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The Presence of Stillness

Gateway to Inner Wisdom and Guidance

by Giorgia Milne & Mary Reis

The uniting principle underlying any activity is stillness. As paradoxical as it may seem when our lives are filled with busy-ness, it is the stillness that makes all the activity possible. Just like a hurricane, when our center is clear and organized, so too is our power output.

“A fulcrum is a pivot point of stillness that provides the power to organize a specific activity. Fulcra are portals that connect all the dots between separation and oneness. Because stillness is the core of every activity, it is the constant uniting principle through which each part connects with other parts, and with the whole. In this way, the infinitesimal connects with the infinite.”

—Charles Ridley: STILLNESS pgs 23-24

Learning to rest inwardly, sensing the presence of stillness, unites you with the wisdom of the body and the wisdom of the whole. You strengthen presence by resting inward inside your body-space — the coalescing point of stillness and awareness. The breath is a perfect vehicle for contacting this presence, and it opens the gateway for your authentic guidance to emerge.

At the beginning and end of every breath, is a slight pause. From that magical pause moment arises the sense of being centered, of feelingly being connected with the aliveness of our presence. Without thinking our way into this inner orientation, but feeling our way, we feel sensations as they arise. We can feel our body expanding with the in-breath, the coolness of the air passing through the trachea. We can feel the slight pause at the end of the breath and the sensations that accompany it. Then the warmth of the out-breath as it passes through, and the inner body sensations that accompany exhalation. Then the pause again.

Sensation is different with each portion of the breath, and there is something about the expansion of sensations within the pause that allows us to truly feel our aliveness. As we feel into the stillness, our connection with it deepens and expands. It is as if some deep part of our present, alive, embodied awareness rests in the source of this pivot point of stillness — even as our breathing and other physiological functions remain free to naturally flow on their own.

A contemplative embodiment practice: (Sense it directly, not just think it). In the pause, where has the breath gone? Is it “gone”? Or has it just gone past the horizon of our perceptual awareness? Trust your felt experience. Rest there.

Our body’s innate wisdom is naturally oriented to the origin and order of a larger functional whole. Embodied perceptual awareness, through which you spontaneously respond to life, expands accordingly… opening the gateway to deeper orders of connections.

When you strengthen your presence, it loosens the power of habitually grooved patterns that create unconscious and automatic thoughts, actions, or reactions. Your authentic bodily responses originate from a silent language without words that well from the depths of your embodied presence while resting inside your body. Your actions well from the wisdom of the body.

Form arises out of stillness, and stillness becomes form.

—Charles Ridley

Inhabiting your inner body space and sensing the tonal qualities in your inner body atmosphere, you rest here while you let everything be as it is. The felt-sense of the inner body qualities becomes your objective guidance, your inner GPS.

At the core of your embodiment practice is a trust in the inherent wisdom of your body, and a confidence that your body is connected to the natural order of Life. You can enhance your awareness of inner body wisdom and live by its guidance, when you receive and soak up the stillness inside your body, which slows the tempo of your consciousness and you can sense the subtle nuanced micro-qualities that pulse inside you.

Be Still and Know I Am

Upcoming courses in Stillness with Giorgia Milne:

Biodynamic Cranial Touch Initiatory Course

Fulcrums: Portals of Wholeness

The Role of Shoulders and Elbows in the Human experience

It’s Not About Technique, It’s About Strategy!


I have been involved in massage therapy since 1974. I attended massage therapy school in Gainesville, Florida and worked in Gainesville until 1994. I relocated to Atlanta, Georgia to accept a position with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) as a Program Manager for Athlete Medical Services for the 1996 Summer Olympics. After the Olympic Games ended, I took a position with the Atlanta School of Massage as the Managing Director of Curriculum Development and spent an additional year in Atlanta before moving to Fort Worth, Texas with a stop in Jackson, Mississippi for 12 months, while my wife, Joan Carroll, finished her post-doctoral studies and research in Exercise and Medical Physiology at the Guyton Research Center.

“Thoughts from the Road”

Headed into 2018

Pete Whitridge BA, LMT

Welcome to the NEW YEAR! I hope this finds you healthy and happy as we begin 2018. I have been on the road extensively over the past two years. I had the honor to teach at the AMTA National Convention in Pasadena, CA this past September. I taught at various AMTA state conferences around the country and traveled around Florida in my little camper during a very busy 2017 “renewal rush” ending on August 31. On a more personal note, Lee and I are celebrating our 35th year together and feel grateful to love each other more and more! We feel happy to be part of the FSM community and wish you a healthy and abundant New Year.

Certain professional themes have recurred in research and conversation as I’ve traveled around the country. I’d like to examine a couple of them in this article: career longevity and the importance of touch in medical settings. I’ve watched the development of our field being undermined by the introduction of massage franchises and large corporate school chains to our professional landscape. When I graduated from massage school in 1988, there were very few states that regulated massage therapy and less than 100 schools of massage around the country. Now we have a massage therapy landscape populated by well over 850 schools of massage and thousands of massage franchises competing with single owner massage centers. The profession has grown in quantity but from what I’ve observed, not necessarily in quality.

