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Crossing Over

By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

I have officially crossed a line in my life. I won’t do anything that is not congruent with my soul. Will you join me?

I will walk the path of authenticity, and I will dare greatly. In that spirit, I have zero problems sharing that it scares the crap out of me to write this. In one very real sense, living a whole-hearted life is terrifying. Let’s get real: there a lot of internal and external forces pushing back on us. Take a look at the greatest leaders in our history and you’ll see that a good number of them were ridiculed or worse. The status quo is bent on suppressing authenticity, as are many parts of our own conditioning. It’s heart-wrenchingly weird to step out and tell your truth.  I will do it, though – and I will fail. I’ll step up again, fail, step up again, fail, step up again and again and again. Why? Because I know in my bones that the compelling stories of our lives—my life, the dreams of our hearts, our wounds and our victories, are not there by mistake. They are the poetry of God.  By telling my truth, I liberate myself from the hold of the primitive “fear brain.” I start to disentangle myself from the cultural dictate to be someone other than who I am.


I may feel scared but I will act from love. In fact, the more I do this I realize I have no choice. Why? Because I am love. So are you. To act contrary to this is a flu-virus to the soul. Any dream– any calling that arises within us, comes straight from Source. We may feel it in our gut or in our bones or in our heart. The Heart—let’s give it the respect it deserves and capitalize it– is our instant connection to Source. We are hard-wired to cooperate, to live and create and work and play in peace. That’s what Source wants. But it needs a body to dance its call into the world. It needs hands to offer a hug, a high five, a healing hour of massage. It needs me. It needs you. And our freedom lies in being with the truth of who we are. We are Love. If I want to live a whole-hearted life, I have to be whole – and that means embracing all of my life, not just the happy, shiny stuff. What glitters is the heart and soul. Everything else will pass away.

My bondage lies in the myriad of ways I hide out, play small, and put on a nice veneer. When I get really honest and clear and vulnerable I can see, without flinching, that there are a whole lot of forces in myself, in our media, in our pop-culture, in our families, that want us to keep from breaking free and being radically real and honest, to keep us from knowing and owning our magnificent broken beauty. We live in a culture where we can keep posting on Facebook, for example, only what we want others to see.  Social media is fabulous and we can all use it to share who we really are and to share what we are most passionate about (me: a world that works for everyone). But do not let it become a substitute for realness, authenticity, depth, and the real creativity that comes from whole-hearted, face-to-face living.DSCN3743

None of this means that you need to drop a hand grenade into your life. The greatest change starts right where we are-– in our work, in our families, in our bodies. Courageously, lovingly, gracefully (and, sometimes, clumsily and tentatively), we begin, one step at a time, to live our authentic life. As Mary Oliver said in her great poem The Journey, “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began/ though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice/but you didn’t stop/little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through sheets of clouds/ and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own/ that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world/ determined to do the only thing you could do/determined to save the only life you could save.”


Here are nine suggestions to help you on your precious journey:

1) Find community that supports this and supports you. It is really challenging to do this alone.

2) Find and spend time with leaders who bring their authenticity into the world and, by doing so, change lives. They are out there. Listen to your heart and you’ll recognize who honors your soul’s code and who doesn’t.

3) The greatest way to transform your life is to transform what interferes with you sharing your light with the world. This is NOT a mental process. It’s a whole body process. As the saying goes, “The issues are in the tissues.”  Massage therapy is one way that can assist this process.

4) Remember to breath. As one of my teachers says, “More breath, more God.”

5) Three books that are rocking my world right now are “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, “Heed Your Call,” by David Howitt, and “Red, Hot and Holy” by Sera Beak. Read and watch things that stir and nourish your soul.

6) Sometimes, in addition to working with the body, we need to talk to a person who really “gets” it—and who gets us—to further assist our healing and unfoldment. I personally have three mentors with whom I regularly meet and check-in. Why three, and not just one? I’m slow.

7) Eat well. Drink water. Move. Get good rest. Meditate/pray. Care for your nervous system. Don’t over-stimulate it with sugar, caffeine and TV (and other screens), but nurture it with healing touch. As we wake up, we must train our minds to tell the truth about us: we are amazing being our wildest dreams. This last one is non-negotiable.IMG_3265

8) As counter-intuitive as this may seem (or contrary to the spirit of this blog), your life is not about you. Not really. Neither is it about me. And it never will be. This thought keeps us right- sized, connected to one another, and an open portal to Grace.

9) Keep a sense of humor. Don’t be serious; be sincere.

