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Massage Therapy: It’s a Holistic Thing!

The Seven Gifts of the Nervous System

By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

Massage therapy seems to be the thing right now. Up from 10% in 2004, massage therapists now see 20% of the American population. Clients appreciate the time therapists spend with them and the caring attention to detail they receive in each session.

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Massage therapy is also a holistic thing, for the very same reason that it is THE thing: it targets the nervous system which, of course, controls and regulates all of our physiology, and helps us to heal ourselves. Whether we are performing a deep tissue or neuromuscular session, shiatsu or myofascial therapy, we touch skin, and skin is the “outer covering” of the nervous system. During embryological development, we grew from three distinct stem cell layers: endoderm, which became our organs; mesoderm, which formed our muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments; and ectoderm, which turned into our skin and nervous system. That intimate relationship is maintained throughout our lives: touch the skin, touch the brain.

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In order to help others better appreciate their innate healing genius, I have defined “seven gifts of the nervous system.” I believe that anyone can apply these principles to their existing style of practice and reap rewards.

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These “gifts” are:

1)      Physiological function

2)      Self-regulation

3)      Emotional literacy

4)      Self-awareness

5)      Embodiment

6)      Perception

7)      Behavior


Bear in mind that the nervous system is the first to develop in the embryo and rapidly develops to adulthood. Given the right stimulus, or the right touch, the nervous system can continue to develop and improve. If all seven of these gifts are acknowledged and engaged, wellness and human and social potential become unlimited.


The brain and nervous system are essential to all vital functions in the body, unconsciously and automatically coordinating diverse functions such as breathing, digestion, heart-rate, immunity and so much more. To ensure optimal function, we can begin to take better care of our nervous system by receiving regular massage therapy. Nothing “touches” us as deeply as…well, touch itself.


Given no interference from stress, poor diet, or trauma, the nervous system makes it possible for us to “dance with” a fast-paced society. It helps us to bounce back from setbacks and, given proper care (i.e. read: massage therapy), to actually turn our stress into fuel for attaining our goals.


Emotions are “Energy in Motion.” They are feelings and sensations that move through our nervous systems. They are the key to the actions that we take, or don’t take, in life. As hinted at in the first sentence, emotions involve—require, in fact—motion to properly feel and act upon. We respond to stress through versions of fleeing, fighting, or freezing. The brain is hard-wired to first respond through a freezing response that we carry around as our posture. When our posture has us “frozen in time,” we are often unable to feel our emotions accurately and run the risk of leaping into (or avoiding) action that later causes regret.

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Picking up from where we just left off, when we look at someone’s posture or body language, we are looking at a “snapshot” of their nervous system, of who and what, in fact, we think we are. As we connect with undiscovered (or forgotten) aspects of our humanity, our posture changes. So do our lives.



The age we live in has earned many nicknames.  It’s been referred to as The Consumer Age, The Information Age and The Digital Age, among others.  Philosopher Richard Kearney has another take on it that to me seems not just descriptive, but actually diagnostic.  He refers to our modern era as The Age of Excarnation.  Literally, the “out of body” age.  The phrase perfectly captures the unexamined normal in which our culture conducts its affairs: 24/7/365, we predominantly live in a mode of being in which we are out of touch with our bodies; as a result, the world exists for us more often as an idea than as a felt reality.  We are preoccupied elsewhere. We are not awe, but distracted. Massage therapy and movement not only help get us back in touch with our bodies, but with the world as well.

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Cutting-edge research in epigenetics shows that how we perceive ourselves, our lives—even the world, plays a large role in determining our expression of health. Once believed to be at the effect of our genetic blueprint, science now tells us that our health is the genetic expression of our lifestyle choices, starting with our perceptions. Massage helps us to see the best in life, because it relaxes the part of the brain that is stressed out and wanting to fight, flee from, or freeze because of a perceived threat to our well-being.


Massage therapy is “consciousness medicine.” We are sentient beings, even when we don’t act like it. Through the function of our nervous system we experience our life. Increasing awareness through therapeutic touch, consciousness expands, as does our ability to engage the world with embodied clarity and compassion.

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Touch is the original medicine. It helped humans evolve to where we are today. Yes, the world has serious problems. Serious. Problems. But imagine how different this world would be if every world leader received a massage each day? If every person received healing touch once a week? Call me a blind optimist, but this is doable. We just need a lot of hands on deck, no pun intended, and a willingness to serve. As Gandhi said, “May your hands be a sign of reverence and gratitude to the human condition.”

September 22, 2014   3 Comments

NHI: Where Leaders Create Leaders!

By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell


Next month, NHI’s very own Jim O’Hara and Cynthia Ribiero will be presenting at the American Massage Therapy Association annual convention in Denver. Both Cynthia and Jim are “rock stars” in the field of massage therapy. Cynthia is a recent president of the AMTA and the developer of NHI’s Advanced Neuromuscular Therapy program. Jim not only has been at the forefront of developing educational programs for the profession for the past twenty years, but his book In The Land Of Shiva: A Memoir was recently released to rave reviews.

NHI is home to many of the best teachers in the field of massage therapy—by design. One of the most gratifying aspects of being part of this community is observing the number of students who go on to become leaders in their communities and in the profession. And two of the most prominent “leaders creating leaders” are Jim and Cynthia.

For this blog, Jim O’Hara was interviewed. I’m sure you’ll find his comments enlightening!




Jeff Rockwell: Jim, you and Cynthia Ribeiro are giving a (sold-out) workshop at the National AMTA convention this September on “Instructional Design” for massage teachers.

What’s the backstory on this?  Why is this topic so crucial and so in-demand?

Jim O’Hara: Teachers the world over really want to do a good job in the classroom, but are not always given the tools they need.  It’s unfortunate that in some massage schools, the eager teacher is simply handed a text book and told to teach from it.

While some publishers now offer lesson plans for teachers using their books, seldom do those lesson plans exactly fit the needs of the particular school.  Teachers are left wondering how to take a lengthy chapter and put the material into 4-hour classes.

JR:  So, why is NHI leading this training?

JOH: At NHI, we have a long, successful history of designing classes.  Part of the reason is that we have been in business for 30+ years, and have had to create effective classes long before the relatively recent explosion of textbooks geared to massage schools! It may surprise you, but many schools do not have a full-time Curriculum Coordinator, nor a full-time Teacher Trainer on their staff as NHI does, and has had for many years.  Put simply, I believe we really do know what we are doing in the area of curriculum and training.

JR: Why you and Cynthia?

