For several decades now, the Mayo Clinic has been offering a Massage Therapy Program in order to improve the health of many of their patients. Massage/Bodywork/Healing Touch has been shown to reduce both physical and emotional pain, enhance sleep, raise overall energy, support healthy immune system, improve digestion, enhance endocrine system function, increase athletic endurance, flexibility and strength, relieve harmful effects of physical, emotional and mental stress, relieve side effects of loneliness, shift heart rate, lower blood pressure, soothe skin issues, promote a sense of overall well-being, and for some massage may even offer a connection to spirituality.
There are a zillion reasons these various benefits may be available through massage, but most certainly one of them is the simple effect of human touch. We know that human touch alone can bring about many of the above listed effects, and we know that these effects are needed by us all! For those of my readers who are caregivers, I want to take this opportunity to remind you that when you touch those you care for, you are offering a moment of potential grace of one sort or another. You may not know which of the positive effects of touch is required - or being transmitted - in that moment, but you can know that your touch has an effect. And if you are aware of this, perhaps you will touch with even more of your heart present; you are offering a gift.
But Ohhhhhh dear caregivers!! Remember also that as a giver, you enhance what you offer by also seeking to RECEIVE! Whether you are a professional caregiver, a caregiver to one in need in your home, or simply give because you are human - YOU TOO, DESERVE THE BENEFITS AND NOURISHMENT OF BEING TOUCHED!
All that said. . .
It is also important to lift up that if you are a recipient of touch you have the right to dictate WHEN, WHERE AND HOW you are touched. Even if you are being touched with caring grace and kindness - - if you do not welcome that touch, you may decline it! And whether you are being touched for a procedure or a kindness, you still have the right to declare the way in which you wish to be touched. If you are uncomfortable in any way, you may say so. No matter what age or stage of living or dying, no matter what the social status of the person touching you is ("doctor, lawyer, beggar, thief", as they say. . .), YOU are the director of YOUR body's handling! There may be any number of reasons a person does NOT want to be touched - from pain level, to a sense of personal space, to neuro-diversity or disease that makes one hyper-sensitive to sensation - you are the gatekeeper of your own boundaries, and it falls to caregivers to respect your choices.
However, IF you are able to welcome and to receive loving touch, here is my firm but loving reminder to:
GET A MASSAGE or other HEALING BODYWORK AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN!
Massage can be done with our without clothing, it can be whole-body or just, say, shoulders, neck and head, or just a back massage, or just calves and feet, or just feet and hands (you might be surprised how deeply relaxing a hand massage can be!!) or even just a gentle face massage. Bodywork can be deep and strong for the well-used muscles of an athlete, or soft and gentle specifically for relaxation. If you are new to body work, you may wonder about your privacy; all professional body work maintains your modesty, even if you are getting a full-body, no-clothing massage. Draping with sheets or towels will keep your personal parts safe and private. Many types of bodywork can be done fully clothed, and this is suggested for anyone who has experienced any sort of abuse, or who simply feels uncomfortable removing clothing. Some therapies do not even involve actual physical touch, but rather offer "energy" healing (but that is a topic for another post!)
As one of my life-path incarnations some time ago, I was a licensed, working massage therapist and bodywork practitioner for many years; I still offer gentle healing bodywork in my private practice, and make referrals to other practitioners that might be a good fit for whomever is seeking healing or relaxing bodywork. Wherever you choose to receive the many benefits of professional human healing hands, I want to urge you - especially in these long, cold, body-stiffening months of winter in the Northern Hemisphere - to find a practitioner you feel safe with (or even just trade touch with a friend or trusted family member), and give yourself and those you care for the gift of massage. Received on a regular basis starting now, I can almost promise that you will see measurable benefits before spring!
As always, you can visit my scheduling portal; if you are seeking a referral, please click the first option (free 15 Minute Exploration Session):
Whatever or wherever you choose,
and a Lovely Winter to All.
CLICK links for more:
Mayo Clinic, Benefits of Massage
National University of Health Sciences
American Massage Therapy Association
Harvard Medical School - Health Publishing
Importance of Touch for Elders (but really for us ALL)
More on Touch for Elders
(As you can see, there is a LOT of info out there. . . let's all be conscious of the importance of touch and make sure we touch others with kindness and intention, and receive the touch we all deserve for best quality of living and dying!)
