increase overall achievement. But the principles behind this practice can also be applied to our everyday life—our interactions with those around us, the attainment of personal goals and our quest to find balance and contentment in daily life. “This technique helps the brain learn habits through small, daily steps we take to improve our health, our relationships and our work efforts,” writes business author Robert Maurer, Ph.D. The way our life gets better is not by occasionally jumping into it with wild enthusiasm. The quality of our life gets better by making a habit of consistently and consciously improving in each and every area of our lives—every day (or very close to it). That is, admittedly, a tall order but really takes not much more effort than “living-by-default” and allowing a miserable life to happen to us. In the words of the late motivational author, Zig Ziglar, “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch. Mile by mile, everything’s a trial.” Committing to these tiny improvements which, while they may seem like nothing in the moment, will build upon each other until, one day, we discover we are “playing life” at a whole different level of embodiment and expression.


kaizen saying Kaizen implies living by habit. In truth, we all do this all the time, but to what kind of habits are we loyal? Successful people develop the habit of doing the things unsuccessful people don’t like to do. That is a fairly simple, yet profound, formula for success. Who likes to get up an hour earlier to exercise, review goals, meditate or make breakfast for their partners? Not too many people, to be exact. But successful people make small things like these a habit, ones that create energy, enthusiasm, and positive momentum.


Nothing in life feels as fulfilling and juicy as knowing we are living life by our own code of excellence, or sharing the gifts and talents that lie within us. We feel frustrated when we don’t feel we are growing or fulfilling our potential, and this growth comes from the accumulation of many, seemingly insignificant, successful days.

Hands planter

Most people don’t succeed in achieving their goals because they don’t believe they can achieve them. If you set very high standards and set equally large goals, your brain may rebel since it feels pressured by the possibility of failure. The power of Kaizen, however, is that it is believable.

Here are three questions that we can ask ourselves at the end of each day. These questions help us to stay on purpose and true to our commitment to Kaizen. They are:

1. What did I learn today?

2. How has today added to the quality of my life?

3. What am I grateful for this evening?

The overriding principle of kaizen is that it is daily, continuous, steady, and it takes a long-term view. Kaizen also requires a commitment and a strong willingness to change. As Lao Tzu said, “Each journey begins with a single step.” Or as I like to put it, KMFA!  Keep moving forward always!Published: October 16, 2013

There is an old saying that goes “Once you think you have arrived, you have already started your descent.” One must never think they “have arrived.” This is a paradox: In one sense, we have–spiritually speaking– always arrived, in that we “are where we are,” and there is great contentment to be found in accepting that. As the Buddha said to his students when asked the secret of happiness, “Happy having, happy not having.” But there is another way of looking at this. In the West we say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The spirit of kaizen, on the other hand, suggests that there is always something to learn and ways to improve, and that it is also better to prevent problems than to fix them. Thus, no matter how good things may seem now, there is always room for improvement, and looking to improve every day is what the spirit of personal kaizen is all about. It’s not about how far you have come or how far you have yet to go, it is only about this moment and being open to seeing the possibilities and lessons around you.

Kaizen Tree Final

The seventh core belief of National Holistic Institute is “Sustainability Through Kaizen. Sustainability is a close cousin to success, especially when applied to the success or health of our beloved planet. April 22nd is Earth Day, a perfect time to take personal inventory of our relationship (and our community’s) to the planet. Thoreau wrote, “What is the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” This wasn’t—and isn’t—a rhetorical question. What is the point of a successful life if we do not have a tolerable planet on which to live? Any answer we can think of seems too challenging. Remember, however, we are not alone. While there is no single solution to our ecological problems, there are 7 billion solutions. Each of us has been given a piece of this sacred planet to save. And how should we go about accomplishing such a mighty task? One step at a time, every day,                                                                                                                                                                                 in the spirit of Kaizen.



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April 11, 2014   No Comments

Getting Down With Truth

Getting Down With Truth


By Jeff Rockwell


“Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated.” – Lou Holtz


Dear Colleague,

I have come to observe an important distinction within the ranks of massage therapists which is really a microcosm of what I see in the world at large. It is a global mindset issue in individuals that creates the lens through which they see the world and drives their actions and behaviors and consequently, will dictate how the world sees them. It culminates into one’s success, or lack thereof.

What I am talking about here is the mentality of entitlement versus the mentality of motivation. Both are very strong forces that lead to very different destinations. One destination is a good place, the other? Not so much. The good news is that mindsets are NOT inborn. They can be consciously chosen and then ‘habitualized’ through consistent practice.

To become a massage therapist, you spend quite a lot of time in school and invest a substantial amount of money in your education. Too often, after this investment of time and money, one is tempted to get a core sense of, “I’ve arrived!” The corollary mindset to this is one of entitlement. “I put in my time. I spent my money. I deserve my reward.” Oh, what a rude awakening the MT of that orientation is in for. The only thing your massage therapy education entitles you to is the opportunity to go out there and build a career by adding value to the lives of others.

motivation 2

    Motivation, not entitlement, is the key driver to launch, build and sustain a long term successful career. And as the above quote from Lou Holtz says in essence, those who are not motivated get eliminated! So, here’s my question for you – do you have habits and systems built into your daily routines that create motivation? Or do you sit back and gripe about a world or a profession that didn’t give you the career and results you feel you are entitled to?

Motivation means you are willing to work hard. You are willing to risk. You are willing to delay gratification today for a better future tomorrow. You are willing to learn. You are committed to growing. You see an urgent problem and you want to be the solution. You have an important purpose… Entitlement means the exact opposite of all these. Motivation


Ask yourself the question right now, and be 100% honest with yourself. In your current mindset and circumstance, is your default headspace ‘motivation’ or is it ‘entitlement’? The good news is, if it’s the wrong one, you can consciously change it now to the ‘right one’ and take action to keep it there. Lastly, I will say that the main tools I use to stay motivated – and it does require tools and the discipline to use them – consists of 3 things:

1. Consistent morning rituals to get my headspace right, starting with getting a good night’s rest and awakening to twenty minutes of meditation, visualization of goals being achieved, and repeating—with emotion—important and personally relevant affirmations.

2. A comprehensive success library of books, audios, and videos that keep me growing, learning, and motivated. This is my main secret weapon for motivation and I will have turned my car into a learning center, as I utilize my two hours of commute time to listen to some of the brightest minds in wellness care and neuroscience.

3. Being in a weekly accountability group with other like-minded people who share my values. I have been doing this for the past four years and it changed my life.


Are you motivated yet??? Let’s go change the world, two hands at a time!

April 7, 2014   1 Comment

NHI Believes: Teamwork Making the Dream Work

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love

Step 6/10: NHI Believes: Step Six to Having a Life You Love 
                                Teamwork Making the Dream Work

By Dr. Jeff Rockwell


I love to study and observe successful people. Success is a loaded concept, commonly trivialized to how much money a person makes. The more one earns, the more of a “winner” they become. Truly successful people, indeed, experience living from an overflow of abundance: a wealth of love, relationships, community involvement, well-being and—often—money. But some very important people in history did not have a lot of money. Take Jesus and the Buddha as two examples. And some people are so poor, that all they have is money.

Another category in which successful people are wildly rich is motivation. If you’re a motivated person, it’s easy to put your personal goals ahead of those of the people around you. It’s natural and not necessarily a bad thing; however, it is crucial to learn to be a team player.


Acting as a part of a team builds character, teaches empathy, and ultimately assists you in achieving your personal goals. Here’s why:

1)    Yes, you can run a small business pretty independently, but if you ever plan on being employed or running a business that employs others, you’ll have to learn how to work with other people.  The most impressive feats are accomplished by groups of people, not individuals. Teamwork Dreamwork 2


2)    If you’re part of a team, you have to prove your merit not only to yourself, but also to everyone you’re working with. When something is expected of you, there are no excuses. You either succeed or you fail. Successful people, in fact, do both– and on a regular basis. If you do fail, however, it’s much harder to rationalize your actions to a team you let down than it is to yourself. Even if your team understands, it’s difficult to swallow the realization that you let down more than just yourself. Because of this, you learn how to deal with responsibility. Successful people are accountable, to themselves and to others. They take responsibility and do not make excuses. Thus, they remain on the cutting-edge of personal growth, contributing to something larger than themselves, and an ongoing expansion of life-force and joy.


3)    Successful people are leaders. Some lead in obvious, out-loud ways, while others do so quietly, playing meaningfully supportive roles. Effective leaders do not act solely as individuals. The purpose of a leader is to work with people to find solutions that work best collectively. Leaders bring people together. The best leaders don’t act with a sense of superiority; they act with a sense of empathy and a desire to serve others. And guess what? The world is starving for authentic, heartfelt leadership, now more than ever (consider the opportunities!).


4)    If you’re on a team, your personal commitment to excellence helps make you a team player. This is because most people are at least a little bit competitive, whether they admit it or not. When you do well, you set a standard that others will want to meet. By pushing yourself, you help push the people on your team. Of course, this works both ways. When you see someone you’re working with do something better than you, more often than not, you’ll push yourself to meet that standard.


5)    Successful people WANT to be team players. They recognize that participating in a healthy community may very well be the highest expression of health and well-being.


I am a big sports fan. I’m also a lover of film, literature, self-improvement, art and nature. But few things get my heart going like an excellent game of Bay Area baseball (go Giants AND A’s!). Sadly, if you watch most professional athletes compete these days, one thing you won’t learn alot about is class or character. Too many of our so-called role models don’t seem to care about anything except themselves. To them, the “team” is nowhere near as important as the “me.” “What’s in it for me?” “I want more playing time. I should be starting instead of them!” “My average”, “My stats”, “My salary”, and so on. With such “me-attitudes” it would be easy for aspiring young athletes to miss the boat and never learn how important “team” really is to success in sports (and in life). Of course, there are still team players out there who truly understand that being a real winner is not about “me”, it’s about “we!” They are as rare, however, as World Series titles for the Chicago Cubs.

