Archive for Transformation

What feels Good? (not this)

What feels Good? (not this)

What feels Good? (not this)I recently got into a very, very bad mood that dragged on for what seemed like forever, draining all the energy I needed to be functional. The stresses in my life were magnified to the point that they eclipsed every bit of joy and wonder I had. I was very sad, to say the least, and it didn’t feel good.

I have a cherished belief: I believe that times like these are rich opportunities for transformation.  “The wound is the place the light enters you”, is my favorite quote by Rumi and a message I often share with clients and friends. However, in this case I found myself wondering if the light would ever come, and if, in fact, this cherished belief might be false. None of my tried and true self-care tricks helped much, other than to give me a few hours of emotional neutrality in contrast to the debilitating doom and gloom that had become the norm.

What was most disturbing to me was that my central spiritual practice, being mindfully aware of feelings and sensations,  which had always led me to insight, resolution, and eventually peace and happiness,  seemed to just make matters worse. No matter how long I was “with” my feelings, I was simply sinking deeper and deeper into a pit of despair and hopelessness . More and more frequently, uncontrollable crying was leaving me exhausted, sleepless and with a raging headache.

Looking back I can see how I had become inextricably trapped by all my negative thoughts. Thoughts that quite reasonably and rationally explained and justified my stress, overwhelm and, in all likelihood, looming depression. The truth is I’ve been in middle of a monumental transition since last November, when I found out I was pregnant (a miraculous wish come true!) and at the same time was facing total financial upheaval due to loss of employment in my household, my healing arts practice moving and expanding, and the uncertain and risky launch of another home-based business.

For months, I felt angry, resentful and sad that the blissful excitement of having a precious little baby growing inside me was being overshadowed by these uninvited growing pains, instability and uncertainty.  On top of all that, like many of us, I was watching in utter horror  as the political curtain was slowly drawn back, revealing the ugly corruption and hate that had been lurking just beneath the surface for so long.  Yes, I had every reason to feel as I did. But that doesn’t mean it was good for me or my baby, or that I should just stay feeling that way.

In desperation I reached out on my personal Facebook page. “What do you do when negative thinking takes over and it becomes increasingly difficult to feel or see anything positive?” I received 37 comments that day and every single one of them inspired me one step at a time until I finally had  the following thought:

Ok. I am ready to feel good now.

But then I had to figure out:

What feels good?

See, my life had been revolving around a different question, a question that always included the words should and do. What should I do about our financial situation? What should I do about morning sickness? What should I do to find more money? To find more clients? About those bills? And so on.  I had come to believe that I would feel good again when my situation changed. When my morning sickness went away, when the bills were paid, when my husband found a job, when the finances stabilized.  But the situation wasn’t changing.

I realized that I needed to stop doing what I should do to change my situation and just do what feels good. 

It didn’t take me long to figure out where to start. Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mother. My early childhood was spent reading midwifery books, attending home births with my mom,  taking care of my baby brothers and day dreaming about the day I would have my own baby. By the time I finally got pregnant at age 41 I had all but given up on the possibility of my dream coming true, but here it was happening.

When I stopped doing  and started just  focusing on what was absolutely great, our new baby, I heard my inner voice say: Just stop. Stop doing anything that doesn’t feel good. So I listened. As hard as it was for me to stop trying to change my situation, I just did what felt good to me.

First I made a list of some things I could start collecting for the baby, and started clearing space for the things I would find. That led to a car load of stuff ready to go to Goodwill, which led to rearranging the house, which led to dumping the ugly old couch I’d been complaining about for months and, within a few hours, finding a really great one for almost nothing on a yard sale site. I planned a week off to to take a break from doing errands and seeing clients. What a relief.

All of this felt good. And led to more feeling good. My mood began to lift.  Over the next week I was delighted with lovely little gifts everywhere I turned. Adorable baby clothes, a rocking chair, support and cooperation from my husband, friends coming out of the woodwork to walk and talk with.

I began to feel great, despite the fact that my situation didn’t change.

And then it did! The phone began to ring. New clients scheduled.  I received a completely random check in the mail. Our new business prospects suddenly looked more promising. I got inspired by my work and by my amazing clients.

I share this with you because chances are you’ve had a similar experience at some point, or perhaps you are in one right now.  Even those of us who feel healthy in our bodies, happy in our relationships and secure in our jobs can’t help but be influenced by the constant barrage of disturbing news, if we tune in at all to the media.  And even if we unplug completely, many of us are certainly sensitive enough to be deeply affected by the chaotic energies of the current times. I’ve heard  business is booming for psychotherapists,  and many of my bodywork clients are needing treatment for acute emotional and spiritual upheaval. It is an undeniably stressful and frightening time, and there is little chance of that changing anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we should feel terrible until it does.

