Sunday, October 05, 2008

Blog Address Change!

I am happy to say that I've made it possible for viewers of The Healing Nest to have access to this blog's RSS feed!

For some reason there was a glitch with this address which did not make it possible for wonderful readers like to you subscribe to my blog.


So, I've moved my site to a new blogspot address (the name is only slightly modified; a "the" was added to the address) and all of my
new posts will appear there!

Here's the new address:
http://thehealingnest.blogspot.com

Go on over and check it out! You now can update your bookmarks and site feed information, too.


I will use this old site as an archive site. All of my posts (from December 2006 - September 2008) will be accessible here and there will be a link to this archive from my new site.


See you in the land with the extra "the"!


peace and positive change,


Courtney

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sneak Peek...

I have been moving a little slowly lately, so my apologies for not writing here more frequently. These gray skies are making me feel sluggish and I seem to want to sleep a lot these days. My grief process has sure added more nap time to my schedule. Sheesh.

But I do have one mini accomplishment to share with you. I have just devised my 2-hour fall special (after long, long brainstorming sessions) and my postcard order is at the printers as I write this!


I want to give you a sneak peek at what goodies are in store for you this fall. So, here you go...

Autumn Special: Pumpkin Spice

This autumn, surround yourself with light and warmth while taking in the nurturing scents of pumpkin, cinnamon, and clove.

This two-hour experience includes:

• A citrus spice foot spa, warm herbal chai, and a light fall-inspired snack to awaken your senses.

• A full-spectrum light therapy session to boost your mood.

• A pumpkin spice body polish treatment to revitalize your skin.

• A hot stone massage using heated basalt river stones for deep relaxation and warmth.

Cost: $120. Gift Certificates Available.

What a way to embrace the coming of fall! This is going to be a fun special and I am lucky to benefit from all of those wonderful autumnal smells as well.

Alright, I'm off to receive a massage, so I'll say goodbye for now. But my goal is to write here much more often and to offer exercises, prompts, and other bits of healing wisdom for you. Thank you for your patience as I work my way through the fog.

pumpkinly yours,

Courtney

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Catalytic Musings

"Catalyst for Beauty," collage, 4" x 5"

1. Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
2. something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
3. a person or thing that precipitates an event or change.
4. a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic. Source: Dictionary.com

Have you seen the movie Amelie? This film is on my top-ten list of favorite movies in large part because of the catalytic actions of the main character Amelie. Through her deliberate actions she ignites an artist's creativity, teaches a grumpy man a lesson, sparks a reunion of once-estranged family members, and helps repair a widow's broken heart. And she does all of these things with curiosity, compassion, and hint of mischievousness.

In what ways have you been Amelie-esque in your life? In what ways have you been a catalyst for change of some kind?

Try this:
Freewrite about your feelings about being a catalyst. Is this a comfortable place for you to be? Or do you feel awkward or uncomfortable in the role? Perhaps you've been the recipient of some catalytic intervention. What was this like? Write for 15 minutes without stopping and see if you can write fast--like you're sprinting on a track. Keep the pen moving as much as possible and allow yourself to be messy.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Spine Metaphor

"Spine Hawk," mixed media, 4" x 6"


Alright, creative wonderfuls,


I know that you think about your spine. I just do. It's rare that someone comes to me for massage and doesn't ask for their back to be addressed. I don't often hear comments like, "You know, today my back feels so loose and free, you can just avoid even touching that area." So that is how I know you think about your spine. Or at least you spend a portion of each day feeling and interpreting sensations in your back and spine.

So I invite you to tinker with this writing exercise (below). If your spine were another "thing" in the world, what would it be? And please, please, oh please consider emailing me your metaphor writing for inclusion in my next issue of The Healing Nest Newsletter. Oh, pretty please. Email: cputnam@rising-bird.com

Writing Prompt: Spine Metaphor
What is the life of your spine like? On a typical day, do you feel expansive in this area or cramped and compressed? Write about the purpose and function of your spine, as well as how you experience your spine in your body. Now imagine your spine is not your spine at all, but something else. Is it a ladder for your headaches to climb to reach your head? Is it a river flowing from your cranium to your sacrum? Is it a snake? A rain stick? If you get stuck in your writing, I recommend that you connect with your spine by doing some small movements and stretching in your torso. What does it feel like when you bend forward, back, or to the side? How does your spine respond when you engage with it? Perhaps this movement will help you to reveal the metaphor.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Landslides

"My Island," mixed media collage, 6" x 7"

My, has it been over two weeks since I last posted here? I thought about writing last week and then this last weekend -- and both times I got cold feet. I had that feeling I used to get as a high school student when the longer I was quiet in class, the harder it was to speak. I used to get red blotches on my neck just thinking about raising my hand to answer a question. But I digress a bit. I don't have red blotches this time; I just feel a little shy.


I created the above piece today when reflecting on where I've been these past two weeks. I do feel like I've been on an island -- a little island of grief. And just when I think I'm ready to leave my island, I slip off the edge and fall. I am still so curious how grief can come like a sudden landslide. I can feel fairly steady and then I'm flat on my face and sludging through mud. The little things seem to cause my fall. Last week when playing cards with my partner, I felt the loss of my dad so keenly I couldn't breathe. With cards fanned out in my hands, my body suddenly remembered the marathon games of "manipulation" I played with my dad. I didn't expect this memory to surface, and there I was falling again.

This Jane Kenyon poem reminds me of the the little things that can create mountains--or landslides--of emotion.