“Daring Greatly” – Brene Brown

“Heed Your Call” – David Howitt

“Red, Hot, and Holy” – Sera Beak


April 21, 2014   3 Comments

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 sayingKaizen 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

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 Ohara2Jim 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

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

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

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.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 2.21.12 PM

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!
        |  |
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September 30, 2013   3 Comments

The Mentor and the Pupa: Metamorphosis Through Massage (School)

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

From Massage Student to Massage Therapist: The NHI Public Clinic

~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

How To Find Work You’ll Love Before You Graduate Massage School

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

I Don’t Care How Much You Know… Until I Know How Much You Care

by Heidi Sue Roth, CMT Instructor, NHI

The saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As massage therapists, I believe this message goes one step deeper.

Massage can be a busy reality: techniques to learn and practice, paperwork to complete, marketing tasks, and perhaps laundry on top of clients combine into a significant workload. Therapists or students may loose track of what brought us to this industry. Today I encourage you to take a moment and tune into the incredible privilege of providing therapeutic touch. Touch truly is a basic human need. From a parent’s hand soothing a fussy baby to a comforting hug from a loved one on a difficult day, we are built to give and receive physical contact.

mother nurturing touch

Popular activities such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other technologies increase access while reducing in-person contact. Massage increases human contact in our high-tech, low-touch society. Each person who chooses to be on the table for a massage, as a student, in student clinic, spa, or private practice offers an amazing privilege. For a short period time both parties get to connect and interact in a basic human way. Healing, inspiration, and support happen during each connection – and these interactions can have a lasting effect. As a practicing therapist and instructor, these moments keep me in the field year after year.



Likewise, I want to inspire students to create this experience for themselves and others. The saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As massage therapists, I believe this reality goes one step deeper. Clients don’t care how many techniques you know until they experience your care and acceptance in the moment. A brilliant stroke or movement applied without heart creates less impact and benefit. Incorporating your acceptance and care into each touch changes work from routine to essential. It also feeds the best in us as humans and a culture.


National Holistic Institute aims to create a safe space for students to become comfortable providing therapeutic massage while learning all of the techniques and skills necessary to find work they’ll love.  For more about NHI, visit us at 

How has massage therapy changed or influenced your life?  Tell us in the comments or post your story to facebook by clicking the icons below!


July 15, 2013   9 Comments

How to Find Work You’ll Love: The NHI Massage School Job Placement Blog

One number reflects our mission more than any other.  That number is our placement rate, and this year topped even last year’s incredible benchmark!

The placement rate shows the percentage of our alumni who have successfully gained or improved their employment status as a direct result of their education at National Holistic Institute.  We must carefully track our graduates’ employment to remain nationally accredited and state approved.  ACCET, the organization which accredits us on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, stipulates a placement rate of 70%.  NHI handily beat that standard with an overall placement rate for 2012 of 86%!!

When compared to other vocational schools, massage or not, 86% greatly exceeds expectations, especially in an economy still deep in recovery with a limited job market.  For those unfamiliar with placement rates, you may wonder, “why not 100%?”  Well, life happens to people, even our students.  Some relocate, pursue additional education, choose to remain in their current jobs a while longer, get pregnant, suffer illness, tend to family obligations, deploy in the military, and so on.

For massage therapy in particular, a number of students come to school for personal growth or to pursue massage as a pastime on which to practice on family and friends only, never intending to work.  For all those considerations, ACCET sets the standard at 70% and NHI managed to high jump over it with 86%!

Everyone at NHI has the same mission to “help people have work they love.”  So, achieving this incredible placement rate is a team effort.  Of course, we have amazing alumni who came to NHI wanting to learn, desiring to change their careers, and followed up on their dreams upon graduation.  Our placement rate is only as good as our graduates!  But we hold one group most accountable for helping and tracking our students as they find work – our Student Life & Career Coordinators.

All seven campuses have an SLCC (known to us as “slick”) who often meets prospective students before they enroll, gets to know them from orientation on, guides them through externship and career launch, and ultimately helps them find work they love.  This dedicated team, led by their fearless Placement Manager Emily Devenny, deserves our standing ovation.

“2012 was a year of new and exciting job opportunities for our NHI graduates. Many employers reached out directly to our local campuses to meet, interview and hire new Massage Therapists in industries ranging from Spa, to Sports and Fitness, Healthcare, and Corporate On-site,” reports Emily.

Massage Industry Placement

Phil Okazaki, the SLCC who led San Jose to 90.5% placement, adds, “I feel the Externship Program helps prepare students for their future job search; and in many cases, helps them get their foot in the door. In fact, with Externship Sites like the San Jose Sabercats and Stanford University Athletics, our students receive experiences that many would find difficult to obtain.”

To work as a massage therapist, one must obtain legal certification.  SLCC’s help students with that certification during the course.  San Francisco SLCC Alison Trujillo points out, “It is wonderful to see so many students CAMTC certified by the time they graduate. This means they are motivated and ready to work in the field right away!”

