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My friend Anna had a trying time this holiday and she has shared with me her process for working through and out of it with the help of several holistic practitioners and ancient remedies.

She was the unfortunate recipient of a brownie cooked with a large amount of hashish.  She did not know that it was not a “normal” brownie when she ingested it but soon after noticed as she was getting ready to sit on the floor that she did not know if she was standing or sitting.  This concerned her and she wondered if she was having a stroke or a heart attack.  Soon after she was told about the brownies and then she blacked out. 

After vomiting for several hours at the ER and having cat scans of her abdomen and head and blood work and a long list of diagnostic tests that would have not been done if her driver had admitted knowing what she ingested, she realized that to end the nightmare she would have to act as if she was feeling okay.  She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t end this nightmare like she usually did.  She has little snippets of images from 8 hour black out, including being treated unkindly by those trying to move her, and a doctor saying it is a good thing you vomited that all up, because it was very toxic.  She also remembers hearing an angry voice say several times, “vomit into the blue bucket” but she had no idea where that was.  And she remembers hearing several times, outside her “room”, “They found her lying face down in her vomit.”  Some friends took her home, (sadly the hospital only supplied a hospital gown and slippers over her pajama bottoms ).

The combination of the hash and the tranquilizer the ER doctor gave her, in a body that had experienced a few drugs but not since 1970, did a number on her nervous system.  She told me she remained in a doped up space for ten days!  The first few days were a wash.  Then she became more alert but was in shock and could not sleep.  She said she felt as if there was an electric current pulsing up her spine and getting stuck in her neck.  She forced herself to drive to her first healing treatment from a craniosacral therapist who helped her let go of shock in her spine, skull and legs.  He told her she was pale when she got there, but had plenty of color when she left.  Driving home she felt more relaxed and that night did fall asleep watching C-SPAN Book TV.  Her second treatment was with an acupuncturist who put needles in her areas of depleted “chi” and on points to help her sleep.  She felt much better after that but could not sleep that night.  The next day she thought she better get some sleeping pills because she knows that not sleeping can make it impossible to recover from shock to the system.  She went to the health food store and found Bach flower Rescue Remedy sleep aid and that night used it whenever she woke up.  She did get sleeping pills to have on hand if needed, but she  never used them.  She had a second craniosacral treatment during which she released some more shock but was concerned that a week after her event she still felt liked she was going to faint.  Her acupuncturist told her she was probably dehydrated and suggested water with electrolytes and emergen-C.  After a day and a half she no longer felt faint.  One more acupuncture treatment, and then a massage on the 10th day helped her turn the corner.  She now felt grounded and in her body.  But she had to work hard to get there.  She also took hot baths in epsom salts, lay on tennis balls to release tension from her spine, did yoga in the middle of the night when she woke up, began to take  some walks and constantly had to remind her self to stop holding her breath and breathe.  An aromatherapist also put some anti shock oils on her solar plexus and shirt and some myrrh for protection.  She slept in that shirt for several days as that also seemed to help her sleep.

She told me she wondered how all the people who experience shock and trauma recover from it.  Do they get help, or ignore the physical and emotional symptoms.  Does the painful event(s) stay stuck in their nervous system?  Or are they able to release it gradually and gently, without causing more shock to their body/mind/spirit.

She says she is thankful for the help she received, medical and holistic, for her friends who cooked her nurturing meals, for her pets who stayed tuned into her throughout, and for healing touch which she noticed was essential in her healing.  Anna is savoring every minute of her peaceful holidays.


Driving home from a friend’s house today, I ran into a traffic jam on a not usually busy road.   I saw a man and his daughter, who was half on and half off her bike, gesticulating to drivers in front of me.  I became immediately concerned that someone had been hit.  When I was able to get a clear view,  I stopped my car, put on the flashers and got out to help him lift the rabbit who was standing, but walking in circles, and bleeding.  I was getting ready to try to pick him up, but since I didn’t have my own car I didn’t have my supplies which always include blankets for just such an emergency. 

While several cars in the traffic jam were honking in annoyance, most cars were gratefully stopped.  Then, a woman ran up who said she was a vet tech and after struggling awhile was able to pick him up and get him into her truck.

Thank you to the man and his daughter on Murrieta Hot Springs Road east, for the vet tech, all the animal lovers who willingly stopped (and didn’t slam into my friend’s car!), The Great Spirit, St. Francis, and whatever else.  

“Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough.  We have a higher mission – to be of service to them wherever they require it.”

