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Help me expand Learn Reiki Philadelphia!

Webp.net-resizeimageHey friends, a little shameless begging if you don’t mind. I’m really excited to (bigly) expand Learn Reiki Philadelphia in just a few weeks! As many of you know, I started everything by working in exchange for space rental at Philadelphia Community Acupuncture West Philly almost nine years ago. Leaving my current space in Center City is bittersweet. Yes, I’ve super outgrown it but the likely demolition of the building-and 1/8th of Jeweler’s Row with it- has pushed the timeline a bit.

Relaunching in a new space is expensive. I have been saving every penny since the demo notice went up in August but I really need have more working capital (money in the bank) to ease transition & help with initial setup and moving costs. The interest & payments of a loan would force me to raise prices. I have never let money be a barrier to healing…even the three years I have been in Center City.

At the suggestion of several of you, I’ve set up a GoFundMe and a link to the PayPal direct donation option (which would save me the GoFundMe fees-though either is greatly appreciated). Please pass this around and share widely.

***The better the crowdfunding goes, the more work opportunities and affordable class and treatment options I will have to extend to others. Every bit counts!!! Please contribute what you can.*** By doing so, you will help expand a space of love, healing and personal development for all so that we can impact even more lives.

If money isn’t in the “can” category, I am abundantly grateful for pep talks, well wishes, good juju, Reiki, graphic design, assistance with moving/setting up and helping get the word out. Our grand re-opening will be a part of Old City First Friday June 2 at 5pm. Join us for raffles, fun and lots of housewarmingly delicious good times.

Thank you all for your support!

 

GoFundMe

World Tumult and Reiki: We’ve Been Here Before

I’m sure I’m not the only one with paralyzing fear from the US election this week. In Philadelphia, swastikas are cropping up around the City and many don’t know when (or if) they will be able to obtain healthcare again. Folks who work in non-profit, higher education and in fields like renewable energy wonder how long they may be employed. With such a gutpunch from our fellow Countrymen, it seems almost impossible to get out of bed let alone continue on our personal paths of betterment. Where is Spirit now? Why bother?

This is a time when self-cultivation is most important, and healing practices are no strangers to difficult times. The modern practice of Usui Reiki, a profoundly powerful method of energy healing, was created in Japan and passed into the West in the years leading up to, during and following World War II.  The first three founders to bring  Usui Reiki to the West did so under exceptionally grim circumstances, and reflecting on this has helped me to find new motivation and fuel deeper determination. My hope is that it will hearten you as well.

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Mikao Usui

Mikao Usui, Founder of the modern Reiki system, formed the practice with his extensive knowledge of esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Shamanic ritual and the gifts passed on to him by his Samurai family (specifically the Chiba clan). When Usui was just six years old, the Samurai were disbanded under Meiji rule, which was inching ever closer to what would later be world war. As this happened he certainly witnessed many of his family members committing ceremonial suicide (death before dishonor isn’t just a saying in Japan). As an adult, several of his family members admonished him for teaching aspects of their family’s methods and several apparently disowned him. Additionally, Usui appears to have been a member of the Raku Kei, an organization that we know little about today. At a minimum, this secretive group shared the oral histories and traditions of many groups with one another to keep them from becoming extinct in the years that would follow. Usui passed in 1926, and it is reported that he taught 21 people to teacher level.

One of the teachers trained by Usui was Chujiro Hayashi. Hayashi was a retired Naval

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Chujiro Hayashi

officer and surgeon who spent just ten months learning Reiki from Mikao Usui before Usui’s passing. He founded a clinic in Tokyo, where he healed and taught alongside his wife and daughter. Hayashi wrote guides and developed new techniques for the practice, many of which live on in the West today.

One of Hayashi’s clients, and American of Japanese descent named Hawayo Takata, was able to show her dedication enough to become his student. In 1938, after a year of study, she returned to her home in Hawaii. The following month Hayashi and his daughter followed her there to help her set up her practice and he bestowed upon Takata the title of Reiki Master. She was his 13th and final Mastery student.

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a Young Hawayo Takata

In 1940, Hayashi knew that Japan would soon go to war with the United States. Having previously taken part in the Russo-Japanese war, he wanted nothing to do with battle again. On May 10th of that year, Chujiro Hayashi committed suicide. Prior to his death he reportedly told Hawayo Takata “keep your mouth shut” lest she wind up in a concentration camp. She wisely listened, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor she even painted over the sign on her clinic. Where it once read “Reiki”, it now read “Swedish Massage” and “short wave treatments” (learn more…).Takata reportedly told many that Usui was a Christian minister working to teach the Japanese about Jesus-an effective cover in her Filipino neighborhood.

Takata never spent time in any of the Asian American encampments that became such a horrible reality. The only reason I can theorize for this was the support of her community-any one of whom could have spoken out against her. At any moment, she could have been arrested and interred in such a camp. Despite the risks, she seems to have continued practicing Reiki throughout the war.

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Hawayo Takata

Takata did not begin training others to teach Reiki until the mid 1970s. Just like Usui, she trained 21 Reiki masters before her passing in December of 1980 (just a month before I was born). She edited the practice significantly so it could be more easily used by Westerners.

After Takata’s death, many believed that Usui’s Reiki died out in Japan during the war. Several Westerners have since returned and studied Reiki in Japan, bringing many more traditional elements back to Western practitioners. Today, Reiki is one of the fastest growing holistic practices in the US and is popular throughout the West, particularly in Germany and Australia…thanks to the tireless work and tremendous risk when times were least certain.

I have had the honor of teaching Reiki since 2008. In just 8 years, I have taught 57 Reiki Masters-more than Usui, Hayashi and Takata combined. Of those 57, more than half are in professional practice today-several teaching their own students. I treat 10-15 clients per week and my classes are regularly sold out-three of my grads reached out to me this week in gratitude for what I had taught them, that they can now pass it along to more who struggle with this new reality. The ripples of Usui, Hayashi and Takata continue to echo. Reiki has survived and persisted despite the most dangerous of times, and it will continue to do so as long as we bravely carry the torch and commit ourselves to healing ourselves and our communities.

On a personal level, I wonder what I will face. I’m a disabled bisexual female, and I am absolutely terrified of what the future holds for me, the nation and the world. In light of this, my resolve to teach and practice Reiki is even stronger. These three managed to create healing ripples that have become so many waves and they did so under incredibly grim circumstances. Now is the time to be inspired by their hard work and dedication to create our own ripples of change that will carry beyond this dreadful administration and even our mortal lives. Our legacy will be the fruits of our labor.

The seeds of hate we see rapidly germinating around us have been there all along. Yes, the presence of the President-Elect and his cronies have watered the fertile soil but make no mistake that these sentiments are not new. We grieve for our Nation and it is fair to fear the times to come, but we must not lose ourselves in despair. We have work to do.

For those of you who don’t truly know me, I’ve lived a very challenging life often and seriously deprived of physical safety and emotional comfort-so much so that I don’t ever truly feel “safe”. I struggle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Reiki has helped me fill in some those cracks and move forward, changed by experience yet not diminished.

I’m also a heavily caffeinated Capricorn with an Aries rising (read: an industrious workaholic with a fiery flair). Freshly re-inspired by my practice’s founders and the words of my grads, I find ripples suddenly insufficient.

Stand back and behold my tidal wave.

May we lift one another into the highest possible future that can come of this. We are all that we seek, and as many we create much. I am humbled and honored to spend (in many cases another) lifetime with all of you-may this be one for which we are eternally proud. I love you all.