JOH: My 20+ years at NHI both as instructor and the former Curriculum Coordinator are the background I bring to this, as well as my own graduate studies in education. Cynthia had run her own 1000-hour school for 20 years previous to coming to NHI, and has long taken a leadership role in the AMTA, so she knows well the needs of massage schools in the country. Also, both Cynthia and myself recently spent over 2 years on a nationally-selected panel of experts who created a blueprint for what the core pieces of massage education are.

JR: Can you give us some key ideas from the workshop you are presenting at the Denver convention?

JOH: Two of the most important concepts in designing a class are these: Scaffolding and Anchoring. “Scaffolding” means to structure each piece of information or skill-training in “bite-sized” pieces that build on each other.

A simple example of this would be how we teach our Swedish sequence. One Swedish massage class is just practice on learning moves like effleurage.  The next class applies those strokes to the back.  The following class reviews the back, and applies the strokes to the legs, and so on until we have a “full body” Swedish massage!  This is clear scaffolding, and is obvious for learning a sequence. Perhaps not so clear is the importance of scaffolding to learn physiology, or business practices, or customer service.

JR: Tell us about “anchoring.”

JOH: “Anchoring” is making sure there is an activity that solidifies the concept or skill in our minds and/or bodies. For example, the instructor may explain the characteristics that differentiate between muscle Origins and Insertions.  An anchoring activity could be to have students partner up and explain these distinctions to the other person – perhaps multiple times if that’s what it takes Jeff. Again, the instructor might talk about the importance of “weight transfer” for proper body mechanics, demonstrate it, and then have everyone stand and do it even though they are not actually doing massage at the moment.

JR: Aren’t these concepts pretty basic? Don’t all teachers automatically do them?

JOH: The “anchoring” activity is often forgotten, or left until the end of the class, because the teachers feel they must “cover” so much material. The most powerful anchoring activities, interactive exercises, are short, and done “in the moment.”

I like to think that NHI instructors do see these concepts as basic, because they are so often already built into our lesson plans and are part of our teaching culture. Come to the convention!


Thank you Jim!




Look for our next interview with Cynthia Ribiero. And remember: Be. Here. Wow!

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August 29, 2014   1 Comment

A Movie Review ~ “Boyhood”

By Dr. Jeff Rockwell


Last week I saw one of greatest films of my life. You may have already read or heard about this movie, how it was filmed over twelve years, how you can see the characters age during this time. But have you heard about the magic it exudes?


Boyhood is another masterwork from Richard Linklater who has already gifted us with his Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) about the complications, joys, and perils of intimate relationships in our times. His new, nearly three-hour film probes the childhood of an East Texas boy from elementary school through his arrival at college. Boyhood is an invitation to lighten up, notice the world around you, and master the art of improvisation. Welcome to a new world of possibilities and a portal into the magic inherent in life.

Seven-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane) lives in East Texas with his single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister Samantha (Linklater’s daughter Lorelei), who outshines him in every way with her high grades, verbal dexterity, and energetic spirit. Mason hangs out with his buddies spraying graffiti on walls, collecting arrow heads, and such. Olivia has taken stock of her life and found it lacking. She decides to move the family to Houston where she can enroll in college while her mother takes care of the kids.

Mason’s teacher is upset with his behavior and bad habits at school. The boy is a daydreamer who spends a lot of time looking out the window. In addition, he does odd things like try to sharpen rocks in the pencil sharpener. Mason seems destined to live a life outside the prescribed standards of school and culture. Even at six, he is a “thinker,” marching tentatively to the beat of his own drum.

Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), his father, has returned from a trip to Alaska where he did a variety of odd jobs. He’s a laid-back man who is fun to be with. He regales his son and daughter with stories and has gifts for them. They go bowling and then pig out on junk food. Both kids are glad when he says he’ll be sticking around and they will see more of him. They’d like their parents to get back together again, but they know in their hearts that they won’t.

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Bullied at his new school, Mason finds solace in video games, but also is attracted to animals, his collections, and elves. He shocks his father one day by asking, “There’s no such thing as real magic in the world, right?” His dad struggles to respond to the question and finally says that in the real world there are not things like elves. Mason, who has experienced plenty of magic in the natural world, wrestles with this answer. We sense that something precious is lost when magic and the more-than-human world that spiritually sensitive people honor is not acknowledged.

While attending college, Olivia meets and marries a professor who has two children of his own. Mason and Samantha get along with their new brother and sister but are deeply shaken when their stepfather turns out to be a raging alcoholic with a violent streak. Watching him explode at dinner, we are reminded that many children, like these four, have to come up with ways of winging it in the face of abuse and violence in their own homes.

In contrast to the professor and the Iraq War veteran Olivia marries next, Mason Sr. turns out to be a lovable companion, taking his children to purchase Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and treating them to an Astros baseball game. Over the years, he shares folk songs he’s written and on Mason’s fifteenth birthday gives him a mixtape of tracks from the Beatles’ solo albums. This playfulness cements a bond between father and son that is a boon to this adolescent as he begins to blossom into his own person.

The art of creating a life is a path and not a system, one we all hope to be successful at. But the world is filled with responsible people who label those who walk this path as “slackers” and “losers” who lack discipline and perseverance.

Mason picks up an interest in photography and stands out from others in terms of his talent. A teacher compliments him on his photographs but criticizes him for not working hard enough: “It’s hard to make art.” This is the same message Mason has gotten his entire life. Even the manager at the restaurant where he buses tables joins the chorus of those who are disappointed with what they see as his “easy come, easy go” attitude.

By the time Mason comes of age, however, he is ready to fall in love with a beautiful young woman, to handle a break-up, to try and console the emptiness his mother feels thinking about her empty nest, and to savor a moment with a girl he goes hiking with on his first day at college. When Mason asks his father how to deal with all the mysteries and all the challenges of life, he’s told, “We’re all just winging it.” Mason, however, has discovered this path on his own and is now ready to let it take him where he is meant to go. He has become a jazz musician of life, a stellar improviser, and a whole-hearted, heart-felt young man.

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Boyhood is one of the Best Films of the last 10 years. I cannot imagine it not winning the Oscar this year. Filmed in sequence across 12 years with the same actors, it is a creative drama that captures and conveys the everyday lives of children as they grow, change, and struggle with events they cannot foresee or control. Best of all, Boyhood is one of the most memorable films ever made about the art of improvisation and spontaneity as a path of wisdom, creativity, and personal transformation.



Watch the trailer here!

