Stories & Gems

“Siljoy, please know that I could not have felt the way I do had it not been for your continuous support.

I will always feel blessed having you in my life!”

I feel free,
free as a bird;
Now I can finally soar!
I am not alone,
for I am closer to God than ever before.
Do not cage me –
My happiness cannot be hushed;
my passions cannot be quelled.
I am free,
free from the bondage
of the past I once held.

by Jaime Marie Monier, 2011

A little story of healing

By S.K.

I was seriously heartbroken by an impending marital breakup when I first started visiting Siljoy. I felt lost, cast adrift and was finding it impossible to decide what the right thing to do was. My visits with Siljoy gave me a sense of increased well-being right from the start. I began to identify my problem thoughts as something to share with Siljoy instead of something to dwell on and worry about on my own. As I shared these thoughts and the story of how I had arrived at my sorrowful condition, Siljoy not only showed me that she understood what I was saying, but also that she knew what I was feeling–the feelings that were causing such turmoil in me. I can honestly say that at every meeting with her, she would give me a gem of an idea that shook the foundations of my unhappiness. These gems did not come from me or even from what we talked about–from my perspective they came completely out of the blue. Each time Siljoy gave me one of these gems, I felt an instant release from the grip my unhappiness had on me. After collecting enough gems, I broke free from my sorrow. Siljoy’s efforts on my behalf worked a miracle. I have now returned to my former joyful way of being.

SK, Tucson Arizona

The Mentor

by Becky, AZ 2010

Settling into the comfortable leather chair, cocooned in the safety of Siljoy’s office overlooking the natural beauty of her yard, I am reminded of the peacefulness that her presence brings me as we begin another mentoring session. Her cat, Momo, is curled in the basket on the desk behind me, her companionable silence an added balm to the stresses, concerns, and self-doubts that have cropped up over the past two weeks. Siljoy sits across from me, her reassuring presence providing a sense of well being and peace. Her wise green eyes reflect strength, compassion, and acceptance. As we sit with each other in this quiet space, I am reminded of my first meeting with her five years ago, when I came to her seeking solace from tremendous inner turmoil and pain.

It began with a tearful phone call after enduring several months of fertility treatment, involving invasive tests, countless hormone shots, ultra sounds, and the accompanying emotional ups and downs of false hopes. My husband John and I had just learned that our latest attempt at conceiving a child via invitro fertilization, although initially successful at resulting in a pregnancy, had failed. My body had once again betrayed me; the crucial level of hormones required to maintain a viable pregnancy had dropped off dramatically, ending our chances of conceiving a child biologically. I left the exam room in tears, a business card clutched in my hand, passing the large bulletin board filled with photographs of smiling parents and healthy babies, an advertisement for success and happy endings. I ran past the office full of newly pregnant women, women with children in tow, and women beginning the journey that had just abruptly ended for me.

The nurse had given me the business card as her only offering of solace; no accompanying statements of “I’m so sorry,” or “don’t give up hope,” upon discharging me from what was to be my final appointment with the reproductive specialist. Siljoy Maurer, Holistic Life Mentor the card read. I had looked at the nurse blankly, not taking the card at first, but at the last moment grabbing it on the way out of the office. “What an idiot,” I was thinking to myself. I could not understand the total lack of compassion and emotion displayed by her and the other office staff. I sat in my car and cried, eventually dialing the numbers that led me to Siljoy.

That initial phone call was not hard to make; in a broken voice and in between tears, I introduced myself, explained the recent unsuccessful attempts at assisted reproduction, and scheduled an appointment for an introductory meeting. Siljoy sounded reassuring and pleasant on the phone, empathizing with my current situation. I might as well give it a try, I thought, as the pain that I was in was so unbearable, I was willing to share some of it with a stranger. I really did not know what a Holistic Life Mentor was, although I was intrigued by her website and its home page statement, “Wherever You are in life, I will meet You there.” I did not realize it at the moment, but making that initial appointment was a major turning point in my life.

