Why Belly Massage?

It is said that our belly is the drum of the body. It connects the legs to the arms, the north to the south, it is our connection to the divine and the earth.   It is a vulnerable area.  When we are hurt or emotionally wounded, we curl in protect ourselves.  Nature’s natural protection- fetal position.    It houses our Solar Plexus chakra, our fire, our passion.

As a society we focus on a flat and fit stomach from the outside.  We never think about the importance of the inside as it relates to health.  The inside is only beginning to show its true colors.  Many have found that the correlation between the brain and the intestinal wall hold the key to emotions and condition of the body as a whole called the “Gut Brain Barrier”.  If we have more good bacteria vs. bad bacteria, we stay in homeostasis.

We have heard a lot recently that fiber, pro-biotics, and supplements can help to regulate our digestive system.  Detox is a word that is all too common these days, but natural life cycles of our distant past has aided in this.  Long ago, our food supplies ran short towards the end of winter.  Causing our ancestors to naturally fast and shed the fat accumulated during the winter “meat and potatoes”.  This fasting helped to change the environment in our intestines, “cleaning out the plumbing”.  With the aid of spring’s first sprouts and bitters i.e. sprouts, lettuce, dandelion, and weeds with high potency of enzymes to purge our systems.  Today we have plenty of food year round and our bodies are missing this natural rhythm.  This causes a build-up of indigestible matter, toxins in our body.

So where does massage fit in?  It is a very common occurrence to get a full body massage and end up going to the bathroom shortly after. Whether it’s the heat of the warm table as you lay on your belly or the general relaxation from your massage; the blood starts circulating, and the nervous system switches to relaxation mode, the toxins releasing back into the digestive system and forcing to evacuate quickly causing movement.  It gets the job done.

As a therapist, we know some people are sensitive or vulnerable with exposing the midsection.  Since there are some who have never received this portion of a massage session, lets review why we should give it a go. The benefits of abdominal massage are well worth the few brief moments of unease.  After a few belly massages, all of those cares and apprehensions disappear.

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You’re an Esthetician… What’s That?

During the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to meet many new people. When they ask what I do, I say that I am an Esthetician and Cosmetology Apprentice.  Almost everyone gives me the blank stare and asks, “What’s that?” To clear up the confusion, let me tell you a little bit about what I do.

As an Esthetician, also known as a skin care specialist, I am able to work at salons, day spas or medi spas. I was trained in the cosmetic treatment of the skin, facials, body wraps, waxing, and makeup. Cosmetologists are also trained in all of those treatments, but not as in depth as I was as an Esthetician.  My training allows me to focus on skin care and all of its facets.  I attended the State College of Beauty Culture in Wausau. My training was 32 hours a week for 19 weeks totaling about 600 hours. I graduated in 2010 with cum laude honors and continue to educate myself in the field.

As well as being an Esthetician, I am also a Cosmetology Apprentice. What that means is, I am learning how to cut, color, and perm hair as well as manicures and pedicures right here at Back to Bliss! Instead of attending a year long program at a school, I get to work as I learn. After finishing my apprenticeship I will have completed a two year training program which is 3,712 hours on-the-job training with Monica, and 288 hours of theory training online. I will then be able to take my state boards and receive my cosmetology license.

I also am starting a new journey of blogging, which is completely foreign to me, but so exciting. I love learning new things about this industry, and about myself. I will be blogging about anything from skin to hair and everything related to beauty. If you have any ideas about topics for me, please let me know I’ll gladly take them! You can email me at jessmb2b@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

Jessica McCord


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain

Growing More Grass

Our language is telling.  It creates fundamental associations that underlie what assumptions we make and how we will tend to act/react.  I’m writing today about non-violence, but grass is more commonly used in another context today.  When you read the title of this column, did you think about marijuana?  Maybe you associated the title with current politics?

Poets and songwriters use words to great effect.  However, we are affected by our internal conversation and daily conversations with others the most strongly.   How much thought have you given to the words you use; to their associations with violence, dominance, and the way they affect the people closest to you?

