10 Female Celebs that can teach us about healthy living

We live in a society that is obsessed with celebrities. We follow every minute detail of their relationships, red carpet fashion, jet-setting and high-profile lifestyles.   In the past decade, some female celebs have been on a mission to use their fame to promote healthy goods and services.   They are gaining popularity and reaching a wide audience of women who are eager to adopt these clean habits. As someone who has been using wellness for my well-being for almost 20 years, I am excited to see new awareness and attention on practices such as yoga, meditation, and healthy eating. Here are 10 female celebs that are shining a light on things that make you feel good – and are good for you, too!

  1. Jessica Alba

F5424B7E-5DB2-4EE9-AE9F-E0D21AE6C009 Jessica Alba is known for being a green mom. In 2011, she stared The Honest Company to deliver healthy, safe, non-toxic bath, body & cleaning products. She grew this to a billion dollar company in 4 years.  On Today.com, Jessica shares this about her company: “I’ve been on a quest to create a healthy environment for my family and myself. But I also want our life to be authentic, stylish, and fun, because that’s who we are… It’s the reason I created The Honest Company, so we could all have a single, trustworthy destination for nontoxic household essentials that are also extremely effective (and super cute).”

  1. Gwyneth Paltrow

32330E01-CADB-4128-A260-0C0ACEAC2A2C Academy-award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow launched GOOP in 2008 to share information and recommendations about health, fitness, and the psyche.  Following the success of the blog, she published two cook books:  “Notes From My Kitchen Table” and “It’s All Good.” Paltrow told Harper’s Bazaar U.K. that she almost quit doing GOOP because of all the criticism. “There were a couple of times when I thought, ‘I’m just gonna stop doing it. People are so mean to me. I don’t want to do it…But then I was like, ‘Who cares what some lame person out there says?’ I was in Italy once, and this old man came up to me and said, ‘I had the best time in Nashville because of Goop.’ And that is so worth it to me.”

  1. Alicia Silverstone

FEC3FB31-2D34-45FE-A6BB-ECC4831F592F Alicia Silverstone published “The Kind Diet” and launched the “The Kind Life” website in 2011 to promote a plant-based diet and a conservation attitude. Her approach to parenting includes no vaccines, no commercial diapers, and no meat for her kids. Alicia told The New Potato, “Eating “kind” is about being really, really good to yourself via the foods you put into your body. A plant-based diet filled with delicious whole foods (mother nature’s little miracles) will give you tons of energy, mental clarity, gorgeous skin and a zest for life. The bonus? This kindness also extends to the earth itself; a plant-based diet is much lighter on the planet.”

  1. Gisele Bündchen

B820A2A7-B639-4588-A2FB-0A4F75FFC8A3 Super-model Giselle launched an all-natural, eco-friendly skin care line called Sejaa in 2010 to protect your skin’s natural radiance while also protecting the health and beauty of the environment. Gisele told Vogue: “I wanted to teach girls to love themselves and take care of their bodies. What is the first thing you see every morning? Your face! What do you put every day on your face? Cream! I have made the simplest, purest cream — an everyday cream — but it comes with an affirmation…. be grateful you are here, alive and healthy. “

  1. Cameron Diaz

DBEDEDFF-9538-4D84-BD69-D3C3E445A2DF Cameron Diaz wrote #1 New York Times bestseller “The Body Book” in 2013 to share what she has learned about nutrition, exercise, and the mind/body connection. Cameron was motivated to write the book when she was 39 years old because she kept having conversations with girlfriends who were confused about their bodies.  In this LA Times interview, Cameron explains how her book is different from other self-help books: “We should all be experts in our own bodies and how they function. I want people to be happy and healthy and productive, and you can’t tell them how to do that. They have to learn it themselves, so it all comes back to giving them the basics of how the body functions and letting them figure it out from there. I don’t give a diet or fitness plan. I want people to learn critical thinking to figure out their own plan. Or to be able to look at another plan and understand what parts are right for them and how to adapt it to fit their own needs.”

  1. Carrie-Anne Moss

9ABD41A0-19E9-429F-9488-86E1799CC5F2 Last year, Carrie-Anne Moss, best known for her role of Trinity in The Matrix trilogy, launched Annapurna Living, a website that offers courses focused on meditation. It was her role as wife and mother that inspired her to create a community of women crafting lives that uplift each other. On her website, she says: “My desire is to live in a world where nourishment is valued. I believe a nourished family will lead to a nourished world. I believe life is beautiful and that our divine purpose in this world is to nurture the earth by respecting it and being grateful for what it provides us…My wish is to inspire others to create beautiful, honest and satisfying lives.”

  1. Arianna Huffington

33D4A823-A4AE-4447-B1D0-0DBD6EC89C36 After she woke up in a pool of her own blood, Arianna Huffington realized that it was time to re-define success and make a lifestyle change.   In 2014, she published the best-selling book  “Thrive” and followed it up with a digital course on Oprah.com in 2015 to teach practical ways to meditate, get more sleep, and create a digital detox plan. Arianna tells Darling Magazine: “Thrive was prompted by my painful wakeup call. … I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. ..In terms of the traditional measures of success, which focus on money and power, I was very successful. But I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success. I knew something had to radically change. I could not go on that way. The title of the book reflects my belief that our goal, as individuals and as a society, should be not just to succeed but to thrive.”

  1. Alanis Morissette

313D8636-F2A8-4D3F-A707-8A3D75A5D471 Alanis Morisette has been on a path of personal growth since her 1995 album, Jagged-little pill. She began a spiritual search to answer the big life questions such as “why am I here?” after she realized that material success did not cure her problems or her loneliness.   She studied with many teachers and used mediation, prayer and music to find happiness and balance. In a SoulSunday Oprah interview, Alanis says: “I think happiness is a state, and it’s a temporary state. So, if we’re chasing a temporary state, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.…[Emotions are] like boats to me, and my suffering is dependent upon how quickly I jump into the boat and follow that stream. But if I sit back and watch it, there’s some relief…I wouldn’t call it ‘happiness.’ I would call it ‘the bliss or the joy of consciousness.” If you want to try her approach to happiness, Alanis and friends are hosting a wellness workshop next month in Big Sur, California titled “Hurtling Toward Wholeness.”

9.  Michelle Obama

mobama30n-2-webMichelle Obama has been busy bringing wellness to the White House for the past seven years. In 2009, she planted a garden on the South Lawn and later wrote about her experience of growing fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs in “American Grown.” The following year, she launched Let’s Move!, a nationwide initiative to make kids more active and bring healthier food into schools and communities. Michelle told ESPN that she lives a healthy life not only for herself, but also for her daughters:

“When I get up and work out, I’m working out just as much for my girls as I am for me, because I want them to see a mother who loves them dearly, who invests in them, but who also invests in herself. It’s just as much about letting them know as young women that it is ok to put yourself a little higher on your priority list.”

10. Eva Longoria

eva-langoria-wood-150x200Long before she was famous, Eva Longoria was a personal trainer. She received her degree in Kinesiology from Texas A&M and uses everything she’s learned to stay lean and toned. She is also co-founder of Eva’s Heroes which is an organization dedicated to enriching the lives of young adults with special needs. She recognizes the importance of not only being physically fit but also having a healthy outlook.  She told Health Magazine:

“I love self-help, anything that’s going to move you forward in life… People think health only has to do with your physical being, but for me, it’s so much more. I remember after my divorce, I was so thin and everyone kept saying how great I looked and it was probably the most unhealthy place I’ve ever been. …[But now] I have a great diet and exercise routine. And I try to have a healthy outlook. I’m your everlasting, hopeless optimist!”

Did I miss one of your favorite female health gurus? Tweet your picks to me @GabrielleTV.

Advertisements

5 tips to become Wellness Savvy

wellness-and-balance

We’ve seen a remarkable rise in Wellness promotion and Healthy Living in the past 20 years. It’s as if the whole country woke up one day and realized that the food we were eating and the way we were living needed a major makeover. A decade ago, you would have struggled to find a wellness center, yoga studio or vegan café. Now there seems to be one on every corner.

The rise in awareness and participation is great, but we also have to be cautious about who we trust to give us health and wellness advice. The Guardian recently published this piece about wellness bloggers with no formal training that are dominating the industry. Instead of promoting their qualifications, they publicize their Instagram photos of healthy snacks and yoga poses.   Not all health advice is safe and big lifestyle changes can be risky – especially if we have an underlying medical condition.

I’ve been practicing Holistic Medicine for 15 years and I am convinced that it’s the best form of healthcare. When it comes to wellness advice, here are 5 things to consider:

1. Find a Guru who is also a doctor

Naturopathic physicians graduate from full-time four-year naturopathic medical schools. The doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree requires more than 5,000 hours of training over four academic years. Even chiropractors, massage therapists, and nutritionists have formal education that takes years to complete. Whether you are seeking help for medical problems or just want to improve your well-being, choose a practitioner who has formal training and expertise so that you can receive the best possible care.