Our work together began in a non-descript building in East Tucson. The office itself emanated an aura of comfort and healing, with several wall hangings depicting art work, nature photographs, and a ceramic Goddess figure. A Ficus tree added a touch of greenery, a few delicate ornaments hanging from its branches. A comfortable futon with inviting pillows took up one corner, with the center of the room containing a few chairs and a wicker couch. A salt crystal glowing with the light of a votive candle was perched on top of a bench which appeared to be handcrafted from a fallen wooden log. I immediately felt at ease, the elements of art, nature, and the sacred surrounding me. I was welcomed warmly by Siljoy, a petite woman with sparkling eyes and a mass of silvery hair curling about her face. She spoke in a slight German accent, which I found out was due to her many years spent in Germany as a child and young adult. I immediately felt a calmness and self-assuredness about her, allowing me to relax a bit.

During our introductory session, Siljoy shared information regarding her approach to helping others, which, she carefully clarified, was not a form of therapy, but was rather based on establishing a mentoring relationship with her clients. She did not like the term “therapist” to describe her practice, as therapy in American culture can be limiting in its approaches, tools, and effectiveness in helping those who are trying to create positive change in their lives. She described her role as a mentor in relation to guiding people, and her philosophy of working with her clients from “where they are at in the moment.” Siljoy provided some additional background regarding her role as a Holistic Life Mentor, including her experiences as a trained former psychotherapist, her knowledge of both traditional and nontraditional healing practices, and her emphasis on an holistic approach, which includes addressing the Mind, Body, Spirit, Soul and Social Self.

What appealed to me most during this first meeting was Siljoy’s willingness to work with me in the present, without having to delve into my past, which would involve digging up all of my old junk (that came later). I was comforted in the knowledge that we could address my issues surrounding childlessness, and leave it at that, at least for now. I was able to unburden some of the pain and hopelessness that was absorbing my spirit to someone who could intimately understand what I was going through; although my husband was saddened by the outcome of the recent failed IVF treatment, he was not suffering the same kind of deep-rooted grief that I was experiencing at the loss of biological motherhood. As Siljoy had voluntarily divulged at the beginning of her session, she was involuntarily childless herself as a result of surviving cancer as a young adult. Her willingness to share this information created a kind of instant bond, helping me realize that I wasn’t going through this pain all alone.

As the weeks went by, I did begin to heal, both mentally and emotionally, from my negative experiences with fertility treatment and assisted reproduction. My sessions with Siljoy evolved into addressing some of my past, deeper issues that I had previously been trying to avoid. Together we started exploring my deep-seated insecurities and self-doubts, and my early childhood years which precipitated these feelings. We discovered the inner child within me who needed to be nurtured and healed; in essence, I became Mother to my own child-self. With Siljoy’s help, support, and continued encouragement, this ongoing healing process led to self-discovery, personal growth, and the pursuit of a new career in social work, which had interested me ever since volunteering for a local hospice organization. I have come to realize that this new life journey would not be possible had I become pregnant.

As my relationship with Siljoy has continued to grow, shift, and evolve over the past several years, my appreciation for her as a mentor has deepened. The qualities that I admire and appreciate in her are ones that I am learning to develop within myself as a future social worker. Her willingness to share some of her own struggles and experiences in becoming a mentor, a journey that has included early life hardships and painful childhood experiences, continue to reassure me that anything is possible. As she recently reminded me, when sharing what makes her an effective mentor, “we are not less if we have experienced hardships within our life.” As we continue our journey together, I am learning that hardships and difficult times can actually provide a richness and purpose to our lives that would not otherwise be present.

Through our work together, I am closer to realizing my goal of becoming a future mentor and helper in my own right. As with all self-work and self-development, it has been a challenging and life-changing event, involving, among other things, returning to college in my early forties to attain my BSW, with a long-term goal of achieving my MSW. Throughout this on-going process of growth and discovery, Siljoy has remained a catalyst and role model as I continue my development as a future social worker, providing a living example of what is at the core of being a good mentor and healer. Her ability to help me envision and work towards my new career goal, and her willingness to share with me some of her extensive knowledge as a mentor, has helped tremendously in my continuing journey of self-development and personal growth. Her capacity for being with me in the moment, and her acceptance of me as the person that I am, with both strengths and challenges, has allowed me to begin to live in the present, while striving to attain my goals.