St. Francis

Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10AM-3PM

Come get a mini table massage from me, and check out first edition of my new book, Circle of Healing: Helping Extraordinary Clients with Yoga and Massage, A Practical Guide.

Pechanga Resort & Casino

45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, CA 

Sponsored by Riverside County (CA) Commission for Women

60 vendors and speakers

Admission free with non-perishable canned food item or grocery store gift card for $5.  Refreshments provided with admission.

The County of Riverside Commission for Women seeks to improve the status of all women by ensuring opportunities for each woman to develop to her full potential.  In support of this mission, the Commission for Women identifieis problemsl, defines issues and recommends policies and procedures to the County Board of Supervisors regarding, but not limited to, women and health, the workplace, family, education, violence, law and society.

More information, contact me at 951-677-5962 or Michele Broad, Women’s Health and Wellness, 951-304-3180.

Last summer my ninety year old father was hospitalized for a broken hip.  He was not getting much touch as his nurses were over-worked, and he developed a MRSA infection which meant no one could touch him without wearing plastic gloves.  In addition, his hearing aids were lost, and perhaps most challenging was the fact that he was brain damaged from an accident forty years ago.  When I got there his legs were blue from the knees down, and his feet were ice cold.  He was sleeping but seemed agitated.  I massaged his legs, feet and back.  He never woke up but when I left him he was sleeping with a peaceful look on his face.  The next morning his feet were warm and his legs and feet were a healthy color, and he was in good spirits.

Due to several complications he died several weeks later.  But during those weeks, at my insistence, he was graced with caring and loving touch from his immediate and extended family, and his entire Quaker meeting.  We in turn were graced to be sharing that sacred time with him.

Most people, like my father, appreciate caring touch.  Many, unfortunately, experience touch deprivation including people with AIDs, people with cancer and other illnesses; infants in Neo Natal Intensive Care Units, especially those who have been abandoned by their parents; people with injuries and amputations and deformities, the not very visible part of our population that is challenged with physical abnormalities; those recovering from addiction; victims of physical and emotional abuse who find it difficult to trust any touch; those suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome including victims of natural and man-made disasters and even car accidents; the elderly and the dying, and many veterans returning from Iraq who are suffering from the wounds of war. 

During times of high stress and financial hardship, healing touch is a gift you can offer someone, either done by you or if you prefer, you can find a reputable bodyworker who will work with you financially to find a price that works; most massage therapists I know offer holiday gift certificate specials.

Besides the emotional comfort of caring touch, massage therapy oxygenates the cells which increase endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers; it increases flexibility and movement in joints and eases stiffness and pain in arthritis sufferers and it gets the “chi” or life force moving, which helps us feel revitalized.  Healing touch reduces or eliminates stress related headaches, eases digestive disorders and chronic muscular pain including fibromyalgia, improves body image and speeds healing after surgery, and improves the immune system.  By increasing circulation, massage is invaluable in preventing bedsores that are so problematic, and too often life-threatening for the immobile.  It relieves agitation in Alzheimer’s patients, enhances blood pressure and pulse in geriatric patients, and helps women with all phases of the childbearing years.  Massage therapy comforts and relaxes children with attention deficit disorder, those with autism and people with many forms of mental illness.

You can start with those closest to you — your family and your immediate circle, including your pets.  My teenage daughter reminds me constantly that she needs massage to loosen tight muscles after an extreme physical work out, or to help her get to sleep when she is over-excited.  Our aging dogs need massage to help them with a myriad of conditions.

As vital as food and water is to our survival, so is touch and giving from the heart.

This morning I had the honor of sharing yoga with about ten women gathered as part of a wellness traveling symposium. That is, they travel to the practitioners/instructors and experience their work, and then decide if it something they want to pursue on their own.

I was honored because many of these women have physical challenges, including several having had recent surgery for breast cancer. One had several abdominal surgeries, another had a hip replacement and there were several more conditions present.

The most important idea I wanted to transmit to them was that we can use yoga, self-acupressure with balls, and other self care techniques to reacquaint ourselves with, and re-befriend our bodies. Something physical had gone awry and along with that comes emotional. mental and perhaps spiritual pain. We may have experienced extreme fear regarding our condition. We may look down on ourselves because we think our altered body image does not fit some externally mandated norm of perfection. Yoga, and massage, can bring us back to our internal source of calmness and power, to our inner and outer beauty.

