I recently completed a 4-hour continuing education class in Ethics, Communication, and Boundaries through the Lens of the Nervous System. The instructor based this course around applying polyvagal theory in a massage therapy practice.
I want to share some simple things that anyone can use to reduce stress, because many of us may be feeling jumpy and tense, especially with an election approaching.
Experiment with these and find your favorites — and use them as needed when your stress response is activated!
Making your exhalations longer than your inhalations for a couple of minutes.
Singing and humming.
Orienting to the space you’re in by slowly gazing all around you.
Lifting your gaze and imagining the sun shining on your face, neck, and shoulders.
Finding something that’s pleasing and telling yourself “I am safe and happy”.
Making micro movements, dancing, doing yoga.
Listening to calming music.
Do you find yourself doing any of these without a thought? My mother often hummed when she was washing dishes.
Music and dancing are important parts of my life. I created a playlist of happy music with the help of numerous friends on Facebook who made recommendations. I’m capping it at 100 songs and will post a link to it on Apple Music when I’ve finished listening to everything…a lot of it was new to me.
I have noticed already that some of the happiest-making songs are about dancing!
I have been single for a very, very long time. In fact, since before I turned 30…and I’m 60-something now.
I’ve had relationships, and I’ve also gone for long periods without being in a relationship. Child raising as a single working mother, graduate school, trauma recovery, helping raise my grandchild — sometimes I just didn’t have the time or the energy, or simply preferred solitude, which I benefit from greatly but never got enough of until recent years.
Got to know myself, appreciate myself, entertain myself, live life my way in peace and contentment.
As an introvert (but since people are sometimes shocked that I test as one, maybe I’m an ambivert, sharing qualities of introverts and extroverts), I actually enjoy my own company. I like making good connections with people. I have a few close friends and lot of friendly acquaintances. And I still prefer to spend part of each day in solitude.
I had a couple of relationships in 2019 with men in their late 40s that were fun at times but didn’t work out. Thank you, next, as the song goes.
COVID upended my sense that I never got enough alone time. When the world pretty much stopped in March 2020, I could not practice my work as a licensed massage therapist.
Remember that back then, we didn’t know how bad it might get. I did my end-of-life paperwork, wondering if COVID was going to take me out.
I felt deeply grateful for the people in my life, especially my family and closest friends.
I was at home with myself 24/7. I wore a mask to visit family members, one of whom worked in a hospital, because of my age. We knew then that COVID was harder on older people, but not why. I didn’t want to die or be hospitalized from COVID.
(Fast forward to now, October 2022. I still haven’t gotten COVID. I take good care of myself, am vaxxed and boosted, and I wonder if I’m immune.)
I had a gentleman friend with whom I spent time during COVID. He is a sweet, funny, heart-centered guy, and I was very grateful for his company, sense of humor, hugs, and stories. We are in a couple of communities together and share some interests.
At times I wondered if our friendship would evolve into something deeper, but it didn’t. There were so many unknowns then. I was pro-vax. He was on the fence. Our personalities were different: we were just not a partnership match. We simply gave each other much-needed support and are still good friends to each other.
Now that COVID seems like it’s mostly over (but who really knows?), I am re-evaluating, exploring whether and how I want to be in a relationship — a long-term, committed, partnership type of relationship.
I’m not in a hurry…there’s a lot to explore. I am learning a lot about myself.
I’m reading a book, Calling in “the one”, by Katherine Woodward Thomas, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Guess who “the one” is? It me.
This book was recommended by a therapist, and one friend told me she used it and then met the man who became her husband.
The book is actually a workbook, with homework, that, if you do it every day, takes 7 weeks to complete. I’m doing it as I have time because some days are busier than others and I’d rather explore this topic thoroughly.
In a way, it’s about examining the barriers I have built against loving and being loved. It is guiding me through explorations of my wounds, agreements, beliefs, identity, intention, and wisdom that influence relating.
What are my needs in relationship? How can I make more space for love in my life? How can I know, respect, and love myself the way I’d want a partner to? How can I be the one for someone who has also done their work and is a good match? How can I be the one for myself?
I can live and am living a very fulfilling life already, in many ways. I love the work I do and plan to keep doing it as long as circumstances allow, even into my 90s if I am blessed with that much health and longevity.
I have family members nearby who no longer need me to mother them but whose adult company I enjoy tremendously. And I am fortunate enough to have a few really good friends that are interesting and loving people.