I recently read an interview with Phil Jackson, one of the winningest (and coolest) coaches in the history of professional basketball. He commented on what he wanted his recruiters to look for when they searched for new talent. Far too many athletes, he said,  mistakenly believe that what a coach primarily wants in his/her players are talented individuals that will help that coach win. This is only true with the newer, less experienced coaches. When you ask the coaches who have been around for a while what they look for in an athlete, they won’t just talk about superior skills, unbelievable talent, strength or speed. What they are ultimately more interested in is the athlete’s attitude and “coach-ability!”


The most successful coaches today want athletes who are coach-able. That is, athletes who listen, who are open to new things, who take constructive criticism, who respect the coach and their teammates, athletes who are always looking for ways to improve, who are “team players” and who choose to deal with their conflicts and problems constructively.  It’s very interesting that Michael Jordan never won an NBA Championship until Jackson convinced him that he had to involve his teammates more and that he simply couldn’t do it by himself. When Jordan bought into Jackson’s program the Bulls took off and a powerful dynasty was born.

Any sports lover has seen too many incredibly talented teams get beaten by lesser skilled opponents because the athletes on the more powerful team didn’t get along. They didn’t play as a team. They played as a group of individuals competing against themselves for playing time, the coach’s attention and the limelight. The weaker team? Well, they supported each other and worked together. Why is teamwork so important? Very simply: because the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Because, as John Maxwell titled his best-seller, “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.” Because “Together Everyone Achieves More.”

11th IAAF World Athletics Championships: Day Seven

So how coach-able are you? What kind of a team player are you? Are you a team builder or team buster? Do you bring your teammates up or drag them down?  Let’s find out! How many of these “team-busting” behaviors do you recognize as your own?

Talking behind others’ backs

Blaming others – Refusing to accept responsibility


Having a negative attitude

Bad mouthing fellow workers, or team mates, the coach (or boss), or the team (or company)

“I’m the greatest and you’re not” attitude

Not communicating directly/openly

Giving it only half your best effort


How many of the following “team-building” attitudes do you possess?

Being supportive

Dealing with conflicts directly, openly, and compassionately

Being understanding

Demonstrating respect for colleagues

Being encouraging to team mates when they are struggling

Having a positive attitude

Being a good listener

Having an open, “coach-able” mind

Understanding that everyone on the team is important for success

Not allowing team-busting behaviors to occur

Taking responsibility for your actions

Trying as hard as you can on a daily basis

Please understand that you can’t turn team-busting behaviors around until you can label them clearly. That’s why you have a coach or a mentor or a manager. Don’t freak out if you find that you sometimes get into these destructive behaviors.  Just make an honest effort to stop them. Take some responsibility today, right now, to begin to develop a more coachable attitude.  At National Holistic Institute a College of Massage Therapy, we are a self-described community of leaders, of role-models, of mentors. We are a team.


At Team NHI we place great value on the power of stories. Many classes begin with stories that set the tone for what is to be learned that day. In keeping with that spirit, I’d like to close this blog with one of my favorite tales:

An 80 year-old man is on his death-bed. He has lived a long and satisfying life. He has accomplished great things. He has amassed great wealth. However, he has struggled with one major frustration and, in his mind, one significant failure. For his entire life his nine sons and daughters have never gotten along. They have bitterly fought amongst themselves, shared petty jealousies and held grudges. Many have not spoken to one another in years. This has caused the old man great pain and suffering.  So he called his eldest son to his bedside and instructed him as follows. “I am dying, my son, and have little time left. There is, however one thing that I wish you to do for me. Contact all your brothers and sisters and have them gather in my bedroom next Tuesday. I wish to say goodbye to everyone together; and one more thing, my son. Be sure that each of your brothers and sisters brings a stick four feet long and one half-inch in circumference.” The eldest son was puzzled by this strange request and thought, sadly, that his father had already lost his mind. Nevertheless, being the dutiful son that he was, he contacted all his siblings and gave them his father’s instructions. On Tuesday they all gathered by their dying father’s bed awkwardly holding their sticks. The tension in the air was quite palpable given the hostility that existed between the brothers and sisters.  The old man asked the eldest for his stick. In the silence of the room, he wrapped his bony hands around the stick and began to bend it. His hands shook as he applied more and more pressure to the wood until there was a resounding snap in the room as the stick broke. He then instructed the eldest to gather up all the remaining sticks and bring them to him. When he had all nine sticks in his hands he slowly bound them together with a leather strip. When he had finished he asked his strongest son who worked in a rock quarry to please take the bundle of sticks in his hands and attempt to break them. This very muscular son wrapped his massive hands around the nine sticks and began to apply pressure. Soon the bundle began to bend ever so slightly. The man’s muscles began to bulge as he continued to apply pressure. However, as hard as he bent, the sticks would not move beyond their initial bend. His face began to turn red and the veins in his neck bulged, but the sticks would not budge. Minutes later, and sweating profusely, the strong man gave up exhausted. Everyone had watched this demonstration in silence. The old man faced his children and said, “I have a parting message for you and hopefully a life lesson. All my life you have been fighting amongst yourselves. You have not supported each other and have not acted as a family. When you do that understand that you stand alone. You are weak and anyone can break you, even someone as frail as myself. However, when you stick together, when you support each other not even the strongest can break you.”

Until next time, may you live in gratitude and cooperation with one another.


Read more about the great teamwork leaders here:

John Maxwell – “17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork”

Phil Jackson – “Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior”


April 1, 2014   No Comments

Providing a Safe Space; Part Five of Having a Life You Love

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love.




By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

The fifth core belief of Team NHI is “providing safe space.” The ability to create a safe space may well be one of the most vital skills needed to create an ongoing successful relationship of any kind. Being a college of massage therapy, National Holistic Institute is impeccable about creating safe space for its students and employees; space in which students may “sink in” to the process of learning the language of touch, and space in which staff can model what it looks like “having work you love.” What I find most compelling about this core belief is that life is comprised of relating and of relationships, all of which may more easily flourish in a trustworthy and compassionate environment.

Providing safe space: As I write this I find myself carefully considering how best to entice the reader into a willingness to develop this skill as a significant priority in one’s life.

The first thing to be really clear about regarding this is: If you do not intentionally create a safe space you will not have one, regardless of whether we are talking about therapist-client interactions, a working relationship, or a marriage.

What, exactly, is a safe space?

Safe Space

At the risk of sounding flippant or silly, I want to emphasize that A SAFE SPACE IS A SPACE IN WHICH PEOPLE FEEL SAFE.

People do not feel threatened. They do not feel judged. They do feel cared for, loved and appreciated. They do feel they are being heard and understood what they express themselves. They do feel that we are sincerely attempting to understand what is “true” or “truth” for them, rather than suggesting their perspective is wrong or that ours’ is somehow better or senior to theirs.

If you are creating a safe space for yourself, all of these things are as equally true. You do not threaten yourself. You do not judge yourself or put yourself down. You do care for and love yourself, you listen to and attempt to understand your “body intelligence,” and you have respect for your truth. You remain open—wide open—to growth and new possibilities, but your emotional center of gravity is grounded in a deep appreciation for the sacred process that you always and already are.

We can judge a person against any existing moral, ethical, or religious code or standard. It then becomes easy to not see or hear that person. Their essence becomes invisible to us because judgment creates separation. Judging someone against any standard separates us from the person or group we are judging. It reduces our empathy and, thus, our love.

This is not to say that we should not discern or establish and adhere to our own guiding values. The author and philosopher Ayn Rand warned about “sanctioning incompetency,” referring to our society—harshly, perhaps—as “drowning in a sea of mediocrity.” But the spiritual truth remains: separation is what happens when we judge. Separation-consciousness is the opposite of love, and love is what makes the world go ‘round (or makes it, at the least, a lot more enjoyable).

At NHI, we strive to make our students feel safe to explore, experiment, and grow. As teachers, we want our students to have the best possible experience in the classroom. Providing that means finding a balance between challenging them and keeping them safe. Mountain Range

We try to set the right mood in the room from the very beginning. We “ground in,” enjoy some quiet, meditative time or a fun, physical activity. Once the mood in the room has been established, the most important issue is physical and emotional safety. As a teacher, it’s our job to watch out for “danger signs in the “learning dojo.” I greet each student by name and listen for the tone of their response. It’s one way I can scan the “community” for weak (i.e. in need of deeper understanding or a word of comfort) links. During bodywork sessions, I observe how both the giver and the receiver are breathing. How we breathe is how we do everything else. If the breath looks or sounds strained or fatigued, I help the student find their way back to gentle belly-breathing. The breath is often the guide; the whole bodywork session is, in a very real sense, an hour-long breathing exercise. Once the breath “feels” right, I check my students’ feet and move upward, looking for any alignment “danger” signs. I go to the students who need the most help and practice with them for a moment to show them what I’m asking. The feet, knees, and hips are most important, and aligning them is the first step; when you adjust them, the optimal working posture comes naturally into bloom.

I also encourage my students to develop their own intuition. They need to listen to their inner teacher and take personal responsibility for their own safety. If something feels wrong, it is wrong. It is always safe to say so.

When my students don’t seem to be responding to my instructions, I always try to remember that most of them are really doing the best they can. Maybe they aren’t in the perfect state of mind, or they are trying in relation to what others can do. I ask them not to compare themselves to other people, but simply to find their edge with enthusiasm, relaxation, and a lack of force. This way they can visit their edge without jumping over it—as teachers, it’s our job to help them peek but not jump.

On the other hand, if most of the class seems to be not getting it, I recognize that I need to change my approach as a teacher.

Creating and maintaining space entails recognizing that such a space is something dynamic, in motion, often changing. It involves dealing with students at different levels of ability. I invite my students to see their work as a form of prayer and a form of dance—a celebration of all they’ve been handed, a reminder of the blessings they’ve received. I remind them to take “safe space” with them wherever they go and to view their practice not as something to fear, but as a chance to blossom or open up, an opportunity to give others the gift of whole-hearted acceptance, as well as the gifts of healing touch..


