Two and a half Days at Canyon Ranch, or “My Summer Vacation”
What follows are my notes from a 5 day trip back east to New Jersey and Massachusetts. My good friend Janet treated me to a trip to Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. She also invited our friend Pam. The three of us have been friends since the 5th grade. Canyon Ranch is kind of the mother of all “spas”. It turns out it is so much more than your average spa and the experience was really life changing for me. It could not have come at a better time. I had been going through an MS episode for about 8 weeks and was just coming off of it. I was beginning to realize that I was going to have to seriously change my life in order to make room for MS. It turned out the changes were not necessarily what I had thought they were going to be.
My journal starts at the end of the trip, and reflects back on it.
I’m sitting at the Albany airport, preparing to get back into my pumpkin and return to my life in Boulder, having spent the last couple of days at the proverbial ball. Like Cinderella, I’ve still got my “Canyon Ranch” sandals on. No doubt I will wear them every day for the rest of the summer until they fall apart. Because really, my toes look totally awesome.
I wonder what the best way is to relay the Canyon Ranch tale? Chronologically? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just start writing and see what happens.
The last time Janet treated me to a trip was from Boulder to London when I was pregnant with Adrian. On the flight home, I cried most of the way home. I will do the same again today. Both trips were so incredibly nurturing for me. Something I am woefully inept at doing for myself, it would seem. I joke that Janet is my own personal Oprah, although it’s not that much of a joke. I am left wondering, who nurtures Janet? I want there to be a way for me to reciprocate.
After the Albany to Chicago flight
There was no crying on that plane. The first leg, from Albany to Chicago was a non-stop conversation with the pony-tailed guy I saw at the gate and thought looked interesting. We talked about mind/body, Buddhism, George W., Howard Dean, Christianity, nutrition, eastern medicine, his Odyssey of the Mind students, western medicine, MS and chronic fatigue. He has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The last 15 minutes, Led Zeppelin was on the monitors and I mentioned something about seeing Robert Plant with The Who several times last year. He said, “I’m a huge Who fan”. And, he really is. And he had a completely joyous response to my tattoo. “I’ve never met anyone who was that big of a Who fan!” he said, in a way that implied that he viewed it as very cool that he finally had. And I said, . He was on his way to Hawaii. He thinks Howard Dean“No, you really haven’t” is, in fact, the real thing. Apparently, my trip isn’t over yet. Maybe it’s just the beginning of a new and improved journey?
Tim was a tall, thin 30ish guy with a long, blond ponytail. He had blue eyes and glasses. He wasn’t exactly classicly good looking – his teeth were too big for his mouth, and discolored. His inner calmness and sense of peace with himself made me aware of him, however. At first I thought I had thought, “He looks interesting to me”. But actually, it was “he feels interesting to me”. We both had something to offer to each other in the way of conversation. The universe has its ways to bring those of us together who need to be together, even if only for a few hours or even minutes. You have to be open to it, however. Its one good reason for “being here now”, wherever you are.
Several times during our conversation, Tim held out his hand for me to hold for a moment. It was a simple gesture of comfort and understanding. I was clearly in the midst of processing so much information and feelings. A few times, I took his hand for several seconds. At the end of the flight, we said good bye and he asked for a hug.
(Note to self: a hug is a very good way to express “I have shared something deep with you.”)
Ok, back to my summer vacation. (Question: if you are trying to “be here now” all the time, are you allowed to write about the past??)
When Janet proposed the Canyon Ranch idea, I thought, ok, yay; we’ll go get our nails done. That would be fun. Then last Monday I got the ranch catalog via FedEx from Janet’s travel agent. Holy Crap!
(Time out – everyone here at the gate at O’Hare is laughing because two little blond haired boys are talking into the microphone that was left on at the door to the walkway to the plane. All of a sudden we hear a little voice going “HHHHHEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOO”. Nobody could figure out where it was coming from so I clued them in, having observed the culprits immediately. Hee hee heee.)
