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Ep 59 - Self-Care is Not a Luxury with Heath and Nicole Reed

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The Reeds of Living Metta join us to talk about their journey toward self-care, living loving kindness, the power of Thailand, and the draw of Arizona’s healing powers. Find out how to claim more passion and power from your sessions, how to move from guarding to growing, and how to undo mental stress with doable daily self-care. Breathe, move, focus—the Reeds’ keys to healthy well-being.

Author Images
Heath Reed of Living Metta
Nicole Reed of Living Metta
Author Bio

Heath and Nicole Reed are co-founders of Living Metta and want everyone in the world to enjoy the experience of befriending their body. The Reeds lead workshops and retreats across the country and overseas and have been team-teaching touch and movement therapy for 16 years. In addition to live classes, the Reeds offer massage therapy and self-care videos, DVDs, and online trainings, which may be found at


This episode sponsored by Oakworks and Anatomy Trains.

Full Transcript

0:00:00.0 Kristin Coverly: Anatomy Trains is excited to announce a new on-demand video course with Tom Myers coming soon. Deeper Ground: Restoration and Vitality for the Female Pelvis. Reach your deeper ground of embodied awareness and strategic confidence with this four-hour tour of the female pelvis including its key points and unique challenges. Course highlights include hands-on, palpation certainty and technique review for the major muscle groups, assessments and techniques for posterior and anterior pelvic floor, psoas complex and diaphragm, common perinatal biomechanical issues explained, and much more. Sign up for the Anatomy Trains newsletter at to be notified when the course is available.


0:01:00.9 Darren Buford: Welcome to The ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford. I'm the editor-in-chief of Massage and Bodywork Magazine and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP. I'm joined by my co-host, Kristin Coverly, licensed massage therapist and Director of Professional Education for ABMP. Our goal is to connect with luminaries and experts in and around the massage, bodywork, and wellness profession in order to talk about the topics, trends, and techniques that affect our listeners practices. Our guests today are Heath and Nicole Reed. Heath and Nicole are co-founders of Living Metta and want everyone in the world to enjoy the experience of befriending their body. The Reeds lead workshops and retreats across the country and overseas and have been team-teaching touch and movement therapy for 16 years. In addition, to live classes, the Reeds offer massage therapy and self-care videos, DVDs, and online trainings, which may be found online at Hello, Heath and Nicole, and hello, Kristin.

0:01:53.6 Heath Reed: Hi guys. It's great to be here.

0:01:55.5 Nicole Reed: Hi.

0:01:56.0 KC: We are very excited to have you both here and welcome to you both. Darren and I have had the absolute pleasure of knowing you and working with you on continuing education courses for ABMP and your columns and articles in Massage and Bodywork Magazine for years, but let's be sure our listeners know your story too. Before we dive deeper into our conversation today in our selected topics, how did you find bodywork and develop your company together, Living Metta? Tell us a little bit of your story.

0:02:23.0 HR: I'd love to share that. Did you wanna start?

0:02:24.6 NR: You started. Go ahead.

0:02:26.8 HR: Sure. Well, this was birthed in part out of our love and our relationship, because on our honeymoon, 19 years ago, I asked Nicole... And this is a little preamble, "I could get you a wedding ring, or we could do a really awesome honeymoon." And...

0:02:44.5 NR: And I chose the honeymoon. And I got a tattoo instead.


0:02:50.8 HR: But there was a win, right?

0:02:53.1 NR: Oh, win-win. Are you kidding? It was like the beginning of living, loving-kindness.

0:02:57.3 HR: And so for six weeks, we spent our honeymoon in Thailand and fell in love, head over heels with the culture, the people...

0:03:07.2 NR: The food, the land.

0:03:09.3 HR: The healing art of Thai massage. And they nicknamed Thailand, the Land of Smiles. And with very little research and a lot of luck on our part, we landed right where our hearts felt at home.

0:03:25.0 NR: And since then, one of the core kind of fundamental foundational theories of traditional Thai massage, which we've studied over and over and over again. We keep going back to Thailand since then, is metta, the Thai expression called metta, which means loving-kindness. And Heath and I have just found a way. "How do we do that? What does loving-kindness look like for us? How does that feel for us?" And since then it's been a journey, a lifestyle for both of us, and it's something that we've become so passionate about and wanna share with everyone we know.

0:03:58.9 HR: And as a little logistical note, the funny thing is when we came back from Thailand, we were teaching at a massage school in Arizona, and I don't remember if it was your class or my class, we were teaching a shiatsu class and we showed some Thai massage techniques, and it happened to be that we were being audited by the director of education. And we were politely asked into her office and scolded that we were teaching off-script, we weren't teaching Japanese shiatsu, we were showing stuff from another modality. And we said, "Well, that sucks. Okay, well, maybe we should start teaching this not in... "

0:04:33.8 NR: We can do this.

