Ridiculous Shoes

Gathering dust.

I’m addicted to shoe shopping. 

The shoes in my wardrobe fall into two categories: the Beautiful and the Comfortable. The Beautiful ones stand around gathering dust. The comfortable ones only exit my life due to structural collapse.

This is the case because I have Problem Feet. They are long, flat, strangely shaped (the technical term is ‘accessory navicular’), and they usually hurt. 

So I have an ongoing fantasy that the Right Pair Of Shoes will make my feet 1) smaller, 2) beautiful, and 3) pain-free.

This week I was forced to acknowledge that my best pair of work shoes, the ones I was likely wearing last time you came for a massage, were no longer viable. Life came to a crashing halt while I found another pair of work shoes, with arch support, stability and flexibility. 

Because EVERYTHING depends on your foundation. Your feet affect your ankles, which affect your knees, which affect your hips and back and neck. If you’re walking around in ridiculous shoes, your life eventually collapses. 

So make sure your shoes are good for you. Ideally you want arch support which isn’t rigid, so that the articulations between bones stay mobile. High heels, although beautiful, throw your back out of alignment and cause bunions. Flip-flops–well, grinding your bones directly into concrete all day–I won’t lecture you any more.

If you have foot issues as serious as mine, check out Not only do they sell comfortable walking shoes for all kinds of conditions, they have devices that help with plantar fasciitis, custom orthotics, gel inserts, and all kind of nifty bracing things. 

This message brought to you thanks to the Equinox Wardrobe Cleanse.  

How To Master Pain

Okay, I’m BSing you. Forearm stands aren’t painful. 

They used to terrify me, however. Going upside down would make my brain shut down. I’d be asked to do a forearm stand in yoga class; I’d make a sort of wounded-penguin attempt at flipping my legs up, then huddle in child’s pose for the rest of the class.

Then one day I paused. For thirty seconds, I visualized myself doing a perfect forearm stand. Then I tried again. 

It was easy.

Lately, I’ve been tackling something way harder than forearm stands–fear, anxiety, and pain. When I notice myself doing things like surfing social media for hours, reaching for sugar, carbs and alcohol, finding ANYTHING to do except the next thing on my task list, that’s a red flag. I’m suppressing feelings that I don’t like having.

The remedy is this: Stop, sit, and feel the feelings. 

As soon as I bring my attention to that panic, shame, discomfort, and notice it without judging, avoiding, or trying to ‘fix’ anything, the feelings start to shift. The knot in my gut moves to an iron band around my head, which flows into constriction in my sinuses, a panicked clench in my throat. More rapidly than I think possible, they melt.

After maybe ten minute of this, thing are really different. I’m no longer craving a cookie or a Facebook binge. I’m ready to tackle the Big Scary Thing. 

Because the way out of negative feelings is through them.

There is reason to suspect that this applies, in some ways, to chronic pain as well. Research has indicated that taking painkillers in the early stages of recovery from injury may correlate with the development of chronic pain syndrome later on. It’s as though the brain has to experience the injury in order to recover from it.

So I’ve started bringing mindfulness to my massage clients, as an experiment. When we hit a problem spot, I encourage you to be with your sensations, as far as possible, without judging, avoiding or trying to change them. Preliminary results indicate that pain starts to melt then, too.

Let’s see what happens. 

Permission to Wallow


Even if you haven’t said anything, I see you.

Even if you don’t want to bother anyone, because it’s more of the same, and people’s patience is bound to give out.

Even if depression is a cliche, even if it’s seasonal, even if you have damn good reason.

Your brain, evolutionarily speaking, DOES have damn good reason for balking, this time of year. Psychologists say that situational depression is the body’s way of conserving energy when continued struggle would be counterproductive. Depression helps the immune system heal wounds and fight infections. And obsessively replaying Life’s Worst Moments in your head (‘rumination,’ for the less blatantly abject) helps you discover what patterns of behavior might be ripe for change.

And there can be a certain joy in wallowing. Because allowing yourself to feel ALL the feels can be the quickest path to moving through the crappy ones.

So if you are full of grief, anxiety, anguish, despair–I see you. Put on the Depression Playlist. Lie face down on the floor. Go to the woods, stare at the sky and weep. Write the words you will burn.

And trust that even in the darkness, you are held.

The Biochemistry of Rage

CW: sexual assault

When I was in my early twenties, a friend of mine started having neurological problems. Intermittent, acute idiopathic pain, fatigue, and intermittent paralysis. Doctors could not find a cause. Some accused them of making it up to get attention.

At the same time, this friend started having flashbacks. Memories, long buried, of repeated sexual abuse by a relative, at a very young age.

They spoke up about the abuse. After some battles, they were even believed. The abuser was prevented from abusing others.

Over time, the neurological problems got worse. Many diagnoses were proffered and rescinded. They spent more and more time in a wheelchair.

The experiences of this friend, and of many others, inspired me to study alternative healing, particularly the relief of chronic pain. Over the years I heard countless variations on this story. Childhood abuse, adult disease and disability.

