When Dr. Judy Scher asked if she could work on me, I expected to walk out of her office feeling light as a feather, uplifted and sublime—a new version of myself.
Instead, I was even more of a wreck than when I arrived: sweaty, famished, late for my next appointment and wearing stupidly tall heels that were useless in the graveled parking lot. On top of all that, the good doctor had informed me that I was so chronically overstressed that I may as well buy a one-way ticket to back surgery—unless, of course, I "changed my life." In short, I was stressed out about being stressed out.
Scher runs the Scher Center for Well-Being, which is dedicated to uniting physical healing with deeper self-knowledge and the host of other elements that contribute to well-being. She has long, strawberry-blond hair, kind blue eyes and the poised, serene presence of an experienced healer. She's been in Santa Fe for 20 years, pioneering the use of Network Spinal Analysis and Somato-Respiratory Integration—two techniques that focus on holistic healing and body-mind awakening.
"Healing is an integrated process," Scher explains. "Your mind, your emotion, your body, your spiritual beliefs—everything has to be integrated in order for you have really full well-being."
She starts by asking me questions about myself—my upbringing, my relationships, my work life. I explain to her that everything's fine, not sure whether she's diagnosing me or just getting to know me.
"We attract two different types of people—one, where the people actually have something going on that they want to attend to," Scher says. If anything, I'm a Two: "people who don't have a serious anything going on, but know…that they need to grow, and they know that they want to be more fulfilled and have more of a loving relationship with themselves."
I lie down on one of the massage tables in the peaceful living room of the adobe house that is Scher's office.
She touches my neck, then my leg. It's as light as a butterfly. I have a hard time believing it'll do anything, but Scher is asking me if I feel my breathing changing, so I say yes. And actually, it is changing—deepening—but I kind of figure it's just my body realizing it can actually relax on a weekday.
Scher has told me that in order to heal the body-mind, people have to learn how to listen, and "they have to be ready, because change is going to happen."
I'm trying to listen. I lie on my back; she instructs me to put both hands on my belly, then my solar plexus, then my heart and feel my breathing. She asks which of these practices is most difficult; it's the heart. It feels awkward.
She has me do it again, telling me to vocalize the feeling. I have to repeat phrases like "Sometimes it just feels like too much," and that feels cheesy. Then again, maybe I'm just not being open, not listening.
"The practice is growing by leaps and bounds right now," Scher tells me. "The people that come here not only feel that they find deep healing in their body—and I have to say it's body-mind; there is no separation—but they find themselves again. Because when you heal, you have to find you. There's no way you can really, truly heal and not change something inside of yourself, wake something up."
Over the next week, I think about what Scher has said. I'm frustrated because I actually like my fucked-up life; I chose it. Sure, I'm stressed, and sometimes it does feel like too much, but I have a job! In the career I want! And enough money to pay the rent!
Later, I realize that I've been missing the whole point.
"What we do empowers people to discover who they are at a deeper level," Scher had said. So—maybe it's OK to like my life, stress and all?
And now, when it feels like too much, I work on remembering to breathe.
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