At the end of class, I ask them to pause for a moment of reflection. In that moment, they can thank themselves for being in class and honor someone in their lives who is suffering physically or emotionally. As they “whoosh” for the final time, they can send some love and support to that person, helping them to understand the inner or spiritual aspects of being a massage therapist. It’s a safe way to help them stretch their conception of massage as simply a physical experience.

It’s a gift to be a teacher—we’re in the heart of the service industry. When we forget that, we’ve lost perspective. We’re there to serve our students by providing valuable information and creating a safe environment for them to use that information to expand their horizons and grow as “bodymindspirit” beings.
Finally, it helps me to remember that students are dealing with deep stuff: their fears and internal demons. We really have no idea what their personal issues are. It’s also a gift to be human, a gift that is not, as they say, for sissies. As teachers, we must simply be prepared to breathe, support them, and keep their spirits lifted so they can vanquish the demons and embrace both their “tigers” and highest selves. As above, so below. As with students, so with all beings. Let’s cherish each other as we are able, and help create a world that is safe for everyone!


Tune in next week for our next installment: “Teamwork Making the Dream Work”

March 28, 2014   No Comments

Telling the Truth With Compassion: Step Four Towards Having a Life You Love

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love


Step 4/10: Telling the Truth with Compassion

By Jeff Rockwell


Jim Ohara2 Jim O’Hara has been a major part of the heart and soul of the National Holistic Institute a College of Massage Therapy for many years. A massage therapist for nearly 30 years, Jim carries the title of   “Curriculum and Training Specialist” at NHI. But with a Masters degree in education from Stanford, a master’s grasp of Eastern healing arts, along with years of tending to the spiritual needs of people in India and Nepal, Mr.   O’Hara, I suspect, is actually a Buddha in disguise.

The fourth core belief of NHI and the subject of this week’s blog is “telling the truth with compassion,” a maxim that is framed and displayed in every NHI campus. The author of these inspiring words? Jim O’Hara, of course.

Let’s dig into the wisdom of this saying, breaking it down into its component parts: Tell the truth. With Compassion.

First of all, what do we mean by “truth”? There are a lot of “facts” we take for granted that just aren’t true. This includes many things we believe about ourselves. For centuries, everyone “knew” that the sun and planets revolved around the Earth. Up until the late 19th century, epidemic illnesses such as cholera and the plague were “known” to be caused by a poisonous mist filled with particles from rotting debris. Until the early 20th century, the most common procedure performed by surgeons was bloodletting, because we “knew” that draining blood rid the body of the bad humors responsible for poor health.

Today, of course, we don’t make such silly assumptions. Or do we?



Ever hear that cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis? As a chiropractor, this particularly amuses me:  You will not get arthritis from cracking your knuckles. There is actually no evidence of such an association and, in studies performed, there was no change in occurrence of arthritis between “habitual knuckle crackers” and “non crackers.” In fact, in some studies, it was shown that “knuckle crackers” experienced a lesser occurrence of arthritis.

Or how about this: Cholesterol in eggs is bad for one’s heart. Not true. The perceived association between dietary cholesterol and risk for coronary heart disease stems from dietary recommendations proposed in the 1960s that had little scientific evidence, other than the known association between saturated fat and cholesterol and animal studies where cholesterol was fed in amounts far exceeding normal intakes. Since then, study after study has found that dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol found in food) does not negatively raise your body’s cholesterol. It is the consumption of saturated fat that is the demon here. So eat eggs, not steak.

Some things that we incorrectly believe to be true are fairly trivial. Others are not. For example, consider this, that humans utilize only 10 per cent of their brain.

Admittedly, the human brain is beyond complex. Along with performing millions of mundane acts, it composes concertos, issues manifestos and comes up with elegant solutions to equations. It’s the wellspring of all human feelings, behaviors, and experiences as well as the repository of memory and self-awareness. So it’s no surprise that the brain remains a mystery unto itself.

Adding to that mystery is the contention that humans only employ 10 percent of their brain. If only “regular folk” could tap that other 90 percent, they too could become savants who remember pi to the twenty-thousandth decimal place or perhaps even have telekinetic powers.

Though an interesting, albeit very limiting, idea, the “10 percent myth” is so wrong it is almost laughable, says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Although there’s no definitive culprit to pin the blame on for starting this legend, the notion has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in The Energies of Men that “we are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”

The myth’s durability, Gordon says, stems from people’s conceptions about their own brains: they see their own shortcomings as evidence of the existence of untapped gray matter. This is a false assumption. What is correct, however, is that at certain moments in anyone’s life, such as when we are simply at rest and thinking, we may be using only 10 percent of our brains. “It turns out, though, that we use virtually every part of our brain and that most of the brain is active almost all the time,” Gordon adds. Let’s put it this way: the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20 percent of the body’s energy.

“Evidence would show over a day you use 100 percent of the brain,” says John Henley, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Even in sleep, areas such as the frontal cortex, which controls things like higher level thinking and self-awareness, or the somatosensory areas, which help people sense their surroundings, are active, Henley explains.

Another mystery hidden within our skulls is that of all the brain’s cells, only 10 percent are neurons; the other 90 percent are glial cells, which encapsulate and support neurons, but whose function still remains largely unknown. Ultimately, it’s not that we use 10 percent of our brains; merely that we only understand about 10 percent of how the brain functions.

Among the most insidious and pernicious non-truths we dabble in are some of the things we tell ourselves about ourselves. Researchers estimate that we think approximately 50,000 thoughts a day, with 80-90 per cent of them being negative messages about ourselves and others.

Compassion 2

The Buddha taught that our true nature is compassion, and when this true nature is realized, the offspring of compassion emerge: loving-kindness, empathetic joy, and equanimity.

Who are you? Tell me the truth. Never mind all your fears and insecurities or all the things you have or would like to have. I don’t want to know your gender, nationality, age, family situation, ethnic background, and certainly not what you do for a living. My question is this: What is your true nature? Do you know? Do you ever ask yourself?  I’m not asking who you believe yourself to be, but rather what you experience in those moments when you are not caught up in your wants and fears. These are hard, yet essential, questions for those who wish to consciously experience life’s fullness. This was what Socrates was referring to when he wrote, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

So, who are you? Really? What are the “truths” you tell yourself? Only you can answer this question, however I can tell you who and what you are not. For example:

  1. You are not your worst traits.
  2. You are not your history.
  3. You are not your thoughts. (By now, you have probably seen the bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t believe everything you think.”)

If you are not your thoughts, then what is your true nature, how do you find it, and how do you live so that it may flourish? These are the perennial questions for anyone who starts to develop an inner life. In Jesus’ teachings, love is at the center of all being – love that is forgiving, unconditional, and not self-serving.

The poet T. S. Eliot, a devoted Anglican Christian, said it in this manner in his Four Quartets: “Love is most nearly itself when here and now cease to matter.” What Eliot is suggesting is that the true nature of love is not based on life always going our way, but on the sheer openness of one heart to another.



Marianne Williamson described our true nature as well as anyone when she wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

I desire to be compassionate. But I find myself often harboring feelings of judgment and dislike for certain people, and it is often the very people for whose experiences and pains I ought to have the most compassion. A thought that has changed the way I approach compassion was written by the late mythologist Joseph Campbell. Campbell wrote, “Compassion is that which converts disillusionment into participatory companionship.” In other words, we are meant to participate in community—to be alive and present to life– and to do so may very well entail rising above our complaints about the “cards” life has “dealt” us.

I believe that the deepest form of compassion is the willingness to share your being, the truth of your being of which Marianne Williamson wrote. I love the phrasing Campbell used. Compassion converts disillusionment into something else. In order for disillusionment to be converted, it must first exist! Campbell premises compassion on the acknowledgment that each of us will encounter negativity within ourselves towards other people. When someone fails or betrays us, when they utter an unkind word, or when they fail to meet our expectations, we experience disillusionment.

The people I have the most problems with are the ones that do not meet my expectations. When people are impolite, don’t follow certain social norms, or exhibit characteristics I dislike in myself, my mind reacts with negativity. I love that Campbell says compassion converts this negativity into “participatory companionship” because companionship is not a feeling! Companionship is the choice to participate in someone’s life despite the way you might feel.

This thought is freeing to me. It means that I don’t have to be trapped by my emotions. I can choose, despite my emotions, to participate. I can choose freely to give of my being to people who “make me” feel frustrated.

Campbell also wrote that “what evokes our love…is the imperfection of the human being.” When I practice mindful living and see my own weaknesses clearly, other people’s imperfections cease to become burdens or frustrations, but rather become my common ground with them. Love is evoked when sameness is recognized. Who am I? I am my neighbor.

In order for me to “tell the truth with compassion,” I must know what compassion is.

Compassion is a way of moving through the world with respect for all beings. It is about practicing acceptance, concern and understanding for others, with the realization that whatever we do for someone else helps us grow as spiritual beings. 

So, let’s put this all together and address the core belief of “telling the truth with compassion.”

Truth expressed without compassion can easily be hurtful. Compassion expressed without honesty becomes delusional. Ultimately, to reduce suffering, truth needs to be joined with compassion when relating with ourselves as well as with others.

You likely have heard others claiming to be just ‘telling the truth,’ when in reality they are using the truth as a weapon to hurt us or someone else. Truth is important, but we need to be conscious of why and how we express something that may be hurtful to another.

On the other hand there is the phrase, “But I just didn’t want to hurt his (her) feelings,” which is often used as a reason for lying or omitting some relevant truth. We may not want to hurt someone’s feelings, but too often this is more about avoiding our own discomfort. Worse still, it often diminishes our ability to communicate with one another.

Truth and compassion are important values that at times may pull in different directions. By paying attention, and being conscious of both, we can act in ways that properly balance them for each situation that we face.

At NHI, we practice a communications model inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s work in Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

Most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand and diagnose — to think and communicate in terms of what is “right“or “wrong“ with people.

We express our feelings in terms of what another person has “done to us.” We struggle to understand what we want or need in- the- moment and, in our best moments, how to effectively ask for what we want without using unhealthy demands, threats or coercion. Marshall Rosenberg has written, “What others do may be a stimulus of our feelings, but not the cause.”