In closing, here some words of Winston Churchill, which I have found inspiring since I stumbled along them in the fourth grade:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

and perhaps most importantly…

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

May we work together to turn this hell into the beautiful reality of the brightest tomorrow humanity has ever seen. We have it within us-I can see it. May our lights shine bright and may we all exceed what we thought possible for ourselves…and each other.

Love, power and solidarity to all of you.

Danielle

img_3606Danielle Stimpson is a Reiki Master, Integrated Energy Therapy Master-Instructor, Intuitive and creator of the Stimpson Methods of Shamanic Reiki. She is the owner of Learn Reiki Philadelphia currently in Center City but soon to relocate to a larger space in an incredible neighborhood. Danielle  is an assistant organizer for the Philly Death Cafe and was recently featured in the September 2016 edition of Natural Awakenings magazine (pg. 11). Learn more about classes, sessions are readings with her at LearnReikiPhiladelphia.com

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There goes the neighborhood?

jewelers rowOver the past eight years, my business has seen it all! For the first several years I sublet from other small businesses around (and outside) of Philadelphia. For the past two and a half years I have been blessed and honored to lead Learn Reiki Philadelphia at 704 Sansom St. in the heart of Jeweler’s Row. While my studio is small, up to fifty people a week filter through for classes, sessions and workshops. As nearly everyone knows, I have been preparing for an extremely needed move & expansion for over a year now and have even asked many of you for feedback regarding location. This guidance has proved invaluable, and I have a few possible firm locations in mind. This of course made it much easier when we were hit with shocking news last Thursday that Toll Brothers had acquired demolition permits for several buildings-including ours-WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT OF THE CURRENT PROPERTY OWNERS. That’s right kids, apparently it is completely legal to get the rights to tear down a building you do not own and build what you want on top of it. (But I digress…)

Let me say clearly now that ALL REGULAR CLASSES AND SESSION WILL CONTINUE TO BE HELD AT 704 SANSOM ST THROUGH EARLY SPRING. The transition into the new space will be announced well ahead of the move. I AM NOT CLOSING OR SHUTTING DOWN.

Unlike the businesses in our surrounding buildings, when I moved in two and a half years ago, I knew full well that 704 Sansom St. was for sale (other buildings are NOT-and to clarify for newsworthiness, this building has not been sold). I’ve always had a backup location in place that was well liked by past students and even has vastly improved parking-I am nothing if not pragmatic, you all should know me by now! While it seems highly unlikely I will need to use it, it gives my inner Capricorn much joy to have a fall-back. Whichever of the spaces I choose, it will be blockbuster amazing and I cannot wait to warm it up with all of you!

But the biggest story here is not that I will soon be expanding, it’s the news that Jeweler’s Row as we know it will cease to exist. The many lawyers involved have outlined a grim reality that the real estate laws in Philadelphia are arcane and ripe for abuse. Even the Philadelphia Inquirer was taken by surprise. Those of you who have made Learn Reiki Philadelphia the premiere multi-modality school and treatment center in Philadelphia are all too aware that this block is a special place.

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Jane Theis at her workbench

I was originally invited to the space by my dear friend Jane Theis of HighArt, who’s studio has been in the building for decades. Before I moved in, I spent countless hours in her shop learning about jewelry and meeting many of the block’s talented jewelry makers. The first thing about Jeweler’s Row that resonated with me was the camaraderie and respect for one another’s skills. This is an entire block of individuals who often do the same thing, yet not only get along but teach each other tips and tricks to hone their crafts. They support each other and embody the term “colleague” over “competitor”. For everyone who has ever worked with or taken a class with me, you know that is something I take very seriously in my Reiki practice.

When discussing this with Jane years ago she said “Around here, if you won’t teach someone something that’s a bad sign. If you don’t want your students to do well, it doesn’t say much for the teacher”. Here, it means something to be a mentor and it is an honor to have a skill to share. To support one’s colleagues is simply expected (I have been very vocal in the past of the Philadelphia Wellness industry’s lacking here). In that conversation with Jane, I knew that this was the exact example I wanted my Reiki Masters to see. I signed the lease and have been here since.

Over the years that I’ve been in business here, I’ve come to see more clearly how Jeweler’s

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One of Jane’s handcrafted necklaces, featuring fire agate, gold and diamond

Row is special. If you look above the neon lights, you’ll see the craftsmen’s studios where the real magic happens. Work on any one piece may employs several of the street’s artisans. From carving wax models to casting to stone setting, sourcing, and supplies this is more than a strip of retail jewelry stores-it is a tightly woven network of great local craftspeople who collaborate on stunning pieces.

By purchasing on Jeweler’s Row, you buy local in the broadest sense. Though it seems without support of the community, this may not be the case much longer. Jeweler’s Row is a working time capsule, where many families have passed down their unique traditions for generations.

The tenants I’m honored to share my building with tell the story. The gentleman I once shared a wall with had one of the owner’s son’s working as a fifth generation diamond setter. The Jeweler upstairs from my suite, Jean, trained at the prestigious Ecole du Louvre and, inspired by his time in Israel, crafts fine French jewelry with precision tools for his line The Yonatan Collection – The Jewish Gift Place. Next to him is Carolyn Sherin’s Motherorange Designs (motherorange@outlook.com, 609-706-6143). Carolyn recently moved back into the building after years away-she had to hang up her smock following the passing of her husband. She is a lovely woman with serious talent, and I am inspired to see a widowed single mom strike out on her own once again. Jane Theis has been on the Row for over thirty years with a background in repair and an eye for making unique handcrafted jewelry often inspired by the stones nature provides, You can find her work for sale in her Etsy shop HighArt. Downstairs, newer techniques prevail with Christian Michael as 3D printers and computer aided design carve models from wax that are then cast into a variety styles in a family business that once closed early for his Daughter’s Prom night. And on the first floor storefront, Maryanne Ritter carries on the tradition passed to her by her predecessor Louis Neff. While that company dates back to 1909, Maryanne’s shop has modern and classic pieces that can tantalize the eye for hours while delivering a personal touch. The building itself has been in the same family for two generations. And this is just our building-the demo permit encompasses five buildings in total. That is in addition to a possible “Parcel B” that was said to include 3-4 buildings on Walnut street, though no one seems totally clear on whether that is moving forward.

My business can easily move to any of a number of corridors with a simple minivan. This is not so simple for my neighbors. Moving one safe can cost $5,000-10,000…and that’s assuming the structure you are putting it in can support the weight of it and offer the security needed to operate such a unique and specialized business. Jewelry is made using gas torches-the lines for which don’t run through your office building. Relocating these businesses is difficult and in some cases may not be possible. Either way, the financial burden seems to fall squarely on the shoulders of these business owners. These businesses are more than just LLCs that pay into the tax base-they are the life’s work of dedicated, talented and caring people with responsibilities and backstories…just like you and I.

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Ruby & diamond ring by Jane Theis

Many of the City’s original Rows are already dead or are dying (bet you never heard of Publisher’s row!). The number of fabric shops on Fabric Row seems to decrease quarterly and Antique Row has roughly three antique shops remaining. Jeweler’s Row is the oldest jewelry district in the nation just a block from The Liberty Bell, and without the knowledge of the landlords was issued a legal permit for demolition. One of Philadelphia Mayor Kenney’s major platform issues was to better preserve the architectural history of the City, and as of this writing his office has said nothing. The proposed building on this site is 16 stories, and the plans may also include that several buildings along Walnut Street come down as well. All of this just one block away from a PPA parking lot that could easily be developed instead.