I called Janet the night I got the catalog and we traded reactions. I couldn’t believe all the medical stuff that was available. It had not occurred to me that there would be doctors, acupuncturists, etc. Janet encouraged me to ‘go for it’, so I read through the catalog and listed the 10 or 12 things that leapt out at me. It took me a few days but finally I called them and started the booking process. This was initially a tad bureaucratic and, it turned out, was kind of ongoing throughout my stay, which is how they intend it to be. That is, the scheduling and rescheduling can go on through out your entire stay. I think this is a first timer syndrome. Once I got the hang of it (sometime Monday morning), I was pretty well set.
(Holy cow – the biggest plane I think I have ever seen just pulled up to our gate. I must find out what kind of plane that is. The pilot’s cabin is actually upstairs from the passengers.
Also – true confessions: I just ate a chocolate chip scone. I missed all that fat, baby!)
I signed up for a combination of medical and behavioral sessions plus one facial. Once I was there, I spontaneously added some frilly girl stuff like hair, toes, nails and a body scrub. I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter Dagny by coming home with unpainted nails!
I spent the first night of my trip at Janet’s house in Summit, NJ. Her parents were visiting. I saw my dad and his wife Carol the next morning, and also saw Janet’s brother Curt, and his wife. All of that in itself would have been worth the trip. I loved being with Janet’s family – they were my “family away from home” growing up. Very healthy, stable and happy people and were always a healthy influence on me. Breakfast with Dale and Carol was fun – kind of like old times with them. It is good to see both of them happier.
(The plane to Denver is 15 minutes behind schedule and the ground crew is getting very anxious about boarding ‘correctly’. The plane is either really packed, or it is just crowded because it is such an enormous plane.)
The drive up to Lenox on Sunday afternoon was fun. It’s always good having time to talk with Janet.
Pam called us in the car at 5:30 – “hurry up, I’m lonely!” I remember how cute Pammie is. We were about 20 minutes away. She had gotten there at 4:30.
(So this family next to me has lost the little boy’s boarding pass. Actually, the kid lost it. They are freaking out, swearing, arguing. OH! Dad saves the day. He checks at the desk and the kid had dropped it and someone turned it on. He comes back, rolling his eyes, saying, “This is why Tylenol was created…”, mostly for my benefit as he sees me watching everything.)
My first service at the Ranch is a massage. Janet had scheduled the three of us for massages for 9:00 on Sunday night. Uh oh, massage anxiety sets in. But, as with everything else on this trip, it went very well. Cute guy, very insightful, made me get relaxed.
(The ground crew woman says “ok, now boarding ‘seating 4’”. The crabby family’s daughter says, “Ok, that’s not us, we’re ‘seating 3’.” So, because I am naturally over-responsible for good communication happening between everyone I come in contact with, I say “actually, they’ve already called ‘seating 3’.” So crabby Mom says, “They did? You mean, while we were arguing?? They didn’t wait for us?” It appears crabby Mom has a sense of humor. I said, “Boy are they going to be pissed at you.” She says, “well, I’m just going to tell them you told us the wrong thing”, smiling. I laughed out loud, saying, “I’m writing an account of my trip and I’m putting you in it!”
It turns out the plane is a 747. I guess I just forget how huge they are. I haven’t been on one in many years. Crabby Dad says that the biggest planes are now 777’s.)
Yeah, so the massage was fun, not so much for the massage aspect of it, which was good, but for the conversation. I have come to realize that I can have a fabulous conversation with just about everybody, and frequently do. The massag-er was Jonathon. 39, cute, Long Island boy with loads of personality, and fun sense of humor. We discussed our mutual dislike of “massage music”. The theme of my trip was just beginning to become evident- everyone has some messages and insight for me. His was “you have to learn to LET GO with your husband. It’s not him; it’s you. YOU HAVE TO TALK. Say what you feel more. And, you are right, not always living together can be very helpful.” Our parting words were him saying something like “now go out there and be beautiful!” and me saying, “Fuck off!” with a smile.
He told me that for some of his clients he does his massages to rock and roll. Now that is my kind of massage therapist.
Being with Janet and Pam was good and felt so natural. I remembered how with the three of us, I tended to differentiate myself and hold back from the two of them at times. I worked on that a bit this time – making myself fight that impulse to ‘drop out’.