August 11, 2014   No Comments

NHI Believes: Take Ten – The Final Step

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love


Step 10 of 10: Embracing Tiger

By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell

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Many people are afraid of change. I know I often am. Instead of feeling and naming the emotion of fear, I merge it with the state called worry or anxiety and—wham!—I’m off to the races, going in the wrong direction. Instead of going from head to heart, I run in the opposite direction. It’s no fun, and not a bit productive.

We all have our own examples of how fear can seem such a huge, impenetrable barrier. Fear: some would rather bury it, walk around it, build bridges over it, cover it with medication or a substance, stay busy to not feel it; anything rather than name it, or even embrace it.

Al Huang is a Chinese philosopher, dancer, and Tai Chi master of great note. He is also a friend of National Holistic Institute College of Massage Therapy, having gifted the college with our famous “Whoosh!” ritual. He is also the author of the 1973 classic “Embrace Tiger, Return To Mountain.”Tiger 2

“Embracing Tiger” is another core belief and ritual that we live at NHI. We create space safe enough to embrace what scares us, to be supported in the process, over and over again, until a skill or attitude is mastered—until the “mountain” is reached.

Today I’m going to ask you to be open to the idea of embracing one of your fears. Not to let it go wasted in a maelstrom of anxiety or worry, but to consciously—even gratefully—embrace it. First, we need a safe space. At any NHI campus, safe space is a given. A deliberate, mindfully created given. When we embrace a fear (i.e., of public speaking, of apologizing to someone or speaking up for our self, of touching or being touched), we strip it of some of its power. We become intimate with it, learning to relate to it, rather than run from it. Be gentle and patient with your self: this is a process, not a singular event. You are learning to dissolve it, bit by tiny bit, until one day what previously seemed an impossible obstacle becomes an ally. In its place is the change that you have been longing for.


“Living a balanced life” has become a popular self-help mantra. Thinking that I could somehow control life (or people, places, and things), I nurtured a completely unrealistic vision for my life. I should be able to live in balance, or homeostasis, at all times. I began to imagine that I could walk a tightrope that never swayed, fly through life without ever encountering turbulence.

But reality—that great guru– taught me otherwise. Life is homeodynamic, bumpy and often uncomfortable. I didn’t accept that truth gracefully, but kicking and screaming. I got really good at kicking and screaming until I pushed loved ones away and met reality with a deafening thud. I am still recovering, and I am grateful for the thud.

So far, I have survived. Today, my balance is wobbly and unpredictable. I’m learning to embrace tiger and on especially good days even search it out.

Every time I feel my life sway from balance into chaos, I remember that it is an opportunity to learn; even if I learn nothing more than that I can endure and return to “mountain.”

Every time I feel overwhelmed by what my day has presented to me, I remind myself to have faith in the path that I am on. There is an intelligence to each of our paths or destinies, I have discovered, and I appreciate the strength that I have gained from falling down and getting back up, even when I do it in full view of people I know and love.

Every time I start listening to the voice that tells me I can’t do something, I focus my attention on all of the voices that lift me up and tell me I can. I choose to let the “community of mentors” called NHI and others support me, knowing that we all grow in the process.

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Sometimes the best way to regain our balance isn’t by standing still, but moving forward into the arms of the tiger, discovering that the tiger was really a great big heart awaiting our presence all along.





Learn more about Al Huang and his Living Tao Foundation here!

August 1, 2014   1 Comment

NHI Believes: Every Body has a Story

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



By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell


“The body is sacred.”
–Walt Whitman—


Let’s try a little experiment. I was tempted to call it a “thought experiment,” except I want to focus on something deeper than thought: namely, the often-unexplored world of our bodies’ stories.

Read the quote by Walt Whitman again. Let it land in your body. Where do you feel it? What does it feel like; truth or fiction?

While it is true that everybody has a story, so does every body. Whether you feel your body to be sacred or not has a lot to do with the stories you’ve told yourself over the years. “I am sacred. I am scared. I am whole. I am a victim. I am perfect as I am (and I could use a little improvement). I am too fat/thin/young/old.”

Over time, what we tell ourselves, in addition to what has happened to us, becomes the “issues in the tissues” that massage therapy works so well to help resolve.

A recent article in the Atlantic explores a study as to where people “feel” emotions. Interestingly, almost always there was a strong correlation between an emotion and a location within the body.

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Years ago, I heard a little formula for healing: “Attention plus Intention Equals Healing.” Of course, the attention and the intention meant loving attention and intention. Most of us have received very mixed attention and intention around our bodies. We all have been saturated with societal, religious and family expectations, abuse and disregard for the sacredness of our bodies. Thus, removing interferences to loving our bodies is the antidote.

What you say to your body and how you say it through your words, self-talk, actions and behaviors can be a source of nourishment that results in more wholeness. In my opinion, more wholeness equals more love which, in turn, equals more aliveness. The changes in this direction that massage therapy can facilitate are described in numerous studies by the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute (for more information, go to

We were all brought up in one relational field or another. Our particular family system is one of those fields, as is the media and the culture we live in. Often—sadly—these relational fields are toxic, contaminated by fear, neglect, or abuse. When a new client comes for their first massage, it may very well be their first experience of a completely safe and non-toxic field. Their physiology shifts from “fight or flight” to “heal and feel.” They come to court relaxation in their life and to trust the wisdom of their cells. The issues in the tissues become less of a threat. Tension becomes gradually replaced by bodily joy; granted, this experience is not an all-at-once” event, but a process. stpry 4

Below are questions to consider. Which ones resonate with you? As you consider each question, focus on where in your body you experience a physical reaction or emotion:

1. Do you sometimes wonder why you cannot find true meaning or a place for yourself in this world? What is your body telling you? What part of your body responds to the question? How?

2. Are you easily depressed or agitated by specific people, events, memories or comments? Where and what is your body experiencing as you ask yourself this question?

3. Do your neck and shoulders ache all the time? Are those muscles responding to this question? How? Do you tend to put things in your life on the “back burner?” Do you realize that your body is that back burner?

4. Do you have severe back problems or the everyday “ordinary” headache? What or who are you thinking of when this pain occurs? What is going on in your life? Do you know that the leading causes of low back pain include job dissatisfaction, financial stress, and relationship troubles?

5. Are you worried about why you can never seem to lose weight? What is your body telling you? What part of your body responds to the question? How?

6. How does your body respond when you pay your bills? Where and what is your body experiencing as you ask yourself this question? What might be your body be trying to say to you?

7. Do you feel safe in your world and within yourself? This is a very important question. Many of us don’t realize that we live fear-based lives in which we are afraid to express ourselves.

Story4 Deepak Chopra has written, “Now we know that the mind and the body are like parallel universes. Anything that happens in the mental universe must leave tracks in the physical one.”

