What use is money?

Over time I continue to explore my issues and concerns with money. Running a business and working the logistics has its ups and downs. People think massage is glamorous, yoga teaching as well but mainly I wash lots of sheets and spend time saying, “lift your kneecap.”

One strong theme running through my concerns with money runs contrary to what I hear other bodyworkers engage in. I do not operate a revolving door.

If you come to me and get Thai massage and based on my experience I think you’ll do better long term by practicing Bikram yoga, I’ll tell you so. When you come in for bodywork I will give you 110%. Always, every time within my own limitations. I set myself out a long time ago to do anything within my power to help people heal. If yoga will help you be well longer so that my sessions are unecessary then so be it.

Many when hearing this from me wonder, “how will you make money if the clients leave?” I laugh when I hear this as I think it runs completely contrary to how healing services should operate. I don’t put a bandaid on a tumor and expect you to come back every week. I like having return clients but even my regular clients I try to lift up enough so they can work on themselves. There’s More than I can do out there. You can feel Better than what I provide. That’s called yoga. It’s you, harnessing you to make a better you.

Here’s the point: I will Never put money above your health and well being. Never.

So, if I work with someone who has carpal tunnel syndrome and they get better, they may stop getting sessions with me. Good. How will I get clients? I will have clients because that person refers their friends and family. When they meet someone at the grocery store with carpal tunnel problems where will they send them? That’s how businesses are made and grow.

Nothing I do is a trade secret. I’m giving it away. Youtube videos, blog posts, public demonstrations and teaching sessions in the Austin Thai massage and therapeutics (you can find them on facebook) group are free. They cost nothing to clients or students. Why do I give it away?

I believe health is your birthright. It’s yours though often you may have to work for it. That information should be freely available. I had to work to find it but I offer it for free. Why? My world is not made a better place by holding knowledge at bay for another dollar. My world improves when people with good posture, healthy spines and good breathing wander the landscape. They’re happy, they’re healthy and they live better lives that enrich mine.

Hopefully I’ve worked hard so you don’t have to. You don’t have to search. You have questions, you ask. Money will come, money will go but I never set out on my healing path for money. If I have ill health, what use is money? If I have ill health, nothing else matters.

Quit focusing on money and focus on what inspires you. Money has to be considered to pay the bills but I will never operate my business and healing practice to squeeze a nickel out of someone. People first. Healing first. Money? You must consider it but I don’t let it control all of my actions. I will never treat you as a commodity.

You cannot purchase integrity. That’s what I have. I’ve earned it. You deserve a bodyworker as good as I am. That’s what I’m trying to create in Austin, Tx. We’ve come here to heal.

Holding on

In discussions about my business I vacillate on whether I’m good at what I do. It feels sad to write that but that is in fact the case when it comes to business, running a business and dealing with the ins and outs of marketing and management. My wife has expressed to me as have clients that what I do is amazing. Nothing short of the best bodywork they’ve ever received and that I just seem to be able to get into areas and release tension that no one else can touch. Clients will often tell me, “no one has ever worked on that area before.”

So I settle on the side of my bodywork is fantastic. It’s not ego, just ten years experience and work. Anything you work on that long you’ll get better even if it’s not a gift. If my work is then so good, why does my income, client base and public praise feel so low? This isn’t just a whiney post saying woe is me. This is my blog and my exploration of education, practice and business. So, in short, why am I not being hunted down by clients? Why are people not lined up down the block to see me? Why am I not to some degree materially wealthy from my work?

I have to be cautious about this conversation with people because I can get testy. I’ve spent ten years pouring my heart and soul into what I do so it’s meaningful to me. During a conversation with my wife about it last night she just declared, “people are attached to their pain, on some level they don’t want to heal.” In discussion we layed out that some people simply hold on to what they know. Healing is difficult and letting go seems painful, the pain you know is preferred.