There were a variety of people at the Ranch. They ranged from extremely pampered 65ish women, to raggedly looking aging rock star types, none of whom I could quite recognize and who generally looked pretty awful. There were lot of men and women there on their own. Plenty of very overweight people, plenty of older couples.
The grounds are really beautiful. Lot of deeply green grass and trees, rolling hills. I forget how much I love the east coast geography until I go back.
The next morning, Monday, first thing I went to meet with a ‘program coordinator’. They are people who schedule you for whatever you are interested in. It was odd because you had to have an appointment for your first one, but really, you could walk up to any of the many desks located around the property and just take care of whatever you needed. It didn’t go very well and I couldn’t get this Brain Wellness thing scheduled. I started worrying that I wasn’t going to get to spend time with the people I wanted to.
I had spoken early Saturday morning in Boulder by phone with someone named Lisa. So I went up to the medical department and she was right there at the desk. I introduced myself and she said “oh Trish, I’m glad you came up. Let’s take a look at your schedule.” She waved her magic wand and got me all straightened out. I told her how incredibly competent she was and how much I appreciated it.
After that, I had about an hour before my first appointment. That morning at breakfast we had seen a labyrinth type grouping of stones way down on the front lawn. So I wandered out there. As I started walking, I started weeping. I sat down for a while and then went over to the labyrinth, still weeping. I walked through the series of stones. It took about 10 minutes. The entire way, I wept. I think it was the first time I had ever cried about MS and my health. There was a lot of loss that I felt and it was all being released. I actually thanked the labyrinth afterwards for taking in so much of my sorrow.
I started out with an appointment with an internist, Nina Molin, who also specializes in Ayurveda (the ancient health paradigm of India). She was pretty knowledgeable about MS. I told her my main goals for my stay was coming up with prevention tactics for my recurring bladder infections, coming up with skills/tricks for dealing with my cognitive fritzes, dealing with fatigue and my need for moving my body/exercising, without getting overheated.
I spent an hour with Nina. She set me up for some yoga instruction; she thought I had otherwise selected the perfect sessions for me. She warned me about the relationship between sex and bladder infections, recommended I spend some time clearing my mind every morning with a short meditation, begged me to take 15 or 20 minutes away from my desk to eat lunch. She was the first one in a series of many to raise a skeptical eyebrow at my mastery of multi-tasking. She recommended I look at some work of a guy Mark Perlmutter, who has written about lifestyle and MS. It turned out he’s in Naples, Fl. I told her my mom lives there – she said, well, then that is meant to happen. You must go see him. In short, she was the perfect person to start off with that morning. She will keep in touch with me via email. Gotta love that. She had started to nudge me a bit about my rather huge predilection towards being in my head. She also recommended I find someone who does “Body-Mind Centering” work. I didn’t really get what that was, but agreed I would look into it. She thought maybe she could get me a referral.
I met up with Janet and Pam for lunch, outside in the garden café. Grilled tempeh. I used to eat that all the time but had forsaken it in my anger over the MS diagnosis. I was getting a small, vague feeling of joy in remembering my old ways, somewhat tempered with the fear of getting my hopes up. It was a beautiful setting for lunch. Janet and Pam were doing pretty well. Pam was really focusing on exercise (she’s about a size 2, I’d say). Janet was pursuing a pretty balanced schedule of massages, acupuncture, Chinese medicine plus getting in some morning exercise and yoga. She has been doing Chinese medicine for a number of years and has felt it has really benefited her. The basic concept is the balance of yin and yang. (BTW, ‘yang’ is pronounced like “bong” , not “bang”, I quickly observed.)
I spent the hour after lunch with a “lifestyle mapper”, talking about the effects of MS and how it affects my lifestyle. I presented with “MS limits me in this way, and I’m not going to be able to do what I want to in life.” In a nutshell, she said “bullshit.” She encouraged me to not give in to that and instead go after what I want – bigger job, doing a better job with the kids, whatever, but to do it in a balanced way. To learn how to get through the day without relying on Diet Pepsi and brownies and Oreos. To know that I cannot do every single thing every day, not to expect to be able to do everything Right Now. She quickly spotted my all or nothing tendencies and called me on them. I can, apparently, learn to operate in a different manner. This was the beginning of a very deep theme for me, which would become further highlighted and opened up by additional points of view of Ranch staff people. “You are not supposed to be perfect. You can accept yourself and forgive yourself for not being perfect.” Hmm. Shades of Stuart Smalley. (And goddamit, people like me….) She agreed that I needed to be realistic about certain limitations (not driving), honoring my needs but to not turn in my dreams quite yet.