The accumulation of negative emotional energy is often referred to as emotional baggage, a contraction of muscles and the life force that becomes our body language and posture. This holding onto unresolved or repressed emotions such as anger, resentment, unresolved grief, feelings of not being good enough, guilt, and shame can cause pain. Persistent pain is the brain’s way of getting out attention. It is an invitation to change. When we allow the safe and healthy release of these emotions, the energy that was trapped there also releases and we feel more vibrant and alive.  It’s been said that “emotion is energy in motion.” To restore healthy balance we need to be able to process those emotions. We need to move, and otherwise nurture, our bodies.

There are many useful strategies for liberating and learning from our “body stories.” Some people may benefit from somatic (or body-centered) psychology. Running, hiking and, even, walking can be very helpful. But the place to start, in this writer’s mind, is with a wellness lifestyle that includes regular and consistent massage therapy. While our biography often influences our biology, receiving (and giving) massage can turn our life story into one we can really love!


Want to begin taking care of yourself and your story? Book a massage at any of our campuses! Visit here!

July 15, 2014   No Comments

Nine Tips for a Smarter, More Fantastic You – A 3 Part Series

…Continued from Part 2: How to Optimize Your Gut Flora


Part 3: The Final Installment


By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

Recently, I taught a workshop on the “wellness revolution,” and discussed ways we can make room for new vistas in holistic well-being to emerge in our lives. I mentioned two axioms, or self-evident truths: that we are self-healing and self-regulating; and that the brain makes this possible. It stands to reason, then, that if we interfere with the brain and the rest of our nervous system, we interfere with our ability to heal, regulate and transform ourselves and our lives. Another way of saying this is that “as goes the brain, so goes our health.” In that spirit, I described nine ways we can make a good brain great; increase our longevity, creativity and mental flexibility; and boost our overall health. Want to know what they are? This way, please

7. Vitamin B12

Lack of Vitamin B12 has been called the “canary in the coalmine” for your future brain health, and recent research has bolstered the importance of this vitamin in keeping your mind sharp as you age. According to the latest research, people with high levels of markers for vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to score lower on cognitive tests, as well as have a smaller total brain volume, which suggests a lack of the vitamin may contribute to brain shrinkage.Mental fogginess and problems with memory are two of the top warning signs that you have vitamin B12 deficiency, and this is indicative of its importance for your brain health. In addition, a Finnish study found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s in their later years. Research also shows that supplementing with B vitamins, including B12, helps to slow brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (brain atrophy is a well-established characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease). B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread and many have trouble absorbing this nutrient properly from food sources. Blood tests for vitamin B12 are not always a reliable indicator of B12 status, so watching for symptoms of deficiency and increasing your dietary and supplemental intake is a practical alternative to blood testing.

B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources. These include seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk, and eggs. If you don’t consume enough of these animal products (and I don’t recommend consuming seafood unless you know it is from a pure water source) to get an adequate supply of B12, or if your body’s ability to absorb the vitamin from food is compromised, vitamin B12 supplementation is completely non-toxic and inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of laboratory testing. I recommend an under-the-tongue fine mist spray, as this technology helps you absorb the vitamin into the fine capillaries under your tongue.

8. Listen to Music


 It’s long been theorized that listening to music may boost your brainpower.  You’ve  probably heard of this with the “Mozart Effect,” which suggests listening to classical music  can make you smarter. Indeed, research has shown that listening to music while exercising  boosted cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery  disease (coronary artery disease has been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities). In this  study, signs of improvement in the verbal fluency areas more than doubled after listening to  music compared to that of the non-music session. Listening to music has also been  associated with enhanced cognitive functioning and improved mental focus among healthy  adults, so take advantage of this simple pleasure whenever you can.

 9. Challenge Your Mind

One of the simplest methods to boost your brain function is to keep on learning. The size and structure of neurons and the connections between them actually change as you learn. This can take on many forms above and beyond book learning to include activities like traveling, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language, or participating in social and community activities. challenge wav

Another important method? Brain aerobics. As with learning, challenging your brain with mind-training exercises can keep your brain fit as you age. This can be something as simple as thinking of famous people whose first names begin with the letter A, doing crossword puzzles or playing board games that get you thinking. Research has even shown that surfing the Web activates regions in your brain related to decision-making and complex reasoning. So, unlike passively watching TV, using the Internet is an engaging task that may actually help to improve your brainpower.



Click Here: To read Part 1 of this series.


Click Here: To read Part 2 of this series.

July 3, 2014   No Comments

Nine Tips for a Smarter, More Fantastic You – A 3 Part Series

…Continued from “Part 1: Exercise, yes. Sleep, yes. Omega-3? Yes!”

Part 2: How to Optimize your Gut Flora


By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell

Recently, I taught a workshop on the “wellness revolution,” and discussed ways we can make room for new vistas in holistic well-being to emerge in our lives. I mentioned two axioms, or self-evident truths: that we are self-healing and self-regulating; and that the brain makes this possible. It stands to reason, then, that if we interfere with the brain and the rest of our nervous system, we interfere with our ability to heal, regulate and transform ourselves and our lives. Another way of saying this is that “as goes the brain, so goes our health.” In that spirit, I described nine ways we can make a good brain great; increase our longevity, creativity and mental flexibility; and boost our overall health. A simple three part series will cover these nine life-style changing practices. Want to know what they are? This way, please.

4. Coconut Oil

One of the primary fuels your brain needs is glucose, which is converted into energy. Your brain actually manufactures its own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into the food it needs to survive.

If your brain’s production of insulin decreases, your brain literally begins to starve, as it’s deprived of the glucose-converted energy it needs to function normally. This is what happens to Alzheimer’s patients — portions of their brain start to atrophy, or starve, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.

In effect, your brain can begin to atrophy from starvation if it becomes insulin resistant and loses its ability to convert glucose into energy. This commonly happens with diets high in refined sugar and processed foods. Fortunately, your brain is able to run on more than one type of energy supply, and this is where coconut oil enters the picture.

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There’s another substance that can feed your brain and prevent brain atrophy. It may even restore and renew neuron and nerve function in your brain after damage has set in. This substance is called ketoacid or ketones. Ketones are what your body produce when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy, and a primary source of ketone bodies are the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil. Coconut oil contains about 66 percent MCTs. Therapeutic levels of MCTs have been studied at 20 grams per day. According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or 7 level teaspoons) would supply you with the equivalent of 20 grams of MCT, which is indicated as either a preventative measure against degenerative neurological diseases, or as a treatment for an already established case.

