Thursday, August 5, 2010

Input > Output

A funny thing happened on the way to my massage therapist: I met a mystic and received a transformative massage. Stan Barrett is a brilliant healer and the wisdom he shared during my time on the table was nothing short of miraculous.

I arrive this morning a few minutes late, jogging the last few blocks on Piedmont Ave to limit the damage to our first impression. I'm out of breath, sweaty and my monkey mind is at full throttle.

Stan is calmly seated in the waiting room. I take a deep breath. I'm so not zen. He is. He's got lovely energy. He shakes my hand, introduces himself and genuinely reassures me with "no worries" on my late arrival.

I'm liking things so far. I'm a week into my supposed August vacation, and I'm failing miserably at the vacation aspect. I'm checking email too much. I'm texting my assistant obsessively. I'm guzzling oolong tea. You could argue that I'm overexercising. I'm freshly back from a trip to Point Reyes that was supposed to be two weeks on the Inverness Ridge, but our rental was on a highway and peaceful it was not. I'm nuts. I'm acutely aware that I'm obstructing the expansion of my consciousness with busyness and overinvolvement with work. My output is unsustainable. I've been looking forward to this vacation all year and I'm hopelessly squandering the opportunity.

I also know a therapeutic opportunity and a fellow seeker when I see one. This man is the Real Deal.

I ask: "How do you find balance?" Stan's response was exactly what I needed to hear, especially since I'm mildly burned out and struggling significantly to get into my August-vacation-state-of-mind.

"Low output!" says Stan. He is vigilant about how he books sessions, sees only three to four 90-minute clients per day, four times per week, and takes a 30-minute break in between so he can clear the space and not rush, uses a great online scheduling system that keeps no-shows to a minimum.
I rush from one patient to the next and often lack the time to pee in between. Not Stan:  "I schedule 30 minutes at the end of each massage session, which gives you time to collect yourself unrushed, for us to chat and bring closure to the intimate connection, and for you to have my time and attention exclusively without the baton being passed to my next client with you standing right there in lane 5.  That simple step allows me to remain more grounded throughout the day.  It looks different for each of us."

How sane is that? I left Kaiser four years ago but I still stack up the patients like Mother Kaiser is my employer. Hello? I'm self-employed. Like Stan, I run the schedule and set the flow but I'm running the schedule as if I were drill sargent and not a sentient being.

He claims Tuesday mornings for fun mountain bike rides: "I often go alone, but I have a couple friends who join me every so often.  I find it's important to carve out time for things that feed my soul and make me scream Yahooooo!  I first had to figure out what that was, and I'm still working on it."
Process work: therapy, mending his connection with his father. It's usually either your mom or your dad that's bringing you down, depleting your energy, limiting your output, he tells me. Time to get conscious, People.
He adds: "I'm a fan of psychotherapy, but currently not sitting/talking with anyone.  I've been in the clear for a few years now and in a 'productive' stage.  Meaning the barriers that held me back regarding family are no longer in my path.  It's nice to have a light heart and strong arms from having put down all that baggage.  Also, I find the more I'm enmeshed with my partner and my clients, the less I'm able to be present for myself and for the moment.  Maintaining the space where I end and you begin is a learned skill, I find."

Light heart and strong arms from putting down the baggage? Sign me up!
Then there's Stan's self-care or INPUT: 7+ hours of sleep regularly. Pilates weekly one-on-one with a woman who works out of her home. Chiro semi-weekly, alternated semi-weekly with massage. He expounds on this input thing: "It helps create the foundation on which to build other things.  I know myself well enough that my first appt. is never before 11am.  Many people look forward to evening massages post-work, so a full day takes me until 8pm.  I always take an hour for lunch. For brain chemistry, it's fish oil, B and C."
Stan contrasts his measured output with that of his much-revered Pilates instructor who is, in his words, "Agro." I request a translation. "She's got more on her plate than anyone I know."

OMG, I think I'm agro.

"My incredible Pilates instructor has big output." Stan continues. "She's got 3 kids and her belief is that more fun fills the cup. You know? Fun with the kids: trapeze arts - things like that."
I want to channel Pilates Mom and Stan. But can I do both?
I ask for more details about Pilates Mom Who Has Fun With Her Kids. I have fun with my kids sometimes, maybe 20%, but a lot of the time I’m nagging them to get dressed, eat their broccoli, brush their teeth and floss, do their homework, get their tushies out the door because we're late again, buckle their seat belts, or I'm bribing them.
He continues, "She's is an advocate of the fun factor.  No matter what commitments we have on our plate (and she has the most of anyone I know), so long as we fill our cup with hilarious fun no matter the flavor, our energy will go further.  She loves looking at hats and Adidas shoes for example.  Sometimes she buys them, most often she just tries them on and smiles, gives them back to the salesperson and goes home.  Sometimes she and her youngest kid go to Sports Authority and play with all the toys in there.  Again, not necessarily buying anything.  And her girl time is essential.  Once a week she leaves the man and kids at home for a night in the city with her CRAZY girlfriends.  A little tequila... you're a doctor, you know these things.”
I ask his permission to blog about him.

"What is a blog really? An online journal?" he asks.

Clearly, low connectivity is another crucial part of managing output that I've failed to master, but meanwhile he agrees to let me blog about him.
I ask if he'll hand me my iPhone so I can record his genius commentary, because I'm 43 and my memory is more shot than my adrenals.

"Dude, you'll remember what you need," he replies.
He refuses to hand me the iPhone. He adds: "Besides, I won't look at it, so it doesn't matter whether you get the quotes right."
"I find it's best to offer up my own experience and let people ask questions of themselves.  But here's a loving nudge for you... what does your self-care and input look like? Feel like?  Would carving out some you time, time with your girlfriends over a beer, or whatever it takes to help push the reset button - would that do the trick?  Regular date night with your man?  Make a list of all the crazy ideas you wish you could do and work towards one of them.  Running is the you time?  Workshops - giving back and connecting with your community in a leader role - awesome.  You know all this stuff, Woman!"
"I usually talk with my hands, so you threw me a good curve, got me gabbing, and wanted to record it!  So funny!  Enjoy yourself."

Wow. I got a massage from an enlightened being. I feel transcendent; the massage was phenomenal. He's a gifted, intuitive and strong body worker. I give him my highest endorsement. For those of you women who won't go to guy for a massage, you're missing out on something special. Stan is a powerful hybrid of sacred masculine and feminine, and he's got the energy flow of input and output down like nobody's business. Thank you, Stan!

Stan Barrett
Massage Therapist
4315 Piedmont Avenue
Suite # 203
Oakland, California 94611

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I'm an organic gynecologist, yoga teacher + writer. I earn a living partnering with women to get them vital and self-realized again. We're born that way, but often fall off the path. Let's take your lousy mood and fatigue, and transform it into something sacred and useful.