Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Mindset, Pain

A message from my butt…

Pain is weird. 

We often think that the cause of pain is due to something “wrong” with our bodies.  We blew out that knee in a skiing accident in high school.  We have “horrible posture” while we sit at our desks all day.  My dad had a bad back; his dad had a bad back; I therefore have a bad back.

All these things could be true.

And they could all be contributing to the experience of pain in your knee, your shoulders, your back.

But what else could be true?

Could you have knee pain because when you went to the doctor back in high school, he told you, “Someday you’ll get arthritis in there”?  Would you have pain if that thought seed had never been planted by a trusted authority figure?

Could it be true that you thinking all day, “Ugh, my posture is horrible.  I really should sit up straight” is causing unnecessary tension in your traps and jaw and gut, thereby increasing your pain?

Could it be true that since your lineage is riddled with back pain, at the first twinge of something… interesting… in your back, you start to restrict your movements, start to baby your back, and start to become hyperaware of any possibly dangerous sensations in your back?  You move less (and therefore lose out on the amazing benefits of exercise) and train your system to get really, really good at noticing pain.

Pain is weird! 

I had a first-hand experience with how weird pain can be a couple of weeks ago.  I am in a 3-year Somatic Experiencing Trauma Resolution training program, and as part of that program, I have to do several sessions with trained practitioner.  During my last session, with a woman named Erin Diedling, I asked if we could work on the pain in my low back.  As Erin helped me stay present with the sensations in that area, I noticed that while, at that exact moment, I wasn’t noticing anything in my back, I DID notice a slight area of discomfort at the tip of my tailbone.  We spent some time noticing the sensation, describing it (it feel like brown sludge), and then Erin asked something like, “What do you hear, what message do you get when you focus on this sensation?”

Well, first of all, I had to tell her that when I work with therapists, I have this huge impulse to try to figure out what they WANT me to say.  It’s SO hard to figure out how I really feel, what I really think.  I just want to make the therapist happy and give them the RIGHT answer – the RIGHT answer about how I am feeling and what I am thinking.  Yes, I know it sounds nuts, but well, that’s me. J

I told this to Erin and she assuaged my anxiety by telling me that wanting to please the therapist is actually a pretty common thing.  She added (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you DID know the right answer (and you do).  What would the answer be?  And remember, whatever answer you give is perfect and is 100% correct.” 

Well, that helped me dive under the shell of people-pleasing and become more open to what my body had to say.  And the message I heard was “Get off your ass.”

We spent the next few minutes talking about how “getting off my ass” by excelling in school, by being the good girl, and by doing what I was told and making my parents and the authority figures in my congregation proud of me served me well as a youth, and how that action-orientation helped me differentiate myself from the beautiful and talented group of ladies I hung out with. 

So, this Part of me served a vital purpose in my life – it got me attention and love.  But do I still need it?  Erin asked if I wanted to retire this part of me, and I noticed I was reluctant to let it go away completely. I decided to put it on the shelf, so I can bring it out again when needed – when I really need to get some Sh*t done!

And you know what?

At the end of the session my tailbone pain was gone.

I haven’t felt it again since that session on 6/8.

Pain is weird. 

What is your pain trying to tell you?  Why is it trying to get your attention?  What stories are you telling yourself about your pain that might not be true?  What would happen if you took a pause and opened a non-judgmental, open-hearted chat with your pain?  You might find out something interesting!

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you would like some help in figuring out what might be contributing to your pain, you can book a session with me here

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Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Mindset, Yoga

The Magic You’re Looking For

Hello!  Remember me??  I took a couple of weeks off from writing due to vacation.  We spent a week in the Black Hills of South Dakota – biking, hiking, eating, watching X-files.  That last thing – watching X-files – kinda made me feel guilty.  Here I am, in the middle of absolute gorgeousness, and I’m sitting inside, butt on the couch, watching a TV show I have seen 3 times already.  But, then, I realized I AM ON VACATION AND CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT!  I  can choose to go outside and enjoy the Hills, or I can choose to relax, put my feet up, and enjoy some very high quality entertainment.
 
This trip was full of awakenings like that.  Here are a few of my realizations.

