This week, I had an opportunity to teach a class to students in the McLean Meditation Institute’s Meditation Teacher Training program about the interface of brain science and meditation. This topic is near and dear to my heart, due to my earlier studies in the evolution of human consciousness. Meditation is one of the three pillars of support for a healthy brain, along with structural bodywork such as CranioSacral Therapy and Neurochemical factors like nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Recent studies using functional MRI imaging techniques have shown in minute detail that meditation changes the actual physical structure of the brain, increasing thickness and brain volume in areas of executive control. This means that a regular meditation practice teaches us how to focus on what we want to see in our lives and to execute plans to achieve it. We learn to focus on the good, loving, and positive and consequently we develop those qualities in ourselves and attract them in others.
I recommend that all my clients develop a daily meditation practice, and that my meditation students receive CranioSacral Therapy. The combination of attention training through meditation and releasing old stress and trauma from the nervous system and the tissues surrounding it can give us a whole new perspective on life and improve health almost miraculously. This was certainly true in my case. Stay tuned as I develop this topic into a book manuscript and further classes. I am very excited to be able to share this information with you.
In the meantime, if you have friends or family in the Boston area (or will be there yourself on August 17th) check out the Community Wellness talk I’ll be giving at Sohum in Westborough, MA.
Some of you may have heard that I was part of Danette Wolpert’s “Dream Team” of volunteers putting on the ILLUMINATE Film Festival in Sedona last weekend. This was quite a commitment of time and energy, as I ended up coordinating the ticketing process for this first-time event. Ticketing is where the “rubber meets the road” at a Festival. Anyone who has ever run a “spiritual” or “conscious” business knows how delicate the balance is between “we are all one” and the boundaries necessary to maintain a viable business structure. Danette told me she thought I had the “right kind of brain” for this undertaking, which I took as a qualified compliment. It’s pretty much a left brain, masculine energy kind of job, and I have tended to alternate between these intellectual projects and more right-brain, feminine energy things like CranioSacral Therapy, yoga, meditation and dance.
Over the years I’ve realized that we all need a balance between the left and right cerebral hemispheres. As my meditation practice has progressed, I find that I step back fully into the intellectual mind only for very worthy projects such as this one (twenty years in academics was long enough in that mode for this lifetime!) The mission statement of ILLUMINATE is to “introduce film as a modality for healing.” The Festival included 20+ films that fall into the mind-body-spirit genre of conscious cinema, and it is the very first of its kind in the world. Many of the films were paired in a “view-and-do” combo with interactive, experiential workshops. I could not resist contributing my brainpower (such as it is) to this fantastic enterprise!
As the smoke was practically coming out of my ears (there were so many different levels of participants, all with different “VIP” or “Industry”-type badges and ticketing options), I saw my dear friend and Art of Feminine Presence teacher, Sally Reeves Conway, who was there to present a workshop on “Conscious and Passionate Presence in Relationships.” I couldn’t resist the opportunity to pose with her on the ILLUMINATE red carpet (and the “step-and-repeat” background behind it – oh, the new terms I learned behind the scenes!) for a glam photo-op.
Not too many of the people I know out here in Arizona are aware of my story before I made the move from Ohio nine years ago. The first week of May has been a time when I look back with sadness and regret to a very difficult period in my life. Six days after our 12th wedding anniversary, on May 7, 2005, my husband ended his life, and I felt my own life basically come to a screeching halt. Everyone tries to tell you it’s not your fault when something like this happens, but in fact we humans are hard-wired to search and search for what we could have done differently, if only we’d known. Especially if you consider yourself to be a healer who can help people with their problems.
I have been moving slowly through my own recovery process over the years, but I would say things accelerated greatly in the healing department in the last year or two, thanks in large part to my wonderful meditation teacher, Sarah McLean. She helped me establish a solid daily meditation practice, and last year I completed her first professional training for meditation teachers, right here in Sedona.
Sarah is one of those teachers who keeps on giving, way beyond any tuition you might have paid. A couple of weeks ago, she invited me to her program, Woman Arising, and I knew I had to go. What an amazing event, and such a rewarding way to let go of this old grief that comes up every May. Each speaker was completely, perfectly radiant in her own way, and I so enjoyed being in the loving support of the mother. Sarah really knows how to connect women who can help, support and empower one another.
