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Communication. It seems so simple to express how you are feeling. Yet, we often end up feeling overburdened, underappreciated and locked into commitments or undesirable situations because we do not voice our own feelings and needs. You feel bad for telling a friend "No" when they asked you to do something for them (even at your own inconvenience), so instead of turning down the request, you seemingly welcome it with open arms. Sometimes, this might be OK. It is in our nature to want to help others in need. However, that does not mean that every situation or request should be so quickly accepted.

Boundaries are an important part of every relationship — familial, romantic, friendly and otherwise. Boundaries often need ongoing re-evaluation and support. Even if you were okay with doing something five years ago, you might not be okay with it today. And that is fine. We can establish a certain kind of understanding in our relationships if we can effectively communicate what our needs are. Maybe it bothers you when your mother-in-law shows up unannounced. Maybe it bugs you when your friend asks for your help endlessly, but never returns the favor. Maybe your husband is not being considerate enough and is often only seeing his side of the situation. In these instances, a conversation going over your needs, feelings and opinions can ward off continuous frustration, arguments or even the demise of a relationship. If we express our needs, we are holding up our end of being honest in the relationship. You cannot control the response or reaction you receive. In loving and caring relationships, though, the other party is hopefully capable of being understanding of your needs. And if they are not receptive of your communication, maybe you need a little (or even a major) break from them.

A good way to address your needs is in a non-accusatory manner. For example, instead of saying, "You always think about yourself. You are wrong. You should be considerate of me," try saying "I feel like sometimes I am a bit forgotten. I would greatly appreciate it if you could think of me in the situation and how that might make me feel." This starts the conversation in a positive way instead of coming into it with guns blazing. It also provokes a sense of trust and safety between both parties.

Another example, instead of saying, "You always ask me to do this and you never do this for me," you could try, "I do not mind helping you from time-to-time, but I would appreciate it if the favor could be returned."

If the kind, gentle approach does not work, sometimes you will need to express yourself in a more emphatic way. And if that does not work, it might mean putting a pause on the relationship until you and your concerns are heard. It is not always easy, but it is sometimes necessary.

Communication is one of the greatest strengths a relationship can have. It helps avoid confusion, misunderstandings, frustration, arguments and ultimately resentment. Not being able to communicate, and thus not being able to establish boundaries and express needs, can weigh on you mentally, physically and spiritually. You can quickly become drained or find that you are harboring negative energy towards another individual or yourself, which can lead to perpetual negative energy if never addressed. If you are having a hard time deciding what you want to do, how you want to react, what you want to express or figuring out what your needs are, find a quiet place to retreat and meditate or reflect on the situation. Instead of reacting or deciding on the spot how to respond, give it a day and allow your true thoughts and feelings to form first.

Communicating effectively is also a means of self-care. You can cleanse your mind of thoughts and feelings, lighten the “load” that holding your feelings inside brings and perpetuate a healthy means of interaction, whereas not communicating your needs can lead to overextending yourself, becoming burnt-out or experiencing irritation on a regular basis. This is far more harmful to you in the long run.

You are deserving of the same care and consideration that you extend to others. Your opinions and needs are just as important as the other person's. Keeping this in mind as much as possible can lead to better growth as an individual and in turn, within a relationship.

And next time someone asks too much of you or you are not being heard, make sure you COMMUNICATE! An expressed self is the best self.

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Hello, Spring!


Spring has always been my favorite time of year. There is something about this season that brings an added joy and warmth to my soul. The sun seems to be shining harder. The breeze so effortlessly makes me feel at peace. Birds are singing to one another and a variety of beautiful and colorful plants and flowers begin to reemerge, painting the scenery surrounding them once more with the vibrant hues of life.

Spring is a time of rebirth and growth; perhaps this is why there is something so inexpressibly refreshing about this time of year. The once-wilted rose bush blooms yet again, bringing with it new color and a totally new energy. If plants can experience this continual rebirth and growth, so too, can we.

This “rebirth” does not necessarily mean that any part of you has to go or “die off” to experience it. Rather, we can identify and nurture those parts of ourselves that deserve more attention, love and care. Is there a part of you that has been neglected, that you could spend time tending to and watering so that it can grow?

What are some of your goals, spoken or unspoken, that you have not yet focused on and achieved? Have you been meaning to start meditating daily but have slacked in making it a priority? Do you talk about spending more time in nature, but forget to do so? Have you thought about taking the next step toward giving your energy practice more attention, but find your attention elsewhere constantly? Search inside to find what parts of yourself and your life you have been neglecting and find the answer to how you might help grow these areas in your life.

You can ask the universe, your higher self, Spirit or any higher power that you believe in, “What areas of my life deserve more attention and care? What parts of myself can I nurture and help grow?”

You might find the answer as seemingly simple as cooking more and eating out less. Or, you might find something within you, that you never even thought of, that deserves more attention and awareness. Whatever you find, know that you are worthy of the love, attention and care that this part of you requires to grow. You are worthy of the health, happiness and contentment that this growth might bring you.

Spring is a time of reawakening. We reemerge to find fresh beauty all around us. Let your inner world experience this same transformation. Give yourself permission to grow and watch the blessings around you bloom.

