Originally published on allwomenalltrails.com
Over the winter, I had what you might call a ‘crisis of faith’. Even though I felt like my career as a health coach and massage therapist was in line with my values, there was something missing...
On a whim, I went to LinkedIn and put ‘outdoor’ in the search field. A quick scroll brought me to a position ‘Wilderness Instructor’ at the YMCA’s Bold & Gold (boys outdoor leadership development and girls outdoor leadership development) program. “Do you want to make a difference in the world? Do you want to see places in the world that leave you speechless? Do you want to be a part of a supportive inclusive community that embraces differences as something special?” Yes.
And the Wilderness Instructor Position was described as: “This is the person leading, inspiring, and providing a physically and emotionally safe space for our students on our 8-22 day wilderness based expeditions. We are looking for backpackers, climbers, and mountaineers who want to share their experience with young people. If you are a talented educator who thrives in an outdoor setting then click the link below to apply. ” Yes, I thought, YES.
I thought about it, and sent an inquiry to the hiring director asking if I should apply. Although I have been backpacking and hiking for years, I haven’t had any formal outdoor leadership training, nor have I worked with youth or professionally lead any expeditions. The director sent a thoughtful email back to me, and we discovered we had a personal connection: his wife was my teacher during my training to become a health coach. This connection awarded me an ‘in’, and he invited me to apply!
I painstakingly compiled my experience into a resume and cover letter. This included a lot of guesstimating about how many personal trips I’ve planned and executed (a lot), and going back 20 years to when I was a camp counselor and worked briefly at an outdoor education school as a challenge course facilitator (these positions feel like a lifetime ago). I was also reminded that I have a BS in Environmental Science from a liberal arts college (the only thing I remember from that is learning the words ‘crepuscular’ and ‘riparian’). My cover letter passionately described my longing for meaning in my work, and my desire to get back to a calling I’ve felt since my youth. The interview took an hour, and challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting. Questions like, “What do you think are the main two challenges youth face today?” and “What would your enemies like about you and your friends dislike about you?” and “If there was a billboard with your face on it, what would the quote beneath it say?” and “Tell me a joke.” Have you ever worked with underprivileged youth? No. Do you have any experience in a classroom setting? No. Have you ever lead a mountaineering expedition? No. Can you train an outdoor rock climbing curriculum? No.
But I have been planning and preparing backpacking trips for my friends and family for years, I have my First Aid/CPR certification, and understand Leave No Trace protocols. I have a passion for sharing the outdoor experience with others, and I think young girls can be empowered and emboldened by learning outdoor skills. In fact, I feel like if I don’t pursue this now, I will regret it. This is my year. It’s coming 18 years late (many instructors are in their 20s, right out of college, and I’ll be 38), but it feels like something I have to try. I’m prepared to love it or hate it, but I have to try.
The hiring process includes getting a food handler’s permit (which seems comical for outdoor cooking), attending a week-long YMCA leadership training in June, getting my Wilderness First Aid certification, and filling out a spreadsheet of my experience to determine my daily pay scale ($75-$150/day). I’m not in this for the money, but for the experience. I am excited and terrified. It feels SO aligned, I can barely contain myself. Summer can’t come soon enough, but in the meantime, I’m scared for it to come! I will be responsible for the safety and wellbeing of a group of young ladies. The reality is slowly hitting me, and I am humbled that I will have an opportunity to take on this potentially life-altering challenge.
I've heard every excuse in the book for why people don't get massages: 'I don't deserve it', 'I don't have time', 'I can't afford it', 'I'd rather spend the money on my kid'... etc. Does this sound like you? Let me give a little perspective as to why everyone with a body needs/deserves massage.
1- Massage is basic healthcare. We have muscles, tissues, tendons, lymph vessels, skin, a nervous system, and so much more in our bodies that need upkeep. Do you brush your teeth every day? Go to the dentist? Then why wouldn't you do the basic maintenance required for the rest of your body? Massage treats the physical, mental, and emotional body, helps your tissues heal and re-sets your nervous system! Plus it's way more pleasant than going to the dentist.
2- Allocate resources to self-care. The way we spend money is really about prioritizing. When you really want or need something, you make it happen. I like to think of massage as part of my monthly budget, and I make sure to fit it in. Look for package discounts or sliding scale if you need it, but if it's a priority, it will happen.
3- More time. I've had many clients report that after their massages, they feel like they have MORE TIME. I believe that when we do activities that slow us down and bring us into the present, back into our bodies, and away from 'plan, go, future' mode, time has the appearance or effect of slowing down. We bring ourselves into the present moment, and that's all there is, just present moments extending out forever. One client even figured out a complex problem that she had been working on at her desk for hours before coming in for a massage. Once she slowed down, the solution arose without effort.
