Failing math, in the 4th grade, seemed like the end of the world.

I sat on our patio bench and cried. I was crushed, helpless, when confronted with long division.

My teacher, in her final years of teaching, didn’t have much charisma or patience left. Her method? DOING long division equations on the chalkboard over and over, with minimal explanation, occasionally inserting the remark, “Soon, the light will dawn.”

To this day, those words make my blood run cold. It’s one of the earliest times I remember feeling despair and isolation.

I heard the sound of crunching gravel, and saw my grandfather’s light green Chevy truck come up our driveway, slowly. The truck doors closed and I wondered how I was going to hide my tears, but it was too late. My grandfather was at my side, with his arm around me before I could say anything.

I couldn’t even answer, when he asked me what was wrong, so my Mom told him, as I sobbed and tried to catch my breath. I still feel the strong grip he had on my shoulder as he gave me the simplest piece of guidance and hope.

He said, “Listen. When your mom, aunt and uncle had a big problem in school, the five of us would join our heads together to find the answer.” His exact words were, “Entre los cinco, juntábamos las cabezas para hallar la solución.”

These simple words taught me that when I’m at the end of my rope and hopeless, the answer will always come when I reach out to those around me and ask for help. The final decision may come when I’m alone or in deep thought, but options and new possibilities come when I invite someone else into my need, or fear.


When I visit my childhood home, in South Texas, I still look at that spot on the patio, where I felt that deep stirring of hope.

Never underestimate the power of HOPE. especially when offered to a child.

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“Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.”

IMG_20140523_073538Thought for the Day:

“My beloved child, break your heart no longer.
Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.
You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.
The time has come.
Your time.
To celebrate.
And to see the goodness that you are.
You, my child, are divine.
You are pure.
You are sublimely free.
Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you.
If one comes, even in the name of ‘Truth’, forgive it for its unknowing.
Do not fight.
Let go.
You are God in disguise and you are always perfectly safe.
Do not fight the dark. Just turn on the light.
Let go and breathe into the goodness that you are.”

Swami Kripalvanandaji (Bapuji)
as copied from
“Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha”
by Tara Brach

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A Synthesis of Self-Care

My client community feeds my body and spirit.

Sometimes I carry canvas bags filled with fresh produce from my clients’ gardens. You might see me loaded down with tomatoes, kale, squash, beets, lettuce, honey, or even a container of cold gazpacho, on a warm summer day.

One lady remarked, as I boarded the bus, recently, “Oh is there a farmers market open today?”

“No, these are from my clients’ backyard gardens,” I answered.

“I see. Are you a landscaper?” she asked.

“No, I’m a body worker. Here, have some tomatoes!”

I just finished a leisurely breakfast, on my morning off: two scrambled eggs, inside lettuce wraps drizzled with olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper and gourmet salt, avocado on the side, and French pressed 100% Guatemalan roast coffee.

The lettuce and the salt came from two clients who are unknown to each other, and I realized that we created a synthesis of self-care!

The gifts gathered, with love, from their gardens, or during a grocery run, became a means of regeneration and nourishment, so that I can go back to the office tomorrow to support more clients in their personal practice of self-care.

Receiving garden gifts that nourish my body, the very instrument that I need to do my work, creates a beautiful synthesis where massage is truly much more than bodywork.

The relationships we have forged include births, deaths, marriages, illness, dramatic recovery, tears and many laughs. Even between sessions, my clients are nurturing my body and spirit.

To listen to an audio version of this blogpost, click HERE.

Beets from a client’s garden!

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The Healing Power of the Ocean

ImageThis photo is from 1972. I’m in the baseball cap, with my brother and cousins, and it reminds me that my grandfather, and his 10 siblings, had a deep spiritual connection to the ocean. He spent his whole life a short drive from South Padre Island, in Texas, and went there to swim and fish, frequently.

We enjoyed many family outings along that shoreline.