NVC is based on rather deep and quite spiritual principles:

1. Each person is responsible for his own life.  This means taking full responsibility for one’s feelings, words and actions, rather than projecting and attributing our feelings to others.

2. Do not take responsibility for the feelings of others.  This is another trap that one must avoid.  If someone is upset with you, or with anything, it is an attribute of that person, and it is not about you, necessarily.

3. One cannot force others to feel, think or act the way one wishes.   Trying to do so, through demands, threats and punishment stops communication.  Even if the attempt is successful, the results often backfire, so that the person acts from resentment, not from love and honesty.

4. Judging oneself and others often stops honest communication.  Judging has a quality of finality about it. Also, judging presumes one knows everything about a person or situation, which is generally not the case.  Judgment therefore is usually an enemy of communication, although the qualities of discernment and evaluation, which are different than judgment, are needed always.

5. All people are connected at the level of feelings, basic personality needs, and other levels. Staying grounded, staying in present- time, and empathizing with others brings people together and solves problems.  When, however, one does not remain at these deeper levels of human connection and, instead, argues or discusses at purely intellectual or emotional levels, communication tends to fall apart.

Truth with compassion

When I first “landed” at NHI San Jose in 2010 I was impressed with all of the words of inspiration displayed on the walls of the campus. I particularly resonated with “tell the truth with compassion.” Next to quotes by Rumi, Aristotle, Gandhi, and W. Somerset Maugham, I wanted to know who this Jim O’Hara was. Intrigued to discover that he was “one of us,” I looked forward to one day making his acquaintance. What I have learned since about Jim, and what I have heard from his closest colleagues, is that he walks his talk. “He epitomizes and lives ‘truth with compassion,’ “one said. Another commented on how meeting with him always leaves her feeling that she has learned “something important,” whether about some aspect of work, or herself, or about life. As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, Mr. O’Hara has devoted decades to the hero’s journey and shares his knowledge—in the classroom, in his dreamwork consultations,  astrology and Tarot readings, and in his new e-book In the Land of Shiva–with a complete lack of judgment or criticalness. As one person said, “Being in his presence makes self-development happen.” This has been my experience as well. I have often heard that greatness cannot be taught, but it can be caught. So let me give you some truth: It’s one thing reading inspiring words, and it’s an entirely different experience “reading” an inspiring person. Thanks to Jim O’Hara, I am beginning to not only know what “telling the truth with compassion” looks like, but I am becoming better acquainted with my own true nature and with the nature of compassion itself; two major ingredients of a life worth loving. Namaste, Jim.


P.S. For information on Jim O’Hara’s e-book, check his website You can get more information on his dreamwork at

March 18, 2014   No Comments

Building Confidence, Creating Opportunity

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love.


Step 3/10: Building Confidence, Creating Opportunity

By Jeff Rockwell


I first began teaching in 1992, initially at a chiropractic college and, later, at a school for massage therapy. From my first class, I formed the habit of asking my students the following question: “What makes a great healer , well, great?” As much as I wanted the students to ponder this for their own benefit, I was hoping one of them would be able to explain this for my benefit.

Over ten years went by and I gathered many interesting and deep responses. One day, while walking along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica on my way to a movement therapy class, “it” (i.e. my answer) came to me. My thinking went like this: We are all born into a relational field and, for many, that field often feels unsafe, if not toxic. When a client enters our office, they become part of a new relational field, one they can feel at ease in, where their words and body are truly listened to and heard.  A healer worth her salt creates for the client something sacred: a safe space.  It may be the first time a client has been held, so to speak, in such a nurturing and healing container.

True healing is an alchemical process, not easily explained in words. People receive therapeutic touch and their life changes. Like any process, time is required. Time plus safe space equals a new life.

The National Holistic Institute College of Massage Therapy is dedicated to helping people have work they love. Having work we love is part of having a life we love. The next of NHI’s “core beliefs” is “building confidence, creating opportunities”.                                              

Very few people succeed in life without a degree of confidence. Yet everyone, from young people in their first real jobs to seasoned leaders in the upper ranks of organizations, have moments — or days, months, or even years — when they are unsure of their ability to tackle challenges. This often comes with the territory of being raised in an unsafe space. Whether it be the speed and disconnectedness of our culture, or the stress of a dysfunctional family environment, confidence withers before it has a chance to blossom.


“Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance,” says Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. And yet he concedes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.” At least we are in good company, if you want to look at it that way.

How can we break free from the crowd and get into the positive cycle that Schwartz describes?

Well, first of all, your piano teacher wasn’t right. Practice doesn’t make perfect. But it does make you better. “The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it,” says Schwartz. Many people give up when they think they’re not good at a particular job or task, assuming the exertion is fruitless. But Schwartz argues that deliberate practice will almost always trump natural aptitude. If you are unsure about your ability to do something — speak in front of large audience, build a practice — start by trying out the skills in a safe setting. Practice—even mental rehearsal, can be very useful.

Confident people aren’t only willing to practice, they’re also willing to acknowledge that they don’t — and can’t — know everything. “It’s better to know when you need help, than not,” says Schwartz. “A certain degree of confidence — specifically, confidence in your ability to learn — is required to be willing to admit that you need guidance or support.”

While you don’t want to completely rely on others’ opinions to boost your confidence, validation can also be very effective in building confidence. Schwartz suggests asking someone who cares about your development as well as the quality of your performance to tell you what she thinks. Be sure to pick people whose feedback will be entirely truthful; Schwartz notes that when performance appraisals are only positive, we stop trusting them. And then use any genuinely positive commentary you get as a talisman.

Be yourself

Also remember that some people need more support than others, so don’t be shy about asking for it. When I was a freshman in high school, I was the worst runner on my cross-country team.  Any self-confidence I had disappeared. But I loved to run. Considering how shy I was at the time, I amazed myself by calling the number of a local elite marathoner and, when he answered the phone, asking him if he would be willing to train me. Even more amazing, he said yes. When I returned to school that fall, I was the best runner on the team. Four years later I competed in the Olympic Trials. All thanks to a risk taken, a lot of practice and the encouraging help of a mentor.

At NHI, we consider ourselves a community of mentors. We are a safe space where compassionate truth-telling and encouragement happen daily.

The good news is that self-confidence can be learned and built on. And, whether you’re working on your own self-confidence or building the confidence of people around you, it’s well-worth the effort.

Your level of self-confidence shows in many ways: your behavior, your body language, how you speak, what you say, and so on. I have repeatedly observed, over the years, how changing one’s posture through deep tissue massage and somatic movement therapy, changes one’s attitude and confidence.

What else can we do to improve confidence?

Well, the “bad news” is that there’s no quick fix, or five-minute solution.

Here are three steps to self-confidence, for which I’ll use the metaphor of a journey: preparing for your journey; setting out; and accelerating towards a life you love, a top-quality life journey.

Step 1: Preparing for Your Journey

The first step involves getting yourself ready for your journey to self-confidence. You need to take stock of where you are, think about where you want to go, get yourself in the right mindset for your journey, and commit yourself to starting it and staying with it. Ask for help. Place yourself in a “growth” environment, a turbo-charged safe space.  Run with what you learn.

Think about your life so far, and list the ten best things you’ve achieved in an “Achievement Log.” Perhaps you did great in an important test or exam, played a key role on an important team, or did something that made a key difference in someone else’s life. Put these into a smartly formatted document, which you can look at often. And then spend a few minutes each week enjoying the success you’ve already had.

Next, think about the things that are really important to you, and what you want to achieve with your life. Setting and achieving goals is critical (as is setting and living by your values), and real self-confidence comes from this. Goal setting is the process you use to set yourself targets, and measure your successful hitting of those targets.  The modern-day philosopher, Earl Nightingale said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” Progressive: as in steady, incremental improvement. Worthy: as in motivating and inspiring, to you and to others (but mostly to you).

The final part of preparing for the journey is to make a clear and unequivocal promise to yourself that you are absolutely committed to your journey, and that you will do all in your power to achieve it.

Step 2: Setting Out By Managing Your Mind



Start generating and flowing with that positive energy I wrote about in my previous blog, keep celebrating and enjoying every small success, and keep positive mental images active in your mind.

On the other hand, learn to handle failure. Accept that mistakes happen when you’re trying something new. In fact, if you get into the habit of treating mistakes as learning experiences, you can (almost) start to see them in a positive light.

Step 3: Accelerating Towards A Life You Love

This is the time to start stretching yourself. Make the goals a bit bigger, and the challenges a little tougher. Increase the size of your commitment. And extend the skills you’ve proven into new, but closely related arenas. Keep yourself grounded – this is where people tend to become over-confident, over-worked, and stretched too thin.

Albert Einstein was asked what the purpose of life is. He candidly responded, “I don’t know. But I can assure you that the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve.” Another term for being of service is to create opportunities.


Consider this opportunity: The U.S. spends $2.7 trillion a year on health care, more than any other country by far, and yet we are not healthy. They also know that, to create a healthier nation, we must focus on more than just treating illness. We must create opportunities to pursue the healthiest lives possible, wherever we live, work, learn, and play.

At NHI, we are committed to creating a “culture of health and wellness.” Everyone probably has their own definition of a culture of health but, to me, it means a society in which each person has the opportunity to lead a healthy life, with adequate housing, educational opportunities, safety from violence, healthy food options, exercise, and of course, affordable, quality health care.  Creating a culture of health means creating a relational field of health. It entails becoming a “safe space” in motion, where our thoughts, words and actions become part of the solution.

We have each been given a piece of the planet to “make safe.” Creating such a culture is revolutionary, and it starts with one person; a person whose confidence and commitment to being of service is so strong that it becomes contagious. One kind act at a time; one heartfelt “hello” at a time; one massage at a time: however you pursue this great journey it all points in the same direction—to not only a life that we love, but a world in which everyone is loved!

Find out what the next step is in Jeff’s 10 Steps to Having a Life you love ~ Subscribe here!

