Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Think I've Pissed Off My Pineal Gland.

In my Master Herbalist class, we are studying the endocrine system this week. That is essentially the system of glands that secrete hormones that affect our bodies so profoundly. Anyway, I think I've learned the hard way that I may have run afoul of my pineal gland.

The pineal gland sits in the middle of your head, and it produces the hormones melatonin (at night) and serotonin (during the day). Some have called the pineal gland the "third eye" because it receives sensory information from the optic nerve, and the light and dark that comes through that nerve causes it to vary its output of melatonin (increasing at night and decreasing during the day). This may be why melatonin is thought to be intimately associated with our body's internal timekeeping mechanism. (Source: Structure & Function of the Body by Thibodeau and Patton).

While melatonin is not all that well understood, scientists believe that its effects are mostly restorative. It promotes sleep (which explains its use in sleeping pills), is a good antioxidant, appears to be able to inhibit cancer, and blocks the negative effects of estrogens. Okay, so now let's hold this thought for a second.

The other thing I learned is that all these cells doing all this work in our bodies generates our body's own electromagnetic field (EMF). It's not surprising that nerves and muscles require electromagnetic energy to function and do their jobs properly. So, it should not be surprising that man-made electrical fields can interfere (or at least impact) our own EMFs...and that constant exposure to large power lines, computers, or electric blankets can produce negative effects. EMFs are known to inhibit the body's nighttime release of melatonin. But if melatonin can be anti-cancer, then couldn't it be putting ourselves at increased risk of cancer if we disrupt our natural sleep-wake cycles or stay on the computer too long?

As a matter of fact, one study showed a correlation between breast cancer incidence and exposure to large power lines. And another study showed that there was an increased risk of breast cancer for women working night shifts (presumably the theory goes that their melatonin levels are off because they're working against the body's natural cycle). So, there may be some food for thought there.

Now, back to how I've offended my pineal gland. I've been unable to sleep well lately...I'll go to bed early enough (11pm or so), but I'll toss and turn and flail around like a beached whale and next thing I know, I stare bleakly at the clock and it says 2:00am. In fact, my IPod said it was 2:41 am when I turned it off last night. And here I was, up at 8:18am again this morning. My theory is that it's because I am glued to the computer all day long. At the spa, I sit in front of a computer. When I come home, I sit in front of the computer. Even when I'm watching TV or having dinner, I have a laptop on me! So I think I've screwed around with my EMF, which has screwed up my melatonin, which has caused me to be unable to sleep.

I am going to go cold turkey on computer use for a while (especially at night). No more after 8 or'll be hard to resist checking emails, but I need my sleep back!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Smile from the Liver!

One of my favorite parts of "Eat Pray Love" was when Ketut Liyer, the Balinese medicine man, tells Elizabeth Gilbert, "Smile from the liver, Liss. You will have pretty power!" He was teaching her a simple smiling meditation, which is really very simple. It is just this: sit and smile. But smile from the liver.

I tried this technique, actually. Once you actually locate your liver, it becomes easier to do, and to imagine a big fat smile emanating from it. We also happen to be studying the liver this month in my Master Herbalist diploma class, and let me tell you, if your liver isn't working properly, you are f***ed. It's probably got the hardest job in your body after the heart. It is the main organ of detoxification, and everything you ingest...EVERYTHING...eventually makes its way to the liver to be cleaned. So for a lot of prescription medications to work, they have to come into your bloodstream in such large amounts that they are able to bypass the liver's natural cleansing mechanisms. Scary, huh?

Well, with all the toxins out there in today's complicated society, the liver works extra hard in all of us. Liver congestion means that the liver can't do its job properly, which means that you can have excess fat in the liver, essentially rendering it ineffective at performing its myriad functions. According to my coursework, signs of liver congestion can include headaches, indigestion, tiredness, apathy, a poor appetite, easy weight gain, and general muscle weakness and pain.

