Nick Johnson: Aromatherapy and reflexology for life

Nick Johnson: Aromatherapy and reflexology for life

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“A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world.” — John Locke (1632-1704)

As we start this new year, I thought I’d profile someone to give us a little boost. Nick Johnson is the owner of Interior ReConnections. Trained as an interior designer, Johnson found a higher calling bringing harmony to his clients through the practice of feng shui and branching out to encompass the whole mind and body with energy work, nutrition, massage and a number of modalities to soothe the soul and energize the body. From aromatherapy to raindrop therapy (originated from the Lakota Indians), massage, Tachyon energy balancing, nutritional cleansing and maintenance and cocoon sessions, Johnson is the man to help you tap into your fullest potential for 2011.

PGN: Tell me a little about yourself. NJ: For 25 years, I was an interior designer. I loved it: It’s what I went to the University of the Arts to study. But I always had an interest in the healing arts. Both of my parents died of cancer when I was very young, so I was always trying to understand why they died. I didn’t know it at the time but the universe draws you into what it is you need. I first got into feng shui when I realized that the layout proportion, color, texture, artwork, plants and how it is organized has a significant impact on how we feel. In the ’70s, I went to a holistic health conference and was fascinated by what I learned. There was a documentary from China that they showed about acupuncture. China had just opened up to the world a little and it was the first time most people ever got to see what acupuncture was about, performing operations without anesthesia and that sort of thing. It was amazing, but the thing that really attracted me was reflexology. When I got back, I took a course and soon learned enough to start getting clients. I then started learning shiatsu, which was also not very well known at the time, and things evolved from there. I was still working as a designer for a major firm and, after being with them for 10 years, I got laid off. I decided to use it as a positive experience and took the money from my severance pay to take a number of courses in everything from physiology and anatomy to different modalities of massage. I ended up getting pulled back into design but got certified and did massage, etc., on the side. When I got outsourced again in my design job, I realized that the universe wanted me to move in a different direction. Feng shui allowed me to use my design skills for healing and I also learned about nutrition and environment and energy work. Soon I began to do lectures and take clients.

PGN: So going back a little, are you from this area? NJ: Yes, I was born in Prospect Park and then I went to boarding school at Girard College in North Philadelphia for nine years. Now I live about two blocks from there.

PGN: Were you at Girard because your parents died? NJ: Yes. When I was there, Girard was a school for fatherless boys. It’s coed now and they take underprivileged boys and girls. It was a great experience; I certainly learned more than I would have staying in Prospect Park where my aunt and uncle were raising me. Because the school was in Center City, we got to take regular trips to the Art Museum and other sites. After I left school, I lived with my aunt and uncle for a brief time, but that didn’t work out so I moved to the city on my own and have been here ever since. I love it here. I work part of the time at the spa at the Ritz Carlton and we have people from New York, California and all over the world who constantly tell me how much they love Philadelphia — the people, the energy and the fact that we’re always improving instead of declining, like so many other cities.

PGN: Are you an only child? NJ: I have an older brother and, when I moved in with my aunt and uncle, my cousin became like my sister.

PGN: What were you like? NJ: Easy, happy-go-lucky.

PGN: Even after your parents died? NJ: My dad died when I was 6 and it was odd, mostly because people were like, “Oh, you’re the kid with no father.” But then I went to a school with all fatherless kids, so it was no big deal. When my mother died, it was traumatic. I was only 12, but as soon as I could, I got into therapy to deal with that and the guilt of being gay. I was a devout Catholic and I was in a church that was very repressive — don’t touch yourself, don’t think about sex. So that part was torturous.

PGN: What was an early sign you were gay? NJ: Boarding school. There was a lot of stuff that went on there. Budding puberty combined with a lot of testosterone and even the straight boys participated. It was confusing for a little Catholic boy. I did find solace in my spirituality: I always felt that things would magically happen to keep me safe, happy and hopeful.

PGN: Ever play any sports? NJ: It’s funny, I wasn’t into sports but, because I was tall, they were always throwing me into things. I played basketball and, one year, our team went into the playoffs. I tried to just do my thing, which was blocking the ball. It was exciting but I was much more into the arts and music.

PGN: What instruments did you play? NJ: I played piano and, in band, I played the clarinet. I wasn’t great at it, but I loved my older brother and wanted to do everything he did.

PGN: Back to your business, what’s your specialty? NJ: Aromatherapy has shifted my whole practice, but I really enjoy doing reflexology. It’s a science and basically very simple. People think it’s just about feet but it’s the hands as well, the ends of the body. Specific points represent points on your body. The toes are your neck and head, where your toes meet the feet are your neck and shoulders. The outside of the foot where you have a little bump is your waist and the heel is your buttock, just like your cheeks. Then coming up the back, the ankle is your reproductive system. We work with our hands but the feet are the most abused area of the body, so it’s important to take care of them.

PGN: I had it done once and it was rough. NJ: [Laughs.] Yes, you have crystals in your feet and, when we break them up, you sometimes feel the brittle edges, which stab. I’ll have clients who swear I’m digging into their feet with sharp fingernails and I have to show them my hands so they know it’s not me, it’s coming from the inside. I teach them how to breathe to alleviate the pain, but it’s important to get the bad stuff out. When I’m finished the first foot, they can’t believe the difference.