March 11, 2014   No Comments

Empty Cups, Full Journeys: A Play in Three Acts

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love!


Step 2/10: Empty Cups, Full Journeys: A Play in Three Acts

Act One:

I’m seventeen years old, full of myself, and wiser than my parents. Then a miracle happens. Late one evening, I flip through the 4 television channels available at the time (NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS), and something on Channel 12 (PBS) catches my attention: a show on Zen Buddhism is being advertised and it’s coming on in 15 minutes. I watch it and am treated to interesting interviews with Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki, Philip Kapleau, and a very young Thich Nhat Hanh. This was my first exposure to Eastern wisdom and, for a few precious moments, the beige bubble of Cold War-era New Jersey bursts. I see in colors and realize I may not know everything after all.

My favorite part of the hour-long show is a 30-second clip that is repeated numerous times throughout the show. A Zen teacher from Japan, whose name I do not catch, is asked, “Roshi, what is Zen?” His response: an outrageous burst of belly laughter. That’s it, over and over and, for years after, I wonder who that mad man was.


Act Two:

Ten years later, inspired by a quote from Thoreau– who equated success with the quality of one’s journey– I embarked on exactly that, a journey, hitchhiking from my parents’ home in New Jersey to Southern California. After spending several years in East Africa, England and India studying yoga and meditation, I had cobbled together enough skills to be able to land my first job as a professional body worker. Settling in the small high-desert town of LucerneValley, I worked six days a week at a dude-ranch-turned-spa, doing bodywork on wealthy clients visiting from Los Angeles. My salary: $35 a month, room and board included. The desert clobbered me with its magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Life was simple and simple was good.

I worked to cultivate a flexible mind – “beginner’s mind–” and plied my trade, while also learning how to repair a broken toilet, wrap a bandage, and make fresh tofu from scratch .

I also made a new friend, a rich dropout from the LA scene, who was a devout student of Zen Buddhism. We began sitting zazen together daily, and when he offered to pay for me to attend a seven day Zen sesshin, a silent sitting meditation retreat, I eagerly accepted.

We made the drive to MountBaldy, outside of Los Angeles, where the Zen teacher would hold his retreat in a virgin redwood forest. We were placed in a dormitory room with eight other men, given our black robes to wear beginning the following day, and drank vodka with the monks who had been living there for years with their teacher Sasaki Roshi. The retreat was to begin with a brief walking meditation at 4 AM.

The next day, which was hardly even “day,” was stupefying in its silence and pitch blackness. Fifty black-robed men and women were journeying one small, ultra-slow step at a time through the dark, when the quietude was pierced by the sound of intense laughter. This wild roar echoed off our skulls and through the invisible mountains. I had found my Zen hero from the PBS show I had watched as a high school junior!

Later that day, after 4 hours of sitting meditation and a lunch of brown rice, sea vegetables and miso soup, I had my first interview with Sasaki Roshi. Today, Roshi is 105 years old and has gained notoriety as the teacher of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, but on that day he appeared like a lion at the peak of its powers.

After asking me what work I did, he gave me my koan—or riddle—to solve: “How does the Buddha give massage?” I thought I was clever and performed a little dance as my answer. He threw me out. The next day, the same question. This time I began massaging the air. “Out!” Day three: I chanted “Om.” Wrong religion: “Out!”

Sasaki Roshi


Act Three:

I still don’t know how the Buddha “gives massage.” While I’m happier with my skills today, I feel, in a way, that I know less. At National Holistic Institute, A College of Massage Therapy, we call this having an “empty cup.” While my cup is not exactly empty, it has cracks in it, acquired by the process of living a full journey, and the cracks allow personal hubris and ego to seep out. In the words of Leonard Cohen, ”There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” So, I am not complaining.

I am happiest when I let go of trying to be an expert and embrace, once again, being a beginner. If you are interested in being brand new each morning, what would your life be like? How can you empty your “cup”?

Let’s take a look at eight aspects of what is meant by “beginner’s mind” and see how they can transform our life:

1. Notice taking one step at a time. We tend to think in sequences. For example, when we go grocery shopping, our mind is on what we need to buy and where to shop. We’re likely to skip over all the little experiences on the way: locking the front door, seeing the neighbor standing at the window, rain splattering on the windscreen, the sound of traffic.

Journey Final 2


The same thing happens when we learn something new. We’re always looking towards what we’ll know or be able to do in the future, instead of focusing on the next step right now.

2. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Yesterday a client of mine brought her toddler for a craniosacral session. The little girl, Mallory, is just learning to walk. She would pull herself up, wobble along a few steps and then plop down on her bottom. She had a determined look on her face and got up again, over and over. When did we last learn something with such determination and such little obvious success?

3. Use “Don’t Know” mind. In martial arts, a “don’t know” mind is considered the wisdom of the warrior. We can easily get things wrong by prejudging a situation. When faced with a big opponent or a big challenge, we might assume that we will lose out. And when faced with an opponent who seems smaller or weaker, or a challenge that seems surmountable, we might assume that we will be on top. In both scenarios our judgment might be wrong. “Don’t know” means keeping an open mind and responding according to circumstances, not according to how we assume things will be. A “don’t know” mind leaves room for magic, and if not magic, certainly intuition.

4. Live without “should’s.” We could all write entire books about how we should be, what we should have done and what we should be doing.  The world seems to be full of experts on my life who like to tell me what I should be doing. Engaging life with an “empty cup” means letting go of “should’s.” By the way, I’m not advocating living without our own moral standards. It’s just that I think most of our “should’s” reflect other peoples’ ideas about what our life should look like. Don’t “should” on yourself.

5. Be practical and make use of experience. Beginner’s mind is great, but it’s not so useful when crossing the road. You don’t want to be squashed flat by a car in the process of learning anew that you need to get out of the way! It’s always good to use both our experience and our native wisdom.

6. Let go of being an expert. We are all experts. Experts in our job, in raising children, in crossing the road, in signing our name. It’s difficult to let go of being an expert. Because it means confessing that we really know all that we think or hope we do. What we know belongs to the past, whereas we probably know very little about the next, new moment. If I let go of being an expert, I can listen to others with an open mind. Then I find that every one and every thing is my teacher.

7. Experience the moment fully. Have you ever taken a small kid to the beach for the first time? Everything is amazing for them. They stare at the people walking by. They chase each dog they see. They investigate even the cold waters of MonterreyBay with great joy and concentration. They live each moment.

Most of the time, as adults, we live in a daydream in which we dwell on the past and dream of the future. Meanwhile life runs on without us, without us being present to its gifts. We miss so much when we live in a daze. “Emptying our cup” allows us to take in the whole show. Then even the “ordinary” becomes the extraordinary.

8. Use the spirit of inquiry. Ask for guidance and relinquish preconceived ideas. There’s a Zen story about this; one that we are very fond of at NHI:

A professor once visited a Japanese master to inquire about Zen. The master served tea. When the visitor’s cup was full, the master kept pouring. Tea spilled out of the cup and over the table and onto the floor. The professor exclaimed, “Master! The cup is already full.” The master replies, “That is correct. And please return when your cup is empty.”


  Empty Cup           Our third NHI core belief, “Empty cups, full journeys,” is,
in essence, our third portal into having a life we  love. How                                                   best to embark or continue on our full journey?   In Thich Nhat                                           Hanh’s words, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your                                               feet.” And how might we go about emptying our cup? As Ray                                               Bradbury wrote, “Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.


I’m seventeen years old and I drop and break my tea cup on the long road from my head to my heart. Not to worry. It will rain soon and the flowers will return. If I can’t find fullness within me, where else do I expect to find it?


~Dr. Jeff Rockwell


How will you empty your cup? Comment below! 

March 6, 2014   1 Comment

#LifeYouLove – Step 1: Entering the Heart of an Excellent Life

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love!

STEP 1/10: “Entering the Heart of an Excellent Life”

By Jeff Rockwell

Welcome to the first of a ten-part exploration of the beliefs and values that energize and inform the community called the “National Holistic Institute: A College of Massage Therapy.” Consider yourself a community: a collection of beliefs, attitudes, experiences, dreams and ambitions that just might be in search of an upgrade, a boost in performance, or a stronger dose of personal energy and happiness. Then consider the first of our beliefs-to-be-discussed as the “entrance” to a better—indeed, an excellent—life.


If your life was a home (which it sort of is), and you wanted to “make it new” or to improve its chi, you might hire a feng shui consultant. And where do you suppose he or she would start making changes? Quite likely, they would start with the entrance or the threshold into your abode. This area is critical. It is more than just the entry into your living space. It is the location of your guests’ first impressions and where chi, or vital energy, enters your home. The word “entrance” means to “en-trance” your guests, welcoming them with beauty and positive energy. By making the entrance to your home wonderful, you attract and nourish the positive energy entering and flowing through it.

Let’s apply this to your life. The first belief or value—call it the “the entrance” to our belief system—is “POSITIVE ENERGY FLOWING.”

“Flow” has been described by researcher and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity. It is the experience of completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion in the present moment, energized and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of boredom or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from the flow. The hallmark of “flow” is a spontaneous feeling of joy, even rapture, while performing an activity: “positive energy flowing.”


Historical sources indicate that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel while in a deep flow state. He painted for days at a time, and was so absorbed in his work that he did not even stop for food or sleep until he reached the point of passing out. Afterwards, he would wake up refreshed and, upon starting to paint again, re-enter a state of complete absorption.

Bruce Lee spoke of a psychological state similar to “flow” and described the importance of adaptability and shedding preconceptions in his autobiography. In his book, he advised his readers, “Be like water, my friends.”

Great athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, David Beckham, and Derek Jeter all spoke of this state as a principle of growth. Basketball coach Phil Jackson wrote, “When one is in a flow state, he or she is working to master the activity at hand. To maintain that flow state, one must seek increasingly greater challenges while maintaining a positive mental attitude.”

