All the practitioners I know in the field of healing say that, when they look at how they got to where they are, they can trace their choice of profession back to their childhoods. I am no exception. In my case, it showed up in the way I welcomed taking care of my four younger siblings, or how I would find a baby bird who had fallen out of its nest and bring it home to nurse into a fledgling. I would feel so proud and joyful as I watched it fly away, sure that it would have a wonderful life.
My natural inclinations were undeniably influenced by being brought up Catholic (being half Irish and half Italian, was there any other option?). As a child, I loved the incense, Gregorian chant and the ceremony of mass. It was all in Latin then, so no words got in the way of my experience. I absolutely loved Jesus. I wanted to be a healer like him. Even as young as 6 or 7, I was impressed by the way he could talk to people and have them realize that they could think and do things differently, that they could be loving and helpful . . . to themselves and to the others around them. His laying on of hands, healing lepers and bringing back the dead, touched me in a profound way that went beyond the awe of the miracles. I went to mass and communion daily throughout junior high and high school and prayed to be of service.
I went to a catholic college and chose a major that was called Speech Correction because I wanted to help people express themselves. However, the nuns there were so nasty that I stopped being Catholic. I decided to find out what spirituality had been like before it was institutionalized. That was very enlightening because I discovered that indigenous cultures honored allof God’s creation, not just a hierarchy of church officials. They did look up to their elders and leaders, but all their voices were heard. And, unlike churches, women had the trust and respect of their tribes and clans, and were just as likely to be the leaders as men were. This gave me a new sense of possibility. I understood that even a woman could make a significant contribution to society. [That might seem strange to say, but it was quite a revelation for a young woman coming to adulthood in the mid -1960’s. Afterall, I had grown up in the 1950’s, and the movement for Equal Rights for Women didn’t even start until after the Equal Rights Amendment passed in 1972.] I was inspired!
My inspiration was put on hold, however, because I married a pretty macho guy at the age of 21. The Women’s Liberation movement hadn’t happened yet. Several years later I marched for women’s rights, divorced, and moved to New York City to study Shiatsu. Now I was living a life of my own choosing . . . and it was fantastic! I was an enthusiastic and dedicated student. I organized study groups so that I could be “in it” day and night, and I practiced on people all the time. The school I was enrolled in was so pleased with my attitude and aptitude that they hired me to teach the beginning levels before I graduated! They also hired me to work in their clinic after graduation.
I met fascinating people and worked on stars from the movies, the ballet, modern dance and Broadway. I learned yoga. I became a Buddhist monk for a short time (or, as I like to say, a “monkette”). I was sent to Canada and to several European countries to teach shiatsu. Some amazing healers from Japan came to our school. I found one of them to be so astounding that I moved to Germany to apprentice with him for two years. Besides being an internationally reknown healer in the shiatsu world, he was a Shinto priest. Shinto is the ancient indigenous spirituality of Japan. He taught me much of what I know about healing, both on the physical and esoteric levels. Just being being in his presence was an uplifting experience for everyone around him. He worked “miracles” on those of us who studied with him.
By this time, my own reputation was growing internationally. I was recruited back to the United States to design nationally certified shiatsu programs in massage schools, community colleges and acupuncture colleges. I did this over a period of 18 years in five states and many institutions, and loved spreading this beautiful work from coast to coast. During this period, four national certifying agencies hired me as their subject matter expert (SME) for on-site visits at various schools to assess the eligibility of their programs.
This was a very exciting and prolific time in my career. From all across the country, twelve other practitioners and I envisioned a national professional organization for Asian bodywork that was distinct from European and American style massage. We realized our dream in 1989 with the formation of the AOBTA (American Organization for the Bodywork Therapies of Asia). I wrote the initial draft of the educational requirements for student clinic, and chaired the committee that brought it to completion. Next, in the mid-1990’s, several of us worked with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) to develop a national exam. It took over a year and was a BIG accomplishment for our profession . . . and so satisfying.
Throughout all these years, there remained a continual inner drive to increase my understanding and skill set. I wanted to know everything about what it means to be human, and how we become happy, healthy and wise. I studyied with American chiropractors, European osteopaths and Asian acupuncturists. I furthered my knowledge and practice of Asian medicine by on-going personal, professional and tutorial relationships with my most influential teachers. Sadly, they have passed on. I miss them.
Some of my most gratifying and fulfilling courses of study and apprenticeships have been those with native healers of different cultures. I feel so fortunate to have been taken into such magnificent worlds of wonder – and to have been shown how to lead others there. These are the realms within the human potential where spontaneous realizations and unexplainable remissions happen, where the mind is at peace and the soul rests in the silence of deep joy.
Yes, I have been lucky. I have visited these worlds . . . admittedly, only for moments . . . but repeatedly. My inner drive to sustain the stillness, the peace, persists. And it is my sincere and heartfelt desire to share that space with those who want to know that experience for themselves.