0:04:34.8 HR: We don't need a school to teach something that we love.

0:04:37.1 NR: We can do a little side. We started a little side hustle of continuing education, figuring that whole system out, and...

0:04:42.8 HR: So it was kind of us breaking the rules that created the opening for us to step in to teach continuing ed. And that was about a year after our honeymoon, so it's about...

0:04:54.4 NR: So our inner rebel.

0:04:55.1 HR: Yeah.

0:04:55.3 NR: For sure. Our inner massage therapists. Living on the edge. Outside the box.

0:04:58.7 HR: You can't tell me what to do.

0:05:00.9 NR: I will touch naked strangers for a living. [laughter] That's strange.


0:05:05.7 DB: We find that the rebels are the ones who know the rules, break the rules.

0:05:11.9 HR: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think ____ said, "If you're gonna break the rules, you better know them first."

0:05:17.5 DB: That's right. Absolutely. Okay, we were gonna ask you there about how we got to the name, Living Metta. So you've covered that. But I wanna ask you a question, because you live in a healing mecca, a healing center. Arizona is known for that. Are you from Arizona? How did you end up in Arizona? And how has that potentially helped your practice?

0:05:36.4 HR: I love that question. Go ahead.

0:05:38.1 NR: How did we end up in Arizona? We both grew up in Florida, went to college together, that's where we met. And we both had individual experiences of family vacations, going to Arizona. Our parents taking us to the Grand Canyon or... My family taking to us to the Mesa to visit our family there. And we both had individual experiences, "I have to go back."

0:06:00.3 HR: And certainly, we weren't very well-traveled when we had first gone to Arizona, but...

0:06:05.7 NR: We were 19 or 20.

0:06:06.4 HR: We had gone to a handful of states in the country, but never anywhere had we seen the land or had a felt experience in being in a location that we did when individually, independently of each other, we visited Arizona. And when we got together later on and we reflect on our experience in Arizona, we felt like...

0:06:29.8 NR: We realized, "Oh, my Gosh... "

0:06:29.9 HR: "We're gonna go back."

0:06:31.7 NR: "We're pointed in the same direction." [chuckle]

0:06:34.4 DB: Oh no, I didn't know. The only reason that I could relate to that a little bit is because Kristin and I live in Colorado, which is also a healing mecca, but I spent many years, and Kristin has as well, in Boulder, which is definitely known as a healing mecca, and Boulder has the curse of Chief Niwot, and if you've ever lived in Boulder or been to Boulder, the curse is that you will come back at some point.


0:06:57.1 DB: And I feel like Arizona has that same vibe, and New Mexico. There's this southwest.

0:07:01.4 NR: Yeah, it definitely feeds our soul, feeds our heart. It kinda nourishes us and continues to support us in ways that we could never have imagined, and I still love being here.

0:07:14.0 HR: It's a very strange juxtaposition with the desert is the primary climate, and it's very stark, and in some places, there's not a lot of vegetation, and yet there's something incredibly nourishing for my body, mind, heart, spirit that I really feel supported. I really feel like the land has got me and is conspiring in our favor.

0:07:38.2 NR: I love that, yeah.

0:07:39.4 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.

0:07:42.2 KC: Oakworks a proud supporter of ABMP and the massage therapy profession, and is happy to extend a special offer to ABMP podcast listeners. For a limited time, all ABMP podcast listeners receive 25% off Oakworks items with the code ABMP Summit 25. Go to and use the code ABMP Summit 25 at checkout to receive 25% off your Oakworks purchase.

0:08:14.5 DB: Now, let's get back to the podcast.

0:08:17.4 KC: You've trained in many different modalities, both of you, from therapeutic massage to Thai yoga massage, Feldenkrais, Qigong and multiple other techniques, we could go on and on and on listing them, which is wonderful because you can bring all of those into your trainings and teaching and the way that you work. Tell us a little bit more about your passion for self-care, because that's something else you really like to talk about and share with body workers and people. What does self-care mean to you?

0:08:45.7 NR: My self-care journey began with an injury that wouldn't heal. It was just chronic, just this chronic thing going on. I was giving, and I literally gave until it hurts, and I think that's what we've noticed that a lot of therapists do too. And in our practice, in our travels, teaching in large groups, we've noticed that a lot of therapists are suffering from the same conditions, pains, projects that their clients that they're trying to support and help with their clients, and it became very clear to both of us that this really needs to be emphasized. Self-care is not just something you do because you should or you think it's nice to do, or it's a luxury...

