This is My Work

I know I’ve already written about  the profound effect reading “Show Your Work” had on me. It’s geared mainly towards artistic types, and I was reading it from the perspective of a writer who takes photographs. I figured it was going to mainly inspire my creative writing, and maybe just spill over a little bit to this blog.

Then the weather was beautiful and I sat outside with my notebook.
Then the weather was beautiful and I sat outside with my notebook.

As you’ve already seen, my activity online has increased quite a bit in the past week or so. It was this past Friday when I had a pretty important realization: this blog is a part of my work. Duh. Some of my most important work is improving my own wellness, and this blog is the map I’m making as I go along. It’s the kind of obvious truth that just glides under my radar until the moment comes when it hits me in the face. Like some kind of inspiration pie.

I’ve realized that one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to have a creative outlet. It took some bouncing around from class to class, but my life is so much richer now. That creative energy infuses all parts of my life, I’m practically jumping out of bed every morning (no small feat, because sleep and I have not yet made our peace) ready to see what my day has in store. Today it’s rain and technical difficulties with my main computer, tomorrow could bring anything!

Find your creative outlet, something that brings you satisfaction and joy. Don’t forget to share your work.

A Bigger Sandbox

I just finished reading “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a life-changing book. I’m actually reading through it a second time now before I pass it on to someone else.

Before this, I’ve been writing away in my little corner of the internet, not venturing out much. I figured that it was more important to spend my blogging time strictly on my writing, my photography time on my own work, etc. After finishing that, I’ve been going out and engaging with other people more at their sites, finding new IG and Twitter buddies, and just generally getting out more in the virtual world.

Wow, I was missing out on a lot! I’ve read so many amazing and thought-provoking pieces this week, and I can’t wait to engage with them more. I have a feeling that I’ll step up my writing too, because other people are just so inspiring!

I want to leave you with this wonderful post by Leah Cox on choosing which passions to follow. It mirrors my experiences of the past year or so, and was informative and upbeat.

Thanks for reading as always, I’m going to go soak up some of this hot weather while I can. I’ll be in class all weekend (and I can’t wait)!

Monthly Resolutions

Back in January, I decided to make a resolution for every month this year. I keep writing that I’m not big on resolutions, but I seem to keep making them anyway. In my own mind, these little monthly goals are less resolutions, and more like experiments.

This whiteboard is pretty much my map to 2015. Business and personal stuff smeared out because boring and TMI, respectively.
This whiteboard is pretty much my map to 2015. Business and personal stuff smeared out because boring and TMI, respectively.

Want some examples? In the past few months I: quit eating sugar (which took two months to go through the program), switched from drinking coffee in the morning to having yerba mate, and quit drinking any alcohol. Clearly, the first part of my year was all about food! In the coming months I am switching my focus from digestion to sleep.

This monthly “resolution” plan has worked out really well for me so far, and I’m excited to share it with all of you! Knowing that I’m only trying something for a month makes it easier to wrap my head around. Plus, treating it like a brief experiment is fun!

Here’s how I suggest you implement it in your life if you want to try it out. First, choose a general area of wellness you want to explore, then choose different ways to play with it; in the first part of the year I really wanted to improve my digestion, so I did some research and played with food. In the next couple of months I want to improve my sleep (it’s been so bad lately it seems funny, but only because of insomnia-induced delirium), so in May I am going to eat a very small snack and then do a guided meditation on my yoga mat instead of in bed. Is it going to help? I’ll find out!

This is where I spend the first part of my day.
This is where I spend the first part of my day.

That’s pretty much it. I did a lot of research into digestion and diet before picking my monthly experiments. I’ll have to do some research into sleep if I decide to work with supplements. (Please note that part of this research involves speaking with qualified professionals, I cannot stress this enough!)

What do you think? Any interest in doing a little experimenting of your own?

Curt’s Cafe South

By the time this post goes live, I should be in Michigan with my family (and hopefully snuggling with my favorite dog). I wanted to use this week to talk about another local business that is dear to my heart.

When I was a teenager, I had a really hard time. Without going into details, it meant a lot to me when adults told me that they believed in me. Curt’s Café South provides training and encouragement to local at-risk teen mothers, while providing healthy and delicious food for our neighborhood.