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Show Your Love Every Day


Every year for February 14th we buy Valentine’s Day cards for significant others, spouses, friends, family members and even classmates. It is the one day per year that some consciously remember to dote on those around them and let others know how much they care. While romantic and thoughtful, for many this practice is sometimes limited to this one day (or other special occasions) where they show their love for others. Is showing others compassion, love, gratitude and affection something that we truly want to reserve for one day? Or, is this something that we should practice year-round?

Often in life, and in the network of our relationships, we become comfortable. That’s not to say that we don’t care, but that perhaps we don’t consistently show that we care or show our love for others and the world around us as much as we should. We take things for granted, and we take people in our lives for granted. Almost all of us are guilty of this at some time or another, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it is something that we can strive to be better at.

We don’t have to wait until February 14th to buy a sweet card or to write a loving letter to those we care about. In fact, I feel that those signs of appreciation make an even deeper impact if they fall on random days or times when they are unexpected.

I used to write my husband cute little sticky notes for him to find in the morning all the time when we first started dating. It used to make him smile, and he would lovingly express his appreciation for them. So why did I stop? Isn’t bringing joy to his day worth the extra effort? Valentine’s Day is a wonderful holiday to treat almost as you would New Years — with new intents and goals of showing love to those around you on a more consistent basis.

This expression of love can be extended to our family members and our friends, to our children, our coworkers, to anyone who we care about. These individuals in your life deserve to hear on a regular basis how much they mean to you, and they in turn will feel more deeply loved and/or appreciated as a result. Whether it’s through a card, letter, hug, phone call or even a face-to-face interaction, you can show those around you how much you value them every day.

This outwardly display of compassion doesn’t have to be limited to those who are close to you, either. Human beings are all deserving of love, and expressing appreciation to those you run across throughout your day or week, sometimes complete strangers, is just as nice. You can tell the woman who let you skip her in line how kind and considerate she is. You can tell the person behind the cash register how appreciative you are of her friendly attitude, or make a point to genuinely thank the employee who walked all over the store to help you find what you were looking for. Love and gratitude are wonderful feelings to share.

Love and gratitude also don’t have to be verbally expressed to others every day to exist. If there is anyone currently in your life (or deceased) that you have felt/currently feel love towards, simply remembering them or thinking of them with an open heart full of gratitude is a nice way to honor that love. You can even think lovingly of those who you have grown apart from, those who have hurt you or those who might need love the most. Just by thinking it or feeling it, you are sharing your love.

Life seems to pass by quickly. We can easily get wrapped up in routine, but if we consciously take time to remember to show our love to others on a daily basis, we are gifting those around us and ourselves as well.

So this Valentine’s Day I challenge you to not only shower your loved ones with your feelings of love and gratitude, but to also remember to honor them on a regular basis, because they are deserving of it.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Where there is love, there is life”. Happy Valentine’s Day!



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Holiday Joy


Ah, the holidays have almost arrived!

During this time of year, many are rushing about in an attempt to get every gift on their list for loved ones — the latest and greatest in toys, scarves, tech gadgets, candles, books, and wines to hand off to family and friends.

While material gifts are great, what if we were to celebrate our love of giving to others in another way? What if in addition to the toys, we ask our children about an activity they would like to do that would make them happy? What if we asked our significant others what one amazing date would be to them, and then take them on it? What if we asked our brother, sister, mother, or mother-in-law if they would want to spend some time together doing their favorite thing?

In the spirit of giving, we could give others something that holds more value than anything else — our presence, our love, and our undivided attention. Everyone might not want this, but for those that do, it means far more to them than a gift card to a store.

In the daily bustling about in life, we often forget to be fully present around those we love. Sometimes we are only half listening to our husband while we are working on other things, or never call back that friend who mentioned having dinner together. We get caught up in other things and maybe don’t think about our great aunt who is spending most of her days alone. What if, in the spirit of giving, we paid more attention, set those dinner plans in motion, and brought our great aunt a warm meal and sat with her for the rest of the day?

It’s easy to gift our loved ones with material things, but in gifting them with our presence, we are gifting ourselves, as well. Sharing love is a gift for all involved.

We can teach our children to value quality time with others. We can show our spouses that they matter greatly to us — that we want to be part of truly making them happy. We can show our relatives that we think and care about them, too, and can make their day by giving them the love that they deserve.

So in the spirit of the holidays, and in the time of giving, I invite you to try to give a different gift this year — a coupon for one romantic date or a nice massage for your partner, a day at the zoo with your child who has been begging for months, a special dinner with a friend that you’ve lost touch with. Fill your holidays with the most cheer possible by remembering the gift of love.

Happy Holidays to all! 


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As The Seasons Change

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Change. Sometimes it felt like cool rain after a particularly smoldering day. Other times it felt dangerous. Like when the air becomes still right before the tornado whisks everything away. It never felt the same. But what I knew of change, was that it always led me to a place that I had never been before. And therefore, to me, it was always worth the storm.



I always love this time of year. The cool breeze is met with a magnificent array of colors in the trees—colors that warm the soul and create a deep sense of peace and readiness for the next season. The bright green leaves begin to shift to a variety of red, purple, yellow, orange, and brown hues, and the result is stunning.


Aside for my love of flannels, heated blankets, and warm baths, fall also reminds me of how beautiful transition periods can be. Sure, the leaves fall and are no more. But what once was, is to be reformed and redesigned into something completely new.