Perhaps you are a massage therapist, and want to be the best therapist ever. Maybe you are interested in pursuing a career in massage therapy and want to be a spectacular student. Or, you might be an IT professional, interested in wellness and read our blog to get some inspiration. I suggest the following:

1: Set your intention. Be specific. You will know when you are flowing with positive energy when you emotionally feel grounded and uplifted. If your body is a temple, make yours a “temple of ‘yes!’”

2: Allow. After you have set your intentions in a given area, trust the process (another NHI maxim) and allow yourself to show up in the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude.

3: Practice “right speech.” Be mindful of the language you use when you talk about yourself, especially when you are talking TO yourself. Walt Whitman said, “Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.” That includes you! Look in the mirror and proclaim, “I am a genius and I apply my wisdom daily.” Sound far-fletched? Need proof? Consider this: you are the CEO of a 76,000,000,000,000 member community (called “Your Body, Inc.”) that works  in near- perfect harmony. Yeah, you’re awesome!

4: Avoid cursing (yourself, that is). Eliminate these words from your language: “yeah, but…””I know I should exercise more, but…” “Eating more fruits and vegetables is a great idea, but…” Something is either a great idea or it’s not, but it’s never “a great idea, BUT.” Dump the “I can’t” talk. If you don’t want to do something, just say so. Another term to jettison from your vocabulary: “I’ll try.” People avoid doing things by TRYING to do them.

5: Practice saying the most important words in the English language: “Thank you”and“I love you.” Victor Hugo wrote that “love is the ultimate response one grants to superlative values.” Do you value excellence, health, prosperity, compassion?  I love you!

6: Get enough rest. Balance hard work and exercise with adequate sleep. Sleep researchers are now saying we need NINE hours of the stuff each night. Go for it.

7: See if you can go 24 hours without criticizing or blaming anyone, including yourself.

8: Dance. That’s it. Dance.

9: And listen to plenty of music. Music is the easiest way to shift your energy quickly.

10: Practice yoga; get a massage; learn to give a massage, if you don’t already know how; meditate; journal; set worthy goals (better yet, set worthy VALUES); be a reader; inhale gratitude, exhale gratitude, and repeat.


We are magnets. What do you want to attract in your life? Whom do you want to attract? When we develop the habit of emitting positive energy we attract the best life has to offer. When we flow with what shows up, when we make like a jazz musician and make creativity (as in creating miracles and magic, new possibilities and great memories) our number one priority, we have crossed the threshold onto a path with heart. You become the person you hoped you would become when you were a child. Is this easy to do? Not always. Is it worth it? Heck, yes! After all, your entire life is at stake.



Stay tuned each week for a new blog detailing the ten steps each week.  To get these posts as emails in your inbox, just subscribe!

#lifeyoulove #massage #NHI

To learn more about National Holistic Institute, A College of Massage Therapy, visit

February 18, 2014   1 Comment

10 Steps to Having a Life You Love!

By Jeff Rockwell

“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”—Steve Jobs (in a Stanford commencement speech)

I am a very lucky man. I haven’t worked since 1978. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not afraid of burning the midnight oil preparing for a class or seminar I’m going to teach, or returning emails to anxious patients. What drives me to get up each morning is a burning desire to be of service. But from the day I took my first bodywork class (Polarity Therapy with Pierre Pannetier, in Ann Armor, Michigan), I “fell” into a swift river of interest that has kept me happily busy and off the streets ever since.

I am just one of many people who have done that, found work that I love, and there are people all over the world pursuing their dreams, working with passion, losing themselves in their work. Are you one of them? Would you like to be?


In a recent Forbes article, only 19% of Americans polled in a research study reported they liked their work. I find that staggering. Consider this: if we work eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, for 45 years (national average), then 81% of adults in this country spend 94,000 hours in their lifetime being unhappy. It’s pretty difficult having a LIFE you love, when you don’t have work that you love.

I would like to introduce you to a new series of blogs, in which I will share with the values that make us tick here at National Holistic Institute A College of Massage Therapy.


Every organization, from small businesses to large corporations, has a culture. The culture refers to the value and attitudes of employers in the organization. In a business with an unhealthy culture, employees act as individuals, performing their duties to meet their own needs, such as a paycheck or health benefits. A healthy corporate culture values each employee regardless of her job duties, which results in employees working as a team to meet the company’s and their own personal needs. Both/and. Win/win. Holistic.

NHI has been thriving as a top tier college of massage therapy for over thirty years. Under the initial leadership of founder Carol Carpenter, worthy values emerged that created a winning, holistic culture. Several years ago, members of “Team NHI” embarked on a “cultural audit,” whereby we asked ourselves “What values do we live by?” “What are empowering sayings we hear on a consistent basis?” “What rituals, traditions, and stories help make up our distinctive culture?”

Peter Block, the esteemed management and business consultant, said, “Live your values for at least five years, then put them up on the wall for all to see.” That’s precisely what we did, and now they hang framed at each of our campuses. They inform visitors and remind the members of each college what it is that holds us together. You might consider them to be the fascia of NHI’s “anatomy.”

We identified ten things that help us “have work we love.” They apply to anyone’s life, which is why I want to share them with you in this series. Stay tuned each week as I share and comment on “what NHI believes.” Allow each belief–each embodied value–to serve as nourishment for your greatest work: building and maintaining a LIFE that you love!


Stay tuned each week for a new blog detailing the ten steps each week.  To get these posts as emails in your inbox, just subscribe!

February 10, 2014   7 Comments

FSU Football National Champs Use Sports Massage Therapy

With only 13 seconds left, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston completed a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin making Florida State the 2014 BCS National Champions. The lead changed 4 times over the final five minutes of the 4th quarter. Each team pushed one another to the finish, but ultimately the Seminoles had that extra something to prevail.

Forty-eight hours earlier, a team of highly trained sports massage therapists gathered near the Rose Bowl. Their mission: provide recovery sports massage to the soon-to-be National Champions after their final practice before the big game. They would massage about 40 athletes over the next 2½ hours.



The team medical staff wanted nothing that could injure or impair any player and the coaches certainly did not want to break their confidence. Rest assured, they were in good hands. The 9 members of the National Championship Sports Massage Team had the combined experience of five Olympic Games, FINA World Cups, the Kona Iron Man Championship, USA Swimming and Diving, and the USOC Sports Medicine Team. Two of the nine graduated in the last few years from National Holistic Institute, A College of Massage Therapy.

NCSMT2014 founder Mark Dixon received the call to action only two weeks prior, just before Christmas. George Kousaleos, founder and owner of the CORE Institute in Tallahassee, had worked extensively with the Florida State Seminoles football program for three years. He knew Mark, with whom he had worked the Athens Olympic Games, could pull off such a task in relatively short time.

“My goal was two-fold,” says Mark. “To provide Recovery Sports Massage as similar as possible to what they have become used to for the last three years. And, to attend to the mental and emotional well-being of the players by occupying the training room in a calming, nurturing manner that fostered serenity.”

Mark used his deep connections in the Southern California sports massage community to summons the best. While the holidays proved somewhat of a challenge, therapists felt honored to massage at such an esteemed event, and Florida State generously compensates their therapists. Only the best of the best applicants made the final team.

David Marin graduated last year from the Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy program at National Holistic Institute, A College of Massage Therapy in Santa Ana, California. He remarked on the opportunity, “It was certainly the biggest honor so far in my career. And, I’m glad they won!”

As with any sport, much of the technique and its application is determined by the player’s position on the team; a fundamental knowledge of football is helpful. Do they spend a lot of time in a crouch? Running backwards or forwards? Throwing? Receiving? “Each session is focused on the needs of the player as guided by feedback received through the eyes, ears and hands,” advises Mark.

After winning a BCS Bowl last season, FSU Associate Director of Sports Medicine and Head Football Athletic Trainer Jake Pfeil wrote, “Recovery has been a new focus for the team over the past couple of years. One way that we have focused on this goal is through the implementation of a massage therapy program. Along with the team’s overall success this past fall, we experienced a drastic reduction in lower extremity soft tissue injuries. I think this can be attributed to several changes in our overall training and recovery models, but the introduction of massage therapy for the majority of our team has definitely been a significant factor.”

The 2012 -2013 stats support this theory, showing a solid 75% reduction in soft tissue injuries since the addition of sports massage to the FSU football program. Additionally, in the 2013 season, not a single starting player missed playing time due to a soft tissue injury.

As more teams continue to expand their massage program to additional sports and players, National Holistic Institute looks forward to similar opportunities. By partnering with local massage schools, other sports teams can follow the lead of FSU and make massage practical, affordable, and feasible

National Holistic Institute congratulates our two therapists on this team for helping the Florida State football team become the 2014 BCS National Champions!



written by Joe Bob Smith


February 4, 2014   1 Comment

Meditation versus Inflammation: Meditation Wins Again!

Written by William Mathis
NHI Petaluma Mentor and Instructor


One of my enduring passions has been trying to build bridges between the Eastern and Western attitudes towards the body-mind. Sometimes the concepts of the Western scientific worldview contrast sharply with the holistic paradigms that characterize the various Eastern body-mind traditions. But sometimes these two approaches correlate with dramatic intensity.


This cross-cultural current informs my practice of yoga, of martial arts, and of meditation. And of course, teaching massage therapy at the National Holistic Institute gives me ample opportunities to explore the difference, as well as the coordination, between these mutually beneficial ways of understanding the health of the body-mind.

One of the things that I’ve always found amusing about the oral and written traditions that transmit the Eastern ways is a certain rhetorical tendency towards hyperbole. When the sages and gurus need to make a point, they are traditionally given to overstating their case. It’s important to know this when evaluating those traditional sources. A traditional view of the body from the Yogic Tradition of Vedic India involves 72,000 nadis, or energy lines, in the body. They don’t necessarily mean exactly 72,000. It’s more like a code meaning “a heck of a lot of nadis”.

Similarly hyperbolic descriptions accompany teachings of meditation and pranayama (conscious breathing), as evidenced by such adages as “pranayama cures all diseases” and the like. While a hard-nosed western skeptic would certainly balk at that kind of statement, new research is showing the power of these kinds of modalities in a way that gives some credence to the ancient traditions.

