I know I’m not the only one who has had to learn how to care for animals and who deeply enjoys their company. A natural affinity with animals since childhood is what led me to become a trained animal whisperer and animal Reiki specialist in addition to being a journalist. It’s often hard to tell where a love of animals will take a child, but these days there are some amazing programs out there to test the waters, whether a kid is interested in learning the basics of animal encounters, adopting a new family member, or becoming a veterinarian, animal trainer, or therapist.
For children, as with adults, life is a series of choices. Do I clean my room now or keep playing this fun video game? Do I eat this chocolate cake now or keep working on losing those 10 pounds? Finding a balance between enjoying your now self and investing in your future self can be a constant challenge.
This column is a look at brave souls who have taken a leap of faith to open their own businesses in and around Ann Arbor. What follows are personal profiles of business owners following their dreams and thriving despite the odds. Featuring thrive juicery and Ann Arbor Pharmacy.
Horses have a sentient nature. They have a wisdom that transcends what we humans can understand. One thing that they have taught me, over and over again, is to be aware of and listen to their plan. When the plan they suggest to me differs than what I had in mind, I default to their wisdom and knowledge.
Our Yoga column, Fall 2019
On April 15, as fires were burning at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, another fire destroyed the shrine room at Ann Arbor’s Tsogyelgar Dharma Center.
The sacred gathering space contained Tibetan relics and hand painted murals of Tibetan Buddhist deities which were destroyed, but a statue of Guru Rinpoche, an 8th century Buddhist master referred to as the “2nd Buddha,” survived mostly intact. The cause of the fire is unknown.
The community runs White Lotus Farms, which produces vegetables, goat’s milk and cheese, freshly baked bread, honey, and flowers. Fire trucks had to bring thousands of gallons of water in from the nearest fire hydrant two miles away to stop the fire spreading to other farm and community buildings. No people or animals were harmed and firefighters were able to contain the damage to the single building. Community members were especially concerned about the stress to the farm’s goats, as many of them were near to giving birth to the season’s kids. While some of them gave birth a day or two later than expected, all safely delivered.
Tsogyelgar community member, Christina Burch, said that while the community is sad at the loss of their shrine room, the general feeling is one of gratitude for what remains and looking forward to what will be built anew. This year, she said, is the Earth Boar year, which marks the 60th anniversary of Tibet’s fall to China, which initiated the spread of Tibetan Buddhist teaching to the West. This year also marks the 60th birthday of Traktung Rinpoche, the Tsogyelgar community’s founder and teacher. It is also the 30-year anniversary of his enlightenment. Burch said that this marks a new 30-year cycle in the teaching and that the fire can be considered a cleansing of old energies to make way for the new.
A quote from Guru Rinpoche on the group’s Facebook page post about the fire said, “The power of virtue cannot be burnt by fire, rotted by water, destroyed by wind. That goodness spread by merit can withstand the machinations of king and thief and will spread across all appearance.”
At the moment, the Tsogyelyar community is using two large tent structures for gatherings that would normally happen in the Shrine room. In fact, one was used the night of the fire, when community members gathered for a holiday feast that had been scheduled in the Shrine room. True to their teachings, the community ate and celebrated together while firefighters worked, then thanked and blessed the firefighters. Plans are in the works for a new Shrine room to be built, though permits and other details will take time. The community hopes to be able to start construction before the colder months begin, though if necessary, they will make do with other spaces until the new Shrine room is ready. New murals will be painted and the new space will be larger and more accessible (the old space was only accessible by stairs, which made it difficult for some). Many of the community members have skills in construction and the arts, and they look forward to creating a space that meets the community’s needs and is even more beautiful than the one before. Concern and support have poured in from the Ann Arbor community and Tsogyelyar members are grateful and encouraged.
More information about Tsogyelgar Dharma Center are online at tsogyelgar.org and facebook.com/Tsolgyelgar. They can be reached via email at email@example.com.
New offerings by Established businesses and Practitioners
Reverend Ada Marie Windish has been a psychic reader for over 65 years.
She has advised corporate boards and police departments, traveled the country to teach, and has been a personal reader and spiritual counselor to many. After recovering from a stroke that temporarily took her ability to speak, she is relaunching herself and her service. Windish said she is “a bonafide psychic through spirit—[she] speak[s] to angels, the dead, your mother in heaven, your grandfather….” She says her gifts were given to her by divine spirit, passed down to her through her father.
Windish offers readings in her home in Adrian, where she lives with her black cat Toby, or over the phone. Her one-hour readings are $100, though she says she frequently goes for longer than an hour and never charges more. She is also willing to put together payment plans for clients struggling to afford the fee.
Anyone interested in a reading with Windish can call (517) 759-3434 to schedule an appointment. Please do not call after 8:00 p.m.
Vietnamese restaurant Dalat has moved from downtown Ypsilanti to downtown Ann Arbor.
Original owners Lang Bui and Hoanh Le retired at the beginning of 2018 and their son, Son Le, and his wife Tran Nguyen, took over. The restaurant, which had been open for over 25 years, was located in a historic Ypsilanti building that Son Le said made updates and repairs difficult and expensive. The area also did not get much traffic. They decided to make the move to downtown Ann Arbor, which Le felt was a busier area that would support the business more than downtown Ypsilanti could. He said that a lot of existing customers have continued to come to the new restaurant.
It took nine months from the closing of the old location to get everything ready for opening on October 1, 2018. Initially the menu was exactly the same: Vietnamese specialties including pho, shrimp rolls, and stir-fried rice noodles. But since then Le has added more vegetarian options to keep up with demand and added new desserts and boba drinks. The restaurant no longer serves alcohol since their liquor license was restricted to downtown Ypsilanti. Le described their menu as “fresh and healthy food with high-quality ingredients and reasonable prices.” The décor has changed as well—the new location has electric lime green walls with orange accents left over from the Orange Leaf frozen yogurt store that previously occupied it. Le and Nguyen liked the colors and left them as-is, making the new sign to match. Le emphasized that the restaurant only buys fresh, premium meats, seafood, and produce. Most meals don’t include MSG, and customers can ask for a gluten-free version of most entrees.
Dalat is located at 2261 South Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Their phone number is (734) 487-7600. Their website is dalatrestaurantannarbor.com and they can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A local group of practitioners, the Great Lakes Center for Healing Touch, began offering a Healing Touch Clinic at the Center for Sacred Living on the west side of Ann Arbor in March.
The Clinic offers Healing Touch at a reduced rate of $30 per session. Practitioners donate their time and all proceeds go to the costs of running the Clinic. GLCHT is a nonprofit organization. The Clinic is offered both to help make the modality accessible for those with financial concerns, as well as to help practitioners in training complete some of their required training hours. Some of the practitioners offering sessions during the Clinic hours are fully certified, and this is a way they choose to serve the community. The GLCHT group has offered this service in the past, but stopped operating in 2010 due to the inability at that time to keep up with demand.
Healing Touch is an energy-based therapy, similar in some ways to Reiki, explained certified practitioner and group member, Ann Alvarez. Practitioners use light or no touch to help clear and balance the body’s energy field and centers. It is very different from massage or physical therapy as the physical body is not being manipulated. Clients remain fully clothed for the sessions, which usually last a bit under an hour. Alvarez said that the practice, “supports and helps restore self-healing of the body, mind, and spirit.” She said that the modality can help people with injuries, or those recovering from surgery, experiencing chronic pain from fibromyalgia or other conditions, insomnia, headaches, and those being treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It can also help people recovering from stressful circumstances such as grief and trauma. The modality is non-invasive and has no side effects, said Alvarez, and should be considered a tool to be used not instead of, but in addition to, and in support of standard medical care. Practitioner and group member, Nirit Mor-Vaknin, explains, “Healing Touch is very effective in stress reduction, and when we are not stressed our body can heal itself.” It is used in a number of hospitals nationwide to reduce the need for painkillers and as part of palliative care.
Each of the Clinic’s practitioners were trained by Healing Beyond Borders, an international nonprofit organization which offers training and certification in Healing Touch.