2. Yoga can hurt you

I am a huge fan of yoga. I am dual-certified in Kundalini & Jivamukti Yoga. But yoga can lead to injuries and long-term disabilities if it is not practiced correctly. In this controversial NY Times article, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, students share some scary stories about the permanent damage they did in yoga class. If you are going to practice yoga, check the qualifications of your instructor and ALWAYS listen to your body. Pain means stop! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

3. Meditation can be risky

I’ve been practicing mediation for 20 years and it has been one of the most healing experiences of my life – but I’ve had many teachers and mentors to guide me along the way. For the first few months of my practice, I was overwhelmed with grief – the tears would not stop flowing. My teacher explained that it is natural for meditation to release suppressed emotions and I should talk to someone about the feelings that were coming up. If you are embarking on a journey of contemplative practice, you may experience fear, confusion, disassociation and other unusual symptoms. You are not going crazy!   Find a trained practitioner or therapist to help you process your experience.

4. Not all diets are created equal

Atkins, Macrobiotics, Paleo, Vegan – there is a trendy new diet surfacing every few months. We cut out carbs and eat lots of meat. Then we cut out meat and eat lots of veggies. These changes have a big impact on the physiology and psychology of the body and we can experience dramatic changes in energy, mood, digestion and more when we mess with our diet. The best source of nutrition advice comes from professionals who do bloodwork and other testing to determine the best food and supplements for our unique needs. Each body is made differently and there is no one-size-fits-all diet that is good for everyone.

5. Just because it says “Natural” doesn’t mean that it’s good for you

Natural and Organic products have become a billion dollar industry. You’ve probably heard of Burt’s Bees balms and lotions, Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and even seen the new Green Coke bottle in the supermarket. But despite their organic image, Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox, Tom’s toothpaste was bought by Colgate and Coca-Cola Life is still jam packed with sugar and chemicals. If you want to know whether or not something is truly organic, look for the green-and-white “USDA Organic” seal or check the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

You can minimize your risk of illness or injury and enjoy better health with this safe, smart approach to wellness.   If you have any other tips about wellness products or services, tweet them to me at @GabrielleTV.

The Future of Health and Medicine is Here!

Remember those sci-fi movies like Minority Report where Tom Cruise is operating his computer in mid-air with virtual reality technology?   Or when Keanu Reeves has a secret stash of information implanted into his mind in Johnny Mnemonic? Well, this isn’t just fiction anymore. Virtual reality, telemedicine, robotics, and even our smart phones are revolutionizing healthcare.   Every day, companies are releasing cutting-edge products that promise longer life, better health and easier access to life-changing information and services.

From mental health to grinding our teeth, technology is changing where, when and how we access healthcare.  You may have already experienced this if you are one of the millions of people who are tracking your health with a Fitbit bracelet or the Health app on your iphone. For the past 20 years, I have been fascinated by the way that technology impacts humanity. Everyday, I read hundreds of articles and blogs about health and medicine to find the best practices that are shaping the healthcare landscape. Here are 10 new technologies that blow my mind:

1. Holographic Medicine 

Microsoft and Case Western Reserve University have partnered to demonstrate how HoloLens can be used to teach medicine. In this video, we see students examining bones, muscles and organs in 3D.

To create holograms, the HoloLens uses a mini computer equipped with lenses, projectors, motion sensors and speakers. The resulting holograms are realistic enough that people may convince themselves that the images they are seeing are real objects. The 3D image that a hologram creates is the result of light particles bouncing around the engine of the computer, going through the goggle’s lenses, and ricocheting off of each other as they hit different layers of blue, green and red glass. (From Medical Web Experts)

How cool is that! The holographic computer could also produce simulations that let future doctors communicate more effectively with patients. For example, doctors could explain complex medical procedures to patients with holograms instead of text or images.

2.  Virtual Reality Therapy For Pain

Virtual reality is not just for video games anymore.   Daniel Harvie and his colleagues at the University of South Australia are pioneering virtual reality technology that lets you immerse yourself in an alternate reality and cure your pain. Most of us think that physical pain exists only in the body.  But research shows that how we perceive pain with our mind has a big impact on the discomfort that we feel.  By retraining the brain to experience safe movement in the body, we can learn to become pain-free.

AD724962-E7D0-4C03-BEDD314AB50E7153_article

3. Instagram for doctors

While you were sharing what you had for dinner last night on Instagram, thousands of doctors were using a similar app called Figure 1 to share images of injuries, illnesses and mysterious medical conditions. Dr. Joshua Landy, co-founder of Figure 1, says that he wanted to provide a useful tool for doctors to help each other in a safe, private way.  Don’t worry about your next embarrassing medical condition going viral on Figure 1 — there are strict regulations to use Figure 1 and all the doctors are verified before they have access to the app.

150119125014-figure-1-phone-view-bigger-filesize-exlarge-169

4. Transformational Behavioral Healthcare Technology 

Did you know that 1 in 5 people in the US suffer from depression, anxiety or substance abuse disorder? These conditions are ruining the lives of millions of people.  The former CFO of Facebook David Ebersman founded Lyra Health to help people with behavioral health problems.  Lyra Health use predictive analytics and surveys to identify at-risk people and then matches them to professionals who can help. And we can all support them by joining the campaign to #stopthestigma of mental illness.

screen-shot-2015-06-26-at-9-17-20-am

5. Electronics in the Brain

Over the past 20 years, we have been implanting electronics into the brain to treat neurological illnesses – but they often cause damage or get rejected by the immune system because of their size and material. A game-changing technology– a small flexible mesh implant – has been developed which can be injected into the brain with a syringe, minimizing problems and scarring. It’s less than half a millimeter when injected and then unfolds inside the brain. It’s connected to external wires that allow doctors to improve the function of the brain.  One of the features of the implant allows the brain to detect colors and assign a tone to each color, allowing blind people to “hear” color through bone conduction.

brain implant 2

6. Heal is The ‘Uber’ For Doctors

If you have ever spent a whole day in the waiting room of a doctor’s office or ER just to get a prescription, you will appreciate this new technology. Heal is a smartphone app that lets you summon a doctor to your door for a flat fee of $99.  The Heal doctors arrive in 20-60min and bring an assistant and supplies that allow them to diagnose and treat minor problems like infection or cuts that need stiches. Heal started in Los Angeles and is expanding to cities all over the US.

facebook

7. Maven turns your smartphone into a women’s health clinic

Next time you are Googling your symptoms on the internet and practicing self-diagnosis, try Maven instead.   Maven is a digital clinic for women where you can access medical and wellness practitioners via video to get prescriptions, advice or treatment plans. Similar to Heal, Maven saves you the time and energy of visiting the doctor office.   The video sessions range in price from $18 to $35 and give you access to a variety of practitioners from gynecologists to nutritionists.

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 3.29.44 PM

8.   ‘Be My Eyes’ An App That Helps Blind People See

I was shocked when I saw this app on a TV program a few weeks ago.  There was a blind woman in her home holding up a can of food to her smartphone and a voice was reading the label out loud to her. I discovered that Be My Eyes is a non-profit company that uses technology to connect the blind with volunteers who can inspect what the blind person is looking at and describe it to them while answering any questions.  Through these direct video calls, more than 80,000 blind people have already been helped!

9. World’s First Mindfulness Bracelet for Emotional Balance

What girl doesn’t like an excuse to buy jewelry?   How about a piece of jewelry that can eliminate stress!  The WellBe is an elegant, light-weight bracelet connected to a mobile app that helps to keep your emotions in balance.  It gives you personalized messages, meditations and other exercises to manage your stress.  This super successful Indiegogo campaign was 150% funded and bracelets start shipping worldwide in December 2015.

t5mdiks0rcnpguvoatzu

10. Smart Mouth Guard to Protect Your Teeth 

Do you ever wake up with a headache and stiff jaw?  Did your dentist tell you that you needed to sleep with a mouth guard?  Well, now there is a high-tech solution with sensors that help you stop grinding.  Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a smart mouth guard that detects if you’re grinding your teeth.  Not only is this useful for keeping our teeth safe, but it can even help us sleep better.

Smart-mouth-guard

Which technologies do you find most interesting? I’d love to know your favorites, so tweet them to me!

Not Your Daddy’s Medicine

Gabrielle-Pelicci-Pitch-1024x683

Choosing to heal yourself using natural or holistic medicine is an act of rebellion. Why? Because it’s not the dominant form of medicine in the world.   You’ve been taught that you need a doctor to treat you and medicine to heal you. Yet, for thousands of years, people all over the world have been using food, herbs, meditation, and other forms of self-healing to cure illness and prevent disease. You’re probably thinking: “Yeah, but that stuff isn’t proven by SCIENCE.” (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, I would be living on my own personal island in the Caribbean).

First of all, that’s not true. We have more published research about these things then you could read in your lifetime. Second, since when did Science replace Jesus as the omnipotent force of the universe?   I hate to break it to you, but science is not infallible nor does it know everything about the body, mind and medicine. Just a few weeks ago, scientists discovered that there are lymph nodes in the brain. Previously, they believed that there were no lymph nodes in the brain. Now they have to change every medical textbook that has been published in the past 100 years because all of those books are wrong!   And this happens all the time. But you don’t hear about it because the medical sector has so much money, so much influence and so much power, that most people think that they can do no wrong.

