…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love!
Step 2/10: Empty Cups, Full Journeys: A Play in Three Acts
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.
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!”
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.
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.”
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 No Comments
…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 www.nhi.edu.
February 18, 2014 1 Comment
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 3 Comments
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 No Comments
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.
January 21, 2014 2 Comments
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
December 16, 2013 5 Comments
“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.
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
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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 youtube.com/watch?v=beA-xl5QOvc
November 13, 2013 No Comments
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?
Just go get a massage. Or, just go learn massage.
http://www.nhi.edu 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 1 Comment
“The darkness of the day is the best time to see”
- Don Juan to Carlos Castaneda
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
-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.
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!
_ ,. ( ` ) | | | "|_ | ,__) |)-' | \, -See you 'round the massage table! | | (_, ) `"
September 30, 2013 2 Comments
-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.
Have you provided massage for athletes? Tell us about it in the comments below!
September 26, 2013 4 Comments
A brief article by David Bloomer, mentor and teacher at NHI Petaluma
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Jamaica. During my brief stop over I walked through a butterfly house. There were several varieties of butterflies, some indigenous to Jamaica, others from similar climates around the world.
Our guide talked to us about the lifecycle of the butterfly, something that often has fascinated me. From a tiny egg, which hatches into a caterpillar, which turns into a chrysalis, or pupa; the final stage before it becomes an adult butterfly.
A caterpillar builds its chrysalis on the plant that will be its food source when it emerges. Just as it lays its eggs on a leaf of the plant from with the newly hatches caterpillar must feed. While it is crawling about there is a purpose for everything it does. Throughout its brief time on the ground it is preparing itself for the process of metamorphosis which it is about to begin.
It is what occurs during the chrysalis phase that I find most fascinating, not that the entire process is anything less than wondrous. While within its chrysalis structure the entire being melts into a sort of soup. It no longer has a body. There are no eyes, not legs, no furry outside, just a soupy, melted down mixture. It is literally rewriting its own being.
From this soup comes the beautiful butterfly. It has the ability to fly instead of crawl. It feeds and drinks in an entirely different manner. In short, its entire way of existence changes as it moves from crawler to flier.
What does this have to do with massage therapy, you ask?
Quite a bit, actually, but that is for another time. Today I am thinking about what it has in common with massage therapy school.
When a new pupil walks through the door, entering the classroom for the first time, they are very much the caterpillar. What they will become they may only be starting to imagine. While it is sometimes too easy to pass judgment on people based on appearance or on apparent ability or lack thereof, in truth, like the caterpillar, with the right set of circumstances they can become whatever they can imagine themselves to be.
Thank goodness no one is limited based on someone else’s opinion of their abilities, their strengths and weaknesses that might seem apparent at first glance.
It is difficult to fully relate the feeling of walking through this process, as every teacher at NHI has done, or of being witness to the process. It is nothing short of amazing.
As the butterfly must struggle to break the bonds of the chrysalis when it is time to emerge, so the student goes through challenges, whether relating to curriculum or to life outside the classroom.
Yes it is amazing to watch the caterpillar transform itself into a butterfly. It is also quite a thrill to what a human being transform from a single parent, struggling to make ends meet with a life in turmoil to a thriving therapist, making a powerful difference for others with their work.
That is metamorphosis: a striking alteration in appearance, character or circumstances: (Mirriam-Webster). Sometimes all three happen simultaneously.
September 16, 2013 1 Comment
A true story written by John Lambert, CMT
12 years ago our nation suffered a horrific tragedy. At the time I knew it was significant, but in the moment I had no clue how much this event would affect my life. In the weeks before the terrorist event, I recently gave up my day job to take on massage therapy full time. I was still enrolled at NHI, and I was taking a position at the fitness center where I completed my externship. I got a call that morning letting me know about the tragedy that had happened and that my workplace was closing for the day. This was shocking to me as I had a fairly full schedule which was totally wiped out and I was processing this great event that had happened. I did not see a client for the next 2 weeks.
This made me question my decision of leaving my day job. As we all know if we are not massaging, we typically do not get paid and I was not fully prepared to go without income for 2 weeks. Then I finally got to work on my first client after 2 weeks of nothing.
This client was referred to me by her husband. She was not sure about getting a massage, but he insisted. She had been having headaches and he really wanted her to get some relief. I told her to undress to her comfort level and lie on the table. She left her clothes on, and reluctantly let me begin my work. I could feel the tension in her back and her neck, and she finally started to relax a bit. I knew she was not from the United States, so I asked her where she was from. She shyly replied … Afghanistan.
In that moment, I knew that I had made the right choice to pursue this profession. I took my training, my grounding, and compassion and finished her massage. When she came out of the treatment room she was so appreciative of my work. Her headache and tension were gone. I was left with an appreciation of my craft that I still carry with me to this day.
If I had not began my journey with National Holistic Institute and taken that risk of giving up everything to start this journey of massage therapy, I would never have had this moment that I cherish. It keeps me centered to this day and every year I think back on this story. For me, this is what our work is all about.
September 12, 2013 2 Comments
~written by Sabrina Italia
One thing that stands out most about National Holistic Institutes Core Program is the public clinic. Once students learn a full body sequence, either in Swedish or Zen Shiatsu massage and pass their evaluation, they have a practice clinic.
Practice clinic is a class in the core program that allows juniors to connect with their seniors about any questions or concerns they may have about working with the general public. Juniors get their first taste of greeting clients, conducting a brief assessment, doing a 50 minute massage, and then escorting the client back to the lobby where students practice educating and rebooking with their seniors.
