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Phoenix Not Failure

Shalene Zarate - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Confessions of a Massage Therapist

After six years of practicing massage, and two failed attempts before, my dream of creating a wellness center finally manifested.

For years, I had entertained the idea of a coming together with a group of holistic health-care providers to form a one-stop-shop wellness community. I envisioned a single location where a person could experience high-quality, personalized, alternative care. Not only would a client be able to have a team of people supporting them on every level of their health; the practitioners themselves could support each other in their own self-care. The idea was that we could leverage our strengths, share the overhead costs, and operate the office collaboratively. A co-op of sorts.

There was a suite vacancy in the building I was renting space in. Taking that suite over would allow me to grow from a 3 treatment rooms facility to 7+ rooms. It seemed a rather opportune time, so I decided to go for it. I began posting the rooms for rent and sharing my ideas with an acupuncturist I had been associating with. And what do you know? This “thing” began to take hold.


This new empty space was a blank canvas brimming with possibility. Designing it all from scratch, a little elbow grease, and the help of many, we really spruced up the place. I used my own line of credit to furnish it and build a website. After countless hours of sweat equity invested, the Resonance Center for Bodywork was up and running.

As with any new business, there were plenty of kinks to iron out. All of it, unknown territory for me. I had never been to a wellness center like the one I was creating. Nor did I have a mentor who had paved the way before me; who could teach me the ropes, help me examine potential pitfalls, or navigate the challenges I would encounter. Which is not to say I didn’t have support. Quite the contrary. What I didn’t have, was someone who modeled what I was attempting to create. But I didn’t let that stop me. As the founder of a seven-room wellness space, I often had to take my focus off my own business and shift to operating the center. At one point we had 15 practitioners working there. It was a lot of personalities, with very different backgrounds, who were all at different levels in their career.

Although I was not accountable for the success of the other tenants, I oftentimes took on more responsibilities than I should have. I wanted all of us to thrive and couldn’t stand the thought of any of us failing. Being an ambitious, empathetic, solution-oriented person, I would go home every night and attempt to come up with ways for us all to grow.


While exploring ways to move forward, and alleviate the challenges we faced; plans to continue expanding sprouted. 3 years in to this venture, I partnered up with a couple of amazing woman. Who, if we had, had enough time together, would have undoubtedly created something significant. We each contributed a well balanced set of skills. But for reasons unknown to me, this union came to an abrupt end when one of them decided to leave.

My other business partner and I survived this stumble, but I had reached a point of irreversible imbalance. I tried to course correct, but too much damage had been done. I gave her an out, mustered all the energy I had left, and attempted to rekindle my vision. The problems was, I wore too many hats, juggled too many balls, for too long. This eventually led me to burnout.

After six years of blood, sweat, and tears, many injured relationships, and the lack of administrative support I needed to get to the next level, I was running out of steam. It took me breaking my foot while pregnant with my youngest child and moving my family to the mountains before I finally admitted that I needed to let this dream go.

In the end, I sold my last group of tenants a good chunk of the furniture and decor. Taking the remainder of my belongings, and all my experiences: I moved my practice west.
It didn’t take me long after leaving, despite all the grieving I was still going through, to realized I still had a vision and mission in me.

Like the myth of phoenix bird, who at the end of its long life-cycle builds it’s own nest and sets itself aflame, my business vision had been reduced to ashes. What emerged after a period of healing, was a newly regenerated and a more evolved business.

Embodiwork Studio for Integrative Massage, Inc. is my phoenix.

Looking back, I realize how naive and idealistic I was in my youth. But despite my lack of experience, I possessed tenacity and vision. Those experiences were the blueprint for what I am creating now. As tough and humbling as some of the lessons were, I wouldn’t be who I am today, if it wasn’t for what I went through.

I was blessed to meet and work alongside so many wonderful people. I was able to get my hands on hundreds of bodies, giving me the massage skills I have today. I learned a ton about different holistic modalities, and the many facets of healing. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Three years after walking away from Resonance Center, I’ve been able to distill down the parts of my original vision that still remains intact, what needed to fall away, and what needed to be added. I discovered my strengths and my weaknesses as a visionary-business owner, learning a great deal about running a business. In fact, I haven’t stopped. I am much wiser in these matters after recovering from this. I no longer play so many roles and I now have a team of people who help me run my practice. My networks don't all have to be under the same roof and I am better focusing on what I know best - massage.

Yet, in order for me to consciously continue forward, to embody my vision, it has been required for me to:


  • Reconcile some of my deep grief, shame, regret, diminished self-worth, fear, and limiting beliefs

  • Heal the aftermath of failed relationships

  • Face the many ways I have abused myself

  • Work on cultivating healthy boundaries

  • Learn to forgive myself and others

  • Make peace with my many character flaws and shortcomings


These things remain a work in progress and have become daily spiritual practices. I understand how important it is to have the right allies in my life. And how to be a better ally myself. Priceless!

Today, I focus my energies on providing stellar bodywork. I have discovered that I love writing both as therapy and creative expression. I am also at a stage in my career where I have much to offer my industry and have begun to consider how I will pass on what I know.


Above all, I am dedicated to my own personal healing, so that I can continue to support those who are on a similar journey. I hold sacred my beautiful family, and my duties as a mother of four.


Here’s to living an EMBODIED life! Phoenix, Not Failure.