Besides blogging here, I have had a private bodywork practice in Austin, Texas, USA, for years.
One area that I specialized in was relieving jaw pain. I developed a 5-session protocol (done over 4-6 weeks) that helped hundreds of people over the years. That work included working in people’s open mouths to release tension in the small, hard-to-access internal jaw muscles.
Well, COVID put an end to working in people’s open mouths in a small room, in a office suite that treats medically vulnerable people.
I thought about giving it up.
But when I thought about all I’d learned over the years about treating jaw pain, and how much pleasure I got when people felt the difference between tense jaw muscles and spacious ones, I looked for a way to continue to offer the revelation of a spacious jaw that so many patients experienced.
Plus, at this unusual time in history, stress levels are high, which translates to more clenching, grinding, tooth damage, and pain.
Current Austin stats: over 22,000 cases, 287 deaths. The number of daily positive cases has declined from over 700 in June to less than half that since late July.
Austin appears to be doing better than other large Texas cities.
I am still not doing bodywork.
That just doesn’t feel safe any more, especially given that more than half the sessions I gave included working inside the mouth.
That’s very risky in these times.
So…I’ve been working on creating an online course, Self-Help for Jaw Pain. It will be a 5-class series offered on Zoom. I hope to get going in September. ]
The coolest thing about the class is that I don’t know that it’s ever been done before: a course that teaches people with pain and tension in their jaws to work on themselves, working inside their own mouths to release tension in the never-touched but overworked internal jaw muscles.
That is often a revelation, based on my experience of having given over 500 TMJ Relief sessions and consultations since 2018. (I started doing intra-oral sessions in 2013 but switched from paper to electronic records in 2018 and haven’t sorted my records from 2013 through 2017.)
The course will also address factors that predispose people to experience jaw pain: strain patterns, stress, and habits such as clenching and grinding.
Changing these habits will keep jaw pain from progressing.
I’ve worked on so many people (who’ve paid way more than this class costs) who have lived with jaw pain for a decade or longer.
This kind of suffering is optional.
Please help spread the word.
The first class will be limited to 8 students and will be offered at a low price, so I can learn and tweak It as needed.
I will post more here when I’m a bit further along in course development.
Anyone with jaw pain who’s interested can also check out my Facebook group, Word of Mouth: Resources for Relieving Jaw Pain/Dysfunction.
When I started doing distance sessions at the beginning of the COVID lockdown in March, I would feel energy pouring out of my hands just as I would when doing bodywork with someone in my office, even though the receivers were sometimes in other states.
I didn’t know what to do with it at first with no body in front of me, but I definitely understood it was an indication of me being in a resourced state for healing.
In the 27-hour intensive course I just completed in Long Distance Healing, the instructors called this phenomenon “energy hands”.
It’s fairly common for bodyworkers to experience this energy flowing out their hands, especially when the type of bodywork they practice includes deep listening with their hands, as do craniosacral therapy and Reiki, or if they are also trained in some types of yoga or meditation that cultivate this kind of awareness.
(By the way, distance healing is not craniosacral therapy, which always includes physical touch, and some craniosacral skills transfer over to distance healing.)
With my distance receivers, I started placing my energized hands on the area of the body the receiver had identified as wanting attention.
Paying attention is the most basic and profound expression of love.
Usually an identified area is experiencing some form of disconnect from the healthier parts of the body. It’s not necessary to recall the original reason for disconnecting, and in fact the mind may get in the way, but it may help to understand that your intelligent body-mind system was working to protect the rest of you when something happened (physical or emotional or both) in that area, and you may not need that protection any longer. The energy involved in keeping the identified area separate and contained can be freed and returned to the whole system.
Receivers said they would begin to feel changing sensations in the identified area: for example, the area would change shape or temperature, pain would lessen or disappear, tension would soften, and sensations would become more diffuse, possibly move to another area, or even bounce around (“Hey, you’re finally looking at me! Yippee!”).
Although our bodies are constantly healing themselves below our level of awareness, in these sessions, receivers often sense the healing as it occurs.