At the end of the last day, I was standing in the product check-out line waiting with my friend (and virtual assistant) Laura Schappert while she bought a box of Colette Baron-Reid’s Oracle Cards and had a short reading with Colette. I had no intention of buying anything myself, but while I was standing there, I hear a loud “clunk” behind me and turned around to find I had knocked over a copy of Colette’s book “Message from Spirit: The Extraordinary Power of Oracles, Omens, and Signs” and the metal rack that was holding it up. “Just a coincidence,” I thought to myself. However the day of inspirational sharing, meditation, mudras and intuitive readings had opened something up in me, and I picked up the book, bought it, and did the whole book signing/photo with the author thing. “Cool!” I thought as we shook hands and I thanked her for a great afternoon. As I was about to walk away, she looked me in the eyes and softly but firmly said, “You are not going to cry any more.”
Thank you, Colette for your amazing gift, and Sarah for bringing us together. And thank you Laura for coming with me and taking this photo. I feel it commemorates the closing of one chapter of my life and beginning of another.
A torn rotator cuff occurs when the small muscles that hold the shoulder joint together tear. Traditional medical treatment starts with putting the arm in a sling and taking painkiller or muscle relaxer drugs. This “conservative” treatment often fails, leading to trials of corticosteroid injections and finally, surgery. It can take a year or more to fully recover from rotator cuff surgery and resume normal activities. In my practice, I have worked with people years after rotator cuff surgery who do not have full and complete range of motion in the affected should joint.
It is difficult to let the shoulder joint rest completely. In addition to the many activities we use our arms for, the weight of the arm is constantly pulling on the shoulder joint when standing or sitting, and we put weight on our shoulders when sleeping on our sides. It’s a very busy joint!
I was very interested to learn about a very effective exercise program put together by doctors at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Called the “MOON” program (Multicenter Orthopedic Outcome Network), it combines range of motion, flexibility, and strengthening exercise. When performed properly and regularly, this program is 85% effective at avoiding surgery, based on a trial of 452 patients with rotator cuff tears. Although recommended for use with supervision by a physical therapist, you can download the entire program (booklet and video) at moonshoulder.com.
Most of my clients are very hesitant to seek surgical solutions for injuries or problems. If you have been diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, I recommend looking in to this exercise program, and at the same time, getting some good bodywork or yoga therapy to examine the holding patterns in your body-mind that have lead to this particular area of the body being vulnerable. The two together make a very strong non-surgical alternative that is worth investigating.
Clients often ask me if I am “doing Reiki” during a session. A large part of what we do as CranioSacral Therapists is what Dr. Upledger called “Direction of Energy,” so I knew there were some commonalities with Reiki Therapy, but I wanted a closer look so that I could answer this question more accurately. So when my friend and Reiki Master Carla Trujillo offered me a spot in her Reiki 1 and 2 classes last weekend, I jumped on it! What a wonderful experience, and now I can answer with confidence that my work does, indeed, have an element of Reiki in it. What the Reiki classes provide is a beautiful and loving frame for the energy work, from a Japanese perspective. By incorporating Reiki principles in to my daily meditation practice, I will enhance the energy work that I do in every CranioSacral session, and the results will be that much better.
Here is our Reiki 2 class on a field trip in Sedona. Who can name the location? Too easy for locals, maybe, but if you came to Sedona on a visit, you may not have seen this wonderful local resource.
If you have experienced both CranioSacral Therapy and Reiki, how similar do they feel to you? Leave a comment below.
I try to post mostly positive thoughts on this blog, but the following research findings are so important I want to write about them, even though they are a bit frightening if you have been exposed to this kind of test or are contemplating one in the future. Here in Sedona, it seems like most people do their very best to avoid any kind of radiation – dental x-rays, EMF from televisions, “Smart” meters, etc. But what about a CT scan? It sounds so modern and “clean”…
What is a CT scan, anyway? It is an imaging technique that uses a computer program and lots of x-rays from different angles to create thin “image slices” of the body. When the slices are put back together, they give a very accurate 3-D representation of the inside of the body. This can be very helpful in avoiding “exploratory” surgery when a diagnosis can’t be determined from symptoms alone, or to screen for heart disease, for example. We have learned so much about the human body, and especially the brain, through the use of CT. But the test itself is not without risk, and it is estimated that 20-50% of them are medically unnecessary.