As we would load the car, ready to go home, my grandfather would always take one last deep-water swim. He was an excellent swimmer, but watching him, beyond the breaking waves, worried me. I can still see his head bobbing up and down in the calm waters beyond the white-capped waves.

Early one Saturday morning, he picked me up, in his 1968 Chevy light-green truck, and we drove out to the beach. He was very quiet, pensive and I assumed we were going to fish. He drove to the edge of the water, took a number 5 metal washtub out of the truck bed, and filled it with ocean water. He carried that heavy tub back to the truck, and we headed home. I didn’t ask what or why, and was just content to be a 6 or 7 year-old kid, alone with my grandfather.

We pulled up to his sister’s house, in the neighboring town, and he brought the tub of sea water to her bedside. She was ill, and in pain. He placed the tub on the floor, and said, “Aquí te traigo agua de TU mar.” Translation: I’ve brought you water from YOUR ocean.

The agonized look of pain on her face, as he helped her drop her legs over the edge of the bed, followed by a soothing look of relief, as her feet were embraced, caressed by the ocean water, remains a clear memory.

I witnessed the depth of love my grandfather had for his sister, and I learned that the ocean will always be a key to my healing and renewal.

And now you know why I’m grateful to practice bodywork in a space where the view, from the head of the massage table, is an ocean wave.

To listen to an audio version of this blogpost, click HERE.


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Cultivating Loving-kindness

In her last days, on this earth, my grandmother dictated a large section of the following meditation, from memory, to my Dad.

She was a lifelong avid reader, and this passage was a perfect summation of her attitude toward life.

It took many years before I could track down the full text, and I offer it below, with my translation.

She was the epitome of unconditional love and unshakable Faith.

Cultivando la vida espiritual y la comprensión hacia los demás, se obtiene más vida interior. El que ama a la humanidad, es amado por ella, y así vive feliz amando y sintiéndose amado.
Vemos la expresión del amor y de la vida, tanto en una llaga como en una flor. Olvidémonos de nosotros mismos y démonos a los demás, especialmente a aquéllos que necesitan de un apoyo moral.
Con esta actitud recibiremos la gran recompensa: PAZ PROFUNDA EN NUESTRO CORAZON, tesoro incomparable de Luz, Vida y Amor, fundido en un solo acto: DAR.
Todos somos niños grandes, cubiertos con piel de lobo, temerosos muchos de quese les descubra.
Por lo tanto, como niños, todos somos buenos. Hay solo equivocados en este camino, que esperan comprensión y ternura que brote del corazón, para transformarse en seres apacibles, suaves y puros, como la gota de rocío que brilla refulgente posada en el pétalo de una rosa.
Transformemos pues, con nuestra amabilidad, a quienes nos rodean y hagámosles felices: esta felicidad se reflejará en nosotros mismos. Cultivemos la miel de la comprensión y la tolerancia y así transformaremos fieras en mansos corderitos, pues todo aspecto de la creación necesita tres cosas: AMOR, AMOR y AMOR.
[Artículo escrito por Mario Salas en la revista El Rosacruz de mayo de 1980]

By cultivating a spiritual life and compassion toward others, we gain a deeper interior life. One who loves humanity is loved by it as well and lives in a loving manner, feeling loved.

We see the expression of love and life, equally, in the wound as in the flower. Let us be selfless and offer ourselves to others, especially those in need of moral support.

With this attitude, we will receive the great reward: DEEP PEACE IN OUR HEART, an incomparable treasure of Light, Life and Love, rooted in one simple act: to give.

We are all children, merely clad a wolf’s hide, fearful that our vulnerability will be exposed.

Therefore, as children, we are all good. There are simply some who are misguided, on this path. They long for understanding and tenderness, which sprouts from the heart, to become gentle, soft, and pure beings, as a drop of dew that shines brilliantly, on the petal of a rose.

Let us transform, through kindness, those around us and bring them happiness. This happiness will be reflected in ourselves.