The Healing Touch Clinic is offered on the first Wednesday of each month. Appointments are scheduled for 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30 p.m. with walk-ins possible if an appointment slot is not filled. Appointments can be made by calling (734) 730-6826 or emailing email@example.com, or visit their Facebook page facebook.com/annarborhealingtouch. The Center for Sacred Living is located at 210 Little Lake Drive, Suite #7, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. More information about the Healing Touch Modality and the Healing Beyond Borders mission is online at www.healingbeyondborders.org.
Michigan Collaborative for Mindfulness in Education (MC4ME) was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2014.
Since its founding, the all-volunteer organization has given 85 presentations to educators and 47 consultations with organizations to help “foster the teaching and dissemination of mindfulness practices in K-12 and higher education using best practices, established curricula, and scientific evidence.” Members of MC4ME’s board have experience in teaching or psychology, practice mindfulness themselves, and use evidence from personal experience, as well as scientific studies and training, to spread awareness and training in mindfulness in education.
Board member Mary Spence described mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose with a lack of judgement and with curiosity.” Studies have shown that children trained in mindfulness techniques show improvement in ability to pay attention and focus and better emotional self-regulation. They are, Spence said, able to be more “comfortable with discomfort.”
In July MC4ME offered a teen retreat in Kalamazoo for ages 15 to 19 in partnership with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (IBME), a nonprofit based in Massachusetts offering “in-depth mindfulness programming for youth and the parents and professionals who support them.” The retreat focused on developing awareness and concentration practices supported by science. These retreats will be offered annually.
MC4ME also offered a two-day intensive training for educators in August in Birmingham. It covered both self-care practices and integrating key techniques with students. The training offered 16 hours toward continuing education for Michigan teachers. The organization plans to offer more of these trainings for teachers during summer breaks.
MC4ME will hold a statewide conference on October 9 and 10, 2020. Location, schedule, and other information will be forthcoming. Anyone interested can sign up for the organization’s quarterly newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Spence said that the organization is growing, seeking new board members, and is working toward becoming a membership organization.
The website for Michigan Collaborative for Mindfulness in Education is mc4me.org. They can be reached by email at email@example.com.
The Ecumenical Center and International Residence (ECIR) in Ann Arbor has changed its name to International House Ann Arbor (IHAA).
This change has happened after ECIR purchased, in 2018, the Church Street building it has occupied for many years.
IHAA is a community for International college students as well as American students who want to interact with people from around the world. IHAA Development Director Lauren Zinn said they aim for a ratio of 80% international students to 20% American students. She described the International House as a “welcoming, international, intercultural, interspiritual living learning community.”
Around 50 students live in the building. ECIR has been working to connect international students in Washtenaw County for over 130 years. Students are mostly enrolled in the University of Michigan, though students at other area colleges are welcome. Residents, the University of Michigan campus community, and local citizens benefit from the IHAA through its events and special programs, many of which are open to the public. Events and programs are divided into Global Community, Global Understanding, Global Culture and Arts, and Global
Connections categories. Community meals, holiday celebrations, talks, film screenings, wellness events like Zumba, yoga, and mindfulness, panel discussions, workshops, and more are organized by IHAA.
More information about IHAA’s programs and ways to get involved are online at
ihouseaa.org. They can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (734) 662-5529. The IHAA is located at 921 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.
New Books by Area Authors
Ann Arbor based author Pauline Loewenhardt published her book Almost Lost: Detroit Kids Discover Holocaust Secrets and Family Survivors in May.
She was born in the 1930s in Detroit to German immigrants who had come to the United States in the 1920s. She used to feel that she was missing an extended family while her classmates seemed to always have cousins and aunts and uncles visiting. Eventually she learned that her father, who had converted to Catholicism when he married her mother, was Jewish and that many of his family members had been murdered in the Holocaust. In 1996, Loewenhardt and her siblings were able to locate some of her father’s relatives in the Netherlands. She has since visited them several times, formed close bonds, and learned the stories of her father’s family—those who died and those who survived.
Loewenhardt said she felt, “In another life [she] might have been an English Major” since she always had an interest in reading and writing. However, she ended up pursuing a career in nursing. In 1944 she contracted polio during a widespread epidemic. She managed to survive and recover, and due to her illness, Vocation Rehabilitation of Michigan provided her a full college scholarship which she used to pursue a nursing degree from Mercy College of Detroit.
Loewenhardt retired from nursing in 2000 and began pursuing her interest in writing, taking classes as a senior citizen at the University of South Florida, in Tampa. She got some articles published in magazines and, after she moved to Ann Arbor to be near her grandchildren in 2003, she eventually decided to write her family’s story in a book. She credits the internet for making it possible for her and her family members to find and connect with their relatives.
More information is available at loewenhardt.wixsite.com/author. Pauline Loewenhardt can be reached by email at email@example.com. Her book is available at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore.
On Saturday, October 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Great Oak Cohousing Common House dining room, JissoJi Zen will host author and teacher, Ben Connelly, for a talk, workshop, and signing of his new book, Mindfulness and Intimacy.
Connelly is a Soto Zen teacher who also teaches mindfulness in secular contexts such as for police, corporate training, correctional facilities, addiction recovery, and wellness groups. He is based in Minnesota and travels to teach across the United States. This visit will be part of a 40-city book tour.
Mindfulness and Intimacy is about using mindfulness to connect more deeply with one’s self, with the people in one’s life, and with the world. It was released in February. Connelly explained that developing mindfulness is simply about “paying attention to the things that it’s good to pay attention to in a way that’s it’s good to pay attention to.” He said that developing this practice can help to “manifest love within yourself, within your close circle, and within the public sphere… for the betterment of the whole world.” He said that, “what we define as intimacy is a closer awareness of the way everything/everyone is connected.”
People who attend the event will experience guided meditation, silent meditation, and a dialogue about the book’s concepts. Experienced meditators and beginners alike are welcome. JissoJi is an Ann Arbor-based Zen meditation group offering Zazen–Zen meditation at the Lotus Center in Ann Arbor on the second and fourth Sundays of each month.
JissoJi’s lead priest Marta Dabis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the group is online at jissojizen.org. Great Oak Cohousing is located at 500 Little Lake Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.
The Ann Arbor Civic Theater’s junior theater program will present To Find A Wonder: A Knight’s Journey, a musical based on a book by the same name written by local author and Crazy Wisdom Community Journal managing editor, Jennifer Carson, on November 8, 9, and 10.
Carson first published the book in 2009 through a small press. She was living in New Hampshire at the time and a local theater helped her create the musical, hiring a composer and lyricist to create the songs. The first production was in August 2010.
The story follows Mortimer, a squire on a quest to earn his knighthood. His liege tells him to “find a wonder” in five days, so Mortimer decides to create his own wonder, with the help of characters such as a wizard, a dragon, and a frog prince. The musical will use live actors as well as puppets to tell the story. The book will be re-released in September and will be available for purchase at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore.
AACT’s junior theater program is for young actors in grades 4 through 12, who put on shows for audiences ages three and up. The actors will rehearse three times per week for a total of eight to ten weeks before putting on the show, directed by Carson. The performance will be at Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $8 for children and $10 for adults and can be purchased online.
The Ann Arbor Civic Theater’s website is at a2ct.org. Jennifer Carson can be reached via email at Jen@thedragoncharmer.com. Her website is thedragoncharmer.com.
Local writer Madeline Strong Diehl has been offering therapeutic writing workshops to veterans, people experiencing unstable housing, and the general public for the past three years.
The workshops are designed to help people learn to use writing to “promote health and to externalize emotional issues they may not even know they are feeling concern or anxiety about,” she said. Extensive research supports the idea that writing can help people improve their mental and physical health, heal from trauma, and work toward their goals. While many therapeutic writing workshops focus on uncovering traumatic memories and healing them, Diehl’s method teaches students to change negative memories into positive thinking, create affirmations, and use writing as a spiritual practice. Diehl said she helps people to “think of ourselves as the heroes of our own lives, with the power to consciously change our lives for the better,” and she feels this is a key attitude that helps people make positive change.