  1. Doing hard, uncomfortable things can be super energizing and life-affirming.  The day after we arrived in Custer, we did a 35 mile bike ride, with a 260 elevation gain on the way out and a 947 elevation gain on the way back.  This was done on my new Surly Ogre, which is MUCH heavier than my road bike.  The tires are also about twice as wide, and we were riding on crushed gravel.  So I was biking a lot more weight, over a stickier surface, at a much steeper grade than my sea-level legs are used to.  It was ROUGH and beautiful.  On the ride back, I was kinda hating life (just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling), but once I got done and sat down with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, banana, and peanut butter toast, I was totally loving life.  I CAN DO HARD THINGS!
  2. It takes a while to decompress and slow down, so if you can swing it, taking at least a week off is SO nice.  Usually when we go on trips, we just spend a couple of days at our destination and then move on to a new spot (Have to cover as much territory as possible!  Have to get home and have some time to recuperate before starting work again!  Can’t spend too much money!), but this time we stayed at the same place for 8 full days.  We had time to settle in, settle down, establish a home base and venture out.  We started to sink deeper into the vibe of the area – not just skimming along the surface and checking sites and activities off boxes, but really starting to get a feel for the area, getting to know the weather, getting to the know the moods of the skies. 
  3. Watch the stories you tell yourself.  I packed SO many activities to do in the cabin – 3 books (The Enlightened Marriage, Mists of Avalon, and Understanding Human Design), colored pencils, watercolors, my journal, and 5 Pubmed articles about the importance of therapeutic touch.  I did write every day, so I could remember what we did, and I did read a good portion of Mists of Avalon, but I didn’t touch the rest of the stuff.  But, you see, here is the story I always tell myself, “If only I had more time, I would be an amazing artist.  If only I had time, I would be SO well informed on all things mindbody.”  Yet, I DID have time.  But I did not even attempt to create any art, and the articles never got touched.  It reminds me of a quote I saw on Facebook yesterday, “People romanticize their plans but dread the execution.  The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.”  Wow.  That really hit me.  I just want to be an amazing artist and an amazing therapist, but I want to avoid the discomfort of GETTING GOOD and of PRACTICING (there is no doing something perfectly in the learning stage).  This ties back in to point #1 – I HAVE to do the uncomfortable things in order to experience the joy and satisfaction that I want. 

Shoot, I had all sorts of stuff I wanted to write about – the amazing Somatic Experiencing session I had this week, the importance of looking at the Adverse Childhood Experiences you have had (and how they affect your marriage), and how Presence is a fundamental requirement for us both as individuals and as a collective.  But, I will need to explore those topics in future posts.  This is my SUMMER OF FUN.  I’m really trying to focus on enjoying life NOW instead of when I accomplish my To Do list (aka “never”), so I am going stop here.

Space to be Human Lab

  • I am taking the second class in my Somatic Experiencing (SE) Trauma-resolution training on June 24-27.  I am really excited to bring these trauma-resolution skills into our sessions.  So much of our chronic pain comes from nervous-system dysregulation that’s a reflexive response to various types of traumas (defined as events that overwhelmed our ability to deal with them) we have experienced in our lives.  Our responses to these events enabled us to keep functioning and surviving (so THANK YOU, Body!), but those responses can get stuck in our nervous system after they’re no longer needed and affect our ability to THRIVE.  But SE can help us process those through and find more space for presence
  • Don’t let your self-care suffer during the busy summer months!  You can easily book a session here.

I hope you are enjoying this hot, humid Sunday!
 
<3

Hlo
 
P.S.
It is Sir Huehue’s 6 month birthday today, so I have to share a picture.

Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Mindset, Yoga

A bad case of The Clench.

Hello There!  If you are in the Quad Cities today, you are experiencing probably the MOST beautiful day we’ve had this year.  Nature is a great reset for our minds and bodies, and as I am feeling very…sucked up inside myself (just breathe, Heather!), I am going to take massive advantage of it today.  So, today’s post will be short, so that all of us can go outside and play.  Also, I am going to be on vacation (South Dakota, here we come!) starting next weekend, so you will be newsletter-free. 😛
 
Since today I need to hear some advice on how to regulate a spun-up nervous system, that is precisely what I am going to share with you.
 
Side note:  Why am I wound up today?  WHO KNOWS?!  It could be hormones.  It could be what I ate and/or drank yesterday.  It could be dehydration.  It could be indecision about a decision.  It could be all the things I want to/need to get done before we leave for our trip.  Maybe it’s contemplating the cost of gas and food and fun whilst on vacation.  It could be the 60 to 80,000 thoughts, stories, and internal narratives assaulting me daily.  And it’s most likely a combination of all of the above.  But I guess The Why really isn’t the important thing. The Important thing is, I’ve noticed I’m feeling a bit tense, wound up, and fast.  So.  What next?

  1. Spend 90 seconds just sitting and noticing the sensations I feel in my body.  According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg, the vibrations associated with an emotion last just 90 seconds.
  2. Locate the sensations (I feel it in my throat and belly) and see what happens if I inhale and exhale through the area.
  3. Acknowledge that I am feeling anxiety.  Ask myself, “Is that a problem?”  What happens if I just allow it to be there instead of fighting it and pushing it away (which adds a layer of suffering on top of the layer of anxiety)?
  4. Lay on my back in Constructive Rest and take some long, slow smooth breaths.
  5. Write.  Get all the thoughts out of my head and on paper and look at them objectively.  Preferably this should be done in a Moleskine journal with a nice pen.  Just sayin.
  6. Take a walk, encourage the furrow between my brow to relax.  Open up my peripheral vision.  Notice all the shades of green.  Notice the sounds of the birds and the wind in the leaves. Notice the smell of the lilacs.
  7. Take an Epsom salt bath (FYI – my sister-in-law’s sister told me that taking a hot bath with ½ cup of Epsom salts, ½ cup of baking soda, and ½ a cup of kosher salt can be a mind-opening experience.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to tonight!).
  8. Pet Huehuetenango Schneiderjohns.  Here is a picture of him playing with his new Chewbacca toy. 
  9. Roll my abdomen with the Coregeous ball (this would also help that pesky low back pain).
  10. Do something fun!  Tim and I plan to bike over the new I-74 bridge this afternoon.