We can take some time to first examine the way we speak and the words we choose.  Once we find an unwanted tendency we can then make a conscious effort to change the way we use that word.  Let’s use humor as an example.  I used to be a very sarcastic person.  I enjoyed the burn; the sharp wordplay that put a good dig into my friends.  Then it was pointed out to me that sarcasm is a very angry form of humor that belittles someone else by pointing out their faults.  I noticed the feeling of power it gave me to feel better than someone, to be the witty master of words.  I loved the laughter as everyone applauded my efforts and poked fun at my victim.  It was great until I really paid attention to the way that my humor impacted my way of thinking and those around me.  I finally made a choice that it wasn’t worth putting people down to bring myself up.  It wasn’t funny anymore.

The solution is a gentle refocusing of our attention.  It follows an old adage: instead of pulling the weeds, just grow more grass.  Eventually the weeds will get choked out because the grass is so strong and healthy.  The application of this principle can be used universally.   It took a couple years for me to get rid of sarcasm, but the sharp come backs have slowly stopped jumping up in my mind.  Now my impulse to cut, burn and dig my friends isn’t my first or even second reaction.

Does violence really have any place in our hearts and minds?  We have been highly desensitized to the common use of violent language through media and culture.  It is only because we haven’t taken a deep look at it that we allow it in our lives.  Instead of focusing on our adversaries, perhaps we should focus on our friends?  Instead of creating division and stress, we can bring about connections and friendships that nurture us.  In terms of humor, now I find ways to gently poke fun of situations instead of digging into a person.  There are many ways to still have fun.

Mother Theresa was asked if she hated anyone.  She responded with another version of our adage which I have paraphrased here. “If I take the time to hate, that is time I cannot spend loving and caring for someone.  It’s not worth it to hate.”  In the end, it is your life and your experience.  How you spend it and how you interact with the people around you is your choice alone.

Longevity To What Purpose

Our culture today is obsessed with the length of our lives.  We pat ourselves on the back about it all the time.  Statistically I can expect to make it 74 years!  Sounds pretty great, but is longevity alone deserving of all the accolades?  As soon as we add quality of life and quality of mind to the discussion, it immediately gets muddy.  Do you want to live in pain?  If your mind deteriorates long before your body, what then?  The discussion gets further muddied if we talk about happiness and regret.  Does adding 10 extra years of unhappiness sound appealing?

While a deep and lengthy discussion is worth having on this issue, ancient wisdom gives a practical way to respond to this question.  Their answer was that we should conduct ourselves in such a way that our vitality and health last long enough for us to accomplish our life’s purpose before we die.  With this frame of reference, we no longer focus so much on length of life, but on staying healthy enough to take care of business.  I love using this frame of reference because it changes the whole conversation.

I brush my teeth so they don’t rot becomes I love to perform and communicate my ideas to groups of people.  So I brush my teeth to keep them looking great.

I exercise because my family has bad hearts becomes I want to see my granddaughter graduate college.  I need to pay extra attention to strengthening my heart because several members of my family have died young of heart disease.

All of the sudden we have some passion and direction to this discussion of longevity.  It helps us frame what we need to focus on.   Depending on our goals, it shows us how intense we need to work to stay fit, healthy, or mentally sharp.  It also forces us to ask some new questions.  Three of my favorites are:

1: Do you know what you want out of life?

2: Are you building the skills and maintaining your focus enough to get to the goals that truly matter?

3: Am a pushing too hard where it doesn’t matter?

We all want to live healthy, happy, fruitful lives that mean something.  I hope this little bit of wisdom from the past can help you define exactly what that means for you.  Setting the proper attitudes for why we do what we do is just the first step.  While it is indeed a critical step, proper attitude is still just the first in the long journey of wellness.

Caution:  Life is messy and time marches on regardless.  It’s the same for everyone.  Only you can set the priorities that will result in your contentment or regret.

Remember:  Big goals are accomplished in little steps.