“With the knowledge and ability they obtain from our curriculum and the confidence they acquire through our externship and clinic programs,” says Emeryville SLCC Sara Ahmadi, “they are well supplied with all the tools they need for a successful job search before graduation.”

Interested in a career in massage therapy?  Our SLCC’s look forward to helping YOU have work you love!
Contact the NHI team today:

June 17, 2013   No Comments

Extending the Benefits of Massage Therapy – Compassionate Touch

-written by Sabrina Italia, NHI Instructor.

Ever wondered why you feel great for a few days after your massage only to find your aches and pains resurface just as they were before the massage?? Most people believe that massage alone can reverse muscle and fascial patterns. In many ways it can, and does short term.

However, sometimes mechanical massage alone isn’t enough to allow a person to release tension and anxiety. When working out a plan with your Massage Therapist, including different modalties may create extended benefits and maybe even permanent reversal of postural deviations or tissue and muscle “stuckness”. In both our Core and Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy programs, NHI teaches students numerous modalities and how to alter the perpetuating factors that can keep clients in pain if unaddressed.

Last week I taught a class to group 18 on the Emeryville campus. In this class we talk about emotional effects on our muscles and joints. Have you ever walked up to a friend and without even saying anything noticed something’s “wrong” just because of their body language? Often times our first response is a hand on the shoulder or back to show support. Sometimes just that initial touch can begin to help someone feel better. In this class we apply “Compassionate Touch” which is simply addressing tense areas with quiet hands (hands that remain still, or mostly still). We find these areas by visually assessing a client’s body to see if they seem to be holding any tension in their body.

I did a demonstration of “Compassionate Touch” on Richard. We observed that he seemed to be keeping his arms tight against his body, enough to make his left shoulder rise up and his chin was slightly tilted up in a potentially defensive manner. (Before)

After the “Compassionate Touch” was applied, we did see a change in how he held himself, and noticed that his shoulder and chin did drop down into a more relaxed state. While the results were minimal, the long term effect could be very beneficial. (After)


Because we prepped the body by getting rid of that initial layer of tension, it’s likely that the benefits of the massage will go farther.

There are many modalities that “prep” the body for mechanical massage. Either way massage is a great and effective tool in stress reduction and is great at helping restore range of motion in joints and tissue.

Research; choose a well-trained, certified massage therapist and get the most out of your massage!


May 28, 2013   1 Comment

NHI Massage School Staff Day Presentations – Seriously Funny!

Staff Day lives on!  Even though National Holistic Institute’s All Staff Day 2013 occurred a month ago, the memories live on in our minds, our new initiatives, and – where else? – the internet.

The San Jose campus presentation, or at least a portion of it, has found a life of its own on the internet.  Inspired by the wildly popular web craze, the San Jose staff inserted their version of the Harlem Shake into their campus video.  The unexpected presentation detour left the Staff Day audience rolling in the aisles.  San Jose’s Harlem Shake found its way to YouTube where the public could witness the goofier side of NHI.

(The above clip is taken from the full video, which can be found here)

NHI’s motto is “helping people have work they love.”  Of course this applies to us helping our students thrive in the massage therapy profession, but that starts with everyone who works at NHI loving the work they have.  So, while we take our mission seriously, we make sure to have fun with what we do every day.  Having fun makes the work seem…well…less like work, improves the learning environment, and produces silliness like the Harlem Shake.

As part of NHI’s All Staff Day, each campus puts together a 10-minute presentation.  Some are videos (like San Jose this year), others are live skits, and some we’re still trying to figure out.  These presentations highlight the events and staff of the past year for other campuses to see while showing the interconnectedness of NHI.  Always from the heart, they often use humor to make a point and laugh about our workplace foibles (CampusVue, anyone?).


Santa Ana celebrated being the newest of the seven campuses by linking to the others through the Seven Chakras of NHI.  A rather unkempt fairy made all of StudioCity’s wishes come true.  San Francisco showed that they beat to a different drum with a musical interlude.  Petaluma stirred the pot with some NHI stew, while Sacramento grew to new heights.  And Emeryville took a trip to outer space, where they apparently forgot to bring back Al.


We already look forward to next year’s Staff Day when we can reflect on the upcoming year’s events that have yet to happen.  Until then, enjoy the Shake!


Do you have a memorable experience from your company’s staff day?  Tell us about it in the comments below! 

May 14, 2013   No Comments

Helping People Have Work They Love Since “Armageddon” – NHI Staff Anniversaries

National Holistic Institute Staff Anniversaries (Staff Day Post 2 of 3)

Brandy & Monica belted out The Boy is Mine, Bruce Willis saved the world from an imminent asteroid in Armageddon, and Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to the NBA Championship one last time. It was 1998, the year National Holistic Institute founder Carol Carpenter hired a recent college graduate named Jennifer as an admissions representative.