Super Short Somatic Safety Exercise for Traumatic Moments ~ or Simple Re-connection to Your Body and The Present
Below (and also on the "Meditations" page of this site) is a link to short video sharing some words and then a demonstration of an (even shorter) exercise you can learn, teach others, and use any time you or those you are near need to reclaim a sense of safety. It is not a fancy video - but the exercise can be a surprisingly powerful healing tool. I have used it in my work with trauma survivors - from immediate trauma (abuse, violence, house fire, earth quake, facing pain, death penalty etc.) to the trauma of our deep past (from recovery of repressed memories, to recurring fears, emotional overload, PTSD and C-PTSD that is based in past experiences of abuse, war, prison, law-enforcement encounters, long term health triggers, deep grief and more). But I also use this exercise for myself any time I need to regroup - to recover from a small scare in traffic, to prepare to enter interaction with a client in my work, to ground myself when I am feeling out of sorts, and to nurture myself back to sleep at night. Try it out, and let me know what you use it for and how it works (or doesn't) for you!
The exercise is particularly nice for those who are facing death - their own or a loved one's - as it helps to alleviate future-focused anxiety, bringing us again and again back to awareness of and focus on
JUST THIS MOMENT,
JUST WHAT IS HAPPENING INSIDE ME RIGHT NOW.
PS: Kids love this exercise! It works particularly well for many kids as they are able to be truly present to sensations in ways adults often struggle to be. Also, I have found that kids love to offer the exercise to friends and even remind their siblings or parents to use it when they witness people struggling with stress. Doing the exercise as a family can be both unifying and individuating in a simple, healthy way.
Art by Cbabi Byoc. Please visit the artist's website HERE.
. Short Somatic Safety Exercise (6:02)
Note: This video requires a password to view. The password is: heartful
Beginning with a verbal description, with a demonstration to follow, this video offers a simplified version of an exercise designed to bring a sense of safety during trauma (or any time you need to reconnect with your body and the present moment). The movements in the exercise are derived from several theories and practices, including the Chinese 5 Element Theory and the calming and energizing of specific meridians, the worldwide sensory symbol for safety and care (placement of a hand on shoulder), the universal, maternal facial soothing movements of nurturing, and energetic activation of the heart chakra. However, none of this information is needed for the exercise to work! Simply follow along, with as much attention to the physical sensation of the movements as you are able to attune to! The exercise is shown at a medium speed, but often has deepest effects when done extremely slowly, with intense focus on the sensory. . . enjoy.
Thank You, Community Health and Counseling Services Staff ~ New Hope Hospice and The Legacy of Pat Eye
Not long after I joined CHCS, I was made aware of an amazing human being; the fabulously creative, unceasingly hopeful, incredibly loving nurse, patient advocate and mother of our own New Hope Hospice here in Bangor; Pat Eye.
Recently, I have been privileged to spend time with Pat and learned that, even now at almost 90, Pat is as passionate for hospice and end-of-life care as ever. Pat shared with me that the most important thing to her was that hospice caregivers truly LOVE each and every patient we worked with. She felt that this was at the core of the job of all hospice workers.
I was thinking about this one morning after one of our staff meetings, and realized that that very morning, I had mentioned - and staff present had chimed in in agreement - that ours is a particularly loving team. And I note it again; that I am so grateful to work with all of you – I find here more truly loving compassion and care from each of you for your patients than I have experienced anywhere from professional staff. And I thought about this some more. . . and I realized that Pat Eye has, indeed, left a great legacy to hospice:
Pat Eye’s conviction that truly LOVING OUR PATIENTS with all our hearts, devoting our skills and receptivity to their care, that putting PATIENT FIRST, advocating for, uplifting patient’s wishes at end-of-life – that this incredibly loving way of being present with patients IS PAT’S LEGACY.
I shared this with Pat – and how much I appreciated that her founding sentiment – loving our patients – had colored the entirety of CHCS hospice, and possibly that of hospice workers she has touched outside of CHCS as well. . . that her passion for Deep Care and Patient Advocacy WAS TRULY THE LEGACY SHE HAD CREATED AND WOULD LEAVE US ALL.
Pat shared that she felt LOVE was an even better legacy to leave than a physical hospice building. I told her I agreed.
And so, today, I want again to thank you – each of you on our hospice staff whom I have begun to come to know – for the many ways you show or hold a LOVING presence in your active care for our patients. And for being the caring individuals you most likely are in the rest of your lives. I feel Pat’s legacy has trickled down, has called to it your service, has invited each of us into it’s flow – from Pat through our staff leadership, to each one of you, on our CHCS staff. I am honored to work among you.
I share this story for several reasons;
1. I want to lift up the fabulous Pat Eye for anyone who might not be aware of the foundational building block she has contributed to hospice in Bangor and specifically CHCS New Hope Hospice, but also to Hospice everywhere.
2. I want to honor CHCS leadership for holding and maintaining Pat’s incredible legacy of LOVE going forward and the ways this legacy has influenced the inspired hiring of so many loving souls.