What Came to Me

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.

Try this:
Think of the physical details of your life--household objects, jewelry, trinkets, stones, clothing, dishes, etc. Choose one you are energetically drawn to and write for 15 minutes about this object. What feelings does this object conjure for you? What big idea, feeling, or event does this small object carry for you? Allow yourself to feel whatever emerges as fully and deeply as you wish. And remember to breathe. Breath will calm you and reconnect you to your heart center.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Deep Loss


I'd like to officially introduce you to someone. The picture above is my dad, Ed Putnam, who died this past Tuesday morning, August 12. He died at home (in the house he built) with his family around him. Some of you know about my dad's struggle with kidney cancer--a struggle which began in January of this year. It's been a tumultuous ride these past 7 months, and I find it hard to contain or even encapsulate the events of this year.

I will say, though, that my relationship with my father deepened during this time, and that my healing work kept me afloat in ways I am just starting to grasp. One dear client who knew of my struggles asked me during a session, "How do you care for other people and hear other people's problems when you have such big stuff going on in your own life?" It was such a good question. I surprised myself when I heard myself replying, "I find it very grounding and centering to give bodywork. I can tune into the relaxed breath of my clients and the sacred space I have created for healing." I also heard myself say something about the universal nature of suffering--that I can connect to the suffering of others (even small moments of suffering or discontent) while holding my own sadness about my father because it all comes from the same source. Suffering is suffering. Grief is grief. Loss is loss. The specific circumstances and degrees of intensity may differ, but I have a hard time ranking or categorizing these things. Until my client asked me her question, I hadn't realized that I truly felt this way.

So while I may be taking some time off right now to attend to my sadness and that of my family (I'll be back giving sessions again during the week of August 25), please know that when you come to see me it's okay to mention my loss (I know, it's hard to know what to say when someone has lost a loved one) and it's okay to focus on YOU during your session. Prior to each session I give, I create a safe space for you to relax, find relief, and heal. Rest assured that I will find my own time for my own healing (Olympus Spa here I come!). This time is for you and I am honored to witness whatever it is that you bring to your sessions.

I also want to mention that my posts here may be few and far between or very frequent with many philosophical musings about the nature of life and death, of healing and illness, and of finding inner peace. Right now I am reading Thich Nhat Hanh's No Death, No Fear, and I imagine many of his words will make their way to this blog as well.

peace and healing,

Courtney

Monday, July 28, 2008

Creatively Ignited!

This last Sunday I offered "Writing from Your Body," the first workshop in my "A Year of Living in Your Body" series. For four hours I led my lovely and creative participants in exercises with breath, sensory experience, movement, and physical touch. We wrote from our feet, intestines, and hearts; engaged with all of our senses; took a centering walk; breathed into our bellies; wrote in different positions and locations; shook out stress and balanced our brain hemispheres; and shared the messages we received from our bodies in a safe and open setting. And much, much more! Wow!

I want to send a scrumptious thank you out to my participants! You were sensorily-activated, bodily-focused, and creatively-ignited writerly rock stars! This was my first time leading such a long workshop--and yet those four hours felt like absolute PLAY for me. And even though I played facilitator, I did have some interesting moments of my own writing, including the discovery that "my pelvis is a bowl in my body, catching the contents of my desires--a bowl to catch my heart when it drops." I think there's a poem hidden in there.

One of the books that I introduced to the group (and that influenced my workshop) is Laraine Herring's Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice. If you have any interest in how breath (and being fully in your body) can allow for a deeper writing experience, Herring's book is a must-read.

In honor of my workshop, here is a little exercise you can try as a way to engage with your body in a different way. Choose of these pairs of words and write from the part of the body with an awareness of the sense listed. For instance, if you were to draw "elbow" and "smell," imagine what your elbow might smell on a daily basis. Lemon pledge? Pizza dough? Printer toner? And feel free to write in the voice of that part of the body. You never know--perhaps your teeth have something to get off their chest, so to speak!


teeth - smell


eyes - touch

knees - sight

hands - taste

heart - sound


Monday, July 14, 2008

Saying No = Opening to Yes


“I’m learning to embrace the word no, for balance, for equilibrium and to honor my intuition. Like a box, no provides walls and boundaries. It’s a container, a framework in which creativity can come forth with controlled abandon. No stops me in my tracks and opens up a new place for me to begin. It can hold possibilities. Time for me and my ambling.” --Susan Wooldridge, Foolsgold: Making Something from Nothing and Freeing Your Creative Process

“Soon I realize I am saying yes, and inner yes, supported and held in place by an outside no. Yes to doing what I want. Yes to how I feel.” --Susan Wooldridge

While in Hawaii with my family over the past week, I was immersed in constant activity and interaction. It was heaps of fun. Well, most of it anyway. But since being back home in Seattle I realize that I hadn’t had much privacy or down time. You see, we were all sharing a small condo together. (We = six adults and a baby.) Boy was it noisy, cluttered, and alive with movement!

During the first half of the trip I hadn’t really noticed the close quarters and lack of private time so much. In fact, I was enjoying the shared space and constant stimulation, introvert though I am. But this soon grew overwhelming and a tad exhausting. One day I realized that I hadn’t even had a moment to use the bathroom without a worry that someone else was waiting to use it! And I noticed that I had only read seven short chapters in Foolsgold, when normally I would have devoured one or two whole books.