When I’m traveling around the country teaching I wonder: how do we compete in this crowded marketplace and still maintain the HEART of our work? How long can we practice massage without getting stale or burned out from all that therapy? Is there a way to thrive with all this competition? Here are some thoughts that may help you feel more inspired and motivated as we head into 2018.

Career longevity depends upon your own ability to stay balanced and healthy in all aspects of your life. Make 2018 a time to focus more on your own health and wellbeing so that you can bring more vitality to your care of your clients. Receive more massage, participate in a movement class, dance, take a walk, watch the sunset, find a new and novel activity that brings you into greater connection to your own body and needs. Become more aware of your body mechanics during your sessions. If you hurt your hands, strain your elbows and generally create a stressful work routine how will you be able to help the people who love and need your skilled touch? I encourage you to spend time enhancing your own health and wellness in this next year ahead.

I suggest you use some of your massage time as professional development time. Receive a few massages from other local or regional therapists. Keep receipts, take notes and pictures to remind you of the environment and decor of the therapy center. Log your impressions and evaluate if you would see that person again, and why. This is basic market analysis that you can expense as market research on your taxes. This simple step will help you be a better therapist. You will get new ideas, see the inside of another therapist’s room and you will have gotten touched. This might lead you to examining your own practice and what you are doing at the table. Professional development could also include taking a break for a class or series of classes that reinvigorate your own life and practice.

Treat your clients to simple comforts like a heated mattress pad, hot packs and neck pillows. In most of my classes students see me adding a pillow under the neck and comment, “I should do that.” When I put an eye pillow over the eyes to block out light, clients seem to slip into the parasympathetic dominance quickly. These are small touches which help to make your treatments special and memorable. Clients become repeat clients because they know you care about their wellbeing, that you offer skilled, caring touch that isn’t available at the franchise shop. Take steps now to create a deeper connection with your current clients. You might add time to their treatments occasionally as a thank you for being a loyal customer, perhaps in recognition of their birthday or anniversary of becoming a client. If possible, you might add some rest time after a treatment so that the client can stay on the table without having to jump up and leave immediately. Encourage them to use their massage as a health and wellness practice. It’s time to juice up your practice for the New Year and into the future.

Touch in the medical setting is becoming more important than ever. Our population is aging and requesting more touch and less heroic care. This was one of the topics explored at the most recent conference presented by the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), the nonprofit research branch of our profession. One panel discussion focused on the identified need for highly skilled touch therapists in healthcare settings (hospitals, rehab settings, and palliative care) and the lack of well-trained individuals to meet the need. It is always amazing to be around such thoughtful and thought provoking conversations, presentations, and panel discussions. I hope to inspire each of you to stretch your practice, stretch your bodies and your minds by attending these important gatherings. Scientists, therapists and educators from around the globe present and attend these events, the food is health aware, and the tribe is growing. I’d like to encourage you to support the MTF with your donations and by reading the International Journal of Massage and Therapeutic Bodywork (IJMTB.) The MTF offers the opportunity to enter clinical practice report contests and to apply for community service and research grants. Most importantly you’ll be able to apply the knowledge you learn from these resources to keep your practice vital.

Pain relief, better sleep, reduction in anxiety, and wellbeing are affective outcomes for any massage but especially in settings where clients need less of everything – less pressure, less treatment time, less jostling and kneading. Every hospital in America surveys their patient population and massage therapy is always high on the requested list but there is a clear gap in hiring people with the required skills and knowledge. Are you skilled enough to navigate the actual hospital bed to provide an excellent treatment to a frail client? Maybe it’s time to break out of your routine and try a new area of care. There are a variety of excellent trainings in Oncology, Hospital Based, and Palliative Care massage. Is it time to add a new specialty to your practice?

Your business is a vehicle to enjoy your life and take deductible expenses that increase your skills and marketability. The IRS allows you to take deductions for continuing professional education. Perhaps it is time to return to the source, the place you found your inner therapist, the Florida School of Massage. Gainesville is a great place to use as a personal retreat and recharge device. Consider joining me in February for my Myofascial Components of Neck and Shoulder Pain workshop. We will focus on helping you slow down your work to help people with pain. I will review much of the current pain science and help you integrate this knowledge into your practice. Clients need your skilled touch for maintaining their health and wellness. Come recharge yourself so you can recharge your practice. I hope you will continue to enjoy your practice as much as I do!

I hope to see you in February. To register for this workshop, contact Lee Whitridge at: or call 772.979.5828.

