Tuesday morning I received a call from my former husband.  I noticed how my stomach began slithering in knots and my heart began to race.  Even after 10 years my body still had that immediate visceral response  just seeing John’s name on my ringing phone.  I was sitting in my auto mechanic’s office, waiting for my car to be inspected.  Not the place to talk.  I put my hand over that slithery place in my abdomen, took a deep breath, and smiled.  It’s okay, I thought to myself.  I imagined he wanted to talk about Marleigh and Delaney, as they hadn’t spoken in several months, and I didn’t anticipate it being a particularly pleasant conversation.  I’ll get back to him when I get out of here, I thought.

But the moment I heard his voice in his message, I knew this wasn’t a frustrated or angry call.  I could hear immediately that there would be no riot acts being read. His voice was soft, his words were paced slowly.  He was calling to tell me his stepson had died in an auto accident the night before, and he really needed to talk to his daughters.  Could I help him.

I was sitting in my auto mechanic’s office, amidst a regular day.  Their world had been turned upside down.  Altered indelibly.  Unimaginably.

Phone calls and text messages have filled the quiet spaces of these past two days.  They will continue to do so.  There seems so little I can do, other than send love and support from afar.  Assure John that our daughters are healthy, and happy, and, most importantly, safe.  John’s partner fills my thoughts.  The mother of the young man who died.  I wish her comfort.  Great comfort.  May she be held and cradled.  May she receive and feel great love.  May she feel comfort.



And the Answer Is…

Occiput  via Pinterest

via Pinterest

For those of you who were absent for yesterday’s pop Anatomy Quiz, here’s the question:

The Occiput:  What is it? and Where does it live in your body?  Discuss.   Extra Credit for naming any muscles associated with it.

The Occiput (aka Occipital Bone) is the bone at the base of your cranium.

  • It articulates with the temporal and parietal bones of your cranium and serves to cradle, support, and protect your Amazing Brain.
  • It also articulates with your first cervical vertebra (aka C1, the Atlas Bone).
  • There’s a circular hole in the bottom of your Occiput called the Foramen Magnum (Great Hole).  Your spinal cord leaves your brain and passes through this space, then begins its journey down your spinal column.
  • Like Deb pointed out in her comment yesterday, some important muscles attach at your occiput:  Your suboccipitals, splenii, and upper trapezius are among them.  (You will not be quizzed on those names.)
  •  If you’d like a more scholarly description of the Occiput, please read Deb’s comment from yesterday.  But don’t let her scare you, she has a graduate degree in this stuff.

During your massage session, when you’re lying on your back, I’ll hold your cranium in my hands and my fingers will wrap around your occiput.   You might be surprised at the tension and discomfort you hold in this region.  But when you think about it, it makes sense.  These muscles help hold your heavy head (brain and all) up on top of your spine.  They work hard all the time stabilizing and balancing that mighty head of yours.  Muscular tension in the occipital region can be the source of (chronic) headaches.  Massage, of course, can resolve this tension and be a source of tremendous relief.

Many thanks and great job to those of you who participated in the quiz.  I LOVED your answers, both the text book and the creative.  Join me again next Monday for the next Pop Anatomy Quiz.  Don’t be shy, ALL answers are appreciated.  And there’s no right or wrong.

Your Sacred Garment




“The body is a sacred garment. It’s your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.” —Martha Graham


Your Body is a Sacred Garment.

It’s Your First and Last Garment;

It is What You Enter Life In

And What You Depart Life With,

And It Should Be Treated With Honor.


Taking care of yourself/your body is not a luxury.  It is not decadence.  It is not something you need to apologize for.  Or make excuses for.  Or put off doing.  It is completely essential.  Vital.  Treat your body with honor.  It is your sacred garment.

What will you do today to honor and take care of your sacred garment?


The Negative Committee

from via pinterest

via pinterest

I just love this quote.  It speaks of those berating voices inside our heads that we hear when, perhaps, we look in the mirror.  Or perhaps when we’re embarking on a new project.  Or when we’re reviewing a recently completed project. Or when we’re thinking about changing careers, or going back to school.  Or when we walk into a room of strangers.  Or when we try on a new pair of jeans. You know what I’m talking about, right?  The voices that criticize and critique.  Our inner voices of self-doubt.  They’re all in our head.  Many people say they sound like a parent.  Others say a bully from school. These voices are terrified of change.  When given the power, they’ll keep us right where we are, forever and ever, no matter how good or bad “right here” is.  They’re the voices of fear.  And they’re just in our heads, playing over and over like a broken record or a bad radio station.  Somewhere along our paths, we just chose to keep that station tuned-in.

So go ahead.  Tell that Negative Committee to shut the hell up.  Move ahead with what feels right, and good, and healthy, and what maybe even stretches your boundaries a little.     And while you’re at it, please let me know how it goes.  I’ll be here cheering you on.