3. I want to remind each of us who are the soldiers on the ground, in homes and with access to the bodies, hearts, minds and spirits of real human beings – our patients, their families, and each other – that your love, skill and presence are so much more than we often give one another and/or ourselves credit for: We are – you are – carrying out a legacy of Love that is changing the way living and dying is experienced, every day, with every interaction.
THANK YOU, EACH OF YOU, FOR YOUR COURAGE, SKILL, AND KINDNESS IN OPENING YOUR HEARTS AS YOU DO, EVERY DAY. You may take this for granted, but it is an immeasurable gift you give. And one that upholds our Pat Eye’s vision and passion so beautifully.
So yes, thank you Pat and every one of you, and may 2023 be the year that the love you give out returns to you threefold!
Amen, Aho, May It Be So.
(If you have not yet seen it, there is a brief documentary about Pat made by her granddaughter and presented at an award ceremony for Pat. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYfUqcC2lqw )
New Year's Feeling-Sense Re-Set
The days are still short, but from now forward for the first half of the year they are growing longer – offering us hope and the potential for growth, as we approach the time for new year’s resolutions. Yesterday, my wonderful niephew (niece/nephew they/them) shared their thoughts about new year’s resolutions. I want to offer you their wonderful reminder to try out a slightly different focus:
Aim for a feeling-sense, rather than actions-we-so-often-beat-ourselves-up-for-failing-at, as an option. Perhaps, in this little journey I offer (below), you might find one or two affirmations that bring you a feeling-sense of freedom or fulfillment. If so, you are most welcome to make that resonant feeling your focus for the new year; instead of a commitment to action, make for yourself a loving commitment to a feeling, and in this way, place your focus on those things in life that hold up that feeling for you.
(For example, rather than saying “I will go to the gym x times/week, you might say I commit to feeling fit and healthy this year.)
Do Affirmations work?
If you LET them, and if you ACT on them. . .
A Little Journey of Affirmation
I remind you that we now know that whatever you are experiencing in your heart (your feeling-sense), your heart then signals to your brain – even if it is a conjured or so-called “imagined” feeling – the heart experiences this – and the brain proceeds as if it were true; generating incredible changes; an actual change in constructed neural pathways, a shift in breathing, digestive action, endocrine system’s behavior, etc. So, as you read these affirmations, if they resonate for you, allow yourself to really feel them – AS IF TRUE – in your heart.
Take a few deep, slow breaths in, allowing belly to expand with the breath, upper chest to gently rise, then belly and chest slowly fall as breath flows out. If breathing is not your thing, try just placing a hand on your mid-chest, or heart. Feel the warmth there, . . . and listen . . .
My breath is deep and slow and full and gentle, and each lung full of oxygen I bring in nourishes every cell of my body.
I allow any pain currently in my body to softly release now, and even more so as the days go by.
I can feel or imagine my healthy blood cells moving through my veins and arteries like nutrient rich rivers, bringing strength, nourishment and vitality to every part of my body.
As I breathe, I can feel my bones becoming sturdier and more resilient.
My digestive organs are healthy and I easily assimilate all I take in with grace and ease, and with equal ease, I release what I no longer need.
My endocrine system functions in perfect harmony, my kidney, liver and adrenal glands are both vibrantly healthy, and peacefully restful.
My nervous system functions in perfect harmony with my purpose.
My muscles and joints are strong and elastic; my body’s movements flow comfortably, and I see myself joyfully doing all the activities I love to do.
My heart beats at a rhythm and a pace that is perfect for my entire being’s well-being.
I allow any emotional hurts I have been carrying to become soft now, and when ready, Even from heated recent moments, even from years or decades ago, - I feel them gently melting and falling away.
At least for this moment, I release all people who have hurt me, I release them from the bondage of my obsession.
I release any emotional hooks I had placed in other people or situations and allow my energy to return to my self; I can feel the vitality return to me as I do so.
At least for this moment, I can feel a soft blanket of kindness wrapping around my most tender self, protecting me from the need to react to the thoughts or words of others.
I trust that what my body remembers will return to me at the right time and in the right way and thus I know I am safe within myself.
At least for this moment, I allow the Earth beneath me - or the Universe around me, or the Divinity within or beyond – to hold me.
I easily let go of any thoughts or beliefs I have held that no longer serve me; as breath swirls within me, my mind becomes free and clear. As if a breeze, blowing off a great lake or ocean is washing through me, I can now feel a great openness and stillness within me.
I see my mind like a lake; the waves may be large but as I watch them they become smaller, gentler, until they may, when I am ready, become as still and flat as clear glass. . .
I can see myself as if looking down from a star, and I see that all is well within and around me.
I am safe. I am good. I am loved.