That’s not to say that every transition seems so pleasant and welcome at the time. Fall also reminds me of years ago when my father became terminally ill with brain cancer. He was seemingly fine one season, and gone the next. In that short time, I went through more emotions than I can count. I had a lot of tough emotions that I carried inside for a large portion of my life that stemmed from my often-difficult relationship with my father. I was simultaneously grieving the loss of him as a person and father, but also grieving the relationship that I had wanted with him, that would never be. This was a very tough time for me to go through.


At first, I remained shelled up, suffocated in a whirlwind of negativity that I could not see my way out from. Why me? Why him? Why now? I was enraged with God, or whatever higher power may be, and let this anger rule over me, locking myself in my room and trying to push out all of the thoughts that came up. I was drowning in pain.


I was not ready for this change. I thought my life was over, and just knew that I was not capable of making it through this. There was no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunny day after the rain. There was no escape—I knew that I would never be okay again.


However, in another season or two, I was okay again. I made it out on the other side alive. I had, in time, confronted the many feelings that I faced, and instead of letting them destroy me, I chose to let them help me heal.


I made amends with my father in some sense. He was unable to speak back to me by the time I had the courage to do so, but saying to him how I truly felt, and forgiving him and myself, freed me from the anguish that I held within me for so long. I spent a lot of time ensuring that he knew how much I loved him.


In doing this, I noticed that my memories shifted as well. I was able to see the past in a new, loving way, and was able to understand what once was from a new perspective. I had grown a new, deeper love for myself and for my father. I was stronger, and physically and mentally healthier than before. I was happier than before. I had not only survived a situation that I thought I could not, but I had grown the ability to know that I was capable of surviving anything. It took time, but the days eventually seemed brighter. My altered views on the past brought with them a new me, and just like that, the death of one season, brought with it new life, and the beginning of another.


As the world spins, it shifts. The shifts bring about new seasons, some that we view better than others, just as we do with the seasons of our own lives. Some feel cold, dark, and lonely. Others feel warm and joyous. But just as the world shifts, we too, can shift into something new—something wonderful. We aren’t always guaranteed of what comes with new seasons, but we can, with good intent, invite in the growth they may bring.


So, I choose to admire and appreciate these beautiful, magnificently colored leaves, knowing that these, too, will fall and die, just as they have in the past. But what comes next, is something I have never experienced before. The beauty in that opportunity excites me. I await the new season with open arms, and an open heart, knowing that what comes next is something that I can grow from, and something that I can look back on with gratitude. I invite you all to do the same and wish you the most splendid changes this fall.

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Succumbing to Solstice Darkness

shutterstock 152960528 500 002The culture clash between winter solstice and Christmas is battling for my allegiance. On the one hand, the sun will set on the winter solstice today in Seattle at 4:20 p.m. This time of year, I am ready to pack up the day and begin my long winter’s nap by 7:00. On the other hand, that seems laughable. Who has time to go to bed at 7:00? This is the frenetic holiday season. Too much to do! Not enough time! Additionally, I find myself fighting the darkness. I sit in front of my light box as I work. In the evenings, I turn on all the lights and crank up the music to fend off a desire to hibernate while I push forward in accomplishing the items on my to-do list.

Yet my body refuses to be ignored. It is allying against me and siding with circadian rhythms that dictate darkness = rest. The busyness our culture calls us to now is diabolically opposed to what nature calls us to.

Every year I feel this same clash. In an effort to reduce the busyness, I consider the tasks and activities that are most meaningful to me during the holidays, prioritize them and cut out everything else. Decorate the house beyond a Christmas tree? Nope. Send out holiday cards? Gave that up a decade ago. Limit my kids to one present each plus stocking stuffers? My bank account thanks me. Bake Christmas cookies? A wholehearted yes! Even with being conscientious about what I spend my time on, I still find myself depleted and resenting the few “essentials” of the holiday season.

Last night, I succumbed to the darkness. It was about time. I turned my back on the to-do list, turned off the lights and music, and sat in front of the Christmas tree. Just sat and soaked up the beauty of tiny lights twinkling on fragrant evergreen boughs. I reflected on the tree’s meaning of everlasting life, symbolism that reaches as far back as ancient civilizations. I recognized my connection to the whole of the universe. It was the most peaceful, energizing thing I have done all week. Not only did it allow my body to rest, the quiet moments of contemplation filled a longing in my soul. It shifted my perspective to what is truly important—love. Love for ourselves, our families, neighbors, the web of humanity, nature and the divine. That love is far more satisfying than my beloved Christmas cookies.

On this winter solstice night, I will again let nature have its way and sink into the rest and peace of darkness, knowing this is what fills me with light and life, and brings joy to the tasks of the holiday season. May you also be filled with the gifts of this season.

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Savoring Summer’s Sweet Slowness

shutterstock 289586102 500In my last blog post, I shared that radical self-care is the only thing keeping me going through a difficult transition. Christine Valters Paintner, whose job title is “Online Abbess and Dancing Monk” of Abbey of the Arts, shared in a recent blog post her ideas for how to savor summer. Her suggestions and questions for reflection struck me as tangible applications of what I wrote about previously. Below is an excerpt from her article to spark your creative exploration of self-care. I will certainly add some of her recommendations to my regimen and look forward to savoring summer. To read the full piece, go to

Summer calls me to relish the gifts of slowness, attention, and wonder. The season immerses me in the sacramental imagination—the recognition that everything is holy, everything shimmers with the sacred presence if we only slow down enough to see.