In particular, ground breaking studies have recently shown that skillful practice of body-mind modalities have extremely potent affects on gene expressions relating to inflammation. These findings are the result of a new understanding of how genes work: the field of epigenetics is showing how gene expressions relate to environmental conditions, and the results are adding fresh new perspectives to the old “nature versus nurture” debate.

One particularly interesting study was just released by the Center of Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In this study, a group of experienced practitioners used mindfulness meditation, and a control group spent their time in other peaceful, relaxing activities. The control group got some benefits, but did not show any epigenetic effects. The “mindful” group, however, showed powerful changes in their expression of genes related to inflammation. It seems that, in essence, intently focusing the mind through a combination of meditation and breathing helps to suppress the proteins that trigger inflammatory responses in the body.

In other words, meditation affects your genes!

We’ve long known, at least anecdotally, that meditation and similar body-mind skills can reduce the effects of stress. This recent research actually starts to pin down some of the exact biochemical mechanisms involved. Interestingly enough, research on the benefits of massage have recently confirmed similar epigenetic effects, again related to suppressing the proteins that trigger inflammation.

The study begins to shed light on how body-mind skills might help in the treatment of stress-related conditions like obesity, heart disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. But it is important to remember that inflammation (and stress!) is a crucial part of almost all disease processes, especially chronic conditions.

It may be an exaggeration (or maybe just poetic license!) to make a statement like “pranayama cures all diseases”. Recent scientific research is certainly showing that it’s not a stretch to say that skillful application of holistic modalities like mindfulness meditation can make a meaningful difference in most disease processes.

I think the Old Gurus would be ok with that.


Learn more! 






January 21, 2014   2 Comments

Imagine: World Peace Through Massage Therapy

There are certain things I think everyone should learn how to do: play a musical instrument, plant and care for a garden, make art, give a great massage.


Interestingly, they all involve the use of the hands. Gandhi said, “May the work of your hands be a sign of reverence and gratitude to the human condition.” Another great sage, my colleague Julie Porter, often says, “Imagine what the world would be like if all the world’s leaders received a massage every day.” It is her personal dream.

Indeed, just imagine. Consider the possibilities for peace-making if EVERYONE received a daily massage. Jack Benny and George Burns did, and they lived robust and very colorful lives, even as entenarians.

Thirty years ago, massage was considered a fringe thing; a luxury reserved for the well-to-do. In 1978, when I began my studies in bodywork, only two books on massage were available, and neither even broached the subject of draping (if you catch my drift).

Today is a very different world. Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the benefits of massage therapy every month. Medical and sports massage have emerged as popular modalities. Now, more than ever, the need to test our theories through research is upon us. The Dalai Lama has been known to say that if modern science disproves any of the long-cherished tenets of Buddhism, then Buddhism must have the integrity to change. The same reasoning should apply to our field.

Enter the Massage Therapy Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation has funded many research projects, ranging from massage for peripheral neuropathy related to chemotherapy, to postural control in elders, to migraines, cancer, and spinal cord injuries.


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During the month of December, all of the National Holistic Institute campuses held fund-raising clinics and donated all proceeds to the Massage Therapy Foundation. Current students, graduates, faculty, and campus managers alike, all gave freely of their time and energy to support the research arm of our profession. At San Jose, I enjoyed the sight of enthusiastic therapists of varying degrees of experience—some still in school, others with many years in the field—having a great time simultaneously serving their clients and the future of massage therapy. Take a peek at this video highlighting the fundraiser clinics at a few of our campuses:


I’d like to conclude with a story about one of my heroic figures. In the early 20th century, a young seminary student in New York was stricken with polio and could no longer continue his studies. In the midst of great suffering and despair—truly a dark night of the soul—he discovered that his sacred vocation was to be a dancer. The only problem? He could not even walk. Through months of experimenting with small and awkward movements, he succeeded and developed his own form of dance. His name was Ted Shawn, one of the founders of modern dance.

The field of massage therapy never had to endure being crippled, but it certainly had to limp for a while, burdened by old and unflattering notions of what massage was and what its practitioners do. Thanks to the integrity of many massage pioneers, increased standards, schools grounded in contemporary science, and the dedicated research efforts of the Massage Therapy Foundation, our profession touches—literally—the lives of countless people around the globe. Indeed, it dances, and our clients are better able to dance to the heartbeat of their callings. At this rate, I think Julie Porter’s dream just might come true!

-Jeff Rockwell

December 23, 2013   1 Comment


Last week I briefly spoke to a woman who was touring the San Jose campus of NHI. I asked her why she was interested in pursuing a career in massage therapy and how long had she been interested. I wanted to know if she had any questions for me and she surprised me by asking what personally interested me about this field. I answered as best I could, but in the short time we had together I felt that my answer was insufficient. I promised myself I would be better prepared “next time.” Well, here is the response I would have liked to have given to this young, future bodyworker:

Being a bodyworker has helped to develop my sense of attention. Like many “boomers,” I have sampled many personal and spiritual growth seminars, workshops and teachers but, without a doubt, sitting with clients, hour after hour, day after day, has proven to be the best personal development “technology” I have come across.

To what do I pay attention while working?

I begin each session perceiving, as best I can, the organismic intelligence within the client’s body. At NHI we have a saying, “Trust the process.” By paying attention to what is “right” or “well” about the client—this cellular wisdom–the body begins to tell me its story. Gone are the client’s ideas about what needs “fixing,” as well as my own “expert” opinions about what they need. A third thing emerges: the silent voice of the person’s tissues guiding me to assist them on the completely unique process in which they are currently engaged.

Rockwell Pay Attention

Being a bodyworker has helped me develop the capacity to pay attention to that intelligence in my clients, in a redwood tree by home, and among the people with whom I work. It is non-verbal, or better, pre-verbal. I liken it to a river of aliveness, always and already perfect, that connects everything to everything else.

I pay attention to the gift of the client’s embodiment, the miracles that have gone into stitching 70-plus trillion cells into a human being. By extension, I come to pay attention and to respect the gift of my own embodiment. Just as today is the only December 10, 2013 that will ever exist, each client I have the privilege to work with is an unrepeatable nexus of intelligence and radiance.

Rockwell Pay Attention Hands

Lastly, I pay attention to the very act of HOW I pay attention. I go slower. I use all of my 26 senses. I read between the lines and pretend every conversation is a song, or a poem. Mostly I slow down and trust the sacred process that I am, that we all are, even when things are not “going right;” indeed, especially when things are not going the way I think they should. As the saying goes, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Neither is an inattentive one. If we are not in awe, we are simply not paying attention.

~Dr. Jeff Rockwell



December 16, 2013   5 Comments

Introducing Certified Massage Blogger Dr. Jeff Rockwell: “A Fellow Traveler”

“Please allow me to introduce myself….”

My name is Jeff and I’m a recovered doctor and therapist. Allow me to explain. While I have spent most of much adult life in education and have practiced as a member of the Structural Integration, chiropractic, manual osteopathic and somatic communities, today I seek a different, more “right-sized” identity. I am a music lover, a poet, a step-father, and a shameless tree-hugger from Santa Cruz.  I have work I love, teaching at the San Jose campus of the National Holistic Institute (NHI). I try to be useful, as well, at my offices in Santa Cruz and Los Gatos. And now I am happy to announce that I’ll be the new blogmeister for NHI, and am look forward to conversing with you in these virtual “fireside chats.”  As such, I invite your comments, suggestions for future posts, or questions as they arise below each post.

Dr. Jeff Rockwell Blog

When I was younger, growing up in the—believe it or not—countryside of New Jersey, I loved running through corn mazes set up at pumpkin patches in honor of Halloween. I ran in at a full sprint, fervently trying to outsmart the twisting labyrinth. Inevitably however, there would be that moment of panic in which I felt stuck in the maze. I’d reach a dead end, or get turned around, such that the path to the exit seemed obstructed or unclear. In those moments, even though the maze had an exit that I was perfectly capable of finding, it felt like I would be stumbling up and down the green pathways forever. It was guidance from those around me that eventually helped me to find the exit.

I often use a similar metaphor with clients when we talk about where they are stuck, how they got there, and how we can work together to find a way out: The exit to the maze is there, and although it may feel so far away in the moment, each of my clients has the tools they need—a body, a nervous system, and a mind that is in union with the body– to triumphantly emerge into the sunlight. Perhaps what I value most about the holistic vision taught and embodied at NHI is that my role in the healing process is not to run in the exit, find the person, and drag them out. Rather, there is a respect for their process and a basic assumption that individuals will flourish as they become more in touch with the cellular wisdom beneath their skin. Perhaps Neruda said it best when he likened a healer to a fellow traveler:  ”Our real job in life is, first, to live an awakened and golden life and to walk with those in need, never ahead of or behind, on their life path, humbly pointing out obstacles in the road as we see them, bearing witness to this difficult, miraculous journey.”

My name is Jeff, and I am a fellow traveler. 

December 10, 2013   4 Comments

Helping Hands – The Massage Essay That Inspires Positive Change

National Holistic Institute would like to congratulate NHI San Francisco student and scholarship winner Mary Rone on her emotive and inspirational essay.  Mary entered in the Helping Hands Gifts for Growth 100 word essay scholarship contest presented by Biotone & BioFreeze. Out of 480 applications from more than 165 massage therapy schools, Mary’s was chosen as one of the four winners!

helping hands logo 3-22-13

Sometimes what comes above toiling work and hours of studying is a palpable urge to do good. Mary’s essay shows us the balanced and grounded side of how we can be helpful in a chaotic world.

My hands have been helping for a long time but have finally found a home in massage therapy. My hands have flown Helicopters in combat. My hands have held the hands of the wounded. My hands felt helpless. The surprising and inspiring thing about massage therapy is what my helping hands are now capable of. My hands are making a difference by providing a calm and comfort to others and myself. My hands would love to help Veterans who suffer from physical and especially psychological trauma, helping to find a grounded place inside them, hopefully to inspire positive change.
- Mary Rone

“It was truly gratifying to see the excitement and response to this new program. We received over 480 applications representing more than 165 massage therapy schools. We are very pleased with the results,” stated Jean Shea, President, BIOTONE. “Those in our industry possess a real passion and desire to make a difference, so we know it wasn’t easy for our distinguished selection committee to choose the four winning essays—truly the best of the best. Thank you for taking on this difficult task.”