So I beg of you, consider signing the petition to protect Jeweler’s Row. This issue has united historians throughout the City, and for good reason. And please, experience Jeweler’s Row. See the artwork, meet the artisans and see for yourself why it is worth preserving.

Above all do not cry for me, Argentina-it is simply and unsurprisingly time to expand. Sometimes change is natural and due to growth…and sometimes, the oldest treasures shine brightest and are worth fighting for. I feel strongly that Jeweler’s row is one of those treasures. I am deeply honored to have spent time on the block, and hope to see it persist for generations to come. Please help make that a reality and sign the petition today!

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Danielle Stimpson is the owner of Learn Reiki Philadelphia at 704 Sansom St. in Jeweler’s Row. She offers sessions and certification training in Reiki, Integrated Energy Therapy, psychic development and the Shamanic arts. Learn more about her, her classes and services at LearnReikiPhiladelphia.com

Late Spring through Fall of 2014: Shiva and Michael sword wielding dance party

So, sometimes, I randomly channel information from a different part of myself. Maybe “higher self” or something akin to that. It just comes through so fast I can hardly type. I often do not post them or share them with anyone but I felt particularly guided to share this with all of you.

Usually, my channeled stuff is pretty blunt and direct. This is the harshest yet by far. All of this flew out of my fingers in about 15 minutes. I have barely edited it, so sorry for the odd nature of the composition. I realize it is of a less-than-happy subject matter…but hat can I say, it’s the message that was there. Maybe I will start blogging in this format soon. Time will tell. But enjoy this piece (or don’t) as I have no attachment at all as to how it is received.

I would like to point out that this is not based on astrology or star positions. I know very little about those anyway. Its just what happened when I meditated and did a lot of energy work and found my fingers going very, very fast. It felt good and true as it flowed, despite the subject matter.

Do the words here specifically address the “lightworkers”? Yes, they do, but this theme applies to EVERYONE  in every industry. I hope your next few months are not personally interesting in the way I spell out here. All the best to all of you, and thanks for reading.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the past few years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to do readings for many of you. Some as friends some as professional clients. In many many of your readings, the same common theme came up: that of the cycle that is ending and a new one beginning in May through the Summer and even Fall of 2014.

This time of tumult that has seen the 2008 market collapse (global scale) has also brought change to the collective community I often term “the healing arts industry”. I know many of you recoil from the word “industry” but please know this isn’t a dirty word…or at least it does not have to be. We are an INDUSTRY, yes, as we earn money and that is what allows us to do what we love, what our soul’s mission is, in this world where money is a necessity and viable medium of energy. For example, it buys food, which sustains us, but I digress. The important factor: we are an INDUSTRY, most importantly for the sake of this channeled message, in two ways: 1. People spend their hard earned moneyenergy on us to compensate/exchange with us for our work. 2. The world at large views us through that lens- a way in which money is both spent and earned. Such is the world we live in, like it or not.

Indeed, many in our industry are coming from different places, and going different places and doing different things for different reasons. Some are teachers, some practitioners/healers, some sages. All humans are slightly out of balance in some ways. Some are very out of balance. Whether you are a healer/sage or say a plumber, mechanic or CEO you can be very balanced and on your soul’s path, or very out of balance. One may find themselves living their soul’s purpose, or one may find themselves acting out of an imbalanced and perhaps even wildly inflated ego, narcissism, or negative spiritual affection. Yes, of course this sometimes happens to people on the spiritual path, how could it not? If the past six years have taught us nothing it is that WE ARE NOT IMMUNE to massive imbalance in the healing arts industry. We are humans just like everyone else…and if that statement just made you angry or upset, this post may particularly apply to you.

This 6 year time has given us ample lessons to be learned. Here I will give you the example of one of those lessons. Following that, I will tell you of the next lesson that is about to be taught to us, vis a vis visceral experience and how you have the current opportunity to avoid that lesson smacking you in the face like a 2×4, should you so choose.

Without vitriol or blame, but with an abundance of love in your heart, take a moment to look around the industry that you are (intentionally or unwittingly) a part of. Allow yourself to feel gratitude for the individuals we are about to name, that we may be able to learn a lesson from them without having to personally experience it for ourselves. “Geshe” Michael Roach, Tony Robbins, James Arthur Ray. They have all been presented with intense and visceral reminders that, while we are powerful beings, we are inhabitants of the universe, and in fact more specifically the Earth plane, that surrounds us. This Earth plane does have rules beyond our ability to “manifest” or “demand change”. When we deny this, the Universe will present us with ample and abundant opportunities to be reminded. Ouch indeed.

These men learned that when we get in the way of a person’s individual supreme authority, attempting to have a person deny their own basic ability to recognize a threat to their physical safety and instead blindly follow the ego expression of another, injury (and even death) are often soon to follow. Again, if we learn the lessons vicariously through these men, we may not have to learn it for ourselves. Which of course would be wise, but do as you wish.

Now, the lesson we are about to learn: There is to be only truth and authenticity on the road to enlightenment and healing. What once worked will not any longer. The scales will be balanced.

Words can paint a powerful picture and I feel this specific phrase is the best way to articulate what is about to happen. “Put on full blast” – to be called out on one’s shit. That is SO the most relevant and appropriate way to convey what is about to happen next…because the crap is not about to hit the fan, it’s about to hit the bullhorn. If you have been faking, embellishing, hiding inconvenient truths, cheating, stealing, slandering anything…the world is about to know in a big-ass way. Especially in the industry of the healing arts.

Some folks have seen this coming and clarified their message. Louise Hay changed the forwards in her books to mention that her healing from gynecologic cancer, while greatly influenced by the positive affirmations, also had the support of at least some Western medical interventions. Good for her. John Friend (also here), on the other hand, saw the dubious goings-on “put on full blast” about 1.5-2 years ago…after things had apparently been pointed out to him and he decided not to clean up his messes and fly strait. Learn from his experience-clean up the mess before it gets “put on full blast”.

So what does this mean? Well, back to what I said about 2014. The challenges we have faced from 2008 (even 2006) till now have been to clear the last vestiges of the “old ways” to make room for the new things popping up in their places. The old organizations that could not clean up their acts, change, streamline, modify were destined for rubble. There was so much destruction going on that it was difficult to build many long-term things. But now, the tide is shifting. This is the last BIG lesson. If you have been holding on to the lantern of light all this time, you will find the grounds plenty fertile for you to sow seeds. And indeed many of you are already doing this. I have noticed many colleagues and friends finally getting their gardens to grow in some mighty impressive ways. I am seeing it in my world too. Some beautiful businesses and practices have recently launched and many are in the works and soon to follow. But be warned, there is another side to this….though there is still time to change course.

I’ve said for years, as I have seen it in many of your readings as well as that of my own, that mid-2014 would be the time that the last of the crap would fall, leaving ample space for others to shoot up and soar. It is upon us. Many of us are about to see those around us in full collapse and explode mode. You do not want to have to learn this experience first hand. It will be violently destructive.

If you have been embellishing, lying, manipulating, making false claims, or trying to obscure the truth around yourself and your accomplishments, attempting to tarnish or even gently discourage the gifts of another lightworker…make it right RIGHT NOW. If you have been stealing, circumventing or coaxing the energy of abundance that was rightly due another…stop it now and fly strait.

And know that no one will laud you for cleaning up your act. No one will put you on a pedestal and congratulate you for having done this, you can expect some slight backlash even here. But it will spare you the great Karmic lesson it seems the stars may be aligning to force many to learn.

