Recently I had the opportunity to attend a symposium
of integrative medicine professionals in New Mexico. Since I was
there representing National as an exhibitor, I did not attend the
many exciting and innovative workshops, but I did speak to many
exciting and innovative health care practitioners who are inspired
to bring their practices to another level in patient care. Making
the adventure even more interesting was the diversity of the
participants. In attendance and conducting workshops were MDs,
PhDs, RNs, dietitians, chiropractors, naturopaths, nutritionists,
oriental medicine practitioners, acupuncturists, and yes, massage
Of most interest to me was the fact
that a good portion of the workshops were lead or assisted by MDs.
I think that I have unfairly grouped MDs together as practitioners
who prefer to work with other MDs and shun complementary and
alternative care providers. Nothing could have been further from
the truth in this setting. If I were from Mars and came to earth
for the first time landing smack dab in the middle of this group I
would feel their unity, their deep and abiding desire to help and
nurture. and be very impressed with the quality of care offered to
The only things that resembled any
other conference or symposium that I've ever attended were a
continental breakfast, refreshment breaks and lunch on your own!
Seriously, this was so far off the beaten path and so intense in
its purity and energy that I felt privileged to rub elbows with
these forward thinking professionals.
The first day started with a keynote
presentation on the future of integrative medicine. Workshops
included: Integrative Pain Management; Mindfulness Based Stress
Reduction; Native American Healing Practices; and Mexican Folk
Healing. The afternoon sessions concentrated on cardiology with an
Integrative Cardiology; Yoga Therapy for Cardiovascular Health; and
Prayer, Healing and the Soul. Day two covered oncology and
pediatrics and these sessions included: Chinese Herbal Medicine in
Integrative Oncology; Restorative Qualities of Oncology Massage,
Yoga for Breast Cancer; Chiropractic Medicine in Adults and
Children; Homeopathy in Daily Practice; Healing with Hypnotherapy
in Children; and Indigenous Healing Traditions.
Day three addressed women's health
issues including nutrition, osteoporosis, chronic stress, and core
strength. The symposium concluded with a look at integrative
pharmacy with workshops that included The Herbal Kitchen, Ayurvedic
Pharmacy, and a Botanicals Panel.
Being a huge supporter of
complementary and alternative care, I was in awe of the amount of
information that was exchanged by these leaders in integrative
medicine. There was an outpouring of support for one another, an
eagerness to learn from each other, and a yearning to create a new
model of health care together.
Some of the additional benefits
offered at this conference were sunrise yoga and meditation at 6:30
am. Our continental breakfast had background music from a harpist
one day and a flutist another - and there wasn't a sweet roll or
donut in sight. Complementary chair massages were offered by
students of the massage program at the University of New Mexico.
One evening there was a community ritual for healing offered
offsite at the Dragonfly Sanctuary and participants were asked to
fast for the day for optimal success. There was much buzz the next
morning about how extraordinary the experience had been.
The best part for me was meeting
massage therapists who use their practices to improve the health of
their clients and, in this setting, were accepted and respected for
their part in integrative care. As groups like this one take up the
challenge to engage their patients in a wide variety of holistic
care, massage therapy will be elevated to its proper position in
the health care system.
So get on
board and explore the possibilities of this profession - the sky is
the limit! Join the growing list of professionals who call
themselves massage therapists and use touch as their healing art.
We make it easy for you with our Intro to Massage mini course where
you can be a student for two weeks, fall in love with the
profession and unleash your inner healer.
Getting the best education possible should be the
number one priority for any student and here at National you will be offered that and even
more. Aside from the wonderful programs we offer there's so much
more going on here.
Did you know that as a student you get
free care at our Clinic? See any one of our interns to receive
chiropractic care, naturopathic care, acupuncture, or you can give
oriental medicine a try. Massages are not included in this perk,
but when you enroll in the massage program you'll get massages in
your technique classes each week. If you'd like a massage by one of
our interns, it would be $40 for one amazing hour of bodywork.
A mentoring program offers academic and social support for those
who may experience difficulty adapting to the rigorous academic
program and new social environment at NUHS. The Mentor Program is a
useful resource for new students provided by current students
offering an immediate personal link with experienced guidance and
Tutoring is available at no charge. This program focuses on
assisting students who are having academic difficulty with the
basic sciences or with the curriculum in general.
We also have a fitness center that is free to students. There
are machines in one room and weights in the other and there are
also locker rooms to change and store your street clothes.
Chiropractic interns can lend a hand in helping develop an exercise
routine specific to your needs.
There is a Health and Fitness club on campus and they offer yoga
(twice a week) and boot camp (once a week) for only $10 per
trimester (15 weeks!). Sometimes, in the nice weather, you'll see
students practicing yoga on our floating stage in the pond in front
of the library. We have basketball and sand volleyball courts,
intramural sports and a kiddie park. If you have a band, the
floating stage is a great venue to play and the acoustics are
There are many other clubs as well.