Reflecting back to five years ago, before I began my work with Siljoy, when I was in such a painful place, I am aware that I have reached a new level of being, with the capacity to make a difference in the lives of others. My life is greatly enriched, maybe in part due to the painful experiences that I have been through; perhaps from this pain has grown a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it means to help others. I am well on my way towards becoming a social worker, and realizing my greatest strengths and gifts.

I am back in the present, sitting in Siljoy’s office, at the end of our session. My body is relaxed, my inner self more at peace than when we began our session an hour ago. The sun is shining bright and hot outside, but I leave this inner sanctum of peace, ready to face the rest of the day with a sense of purpose, well-being, and with the knowledge that I am well on the path to becoming a healer to others. I am sent on my way with a loving hug and well-wish. I leave Siljoy’s office and her peaceful presence with a gained sense of clarity, and a feeling of well being, that all is right within my world, in this moment.

“Siljoy, please know that I could not have felt the way I do had it not been for your continuous support. I will always feel blessed having You in my life!”

I am “OKAY”

By Patty Cummins

I always dreamed of having a big family with a bunch of kids running around the house. I thought my dreams came true when I got pregnant with twins. I carried two beautiful little boys, Cody and Cole, for 6 months. I thought all of my dreams were fulfilled. I was so ready for those boys. The cribs were bought, the matching little outfits were all hung in the closet, all washed and pressed and ready to be worn. Unfortunately, all of my dreams were shattered when they were born premature, and died shortly after they were brought into this world. Luckily, I got to hold and love on them for one short day before they were taken away.

Death changes You. Sure, time heals, but it wasn’t until I met with Siljoy and finished the grieving process, that I was ready to move on with life. I thank Siljoy for helping me to open my heart and to love again. I can look at babies, and hold babies, and be happy for others that are having babies now. For the longest time, I couldn’t.

I was angry. I was confused about why I didn’t deserve a big family, but the 14 year old next door did. I was blaming myself. Maybe if I wouldn’t have worked so hard at the hospital that day, then maybe I wouldn’t have went into labor. Maybe if I would have drank more water and not gotten constipated, I wouldn’t have went into labor.

Not to mention the fear of intimacy. The fear that “what if I get pregnant again”. How could I ever carry a baby without being a complete basketcase the entire pregnancy. The fear that this would tear my marriage apart. In fact, before we left the hospital, after the death of our babies, the doctor told us that 75% of marriages will end in divorce after dealing with the loss of a child. Death changes You and it changes your marriage.

I am so “OKAY” with where I am now. I am “OKAY”, and my marriage is “OKAY” and I can say that with a smile on my face. Siljoy helped me move on. Siljoy helped the smiley, happy Patty that everyone knows and loves shine through again.

Shared Journey

A Letter to Family and Friends

By J.E.

Dear Family and Friends,

I want to share my feelings about infertility with You, because I want You to understand my struggle. I know that understanding infertility is difficult; there are times when it seems even I don’t understand. This struggle has provoked intense and unfamiliar feelings in me and I fear that my reactions to these feelings might be misunderstood. I hope my ability to cope and your ability to understand will improve as I share my feelings with You. I want You to understand.

You may describe me this way: obsessed, moody, helpless, depressed, envious, too serious, obnoxious, aggressive, antagonistic, and cynical. These aren’t very admirable traits; no wonder your understanding of my infertility is difficult. I prefer to describe me this way: confused, rushed and impatient, afraid, isolated and alone, guilty and ashamed, angry, sad and hopeless, and unsettled. [read full story]

Siljoy’s Holistic Gems

A Holistic Approach to New Year’s Resolutions: “Up until now …”

So many of us begin the New Year with a list of resolutions. Here is a method I recommend to start manifesting any change.

Think about what You want to change. Then repeat it to your Self and add these three little words: “Up until now…”© For example, instead of thinking “I always procrastinate and can’t stand it anymore”, rephrase it as “Up until now, I have been procrastinating and — I am changing it now.”