May it also be said to those lightworkers, healing arts industry members who have been wronged by these folks-let judgment take it’s course. Do not attempt to fix, correct or save others, it is their path-they paved it. This also is not license or invitation to take up cause for your own personal vendettas…let the Universe do what it does best and balance itself out.

Also, this is the time of great abundance. Use every bit of energy to sow your seeds, grow your garden, excel and be amazing. Victimhood, holding on to all of the wrongdoings, will rob you of this time of great promise. Do NOT look back in grief, anger, pity, sorrow, or even comfortable misery. GO FORWARD ONLY, and the the Universe do what it does best and clear the imbalance. Do NOT ruminate on what you have lost but open your heart to what is yet to be found. It will be greater than any loss you may have suffered.

Give up the ghost, clean up your act and find abundance. Or hold to all the lies and bullshit you hold dear and see the Universe air your dirty laundry.

Its your choice.

Good luck.

Much Ado About Myelin

I’ve been scarce the past eight months. I suppose I have a lot of explaining to do.

Since giving up bio-medical logistics consulting six years ago, I’ve been very active in my new professional circles. I am a driven, passionate woman who has accomplished quite a bit in the world of Reiki and holistic wellness. I even crossed over successfully into hosting radio and supporting the paranormal community as a go-to energy expert.  Physically I was in impeccable shape. I chose not to own a car and instead I walked at near-jogging speeds to get from one client to the next, pushing my pedometer to several miles a day. My schedule was filling up from Philadelphia to Central PA to South Jersey and I was preparing to expand into North Carolina. I was hosting two live radio shows per week. The possibilities were endless.

And then one day, I began to have difficulty seeing.

From there I went on a painful, frightening tour of Philadelphia Hospitals, emergency departments, doctors and specialists. For a time, I could barely read my computer even with the screen blown up. Eye issues began to resolve (slowly and on their own) and then several weeks later I started to develop numbness and weakness in my extremities, leading me to walk with a cane. I had two MRIs, electrical impulse tests called evoked potentials and even a spinal tap (which did not go as expected). Those of you with any medical understanding at all probably know where this is heading.

Multiple Sclerosis, or MS for short.

Multiple Sclerosis literally means “multiple scars”, referring to the many lesions that appear on an affected person’s brain, spinal cord and other nerves. These scars develop because MS attacks the protective coating on the nerves, called myelin, which then impedes the messages being sent through them. It is a degenerative neurological disease with no known cure and little in the way of treatment though recent medications and those currently in development seem very promising. It strikes far more women than men and generally hits between 20 and 40 years of age (I am 32).

From NationalMSSociety.org:

Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another.

What IS Multiple Sclerosis?

Scientifically/Medically speaking

Very little is truly known about the disease, even less about what causes it. Most Neurologists and medical researchers agree that this demyelination is caused by an autoimmune response, while a loud minority believe it to be something else-possibly:

Environmental-the disease is one of temperate climates

Heredity-running in families, even though many people with MS report no other family members with the illness

Infectious disease-everything from Epstein Barr to chickenpox and shingles viruses been blamed, but none yet proven causative (more about that theory here)

There are different forms of MS, and I seem to be displaying symptoms of “Relapse Remitting Multiple Sclerosis”, which accounts for roughly 80% of new diagnosis. In this subtype symptoms come and go, with most damage (or at least symptoms thereof) healing between attacks, at least at first. As the disease progresses, damage begins to accumulate and the disease may stop going into remission, at which time a patient has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

The truth is we know so very little about this disease that it usually takes months or years to diagnose. There is NO test for Multiple Sclerosis. There are several tests to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms, and rule in damage to the central nervous system. When you eliminate all other potential causes (of which there are a great many) often one is still not diagnosed with with clinically definite MS, but rather “possible MS” or “probable MS”. Generally, this means you will get a clinical diagnosis as soon as the damage is progressed enough to meet standard diagnostic criteria. I’ve coined this interim “livin la vida limbo”. The Ricky Martin tune, however horrible, is still better than this scenario.

How sure a thing is “probable” or “possible” MS? Pretty damn sure. Many people with MS were in this limbo for a while preceding their diagnosis, and nearly all people in this limbo progress and are diagnosed with MS or another rarer like disease. In the series “The West Wing” President Bartlett has Multiple Sclerosis and it is explained that it took two years from the onset of symptoms for him to be diagnosed and start a treatment regimen. That’s the average-about 2 years for a clinical diagnosis. I’ve been having severe symptoms on and off starting only 8 months ago. More about possible MS

Thanks in part to these studies, it is becoming increasingly common to treat people who have not yet received a clinical diagnosis with medication to slow the disease’s progression. Currently my case is not progressed enough for the first line treatments (called “immunomodulators”) which is GREAT news-though I am mentally prepared for the day that changes. I am being treated with medication and physical therapy for the severe muscle stiffness and spasms which are caused by the disease and are proving debilitating, and I’ll go into that later on.

Other theories, and how they relate to Science

This is actually far less Godzilla vs. Mothra than you might imagine. Since I work in the natural wellness field (and as the Host of Healing Arts Radio-currently on hiatus while I heal up from my last apparent exacerbation) I have knowledge of lots of theories, ideas, treatment methods and even independent research that others may not. Some of these ideas make sense, the rest…well…here’s the ones I feel are worth mentioning.

My own thought: what is “autoimmune” anyway? I have another autoimmune condition – celiac disease. This is basically a sensitivity to gluten-the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut, spelt, and triticale. When that protein is present because I eat, say, a piece of bread my body attacks it causing very serious collateral damage to my intestines. The treatment? Don’t eat gluten. Is it possible that MS, and maybe other autoimmune diseases, are really caused by our bodies attacking something we haven’t discovered yet?

One set of theories blames “toxins”- heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides etc. While research has been done here much more is needed. I think the search will continue as society demands answers. Though even if this is the culprit, how long will it take to remove these things from our environment and will it happen soon enough to impact my case? Archangel Gabriel had some interesting things to say about toxins, which we’ll get to in a moment.

My Spirit Guides had some insight. First of all, they said YES, what I have is what Western Medicine could/would call “Multiple Sclerosis”…at least for now. But in about 10 years, there will be more known about this and it will actually be discovered to be about 4-6 different unique diseases; one of which I have. They also said there will be times to take prescription medications because they will help me and encouraged me to get acupuncture. They said the reason I am sick was not a matter of blame, that I had done nothing wrong, nor was I incurring the wrath of “bad karma” but rather that this was something I needed to go through in this life as a learning experience and to help others.

The “It’s a few different diseases” part appears to pass muster. It is a common theory in medical circles, and specifically in regards to Lyme. I tested negative for Lyme disease three times (western blot, elisa, and via the cerebral spinal fluid) and insisted on a course of antibiotics just in case while we awaited those results. For a brief while we held out hope that it was Lyme-while much worse a disease than most people realize, it is thought to be more treatable than other neurological problems (although that is fiercely debated, with good reason). Ultimately, Western medicine and my guides agree again-I don’t have Lyme.

I also want to acknowledge that anything Lyme related is highly controversial in all circles and conspiracy theories abound. I have not come to see anything that makes me believe that ALL cases of MS are Lyme related, though clearly even Science admits some are. There are a few studies out there, but sifting through misinformation about Lyme (on both sides) makes it difficult to find. I’m not going to go into Lyme here because MS is enough to discuss, but Lyme disease is NO JOKE whatsoever and it is also far older than most people realize. If it intrigues you I encourage you to do some serious research.