One of the newest is the Earth Club and they have initiated
recycling on campus, which was sorely needed and greatly
appreciated. On the more academic side, there are clubs supporting
the mission of specific fields like the Student Association on
New resident swans arrive every April
to grace our pond, fondly referred to as Lake Janse after one of
our most respected presidents. The "couple" raises their offspring
and keeps the Canada geese at bay. It seems every year the swans
get some bad press and last year was no different. One of the baby
swans died and shortly thereafter a baby duck was found dead - the
father swan was implicated. Their time with us ends in October when
they head to their summer home - in Wisconsin! I know, it makes no
Just recently National formed a
partnership with Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks who offer year
'round delivery of food sourced from local sustainable farms that
preserve our environment. We are a weekly delivery site for their
local and organic produce, meat, dairy, and eggs. This supplies the
National community with food at the peak of freshness, packed with
vitamins and minerals, and supports our "whole health" approach to
wellness. An additional benefit is that we are supporting the
livelihoods of local farmers.
To support local artists, the halls of
our clinic are adorned with works of art from the Lombard Arts
Coalition. Each month the art changes and an ice cream social
celebrates the new arrivals.
community we've created here is small, unique and ever changing. It
is centered and balanced with a commonality of supporting whole
health. Joining the National community will offer you the
opportunity to learn more than just academics. Here, students are
offered a chance to change lives, starting with their own.
My all-time favorite comedy film is "What About
Bob?" I have seen it more times than I can count and still find
myself laughing at scenes that I could virtually repeat from
Although the movie is a ridiculous
exaggeration of an OCD patient, two messages from the movie have
resonated with me and have helped me build a foundation that allows
me to keep things in perspective, lighten up and maintain some
semblance of balance in my life.
The first is the very underlying theme
of the movie and that is that life is much easier to handle when
you take it in baby steps. "Baby Steps" is actually the title of a
book written by Dr. Leo Marvin (Robert Dreyfus), a psychiatrist in
The idea of taking baby steps is
nothing new, but remembering to incorporate that advice precisely
when you need it takes practice. I repeat that mantra many times
when feeling overwhelmed, and it forces me to readdress the issue
that's giving me trouble and dissect it into manageable pieces,
thoughts or projects. Just carving it up like that and taking
another look, from a different angle, just seems to put it in
The second idea - and this one is
ridiculously simple, yet brilliant - comes about from a scene when
Dr. Marvin is trying to get rid of a patient, Bob Wiley (Bill
Murray), who has followed his family to their vacation home because
of his attachment to Dr. Marvin.
To Bob's objections, Dr.
Marvin begins to write him a prescription. The prescription reads,
and I think this is the brilliant part, "Take a vacation from your
problems." How utterly simple these few words are, but taken at
face value, we can all learn from his clever idea. I mean, who
doesn't need a vacation from their problems once in a while?
Sharing these ideas with you came to
mind during a recent massage. As I lay on the table becoming more
relaxed and dazed, I thought about how lovely it is to get to that
point of nirvana where you don't care about your job or the work
that awaits you, you're not worried about the kids, financial
worries can take a hike -face it, you don't even care to remember
your name! This is the exact place to take a vacation from your
problems because in this ecstasy, they cannot co-exist.
As a massage therapist, you will
realize the power of touch, the most sophisticated physical tool in
the world. As a result of your work, you can create an escape for
your clients, a vacation from their problems. And because
therapeutic massage is one of the only forms of health care that
specifically addresses the mind, body and spirit, it is
Take good care of yourself. I hope to
be hearing from you soon!
I attended a seminar recently and in lieu of the
traditional "let's go around the room and introduce ourselves"
routine, the speaker asked that we give our names and share one
thing that we are grateful for in our lives. It was such a
refreshing way to start the day and we all smiled and nodded as we
listened to each other's blessings. It was an immediate bonding
experience and so much more enjoyable than the usual introductions.
Even better, it started off our day with happy thoughts and
gratitude - maybe you should consider it for your next meeting.
Given the times we live in, I think
it's so much more important to be aware of the blessings in our
lives. Just being able to acknowledge that we have something to be
thankful for can make a difference in our attitudes. When we are
surrounded by negativity, as we seem to be lately, it's so easy to
fall prey to the mood of the majority and join the pity party.
Whenever I think I need to count my
blessings, I remind myself of a trip I took a few years ago to
Costa Rica. I was amazed at how happy and grateful I found the
locals, even though at first site they seemed very poor. They love
their country and they love sharing the riches their country has to
offer with their visitors. The bounty of riches that were shared
with me included the ocean, miles and miles of beaches, the sun,
the rain forest, colorful and extraordinary animals, swollen
rivers, jagged landscapes, lush greenery, exotic fruits, their very
humble hospitality, and their ability to approach life at a
profoundly slow pace. I found myself envious.
