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The Medicine Ways of Spring: Honoring Light + Shadow

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“If you want the moon

Do not hide at night.

If you want a rose

Do not run from its thorns.

If you want love

Do not hide from yourself.”




Spring is a time when human spiritual traditions all engage in honoring. In the Christian tradition of my youth, it is Easter, the acknowledgement of the power of resurrection. In the Jewish faith, it is Passover, honoring freedom from oppression. And in the Celtic rites of my ancient ancestors, the people of Bohemia, Beltane fires shone a light on the orenda of the people and the gifts of fertility and abundance.

What caught my heart as I sat with my altar yesterday was the intimate and unbreakable bond between loss and gain, sacrifice and empowerment, that is present in all of these observances.

We live in a time when grief is rarely honored. When change and transition beset our lives, there is often no place to acknowledge what is being relinquished. We prefer transformation without uncertainty, growth without efforting, mastery without fumble.

What if we were to willingly acknowledge, to hold up the knowing, that sacrifice is what makes the new life possible? That to become a mother is to sacrifice the relative freedom and lightness of maidenhood? That the dedicated pursuit of a dream means other dreams must be relinquished? That death and loss can seem so unfair, so ill-timed, and yet we receive gifts that are won no other way?

What if we allowed ourselves to feel how grief is the intimate, shadowy sister of joy? That to give a strong NO empowers us to say YES more profoundly?

In my spring cleaning ritual, I unpacked a handmade bowl. This bowl has traveled with me for nearly 20 years. I bought it for the beautiful interplay of the coarse and earthy qualities that danced alongside the brilliant luminescence, just like an ocean shore. I was 18 years old and in an abusive relationship. I was living deep in the Colorado mountains with a man who had an undiagnosed mental illness, which resulted in his extreme paranoia, drug addiction, self-imposed isolation and emotional and verbal abuse.

At such a tender age, and having never experienced this sort of abuse, I was lacking in the resources to handle my situation. I was often struck by the juxtaposition of the breath-taking beauty of the landscape in which I was living and the absolute terror I felt every time I walked in the door of my home, never knowing what I might find or who I might have to be to survive.

Over time I began to isolate as well. I didn’t utter a word about what was going to my family back home or to the people with whom I worked. I was an easy target for my partner’s manipulation. I began to believe the stories he told me daily about what an awful person I was and how he wouldn’t survive without me.

As I sunk deeper into despair, I tried to locate the courage to leave. I tried to find a place to put the load of guilt I felt for wanting to go.

I sat one day in front of my open patio door and begged the Universe for a sign that I would make it. Just then a brilliant little hummingbird whizzed right to the door and hovered there, looking at me. We gazed at each other, seemingly in mutual amazement. I wept. I didn’t know what it meant, but I believed in that moment that I had what it took to go on. In the spring of that year, still carrying the weight of guilt, I left.

I’m not one to hang on to lots of nostalgic possessions. I’m actually quite committed to clearing my body, mind and living spaces of objects and energy that need to move on. But after that day I went out and got a hummingbird tattooed on my belly over each ovary. And I carry this bowl with me still.

I discovered it when going through some long-sealed boxes and was saddened to find it broken. But then within a moment, tears of happiness, intensity and honoring flowed forth. This bowl is beautiful and broken both. It speaks so genuinely of that moment in my life path when I had to choose to save myself, to believe that I was worth saving.

I built my altar to honor this bowl, to allow it to become the metaphor for my capacity for beauty and brokenness, to forgive myself and to forgive the young man with whom I suffered.

The spring holidays of the Spirit-Easter, Passover, Beltane-each has a way of honoring and acknowledging that rebirth comes only after death, that liberation is only known after we fully experience oppression, that it is the wintertime of the soul and the earth that gives birth to the new life of spring.

As we gather together with family and friends this weekend to celebrate faith, the return of hope, the resurrection, being chosen to live another day of this precious, beautiful and fraught life, I hope you feel empowered to honor light and shadow both.

Let us see the death sacrifice that led to each birth. Let us see that each new birth will eventually dissolve, making space for yet another expression of truth. Let us see and honor all aspects of the wheel of life and the gifts that each one brings.

The day I left my achingly beautiful mountain home so many years ago, I left with a heavy heart. But I also left with a way of valuing my life more fiercely than I ever had. The spring holidays give us the opportunity to see the gifts in loss, uncertainty, faith and promise. They give us the power to hold a light of hope in hearts even in the darkest times.

May you know your capacity for light and shadow both. And may you be blessed by the raw and beautiful abundance of this season.

What our clients are saying

“I was diagnosed 2 years ago with a condition called “Myoclonic Dystonia” which basically is a neurological disorder where the body twists and contorts into very painful positions. With my particular type, it means when I would walk, my body would pull hard to one side, while the other side of my body would pull back, like a giant game of “Tug of War”. It can be excruciatingly painful and embarrassing when the Dystonia “flares up”, primarily during stress or just exhaustion. I’d had several Botox treatments trying to relax the rogue muscles, but as my doctor had explained, once they deaden certain muscles, others will take over and do the same thing. It was almost like the Dystonia would jump around to different parts of my body. The last and only possible thing the doctors suggested was a type of brain surgery that was risky and may not even help. Out of desperation I was ready to proceed with the surgery when I’d discovered Ayurveda in an article I’d read and decided to visit Juliet to give Thai Massage and Yoga a try, as a last resort/alternative to the surgery. After only a few sessions I was dumbfounded to find I was walking straight and my body was listening to my brain again for the first time in years. People were astonished to see my progress and how much better I looked/felt after being so miserable. I can even run with my kids and play games again-something I couldn’t do for so long and was missing out on.