Archangel Gabriel gave me a message that what was happening specifically in my case had a lot to do with toxins. I grew up in Northeastern NJ, the land of the Superfund Cleanup sites. I was less than 20 miles from at least four such ecological abominations as well as the old Agent Orange factory. On a recent trip home, my sister and I discussed the park at the end of the street where we regularly played as children. It suffers raw sewage backups and also collects a fair amount of runoff from the local highway interchange. It is so polluted I have actually witnessed the swampy water burn a translucent blue flame on one occasion. Toxins you say? Again, more research is needed.

What’s next?

Whatever Multiple Sclerosis really is, it is very bad news. My future is far less certain than it was a year ago…but let’s be honest, there are no certainties in life to begin with. Here I am, still going strong. I get knocked down, I do my best to get back up. There are new limitations and more “new normals” yet to come. Statistics are all over the place, but there is a 50/50 chance I’ll be walking without daily assistance (cane, wheelchair, etc) even 15-20 years after diagnosis, whenever that even happens (I am doing everything in my power to slow the disease and the damage). If things do get that bad, I will just be a great broad in a wheelchair. This disease sucks, but it is only very rarely fatal.

My guides apologized that it had to be this way, and acknowledged that while the road will be difficult, I would be fully supported and best of all it would not stop me from doing anything I had come to Earth to do. Sorry to disappoint anyone looking to glean from my dead practice, alas I will be teaching, treating, doing readings and writing for a very long time.

Stephen_Hawking_050506Shaking your head?

Meet this man: Steven Hawking.

He was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease related to ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at age 21, which has left him with virtually no ability to move or even speak. Yet he has contributed more to Science than entire Universities. If he can pull that off, I can pull this off. No problem.

They see me floatin' they hatin'
They see me floatin’ they hatin’

I’ve survived an eating disorder and domestic abuse. I’m from the Newark NJ metro area and moved to Philly because I went there on vacation and thought WOW THE PEOPLE ARE SO NICE (note-they are only nice in comparison to Newark, Detroit, Camden and the 8th or better circles of Hell). I lived on Philly’s South St. for seven years. I defended my apartment by kicking someone who attempted to follow me in, foiled a would be break in by dumping used cat litter out a third story window onto their head, and once had the local police precinct along with all of my neighbors pointing guns at my roof while I yelled at someone for being up there.

Multiple sclerosis. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I got shit to do.

Yeah, I may not be able to walk 6 miles anymore but there’s more I can do than can’t.

Taking Care

So what have I been doing to keep myself bipedal for as long as possible? In addition to stretching, physical therapy, Reiki, IET, Shamanic healing methods and meditation I’ve been doing plenty. Here’s the skinny on what has been working so far:

Acupuncture with BJ Rau Putnam of North Penn Community Acupuncture:
Auditioning for a Hellraiser sequel
Auditioning for a Hellraiser sequel

Western med might not have decided what I had yet, but BJ had found a surprisingly effective way to treat it-my Guides were right 🙂 Most days I actually left the studio seeing and/or walking better and in less pain. Affordable as anything too: just $100 for a month of unlimited treatments. When I had my first session she reminded me that I couldn’t get too much acupuncture. I went almost every single day she was open for close to two months.

I feel like the most helpful part was having someone who genuinely cared treating me in a warm, friendly non-clinical setting. I still remember the day that I got there two hours early because I couldn’t read the schedule, and then walked into a stop sign I didn’t see. My eyes were welled up in tears when I told her. She apologized and reminded me that it was impressive that I was able to sit and calmly explain to her how I was losing my sight, sensation and ability to walk without a cane to an undiagnosed illness every day. It was a humanizing thing to say at a time when I had started to feel anything but human. I’m really grateful she did that. Thank you, BJ.

Acupuncture with Electric Stimulation, back and neck
Acupuncture with Electric Stimulation, back and neck
Acupuncture with Electric Stimulation, scalp
Acupuncture with Electric Stimulation, scalp

Go let her make you a pin cushion, you will not regret it. If you can’t make it to Lansdale, look for a similar clinic in your area here.

You can also listen to her discuss Chinese Medicine and the Paranormal on a past installment of Healing Arts Radio

Ayurvedic herbs, nutrition and bodywork with Lynn Roberts

Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga and has some incredibly sound and effective approaches to nutrition. They theorize that each body is different and constantly changing depending on everything from the season to what our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs are. Their bodywork methods seem to compliment what a body or part thereof might need at a specific point in time. One of the stranger looking methods, basti, involved making a container on an irritated or affected part of the body (in this case my eye) with dough (gluten free for me) and filling that container with hot herbalised oil or clarified butter also known as ghee. It took some trust to let someone make dough goggles on my face and pour butter in my eyes, but ultimately I am glad I did it. The dryness and irritation of my eyes was greatly improved for well over a week. I went from using eye drops 10x a day to once or twice for a while following that treatment, and was generally more comfortable. I also smelled like cookies for days, and who doesn’t want to smell like cookies?

In addition Lynn was a great friend. She was one of the people who drove me to ERs and Doctor’s visits when I was in too bad a shape to take transit. Thanks, Lynn.

You can schedule with her in Elkins Park, PA, Learn more on her website, or the website of her Yoga studio Banyan Yoga and Ayurveda.

You can also listen to her discuss Ayurveda on a past installment of Healing Arts Radio 


Baclofen
 (prescription muscle relaxer) along with physical therapy

Extreme muscle spasm is very common with MS, and you can read more about it here.

WHAT! You are taking M-E-D-I-C-I-N-E????????? WHY!!!!!

Because it gave me back the ability to walk when daily stretching, herbs, acupuncture, shamanic practices and Reiki were not even enough anymore. And as previously mentioned, my Guides were on board.

Baclofen.svg

Before symptoms started I was able to reach my foot in a stretch. By the time I was willing to try baclofen along with physical therapy, I was hardly reaching past my knee, and my right foot would no longer straiten out. I could barely walk or sleep. Within a week of being on baclofen, my daily stretching routine improved dramatically and I am now almost reaching my ankle again. I just started physical therapy twice a week-getting my stretch on with strangers-in addition to my daily home routine. My goal is to keep as much flexibility as I can for as long as possible. I am happy to have another effective tool available to help me help myself.

Western Medicine All-Stars

If you loathe and despise Western Medicine, that’s your thing, I respect that. But I feel differently. I worked in the Pharma Industry, and I work in the Wellness Industry. I find both sides have their merits, their limitations, and their misplaced values. Choosing wisely on either side can be a frustrating high stakes game though both are well worth considering, at least in my opinion. I’m no hypocrite, I have never told a client to forgo Western Med treatments.

Throughout my ordeal, Western Medicine seemed at best deeply concerned yet confused by my signs and symptoms and at worst dispassionate and unprofessional in their inability to diagnose and help me. The bad ones make me appreciate the good ones even more. In no particular order, here are the Docs I am most grateful for:

Dr. Roth, America’s Best Eyeglasses and Contacts 13th and Walnut

Dr. Linares, Deglan & Greene (Retina Specialist)

Dr. Nissman,  now in private practice in Plymouth Meeting

The Clinic at Scheie Eye, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Tamhankar, Neuro-ophthalmologist at Upenn and Einstein

And for certain, most of all Mazzoni Family Medicine.

