Window Of Heaven

WOH logo mediumThe logo for my business had its infancy in a google search for beautiful windows. Windows have long been a fascination of mine as they are only half about what is inside and what is outside, but also half about this moment in between. I am lover of houses with special, distinctive windows on the street side. These spectacular windows always seem like the journey or transition period from who I am on the street to who those people are living inside their unique life.

It wasn’t until we were canoeing this summer that I saw the window inspiration for my logo. Seeing it from the water made it all the more stately and elegant. Before I could protest my husband had his camera out and was swiping a picture while we paddled by. The house was one of those dream retirement houses. Okay, it was one of those houses we like to dream about retiring to—close to some quiet, but deep body of water where we could keep a sailboat, big backyard looking over the water, and a grand kitchen with tons of floor to ceiling windows so every meal cooked and tasted is also a picnic. I bet we would have missed that whole house if it weren’t for that window, which stole our attention and offered us a moment.

Windows do that. They offer a pause, and a possibility.

I decided to call my business Window of Heaven Acupuncture & Yoga when we learned about Window of Heaven points in my theory class at school. I came home that night told my husband, wrote it on a card and put it in my desk. This set of 10 points mystifies me. They are on 9 of the 12 meridians and are mostly located around the neck and throat. Here is the exciting part—they are suggested for use when the body and the mind are disconnected.  Needling them is like making a small stitch in an invisible tear between the thinking head and whole of the physical self.

It is that separation that brings me to yoga and brings me to acupuncture. I desperately want everyone to feel what is going on in their body, if they so desire. If they don’t want to feel what is happening, I want to teach them how to ask the question why. We get separated from fear, from too strong emotions, from pain or from forgetting. Naming that reason is half of the way to welcoming the body back.

On the mat this morning I was lazily enjoying a delicious moment in a hip opener as I was thinking about writing this post and the phrase “this is a window too” popped into my mind. This following of sensation and search for exceptional moments in yoga is the seeking of windows to the inner self.  In fact it is the exact way I teach though I never before would have used that word.

Some Westerners prefer the translation “Window of the Sky” because the word heaven is too loaded. I’ve never been afraid of loaded words. So today I want to express my use of the word heaven in naming my business. I’m taking the definition of place. A perfect place or ideal location. A place we arrive at every time we stumble upon beauty in any of its forms, within ourselves or in the world around us.

Gateways

Yesterday was my first official day in my amazing space downtown. As I busied myself before my first appointment I remembered a thousand and one things that were crucial and needed immediate doing. This is how it always happens. That is, how I lose track of time and end up late. It was only while speedwalking downtown that I realized I had not left time to buy tape to put up my new door signs that my husband just finished designing. Rather than be more stressed and more late, I thought I would just put the sign up after my last appointment. Big mistake.

None of my clients could find the space. Even though they all immediately went to the right door number they were terrified to knock on the door because my name wasn’t there. I ended up in the hallway ushering flustered and stressed clients into my office. That wasn’t how I had imagined it. I want the step into the waiting room to be the first step towards recovery, not the first step towards raising one’s blood pressure.

Then I returned home and checked messages to find that no one had left a message all day long. I was crushed, not a single person had called. Then I realized I hadn’t put my new business announcement on my voicemail message. That is when it hit. Gateways. All the doorways, all the avenues, all the entrances to my new business were blocked. What a way to send the signal out to the universe that I am still a hurried and frantic rush of preparations.

So here it is. The signs are on the door. The message has been changed. Preparations will never be fully done, but I am ready to start. I declare to all the universe that I am now ready and willing to treat people. Let the phone calls and emails and inquiries begin.

All of this makes me think about a friend who after years of feeling stuck in a challenging job decided to clear away the overgrown bushes from the front yard of her house and almost immediately she got a new job and changed her life.

Gateways are important. Think about the quality of the immune system as we head into flu season. Think about the importance of boundaries in professional and personal relationships. Gateways make or break us. For three years I’ve been telling people I’m tired. And while it was true, it was a way of closing doors. In the last year of grad school I didn’t sub for the other yoga teachers at the Y and my class attendance dropped a little. Not much, but definitely a little. You might think they are not related, but I do. I was saying no to everything. Every gateway in my life was closed to get me through to the end of school.