There’s my top 10 list of self-advice.  Oh shoot. I just thought of another one.

11. If I’m forbidden to call what I am feeling “anxiety”, what would I call it?  Anxiety can be a “cover” emotion that hides something deeper going on. What emotion am I hiding from by saying I feel anxious?  (This also comes from the podcast linked in #1).

Ok.  Now I’m really done.  Hopefully if you struggle with that fast/spinny/unable to exhale sensation, this list will give you some ideas to experiment with.  And I’ll remind both of us that:  MAYBE FEELING ANXIETY IS NOT A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED.

Space to be Human Lab

  • The Lab will be closed 5/28 to 6/5.
  • Don’t let your self-care suffer during the busy summer months!  You can purchase a 3 pack of 60 or 90 minute sessions and save $10 per session!  Link here (click on Products and Packages link at the top).

Happy Sunday!  I look forward to regaling you with stories from South Dakota when I write again on the 5th. 😛
 
<3

Hlo
 
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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

Mind Over Tension (aka Jedi Mind Tricks)

Hiya.  Care to get a little curious?

Where are you breathing right now?  Is the air coming in through your nose or your mouth?  What is the temperature of the air?  Where do you feel your body move with the inhale and the exhale – your shoulders, your ribcage, your shoulders, all of the above?  What happens if you just notice?  Just notice the breath coming in and going out, like ocean waves sliding up a sandy beach and slowly retreating back to the deep.  Perhaps you would like to start to slow down the breath, taking looooong sloooow sips of air.  What do you notice next?

I’m curious about your eyes. What happens if you take a pause from reading this, look up, and let your eyes gaze on something in the far distance – the furthest thing you can see without straining.  How does that feel?  If you invite your eyes to take in more of your surroundings – start to notice what arrives at your eyes from the periphery, how does that change your experience of your eyes?

And what about that belly?  I invite you to take a moment and just notice if you are holding your breath, holding your belly, bracing.  What shifts within you, if you allow yourself to soften in this area, maybe even inviting the breath to sink down low and expand the low belly?  How does that feel?

And the hands, and the fingers – are they clenched tightly around your phone as you read this, are they resting in little tight fists on your lap?  What if you tried to hold your phone with just the SKIN of your fingertips?  What would it be like to slowly uncurl each little bone of each long elegant finger and allow the fingers and palms to rest with ease on your thighs?  What is it like if you imagine bringing more space into the INSIDE of your hand, like inside the fingers and inside the palms?

How do you feel after a few minutes of exploring your inner world?  Did you notice a shift in your overall tension?  Your mood?  The pace of the hamster wheel of thought-generation?

We’ve been taught, since the time of Rene Descartes, that “I think, therefore I am,” insinuating that there is some sort of separateness between the mind and the rest of us.  We now know due to reams of research that the mind and body are not separate.  As human beings, we are a mindbody.  Our thoughts effect changes in our body, and our body effects changes in our thoughts.  Perhaps you noticed how your thoughts helped your body feel more calm, ease, and expansiveness?

Our minds have a documented “negativity bias” which means we are always scanning for the bad, what could go wrong, how things could fail.  This has kept humans alive so far, so it’s a vital predisposition, but it can make for a shitty lived experience!  We can consciously work with this negativity bias, by inviting in the opposite thought – give equal airtime (or maybe even MORE –  research recommends a 3:1 ratio) to scanning for the good, thinking about what could go right, how things could succeed.

How are your thoughts contributing to your tension?  How could they contribute to more ease, flow, and space instead?  Just some food for thought on this day of Rebirth.  Maybe we could give birth to a mindset that helps us find more Space to be Human.

Space to be Human Lab (where we invite in an attitude of exploration, experimentation, and curiosity)

  • NEW FACE CRADLE: The reviews are in “It’s so soft!”  “It’s so comfortable!” “My face isn’t smushed.”  Yay for the new cradle!
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I am taking a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP) to learn how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide treatment.  If this piques your interest, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

And with that we are heading off to Armored Gardens for some lunchy poo.  Also, if you don’t currently get the Tap On It texts, I highly recommend it.  This week we got a coupon for BOGO draft beers at Armored Gardens.  I mean, I don’t drink beer (Hellllooo bloated belly), but that’s a really good coupon. J

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

Confessions of a Wounded Healer

Pain is weird.  In a nutshell, that is about all that Science and Experience (and my personal N=1 experiment) knows for sure.  This becomes especially true when you get into chronic pain territory, meaning if you have persistent pain that lasts longer than 3-6 months.

And guess what.

I have chronic pain.

I’ve had persistent low back pain for ages.  I remember going to physical therapy for it when I was working at HNI in Muscatine.  Let’s see, that was…15 years ago.  So, yup, I am in chronic pain territory.

It’s embarrassing to admit that, as a massage therapist, yoga teacher, and studier of the human mindbody and condition, I have been unable to resolve my own main complaint.  I’ve seen PTs, chiropractors, the founder of neurosomatic therapy, myofascial release specialists, acupuncturists, functional medicine docs, yoga therapists, breath specialists.  You name it; I’ve likely tried it. 