I still cherish my belief that transformation often involves a period of pain and suffering, and absolutely still believe in the powerful practice of “being with what is”,  and yet at the same time I’ve learned a powerful lesson about how important it is to know what feels good and to actively choose that.

If you are currently struggling as I was, my advice to you is to begin to recognize what is beautiful and joyous in your life and use that as a catapult to feel better, if feeling better is what you want to do. Because after all, as I learned, sometimes feeling good is what will change your situation.

Emotional Pain and Trauma: How does Bodywork Help?

bodywork for traumaTrauma and Emotional Pain: How does Massage and Bodywork help?

Most people don’t seek out massage and bodywork until they get sick or start hurting. What they may not realize is that it is usually emotional and mental challenges that underlie the onset of physical pain and illness. Body centered therapies such as therapeutic massage and CranioSacral Therapy activate the parasympathetic nervous system, quiet the fight-or-flight responses and reduce  pain, stress, emotional and mental health issues.  Studies have shown that bodywork decreases cortisol (a stress hormone) and increases serotonin and dopamine (feel-good hormones). Imbalances in these hormones can be caused by stress, trauma, grief, loss, illness and injury.

The Research

This article, published by the International Journal of Neuroscience, documents scientific research showing that massage decreased stress hormones & increased neurotransmitters. The studies Massage for Emotional Pain and traumafound a significant decrease in cortisol (average 31%) and significant increases in serotonin (average 28%).  In this fascinating study, researchers looked at depression (including sex abuse and eating disorder studies), pain syndrome studies, research on autoimmune conditions (including asthma and chronic fatigue), immune studies (including HIV and breast cancer), and stress on the job, the stress of aging, and pregnancy stress.

Integrative Bodywork

Integrative Bodywork recognizes that pain and trauma affect the whole person: body mind and spirit. Many traditional therapists, including MDs, mental health professionals, and even some massage therapists, treat body, mind and spirit with completely separate tools.  Integrative bodywork does not separate.

Bessell Van Der Kolk, one of the nations leading experts on PTSD and trauma recovery, recommends including massage, craniosacral therapy, yoga and other integrative body therapies in mental health treatment plans for PTSD. He writes, in his groundbreaking book “The Body Keeps the Score, “you can’t fully recover if you don’t feel safe in your skin”. In other words, as so many massage therapists know very well, touch heals.

In Practice

From my clinical experience I noticed that massage and bodywork is particularly helpful for increasing clients body awareness, which is essential for healing because trauma, anxiety and stress usually generates disconnection by effecting the prefrontal cortex; the center of mindfulness. Unlike other forms of therapy, clients are not coming to be “fixed”, but to have a qualified practitioner hold a healing space that allows their nervous systems to self correct.

How to find a practitioner

Above all else, find a practitioner you feel comfortable with. There are many therapists to choose from, so take your time and make sure you can trust them and the space they provide.  You might connect best with therapists who exhibit qualities of nurturing, empathy and intuition.

Looks for therapists who have all or most of the following qualifications.

  • Advanced training & experienceCranioSacral Therapy
  • Professional boundaries
  • Certifications & credentials
  • Adaptable: practice a variety of modalities
  • Know how to listen to clients
  • Experience with trauma or mental illness
  • Mindfulness training or spiritual practice
  • Knowledgeable about local resources
  • Willing and able to refer or work in partnership with other professionals

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take some time to talk with any massage therapists and body workers you are considering. Let them know any fears, concerns, hopes and goals you have, and if you are working with a therapist or health practitioner already. Don’t rush any part of the process. Deep and lasting healing from emotional pain will take patience, time and a commitment from both you and your practitioners, and it will be worth it.

About Us

Awaken Integrative Bodywork uses gentle touch, light to moderate pressure, deep listening and mindfulness practices to help the brain and body re-connect in a safe,  therapeutic environment. Some of our modalities are CranioSacral Therapy, Integrative Massage, Intuitive & Energy Work, Thai Massage and prenatal massage. We also offer a unique deep tissue and sports massage that is gentle as well as effective. For a free consultation with Awaken Integrative Bodywork, located in beautiful Auburn, CA  call Jessica Gutierrez at 530-906-8668.