Everyone tolerates coconut oil differently, so you may have to start slowly and build up to these therapeutic levels. My recommendation is to start with one teaspoon, taken with food in the mornings. Gradually add more coconut oil every few days until you are able to tolerate four tablespoons. Coconut oil is best taken with food, to avoid upsetting your stomach. Fuel your brain while you fuel your stomach!

5. Vitamin D

The National Institutes of Mental Health recently concluded that it is vital that a mother get enough vitamin D while pregnant in order for the baby’s brain to develop properly. The child must also get enough vitamin D after birth for “normal” brain functioning. In older adults, too, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit.

Appropriate sun exposure would take care of these issues, as the sun is irreplaceable when it comes to the body’s ability to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. Appropriate sun exposure is all it takes to keep your levels where they need to be for healthy brain function. If this is not an option, a safe tanning bed is the next best alternative, followed by a vitamin D3 supplement. It’s important to realize that there’s no magic dosage when it comes to vitamin D. What’s important is your serum level, so you need to get your vitamin D levels tested to make sure you’re staying within optimal and therapeutic ranges.

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6. Optimize Your Gut Flora

Your gut is your “second brain,” and your gut bacteria transmits information to your brain via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem into your enteric nervous system (the nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract). There is a close connection between abnormal gut flora and abnormal brain development, and just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut.

Quite simply, your gut health can impact your brain function, psyche, and behavior, as they are interconnected and interdependent in a number of different ways.

gut flora

Your gut bacteria are an active and integrated part of your body, and as such are heavily dependent on your diet and are vulnerable to your lifestyle. If you consume a lot of processed foods and sweetened drinks, for instance, your gut bacteria are likely going to be severely compromised because processed foods in general will destroy healthy microflora and sugars of all kind feed bad bacteria and yeast. Limiting sugar and processed foods, while eating traditionally fermented foods (rich in naturally occurring good bacteria), taking a probiotic supplement and breastfeeding your baby are among the best ways to optimize gut flora and subsequently support brain health.




What do B-12 and Music have in common? Find out next week in the conclusion to this three part series! 

June 26, 2014   2 Comments

“Healing Hands Make Art Too”

NHI Sacramento transforms into an Art Gallery…


By: Lucas Nevarez



On June 10th 2014, the National Holistic Institute College of Massage Therapy Sacramento campus was transformed into an impressive display of art and culture, in other words: an Art Gallery. The invitation read: “Healing Hands make art too” and it was an amazing display at that. The art pieces were contributed by NHI students, alumni and staff (a full list of contributing artists is at the end of this post).

Students combined with friends and family of NHI Sacramento came together to view our talented therapists’ bodies of work. This was Sacramento’s first ever cultural gathering, and it was a hit! Dozens of people joined us to appreciate the ability and creativity of our NHI community.


The types of Art work (over 35 pieces in total) contributed by these artists were varied and diverse which included:

  • Oil Paintings
  • Carvings
  • Sketches (penciled and charcoal)
  • Quilts
  • Poems
  • Photography
  • Sculptures

This is a short list; just to name a few types of original, imaginative bodies of work. By many measures this show was a success.

Inspiration for this event began when two members of group 70 Mari Down and Jennifer Ware wanted to share their creativity with their classmates. The work was so well done, we felt more people should see. “We should do an art show” was the passing comment, which sounded like a good idea, then became reality.

It seemed like a daunting task at first, the make over of our campus to display all these creative projects. The community came together and staged an exhibit worthy of professional Art Galleries. It was an experience I will always remember.

It’s a shame we cannot do a road show.


 Contributing Artists

Mari Down

Jennifer Ware

Zachery Kwiker

Dago Bedolla

Klayna Snider

Angela Kingshill

Amiee Huff

Kris Whelham

                                                                                                                                        Corey Stillian

                                                                                                                                       Tina Smith



dago art

June 23, 2014   No Comments

Nine Tips for a Smarter, More Fantastic You – A 3 part Series

Part 1: Exercise, yes. Sleep, yes. Omega-3? Yes!


By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell

Recently, I taught a workshop on the “wellness revolution,” and discussed ways we can make room for new vistas in holistic well-being to emerge in our lives. I mentioned two axioms, or self-evident truths: that we are self-healing and self-regulating; and that the brain makes this possible. It stands to reason, then, that if we interfere with the brain and the rest of our nervous system, we interfere with our ability to heal, regulate and transform ourselves and our lives. Another way of saying this is that “as goes the brain, so goes our health.” In that spirit, I described nine ways we can make a good brain great; increase our longevity, creativity and mental flexibility; and boost our overall health. A simple three part series will cover these nine life-style changing practices. Want to know what they are? This way, please.

1. Exercise

Exercise encourages the brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage. During exercise, nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors. One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning. Further, exercise provides protective effects to one’s brain through: the production of nerve-protecting compounds; Greater blood flow to your brain; improved development and survival of neurons, and decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke.

A recent study in Tel Aviv, Israel demonstrated that exercising while paying attention to one’s physical sensations, slowing down the movements, and reducing one’s effort, was responsible for creating 1.8 million new neuronal PER SECOND!  Consider the possibilities for improved physical and mental well-being.



2. Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats

Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an omega-3 fat, is an essential structural component of both your brain and retina. Approximately 60 percent of your brain is composed of fats—25 percent of which is DHA. DHA is also an essential structural ingredient of breast milk, which is believed to be a major reason why breastfed babies consistently score higher on IQ tests than formula-fed babies.

Omega-3 fats such as DHA are considered essential because your body cannot produce them, and must get it from your daily diet.

germs2DHA is found in high levels in your neurons — the cells of your central nervous system, where it provides structural support. When your omega-3 intake is inadequate, your nerve cells become stiff and more prone to inflammation as the missing omega-3 fats are substituted with cholesterol and omega-6 instead. Once your nerve cells become rigid and inflamed, proper neurotransmission from cell to cell and within cells become compromised.

The influence of omega-3 fat on physical and mental health has been the subject of intense research over the last four decades, and there’s compelling evidence that animal-based omega-3 fats can help reduce the symptoms of a variety of psychiatric illnesses and degenerative brain disorders. For example, low DHA levels have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

Even more exciting is research showing that degenerative conditions can not only be prevented but also potentially reversed. For example, in one study, 485 elderly volunteers suffering from memory deficits saw significant improvement after taking 900 mg of DHA per day for 24 weeks, compared with controls.

Another study found significant improvement in verbal fluency scores after taking 800 mg of DHA per day for four months compared with placebo.