I have been seeing patients for 15 years that are searching for alternative solutions to drugs and surgery. Some of them have been wounded by the medical system – a botched surgery, addition to prescription medications, etc. Some of them have been turned away by doctors because there are no “medical” solutions to their illness – chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, etc. Luckily, there are many things that I can offer to these individuals that can reduce their pain, manage their illness, improve their quality of life – and sometimes cure their disease. I don’t make wild and false claims about Alternative or Holistic medicine. I would never advise you to do meditation if you were having a heart attack. There are some things that the medical sector does really well – stitching you up when you cut yourself, taking out your appendix before it ruptures, giving you an antibiotic for a staff infection. But there are some things that are better left in YOUR hands. You can meditate to reduce stress. You can eat vegetables to reduce inflammation in your joints. You can drink ginger tea to settle an upset stomach. You can do exercise to improve your immune system and disease resistance. And a MILLION other things that your doctor never tells you.

My father was a doctor (hence, the inspiration for the title of this piece). He was a neurologist and psychiatrist. He graduated top of his class in college and had a full scholarship to medical school. He was a fanatical doctor – the equivalent of a suicide bomber doctor. Every time I sneezed, he gave me an antibiotic.   When I had headaches, I was sent for MRIs. When I had stomachaches, I was given GI-Scopes. He believed with all his heart that everything and anything could be discovered, diagnosed, and treated with western medicine. And he had zero training in any holistic modalities such as massage, mediation, nutrition, yoga, herbs, and so on.

He expected me to become an MD and follow in his footsteps. He wanted me to take over his neurology practice when he retired. He was so pissed when I decided to go the holistic route instead.   For the first 5 years or so of my career as a massage therapist, he ridiculed my practice and said that I “rub people for a living.” When I became a vegetarian, he laughed at me and said that I eat “grass” for food. Then, when I did my PhD in Transformative Studies and wrote my dissertation about Women Healers, he said that I didn’t do a “real” degree and asked me who was going to hire me to teach “that stuff that nobody understands.”

Needless to say, I continued to pursue my passion. I’ve taught hundreds of students about Holistic Health, and saw thousands of patients who appreciated my services. I was moved to tears countless times by the beautiful students and clients who shared their stories of transformation with me. And at the end of his life, when he was dying of cancer that had started in his esophagus and spread to his liver and his brain, he finally told me that he was proud of me and that there were “many ways to help people with their pain” and that he wished he had paid more attention to his own health.   It was a bittersweet victory to hear his confession.

In a recent appearance on MSNBC, I stood up on a stage and told the world that I want to share Holistic Healing tools with as many people as possible. I want these resources to be easily accessible and affordable to everyone. I want to de-mystify natural and alternative practice so that you have the freedom to choose your medicine and you are empowered to take you health into your own hands. The body and mind have incredible self-healing capabilities. You can tap into that power and experience more health and happiness than you’ve ever imagined.

It was my own act of rebellion to choose this path. It took deep courage for me to diverge from the medical route that my father intended for me. It was terrifying to get up in front of a huge audience on national TV last month and announce my intention to keep doing this work, continue spreading the word about Holistic Healing. But the response has been nothing short of miraculous. Investors have reached out to say that they want to fund my initiative. Integrative doctors have reached out to say that they want to teach on my platform.   Former colleagues have contacted me to ask how they can support this cause. I am so grateful for the support!

I don’t know HOW to build this platform but I know I WILL do it. I am called to do it and the world is ready for it.   Holistic Healing may not be the dominant form of medicine in our world, but it deserves its rightful place at the table with all the meds and technology and western science that we have adopted.   I’m a believer in — and practitioner of — the power of transformation. I believe we can do this – and with your support, we will build it together.

What is Holistic Healing?

Many of us don’t understand our bodies any better than we understand the inner workings of a car or computer. We spend way too much time stuck in physical or mental pain. We apply many of the wrong solutions before we find the right one. Sometimes we just ignore the problems all together and find ourselves in breakdown or burnout before we get help. It doesn’t have to be this way!

woman-looking-under-hood-of-broken-car

Holistic Healing is healing technology for the whole person; it provides information, tools and a customized approach for increasing health and happiness that is appropriate for anyone, anywhere, anytime. No exceptions.

If you learn the layout and language of the body, you can interpret hidden patterns and messages; understand symptoms and sensations, and quickly and easily overcome obstacles, illness or disease.

The body is laid out in a very intelligent way. There are a dozen physical systems that give us the ability to eat, sleep, laugh, cry, walk and run. There are mental structures that allow us to think, learn, believe, dream and imagine. And there is a complex energy network that surrounds and penetrates the body, making us alive and alert. We have to educate ourselves about our bodies – from both an Eastern and Western perspective – so that we understand the function and purpose of our parts. We also have to develop the capacity for deep listening so we can decode the subtle messages that we receive from the body. The body speaks in temperature, contraction, popping, crackling, burning, and so on. The location, intensity, onset and circumstances around these sensations matter; all of these patterns give us clues as to what is really going on and what we need to do to restore balance so that we can be healthier and happier.

AlexGrey-SacredMirrors-1000

Before there were pills for every problem, there were natural means to restore health such as food, water, movement and meditation.

 One of the ways that Holistic Healing differs from allopathic medicine is that we don’t try to mask or eliminate symptoms; we try to understand what is causing the symptoms and what area of our life needs to be restored so that the symptoms don’t keep returning. This approach is Holistic because is takes all aspects of our life into consideration — relationships, work, environment, stress and so on. Once we discover where there is imbalance, then we can restore balance by using practical and natural tools such as mindful stress-reduction, eradicating limiting beliefs or making healthy lifestyle choices.   There is no one-size-fits-all in Holistic Healing; no standardized diet, no universal exercise or meditation plan. Holistic Healing is specific, personal and customized; it requires transformation in order to be effective.

transformation.thumbnail.337x280f

As we travel along the path of Holistic Healing, applying the right intervention at the right time can accelerate the transformation process and help us to heal faster.

I’ve tried a lot of the wrong interventions over the years for physical and mental difficulties. You can only take Advil so many times before you end up creating more problems than you are solving. Holistic Healing has hundreds of interventions from Ayurvedic herbs to Zen retreats.   Knowing when and how to apply these interventions is critical.  It’s also important to know whether or not the interventions are appropriate, safe and effective. Sometimes when are using a new treatment, we are going to feel worse before we feel better – it’s important to know the difference between a bad treatment and a treatment that is challenging us and making us stronger.   Some of that is trial and error, but in order to remove as much of the confusion as possible, you should have an experienced guide to get you through it.

me at body local

Most of the clients that I’ve worked with in the past 10 years have chronic pain or chronic illness which means they’ve been stuck in destructive patterns for a long time.  They visit many different practitioners and try many different tools but they can’t find a way out.  Holistic Healing helps them to break out of those patterns and find effective solutions so that they can be healthy and happy again.

To learn more visit: http://gabriellepelicci.com 

The Morning After, Know Your Value

me and mikaI’ve had the most remarkable experience of being one of the finalists in the Know Your Value competition in Washington, DC – something I never expected, something I will never forget.   It’s now 7am on the morning after the event, and my mind is overflowing with insights about how much I learned in the past month – many ‘a-ha’ moments – many little gems that I will carry forward with me into my next adventures.

Here are the top 10 lessons learned:

1. Hard work doesn’t entitle me to Success. (I use the capital ‘S’ to describe the mainstream million-dollar version of Success.) I had a nasty little weed of expectation, which was: If I work hard, I deserve to be Successful. Bullsh*t. If I work hard, I will see results. I may feel proud. I may even get a paycheck. But everyone else (that I know) is also working hard, accomplishing amazing things, and doing good in the world – and they often go unrecognized. Just because I’m working hard doesn’t mean that I am entitled to recognition, compensation, validation, and so on. Why does this matter? Because this expectation undermines my happiness. Every time I see someone who has Success, my mind says: That should be me. I work hard. I should have that. This is unhealthy thinking and I don’t want it in my head. I would much rather feel myself to be part of a community of amazing hard-working people who are doing good things in the world, knowing that no matter what the outcome, I have self-respect and I’m proud to be doing what I’m doing.

 2. My inner-critic will never shut up. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I am 40 years old and I still have an inner voice that it yelling at me, criticizing me and giving me a hard time. Seriously?! Fifteen years of yoga, meditation, therapy and such is not enough to eradicate the nasty thoughts in my head – apparently not. So now what? Well, I need to recognize that this voice is trying to undermine me and sabotage me. I need to be on high alert for thoughts like: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t. I can’t. I’m embarrassed. And then I need to IGNORE them and move on with whatever fabulous thing I am doing. I need to not give power, credibility or credence to the mean inner critic. Just because she won’t shut up, doesn’t mean I have to listen to her.