Does it help?  Sometimes and for a little bit, yet the pain returns.  And I’m starting to get a sense of why.

  1. I don’t do my homework.  I don’t do my breath exercises, stretches, etc. consistently.
  2. While I KNOW that humans are multidimensional beings, made of physical bodies, but also energy bodies, mental bodies, and spiritual bodies, I still revert to a default belief in a biomechanical model and reliance on Someone Else needs to fix this.  This is amusing to my Higher Self, as my main driver/motivator in doing the work I do is because I want to help others realize their potential to heal themselves via a wholistic mindbody approach.  Oh – THE IRONY!!

And so, as I slowly start to examine my Shadow Self (the side of myself that I don’t REALLY want to look at too closely), I am beginning to realize the strong connection between the low grade low back pain that’s been my constant companion these 15 years, and my habit of living life at Speed.  This speedy living manifests in clenching – tightening up my shoulders, holding my breath while executing tasks, clenching my butt, and not processing feelings/emotions as they arise (I don’t have time to deal with this now; I’ll do it “later” when I “have more time”  and when it’s “more convenient” (meaning never)). 

It’s become evident to me that the reason none of these external therapies have worked is because my habits of daily life (daily clenching), immediately facilitate tension in my back.

I know the work I need to do to feel better.  I need to FEEL BETTER.  Meaning, I need to take the time to notice what is arising within my inner domain, turn toward it with openness, notice exactly WHERE I am feeling it and WHAT it feels like.  It looks something like this:

I feel a sensation like a ball in my throat.  As I watch it, it starts to shift up into the back of mouth and out toward my ears. I say “hi” to it and let it do what it wants to do.  I take a moment to breathe long, slow breaths and the feeling and I just hang out together for a bit.  Sometimes it stays, sometimes it moves on.

I think the secret to unwinding the tension in my back is in unwinding the tension in my emotional and mental layers.  I realize that can sound a bit woo-woo, but there is actual proof that this is true.  The biopsychosocial model of pain indicates that ALL of the following can contribute to our pain experience:

Injuries.  Hormones.  Metabolism.  Neurochemistry.  Nutrition.  Sleep.  Circulation.  Breathing.  Immune functioning.  Personality.  Behaviors.  Age.  Gender.  Race/ethnicity.  Socioeconomic status.  Social network/Relationships.  Life stress.  Treatment satisfaction.  Readiness to return to activities of daily life. Spiritual practices.  Meaning and purpose.  Autonomy/Self-management. Beliefs.  Thoughts.  Our ability to feel our inner state (interoception).

HOW does one go about doing the work of examining and processing their emotional and mental layers?   I work with a life coach, and I’ve also worked with mental health therapists in the past.  I also journal daily and get the stories out of my head and on to paper where they are more obvious and manageable. I meditate to build my “attention muscle,” so that I can get less triggered by my own thoughts.

If you would like to learn more about the different factors that could be contributing to YOUR pain, we can chat about that in your next session. Here are also a couple of interesting and helpful resources.

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW FACE CRADLE: OMG.  I AM SO EXCITED!! Today my new cradle from Oakworks arrived.  It is a specially designed face cradle to reduce pressure on the eyes and sinuses and reduce congestion when you are face down.
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I am taking a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP) to learn how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide treatment.  If this piques your interest, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

And with that, I’m signing off.  IT IS FINALLY SUNNY!!!!!!!  I hope you can spend some time in the sun and warmth today.

See ya next week, My Peeps!

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

The Golden Shadow; The Good We Hide from Ourselves

Last week we talked about getting to know your shadow.  The term “shadow” just inherently has a negative connotation to it.  Interesting aside – Huehue got spooked by my shadow this morning when I took him out at 4:15AM.  He kept looking intently under our neighbor’s deck, which was starting to really unnerve me, when I realized he was staring at the shadow of me, cast from our other neighbor’s floodlight.  My shadow IS pretty threatening in the wee hours of the morning.

ANYWAY – back to what I was saying, we default to thinking that our shadow is negative or bad. BUT, the shadow is composed of all the parts of ourselves that we didn’t feel safe to display.  And that means that the shadow also contains parts of us that are good and interesting and unique and special. Our “golden shadow” is made up of our gifts and talents and abilities that we suppressed because we were given the impression that they were NOT ok.  Maybe it was our exuberance and liveliness (“Can’t you just be quiet?/Why can’t you NOT set the shed on fire?/Why can’t you be behave?”).  Maybe it was our imagination (“Stop daydreaming.  You’re old enough to get your head down out of the clouds.  Start keeping both feet on the ground.”  Never Ending Story).  Maybe it was our unique perspective on life and God and why we are here (“We look to the Elders/Authorities to tell us what is right and good.  Who do you think you are to question that?  Thinking like that is dangerous”).  Many “positive” qualities can be dismissed, minimized, and rejected, depending on the circumstance we are in and the influential people in our lives.

Sure, our shadow self contains the negative traits we want to hide and ignore, but it also contains the positive traits that we find equally difficult to acknowledge and own.  This “golden shadow” needs to be met and integrated in order for us to return to wholeness.