Mazzoni is amazing in every way, I am treated with respect every time I go in and every time I use their web based patient portal. They have been my primary care and referral hub, doing everything from helping me fill out insurance paperwork when I couldn’t see to doing all the labs that the Neurologists praised as covering what would normally be their next step. They are a non-profit LGBT (that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) health center. Oh yeah by the way I am bisexual. We exist! Go build a bridge and get over it, or don’t and stay in 1953. See if I care. All I know is that apparently, in this one in a million scenario, it gave me better options for healthcare than I may have had otherwise and I am so grateful for everyone there. EVERYONE.

Why am I sharing all this?

One, it’s pretty obvious I’m not well on the “walking with a cane” days. It’s impossible to hide entirely, and I don’t feel inclined to lie about it. Two, the word has been out for quite a while and when you start getting condolence letters, you no longer have the option to wait for a better time.

Do I “Give a Shit” now?

Long ago I added a post many of you read entitled “Not Giving a Shit as a Spiritual Practice”. A year later, after all I have been through, I am more proud of that post than ever. The Universe was helping me clear some less-than-necessary relationships and assert better boundaries in light of what I was about to experience. Two people in particular, who had been a huge part of my life prior to that realization,  blew up and walked out in an epic huff. It was a blessing. I can’t imagine the pain of both of them abandoning me (in one case, yet again) during this time of physical illness and  emotional vulnerability. I’m happy I had the opportunity to split the wheat from the chaff early on.

Lesson learned: Treat others the way you wish to be treated, and accept no less in return. Fair weather friends disappear. The good ones are worth more than gold. And for the people I “lost”, I am grateful for at least 40 more that were there for me in my darkest hour, as I was there for many of them previously.

Want to do something?

I am NOT accepting personal donations. If this entire blog post makes you want to go out and give someone money, here are my favorite Non-Profits:

The Mazzoni Center – LGBT Health and Well-Being in Philadelphia

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Restore the Shore A lot of my NJ friends and family lost a lot in Hurricane Sandy and despite the commercials…it ain’t all fixed.

Or, just go do something nice for yourself. Go grab a nice dinner, see a movie, or sit in a park. Bring a friend or co-worker, spread even more happiness. Then post pictures and tag me in them on facebook, instagram or twitter and I’ll enjoy you having a lovely time too.

If you want to see me and share a nice time with me in person, here’s where you can do it:

Wobbly for a Reason Part 1, Myelin on the Run (Philly): Saturday, Sept. 7 starting at 4pm at Coco’s, 8th and Sansom. It’s cozy, welcoming, and the staff are really friendly. Veg and vegan options available. I’ll be there till at least 6pm. I’ll post an event on Facebook ASAP.

Wobbly for a Reason Part 2, Neurological Boogaloo (Jersey): Its not definite yet, but looks like Sunday Sept. 15, 3pm at Jakeabob’s in Union Beach NJ. They lost their original restaurant in the storm, and could certainly use the business.  I’ll post an event on Facebook once the details are firmed up, and will update this post to reflect it.

These events are not fundraisers or anything, just an excuse to have a good time in spite of bad news.

Before you post in comments, elsewhere on the web or Email me

braceyourselffixedWhen I came out and shared my past treatment of anorexia three years ago, I did so to make myself a personal example, a mirror if you will, of the healing arts profession’s views on illness, unfairly judging our clients and scope of practice as it relates to nutrition advice. The feedback I got from colleagues ran the gamut from supportive to hateful. I’d like to again reiterate that I’m not exactly thrilled to discuss this in such a public way right now, but the world keeps spinning just the same.

New blog ground rules: 
  1. If you are someone recently diagnosed or “livin la lida limbo”, please understand that what I am posting here is my own personal experience and/or based on the advice of professionals-board certified and otherwise-that I am working with individually. None of this should be taken as advice in any way-it’s just “what’s working for me, at least right now”. This also goes for anything you find in the comments. Good luck in your search, and always trust your instincts.
  2. My diagnosis-or what any of YOU think I do/might have-will not be a group guessing game. We will not play pin the diagnosis on the donkey, with mine being the unwitting ass.
  3. I will not sit on the receiving end of abusive, hurtful or passive-aggressive feedback, law of attraction based or otherwise. There is no research or reasonable theory that I have found to suggests MS is a direct result of “negative beliefs”. To the contrary, I feel living my life and continuing my career in spite of it involves quite a bit of positivity, and I refuse to allow judgments of others to harsh my mellow. Go read Bright-Sided  by Barbara Ehrenreich (released in the UK as Smile or Die).
  4. I now reserve the right to publish the feedback sent to me in any media related to this blog or it’s subject matter. This is to allow discussion about relevant beliefs and how they help/hinder the healing process and are not to cause any real or perceived harm to anyone’s brand, practice or reputation. That said I will happily remove your name from the post, but sometimes a manner of speaking can unwittingly implicate you. This is especially true in cases of practice- or belief-based jargon, or if you blog, speak publicly or teach in the same speaking/writing style. If there is any chance that you could be embarrassed by your own words, consider keeping them to yourself. I assume and accept ZERO responsibility from any harm-real or perceived-that YOUR words cause.

Thank you for reading. Sorry I kinda bummed you out. But now you know, and we are all on the same page.

I am pretty clumsy these days and can no longer so much as stand in heels. I recently saw this video of models falling and it made me feel a little better. Just for the love of god turn the sound off, the music sounds like a violin being played by a brick with Sailor Moon doing vocals.

Have a great day. I will.

Keep Smyelin’

Not Giving a Shit as a Spiritual Practice

About two months ago, I had one of the worst months in recent memory.   And it wasn’t just that way for me, but also for a LOT of people close to me.   In the span of about 3.5 weeks,  I respectively supported others or was  supported through:

  • 4 Funerals
  • 2 Divorces
  • 3 Friends with difficult pregnancy/labor/delivery
  • Catastrophic illness & injury of loved ones (numerous)
  • A 200 mile move, and a new dual-City existence
I learned a lot about grief, support, my IET practice (OMG heartlink FTW) and friendships that-even though we may not have spoken for months-are always right where they left off.  The BAD weather friends, the people who come through and always seem to be around most when things are at their down right shittiest. At some points in this month, I was that friend; and at other times, I was supported BY that friend.  Truly giving a shit about your friend or loved one… not because you feel obligated, just be cause at the end of the day, you never would have considered NOT being there.
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Also, there was a massive outbreak of OPD. What is OPD? Other People’s Drama.  Also called the trotting bullshits, the histrionic hollers, and a derailment of the crazy train with mass casualties.  You know what I’m talking about.  It’s what happens to someone when they cannot or will not deal with their shit directly, so they stage a little play and assign roles according to what archetypes and figures in their life need representing to enact their “story” and fail to hold auditions…or even notify you that you’ve been cast. Keep in mind I am not trying to judge the people doing this, as they have their reasons.
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Every obnoxious act is a cry for help. – Zig Ziglar
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At one  point in that tumultuous month, a strange thing happened.  It was as though one day, at the height of all the very real tragedy and psychological productions, something just broke.  As I sat at my desk overwhelmed with it all, I suddenly just…wasn’t.  It reminded me of the movie Office Space, where the lead character is miserable with life, undergoes hypnosis and when the hypnotherapist dies in the middle of his session he finds himself free of the BS burdens of his life.  His controlling girlfriend, awful boss, dead end job-he just cannot bring himself to give a shit.  It hit me-I had reached critical mass, emotional overload.  I had just run out of shits to give.

And it was oh so blissful. I went to bed that night and slept solidly for the first time in weeks. I got up the next day and promptly, without hesitation, failed to have any feeling of responsibility for OPD (Other People’s Drama). I flat out refused to answer it at all, or did so minimally and only as absolutely required. And later that afternoon, the phone rang with another tragedy.  While I could listen, be supportive, etc. I just could not find it within myself to truly give a shit.  It was as though I was looking at my life in the third person.  Part of me cared, but energetically and emotionally, I was cold.  There was nothing left.  I was hollow inside…and while placid and calm, it was also eerie.