 3. Life goes really high up and really low down. The night before last when I was in the glamorous Marriot Marquis in central DC trying to fall asleep, I burst into tears because I couldn’t believe how far the pendulum had swung from grief to joy. It felt as if I were in some surreal dream. Less than a year ago, I attended my father’s funeral. He was one of 5 family members that died in the past 18 months. In addition to family loss, I lost a romantic relationship, lost a good job, and had a severely ill pet that needed to be fed through a feeding tube for several weeks to stay alive. Life was just one bad day after another last year. Now I’m being celebrated on national TV and doted on like a celebrity – holy crap! I can’t get too attached to the high or too bummed about the low because that’s just how it goes. I have to remember: what goes up must come down, and when I’m down, I’m bound to go back up.

 4. I need to OWN who I am. I am a bohemian, hippie chick with 6 tattoos and a PhD. I live on an old sailboat and spend too much money to get my hair done. I am dorky, nerdy and goofy. I can be a real diva. This is ME. The same inner critic voice that says, “I shouldn’t” is also telling me “I should” be like other people. I should be …less serious, more motivated, less hippie, more professional – whatever, it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the sabotage that undermines my happiness. The fast-track to suffering is to compare myself to others – how they are better, smarter, bolder – and how I am not living up to some imaginary standard. Nobody has got it all figured out! We are all just limping along, imperfectly imperfect, trying to do the best we can.

5. Don’t “be good,” be YOU. Being good means following the rules, making other people happy, doing what you’re told. Forget the rules. Be yourself. I had several women come up to me during the conference yesterday, desperate to undress and show me the dozens of tattoos that they were hiding with suit jackets – they were thrilled that Thomas was making a big deal about my tattoos because that meant it was ok for them to have tattoos, too. And the irony is that I was super-embarrassed that Thomas was making a big deal of my tattoos because I thought: the women at this conference won’t take me seriously if they know I have tattoos.   I was so wrong! I shared a shame with the ‘tattooed’ women that was unnecessary. We are beautiful, amazing, smart, competent ladies– and we have tattoos! Hooray!

6. Too much Success means loss of Soul. I have looked into the eyes of enough super rich people to know that there is a high price to be paid for Success. It takes a deep toll on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. It’s exhausting, draining and often debilitating. (I won’t even get into all the work I did in LA rehabs with celebs.) I’ve made choices to be less Successful so I could be more healthy. And it wasn’t always easy because I am super ambitious. But I have to OWN that, too. I made the choice to push less so could tend to my inner world and cultivate some quiet, private time that I needed for healing and growth. I don’t’ regret this choice – in fact, I celebrate it. My ability to slow down, be present and listen with full attention is what makes me a great healer and teacher. I’m proud of that.

7. Control is an illusion. I’ve had my suspicions for a long time that maybe I’m not in control of the Universe, but now I’m sure of it. I can’t will the Universe to do what I want any more than I can move an object with my mind. The Universe is its own autonomous, unfolding dance and I am lucky to be a witness. If I get too attached to outcomes and too worried about why things didn’t turn out the way that I intended (even though I prayed and meditated and prepared and planned), then, again, I am undermining my happiness. There is a miraculous world blossoming before my eyes – all I have to do is watch it, appreciate it, enjoy it – and STOP trying to control it.

8. If something is not working, it’s my fault. This may seem totally contradictory to the previous statement that ‘control is an illusion,’ but it’s not. Just because the Universe is doing its own thing, doesn’t mean that I am not responsible for my own life. If something doesn’t feel good, then I have to make different choices, I have to have a different attitude, or I have to do something differently to re-align myself with joy and gratitude. I am responsible for my experience. I am responsible for my emotions. I am responsible for my physical and mental health. Even when I can list 1000 reasons why the odds are stacked against me, why the world is unfair, why I am at a disadvantage, I still undermine my happiness if I don’t figure out how I am contributing to the situation.

9. Self-care is my greatest strength. If I am not taking care of myself, I am not taking care of my life. There used to be a sneaky pride that came with being a martyr. Oh, look at me, I am so helpful, I help everyone, I don’t need anything, I just need to help everyone else. This is sick thinking. It’s self-destructive and dishonest. I need to be joyful so I can share that joy with others. I need to be healthy so I can share that health with others. I need to be vibrant so I can share that light with others. I can’t let myself be fooled by the twisted-thinking that putting others first is noble and righteous. My oxygen mask goes on first, and then I hand out as many other masks as I want.

10. It’s all about being grateful. The further away I am from grateful, the further away I am from JOY. I can’t be angry and grateful. I can’t be depressed and grateful. I can’t be resentful and grateful. They are mutually exclusive. I am either super happy to be surrounded by awesome people and having a great experience and having so many blessings or I am pissed that sh*t did not work out the way that I planned. Gratitude is the True North that keeps me on track to where I am supposed to be.

I am so grateful for this experience of the Know Your Value conference. I will carry it with me always. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

know your value group

What Women Healers Know

(Originally Published in ReVision Journal. March 2009)

mg_0012

Cultural myths from around the world describe a time when only women knew the secrets of life and death, and therefore they alone could practice the magical art of healing (Achterberg, 1991, p.1).

The presence and influence of women healers ranges from the celebrated to the controversial. Among scholars of Goddess Theology and Women’s Spirituality, woman as healer is a tradition that spans several thousand years, stretching far back into prehistory when women were honored for their healing abilities (Achterberg, 1991; Gadon, 1989; Noble, 1991). Several universities including the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) and the New College of California offer programs dedicated to the study of women’s spirituality which incorporates female modes and powers of healing and embodied healing methods. Students of these and other informal groups celebrate the compassionate, nurturing and intuitive contribution that women make to health and medicine.

There is evidence of communities of priestesses and women’s councils that existed for millennia in Old Europe and other places (Gimbutas, 2001). Almost all archeological sites in Italy, the Balkins and Central Europe, contain figurines etched with sacred symbols representing the sacred feminine. These objects can also be found in Asia Minor, the Near East and to a lesser extent in Western and Northern Europe. (Achterberg, 1991; Eisler, 1987; Gimbutas, 2001; Noble, 1991; Stone, 1976).

Women practiced midwifery and herbology during the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries. While the early part of the Middle Ages were times of excitement and diversity for women healers, the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries saw an orchestrated and thorough campaign to stamp out the woman healer (Brooke, 1997). During this time of calamity, crime, crop failures and illness, women and witchcraft were blamed for the disasters of the earth. The newly established medical professionals and the Church tried to establish a monopoly on the healing professions claiming that women healers were “idiots who gathered herbs and practiced religious nonsense” (Achterberg, 1990, p. 78). As a result of this unfortunate turn of events, women were forbidden to practice medicine. They were systematically tortured and burned by the hundreds and thousands for practicing healing arts. One medieval scholar estimates that more than one million women and healers were executed for the crime of helping other women (Robbins, 1998).

In the nineteenth century there were long and vicious battles to prevent women from entering medical school because medical education was considered unsuited to women (Brooke, 1997; Remen, Blau, & Hively, 1980). However, women were successful in re‐entering the health care system and eighty percent of the 12 million workers in the health care system today are women (CDC‐NIOSH, 2001). Women have been working in free clinics, public health, geriatrics, preventative and complementary medicine and running their own hospitals (Brooke, 1997). In addition to practicing traditional medicine, women are working as botanical healers, midwives, chiropractors, homeopaths and an assortment of other lay healers (WHCCAM, 2002).

Although there is no research to support the theory that the public perceives women healers as respected practitioners today, the growing interest in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) suggests that the public perception of women healers is a positive one. More than $27 billion is spent annually on CAM (Eisenberg, Davis,, Ettner, et al., 1998) and, according to a 2004 nationwide government survey, 36 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 years and over use some form of CAM (Barnes, Powell‐Griner, McFann, & Nahin, 2002).

The proportion of CAM providers who are female ranges from 30% to 85% depending on the type of practice. More women than men practiced massage therapy (85 percent) and acupuncture and naturopathy (almost 60 percent), but women represented only a minority of chiropractors (about 25 percent). In the United States, there are approximately 60,000 chiropractors, 100,000 massage therapists, 1300 naturopathic physicians, 3000 acupuncture physicians and an additional 11,000 non‐ physician acupuncturists. This population of 175,300 practitioners (62% female) represents a partial sample of the healing arts community (Eisenberg, Kessler, Van Rompay, Kaptchuk, Wilkey, Appel, & Davis, 2001).

THE STUDY

Overview

A combination of narrative analysis and life story was used to gather information about the experiences of growth and transformation among five women who maintained a successful practice in the healing arts for ten or more years. The number ten was identified because it indicates a substantial amount of experience and a degree of maturity. A successful practice was important because the study called for the wisdom of accomplished, competent and effective healers. Life experience was a critical component for this research because it explores the common milestones that span a lifetime of practice.

I conducted five interviews between November and December of 2004. The five interviews were conducted face‐to‐face or over the telephone and were recorded for the purpose of creating transcripts.

After the third interview, I began to notice several similarities in the stories. For example, four out of five women had experienced a life threatening illness. The details of the stories, of course, were different. Two of the women suffered from Breast Cancer while the third had Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. After the fifth interview, I felt confident that I had reached data saturation and I had collected enough information for the purpose of the study.