So what to do? A good liver cleanse to flush out that old liver never hurt anybody. And an easy way to do it is to take the juice of half a lemon and combine it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Drink it down first thing in the morning before breakfast...and DON'T have breakfast until more than an hour later. Do this for 3 days in a row, then take a break for 4 days, and start again for 3 days, and so on and so forth. Or if you don't like the slimy sensation of oil oozing down your throat, you can also imbibe lots of dandelion tea or coffee (it's called dandelion "coffee" when the "tea" is made with roasted dandelion roots, instead of just regular dandelion roots).

Your liver will say, "Thank you!" Oh yes, and it will also be smiling.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Egos, Sore Throats, and How Herbs Lead to Health and Happiness

My ego is always looking for ways to feel superior to other people. Years ago, it was that I had to be better educated, which is why I strove and strained to go to places like Stanford. Then, I had to be better-looking and recognized as such, and that's why I entered beauty pageants. Then, it was that I had to make more money, which is why I went back to Stanford to get an MBA and join the ranks of the 6-figure salaried luminaries.

Now that I own a spa, wherein my degree, good looks, and financial earning power have no use whatsoever (and perhaps do not even exist anymore), my ego is still looking for ways to feel better. And the mechanisms are really laughable: the other day, I found myself saying, VERY proudly, to an employee of mine who was sick, "I NEVER get sick. I can't remember the last time I was sick. I just have the strongest immune system." And in saying so, I purposely hugged her and touched her on the shoulder. And here is what was underlying that sentence: "I am better than you. You are sick and I am not, which means that I am MORE than you. Haha."

Well, as Providence would have it, I woke up the next morning with a sore throat. The kind that is scratchy, sore, and hurts when you swallow. The kind that makes you wish you didn't need your trachea for breathing, talking, or ingesting food or drink. Ow! My first thought was, "This serves me right." My second thought was, "What can I do to make this go away? I would prefer not to feel this way."

I dragged myself off to the kitchen to make myself a hot infusion of horehound and elecampane, both very good expectorants. I took a half-teaspoon of each and infused them in 8 ounces of steaming hot water. I took one sip and the bitterness of the brew nearly stopped me cold. I then pounded some rock candy into submission and dropped it into the cup, and then I had me some liquid Ricola (at least, that's what it tasted like). And then you know what happened?

My sore throat went away. It really did, I am not kidding, and I am not lying. I felt great the rest of that day and the next. The sore throat never did bloom into a full-on cold or flu or debilitating ailment, thank goodness. So, unlike my ego thinks, it's not really my immune system that keeps me healthy, it's good old knowledge of herbs and Nature's medicine chest.

So here's to HHH: Herbs, Health, and Happiness.

Friday, February 15, 2008

So excited!

I found a local herbalist in Campbell, CA. She got her Master Herbalist diploma from the same program I am currently attending, and she has the same birthday as I do! Well, okay, so she is 6 years younger. Her name is Bridget, and I have brought a lot of her products into the spa. They are absolutely fabulous and delicious. Can't wait to have our clients try them out.

The best part is that I'm supporting a local herbalist instead of one far, far away (like in Europe or NY or Seattle), and that the products are 100% pure and organic and natural, etc. etc. I like being able to understand the ingredient list exactly. For example, the Rose Tonic syrup contains: Dried organic red roses, vegetable glycerin 65%, and distilled water. I just love it!

We formulated several teas together, and I am going to start selling those too. She does herb walks as well, and when spring rolls around, that will be such a fun activity to offer clients. I can't wait, so fun so fun!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Appointments by IM?

Well, I've decided to try something new and different...again. I've decided to make it more convenient for clients to schedule appointments with us, this time over INSTANT MESSENGER! I remember how nice it was in my corporate job to be able to just send an IM over to a colleague instead of having to ring them up or climb up out of the chair to go talk to them. Hmm, perhaps this is why I also gained 20 pounds in corporate America too.

In any case, sometimes clients don't LIKE to ring us up on the phone to make an appointment. Sometimes, the client feels email takes too long. And sometimes, the client sits in a cubicle, and just plain doesn't want those surrounding her to know she's booking a bikini wax or a brazilian. (I wouldn't even want anyone to know I was making a spa appointment of any kind!)

So IM is perfect...silent, but effective. Anyway, if anyone out there wants to add us to their Instant Messenger list, our Yahoo! Messenger ID is paviadayspa95070. And our email is, of course.