Momentum Of Disease

Did you know that disease has momentum?  The process of us moving from vibrancy and health to fatigue and depletion, then sickness, and finally disease and death can be seen as a process of momentum.  Taking a look at the momentum of a disease can be enlightening and very helpful as you plan for wellness.

Imagine a snowy scene.  You have walked to the top of a steep snowy hill.  Looking back down the hillside you view your house at the bottom.  Playfully, you decide to make a small snowball.   You set it on the ground and give it a push.  You watch the snowball as it rolls.  With every rotation it grows, it gets heavier and faster.  It starts to rumble and roar as it tumbles and flips down the hillside.  You stare, a little shocked and awed, as it continues.  The snowball grows from a ball to the size of a tire, then in to a boulder.  Now it’s the size of a car and will soon be the size of a dump truck.  Your awe turns to fear as you realize it is heading straight for your house.  You scramble, but it’s too late to do anything.  Crash!

Now imagine that the snowball is a disease.  Our allegorical scene illustrates several wisdoms.  Today, I will point out two of them.   First, we seldom realize the implications of our actions as they affect us way down the road.  Even when we feel the effects of fatigue and depletion, we don’t quite know what is coming.  It isn’t until the disease is dump truck sized and has terrifying momentum that we see the upcoming tragedy and know that we need to stop that snowball.

Secondly, our story shows a relationship between the momentum of the disease and the difficulty or ease in stopping that momentum.  Our tiny snowball sized stressor has many options that are often cheap and easy for you to balance all by yourself.  That dump truck sized disease gives you fewer options, less time, and much less control.

Caution: Trying to stop a disease with the momentum of a dump truck using just a multivitamin or a bag of tea will not work.  You may need to seriously spend some resources and change some deep habits to match the power of a diseases momentum and thus halt it.

Remember: It is far cheaper, in dollars and in drama, to pick up the snowball at the top of the hill while it’s small than when it looms disastrously large at the bottom.

A New Year, A New You Event

Join us for a special event.

Lets all get a jump start on our new years resolutions and focus on creating a new you this year!   Our classes are all free on this special event, so drop in to any or stay all day.


January 3, 2015

9 am- 2 pm


Back to bliss center for wellness

608 n division street, Colby 54421


Enjoy our offerings: sample classes, bath salt workshop, free chair massage and free make-up applications and mini lectures.  Let us help you reach your wellness goals.

Fitness                                                                                                                    Lecture

11 am   Yoga with Emily                                                                                    9 am        Ayurveda

11:30 am   Yoga with Josiah                                                                           10 am      Skincare and You

12pm         Qi Gong with Carrie                                                                       11 am      DIY Homecare

12 pm        Chemical Free Living

Visit our online scheduler to see what classes are regularly available for the 2015 winter/spring trimester.

Putting Intention Into Tradition

As it turned out, we ended up with a monochromatic tree this year.  It is filled with beautiful silver-blue  ribbons, bulbs, and lights.  There was one single exception; a blast of color that was easy to see.   At first glance the color seemed out of place.  It didn’t come from a specific ornament; it came from a specific intention.  There were several ornaments all in varied colors and styles spaced evenly around the tree making a stark contrast to the monochrome tone of everything else.

You see we don’t have a lot of ornaments that actually mean anything to us anymore.  We have a few that have survived our many moves across the country.  A few that were saved from childhood by our parents, and a few that our children have recently made.  Rummaging through our Christmas tote, there are mostly three big piles of ornaments: generic, left-over bits, and purchased on sale.  They may be pretty, but they have no meaning to us other than the fact that they are the decorations we put on the tree.  We stuff them back into the box and forget all about them for the rest of the year.

The stark contrast between our colorful personalized ornaments and the generic silver ones served to illuminate the emotions attached to the ornaments of color.  It showcased the varied family ornaments.  The tree suddenly became a space that pulled us into the intention of family.  Our tree now reminds us of our history, our family traditions, and our rites of passage.  It is not just a pretty decoration this year.  It has become a tool to lead us into positive space.  And it was all brought about by my wife’s intention to put a little more family meaning into the process of decorating for Christmas.