Interestingly, research suggests that the unsaturated fatty acid composition of normal brain tissue is age-specific, which could imply that the older you get, the greater your need for animal-based omega-3 fat to prevent mental decline and brain degeneration.  krill

To compensate for our inherently low omega-3 diet, a high quality animal-based omega-3 supplement is something that I recommend for virtually everyone. I prefer krill oil compared to all other animal-based omega-3’s, because while the metabolic effects of krill oil and fish oil are “essentially similar,” krill oil is absorbed up to 10-15 times as well as fish oil, due to its molecular composition, and is less prone to oxidation (rancidity) because it is naturally complexed with the potent fat-soluble antioxidant astaxanthin.

3. Sleep


Sleep is not only essential for regenerating your physical body, but it is imperative for reaching new mental insights and being able to see new creative solutions to old problems. Sleep removes the blinders and helps “reset” your brain to look at problems from a different perspective, which is crucial to creativity.

Research from Harvard indicates that people are 33 percent more likely to infer connections among distantly related ideas after sleep. They become much more likely to become “big picture” thinkers. On the other hand, a single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.garfield 2

The process of growth, known as neuroplasticity, is believed to underlie the brain’s capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. Plasticity occurs when neurons are stimulated by events, or information, from the environment. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes that may be important for synaptic plasticity. Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory, can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.



Tune in next week for our second part to increasing your better health! We will learn how Coconut Oil & Vitamin D increase brain function and also what “Gut Flora” is and how it helps your nervous system!

June 10, 2014   1 Comment

The Magic of 10 Minutes

By Dr. Jeff Rockwell


 Think of one thing you want to improve in your life. Think of one emotion you want to feel more of. Think of one part of your soul you would like to express more of. Think of one goal or yearning you have. Now, what would it be like to spend 10 minutes per day on that? I love neuroscience, but if I don’t study at least 10 minutes per day, it means nothing. A lot of us who read this blog have the gift of getting massaged regularly. If you do that, you can take your care to a whole new level by doing Feldenkrais or Somatics 10 minutes per day. You can take your life to a whole new level by practicing a skill or working towards a soulful goal for 10 minutes per day. Starting a business? Spend 10 minutes per day meeting one new person or setting a marketing plan for the next year. Working out? Spend 10 minutes practicing some brand new skill or exercise, every day.

 10 min 2

We all want to live “in our flow” but for most it never happens because we are waiting for tomorrow. We are waiting to feel like we are enough. We are waiting to get it perfect. Here is a piece of vulnerable self-disclosure: I AM SCARED ON A REGULAR BASIS. I just know beyond all doubt that the God within is way bigger than my fear and if I just put one foot in front of the other, map in hand, mentors walking beside me, Heart wide open, I’ll get where I need to go. It is that deep process that changes us so utterly at our core. You want more self-love? More self-acceptance? Stop thinking about yourself so much and find new ways to be of service to others. Practice! 10 minutes per day is a game changer. We know scientifically that consistency over time is way more important that intensity. Practicing  10 minutes per day is so much more powerful than one practice session per month of one hour. This applies to anything and everything in our life. Cheers! 10 min



Try out this 10 minute meditation!

Comment below and tell us what you love and

plan on spending 10 minutes a day on.


May 14, 2014   No Comments

NHI Believes: Creativity and Consistency

…Continued from 10 Steps to Having a Life You Love


By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

The eighth core belief of the National Holistic Institute a College of Massage Therapy is creativity and consistency. Faced with complex, open-ended, ever-changing challenges, organizations realize that constant, ongoing innovation (kaizen) is critical to stay ahead of the competition. The same should apply to an individual life, even if—especially if– one does not view life as a competition. In order to grow and actualize one’s potential, consistent creativity is a must.

bulbThis is why we need to be on the lookout for new ideas that can drive creativity, and it’s why the ability to think differently, generate new ideas, and spark innovation within a team becomes an important skill. You need to work actively on building and cultivating this skill, and it can be done—especially as a team.

Often, though, we make the mistake of assuming that good ideas “just happen.” Or worse still, we get caught in the mind trap that creativity is a special aptitude; some people have it, others don’t. We are either born with it or we are not. Then there is the time-worn self-defeating belief: “I am not smart enough to be creative.” These assumptions are rarely true. Everyone can come up with fresh, even radically new, ideas. We just need to learn to open our minds and think differently. We also need to think differently about thinking.

A word of caution – while techniques and books of techniques for creative thinking exist (and are extremely effective), they will only succeed if they are backed by knowledge of the area we’re working on. This means that if we are not prepared with adequate information about a particular challenge or opportunity, we are unlikely to come up with a great idea even by using the techniques applied by Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, or Steve Jobs. What is your driving passion? Learn as much as you can about it. Then get freaky with your thinking.

All of us tend to get stuck in certain thinking patterns. Breaking these thought patterns can help you get your mind unstuck and generate new ideas. There are numerous techniques you can use to break established thought patterns, and books abound at your local bookstore or the internet on this subject.

Personally, I prefer stories to techniques and am a firm believer that greatness can’t always be taught, but it can be caught. So let me introduce you to three “mentors” of mine, people who lived their lives in unconventional ways that placed them in the center of a rich and somewhat wild sea of creativity. Have you ever heard the tale of the sage who was instructing a student about the nature of transformation? When you arrive at the ocean, do not bring a thimble but, instead, bring a 50-gallon tank. Think big. Think bigger than that. Escape the box that most of your thinking occurs in as if you were fleeing from a burning house. Once outside of the box, blow it up in your mind and then start thinking. If you were Albert Einstein for one day what would you think?

Creativity is one of the most spiritual—and transformational—activities a human being can engage in. Thus, in that spirit, read on.


To unleash your creative intelligence, start thinking like Leonardo Da Vinci. Try emulating some of the things he did to be more creative. Da Vinci had specific techniques that he used to stimulate his intelligence and creative thinking. For example, he was ambidextrous and could write and paint with both hands at the same time. Pretty cool, right? Try stimulating your mind by writing with your non-dominant hand for ten minutes a day. Then take another sheet of paper and brainstorm about what you are currently passionate about.