Is that it? I’m not looking for an answer per se, this is just an exploration. Do people have a belief system, culture and background that simply prefers pain and endless medication/surgeries until the end of life? Even if that is the case what about the I guess 1% that actually want to get better? I only need that 1% of clients to follow me to have a wildly lucrative and fantastic practice.

So why doesn’t it spill over? When does the cup not overflow? I’m not really certain. I know that I dedicated myself to the healing arts in spite of income and over time have come to question whether what I do should be more lucrative. Where’s the lack in nature? There is no lack, nature provides glut, overabundance beyond what we need. A farmer grows so many apples he’s got to make cider.

In that same way, is it image? Have I focused on substance only to realize I don’t have a big fancy studio with wood floors? There’s no incense burning and future trips to Thailand for further education planned? I’m not really sure.

I do know that without a doubt I will not stop what I’m doing. I’ve devoted and dedicated myself to my own and my clients/students healing for ten years and will stop at nothing to continue promoting what I do. The general public knows nothing of what I do. Nothing. They believe health is an absence of symptoms and medications make symptoms go away. Surgeries cure things by cutting them out. Meanwhile, I’m focused on teaching the basics, here’s how you breathe, here’s how you stand.

I will not stop. If forced to live in a cardboard box I will continue what I’m doing. There is no other option, now I must only find those willing to come along. When it comes to many things I believe you get them when you let go, not when you hold on. When dealing with influence I remind myself that Jesus only had 12 disciples but he’s had a fairly large influence on people. So, I’m glad I have a place to discuss the process of letting go.

John Friend

The yoga community is once again in an uproar due to allegations that John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga, engaged in a large array of poor choices including having sex with a number of his students. I find myself in continual awe over what people focus on.

I know little of Anusara, little of the American yoga communities business dealings and even less about the celebrity orgy of yoga teachers. My response on reading the allegations is let the courts figure it out. Energetically, I hope that people can see we have people, making decisions in their lives and as bodyworkers and yoga teachers we need to be aware of the transference and countertransference that goes along with power dynamics. Of everything that John Friend is accused my number one concern is did he abuse authority?

Over the years I’ve had to deal with a huge array of dynamics with clients and students. As a male teacher I remember preparing myself to teach yoga and becoming scared watching a Rodney Yee video. Rodney was walking around shirtless, adjusting students poses in all his sexy flesh and my sense was that I would have to cover up. It seemed far too sexy. As a male teacher I was already going to have to deal with innuendo but it was an edge that I was uncomfortable with at the time.

Rodney Yee, as is well publicized was having sex with students at one point in his career as well. I’m not opposed to teachers and students making adult decisions but how does it look on the outside? Let me say that it has not been easy to do my job the last ten years. I should type that sentence twice.

When I was 25 I was single. I felt most massage clients felt a single 25 year old went into massage therapy to massage naked women. Massaging naked women was just a perk on top of helping people with back pain which I’d suffered with for three years at that point. Many issues regarding, touch, intimacy and sexuality were dealt with during my massage schooling and I continue to encounter new lessons in my field.

The number one issue I have is integrity. Choices are made but more than anything I do not wish to have my integrity questioned. In all my actions I wish to be above reproach. I want students of all walks of life to feel safe, comfortable and secure in our interactions. Doing Thai massage, teaching yoga and giving bodywork there is a large amount of body contact going on. I’ve grown comfortable with this and it doesn’t bother me. I keep in mind that for students, how many men have lovingly nurtured them with touch? Hmm… Just things to ponder.

I’m human. I’ve worked on women and men who might as well have sprouted angel wings and ascended to heaven off of my Thai massage pad. Beautiful people, sexual people and happy people. People I’ve found appealing and arousing. I find the same thing at the supermarket. Having a strong attraction or aversion to people around you should be used as a lesson. What is it that we find appealing in others? What is it we find unappealing?

Bodywork and yoga aren’t about sex. They are however about people and people will never be divorced from sexuality. There are 6 billion people on the planet for a reason.

