My mother and grandmother were some of the original followers of Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science, or Science of Mind. I was raised in that church. The sense of trusting in the universe that they gave me, is their legacy to me. However, the “rising above” human feelings into the spiritual world did not work for me as I grew into adolescence. From my mother and Science of Mind, I retained a lifelong interest in the relationship between thought, feeling and health.
After graduating from the University of California in Social Sciences and Spanish, I studied therapeutic massage with Gunver Ingeborg at Esalen Institute. From 1978-82, I studied Oriental Medicine at the Kototama Institute in Santa Fe with Sensei Masahilo Nakazono. I was licensed as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine by the State of New Mexico in 1982.
My mother moved to Costa Rica in 1970. She passed away just as I was getting my license. When I went down to Costa Rica for her funeral, friends urged me to open my acupuncture practice there. I practiced acupuncture in San José, Costa Rica from 1982 to 1990. I stopped practicing in order to devote myself to raising my two children and to updating my mother’s guidebook, The New Key to Costa Rica, which had become a best seller.
From 1982 to 1984, I volunteered with a medical team at a clinic for Salvadoran refugees in Costa Rica. I heard the Salvadorans’ stories, experienced their wounded hearts and bodies. I did what I could to ease their pain. I felt that I didn’t really know how to help them with the trauma they had suffered.
My acupuncture teacher had always said “Disease begins in the spirit.” I didn’t find how to make that connection until I learned Focusing in 1989. In 2000, I became a Certified Focusing Trainer.
In 2003, now living with my family in Maine, and attending Blue Hill Congregational Church, I was asked to translate for a group of Congregational pastors from Honduras and Maine, as they told each other their faith histories. A few days later, as I was out walking, I felt that God was calling me toward something..
I was feeling alienated and powerless as I watched my government launch the war in Iraq. Our protests against the war were unheeded, so I was moved to do what I could in El Salvador, where I knew that people were still suffering the consequences of US intervention in the 80s. I was invited by a large community organization in El Salvador to teach Focusing. Before going, I took a life-changing class in Nonviolent Communication.
There, I met an ex-guerrillera, Melba Jiménez, who was searching for healing for the wounds still present in her life and in the lives of so many others. She encouraged me to teach Focusing and Nonviolent Communication at the community level. Minimally funded with donations from Focusers around the world, our project has grown until now Melba and her daughter are Certified Focusing Trainers and are leading Resilience Circles that combine Focusing and Nonviolent Communication for women, children and youth. People are seeing the positive results and asking them to expand to more communities.
Focusing, developed by philosopher Eugene Gendlin, shows us how our bodies make meaning from our experience. Sensing into the wisdom of our living bodies brings hope and provides tools for transforming beliefs and structures that no longer serve us.
The El Salvador project has shown that people can benefit from practicing Focusing, regardless of their educational background, poverty level or level of previous trauma.
I currently teach a course through The Focusing Institute called Giving Language to Stress. Participants sense into stressful situations. Through Focusing, they symbolize what stress means for each of them and explore various instances of stress and ease in their lives. As they give words to what was held silently in the body, meaning arises and transformation takes place. They end up with “talisman sentences” that symbolize what they have learned and can help them remember what they need to do in stressful situations.
I give private classes in Thinking at the Edge for people who want to explore something inside that they don’t yet know how to put into words. I enjoy hanging out at the edge of what we already know, so that new ideas can arise out of our bodily knowing. i also work with small groups.
I love being with my two children, Danny and Elizabeth, who are now through college and pursuing their careers in civil engineering and graphic art, respectively. Elizabeth created most of the graphics on this website, for which I am very grateful.