Dr. Michael Gregor over at NurtitionFacts.org has put together a video reviewing the research on the effects of CT scan radiation exposure, and there are some pretty sobering quotes, such as:
“The diagnostic radiation dealt out in one year is estimated to cause 2,800 breast cancers among women in the United States, and 25,000 or so other cancers.”
“One chest CT scan is like getting 400 chest x-rays, and a stress test heart scan can be like getting over 1,000 x-rays.”
“One in every 270 middle-aged women that get an angiogram may get cancer because of that one test.”
The best way to avoid these tests? Live and eat healthy enough to avoid them, be aware of what tests are being performed and exactly what benefit they provide, and be sure you understand the risks (which are not always fully communicated). This is especially important for young people, whose risk is even greater due to the long development time for most cancers.
What if you’ve had these tests already, and are worried about your risk? It’s the same advice – live and eat healthy to minimize any further risk. When we do SomatoEmotional Release work as part of CranioSacral Therapy, we help the body to release any foreign energies that are stored in the tissues. Traditionally, we’ve thought of these foreign energies in terms of impacts from things like auto accidents or falls. As he developed the concept and worked with more patients, however, Dr. Upledger realized that Energy Cysts can also occur from the effects of surgery, infections, exposure to toxins, emotional trauma, medication, and even excess radiation. By releasing these energies, the body is restored to more optimal functioning.
Of course, no one can predict the effect of a single event or type of healing on one person’s risk of developing a disease. Because each path is unique, we can’t assign a statistical probability to the outcome, and I’m not saying that CST or any other healing technique can completely reverse a carcinogenic process started years or decades in the past. In CranioSacral Therapy, we are only allowing the “Inner Physician” within each of us to lead us on to the path of highest good. Combine that with a healthy lifestyle and informed vigilance when it comes to potential side effects from medical treatments, and then just enjoy your life today!
Saturday, August 2nd, 9:30-11:00
Unity of Sedona, 65 Deer Trail Drive
Wellness Yoga is suitable for EVERYONE – those who are dealing with a health challenge currently, and those who just want to stay well. The class combines simple yoga poses, breathing exercises, and deep relaxation to increase flexibility, circulation, and overall well-being. A great way to begin your weekend. Open to all. $10 suggested love donation.
This Upledger Institute Study Group Meets on the second Monday of every month, 6:00-8:00pm. The next meeting will be November 10, 2014. Study groups include hands-on practice, techniques review and time available to have your questions answered. Meetings are facilitated by Pamela Joy, PhD, LMT, CST, and take place in her office at 35 View Drive, West Sedona. The cost to participate is $20. A 50% early registration discount is available through the PayPal link below.
Eligibility: For students who have taken Introduction to CranioSacral Therapy or CS 1 through the Upledger Institute. For further information, please call (928) 282-0683 or click on the “Questions” link in the lower right corner of this screen.
In a Canadian study , researchers reviewed emergency room records of the general population compared to men who were either homeless and heavy drinkers, just homeless, or in “vulnerable” housing at risk of being homeless: “In the general population, about 12 in every 10,000 men have a head injury that might involve a brain injury each year. Among the chronically homeless the number is 4,800 every year. Among men who are in low income housing each year, 370 in every 10,000 have such a head injury.”
That is 300 to 400 times the risk! Most epidemiological studies are noteworthy when they find a factor that increases risk by 2 or 3 times. The researchers operate from the model that being homeless (and perhaps intoxicated) leaves individuals vulnerable to being attacked and injured, but they also found that subsequent head trauma became more likely with each previous brain injury, suggesting that disorientation, dizziness, memory loss, or other problems accumulate and make injury a “downward spiral.”
As a CranioSacral Therapist in Sedona, Arizona, I have seen first-hand the difficulties caused by traumatic head injury, even in people who are not homeless, who are in fact fairly well-off. I can’t imagine the compounding effect of head injury in someone who is living “on the edge” already. Despite the known risks of homelessness, seeing these statistics is indeed shocking.
We need to find a way to bring healing to the nervous systems of these people! Not only is it critically important in the present, but what will this population be like in 10 or 20 years, after the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan add to the numbers of men with traumatic brain injuries. Traumatic brain injury (tbi) is considered the “signature injury” of soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. See, for example, this collection of NPR stories on the military’s failure to adequately care for the increasing numbers of soldiers with tbi’s:.