So when, in 2012, the results of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study were made public, it validated a suspicion of mine. As the study indicated, childhood trauma can disrupt the structural development of the neural network, and the biochemistry of endocrine systems. This can have far-ranging health consequences in adulthood, correlating with everything from heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and emphysema, to behavioral and mental health issues like alcoholism and depression.

Trauma disrupts the nervous system. 

If you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you might have been able to avoid the avalanche of people telling their sexual assault stories, in the wake of allegations against Harvey Weinstein. After a few days of it, I got off social media.

Because the guys complaining about people expressing their feelings were a little much.

As if feelings aren’t reality.

Feelings, as I understand from decades of professional experience, are data. Feelings are biochemistry. Feelings are a language more truthful, rational and compelling than any amount of intellectual rationalization.

And when I hear the feelings of millions of traumatized people dismissed as so much whining, I get kind of enraged.

It’s that kind of language that keeps abusers comfortable. It’s that kind of talk which keeps victims quiet. And it’s an ontological lie, told in order to maintain a status quo which is monstrously destructive.

Because every human being will experience trauma. It’s built into the system. What causes unnecessary trauma is trying to ignore and suppress the body’s natural response to it. Emotions are tunnels, which we have to traverse in order to build resilience.

I spend my days coaxing people’s bodies to release unprocessed trauma.

And I don’t have much patience with those who try to shut them up.




Satirical Aerobics

For years I have had a dream.

It strikes me that most exercise videos are excessively earnest. Perky! Sincere! Cheerleader-esque!

There seemed to be few, if any, home workout routines for people with a healthy sense of irony, and a taste for the absurd. My people.

For too long I lacked the time, the equipment, and the chutzpah to make an ass of myself, without losing 30 lbs and an ankle brace or two.

But now–thanks to the unremitting skill and attention of Terry McHugh of NovaCare Physical Therapy, and Dawn of MotherHeart Studio–my chronic knee and ankle injuries are so well-healed that I can skip, sauté and bourreé to the satisfaction of all my kitchen appliances, and the total expense of dignity.

Because nothing hurts.


Lazy, Self-Indulgent Workaholics

I’m signed up for a lot of Inspirational Mailing Lists. My inbox is inundated with a symphony of earnest healers and coaches, all urging me to “Slow down to speed up! Take some time for reflection! Don’t be busy for the sake of it!

If they only knew.

Sometimes I think the systems I’ve created in order to structure my life as a single mother, owner of two businesses, and aspiring author threaten to overtake the work that they purport to enable. I work out, meditate, fill out my Six Big Rocks, journal, network, research, interview, write self-indulgent blog posts, host my spiritual community, and lie on my foam roller. It’s a wonder I get anything done at all, in the cracks between striving not to be busy.

So I often feel that these missives I send to you, my beloved friends and colleagues, are redundant in the extreme. “Take some time for self-care,” I urge you, over and over. Yeah, duh.

But then it occurs to me that there’s still a voice in my head telling me that I’m going to wind up a bag lady because I got a massage on my friend’s birthday, and took another friend to a Korean spa, the very next weekend. That my business is going to fail because I went to the gym after bus stop drop-off and didn’t get to the office until 11AM. That I shouldn’t start taking care of myself until my debts are paid off and I’ve got a six-month cushion in my bank account.

And that, I think, is because all the unspoken cues I’ve received since birth have been along the lines of “work harder, not smarter,” because otherwise, there’s no telling what will become of me. That’s the culture of the good ol’ US of A.  That’s how Tim Ferriss can sell you lazy as a lifestyle while living the opposite.

Lack of self-care, in other words, is the norm.

So here’s something I learned from an Inspirational Coach. When your brain tells you something like, “I shouldn’t go get a massage, because that’s lazy, self-indulgent, and I can’t afford it,” stop. Ask your brain, “Is it true? Am I absolutely sure that it’s true? What is this thought giving me? Who would I be without this thought?”

And then proceed accordingly.





Doing Voodoo On Your Spine (Not)

In the fifteen years since integrating Reiki with my bodywork sessions, I’ve only had one client get creeped out by it.

Oddly, she was a craniosacral therapist, and thus (I thought), should have known better. Craniosacral therapy, like other forms of “energy work,” is..subtle, and attracts attention from Quackwatch. The practitioner puts her hands on your head with surpassing gentleness and does…almost nothing.

People often get substantial relief from pain and other symptoms after receiving it, however, so craniosacral therapists continue to make a living.

My clients seem to respond to the Reiki, so I keep using it. My current theory about why it works is one part subtle stimulation of the nervous system, triggering a relaxation response, and one part placebo effect. If I want to visualize a healing purple light pouring through my hands and intelligently directing itself toward my clients’ malaise, well, it keeps me entertained. And lots of people like that sort of thing.

But after the craniosacral therapist became visibly uncomfortable, I stopped the Reiki immediately and checked in with her after the session. Respecting my clients’ boundaries is a top professional responsibility, and I let her know it. We’re cool.