So when I was asked whether I wanted to join the evening festivities of a road trip and dinner on my last evening of the trip, I heard myself utter “No thank you.” I felt a little ripple of a wave inside my stomach guide me to stay home with my books and journal and computer—and the silence. Oh, the silence. Except for those rhythmic ocean waves, of course. And the tropical birds cooing about. And the clicking of my computer keys. My body softened the moment I said no.

Susan Wooldridge is right: sometimes when you give the world an outward no, you are actually giving yourself a powerful inner yes. You are giving yourself permission to be yourself in this very moment with what you feel you need. She’s also insightful when she notices that no can hold possibilities. When I say no thank you to one thing, I say yes, please to a multitude of other things. And most importantly, I say yes to me.

Try this:
Listen to your gut when you are asked to do something. Perhaps you really must do this thing (after all, there are tasks that we must complete even if we don't want to), but if you do truly have a choice, consider asking yourself what you really want. Try on "no thank you" once in a while. See what possibilities open up for you when you say yes to yourself and your desires.



Thursday, July 03, 2008

Aloha

Mixed media collage: "Super Girl Goes to Hawaii," 9" x 12"


I'm off to Hawaii for about a week with my family and created this piece above to send me on my way. I may be able to blog from where I am staying, so stay tuned for tales of adventure, wisdom, and healing from the Pacific Islands!

And here's a little bit about aloha:

"Summing up, one islander says
aloha means 'Hello, goodbye, love, compassion, welcome, good wishes. It means belonging to others with a common humanity. It's defined better as a feeling in the heart than by words.'" (Answers.com)

I send you all some aloha spirit. I feel so thankful that you are part of my little community.

Peace and Mahalo,

Courtney

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ask and Your Body Will Speak


I created this art piece the other day and titled it "She Asks Her Hand Why it Hurts." In this scene, these whispering birds represent the kind of dialog we can have with ourselves regarding our own discomfort. Sometimes I imagine a little voice in my mind which asks a little voice in a part of my body (such as my hand), "Why do you hurt?" or "What do you need?" When I listen carefully, I can usually hear a response. The hand might say, "I worked too hard today" or "I gave too much to others this week" or "You forget all about me when you work on the computer." When I can quiet the clatter in my mind for a few long breaths, I usually receive some insight. What do you hear when you ask a part of your body how it feels?

Try this:
Find a quiet place where you can focus inward. Locate an area that you are curious about. Perhaps this area causes you pain or maybe this area is just confusing to you for some reason. Whatever the case may be, ask this place some questions as if it were a close friend or loved one. Ask your questions with curiosity and compassion and be open to hearing whatever it is your body has to tell you.

You can follow up this exercise by writing down the dialog as if you were writing a short story or play. Feel free to give this body part a personality, too! Is your elbow crabby? Is your stomach an excited teenager? Is your neck shy and reserved? Make this body part come to life and give its voice a chance to speak!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writing from Your Body Workshop!


"What people don't realize is that writing is physical. It doesn't have to do with thought alone. It has to do with sight, smell, taste, feeling, and everything being alive and activated. The rule for writing practice of 'keeping your hand moving,' not stopping, actually is a way to physically break through your mental resistances and cut through the concept that writing is just about ideas and thinking."

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones


Do you feel and hear all that your body has to tell you? After all, as John Lee writes, your body is “home to all that has happened to [you], and it remembers.” In this hands-on workshop, we will explore the ways in which paying attention to our bodies can deepen our writing and our writing process. By engaging in some breath, movement, and writing exercises we will begin to feel how removing physical blockages in our bodies can in turn dissolve some of the creative blockages we feel when writing. We will also learn to listen to our body's messages and allow these insights to inform our writing.

This is a workshop comprised of doing. We will try not to analyze in this workshop; we’ll give our analytic minds a much-needed siesta. We will write from our guts, our hands, our spleens, our throats, and our blood vessels. We will begin to explore how telling the story of our bodies can help us to reclaim our creative, knowledgeable, and truth-telling physical selves. Come prepared to move, feel, and create with an open mind.

This workshop is for both beginning and seasoned writers.
No experience necessary!


When: Sunday, July 27, 2008; 1:00-5:00pm

Where: Rising Bird Healing Arts (Roosevelt District of Seattle)

Cost: $100 (or $80 if you sign up for the "A Year of Living in Your Body" series)

To Register: Email Courtney Putnam at cputnam@rising-bird.com



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Some Thought for Thought

Right now I am dipping my toe into Shakti Gawain's Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Life. I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of my thoughts, and Gawain's book is taking me to a deeper level of understanding the subtle (and not-so subtle) ways I can impact my life by changing the way I think.

Here are two excerpts from the beginning of the book I particularly resonate with:


"One law of energy is this: Energy of a certain quality or vibration tends to attract energy of a similar quality and vibration. Thoughts and feelings have their own magnetic energy that attracts energy of a similar nature."


"When we are negative and fearful, insecure or anxious, we often attract the very experiences, situations, or people we are seeking to avoid. If we are basically positive in attitude, expecting and envisioning pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness, we tend to attract and create people, situations, and events that conform to our positive expectations. So, consciously imagining what we want can help us to manifest it in our lives."


This "like attracts like" idea makes sense to me. I have seen this phenomenon happen to many others -- as well as to myself -- in both positive and negative ways. I have felt myself grow and flourish in connection with my positive thoughts and I have seen myself attract troubling situations because of my worry or negative self-talk.

What might happen if we could hear each other's thoughts? Do you think we would hear loving, kind words or self-critical mantras? Imagine how the energy in a room might shift if people's thoughts shifted from negativity to positivity? What impact might this have on your relationships, your family, your workplace, or your neighborhood?