Although it was a narrative research study, I did not use the structural or linguistic analysis often used in narrative analysis (Reissman, 1993). Instead, I used thematic analysis, a form of content analysis that involves searching for themes in the data. The first step in this process involved exploring the women’s life stories for information that revealed the common experiences of growth and transformation. I began by reading and re‐reading the transcripts while listening to the audio recording. Each successive reading took me deeper into the life story of the women and allowed me to hear things that I didn’t hear in the previous sittings. This also helped me to better understand the chronology of the life story since all the women told their stories in a nonlinear style.

After studying the text for several months, six themes were developed: Importance of a Support Network, Ongoing Learning and Self‐transformation, Nature as a Teacher and Tool for Healing, Energy as a Universal Language, Integral Approach to Healing, and Purpose‐driven Life. Once the themes were identified, I proceeded to weave the analysis of the life stories with the current literature and create a cultural, historical and social context for the themes identified in the life stories. This process of working with each theme to create a clear and coherent presentation lasted about 18 months and went through several transformations as the data became more integrated into my thinking.

THE THEMES

Importance of a Support Network

Make sure you plan plenty of support, so you can totally fall apart, totally be in the mess and in the experience of pain. Because we have to go there in order to get through to the other side … All good teachers say that you can only teach what you know. And you can only take people as far as you’ve gone. (Participant comment)

My analysis of the women’s life stories demonstrated that throughout the process of growth and transformation, it was crucial to have a support system in place. As the women developed their practice, engaged in personal growth and worked with patients, it was their support system that helped them to clarity about their lives, manage their transformational development, and do self‐healing. The support network also prevented them from feeling lonely, overwhelmed or disconnected.

The women healers in the study realize that they have to delve into their own self‐healing in order to help others so they plan lots of support during the transformational process. Their support network allows them to heal and grow which allows them to help others do the same. The women can support their patients because they have a support network supporting them. Without a support network, they would not have been able to go through the necessary pain and growth to develop the skills needed to help others meet those same challenges.

The women described many challenges that required the use of their support system including running a business, developing their practice, surviving illness and disease. Gathering with other healers, spending time with mentors, and sharing experiences with friends are some of the ways that the women accessed their support network. The types of support that composed their support network included teachers, mentors, family friends and inner or spiritual guidance. The support network was crucial in providing the women with companionship, resources, inspiration, guidance, connection, and stability.

The current research on health care reports that social relationships serve important social, psychological, and behavioral functions across the lifespan (Berkowitz, 2002; Ornish, 2006; Uchino, Cacioppo & Kiecolt‐Glaser, 1996). A review of 81 studies revealed that social support had beneficial effects on aspects of the cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems (Uchino, Cacioppo & Kiecolt‐ Glaser, 1996). Scientists as UCLA discovered that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause them to make and maintain friendships with other women (Berkowitz, 2002). When the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to gather with other women instead. This leads to a release of more oxytocin which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. Gathering with others also reduces the risk of disease, death, and physical impairments. Not having close friends or confidants is as detrimental to health as smoking or carrying extra weight (Berkowitz, 2002).

In addition to improving health, relationships between people also foster creative activity. Although creative individuals are often thought of as working in isolation, much of their intelligence and creativity results from interaction and collaboration with other individuals (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). Since most healers work as independent contractors, they have to be creative in finding ways to meet other healthcare professionals. Some of the things I have done to stay involved with other healers include working part‐time at wellness centers and doctor’s offices, volunteering at health fairs, creating healing groups and practice groups, seeking out mentors in the field and connecting with pre‐ established networks of healers such as Licensing Boards or Membership Associations. I also encourage my students to plan a good support system. I recommend that they participate in learning communities and mentorship programs during the course of their studies so that they can experience the necessary support framework for their growth and development. In addition, I encourage them to build and maintain these systems when they graduate so they have the necessary resources for success when they start their healing practice.

Ongoing Learning and Self‐Transformation

I’d say to my friends, “I feel I’ve completed a cycle, and I don’t know what it is, but I’ve completed it.” And then my life would take off in a whole new different direction … like you have with certain seasons, you have a decay; so you’ve completed that, and then you have a rebirth … that created more energy for me to be available to do new things. (Participant Comment)

The women described their ongoing learning and self‐transformation as a tool that provided the necessary knowledge to do self‐healing and healing with their clients. Some of the things they learned include learning to be still and listen deeply, learning to see the interconnectedness of everything, learning a common language based on energy, learning diverse approaches to healing from different cultures and disciplines, and learning to integrate all their experience to teach and empower others. They also came to interpret their experience of ongoing learning and self‐transformation as a cyclical process of life‐death‐rebirth—a metaphor for the transformation of all things in nature.

For the women in the study, formal learning occurred in classrooms, universities, workshops and trainings. One woman spent 20 years meditating and studying alone in her home. Another woman has 5000 hours of training in bodywork and energy work modalities. A third woman has a formal education as a nurse and a forth is a licensed acupuncturist. Each woman followed a different path of education but they all experienced a similar type of learning and development. Mentors helped the women by giving them clarity about the concepts they were learning and frame it in a way that made sense. One woman said that her mentor gave her a few skeleton concepts that allowed her to “hang it together” and also gave her “clarity about what’s going on.” Throughout the process of change, the women became more open and aware, learned to see the interconnectedness of everything, and empowered others to self‐heal. They saw adversity as an opportunity rather than a curse and used it to develop awareness and skills that could be used to educate and heal others.

Patients presented an opportunity for learning because each treatment was unique and challenging in its own way and sometimes the women would run into situations that were unfamiliar. Encountering unfamiliar situations motivated the women to continue learning so that they could heal the patient. Personal illnesses and challenges presented a unique opportunity for ongoing learning and self‐transformation because it enabled the women to learn about their own strength and authenticity. It also gave them a deeper understanding of the challenges that their patients face.

Becoming a healer requires the ability to grow beyond cultural conditioning and the conventional medicine paradigm to embrace a new worldview. It requires openness to new ideas, ongoing learning and self‐transformation, and the ability to integrate and communicate new insights and information to patients. In my own teaching, I address all aspects of healing (physiological, psychological, transpersonal, cultural, etc.) and all aspects of the person (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual). I explore the personal process of transformation in order to better prepare the student healer for the transformative learning experience. I also include discussions about the different worldviews and paradigms that accompany these varied approaches to healing in the curriculum. It is important to include curriculum about the historical and cultural dimensions of healing so that the healer understands the general context and personal context of her work. This awareness will enable her to be grounded in her profession and communicate about healing intelligently and effectively.

To receive a license or national certification in a healing modality, the practitioner may need as little as a high school diploma and 500 hours of training. While this serves as a good foundation for her work, the successful healer will want to acquire additional education which investigates the mind, body, pathology, spirituality, and all aspects of healing. In my practice, I have completed over 1000 hours of training in holistic modalities as well as a Bachelors degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in Education and a Doctorate on Women Healers. The more a healer learns, the more tools she will have to use in the treatment room.

Nature as a Teacher and Tool for Healing

I have a lot of tools … but you don’t really need any. You just have to learn how to listen deeply. And you can never do that if you can’t hear yourself and you don’t have some kind of practice that allows you to be quiet and still … You can’t have activity without stillness because you won’t really be there … I think we can’t really have an experience fully without being somehow connected to stillness. (Participant comment)

For more than 6,000 years, the concept that the body, mind and spirit are intertwined with nature has been present in the Healing Arts. The concept of elements can be found in many cultures including the Far East, ancient Greece and indigenous cultures around the world. Even the father of Western Medicine, Hippocrates described the human body in terms of the four elements: yellow bile (Fire), black bile (Earth), blood (Air), and phlegm (Water) (Hippocrene Books, 1931). In the study, nature represents people, plants, animals, the environment, the body and the natural elements that are present in everything. For the women in the study, their perception of nature was consistent with the role that nature plays in the Healing Arts. Nature was connected to the women’s experience of body, listening, healing and teaching in a powerful way.

The women in the study had many extraordinary experiences and learned several significant lessons from nature. They connected to the energy of trees and animals, felt the awesome power of nature’s creativity and beauty and learned to quiet their minds and listen deeply as a result of their interaction with nature. One of the women chose to work directly with animals and the environment as a means to teach people about the inter‐relationship between humans, animals and health. Another woman experienced deep healing after living alone on a mountain for an extended period of time. Each woman used their body and the skills they developed in nature as a teacher and tool for healing. The women in the study appreciate nature as the ultimate teacher and a framework for understanding the healing process.

Several researchers from diverse backgrounds including science, anthropology, philosophy and metaphysics have written about the sacred and intelligent power of nature (Abram, 1996; Tompkins and Bird, 1989; Chopra, 1989; Goodenough, 1998; Roads, 1990; Sahtouris, 2000). Chopra (1989) says each cell of the body harnesses the power and intelligence of nature. Abram (1996) says that the world is alive, awake and aware and each ecology has its own psyche. Within that ecology, each thing has its own unique mind or imagination and an active agency and power (Abram, 1996). Some authors have deeply explored the physical, emotional and spiritual relations between plants and people (Tompkins and Bird, 1989; Roads, 1990) and others say we are called to acknowledge our dependency on the web of life both for our subsistence and for our countless aesthetic experiences (Goodenough, 1998; Sartouris, 2000).