4- Be more resourced for others. Some people who I witness as being the most 'self-care challenged' are those in care-taking roles themselves (parents, healthcare providers, teachers...). They are in the habit of giving, giving, giving, their time and energy to others. This is, of course, a noble endeavor! But constant giving with no receiving comes at the risk of burnout and exhaustion. When you take time to be more resourced, your cup will feel fuller and you will in return take better care of those around you with less resentment. If you are depleted, can you really give your best self to others?
Unless you really can't stand the thought of being touched (this is true for a small percentage of people), than you deserve massage.
Restore vs Resolve
At the start of a new year, there is a lot of buzz about resolutions. We're in the middle of winter, we're tired from the holiday craze, we're cold and ready for a nap. For me, it's not a time where I want to grab life by the horns and tackle a self-improvement project. It's a time to go inward, rest, and nurture the body, mind and soul. It's a time for restoration, not resolution. This is one reason why I don't do New Year's resolutions.
Resolutions tend to fail
The other reason why I don't do resolutions is that they usually DON'T work. In fact, Forbes reports that only 8% of people achieve their New Years resolutions, and Business Insider says that 80% of resolutions fail by February. Struggle to keep yours?? You're not alone.
My experience with health coaching may help to shed some light on this phenomenon. The biggest problem is that people tend to set goals that are too vague, too big, or too complicated. Maybe you want to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, travel or learn a new skill. While these are great things to aim towards, most of us don't even know where to start. When setting a goal, it's helpful to break larger goals into smaller steps, and to make your goals more specific. Ever heard the term SMART goal? The letters in this stand for:
Specific (set parameters)
Measurable (how much or how many specifically?)
Achievable or actionable (attainable, and I'm ready)
Reasonable (I know I can do it)
Timely (set a timeframe)
A goal that fits these parameters is much more likely to be achieved than one that isn't. For example, if your goal is to eat healthier, try making the goal SMART by saying, "I will eat 3 healthy lunches per week for the next 2 weeks." Or "I will limit my fast food intake from 4 times per week to 1 time per week for the next month." Or "I will only make pizza at home adding vegetable toppings instead of ordering out during the next 3 football games." Or "In the next week, I will find an online nutrition course that fits in my budget of $_____". See how these goals are specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable and timely? Try this with one of your goals and see if it makes it easier.
Try making a one-time goal of doing something you've never done before. Want to watch a sunrise? Get up 3 minutes before the sun rises, step outside, and face east. Done and done! Want to try a new class? Search online for 3 minutes, sign up, and go! Done. Want to make a new dish? Google the dish's recipe, make a list, get the ingredients, and decide when you're going to do it (like, Saturday dinner). Check!
Recommit to YOU. The more you can focus on taking care of yourself and your health and wellbeing, the more successful you'll be in all areas of life, including healthy relationships to yourself, your friends and family, your home, your job, and your food. For me, this means getting a massage, going to acupuncture, doing 10 minutes of yoga in the morning 2-3 times per week, only drinking alcohol on the weekends, and reading a book that is good for my personal growth (like "Steering by Starlight" or "Intuitive Eating"). These aren't goals that just came around because it's January, but a constant, consistent path towards self improvement. I know that I'm always working on goals, big or small. January or not. And I'm taking time to rest and restore.
Still not sure? Contact me for a free 30-minute consultation. In health coaching, we break things down into a 12-week plan, starting where you are, and moving slowly towards your goals with accountability, presence, and forgiveness.
I'm so excited to roll out my newest massage treatment: my Pure Bliss Massage! This will be an elevated experience on all levels. It will work out all your tension, nourish your skin, deeply relax your mind and body, and leave you feeling truly blissed out.
Signature Pure Bliss Massage
This 100-min treatment includes a full-body deep relaxation massage with organic shea cocoa cream, jojoba oil, and CHABA (CBD) cream with optional aromatherapy. You will enjoy a fluffy down comforter on a warm table, and will be covered in hot towels and heating pads. In addition to the deep relaxation massage, your treatment includes reflexology and craniosacral therapy. After your session, you get a 5 minute nap on the table after which you'll be served tea and a hot towel infused with lemongrass.
Introductory rate: $150
'As the lucky recipient of a Pure Bliss massage, I HIGHLY recommend it! Everything about it was simply amazing, my favorites being the soft table, hot towels, delicious scents (cocoa and vanilla), relaxing hand massage, and peaceful craniosacral therapy. Laura's calm demeanor further relaxed me, and she was so attentive to my level of comfort the entire time--yes, for 100 marvelous minutes! I'll be calling her a 'blessed blissologist' from now on!' - blissed out DBM
'I wish I could eat my skin I smell so good!' - blissed out BJ
Allow 2 hours for this treatment. And I don't recommend planning anything productive after your session :)
Don't have time for a 2-hour bliss-out session? Apply the 'Bliss' upgrade to any shorter treatment for only $20. You'll get the hot towels, heating pad, shea cocoa cream, aromatherapy and CHABA. It's a mini-bliss-out when you can't do the full thing.