Try this:


Create a statement that encompasses a positive thought or vision for yourself. If you tend to have negative self-talk regarding your body image, think of a wonderful statement about your body. If you feel fearful speaking in public, create a statement that empowers you to feel calm, peace, and power when you are in front of a group.


Write this statement down and tape it to a place in your home which you pass by frequently. Perhaps it's your bathroom mirror or your bookshelf. Each time you pass this note to yourself, stop, take a deep breath and read it like you mean it. Now this might feel contrived and hokey at first, but after a while I bet that you will notice a difference. Many people notice a shift at some point, when they realize that they actually
feel and believe in their statement.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

They've Got the Right Idea

I took a cue from my cats today. After many days (or has it been weeks?) of gray and rain in Seattle, there was a spontaneous sun burst this afternoon. I let the cats out and they went to sunbathing immediately. I knew I had to get out in it, too, so I took a lovely walk, soaking in as much vitamin D as I could.

My question to you all is how are coping with the cooler, cloudier spring this year? What are you doing to stay positive, healthy, and vibrant even when it's stormy outside? I'd love to hear about your experiences and coping strategies!

peace and blue skies,
Courtney

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Little Bit of Lemon Balm...

...goes a long way.

I had never tried ingesting lemon balm before (that is, before Monday). I had grown it in gardens and enjoyed that lovely lemony scent, but I was not aware of its healing properties.

After a visit to my naturopath on Monday (yes, the amazing Greg Yasuda!), I started on my path of drinking lemon balm tea. Greg asked me to drink three cups of lemon balm tea a day to help with my anxiety. Apparently lemon balm has long been used to help calm the nervous system:

"Lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis ), a member of the mint family, is considered a 'calming' herb. It was used in the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort associated with digestion (including flatulence and bloating as well as colic). Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings" (umm.edu).

I purchased dried organic lemon balm at The Herbalist here in Seattle. Oh my, if you haven't toured this herbaceous place, you must! It is wall-to-wall with colorful bottles of tinctures and remedies, as well as bulk dried herbs. I steep one tablespoon of lemon balm, add 1-2 drops of stevia if I want it to be a little more sweet, and sip away.

The warmth of the the steeped goodness calms my nervous system right away and the lemony taste lifts my spirits. I think I shall now add lemon balm essential oil to my practice. Off I go to the Herbalist once again!


Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Post of Links

It seems I am in a stage of accumulation. I am gathering ideas from many directions and processing different healing modalities, philosophies, and concepts. And I have some marvelous friends who keep sending me information and ideas that keep me inspired and engaged. My mind feels quite full right now, but it is filled with such fascinating things. I thought I'd share some of these things with you now.


The amazing Laila Atallah is offering yet another free workshop! Tomorrow (Monday, June 2) from 7:00-8:15pm at the Tully's in Wallingford, she presents "3 Steps to Interviewing Confidence." For more information about this workshop and her upcoming free events, visit Laila's website HERE.

Last week, my friend Dorothy lent me a most marvelous DVD called You Can Heal Your Life, which is produced by Louise Hay. If you are not yet familiar with Louise Hay, I highly recommend learning more about her and her perspective that if we can change our thoughts we can change our lives. Very powerful stuff. To view a snippet from the DVD, click HERE.

My bodywork colleague and friend Bethanie Sand is, among other things, an Ayurveda practitioner, and she has helped me to understand my dosha. A dosha is your mind and body type, often thought of as your constitution. I'm mostly Pitta. What are you? To take the Dosha Quiz, click HERE.

Years ago, when I wasn't in the healing arts profession, a friend of mine introduced me to Aura Soma, which is a system of learning more about yourself by the colors you resonate with. I was just recently reminded of my experiences with Aura Soma and found a great free reading online. To check it out, click HERE and choose "Free Reading."

Have fun clicking and linking!

Courtney



Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Healing Nest Newsletter is Here!

Hello springtime friends,

The Spring 2008 Issue of The Healing Nest Newsletter is hot off my computer (my keyboard and hands are still burning!)









To view/download the newsletter, click here:

http://www.rising-bird.com/SPR08Newsletter.pdf

Included in this newsletter are two announcements regarding upcoming offerings and workshops. I've also posted links on the top of the sidebar of this blog. Enjoy!

peace and blue skies,

Courtney

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Reiki Master is on TV!

Polly Klein, owner of Tonglen Healing Arts, trained me in Reiki years ago, and she continues to inspire me with her amazing work with animals. In addition to being a Reiki Practitioner and Craniosacral Therapist for animals, she is also an Animal Communicator. She is intuitive, wise, sensitive, and talented at what she does.

Some day I'll write about my experiences with Polly in detail, but for now I'll just say that she was instrumental in guiding me on my path to healing work and she made a profound impact on my relationship with an important companion animal in my life.

To see the video clip of her Evening Magazine debut, click here!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Living the Creative Life

A new book (well, it's handsomely used) just arrived on my doorstep today. It's called Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration from Working Artists by Rice Freeman-Zachery. I have barely begun delving into this beautiful book, but I just had to share what I've experienced so far. First of all, this book is an art piece in and of itself. It's a colorful montage of fifteen working artists, who share their work and their insights regarding creativity and living an artful life.