Our personal example showcases an important idea.  We have the power to intentionally create space.  The activities we undertake and the spaces that we create can be uninspired and generic ones.  They can drain us; becoming energy depleting work that we go through the motions to complete.  However, if we place our intentions into them they can renew us and inspire us.   If we layer our personal desires into the completion of activities it gives them and us new vitality.

Practice:  If you like the idea of creating a more intentional Christmas decorating tradition.  Try including a Christmas ornament exchange for your family.  Every year you will get a few more ornaments that were given to you for a reason by someone you love.  By making it a yearly tradition you will have memories attached to all of your decorations in no time.  They will help create positive emotions in your space for years to come.

Remember: We need meaning in our lives.  It keeps us healthy and inspired.  You can be the force in your family that creates and maintains the meaning within your family traditions.  All it takes is a little planning and a little bit of work to set it up.

Opening The Heart Center

There are several ways to skin a cat, or so I hear.  There are also several ways to go about releasing the tension stored at the heart center.  Last week we proposed that our ability to process our emotions may play a part in keeping breast tissue healthy.  Whether or not you buy into my theory or not, releasing the tension around the heart center is a good thing to learn how to do.  Here are several tips for releasing your heart at both the physical level and at the emotional level.

1: Try speaking your mind a little more often.  Get if off your chest.  Allowing our heart to speak its voice and be witnessed by others is very validating.  Finding ways to let your voice be heard without anger, blame, or intensity is the goal.  If speaking is too much, then journaling is still an effective option.

2: Take a deep breath in and release it fully.  Every breath is a stretch.  Every breath cleanses the blood.  In addition, the deep breath pauses us.  It pauses our mind.  It pauses our forward intensity.  Very often when we are stressed and ‘in the zone,’ there is a tension we hold in our chest muscles.  Practice and see if you can feel how taking a deep breath helps to release this clenched area of the body.  Build a habit of breathing deeply and letting it go.

Remembering to change your breath is tricky.  I suggest picking three triggers that remind you to take that deep breath.  Try breathing deeply at every stop sign, before opening any door, and before answering any phone call.

3: Regular massage for the heart has tremendous benefits in releasing stored emotion and increasing self esteem.  In addition to moving lymph and relaxing muscle tension throughout the chest and breast, taking time out for a 10 minute massage relaxes our entire nervous system.  Touching this area of your body increases your awareness of both the tissues and the emotions stored here.  And last, becoming aware of your “normal” breast hardness, skin feel, and other details makes it much easier to zero in on any changes that may be taking place, aka early detection.

The techniques are pretty simple.  Start with feather-light “U” shaped strokes.  Lymph vessels are very delicate and deeper pressure will not help lymph flow.  Gently move from the center of the chest to the armpit.  Make several passes that include the entire chest, all pulling fluid gently towards the lymph nodes in the armpit.  Next, go over the entire area again with more depth and pressure.  Allow the massage to dig deeper into the breast without causing discomfort.  Press into the muscles under the breast, into the spaces between the ribs, into the arm pit area, and all the way up to the collar bone.  This deeper massage will help soften muscles and help to normalize breast tissue.  The entire massage should take from 6-12 minutes.

4: Build Compassion.  Read Compassion Is Learned to continue this series and learn practices to build compassion in your life.

Pink Thoughts

Throughout all of the media coverage on Breast Cancer Awareness, there is one aspect that gets little to no attention.  The chest lies squarely over the heart chakra, the center of emotion.  Can it be possible that emotional health can be tied to the physical health of this body area?

Let me set the stage with two concepts:  First, turn to the person next to you.  Ask them to close their eyes and then point at themselves.  More often than not, they will point at their chest.  That’s because this is our center of self identity and self esteem.

Second, I just want to bring up the phrase, “Bare your breast to the world.”  The old phrase shows that at some level we recognize the connection between this area of our body, vulnerability and strong emotion.  We recognize that there is internal drama in the act of exposing our ‘breast,’ of exposing our heart-felt opinions.