“We see in others those positive traits which are our very own, but which, for whatever reason, we refuse to allow entry into our consciousness and are indiscernible to us.”  Meeting our Shadow.

Personally, I find it a lot easier to acknowledge and own up to my negative shadow traits than to boldly embrace my golden shadow.  Thinking negatively of oneself is oh so comfortable but oh so ruinous!!

Meeting our Shadow suggests listing the qualities we deeply admire in others and noticing what we think and feel when we use those qualities to describe ourselves.

I deeply admire:

  • People who stay very calm no matter what is blowing up around them.
  • People who try new things and are adventurous.
  • People who are experts in the field of mindbody flourishing.
  • People who don’t gossip about others.
  • People who are authentically generous and not self-centered.
  • People who write beautiful stuff.
  • People who put their energy into making a difference in the world.

And, yep, I feel so much resistance when I think about me emanating those qualities.  As my friend Angela says, “How fascinating!!”

How about you?  Is it easier to acknowledge and accept your dark shadow or your golden shadow?

Space to be Human Updates

  • NEW LOCATION: I am now at 2805 Eastern Avenue, Davenport IA, Office 232. The building is located at the corner of Eastern & 29th, to the east of the Annie Wittenmeyer pool. 
  • NEW LTAP ASSESSMENTS:     I have started a 6 week online class on Locator Test Assessment Protocols (LTAP).  This class is based on osteopathic and the Barral Institute techniques that teach the therapist how to listen to the body and use its wisdom to guide the therapist on where to start treatment. 

I am excited about this class as it will help me tune in to what your body really needs and use all the fun, interesting, “weird” stuff like visceral massage, cranial mobilizations, and neural resets to address pain in all areas of the body.  It sounds crazy, but sometimes just doing a breath technique can be the key to getting rid of that pain in your big toe!  According to my teacher, starting treatment in the right place is crucial to an effective treatment.

If this piques your interest, and you would like to embrace curiosity with me, let me know.  During April I’ll add 10 minutes to your session at no charge, and we’ll see what the Assessments tell us about what your body needs.

Happy Sunny Sunday!  I hope you can rest and recover.  Here is some inspiration from the Huehue-Monster.

With love,

Hlo

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

On Bliss and Ecstasy

Have you ever seen the TV show Firefly?  I may have mentioned this in other posts, but it’s my most favoritist TV show.  The writing is gorgeous, the characters are nuanced, faulty, and real.  The setting (a space western J) lends itself well to investigating lots of salient topics.   It’s a story about a rag tag bunch of humans who, via a beautiful concerto of the Universe, end up together on Serenity, a smuggling ship, flying around the galaxy, doing odd jobs in order to survive and live how they want to live – free.  I say all this to introduce you to the episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds” from which this snippet of dialogue was taken:

Saffron: Do you know the myth of Earth-That-Was?
Wash
: Not so much.
Saffron
: That when she was born, she had no sky, and was open, inviting. And the stars would rush into her, through the skin of her…
Wash
: Huh.
Saffron
: …making the oceans boil with sensation. And when she could endure no more ecstasy, she puffed up her cheeks and blew out the sky.
Wash
: Whoa. Good myth.

Can you imagine “boiling” with sensation?  What is your relationship with sensation?  When I first watched this episode, this interchange made me feel the sensation of uncomfortable.  Experiencing sensation – hmm – who has time or capacity for that??  Who KNOWS how to do that?  And SHOULD we do that?  Or should we just rely on our juicy brains, plugged into computers and the internet and our phones to live our digital, non-sensual lives?

Well, it turns out that feeling sensation, feeling feelings, is actually a pretty crucial part of being human.  Feelings/emotions are what motivate us to take action, and our actions are what lead to the results we have in life.  I think I was first introduced to this concept with clarity when I started listening to The Life Coach School podcast.  The creator of that podcast, Brooke Castillo, teaches “The Self Coaching Model” which basically states that everything in life can be broken down into 5 categories:

Circumstances – the neutral fact

Thoughts – what we think about that fact (what we make it mean)

Feelings – how those thoughts make us feel

Actions – what we do when we feel that way

Results – what happens due to the actions we take

Well, come to find out, Brooke did not invent this (not that she claims that she invented it).  In fact, the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text written between 5th – 2nd century BCE, talks about how thoughts, when fed and repeated and nurtured, become desires, then habits, then ways of living.  In order to reach enlightenment, humans need to train their minds to be alike in pleasure and pain, which to me means we need to be able to process emotion – not resist it, not get consumed by it, just experience it all.

When we resist feeling something because it’s uncomfortable to feel it, it constrains our behavior.  We avoid taking action in order to avoid feeling some sort of way.  And while we may think we are just resisting feeling the ugly negative stuff, what seems to happen is that when we can’t feel the tough emotions – the shame and grief, we lose capacity to experience emotions on the other end of the spectrum – the bliss and ecstasy.  It leaves us feeling a bit dull and monochromatic.

I’ve heard from a few different teachers that emotions only last 90 seconds if we ALLOW them to be there.  If we take a moment, pause, and sit down and watch our inner state with an intention of curiosity, acceptance, allowance, then instead of being tamped down and ignored, the emotion and the energy associated with it can pass on through. 