NHI would like to thank BIOTONE & Performance Health for showing leadership in the industry by investing in our next generation of massage therapists with endeavors like Helping Hands Gifts for Growth.  Mary Rone would also like to extend a personal video thank you to Helping Hands for helping her towards having work she loves!

November 21, 2013   No Comments

NHI at Bike MS and the Nike Women’s Marathon: Sports Massage for Athletes

October 19 & 20 marked the annual Bike MS 150 Bay to Bay tour. Bike MS will take you farther than you’ve ever gone before. It’s not just the miles that matter; it’s the unforgettable journey. National Holistic Institute Santa Ana and Studio City campus students and Staff joined in together for an event that is more than a ride. It’s anticipation, camaraderie personal accomplishment and the knowledge that your changing lives… making every massage that much sweeter. Don’t just ride, Bike MS is their motto and this past weekend was definitely a weekend to remember.

studio city and santa ana well represented

Bike MS Bay to Bay tour is a one or two day journey down the gorgeous coastline of Southern California from Orange County to San Diego. Twenty-six students from Studio City and Santa Ana shared two days working on a total of 476 cyclists who are fundraising for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, making a difference in the lives of people affected by MS!

arriving cyclists day two

A great weekend was had by all, especially the joint effort of both campuses coming together for such a worthy cause. NHI is a proud Gold Sponsor for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, now celebrating its third year.

day two working on cyclists


With the Fall season comes many sporting events, our favorite of which includes the Nike Women’s Marathon which took place in Northern California the same weekend was also a blast!   The NHI Sports Massage Team, made up of 105 of our amazing students completed over 1,100 massages over the course of the event!!  Now that is what I call making a difference!

Check out some highlights from the NWM event below! Or see the video at

November 13, 2013   No Comments

What Does Massage Do? The Greatest Massage Video. Ever.

By now, we all know what the fox says….

But until now, nobody had an answer to the worlds greatest question – What Does Massage Do?

The National Holistic Institute staff in Sacramento took it upon themselves to answer the question. Check out their #ylvis #whatdoesthefoxsay #massage #parody video and spread the word!

Just go get a massage. Or, just go learn massage. for more information on our Massage Therapy Program and student massage clinics.

Vocals – Joseph Stewart and Amy Atkins
“Sound effects” – Sara Frazier and Sean O’shea
Backup dancers – Sacramento staff and faculty
Sound production and editing – Matthew Draving
Video production and editing – Amy Atkins


*We promise, no EarthLite Massage Tables were harmed in the making of this video.

November 7, 2013   2 Comments

Anatomy in Braille: Close Your Eyes to See

“The darkness of the day is the best time to see”
- Don Juan to Carlos Castaneda


Dana Schutz, Blind Foot Massage (2009). Oil and acrylic on canvas

Dana Schutz, Blind Foot Massage (2009). Oil and acrylic on canvas

Over the nearly thirteen years I have taught for National Holistic Institute, I have had the pleasure of teaching a number of vision impaired students. And I’ve learned a lot from them too. One student had a seeing eye dog that – not making this up! – would “whoosh” with the group by wagging his tale and giving a single sharp bark!

One day I came into class and found one of my vision impaired students lying on his back. At first I thought he was taking a quick cat nap, but then I saw that he was actually reading. The book was open on his chest as he lay supine, his fingers dancing over the Braille “letters” on the page. I remarked about it, and his answer charmed me: he said that when he reads, he has ten eyes. I thought that was pretty cool.

In China and Japan, people with vision impairment were traditionally trained to be body workers. Even today, many people in those countries will preferentially seek out a blind massage therapist. The expectation is that their touch skills will be exceptional and that their gentle, grounded presence will help soothe the client’s body and mind.


When I used to study the Japanese martial art called jujutsu, my favorite drill was to be attacked while blindfolded. The challenge to the person on the mat was to rely on nothing but their proprioception (the neurological awareness of the body in space) to defend themselves. I was reminded of Obi Wan Kenobi’s classic guidance in Star Wars to trust the feeling of the Force instead of the fickle vision of the eyes. “Your eyes can mislead you,” he tells the inexperienced Luke Skywalker during his first practice with the light saber, “Don’t trust them.”

Vision is a tremendously powerful sense. So powerful, in fact, that it can and often does “unground” us and scatter our attention. As I seek to help my students develop a grounded, centered presence and the quality of touch that goes with professional massage therapy, I am frequently amazed at how consciously disconnecting from this often overwhelming sense can serve us.

In a recent MFT Palpation class, we were watching a video produced by Books of Discovery, makers of our well-loved Trail Guide to the Body. At one point, the presenter Andrew Biel gives the tip to close the eyes while seeking to palpate (touching to gain knowledge) a muscle. It was great to hear this from such an esteemed expert on muscle palpation, and I reiterated it to the group. When we close our eyes, we begin to reduce the flow of information to our brain, allowing us to tune in to some of the subtler signals that we may be receiving, but tuning out.


The skin is an extraordinary sense organ. One square inch of skin on the palm contains over 130 yards of nerves, specialized to detect subtle changes in pressure, heat, vibration, texture, and much, much more. Closing the eyes takes our attention temporarily away from the fast-paced and distracting world around us, and begins to tune our attention to the vast spectrum of subtle sensation that many of us habitually tune out. And so if you are feeling ungrounded, feeling distracted, or just feeling like you want to experience something (like a new muscle you’ve just learned!) with more depth, let me invite you to follow the wisdom of the Jedi, Don Juan, my old jujutsu Sensei, and my many excellent vision-impaired students…

… and close your eyes to “see”!

written by William Mathis, Teacher and Mentor,
National Holistic Institute of Petaluma, CA

October 24, 2013   5 Comments

Massage: No Bones About It? Think Again.

-by Sabrina Italia,
NHI Mentor and Instructor

What do bones have to do with massage therapy anyway? After all, massage therapists focus on soft tissue like muscles and the tissue that attaches muscles to bone, not the bones themselves. However, it’s essential for budding therapists to know the location of bones to provide safe touch.

National Holistic Institute’s 900 hour core program starts with the basics such as name and location of bones. The first anatomy class new juniors have is “Bones Class”. In this class students receive their first Anatomy textbook “Trail Guide to the Body.” They learn to navigate through the book, eventually using it as an assessment tool and even to educate clients in a visual way.

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Once students can easily identify bones and muscles, they move into more advanced anatomy. Immediately following the foundational bones and muscles classes, they transition into Kinesiology. This is where they learn the details of how muscles attach and move bones.

Students are encouraged to continue their education in National Holistic Institute’s 450 hour Advanced Neuromuscular Massage Therapy program where they get the opportunity to label a cadaver as opposed to a chart.



You may think of a pirate ship or Halloween when you think of skeletons, but when we take a closer look, our existence relies on our healthy bones in many ways. Let’s take a look at some ways our bodies would not be able to function properly without healthy bone function.

Bones provide an important defense system protecting organs which would otherwise be left vulnerable. Aside from that, we would be immobile without them. Our bones provide attachments for muscles; together they create the lever and pulley mechanism that allows movement. The relationship between bones and muscles is undeniably linked…literally!

As a matter of fact movement and exercise provide needed chemicals in our bodies for healthy emotional and mental function. Ever been stuck in bed for a few days?? Most of us get sick of being in bed and need to move around so we don’t go stir crazy.

Did you know that our bone marrow is directly responsible for all of Red Blood cell production and 60% white blood cell production? That’s right; any dysfunction with this process could be devastating! Have you thanked your bone marrow today?

The next time you see a skeleton remember that bones are as alive as you are!

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, contact admissions to get a class pass!

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        |  |
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        | ,__)
        | \,   -See you 'round the massage table!
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September 30, 2013   2 Comments

Welcome Weary Athletes: Post-Ironman Sports Massage with National Holistic Institute

-written by Lucas Nevarez,
Instructor and Mentor, NHI Sacramento

Sunday September 22nd 2013 marked the very first Ironman Triathlon in the Lake Tahoe area. It will definitely be an event to remember for all parties involved. National Holistic Institute was invited to support the athletes after the event by providing recovery-oriented “post event” sports massage.


To say the event was grueling and demanding on the human body is an understatement.

Imagine if you will:

A race that begins before dawn… It begins with a 2.4 mile swim in frigid waters of Lake Tahoe that is enough to wear down the average body.  As they emerged from the icy waters, they were met with freezing air temperature; lows were in the 30’s that morning!

Then they continued with a brisk 112 mile bike ride through the gorgeous windy mountain roads. What lay ahead, aside from the gorgeous backdrop of the Serra Nevada range – were steep, lengthy grade changes that would make most legs quiver.

And… to cap it all off, they finished with 26.2 mile run; a full marathon! At an elevation of 6000 feet, I imagine it was a little hard to breath during the entire event.

Racers finished within 7 – 16 hours. Yes, some worked out from 7am till midnight.

Everybody could have used a massage after a day like that.

The energy of the finishers was a combination of jubilation, elation and relief. In the mix were many cases of hypothermia: (meaning) shock, nausea, muscle cramps and disorientation. We did not work on those people – they went straight to the medical tent.

The good news is that many made it to the finish line and could still walk. They moseyed into the warm massage tent and into our welcoming hands.


I have never seen so many people so happy to get a massage. Having massage therapists present really made a difference for hundreds of athletes. Most people felt better after receiving bodywork, they were able to walk a little more up right and a little less wobbly.

For all you Iron Men and Iron Women…well… all athletes for that matter – I leave you with this thought:

Massage Therapy as part of your training cycle as well as after major events will help keep your body at peak performance.


To learn more about a career as a Sports Massage Therapist, click here to visit our website!


Have you provided massage for athletes?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

September 26, 2013   5 Comments