To be clear, I don’t heal you. Your own cellular intelligence is the healing power. I show up for you in a resourced state (built on years of yoga, meditation, and studies in how healing works), which your system can entrain to. I show up with presence, curiosity, and support, as an ally and a witness, with an intent (shared with you) for healing to take place, but no agenda about how that will happen, because it’s your body, your history, your awareness, and your healing. I just facilitate.
I have not yet worked with anyone who did not experience a change for the better. I’ve worked with people trying their first energy healing session after Western medicine was unable to explain or treat their issue without drugs, and I’ve worked with people who are deeply aware somatically.
We practiced with partners during the training, placing energy hands on our partner’s shoulders and having them say when they felt them and whether they wanted the touch to be more intense or diffuse, and then disconnecting and switching partners.
We also did this with the adrenals, which pump stress hormones into our systems, since most of us are feeling some stress and anxiety because of COVID, the economy, our culture, the future, etc.
When my partner held my adrenals, after about a minute, I felt my autonomic nervous system down-regulate into a deeper parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. That’s another benefit of working with energy hands. I can put my energy hands inside your body, not just on the skin.
I want to do more distance healing sessions. These sessions are collaborative, empowering, use a lot of dialogue, and are based on consent. I cannot do anything to you that you do not allow.
If you’re wondering what it’s about and would like to try it, I’m offering sessions on a donation basis for a limited time. Look at what it’s worth to you, what you can afford, and donate accordingly.
I know some readers are skeptical. After half an hour, if you don’t think it’s doing anything for you, we will end the session without your donation.
Another review after a distance healing session. This woman was the first recipient I’d never met before. She lives in Indiana and was referred to me by a former client who moved there from the Austin area.
Before this session, I had a strong hunch that the distance apart doesn’t really matter, nor does having met someone in person. This confirmed it.
“I am fairly new to energy work and had been in a good amount of pain when I contacted Mary Ann. Through a distance energy healing session, she guided me through a process of understanding my pain and communicating with it in a way that brought me a lot of relief. She also taught me how to continue using these techniques on my own. Because it was a distance session, Mary Ann and I communicated throughout the process and she brought me into the experience in a way that was extremely empowering!” ~ N.V., 5/6/2020
I have been doing some distance energy healing sessions since it’s not safe to do hands-on bodywork during the quarantine, and I like working. I’m not sure when I will be going back to doing hands-on work in my office.
I did practice sessions on a couple of friends to gain experience and come up with a general process, and then I let my bodywork clients know I was offering them.
I’ve been getting good results!
Today was the first day I worked on someone I’ve never met. She was referred to me by a former client who moved away.
Sometimes it’s even more powerful to work at a distance than it is to work in person.
I work from my home, sitting on a meditation cushion next to a yoga mat on which I visualize the recipient. I encourage recipients to lie down comfortably in their homes and to set aside the 60- or 90-minute session time to be uninterrupted.
We use our phones (on Speaker mode) to communicate verbally.
It’s interesting that my hands are as full (or even more full) of energy in these distance sessions as they are working in person.
I have a big toolbox that I can draw on, as needed: empathy, compassion, curiosity; training and experience in craniosacral therapy, somatoemotional release, the healing process, Reiki, Zero Balancing, anatomy, physiology, psychology, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming; long-time practices in yoga and meditation; experience receiving distance sessions; and years of doing bodywork (of which energy work is always a part).
Each recipient and I create a shared field of intent focusing on healing. The body-mind system wants to heal! We stay in this field throughout the session. Although each recipient has their own issues, the process is similar: finding a focus, exploring, allowing change to occur.
If you should feel moved to experience this, these sessions are available on a sliding scale basis: $30-100 for 60 minutes, and $50-130 for 90 minutes. Pay using PayPal or Venmo.
My friend, international NLP trainer Katie Raver, has put together a series of 15 one-hour programs, given by NLP-trained people who variously work as coaches, teachers, researchers, healers, entrepreneurs, therapists, and more.
These online programs will take place at noon CDT every weekday for three weeks, starting Monday, April 13. That’s 10 am Pacific, 11 am Mountain, 1 pm Eastern time, and 1800 British Summer and 1900 CEST if you’re across the big pond.
The programs are intended to share resources during these times. If you’re a parent, partner, friend, working from home, spending too much time online, feeling anxious, not feeling resilient, wondering if you’re drinking too much, etc., you can find something here to help.