I spent the next hour with a nutritionist, ostensibly talking about ‘neuronutrition’. It turned into much more than that. She soon realized I knew what I needed to know. I had studied nutrition and naturopathy for years between 1995 and 1999. I just needed to use what I knew in a less obsessive/compulsive way. She helped me see why I had my recent two year rebellion with food and reminded me that I don’t have to be perfect. And furthermore if I think I have to be perfect, I set myself up for failure. There are a lot of benefits to the 80/20 approach. Even 70/30. She reminded me that there are many things that are healthy for me that I really do like. She even said the magic words “throw some chocolate chips into your trail mix even!” Bless that woman.
By this point, I had wept at least three more times. Spending an entire hour with such people is luxurious. It makes the 20-minute visits to the MS clinic appear like the joke that they really are. They mean well, but they just can’t pull it off. Now, I was fully remembering my love of naturopathy and many alternative therapies. I had been denying them for a few years and know deep down that they are good for me. Things were starting to bubble up in my soul.
The meals at Canyon ranch didn’t seem that great in the beginning. I felt a little resentful that I had to eat healthy, with no other choice. I did my best to consume whatever ‘fun’ stuff they offered. NOTHING had any fat to speak of, really. There was an occasional olive, nut and avocado. Even when I had eaten “perfectly” in my past, I ate way more fat than they seem to promote. But by the second day, I was hungry enough before meals that it started tasting so much better. Yeah, I was remembering distant memories of life in the healthy zone. It is calling me back? Do I want to go?
(Meanwhile on the plane from Chicago to Denver, I am thinking, but what are we going to do about Africa? Children starving, and so sick. If I had the money, I’d work to resolve world hunger. The juxtaposition of our overabundant society and such under resourced countries is so painful. Our diseases are diseases of “too much” and theirs are diseases of “too little”. What is up with that? What can we do about it?
They are showing some comedy on the monitors. Finally, I am seeing Jay Leno doing something very funny. (I’m a Letterman girl.) He has this sort of game show set up called the “Jaywalk Hall of Fame” with three pretty dumb 20-something people participating. Jay asks questions like “Where is the International Space Station?” The answers are “Little Rock, Arkansas”, “Russia”, and “Columbia”. Jay says the “Uh, no. The… answer… is… in… the… name…” And so on. These kids really don’t know anything, and it is downright hilarious. )
Later on Monday I went for my first experience with acupuncture. I think acupuncture would be better off with a new name. I almost cancelled it because my needle phobia has increased since I’ve done several years of self-injected MS medications. But my buddy Lisa convinced me to keep it, saying she had just done it for the first time and that I would probably really enjoy it.
The acupuncture guy was named Kevin. He wasn’t much of a talker. I had a lot of questions, though, so I made him talk. He told me that MS is a disease of energy imbalance – a deficiency of yin. Hmmm. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but it put it in my ever increasing file of messages. He talked with me a bit, then we got to the freaky needle stuff. He put very fine needles around my ankles, middle of my arms, and ears. I felt almost nothing. After a while there was an energetic kind of buzzing around the needles, which actually felt pretty cool. He said that the needles work with the meridians (channels of energy or ‘chi’) in the body to help rebalance the energy. He left me for 20 minutes. It was relaxing, and there was something about it I liked. I’m very likely to pursue it when I’m back in Boulder. I felt like I wanted much more information on this whole energy balancing, however.
I had some free time and wandered downstairs. There was a salon. My hair was driving me crazy, so I went in. They had a spot open, so I sat down and chatted with a woman about my hair. I gave her the old “my hair is thin, I’m supposed to have short hair but I prefer having it long” routine. She figured me out and gave me some great blond highlights and trimmed my hair slightly differently. She introduced me to this great shampoo and conditioner that made my hair feel great. I felt so good when I came out of there! Like I was a totally new chick. Seriously. I made an appointment for the next day for my nails.