See you online!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Ideas for Books

I've always wanted to write a book. I fancy myself some kind of published author, engendering worldwide praise for the people running around in my imagination that are just dying to be introduced to the general public. I think, if I were to really get down to it, I would love to write a fantasy book. A fantasy book set in a non-traditional place (most fantasy is sword-and-sorcery), like the Chinese Imperial Court perhaps, or an environment very like that.

In any case, with the advent of, I really CAN easily and cost-effectively publish my own books. But I thought, a full-on fantasy epic is a little too much to take on right now. So how about a nice, 20-40 page volume about essential oils or herbs or something similar that I can either give away to good spa clients or sell?

I was thinking of two topics, and I think this will do just great. One is "As Within, So Without: The Herbal Approach to Good Skin," and the other is more whimsical, "The Girlfriend's Guide to Spa-Going." The former is about how to use herbs to bolster the body's natural toxin elimination systems, which in turn, helps keep our skin clear, supple, and blemish-free. The latter is, of course, giving advice about how to go to spas - in a very "gal pal-like fashion." So we shall see, I thought these were cute ideas. Now I just have to implement them.

I have 12 pages of the first book written, and I am excited to finish it!

Friday, February 8, 2008

How often is YOUR chassis maintained?

It seems to me that there is an ever-present tug of war between our bodies and our cars. By cars, I mean our vehicles, our know, that all-important conveyance from point A to point B? I think if we were to ask ourselves honestly, how much we spent on maintaining our automobiles in any given year, the answer would be somewhere between $600 and $1,000.

As for me, well, last year alone, I had a scheduled service (think it was either the 90K or 100K mile service) for $350, the alternator went out (another $300), and 3 oil changes ($35 each). So that is a total of...$755.

Now ask yourself the question: How much did you spend on maintaining your body? NO, doctor's visits and insurance co-pays don't count. After all, if you let yourself get to the point of having to visit a doctor, then you weren't *really* maintaining yourself, were you?

My point is, most people would not bat an eyelash at spending $600 to $1000 per year on their cars, but if asked to turn that same spending on themselves, well, sputtering, spluttering, and gasping occurs. "But I need my car to go to work!" They say. But don't they need healthy bodies too? I presume that in any kind of job, whether you perform physical labor, sit at a desk, or get on a plane, you need to have a decent level of health, mobility, tranquility, and clarity to get it done.

So the next time you feel like a massage or a facial or a pedicure or a body wrap, but feel guilty about it...DON'T! Your own chassis could use some maintenance in between those hard-earned vacations, and you shouldn't consider it "spoiling" or "pampering" yourself. It's maintenance, pure and simple. (Why do you think I never use the "S-word" or the "P-word" in any of my marketing literature or web site?)

To make it easy for you, here's the link to our massage therapy page. Now go take your own body (not just your auto's) in for some servicing!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Practicing Meditation

I have always wanted to meditate successfully. When I say "successfully," I mean drop into that zone of perfect bliss, that zone where I am one with divinity or God, where all the mundane worries of the world just fall away, and I float in perfect wisdom.

However, to date, whenever I have meditated, I have quieted my mind only long enough to receive....a to-do list. Just when it seems I have put away all thoughts of the husband that I miss (he is away on business), the spa business that I LOVE but fret over, the children that I do not have yet (but want very much), I start hearing, "Did you remember to call so-and-so? You have to take delivery of her product soon," or "Remember to sit down one-on-one with such-and-such employee to talk about her behavior," or even, "Are we out of toilet seat covers at the spa? Shoot!" And then I choose to become absorbed in the to-do list, and fall out of attempting to meditate altogether. And lie awake at night, tracing the whorls on the ceiling with open eyes.

So I would not choose to label my "meditations" as successful. Then this past Superbowl Sunday, I went to my lovely friend Teri's house (yes, Teri is the psychic/intuitive on my staff, who has her own very lovely blog) to watch the game, and her roommate, Bobbi, lent me a book, called "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I should make a disclaimer here that the book is actually Teri's, but Bobbi said that Teri would never read it, so it should be okay for me to just snatch it and read it and she probably wouldn't even notice. Bobbi said the book was amazing, transcendental.