The interesting thing to me, however, is that subtle forms of therapy often seem to be as effective as more aggressive treatment, if not more so. There’s still lot we don’t know about the nervous system. Often all the body needs in order to heal itself is the tiniest little nudge, where all the manhandling in the world does nothing.

On The Bleeding Edge of Science


Twenty years ago, a friend of mine stopped being able to walk.

It happened intermittently. She’d be fine for a few weeks or months, then collapse. She had intense pelvic pain that doctors couldn’t find a reason for. Some thought she was faking it and sent her to the psych ward, or gave her a catheter without anesthetic “to teach her a lesson.”

No doctor, as far as I know, asked her if she had a history of childhood abuse.

Then came the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experience study (ACE), a study of 17,000 adults which correlated long-term health outcomes with childhood trauma. It suggested that certain experiences are risk factors for leading causes of illness and death–as well as poor quality of life, including idiopathic pain. Chronic, high-intensity stress in childhood, it seems, can  re-engineer your nervous system, and not for the better.

In my bodywork practice, my biggest source of fascination and frustration is “mystery pain,” often accompanied by “mystery fatigue.” I can get a little obsessed. In trying to solve the problem of why a client is in pain, exhausted, dizzy, depressed, anxious, can’t walk properly, or gets “pins and needles” for no apparent reason, I’ve researched not only musculoskeletal problems, such as injuries, arthritis, disc disease, spinal stenosis and spondylitis, but also adrenal fatigue, chronic Lyme, and any nervous system illness we have a name for, including every type of sclerosis that they thought my friend had, and then ruled out.

And I keep going back to the ACE study. All the TED talks and spin-off studies and New Health Initiatives focus on prevention, which is splendid. But what about people whose nervous systems are already kerflucked? Is there any way to help them?

Answer: I don’t know.

We know the nervous system is plastic; it can be rewired, to a certain extent. We know that PTSD is treatable. Could we develop a protocol in cases of idiopathic pain and fatigue syndrome, otherwise known as Nobody Knows Why I’m Kerflucked?

Because the danger in addressing an undiagnosable problem in a holistic way, is that you may be attacking it at the wrong level. You can’t heal a broken leg by changing your mindset. Too many holistic practitioners make claims that aren’t backed up by research. As a colleague noted when she said, “I don’t know any other massage therapists quite like you.”

So I keep asking questions. I keep reading research. And I keep up my attempts to hack into your nervous system, and tell it there’s no cause for alarm.

A Pansy Grows in Philadelphia

When I was struggling with a partner who was chronically unemployed, Kate Jesuele put me in boxing gloves, turned up the boom box, and told me, “Leave it all on the bag.” Two weeks later I kicked him out.

When I was having panic attacks after separating from my partner, Terrie Lewine of Back to Life Wellness Center said, “Come to my office.” She did something subtle and magical to my spine. Two hours later I was grounded, calm, and functional.

When I was stalled in my process from years of upheaval, Dawn Mehan of Motherheart Studio gave me a private yoga class. “I’ve never felt so nurtured,” I told her. I left her studio feeling forty pounds lighter.

All of these healers thanked me. They thanked me.

In sixteen years of practice, I’ve come to understand that any treatment is only as good as the client allows it to be. Healing isn’t something that can be imposed; it can only be received. It makes a healer’s day when you accept what they offer, and run with it.

Every one of my clients is a healer, whether you know it or not. You are healing yourself and the world by allowing yourself to connect and be nurtured.

It’s an honor to know you.

The Trash Heap of the Soul


Ten weeks ago, our new back yard was a weed-choked wasteland.

We moved in late April; it took a couple of weeks to unpack. By the time we tackled the yard, it was already late in the season. We turned over some beds, threw down some seeds, bunged in a few starters (“bunged’ is a word. P.G. Wodehouse uses it ALL THE TIME), and took a hose to the whole mess.

Two months later, we are battling a jungle. Note to self: never plant the whole packet of pumpkin seeds.

At the same time, I’ve been doing a daily meditation practice, based on Joey Klein’s “The Inner Matrix.” This week’s exercise involves bringing a “higher vibration emotion” to a “lower vibration situation.”

This made me nervous. I was afraid I’d find out what a jerk I was. Leaving my partner in rage and frustration, just because he’s been voluntarily unemployed for seven years? Even though we have a wonderful daughter to raise? Maybe I wasn’t LOVING ENOUGH. Maybe if I’d been more patient, things would have turned out differently.

So, in trepidation, I brought the energy of unconditional love to this situation.

And to my very great surprise, I saw myself lovingly, calmly and decidedly leaving him, five years sooner than I actually did. Because staying in an abusive situation isn’t loving–to myself.

It amazes me, how fast and how huge my “starters” are growing. I didn’t expect such soil fertility in a vacant urban lot. “Maybe it was a midden,” suggested another gardener.


“Garbage heap,” she explained.

Nothing is wasted. It all goes back into the ground and comes back as roses, eggplants, tomatoes and giant man-eating pumpkin vines. And when you love yourself, things turn out okay.