Things are different now. After six weeks of sleeping in my own bed I am feeling quite recharged. I’m living in the moment in between a forward fold and backbend where you resettle the spine, soften the body and then anchor down through the tail to flow open. I’m right there, right now. The number of doors and windows necessary to open this business, and to really return to my community, feels immense. But I’m up for the challenge.

Rest

I blame myself. All those days I taught class with a drippy nose, barely any voice or came in late to class without any neck rotation. Those classes were all mistakes. But I’m learning, I’m growing up. I am trying to be a better example.

It took me a few years of teaching to realize that I’m a role model. If I come in with my back thrown out and teach from a chair (I have so done that) I am telling my students to go to work in pain. I am telling myself that my students’ one day of practice is more important than my overall well-being. Or worse that the money I would make teaching an hour class was worth the pain or sickness.

In January 2011, we bought a new car. I had been driving my beloved, but challenging, Saab for years and over Christmas vacation it broke down on us twice, each time on the Mass Pike. I lost it. It was a full and absolute turning point. I decided we were not going to be starving-artist-type-college-students anymore we were going to be respectable adults. I walked into the local dealer and bought a brand new car that week. I came home and calculated that my cute little Saab had put me back $17,500 in the six years I had owned it, most of which had been while I was in grad school. No wonder I was always strapped for cash. During grad school I broke down more than ten times maxing-out our AAA account for towing both years. Not to mention inconveniencing several friends for trips to and from garages. Owning that Saab was not taking care of myself.

It was a downhill slope from there. First it was the new car with the 100,000 mile full warranty, then it was skipping school when I was sick. What a concept? Get the notes from a friend, stay home and rest. I started canceling class if I woke up and had a fever or felt lousy. I figured people would prefer to stay home than to leave class sick. It was a big mental shift.

On the opposite side of grad school I don’t have the ability to run myself ragged anymore and I am fully devoting this entire fall to rest. Even in the midst of starting a business I planned how many days a week I wanted to see patients and how many days I wanted to be home to rest. I’m making a concerted effort to shower every day, brush my teeth better, eat when I feel hungry, drink more water. I’m trying after years of breaking down my body, to spoil it. This is more than rest. This is making recovery a priority.

I am astounded at how many of my yoga students don’t know how or don’t know when to rest. I will always throw students out of class for showing up with an injury.  If you sprain an ankle over the weekend or throw out your back, I don’t want to see you in class Monday morning at 7:45. I want you to rest at home. That is how recovery happens. Almost all small injuries will be better if properly rested in the first 48 hours. You don’t get to go back and rest a sprained ankle three weeks later. By then the injury is deep in the body and causing lots of difficulties. Ideally I would love for you to make an acupuncture appointment for the little aches and pains before they become big ones, but I hope you already know that.

Rest is the secret medicine to almost any ailment. But we would rather take cold medicine or put a bandage on something than give in and let the body heal.

Do you get the metaphor of the new car? Does that make sense to you? We have these little stressors in our life that we don’t fix because we don’t think we deserve to rest. We don’t brainstorm options because we feel trapped. Here is a new option for you, write it down if you need to. You are the only one taking care of you—you had better do a good job. Be proactive about your needs, not reactive. Look for the solution that creates energy and reduces stress. You will know you are on the right track when you continue to feel giddy about the decisions months later. I still love my new car.  It is the cutest car ever.

My History of Beginnings

Starting this new business is a definite beginning, but unexpectedly it is also a spiraling back to the numerous places in my life that helped bring me to this point. This whirling of names and faces from the past coming out to show support reaffirms I am on the right course and that somehow all along they saw this coming.

I started practicing yoga in my bedroom when I was a freshman in high school. Every night after my parents went to sleep I would pull out my copy of The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. This creased and flattened book introduced me to pranayama, meditation, postures and a healthy diet. When I started practicing I didn’t know anyone else who did yoga. Literally no one. My mother and aunt had taken one class together in the 70s, but that was it. This was before google and certainly before the idea of finding a yoga studio in the yellow pages was feasible.