I've been absorbing the first chapter called "The Creative Childhood [It's Never Too Late!]." I realize how clearly I can trace my creative impulses to my childhood. I happened to grow up in a household of writer/artist types, so my artistic explorations were accepted and encouraged. I know that some (many?) people did not experience this kind of familial acceptance of their creative endeavors. Even if your artist self emerged later in life, it might be interesting to think about what things (colors, aesthetics, shapes, images) drew you in as a kid. Perhaps you saved these artistic "goodies" for your adult life. Whether you would describe yourself as having been a creatively abundant kid or not, I recommend your trying the "Try This" below.

So, my Try This comes directly from Living the Creative Life:

"In your journal or a piece of paper, make a list of the things that fascinated you as a child. Snakes? Big trucks? Flying? Going to the moon? List everything, no matter how silly it seems. Maybe you were entranced with a particular shade of blue you found in the lining of your father's suit, or maybe you couldn't resist running your hands over velvet or smushing mud into clay. What captured every bit of your attention? When you're done with your list, circle or highlight the ones that cause a little shiver of interest. Those are the things that still call you."

Do these images come easily? Or is it hard to remember the things you were drawn to as a child? What themes/images remain potent to you even still?


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Soul of Compassion


Last night I attended a powerful "Muse Studio" with facilitator Alia Calendar. The theme of the evening was "Nature as a Force of Healing." Using soul collage techniques, we created art that spoke to the ways in which we felt nature can be healing. The above piece is one of the three cards I created last night. The woman in the piece is Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion and mercy.

After we created our pieces, we wrote in the voice of an aspect of one of our cards. It was a powerful exercise to enter the images in the card to understand the meanings. I had no idea that what I had created would have so much to teach me. Here is the voice of Kuan Yin as expressed through my freewriting:


I am the gentle soul who cares for all beings--
open heart, welcoming eyes, eternal.

I bring you inner peace, letting you know that,
like the earth, you are resilient.

I ask that you let go of the need to force change. The sun rises
each morning, doesn't it?

Hold the birds close to your chest, listen to the patterned
footsteps of the rabbit, watch the moon wax and wane.

Know that the first act of compassion
is compassion toward yourself.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Before I Go To Sleep Tonight...


...I will set an intention for waking up.

I sometimes wake up a bit altered. Does this ever happen to you? I tend to have vivid dreams during sleep, and particularly in the morning hours before waking up. It can take me a good hour of being "awake" to actually be truly Awake-with-a-capital-A to my non-dream reality. The disorientation can make me feel unsettled and confused. Sometimes, I'll admit, it makes me kind of grumpy (or a "cranky pants," which is the term of endearment my brother uses to describe his one-year-old son during fussy moments).

So tonight, I have set an intention for a peaceful night sleep and for a graceful and appreciative morning of waking up to my day.


What inspired this intention setting? A poem by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.


Hanh writes:


Waking Up


Waking up this morning, I smile.

Twenty-four brand new hours

are before me.

I vow to live fully

in each moment

and to look at all beings with

eyes of compassion.



Try this:
Set an intention before you fall asleep. This intention can be about the quality (or quantity) of your sleep, or what you wish to feel upon waking. It can be about the dreams you wish to have, or you can even ask for guidance or clarity about an issue.

In my experience, intention setting before bed can be quite effective. When you allow your positive thoughts about sleep to fill your mind as you are drifting off, your subconscious has a chance to take hold of these thoughts, just as it does for stressful thoughts (which we don't want). See if setting positive intentions gives you peace through the night and a morning filled with feelings of joy and possibility.

* * * * *

Hanh's poem comes from his 52-card deck called
Present Moment Wonderful Moment. (BTW, the beautiful art on the back of each card is by Nicholas Kirsten-Honshin, who has a gallery in my neighborhood called the Kirsten Gallery. I have yet to check it out, but hope to do so soon.)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Women, Body Image, and Bodywork

This afternoon, without quite knowing why, I picked up a book I haven't looked at in a long time: Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul (Ed. Patricia Foster). I randomly opened to an essay by Pam Houston called "Out of Habit, I Start Apologizing." I was drawn in for clear massage-related reasons; her first line is "I am lying, facedown, on a massage table at the Doral Hotel and Spa in Telluride, Colorado." But Houston's personal essay moves beyond this moment on the massage table; she delivers vignettes of past and present, weaving moments of reckoning with her body.

Houston expresses her dissatisfaction and fear of her own body in shocking moments of memory and realization: "When I was younger, I used to believe that if I were really thin I would be happy, and there is part of me that still believes it's true." She also confesses, "Sometimes I'm afraid the main reason I spend half of my life outdoors is simply because there aren't any mirrors."
Houston recalls a poignant moment from her youth when her mother told her, "'Let's see if we can make it all the way to dinner without eating anything at all.'"

As I read Houston's essay this afternoon I was struck by how honest she was with her struggle to love her body. I felt my heart drop a little (even though by the end of the essay Houston learns to love her body a bit more), for I began to feel the collective pain so many women feel in relation to their bodies. I have felt this pain, too, and I still can find myself in a body image trap in our culture.

I was particularly impacted by this essay today because I read the piece between bodywork sessions. I had just given a session to a client who was listening to her body's messages, being receptive to touch, and feeling acceptance and love for herself and her body. I now recall how Heida Brenneke once said that she believes that therapeutic touch and bodywork improves body image, for when we allow ourselves to receive touch and listen to the body, we are sending a message of love to our body. During a bodywork session we can chuck those media images out the window and focus on ourselves from the inside out. We can turn the question "what does my belly look like?" to "what does my belly feel like?"