Juliet has an incredible understanding of physiology and how to convey what needs to be done in order to heal. I’ve attended an Ayurveda session taught by her, as well as yoga classes, all of which help me to heal my body, have compassion for it and listen to it. I am thankful every day I have found Five Elements Studio and urge anyone utilize any services Juliet has to offer to alleviate and combat stress, help with any issues the body is experiencing, or to just develop a better understanding of Ayurveda and how it can improve their daily lives. I, like many others feel like I have my life back.”

-Errin B., Clinical thai massage client

“I have suffered from migraine headache pain for 20 years. I have seen many Medical Doctors to seek relief and/or a solution. I have undergone every test under the sun from MRI’s, CAT scans, and thermal imaging to name a few. All of these doctors have tried valiantly to help me. The primary, in fact almost exclusive solution, is mass amounts of prescription drugs. These would include many different narcotic painkillers as well as non-narcotics from Imitrex and the like to anti-seizure medications like Depakote and many others. The only relief I received was from the narcotics and that was fleeting with life threatening side effects.

In 2012 a friend referred me to Juliet Trnka at Five Element Studio. Juliet specializes in Clinical Thai Massage Therapy. Upon arriving at the studio for my initial appointment Juliet spent a substantial amount of time learning about my history and what I was suffering from and what I hoped to accomplish. I thought it only fair to inform Juliet upfront of my skepticism of her ability to help me. I did not know anything about Clinical Thai Massage but I had already tried so many different things with so many different doctors as well as traditional table massage therapy with no satisfactory result. In my mind I had no reason to believe this would be any different. However, I was desperate and as a result, I was willing to try anything and she came highly recommended. So she proceeded with the treatment.

The result has been astonishing! For the past year and a half I have been virtually pain free. I believe this is a result of receiving treatment from Juliet on a regular basis for the past few years. I started experiencing some degree of improvement fairly quickly but the major pain relief came after a period of time and a number of treatments. At each session Juliet takes the time to ask about what is currently going on with my body and then developing a treatment plan to help with the issues of the day. One of the things I appreciate the most is Juliet’s knowledge of the body and how she is able to explain where the pain is emanating from and her description of what she plans to do to rectify the issue. While most of the time the focus is on migraine relief, I have also had 3 different surgeries on my shoulders as well as bouts of plantar fasciitis and tendinitis in my elbow. In every case Juliet has been able to help improve my overall health. At over 50 years of age I have never felt better as a result of Clinical Thai Massage and Juliet Trnka. While not every person or issue are the same, I can’t speak highly enough about the positive impact Clinical Thai Massage has had on my life. While I wish I had found Juliet sooner, I am very grateful that I found her when I did. I can’t imagine going back to the life I had before and thankfully I don’t have to.”

-Steve W., clinical thai massage client

“Please know that you are serving me greatly as a guide through what has surely been the most complicated and fragile time in my life thus far, and I am humbled at what you give without expectation.”

– Crystal J., yoga student

“My work with Juliet has not only helped me reduce the pain I experience in my hip (I have advanced osteo arthristis); it has also deepened my relationship with my body. The thai massage work she does with me is highly therapeutic, and the self-care techniques I am learning from her make me feel less powerless about my condition. Overall, our work together is helping me see my hip not just as a problem but also as an opportunity for me to continue learning to live more fully in my body and to my best to care for it lovingly.”

– Michelle L., clinical thai massage client

“When you step into the yoga studio at Five Element you are enveloped in support, acceptance and instruction. No matter your experience level, you are guided through movement that meets you where you are at. You leave refreshed, nourished and exhilarated….like you have really done something good for your health and wellbeing!”

– Gina S., yoga student, thai massage client and ayurveda client

“Five Element is an amazing sanctuary for yoga, Thai massage and Ayurveda. Juliet has a special way of bringing her in-depth knowledge and experience to each session in a way that is neither intimidating nor judgmental but is nourishing, encouraging and empowering. My body, mind and spirit all feel aligned and lifted after a yoga class or Thai massage session. Also, I have been fortunate enough to attend several workshops that Juliet has offered and each has presented information / techniques in a way that has enhanced my practice, my health and my life. I am forever grateful for Juliet’s kindness, compassion, and expertise. Fargo is lucky to have a studio like Five Element!”

– Steph A., yoga student, thai massage client and ayurveda client

“A few years back, I was diagnosed with cervical dystonia which is a painful contraction of the neck muscles. The treatment options for this condition include oral medications, botox injections, surgery, and complementary therapy (which includes relaxation therapy, yoga, massage, and acupuncture).  I was getting botox injections in my neck every three months from a physiatrist (physical medicine doctor) and weekly physical therapy sessions. The results I was getting from this treatment regime did not provide the consistent symptom relief I was expecting.
I tried oral medications, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, and traditional massage but I was never completely pain free.  It was a vicious cycle as my neck pain would trigger migraines. The quality of my life began to decline as I was slowly giving up ever feeling good or returning to my active lifestyle. I read an article in our local newspaper about Thai Massage and I thought perhaps this would help alleviate my painful neck condition. I scheduled an appointment with Juliet and after the first session I noticed a decline in my level of pain and an increase in the range of motion in my neck.  I have been seeing Juliet on a regular basis for Thai Massage treatments and I am feeling significantly
better.  Juliet is a healer and I am so grateful for her treatments.  I am continuing to get symptom relief from my condition and I feel like I have my life back.  I would highly recommend Thai Massage as a treatment option for cervical dystonia or other similar conditions.”

– Julie C., thai massage client