How to Get Over Yourself – Take a Hike!


Do you overthink everything, even venturing into what would be called “rumination?” Get out! In nature, I mean. In a recent article (Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation) scientists have proposed an explanation for what we’ve known all along – spending time in nature is relaxing, rejuvenating and healing. Perhaps it’s because it directs brain activity and blood flow away from the subgenual prefrontal cortex also known as Brodmann’s Area 25 or the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex, which serves as a gateway between the thinking prefrontal cortex and the feeling limbic system of the brain. When the “gateway” doesn’t work properly, it can be a major player in various forms of depression. Even without clinical depression, the subgenual prefrontal cortex is thought to be involved in rumination, “a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses.”

I think we’ve all gotten ourselves lost in rumination at one time or another, and it’s good to know that walking in nature takes us out of it in a relatively short amount of time. The participants in this study showed significant changes after a 90 minute walk. This didn’t happen with a similar walk through an urban environment, which is important to know because 50% of the world’s population lives in an environment classified as urban now and it’s predicted that 70% will be urban-dwelling by 2050. We will need to prioritize this need for exposure to natural environments in our urban planning, or suffer the consequences in a very real health-related way.

We’ve been aware of the healing power of nature here in Sedona, of course. That’s one of the main reasons we live here! But it is interesting to see the benefit so clearly revealed with a simple form of brain imaging. If you are feeling low, like you are the center of the universe, and not in a good way (for example “everything I do turns out badly,” or some variation on that theme), go for a walk in nature. I guarantee you’ll see things differently upon your return, and this study helps us to understand why.

If you are looking for a good hike in Sedona, here are a few of my very favorites!


If you still have any “silver” amalgam fillings in your mouth, please read this…

mercury dental filling


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Centered n the Tao


Plugging Energy Leaks Pays Off


Upledger Diplomate exam being mailed

Yesterday was a milestone day for me! Here I am at the Post Office mailing in an essay exam I’ve been “more or less” working on for the last three years. It is known as the “CranioSacral Therapy Diplomate Certification” exam at the Upledger Institute, which is their most advanced certification level. The exam covers all aspects of CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release, and let me tell you, it involves some deep thinking as well as objective studies.

One of the questions, said to be a favorite of Dr. Upledger’s, is simply “What is Truth?” What? Isn’t truth just…the facts? Turns out that’s not it! Truth is the authentically felt, present-moment awareness of each person I work with, to put it in a nutshell. Knowing this is the fundamental skill that lets me listen to whomever is on my table, without judgement, impatience or thinking that I already “know” what the problem is. It is the essence of what we do as CranioSacral Therapists, but it has taken a while to get this and the answers to 16 other questions into words, onto paper, and into the mailbox!

I am very, very grateful for the support I have had through this process, beginning with Michael Mirdad, my spiritual inspiration at Unity of Sedona, who spoke to us as we welcomed in the New Year about taking care of “energy leaks” in our lives. These may take the form of projects or ideas that remain on the “back burner” for months, years, or longer. Quoting Yoda from Star Wars, “Do or do not, there is no try.” I began with smaller leaks around the house, such as misfiled papers, unpaid bills, and household debris that needed to be given away, fixed, or sent to recycling. Then, I made some phone calls I’d been putting off, decided to let go of some things that just weren’t happening, and then…there was the exam to deal with. With all the little stuff cleared away, it became much more clear that it was a priority. Thank you, Michael, for helping me see this!

A special “shout out” to Joy Gabriel, who brought some beautiful new feng shui elements to my office space and helped me see new possibilities there in terms of color accents and clutter busting. Now, we have even more “Joy” in that space, and the energy seems to flow over into the house, the yard, and every part of my life, where it continues to bubble cheerfully, now that I’ve plugged those aforementioned energy leaks.

Next on my gratitude list is Ali Gabriel, my mentor and friend in Phoenix, who nudged me to come up with a deadline for completion of the exam. Mid-January seemed a bit ambitious, but once I started to plug away, it began to come together. Yesterday, I spent a few hours on the final draft, printed it out and headed to the Post Office. My friend and photographer extraordinaire, Drew Holman, joined me there to capture the event with his camera. What fun!