I spent some time down in the spa in the Jacuzzi and lying in the sun a little bit. It was time for dinner, and I met up with Pam in the line, getting ‘mocktails’ (no alcohol at the Ranch. Unless, like my roommates, you bring your own bottles of wine! No soda, either.)
Pam: “So how’s it going, Patty?” (Patty was what I was known as in high school. I became Trish sometimes in my mid-20’s. You just can’t go through life as Patty Potter.)
Me: “Well, I don’t want to be too dramatic but, this has been one of the best days of my life.”
The three of us talked for a long time over dinner about everything, what we’d learned in our sessions at the Ranch, then on to our marriages, our kids, our parents. I was reminded that I like who I am now more than I have at any other time of my life.
That night I had a facial. Done by Amy, who was surprised it was only my third facial ever. She, like the others, got my number pretty quickly. “You’re kind of a low maintenance girl, aren’t you?” referring to my nightly ‘routine’ of splashing water on my face.
She gave me some very good information about what might help my skin a little bit. After the facial, I was really surprised at the difference. So many of the bumps all over my face were gone. I remember having a facial when I went to London to visit Janet and how for almost a year after that, I had kept up with keeping my face in shape. I had liked that and I figured I’d benefit from getting back to it.
Afterwards, I jumped in the Jacuzzi again and went up to the room around 10. I think it was this night that we watched the tape Janet had brought. Back in 1987, when Pam had gotten married, Janet and I made this video for her of our old neighborhood, hangouts, high school, etc. It was fun, although somewhat misguided because Pam wasn’t actually IN the tape. It was supposedly about her, but was frequently about me and Janet. I was still so chubby in it. A guy I had dated on and off for a few years, Scott Smith, helped us with it. He interviews Janet and me about Pam while we are down at this house at the Jersey shore. He was very funny. Four years later, I married him.
(On the plane from Chicago to Denver - Led Zep again at the tail end of the flight. All three of us in my row reached for our headphones for a last minute sound bite. I got mine on first, turned to the other guys and said “Misty Mountain Hop!” After it ended, the window guy said, “You weren’t even born when that song came out.”
I said, “Oh yeah? How old do you think I am??? I’m a rock and roller.”
He said, “me too. You must be doing something right.”
I said, “You should see my tattoo”, and winked.
I winked at an old guy on an airplane. )
Tuesday morning I got up early for an ‘express workout’ session. I met with a woman named Shelly who showed me about 6 strength training exercises I can do two or three times a week to increase the strength in my legs, arms and back. They tell me it is important to do with MS, since muscle deterioration is so common. She was very good at getting me to understand that two or three times a week was really enough, and not to obsess over it. She showed me some good stretching exercises as well.
I left that and went up to my first session on ‘Brain Wellness’, with Kristine Huffman. I told her my concerns about my ability to process more than a few variables. It had resulted in me having numerous car accidents and eventually stopping driving cars altogether. It is sometimes worse than others. It impacts me at work, where I do a great deal of systems analysis.
She led me through something called the Wechsler Memory Scale, which evaluates different types of brain and memory processing. She had some good feedback for me – she recommended dance therapy, which I found odd but she explained that it helped teach the brain ways to make new connections to accomplish something. So, because MS tends to break down many of the connections, I could help my brain learn new ones. That was exactly what I was hoping for. Right before I left Boulder, I had read a great article in the New Yorker by Oliver Sachs about people who become blind sometime after age 4 or so, and how their brains start compensating for them. It was really a mind-blowing article, and made me understand that I could probably do something very similar. So, Kristine to the rescue. I am having a phone consultation with Kristine to talk further this weekend. She did let me know that, although to me, my processing is much slower, that I scored superior on just about everything. It’s all relative, isn’t it. I remember one neurologist I saw early on who told me, for an ‘extremely high functioning’ person like myself, I would notice things that most other people would never notice about me. In other words, my brain problems are much more evident to me than they are to anyone else. Except for the driving, I’d say.