The first year is challenging for any new business, and Curt’s Café South could use all our support right now. Please consider coming to this free concert and having some nice dinner while you’re at it. The young women who work at Curt’s are so kind and enthusiastic, let’s give them all the support we can!

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An App for That

…cultivating mindfulness has a way of giving your life back to yourself… -Jon Kabat-Zinn

It’s no secret that meditation/mindfulness has had a big impact on my overall quality of life during the past year. I’m very fortunate to work in a place where there are some amazing teachers. Taking a meditation class, and/or working privately with a professional can be a powerful and empowering experience.

When I was beginning my exploration of meditation, I didn’t have the budget to work with a professional as often as I wanted to. I needed to find a supplement to it. Here’s where technology came to my rescue: meditation apps! Please note that I don’t intend to advocate these as a replacement for professional guidance; also, I am a student, not a teacher.

I currently have two of them on my phone, and there are plenty more to choose from:

Insight Timer: This was the first meditation app I downloaded, and I think it was a fantastic introduction to the concept. It has both a timer and guided meditations. It also shows you how many people are meditating at the same time as you, and there are groups you can join. The free version only has two options for sounds and no interval bells, for $2.99 you can get the deluxe* version and have more customization of your timer.

Meditation Timer: This app is a timer only, it has no guided meditations or community groups. Why choose this one? There are lots of options to customize your timer in the free version. You can set interval bells, reminders, a daily goal; this timer is cool. You can buy the pro* version for $3.00.


* I’d suggest starting with the free version of both apps to see which one you like better. Once you decide, if you’re able to upgrade it’s a nice way to support the developer.

Quote: Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness for Beginners. Boulder: Sounds True, 2012. Print. Page 1.


 

This blog does not contain medical advice, nor should it be used as advice on exercise or diet. Those seeking advice should speak with your physician and any other appropriate health professionals. Adventuring Toward Wellness is intended for informational and fun purposes only. No liability of any sort is assumed for the use of this website.

 

Wednesday linking

I have a couple of longer posts in the works, but I wanted to share a post from a blog I really enjoy. If you are having trouble with prioritizing your meditation practice, she has some great suggestions. I actually use a combination of both approaches described. So without further ado, here is another amazing post at From Stillness. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

This year I’m changing up my usual NYE plans (Watching all three extended addition LOTR movies back-to-back. I sure know how to party.). I thought it would be nice to use this change of the year to reflect on what I want for my life and my business in 2015. One of my fellow Heartwood Center practitioners shared a list of good questions to ask to help guide my vision. I thought it would be nice to share them here with you.

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • Who do you do it for
  • What do those people want and need
  • How do they change as a result

Neat, right? I can’t promise that I’ll be able to answer all of these, but it can’t hurt to try. How about you, how will you ring in the new year? Any fun plans for the night?

Adventures on a Budget

That turned into quite the Thanksgiving vacation! By the time my train pulled into Chicago, I knew I was going to need at least a couple more days to get back into the swing of things. I have a very hard time keeping up with my self-care routine when I’m not at home. I finally felt like myself again over the weekend, but of course then I had clients! Anyway, it’s good to get back to the blog.

It was worth the trip just to teach this guy about blankets. He became quite the thief.
It was worth the trip just to teach this guy about blankets. He became quite the thief.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the ways I’m taking better care of myself is by doing almost all of my own cooking, and mostly from scratch. I have a couple of blogs that I check regularly to get recipes when I’m stuck. I’ve noticed that many of the highly visible voices in cooking (and I think wellness in general) belong to people who seem to be pretty financially comfortable. I don’t know any of them personally, it’s just the impression that I get. What about people of more limited resources who are looking to improve their health and well-being?

Starting next year, I plan to write one post per month that focuses on free or low-cost ways to improve self-care. As a wellness adventurer on a budget, I feel pretty equipped to discuss this. I’d like to share some of the ways I’ve improved my own sense of well-being, and I hope that you will share what you do as well. Look for the “Adventuring on a Budget” category for this series. Because wellness is for everybody.