If my essays are accepted, I will still need to pass a demonstration and objective test. Upon successful completion of all this, I would earn the letters “CST-D” after my name (CST without the “D” is the first level of certification), and join the four other diplomate certified therapists in the state of Arizona. I swear, this is more work than I put in for my academic degrees, but it is worth it. I learn new things at each level, and it feels great to be able to communicate about this amazing therapy. For now, it’s on to other projects, such as my book about meditation and the brain. And possibly something just for fun!

Do you have projects or ideas on the back burner? How long have they been there, and do you notice what effect this unfinished business has on your energy level? Have you been able to let go of things that you “want” to do but don’t get to? Try it (start small if you like) and share how it feels in the comments below, or send me a message. I’d love to hear how it goes for you!


What’s in a Name?

Gift from my parents

A Gift from my parents, this tile still hangs on my wall.

When I was born, my parents decided to name me Pamela, after my aunt “Panny,” whose actual name was Frances (close enough, I guess). My middle name of Joy was said to be a celebration of their first daughter (after four boys). I was told this story many times, but somehow I never felt that I lived up to the Joy part of my name. There was a lot of dysfunction in my family – PTSD, alcoholism, intermittent poverty, fighting, shame and unhappiness. I spent my childhood just trying to stay out of the way and not cause more problems. Joy never seemed to be a priority.

This is a legacy I have been working to release all of my adult life, and especially since coming here to Sedona, a place of incredible beauty, healing, and at least the potential for great Joy. Coming from a long line of Pilgrims, Puritans, and hardworking Dutch people, it has taken some time to realize that Joy is OK to have as any kind of goal in my life, let alone accepting that joy is actually the most important expression of the unconditional love that underlies all that we are and all that we experience.

So, a few weeks ago, I felt a calling to reverse my names, and became Joy Pamela. I was not planning to do this when I went to a “spiritual baptism” ceremony at my church. As part of the ceremony, a few people got up and announced their new names and the spiritual reasons behind the change. As soon as I heard this, something inside told me it was time for me to “put the Joy first” and I got up too. If you had told me I’d be doing this before I arrived, I would not have believed it!

Unlike Pamela Joy, Joy Pamela seemed to need a third name to complete it, so I searched for some other names for happiness. Ananda is the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” but that seemed like too much (too grand perhaps, and too many syllables). Nanda, on the other hand, means “full of joy,” and was also the name of one of the Buddha’s closest disciples. Some sources say he was the Buddha’s cousin or half-brother, and was known as a “can-do” kind of person. Yes!

In the process of my name research, I also leaned that “Pamela” is a Greek name that means “made from honey.” I don’t know why I’d never looked up the meaning of my given name before. I thought it was just something I was stuck with, so why bother? One thing I’ve been learning this year is, there is nothing in my life that I’m “stuck” with! So that means the translation of my full name is now “Joy, made of honey, full of happiness.” Wow, that sounds just right for what I am envisioning in my life.

I hope you don’t mind indulging me in this transition. So far, my friends, family and clients have been so gracious about the change, and every time I hear myself addressed as “Joy,” I smile. What a beautiful statement about my life’s purpose!


Ernest Holmes Quote


ILLUMINATE Film Festival

Sally Reeves-Conway and Pamela Joy

Photo break with Sally Reeves-Conway at the 2014 ILLUMINATE Film Festival

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.

Thank you for your beautiful, feminine (AND powerful) presence, Sally, and thank you Sedona Virtual Assistant Laura Schappert for snapping the photo.


Woman Arising

Pam and Colette

With Colette Baron-Reid at Woman Arising

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.


Cancer Risk From CT Scan Radiation

Sedona CranioSacral: CT Scan

CT Scan

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 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!


Mystery Song Lyrics

Sun is up

Today’s post has not much to do with any of my usual blog topics. It’s a holiday, so why not a “fun” topic? Who remembers what song these lyrics are from? And who knows the story behing the song (according to Mia Farrow)?