Posts filed under community

The Ecology Center – 50 Years of Innovative Solutions for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

n 2020, the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. It has grown to become one of the most dynamic and influential organizations of its kind in the United States. Created in the wake of the first Earth Day, the Ecology Center was founded by members of ENACT (Environmental Action for Survival), the University of Michigan’s student environmental group. ENACT and the Ecology Center’s primary original focus was to start a recycling program. The city’s first recycling program, at the newly created Recycling Center, was not the recycling program Ann Arbor residents know today: no curbside pickup, only a few types of recyclables were eligible, and residents had to sort recyclables into separate containers and deliver them directly to the Recycling Center.

Agricole: A New Local Market Arrives in Chelsea

Agricole is a word we can easily recognize as something related to agriculture, but its new namesake is more than that. Agricole Farm Stop and Coffee Bar is about cultivating a culture of community through our connections to its people, soil, and local foods combined with a central meeting and trading place in the heart of historic downtown Chelsea. The grocery and coffee bar sits just off the railroad tracks across from the Jiffy Mix mill. Here is where the intersection of past and present food entrepreneurs remind us of our agricultural heritage and the responsibility we have moving forward to support this locally grown economy and community in a sustainable way. 

An Interview with Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton on Holistic Approaches to Public Safety and Bias-free Policing

After working more than thirty years in the field of law enforcement, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton has become an international expert on such intransigent issues as bias-free policing, cultural diversity, and “subject control” arrest techniques. In 2016 Clayton represented the U.S. at a conference on community policing held in Barcelona, Spain, hosted by the Open Society Foundations. In 2017 Clayton again represented the U.S., this time at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, sponsored by the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights. In February of 2018, Clayton participated in a U.S.-U.K. exchange in London, focusing on building leadership for fair and effective policing.

Our Southern Neighbors: Holistic Practitioners in Lenawee County

While Ann Arbor may be the center of holistic living in southeastern Michigan, the wave of conscious living has rolled across the state. A major area of growth for conscious living practitioners and educators can be found in the heart of Lenawee County. Just a short journey south and west of Ann Arbor you can visit the quaint town of Tecumseh with its many antique and fine gift shops. A little farther south and you’ll find the historic downtown of Adrian, which has been going through a time of redevelopment. Both towns, and many more surrounding them, are finding new growth, development, and interest in holistic living.

Leaps of Faith Fall 2019, thrive juicery and Ann Arbor Pharmacy

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.

Connecting Through Story

Joyous connection is the very stuff of story. The rise of social media, the popularity of The Moth, TED Talks, and StoryCorps, all point to the importance of story in our daily lives. Story connects us to our shared history. Personal stories of life today are cathartic for the teller, and studies show that the brain relaxes when it makes a coherent narrative out of something chaotic. They can be healing for the teller and audience alike, but story has a much broader historical significance as well. It not only helps us to understand earlier events, but also to understand the hopes, beliefs, and dreams of those who lived through those events. Story is a gift of joyous connection sent to us from times past.

A Place in the Circle-- A Yearly Gathering of Women

I tell everyone that my daughter went to the high school featured in the movie “Mean Girls,” and that it was true to its namesake, minus the caricatures. Back then, I didn’t know how to help my daughter navigate the turbulent social climate. That is, until I had a women’s circle at my house. She sat in a few times and the women loved her. Not once was my daughter marginalized. The women in our circle made space for her by listening, asking questions, and affirming that her goals were important. Fast forward to our new lives: my daughter is thriving at a university in Los Angeles with her own circle, and I have found one here in Ann Arbor. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from being part of a women’s circle is that it is a safe and sacred space to come together with authenticity, and its regenerative properties sustain me. 

Posted on September 1, 2019 and filed under community, Healing, Issue #73.

What's New in the Community, Fall 2019

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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 and They can be reached via email at 

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 and they can be reached via email at 

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, or visit their Facebook page 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 

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 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 They can be reached by email at

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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 They can be reached by email at 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 Pauline Loewenhardt can be reached by email at Her book is available at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore. 

Upcoming Events

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 More information about the group is online at 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 Jennifer Carson can be reached via email at Her website is

New Classes

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 She can be reached by phone at (734) 239-4553 or by email at 

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. 

Ann Arbor Pharmacy is located at 2418 East Stadium Boulevard, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. They can be reached by email at or by phone at (734) 677-5555.  Their website is


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 Lauren Hoffman can be reached by phone at (313) 410-3696 or by email at

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 She can be reached by email at 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 Her website is 

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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 Her website is 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 His website is 

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 She can be reached by email at or by phone at (734) 818-6238. Her office is located at 2500 Packard Street, Suite 107, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104. 

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