Let's celebrate summer's gifts with a list of some things that should be done s-l-o-w-l-y:

  • Taking a long swim in the open water, feeling the stretch of your muscles
  • Eating fresh sweet berries and peaches letting the juice drip down your chin and fingers.
  • Cooking a meal with complete loving attention to each chop, sprinkle, and stir.
  • Napping in a patch of sunlight.
  • Hiking deep in the emerald woods.
  • Ordering a soft-serve cone from the ice cream truck and giggling as it melts down your hand.
  • Buy yourself a bouquet of peonies or sunflowers at the farmer's market.
  • Listening to the rhythms of the ocean until you discover your own heartbeat hidden there.
  • Rubbing a dog's belly.
  • Rolling in the grass.
  • Letting a piece of music wash over you and knit itself into your being until you find yourself dancing.
  • Listening. To a friend, a spouse, a stranger. To silence, to the holy presence.
  • Making love and being loved. Treasuring the sacred gift of touch.
  • Gazing upon a work of art or a sunset and really seeing it. Gazing upon a loved one and really seeing them.
  • Transformation: The long slow process of becoming who we really are.
  • Breathing. In. Out. In. Out.
  • Grieving. Experiencing the fullness of sorrow and loss.
  • Basking in gratitude for the simple joys of each day.
  • Lingering under the bone-white face of the moon as she blesses the night.
  • Allowing at least one moment each day when you release doing and simply are.

Consider making a list of the summer gifts you love and then letting your summer practice be to enjoy one slowly each day. What are the things worth savoring? What might happen if you slowed down enough to hear deeply the God who speaks in sheer silence? What is being whispered to you there?

May each of your journeys unfold with a thousand delightful surprises these summer days. May the sun bring you the gift of illumination. May the sweetness of summer elicit a long sigh of surrender from the deepest places of your being.

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Radical Self-care

shutterstock 322985951 500For years I have been writing about the importance of self-care. I have also been practicing what I preach—most of the time. I have the basics covered such as eating healthfully, exercising regularly, meditating daily and allowing sufficient time for sleep—usually. Except when life gets busy and I take short cuts. The problem with short cuts in self-care is that you really do “get out what you put in.”

Currently, I am going through a challenging life transition that will upend almost every aspect of my life. I have clung to my own self-care advice like never before and have practiced it fervently during this unsettling time.

And guess what? Self-care really works!

Exercising hard five to six times a week rids my body of the physiological impacts of stress. Meditating clears my mind so I can think straight. Avoiding sugar keeps my moods more even. That last one is not easy for a self-proclaimed sugar addict. But the difference between adhering to these self-care activities and taking short cuts is so substantial, I cannot imagine cheating right now. It is the difference between having enough creativity to problem solve and enough love to be generous, or going over the deep end.

Deeply caring for myself allows me to walk through these uncertain days with the grace and strength I strive for every day. Trust me, not every day is perfect. But in those moments of fear, I fall back on my tool bag of self-care tricks to get through it, like deep breathing or going outside to soak up nature’s healing energy for a few minutes.

This experience is a reminder that when this all passes, as it eventually will, self-care is a powerful tool for everyday living as well. Once life settles and I am not directing energy toward coping, I will remember this wellspring of life force that can be directed toward positive, productive endeavors. I will be unstoppable!

For tools to support your self-care, go to the Downloads tab above. 

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shutterstock 124776217By Guest Writer Holli Brown, BSEE, LMP-NCTMB, HTCP

I recently returned from an advanced training class in energy medicine. I learned many new techniques and new aspects of the chakras and energy field that increased my awareness and understanding of how we hold and manifest dis-ease in our lives. Do you know that saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”? My personal philosophy is: when the student is ready, the information, situation, client, opportunity, challenge appears to help that student consciously evolve. “Teachers” often come to me in different forms. “They” are not always a person, but as of late, a concept of self, a holding that needs release, a belief that needs healing.


The beauty of taking healing courses with other practitioners is that I get to learn new things from the teacher and other students as well as get to work on my own issues as part of the hand-on learning. The depth of work can be moving, challenging and so liberating! In my recent class, I was personally working on issues around boundaries, speaking my truth and being heard, and my personal power. Many issues for my clients, as well as my own, are rooted in family of origin. What a powerful situation we manifest in our lives – being born into a specific family with its bounty of lessons. Soon after returning from my class, the Universe (bless you) bestowed on me the perfect challenge to hold the energy shift I had uncovered and was learning about. I was ready! I was up for the challenge! And in my ability to be clear, speak my truth, and stand in my own power, release and growth was realized.

Personal growth doesn’t happen in a straight line for any of us. I believe it is a magnificent spiral, and as we grow and change, we travel around the spiral, upwards towards consciousness (perhaps some call this enlightenment). I again found myself on the spiral, not on the same loop however, upwards, but again in the same spot/issue. Now on a new level, I looked at the issue from a different perspective. My boundaries were clearer, my voice was easier to find, and my personal power came much more naturally. Do I think this issue is now completed? No. I do recognize I have more work to do. Uncovering the root (so to speak) of my issue around boundaries is a gift and every loop upwards on the spiral enables me to be clearer. I do anticipate the day when this issue can be released to the Universe with a kiss and a wave. Until then, upwards I go!