Gift of a Beautiful Day


I was so surprised when I stepped outside with my dogs this morning.    The air was warm and balmy.  It actually caressed my skin.  It felt so good.  A nice surprise on a late September morning. I’m going to soak up as much of this warm sunshine as I can today.  Go for a walk, or maybe a hike.  Maybe I’ll throw the kayak on the river.  Breathe in this good air.  Wear shorts and sandals for possibly the last time.  Days like this, this time of year are a gift.  Enjoying them is healthy, and good for us.  What are you going to do today?

Getting the Support We Need

A new client came to me the other day with mid back pain.  This has been an ongoing problem for her.  She’s an athlete:  1/2 marathons, full marathons, long distance hiking and cycling, rowing.  She’s a competitor.  This pain doesn’t keep her from he sports, but it’s been a constant companion for a couple of years now.

Once she was on the table, I explored her paraspinal muscles, and all the muscles around her scapulae, shoulder girdle, and neck.  I was palpating for tension, knots, applying gentle pressure and stretching the muscles. I expected to find some nasty trigger points in these areas.  (Trigger points are spots of tension and tenderness that frequently cause pain or unusual sensations elsewhere in the body.)  Nothing.  So I started working my way out from her mid (thoracic) spine, following the routes of the intercostal spaces.  These small spaces between the ribs house a multitude of small muscles.  Bingo.  There was her pain.  Massage would give her relief.  She exhaled, and began to relax.

The relaxation, relief,  and healing that massage provides is what I love about my work.  But for this client to really heal, I knew that we needed to discover why she was having this on-going pain.  Perhaps one massage would alleviate the issue, but it’s likely that the problem was deep-seated and would need further attention.  So after lengthy discussion, it occurred to me to ask her about support.  Support in the form of a sports bra.  She supposed she wore a decent sports bra, but added that she had trouble finding one that fit properly as they don’t really make them in larger sizes.  Again, Bingo.  Improper support can cause a multitude of back issues.  I urged her to get on-line and find a specialty shop that would cater to her size.  It would be an investment in her health.  She promised to do that, and to keep me updated.

Bear. To Be Continued

I packed-up all the garbage this morning and brought it to the dump.  My little Honda Fit was filled to the gills with Bear’s cast-offs. This evening I met up with my most wonderful brother-in-law, Marty, and he loaned me two motion cameras.  (One is a little beat-up from a bear nibbling on it in the woods.)  I set them up in my barn with a good view of the trash can.  Since I hauled off the yummy garbage, I’ll have to leave out a treat for the bear to see if s/he will return.  Feels like leaving cookies for Santa.  Hopefully we’ll get some good shots.  I’ll keep you posted.  I’m enjoying the idea of this mysterious night time visitor.  I haven’t had a chance to speak with any of my shaman friends, but I will later this week. If I get any good photos of Bear I’ll be sure to post them.  This reminds me of a story series I used to read to my daughters:  If you give a bear a cookie…

Bear Returns (yet again)

NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife - Know the Bear Facts-Black ... -

NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife – Know the Bear Facts-Black …


So I’ve picked-up the contents of 3 contractor bags of trash two days in a row now.  That means Bear and I have used 9 huge contractor garbage bags instead of three.  So this morning when I visited the fall-out of Bear’s most recent rampage, I decided to just let it lie.  I know that sounds gross.  And I’m not proud to admit that I’m leaving garbage all over my barn.  But seriously?  Come on!  So I’m using the “wasteful” card.  Can’t “waste” any more plastic.  That , and the “I just don’t want to pick garbage any more!” card.   I’ll pick it all up one last time tomorrow morning, when the dump/recycling center FINALLY re-opens and I can get rid of all the trash.  A friend suggested I set-up a motion sensor camera so I can see what Bear looks like.  Great idea!  Several of my friends use these cameras in the woods to capture images of wild life, so I hope to get my hands on one by day’s end.  Maybe I’ll get a good shot or two of Bear enjoying the smorgasbord I’ve left out for her/him.

I invited Bear to join me in my dreams last night, but my exhausted sleep was so deep that I don’t recall a single dream. However, meditating yesterday was another story.  I experienced two visions, of sorts.  In the first meditating vision/dream I was standing and Bear was walking towards me.  S/he circled me on all fours, the stood behind me and placed her/his front paws gently on my shoulders, claws and all.  There we stood for some time.  After that “experience” drifted away, I was again sitting in Meditation Circle, yet a bear cub walked over to me and laid in my lap, on it’s back.  We cuddled, as you would with a toddler human.  Both of these “visions” felt like an initiation of sorts.  An initiation and welcoming into the medicine of Bear.  The journey has begun.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have a photograph of my night time visitor.