I misread my schedule and missed my yoga appointment. I thought it was at 2:00, but it had actually been at 12:00. Weird. It’s because I had written it down in pen, and the “1” didn’t show up because the pen wasn’t writing very well. Instead, I attended a lecture on energy that I had read about the previous day and really wanted to attend. Janet was there, too. I was secretly glad that I was getting to go to it. It seemed like it was likely to answer some more of my questions on this energy imbalance stuff.
And that’s how Mayer Kirkpatrick came into my life. His talk was completely about balancing energy. He favors the Chinese medicine model. His explanation of it made a lot of sense. He said some things about himself that really drew me (and everyone else) to him. He is remarkably centered, perceptive, intelligent and aware. He talked about his interest in the rise of autoimmune diseases (of which MS is one) in American culture. Towards the end he went around and asked the 7 of us there to talk a bit about how we relate to energy in our life. He had insightful, intuitive comments for many of us. When it came to me, I said I had MS and described how the energy pattern seems to work for me – I tend to be a yang – oholic and then burn myself out and have to have an extended down time.
In thinking about it, I could see that it had really been the pattern for me my whole life, not just since my MS diagnosis. He told me he sensed I feared the yin in my life, and he was right on. I always have. The yin being the dark, the sleep, the quiet, etc. I had been diagnosed bipolar at 19 for this very thing. I nearly had cry #5. He then said something like “there’s a lot I can say about that, and I have some intuitive insights for you if you’d like to spend more time with me.” Talk about an invitation I couldn’t refuse.
Through some crazy shuffling around and effort, I was able to set up an hour with him that night before dinner.
Mayer is dark, graying and pony-tailed. His eyes are dark wells of mysterious information. At least, this is my version of Mayer. I suspect many people see that in his eyes. He told me that he really isn’t the wise one; he is merely reflecting my own inner wisdom back to me. That he trusts his intuition enough to be able to do that. After his session on energy, Janet and I were having our toes done and we were talking, part of the time, over a large man sitting in the chair between us getting his feet buffed. I said, “Psst”. “I just think he (Mayer) has something I want.”
“I mean, he has developed something in his own self that I want to develop in my self.” In the past I would have mistaken being drawn to him for something else, love or sex or something. It was a mistake I had frequently made.
(Note to self while getting on the bus to Boulder at DIA: Some people just don’t know how to travel. They think the bus driver can make change for them. They have enormous backpacks on and then turn around quickly and barrel the whole contraption right into the side of your body.)
In my session with Mayer, I started out telling him a very brief synopsis of my own diagnosis of me. “I decided to be intelligent, I learn everything about whatever subject I’m into, and I try to do whatever it is perfectly, eventually fail and then throw all of it away. I am intelligent, intuitive, and wise - kind of like you, but I somehow sabotage myself.”
He keyed in on the word ‘sabotage’. He suggested there was a judge in my head, constantly being critical of me and that I had so internalized it that I was in a mortal battle with myself. “Many people I have known with MS are in such a battle. Your body is fighting against itself because of it. You tend to live in your head and ignore what your body is telling you. And it is trying to tell you so much. Tell me about what MS is doing in your body?”
I said, “Well, it is causing me to have to pay attention to my body. – Recurring infections, fatigue, numbness.”
Mayer: “Isn’t that interesting.”
Trish: “And, it is interfering with my cognitive processing. I can’t process like I used to.”
Mayer: “And isn’t that interesting.”
Well, ho ho ho.
He told me “Trish, you really did a good job at running away from your pain as a child by becoming very smart. You actually did too good of a job. You tend to live from the neck up.”
I love him for that.
He suggested that I was holding on to some beliefs that were not serving me very well. We did some exercises around what they were. One of them being, “My best is never good enough”. He told me that being perfect is not the goal. Ok, ok, I’m starting to get it.
To me, MS is clearly the anvil of the universe coming down upon my head to tell me, once and for all, GODDAMMIT TRISH WILL YOU PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO TELL YOU. I have heard the voice rather quietly in the past, but haven’t made the lasting changes that I need to. It’s not like I’ve totally ignored it. I’ve made some change and it’s been good. I have a ways to go. But MS is clearly a disease of imbalance. I have always wished the universe would just talk to me and tell me what the hell to do. Well, here it is.