Testing the Theory

Ever since I read that massage dosing study a couple of months ago, I have been really eager to try it out in my practice. Naturally, I need the right client to test it out with (and I think it will take a while before I can find someone who has the time to come in twice a week for four weeks); but I just love the idea of working so closely with someone to help them get relief from pain.

Another point I’d like to take from this article is the unrealistic expectations we sometimes have about massage. I’ve been a professional massage therapist for over seven years, and I still sometimes fall prey to this assumption that I can fix* a problem someone is having in one session. Sometimes  it does happen that way. That’s great! But that needs to be an exception rather than the rule.

Particularly in the case of chronic pain like  they studied for the paper, it can be really easy to overdo the work. To put more stress on the body instead of bringing relief. By having lots of massages of sufficient length in a short period of time, it frees up massage therapist and client to move the goal posts a little closer. Let’s try to take your pain level from a 7 to a 5 or a 6, then take it down another point or two (I made these numbers up for the purpose of illustrating my point).

One thing that I have definitely seen in tracking the outcomes for my clients is the importance of working very mindfully with chronic pain.  It’s a complicated physiological condition, and approaching it with a battering ram hasn’t worked nearly as well for people as approaching it more like peeling an onion. (Side note: improve use of similes and metaphors- yikes.)

The final cool thing I want to point out about this study is the way those effective 60 minute massages were applied. They did focus on the neck, including using deep techniques, and then they spent the rest of the time doing soothing strokes to the rest of the client’s body. I’d guess it made the sessions more relaxing for the subjects than they otherwise might have been. It also goes back to a much older study (which I probably won’t be able to find quickly enough) which demonstrated that full body massage was equally as effective as targeted massage for low-back pain. Pretty cool, right?

 

*The concept of a massage therapist “fixing” a client’s body is probably the topic of its own post. For now, suffice to say that I don’t see my profession in those terms.

 

Isolation, Touch Deprivation, & Safety

Touch was never meant to be a luxury. It is a basic human need. It is an action that validates life and gives hope to both the receiver and the giver. The healing of touch is reciprocal.

-Irene Smith, massage therapist and educator

I recently had the opportunity to speak about oncology massage at the Chicago Gilda’s Club. It was a fantastic group of people who were really engaged in the topic; I hope they’ll let us come back and speak again sometime.

When I was preparing the slideshow (which we didn’t end up needing!), one of the points I mentioned was how isolated cancer patients can feel, and how many of them experience touch deprivation because their friends and loved ones are too scared of hurting them to touch them. These are huge issues in this population, but I think they are more widespread than we often admit.

Anyone who is familiar with Harry Harlow’s experiments on rhesus monkeys (which are rather upsetting to read about now, be warned if you decide to click this link) knows that touch is a fundamental human need. These experiments involve the subject doing the touching, rather than being touched, but they are still informative about the value of tactile stimulation. Other studies have demonstrated that touch-deprived babies don’t thrive or sometimes even survive. This newsletter has a big article on infants and touch written by two of my professional heroes: Ben Benjamin and Ruth Werner.

I don’t work with infants or children in my practice, but I don’t think that adults have lost the need for non-judgmental, non-sexual touch. I think that as busy as we are now, as connected as we are through our various electronic devices, many of us still experience feelings of isolation (with varying levels of intensity). Massage is arguably the true world’s oldest profession, and I think that speaks to our continuing and profound need for positive touch.

Massage therapy is also safe touch. Physically safe, because each session is modified for a client’s individual needs. Whether for lymph node removal, surgery, a muscle strain, etc., no one should be pushed beyond what their body can handle. It also provides emotional safety, because the client is able to set their own boundaries for the session. I instruct my clients to undress to their own level of comfort. For some this means they get fully undressed, for others it means they remove only their shoes, and there are many people somewhere in between. Clients get to dictate as much as they choose where I do and do not touch (the exceptions here should be obvious, but just in case- I don’t touch the genitals, ever).

I began this post with my very favorite quote about massage. It is so simple and it expresses so beautifully the truth that I have found so far in my work. I help my clients with various illnesses and injuries, even anxiety and insomnia. It is not a passive process though, we are communicating throughout and mostly without words. As they relax through my touch, I relax with them. Truly, I leave each session healed, renewed, and with a greater sense of connection to the world.