The primary thing to remember regarding Da Vinci was his observation and belief that “everything connects”.  He coined that phrase; not Abe Lincoln, Ben Franklin, or that prolific writer, Anonymous. This was his core belief, around which his mental universe revolved. Making connections between disparate things is one of the most productive creative thinking skills, so strongly consider making it a practice to think of ways that different things relate to each other, and how different things could be combined to make something completely different, novel, and needed by millions of people.davinci 1
Leonardo Da Vinci was fascinated with all branches of learning and, in his time, there wasn’t the same push to specialize. He didn’t differentiate so much between subjects because he believed that they were all inter-related. He was a generalist, and proud of it.He discovered that the learning and discoveries made in one area affect our understanding and knowledge of another subject of study. This is the central idea of becoming a Renaissance man or woman. True creative intelligence will come with the development of all your intelligences: physical, emotional, mental, social, financial and spiritual.

Another of Da Vinci’s more famous techniques for inducing creative reverie was his practice of looking for recognizable patterns or images in the smoke and ashes in his fireplace. You may remember Jodie Foster’s character in the film, Little Man Tate, practicing this technique with her genius prodigy son, as they spent hours gazing at shadows on their ceiling. You can do the same thing with clouds, patterned wallpapers, bark on trees etc. Just stare at the clouds and see what pictures you can see in them — faces, landscapes, animals and so on. Ask a question of them, and see what answers “appear.”

Leonardo da Vinci used notebooks to record his ideas, thoughts and observations. Journaling is now recognized as a tremendous creative stimulant. It seems that by recording our prime thoughts and observations we affirm to our mind that they are valuable to us. It frees our mind to expand on ideas, because the origins and subsequent steps of thought are written down and objectified.

We all know that Da Vinci was an amazing artist. He used his ability to draw as a thinking aid, doing little cartoons in his notebooks that illustrated something he was observing, or were the beginnings of an idea for a design or invention that he had. It’s easy to learn to draw sufficiently well that you can use it to assist your creative thinking. I recommend Betty Edwards ‘ book, Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a scientist, engineer, artist, instrument inventor, anatomist, philosopher, and musical composer.  He was highly popular as a story teller, joke teller, riddler, and was famous for excelling at whatever he applied himself to. He was also said to be immensely strong and physically fit. During one period of his life, he devoted an entire year each to heightening his five senses, perfecting his sense of hearing (through listening to and playing music), taste (by becoming a sommelier and gourmet chef), smell (becoming a perfumer in the process), sight (through observation of the natural world, and by painting), and touch (by training his body and becoming an Olympic caliber athlete before the advent of the modern-day Olympics). He found that by developing all of his multiple intelligences he gradually became a fully rounded individual capable of fulfilling his creative potential. He died used up and happy.


Albert Einstein’s creative thinking epitomizes most people’s idea of what a genius “looks like.” So it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Einstein had specific creative thinking behaviors that you can emulate to attain creative breakthroughs in any field of endeavor. The primary creative mindset of Einstein was that of possibility thinking. Basically, this meant giving himself permission to think extraordinary and fantastic things. He was well-known as quite the (well-educated) daydreamer. Many of his flashes of creative insight came while he was walking around his neighborhood or taking a shower. I suggest that you set aside time to deliberately pursue the creative breakthrough. You can call it your “Einstein time.”

Make the choice to budget your time to allow for regular “thinking” work. How much time you devote to this will depend on your own particular situation, needs and commitment. There are certain fields of inquiry that will demand more of your time and focus to reach the breakthroughs that are “waiting” in that field. Albert Einstein’s thinking on the subject of Quantum Physics obviously demanded more of his thinking time than someone who wants to think up a really creative idea for a birthday surprise. Get started by determining to set aside at least twenty minutes a day to concentrated possibility thinking and contemplation in the areas of your particular interests.

Einstein also was comfortable with dealing with seeming paradoxes and ambiguity. He was a devout practitioner in uniting what, to many, seemed like polar opposites: spirituality and science. Not a religious man in the traditional sense, he once said, “There are two ways to live. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle. Personally, I choose the latter.” He entered the realm of the miraculous on a daily basis, the creative field in which everything is possible.

creativity5  Buckminster Fuller and creative thinking go hand in hand. This creative powerhouse, referred to as the “Leonardo Da Vinci of the 20th Century,” is revered as a genius by those who knew him or his work. His extraordinary creativity drove him to become a philosopher, thinker, visionary, inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician, poet, cosmologist, and more. And the amazing thing is that all this creativity was spurred on by one life-focusing thought, a thought that will unleash a creative genius in YOU if you choose to adopt it. The thought? I’ll get to that in a moment.

It’s true that Buckminster Fuller had a flair for designing and making things, even as a child. As he grew up, he also demonstrated a flair for being a non-conformist — getting expelled twice from Harvard! He married young, served in the Navy during World War 1, and then went into business with his father-in-law — a business that ultimately failed. At age 32, Fuller found himself bankrupt, jobless and raising a young family in poor housing. When his beloved daughter, Alexandra, died of pneumonia, Fuller was inconsolable with guilt and shame. He blamed himself for her death and spiraled down into an alcohol-fuelled depression that took him to the brink of suicide. But just as he was about to end his life, Fuller heard an inner voice say, “Stop! Your life does not belong to you, but to the Universe, in service.” These words literally saved his life and launched him on the path that would make him world famous for his creative thinking.

In his depressed mindset, Buckminster Fuller—or “Bucky,” which he came to be affectionately known as, had been thinking about everything that was wrong with the world and his life. In the days after he heard that voice of inner guidance, he embarked, in his words, on “an experiment, to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

Fuller’s experiment lasted over fifty years. Along the way, he had another realization and said in a lecture, “Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary—the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And then there’s a tiny thing on the edge of the rudder called a trim-tab.  It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving that little trim-tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all. So I say that the little individual can be a trim-tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether, when the fact is you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said to my friends and students, ‘Call me Trimtab.’”


One of Bucky’s most innovative concepts was of the earth as a spaceship. This implied the idea of all people of all races being together on one finite vehicle.  He invented the Dymaxion Map which showed how all the countries of the world are closely linked. All this pointed at our need to work together as a human team; that our long-term and best future would only come as a result of consistent and creative co-operation in meeting the challenges that face each and every one of us. Our future on “Spaceship Earth” will be determined, he felt, by our ability to figure out the “operating manual” and maintain the health and efficiency of the planet. Fuller knew and accepted that most people would see this kind of thinking as pie-in-the-sky idealism. His motto though was “dare to be naive.” To be creative you have to be a little foolish. The inner editor wants you to be “realistic.” It spits out the old refrains: it’s not done like that; it’ll never work; that’s just not practical. But as a creative thinker, you cannot afford to let that voice squelch your creativity.