Reprinted with permission from

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Following the Unexpected Path

shutterstock 169037579 3It is shocking that I am an energy medicine practitioner. At least, to me it is. Five years ago, I would never have imagined that I would open my own energy healing business. Even sitting in the Level 1 Healing Touch class I could not have imagined it. Within ten minutes of class starting, the instructor explained the energy system: the chakras and auras. I sat there thinking, “What the heck am I doing here?! I have no idea what to think about chakras and auras!” It sounded so woo-woo and I struggled not to roll my eyes and heave deep sighs. But sometimes we are led down unexpected paths, and this was all Universal Energy/Source/God’s doing. On the surface, nothing about my previous experience prepared me for this change of career. I started in theatre administration, then moved to human services and finally stayed home for a number of years to raise my boys. But an undercurrent through it all was my contemplative practice.

Twenty years ago, as I learned a contemplative prayer practice, my hands seemed to catch fire while in contemplation. It was downright uncomfortable and when I asked my spiritual director about it, he said, “Someday you’ll be a healer.” I had no idea what he was talking about so I filed that comment in the back of my mind and forgot about it. Until about five years ago. The initial burning in my hands had faded after a couple of years, but five years ago, it came back—with a vengeance. It all came to a head one day when I chanced upon a page on the website of a local retreat center that featured the work of a Healing Touch practitioner. My hands caught on fire like never before. I had never heard of Healing Touch, but it was clear I needed to learn more. One episode of synchronicity followed another and the rest, as they say, is history.

If we allow ourselves to be led, we can land in the most unexpected places. Sometimes we get there through dramatic experiences like burning hands. Other times, the nudges are much quieter—a string of events that point in a particular direction, someone says something that sends our heart aflutter and ignites our passion, a longing that grows to the point that we cannot ignore it anymore.

The New Year invites us into reflection about our lives—to take stock of the past year and dream of unexplored paths in the New Year. The essential key is to pay attention. What is tugging at the corners of your awareness? Following the path that presents itself with openness and curiosity can lead to the most life changing and unexpected, yet delightful destinations.

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Parking Karma

shutterstock 127209596 350I have an amazing gift. I can find a parking place in front of wherever I am going probably 75% of the time. I live in a big city where parking is a major issue. I say out loud, “All right parking karma, I want a spot right in front!” It is truly amazing how often I get what I ask for. It has become a bit of a joke. People want to take me with them just so I can land them a good parking place.

A prevailing belief in the Energy Medicine, quantum physics and self-help worlds is that we shape our realities with our thoughts. I wonder, what would happen if I asked with such confidence and clarity for other things? Jan Engels-Smith writes about prayer in the latest issue of Energy Magazine and defines it as simply being “focused energy with strong intent.” If you have ever done any of the “energy experiments” in Pam Grout’s bestselling books E2 and E3, you know this is exactly what she is talking about as well. I have tried the experiments, most of which are frivolous and fun, with mixed success.

Maybe I have such success with parking places because I have built up the confidence needed to ask with assurance (strong intent) and because I am very, very clear about what I want in that moment (focused energy). While parking places are trivial, our clients’ challenges are not. As a Healing Touch Certified Practitioner, I’ve learned the techniques of the Healing Touch Program. I know where to put my hands and in what order. I know how to set my intention and ground myself. But as I go deeper into the work, it is becoming even clearer how important this “focused energy with strong intent” is. It is everything. It is the mechanism that initiates healing.

In order to know what to focus on, we need to listen carefully, both to our clients and our intuition. In this way, we get clear about what specifically to ask for. Asking for pain to reduce from 7 to 0 on a pain scale or for infection to leave the body is powerful. I have started restating out loud the goals my clients and I set in the intake once they are settled on the table. This helps not only me as a practitioner, but also my clients. After all, all healing is self-healing, so reminding clients what they are asking for engages their thought processes and their innate ability to shape their own reality. It is the same as me sitting in my car shouting my request at “parking karma.” The only difference is that our clients’ health and well-being are far more significant. 

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shutterstock 196781330 350Summer has ended. Most of us are saying good-bye to the vacation season and easing (or some of us are being thrown) into the new fall rhythm—school, refreshed energy for work projects, activities that resume once everyone is back in town from far-flung adventures. But how many of us truly rejuvenated during this summer season? After my family’s epic road trip (see previous blog post: The Epic American Road Trip), I was exhausted, cranky and in need of space to myself. So I took it. It felt like a matter of survival—not just for me but for members of my family as well. As the saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

I squeezed in three days to myself. It’s a funny thing, going off on your own with idyllic dreams of recharging and rediscovering your best self again. Reality usually hits me in the face the minute I step through the doorway into my retreat.

What do I do now?

I can feel the anxiety I was trying to escape creep up. I’m supposed to be relaxing, but I’m not relaxing. I’m here, I’m ready and I’m also fidgety and restless. Where is that Zen state of mind?

If only it were that easy.

I have found over the years that I have to ease into relaxation in order to withstand the withdrawal symptoms of exiting regular life. So many of us live in a wound up state all the time. We’re addicted to our electronic devices and the rush we get from the influx of constant information. What happens when we do stop? It’s difficult. When we disconnect, we fear we might miss something. The roles we play are stripped away, leaving us as…well, who?

When we extract ourselves from all the noise, we are faced with our unfulfilled longings and desires, the disappointments, the ways in which our life doesn’t measure up. And this was supposed to be a nice getaway. How awkward.