Yesterday I taught three people an in- home pet massage class, along with their three dogs and my elderly dog. Hope the black lab and Gracie the black newfoundland were very clear in their communication. When I suggested that we ask our dogs if it was okay to massage them, they dropped down, rolled over and said, in effect, lets get started!
Gracie could probably lead Zen classes of her own. She had no tension along her spine, where we began the massage, and could sit or lie in apparent bliss and stillness for a long time. After about ten minutes of total relaxation, she stood up, holding that position for five minutes, and then slowly made it into the corner. She was clearly finished.
Hope was almost as relaxed, and seemed to enjoy all the techniques. The only place she had any resistance was in the hind legs as her person slowly extended and flexed. There was one angle that she would not allow. Hope did not seem to have a limit for the amount of massage she could receive, but then she had been a service dog, helping children with emotional challenges her first few years. She probably thought it was time for her love and care to cycle back to her.
The two year old jack russell terrier did not really like my dog being in the family living room, so it was an effort to get him to stop bad vibing her, but he did relax and on occasion lay down.
My dog, Winnie, is eleven years and has gone through considerable stress lately as we lost our home (perhaps will get it back—–depending on outcome of lawsuit.) She spent six weeks living outside only in someone’s (very beautfiul) yard, then several days in an animal rescue setting. She now shares our temporary home with a wolf-hybrid, who loves her and respects her. But her spine has tight areas, especially her lower back, and her hamstrings are tight. If she goes for more than a couple days without walking, she locks up in her hips. In spite of her recent angst, and stress response to new environments such as the home where we had this class, she did relax.
As in pet obedience classes, the animals slowly establish their little bubble of space, and realize they are safe, and then can relax and accept the healing touch.
For someone who wants to get into massage for animals (and this could be for pets, for farm animals, for rescued animals of all sorts (including fighting dogs, lab research experiments, abandoned and abused, and animals soon to be butchered) healing touch can be life changing.
Additionally, massaging an animal can be healing to you. Besides helping your pet’s circulation and immune system, giving healing touch can reduce your stress level, slow you down to appreciate non-verbal communication, and even help with your own immune system. For some people, touching their animal friends is the only touch they receive.
And healing touch can include all creatures, such as lizards, snakes, and birds.
My cats, who also have suffered as a result of losing their home, are benefitting from massage. I haven’t heard of PTSD as something animals experience, but I am sure that they do.
Want more info? I recommend Michael Fox, VMD, website,, Carol Tellington Jones’ Tellington Touch, and Cesar Millan.
Is massaging our pets pampering them? Let me know your thoughts.

magenta starFor those of us involved in the housing market crisis at the most personal level, that is losing a home, stress can take its toll. Rather than succumb to that stress by way of heart attacks, strokes, ulcers, gall bladder attacks, and unmitigated depression and hopelessness, we need to do everything we can do to take care of ourselves and each other. Being in the position of soon and possible eviction (after one and a half years fighting off the powers that be), I can attest to the need for help from friends and that may be the blessing, the only blessing, I can see from this experience. We are being given a chance to open our hearts and our homes to help friends and family members, and to value each other.

Some techniques and thoughts that help me:

First, breathe.
Second, do yoga.
Third, get massages.
Fourth, go for walks.
Fifth, rest when you can.
Sixth, remember you are not alone and work is being done to turn this situation around.
Seventh, share what you are going through and ask for help.
Do something fun every day.
Watch John Stewart and the Colbert Report.
And, what is that saying?
The best revenge is success.
Make your world work for you.

mandalawendyIn my 30 years of studying and practicing massage and bodywork, I have watched this country go from keeping massage at arm’s length to reaching out to it. Today, there are over 46,000 massage therapists certified by the American Massage Therapy Association, working in 27 countries. There are 60,000 massage therapists and bodyworkers Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, and a multitude of other bodywork organizations.

Thirty-three states have state licensing, and California finally is one of them. State licensing is a way of ensuring the quality of practitioners, which will (soon, we hope) encourage health insurance companies to reimburse for massage treatments.

But we still haven’t fully embraced the field of bodywork. Why is there still a shroud of mystery around it and a distrust of the massage therapy profession?

One reason is that the boundary between therapeutic massage and sensual or sexual massage is still unclear. In many Yellow Pages, including one of our local Temecula books, all types of massage come under one heading. So who is to know which therapist to go to? I have been told by several new clients that they went to get a sports or relaxation massage, only to be offered more.