Let us cultivate the sweetness of compassion and tolerance and thus transform fierce beasts into gentle lambs. In sum, all aspects of creation need three things: LOVE, LOVE and LOVE.

Written by Mario Salas, for the magazine, El Rosacruz, May 1980

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Walking the Labyrinth at Chartres

Nice read, at the end of World Labyrinth Day.

david brazzeal

The mother of all labyrinths is in the Chartres Cathedral about an hour SW of Paris. Sanan and I, along with our favorite Dutch friend, Willemijn, made the trip last Friday. (FYI, the labyrinth is only “uncovered” by clearing away the chairs on Fridays between 14h and 16h.) If you are imaging a quiet, ancient cathedral with the 3 of us meditatingly walking this amazing labyrinth, – well think again.

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With Open Arms

My grandmother died April 30, 2004.

The way she welcomed me, into her home, from childhood, through my adult years, continues to influence my life.

She stopped whatever she was doing, called out my name, threw her arms wide to swallow me up in a tight hug, and sweet kiss. (As if she had been waiting all her life to see me.)

She did this for all of her grand kids, and each one felt like the most important person in the world.

My Dad and I were talking about this, recently, and he said, “It didn’t matter if she hadn’t seen you for twenty-four hours or twenty-four days. Her  welcome was always the same, affectionate and joyful.”

It’s a practice I’ve retained, when I see my nieces and nephews. There is nothing more important, for a child, than being welcomed into the home (AND heart!) of someone who practices LOVE, unconditionally and exaggeratedly.

When I close my eyes and remember the sounds and sensations of her warm,  festive embrace, my heart still expands and I smile.

An open-armed, open-hearted, welcome is a simple, potentially life-changing, experience. Offer one, and receive one, whenever you can.


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Layers of Body Awareness

One of my clients describes her experience of receiving bodywork, during this time of intense grief, as working through “layers.”

With her breath, as a constant guide, she is able to experience a completely different internal process, during each session. I’m looking forward to seeing her again tomorrow evening.

Grief, or just saying goodbye, is an opportunity to grow in a new direction, and in this case, massage is much more than bodywork.


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Making Peace with Your Past

Making Peace with Your Past

How can this truth help you reach the next level, in your practice of self-care?

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Self-care for Bodyworkers


While demonstrating a massage technique, one of my students said, “Ruben, that looks like it feels really good in YOUR body, as a practitioner.”

I replied, “Well, yes. That’s exactly the point of being a body worker. The more you practice massage, the better it feels in your OWN body, and the client benefits from that.”

It was one of those “ah-ha” moments that teachers love to experience. We discussed a common thought trap for new body workers: the stream of self-doubt and anxious “Am I doing this right?” internal questioning.

Hypercritical self-judgment won’t be contained, in your mind, as a new practitioner. It will be expressed subtlety, or more noticeably, in your touch. Doubt and uncertainly will be perceptible, and your work will lack deeper effectiveness. A tentative or distracted massage stroke does nothing to promote grounding or comfort for your client. Your client may not be able to articulate this, but the session will feel incomplete, less than nurturing.

My teacher, Kondañña (Barry Kapke) used to say, “After years of practice, years of bodywork, you arrive at a place where you don’t need to diagnose, fix, judge or force any change. Your work is distilled to its pure form. You offer the weight of your body and your presence.”

For the body worker, the foundation of the session must be this: offering the weight of his/her body and absolute, undivided presence. Over years, the work is simplified to its core. In that pure form, the practitioner is liberated from self-doubt, judgment and fear. Experience helps one to trust one’s knowledge of the body, anatomy and technical skill. The client participates, and sometimes facilitates his/her own practice of self-care. A client will be less inclined to develop an unbalanced dependence on the practitioner’s bodywork.

At the end of a session, if I have been able to stay in my breath, and maintain these essential core principles of bodywork, I am invigorated, more alive, and unburdened by the work. That is why our work must become a Practice, with a capital “P.”



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