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Getting to the Heart of Reflexology
A few years ago, I was asked to be the keynote speaker for the New Zealand Reflexology Association conference. They told me I should plan on my keynote speech being 1.5 hours. Now I have presented many workshops, trainings, and presentations but I was never a keynote speaker so this was something new for me. What was I suppose to provide for their opening conference keynote? With 1.5 hours I was told to set the tone for their weekend event. I sure as heck didn’t know what I was going to say. As I began to work on my keynote, I decided to tie it to their theme which they called ‘Getting to the Heart of Reflexology”. This theme was linked to the Wizard of Oz as it was their 10th anniversary and 10 years relates to tin, hence, the Tin Man who was looking for a heart.
FINDING MY REFLEXOLOGY PATH ALONG THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD
Spiritual teachers tell us that the best way to discover our true purpose is to first understand who we really are. This means knowing how we think, what our limiting beliefs are and what keeps us curious and interested in something. As Reflexologists, our curiosity and love of our profession tells us a lot about ourselves. There is something magical about Reflexology that keeps us in the game and curious to explore more of this wonderful healing modality.
Each of us has our own reasons for continuing with this practice and staying on the yellow brick road seeking to clarify our journey as we go along. And just like the Tin Man, The Lion, The Scarecrow, and Dorothy, we follow our paths where it takes us – each for our own reasons and each step along the way, clarifies more of the journey itself.
My journey started about 45 years ago shortly after the death of my first husband when I was 27. I had 2 little girls and it was the early 70’s. For anyone as old as I am, you will remember that the 70’s were a time of confusion, deep changes in the way people went about doing their lives, challenging the system, rocking the boat, and causing many older folks to scratch their heads and wonder what has become of us as a human race. I decided to move from my small home town in New York State to the big city of Toronto to pursue my education. I wanted to learn how to be me on my own terms and I wanted to define my own path.
This was scary at times but I figured, like Dorothy who was seeking to get back to her home, I needed to discover my way back to myself – my foundation of who I am. Along this journey, I was lucky enough to marry Bill, who was also widowed and had a small son and blending our families, we became the Brady Bunch.
Bill introduced me to meditation which led me to take my first yoga teachers training in Toronto. One night after class, my yoga teacher said he wanted to show me some pressure point work. I was lucky enough to have menstrual cramps at the time and he did some points on me which completely dissipated the cramps and I thought, wow, this sure beats Midol pills.
About this same time Bill’s son, Ian was diagnosed with a curvature in his spine and we were sent to Sunnybrook Hospital for X-Rays. The X-Rays showed that Ian’s hip bone fit into his hip socket incorrectly which ended with one leg much shorter than the other. I asked my yoga teacher about the pressure point work and whether it could help Ian which led me to my first reflexology training called Vita Flex.
I told the teacher about Ian’s leg and he had me bring Ian to him and demonstrated what I should work on to balance the imbalance taking place in Ian at that time. He said there is actually a leg-lengthening point in the collar bone and besides pressing this point, I was instructed to thumb walk down both sides of Ian’s spine and press into the shoulder blade points and the hip area points along with the spinal reflexes in the hands and feet. This took me all of 2 minutes every day and after 3 months, we returned to Sunnybrook for another set of X-rays. Ian was completely normalized. We were very impressed!
Now I was on my way – the healing arts was my focus and I was thrilled and in awe of the wisdom of the natural way of addressing imbalances in the body, stress and tension and encouraging the body to getting back to balance. I couldn’t put my hands on people’s feet fast enough.
CONNECTING REFLEXOLOGY WITH PSYCHOLOGICAL SYSTEMS
On my journey, I gave treatments to clients while finishing my degree in Psychology and Human Resources Management. Eventually, I started to work in the corporate world where I was introduced to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator which looked at the human instrument in terms of mental functions. Thinking about what the yogis stated that we are all part of the cosmos consisting of the same elements: Air, Fire, Water, Earth and linking this to the Myers Briggs, I realized that the two psychological systems had much in common when looking at the human instrument.
We can think of ourselves as composed of the following Sides or Expressions:
Mental Side – related to the element of Air,
Social Side – related to two elements – Fire and Water,
Physical Side – related to the element of Earth.
While working as a trainer in the corporate world, I spent a lot of years exploring, reading, and facilitating courses that helped people come to terms with their ‘people’ differences dealing with their subordinates as managers, their bosses, their family members, team mates and their clients.
So now Reflexology and ‘people differences’ became the two very exciting components of my journey to self-discovery and I spent my time striving to address the question: How do we deal with these differences that can create triggers, tension, and stressors caused by bumping up against others whose ideas and behaviours are different from mine? For me, life appeared to be about how we each, as individuals, seek to satisfy our needs and desires. Take, for example, the Straw Man in the Wizard of Oz who was looking for a Brain (the AIR-Mental Function of Ideas), while the Cowardly Lion was looking for courage (the FIRE-Social-Mental Function of Actions), and the Tin Man was looking for his Heart (the WATER-Social-Physical Function of subjectivity and Reactions), and Dorothy was looking for her Home (the EARTH-Physical function of shelter, safety and security). All on the same path but for different reasons – for sure, though, they were seeking to satisfy an internal need.
