As Kyle finished eighth grade, and then went to visit Mike in Napa for the summer, I settled in to my new job at Choices Integrative Healthcare in Sedona. Founded in 1998, Choices is a truly integrated medical office under the direction of Devin Mikles, MD, MD(H), FACP. There were eight practitioners of various modalities practicing during my tenure there; the number has grown over the years as the practice has expanded. We had weekly meetings during which we discussed patients and how best to help them. Whether it was a traditional medical approach, or acupuncture, or psychology, or homeopathy, or some combination of treatments, we would all work together to offer the best we could for the benefit of the patients. My role was to provide bodywork that addressed chronic pain. Quite often I worked with the same patients that my friend Rachel did and we were able to create a beautiful flow in their care. Our styles of therapy were different yet very similar and we were able to work together in moving toward the same goals.
Over time, I developed my own technique that allowed me the ability to access the deep holding patterns that were keeping patients in the pain cycle. I used everything I had learned in the various classes I had taken, the understanding I garnered in the decades I had spent watching bodies slowly become more flexible during yoga classes, and I also relied heavily upon my own intuition. Teaching yoga had given me the knowledge in how to assist the body in reorganizing and coming into proper alignment. My studies had taught me about the communication process within the body, and how to help create new pathways of communication, thereby creating new habits of ease in movement. My intuition showed me where to look to find the deepest points holding the pain; I was able to sense the stagnation and/or the release, and work with the deepest tissues in an extremely gentle way.
Rachel was a great support to me as I refined and expanded my knowledge of anatomy. I would say to her that I “saw” (intuitively felt) something, describing its placement and shape and the color(s) I saw, and she would name it for me. In the mid-nineteen-nineties I had been fortunate enough to get some mentoring on the nerve systems from an incredible Physical Therapist who lived in the hills above the Napa Valley. He approached all his work through the nervous system, and to work beside him for even a short time was an amazing experience. At Choices, five years later, I wasn’t able to remember all the names of the nerves. All I had to do was say to Rachel, “It went from (here) to (here)” and she would name it right away.
One gentleman, who was in his seventies, was referred to me because he had pain in his right shoulder that medicines and chiropractic adjustments had not been able to reduce. I was pretty much the last resort before surgery. When I work, I hold the area very lightly, and wait. I wait to find out what the body wants to tell me; I wait to see how the body wants to move and what is preventing it from doing so. I sat at the head of the table, one hand slipped underneath this man’s shoulder and the other resting quietly at the round of the shoulder and across the collarbone. I waited for his shoulder to soften under my touch. As most people do at that point, he quieted down. His breath became deeper and more expansive. I noticed him shudder ever so gently, and then felt a tear drop on my arm. Ever watchful that I might be exacerbating the pain, I asked if he was all right.
He sighed, and began to tell me of a memory that he was having of something he hadn’t thought about in years. During WWII, he was a young boy of thirteen and the only child at home. His older brothers were in Europe fighting the war. Home was a three thousand acre horse farm in Kentucky. A winter storm was settling in and the horses had to be rounded up and brought down from the hills. He and his father set out across the countryside; sometime in the ride, when they were far away from the house, he fell off his horse and broke his right collarbone. His father had had no choice but to bind his son’s injury as best he could and keep them both moving to complete the task at hand.
As he related this memory, my patient kept saying that he understood that things had to be the way they were. There was no other option in the moment. He rode with his injury and his pain. They got the job done, and then when the horses were all gathered in near the house, his father was able take him for medical treatment. He talked of how upset his father had been; how sorry he had been that things had needed to happen that way. He didn’t understand why he was crying about it then, some sixty years later.
I noticed that the tension in my patient’s shoulder increased as he talked about what had happened, and started to soften as he allowed himself to let the tears flow. I made the comment that it seemed to me that, while his father had done what he could for him in the moment and had been upset by it, and while many years had passed and the boy was a long time into adulthood, there was still the emotion of the thirteen year old inside him who was hurt and needed comforting that he never received. It was fine to understand the adult workings of the situation, and it was also fine to nurture the memory of the pain. Over the next few minutes, his shoulder released more and more as the tears streamed from his eyes. When we were finished for the day, he got up off the massage table, and said that it was the first time in years that he had no pain in his shoulder. We worked together for a few more appointments over the next couple of weeks so that we could re-train the muscles that had been holding his shoulder in one position for decades. It was not too long before he was completely in alignment and remained pain-free.
The more experiences that I had like that, the more confidence I began to have in myself. Years earlier, Jaichima had told me that I knew more than I realized I knew. I began to understand what she meant. I was beginning to understand that I work with people on an empathic level. I had heard the term “clairsentient empath” somewhere, and I was beginning to realize that the term describes what I am able to do. Along with sensing the tension in the tissues, I was seeing colors in them, and I was feeling the emotions that were connected with the pain and tension.
In the four years that I worked at Choices, I felt completely fortunate to be able to go to work each day. I know that I was not able to completely help everyone who was sent to my little office and I know that I was able to help some people in a very profound way.