I do believe that having a partner who’s able to match me in needs for both intimacy and autonomy, communication skills, with whom I share some key interests, who’s actually available, could add even more fulfillment to the rest of my life.
So…I’m stepping out of my cocoon, dipping into the dating pool.
One of my practices is ecstatic dance. I discovered it in 1995 in Austin, and it became part of my life. Gabrielle was my primary teacher, through teachers she trained and also in person.
Gabrielle was, well, not the inventor of ecstatic dance, since I’m pretty sure it was happening the moment humans began creating rhythm, perhaps even before then in response to nature’s rhythms, shapes, sounds.
She named these rhythms and sequenced them: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, stillness. A wave.
If you’re not familiar with it, ecstatic dance is not performative. It is about connecting with your own body, moving from the inside out. We dance like nobody is watching.
I have danced with several of the people in this video: Kathy, Lori, Andrea, Vincent, Ya’acov, Jo, Michael, Amara, and I met Robert.
Most of my ecstatic dancing has been here in Austin, which offers many choices now, though we started as Sweat Your Prayers, dancing the 5 rhythms.
I’ve danced in Dallas, Santa Fe, Taos, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz, Maui, London, Montreal, and DC.
My primary teachers have been Claire Alexander, Lisa DeLand, and Oscar Madera.
Ecstatic dance helped me get into my body and move in an authentic and pleasurable way, challenging myself to find all the movements, developing finer coordination and balance, being able to hold my space in a room full of dancers, connecting, becoming part of a community.
Over these many years through this practice, I developed an auditory-kinesthetic synesthesia, in which sound and movement are one. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to tune into my body and let what wants to move, move.
Dancers enjoy the fun of dancing. It’s not intellectual. It’s not serious. We are present and full of vitality, aware and responsive. We show up with who we are. We communicate nonverbally, inviting another to move with us, or moving into our own solo dance, with eye contact (or lack of it), using prayer hands, touch (with consent), bows, moving toward or away, expressing with body language.
We tend to hug a lot, and we’re pretty good at it.
I’m so grateful to have found ecstatic dance and to have practiced it for nearly 30 years. I believe it’s helping to keep me young, and the older I get, the younger I get!
For more of Gabrielle herself, she spoke at length at the Breath of Life Conference in London in 2009, to practitioners of another one of my practices, Craniosacral Biodynamics.
Some years, the temperatures never get below freezing in Austin. In the years when it does freeze, it doesn’t last longer than a few hours. We’re accustomed to 70 degree days in January, not consistently, but warm enough that some younger men don’t even seem to own a pair of long pants.
Not this year. We are breathing Arctic air, experiencing ice, snow, and prolonged below-freezing temps, and many are without heat and water due to the Texas electrical grid being overloaded and shutting down in many places for several days, so far.
I’ve been extremely fortunate that my power has stayed on the entire time.
My central heat is struggling to keep up. I’ve had a large pot of bone broth simmering on my stove day and night, dipping into it for an occasional cup of warm nourishment.
I discovered that a weighted blanket is even better than a sleeping bag at keeping me warm because I can sprawl out underneath it and it holds my body heat in just as well.
It’s chilly at home, but it’s a fun challenge, like winter camping. So far, anyway!
It started when it rained on 2/11 and froze on the bare limbs and twigs of the trees and bushes around my place.
On 2/12, the temperature briefly rose above freezing, and the ice on the branches slowly started melting.
On 2/13 I covered my Meyer lemon tree with a quilt and 3 tarps to prepare for temps in the teens. They’re supposed to be good down to 20 degrees F, but seeing as it’s 6 degrees as I write this on 2/16, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to make it.
We got five inches of snow overnight on Feb. 14-15. It’s the most snow I’ve ever seen in Austin in my many years here, and it’s definitely lingering the longest. The forecast changes slightly from day to day, but it looks like we may get above freezing briefly Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
My four square-foot gardens are covered in snow. Not sure which plants will make it.
From my long-ago experience of an entire January spent below freezing in Oklahoma, it will melt the roads just enough to be passable for a few afternoon hours, and then slick over once temps drop at night. Saturday night will remain above freezing, or so it’s forecast.
It was 4 degrees this morning, and more snow and freezing rain are forecast.
My bird feeder has been super busy with puffed up birdies getting nourishment for all the energy they need to stay alive in these temps.
Well, at nine am, I ran out of propane. My daughter is coming to pick me up, and I’ll stay with her until this cold front is over, probably on Friday.
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.
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.