I strive to never abuse my authority as a yoga teacher or bodyworker. Students and clients submit to me in a sense in session and it’s my job not to abuse that power. They’ve put themselves in a role and honoring their position in that dynamic means protecting them and myself. All our interactions should have integrity. Healing comes in many forms, including sex. I only engage in a few of those for money.

I hope in time the dynamics and power structure become more egalitarian and male teachers don’t abuse authority. In John Friend’s case I hope that his teaching can continue despite whatever personal choices he’s made. Don’t confuse the teacher with the teaching.

Valentine’s meditation

Dislike for the commercialization of the holidays grows as I age. In considering what my wife should get for Valentines day I had to consider lots of factors. In my relationship with Andrea we’ve come to the conclusion that she adores attention. Having my focus is probably the number one thing that makes her feel special. Buying things and gifts isn’t as large a concern and until recently money was tight enough that that was a beneficial situation.

In considering a commercial holiday that I want to reclaim, what would work best? What can I do to show my appreciation to my partner? When I get home from work this evening, here’s what she’s getting:

I’m going to kneel at her feet with a bottle of nail polish remover and clean every toenail of the old polish. Lovingly her feet will be cleaned by running warm soapy water into a large bowl and having her feet washed by her husband. She will be meditated upon, praised and adored by the man she’s tolerated for 7 years. I will then dry her feet with a soft towel and apply raw unrefined shea butter to her feet and massage them.

Wringing out any tension in her feet while giggling with her and talking I’ll find the sore spots and work them out with care. Grabbing whatever color she chooses I will then breathe with focus and lovingly apply polish to her nails. Each little piggy gets its own coat and the yoga teacher can exhale to dry them in turn.

The value in yoga and meditation is that they are living, breathing practices. They’re not divorced from your day to day life. Meditating upon our loved ones and focusing our care and attention on them allows us to have better, more healing and whole relationships.

What did it cost? How do you think my wife will feel? What do you think she’ll do to me afterwards? We can’t post such things in my blog, those will have to remain secret. 😛

Happy Valentines.


In thinking for topics of blog posts we have some key themes. Health, wellness, yoga and Thai massage all hold a central place. My work has been a manifestation of deeper dreams. It’s been a goal to never resent my work. I don’t want to spend the bulk of my time in labor that doesn’t fit right livelihood. In short, I want to make myself and others feel better. I can already hear the murmurs…”but I have bills to pay. I have things to pay for.” I’ve never wanted to sacrifice material comforts for a well lived life. I think you can have both.

I’m told that it’s important to have a dream. When Andrea and I moved into our current home she was the one who saw Ebb and Flow yoga studio in an old garage that’d been carpeted. Friends told us that we couldn’t do yoga in the room, the floor wasn’t level. We marched on. Used/recycled mirrors, a few posters and art, some yoga props, mats and pillows later and we have a studio.

Everything I have has been built from the ground up. I’ve strived for excellence in every area of my life and am not disappointed with the results that continue to pour in. Naysayers have been vanquished. I’m teaching yoga, giving Thai massage, teaching Thai massage to other massage therapists and providing for my family. It’s been nice to see that it’s possible to live well and not sacrifice my ideals.

Still I aspire for more. Having an aspiration for something greater has fueled it all. I want what’s best for myself and others. When it comes to Ebb and Flow yoga studio I think it’d be nice to present the vision I have for the studio.

Ebb and Flow yoga studio isn’t a building or a place. It doesn’t exist in Round Rock and can move if it needs. The studio isn’t even mine, it’s ours. I’ve purposefully tried to present it as community space used for healing work. In saying it’s ours it feels more like community space, something used by those who work in its walls. So being that it’s ours what can we make it?

When I sit back and float mentally, here’s what I see.

Ebb and Flow studio if in its present location would be found with lush gardens around it. The front yard garden would supply greens for smoothies and take home herbs for students. As community oriented space people could tend the garden as they chose. The landscape would be worked on and heavy applications of mulch around the trees would build better soil. We’d also have flowers, trees, bee hives in the back, a chicken tractor that’s mobile around the yard and a large worm pit in back to compost in.