I was alone in this new exciting world. Everyone in my life knew the word “yoga” the way they knew the word “tofu” but had never tried either. I still remember the first time I saw a “Namaste” bumper sticker. My father and I were in Santa Fe and we took a picture of it we were so excited.

In college the yoga morphed into dance and from there into the desire for anatomy training. When I graduated from college I just decided to pick a town, move there and figure life out. Because the universe provides in its mysterious ways I stumbled into my first job and found my first two mentors. These two amazing co-workers taught me everything I know about employment, job searches and how to build a career.

I was your typical post-private school elitist who thought I could just roll out a resume and everyone would come knocking at my door. But you don’t make or even start a career by looking through the want ads. My two brilliant co-workers taught me the first step to getting a job is knowing what it is you want and what it is you have to offer. Then they taught me not to compartmentalize my life. Instead of thinking of writing as my only career option and having a mile long list of interests and passions, I could design a career path. I could imagine a career that incorporated writing, yoga, health, nutrition, business, organizing things, planning, birthwork, sexualities, researching, helping others and dance all at the same time. In fact if I could figure out an angle and had the guts to try, I could actually make a living from the delightful mix of all of my interests.

Now years later, though not many, I’ve got my angle. For five years the IRS has received taxes from the occupation: yoga teacher. This year I could add the occupations: acupuncturist, herbalist, doula, writer and business owner to the list, but I won’t in order to avoid confusing them.

My point is your path is there for the finding. You must first know deeply what it is you want. You have to find that which causes the utmost passion. That which makes you desperate to know more. Then you brainstorm and push and pull. You ask questions, you get hung up and you get confused. Yet all the while you have to trust that your desires are worth exploring. Let me say that again, your desires are worth exploring.

As my insightful father-in-law said to me the other day “You’re going to have a rich time building this practice, whether you get rich or not.” This has already proven itself tenfold. The opening of this business has reminded me of the richness of my community. Thank you to my marvelous network of loved ones, friends, mentors, inspirations, students, teachers, clients and patients. This beginning is the most spectacular homecoming of my life.

The Risk Of Touch

About a week ago I got together for a quick business meeting with a colleague and because it was brief she brought along her two kids. The two children were young, and full of life. They busied themselves around the room playing, while we discussed details. After about 10 minutes in my presence, mind you I had just met the two, one of the children walked over and gently pushed my bag off of my legs and climbed up into my lap.  The mother made a loving joke about how her child liked to try out all laps, as if a connoisseur.  The little one stayed a moment or two and leaned back against my chest and then at exactly the right moment jumped down and went back to playing.  Not to be outdone, the other child almost immediately came over to try out my lap. It was all I could do to remain composed and present while my mind raced.

When did we lose the courage to act upon our desire to touch? At what age did we have it brainwashed from us. As children we knew how important, how crucial touch is to make us feel safe and connected to the world and we searched for it anywhere, anytime there was desire. As adults we contemplate touch, sometimes even wanting and refusing ourselves that touch, because we are afraid. We are afraid of doing something childish.

Which brings me to my experience this morning in the City Clerk’s office. I was filing for a business permit for my new acupuncture and yoga business and two women were seated filling out a form for a marriage license. I recognized the form and the nervous laughter immediately as I sat at that exact table 14 months ago. The entire time I was in the City Clerk’s office, I wanted to say congratulations to them. I didn’t want to go and sit in one of their laps for goodness sake. I wasn’t going to give either of them a hug—though the child in me did want to.  I just wanted to take a tiny emotional risk and brighten their already very bright day. I wanted to connect with two strangers on an intimate level.  And I didn’t. I went about my business and then left, politely. I did the “appropriate” thing.

Now, at home, I am embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I am a person who studies people’s feet and asks about bowel movements for a living. I palpate abdomens and listen to the pulse for long moments gathering a person’s most inner workings. I am, in some circumstances, terribly comfortable with the intimate. But this morning I was afraid to reach out and touch someone. Because that is what emotional language is and that is why we shy away from it. I was afraid to take the risk of touching and because of it there is now a slight heaviness in my heart. Like any unfilled desire these little moments must add up and cause some negative reaction in the body. Yet we never think about the tiny, microscopic, subtle ways that avoiding touch has on our body, our mind and our own emotions.

