Friday, January 29, 2016


Sawatdee ka from Thailand.

I've been at "school" for two days now, but I think I have already learned enough for a new lifetime.  I thought I came here prepared with my beginner's mind, but I see now that I came with my ego.

Our teacher has a unique approach that involves nothing like our familiar version of lessons.  There are a few key phrases that he keeps returning to while he talks.  One of these is talking about "helicopters," meaning (I think) we tend to focus on the mess of anxiety and anticipation that exists outside ourselves and this present moment.  He asked us many times today: "Helicopters.  Helping or not helping?"

Not helping.

I have never done Thai massage before, so my initial plan was to observe and receive this first week. Just be a sponge and store everything I could in my head.  I had the opportunity today to try out a few basic things.  I guess I thought my knowledge and experience doing Western massage would help me to get the hang of it fairly easily.

Helicopters. Not helping.

Our teacher came over to my mat.  He said, "Terrible.  Terrible.  What are you doing?" He proceeded to show me where I could feel a block in my practice partner's body.  He tried to tell me what to do, but I just wasn't getting it.  What I was getting was frustrated.  Ego.  "Just show me," I said.  He proceeded to move my body into the correct position to work on my partner's body.  I managed to get a little of the feel of that one movement, but I had no idea what to do next.  So, he took over.  And talked a lot about how I needed to stop thinking and just feel.

None of this was news to me.  Nor should it be news to anyone who has known me for thirty seconds or longer.  But to me the realization that I am that much of a beginner was difficult.  I suppose I brought my "advanced beginner" mind by mistake.

Learning something so new is uncomfortable and frustrating in the early stages.  It has been some time since I've been this much of a beginner, so I guess I forgot.  But tomorrow I'll be at class bright and early, trying again to be a clean slate and a calm mind.

Friday, January 22, 2016

On Leaving

I am a nervous traveler.  There's a whole checklist I go through before a long trip of any kind.  This starts about two weeks out from my departure date.  The list includes necessary things like leaving a check for the pet sitter and taking out the garbage.  But the bulk of the list consists of things like checking  that my (brand new) passport has not expired, searching my email for flight confirmation information, counting pairs of socks, checking my passport, picking up and putting down my suitcase, and checking my passport.

With all of this nervous energy, I sometimes find it hard to focus.  Ever.  I imagine in my brain a rubber pinball being batted around by ADD mice with tennis rackets.  And I thank goodness for the respite of clients.  In session, I can find my lost focus and be in the present moment, no matter what is going on with my passport.

In between, though.  Oh my goodness.  Today, after a deeply focused session, I stepped out to get my client a glass of water and within 30 seconds I FORGOT WHERE I WAS.  Fortunately my brain still picks up on context clues and no client was left dehydrated.

I find it interesting that my work is both what makes it necessary for me to travel and what makes it possible for me to function while I am worried about the travel.  It is both respite, and the author of the need for respite.  I am grateful for both.

I am also grateful to everyone who trusts me with their bodies and their wellness.  I'm leaving for a while, but I'm coming back to continue to earn that trust, every day, every session.

This last week before I go, I am touched by the kind words and generosity of every one of my clients.  I have been wished safety, peace, renewal, fun and all good things you could possibly get from travel.  And  -- most important to me -- I have been assured that I will be missed, and my return will be a happy occasion.

Even before I leave, then, I am looking forward to coming home again with my new eyes and new knowledge -- ready to be a better, focused, more aware massage therapist for everyone.

Until then, like this blog post, I remain joyfully scattered.

Now, where is my passport . . . .

Sunday, January 17, 2016

End of Year Review

Towards the end of 2014, I got some advice from a business coach.  She suggested I spend some time writing out my 2015.  She said to go month by month and write down everything that would happen in that month.  The idea was that if I wrote something down, it would become part of my brain somehow.  I would start doing things to make those goals happen, almost without realizing it.  The written word is powerful, she said.  I couldn't agree more.

The last few days of 2014, I took myself to Kentucky for a few days, stayed by myself at a cabin in a state park, hiked all day and wrote at night.  I called the thing I wrote my manifesto.

The first few months came easily.  I wrote in a flurry -- visioning and planning my future as fast as I could move my pen over the paper.  I wrote in an incredible amount of detail about the people I would meet, the number of clients I would have, and how I would feel while doing it.  I felt pretty smugly realistic about it, too.  I threw in some challenges, and even a few setbacks.

Everything was clicking along until I got to writing September.  I stalled.  I filled up half a page with doodles and scribbles before I finally managed to eke out a loosely drawn page or two.  The rest of the manifesto was equally challenging.  December, I recall, was barely half a page.  (By contrast, February was getting on for 6 pages before I was done.)  Still, I came back from Kentucky clutching that green notebook like it would drag me into the future depicted on its pages.

And then, the universe gigglesnorted and did whatever it damn well pleased.

Sure, many of the things I wrote about did happen.  I did leave my soul-sucking teaching job to focus on more soul-building teaching opportunities.  I did move to a new home.  (Twice --  but to be fair I didn't really specify "Move only one time" in the manifesto.)  I did send out a newsletter in the first week of every month.

And many of the things I wrote did not happen.  I spent a good part of last year (when I wasn't moving) going back to Kentucky where I was needed.  While this put a damper on the goals of the manifesto, I was damn grateful that I could do it.

So, really, the year in action went much like the writing of that year.  Clicking along easily at first, until I stalled, hiccuped and got derailed.  But now, after the end of that year, I would still call it a success.

I spent the entire year employed by myself doing work I chose with my heart and soul.

I spent the better part of the year being present for family and friends when they needed me.

I spent a part of most days engaged in some creative pursuit.

All in all, 2015 was a powerful year in both its written and lived forms.