Because nature serves as a foundation for many healing modalities as well as the practice of deep listening, I recommend that healers spend time meditating and reflecting in nature and practicing techniques to become more present and grounded in the body. We have many options for deepening our relationship with nature including yoga, martial arts, visiting sacred sites, and simple activities such as hiking or camping. I encourage my students to travel and work in different environments to increase their awareness of the ways in which diverse environments affect the healing process. Personally, I have traveled to multiple locations in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe to study different cultural approaches to healing. I also encourage my students to participate in experiential nature‐based exercises and learn about nature’s healing resources such as herbs, hydrotherapy (mineral springs, salt water), and so on.

Integral Approach to Healing

What I learned was that Taoism and CranioSacral are the same thing, because it’s the same system that’s utilized. The CranioSacral practitioners and the Shamanistic approach and the Tao are the same thing … Nobody kind of sat down … to make one language … connecting the same systems. And luckily I studied the Western, the CranioSacral and acupuncture, so I really get that. (Participant comment)

The literature describes the ideal integral healer as someone who is transformed, deeply changed, healed and whole, expert in the worlds healing traditions, expanded in consciousness, uses personal development and self‐care and a holistic lens to view the world (Dasher, 1996; Khanna, 2004; Wilber 2004). The women in the study match the description in the literature because they use multiple healing traditions to treat patients, are expanded in consciousness, are committed to self‐development, and use multiple ways of knowing and a holistic lens to view the world. In addition to the attributes of an integrally informed health‐care practitioner, their principles also match the principles of integrative medicine including a partnership relationship with patients, openness to new paradigms, and natural healing‐oriented interventions.

Although they did not label themselves as integral healers, the women in the study talked extensively about their commitment to self‐development which led to the characteristics of an integral approach to healing including openness, expansiveness, and wholeness. The women used many tools for self‐development such as meditation, yoga, martial arts, workshops, fasting, retreats, spending time in nature, and so on. At the same time that they were working on themselves to become more healed and whole, the women in the study were also being trained in multiple healing modalities. One woman integrated many bodywork modalities together including Shiatsu and CranioSacral Therapy to treat the physical, mental and emotional aspects of her patients. Another woman studied everything from acupuncture to channeling to transcendental meditation to build her holistic approach to healing. Other modalities that were used by one or more of the women include Healing Touch, Quantum Touch, Breema, Shamanic Journeying, Hatun Karpey, and Energy Medicine.

The concept of interconnectedness between nature, people and healing is the foundation of healing arts and the holistic framework. The women in the study developed a holistic lens to view the world as they integrated learning from diverse cultures and healing modalities and participated in their own relationship with nature. This holistic framework is essential for an integral approach to healing because the integral perspective requires the practitioner to see how nature, people, lifestyle and transformation are inseparable. This perception allows them to bring their whole self into practice and use a whole‐person approach to healing.

In my own teaching work, I aim to help students combine self‐knowledge with knowledge about health and medicine. I recommend that they develop their consciousness, intuition, and creativity and self‐awareness. The curriculum that I have taught includes courses in anatomy, physiology, psychology, business practices, ethics, nutrition, fitness, yoga, meditation, martial arts, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, CAM, shamanic healing, energy medicine, pathologies, contraindications, and so on. I attend conferences such as the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine to stay current on research trends and meet like‐minded professionals because it is important to build bridges between the conventional and alternative medical communities and create a future medical system that emphasize the both/and mentality rather than either/or thinking.

Energy as a Universal Language

Energy work is much more illusive than in physical health care, where we don’t take blood tests or look at x‐rays or things like that, that are very concrete measures how you can tell changes occurred. We’re dealing with it in a different frame of reference. (Participant Comment)

The participants in this study describe energy as a force that is creative, moving, fluid, reproductive, generational and spiritual. They experience it as colors, tingling, vibration and connectedness. They exchange it with others through their words and their touch. They know it as a field around a person’s body, invisible cords between people, pools and points on the body as well as a general feeling about the presence of a person. Doing healing work allows the participants to become more familiar with energy, learn the subtleties of energy, and distinguish the difference between their own energy and the energy of others. The more healing work they do, the more “open” and “free” they become. Doing healing work also raises their “vibration” and lets them “carry more light”.

Energy is defined in the study as the life‐force that is part of everything that exists and sustains living beings (Brennan, 1987, 1993; Hover‐Kramer, 2002; Joy, 1979). Concepts of energy can be found in many cultures including India (prana) and China (chi). The women in the study each came to the same understanding about energy through different paths. Some came to the understanding through the science of the chakra system (India) or meridian system (China) and others developed their clairvoyant and clairaudient abilities. Several women combined multiple approaches.

The women came to their conclusion that energy is energy no matter how it is taught or where it is located by learning different energy modalities, spending time with healers from various cultures and making connections between different approaches to energy medicine. When one woman was working in South Africa, she was initiated as a traditional South African healer because they recognized her work as the same as their own. Another woman is in the process of compiling a book which outlines the similarities and compatibility of the diverse approaches to energy medicine. A third healer referred to quantum physics and the advances in technology imaging as evidence that energy is the underlying essence of the universe.

As they became more familiar with the dynamics of the life‐force, the women learned that energy needs to be fluid and moving in order to maintain health. If the energy becomes blocked or stuck because of physical or mental obstructions, then the person will become sick. One woman said, “We are energetic bodies. And the energy either moves or doesn’t. And if it doesn’t move or moves a little bit but not sufficiently—we’re out of balance.” Whether they are doing Quantum Touch, Healing Touch or acupuncture, they are moving the life‐force energy to restore health and balance to their patients.

Even though there are many cross‐cultural frameworks for life‐force energy, it has not been proven by western scientific methods and is not recognized by most conventional physicians in the United States. The success of western medicine over the last few centuries has been so impressive that we’ve come to equate western medicine with truth. In my practice, I have explored the diverse opinions and theories of energy and the ongoing research about energy medicine. I teach my students to approach discussions about energy and energy medicine intelligently citing the Eastern and Western philosophies as well as their personal experience. I inform them that energy medicine is not meant to replace common sense or professional or psychological help and it is not recommended for broken bones, acute pain, or any condition requiring immediate medical attention. Energy treatments are meant to be integrated with conventional western medicine and used appropriately.

 Purpose‐Driven Life

When a person is called, some ignore the call. They don’t follow through with it and many times they become physically ill or mentally ill. And the only way they can get through it is if they answer the call to be a healer. (Participant Comment)

Several researchers describe elements of a life with purpose, destiny, meaning, and flow (Adrienne, 1998; Csikszentmihalyi, 1993; Hillman, 1996; Moore, 1992; Myss, 2001). According to the Acorn Theory, each person is born with a destiny written into the acorn—the seed of the self—which  presents itself as a personal calling and a reason to be alive (Hillman, 1996). This theory is based on an ancient idea that the soul of each person is given a unique daimon (soul‐companion or spirit guide) before they are born which stays with them throughout life and reminds them of their destiny (Hillman, 1996). In this perspective, a calling may be postponed or avoided but eventually it needs to be fulfilled.

In a similar vein, the Sacred Contract theory proposes that the soul of each person makes an agreement before birth to do certain things for divine purposes (Myss, 2001). Imbedded in the Sacred Contract is a mission or a quest that is unique to each individual. The Sacred Contract includes many individual agreements to meet and work with certain people, in certain places, at certain times and random events—whether positive or negative ‐ are actually part of a life script that provides countless opportunities for spiritual transformation (Myss, 2001).

The meaning of a Purpose‐driven Life, based on the Acorn Theory and the Sacred Contract theory, is to expand consciousness and fulfill a destiny with the help of spiritual guidance. Spiritual guidance manifests first as a calling to do something or be something and is followed by support in the form of intuition, dreams, hunches and coincidences to assist each person in fulfilling their life purpose (Hillman, 1996; Myss, 2001). All five women considered their practice to be a calling, not a profession. One woman said she was led to be a healer. Another said that she was called to help people. A third said that there was never any question that she was supposed to do anything other than healing. The women took their calling very seriously and worked hard to fulfill their destiny.

All of the women in the study were assisted by spiritual guidance once they stepped on the path of their life purpose. As they made important life decisions and encountered difficult obstacles, spiritual guidance was there to give them important information or point out the direction to travel. One woman met her spiritual guides on a shamanic journey (an ancient technique of journeying to the spirit worlds). Another woman had a premonition that she was going to work with the aborigines in Australia—which later came to pass. The spiritual voices also gave her advice about what career choices to make and which places to live.

In my teaching work, I encourage students to be intrinsically motivated and have a purpose‐ driven life. One of the most frequent failures in education is that students rarely say that they find studying to be intrinsically rewarding (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). One of the most straightforward conclusions of research from the past two decades is that extrinsic motivation alone is likely to have precisely the opposite impact that we want it to have on student achievement (Lepper & Hodell, 1989). Intrinsically motivating activities are those in which people will engage for no reward other than the interest and enjoyment that accompanies them (Vockell, n.d.). I regularly encourage students to make choices that fulfill their calling and assist them in creating a life that is abundant with meaning, value and purpose.