Just notice today as you go about your life how often you feel a pull to do something, whether it is pick up something someone has dropped, hold a door open longer, complement someone, or offer someone a hug who looks like they need it. Even if you don’t act on the pull, start to notice the desire. Eventually, maybe, we might get back the courage to act on it again.

Life Changes

We all go through them. They spring up just at the moment we thought we were getting comfortable. And then boom, life goes haywire. I’m in a life change right now. Starting my own business, or a different aspect of the business and simply finishing school is a major life change. Like all things that I do, this change is rather scattered, chaotic and ungraceful. Things will eventually smooth out. I know this and I’m doing my best to open my self to the universe and just trust.

One of the key components to my yoga teaching is the lesson of allowance. I teach it because it baffles me. The more I teach it, the more I can almost see it and the more I know I need it in my life. The way I teach it to beginners is simply by asking them to witness their breath. Everyone can do that. Everyone can watch his or herself breathe (insert feel if the word watch scares you too much). But the practice, as every advanced yoga practitioner knows, is to watch the breath and not change it. Just witness it with all of its gloriously perfect imperfection and let it stay as it is. Some people don’t breath, they gasp every now and then. Others pant little shallow breaths. Other people are shallow breathers who every once in a while give a huge sigh to release the breathing diaphragm.  Whatever our pattern is, we obviously do it all day long—making it a rather sustainable practice. We are not going to keel over momentarily for breathing so poorly, but as soon as we witness the breath we want it to change. We want it to be better.

Right now I am witnessing the life change. I am seeing that I have successfully graduated from school and I am honoring that in all its significance. But I also want to hit the ground running with my new business. So I am alternating between periods of deep rest and insane activity. Which looks more like not sleeping at night and needing to take long naps to catch up. Not very effective.

So here is my goal for myself and the one I challenge you to on this rainy day when the seasons are adjusting slightly, but steadily. What is the change coming? Name it. Spell it out. Right it down. Read it to yourself. Then sit for as long as you can—60 seconds, 5 minutes, whatever you can spare and just watch your body respond. Allow your body to just be present with it. Racing heart, rapid breathing, extreme fatigue, sheer panic, excitement, smiling, release of the jaw, tension in the neck. There is no negative, there is no positive. There is just response. Stay present, stay interested and then get up and go face the change head on.

Conversation Officially Started

After three years of Acupuncture school and roughly 90,000 miles of driving the Mass Pike to class and home again I am in recovery, both intellectually and physically.  While I am, of course, grappling with the threat of pending student loans and the usual concerns about starting a new part of my business, I am struggling with something new I didn’t expect—a loss of community to discuss the zillion things I am forever contemplating. In the last three years I’ve started making brief manifestos of discoveries I had made about the body at the beginning of each of my yoga classes. And while I will no doubt still be doing that, I want a place to go into greater detail and allow for links to further information for those that are interested in the topic.

Instead of branching out into this next phase alone, I’m reaching out for you. I already know who I am. I am Courtney Hill Wulsin, Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist, Yoga Teacher, Writer, Doula, Dancer, Reiki Master. I specialize in teaching people how to find comfort in their body and enjoy the sensuality of movement and awareness. It is you that interests me as I start this communication with the greater world.

You must be a reader who finds interest in the body and mind. You would have to be a wandering sort, like myself, who seeks answers in unusual places and never trusts anything that doesn’t resonate inside the body, as well as inside the mind. You would be interested in medicine as a means to prevent disease, not cure it. You would define wellness not as an absence of symptoms, but as a strength and sturdiness of body that brings you joy and comfort. You would be interested in learning about all the systems of the body and how to use metaphor to understand those systems. You would have to be an art lover and see the body as the world’s most beautiful work of art. If those things do describe you than perhaps you would care about my ramblings, even if you don’t attend my classes or seek out my services as an acupuncturist.

I am starting to write today as a declaration. I want to integrate. For three years I’ve been integrating with select, classmates, students and clients, but now I’m throwing the doors open and asking for others to join me on this path. Come integrate with me, suggest books, correct me, ask questions, get confused, get excited. Whatever it is. This is Window of Heaven Acupuncture and Yoga and I am Courtney Hill Wulsin and as of today, we are open for business. Conversation officially started.