PGN: A lot of the work you do involves counseling? NJ: Absolutely; it’s important to take a holistic approach. Maintenance is important for your daily life, exercise, eating healthy, staying hydrated, cleansing the body and mind, meditating, conscious breathing, soaking in the tub, daily reflexology. Everything is connected. You have to learn to listen to your body and understand what it’s saying. Some people don’t want to listen and that’s fine, but then I’m not the therapist for you. You should probably go to someone else, there are plenty of other people out there who will just do a straight-forward body work.

PGN: True. NJ: I’m especially concerned because of all the technology these days. There’s so much electrical stuff moving through the air 24/7, it can really affect our energy fields and drag us down.

PGN: What do you recommend? NJ: Breath is like taking in life, so if you don’t know how to breathe properly, you’re affecting your emotions, your health, everything. People don’t realize how the emotional is connected to the physical. In the movie “The King’s Speech,” the king has a terrible stutter. His speech therapist tries to make him understand that there’s an emotional reason behind why he stammers and when they can get to that, they can deal with the technical problems. It’s a beautiful film. It’s a great demonstration of how the emotional is tied to the physical. That’s what I want to do, I want to help educate people. That’s one of the reasons I like the ThetaHealing. It’s a technique that teaches us how to use our natural intuition. It’s all dialogue, so you can even do a session on the phone. I started with EFT, Emotional Freedom Tapping, where you tap certain parts of the body to release emotions, which I also like because it involves acupressure points, but the ThetaHealing helps you tap into your energy. You dig into your emotional core to find the root of a physical problem. You help your body understand and ask the universe to download whatever it is that you need to know. You can actually feel the shift when it happens. It’s also important to cleanse your system. We are affected by the toxins in our environment that impact us through our skin, as well as in the foods we eat. We clean our car filters and the air-conditioning units in our home; we need to clean our bodies as well.

PGN: What is cocooning? NJ: It’s a process that you’ll soon hear more about. We put a small pillow over the eyes and belts that wrap around your middle. Disks go under your hands and little booties with more disks for your feet. The practice is designed to help get your energy fields flowing. I love doing it because you can just feel the energy in the room. It’s like filling up your vessel and you feel clearer.

PGN: What’s helped you in your business? NJ: I have to say I enjoy being a member of the gay business association, the IBA. They have had some great lectures that have helped me with my business. I went to one on social networking that was very helpful.

PGN: Now for some random questions. What’s your favorite section of the Art Museum? NJ: When I was younger, I liked the medieval section with the monastery. I’d bring my lunch and just sit there. As I got older, I was more into modern art.

PGN: What’s the best party you’ve been to? NJ: We went to a mystery party and we all had to dress like the characters. That was fun; I was a race-car driver so I had goggles and a scarf.

PGN: What’s the worst Christmas gift you ever received? NJ: When I was at art school, I was a hippie. I had Prince Valiant hair and mod clothes. My aunt gave me a polyester pant and vest outfit that had large geometric diamond patterns in gold and orange and green and purple. I tried to take it back but it was a final sale. This Halloween I went to a ’60s-themed party, so I pulled it out and people went crazy over it. They couldn’t believe it was an original.

PGN: Any pets? NJ: We have a dog.

PGN: Who’s we? NJ: My partner Davis and I. He is an artist too, though we’re very different. He’s very into organized religion and does artwork for churches. I’m really proud of him: His paintings and things really serve to uplift people. We’ve been together for 30 years.

PGN: Did you have a blanket or stuffed animal? NJ: I had a little stuffed dog made from real fur that I loved. I carried it everywhere and, after a while, it really started to smell. I had it for ages and then, one year when I came back from boarding school, it was gone.

PGN: What traits do you think you got from your parents? NJ: I look like my dad but I got the baldness from my mother’s side. I used to have a big shock of hair up until I was 30 and then it slowly went away.

PGN: Any tattoos or distinguishing marks? NJ: No, I never felt I could carry off a tattoo. I didn’t even start a beard until about 10 years ago. When I started doing energy and nutrition work, the texture and thickness of my hair changed and I was able to grow it out. It’s fascinating seeing how it works.

PGN: Does the full moon affect you? NJ: How could it not? And that’s not good or bad, it just does, which makes sense. If the moon affects the tides and we’re mainly made of water, it’s going to have an effect on us too. That recent lunar eclipse we had was really crazy. I like to be conscious of when things like that are happening. I can avoid drama if I know what’s coming.

PGN: Who’s an influence in the world? NJ: Oprah Winfrey. I used to listen to her show on the radio when I was in school and I loved when she used to talk about spirit at the end. She stopped doing it because people thought it was too religious. She has done so much for raising people’s consciousness and raising the status of women in the world. I can remember when people got upset if a woman was appointed to a management position, never mind a person of color. She’s done a lot to counteract that. I worked for a time at CoreStates in the interior-design department and I remember when we started the first LGBT group. There was huge discussion over what should be included because some people felt we shouldn’t have bi or trans people involved. I said, How can we not? It was an amazing experience because I had other friends working in the corporate world who had to stay totally closeted. Things have come a long way.

PGN: Advice for the New Year? NJ: This is a time to get clear on your vision. People have ideas in their heads but they don’t solidify. I always recommend that you take a moment and write them down. Don’t type what you want, take the time to handwrite it. There’s something energetically different about handwriting that makes a difference in how you experience your words. And don’t forget to drink a lot of water ...

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