CONCLUSION

If you consider conscious evolution, ongoing growth, and transformation to be the essential meaning of life, then you will engage yourself in the act of transformation … ongoing transformation implies that you need to continuously dissolve the old meaning of your life and create your life anew. (Kimura, 2002, p. 33)

The six significant themes that emerged in the study are Importance of a Support Network, Ongoing Learning and Self‐transformation, Nature as a Teacher and Tool for Healing, Integral Approach to Healing, Energy as Universal Language, and Purpose‐driven Life. Although these themes are listed as separate and independent, they are interconnected in the same way that the body is made of many parts that all work together to form the whole. The first theme, Importance of a Support Network, is the foundation which allows healers to engage in Ongoing Learning and Self‐transformation. Without a support network, we would not be able to go through the necessary pain and growth to develop the skills needed to help others meet those same challenges. The process of ongoing learning and self‐ transformation is grounded in Nature as a Teacher and Tool for Healing. Nature provides a resource to learn about the self, the body and the healing process. It also teaches us how to be quiet, still and listen deeply which is also used as a tool in the treatment room. Energy gives healers a language we can use to describe the healing process and the spirit of nature. Additional tools come from studying many different approaches and methods of healing. Studying multiple methods and practices informs our Integral Approach to Healing and creates a holistic worldview with Energy as the Universal Language that we can use to communicate with practitioners of diverse modalities. Finally, the Purpose‐driven Life is the way in which we use the other themes such as support, learning and self‐transformation to create a meaningful experience and fulfill our destiny to serve others.

The future of healing arts requires leaders who can build bridges between people, integrate diverse ideas and practices, and create a united community. Practitioners are changing. Patients are changing. The health‐care system is changing. It is not possible to hold onto old paradigms and old models for long. Myss (2001) says that the essential characteristics of the healer include an inherent strength and the ability to assist people in transforming their pain into a healing process as well as having the necessary skill to generate physical and emotional changes. Honoring all forms of healers and healing will allow us to integrate the many different methods and practices to create the most complete medicine bag with all of the diverse tools necessary to treat the uniqueness of each patient.

A future area of research includes delving more deeply into the theories about healing that female healers have developed over a lifetime of study and practice. Healing has been described by healers and patients alike as everything from a mystery to a relationship to an expansion of consciousness. The women in the study described healing as reduction or elimination of pain, opening, clearing, peeling away layers, becoming more free and carrying more light. The Merriam‐Webster Dictionary defines healing as: to make sound or whole; to restore to health; to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome; to mend; to patch up (a breach or division); to restore to original purity or integrity; and to return to a sound state (Merriam‐Webster, 2006). One woman mentioned that she believed all healing systems from both the East and the West could be integrated into one ‘theory of everything’ not unlike Wilber’s synthesis of ideas from science, spirituality, economics, and medicine (Wilber, 2001). Another woman had a plethora of transpersonal experiences that rival those of Carlos Castaneda (1993) or Lynn Andrews (1983). Unfortunately, many women healers do not write or publish about their experiences and so much is lost as a result. The more research we can do about women healers to give them a voice in the dialogue on healing the better.

REFERENCES

Abram, D. (1996). Spell of the sensuous. New York: Vintage Books.

Achterberg, J. (1991). Woman as healer. Boston: Shambala.

Adrienne, C. (1998). The purpose of your life. New York: Eagle Brook.

Andrews, Lynn. (1983) Medicine woman. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Barnes, P.M., Powell‐Griner, E., McFann, K., & Nahin, R.L. (2002). Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. Advance Data, 27, 1‐19.

Berkowitz, G. (2002). UCLA study on friendship among women. Accessed 08‐17‐2006 from http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/gender/tendfend.html

Brennan, B. (1987). Hands of light. New York: Bantam.

Brennan, B. (1993). Light emerging. New York: Bantam.

Brooke, E. (1997). Medicine women: a pictorial history of women healers. London: Theosophical Publishing House.

Castaneda, C. (1993). The Art of Dreaming. New York: Harper Perennial.

Centers for Disease Control – National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (CDC – NIOSH). (2001). Health Care Workers. Retrieved on 08/10/2006 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/healthcare/

Chopra, D (1989). Quantum Healing. London: Bantam.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Csikszentmihalyi, M & Larson, R. (1984). Being adolescent. New York: Basic Books.

Dacher, E. (1996). Towards a Post‐Modern Integral Medicine. The Journal of Alternative and

Complementary Medicine, 2 (4): 531‐537.

Eisenberg, D.M., et al. (1998). Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990‐1997: results of a follow‐up national survey . JAMA. 280(18):1569‐75.

Eisenberg, D.M., et al. (2001). Perceptions about use and non‐disclosure of complementary relative to conventional therapies among adults who use both. Ann Intern Med, 135:344‐351.

Eisler, R. (1987). The chalice and the blade. San Francisco: Harper

Gadon, E. (1989). The once and future goddess. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.

Gimbutas, M. (2001). The living goddesses. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Goodenough, U. (1998). Sacred Depths of Nature. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hillman, J. (1996). The soul’s code. New York: Random House.

Hippocrene Books. (1931). Hippocrates, Volume IV: Nature of Man. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Hover‐Kramer, D. (2002). Healing Touch: a guidebook for practitioners, 2nd edition. New York: Delmar Publishers.

Joy, W.B. (1979). Joy’s way: a map for the transformational journey. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher. Khanna, S. (2004). Challenges of integral medicine. Retrieved 08/17/2006 from http://shiftinaction.com/node/102

Kimura, Y. (2002). A philosopher of change. What is Enlightenment? 22: 22‐35.

Lepper, M. R., & Hodell, M. (1989). Intrinsic motivation in the classroom. In C. Ames & R. Ames (Eds.), Research on motivation in education (Vol. 3), pp.73‐105. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Maizes, V., Koffler, K., Fleishman, S. (2002). Revisiting the health history: an integrative approach. International Journal of Integrative Medicine, 4(3):7‐13.

Merriam‐Webster. (2006). Healing. Retrieved on 10/10/06 from http://merriam‐webster.com/ Moore, T. (1992). Care of the soul. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Myss, C. (2001). Sacred Contracts. New York: Harmony Books.

Noble, V. (1991). Shakti woman: Feeling our fire, healing our world. San Francisco: Harper.

Ornish, D. (2006). Love is real medicine. Retrieved on 08/30/2006 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9466931/site/newsweek/

Reissman, C. (1993). Narrative Analysis. Newberry Park, CA: Sage.

Remen, R. N. (1996). In the Service of Life. Noetic Sciences Review, 37:24‐25.

Remen, Blau & Hively (1980). The masculine principle, the feminine principle and humanistic medicine. In P. A. R. Flynn, The Healing Continuum: Journeys in the philosophy of holistic health. Bowie, MD: R.J. Brady Co.

Roads, M. J. (1990). Journey into nature. Tiburon, CA: HJ Kramer Inc.

Robbins, J. (1998). Reclaiming our health. Tiburon, CA: HJ Kramer.

Sahtouris, E. (2000). Earthdance. iUniversity Press. Accessed 08/18/2006 and Available from http://www.ratical.org/LifeWeb/

Stone, M. (1976). When God was a woman. New York: Hartcourt Brace & Co.

Tompkins, P. & Bird, C. (1989). The secret life of plants. New York: Harper Perennial.

Uchino, B.N., Cacioppo, J.T. and Kiecolt‐Glaser, J.K. (1996). The relationship between social support and physiological processes. PsychoLogical Bulletin. 119(3):488‐531

Vockell, E. (no date) Educational Psychology: A practical approach. Retrieved on 09/03/2006 from http://education.calumet.purdue.edu/vockell/EdPsyBook/

White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, (2002) WHCCAMP – Final Report. Accessed 07/25/2006 from http://www.whccamp.hhs.gov/finalreport.html

Wilber, K. (2001). A Brief History of Everything. Boston: Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (2005). Foreword to Schlitz, M and Hyman, T. (Eds.). Consciousness and healing. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.

Managing Money for Better Health

(Originally Published in Biscayne Boulevard Times. January 2005.)

200909-omag-happy-1-600x411

I was recently doing a massage for one of my clients and her back was in complete spasm. I asked her what was going on in her life that was causing so much muscle tension and she responded, “I am four months behind on my rent and if I don’t pay it off now, I am going to lose my apartment.”

In another session a few weeks earlier, a man burst into tears when we started to talk about his current job because he desperately wanted to leave but couldn’t afford to do so. He explained that many of his self-destructive habits, including excessive drinking, stems from his inability to deal with his current financial problems.

These are just two of the many encounters that I’ve had with people who are struggling with their finances so much that it is effecting their ability to live happy, healthy lives. Money and finances are some of the most stressful aspects of life for the majority of people. In fact, most divorces have money as the major issue.

Excessive worrying about money can lead to depression, anxiety and stress-related illnesses such as heart disease and high blood pressure. In an Associated Press poll of 1,000 adults taken in December 2004, half of all Americans say they worry frequently about their debt, many of them saying they worry “most of the time.” The average household has 10 credit cards, and the average interest rate is 19%. To pay each card off at the minimum monthly payment alone would take decades.

