Strung Out in Heaven’s High

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“Don’t fake it, baby. Lay the real thing on me. The Church of Man, love, is such a holy place to be.”

2015 was, for me, a return to myself, and beyond that, a return to what makes me feel a deep sense of personal freedom. What does freedom mean to me? It is a space in which to exist where choice is abundant. Is it comfortable? Not always, but it is where I feel the most like myself.

I’m the sort of person who has many different sides of the bed to wake up on and I work really hard to sort my life out to give me the space to be present with whomever I happen to be on any given day. Sometimes that means I am a person who doesn’t want to engage with the world. Sometimes that means I put on some animal print and kick some ass.

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“This is a snakeskin jacket! And for me it’s a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom.”

Sometimes it means I get a tattoo of a red and blue lightning bolt on the back of my neck because a living symbol of individuality and belief in personal freedom died of fucking liver cancer like a mere mortal and I can’t stand it.

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“I’m an alligator. I’m a mama-papa coming for you. I’m a space invader.”

Say what you want about the man, but he was a true artist and a priest of the holy church of personal freedom. I’ve spent the last few days with my brain gaping open like a vacuum, slurping up any bit of information I can about him, pouring over lyrics looking for messages that would make sense of his life, his death, his art, and finding that those three states of being were all one to him. He spent his whole life with his brain gaping open like that. Reading incessantly, listening to music constantly, taking in art, talking about art, living in art, being art, he made his death into art.

I keep coming back to this image he presented us with in the Lazarus video (his last and you should absolutely watch it but bring tissues and a friend) of him furiously and manically writing. A man possessed by the need to get it all out before he slipped away like a phantom. Reading into the lyrics of Lazarus, one understands that rather than give cancer the honor of taking his life, Bowie most certainly had the intention to make his final act of art his own.

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“This way or no way. You know, I’ll be free. Just like that bluebird. Now ain’t that just like me.”

This man spent his entire life subverting, rebelling, and dancing on the edges like the holiest of fools. Plucking out the juiciest bits of life from the carcasses of everything he encountered and dissected, presenting them to us in a carefully curated blend of flavor, texture and temperature to consume. When asked “Who are your heroes in real life?” he answered “The consumer.” When asked “What is your favorite journey?” he answered “The road of artistic excess.”

One reason why I believe we’re all feeling such a huge loss right now is that Bowie was among the last of the great artists who could use music to subvert. In many ways the medium of music is no longer able to be subversive due to its high saturation. (He said this better than I ever could here and you should watch the whole thing, but the bit relevant to this point is around 6min in.) As he says, the Internet promised rebellion to us next, and it was cool for a time, but has also become too saturated to be subversive anymore. We are experiencing a lull in creativity because we need rebellion. It is coming, can you feel it? I can. It’s that tingling sense of unease at the back of my mind. The rising feeling that it’s going to come down to us vs. them. That’s what a movement feels like. Like there are those who get it, whatever it is, and those who don’t, and that’s why it is cool.

So, what is it going to be?

(WARNING: semi-sappy lyric quoting ahead)

My vote is that we all turn and face the strange changes. That we be our truest, weirdest and best selves. That we connect with and commit to our individuality and personal freedom. That we give a big middle finger to anything that closes us in, or separates us from each other and our hearts’ desires. Because when our heroes leave us, it means we can be heroes. I will be king, and you will be queen. We can be us, just for one day. We can beat them forever and ever.

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Open Letter To Yelp

Hi Jay,

A few months ago you sold me a Yelp ad package over the phone. I’m writing to you today because I feel it’s important that you to understand the consequences of the sales work you are doing. This is your job, to sell Yelp products to people who own small businesses. You are REALLY good at it. When you called me, I shared with you my apprehensions and fears around engaging with Yelp. I told you I didn’t trust Yelp and why. I told you that I was a sole proprietor of a small business that didn’t pull in much revenue. We talked at length about these anxieties I had. You assured me that this was a good investment in my business. You talked with me like a friend, and unfortunately I fell for it. I felt assured by you that I would not max out my cost-per-click budget each month, that this would bring in more revenue than it took away. It was all about getting me to sign that contract. Again, I know this is your job, but I also need you to understand what the costs are.
I ended up purchasing a product that was not appropriate for the business I own. It was very irresponsible of me to sign that contract with you. That’s on me, and I have to pay the price of getting out of the contract, a process which will, all told, cost me more than the income I made from my business last month. Your bottom line means I can’t afford to pay my health insurance this month. I can’t afford to buy holiday gifts for my loved ones. This was a huge mistake. Unfortunately it isn’t a new mistake or a unique one. I have spoken to several massage therapists who have had similar experiences.Yelp is targeting these small businesses, selling us products we can’t afford, and it is completely illogical. You need us to continue to be in business and if you continue to create such costs for us we will go out of business and take you with us.
I urge you, and Yelp to change these business practices. Develop products which are ACTUALLY affordable to small businesses instead of being a scam that sets us both up for failure. Your bottom line means nothing if the products you sell are unsustainable and unlikely to provide growth.
I am posting this letter to my blog as a warning to other massage therapists not to sign with Yelp and I will continue to speak out against your business practices and sales techniques until such time as you change them.
regretfully,
Emily Taylor, LMT