I realize that in this moment it is safe to allow myself to open to the unknown.
I embrace the bright, dark skies of winter, and can see in the distance, a light – the sun, slowly, slowly returning to light my world.
I allow this sunlight to flood my being.
I breathe the pure light through the skies, through my mind, through my heart, through my entire body.
I know that just as much as matter, I am filled with and made of light – the light of what I hold most sacred – the light of knowledge, the light of hope, the warm light of the heartful flame at Earth’s very core, the light of stars that falls upon my head and heart and down through my body, the light of God/Goddess/Goddex, or the simple, warm light of my own deepest self.
I am fulfilled, emptied, at peace.
And this is enough.
Take some deep, slow, full and gentle breaths.
If you like, place one hand on your belly and one on your heart to anchor in what we have experienced, and just be with that feeling for a moment, holding it in silence.
I love you all.
PS: You can LISTEN TO MAYA speak the affirmations HERE or on the Meditations page of this site.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, WHICHEVER ONE(S) YOU CELEBRATE,
DELICIOUSLY HEALING AND INSPIRING NEW YEAR
to ALL MY HOSPICE FRIENDS!!
This is also a loving reminder to TAKE AS MUCH KIND & GENTLE CARE OF YOURSELF as you do of those around you, especially during the potential madness of holiday season!!
Know that I hold your hearts and celebrate your voices in so much gratitude for all you do and are.
With Buckets of Love to One and All,
OPEN HOUSE December 17th
There are lots of slots still available for my 12/17 open house - come visit me!
You can bring your kids - there are coloring books, stories about grief and loss and a basket of toys. Bigger kids like the Angels Blessing - one young visitor told me to tell you all "I liked it so much and it got all the bad stuff out of me and you should go!" so, there, take it from a kid; experience an Angels Blessing for yourself and see what you think. Or come close your eyes for a moment of rest while I ask God/Goddess/Universe/Nature/Source Energy to replenish you. . . or come sit in quiet. . . or ask questions or learn about what "spiritual direction" really is (hint: there is no "direction" involved!!) Or just come chat.
I would love to see you there!
And if you are unable to attend but would like to stop by in the new year, I am only a text or an email away.
Go to the OPEN HOUSE page to sign up (just scroll down to the blue calendar for December 17th).
Here is to gentle, vibrant wellness for us ALL!
The poem I will read at tomorrow's hospice meeting is a gentle blessing written by author/artist Jan Richardson. I think Jan captures natures offering to us with grace. . .
It is from her book "The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief "
The poem is about a blessing that will find you, wherever you are. It is about the turning of year; Solstice, that night that is longest and yet gives way to days that grow brighter, bringing us light, growth, something new. And it is a poem about grief, the long, dark night it can lay upon our hearts, and also, it is about hope.
I hope you enjoy Jan's gentle words of comfort as we approach Winter Solstice and the arrival of the newborn sun.
(You can click the link HERE or above to go to Jan's website, order her books and/or learn more about her work.)
I will read this poem twice; once for the journey, once for my team to listen for a word or a phrase that spoke to them, or will be, perhaps, a key for them this day. Maybe you would like to listen for your word, phrase or key. . .
Blessing for the Longest Night
All throughout these months
as the shadows
this blessing has been
It has practiced
walking in the dark,
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.
So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.
You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
in the company
of a friend.
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.
This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you will be walking
toward the dawn.
MMA 4 Deaths - Community Support
On December 10th, at a walkable distance from my home in the Castine woods, a fatal car crash took the lives of four students of Maine Maritime Academy. I am holding prayers, offering blessings and will be available as much as I can to support during this long deep journey of grief for families and community.
There will be a vigil this evening, around the flagpole in the main court yard at the academy.
MAINE MARITIME ACADEMY | 1 PLEASANT STREET, CASTINE, ME 04420
Thank you for your good thoughts for the families, friends and all who are suffering such loss at this time.
December 11th, 2022
COME ON IN!! . . .
A BIG THANK YOU to all who attended my Office Open House on the 10th - it was wonderful to have your presence in the space, share what I offer, and hear a bit about each of you who visited. Slots are OPEN on the second and last day of my open house, Saturday, December 17th. If you would like one for yourself, or for someone you know who might enjoy some pre-holiday Rest & Rejuvenation, text me to reserve!
The Mini-Sessions are FREE during my open house. Come see what one of my most "woo-woo" offerings feels like - breathe a little LIGHT during these DARKEST DAYS of the year . . . give yourself or a friend the experience an Angel Blessing, or just come sit in the warmth and welcome of my office (to chat or enjoy a moment or two of silence), designed to hold you in Heartful Healing & a Hallelujah.
With Love Always,
Rev. Maya Massar