With love and gratitude

Pete Whitridge

Engaging Work

By Frank Merillat LMT

FSM Instructor

As I sit here writing this I am reminded of how lucky we are at FSM to have access to such wonderful continuing education opportunities at our school. Benny Vaughn, a leading figure in sports and athletic massage was just here at the end of October. Giorgia Milne will be here in November, another leading figure in the Biodynamic Craniosacral world. Deane Juhan, a noted figure in the Trager community and author of Job’s Body, a guide to anatomy, physiology and how touch affects the body will be here in January. I have had the opportunity and pleasure to study with these three in my educational process along with other noted names in our profession and find it is always worth my time, energy and finances to do so. There is something about working with folks who have been doing this work for so long and who themselves studied with the pioneers in bodywork.

“On Bodywork & Awareness”, Paul Davenport, and Navigating Personal Unfolding

Mary with Frontal & Ethmoid Less Closeup

By Mary Reis LMT

FSM Instructor

I graduated from FSM in 1993 at the age of 24, inspired by school and excited to begin my Massage Therapy career. Now at 48 years old, I have been practicing Massage for half of my life and the profession continues to be immensely satisfying and intriguing. Recently I stumbled upon some of Paul Davenport’s* old writings and I have been reflecting on the power of awareness and how it has enriched my life and continues to inspire my career.

Currently, I am working on becoming an Approved Provider with the NCBTMB and have to update my resume. While combing through my old paper massage files, searching for dates and evidence of my education and various roles, I stumbled upon an unnamed file and discovered that it was filled with a piece of FSM history — it was my cherished stash of the old paper version of this electronic newsletter, the “Connective Issue”.

Ortho-Bionomy for Self-Care

By Luann Overmyer LMT

Ortho-Bionomy Instructor

At the age of 19 I had a motorcycle accident that left me with 6 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a lacerated liver, a torn hepatic ligament, and 3 compressed fractures in my spine. I was in a coma for hours and arrived at the hospital without a pulse or blood pressure —- essentially dead on arrival.

It is a dramatic story yet without this experience I may have never have discovered the wonders of bodywork, nor recognized the amazing capacity of the body to heal and the phenomenal benefit of self-care. By the age of 23 I was beginning to believe that I would have pain for the rest of my life. Also of concern was the head and neck injury resulting in my lack of ability to focus and blurry vision.

I recognized I needed some help. I went to see a chiropractor who commented that “he didn’t know how I could be alive with a neck like that”. Over the next few months, I felt his treatments turning me into a “bobble head” as he would adjust my neck into alignment but within 12 -24 hours I would be just as miserable as before. I decided I better start to figure this out for myself and began taking classes in bodywork and massage.

Thrive and Transform: FSM’s Daytime and Nighttime Programs Now Available


The Florida School of Massage (FSM) will be launching two acclaimed Therapeutic Massage and Hydrotherapy programs including a 6-month daytime program starting in October and a one year night program in Septemeber. The Therapeutic Massage and Hydrotherapy program is a transformative and empowering journey that provides students the flexibility to pursue professional massage part time or full-time upon graduation.

The comprehensive conceptual and experiential curriculum addresses the body and mind in totality and teaches students the interdependent forces that support healthy living.

Finding Acorns

By Frank Merillat, LMT


There is a saying I learned when I lived in the Virginia Mountains that goes like this:
“Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while”. 


I think this applies well to the practice of massage and the concept of therapy. I even use it these days in class when I talk about problems we encounter with the body while doing massage therapy.

When I work with a client they often present a problem with their body that they would like addressed. It is usually presented in the form of a sensation or feeling. Think of what clients tell you. “My shoulder hurts”, “I am not able to bend or squat easily”, “I’m feeling tingling or numbness in my hand”, “I’m just feeling stressed”, these are the types of things I often hear followed by “What is it?” or “Can you fix this?” It is at this point that I can feel like the proverbial “blind hog”. There are just so many possibilities involved in any one of those feeling statements.

What’s The “Fuzz” about Fascial Relationships?

by Gil Hedley, Ph.D.


Over the course of my career as a student and guide of what I call integral anatomy, I have been blessed with the opportunity to dissect many human forms. Literally, every body is different; every body represents a unique expression of the embodiment of the human form. That having been said, there are patterns of tissue structures, relationships, and textures that we share in large measure, while each one of us manifests variations on principal themes. Experience in the lab enables us to formulate, for different tissues, an answer to the question: “Is that supposed to be connected or not?!”

The Only Way to Make Change in the World

“Nothing stops me. I keep working hard at what I do; it’s the only way to make change in the world”


Ariela Grodner did not plan to attend FSM. However, in 2002 Ariela convinced a good friend that she had to check out “this cool massage school” in Gainesville (with the ulterior motive of getting said friend to move to Florida). She did such a thorough job that Ariela “sold” the school to herself as well.

At the time, Ariela was a new mom looking to find herself again. From teaching Shivananda Yoga in India, to owning a punk rock store in Ybor City, to living on a farm in the Berkshire Mountains, she had always lived life on her terms. In her application, Ariela wrote of wanting to heal people and needing a livelihood that would increase her ability to grow in compassion and love for her fellow humanity.