I wish I could package Mayer up and take him to Boulder with me. It’s likely I will have to find a coach to check in with once in a while in Boulder. I hope I can somehow work out visiting the Ranch again to check in with ‘my people’.
Mayer invited me to keep in touch with him via email (he has a web site), which I imagine I will do. He’s an even better version of Todd Nelson, the naturopath I worked with for many years. Todd was into iridology, and told me many of the same things. “You’re too in your head, you need to go to art museums, don’t watch the news”. Etc. I think at the Ranch I was just better able to receive the information, and given all the work I’ve already done, it wasn’t quite as overwhelming. I liked that, because it was seemingly a one-time visit, Mayer had no reason to be trying to get me to buy stuff, or to become a client. So I really took what he said to heart. In the past I have been skeptical of alternative health people because I thought they were just trying to get me to spend my money.
Mayer and I did some ‘listening to your body’ things. He directed me to learn to really acknowledge my anger, and also to forgive those who am I angry at. I am the one choosing to hold on to the anger, and I am the one it is hurting.
I have a history of meeting people just out of the blue, so to speak, that have greatly influenced me. Eric, the Native American man I met in Baltimore at the hotel bar at a conference several years ago, is a good example. We were totally drawn to each other and finally introduced ourselves. We stayed up all night talking. He taught me about the nurturing parent vs. the critical parent. It’s not that I hadn’t known that concept, but that night, I was ready to take it in. He is probably the person who most influenced the course of my life as a parent. Todd was another one. He turned my world upside down by telling me about food, mood and the concept of mindfulness. My immediate reaction was that I was in love with him. I wasn’t, really. I really wanted to just be more like him.
Canyon Ranch gave me a vision of what my life might be like if I would take some time to balance the yin/yang. How exactly will I do that? I think I’m starting to intuitively get it. I came up with the concept of attaining “weekly” goals, rather than strict daily routines. Shoot for taking my bladder pill 3 or 4 times a week. Do my strength exercises 2, maybe 3 times a week. Move my body for 15 or 20 minutes whenever I can. Stare at abstract art once a week. Listen to music AND DO NOTHING ELSE. Find some yoga postures to do. Use my will to maintain a level of physical activity that helps stop my muscles from deteriorating. Eat my breakfast and don’t read the New York Times simultaneously while listening to the radio.
Reflecting back, I’m impressed with the people I have met. And it started immediately.
On the flight out from Denver to Newark. I had met this cute family. I was originally sitting next to Alex, the 9-year-old son. He wasn’t much interested in conversation, although I gave it the old Trish try. He was quite cute. His Mom was trying to arrange a move for him since the three of them (Mom, Dad and daughter) were several rows ahead of us. I offered to switch with one of them if that would help. In the end, Mom ended up with the two kids in her row, and Dad came back next to me.
Dad was Gregg, from Bergen County, NJ. They had just spent a week at a dude ranch near Fort Collins. We talked nonstop for 4 hours straight. Mostly about business, work, marriage and family. Gregg was about 45, attractive, short, very successful, works for EDS and is starting is own business doing HR consulting. I of course told him he should hire me when he gets it together, because I totally rock. We talked a lot about marriage. His wife, Janet, also works, for IBM. He said that she doesn’t have a lot of energy left over for him, between a full time job and two kids. I asked, is that ok with you? He said, well, yeah. A person only has so much. This is just a stage in our life. She was very competent with the kids on the plane and they seemed to have an affectionate relationship. He clearly didn’t talk to chicks he just met on a plane too often. He was somewhat intrigued by my honesty and sense of fun, my wacky ideas about relationships, particularly given my story about MS and all that. He said he couldn’t wait to go tell his golf buddies about the really cool woman he met on the plane, mainly because it would make him seem cool. I’m sure we’ll email in the future.
It’s Wednesday night and I have not been online since Saturday morning. That’s 5 days. I didn’t miss it too much. Only when I had the occasion to want to google something. There was a computer room at the Ranch but I steered clear. I haven’t carried my cell phone around since Saturday either. That I do not miss at all. I might have to rearrange that in the future. I don’t really want to have to be accessible every single minute of the day. Being kind of out of reach was quite relaxing. No TV either. I definitely did not miss that. I think a lot of those things stop me from doing more interesting and more meaningful things. A different kind of junk food.