So, in honor of our beautiful bodies, I offer a link to the
National Organization for Women (NOW)'s "Love Your Body" Quiz. As the NOW website states, "See how much you know about how advertising and media affect your perception of body image and self love. "

Oh, and this is a great resource, too: Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Try this:
When you notice that you are criticizing your own body, try taking a deep breath and turn inward. See if you can feel what it is like inside a certain area of your body. Does it have a texture, a sound, a color, a voice? Use all your senses to imagine what the life of this part of the body has had. Instead of merely focusing on how this area looks, try truly feeling this area of the body. Once you have gone deep inside, then gradually move your way out to the surface of your body and also appreciate the skin you're in.


Friday, May 02, 2008

Important Introductions

I've been waiting excitedly for the moment to introduce you to Laila Atallah's most elegant new website. The time has come!

But first things first: Laila is a career counselor and life coach and I have known her for about four years now. I feel so blessed to know her and to be her entrepreneurial creative buddy. We have the best time together scheming and planning and supporting each other in this road of entrepreneurial creative play. And I have learned so much from her: she offers a powerful combination of straight-forward practical steps and a soulful, visionary approach – two skills that entrepreneurs like me need in order to be successful at the daily logistics of my practice while holding a higher vision for my business. Laila also has a holistic approach: she attends to me as a small business owner AND as a human being (with all of the emotions that come with being human!).

Laila has just launched her elegant new website for her business Career Counseling with a Twist. While Laila has been a career counselor and life coach for over 15 years, this website is a new adventure. You must check it out. It's beautiful and filled with useful information regarding resumes, job search strategies, life transitions, and much, much more!

I also want to let you know that Laila is also launching a free series of clinics here in Seattle. Here is her lovely flyer (click for a bigger view):

One last note regarding Laila: For years, I had a dream to be a healer-artist-writer “one-woman show.” Now I am doing it; I am living my dream life. I credit so much of my success to Laila's compassionate wisdom and guidance. Thank you, Laila!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Positive Touch

It's obvious, yet sometimes forgotten: giving positive touch for those who are rehabilitating and healing from physical trauma can be powerful medicine.

This touch can be so simple: holding a hand, giving a shoulder rub, sweeping hair away from a face, brushing hair, placing a hand at the small of a back, scratching feet.

Just over a month ago my dad returned from the hospital (after a horrible 35-day stay). His body had been poked and prodded several times each day. By the time he was well enough to come home, his body had turned inward to protect itself: his shoulders were turned inward, his neck and head bent forward. In addition, he didn't recognize his own body: he was 20-30 pounds lighter and scarred. To a significant degree, I don't think he relates to his own body even still.

So, what can we do for our friends and loved ones who are in this place of healing? It is clear to me that positive touch can help the healing process in tremendous ways. I have given my dad Reiki and massage (and do so regularly), but I also try to just touch him when I am with him. I place my hand on his back or I connect with him by holding his foot while we watch TV.

And sometimes, I get a bit more elaborate. Last night I gave my dad an herbal foot scrub. I mixed Dead Sea salt with dried spearmint and lavender and gave him a little spa treatment in the comfort of his own living room. He had never experienced anything like this and was quite tickled (literally and figuratively) by the treatment.

Offering my dad some kind of positive touch whenever I see him is my goal. It's sometimes mysterious how my touch is contributing to his sense of healing and re-integration, yet other times the effect is clear. Sometimes I notice he smiles more or he becomes more thoughtful or his body doesn't crunch up so much.

Receiving touch enables us to connect to our bodies in profound ways. We realize we have fingers and toes after all! Being conscious of our bodies helps us learn to understand them better and listen to them more keenly. Just last night, my dad spent 10 minutes focusing on how his toes involuntarily curled when the bottom of his feet were touched! What a wonderful way to spend 10 minutes!

And remember to ask for touch when you need to focus on your own healing. You can initiate it yourself or simply ask for a close friend or loved one to help you reconnect to yourself by brushing your hair or holding your hand. Notice how this type of nurturing makes you feel.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Archetype Cards


I just purchased Caroline Myss' Archetype Cards. This colorful 80-card deck includes 74 archetype cards and six blank cards (for you to place your own archetypes).

A few days ago I chose my twelve archetype cards. The first four are universal cards we all have according to Myss: The Saboteur, The Prostitute, The Child, and The Victim. The next eight are archetypes I chose based on how I perceive myself. These eight cards represent aspects of myself that I can trace from childhood to the present day. After much contemplation, I chose the following:

The Healer
The Poet
The Artist
The Mediator
The Rebel
The Shape-Shifter
The Rescuer
The Hermit

I have these cards spread across my mantle so that each time I walk by them I can reflect on these aspects of myself. Just today, when I felt my mediator energy go astray, I looked at The Mediator card and read the words, "Respect for both sides of an argument." I felt my body relax. My shoulders dropped. I knew that I didn't need to force the mediator part of me into a certain situation. I just needed to feel respect for both sides. I love it when that happens. I felt a shift inside me without feeling the impulse to take action to "make things right" between two others.

I purchased my deck at EastWest Bookshop in my neighborhood, but I'm sure you can purchase this deck online or perhaps even at big box bookstores. If you do purchase a deck, let me know what you discover!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Bit of Emotion


When I was a student at the Brenneke School of Massage, I had the opportunity to work with Heida Brenneke, the founder and then-president of the school. I took a class from her in Autogenics, which is a relaxation technique using visualizations. Not only was the experience of Autogenics powerful for me personally, but so were Heida's words.