Quality and length of sleep affect the immune system. If you don’t get enough sleep or enough good quality sleep, you’re more likely to get sick from a virus, and it can slow your recovery.
While you sleep, your innate immune system releases cytokines (interferons, interleukins, growth factors). Some cytokines protect you from infectious illness, and lack of sleep reduces production. Antibody production, part of the adaptive immune system, also decreases due to sleep deprivation.
So get enough sleep (adults generally need 7-8 hours), and get good quality sleep to keep your immune system working well.
We can check in with ourselves when we wake each morning (always a good idea) to see if we feel rested or not. This is the biggest indicator of “enough good sleep,” but you may be wondering how to measure quality sleep.
I wear a Fitbit watch that monitors my sleep through movement (rolling over) and heart rate variability. Every morning when I wake up, I first tune into how rested I feel. Then I look at my sleep stats. I aim to get at least 7 hours, and I usually do.
Time asleep matters. I know I do best if I get 7 to 7.5 hours. I’m not using an alarm, so I let myself sleep as long as I want. I often awaken early but keep still with my eyes shut to see if I can go back to sleep, and I usually do.
I imagine lots of people are doing that while sheltering in place.
Fitbit measures sleep quality by duration and percent time spent in each of the three levels of sleep: light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. It also measures how often I awaken during the night. From all that, Fitbit creates a sleep score. I hope to get 90 or better, but usually my score is in the upper 80s. I’m working on it!
We sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes, cycling between light sleep and deep sleep during the first part of the night, and cycling between light sleep and REM sleep in the later part of the night. We also awaken briefly, or for longer, multiple times during the night, usually about 5 percent.
We spend about 50 percent of total sleep time in light sleep. Our temperature drops. Our heart rate and breathing slow. Our muscles relax and may jerk. We can be awakened more easily.
We spend about 20 percent in deep sleep. Getting enough deep sleep is connected to feeling rested in the morning. It’s restorative. Our brainwaves slow way down. Our brain actually cleans itself during this stage. Tissue growth and cell repair take place. Blood pressure drops, and blood flow to muscles increases. It’s more difficult to awaken from deep sleep.
REM sleep takes up about 25 percent of sleep time. We dream during REM sleep, even if we don’t remember dreaming. The brain wave pattern of REM sleep is closer to wakefulness. This stage is where memory consolidation, problem-solving, and learning occur. Respiration and heart rate increase. Brain activity is high. The body becomes immobile to keep us from acting out our dreams (usually).
Sleep patterns change with age. As we get older we usually get less deep sleep. Some older adults take longer to fall asleep, spend less time in REM sleep, and wake more often during the night. Sleep may begin earlier in the evening, with waking occurring earlier in the morning.
Anxiety Affects Sleep
It’s especially relevant that the anxiety so many are experiencing because of the COVID pandemic may be robbing us of good quality sleep when we really, really need it.
We may be anxious about getting sick or about our loved ones following health guidelines or getting sick. We may be anxious about hospitals being overwhelmed.
Personal finances may have drastically declined.
For some, food and shelter and peaceful co-existence with others in the home are major issues.
Uncertainty about how long this pandemic could last, how long it may take the economy to recover, politics nearly everywhere, mixed messages from medical experts and politicians can keep us awake at night.
How can you improve the quality of your sleep in the time of corona? There are a lot of ways, and I’d love to hear what works for you.
For me, when dealing with my own anxiety, I recognize that it’s in my mind and it’s about the future. These are thoughts that may or may not happen. I realize how fortunate I am to have a home, food, family nearby, friends, and enough income to know I won’t starve.
And then I bring my attention to my body. I notice my breathing. I notice sensations, of textures and temperature and weight, of muscle tension and relaxation, of discomfort. I try to feel my heart beating in my chest.
It’s very calming and helps me fall asleep quickly. Turning off my mind like this took some practice.
What Helps Me Get a Good Night’s Sleep
I am admittedly not a person who loves routine. I don’t have much of a bedtime routine. I don’t put my screens away an hour before bed, but I do stay away from disturbing news late in the day.
I get tired anywhere between 9:30 pm and 12:30 am, though those are extremes. I usually go to bed about 11.