By adding these three little words:

You put your undesired behavior into past tense. This reinforces the idea that You are done with this pattern.
By acknowledging your reality, You are strengthening your Self. Even if it is a painful truth, honoring one’s truth is always strengthening.
With “up until now” You open a window of possibility and take a good first step into manifesting your new reality.

The Power of Words

Once You decide to learn something new or to create a change, such as reducing your weight, pay attention to the words and statements You use. If we fill our thoughts with self-sabotaging words, we could face difficulties in achieving your goal.

For example, think of the statement “I am trying to lose weight.” It is a doubly self-sabotaging sentence. Our subconscious is trained to believe that “losing” is not good for us, such as losing keys or a wallet. We all learned that “losing something” means we need to find it again — welcome to the famous “yo-yo effect” in dieting – by having to find the “lost weight” again!

Secondly, the word “trying” implies failure. By saying that You are trying, You are telling your Self that You will or can not do it. The word “trying” is applied appropriately only to true past failure “I tried and failed” and to trying on clothes in a store. I’d like to suggest a different statement: “I am on the path of dropping or reducing weight.” Or even better, healthier: “I am gaining muscle weight and shedding excess body fat.”

Read more on weight issues and take a look at my Perspectives on Holistic Weight “Loss” web page.

A Recipe for Well Being

Ingredients: Thoughts, Attention, Appreciation, Compassion
Tools: Mind, Body, Heart, Spirit, Soul
Preparation Time: Lifetime
Cooking Time: Present Moment
Result: A Whole, Healthy, Authentic “You”

(1) Consider that ingredient determining all human experience — thinking. Our thoughts create our attitudes, birth our will, lead us through any endeavor. We can choose to use our thinking to sabotage or to wisely support ourselves.
** Experiment, replacing “X happened to me” with “I chose to experience X”…

(2) Next, allow attention — courageously looking into the mirror of reality; evaluating needs; seeing our potential rather than beating ourselves up for not being perfect.
** Assume your situation holds something positive. Choose to discover it — let your Self be rewarded by your curiosity…

(3) Well-being requires a lifetime commitment. Our struggles prove us to be normal, fallible, lovable human beings. Appreciation can help us discriminate what serves us best.
** Appreciate yourself daily for one week, for anything, for trying, even for noticing that You did not appreciate You. Thus strengthen yourself…

(4) Our hearts need to guide us toward greater wholeness. Adding compassion — as much as we can muster right now — we will feel more alive. We can reach into the depth of our humanity, that heartfelt place where we are of both earth and sky.
** Think of the former child in You, sensing your compassion with her/him. Feel that compassion for your Self…

(5) For easier thriving, add your own choice of spiritual guidance. My experience as a Holistic Life Mentor has shown me that when someone stays stuck, unable to resolve an issue, it is often because the spiritual, or its absence, has not been addressed.
** Your longing for wholeness is your connection to the spiritual…

(6) We have as many opportunities to care for ourselves as there are moments— present moments — thinking, noticing, feeling compassion, experiencing guidance, with/in our body, rising to as much humanity and awareness as we can tolerate.
** Knowing your true needs in any moment, gives You the freedom to choose your actions. Graced with the compassion of living authentically — You can celebrate growing whole and well…

Beyond Success and Failure

In thinking about your New Year’s Resolution, I invite You to step out of the familiar goal setting and give something entirely different to your Self. Rather than going after something outside of now and You, strengthen what is … Choose, as often as You can remember, to give your Self some appreciation. Appreciate anything which is true about You.

  • Your honesty about feeling vulnerable;
  • The good friend/spouse/parent/child/sibling/professional You are;
  • Your efforts to do something for You or others;
  • Your struggle when You haven’t been perfect;

Appreciate your Self for remembering — when you forgot to acknowledge your (lovable) humanness.

Risk loving your Self more … just as You can. Appreciate your slightest effort to contradict those sabotaging inner voices. There is no one better suited to support You in achieving your goals than You are!