I Dream Of Whales

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I’ve never thought of my dream life as being any less real or important than my waking life. I’ve had epic 10 year relationships in my dreams. I’ve had children in my dreams. I can fly, move things with my mind, change my reality with just a thought, breathe underwater, communicate with animals, defeat my enemies by throwing sacred geometry at them until they become two dimensional and I can fold them up like paper. My dreams help me tap into the zeitgeist, the shared consciousness of this world. I’ve dreamt about my friends babies before they were born. I dreamt about the events of 9/11 before they happened. I’ve visited places in my dreams which I then find myself visiting in waking life and realizing “I’ve been here before.” Most of the time they are fairly mundane places which is amusing for me… but I consider that feeling to be a signal that I’m on the right path and that I’m doing a good job of following the path that my unconscious & subconscious mind is trying to guide me down.

I do a great deal of personal introspection and cognitive behavioral therapy using my own dreams, and often I incorporate dream work into my healing sessions with clients. There is really no better way to access the fascinating nature of the mind/body connection than in dreams where we are able to experience situations that are far beyond the limits of where our bodies can take us.  It’s amazing what happens when the body is asked to just stop sending us signals regarding external stimulus and we are left with only our memories and imagination to guide us.

Because dream interpretation is a very personal thing, I don’t really believe that we are offered much from books or sites on the subject. When I dream of whales it is because I am sad and want the comfort of their silence and depth, but when you dream of whales it will likely mean something different to you. However, there are a few dream themes and symbols that are common to most humans everywhere, flying, teeth falling out, being in an out of control vehicle. I wonder if these dreams were present in the collective consciousness for the majority of humanity (maybe the out of control vehicle used to be an out of control horse or chariot). I wonder what purpose they served to us then and serve now other than to process anxiety and feeling a lack of control?

I heard of a research study that suggested humans developed that sudden lurch that happens sometimes just as you’re falling asleep from our days as tree dwelling primates. It would have made sense for us to have a system in place that gives us one more shot at checking out our surroundings and making sure we’re safe before sleeping. I wonder what sort of evolutionary trait causes the teeth crumbling dreams that nearly everyone has when they are overly anxious. My theory, is that it has to do with our cultural belief that visibly healthy teeth equate with wealth, status, and overall health, and visibly unhealthy teeth equate with poverty. Perhaps we dream of our teeth falling out when we fear that our cultural status or health may be at risk. 

What are you dreaming about lately?

If you have a dream that is a particular mystery to you, consider signing up for one of my guide sessions and we can talk it through and see what your deep and beautiful mind is trying to show you. 

The Sacred Mundane

I’m not very good at meditation. I don’t actually know many people who are any good at it, but that’s sort of the point, right? You’re not really supposed to be good at quieting the mind, otherwise it wouldn’t be so useful. The same can be said of anything that requires practice, which is why we avoid practices. You don’t have to practice paying attention to Facebook, you have to practice NOT paying attention to it.

Pay attention, Daniel san.

Pay attention, Daniel san.

A dancer in my childhood, I find myself drawn to the physical when I seek to quiet my mind. I dance in my dreams when my subconscious is communicating to me that I am in need of a still moment of expression, and then I dance in my kitchen when I wake up. When I’m expecting my moon cycle and things get emotional, I find great relief from vigorously cleaning my house. If I need to have one of those talks with someone, I prefer to do it while walking outside. There is something about allowing my body to be occupied that gives my mind and emotional body space to wander. I have great epiphanies while riding my bike home late at night after work. I get a lot done when I’m scrubbing the bathtub.

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When I was a kid I asked my mom to get me one of those tile samples from the hardware store with the little tiles that are glued to a mesh backing. I would bring it to the bathtub with me so I could scrub each individual tile with an old toothbrush. It just calmed my mind. If my mom were less open-minded, she probably would have taken me to a psychiatrist, starting me down the path of being diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and likely medicated. Instead, because she let her sensitive, empathic, creative-minded daughter indulge herself in these behaviors, I was able to find a safe little place to quiet my racing thoughts. Very fortunately, my light “OCD” behaviors never developed into anything too life-limiting, as it does for many people who struggle with OCD, but the underlying psychosis at work was always to bring order and simplicity to the dizzying internal world I felt out of control of. Obsessive thought is still something I struggle with every day. If my neurons were made of copper wire, you could probably power a whole city with the amount of circular thinking I partake in on the regular.