Apparently bereft of shits, I went for a loooong walk in my new ‘hood of State College, Central PA and took a meandering detour past some seriously large farms.  Being Spring time, there were some sizable mountains of cow patties piled up for other farms to pick up and use as fertilizer for their crops. And it hit me: shit is energy! Those heaps of shit were going to grow acres of corn. Real, edible and necessary FOOD.  Later, it also occurred to me that in the wrong hands, fertilizer can also be used to make explosives. When we “give a shit”, we give our energy. When giving a shit, we can choose between fertilizing something, and feeding a fire.  Where we choose to direct (or withhold) the shits we give, we choose what we wish to support (healing, our loved ones, etc) and disconnect from what we don’t (misdirected psychodrama).

Which brings us to a big question: when is it appropriate to give a shit, and when it it better to abstain? I suppose to answer that, we must explore just what is “drama” and what is a real crisis.

It’s been said that “All the world is a stage”.  Let’s keep with that analogy and look at the situation in front of us as the  plot of a play.  Perhaps it is an ensemble cast where each character has their shortcomings and yet together manage somehow to muddle through whatever challenges or plot twists arise, a la Fried Green Tomatoes. Or, one person could see themselves as the star of the show, the hero among villains who would be exalted by the surely shortsighted cast if only they were not blinded by their very radiance. Is someone the star of a painfully introspective one-person production in which their faults, hopes, dreams and losses are laid bare and examined; a presentation so powerful and thought provoking it can’t help but force watchers to do at least a little soul searching…or rather recounting all of the times they had been done wrong, sold short, or had their praises gone unsung; falling on a sword of righteousness only to be pelted with roses by adoring audience goers as the curtains draw to a close?

Most importantly, is the play an honest portrayal or a well prepared argument…and if that latter, whom are they truly attempting to convince?  Two of those plays are not realistic. Everyone has their faults.  In attempting to place all of our personal crap on those around us, we put a ton of effort into not looking at those shortcomings for what they truly are.  In blaming others for everything wrong in our lives, we not only push others away we also refuse to take responsibility for ourselves…and if we don’t take responsibility, there is no way we can make any changes. The story, which is a lie, will be told and retold as long as the person telling it can convince themselves it’s the truth.  The easiest way to cling to that lie is if other people are reacting to it…feeding it…FERTILIZING it.  When we give a shit about someone else’s dramas, we actually do a disservice both to ourselves in the form of spent energy (because we need that to help ourselves and others through their healing), and them by fertilizing the field of lies they are sowing between themselves and their real problems. As long as someone gives a shit about their drama, they are less likely to notice that the stage is nothing but make believe.  We become enablers.

HEY! Look at all these shits I don’t give!

So what do you do when the hollering histrionics show up and try to put the marionette strings on you? Simply say no. Or, say nothing at all.  Refuse to dignify crazy with a response.  I know it seems rude, but really, if you are going to spend a boatload of time to argue them, you are just justifying the bullshit parade.  Remember…if they don’t have an audience, there ain’t no show.  Refusing to engage is the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself AND them.  It is NOT your responsibility to point something out to someone who clearly does not want to see their own issues…not to mention, if we DO engage, who is to say we are not the one with drama of their own? If we really feel compelled to get entangled in their mess, maybe it’s us that needs the healing most of all.

Properly given shits: The Results

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On subsequent bus rides and long walks, I’ve reminded myself of the value of a shit not given.  As the Spring gives way to Summer, I see all the crops beginning to grow, acres and acres of worthwhile shits.  Just the same, I see my friends and loved ones healing, moving on, putting their lives back together.  I’m happy to have been able to fertilize them, and as I start to feel more whole I am grateful that so many were willing to fertilize me when I needed it most.  I don’t know what I would have done if they had spent all their shits on drama.  So from now on, I am going to be careful about when and how I give a shit.

And in case you could not tell, I am from NJ, where swearing is it’s own spiritual practice. So if you are going to be all pompously New Age-y and refuse to see the forest through the trees on this post because the repeated use of the word “shit” totally harshed your mellow….guess what I don’t give?  :-p

Listen to me on Healing Arts Radio!

That’s right, I’m getting my very own show on the Para-X Network!  Wednesdays at 10pm starting April 18, I’ll host a weekly, hour long LIVE call in show that brings together the Healing Arts, Energy, Spirituality, Shamanism & Anthropology and the Paranormal.  The network is online and if you miss a show, you’ll be able to stream it on a week’s delay. You can find out more at HealingArtsRadioOnline.com and Para-X.com.

Want to be a guest? See what I’m looking for here

This would not have happened without all of you…thank you for your support!

A Good Time to Clean Our Own House

Ever have one of those times where the same messages and lessons keep playing themselves right in front of you?  It’s like the themes of the past week or so have been the obliteration of dysfunction and defenestration of those abusing power, all with no regard for the status quo.  Perhaps it’s something in the stars…if there is any truth to this astrological prediction, Pluto is quite the Honey Badger.  It would seem this planet for which a dopey cartoon dog is named is going all Kali Ma in the cosmos.  It’s kind of creepy, yet really profound-and as I try to let it wash over me, and hopefully learn by example rather than become one, I feel a need to reflect and hash this out in blog form. Maybe you’re processing it too.

The subject here may make many of your stomachs turn (or eyes roll) but there is a situation that everyone in the Yoga community is either discussing at length or running furiously away from conversation about. Yes, it’s John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga who earlier this month had some mighty disturbing accusations made about him and his company, Anusara Inc.  Some of you are already aware of the allegations, so you can skip the next paragraph

Among them were claims of financial improprieties, abuse of his authority for sex with female employees (some of whom were married), and having employees accept illegal drugs on his behalf. While he has “apologized” and stepped down, he has not categorically admitted fault and to the best of my knowledge has yet to be charged with anything, so at this point the full truth-whatever it may be-has yet to come out.  The anonymous website which posted financial documents, sexually explicit photographs and skype conversations to back up the claims (http://www.jfexposed.com/) is no longer operational, yet was viewed by thousands before it went offline.  Some staff were admittedly complicit with all that was going on, and outward appearances would suggest it all to be one heck of a cult like environment over there.

Many of his teachers have resigned, though few have spoken publicly about the matters surrounding their departure. Then Yesterday one of Mr. Friend’s former employees, Elena Brower, was published in The Huffington Post. Her piece, which you can read here,  directly supports that many of the inner circle (herself included) knew precisely what was going on for quite some time and kept mum.  That is the only favorable thing I can say about the article. At no point does she apologize for failing to speak out. To add literal insult to injury, she defends John Friend while accusing the “disgruntled” former I.T. guy of Anusara Inc. for putting up the jfexposed.com website (an allegation he has strongly denied numerous times) and quite childishly admonishes the  popular Yoga community blog Yoga Dork  for actually reporting on the story, calling their coverage “salacious” and “desperately sensationalized”.

This prompted me to read all of Yoga Dork’s coverage from the beginning to present to see what she was referring to.  And you know what-it was more balanced reporting than I’ve seen in various articles on CNN.com (don’t take my word for it, read Yoga Dork’s coverage for yourself).  It was not over the top, it was factual.

Let’s look at the definition of “salacious”:

sa·la·cious

adjective

1.lustful or lecherous.
2.(of writings, pictures, etc.) obscene; grossly indecent.