Experiment:  Take a moment to act out several emotions.  Actually create the emotion within yourself.  Witness what you have to do to create the following emotions within yourself:  anger, happiness, fear, sadness and resentment.  Pay particular attention to how you change the depth and rhythm of your breath.  Feel what tightens and where it tightens in the effort to create each different emotion.

How does this relate to breast cancer?  Failure to express your deep emotional self and failure to honestly process our emotion affects the fluid flow, nutrient exchange, and detoxification ability of the breast.  Clenching the muscles of the chest and ribs from intense emotion tightens the muscles affecting the lymph nodes and blood flow throughout the breast.  This tightness comes from current stress and unprocessed emotional drama.

Is it possible that years and years of reduced blood flow in the chest helps to build up a toxic or unhealthy cellular environment?  Is it possible that the energetic vibration from negative emotion such as resentment or negative self talk recurring over and over again makes us more susceptible to illness at the center of our self esteem?  My humble opinion is yes.  As a massage therapist working with thousands of people, this connection between the muscles of the ribs and chest, emotions and the breath has become easy to see in my clients.

Caution:  Cancer of any type is complicated; complicated to understand, to manifest and to cure.  Get a team of experts AND do everything you can on your own to stay healthy and hopefully avoid the significant disruption that cancer can cause in your life.

Next week we will cover natural ways to increase your awareness of the emotion/ breath connection.  We’ll also cover tips to help remove the physical tension at the heart.  Having more tools in your basket is always a good thing.

Compassion Is Learned

The heart is a unique vessel.  It can never be filled to overflowing; it expands to hold as much love as you can grow.  By consciously increasing the amount of compassion in your heart, negative emotions get crowded out.  Compassion can becomes such a strong force within you that you begin to react with compassion instead of with negative emotions such as anger, resentment and frustration.

So how do we go about it?  How do we quiet and slow those negative emotional reactions that spring out of us when the rubber meets the road?  The answer may just surprise you; for many it may even be unpalatable.  Basically, you need to learn to love yourself first before you can love others.  Once you can show yourself compassion, then you can forgive and love others much more easily.

Begin with these basic practices and see what happens.

1: Pay extra attention to your self-talk.  We participate in a horrible amount of demeaning and negative talk towards ourselves.  Every time you catch yourself engaging in any sort of negative self talk, even gentle put downs.   Immediately say two nice things about yourself.

This practice is simple.  It does, however take time to sink in, so have patience and keep it up.  Eventually the affirmations will overpower the negatives.

2: Pamper yourself a little.  Allowing yourself a few comforts is very affirming.  Many of us habitually deny ourselves even the simplest of pleasures.  We put everyone else ahead of ourselves as we serve our families, our bosses and our fears.  While you may not need a monthly pedicure, you are worth it.  And when it comes down to it, you do need to value, love and respect yourself.  Show that you do with action.  The actions will speak louder than any words.  That includes any negative talk lingering in your head.  Keep proving it with action and it will sink in.

Pampering yourself doesn’t need to be a huge or expensive thing.  While I firmly believe every mom should get a massage every month, the pampering can be shown in small and simple ways and be just as effective.

3: When someone annoys you, look at yourself first.  Look back to a time when you acted the same way.  Look back to a time when you showed the same behaviors.  We are all capable of being the bad guy.  By looking at ourselves we gain access to commonality.  We have this capacity to be the bad guy in common with that other person, thus we can relate. The more commonality we have with people, the easier it is to find compassion towards them.

Caution:  The level to which these practices strike you as unappealing and difficult is the same level to which you need them.

Remember:  Using compassion to help release drama at the heart center can only be a good thing.  If it helps reduce our susceptibility to breast cancer as well as filling our lives with more positive emotion, so be it.

A Silken Thread

There once was a maiden trapped in a tower.  There were no stairs, and there was no ladder.  To jump was certain death.  In short, the maiden was indeed trapped.  She had no recourse but to look out the single window day after day in misery.