I remember a particular moment in the class when a student was describing neck pain and Heida guided him through some Autogenics techniques. She asked the student to make the pain bigger so that it was as large as it could possibly be. The student breathed and imagined his discomfort as a balloon getting bigger and bigger. As balloons are apt to do, it burst when it hit its limit in size. And so did the student's pain: it burst and the pain lessened.

Then she asked the student to notice any emotion residing in his neck. The student described a feeling of anger lingering in his neck and some frustration, too. As before, Heida then asked the student to imagine this anger and frustration getting bigger and bigger like a balloon. The anger was like a big red balloon, and like the pain, when it expanded to its limit it burst in a therapeutic release.

When Heida asked the student how he felt after these two exercises, he noted feeling lighter and centered. His neck pain had reduced so much it was only a tiny sensation of tension, no where near the discomfort as before. Heida then said (and I remember these words so clearly):

"I believe there is always an emotional component to physical pain. Even if there is just a little bit, only a tiny emotion there. But there
is something."

Next time you are experiencing some physical discomfort, try tapping into what emotions might be stuck in an area of your body. Does your ankle hold inflammation and also sadness? Do your shoulders hold tightness and also a feeling of burden? See if you can identify a bit of emotion hiding inside your body and attend to those emotions. See what they have to tell you, and care for them just as you would your sore muscles or achy joints.

Art piece above: "A Giving Heart," mixed media collage by Courtney Putnam.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring Special: Renewal


I seem to be herb-centric these days. I hope that you don't mind. I have herbs and plants on my brain and sunshine in my heart. It's no wonder then that I chose to create an herb-themed spring special called "Renewal" for this season's two-hour special.

So here's the low-down of this special should you care to partake (or even just imagine partaking):

The session begins with an herbal foot spa in my jet-powered, temperature controlled foot bath. Really, this thing is the best. I would use it every day if I had the time. A mixture of herbal essential oils of your choice may be added to the water.

While you pamper your feet, you may relax, sip some purifying lemon-water, and nibble on a healthy snack.

After this quiet time, you will receive an herbal body scrub with the use of Israeli Dead Sea salt and a combination of dried herbs (you have your choice of dried rosemary, lavender, spearmint, or rose petals). These dry elements mixed with oil create a most lovely scrub for your tired winter skin. The scrub is both invigorating and relaxing, and gives your skin a soft, healthy-looking glow.

Following the scrub, you will receive an integrative massage (with the use of herbal essential oils of your choice, of course!) to fit your needs.

Cost: $110.

I must say that offering this special is self-fulfilling in some ways: I get to smell those wonderful herbs and receive the healing benefit of the essential oils on my own skin when I scrub and massage. Just thinking about it makes me want to drink some spearmint tea and apply some lavender lotion. Perhaps that's just what I'll do right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Herbaceous Essential Oils

I send a big thank you to Juliet who provided such great information about herbs that grow well here in the northwest (see her enlightening contribution in the post below this one)! While I enjoy growing herbs and cooking with them often, my deep love for herbs truly emerged once I began using herbal essential oils in my massage practice. I use many of the herbs from Juliet's recommended list in the form of 100% essential oils. (Note: It's important that you use 100% essential oils if you wish to experience the therapeutic and healing effects of the herbs. Products labeled as "aromatherapy" aren't necessarily naturally derived, and while they may smell yummy, they won't affect your body in the same way as oils created from the plants themselves).

There are ma
ny ways you can use essential oils, from experiencing their therapeutic effects during a massage session to taking a bath infused with a few drops of oil to calm you before bed. An essential oil is a concentrated oil from a plant, so that little bottle you buy at PCC or Whole Foods packs a punch. You only need a small amount to experience positive effects. If you put any essential oil on your body it is important to dilute it in a carrier oil (such as grapeseed oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, etc.). Now a drop or two straight from the bottle placed on your skin in an area smaller than a deck of cards should be fine. For more information on safety using essential oils, click here.

So, now to the juicy stuff: healing properties of essential oils! I've taken three herbs from Juliet's lis
t and created a sort of "herb profile" for each based on the physical and emotional healing characteristics. I chose three herbs that aren't often chosen for my use in massage sessions. If you want more detailed information about each essential oil from Juliet's list, I recommend reading Roberta Wilson's Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty.


• • • Bergamot: The bergamot tree, a result of cross breading a bitter orange tree with a lemon tree, produces small white star-shaped flowers. The essential oil comes from pressing the rinds of the fruit. (See third picture.)

Physical healing:
  • astringent properties (great for skin problems like acne, eczema, psoriasis, shingles);
  • useful for urinary tract infections (use 3-4 drops in a bath)
  • boosts immune system for colds and flu
  • soothing for chronic fatigue syndrome
Emotional healing:
  • refreshing & uplifting
  • equalizes emotions by balancing the activity of the hypothalamus gland
  • helps relieve fear, anxiety, panic, sadness, and depression

• • • Marjoram: A bushy herb that produces pink or white flowers. Its smell is sweet and a little woody or peppery. (See second picture.)

Physical healing:
  • Soothes arthritis, muscular aches and spasms
  • increases circulation and dialates blood vessels (helps with high blood pressure and other heart conditions)
  • stimulates appetite
  • soothes upset stomach, relieves gas and constipation
  • helps with insomnia and headaches
Emotional Healing:
  • relaxes body and mind and relives anxiety
  • eases obsessive behavior and negative thoughts
  • supports during times of loneliness, sadness, or grief
  • strengthens confidence

• • • Scented Geranium: The whole plant (leaves, stem, & flowers) is steam-distilled to produce the essential oil. (See first picture.)