This is a practice I have been working with, because avoiding feeling things is preventing me from doing what I want to do with this life – which is to live it fully and not be so fearful and overly worried all the time!

I offer to a you a few ideas for processing your emotions, in case you too struggle with this.

  1. When I reach for my phone instinctively, I try to pause and notice what I am feeling, or more pointedly, what I am trying NOT to feel by looking at my phone?  For you this could be: reaching for a cookie, or checking email, or even going for a run – there are lots of ways we choose to numb out and not feel.
  2. If I am in a time and place where I can do it, I will set the timer on my phone and take a breather, and just sit and watch what is going on inside.  Where do I feel the sensation?  Does it move anywhere as I look at it?  Does it have a shape?  Does it want to be touched?
  3. I work on this stuff with professionals.  Sometimes I just find it too hard to slow MYSELF down and notice what I’m feeling.  But if I have another human being with me, reminding me to slow down, to take the time to notice, to be there for me if I need help, then I’m more apt to wander into that territory.  I’ve done this work with my business coach (because – oh man – being scared of feeling failure, embarrassment, and rejection is a GREAT way to never get your business off the ground), my therapist, and a few Somatic Experiencing Practitioners.

If you want to explore what it’s like to have someone hold space for you while you notice what is going on in your nervous system, I am offering embodiment coaching sessions.  I offer 30 minute Zoom sessions which consist mostly of guided meditation and conversation where I help you stay present with your sensations.  We start by exploring what feels pleasant in your body, and then we can (depending on your comfort level), start to explore something that feels a bit more challenging just a LITTLE bit.  Then we go back to the pleasant sensation.  I also offer 60-minute in-person sessions which would be customized to you. They could include meditation, self-massage, movement – all practices designed to help you learn the language of sensation in your body and to help you slow down and notice what’s going on in there.  I’ve found that being able to tune in to the subtle messages from my body helps me take better care of myself – I can tell when I need a break, when I need some water, when I need to pee!  I can tell when a decision FEELS right or wrong.  I can tell when I’m starting to get amped up.  It’s a practice, and it takes time and patience, but being able to tune in to the wisdom of the body is critically important to living a life aligned with who you really are!  Here is a link to book with me if this idea floats your boat.

If you are interested in diving in to this topic a bit more, here are some resources for you:

  • The Life Coach School Podcast – Success and Your Feelings – I’ve listened to this one 3 times because it reminds me that while this is hard work, it’s worth it. 
  • I find it SUPER hard to cry, which is a way our body processes emotions.  I watched “The Notebook” but to no avail.  I listened to this guided meditation, and it brought up so many memories of our pooch, Lucent, who passed away several years ago.  It helped me let go of some stuff I’m been holding in for 6-7 years.
  • Expanding your sensation vocabulary can be difficult – you are literally learning a new language!!  Here are some words that might open up new awareness for you:  moving up, constricted, buzzing, opening, warmth, tension, lightness, relaxing, tingling, itching, burning, tightness, achy, frozen, rolling, airy, full, furry, sharp, shimmering, blocked, gurgling, hard, heavy, silky, icy, spacious, clammy, sticky, congested, loose, cool, tender, throbbing, energized, expanding, radiating, light.  Did you know your body could feel al that?

I know I’ve talked about Feeling Feelings before, but I think it’s super important and super difficult to do, so I wanted to share a bit more about it.

Space to be Human Updates

  • LOCATION: I am still at Davenport Acupuncture for now, but keep your eyes peeled for a NEW LOCATION announcement coming soon. 
  • Did you know you can find me on Instagram @space2bhuman?  I’m going to be posting some “tiny little action steps” in March – little things you can do to improve your wellbeing.

Well, I better sign off.  We need to go spend a small fortune at Theisens in order to get ready for Huehue’s imminent arrival!  Hope you have a sensational Sunday!

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Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Paleo, Yoga

So, How Did You End Up in This Line of Work, Anyway?

This is a question I get a lot.  How did a woman who spent 25 years in banking, doing a series of analyst and management roles (cash management analyst, treasury analyst, business analyst, Dev Team manager, project manager), end up as a neurosomatic therapist/yoga teacher/meditation teacher?

Well.  Pull up a chair, get comfy, and let me tell you a tale.

It all started on 11/19/2011. Well, technically it started a couple of weeks before that.  I read an article on Lifehacker about “The Primal Diet.”  It immediately caught my interest for a couple of reasons:

  1. I had just come off spending the weekend with my brothers (who lived in NYC at the time), and when they would visit, our intake of booze and fried food would skyrocket.  As a result, I was feeling very bloaty and gross (to put it scientifically :P).  I was pushing 150, which was not a weight that accommodated my clothes comfortably.  I was scouting the internet looking for something to help me.
  2. I loved what I read in that article.  The primal “diet” was really more of a lifestyle versus a diet.  The article advocated eating whole foods (meat and veggies), avoiding processed food (including gluten, sugar, flour, dyes, rancid seed oils, etc.), getting outside as much as possible, prioritizing sleep quality, incorporating “primal movements” (push-ups, planks, pull-ups, squats, etc.), spending time with loved ones, PLAYING, etc.  It all made so much intuitive sense to me.