A saint happened by one day and the maiden began calling for help.  The saint’s heart opened to her plight and he set out to help her from her confinement and miserable circumstance.  The maiden was overjoyed when the saint stopped from his journey and said simply, “I will help you.”

Watching from above, the maiden saw him searching through the bushes and rummaging around.  Could he help her?  Would he?

As the saint came up to the tower he held a caterpillar close, and appeared to be speaking to it.  With the caterpillars aid assured, he proceeded.  The saint grasped onto the thin thread of silk the caterpillar was spinning, the caterpillar began to climb.  For hours, the caterpillar climbed.  The thread of silk got longer.  The maiden got angrier!

What trick was this old fool playing?  Couldn’t he see she was truly trapped?  What good was a caterpillar, the devious old villain!

As the caterpillar approached the window the saint opened his traveling bag and pulled out a linen shirt.  Clipping the end, he pulled loose a thread, which he then gently tied to the thin piece of silk.  The saint called out. “Grab hold of the silken thread our friend has delivered to you.  Gently pull it up until you hold the linen thread.”

The maiden made a choice.  Mostly because she was so lonely and had nothing else to do, she humored the old fool.  Frustrated and annoyed, she began to pull.  She pulled and pulled until she held the linen thread in hand.  It blew in the wind, strung between the saint and the maiden like a thin piece of hope; easily dashed and severed.

The saint worked again.  He unwove a second shirt, this time tying three linen threads to the first.  His instructions were the same.  Again the maiden, angry and confused, humored the old fool.  She pulled the linen thread with diligence until she held the three threads in hand.

In just this way, the saint and the maiden worked throughout the night.  The thin piece of silk grew from three linen threads to a small braid.  Then, a thick braid was pulled to the top.  Afterwards it was a thin rope.  Each step along the way the thread became thicker and stronger.  It wasn’t until the next morning, after long hours or work, that the silken thread had grown into a rope strong enough to support the maiden.  In the fresh sunlight of dawn, she descended to freedom on the sturdy rope they had built from a caterpillar’s thin silken thread.

Remember:  There is much wisdom in creating smaller goals that run underneath and alongside our main goal.

Caution:  We have all turned our back on helping hands because our limited perspective doesn’t see the opportunity presented.  We all would pull on the thin rope to get the sturdy rope; it’s easy to see the result.   But, would you have pulled the caterpillar’s thread?

New Website Unveiled

Are you ready for the convenience of online booking?  Now you can check your history, create and change future appointments, and purchase gift certificates all from your phone or home.  Other great new features of our website include:

  • Online service descriptions.  No more PDF’s to download.
  • Integrated blog style communications that allow all of our articles and wellness posts to be available 24/7.
  • Easier navigation and more content!  Back To Bliss has a lot to offer.  Now we can more clearly let you know what we are doing and get you to where you want to.
  • Check our website from your phone!  Our website and emails are built to go mobile for easy viewing.
  • And thats just the beginning…

While there are many edits that still need to be made and content that needs to be written, we are excited to be moving forward with our new online presence.  We still have ecommerce, automated wellness courses via email, bliss garden volunteer programs, and much much more to come!

Online Booking

For those of you who want to jump into online booking, its all ready for you.  Just create an account with your email and off you go.  The link to get started is located at the top right corner of every page on our website.  Its pretty easy.  However, as we grow the system there will be several questions that will pop up.  We will be putting together a FAQ that will help answer all of them as we learn the system’s in and outs together.

Currently the most important question that people will have relates to our price level system.  The online booking system may not give the proper price level of the provider you are booking your appointment with.  We are working to get a complete list of service prices via price level attached to our website service descriptions to clarify the issue.  For the time being, if prices are wrongly quoted by our system they will be quoted as Advanced Level prices.  All of our systems are working properly at the front desk and you will be properly billed at that time.

Much more is to come.  We thank you for your patience and for your continued support.


Be Well,


Josiah Groth