0:09:27.4 HR: Yeah...

0:09:28.3 NR: Go ahead.

0:09:28.9 HR: I'm sorry.

0:09:29.6 NR: Go ahead, jump in. Go ahead.

0:09:30.1 HR: I get so excited about self-care, [chuckle] 'Cause I had a similar track that it was in the quest of getting out of pain that I started the journey, and then once I had with different yoga and Qigong and Feldenkrais, different movement therapies, different manual manipulations, touch therapies, once I got to feel like, "Oh, I feel better. Now, how do I continue to feel this good, and is it possible to actually feel better and better and better as life goes on, rather than the popular cultural myth, I believe, that you get old and things start to spiral out of control and it's just this big entrophy of everything exploding in a big heat death."


0:10:12.5 HR: And we both had this theory, and I think it was as healers, as touch therapists, as yoga practitioners and teachers that we've been inspired, we've had that experience where we feel better after a session than before we began it.

0:10:29.6 NR: Oh yeah, like super juice.

0:10:30.0 HR: And not just as the recipient. As therapists, I think all of us had that experience, "I feel more energized, I feel more alive, I feel more passionate after this session." And so we got curious. Scientific method, and we hypothesized, "I wonder if it's possible to feel better in every session. I wonder, actually, could I apply that to my life?" And so we began with just this hypothesis and this possibility of feeling better and better every day for the rest of our lives, even though our critical mind said, "That's ridiculous. That's baloney." We experimented, and...

0:11:05.0 NR: And I think we're still experimenting. [chuckle]

0:11:07.1 HR: Oh yeah, but it's become... It's moved from the idea of a possibility of feeling better every day to a probability to a predictability.

0:11:18.0 DB: We work together often because of the column Savvy Self-care in Massage and Bodywork magazine, and 2020 had a lot of dis-ease and discomfort to the year, and you addressed this a lot in the columns that you wrote, and I felt like you continued to come back to the topics of safety and connection. Can you give our listeners some suggestions for recognizing... And quote, these were words from your column, "Fear trance and guarding"? How can they establish and manage safety and connection?

0:11:49.3 HR: One of our favorite teachers is Katie Hendricks at The Hendricks Institution. She said something pretty revolutionary a few years ago, and I've been using my life as a living laboratory to actually experiment and see what the results of this hypothesis said. She suggested, if you're not in flow, you're in fear, and my critical mind jumped in right away, and was like, "No, no!" But when I try it on, certainly when I am in flow, and I mean a flow state, like being in the zone... A lot of researchers talked about flow states. When I am in flow, I am less suggestible or at the effect of criticism, blame, complaint. I feel like when I am in flow, I'm empowered and I have agency and the ability to choose. I think for... And this is supported by a lot of research in polyvagal theory, is that a lot of us are operating more from the fight or flight response, where even if we're not being chased by some predator, some life-threatening situation...

0:12:54.2 NR: Or COVID. [chuckle]

0:12:54.9 HR: Yeah, or we are actually faced with uncertainty, the unknown, and an invisible threat, a life-threatening experience...

0:13:02.7 NR: Something in the air could kill me, what? [chuckle]

0:13:05.2 HR: Yeah. And when we do enter into a chronic state of the fear trance, we become less resourceful, we become... It's quite literally in our vagal system, we become less available to our prefrontal cortex or our frontal lobe, in fact we need to feel safe before we can ever feel and be open and available for connection and if we're running off of the fear trance, if we're in that fight or flight or even a less resourceful place, another flavor of the fear trance is not just fight or flight at least we have mobility if we're fighting or for fleeing another level of chronic fear leads us to freeze and faint where we're totally unavailable for prefrontal, we're not just in our lizard brain but in we're in our dinosaur brain. So creating environments, practices where we're affirming I am safe, something that is as simple as... And you can practice this if you like, at least if you're not driving a car, is simply turning over your shoulder and looking back behind you to a direction and just letting your eye balls connect with your autonomic nervous system of the space around you and then look over the other shoulder and stretch.

0:14:34.9 NR: Look behind you, look up, look down.

0:14:43.9 HR: And now check in if you did just look around notice your state of mind, did something shift, did something shift in your awareness? So a lot of times our mind is telling us we're totally safe, why would I have to somehow set myself up for safety, I think in part it's because as a culture we really value not being afraid, there's a whole big campaigns about no fear or fear is somehow discounting or if you're in a state of fear you're somehow less valuable, that experience, that emotion has very been discounting, and so what we notice is that if we look around and acknowledge oh, I'm in a safe space we can unhook from that fight or flight or faint or freeze of the fear trance and become more resourceful so that then I can connect.