So I bought The 21-Day Total Body Transformation on 11/19/11.  I read it, followed the instructions to purge the spaghetti, Pepperidge Farm frozen garlic bread (which I used to eat because I assumed that bread was “healthy”), and the beer from my kitchen and stocked up on meat, veggies, nuts, healthy fats (olive oil and avocado oil), dark chocolate, etc..

In January of 2012, I started the 21-day challenge.  Within a week, my nose was no longer shooting fountains of mucus in the middle of the night.  My anxiety levels had calmed WAY down (at the time the anxiety was so bad that I felt as if I would pass out at stop lights, in line at the grocery store, and in any warm area with bad air flow), I was losing weight, and my energy stayed steady all day.

I ended up following the 21-day plan for a few months, and by the 2nd or 3rd month, my health had totally changed.  I had lost about 18 lbs. I went from a size 12 to a size 4.  I participated in a sprint triathlon. I started running regularly in my barefoot running shoes.  I felt so energized. 

My mind was BLOWN by how big of an effect food and movement had on my physical and mental health.  And I wanted EVERYONE to realize how much capacity we have to influence our health.  I started researching classes, degrees, certifications, etc. to see what would help qualify me to be able to help people feel better in their bodies.

Eventually I settled on doing a 200-hour yoga teacher training.  It was a 6-month program, I enjoyed yoga, and the price was accessible.  While in that program, I was introduced to biomechanist and author Katy Bowman, via a collaboration project she did with Mark Sisson (the author of the Primal Blueprint).  From following her, I found out about Yoga Tune Up® and the power of self-massage to change our state (both physically and mentally).  I took the YTU Certification class and was introduced to OH MY GOD SO MUCH NEW INFORMATION!!  That was the hardest cert I have ever done, but it sparked an interest in whole-being health, anatomy, and the nervous system. 

I wanted to dive deeper, but I was loathe to go back to school. I actually LOVE school, but I finished my bachelors and masters while working full-time, and I was TIRED of spending every evening in class and/or doing homework.  I felt really driven to DO something in the wellness sphere, but I was overwhelmed by options and indecision.

I enlisted professional help. I started working with Dr. Betsy Rippentrop out of Iowa City.  She is a psychologist with a heavy yoga background, and I really resonated with her style of therapy.  Via sessions that included talk therapy, embodiment work, and analysis of one super-detailed, vivid dream, my path forward started to become more clear.  In one session I very clearly stated my goal of finding the next best step for me.

That weekend, on the YTU Teachers Facebook page, someone mentioned how she had taken her autistic son to a neurosomatic therapist, and she was blown away by the treatment.  I instantly googled “neurosomatic therapy,” and found the Center for Neurosomatic Studies in Clearwater, Florida.    I devoured the website, excitement building in me as I read about how students learn anatomy and physiology, movement, visceral massage, cranial mobilizations, etc. 

The next day I called the school to get more information.  The son of the founder of neurosomatic therapy answered the school’s phone.  He was in his late 30s/early 40s and was making a career switch to become a therapist.  We talked for 90 minutes. 

I loved almost everything I heard about the school.  But.  Oh man.  It was in Florida.  The program was held during the day (when I would be at work).  My Dad had just had some severe health issues.  So many reasons to just stay put.

But, ugh.  Gross.  That didn’t feel good either.

So I agonized about the decisions for MONTHS.  I want to do it, but…. It’s so hard, and so inconvenient, and what if, and the money, and, blah blah blah.

Finally I got tired of listening to myself waffle.  The internal discord with how I was spending my days was outweighing my fear of change.  I decided to go for it.  I told my boss that I was quitting to move to Florida to go to school.  But, I offered, if the bank was willing to keep me on part-time and let me work remotely, I would be down for that.  To my shock, they said Yes!  And with that “yes,” many of my fears about money and stability proved out to be unfounded.

We moved to Florida (3 days before Clearwater/Tampa got hit by Hurricane Irma).  FUN TIMES!  I went to school for 18 months, worked for the St. John-Clark Pain Treatment Clinic for a year, and then moved back to Iowa in April 2020, in the beginnings of the COVID pandemic.  FUN TIMES AGAIN!

I opened my practice in June of 2020, and it has been steadily growing ever since.  My interest in diet and movement has subtly shifted to a fascination with whole person flourishing, as I see in myself what a powerful influence my thoughts, energy, and spiritual practices have over my physical body.  I love learning about the layers that make up a human (the physical body, energetic body, mental body, wisdom body, and bliss body (from the Yogic Kosha model)) and what we can do to promote health in each of those layers.

That’s my Origin Story in a nutshell.  Well, actually in a tortoise shell because that is a pretty long story.  And technically it’s just my THERAPIST origin story.  The full origin story is a story for another time.

And with that, thanks for reading and for being part of this adventure of figuring out what makes a good life and how I can help contribute to helping others make a good life!!!

Happy Sunday!

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Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Yoga

On “Life Is Pain”

“Life IS pain, Highness.  Anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.” The Dread Pirate Roberts.

Do you think that’s true?  Do you think life IS pain?  Is life SUPPOSED to be painful?  What would life be like if we never experienced pain?  What if we could change our experience of pain by changing our thoughts about the pain? 