And it was. I can't believe I'd never heard of this book before. It was absolutely amazing. More importantly, I think I learned how to meditate from it. The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, also had problems meditating, but she was taught to use a mantra, "Om Namah Shivaya." Her Guru taught her that if she repeats the mantra over and over in her mind, it gives the mind something to do, a task, so that it does not interfere with the true voice of the heart that comes up during meditation. I believe that "Om Namah Shivaya" means "I bow to the divinity within me," or something that contains the recognition that I have something wonderful and lasting and surpassing inside of me.

I've tried the mantra for two nights now, and while I have not gotten THERE, to that peaceful and serene center of the universe, I have been able to at least recognize the to-do list thoughts as they came. My mind, apparently, cannot keep up a mantra AND make a to-do list simultaneously. I feel like I'm standing over home plate (my meditation) like a batter, and as each unwanted, to-do list thought comes pitching in to my serene space, I swing that bat and send it flying way, way, way...above? Out? Away. Just way, way, way, way away then.

So I have made a little progress, after all. And after several swings, I fell asleep. Which I will not judge, since I must have needed to sleep, obviously. I guess this is why it is called practicing meditation...which is what I intend to do every night.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

War Stories

Whenever I take my staff out to tea, or to dinner, I always make them go around the table and tell me "war stories." In other words, tell me their most difficult, awkward, gross, or tough situations with clients in the room. I've always been avidly curious about what goes on behind those closed doors, given that I'm not a technician myself.

Well, as you can imagine, these stories were quite entertaining.

Of course, there is the usual gross fare: like a client who forgot to completely clean themselves and was coming in for a Brazilian, or a client who had toilet paper still sticking partway out of her rear-end.

Then, there are the high-stress stories: one of my poor estheticians had a client whose skin seemed to react to everything she put on it, and she had to keep taking off products and putting on new ones.

Then, there are the stories that are just BIZARRE: one massage therapist related that a certain client just could not be pleased with ANY kind of massage stroke, whether effleurage or petrissage or percussion or open fist or open hand or elbows or thumbs. Instead, she wanted to be wrung. Like, you know, giving someone an Indian rope burn? But it turned out that even being wrung was not what she wanted. Exasperated, the massage therapist simply asked her to leave - the heartache and headache was apparently just not worth it to her.

Listening to the stories from the safety of a lunch or dinner table, of course, these seem absolutely hilarious to me and I laugh loudly and heartily when I hear them related. But I can imagine how having to deal with it live and in an enclosed room could change my perspective really fast. So here's to the wonderful technicians out there, not only on my staff, but on those of all spas around the world. They really do put up with a lot!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Guinea Pig...But There's A Limit!

As a spa owner, I know I'm supposed to experience every service my spa has to offer. And I can honestly say that I have experienced MOST of them. But there is one that I will not go near: Brazilian bikini wax. Here is a random thought: How does the nation of Brazil feel about having a bikini wax named after them, one that means "everything off?"

The very idea of someone not my husband and not my OB/GYN being in that area is just so absolutely, crushingly foreign to me that I just cannot fathom it. I have never had a bikini wax, or any waxing above my kneecap, let alone the whole enchilada! I can only wince with pain when I think of how much it must hurt. I cannot think of any reason that we would want to remove the hair from that region (although, admittedly, I cannot think of any purpose for HAVING hair in that region either).

I know many women who do it to please their significant others, but I find this a bit ... strange. When all the hair is removed, doesn't one end up looking like a pre-pubescent girl? And what does that say about the significant other who gets a sexual thrill out of that look? Isn't that a bit...pedophilic? I don't know, I am not judging, I am just wondering.

So, unlike other services, I simply trust that my estheticians can perform this service skillfully and professionally. For other services, I actually climb on the table and try to control the client experience end-to-end, but for this one, well, you couldn't pay me enough to get up there and be a guinea pig. Not even in the name of bettering my business.

Thankfully, I have hired estheticians who ARE highly trained, and who have gained the loyalty and trust of their clients. But none of that credit goes to me!