The path beside the house leading to the studio would be cleaned and painted with a nice sign, maybe the one in our studio with a painted arrow to the door. The path along the side would have lattice work of deer fencing connecting from the fence to the wall. This would allow vining plants to grow up and over the walkway in summer providing some shade and cooling the studio passively. In winter the plants die back allowing sun to hit the wall providing passive heat as it does currently. Dual paned insulating windows installed in the west facing wall would allow passive light and heat as well as keep cool in summer. Natural bamboo blinds can be raised or lowered to control light and heat levels.

This video gives you some visual idea of what we’re describing. Think yoga studio.

The studio walls are made of straw bale and cobb, these thick insualting materials that are derived from local products that are renewable. Earthen plasters and natural dyes can be worked into the walls themselves for color and decor. Nooks and crannies would be worked into the walls to hold pictures, photos, plants and figurines of importance. Small shelves built into the space allow for candles. The vaulted ceiling would stay as would more of the built in railing that would hold plants like variegated ivy. The plants will grow out and branch and trellis on small pieces of cedar pegs that line the upper walls. The growth allows them to blanket the upper wall and create green space indoors. They provide oxygen and can grow year round in the environment without heating or cooling that’s artificial.

A built in fountain provides white noise and is filled from the cistern that connects to the roof. The rain water that flows through it is used to water the plants and a small nook is created to hold the ladder to allow access to water and remove old leaves from plants. The upper windows have small latches that are accessible from the wall. It allows them to open and close while small fans that are solar powered provide ventilation if needed. Too hot you open the windows and vent air out, if it needs to cool you open the windows and pull air in.

The flooring is made of recycled Texas barn wood and used wine corks. The cushioned flooring is better on your joints and provides ample space for variations that are pleasing to the eye and friendly feeling to the body. The walls would have Iyengar style props, straps to open the shoulders and allow downward facing dog poses that traction the lumbar spine when needed. The central three thick lattice are structurally sound enough to provide inversion equipment. Three students at a time can hang upside down and traction their spine while continuing to work on their practice in unique ways currently unavailable.

Mats, pillows, blankets, blocks and other equipment is stored easily due to the way the building is built with spaces for all of them. Recessed areas that hold them specifically and functionally. The building supports our practice not the other way around.

Music can come through the well placed speakers built into the studio and includes a subwoofer to provide ample range from bass lines to higher frequencies without having loud volume. The controls and receiver are all easy to reach. A fold away flat projection screen allows films and video related to yoga practice to be shown during downtime at the studio for educational purposes.

The altar is custom made from recycled materials. Using what others have considered garbage we use broken tiles and smooth materials to create tiered areas to hold photos, mementos and offerings to our teachers. Imagine a statue of Ganesh, a figure of Jesus next to photos of Iyengar and Sojourner Truth. Since this is our studio you bring mementos that mean something to you. Flowers from the garden can be picked and placed into vases held on the altar as well.

The additional wall space can be painted or decorated with murals by artists or the community or both. Ebb and Flow yoga studio is what we make it.

If I’ve gone that far into conceiving of the walls and physical space can you imagine what we’re trying to do with the body? That’s the temple…what we described is just the building.

Here’s another video with Dan Phillips talking about recycled materials. We’d pick and choose what materials the structure would be made of. “Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills…one man gathers what another man spills”~St. Stephen by the Grateful Dead


MLK Jr. has a spot on my yoga wall as one of my teachers. When I learned more about him, particularly in high school, I was taken with his intellect but even moreso his public speaking. His cadence and rhythm combined with rhetoric made for powerful speeches no one could argue with. Much like gospel music even if you didn’t agree you still had to believe.

He seemed larger than life and like most figures he’s become almost a myth in later years. Discussions rage about who he really was as a man and what his message means in a modern America. Nonviolence and his influence from Gandhi and then Thich Nhat Hanh’s nomination for the Nobel Peace prize comes directly from Martin’s hands. He was ecumenical in his approach and would have easily sat down with someone not only of another ancestry but of different belief.