No one was in a hurry and smiles were abundant. People
took the time to try and understand my poor Spanish and I took the
time to listen to their poor English and we got things accomplished
and had a good laugh at the same time. Everyone I came in contact
with was happy and grateful - it was that simple. There was
reason to be envious.
One of our cab drivers stopped on a bridge so that we could get
out and look over the bridge at the crocodiles sunbathing. He
wasn't worried about our timetable or his, nor was he being paid to
be a guide, he was just so happy to share. Another one stopped
before sunset at a very special place where people view the sun
dropping into the ocean. He said we couldn't miss it and I'm
grateful to him that we didn't. These were priceless experiences
for me and even for my hosts, even though they had access to these
events daily. They weren't taking anything for granted.
Here in the States, we've had a bit of
a setback as we've watched industry tumble and our friends and
family members lose jobs or houses or both. As we attempt to move
forward as a country and adjust our thinking and spending and the
way we live, gratitude can play a significant role in the process
because from the gratitude comes real happiness and
One of the things I learned in my
seminar is that for every negative action in our lives there is a
positive counteraction that we will realize. The "secret" lies in
not dwelling in the negative, but opening oneself up to look for
the positive counteraction. If you're not looking and not open to
it, it will pass you right by.
I have met many people recently who
have lost their jobs and decided to return to school. The stories
are very similar in that Massage Therapy is something they've
always thought about doing but just didn't have the time. So, now
that they have been given the time, they have opened themselves up
to the positive counteraction, which is the opportunity to use that
time to accomplish a goal.
Money plays a big part in the decision
to return to school, so one point I'd like to leave you with is
that there is a big misconception about our government's financial
aid program. Financial aid is offered to every citizen no matter
what their income level. There are two forms of aid - one is in the
form of grants (don't have to be paid back) and one is in the form
of loans (repayment starts six months after graduation). Don't
think that because you've made money in the past that you are
ineligible. Uncle Sam is still very generous in this department and
the cost of tuition for our massage therapy program is about equal
to that of a used car, and should prove to be a much better
investment. In return for the money you spend (or borrow) you walk
away with a skill that can support you for the rest of your life
and hopefully give you a profession that brings you happiness and
As always, we're here to help when
In January, my daughter, son-in-law and I visited my
mother in Florida. We went on a walk around her development to look
at the houses, plants and fruit trees. We made a special trip to
the back of one of her neighbor's yards because she wanted to show
us a banana tree. She was particularly fond of these bananas that
she called Lady Fingers and told us how much she enjoyed them
whenever her neighbor shared a few.
Fast forward a few days where my mom
won some money on a slot machine during a gambling cruise we took
into international waters. That was pretty significant because my
mom just loves the slot machines, but NEVER wins! She said the
money was for all of us to share on our vacation and asked what
we'd like to do with it. I suggested we go and get her a banana
tree since she was so fond of them and that way her winnings would
be the gift that keeps on giving.
My mom had the most puzzling reply,
"Oh, that would be nice, but I don't think I'd live long enough to
see the fruit, so why bother." WHAT? My mom is in her early 70s,
very healthy and active. That would NOT be the reply I would have
expected. As a daughter, that's just not the thing you want to hear
from your mother.
Well, I wasn't about to buy into that baloney, so I suggested we
take a ride to a nursery to find out exactly what it takes to grow
a banana tree and how long before the fruit arrives. Luckily, we
found some very healthy plants and the attendant told us they would
bear fruit in a year to a year and a half. So I asked my mom, "Are
you willing to stick around at least a year and a half and make
this commitment or is that asking too much?" She was a sport and
the banana tree found a home.
After a little trial and error, we found the perfect place and
my son-in-law planted the tree. I'm very happy that my mom has the
fruit to look forward to and she actually has a wonderful reminder
of the day she finally won on the slot machines!
My mom is very happy to report on the
progress of her little addition that is growing like a weed, has
sprouted baby banana trees and will probably be an early bloomer.
In fact, when my sister was visiting her recently, my mom tied some
bananas from the store on the tree and sent a picture. She's a nut
- glad she'll be around for a while!
So, I'm sure you're thinking, nice
story, but what does this have to do with massage therapy? Well,
the moral of the story is you should never think you're too old for
anything, whether it be planting a fruit tree or changing careers.
Many prospective students that I talk to are cowering behind their
fear of being too old or out of school too long to start the
massage program. Nothing could be further from the truth - those
students are usually the ones who do the best and end up being
sought-after therapists. A little bit of life under your belt never
Our classrooms are full of students
from all walks of life and all ages. We have nurses, personal
trainers, recent high school graduates, recent college graduates,
stay-at-home moms, teachers, flight attendants, high-end managers,
and retirees. The diversity of ages makes it so much more enjoyable
and so much more enriching to each student. Everyone is scared,
everyone is worried, everyone is excited, and everyone is on the
same adventure into the unknown. In addition to gaining a career,
you'll probably make some wonderful friends.
The banana tree and my mother are thriving - so will you! Please
give me a call when you're ready to make that commitment.
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