Workshops are tailored to participants, said Diehl, and typically are divided into two sections. The first half includes introductions, basic instruction and practice of silent meditation, discussing and creating positive affirmations, and freewriting, in which participants simply move the pen across the paper without controlling the writing, allowing their subconscious minds to produce whatever words they need to at the time. After a break, the second half of the workshop continues with discussions about the freewriting experience, during which participants usually find that the process has reminded them of some of their life goals and dreams which may have been set aside in the grind of everyday life. Diehl then guides students in drafting positive affirmations to assist them in recovering the belief that they can pursue these goals and dreams, and teaches how journaling can help in this ongoing process.
Diehl said that she has seen “remarkable positive changes in the mental health and outlook of the dozens of people who have participated” since she began facilitating the workshops. She has used therapeutic writing herself since childhood, which she credits with helping her overcome feelings of helplessness and hopelessness brought about by being raised in a chaotic and dysfunctional family.
Diehls’ first writing workshops were for veterans in the VA hospital. Therapists there told her that her curriculum was the best they had seen in 30 years as therapists, which she believes is due to her 30 years’ experience as a writer, as well as her self-awareness and experience living with a mental illness herself. The workshops are designed more as a peer-to-peer experience than a traditional class in which the teacher is the authority.
Madeline Strong Diehl offers therapeutic writing workshops about once a month, and they are listed on her website at madelinediehl.com. She can be reached by phone at (734) 239-4553 or by email at email@example.com.
New Practitioners and Businesses
The Ann Arbor Pharmacy is a “premier apothecary and boutique” which opened on East Stadium in Ann Arbor in the Trader Joe’s complex in November of 2018.
This is the third and final pharmacy owner Ziad Ghamraoui has opened—he has two others in the area. He opened the first, in Saline, in 2011, after leaving a series of jobs as a pharmacist for large national chains. He wanted to open his own pharmacy, he said, because he felt that patients deserved more care and attention than the large chains could offer. He said that he, and the other pharmacists who work for him, know each patient’s name and medical history and make sure they know everything they need to know about their medication.
The store is modeled after high-end apothecaries in Europe, New York, and the Middle East, offering high-quality skin and haircare products that are earth-friendly, never tested on animals, and non-GMO. The full-service pharmacy offers traditional and compounded medications. They also carry pharmaceutical grade CBD oils and topicals. Ghamraoui said that they are dedicated to being a responsible community-oriented local business, donating to local police, fire, and charities.
Lauren Hoffman opened her gym, Forged Barbell Strength Academy, in November of 2018.
Located on Ann Arbor’s west side, it offers personal training, nutrition therapy, and fitness memberships for men, women, teens, and children.
Hoffman is a certified Level Three Crossfit coach, though she said she has moved away from Crossfit to embrace what she feels is a more holistic, individually flexible, and mindful approach to strength training, addressing issues like muscle imbalance, movement patterns, and posture while still lifting heavy weights. Her strength programs integrate Olympic weightlifting and functional movement. Some of her clients are competitive athletes while others are just there to build strength and feel good.
The inspiration to create Forged Barbell came when Hoffman was at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival, an annual multi-sport competition popularly known as “The Arnold.” She was competing in weightlifting and four other athletes she was coaching went along with her to compete. Immediately the lifters formed camaraderie and mutual support, though they had never met each other before. Hoffman realized she wanted her clients to be able to form community like this all the time in an accessible, affordable, spacious, and positive fitness-oriented space.
The gym is divided into three sections, she explained, with an Astro Turf section in the center where athletes can perform exercises like pushing and pulling weighted sleds and carrying heavy objects across a distance. The “Mobility” class also meets in this section, focusing on improved flexibility, range of movement, recovery, and groundedness. On one side of the artificial turf area is a large rig she described as “monkey bars for adults” with attachments for various exercises, as well as barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells. On the other side is a heavy lifting area with rubber flooring. This creates a space with “energetically different” areas for different purposes, she explained, but which is still open, inviting, and allows for clients to socialize and support one another.
Forged Barbell offers two child-specific classes. Functional Foundations is for kids approximately aged five to thirteen. It is a play-based way of teaching fundamental body movements like squats, jumps, pullups, bear crawls, and more. Olympic Weightlifting for kids age eight to ten starts the children with PVC pipes to perfect the movements before building slowly to lifting with weight. It teaches them not only the correct movement for Olympic Weightlifting, but helps them with focus, determination, and follow-through. Other offerings for teens and adults include Learn to Lift, Olympic Weightlifting, 2-Block (a strength & conditioning class), and Tai Chi. Some clients enjoy classes while others prefer one-on-one personal training with a coach, and some prefer to train individually using the space and equipment.
The Nutrition Therapy aspect of the gym, explained Hoffman, is based around “a properly prepared, nutrient-dense, whole foods approach to healing the body and mind using the principles of ancestral health.” She said her nutrition recommendations are symptom-based, in that they are individualized for each client based on what symptoms they are experiencing that may indicate their individual deficiencies and sensitivities. The aim is to work with “athletes, families, and individuals looking to optimize body composition, energy levels, sleep, fertility, digestion, acne, ADD, and athletic performance.”
Hoffman offers a free introductory session for people interested in joining the gym. She emphasized that beginners and people who haven’t worked out in a long time are welcome, and that they don’t need to be in good shape in order to get started. “We’re going to help you,” she said.
Forged Barbell is located at 251 Jackson Plaza, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. The website is forgedbarbella2.com. Lauren Hoffman can be reached by phone at (313) 410-3696 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Otto opened her business, Corporate Rebelle, earlier this year.
She assists people who feel stuck in their traditional corporate jobs to first reduce stress and anxiety, then use the room this reduced stress makes in their lives to explore and learn the skills they need to start following their passions and making money. The idea is that people would follow their passions first as a side gig, and later could replace their full-time income, to focus on living a life they love. Otto spent 15 years in corporate human resources departments. She said that she thought with each job switch that she would finally find the right fit, and start really liking her work and feeling fulfilled, but that never materialized. She realized that she had to deal with her stress and anxiety before she could even summon the energy to explore alternatives to the nine to five life she felt stuck in. Through yoga and other modalities, she was able to deal with her stress, make space in her life, and start developing skills she was passionate about. She has since worked as a yoga instructor, life coach, and sacred intimacy coach. Corporate Rebelle is a new project of hers that will allow her to help others do what she has done, get out of corporate careers if they choose to, and live a more self-directed life.
“The world needs people to do what they love,” she said. “There’s a better world that can exist when we’re all doing things that light us up.” Many people are afraid that if they don’t have a corporate job they won’t be able to get good health insurance or make enough money to support themselves and their families, or they have no real idea of what something else might look like. But the culture is changing, and many people have been able to make a living doing things they are excited to be doing, outside of a corporate structure. She said Ann Arbor is an especially exciting place to be contemplating a nontraditional career. Many people here are making a living in alternative healing modalities, coaching, arts, and in all sorts of other ways.
Otto said that while corporate culture has some positives, it can have a lot of negatives, and she feels there are better ways to get things done. In her career she has hired more than 300 people for positions from entry level to managerial. She has seen that most people enjoy some aspects of what they do, but the corporate model of alternating between being genuinely productive and having a lot of unnecessary “busy-work” to do can be demoralizing. She feels the world is ready for some new models of what work looks like, and she wants to help people create them.
Emily Otto offers a free 45-minute “clarity call” to help potential clients get connected to resources that can help them get started with their journey and decide if they’d like to work with her. This can be booked through her website at www.emily-otto.com. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (989) 397-3616.
Board certified massage therapist Allison Downing opened her massage practice, operating out of the Center for Sacred Living in Ann Arbor, in 2018.
She specializes in neck pain and gut health. She has written a book: Stop Stomach Pain: How to Heal Your Gut and End Food Restrictions, and works with clients who have not been able to find relief from digestive discomfort from diet.