Through the speeches I’ve listened to I’ve been made aware that much like Hitler, when it comes to public speaking you cannot only be logical. Your speech must pull on heart strings to be made real. This is why orators are remembered as they are. Speech and using words well can move people in the way music can but add logic and laughter and you’ve really got something. To have an influence on people and to sway them towards a greater good you must be strong in your own beliefs and possess the ability to bring others along with you for the benefit of the rest of mankind.

For his time Martin could change the way black people in America thought about themselves and how the rest of America considered them. Opposing the Vietnam war was not the best path he could have taken for his own life and I keep in mind that a man so great didn’t get very far when he opposed the economic and political factors that supported the war machine.

“Movements come and movements go
Leaders speak, movements cease
When their heads are flown
‘Cause all these punks
Got bullets in their heads
Departments of police, the judges, the feds
Networks at work, keepin’ people calm
You know they went after King
When he spoke out on Vietnam
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot”~~Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine

May Martin’s words and dreams live on. Remember he was a human first, black second. The categories we keep should bring us together not separate.

Is love difficult?

I stumble over my own thoughts at times. The logical inconsistencies that come with thought and logic often confound me and leave me wondering, what does that particular word mean? In a loving moment with my wife at a party I realized while I gazed down upon her face and stroked her hair just how difficult it’s been to love her.

I mentioned it and we entered our own little world in the midst of the party. I thought deeply and pondered what I was trying to communicate. After considering what I was trying to make effable I explained that loving her is easy, loving her as much as she deserves requires attention and focus.

My path is not that of a celibate. I chose romantic love consciously. I felt no desire for the monastery or austerity and growing in relationship with someone was my chosen path. One must choose ones partners carefully. My spiritual leanings have me embrace impermanence. In that state, in the true realization that there is only this moment, the challenge is to embrace it fully and possess the inner fortitude to love yourself and others in every fiber of your being. Breath after breath, moment after moment interacting with the world around you to manifest beauty and love.

There is no method, no book and no substitute for love and living life. It is learned by experience. Tis better to have loved and lost is the saying. Impermanence is another word for it. When I am old I’ve no wish to look back on my life and regret. I’ve no wish to ponder what I could have done differently to love others, create a better world and leave this planet better than I found it. My life is my message. It’s manifest in my teaching yoga, in my bodywork and in my relationship to others.

“Loving you” is difficult, I explained “because I must step up to the challenge you’ve placed before me. I must love you as you deserve by becoming the person I aspire to be. I must love in the way that Coltrane improvised a solo. Embracing the present moment with every cell I must be improvised love. I have to cast it out as it pours through me undiluted. You have challenged me in our relationship to try to learn to walk upon the earth as if flowers should sprout out of my footsteps. That is the man you deserve and with every breath I evolve into him.”

She was as you can imagine, touched. Even embracing the small tender moments of loves expression will prevent a lifetime of regret. Love is now.

Yoga and equanimity

I was interviewed yesterday on Awakening in Austin. Listen when you get a chance. My interview is specifically about Thai massage and my work in Austin, Texas. We cover some basics about yoga and yoga therapy as well.

Equanimity is defined as a state of mental or emotional stability or composure arising from a deep awareness and acceptance of the present moment. In the middle of Thai massage, yoga or meditation this can come up from time to time. Personally it arises and goes away as quickly as it comes in. Others can be sometimes confused by my behavior in those moments because things that some consider disturbing, saddening or incendiary just are. I don’t resist or fight them.

The most difficult are certainly things in my personal life. Conflicts, fights and things that make me sad are difficult to process and be at peace about. When you want something and can’t have it it’s not easy to sit back and say, “the world is perfect just as it is.” Thich Nhat Hanh is famous for this phrase. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by MLK Jr. and sitting at Thich’s feet trying to absorb this in a book I read led me to a funny space. I wanted to punch him.