For many people, that would be upsetting. But it can devaste people who have already had their boundaries violated physically, emotionally or mentally.

Bevery Susan Johnson, a massage therapist and educator from Alaska, says, “Each of us has our own energy cocoon (and needs for space), and it is not appropriate for someone else to be in our space without our consent.”

And that is why the ethics of bodywork is a required course in all massage schools today.

The National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, or NCTMB, requires members to abide by its code of ethics and defines ethical practice as “acting in a manner that justifies public trust and confidence, enhances the reputation of the profession and safeguards the interests of individual clients.”

The NCTMB requires that practititionres “always be responsbile not to engage in sexualizing behavior and therefore not engage in any sexual conduct or activities even if the client attempts to sexualize the relationship.”

I think also our society is touch phobic partly because our Puritan forefathers frowned on pleasure, and partly because healthy, nurturing touch was not modeled for many of us when we were children.

Recently I saw a television movie about the man who killed his pregnant wife and was having an affair with a massage therapist at the same time. It was the first time I have ever seen a massage therapist shown in a positive light on television.

My wish is that Americans and others become educated and enlightened and realize that therapeutic massage and bodywork sessions are a safe place for healing.

LightI have noticed that we as Americans often look through the elderly as they pass by, and we avert our glance to avoid making contact with a person who has injuries or deformities. I think we as a nation are treating returning soldiers in a similar way. Don’t look at them when they return in caskets, and don’t look at them when they come home alive. Sweep the whole issue of post-war needs under the rug, and keep sending more men and women out to fight. Why isn’t care for our soldiers of primary concern, and how does bodywork fit in?

I surprised myself when I called nearby Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California for information about therapeutic programs and modalities for returning veterans. As I was waiting on hold, I found myself struggling with thoughts such as, do I really want to hear how veterans have suffered and are continuing to suffer? Do I really want to know the situation? It felt very charged to me, and then I realized one of the reasons.

When I was the age of many of our veterans my father suffered a stroke while riding his bicycle in the New Hampshire Mountains. When paramedics reached him, part of his skull was smashed and his brain was protruding out his right ear. The doctors had to remove part of his right frontal lobe. My father was not a veteran; during World War II he was a conscientious objector doing civilian service, jumping out of airplanes to put out forest fires in Montana.

But what I hear about the “epidemic” of brain injuries in Iraq war veterans reminds me of my father’s recovery process. After being in a coma for forty days, he regained consciousness only to experience a tearful phase, followed by an angry and violent period during which time he had to be tied to his bed, and then a defeated and self-destructive stage. Gradually he began to recognize faces, gain clarity about the meaning of words (he would ask for lawnmovers at suppertime, when he meant peas), and learn how to walk again. My father spent his last forty years in recovery. He had many dark days and there were also times when we were graced with his warmth, wisdom and humor. (He used to carry a small wooden cube with him to show people how much of his brain was removed.)

Of the thousands of Iraqi war veterans who have returned home, many are suffering from head and neck injuries that also have long-term implications. Although the new body armor protects soldiers’ bodies, their limbs and minds are still vulnerable. Many survive but as did my father, suffer from memory loss, headaches, attention deficit disorder, depression and anxiety.

My father did eventually see a psychotherapist and received medication that at times helped some of his symptoms. He also received some massage therapy and breathing and relaxation exercises fsrom me, at a time when I was just beginning to learn about ways to help myself. He was open to receiving acupuncture for chronic pain as well, and even traveled to India to visit a Swami MD friend for help.

But how many veterans suffering from brain injury, or even more common, post-traumatic stress syndrome, are receiving help? According to the National Center for PTSD, of eighty percent of American Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who had serious mental health problems, and acknowledged it, only forty percent said they were interested in help and only twenty percent reported receiving formal mental health care. This reluctance is partly from a fear of being stigmatized, as many soldiers are told to suck it up, soldier on or deal with it. In addition, the veterans fear if they admitted they had PTSD symptoms they would be required to stay at their base to receive treatment rather than reurn home.

Amost five hundred thousand Vietnam veterans suffer from prolonged cases of PTSD; another three hundred and fifty thousand struggle with moderate PTSD symptoms. As many as thirty percent of the homeless in the US are said to be Vietnam vets suffering from PTSD.

According to one author, “Vietnam vets are still checking the perimeter of their safety zone for danger.”

To be continued…
“Of all forms of inequity, injustice in health care is the most shocking and the most inhumane.” Martin Luther King