Downing herself suffered with digestive problems and pain for two years before connecting with a physical therapist who was able to help her when diet alone could not. The PT taught her visceral stretches and releases, which Downing now teaches some of her clients. Since she was already very flexible she was skeptical that stretching could help her, but she found that this type of stretching was the key to restoring normal peristalsis, the function of intestinal muscles that control the movement of food through the digestive system. When this function is impaired, she explained, food can move too slowly through the system, potentially causing bacterial imbalances, food sensitivities, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, and general stomach pain. A massage therapist who is trained in visceral manipulation, like Downing, can also assist when there are restrictions in the abdominal organs from conditions like endometriosis, c-section scarring, other post-surgical scarring, and anything else that has caused a thickening of the internal tissues. She has found that this type of manipulation can help people with general mobility as well as digestive problems—she cited working with a previously very active veteran who could no longer tie his shoes due to back pain, who returned to his vigorous exercise routine after she was able to address tightness in his abdominal organs.
Downing also offers deep tissue massage, therapeutic massage, craniosacral therapy, and prenatal massage.
The Center for Sacred Living is located at 210 Little Lake Drive, Suite 7, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Allison Downing can be reached by phone at (269) 200-7530 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is allisondowninglmt.com.
Christa Gray opened her business, The Food Fanatic & Exercise Enthusiast, in April.
She is a certified Stott Pilates instructor working with individuals and pairs in a space within the Ann Arbor Massage Therapy Clinic, just off Jackson Road. She has two Pilates Reformer machines and other equipment to help clients correct muscle imbalances and posture issues which can lead to chronic issues and pain. Gray explained that the apparatuses were developed by Joseph Pilates to help World War II prisoners of war build their strength before they were able to completely walk or sit up. She said the practice is useful for every body—older people with chronic problems or athletes trying to keep their bodies functioning optimally. She said that this is not the type of exercise where people need to “push through pain,” and that clients can be reassured if injury during exercise is a concern.
The secondary part of Gray’s business is helping people learn to shop and cook healthier meals for themselves and their families. Many people have seen a nutritionist or have a good idea of what they should eat more or less of, but have a hard time figuring out how to actually apply that knowledge. Gray offers a six-hour session in which she helps the client make a shopping list, takes them to the grocery store, and shows them how to choose healthy foods. Then she goes into their home and helps them organize their kitchen and fridge to actually work for healthier eating, and makes several recipes with them so they learn how to prepare healthier foods. The client ends up with a week of foods prepared and the confidence and tools they can use to actually put nutrition advice into practice when it might seem overwhelming to get started.
Christa Gray can be reached at email@example.com. Her website is foodfanee.com. She is offering a special to Crazy Wisdom readers—mention that you read about her in the What’s New column to receive four Pilates sessions for $260 (a $40 savings).
Ikaro Phoenix is a Certified Xolar Vibronics Holistic Health Educator and Natural Lifestyle Coach.
He grew up in East Lansing, Michigan but left after high school, only returning to the state in May of 2019 after a long odyssey of seeking connection with nature, and seeking the role he felt humans had as the caretakers of creation. He spent 15 years in Colombia learning from the Mamas (spiritual leaders) of the Kogi, a pre-Columbian indigenous tribe “who have survived in harmony and balance into this millennium only because of their adherence to the natural laws of respectful engagement with Nature, whom they call the Aluna—The Mother.”
Upon coming home to Michigan, Phoenix began working with people one-on-one and in small groups to “develop consciousness about our role as beings in the creation, eliminating artificial ways of living which do not resonate with our true being, and using practical methods for self-healing as well as healing for our planet and universe, according to how the Mother has passed and instructed us to do from the beginning.” He is dedicated to helping his “community, as well as humanity as a whole, to recover the wise ways of living in harmony with the creation, and caring for all.” He offers holistic health education, natural lifestyle coaching, chakra balancing, and natural detoxification programs. He is available for talks and classes.
Ikaro Phoenix can be reached by phone at (734) 210-0463 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is xolistichealth.com.
Melissa Keck is a cannabis Nurse Clinician and educator who opened her business, Finding Grace, LLC, in 2018.
She has set up an office space within Intessa Certification Clinic, where patients can be seen by a physician and certified for the use of Medical Marijuana in Michigan. Keck meets one on one with individuals to develop cannabis care plans and help with dosage and other details. She works to set each patient up with an individualized treatment plan to provide the benefit they are looking for while mitigating potential harm. She also seeks to provide cannabis education and resources to patients (especially older adults and newcomers to medical marijuana), healthcare providers and organizations, and local communities. As a Nurse Clinician and cannabis patient herself, she can provide a trusted source of information when it’s difficult to sort through everything.
Keck explained that she became a cannabis patient herself about five years ago after a series of health problems. Doctors had her, at one point, on over 20 prescription medications, some of them to treat the side effects of the others. She gained a significant amount of weight and had so little energy she was unable to work, before a friend suggested getting a second opinion, and she found medical marijuana, which she was able to use to help her get off of the prescriptions. She lost the weight, regained her energy, and went back to work. As a registered nurse she was very careful in disclosing her use of medical marijuana, however. After a subsequent neck surgery, she was in physical therapy when another patient approached her to ask about cannabis. She realized then that there is a huge need for trusted cannabis education from healthcare practitioners, not only for patients but for doctors, nurses, and other practitioners as well, and this became her new mission.
She explained that cannabis nursing combines standard nursing practice with advanced knowledge and education about medical cannabis and the body’s response to it. The cannabis nurse can serve as a patient advocate and community resource. Keck is an active member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association and is certified through that organization as a cannabis nurse. She has been a nurse for over 20 years.
This fall, Keck will provide several community education classes for the public. These will be held on the 2nd Thursday and Saturday of September, October, and November, at 2500 Packard Street, Suite #207 in Ann Arbor. See the calendar section for specifics under the heading Cannabis/Medical Marijuana on page 105.
More information is online at Melissa Keck’s website MiNurseCannabis.org. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (734) 818-6238. Her office is located at 2500 Packard Street, Suite 107, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104.
In this column, Crysta Coburn writes about crazywisdom-esque people and happenings around Ann Arbor.The fall 2019 column features, Sharon Lawlor, Branislava Dragovic, and Christine Fodor.
By Petula Brown
The Circle Pines Center in Delton, Michigan, distinguishes itself as a getaway locale by offering opportunities to build self-awareness via interaction as well as introspection. Their mission is to promote peace, social justice, environmental stewardship, and cooperation. Through their scheduled family-friendly events (see their online calendar), and children’s summer camps, they aim to demonstrate cooperation as a way of life. Become a member of Circle Pines (for $120.00 a year, less for low income families) and you’ll get access to early event registration as well as ticket and rental discounts, but you don’t have to be a member to have access to this 294 acres of rolling hills, forests, and lakefront property—most Circle Pines events are open to the public and the property is also available for corporate retreats, family reunions, weddings, and community gatherings, as well as being able to accommodate the lone traveler.
The annual Buttermilk Jamboree is a three-day festival that provides guests the chance to either camp overnight or visit for the day. With educational workshops, local vendors, a kid’s area, and a craft beer/wine tent, the summer Jamboree is a cornucopia of activity that highlights cooperative practices in action. The festival also gives a platform for entertainers to set a celebratory vibe for attendees. Past performers include the indie group Last Gap Collective, folk musician Britt Kusserow, and vintage blues/jazz artist Luke Winslow-King.
September’s Midwest Mushroom Camp is an opportunity to explore the area’s population of mushroom species. Culinary, crafting, and educational sessions are available throughout the weekend and make Circle Pines a prime destination for mushroom lovers. In October, visitors can experience Apple Cider Weekend. After picking apples from the Center’s orchard, guests press them into cider to enjoy during the season.
In addition to scheduled events, visitors can arrange private visits, as well as site rentals. The Center has hosted a variety of activities, including weddings, yoga retreats, and craft clubs, though Circle Pines is particularly interested in events with a focus on social justice or that have a cooperative angle. The property can accommodate 100 people during the summer season and 30 during winter months. Rentals can include use of the Center’s kitchen, or catering arranged by Circle Pines is available.