Coming back, I was thinking about last summer. I was actually doing a pretty good job at balancing last summer. When thinking about it, I think the 10 or 12 Who shows I went to actually helped with that. Why wouldn’t it? Its live music, it’s very spiritually filling, I have good friends and connections and the energy I get from the crowd and the band is a very natural high. It would totally balance out my normal cerebral, analytically was of interacting with the world. A Who show is really a kind of dance therapy, in a way. I am uninhibited, unencumbered by stress and free during a show.
Plus, my toes look totally awesome.
(Note to self: People on cell phones. They are still so obnoxious.)
I’m so tired, I can’t really continue to write. Is writing yin or yang, I wonder. It feels like a bit of both. There is still so much more to write about! – more on the session with Mayer. Mayer on the topic of sleep. My brain testing session, body scrub, etc. Ok, but what have I learned? I do not have to do Everything Right Now. I can plan on finishing this maybe by early next week.
I have things to do. Food to buy, weights to buy, cleaning to do. I just have to remember to “be” as well as do.
The past two days of being home in Boulder, I’ve gotten up early, done my meditation, stretched, eaten yogurt, berries and granola for breakfast. I am so far being very mindful of what I am doing, and what I want to be doing. I expect I will come back to this document periodically and update it. When I remember messages from the Ranch, or when I need to journal a little on how it’s going being back.
I think for someone with a chronic disease, The Ranch totally rules. But even more important, for someone who does not have an ‘excuse’ like a chronic disease, it would make just as huge of a difference. There are some people who are naturally kind of balanced. I am not one of them. For those of us who are not, the lifestyle and teachings at Canyon Ranch are life saving. Now I have to figure out how we can provide these things for all, not just for the rich. Canyon Ranch is what our medical system should be about. I have been inspired.
Nina Molin emailed me after I got back about someone very highly recommended in ‘Body-Mind Centering’. She said her colleague said he was “the best person ever and he happens to be in Boulder”. I made an appointment, which I had yesterday. I don’t know exactly how to describe what happened – it was like being in an altered state. It was pleasant, it brought up a lot of emotions and made me curious about what will happen as we go on. It brought me to a place deep in the core of myself. I became aware of a few core beliefs I have – “My body takes up too much space” and “I should always keep my body out of the way.“
Whatever, it was, all I could think of was wanting to bring my kids in for it.
His name is William Allen, and he is really something. He was a dentist for 30 years or so and then said he got called to do something else. He ended up doing a PhD in transpersonal psychology, out in California, and then, in Paris, ran into the woman who founded BMC, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, and went to Amherst, Mass. to do the program. I think the goal is for me to be able to myself into that state on my own. It is similar to the state I have started to touch while meditating, but I felt more things going on in my body.
I found I connected with him easily, and immediately wanted to get his reaction to the chiropractic experience I had had the day before. I had gone to see Erin Elster. She specializes in Upper Cervical Chiropractics, and believes that MS (and many other things) are caused by trauma to the upper neck vertebrae. I did her exams and tests. She showed me my injury and said that she would give me an adjustment to put my vertebrae back into place. I kneeled down on a special piece of equipment, turned my head and she “adjusted” my neck. The adjustment was a pretty severe momentarily blow to my right upper neck. I did not like it. I was kind of shocked. I had once done chiropractics before, but stopped because I felt it was too violent for me.
I thought Erin’s theories were plausible, but I can’t believe there isn’t a better way to get the body either realigned, or even just help it to figure out new pathways to use to communicate, a la what Oliver Sachs writes about.
It wasn’t until I talked with William about it that I took my reaction more seriously. He said “we’ve kind of grown past that kind of adjustment these days.” He agreed with me that maybe I could just forego any future adjustments. I will go back and see Erin on Monday and let her test me again and see if she wants to do another adjustment, but I will explain to her why I’m not going to do another one.
The BMC program has a website, www.bodymindcentering.com. There is a lot out there and I hope to read through it soon. There is something to it; I’m just not sure what. Clearly, it is about balancing and I suspect there is a lot in it for me.