WHAT OUR CLIENTS’ LIMITING BELIEFS CAN DO
We are all seekers going about our lives but in our own way in an attempt to satisfy our needs. Along this journey, we are faced with disappointments, with bad and good weather, with ups and downs, and with joys and sorrows. When something happens in our lives that causes us some inner tension, it may be because we have some issue that we don’t want to face or deal with. It is important to bring issues to the surface so that they don’t cause us a more serious problem. We can lose our focus and clarity and get out of balance not just because of poor lifestyle habits but because other people can trigger an unconscious pattern within us which strives to be addressed.
What I have found over the years was that most stress-related body imbalances were generally triggered by a serious life event. Perhaps you found this too in your Reflexology practice. In fact, as I continued to work on clients when they came for treatments around a specific imbalance, I would ask them the question: when did this imbalance start? Inevitably an imbalance in the body was triggered by an imbalance in a relationship or a disappointment at work or some kind of life disappointment that affected either the Mental side of ourselves and our expectations about our life; the Social side of ourselves where we lost connections with others who frustrated or disappointed us, or the Physical side of ourselves where we didn’t honour our boundaries in terms of resources such as our energy, our money, or our time.
Limiting beliefs in how we think, act, or do things in our life can be something that we set up for ourselves when we were 5 or 10 or whatever age but that can be thoughts that still run our lives as adults such as: I don’t deserve this. I am not good enough. Who do I think I am?
These limiting outdated beliefs may have had some basis in protecting us when we were young but as we advance in our age and our lives, we learn that they don’t serve us any longer. First, though, we have to become aware of them and then to appreciate their support in our lives, we have to thank them for sharing but we also have to work with these beliefs by expanding or reframing them so that they are life-enhancing and not life-restricting.
Take, for example, a mother who got breast cancer right after her 17 year-old son got a girl pregnant and decided to get married to her. When asked about this event, she stated that the son was too young and this wasn’t right. But what could she do? She felt trapped, confused, and unhappy and hence – being a mother, what better symbol of motherhood than her breasts. So, to deal with this on an unconscious level, she not only punished herself but also was punishing her son and his decision by getting breast cancer. Life is complex as we deal with deep personal issues in our lives and I always say, you can’t solve a problem you don’t understand. Answers aren’t always clear but if we can explore and challenge our thinking, we can surface our unconscious beliefs and turn them into powerful action steps.
Another example was when Bill came back from a business trip and he had a sore elbow. When I asked him, ‘what happened at the meeting’, at first he couldn’t think of anything but then when prodded, he recognized that he was in fact feeling elbowed out of the project. His conscious mind didn’t pick up on that so his body had to alert him to pay attention. This was important for him to identify in order for him to move forward in his working career and address this issue which had to be addressed; the brilliant function of pain always has some information for us if we analyze it.
The body is always telling us things and we, as Reflexologists, know this very well because not only can we pick things up through conversation, we can also feel everything in the reflexes in the feet. The feet don’t lie – they know exactly what is going on and they can tell us many things about our clients’ imbalances.
A WHOLISTIC HEALING APPROACH
How does knowing more about who we are help us as Reflexologists? The body is connected to the whole system of ourselves – the Mental, the Social, and the Physical sides of ourselves. We cannot separate who we are from what we do, how we think and go about doing things in our lives and how things can affect us. The best way to stay healthy and balanced is to be awake, alert, and aware of what is going on both inside our self as well as how well we are adapting to the outside world of events.
As I grew in my relationship with Reflexology and with the Reflexology Association of Canada, I have taught all the courses from foot reflexology to hands, ears, and Teachers Training for all 3 modalities. I was lucky enough to have some students take all 3 modalities from me and I asked them: what is the difference for you in receiving Reflexology of the Ears, Hands, and Feet? The answers were amazing to me and these answers put it all together as a complete wholistic healing system.
What my students expressed to me was exactly as the Yoga System suggested. Balancing the system within requires that we calm the mind (Mental), cool the emotions (Social), and stimulate the body (Physical). When working the ears, students told me that they felt calmer and more at peace (Mental). When working the hands, students told me that they felt loved and that their upsets and frustrations disappeared and their emotions where in fact, cooled (Social). And working the feet, students said that they felt energized and stimulated (Physical).
Viola! What a great discovery and how closely it all fit together with Yoga, Reflexology and Personality preferences understanding. Let’s do some gentle work together starting with the ears to assist in calming the Mental Function.