Circle Pines’ focus on group experiences is grounded in a philosophy established in 1882. As part of the Central States Cooperative League, its philosophy emphasized economic reform and peace education as well as embracing the cooperative movement of that era. Hosted at the Ashland Folk School in Grant, Michigan for 60 years, the co-op expanded and moved to its current location in 1940. It now makes its home on the property of Stewart Farm in the town of Delton. Operating as a folk school and family camp, over the years Circle Pines members (CPC’ers) have engaged in activism related to civil rights, peace initiatives, and environmental consciousness, illustrating commitment to the Center’s primary mission—to show the advantages of cooperation as a way of life.
Circle Pines embraces the natural beauty of forests, meadows, and a beach off of Stewart Lake. Although the Center has over 30 buildings, most blend into the wooded surroundings and have rustic interiors. The hub of activity, the Farmhouse, includes a commercial kitchen, dining hall, library, and meeting rooms. Its eclectic style reflects renovations done by Center members since the early 1900’s. Nearby, Swallows Lodge provides heated lodging and close access to the main bathhouse and laundry room. Dispersed throughout the property, cabins (some heated), tent sites, bathhouses, and outdoor toilets supply other accommodation options. Other amenities include picnic tables, fire pits/rings, a wood-fired pizza oven, a stone labyrinth, and a wood-fired sauna. In the spirit of sustainability and economy, overnight guests should bring their own bedding, towels, and toiletries.
As an institution founded to support cooperative and sustainable living, the Circle Pines culinary staff sources locally whenever possible. Mud Lake Farm in Hudsonville provides greens and herbs, Crane Dance Farm in Middleville supplies meat products, and the coffee served at the Center is sourced from Higher Grounds Trading Company in Traverse City. Circle Pines also has a garden, an orchard, and uses wild foods available on the property. The Center’s crops include apples, peaches, mushrooms, nettles, and black walnuts.
Given the Center’s focus on education and cooperative living, Circle Pines camping programs are well suited to create collaborative and communal opportunities. Three full time staff provides oversight for property management and public relations. There is a seasonal food service staff as well as volunteers. Many volunteers are former campers whose fond memories encourage a desire to give back. Geared toward youth participants, summer camps are the ideal time to introduce cooperative practices such as daily chores, working the camp store, and tending the garden. Campers also enjoy traditional activities like water sports, crafts, and outdoor games so their summer experience is fun as well as educational. On the Circle Pines website, interested parents can download a camp guide and apply for financial aid.
Throughout spring, summer, and fall, Circle Pines programming allows adults to experience its cooperative environment. Workbee retreats and weekend retreats offer free lodging and meals in exchange for labor to complete a variety of maintenance activities around the camp. Interspersed between cooperatively planned work tasks, free time is available to use Center amenities as well as socialize and refresh. The retreats are an ideal introduction to the Center’s philosophies as well as an opportunity to engage with the natural beauty that surrounds Circle Pines.
The Center’s membership model offers an opportunity to contribute to and influence its initiatives beyond occasional visits. It also reinforces the Circle Pines mission as an organization committed to cooperative living. During non-event periods, the rustic setting and secluded woodlands are well suited to accommodate solo travelers looking for a quiet respite. With the variety of activities, Circle Pines allows visitors to experience an expanded definition of wellness in a beautiful, natural setting.
Circle Pines is located at 8650 Mullen Road, Delton, MI 49046. You can reach them by phone by calling: 269-623-5555. Midwest Mushroom camp is September 27 – 29 and Apple Cider Weekend is October 11 – 13. To find out more information, visit the Circle Pines website, circlepinescenter.org or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Karen Greenberg
"This [Kabbalah for Children and Kabbalah Pathworking and Soul's Purpose Kabbalah] is the most valuable investment that we have ever made in our son."
— Judy Sauer, Literacy Specialist, Novi Community School District
How could a Kabbalistic approach be the most valuable investment parents have ever made in their child? And why would it be important for a child to have Kabbalah in his or her awareness?
Kabbalah is an ancient system of creation and how creation works. No one is entirely certain about where Kabbalah came from, partly because it was passed down as an oral tradition for thousands of years. Kabbalah is a Hebrew word that translates into “receiving.” We are receiving the secrets hidden in the Torah, or Old Testament, that teach us how to have a H2W2 (Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, Wise) life. The Kabbalistic system is actually the Unity energy of what is called the Tree of Life (from the Bible, as opposed to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Duality energy: pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, war and peace). The energetic Tree of Life is laid out on our bodies. It has ten different spheres, each representing a different quality of God (G-D).
A Kabbalistic approach is such a valuable investment in children because it helps them reside in a more empowered version of themselves, rather than in disempowered parts. Today, bullying is off the charts—nearly one-third of all children are bullying others or being bullied, according to ABC News. Suicides are the third leading cause of death among young people, with upward of half of those as a result of cyber, emotional, verbal, physical, sexual, or social bullying (as reported by the CDC). Therefore, it is crucial that children learn to take their power back, for their own happiness and health. As the children learn about the ten qualities of G-D (like love, compassion, severity, understanding, and wisdom) in the Tree of Life, make them a part of themselves, and strive to display these qualities in as many of their interactions as possible, they become more G-D-like, and therefore much more powerful in materializing what they are attempting to create. Teaching children to live in the Tree of Life reality trains them to approach life as proactive co-creators of their dreams, goals, and purpose.
In addition to bullying, another reason why today’s children may have low self-esteem is because they feel that something is inherently wrong with them. In part, this may be because they have received diagnoses that end in the word “disability” or “disorder” (Learning Disability, Reading Disability, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Executive Functioning Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder). But, what if they are not disabled, disordered, or dysfunctional? What if they are just different? What if their differences have been divinely coded to bring about a change of age that is now underway?
Clair-Ascension®’s approach to Kabbalah recognizes the Divinity in each child. Every child is created and equipped with exactly what that child needs to carry out his or her soul’s purpose. For example, if that child’s purpose includes revamping the entire educational system so that it will better meet the younger generation’s needs, then personally experiencing difficulty focusing or organizing or processing might prove to be essential to reconfiguring the entire educational system. Perhaps this is similar to someone who is born with Spina Bifida who grows up to become the chief pediatric surgeon operating from a seated position on children with Spina Bifida.
The younger generation is wired to reveal problems, and eventually help create solutions, not only in their school system, but in government, the judicial and political system, the economic system, organized religion, their parent’s marriage, their partner, and their siblings. In H2W2 - K4K (Kabbalah for Kids), we help the children find, then we encourage, support, and nurture, their soul’s purpose.
If the younger generation receives homework assignments that they think are irrelevant to their life, one cannot just tell them that they have to do it anyway in order to get good grades, to get into a good college, to procure a good job, to earn a decent living, and to live in a safe neighborhood. They do not care. If they consider a homework assignment a waste of their time, they refuse to do it. However, once their soul’s purpose is identified, parents and teachers do not need to motivate them at all. Their motivation is intrinsic.
Even though it is good to question, sometimes some young people can cross the line and behave inappropriately, perhaps swearing at their parents or speaking very disrespectfully to authority figures. In Kabbalah for Kids, we develop a respectful, healthy one-on-one bond with each child, modeling in class and out, respectful behavior in all their relationships.
Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, Wise - Kabbalah for Kids is also a multi-sensory approach that allows them to move, to integrate the energy of the different qualities of the Tree of Life into their bodies. We use color, quizzes, questionnaires (before and after their experience), and an ascension journey to help these children organize themselves, and their time, their papers, their room, to help them create balance in their life, to acquire healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, to navigate comfortably through their low-vibrational emotions (including forgiving), to repattern their limiting beliefs, to discover their genius so that they are eager to do their work, rather than parents needing to nag. We help them with relationships and friendships, and how to have enough self-respect to set healthy boundaries and use discernment with others who may be disrespecting them, making fun of them, teasing them, and even bullying them. We assist them in connecting with the Spiritual Realm, G-D, their Higher Selves, Archangels, and Angels. We aid them in being aware that they are a spirit in a body, and as such, have a spiritual calling, a purpose, a mission, a destiny. We help them in their Divine Original Vibration Embodiment (the purity of who they were originally, before any wounding), so that they not only connect to, but embrace their authentic self, who G-D created them to be, and what G-D created them to do. We foster their living in the flow of life, at a place of inner peace, joy, and love.