What if instead of resisting the pain, and being angry at the pain, and feeling betrayed by our bodies, what if we paused, gave the sensation some space, and allowed our attention to rest there with curiosity, compassion, and without judgment?  What would happen? How could your relationship to the pain shift?

By changing our mindset around pain, we can help ourselves stop layering suffering on top of the pain.

If we can start to see pain as a teacher – a messenger who is showing us that something is out of balance in our body, our mind, and/or our spirit, then we can start to change how we relate to it.  We may still have the pain, but when we remove the resistance (when we stop fighting what IS), we remove that layer of mental suffering.

The mind is so powerful!  Our thoughts and beliefs form the matrix of our world.  Our thoughts about pain, stress, and food can effect physical changes in our body.  If we see stress as a good thing (e.g. while stress may be difficult in the moment, it’s going to help us get stronger), then stress is less damaging to us.  If we see a food as indulgent (even if we consider it a “healthy” food), our hormones will shift and help us feel more full after eating it.

If you dig this topic and want to dive in a little deeper, here is a fascinating podcast from Dr. Andrew Huberman and Dr. Alia Crum where they discuss mindset and how our thoughts and beliefs can change our hormones, our cardiovascular health, and our immune system.

Somatic Experiencing Update

Next week I start the first class of the 3-year Somatic Experiencing Program training.  Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented therapy that helps heal trauma and dysregulation of the nervous system.  I’m drawn to this work because after living mostly in my head for 40 years, I’ve realized that I’m missing out on a lot of the color and vibrancy of life because I feel it’s much safer to live in my head than in my body.  And I see this echoed in many of my friends, family, and clients.  I’m doing this program so I can continue to build on the tools of bodywork and yoga to help my clients and myself figure out how to live a life in full color, and where it’s safe to experience the full range of human emotion.  =

Teaching Update

  • If you are interested in learning how to dial down tension in your body with the use of self-massage, movement, breath, and meditation, join me at QC YogaCon on March 5th at 4PM.  The convention has an impressive line-up of teachers from all over the country, and the entire focus of the convention is on mental health.  The convention runs from March 4 – 6, and the cost is $250.  This is a fundraising event for the QC Yoga Foundation, whose mission it is to bring the transformative teachings of yoga to as many Quad Citians as possible.  Here is my affiliate link if you would like to register:   

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Awakening, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Yoga

On Feeling those Feelings

My Emotions!

Happy Sunday!  It’s grey and windy here in Iowa today, but I’m digging it.  I’m tucked in at the kitchen table, watching the gusts blow the flame-colored leaves from our bushes, and appreciating that I now have time to write.  If it was nice outside, I would just HAVE to go for a walk or a bike ride or a car-ride to Crawford Brewery. 🙂

So, the big question is, what to write about??

Well, the thing that’s been on my mind most often lately, is Feelings.  I dig how the Universe will continually tap you on the shoulder with something that you just REALLY need to know or figure out. Like over and over and over again, in many different ways, via many different sources, until you finally listen.  The current in the Ether in my world is revolving around Feelings, and more specifically, the need to actually Feel those pesky things.

Why?  Why is it important to feel your feelings?

Oh, for SO many reasons!!  But here are 3 good ones: 
1.  When I don’t take time to notice what I am feeling, I miss vital information.  Emotions provide guidance on what you need more of and what you need less of. 
2. When I don’t take time to process my feelings, when I ignore them and push them away to be dealt with “later,” I add yet another layer of tension, another layer of armor.  Emotions are energy, and if that energy is not transmuted, it will get stuck and take up space in the body.
3. Finally, if I don’t learn to how process emotions, they scare me, and I avoid doing things that could cause me to feel that emotion.  The desire to not feel certain things creates false bumper rails, making my life and experience more and more narrow.  Life gets smaller, less colorful, less interesting.

Does that happen to you as well?  

What can we do about it?  How does one start to “feel” feelings, when one has never been taught how to do that?

Here is a practice that might help.  When you notice the impulse to grab your phone, grab something to eat, grab something to drink, take a breath and pause. Ask yourself, what am I feeling?  If you have the time and space to do so, set the timer on your phone for 2 minutes and sit and watch what that emotion looks like on the inside – Where do you feel it? Is it heavy or light? Does it have a color? How would you describe the texture?  Does it stay in the same place or does it move around?  Notice what happens when you turn towards the sensation with curiosity instead of turning your back on it with resistance.

When I practice this, sometimes the emotion stays with me, and sometimes I watch it move around and then leave.  And when that happens – wow – I feel more space inside.  One layer of the onion has dissolved!

This podcast really made me think even more deeply about the need to feel and process our emotions.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself:  What am I avoiding because I don’t want to experience emotional pain?  What emotions am I afraid of experiencing and who would I be/what would I do if I wasn’t afraid of experiencing these emotions?

As always, thank you for reading.  I hope you have a fabulous week.  Have some fun.  Find a safe space and feel some feelings.  Get outside.  Connect with someone for realsies – talk about Life, The Universe, and Everything.

And remember, if you want guidance with finding more space in your body and mind, I’m here for you.

Take care,

Heather