Ms. Brower,  I’m sorry, but the actions of John Friend were what was salacious…not someone writing about it.

Anyone in the healing/Yoga/New Agey world is aware of the “don’t speak of negativity, for that is to give birth to negativity” mantra that many others have.  I’ve always found fault with this.  Speaking of a factual event(s), places, things, trends etc and identifying them as being factually opposite shiny and happy is NOT what makes things bad.  Rather, it’s the identification of something that isn’t working that gives an opportunity to be corrected.

When I was a kid I was in Alateen, a spinoff group of Al-Anon and AA which is to support children and teens who have been affected by someone else’s drinking.  They had a wonderful way of explaining the importance of admitting that there was a problem-in fact, the very first of the 12 steps is admitting that there is one.  Because really, without that, where the hell are we going?  We can’t begin to fix that which we refuse to acknowledge is broken.

Their analogy for failing to speak up is “ignoring the elephant in the room”. Just because we choose not to say “hey, there is an elephant right there” does not make it any less there.  Denial only serves to make us powerless in the face of adversity.

Furthermore,  if you ignore the elephant long enough, he’ll do quite a bit of damage.  And that is what appears to have happened here-the few who knew about what was going on and did nothing, enabling John Friend to continue his damage unchecked, and stood by and let the elephant shit the bed that is Anusara Inc. And that’s the real tragedy here-a lot of people did NOT have any idea what was going on, and their spiritual center has been shaken to it’s core.  Their trust has been betrayed. Their expensive certifications are at least for now quite tarnished.  Many staff members at Anusara Inc. report being laid off, and others report many would-be students are trying to cancel out of upcoming Anusara trainings. Some have argued that this has given all of Yoga a bit of a black eye. As often happens, all the wrong people are paying the price for the misdeeds.

The article Elena wrote was less an article and more an editorial that inadvertently indicted the culture at Anusara Inc. that allowed this all to happen in the first place. Even though she stepped down about four months before the scandal broke, it still smells like Stokholm Syndrome.  What she clearly was not expecting when she wrote it was the backlash she got in the comments, of which there are more every minute.  Elephant Journal went so far as to encourage it’s readers to go to those comments and pad them with nice things…and that backfired too, bringing even more negative feedback. When she went into the comments in an attempt to correct the course, (something she also did on Yoga Dork, despite her promise to boycott them until she got an apology) she succeeded in only making it worse.

What stands out through all of this is the indignation on part of Ms. Brower and others at the very idea that anyone else besides them could or should have any opinion at all as to what went on in the house of Anusara. I’m sorry guys, but you had a chance to clean up the mess before it spiraled out of control like this.  It’s like an episode of Hoarders: the mess in your house is only your business until the point it starts seeping out the sides.  Once the Feds are investigating what happened to pension plans, it’s far too late for a mop.

 

So what can we take away from this?  A whole lot, actually…and none of it includes relishing in the collapse of something that has clearly helped so many. Besides being hit with yet another reminder of why Gurus do not work,  it’s a really great time to clean out our own closets.  Get the mops out while there is still time, and clean up the mess on our own terms.  One of the Precepts of Reiki is “Just for Today, I will work hard and honestly”.  Are we living up to that? The truth is a stubborn son of a bitch that has a way of making itself known.  Like so many long forgotten leftovers in the back of the fridge, the longer it’s allowed to fester the more offensive it becomes.

 

The other thing we can do is look at this mess and feel actual sorrow for those hurt by it, especially those who had no idea what was happening.  I have many friends who are Yogis, and at least a handful of those rooted in Anusara.  To each and every one of you, I am dreadfully sorry for what has happened.  This is no reflection on you, at least in my eyes.

Thanks for reading. I think we all have some cleaning to do. I’m going to go get on that.

*A note about the comments: Go for it. But know that this is a private blog not a public forum. If the comment you post is of a personally slanderous nature (to anyone, even John Friend) and has no verifiable basis, I will delete it.  I also won’t allow the pornographic or lewd content associated with this debacle to be posted here, nor links to it. I don’t pay per month to host this site so you can do that. Get your own blog.

New Year, New Unhealthy Gimmick

Happy 2012 everyone!  I hope you are looking forward to this New Year as much as I am.  I’ve got some really great stuff on the horizon, and I just can’t wait to sink my teeth into all the opportunities. Plus, I survived another Philadelphia New Year with all it’s celebratory gunfire and Mummer fueled debauchery.  I even got my strut on.  But before I go any further, can we talk about all the New Years diet gimmicks being neatly packaged as “wellness” and a new lease on life?

I know, not much of a segue, so sue me.   But the truth is it’s January 4th and I’ve received no less than 13 different local offers to lose weight, be happier, and get a “new me” by taking their class or workshop.  I can only imagine that the number would be so much higher if many of the wellness workers in this City didn’t know me or read this blog, thus knowing to leave me off the invite.

New Year’s Day might be an arbitrary one for bold resolve; only made more relevant than the other 364 days of the year by all the literal glitz.  But for what it’s worth, New Years seems like a great time to think about the year past and give us some perspective on what we might like to change.   I certainly have no issue with adopting better life habits, with taking stock of what is truly going on in our lives, or with deepening practices of what works for us.  But where is the point where we are no longer pushing “healthy”?

First, let’s explore what “health” really means.  We’d like our bodies to work well physically and mentally, and be free from disease and injury if at all possible.  Generally, we take this to mean eating right and exercising, among other things.  Most of us could probably do something to improve our overall health, and many of us may be ready to shed some weight. Hopefully, we’re making these decisions because they are medically sound and not because someone is selling us happiness.  As a recovering anorexic (something I discuss here) I can attest that skinny does not necessarily equal healthy or happy. True too is that being what some may call “overweight” does not necessarily make someone unhealthy or unhappy…but for a better presentation of that, I’d suggest swinging by Dances with Fat as Ragen Chastain writes much more eloquently on the topic than do I.   Being healthy is a moving target, and what has to be done to get there or maintain that level of health varies greatly.  Crash diets are NOT a part of a healthy lifestyle.

One of the most popular catch phrases of 2011 was “war on obesity”.  Eek!  I find it confusing that we’re vilifying fat over promoting health.  I once found a “diet” program led by someone who’s only qualification was that they sold vitamins.  And this time last year a Yoga studio right here in my own City of Philadelphia was running a weight loss program that paid a cash prize to the person losing the most weight and started their promotional facebook messages with “get your sexy body back”.  Namaste indeed.

If you are among those looking for a change in your size in 2012, check into the programs before you put down your deposit.  Find out who is leading it, their qualifications, where they studied, etc.  and how much personal attention if any you’ll get.  If you are asked to sign a release form without a health questionnaire of any kind, it’s a red flag.  A good nutritionist will want to know what your needs are before advising anything.

For those wellness professionals offering a “New You in the New Year” diet program, first please ask yourself if you are even truly trained and qualified to tell people what to/not to eat on an individual basis.  Unless you are trained in nutrition and physiology, you aren’t. Reiki practitioners may wish to see my previous post here.  If you are qualified, sensitivity in your marketing and throughout the program is key.  You may understand that each participant is on a unique path, but they may not.  Lead by example, and do your best to prevent students from comparing themselves to each other.

In closing, 2011 was one Hell of a year.  I don’t fault anyone for wanting change on any level.  I’m looking forward to it myself.  And on your path to bigger and better, may you find it easy to listen to your heart and not everyone else’s BS along the way.

“Shoulds” are soooo 2011.