Traditionally, Kabbalah was taught only to scholars of the Torah—Old Testament, and other holy books, who were married males over forty. How exciting to bring an introduction to Kabbalah geared toward fifth graders and up!
Karen Greenberg, the owner of Clair-Ascension®, offers classes and private sessions in H2W2 - K4K (Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, Wise - Kabbalah for Kids). Please visit the website clair-ascension.com or contact Karen at email@example.com with questions or for further information.
Great Tastes in Local Food, fall 2019
Clinical trial. Deductible. Dosing. Pre-op. Protocol. Blood work. If you are familiar with any of these terms, you’ve likely had some encounter with health care services in the United States. However, the traditional medical model – a condition-focused, interventional approach controlled by clinical providers – toward health and wellness has been challenged. In seeking recovery via alternative models, Americans are exploring options beyond the doctor’s office. The Ann Arbor area is a nexus for many of these resources, including Grass Lake Sanctuary, a nature-focused retreat space in Manchester that has served the region for over ten years.
This column is a look at brave souls who have taken a leap of faith to open their own businesses in and around Ann Arbor. What follows are personal profiles of business owners following their dreams and thriving despite the odds. This issue we feature Unicorn Feed and Supply in Ypsilanti.
You can see the evidence of random kindness in every season—it’s not hard to find. For me, it happens a lot in winter, after a heavy snowfall. More often than not, I’ll look out the front window, dreading the fact that I’ll have to shovel the walk, only to discover it’s already been cleared by a sneaky neighbor! Suddenly my claustrophobic winter dread is replaced by the joy of new snow glittering in the sunshine. The day is now extra special because someone went out of their way to make it so.
With summer just around the corner and lots of gardening to be done, what could be better than a pretty warming pillow to soothe those sore muscles? Stuff the pillow with some dried lavender for soothing aromatherapy. To heat the pillow, place in the microwave for thirty seconds, pull it out and shake it, and heat it for another thirty seconds. You can also warm it in the oven by placing it in a cold oven on a cookie sheet. Turn oven on to 200 degrees. Shake pillow after five minutes, and put it back in the oven for another two to five minutes, checking it often to make sure that it is not too hot. Be cautious, it could burn you if you get it too hot. You can also try putting it in the freezer if you need a cool pack instead of a warming pack. Enjoy!
My relationship with natural building started in 1996 when I took a 3-week course from the Cob Cottage Company on the West coast. It was a life-shaping experience in living and building with others, filled with the use of natural materials harvested from the land, food from the garden, bread from the earth oven, evening music, and camping. I came back to Michigan with the advice of my teacher, Ianto, to build with strawbales in this cold climate. I met up with Fran Lee who lived on rural land outside Oxford with her brother and sister-in-law, and together we set out to create a structure that feels like a hug. Inspired by the books Places for the Soul by Christopher Day and Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, we set out on a journey that came to include Carolyn Koch, Gregie Mathews, volunteers, and experts as we practiced the ways of stone, wood, reed, straw bale, and earth. Strawbale Studio became the work of many hands and a labor of love created with much time and perseverance. A small building is a good place to start!
Our restaurant review column featuring reviews of Wild Poke, Dalat, and Fresh Forage.
Kristen Madrid and James McDonald have had a lifelong interest in the metaphysical and spiritual tools for healing practices, and their shared passion has blossomed into Saline’s first and only mind, body, and spirit shop: Earth Elements. At their store on Michigan Avenue in downtown Saline, you’ll find everything from crystals and gemstone jewelry to loose leaf teas and Reiki healing services. Together, they have created a one-stop-shop for self-exploration and spiritual connection. Stay for a cup of their “tea of the day”, and you will find it is also a wonderful space for relaxation and taking a much-needed break.
by Shannon Roznay
Which of the following scenarios applies to you?
You’re feeling fine and you go to your medical doctor for your annual physical. You are shocked to hear that your blood work comes back showing borderline diabetes and your doctor is putting you on medication…
Or, your energy is dragging, you haven’t been feeling your best for a while. You feel like something is wrong and you go to your doctor for blood work and she tells you there is nothing wrong with you, you are perfectly healthy. You leave wondering how it is possible. Or, your doctor may even suggest that your symptoms are due to stress, or it’s all in your head, and then recommend antidepressants or antianxiety medications…
Or, you are somewhat overweight and no matter how hard you try, no amount of exercise or dieting takes any weight off at all? You are completely frustrated and are ready to give up, even though you really don’t like being overweight…
These are some of the most common complaints I see as a holistic health doctor, but there are many, many more. Joint pain, migraines, digestive problems, infertility, insomnia, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, sugar cravings, you name it! Hundreds of people are walking around experiencing symptoms that are preventing them from fully enjoying their life and reaching their fullest potential.
And I find one thing that everyone suffering from these various symptoms has and it’s this—they are all eating food that isn’t good for them.
Your whole body is made of cells — you may remember this from biology class — and your cells are always dying. But you are still alive because your body is constantly growing new cells. Have you ever stopped to consider where your body gets the material it needs to grow the new cells? Well, you may have guessed by now, but the material is acquired from the food you eat.
The ramifications of eating “bad” foods is that your body grows “bad” cells. And then one or more of the organs in your body develops dysfunction. And when that happens, you will develop symptoms. And it can be any of the symptoms we mentioned above or many others as well. Major illnesses like Alzheimer’s and cancer have this same root cause. From my 17 years in the holistic health field, I have found most Americans are eating way too much sugar, toxic chemicals, and other products that prevent their bodies from growing healthy cells. And when people are not feeling well, and their energy is flagging, what do they do? They reach for junk food! And thus a vicious cycle is created in which they keep feeling worse and worse and getting sicker and sicker.
Sugar, processed foods (including genetically modified foods), and excess caffeine are not only lacking in nutrition, but actually cause nutritional deficiencies because the body must use vitamins and minerals to try and stay balanced when we consume these things.
Stress is another cause of deficiency, depleting the system of magnesium, B vitamins, and Vitamin C to name a few. With chronic stress often comes chronic health issues like frequent colds, anxiety, insomnia, and hormone imbalance. Our organs take a beating, especially our brain and adrenal glands, which then cause all kinds of symptoms. Are you getting the idea? A lack of proper nutrition will cause organs to malfunction, which leads to symptoms and eventually disease.
So what is proper nutrition? Most people know they should eat vegetables, but beyond that things get confusing. Many subscribe to a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet, while others say a vegetarian or vegan diet is best. How do you know what’s right for you?
Its’s true there are variations from person to person on what foods should be eaten and in what quantity. Some people don’t tolerate onions and garlic, although these are certainly very health foods for a lot of folks. Others have major trouble with tomatoes and peppers. These issues are usually identified through trial and error, noticing that you don’t feel well after eating a specific item, but often the real culprits can go unnoticed because sometimes the offending food doesn’t cause symptoms until several days later.
Over so many years helping people improve and recover their health using dietary changes and supplementation I have seen many types of conditions and just as many solutions. My advice for anyone struggling with their health would be to start by eating nourishing foods—minimally processed, whole ingredient, occurring in nature foods. A simple thing to change is the type of fats and oils you consume, ideally sticking with butter, coconut oil, avocadoes, and nuts, plus fat occurring in healthfully raised proteins like eggs, fish, and meat. Another strategy is to buy produce that’s organic, or even better, that’s local and hasn’t been treated with chemicals. And of course, check any labels for sugar because, as we discussed earlier, it’s a major cause of deficiency, inflammation, and ultimately ill health.
If making changes to your diet causes an improvement in how you feel, keep it up! It takes time to heal naturally and symptoms are the first thing to disappear, but full healing takes at least a few months and sometimes a year or more. Know that the body is an amazing machine that can endure and recover from major assaults if given the right tools.