To book the upgrade, just choose the 60, 75 or 90-min Bliss treatment from the booking website.
Click here to book your Pure Bliss Massage..
This summer I had the opportunity to practice the oft-touted phrase of ‘let go and go with the flow’. My partner, Josh, and I had spent the past few months planning and preparing for a section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I had a 3-year plan to complete each of the 70-150 mile sections in Washington state by 2020. This year we were planning to hike Rainy Pass in the North Cascades to the northern terminus in Manning Park, BC, Canada. I had been pouring over the maps and trail books, studying campsites and water sources, securing Canada border crossing permits, buying supplies and food, calling ranger stations to discuss conditions and permits. My parents flew into town and had lodging secured at the beginning to drop us off and the end to pick us up. Can you guess where this is going?? Yes, we didn’t get to go. Two days before the start of the hike, the section of trail was closed due to wildfires burning near or on the trail. (If you live in the area, you are probably keenly aware of the devastating season of fires we’ve experienced along with the coinciding poor air quality).
The first night I saw the PCT announcement, I have to admit that I didn’t sleep much, woke up in tears, and cried through most of my work day. I felt both angry and sad, along with a feeling of responsibility for the people who had made plans around our trip (mom, dad, Josh and sister). I was wallowing in the loss of a plan that I had spent so much time and energy perfecting. I was so upset; I could not let go. This trip had been my passion for the summer, preparing for this very section of trail, which was now completely off-limits to me due to circumstances way beyond my control. I also didn’t feel confident planning an entirely new trip at this point with only 2 days to prepare, so the sense of loss was heightened.
Here’s the pattern: attachment to a plan, preparation for the plan, loss of the plan, grief. In Buddhism this is described as ‘samsara’: in figurative terms, a cycle of grief, suffering brought on by impermanence and our own attachments.
I know about this cycle, but it doesn’t make the experience of it it any easier. I had to re-group. I discussed the options with my family and decided to re-do a section of trail that we had done 3 years prior, from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass. This, in fact, was the only section of trail that you could currently do to completion due to wildfires burning state-wide. Granted, this plan meant that I didn’t get any closer to my 3-year goal of section hiking the WA PCT, but I had to start focusing on the array of positives that came with the new plan: mom could hike 3 days with us, less threat of smoke and fires, revisit a section we loved, get into my favorite alpine lake, etc. I had to focus on the ‘lotus in the mud’. When I focused on what I had lost, it was all grief. When I shifted my mindset, it was more positive. It took a few days to get there, but I was able to see it for what it was. Had we left two days earlier on the section we had planned to do, we would have been in danger, and most likely evacuated by firefighters part-way in.
In what you could see as irony, or perhaps fate, the trail we did hike took our boots through a burn area from 9 years before. This section took on a ghostly beauty. I know that fires (to some extent) are a natural part of a forest ecosystem, in fact some species of pinecone only release their seed under the stress of wildfire. I was in awe of the abundance of wildflowers growing up from the earth. The tree trunks left standing were white and black with char. But the fireweed, a vibrant purple, was thick and thriving. I appreciated the metaphor for my current situation. Things beyond our control often sweep our grand plans away, and we’re left to see the fireweed making its way in the undergrowth.
What are some of your wildfires?
The Obsession with Control
When one understands
The Truth of Impermanence,
One will cease to be obsessed with
While we all may have trouble sleeping from time to time, extended periods of sleeplessness (either trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep, aka insomnia) can be a real bummer. I suffer from insomnia occasionally, and have discovered that it goes in cycles, either hormonal or seasonal, and can be stress-induced (like after a death, move, or break-up). I’ll go over some common reasons for insomnia, plus a few simple tips for managing it more effectively. One thing that really helps me is to remember that insomnia is not life-threatening, and the more I stress about it, the worse it gets. Each cycle ends eventually, and there are ways to mitigate the negative effects.
The most common causes for insomnia are:
Poor sleep interacts cyclically with many psychological conditions. Insomnia can either be a cause or an effect of anxiety, stress, or depression; and may cause feelings of panic, dread or hopelessness. I interviewed a naturopathic doctor (ND) who specializes in sleep disorders (Catherine Darley), and learned that many doctors have little to no training in sleep. (When I saw my primary care doctor, her only advice was to try an over-the-counter sleep aid.) Of course, it can’t hurt to start with your PCP, but if you aren’t pleased with the results, continue to seek help from other sources until you are satisfied!