0:15:36.9 NR: Yeah, you're not guarding anymore. I love Bruce Lipton, he talks about cells are either doing one or two things, they're either growing or they're guarding, and they can't do both at the same time. So it's figuring out what state am I in, am I in a state of expansion or am I in a state of a contraction? And then getting resourceful enough to choose, do I wanna stay where I am or do I wanna do something different? And for us it's finding those little breaks, those little moments, those little shifts where we can break free from those fear trance and step out into possibility and connection and remember, oh yeah, I'm not in this alone, [chuckle] there's other people doing this thing with me and it's okay, it's safe, I can connect and I can still be in a place where we can all breath together at least.

0:16:26.0 KC: I love that and I love too just the idea, putting the idea out there to listeners and everyone, that self-care is something to give some time and attention to, to ask questions about, to think about. I think oftentimes it just get pushed aside and we just barrel through the day, right? But I love that even you read something and you ask the question, you're self-reflecting and you're looking on ways to change and examine, and I love too what you said earlier, that we can do this in two-minute increments throughout the day, that's a beautiful message for people where it doesn't feel overwhelming, it feels doable, they can invite that in. Can you tell us, maybe share three things, three ways someone who's interested in getting started, building their self-care practice, what are three things they could start doing today?

0:17:13.7 NR: Just three, it's not gonna happen. [laughter]

0:17:16.4 KC: Just to start, day one, I want day one Nicole.


0:17:19.1 NR: What would be your first?

0:17:23.4 HR: Well, I would go right to the breath.

0:17:24.8 NR: I'm really good in doing yeah.

0:17:26.1 HR: Yeah, I move.

0:17:26.5 NR: I go right to movement, I'm like okay. [laughter]

0:17:28.7 HR: Yeah, so the bottomline is, and I'll give you practical exercises, but kind of our scaffolding for our awareness, that architecture of our consciousness for self-care revolves around breathing, moving and focusing, if you can shift one of those three things in an intentional, purposeful way for a sustained amount of time sometimes you don't even need two minutes.

0:17:55.1 NR: No, yeah, sometimes is just like a big ahhh. [laughter]

0:18:01.3 HR: So some of you are familiar with Gestalt Therapy and the co-founders are known for saying, fear is excitement without the breath, fear is excitement without the breath, and anybody who's been a little excited knows that that has a similar frequency as being a little anxious but the difference and the good news is if you're feeling yourself a little anxious by adding generous breathing we can convert that fear into excitement, into enthusiasm.

0:18:32.8 NR: And I know that a lot of our listeners are kinesthetic and for me just putting my hand on my heart and feeling myself breathe has become a really powerful, easy shift move that I can make while I'm in the car, while I'm standing on line, while I'm shopping online, shopping on the computer, you're making...

0:18:53.8 HR: Or retail therapy.

0:18:54.5 NR: Or retail therapy or whatever, just at the kitchen, in the kitchen at the sink, just a simple little gesture of contact really shifts my awareness and helps me embody my breath in the moment.

0:19:07.9 DB: I know this year has been challenging, this year has been really challenging for everyone and healing through COVID it's been one of the topics that you've been addressing, I'm wondering... I know we still got a ways to go, but we do have positive insight that soon vaccines will be rolling out, but this still could be a long process until everyone has a shot, and, also, just undoing everything that we've been taking on since March of 2020. How we do undo, and how will we undo that mental damage the past year has brought upon us?

0:19:46.1 NR: I'm thinking of, right now, we're preparing ourselves for the winter solstice, and it's a time of reflection, and for us, it's been really powerful to notice all the things that we didn't get to do this year and kind of grieved about and still feel sad that we didn't do that trip, or have that connection, or make that family vacation.

0:20:08.7 HR: And can I just add a little on what Nicole is talking about? The end of every year, and this is gonna be really important for us this year, is, we're gonna look through our calendar. Usually, what we do is we mark all the places we went and the experiences and the people and the highlights and the moments, and we're gonna still do that, 'cause we did a lot of things that we didn't plan to do, but we're also going to do a separate practice where we acknowledge those things that we didn't get to do. And by acknowledging them, it gives us an opportunity to be complete with them, and to really acknowledge "And that's over." It really gives us an opportunity because, I think, individually, globally, there's a lot of loss and a lot of grief, and it's still gonna be coming, and it's still gonna be unfurling, and to take a moment of pause and reflection and be as complete as we can with 2020. Is that something you were speaking to?