I usually start by finding a broom and begin sweeping. It’s a little quirk of mine. It’s still productive, so I’m not plunging headlong into “lollygagging" (my wound-up self’s word) right out of the gate. But it’s also a way for me to sink into mindfulness: the swishing sound, the feel of the broom handle in my hands, watching the dirt collect in a pile, the sense of completion when I’m done.

Maybe my unconscious mind recognizes this metaphor. Maybe it also is cleaning house of the busy thoughts that keep me distracted so I can open up to the present moment. After all, it’s only in the present that we find our true self. Our past self is just a memory and our future self is either a longing or a fear. But when confronted with our present self, we find grace. We find everything is okay. Not perfect, maybe. But okay. This last retreat, I was even able to experience the joy that lives at the center of all of us. That joy is what rejuvenates us, gives us hope and energizes us for the work ahead. That is a true vacation.


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The Epic American Road Trip

shutterstock 229434985 300It’s a part of our American culture: loading the kids and all manner of gear into the car and then setting off down the winding road in search of adventure, family memories and hopefully really good ice cream. We succumbed to the madness this year, filling the car’s rooftop cargo carrier so full that our 11-year-old had to sit on it to close it. As if that weren’t enough stuff, we couldn’t see out the back window due to the piles of camping gear. The goal was a 2300-mile loop from Seattle through Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Hells Canyon in Idaho and home again.

We found adventure. We created family memories. We even ate good ice cream. What we didn’t do was have a vacation. By vacation, I mean a time to let go of stress and the chance to rest and rejuvenate. It was quite the opposite, in fact. It was stressful (questioning if the rain flies on the tents would keep out the thunderstorms, a kid throwing up). It was exhausting (sleeping on an air mattress that deflated during the night, snoring neighbors in the campsite next to us). It was draining (hours and hours of driving almost every day). Not to mention all the bickering in the back seat.

I needed a vacation from our vacation when we returned.

Now, before I sound terribly ungrateful for such an opportunity, let me state that there were great times had in the adventure, family time and certainly the ice cream. This is why we go on these epic adventures. If I had the chance to go back and do it over, I might do a few things differently to slow down the pace of our trip. But I would definitely still do it. We gave our kids (and ourselves) the chance to experience a truly awe-inspiring and gorgeous part of our country. Check. We can now cross Yellowstone and surrounds off our list.

What my deeper self is truly craving, however, is peace. Life with two boys is lively and fun—and so very, very busy. My two 20-minute meditations a day aren’t enough to sustain me over the long haul. For me, meditation is a necessary start at achieving balance in everyday life. But every once in a while, I need extended time when I am not responsible for anything or anyone else. In order to regain my inner equilibrium, I need to take a step back, not charge forward. I need to get quiet. Really, really quiet. To be in a place where I can let go and not worry about the next moment. To soak up the beauty of nature, not rush by while snapping pictures out the car window.

Selfish? No. This is self-care. This is the foundation of being able to offer our life’s work. As stated in the Energy Magazine Self-care Tool Kit, “Only when we effectively take care of ourselves can we live a vibrant and joyful life. Filling ourselves up first allows us to fully offer our gifts and talents to the world, creating meaning and a sense of purpose for our lives.” (Find the Self-care Tool Kit in “Downloads” on the menu bar above.)

What I’ve realized is that I need two vacations: the family adventure and a retreat that allows me to rest, rejuvenate and connect with my deeper self. I’ve already started repacking my bag.

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The Drudgery (and Lessons) of Waiting

shutterstock 198405680 KarinI hate waiting. I also hate to admit it. Despite years of meditating and attempting to live in the moment, despite my best efforts to be countercultural in the face of a “hurry” society, I have become a product of our instant gratification culture. Right now, it feels like I am about to die from waiting. I’m waiting for the seeds in my back yard and on my window sill to sprout into the gorgeous array of colors, textures and fragrances I have planned for my first-ever flower garden.

Forces outside my control seem to be plotting against me. I have replanted the seeds three times now, both inside and out. The neighborhood cat scratched up the bachelor button starts while leaving a gift I neither needed nor appreciated. Birds plucked up the Chianti sunflower seedlings. Rambunctious boys playing a game involving soccer balls and scooters decimated my calla lilies. I forgot to water the inside seeds. Several times. Okay, I admit that was within my control. In any case, I am waiting with gritted teeth for my beautiful vision to come to fruition.

Not surprisingly, this is the perfect metaphor for my healing practice. I am also waiting for the seeds of my Healing Touch business to shoot up and bloom. They say it takes two years for a new business to gain its footing and become financially viable.  I haven’t reached that landmark yet and the waiting is getting to me.

I tell myself this is an opportunity to practice patience and persistence, to breathe into the frustration and grow spiritually. My inner teenager rolls her eyes and groans. My inner sage knows it’s true. We can’t sit on our meditation cushions visualizing our perfect practice and expect it to manifest all by itself. While we wait, we also need to be proactive. Not a crazy, frenetic kind of proactive that loses all sense of grounding. But a centered, open proactive that listens to the stirrings of synchronicity and inner whisperings, and follows their lead.

I received an unexpected invitation to join a networking group. A doctor friend is exploring renting out her space in the evenings to integrative care practitioners and I’m first in line. A friend of the sister of my old roommate emailed out of the blue to learn more about my practice. While these aren’t paying clients pounding down my door, these connections are steps in the right direction.