If you think you are stuck in a vicious cycle of bad food and poor health, I have good news for you. There is hope! We have helped thousands of people restore their health, safely and naturally, without the use of drugs or surgery, by simply helping them sort out their diet and recommending specific supplementation to correct deficiencies and help the body heal. I have seen some very sick folks improve from simple dietary changes once they know the exact changes to make. It’s amazing how powerful food can be!
Dr. Shannon Roznay, D.C., is a doctor of chiropractic and specializes in using Nutrition Response Testing to help people improve every area of health. For more information you can visit Dr. Roznay online at thrive-wellness-center.com or give them at call at 734-470-6766. Thrive Wellness Center is located at 6901 State Road, Suite D in Saline.
Crazy Wisdom Kids in the Community-- Mindfulness with Barbara Newell, Joy Aleccia, and Anique Pegeron
by Laura Cowan
Of all the to-dos on my mom list, the most upsetting and hilarious has to be self-care through meditation. I do actually have a supportive spouse, I work flexible hours, and I only have one kid. Still, the idea of adding one more to-do in addition to taking care of everyone around me — taking care of myself and forcing myself to calm down — is high in irony and low in fiber.
Currently I’m launching a tech blog with my husband, writing magazine articles, nursing a sick puppy, keeping up with a kid who is determined to catch every strain of flu this side of the Mississippi, and writing my twelfth novel, while planning all the family vacations… so we can relax. And… I’m one of the privileged moms who gets to choose how she spends her days. I know if you’re a single working parent or doing the stay-at-home thing instead of juggling work, you’re probably dealing with something much harder, like taking care of aging parents while raising babies.
For a parent to prioritize keeping calm is inevitably required. That’s one of the reasons mindfulness meditation is a growing trend breaking into the mainstream. It is a type of self-care that helps people, moms in particular, stop and smell the roses and refresh themselves. It’s about living in the doing instead of just another to-do.
According to Ann Arbor mindfulness coach Barbara Newell, this world we live in of thinking and improving and doing often leaves no space for feeling. Mindfulness meditation, which teaches ways to be present in daily life, is trending with parents and high-performing professionals. It helps us bridge that tendency in our culture from being carried away by thinking about all the things that need to be done to just acknowledging thoughts as they pass.
Kids are now getting into the mix as well, learning tools to cope with the stresses of school. Parents know it's harder on kids these days to keep up. Kids are seriously stressed by the load of over-scheduling and high-achieving school standards, especially in a place like Ann Arbor, where my nine-year-old can already opt into advanced math programs or take after-school activities until she drops. If I let her. I did bring her to AAPS in second grade because her smaller district wasn’t challenging her, but there is a down side to every school system as wonderful as Ann Arbor’s. I’ve learned to say no to practically everything to manage the barrage of opportunities we don’t have the energy to balance. Yes, I force self-care and balance down my family’s throats like brussel sprouts. It’s good for them. We will not be stressed out and exhausted, so help me if it’s the last thing I do. Right. Where was I?
Mindfulness meditation has recently experienced explosive growth in popularity, including in Ann Arbor, because research studies with evidence-based findings keep showing improvements across the board in people’s physical and emotional health using the practice. People are learning that mindfulness is a very simple way of connecting with a self-care routine that doesn’t require a lot of time, spiritual study, or any particular belief system.
Here’s why it works for parents and kids: mindfulness meditation isn’t a prescribed routine. It's a skill we can learn to check in with ourselves. So instead of worrying that I haven't done enough meditating today, I use this skill to check in and get real about what’s happening. “How am I feeling when the P.T.A. asked me to volunteer even though that lady I’ve never met gives me the side eye and a guy almost just ran me off the road while I was doing carpool?” I’m feeling like it might be a good night to chill out with a movie and the family and push the business accounting to tomorrow. Another burnout moment avoided. When I check in with how I feel more regularly, I don’t have a chance to get so off track trying to force myself to get everything done. My body thanks me. I have more energy. I stay healthier. Can somebody please teach my puppy mindfulness?
If it helps to get started by joining a group, there are now many sitting groups around Ann Arbor. Online sites like Mindful City Ann Arbor (mindfulcityannarbor.org) list ways to join groups in town. Several local teachers offer classes tailored to parents and kids, like at Barbara Newell’s group Grove Emotional Health Collaborative, where two different coaches work with parents and teens to create healthy routines for daily life. The experience can range from a relaxing way to end the day with a supportive group of friends to coaching that comes to you to teach kids ways to relax and stay present with themselves through stressful moments.
I sat down with a few of my favorite coaches to discuss the benefits of mindfulness and how it works. There are tons more groups around town. Happy meditating, parents. Moreover, happy saying no to the P.T.A., God bless ’em and the important work that they do.
Mindfulness for Parents
Barbara Newell works as a mindfulness coach alongside a group of therapists and one other mindfulness coach, Anique Pegeron. Newell’s study of mindfulness goes all the way back to 1974, when someone handed her Thich Nhat Hanh’s Miracle of Mindfulness. In 1992 she began attending the Zen temple in Ann Arbor and received a copy of Thich Nhat Hanh's book Touching Peace from its resident priest. Her studies would take her to living with Thich Nhat Hanh's monastic community in France for twelve years before returning to the United States.
She has a quiet peaceful way about her and sat with me in an empty room at the Grove offices on Main Street, where we added our own lamp and chairs, like a meditation circle. I could tell right away she was well-suited to this work. She carries herself like a nun who meditates at regular hours (as an Ann Arbor kid raised in Catholic school who’s known a lot of Buddhists, I’ve been around a lot of nuns).
Newell said she works with clients to identify ways they can use mindfulness in their daily lives, not as a meditation practice, but to be used while going through their routines, in order to be more present and enjoy their lives more.
What are the most common challenges for people in a mindfulness circle or coaching session? “There are a whole world of needs, tasks, and challenges,” Newell said. “We can feel caught up in the doing and lose contact with the spirit of why — the meaning of life and the expression of love for our family.”
Newell said her class on mindfulness grows out of individual coaching with parents. She said she was surprised to hear how busy parents are these days, even just the sheer amount of driving they do for their kids. There are also a growing number of anxiety disorders among kids presenting in her practice, and she seeks to help families address the stress of daily life in ways that work for them without adding one more to-do item to their list.
That’s why Newell doesn’t call her class Mindful Parenting, but Mindfulness for Parents. Parents don’t need another stressful standard for perfect parenting. It can be overwhelming enough to fit in all the things parents need to do in a day. What this class and others do is create space for parents to process their lives and reorient. With renewed awareness, they can apply their own values and priorities to their roles as parents and enjoy it.
“What can seem selfish for a moment [in taking the time for a mindfulness class] pays dividends to everyone around you if you take time for yourself so you can be more present,” she said.
Mindfulness is often taught as a two-part practice here:
1. As a sitting meditation or formal practice, a time to pause and be present. With practice, this becomes more habitual and easier to integrate into the day.
2. As an informal practice that weaves a sense of presence into the day, to pause as we do things and enjoy the moment or just be present with ourselves to witness what is going on and stay with ourselves whether we are enjoying it or not.
When we are present with ourselves, we give ourselves the opportunity to make a fresh choice in the moment of how we want to orient our focus. Do we want to look in our loved ones’ eyes and feel connection? Do we want to stop and smell the fresh air while stopped at a traffic light? Do we want to stay present with how we’re feeling and support ourselves through a difficult moment? Mindfulness is not about forcing yourself to sit on a cushion and think or breathe, Newell emphasized. In fact, one of her favorite practices is to help clients identify where their natural passions and joy in life are, and be mindful in those moments. She asks what their day is like. What do they enjoy? Is it skiing? Is it music? Being present in those moments is not a cookie cutter approach. It’s a selected focus on showing up for what’s meaningful to us personally.
Finally, Newell said it can be helpful for parents to have a group of like-minded individuals to support them and hear how challenging it can be to parent these days. Her groups are composed of many different kinds of parents, ages, and lifestyles, but her classes are often filled with working parents.
You can reach Barbara Newell at Grove Emotional Health Collaborative’s office on Main Street at www.groveemotionalhealth.com or by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org and (734) 224-3822 x113.