0:21:07.0 NR: I was going towards that, and then you went... Yeah. I also wanted to end on the celebration part, 'cause there were so many things that I did actually get to create this year, and that actually came out of this weird 2020 pandemic that I would have probably never have done otherwise, and I wanna take time to also celebrate those experiences and connections and expansions of my own creativity. Yeah, so I think it's both. I think it's making friends with what we lost, what we couldn't do, all the things that we didn't get to have or be with, or whatever, and also celebrating, "Oh, wow, the evolution of my own experience."

0:21:47.4 KC: Heath and Nicole, in addition to all of the incredible information you shared with us already on this podcast, what inspiration or tips would you like to share with our listeners as they finish listening to our conversation and go about to the rest of their day? What would you like to leave them with?

0:22:04.0 HR: I've noticed throughout the pandemic, I've had peaks, ebbs and flows, and valleys with my own energy system, with how much I wanted to contribute, how much I wanted to create, produce, and perform. And I've also felt times where I don't think I wanna go outside today. I don't want to engage, I don't want to interact, and I think there's a part of me that judges that second end of the spectrum as inferior or as unproductive. And I want to give everybody, myself included, a permission slip to be easy on ourselves, to not be hard, but even to be soft on ourself, to be gentle with ourself, to be really kind with ourself, especially in this big transition of this year, and certainly not everything is gonna change brand new with the turning of the calendar, but I think it's really important for all of us to extend the same care, the same love that we easily and generously share and put on display for others, that we give ourself that, as well.

0:23:26.2 HR: I think that's going to be one of the most important things we do during these next several months and these next years as we build new structures, 'cause the old structures that we've come to know and rely on and have expectations and assumptions that they're gonna be there, a lot of the old structures are gonna be crumbling and they're not gonna be rebuilt. So there in that space is the importance for reflection, contemplation, "Well, with my gifts, what do I want to birth into the world moving forward? With my expertise, with my heart, what is something that I want to create in the future? What kind of new structures of relationships, of interactions, of connections do I wanna put my attention on?" Because we know that where the mind goes the chi flows. So this time I would summarize, be gentle to yourself and get real curious, "What are the gifts that I want to birth into the next several months or years to help contribute to the next evolution of our world?"

0:24:41.1 KC: Beautiful. How about you, Nicole?

0:24:43.0 NR: Yeah, taking those magic little... Creating those little moments of magic where we can presence and ground and breathe and move. For me, breathing, moving is the key shift moves to finding myself, and in the moment, and I invite everyone to find those moments of breath and movement, and I like... And little loving-kindness that you can share with yourself and others.

0:25:07.9 DB: I wanna thank our guests today, Heath and Nicole Reed, for joining us. Where can listeners find out more information about you and your services and offerings?

0:25:15.5 HR: Oh, we'd love you to come by our website, Living Metta, and that's two Ts, M-E-T-T-A,, or join us on Facebook, or the Insta, or YouTube. We have fan channels or pages that you can like. We also have a metta community where, every month, a couple of times a month...

0:25:35.5 NR: Yeah, one of the new structures we're creating in the New Year. [chuckle]

0:25:39.0 HR: Is a virtual community of aficionados of metta. We personally believe that there's no limit to the amount of loving-kindness we can grow in our lives, and so we have monthly, couple times a month we meet online, and we share some of our favorite breathing, moving, meditation, touch therapy practices to really have a felt experience of a loving-kindness lifestyle. So we'd love you to join us in that foray if you're interested.

0:26:14.0 DB: Excellent, thank you so much, Heath and Nicole, for joining us.

0:26:16.3 NR: Oh my gosh, thank you.

0:26:17.2 HR: Thank you, it's been a pleasure, Darren...

0:26:19.3 NR: So much fun.

0:26:20.6 HR: Kristin, ABMP, thanks so much, and I wanna especially thank all the listeners out there who, I know, that caring is one of the most important values that you share, and I wanna remind you to give to yourself as much as you give to others.

0:26:39.9 NR: Mm-hmm.

0:26:39.9 KC: A beautiful message. Thank you so much for being with us today.

0:26:42.9 HR: Thank you.

0:26:43.8 NR: Thank you.

0:26:46.8 Speaker 5: This has been a production of Associated Bodywork And Massage Professionals. ABMP is the leading association for massage therapists and bodywork professionals in the United States and beyond. From liability insurance to professional advocacy, award-winning publications to the world's largest continuing education library for massage, to this podcast, no organization provides more for its members and the profession than ABMP. ABMP works for you.