Students also learn how to run the front desk. They book appointments, handle money and deal with any issues, like last minute cancellations, that come up. These experiences are of great value, especially for students that want to have a private practice.
The class starts with an opening circle. In that circle, the juniors speak first about any excitement, nervousness, or insecurity they might be experiencing, at this point the teacher steps back to let the juniors have center stage. As the seniors listen, they start to think back about their first clinic. Allowing the juniors speak out their concerns and have them addressed by their seniors is very powerful.
First, it gives juniors the platform to talk about their fears in a safe space. Then the seniors step in and encourage their juniors with personal experiences and fears they had during their first clinic. There’s usually at least one amusing story that helps to break the tension. Plus it’s nice for students to hear it from a classmate as opposed to a seasoned teacher.
The value in having that experience while still attending school is beyond is one that students carry throughout their career. Many massage therapists out there took their first client at their first job without the support of their mentors and classmates. This creates confidence that is evident when graduates of NHI go out and start working.
Students have the benefit of psychologically ironing out situations like, “what if a client only wants me to work in a specific area for 50 minutes” or “my client has a recent injury, can I work on that area or not?” These questions and so many more come up during practice clinic. A teacher is present for all clinics and frequently checks in to make sure clients and students are getting what they need in the moment.
By the end of practice clinic, students feel much more confident about their first public clinic, not to mention it helps the group to bond together as a team.
National Holistic Institute offers student massages on most days. Visit our website for more information or to book an appointment:
September 3, 2013 No Comments
National Holistic Institute’s missions statement, “Helping People Have Work They Love” would never work without considering a truly holistic approach. Not only do all of the mentors, staff, and peers at NHI contribute to the success of each individual, but we also reach out past the NHI community.
Massage Envy is one of our many Preferred Partners – employers that know and trust that graduates of NHI are the best out there. The mutually beneficial nature of these relationships are proven in the success that many of our graduates continually find with our preferred partners. In addition to offering students of NHI unprecedented access to their massage therapist positions, Massage Envy also gives back to our students in many ways.
Nick Navas, a Senior in Group 40 at National Holistic Institute in Petaluma recently attended a Massage Envy Hiring event on campus and came out of it not only with a job as a massage therapist before he graduated, but was also able to take advantage of their tuition reimbursement program which helps recent graduates pay off $1500.00 of their tuition in their first year at M.E.! Check out this interview with Nick to learn more about their program and to hear how he did it!
Two more students who just graduated from the Petaluma campus of NHI are already employed by Massage Envy. One of them, Darcy Blain, qualified for the tuition reimbursement program, $1500.00! She additionally won the quarterly M.E. scholarship of $500.00, totaling $2000 to apply towards her tuition. Darcy is one very happy grad. You can read more about Massage Envy’s quarterly scholarship for NHI grads by clicking here.
The tuition reimbursement program is made possible by Gina Drohan, owner of Massage Envy locations in both Napa and Novato – all NHI students and grads are encouraged to apply for the program and can get more info via email for the location they are interested in:
Congratulations to Nick, Darcy, and many other NHI grads who have work that they love!
August 27, 2013 No Comments
This annual scholarship takes one NHI senior or graduate to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Convention held in various cities around the country. This September, Anne will travel to Fort Worth, Texas, where she will participate in continuing education classes, meet massage luminaries, and experience the best the massage profession has to offer. This scholarship, presented by Biofreeze, honors NHI Teacher, Melissa Wheeler, named AMTA 2010 Teacher of the Year.
To hear Anne’s story in her own word’s, watch her video below….
August 8, 2013 No Comments
written by Tiahna Skye
It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind of our lives and forget to take a moment to appreciate what we do. As massage therapists we make a big difference in the lives of so many. We help reduce stress, and ease aches and pains. We might help an athlete improve their performance. Sometimes we provide a moment of connection to someone who is feeling isolated or alone. Often we work with people who are undergoing rigorous medical treatments that are debilitating and uncomfortable; we provide soothing touch and a positive association with the body. We offer people a time in which they can be seen and heard, have their needs addressed and know that they are important and we are committed to their well being.
At the NHI student clinic we make these services available and affordable. Our students provide excellent quality massage to people who might otherwise not be able to afford this specialized type of care. We care for the elderly and infirm. We provide services for local law enforcement, EMTs, firefighters and public school teachers, among others. In this way we are able to offer back to our community and support the people who do so much for us. Most of the time we don’t know specifically what kind of difference we make, but on occasion a clients takes the time to tell us:
“There are many reasons I’d rather live in Sonoma County than elsewhere in the world. One reason is that I can receive therapeutic massages at the National Holistic Institute Massage Therapy School in Petaluma. I have taken the opportunity to receive massages from students there for over 5 years. The students listen well, adjust to meet my needs and always appreciate feedback. As an elementary school teacher, I benefit from their schedule and reasonable prices. Giving a family member, friend or colleague a gift card is an easy way to help them get needed healing. NHI is a valued part of our community also because it trains individuals for an important career in health and healing. How fortunate we are in Petaluma, to have National Holistic Institute Massage Therapy School!” -Julia Megna
For every voice we hear from, there are probably hundreds more who never have a chance to say it, but appreciate it none the less. For students and staff alike, it is a privilege to be a part of a school that offers such a valuable service to the community. So let’s all take a moment to reflect on what we do, why we do it… and then do it again!
July 23, 2013 2 Comments