I use a sleep mask because some light leaks in through my curtains.
I don’t drink caffeine after 1 pm.
I put together a playlist of binaural beats for delta brain waves (deep sleep), and I listen to that using headphones sometimes. (Honestly, I’m not sure it makes much difference.)
I get some exercise every day, whether it’s taking a yoga class online, participating in ecstatic dance online, or simply walking. According to the National Sleep Foundation, even light exercise like a 10-minute walk can improve sleep quality.
I get outside and get some sunlight every day, unless it’s raining. Morning sun on my skin feels great and gives me more Vitamin D, which helps immunity.
I often drink a cup of bone broth in the evening, and I take my magnesium in the evening.
I take two supplements, both from Premier Research Labs, with whom I have a practitioner account. Tranquinol is a capsule that improves deep sleep, and Melatonin-ND is a liquid that improves REM sleep.
What helps you sleep better?
Catching Up on Austin COVID Stats
Austin implemented sheltering in place on March 24, so today, April 7, is Day 14.
You may have read in the news about the 70 UT students who chartered a plan to Baja California for spring break and took commercial flights back. Forty-nine of them have tested positive as of 3 days ago.
Zip code 78705, the area west and north of UT that houses many students, has 55 verified cases, the most of any zip code in the county. The 20-29 age group still has the highest number of cases of any age group in the area. It’s a younger city demographically.
Today is Day 2 of sheltering in place in Austin, Texas. We had 119 known cases as of last night (but no deaths so far), and we know the virus is being transmitted in the community. No one I know has it so far, that I’ve heard, but friends and relatives of friends do. The number of cases will almost certainly go up over the next two or three weeks. The hope is that then the number of cases will start declining because of first, social distancing, and now, sheltering in place.
For me, this means staying home, which I have been since Saturday, and for the week before, my outings were rare. I’ve ordered groceries online and picked them up. I have a wonderful daughter who can pick items up and bring them to me. I have groceries enough to last for at least a week, and I’m keeping a list on the fridge door of the items I run out of that I can get next time I shop (which will probably be online to be delivered or picked up curbside, but I do have a mask and gloves in case I need to venture inside a store). My fridge, freezer, and nonperishable shelves are full.
I feel pretty good about my chances of getting through this without getting sick, or of being mildly ill if I do get it. I had a cold in October that was mild and lasted two days, and I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d previously had a cold. My immune system is robust.
However, it’s unpredictable. I’m in the 60+ population and therefore considered at risk. I do yoga and dance regularly (now doing these online), I eat healthy (organic unprocessed food mostly), and I meditate, which helps keep my nervous system more balanced rather than going into stress, which is hard on the immune system. I’m working on improving my sleep, getting more deep and REM sleep according to my Fitbit.
I take really high quality supplements from Premier Research Labs and Wellevate. (I have practitioner accounts with both that you can order through if you wish.) I have homeopathic remedies on hand too. I have health insurance should I need it, and I hope that if I do, the health care system isn’t overwhelmed and can tend to me. I’m very very fortunate and grateful.
Y’all, no one is immune. This virus targets humankind. It’s a great equalizer. It doesn’t respect fame, power, talent, or riches. Movie stars, professional athletes, famous artists, royalty, and politicians have come down with it. Because it’s novel, no one has immunity, except those who have completely recovered from it.
I’m hearing people say things like “What a year this past week has been” and “there are many days in a day.” We’re in a time of rapid change.
I believe when this pandemic is over, some aspects of our lives will not go back to the way they were. This will influence people living through it for the rest of our lives. We will not take our health for granted. We will better understand the relationship between lifestyle and health. We will require that our governments take actions that support our health over corporate profits.
Dead people don’t buy stuff.
I hope the biggest takeaway is that we humans are ALL connected through our humanity. We are all dependent on this planet for our lives. Maybe we will treat each other, and our home planet, much better.
Blessings for health, immunity, resiliency, resourcefulness, and connection. 💚🙏🏽
Dear readers, I hope you are staying grounded during this time of uncertainty and fear. I recommend going outside in your bare feet and walking around on some grass, as often as you need.
Feel your feet sink slightly into the earth with each step. Enjoy the temperature, textures, and other sensations in your feet.