Physical he
aling:
  • balances hormones by stimulating the adrenal cortex
  • improves immune system function
  • helps treat gallstones and kidney stones, diarrhea, and urinary tract infections
  • eases sore throats and tonsillitis
  • helps with PMS symptoms
  • decreases fluid retention and edema
Emotional healing:
  • antidepressant effects
  • decreases anxiety and stress
  • increases sensitivity to pleasure and sensuality
  • simultaneously calms and invigorates
Feel like expanding your essential oil palate now? Essential oils work great in combination, too, so feel free to experiment to find the right balance of sweet and earthy or pungent and fruity! I'm quite fond of geranium, lavender, and marjoram together. It's soothing to the heart chakra and feels heavenly.

Happy growing, clipping, cooking, bathing, sniffing, and massaging!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Herbaceous Green Thumbing


Alright Seattle green-thumbers, it's time to think about happy green growing things. I tell you, even on gray days, playing with plants and dirt lifts my spirits. So even if the Seattle sky doesn't want to part its clouds for us right now, we can still find light and life in the abundance that's beginning to sprout from the earth.

I am lucky to know a very talented and enthusiastic green-thumber who inspires me to play with plants. Her name is Juliet Anderson and she is an architect and a master gardener in training. She is also my friend and neighbor, and she has kindly agreed to be a guest blogger for this post. I asked Juliet to write a bit about planting herbs in our region. Many herbs thrive in the northwest and they can be so easy to cultivate for use in cooking or for healing/medicinal purposes.

Without further ado, take it away Juliet!


For a gardener living in Seattle, there is nothing more rewarding than growing herbs—our climate is perfect for herb gardens. Seattle is considered a Mediterranean climate… believe it or not. Our climate of cool, wet winters and dry, warm summers is rare in the world, found only in the Mediterranean, Chile, South Africa, Eastern China, New Zealand and Western Australia. And lucky for us, most herbs are natives of these regions.

Herbs can be grown for ornamental reasons, but they are typically grown for their concentration of scent and flavor in the leaves and flowers and for a multitude of uses from aromatherapy to cooking. However, I have to reel back a beginning gardeners expectations here just a little: any herbaceous perennial will live for more than two years but doesn’t have the life span of a shrub or tree. So, snip away! Herbs respond well to regular pruning and reward you by putting on new growth. These plants will give generously but may eventually need to be replaced.

Most herbs in the garden require full sun, well-drained soil, and moderate watering. They can also do well in pots—perfect for those herbs that tend to spread like mint. If you need to use a pot saucer, fill saucers with gravel so that roots don’t sit in standing water. For plants in pots, let the top of the soil dry out between each watering (you can test this by sticking your finger in the soil). Protect your plants from desiccating wind and support tall plants by staking. And my best gardening tip: locate your herbs near a door convenient to your kitchen or near your home’s entrance for the admiration and joy of your houseguests.


Recommended species:


bee balm or bergamot (genus Monarda)
calendula (Calendula officinalis)

echinacea (genus Echinacea)

lavender (genus Lavandula)
lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

mint (genus Mentha)

oregano/marjoram (genus Origanum)

rosemary (genus Rosemarinus)

sage (genus Salvia)

scented geraniums (genus Pelargonium)

(Stay tuned for my next post when I'll list the healing properties of these herbs and how you may incorporate herbal essential oils into your massage sessions and into your daily life!)

More about Juliet:

Juliet Hebert Anderson has held a private practice as an Architect in Washington State since 2004. A Colorado native, she has lived in the Roosevelt Neighborhood since moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington. She is committed to volunteerism and community-building. Juliet trained to become a King County Master Gardener in 2006 and has lead the U-District Farmers Market Plant Clinic since 2007. She tends her own organic vegetable garden at the Magnuson P-patch.


Please visit Juliet's website Juliet Sketches and her burgeoning blog.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Henna and Wax and New Friends

Last night I hosted another art show at Rising Bird Healing Arts, and it was quite an event!

Kara and Hawk Jones joined me for the festivities, providing the henna entertainment. I had learned of Kara --the 1000 Faces of Mother Henna author--in the blogosphere and last night we were live and in person!

For a more complete review of the night and some pictures, visit Quiet Girl Gallery.



Thank you, Kara and Hawk! We had a marvelous time!


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

What I Did During 15 Minutes of Sunshine


During a brief bit of sun yesterday (meaning about 15 minutes), I managed to plant a few spring things in the pots along my fence. Since I don't have much of a garden space where I live, I must rely on container gardening (hence the picture above).

Even in those 15 minutes of getting my hands soiled (I should call it "potting soiled"), I noticed a shift in my mood. I felt more light, open, and connected. I had forgotten how therapeutic gardening is for me, and then I read Clea Danaan's piece on spirituality and gardening on her Intuitive Gardening Blog. I find there is something very transformational about playing with earthy things and this feeling is deeply rooted in my experiences playing in the woods near my house as a kid.

Gardening is also so very physical. When I garden, I crouch and kneel and lean and thrust and balance and lift. It's hard work! In the process of planting, I feel more connected to my body and more in the present moment.

Take a look at Clea's post and perhaps you'll be inspired to think about how you feel when you work in the earth. And maybe you'll also be inspired to plant a few things during the next 15 minutes of sunshine.