The Upledger Institute has conducted several incredibly successful intensive programs for Vietnam veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It seems these programs are even more needed now, when veterans are returning with sometimes multiple brain injuries as well as the enormous stress associated with combat.
Image credit: lightwise
Here is a lovely video by Kate MacKinnon, explaining what we do as CranioSacral Therapists. Very clear. Kate also has a new book out, that goes into more depth about her journey to CST, including interesting case studies of some of her patients. Nice job, Kate!
When I worked in academics, I would often find myself “multi-tasking” between projects, and coming up with ideas and tasks that I couldn’t deal with in the moment. Since the invention of post-it notes in the 1970s, they were a favorite way for keeping track of these future projects. I would just stick them to the wall above my desk. One day I noticed that the entire wall was covered in yellow notes, and realized that I wasn’t keeping up with the demands on my time and energy. My whole system was getting bogged down, and something needed to change. That realization was the first step in my big career change, that eventually led me down the road to CranioSacral Therapy.
Our bodies have a similar system for storing hurts, memories, and emotions that we are unable to deal with fully at the time they arise. This can be because the injury is too big or traumatic to spend energy comprehending until we have dealt with the immediate survival means, like a broken bone, traumatic head injury, or major surgery. It can also be due to the emotional context of a particular event – loss of a parent (actual or perceived), extreme guilt, shame, or fear. The part of our brain that processes messages from the body says “oops, that’s important, but can’t deal with it now…gotta run and deal with staying alive” or whatever. So, it puts the mental equivalent of a post it note on or in the area of the body that is feeling the impact of whatever is happening.
This system works well for a period of time, sometimes a lifetime, if there aren’t too many post its. For the rest of us, it’s like my experience in my academic office. One day, you add one more little stressor, and the whole system breaks down. Maybe it’s the activation of chronic pain somewhere along the spine. Maybe it’s the shut down of an essential organ, such as the gallbladder (one of our body’s favorite place to store unprocessed toxins). Or, maybe it’s a serious new medical diagnosis, such as cancer, heart disease, or multiple sclerosis. In this Energy Cyst model, the site of the breakdown may vary according to the individual, but the underlying cause of the problem is the accumulation of a lifetime of unprocessed trauma, injury, and tension.
Because of this, the way we approach healing as CranioSacral Therapists differs from the type of treatment administered by the standard Western medical system. Instead of trying to “fix” the broken link in the chain, we ask your Inner Physician “Where should we begin today, in order to bring the greatest healing to your overall body/mind/spirit? The answer is often surprising, not only to us as therapists, but sometimes to clients as well. It’s like you walk into your office one day, look at the mass of yellow notes on the wall, and suddenly see the ONE THING that needs to be taken care of in order to make everything else work better. Then, the overwhelm of sticky notes begins to come down, and all the systems begin to flow. And THAT is why we do what we do in terms of CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release!
Today, I want to talk to you about SEED meditation, because I have just completed a wonderful meditation teacher training with Sarah McLean of the Mclean Meditation Institute right here in Sedona. I am now certified to teach Sarah’s SEED meditation method, which stands for “Simple, Easy, Every Day.” SEED is a symbol for the seed we plant when we begin to meditate. It doesn’t start out as a big, green tree, but just a tiny seed that we care for and nurture every day until it sprouts, and continues to grow throughout life.
What I learned from Sarah is that meditation practice is similar to brushing your teeth. It is not a big, mystical experience in real time, but if we do it consistently, twice a day, we’ll have healthy teeth and gums for the rest of our lives.
One of the biggest misconceptions that I know I had about meditation was that each experience of it would feel deep and blissful. I’ve been practicing meditation off and on for years, but kept thinking I wasn’t doing it right, because my experiences were more along the lines of “oh, wow, my back really hurts,” or “how much longer do I have to sit here?” So I’d “forget” to do it for a while or think maybe it just wasn’t for me.
Learning the SEED method has really opened my eyes up in terms of what to expect from my meditation practice: a slow, steady improvement in my ability to
- release stress,
- be in the present moment,
- be kind to myself and others
all of which allow me to make better choices, and ultimately to live a better life.
So, thank you for that Sarah!