Let me get your oriented first. Think of the body as upside-down fetus. The ear lobe is the head and the buttocks are at the upper part of the ear.
Starting at the outer most side of your ear and with your index finger and thumb, massage it as if you have a mustard seed that you want to move around.
Go along the outer rim completely giving zone 1 a massage – Zone 1 is related to the excretion and respiratory systems.
Zone 2 is related to the skeletal system. And Zone 3 is related to the internal organs. The lobe is related to the head/rain area and the tragus and antitrgaus area is related to the inflammations and fevers. Finish up with the tragus and antitragus reflex area giving the total body a massage. You may feel like going to sleep now but hang in there, we’ll do some more work.
Do the scissor movement by rubbing up and down with your index fingers behind the ears and your other fingers in front of the ears as if you are holding your head in the palms of your hand. Lovely. Here is an excerpt from my new book: The Well-Tempered Life: Coach Yourself to Wellness.
The upper part of the ear corresponds to the lower part of the body. Applying pressure here stimulates reflexes in legs, hips, thighs, reproductive organs, and knees, parts of the urinary system, and the hands and arms.
The middle part of the ear corresponds to the middle part of the body. Applying pressure here stimulates reflexes in the intestines, stomach, liver, spleen, gall bladder, and part of the urinary system.
The mid to lower area of the ear corresponds to the upper part of the body. Applying pressure here stimulates reflexes in the chest, breast, lungs, upper neck and back.
The lower part of the ear corresponds to the top of the body. Applying pressure here stimulates reflexes in the neck, head and brain.
Let’s move onto the Social Function and using Reflexology of the Hands.
1. Rub and wring the hands
2. Press all your finger tips together 10x
3. With your index finger, swipe all the finger necks
4. Massage the webs
5. Interlace the fingers and press into the total palmar area
6. Flex wrist and then shake your hands wildly
7. Hand clap and hug yourself
Working the hands is especially wonderful to do with older people who need the comfort of touch to help them feel connected and loved.
Next, let’s stimulate the feet reflexes.
When thinking about the body, working the feet as we know has a stimulating affecting throughout the body and is especially good to do when feeling lethargic, dull, tired, and fatigued.
For this, doing a 2-minute exercise using the Foot Massage Mat — SOCKS SHOULD BE WORN WHEN FIRST USING THE MAT AND ESPECIALLY FOR TENDER FEET. Lay the Foot Massage mat on a flat floor behind a chair and march up and down on the sole of the feet, on the toes, on the sides of the feet, on the heels, and once again on the flat of the feet.
QUESTIONS TO CLARIFY OUR REFLEXOLOGY JOURNEY
I think my journey and my love of Reflexology is evident in the longevity of my activities with it and my commitment to sharing Reflexology with others. I don’t know how many students I have trained over the years in the hands, feet, and ear and teachers training reflexology courses – lots! Did I know that this was a life-long love? Not when I started but as I continued on my journey, I became clearer about what kept me curious, interested and engaged in life.
As you continue on your path down the yellow brick road to find the answers for yourself in terms of your personal and professional Reflexology journey, you may wish to answer some of these questions for yourself:
a. Do you see Reflexology as a hobby or as a profession?
b. What are some goals you might identify for yourself today and into your future with your practice of Reflexology?
c. Where do you offer your treatments? Home, clinics, spas, medical centres, chiropractic office, hairdressing, esthetics?
d. What other modalities might you consider taking to complement your reflexology treatments? Aroma therapy, Reiki and energy work, esthetics, massage?
e. What are you charging and how are you being recognized for your work? The costs can add up if you are required to take professional development education units, pay for liability insurance, join associations and pay your membership dues. Are you making sure you get paid a fair price for your service?
f. What about the economy? Who is your client and can they afford this service if it is not covered by any of their benefits or plans?
g. What about certification standards. Who sets the standards? What are they? How do we teach these to our students and practice them in our service to our clients? How do we monitor them?
Next, take a moment and then complete the following:
1. Taking Action – Let’s imagine you have found a magic lamp. You pick it up and absent-mindedly begin to stroke it and it starts to talk. As you listen, it tells you that as money is not an object of concern, what action steps would it tell you to take in terms of your Reflexology career?
2. Tell someone – create a plan, share it with someone you trust and think about how you’ll feel once you complete all the action steps on your plan.
The question for all of us is truly, what is reflexology to you? Where are you currently with it in your life? Where do you want to go? Getting to the heart of Reflexology is both a personal as well as a professional question.
How can we shape our experience of Reflexology today and into the future? One way is to make whatever you chose to do count for you. Love what you do. Keep doing what you love to do and I am sure that things will figure themselves out along the way – we can use the metaphors of the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man and Dorothy to demonstrate that you do indeed find your own way based on your own needs and whatever way that is, for sure, it is the right path for you.
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