Imagine this connection with Mother Earth moving up your legs, into your torso, touching all of your tissues, permeating all of your cells, and leaving your body through the crown of your head.
You are connecting to earth and to heaven! This energetic experience is about being fully alive in the present moment. It’s a renewing and restorative antidote for upsetting news, conflict on social media, fears for ourselves and our loved ones, worry about our uncertain futures.
After checking with other craniosacral therapists, I’m changing the name of my new online service to Phone Sessions. Bear with me as I navigate this rapid change…
Quite a few CST practitioners are adamant that working remotely is not craniosacral therapy. (Plus the words “remote” and “distance” counter the connection we make, even when we’re not in each other’s physical presence. “Phone” connotes connecting with each other, but not physically. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing.)
This attitude is coming both from those who are Upledger-trained and those who are biodynamics trained.
I’ve trained in both, and I’ve trained in Reiki, which can be done at a distance.
In my ninth year of offering bodywork, I can only say that when I work, everything I’ve ever trained in and experienced while working informs my work. What I’m using at any given moment is what’s in the forefront of my awareness.
That could be what I’m sensing in my body, what I’m sensing in your body, what I’m sensing in our blended energy fields, where your body-mind system draws my attention and hands, changes I notice during a session. “The work” flows through me, and through you.
A few years ago, it became clear to me that I could not do bodywork without also being aware of my energy, your energy, the energy in the room, and the power of intent to influence energy.
This may sound woo-woo to some, but for me, energy is real and can be sensed, usually as subtle sensations, but sometimes not so subtle. It is described in the ancient traditions, yoga, meditation, Qi gong, shamanism, Chinese medicine, and Ayurveda.
We have energy centers and channels in our bodies. We have awareness. We have intent.
Anyway. Other practitioners are calling it energy work, remote healing, distance sessions, shamanic energetics, etc.
I prefer Phone Sessions. Clear and simple and not too woo-woo.
I stay on the phone with you during sessions, even though there will be some periods of silence during the call that allow “the work” to go deeper.
We can use speakerphone. I want you to feel free to share what’s coming up for you in real time, if you wish, and of course, you can also wait to share your experience for the end of the session.
If you receive a benefit, schedule another session and pay what you can or what you wish via Venmo or PayPal.
Some people are unaffected financially by this slowdown, and others have quickly become destitute. I leave it to you to determine what is an honorable amount that you feel clear and good about. No need for guilt or shame, please!
I’ve run into this issue before: if you absolutely hate to hear “pay what you can or wish”, here are some numbers to make you happy. My regular rate is $100 an hour. If you can afford it, great. If not, sliding scale is $20 on up. If that’s not affordable, let’s talk about bartering or paying it forward.
Once you’ve received a session, you can gift sessions to others. I prefer that they know and consent to doing this and are open to quietly receiving at the given time, whether we connect on the phone or not if they are sick.
This is not a substitute for medical attention. It is not a cure for the coronavirus, nor will it make you immune. I believe it can give you more resilience, but you may not notice anything. That’s why I’m offering the first session for free, so you can find out.
What would that feel like in your body and in your mind, to be more resilient?
It’s harder than you think, isn’t it? You’re still going to do it because it’s mostly an unconscious gesture. But there are things you can do to change this habit and protect yourself, and it’s important to stay healthy and keep others healthy.
Carry tissues or a handkerchief (remember those?) with you always, or wear a scarf or Buff around your neck. (I love Buffs. You can pull them up over your nose and mouth, keep your hair out of your face, keep your neck warm, protect your thyroid from WiFi/5G, etc.)
As soon as you become aware of touching your face, immediately repeat the same gesture but with a tissue, handkerchief, scarf, or Buff over your fingers.
This will work much better than “don’t touch your face” to train you to become more aware of touching your face! When we hear “don’t x” we hear the action “x” more clearly than we hear “don’t”. An action is something to do, even when we desire not to do it!
So you’ll touch your face unprotected, and then touch your face protected. And…what’s been unconscious becomes conscious.
Keep doing this, and with repetition, you will remember that you want to just touch your face with protection, and you will begin to omit touching your face unprotected.
The more you do it, the more the habit becomes ingrained.