Yes, the world we live in faces many challenges: environmental, social, economical, political. These problems can seem so huge and insurmountable that we often give up before we even try to tackle them. But the mind is designed to meet creative challenges. That is its nature. The way to unleash its creative power is through responsibility, choice, and commitment. When you choose that it’s up to you, that you are going to do it, then your mind gets into gear and starts working at a deeper level. In each of us there is a core desire to be of use. We all want to help make the world a better place. We all want to make a significant contribution. We all want to demonstrate to ourselves (and others) that our lives have meaning, that we are all important. And so, your enormous personal creative power can be unleashed by Buckminster Fuller’s thought: What can I do? How can I help? How can I make this world a better place? How can I help humanity have a better life and a better future? Dare to be naive. Dare to dream wild and lofty dreams. Dare to be creative for the benefit of all beings. Dare to take on the world’s challenges and, as an experiment, discover what a single individual  can contribute to changing the world for the better.


May 8, 2014   No Comments

Are you Passionate?

By Dr. Jeff Rockwell

At NHI, we are all about having work you love.  Having work you love is a great big portal into having a life you love. Living a life you love is about passion. What is passion? This word currently has a poor time in our culture. We are a culture that often squelches passion and we are a culture that has created a cult of mediocrity from very early on in life. In so many ways, we are encouraged to stay in the bell curve and to dial down that ecstatic urgency to create, love, step up, and step out. I know of no greater elixir for the heart than passion. “In the ruin of heartbreak,” speaks Rumi, “there arises a passion that can raise the dead.” I love that line. Passion, to me, is that felt sense of aliveness, of purpose, of fire, and of excitement to live, act, and love for something much bigger than “me”. It is the felt sense of being pushed along a path by something Vast, Huge, and Kind. It is the energy that rises up in me every time I think of the mass suffering in this world that can, and does, get better when individuals wake up and start living like they mean it. Passion is the rocket fuel of the Heart that transcends logic and that is the source of all true creativity. Passion begs us to question our rules and the rules laid down by teachers, preachers, doctors, and politicians. It implores us to give up our stories that hold us back and trust that living flame within. Passion was the fuel source of the illumined mystics, the great writers, the luminous musicians, and the courageous agents of social change. Passion is not a mental event.untitled

To really live and serve Passion’s great call, we’ll have to muster up the courage and be ready to leave behind the dead weight of a life of compromises. Passion will not let you live small. Your life may be entirely ordinary, and yet it can be so illuminated with passion that even your silence makes the birds dance.


We live in a larger field of relationships, of “relatings.” Relationships – all of them – thrive on positive interactions of kindness, play, authenticity, vulnerability, laughter, and a deep fondness for excellence. In the hum-drum drone of day-to-day existence, so many people get away from the juice that lies in fostering positive interactions with those we love. Gay Hendricks states that simply to have an “OK relationship” you need five positive interactions for every negative one. An awesome relationship – whether with your life partner or with your best friend – requires a relationship heavily weighted to the positive. Paradoxically, however, real honesty and vulnerability will open the door to authentic positivity.  It’s easy to gloss over incongruencies and just “be nice”. That is not what I am describing. I am talking about a potent force of energy we call positive love that arises again and again and again and becomes medicine for our personal and collective brokenness.  I see this every day around me at NHI. We focus on our strengths and build from there. We tell the truth with compassion. We don’t settle for. Instead, we rise into a place where only love, respect, courage, accountability, and kindness exist. We sizzle.


Keep score. Yes – I really said that. Keep score. Note the ratio and shoot for 10-1.  Then, 20-1. And when that ratio gets low, don’t freak out. Look deeply. Speak deeply. Courageously take responsibility and forgive deeply. And then step up. Meet your life with your life. Begin and end your day with acts of positive kindness. Text them. Email them. Use whatever means you can. Water the soil of your relationships with unconventional and uncalled-for kindness and positivity. Especially when you don’t want to. Especially when it wasn’t “your fault.”

Finally, love yourself. Big time. The Buddha said that no one is more deserving of your kindness than you are. Take care of yourself: mind, body and Spirit. Self-care is not selfish; rather, it’s a supreme act of love. When I am connected, whole, and in my zone of passionate living, I am so much more available to the world. I also enjoy the ride a lot more, and that fuels me to give more, and then the world keeps giving back to me in this play of flowing and energetic giving and receiving. Life becomes so much more than just a survival match.

Get massaged. Regularly. Make it a foundational part of your wellness lifestyle. Do yoga or Tai Chi or Somatics. Get an extra hour of sleep. Drink raw juice. Go on a retreat. Ask for help from a therapist or coach when you need help. This amazing game of life was meant to be played together, and, believe or not, there are folks on this path who have been where you have been and have a roadmap to a much cooler place. Spend time around people that energize you, inspire you, and push you just a tad past your comfort zone (thank you Julie Porter; thank you Brigitte Essl). Talk to God (whatever you call God). When you are up against a wall and don’t feel like you can go any further, please–let yourself cry. Don’t make your busyness an excuse. There is nothing so barren as a busy life, said Socrates.


At NHI San Jose, we are in the process of saying goodbye to one of the most passionate human beings I have ever met: Darlene Campo.Campo1

During the four years I have worked with her, I (and I am sure I am not alone here) have received spot-on and compassionate mentoring, always exactly what I needed to hear, always in a manner which allowed the words to sink in.  Any computer or academic question I ever had, was promptly answered by Darlene as she would often drop what she was doing to be of unselfish assistance. I have witnessed her vulnerability, her supreme organizational skills, and appreciated her enthusiasm in learning new massage modalities, along with learning to exquisitely speak Italian (the language of passion).


Darlene knows how to turn a weekend off from work into an art-filled, artful holiday. She is generous with her helpfulness and her enthusiasm. She is a humble and empowered worker among workers, a devoted daughter and a lifelong learner.  She is trustworthy, reliable, brilliant (yes, she glows), deeply spiritual and deeply humorous. She is an adventurer of the heart and mind. She is my friend. She is NHI’s friend. And now she is embarking, as of May 3rd, on a new journey as Associate Dean at WesternTechnicalCollege in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. As the saying goes, “Our loss, their gain.”




Darlene is a light-spreader. Now she is preparing to spread her light further and deeper into the world. Passionately. Come May, I’m uncertain how to live my life, doing everything the same, only this time without my friend.






Let us know what you are passionate about and ways you enhance your passion for life!






May 1, 2014   No Comments

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 beyond 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   5 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

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

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

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

By Jeff Rockwell

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8: Dance. That’s it. Dance.

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

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


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



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

#lifeyoulove #massage #NHI

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

February 18, 2014   2 Comments

10 Steps to Having a Life You Love!

By Jeff Rockwell

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

February 10, 2014   11 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