Some Relief and Go-To Techniques For Kids
I met Joy Aleccia when our daughters took yoga together for two summers. It’s one positive side effect of being in a town where kids get into the fun of mindful exercise and green living — you meet a lot of like-minded parents. Joy Aleccia co-founded Seek Wellness in Ann Arbor with her business partner Karin Elling-Gardner, a chef and registered dietician. Aleccia is a yoga therapist and Reiki master who works specifically with kids to create a holistic approach to wellness. Her offerings include coaching in mindfulness as well as nutrition, Reiki, and other healing modalities. Aleccia works often with children who are dealing with anxiety or O.C.D., ages 5 to 9, and also with local Brownie troops. What’s unique about her business is that she will come to a parent’s home to work with one or more children in their own space. This is great for families that want support without joining a group class. She said one of her greatest tasks is to blend into their space to make them comfortable while she’s teaching them ways to relax in a stressful moment.
Aleccia teaches kids simple ways they can stretch, meditate, or play games that help them feel good in the middle of their day. “We’re just strengthening your armor so you can feel better, not perfect,” she said. A veteran yoga teacher, she added, “I always include a few yoga poses because it’s another tool in the toolbox.” She shows kids poses that are designed for relaxation, such as the Rag Doll dangling pose that can calm you when you’re feeling overwhelmed. She also includes a practice of kids putting their feet up a wall while lying down and also helps them learn to breathe deeply for relaxation.
Several sessions in a row with her young clients are followed later by a refresher. Aleccia can also teach kids how to ground using visualization techniques that are super simple, such as helping them imagine themselves as a tree with roots reaching down into the ground. This helps orient them in the present and stay with themselves during stressful moments.
Aleccia says that one of the keys to mindfulness she picked up in a TED talk, where the speaker talked about how if you take the stairs instead of the elevator and your legs start burning, your heart rate elevates, you’re not thinking, “Oh no, I’m taking the stairs wrong.” It’s just a new experience of a different way to get upstairs that comes with new sensations, and we know this intuitively. When we meditate, we tend to judge ourselves too soon and think that we are no good at it. People tend to talk themselves out of mindfulness meditation because they think they’re doing it wrong, Aleccia said. Kids don’t have that expectation, so it can be easier to work with them and their willingness to try a new experience.
Joy Aleccia is reachable for in-home meeting and office visits at her website www.a2seekwellness.com, by phone at (734) 274-5310, and by email at email@example.com.
Mindfulness for Teens
Mindfulness coach Anique Pegeron grew up in Ann Arbor, so she knows all about the high expectations and packed schedules we value. When Pegeron was in high school, she was told “calm down” or “pay attention” with very little instruction as to how to do that. Her inspiration came from wanting to create a better method for teens today to learn how to process the pressures of life with a road map for relaxation and self-care. Pegeron started with mindfulness summer camps for kids at County Farm Park, a program she still runs from her website Mindful World (mindful-world.com). It is focused on nature, games, yoga, creating community, and teaching small ways kids can practice mindfulness for their own benefit.
The next logical step was to extend the programs to teens, Pegeron said, through her Right Now Mindfulness and Yoga for Teens class. She prepared for her coaching with a program in California called Mindful Schools (mindfulschools.org) where mindfulness was already big a few years back, and added that on to her bachelor’s in psychology and master’s in education. She realized that families wanted to learn more about mindfulness as it went mainstream.
Pegeron also works at Grove Emotional Health Collaborative. She said it’s great to be a coach that works with teens looking for tips to cope with daily life. It allows her to support them with the latest offerings from the mindfulness movement. She also loves helping them learn that in a society that encourages seeking healing externally, mindfulness can help us seek what we need internally. This can be great for building self-esteem and resourcefulness throughout life.
“It’s not about getting it right or doing it one way,” she said. Pegeron works with teens to find their best way to connect with themselves in the midst of a lot of pressure to succeed or organize their lives, so they stay in touch with what is really important to them and know they have the resources internally to succeed. “The road within is there for all of us but is blocked,” she said. “[This helps] remove the barriers.”
Pegeron said her education in Ann Arbor was great, but it filled her mind with a lot of information instead of giving her instruction about the nature of her mind. She believes that because Ann Arbor is a high-achieving town, mindfulness is having its moment here, and we really need these tools to deal with pressure.
One of her best tips to understand mindfulness is this: treat yourself like you would treat a friend. She is teaching more these days on mindful self-compassion, she said, because we tend to be so much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Learning to pay attention to how we treat ourselves can make all the difference in creating a balanced life.
Pegeron seconds the idea that mindfulness suits Ann Arbor because of the scientific research backing it up as more than a spiritual practice. It’s completely nondenominational, which means it works not only for people whose focus and lifestyle orients around scientific process but also for people who are religious but don’t want to practice any kind of meditation that combines their spiritual practices with those of another religion. For some, mindfulness opens up the path to other spiritual practices that might benefit them. For others, it’s a simple tool that excludes spiritual practice, which can be a relief for those who are non-religious or recovering from religious abuse.
So what happens when you don’t want to be present with discomfort and befriend your own experience? Pegeron said it’s about befriending yourself in whatever situation you find yourself, not numbing out and creating an overwhelm, because, she said, what we resist persists. “Can you learn to befriend your own emotions, knowing they’re part of human experience,” even when they’re not comfortable? Pegeron said this is preferable to avoiding discomfort, because that often leads to situations piling up on us. In fact, she said, mindfulness helps us sharpen our discernment of uncomfortable situations and mind-spinning stories we tell ourselves about our experiences and blame ourselves or blame others. When we train ourselves to be mindful of our experiences, we can help ourselves sift away the narratives to an underlying essence of what feels authentic to us. We can practice an experimental sort of thinking about our experiences, instead of resorting to life and death thinking.
Pegeron said that cultures who cultivate mindfulness value thinking as much as our society does, but they also value intuition, a deeper subconscious type of thinking that values emotions as signals of what is happening to us and what decisions we feel we need to make. Healing doesn’t just come from understanding what is happening to us, but from listening to and feeling emotion and seeing if it speaks to us. This can build resilience, but it can also be challenging and leave us feeling uncomfortably raw with feeling so much for a while. Groups and classes can help people see the common experience we all have with these things and normalize people’s experience of growth.
Anique Pegeron works through the Grove Emotional Health Collaborative and can also be reached at her website www.mindful-world.com. She is a certified Mindful Schools instructor at www.mindfulschools.org/resources/certified-instructor/name/anique-pegeron/.
In Conclusion, Darn It
Truth time: I don’t know a single parent, myself included, who feels they have this balance thing licked. I know one woman dealing with having to find new housing while sorting out her career after a cross-country move, and it’s tearing her up. Another friend found a new job only to have to testify against her new boss. A third friend is helping her teen through mental health challenges while raising younger babies, and it’s wrecked her health. Out sick from school, my daughter’s stress brought her to tears even though she has a supportive teacher who is happy to catch her up. Where did we get this idea that we have to keep going and be perfect even when it’s absurd? I hope I didn't teach her that, though my schedule disagrees.
For myself, I have added mindfulness into a daily routine when I can remember, but I’ve also benefited greatly from moving meditation when I need to work off the stress instead. Walking, swimming, tai chi, and similar exercise has become my go-to. And that supportive family of mine insists I stick to it, because I really do start to fall apart when I don't keep up with self-care.
Mindfulness meditation is a tool I reach for when life is too much. It won't add another burden to my list of beautiful things I have actually chosen to do. I love my work. I love this family. I love this town. And I love not being burned out. Blessings that you find your balance as well.
Heading down US-23 toward Ohio was a familiar experience, but my expectations differed from past trips. Over the years, visits to the Toledo Zoo and the Imagination Station made Ohio synonymous with family playdates and non-stop activity. Driving south of Toledo was new territory, so missing the exit on US-24 near Napoleon led to an unexpected excursion into downtown Whitehouse. Named for a local official in the 1800’s, the village’s rural, relaxed setting was a welcome contrast from earlier visits to Northwest Ohio and complements Lial Renewal Center’s low key, introspective environs.