When I stop pouting and accept what is being offered with gratitude, things change. I have noticed there is a connection between gratefully opening to what the universe brings and the frequency of those gifts—the more I’m open, the more gifts arrive. Then buoyed by gratitude, I take further action and the cycle continues. Some would say I’m raising my vibration and experiencing the Law of Attraction. That’s fine. I would also call it a good way to build a business—as long as I can just wait long enough to see it come to fruition. Just like the flowers in my garden.

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Shameless Self Promotion

shameless2I choked the other day. Not literally on food. I choked on my words. They were on the tip of my tongue, mostly formed. But they sounded so self-promoting that I couldn’t get them out. I had given a free Healing Touch session to the receptionist at the integrative health center where I have my practice. This receptionist doesn’t work for me, but she sits at the front desk three days a week, greeting everyone who comes through the door.

My intention in giving the free session wasn’t altruistic. My intention was that she understand what I offer so that if ever the topic came up in conversation with clients of the center, she could point to my business cards and with authority tell the person how fabulous my work is. That’s great marketing, building up your referral base. However, I’m not sure the receptionist was even aware of the partner-in-crime role I assigned her because I choked on my words. We parted ways after that session without me asking for referrals. Thankfully, I see her every week and was more proactive the next time I saw her. She enthusiastically agreed to let people know about the benefits of a Healing Touch session with me.

This marketing story had a happy ending. But what about all the other conversations in which I have choked and didn’t have the opportunity to rewind and replay? I know I’m not alone. In a women’s entrepreneur class I’m taking, all of us choked during role plays about discussing our fees and asking if our partner wanted to hire us. Why is this so hard? The information is straightforward: we charge X amount for a particular service and we have these specific times available. It should be so simple. Is it our taboo against discussing money? Is it a lack of confidence that our work is worth the price? Is it the fear that we won’t be taken seriously because we’re energy medicine practitioners? Role playing the conversation in my class was enormously helpful because it uncovered all those nasty doubts we harbor but never examine in the clear light of day.shameless1

I admire practitioners who come right out and say it. No shame, no hemming and hawing or apologies, just direct and clear. There is power in that, an assertion of worth that’s not pushy. That’s how I want to be, so I am pledging to tell the next person who asks about my business what my fees are in addition to all the benefits that come with energy medicine. And the next person, and the next person after that. No more choking, only shameless self-promotion. 

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Barefoot Labyrinth

labyrinth 500Mud squished cold between my toes in the shade, but iridescent green moss that had warmed in the sun eased the chill as I weaved my way barefoot through the labyrinth. I had retreated to a small island off the coast of Washington state to find my grounding again. The rush of life had depleted my energy to the point that I truly was not fit for anyone else’s company anymore. Time to take a break and recharge.

The labyrinth is laid in beach stones in a small clearing surrounded by wild rose, Douglas fir and alder trees. It is as beautiful a sanctuary as any great cathedral. Mother Nature seemed to be thumbing her nose at my calendar which indicated it was the beginning of March. She was cavorting as if it were mid-spring, not still winter. She dared me to take off my shoes and socks and walk the labyrinth barefoot. I had never done this before (note “mud” in the first sentence), but her invitation was too tempting. I’ve become intrigued with the idea of “Earthing” which suggests that we are healthier when we are directly connected to the earth’s surface, and therefore its energy field, through our bare feet.  (Visit the Earthing Institute’s website to learn more by clicking here.)

I have walked the labyrinth many times during past visits to this sleepy island. It is a ritual that helps me to return to my center. But on this winter day in March, I tried combining Earthing with walking the labyrinth. I could feel the energy flowing through my body. At various points on the path, energetic congestion bubbled up from some unknown place within me and released. Earth energy and labyrinth energy seemed to be a powerful combination. Consciously letting go of old energy in this place where so many people had previously brought their devotion, intentions and love was freeing. I felt lighter, as if I really could lay down my burdens and leave them there.Sacred Garden labyrinth

I had been re-energized and returned home as much better company. The question became, how could I make this a regular practice in the midst of everyday life? Escaping to the island is not always possible, of course. But I had discovered a way to return to my center that was immediate and powerful—I wanted to continue this sense of well-being and peace.

The weather hasn’t cooperated entirely since I returned home. And there aren’t any public labyrinths close to my house. But on the sunny days when I work at home, I eat lunch sitting on the front porch steps with my bare feet on the ground. It’s a start. As the weather warms up and dries out, maybe I’ll draw my own simple labyrinth with sidewalk chalk. It won’t have the same wild beauty as on the island. But thankfully, when we get creative and take the time, we can connect to Mother Nature and our own center anywhere, even in the midst of everyday city life.

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Slow Down

slow downSlow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.” These lyrics from the 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon and Garfunkel have become my theme. They speak the truth for me - we move too fast. Our days are full of busyness and rushing. Must make breakfast, finish that work project, shuttle the kids to an activity, grocery shopping, dinner to make, and the list goes on and on. The cell phone rings. A text must be answered. A friend is in need. Oh, take a photo of that for the grandparents. We are “hooked up” and constantly on the move. We fall into bed exhausted.

When we are not physically moving, our minds are in constant motion sorting out what needs to happen next, that comment a co-worker made, a frustration, a new idea, and again, the list goes on. Have we become addicted to constantly being in motion, physically, mentally and emotionally?