I’m very excited to begin sharing this meditation practice with others in my own “Introduction to Meditation” class on May 18th. If you’d like to learn more about the class, please check out this post, or give me a call and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Introduction to CranioSacral Therapy – Coming in September, 2014
Presented by the Upledger Institute and Pamela Joy, PhD, LMT, CST
12 CE Units – Tuition $250.00
Here is your opportunity to sample The Upledger Institute’s CranioSacral Therapy I (CST) workshop studied by more than 90,000 healthcare practitioners worldwide. This twelve-hour program is a mix of lecture, demonstration and hands-on practice designed to teach you the benefits of CST along with some basic techniques you can use in practice and for your own health.
CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the function of the craniosacral system — the physiological body system comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Developed by John E. Upledger, DO, OMM, CranioSacral Therapy enhances the body’s natural healing processes to improve the operation of the central nervous system, dissipate the negative effects of stress, enhance health and strengthen resistance to disease.
Among the medical conditions for which CranioSacral Therapy has shown to be effective are:
- Migraine Headaches
- Chronic Neck and Back Pain
- Motor-Coordination Impairments
- Central Nervous System Disorders
- Orthopedic Problems
- Infantile Disorders
- Learning Disabilities
- Post-Surgical Dysfunctions
- Traumatic Brain and Spinal Cord Injury
- Emotional Difficulties
- Stress and Tension-Related Problems
- Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
- Chronic Fatigue
- Neurovascular or Immune Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Fibromyalgia and other Connective Tissue Disorders
9:00 – 10:00 Introduction, History and Concept
10:00 – 11:00 Palpation Lecture/Exercise
11:00 – 11:15 Break
11:15 – 12:30 Listening Stations Lecture, Demo, Hands-On Practice
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 2:30 Fascia Lecture
2:30 – 2:45 Break
2:45 – 5:00 Diaphragm Lecture, Demo, Hands-On Practice
9:00 – 9:45 Sacral Techniques Lecture, Demo, Hands-On Practice
9:45 – 10:45 Dural Tube Rock/Glide Lecture, Demo, Hands-On Practice
10:45 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 11:45 V-Spread Lecture, Demo, Hands-On Practice
11:45 – 12:30 Stillpoint Lecture, Demo, Hands-On Practice
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 2:45 Review Demo Two Day’s Techniques, Hands-On Practice
2:45 – 3:00 Closure, CranioSacral Therapy I and The Upledger Institute, Inc. information
Learn to Meditate – August 24 or September 28, 2013
Presented by Pamela Joy, PhD, LMT, CST
The SEED (Simple, Easy, Every Day) Meditation Method training is a 3-hour program designed to give beginners all they need to practice meditation at home. It’s also great for anyone who used to meditate and wants to get back on track with their practice.
In this class, you’ll learn how meditation works and explore a variety of meditation techniques, including a silent mantra and breath meditation practice so effective that you can use it for the rest of your life. You will also understand the types of experiences to expect in and out of meditation.
You don’t need any prerequisites to join this class. All your questions about meditation will be answered, and you’ll leave with your own personal practice.
This class takes place at 35 View Drive in West Sedona. See “contact” page for a map. Registration/check-in begins at 9:30am.
So what is this cerebrospinal fluid we CranioSacral Therapists are so interested in? What does it do? Why do we want it to circulate freely? Here’s a really good, simple overview.
In this lesson, you’ll learn that you have holes in your brain and that it’s actually a good thing! You’ll also find out how your brain uses a water cushion for protection and where this water cushion is made.
The Mescal Trail is fairly new, accessed from the new parking area on the right side of Boynton Pass Road (152D) just before the Long Canyon parking area. This is not the same as the old Mescal Mountain Trail, which the Forest Service has re-routed to avoid some ruins. The new trail makes a fine loop when combined with parts of the Deadman’s Pass and Long Canyon Trails back to the road.
Winter came late to Sedona this year, making the transition perhaps more of a shock than a gradual cooling through November and December. When a cold rain turned to snow Saturday, many of us in the Sedona Hiking Meetup were ready to give up on this hike. Those that waited for Sunday afternoon were rewarded with stunning views of snow on the mountains and a gradual clearing that warmed our way. A bit of mud on the Deadman’s Pass segment barely slowed us down, and we returned to our cars very much warmed.