At this year’s NHI All Staff Day, Jennifer Jhanda celebrated 15 years with NHI! In that time, she has gotten married, had a beautiful daughter, and worked her way up the ranks to her current position as Vice President of Admissions. Starting out, the phone and snail mail were an admissions rep’s primary tools. Now, Jennifer oversees a complex network of emails, texts, and Google metrics (Google also began their world domination in 1998). The one thing that hasn’t changed in 15 years is her mission to help people find work they love by matching aspiring massage therapists to the school of their dreams, NHI.

Jennifer Jhanda (in pink holding mic) brings her Admissions Team up with her to celebrate her 15th anniversary.

Jennifer Jhanda (in pink holding mic) brings her Admissions Team up with her to celebrate her 15th anniversary.

Fast forward five years. The Lord of the Rings found Oscar gold, audiences found Nemo, and NHI found new ownership. 2003 brought a lot new to NHI. After 24 years, founder Carol Carpenter passed along the NHI torch to Mason Myers and Tim Veitzer. This year’s All Staff Day saw Mason celebrating 10 years with NHI! (Tim fully joined a bit later, so he’ll get his turn next year.) Mason commemorated the occasion by thanking all the staff who took a chance and risked the journey with him. And what a journey it’s been! Among many milestones in the last decade, NHI expanded from 1 campus to 7 and added the Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy (or ANMT) program.

Mason brings us all to tears with his 10 year acceptance speech

Mason brings us all to tears with his 10 year acceptance speech

Mason had good company up on the NHI stage as four other staff members celebrated 10 years as well. Linda Rikli, Vice President of Education, has commandeered an ever-growing and changing department. She has coordinated the expansion of our core curriculum from 720 to 900 hours, overseen the development of our 450-hour Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy program, and become our unofficial (and perhaps unwilling) tech guru as the one in charge of upgrading our school software system.


Linda Rikli; Keeping the NHI bus on course for 10 years and counting!

Linda’s journey could not have been as successful, robust, or certainly as funny without her partner in crime and office neighbor, our Dean of Students Ron Peat, also celebrating a tenth of a century here at NHI. Under Ron, the student services department has grown to offer more with dedicated staff at every campus. He even accomplished the awe-inspiring feat of increasing an already stupendous completion rate as well. And he keeps us laughing! (Did I mention he has a son named Kevin?)


Ron Peat making his entrance for the “World Cup” of speeches



1,350 hours of NHI education requires copious pages of teacher documents, PowerPoint slides, and over 1,000 pages of student handouts. Keeping all of this together is one woman, Ron’s office neighbor and our Curriculum Coordinator Sharlene Philip. A teacher before her current role, Sharlene also celebrates 10 years at NHI! She shares this milestone with fellow teacher Esko Homsi.

eskoAn accomplished teacher in our core program for many years, Esko became one of our first instructors to teach the Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy program a few years back.Mostly, though, he is known throughout NHI for his annual toast at the company holiday party. We love you, man!

Time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like yesterday that Barack Obama was first elected President; Batman, Iron Man, and Indiana Jones were battling for the box office; and Tiger Woods was still winning the U.S. Open. But in reality that was five years ago – 2008, in fact, when four more staffers joined NHI.

Celebrating 5 years teaching at NHI are Darlene Campo and Patrick Keehan! Demonstrating the diverse backgrounds our teaching staff brings to NHI, Darlene (a clown college graduate) makes learning fun for students every day, while Patrick lets his lomilomi (Hawaiian massage) training guide him. Patrick shared the seven principles of lomilomi at our Staff Day and we felt it worthwhile to share here (

cw from top left: Darlene Campo, Patrick Keehan, Lupita Ruiz, and Lupita Laney

cw from top left: Darlene Campo, Patrick Keehan, Lupita Ruiz, and Lupita Laney

Rounding out the 10 anniversaries we applauded at this year’s Staff Day are the two Lupitas, both observing 5 years with NHI. Lupita Laney always greets prospective students with a smile as one of our admissions reps and Lupita Ruiz went from punching the telephone keypad as our receptionist to hitting the calculator buttons as one of our financial aid analysts.

We thank these 10 people as both our co-workers and friends. They join good company. Almost half of the employees at NHI have been here over 5 years and 1 in 5 have been here 10 years or more. That puts the employee average at roughly 7 years, which means a lot of combined massage education experience for our students.

Still, they’ve got a ways to go to beat our 20 years and counting veterans who still clock in. Jim, Melissa, and Pat, keep showing us all how it’s done!

April 11, 2013   No Comments