Bodywork for Emotional Pain Auburn CA

“The Wound is Where the Light Enters You”- Rumi


“My experience with Jessica is one for the record books, and I will most definitely continue to seek her guidance in my healing journey. I am still glowing from the release and rejuvenation provided in her loving care. I am filled with gratitude.+” ~Jasmine, Auburn CA

“I received a Craniosacral body work session from Jessica yesterday.  My session was deeply transformative, restful, and rejuvenating. I literally felt tension dissolving out my body. I left feeling pain free, more grounded, and with an elevated sense of wellness and ease. Jessica was very attentive and professional in her intake process and throughout our entire session. If you are looking for an outstanding body worker, Jessica is ideal.  She is impassioned about her work, is constantly educating herself in the field, and has a caring and compassionate heart. I highly recommend her” ~ Karen W, Auburn CA

“Recently I had a session and I am new to the area, so it was my first time. AB SO LUTELY LOOOOOOVED IT!!! 🙂
Jessica is amazing and sweet and very empathetic and her work is amazing! Personally, I am going through A LOT and Jessica was able to calm me and center me, which I didn’t think would be possible due to my situation(s). Her therapeutic work is truly like no other!  Highly recommend!! :)”~Heather, Auburn CA

“My experience with Jessica is that she is a highly skilled intuitive healer. I recommend her for anyone looking for a relaxing rejuvenating healing experience for mind body and soul.” ~Nicky M, Grass Valley, CA


Intuitive Massage and Bodywork: The Winding Road to healing

Intuitive Massage and Bodywork: A Winding Road to Healing
Intuitive Massage and Bodywork: A Winding Road in Auburn CA

“Well, that was a hoot!” *Joan said as we wrapped up her first session with me.  She gave no other indication of how she felt about the work before she paid my fee and left. She did not reschedule and I did not know if she had gotten much out of the treatment.

Intuitive massage and bodywork sessions often take surprising twists and turns. My role is to help facilitate the client’s inner journey. My intention is to support their connection with their own inner wisdom, in whatever form that may take. I see this process as a winding road that I follow alongside my client, but neither of us can see around the next bend or knows what will happen next. I often don’t know the result of a session until much later;  sometimes never.

The practice is to be completely present with what is happening without attachment to the outcome. This isn’t always a comfortable situation for the mind, as we humans tend to think in linear terms of cause and effect. But the magic in healing usually comes, as it does in life, when we let go and surrender to the present moment.

Joan was referred to me for CranioSacral Therapy by one of my other clients.  She was suffering from anxiety, lack of energy, moodiness and an explosive temper. Seeking stability for her mood and reactivity, she suspected there may be a hormonal component. She also wanted to advance her small business but wasn’t feeling energetic enough to achieve her goals. CranioSacral Therapy is indicated for hormone balancing and relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression and I felt it could help Joan.

Intuitive Massage and Bodywork: A Winding Road in Auburn CAI began the session with gentle touch and deep listening. I let my hands find the places of tension and resistance in Joan’s body and enlisted her help to identify what might be holding her body in those tension patterns. I asked her to describe any sensations, images, thoughts and feelings that were arising as I employed gentle CranioSacral Therapy techniques beginning at her feet and traveling up her spinal column to her occiput and head. Although dialogue is not always part of each session, in Joan’s case it was clearly part of her healing process. In other cases the  body asks for and needs silence and stillness.

Joan described a rock wall which seemed to be holding back a great deal of water, although it was seeping through the cracks in many places. As the session progressed, the images she described became more vivid. She seemed to be uncovering many symbols and archetypes that to me suggested emotional patterns that may be limiting hIntuitive Massage and Bodywork: A Winding Road in Auburn CAer capacity to connect with other people. I kept my interpretations to myself out of respect for Joan’s inner wisdom and in recognition of scope of practice as a bodyworker and not a psychotherapist.

Although it seemed like Joan got a lot of information from her session,  I wasn’t sure how she felt about it. When I followed up with her a few days later she sounded busy and said she would  get back to me later. Finally, about a month after her visit  she texted to ask for another session and mentioned she wanted to fill me on some changes in her life. Upon hearing from Joan again I felt relieved, curious and intrigued and was eager to see her again and hear what had happened.

When Joan walked in the door I almost didn’t recognize her. Her eyes were sparkling and her energy was vibrant, playful and very alive. She excitedly shared about going to a work related conference and taking with her the rich imagery she had seen during her session.  She told me she did something different this time: she gave herself permission to take time alone in the midst of a busy socializing and networking schedule, and as a result had the energy reserves to form a new friendship which would turn out to be meaningful for her on many deep levels, including professional, spiritual and personal.  In fact, she told me she was leaving on a plane for a remote, exotic island the next day, where she would be meeting that very same friend and taking steps to advance her work in a new and exciting direction that she hadn’t considered up until that point.

Intuitive Massage and Bodywork: A Winding Road in Auburn CAJoan’s wall had been transformed from an isolating barrier to a beautiful, nourishing protective sanctuary where she could come and go as she wished. It was a deep honor to accompany her on that winding pathway to healing, and for me, a poignant reminder of the power of presence.

*The client’s name has been changed and the details of the session have been edited to protect “Joan’s” privacy.

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