We have been told over and over again it is good to take time to stop, to take time for ourselves, to quiet our minds. Yet, how do we juggle everything and still do this?

I have asked myself this question again and again over the last number of years. Each time I ask the question, my awareness of my activities grows and I change something. It is a process. What I have realized is that it is the small things that count most. Yes, I have done some radical things as well, which I will mention, but the small things are the glue.

These are the small things I do when I become aware that I am not “breathing.”

  • Walk away from the computer – even for five or ten minutes.
  • Get up and stretch – yes this much talked about piece works for me.
  • Go outside – rain or sun, warm or cold, this works for me. I must admit it is more fun when it is sunny.
  • Pet my dog – stop and pay attention to her and pet her without distraction.
  • Pick up my colored pens and doodle – something about this lets my mind wander and calm.
  • Move to a comfortable chair or lie down on the floor and just relax for a few minutes.
  • Lean up against the tree behind my house or check on my plants (indoor or outdoor).
  • Pay attention to my thoughts and breathe.

I work from home so my list reflects that. When I used to work in a corporate office, I had a different list but they were still simple things that took only minutes to do.

OK, the one radical thing I did was get rid of my super-duper deluxe Iphone. Yes, it could do everything, in fact more than I knew how to use. But, it had begun to rule me. So I ditched it for a track phone, one with paid minutes, that now resides in my car for emergencies. It does not take messages and I keep it turned off. Yes, it was difficult, but for me my quality of life has improved immensely.

Breaking the constant busyness habit is important to me and I work at it daily in small and sometimes not-so-small ways.

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Saint Valentine, the Healer

hearthands 376If you’re like most Americans, the words “Valentine’s Day” conjure up images of red and pink hearts decked out in lace. Or chocolate. Or flowers. While I love Valentine’s Day as much as the next romantic, the trappings of our modern Valentine’s Day hardly reflect the original story, except for love notes.

Mists of legend surround St. Valentine, clouding who he was and what he did. We know he was a priest. We know he lived in Rome in the third century under the rule of the cruel emperor Claudius II. Beyond this, myth becomes stronger than fact. But it’s at this point that I become charmed by his story. One version claims he was a healer, using herbs and salves along with prayer. Because of his Christian beliefs, he healed in secret—the penalty for being a Christian in Rome at that time was death. A prison guard brought his young, blind daughter to St. Valentine in the hopes that he could heal her. They became friends and when St. Valentine was arrested by the Roman authorities and taken to prison, he sent a note to the girl. Her father read the note to her which said, “From your Valentine.” It was then that her sight was restored. Shortly thereafter, St. Valentine was beheaded on February 14, around the year 270 A.D. We will never know the true details of St. Valentine’s story, but I am inspired by his courage and commitment to heal those who suffered, even under the threat of death.

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About Those New Year's Resolutions...

Self care kit first pageSo. It’s February. We are one month into 2015. Do you remember your New Year’s resolutions? Frankly, I don’t. I think they had something to do with losing the weight I put on over the holidays (should have followed my own advice in the blog post below entitled “The Holiday Food Battle”). But really, does it matter? The point is that we reflect on what we want and need in life, and then work toward it. We can do that anytime. As an energy medicine practitioner, assessing what I need to stay healthy and well is a necessity on a daily basis, not just annually. Energy Magazine has created a Self-Care Kit to encourage us in caring for ourselves and keeping track of our progress. It’s free. Just click on the Downloads tab in the menu above. It contains a mandala-embellished weekly planner, suggestions for self-care, affirmations, and tools for self-assessment. Whatever your hopes and needs are in 2015, the Self-Care Kit can help you on your journey to actualizing them.

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canyonlandThere is a place I go to when I seek solace and quiet, a holy place. I discovered it quite by accident on a walk early one morning when I stopped for a moment to “drink in the morning.” In that moment I was aware of something different, as though I was standing in the presence of something timeless, a feeling of grace. It was tangible and palpable. As I stood, my soul began to resonate and a feeling of connection and peace washed over me.

I have tested this place, going back over and over again. Sometimes I have returned day after day, sometimes after a stretch of time in between. I have walked toward this place and back and forth in it, sensing the place and watching as the feeling gets stronger and dissipates with distance to insure I am not imagining. Each time I am there I experience a sense of grace, always palpable. It is indeed a holy place.

I don’t pretend to know what fills this place with grace or makes it holy. Others may have an opinion. (Others may not sense what I sense.) In truth, I reject labeling it and instead celebrate the mystery. It is enough that it is a sanctuary for me.

This special place is an elbow in a canyon hosting rock, pinion, sagebrush and cactus. The canyon walls are steep, colored with desert varnish. It looks not unlike the rest of the surrounding landscape. One moving too quickly, too caught in thought, easily can walk by unaware.

I wonder, have I “walked by” other places of grace because I was too caught up in myself? Have I left enough space for something holy to catch my attention? Contemplation of my inner world comes to the foreground and for me, this includes creating a hopefully ever increasing internal space for receiving grace and direction. This openness is one I actively seek. In addition, I consider whether I have something to leave in return, to give back.

These considerations are most important to me. They lead me on an inner journey, one that is rich and rewarding.

I go back again and again to this place regardless of the season, weather or time of day. Each time I leave this place, I find my mind, body and inner world changed, as though I have deeply rested.

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