What is your version of scrubbing tiles? What does your mind palace look like? Where do you go when you need to quiet the voices in your head? What is your sacred mundane?

New Office

Very pleased to announce that I’ve procured treatment space for my practice!  It is a gorgeous old building in Arlington surrounded by gardens, constructed around 1750, and originally housed a stagecoach business, and then an inn. The space is filled with warm light, soft wooden beams and hardwood floors, nice plants, and has a spacious feel without losing coziness. There is street parking (no meters!) right on Mass Ave, is easy to get to on a bike (down Mass Ave or the bike path), and the 77 bus drops off right in front of the building.

The best part is, this space made its way into my life via my community! A new friend of mine, Vanessa, practices holistic counseling and mediumship in the office right next door to my new space. I will gush more about Vanessa in a separate post because she deserves one. I met her through another new friend Meg, who is also gush worthy and with whom I share a kindred spirit. I met Meg through our mutual friend, Jason who is a fantastic connector and takes me to Walden Pond to go swimming regularly, something for which I am very grateful as I don’t own a car. This sort of connect the dots method of attraction is, to me, always a sign that I’m on the right path. When it’s “right”, things just fall into place and its best to just hop on board with whatever comes your way.

So excited to start seeing clients in my new space!

Lovely gardens.

Lovely gardens.

So inviting!

So inviting!

Toolbox of Trauma

I opened the floodgates, and now all I want to do is write it seems!

Today I want to talk about what I call the Toolbox of Trauma. We all have traumas. A lot of them occur when we are young. We either make mistakes and end up in bad situations, or bad situations just plain happen. I have done a lot of thinking around answering the question of why trauma happens, but often there really isn’t a why. Sometimes bad things just happen to us. Though I do believe that we invite or deny significant experiences both consciously and unconsciously, I don’t believe that there is a cosmic accountant in the sky keeping track of our good deeds and bad, dishing out help or trauma to us according to whether we’re nice to elderly people or rude to waitstaff. The vast majority of events that occur in this crazy universe are completely out of our control. The magical thing though, the secret power we all have, is to transform our traumas into tools of healing for ourselves and others. That is some serious sh*t into gold alchemy, people.

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When I started down my healing path in 2004 it felt like I got 100% hazed by the universe. I know I wasn’t being hazed but it sure felt like it. I had never, and have never since been so sick in my entire life as I was during my first semester at MTI. I got walking pneumonia, had a systemic spontaneous allergic reaction to the high dose of amoxicillin given to me for the pneumonia, causing me to be hospitalized three times and pumped full of IV antihistamines and steroids. I don’t even remember moving to my new apartment because of how loopy I was fighting off the inflammation with medications. Other traumatic things occurred during this time involving my body and my relationship with my then partner. It took six solid months before I felt like myself and I wasn’t ever really my former self again. Somehow I got through that year of massage school with passing grades. In the months following my initial recovery I quit my job, ended my relationship, and moved home to spend some time healing with my family.

Was it traumatic? Absolutely. It was the first time I’d ever felt truly at odds with my body. I had to spend some time making friends with it again. After being so physically betrayed by the medications that were supposed to heal me, I started looking into alternative approaches to healing and immune support. Through bodywork, yoga, mindfulness practices and herbal & whole foods healing, I regained my health. Without that experience, I wouldn’t have these tools to offer my clients, the most important of which is how to heal your relationship with your body after trauma.

Watching someone we love make the same mistakes we have made, or feel the same pain we have felt, can be very challenging. We can set good examples, we can educate people on how to avoid trauma, but part of loving others is letting them have their own experiences. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been very good at learning from other people’s experiences. The thing we do gain from watching others go through similar challenges to our own, is a depth of empathy. It can be especially hard as a parent to watch your child walk headfirst into pain, but you have to let them. They’re going to do it anyway, no matter how hard you try to stop them, and they need you to stand next to them instead of in front of them. You have your toolbox at your disposal to help them heal after the fact. You have to trust that they are building their own toolbox.

My toolbox is heavy. My arms are strong.

I have experienced other, more dramatic traumas before and since my “hazing”. I’ve spent a lot of energy opening myself up to the lessons and strengths to be gained from them. Some involved forgiveness that felt impossible. Some contained lessons I will keep learning for the rest of my time here. We have the power to transform these experiences into teachings, into tools for healing ourselves and others, into emotional/spiritual workout plans for badass warriors. Each experience offers us a choice between allowing ourselves to believe that we’ve been victimized (either by life or by a specific person), or to believe that we have the power to choose what has agency over our lives. The more we choose the former, the more power we give away. The more we choose the latter, the more powerful a warrior we become.