Mandy Meyer-Hill

NYS Licensed Massage Therapist

Stairway Healing Arts Center

1 Washington Street
Cambridge, NY  12816


Night Time Visitor

Bear Medicine by Cathy McClelland - 648 × 680 - More sizes

Bear Medicine by Cathy McClelland – 648 × 680 – More sizes

Garbage, garbage everywhere.  The trash can was turned over.  Three contractor bags ripped open, their contents strewn across the dirt floor.  What a freaking mess!  And the smell…    I hadn’t even had my tea yet.  It was 6am.  I was taking the dogs out for a quick morning vigil and planned to hop back in bed with a cup of tea and my iPad.  Instead, I was picking up debris and filling three new contractor bags.  YUCK.  Double yuck.  And I was wondering how and when the dogs had gotten into it.  My first instinct was, “Bear,” but I quickly ruled that out.  Sure, we’ve seen bears in the fields around my house.  People in town told me they’d parked on the road in front of my home  (along with several other cars) and watched a 400 pounder (how do men always know how much they weigh?) meander across my side lawn.  But that was a few years ago.  My neighbors take in their bird feeders nightly because so many have been ravaged by the local black bears.  But having one in my barn seemed out of the question.  So I packed the mess back into bags and went inside, grumbling at my naughty dogs.

But later that day I ran into Mike Bodnar, my neighbor, friend, and NYS Forest Ranger.  “Hey, Mandy!  We say a bear coming out of your barn last night.”  He held his hand waist-high, showing me the bear’s height on all fours.   Far out!  Pretty darn cool.  What’s not cool is that the dump isn’t open again until Wednesday, so I think I’ll be picking up a lot of garbage over the next few days.  This morning when I peeked into the barn, I moaned at the mess that had returned in the night.  I’m putting rubber gloves on my shopping list today.

In Native American traditions, different animals (totems) carry different “medicine” and messages.  Not medicine in the pharmaceutical sense.  But opportunities, signs, and messages for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth and healing.  Hawks and crows have been strong totems for me over the years.  Now that I’ve been twice visited by a black bear in as many days, I’m going to take this as a note to investigate the medicine that bear carries.  Time for a little research.  I’ll meditate on Bear.  I’ll draw his/her image into my mind as I meditate.  Before I go to sleep, I’ll invite Bear into my dreams.  I’ll Journey with Bear.   I’ll speak to my shaman friends, I’ll turn to my books, and I’ll  troll the internet for information.  To me, this as a sign that a new door is opening in my spiritual life.  I welcome it.  And I’ll try to remember that as I pick-up the trash.

Mandy Meyer-Hill

NYS Licensed Massage Therapist

Stairway Healing Arts Center

1 Washington Street
Cambridge, NY  12816


True Love Feast on Your Life

Feast on Your Life


Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door,

in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here.  Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine.  Give bread.

Give back yor heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you


all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,


the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit.  Feast on your life.


-Derek Walcott


Flipping through my recent issue of Spirituality & Health magazine I came upon this poem.  It was like running into an old friend.  I had a copy of this on my bedroom wall for years, and reminded my daughters of it.  “You know, the poem with the billowing curtains around it?”   “Oh yea,” the said, feigning interest.  I was delighted, regardless.  When I first pinned it to my wall, I felt in my bones that it was true.  Yet, I didn’t experience it, that notion of loving oneself.  We’ve all heard it said that we can’t truly love another until we truly love ourselves.  I know I have.  A bazillion times.  When I first discovered this poem I was going through a nasty divorce and found myself raising two small girls alone. I didn’t know how I was going to do this.  I was afraid I would ruin the lives of these small angels.  Didn’t know how I would financially support the three of us on my own as a massage therapist in a rural town.   I felt unprepared.  Alone.  Beaten-down.  Depleted.  Exhausted.  So I pinned this poem to my wall with the notion that maybe if I read it daily, something would shift.  Loving myself felt a bit far-fetched. But perhaps it would at least help to quiet those punitive voices of criticism and self-doubt that ruled my days.  I kept going, putting one foot in front of the other.  Somehow, I’ve managed to support my family.  Miraculously, I’ve raised two brilliant young women.  No, we’re not done yet, they’re in their early- and mid-teens.  But we’re a tight, loving, pretty dynamic family, if I do say so myself.  My daughters are making their marks in the world in their own unique and beautiful ways, and I’m confident they will continue to do so.  We’ve done alright.  I have done alright.  Have I come to truly love myself?  Well, I still have a ways to go on that one.  But I can look at myself in the mirror with joy and pride, even love.  I’ve come a long way from those days of fear and exhaustion and self-doubt.  Over the years I have learned how to give myself wine and bread.    I am actually feasting on my own life.