There are many great resources to help you manage your financial stress including books, websites, financial counselors and non-profit organizations. I reviewed some of these resources to see what advice they offer. Here are some popular suggestions:

1. Self-Awareness 
Do you know the value of your net worth – everything you own minus everything you owe? Do you keep track of all the money that comes in and out of your life? Do you know how much money you’ve earned in your lifetime? These are just some of the questions that lead to more self-awareness about your financial situation. You can begin this process of exploring your financial situation by writing down all of your earnings and spending for a month and reviewing your financial records including pay stubs, tax documents, and investments.

2. Reaching Your Goals 
Once you have a clear picture about the money in your life, you can begin to create needs assessment and financial goals. This includes strategies for getting out of debt, decreasing spending and increasing income. A good wealth plan should include a budget, a cushion of money to fall back on and a clear and focused intention for your finances. Having a wealth plan empowers you to control your finances instead of allowing them to control you.

3. Cultivate a Positive Attitude 

One of the best ways to free yourself of the guilt, frustration and despair you have felt about money issues is to cultivate a positive attitude toward money. You can start by forgiving yourself for financial mistakes of the past and saying positive affirmations about money everyday. When you are spending money, spend it mindfully and say to yourself, “May this money return to me tenfold.” You can use that positive attitude for goal setting, decision making, and good planning of your finances.

4. Use Money Creatively 
Financial experts suggest many ways to use your money creatively including bartering services, buying things used, wearing things out, taking care of what you have and making your spending a clear mirror of your life values. Practicing creative use of your money will result in lowering your expenses and increasing your savings. This will create greater fulfillment, integrity and alignment in your life.

Financial decisions affect every aspect of your life from relationships to retirement. By viewing each financial decision as part of a whole, you can use money to achieve your goals and improve the quality of your life. Your goals should focus on the things that really make you happy such as buying a home or traveling around the world. Focusing on your happiness and not your money will help you build a bridge between where you are and where you want to be.

Once you have changed the nature and function of your interaction with your finances, you will reach new levels of comfort and competence around money. This improvement will lead to a greater sense of freedom and empowerment which is a natural antidote to stress and illness.

Goodbye Stress!

(Originally Published in Biscayne Boulevard Times. January 2005.)

stressed-cat

You were supposed to be at an important meeting 10 minutes ago, but you’re stuck in traffic on the Boulevard. Every time your cell phone rings, it sends a stab of anxiety through your chest. On the radio, you hear the news of another violent crime or natural disaster. Your heart is racing and your head is pounding as you finally arrive at your destination.

Life is full of pressure and frustration – in other words, it’s stressful. Sitting in traffic, racing against deadlines, fighting with loved ones – all of these things make you tense and tired. We are all familiar with the traditional ways to relieve stress such as deep-breathing, meditation, exercise and massage but there are also unconventional and fun ways to say goodbye to stress. If you’re feeling stressed, don’t despair — use the following practical tips to help you handle it!

1. Play! 
Have fun! Do something you used to do as a kid before you had so many responsibilities. Paint a picture. Play a board game. Ride your bike. Shoot some hoops. Go bowling. It may seem silly at first but recreation is a great way to decompress and reduce or eliminate the effects of stress. An entire therapeutic field called Recreation Therapy has been developed based on these principles. Recreational Therapists use play, pleasure, sports, social activities, arts and crafts to treat patients in all sorts of heath care settings. In addition to reducing stress, play can give you more energy and increase your overall sense of well-being. Go make a play date for yourself and have some fun!

2. Shake a Leg! 
Music and dance have long been linked to health and happiness — they can relieve stress, lower blood pressure and help manage pain. In many forms of meditation, dance is used to bring about a peaceful mental state and to generate positive energy. Simply switching on the music and shaking a leg can work some magic. Find your favorite CD. It doesn’t matter if it’s Puff Daddy or Kenny G. Stand in the middle of the room, close your eyes and let the music move you. Let yourself go! Before you know it, your body will start to sway and find its own movement. After 15 minutes, you will forget why you were stressed out. Dancing is a fun, energizing and free way to keep fit and stay tension free.

3. Laugh Yourself Calm! 
Laughing is a great strategy and a powerful tool for coping with stress. Looking for the humor in a situation gives us the ability to experience joy and release tension even when faced with difficulties. However, laughing isn’t always easy — especially when you are too stressed out to find anything funny about your problems. It can help to watch a good comedy or seek out people with that special flair for making you laugh. Buy a CD with your favorite comedian doing stand-up and keep it in the car for stressful traffic jams. Humor and laughter can foster a positive and hopeful attitude. We are less likely to succumb to feelings of depression and helplessness if we are able to laugh at what is troubling us.

4. Smell the Sweet Stuff! 
Essential oils are an excellent way to help you relax and relieve stress and they can be used in many ways. You can put a few drops into an oil burner and let the scent spread through your home or office. Essential oils can be added to your favorite lotion and massaged into your skin. You can put a few drops on a handkerchief, hold it under your nose and breathe deeply. They can also be added to the water in the tub for a warm aromatherapy bath. Oils such as Chamomile, Jasmine and Lavender create a calming feeling while Rosemary and Peppermint can help your mind become clearer and more focused. Essential oils can help us attain a balanced emotional state and have a positive effect on problems that are stress-related.

5. Write it Down! 
If you’re having one of those crazy days when nothing goes right, it’s a good idea to write things down in a journal to get it off of your chest. Writing about stressful life events helps put things in perspective and has a beneficial effect on well-being. It has even been shown to reduce disease symptoms in chronically ill people. There are many ways to keep a journal. You can write about things that happened during the day and how they made you feel — as if you were venting to a friend. Another approach is shifting the focus from unpleasant events to happier things by writing about what you appreciate in your life. There are also many guidebooks to journaling that help you explore your personality, creativity, life story and more.

If you are suffering from severe or chronic stress, you may have difficulty trying to change your thoughts and behavior with these simple methods. Psychiatrists and psychologists are trained to help you break free of those patterns.

WHY YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU FEEL

(Originally Published in Biscayne Boulevard Times. January 2005.)

The Embrace by =MikeShawPhotography on deviantART

All of us experience a myriad of moods and emotions. One minute we feel happy and joyful because we got a promotion at work. The next minute we are sad and gloomy because we don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. Why do these things make us feel the way we feel? Where are they coming from? Can we change our moods with food or other things?

A mood is an internal feeling that affects how we see the world at any given moment and how the world sees us. Moods, and the changing emotions that generate them, have an extremely important purpose. They act as a method of communication between our brain and body, and our body and the world. This communication helps us make decisions that are vital to staying alive. If something frightens us and threatens our survival, we will avoid it. If something makes us feel happy and safe, we will return to it again and again.

Scientists consider mood to be a basic biological process that involves many systems of the body. The brain, glands, and immune system join in a network of communication that affects our emotional state, making us happy, sad, anxious, or relaxed. Anything that affects the chemistry of the brain will affect our mood. Food, alcohol, smoking, medication, weather, physical pain, exercise, meditation — even falling in love – will change the way we feel about our self and the world.

The actual process of creating a mood goes something like this: First, something alters your body chemistry. For example, you eat a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch. Then, your brain releases chemicals in response to that stimulus. To continue with our example, the turkey and cheese are converted into serotonin through a three-step process. Then, you feel the result of the chemicals as a physical sensation. The serotonin makes you feel relaxed and cheerful. Then you respond to those thoughts and emotions with a behavior. You smile and say hello to someone as they pass you on the sidewalk. Then the cycle repeats itself with the next thing that affects your body.

We can change moods by changing our habits: how we breathe, what we eat, how much we exercise. Conscious breathing, for example, causes a chemical change in your body and triggers the mechanism for restoring and maintaining balance. It’s no coincidence that many practices, both ancient and New Age, have discovered the power of controlled breathing. Food is also an extremely powerful tool in altering our moods and emotions.

Nutrition scientists discovered long ago that many of the natural chemicals in foods change the way we feel. We hunger for fatty, sugary treats because the substances in them trigger the brain to release endorphins and increase serotonin levels, sending pleasure signals throughout the body. Unfortunately, eating sweets also leads to craving more sweets and feeling bad as we go through withdrawal. The best way to keep the brain chemicals in the right balance is to keep blood-sugar levels steady with small high-protein diets throughout the day.

All emotions are healthy because emotions are what unite the mind and the body. Anger, fear, and sadness are as healthy as peace, love and joy. It is important to find an appropriate way to express all of your emotions. To repress these emotions causes stress in our body which can lead to disease. When stored or blocked emotions are released, however, there is a clearing of our internal pathways which restores balance and generates healing in the body.

There are several ways to release our emotions and change our mood. If you have several blocks or need some help in making life-style changes, I suggest counseling, touch therapies, personal-growth seminars, meditation or working with a nutritionist. Any of these can increase your awareness about why you feel the way you feel. They will also teach you new techniques to heal your brain chemistry and improve the quality of your moods and emotional life.