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Fly High, Magical Mari


The massage and bodywork world has so many vibrant, concentric circles—relationships that overlap and complement, strengthen and inspire. Today I have the honor of raising my glass to toast Mari Gayatri Stein, a gifted illustrator who spent years drawing mirthful, insightful images educating others about ethics in the massage therapy field. Mari passed away last week on March 2 after a journey with cancer; today would have been her 70th birthday.

Mari’s drawings were the wit and color palette to the powerful prose from massage therapy ethics icon Nina McIntosh. Theirs was an effective alliance through all versions of McIntosh’s The Educated Heart ethics textbook first published in 1999.

In the spring of 2005, I had the delight of meeting Mari in person. Photographer Rick Giase and I were in Medford, Oregon, photographing a member for our “I am ABMP” marketing campaign. Mari invited us to her farm. We spent the afternoon walking the property, enjoying the sunshine, and relishing sun tea and a beautiful trifle she’d whipped up for us. She and her husband Robert had created an amazing organic acreage with foliage and all kinds of pampered creatures. She and I strolled the property and laughed and talked and soaked up the sun and our time together. It was the only time we’d be together in person. I’m so grateful Rick snapped some shots of us as we doted on each other.

Mari Gayatri Stein and Leslie A. Young

Ironically Mari and Nina McIntosh never met in person. They carried out a long-distance business partnership for more than a decade. Before Nina’s death in July of 2010, she turned her ethics legacy over to writer and educator Laura Allen. Laura then connected with Mari and they partnered for the 4th edition of The Educated Heart published in 2016, but they never met.

A child of the ’60s, Mari was a yoga and meditation instructor—an inspiration to her students. She grew up in California, went to school in Beverly Hills and at UCLA; she forever maintained her flair for life and fashion and travel, her love of the ocean, and her total adoration and devotion to animals of all kinds. She wrote, “Our life is our art. Isn’t our purpose to live gracefully moment to moment, and make use of all our gifts, to love one another and be of service? … When I get out of my own way, I can be a vessel for that which draws us together and reminds us of the infinite grace we share in these ephemeral bodies. My reflections, meditations and all of nature tell me to wake up, take pleasure in the moment, be kind.

“Suspend your judgment. Time is short, hang onto your dog. Feel your feelings through, but be aware of the price of your actions. Cultivate contentment. Be authentic but never earnest. Be silly whenever possible. Be inclusive not exclusive. Be kind to dogs and people, too. Be passionate and compassionate. See every sentient being as a mirror into your own soul, and always err on the side of love.”

All of you who read and enjoyed Nina and Mari’s Heart of Bodywork column in Massage & Bodywork for so many years will always remember the devious ducks, cheeky chickens, devoted dogs, and crafty cats that danced in and out of her drawings. This year we’re publishing excerpts from the 2016 edition of The Educated Heart updated by Laura Allen, and those excerpts are also complemented by Mari’s drawings. They have a way of adding mirth and insight to the most serious of topics—and they’ll be forever enshrined in the pages of Massage & Bodywork.

Mari’s husband, Robert, was also her soul mate. I echo his sentiment: “If you knew her, you know what we have lost. If you didn’t know her, you do not know what you missed.”

To read more about the woman I’ll always remember as my Magical Mari, please visit:

Mari Gayatri Stein

3/10/1947 to 3/2/2017

Leslie A. Young, PhD, is ABMP's vice president communication and editor-in-chief of Massage & Bodywork magazine.