Here are some tips to treat mild/occasional insomnia:
Instead of sharing tips and tricks for getting through the holidays, I wanted to just say that in my experience, holidays can magnify the stresses of everyday life, whether it's around time, family, food, money, travel, work, expectations, etc.... in addition to that, being out of your routine can throw off sleep, eating, exercise, you name it. So I won't share my '10 tips for a successfully unstressful holiday'. There are no quick fixes for stress-- it's a life-long journey to be resourced and to understand what you can do for self-care and stress-management year-round.
I realized that a lot of stress in general and especially around the holidays is either an attachment to the past; positive or negative (ie nostalgia OR resentment), or an anxiety around the future (near or distant). The absolute best thing you can do for stress is to re-enter the present moment-- every sight, sound, taste, and sensation of it. Breathe in, breathe out, label everything that crosses through your mind as either a thought, emotion or sensation. Does this sound familiar? It's meditation in action.
Instead of sharing any profound wisdom about the holidays, my best offering is to re-post my deep relaxation practice. Do this type of relaxation and you will reset your brain, body, and emotions, and may find it easier to enter the present moment with ease.
This isn't one more thing on your to-do list, it's one less thing to do.
I recently took a fascinating class on Cannabis and CHABA (Cannabis Health and Beauty Aids) taught by Jen Chan, an LMT and leading activist in the field. CHABA are topical cannabis products that contain less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis). Because of the extremely low levels of THC, these cannabis topicals won't make you high or make you test positive in a drug test for THC. In 2015 Washington State passed a bill (RCW 69.50.575) that takes CHABA off the controlled substance act pertaining to marijuana... that means they can be sold unregulated in retail stores and LMTs can legally use them in their practice! See the law here.
The active ingredient in CHABA is CBD (cannabidiol), a cannabinoid that has analgesic (pain relieving), anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic properties, and none of the intoxicating properties of THC. Project CBD claims,
"Extensive preclinical research and some clinical studies have shown that CBD has strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, anti-tumoral, and neuroprotective qualities."
In other words, there are so many things CBD can treat! Topical CBD products usually come in a cream or gel form. They act directly on the area applied to stop pain at its source (if you're a nerd, read about the Endocannabinoid System here).
Cannabis health & beauty aids may assist in the treatment of chronic and acute pain, arthritis, headaches/migraines, skin conditions (rashes, excema, psoriasis), bruises, sprains/strains, anxiety, depression... they've even been shown to help with nausea and pain of cancer treatment, and to minimize the effects of Parkinsons and MS. Doesn't that sound great??! More medical research needs to be done to prove all of these, but the current research is promising. Come try it out for yourself!
It's the time of year in the PNW where we fill the long days drinking in the sun and heat, smelling of tomato plants and squash, flocking to beaches, lakes and mountains. This summer Josh and I were lucky enough to be out backpacking every other weekend, culminating our summer trips with a 5-day section of the Pacific Crest Trail. My 68-year old trail-crushing mom came along and my sister and brother-in-law joined us for the first 3 days.
For a loooong time, I've been compelled to spend time in nature (Walden Pond, anyone?)... beyond the obvious benefits of getting away from society's tedium, I find that nature vacations are the most comprehensive getaway- boosting healthy thoughts and behaviors, resetting our brains, challenging ourselves physically and mentally, experiencing beauty, and immersing in the quiet. I even read that 'Forest Bathing' is being prescribed as a mindfulness and stress-reduction tool in some societies (duh!)
Here's what I love about spending time in the woods:
"A blade of grass is the journeywork of the stars" - Walt Whitman
1) It's simple. I'm not paying bills, responding to texts or emails, checking notifications or dealing with any of the stresses of daily life. I am simply waking up and walking from here to there. I set up my home in the evening and take it down the next morning. I heat water, I make food, I check a map, I carry everything I need with me on my back. No news, no politics, no notifications. I am untethered.
2) It's beautiful. Every trail has a beauty to it, whether it's the macro: wildflowers, old growth trees, mosses, fungi, deer... or the broad: mountains, alpine lakes, glaciers, meadows... I am in awe of the landscapes around me.
3) It's physical. It's obvious, but hiking is great exercise. I can feel my legs working, my heart pumping- I'm sweating and exhausted when I reach the end of the day. Walking is the most natural form of exercise, and doing it for hours at a time for days in a row feels like I'm working out all of the kinks. Although it's not easy, I come back feeling strong, refreshed and alive. I am amazed at my body's capacity to carry me so far.
It's so simple, so beautiful, so challenging and peaceful. I put one foot in front of the other, I hear my poles clicking against the rocks, I breathe in and out, I laugh with my companions, I lay flat on the ground, I dip in cold water, I see the stars at night. Soon I'll put my pack away until next season, wrap up in scarves and Seahawks gear, and reminisce about the long, hot summer.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” - Henry David Thoreau
I am a lifetime learner and researcher in happy, healthy, fun living.