Feel the gentle yet powerful effects of your own appreciation. Go beyond the imprisoning of success-failure-thinking in your life and start strengthening your Self by loving You, just as You are …

Finger Yoga

Posted August 23, 2005 in The Arizona Star

Reaching back 5,000 years, Eastern mudras combine hand movements and meditation to promote healing

By Rhonda Bodfield Bloom

Siljoy Maurer dreads flying. She really dreads flying. So before she gets on a plane, she performs a 90-second series of hand gestures in the waiting room, ignoring curious stares.

She does them again as the plane hurtles down the runway.

And for good measure, she repeats them on the descent.

“I won’t say I like flying, but I can say that I can now fly relaxed,” said Maurer, a holistic life mentor who was introduced to the gestures, known as mudras, at a yoga retreat and has been teaching seminars on them since 2000.

While yoga – and its mental and physical benefits – has caught on with the American public, from gym rats to Madonna, mudras, tracing back to 5,000 years, have been slower to generate buzz. That’s gradually changing.

Maria Mendola, 47, a registered nurse and yoga therapist, teaches a whole segment on mudras, which she calls “finger yoga,” to would-be instructors at the Providence Institute, a yoga school and studio at 1126 N. Jones Blvd.

During workshops, she’ll give her class hand motions to perform while sitting quietly, and then will ask them what they are feeling . “Easily 75 percent will notice that they now are breathing really deep when they weren’t before or that their breathing became more shallow. They can definitely feel how the movements stimulate their bodies in different ways,” she said.

Practitioners say the movements work in similar ways to other Eastern-medicine systems, like acupuncture, acupressure or reflexology. The gestures seem to stimulate meridians, or channels of energy through the body.

“I love them. I try to take a midday break every day, and I will hold certain mudras, depending on what I need to rebalance,” Mendola said.

Maurer said Americans may be more familiar with mudras than they think they are.
Anytime a great thinker or a politician is captured in the pensive pose with the palms facing, fingertips touching, that’s a mudra that’s often used to enhance memory. Touching the heart is a universal sign of thanks. Placing the hands in prayer position is a sign of reverence that crosses cultures.

Maurer, who also teaches a poem to go along with the series of movements, will sometimes in addition “prescribe” mudras for physical ailments, as well as emotional ones, saying some might help with headaches or even ease premenstrual cramps. What she likes about mudras is that even people who are bedridden can do them, and it takes no special equipment – just the ability to practice with intention and regularity.

“It’s particularly good for Westerners, who have difficulty with meditation, because it gives them something to focus on. Some people can’t be still for 15 minutes at a time, so this gives them a ritual, a rhythm of doing something calming and healing once a day,” she said.

Kathy Kitagawa, a 45-year-old human-resources-compensation consultant who describes herself as a typical Type A personality, was introduced to mudras by Maurer two months ago at a meeting for small-business women. She was curious, since it was something she’d never heard of.

“I’m not very good at meditation or repeating just one word, but this spoke to me the first time she walked us through it,” Kitagawa said.

Although Kitagawa is a Christian, and feels that the movements and poem that goes with them “speak very strongly to my Christian beliefs,” their use is a meditative practice that crosses all faith communities.

She now does them in the morning and again before she goes into meetings with clients. “It helps me get centered and to be able to focus and listen,” Kitagawa said. “It helps me block out all the other distractions going on in my head.”


Empty Cradle Blues

By Catrina Coyle , Coast Weekly, CA
Posted August 8, 2000

Involuntary childlessness is a painful and taboo subject whose time to be  expressed has come.

For millions of Americans, holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day are times to be especially thankful for children and family. But for countless others who don’t have kids–especially those who want them–those holidays can be particularly painful. It is for this reason that Siljoy Maurer, a Carmel Valley counselor, formed a support group for involuntarily childless women. This summer the group expanded to include men.

Once a week for eight weeks, women and men from a variety of backgrounds share their traumas and disappointments stemming from their inability to become parents. Maurer, childless herself due to miscarriage and cancer, teaches workshops and seminars to end the isolation of singles as well as couples like “John” and “Sara,” who are now in their 40s. “We were both in our 30s,” recalls John. “We wanted to settle down and have kids. We thought we were doing it the ‘right way’–get a college education, have a career…”

“Then I got in an accident,” adds his wife Sara. Doctors declared hers would be a high-risk pregnancy if attempted and advised the couple to consider other options. Only recently have the two seriously begun to contemplate adoption.