Here was this Zen Buddhist, engaged Buddhist monk who was saying, “the world is perfect just as it is.” I knew he could see, not just with the first two eyes but his third. This is the message he sent me. I wanted to spar with him and fight. Not only could I not see it but I was so angry that he could even jest with that phrase that I wanted to physically engage with him. A small man who’d dedicated himself to peace was my target. A man who would not side with the north Vietnamese or the south Vietnamese and who was hated by both for it was the guy I wanted to punch.

No one ever said developing equanimity is easy. Life will throw you curves. The goal is to ebb and flow as life does. Embracing constant flux with grace and poise is most easily done for me personally in my yoga practice. The longer time goes on I let go. Pain, discomfort, tension and release are all part of the game. What I learn on the mat is taken with me in the midst of turmoil and upset.

Thank you to all my teachers, even those I want to punch. Namaste’

hospice and gardening

Years ago I found out my uncle had been diagnosed with cancer. I’d just moved away to Pennsylvania to go to massage school and based on his prognosis, I’d just make it home in time to say goodbye.

When I finished school I of course bolted home and went to my mothers to see family and my ailing uncle. My uncle was so disfigured he was barely recognizable to me. He was bloated but his legs had grown thin and withered while he’d been on oxycontin for months. I found it difficult to look at him much less speak with him for prolonged periods of time.

I mustered all of my sense of care and after discussing it with family decided I should give him a massage. I’d just finished school, he’d been having some pain around his hip and I certainly couldn’t make the situation any worse. I worked on him and had a chance to really connect with my uncle in a way I hadn’t previously. He couldn’t be any more needy and I couldn’t have been any more nurturing. People that ill don’t get much in the way of nurturing touch.

My uncle passed away weeks later and I felt comfortable that he knew I cared and would always remember him.

I still felt uncomfortable however with my initial response to seeing him. Deep down it was fear. I didn’t like death, didn’t like the idea and had an aversion to the state. My grandmother had mentioned the hospice volunteer who would come by the house and I asked her what hospice was. She told me it was just people who would hang out with my uncle and make sure the family had what they needed.

I decided that when I got settled as a massage therapist. I should look into it.

One of my first patients was a man named Alvin. He was in a home that tended to end of life patients and he’d grown up in country Louisiana. Here I was this young white kid wandering into this older black man’s life and asking him “What’s going on?” Well, he was wasting away from AIDS. I was doing my best to talk about things, find common ground and just let someone know I cared. He encouraged me to come back anytime I wanted. Said he liked talking and it was a good break from his life in the home.

I wondered how I’d connect with him. We had such different lives. He’d grown up in the country and I grew up in the suburbs. Upon my return visit we began discussing gardening then from there discussing food. He lit up and began discussing all the things he used to grow. We wandered from discussing greens like collards and turnip to southern peas and okra.

This despondent man turned warm, with a smile having fond memories of meals with family and friends. Cornbread made with buttermilk in a cast iron skillet paired with southern peas and rice. Cabbage and greens served for new years. Deep southern traditions helped a young white kid and an older black man bond. There was something universal we’d been able to connect over, food and family.

I mentioned my conversation with the staff while we discussed his condition. Upon my next visit I was surprised to find the staff chipped in and bought pots with vegetable plants in them. They wanted to know if I’d like to help Alvin plant them outside in the grounds flower beds. I discussed with Alvin and he seemed excited.

We got a small hand shovel and the plants, went outside and as I wheeled Alvin up to our first planting spot he started digging with a fury. It was like giving a small child crayons and paper, he went to town. We spent 30 minutes or so chatting, putting peppers and a few tomato plants in the ground. I realized it was the first time I’d really seen him forget about his condition. It was the first time in months he was really alive in the moment instead of worried about what was to come. Be here now.

A few weeks later Alvin passed on. We never harvested a single pepper. That wasn’t really the point. The point was planting seeds, putting things in the ground in the present moment. Relishing moments of being truly alive is the cure for worries about life fading away.

“When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”—Masanobu Fukuoka (One-Straw Revolution)