"You couldn't kill me if you tried for 100 years."

“You couldn’t kill me if you tried for 100 years.”

Fundraiser

I am sitting here with tears welling up in my eyes, utterly humbled and floored by the generosity of my friends, family and supporters. This is me right now:

I can't believe how amazing you all are.

I can’t believe how amazing you all are.

In only 22hrs, I reached my fundraising goal to put toward my business. This means I can pay for my MA state license, a liability insurance policy through AMTA membership, marketing supplies like business cards and this website, my office rental, and materials like linens and oils for that office. I’m also hoping to take a continuing ed class so I can add some more tools to my healing toolbox.

Integrity is really important for me, and I want those who gave to know how powerful their gift is. I’m going to update this blog post every time I use the funds, detailing what they’re being used for and why. So keep an eye out here for updates.

Update 08/21/15

Today I am mailing my check for $357 to The Commonwealth of MA Division of Professional Licensure Board of Registration of Massage Therapy to renew my massage therapy license. I also joined the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and purchased liability insurance through them for $235, plus a $10 donation to the MA Chapter of the AMTA. With that I am officially in business as an LMT, and can move forward with getting marketing materials printed up that say Emily Taylor, LMT. Speaking of which, I also just ordered business cards from Moo Cards. I chose their Green product which is a 100% recycled, 100% chlorine free, 100% biodegradable, un-coated, smooth white paper. It’s FSC certified, and produced using wind-power.

Here is a total of my donation spending thusfar:

License Renewal Fee & Postage Stamp:  $357.49

AMTA Professional Membership:             $235

Donation to MA AMTA Chapter:               $10

Moo Cards:                                                 $94.74

Massage linens & hot/cold therapy packs    $171.81

Total spent:                                                 $869.04

Also, as a gesture of thanks, I want to offer everyone who gave, their exact donation in minutes of free massage. So if you gave $25, you get 25min of free massage. $100, you get 100min of free massage! I know some of you live far away, but perhaps this will be incentive for you to come visit! I will create gift certificates for each of you, so watch for an email asking for your mailing address.

~ My gratitude is beyond measure. ~

Tsunami

Sometimes you’re just doing whatever it is you do, and you look down and realize the earth beneath you is saturated and before you know it the water is up to your knees, and the next thing that happens is you are swept away, deposited somewhere utterly new, and there is nothing resembling your former life left.

I don’t know about you, but this happens to me about every three years. I call it the tsunami.

The Great Wave

The Great Wave, Katsushika Hokusai

In my observation, people who do healing work tend to get these reminders every so often to release themselves from attachment to anything. What is healing anyway? At its most core nature, healing is releasing. The things that cause trouble in our bodies and minds do so because we resist that release. Our immune systems resist intrusion on a cellular level, which is very useful when trying to not get the flu, but not as useful when we develop auto-immune conditions. When we break bones, they calcify and loose their flexibility. When we injure our soft tissue, our bodies create a resistance army of inflammation, tension and adhesion. When we experience emotional trauma, we lock ourselves down with fear and anxiety, create coping mechanisms to protect ourselves. Over time, our coping mechanisms become outdated, no longer useful, and we realize we are resisting the very things that could heal our wounded hearts and open us up to new experiences.

To heal we have to break apart spots of resistance in our emotional and physical bodies.

Change is inevitable. Jobs change, living situations change especially since so many of us are renting. Friends move away, or our relationships with them change. The nature of my work is change. Clients come to me in pain, suffering, transition, resistance and I help them release from it. In the end the goal is always that they don’t have to see me as often, or at all. Sometimes they find their way back to me, sometimes not. I cannot be attached to it.

I ebb and flow in my practice, most recently taking a very long break from full time bodywork. I was working in an office, feeling detached from it, but not quite ready to return to my practice when all of a sudden TSUNAMI! I got laid off. This cleared up time and space for me to do some pretty intense internal work around why I didn’t feel ready to start working as a healer again. With that behind me, I was able to start seeing a few clients here and there, becoming reacquainted with the physicality of the work and the strength I needed to rebuild to do it. I spent a lot of time in the ocean and the pond, floating, feeling myself being supported by the water. Then one day, I was just ready.

When you get swept away as often as I do, you learn to let go as soon as you feel your feet lift off the ground. You learn to trust that wherever you end up, you are resourceful enough to rebuild a life, find your work, and find comfort without attachment. Eventually you may even learn to read the signs before the wave hits, and get out your surfboard.

Cowabunga!

Surf's up, bra!

Surf’s up, bra!