Maurer estimates that childbearing trends changed dramatically with the advent of the Pill in the 1960s. It gave women more choice in when to have children, and many during the 1970s and ’80s chose to postpone a family in favor of careers. As women waited until their 30s to get married and have children, some discovered a sad surprise: They were unable to conceive.

A report released last year by the U.S. Bureau of the Census found that childlessness among women in their early 40s rose 9 percent from 1980 to 1998. There are no definitive numbers on how many of those women would like to have children but can’t, but Maurer estimates that about a third of the cases of involuntary childlessness result from medical infertility, which receives the majority of attention. Other causes include botched abortions, miscarriages, illness, and being in either a same-sex relationship or what is becoming known as a blended family, in which one spouse has children and doesn’t want more while the other does.

Medical infertility is intrinsically connected to social trends. A report from the National Center for Health Statistics states that about 6.1 million women (10 percent) in the U.S. had “impaired ability to produce offspring” in 1995, up about 2 percent from 1988, and attributes this to the aging of Baby Boomers.

As women age, their bodies change and fertility drops. John Bongaarts of the Population Council, an international nonprofit based in New York that studies world reproductive health, observed in an October 1998 paper that fertility has reached historic lows in many developed countries. “Women choosing to defer births to older ages,” he wrote, “temporarily contribute to today’s baby bust just as younger childbearing ages in the 1950s temporarily contributed to a baby boom.”

Some women with whom Maurer works simply waited too long, not finding the right man to be a father. “Mary,” 42, is a good example. A teacher for 10 years, she has always yearned for a child of her own. “It’s been my lifelong dream to mother,”she says. “My earliest feeling was to nurture. I look at my parents and see how they enjoyed raising me. I adore kids. They fascinate me.” Now she suffers from misgivings about choices she made in the past. “I have some regret now on staying with certain boyfriends when I knew they weren’t someone who could be a father,” she admits.

With so much emphasis placed on having children as 20-something newlyweds, it’s no wonder that career women (and men) feel a pinch. The emotional tension hits on many levels, from parents expecting to be grandparents and friends having babies to strains on relationships and considering personal failure.

“Many women feel isolation, shame, guilt, maybe punishment for a past abortion or other circumstances,” says Maurer. “‘Does my body hate me? Am I worthy?’ These thoughts come after a miscarriage, perhaps.” Little research goes into the emotional aspects of childlessness. Usually communication about childlessness takes place via uncomfortable conversations with family and friends that often begin with, “So when are you going to have kids?”

“The group is helpful because we found we all had similar thoughts–the men, too,” explains John, who is something of a pioneer in Maurer’s first co-ed support group. “It’s easy to become obsessed if you keep it inside. That’s why it’s good to talk about it.”

Perhaps the most painful of all, more than personal frustration and relationship tension, are the comments and reactions from family and friends. Maurer formed the eight-week group and the occasional seminar, after being inspired at a Ceremony of the 14th Moon gathering in Big Sur two years ago, to allow people to express anger and sadness at being unsure of how to respond to daily situations.

“I’m from the South, and when you got out of high school, you got married and had babies. So my family isn’t very supportive,” says Sara.

“Sometimes I feel pitied, but not ridiculed,” says Mary. “People, in their desire to be sweet, are often patronizing. I hate it when people say, ‘It’s God’s will.'”

The participants in the group often discuss the positive as well as the negative sides of childlessness and the hardships that parents face. Being childless gives you free time, independence, more stable finances and the chance to develop your own inner life.

Maurer offered a seminar to open communications about the issue. “I think there is just an innate drive to procreate. It’s the life force. I didn’t need to have a child. I wanted one and expected to have one. Many women are this way. Coming to terms with childlessness and having support is also learning to redirect your birth-giving energy into some other kind of creativity, because that’s what it is: Birthing equals creating.”