Diannah Benson - healing in Muskoka

from the September 2003 Issue of Muskoka Magazine
Article & Photographs by Maria Duncalf-Barber
Compliments of the Muskoka Magazine (visit www.muskokamagazine.com)

"Never underestimate the healing effects of beauty.”
– Florence Nightingale

Diannah Benson loves Muskoka. Deep in her bones, she knows is it is a healing place; it has proved this to her.
She moved here, from Toronto, to make her final recovery from seven years of chronic fatigue syndrome. This illness, which came to light in the early 1980s, was once called the "mystery disease.” It can be brought on by stress and, Benson notes, more women than men have been diagnosed with it. In North America, more than 500,000 people have shown chronic fatigue symptoms, which can range from headaches, tiredness, tender lymph nodes, fatigue and weakness, foggy thinking and sleeping all the time.

Benson came to Bracebridge in March 1995 to recuperate. "I had a great need to be near rock, trees and water,” she says, "and my instincts led me to Bracebridge. My family had a cottage on Lake of Bays for many years and I also rented a small log cabin on the lake during the summer for a couple of years, before moving here, to facilitate my recovery. I love Muskoka; all the water it has is incredible. Wilson’s Falls was a good place for me to go with my dog, Chablis. I find the water helped me to meditate and, in turn, to heal.”
She felt her illness was a wake-up call and, since then, has been trained in many healing modalities and has committed her life to helping others to live a healthy lifestyle. Softly spoken, Benson remembers what it was like to be sick. "Being ill was a gift, a learning opportunity that continues to this day. I learned a lot about myself, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. At that time, the medical community had no answers for chronic fatigue syndrome, so I sought answers in the alternative health area – and found them.”

She smiles and takes a deep breath as she looks around her healing environment. "I needed to know about my inner self, I needed to learn how to feel again and discover what it meant to be ‘a spiritual being having a human experience.’When I started to understand all of this, my life became much more enriched, fulfilled and healthier; I learned to take a holistic approach to life –others and myself. I started to trust my instincts to a greater degree. In 1990, I began my studies of holistic health.”

Since 1998, Benson has operated a natural healing, wellness and nutrition business called "Feeling Good Jade Esthetics,” out of her home, which she calls "Dancing Waters Healing Art Retreat.” It overlooks the beautiful Tretheweys Falls on Hwy. 118. She loves her house and says: "When I first came to see the house and walked in the door, I felt I had come home. All the elements I was looking for were here; it is close to town, has beautiful trees and calm waters, yet the falls offer active movement and the exciting sound of dancing waters. It all spoke to my soul.”

She called her business Feeling Good because, she says, "After I finished working with clients, they all said they were feeling good, and I felt this was a message in what to name my business.”

Benson loves her home with a passion and generously shares it with many groups and gatherings of like-minded people, from near and far. Her honest, honorable intention to help people be the best they can be is demonstrated in how she lives, on a daily basis.

She is multi-talented natural therapist – a registered nutritional consulting practitioner, a certified aromatherapist and a Reiki master. She includes all or some of these modalities when working with clients. Besides working out of her Dancing Waters Retreat, Benson will go to clients’ homes or cottages to provide a treatment. She calls this aspect of her business "Have Spa, will Travel.” "As a registered nutritional consultant, people come to me for many reasons,”Benson says. "Sometimes, it is to test food substances to find out if something they are eating is causing problems, or to find out what environmental challenges they are having, such as trees, pollens, molds, and get a remedy made for them.”

Benson is happy when she is talking about her work, and her many areas of knowledge are evident. "Some people come to see me because they are fed up with not feeling well and are willing to find out information, even though it may mean changes in their lives. When I put on my nutritional hat, I assess their diet and lifestyle habits, usually in the way of food or food combining, water and supplements. I also suggest changes in how they talk about themselves. I give them encouragement to help them help themselves deal with challenges.”

These days, Benson practices a smorgasbord of modalities. Besides being a Reiki master, working with energy, she also uses state-of-the-art machines to help her clients. "I use a Derma Ray, and also a unit called a Frequency Generator, which delivers Radio Frequencies through massage wands to the body. These are the two things that represent micro-massage. We are electro-magnetic beings and our bodies are always trying to return to balance,” she explains. "I play detective to find out why and how the body is out of balance, and help to correct the imbalance.” Many people go to her for soft tissue/muscle ache and pain relief.

"I use these methods as well as a testing device like an ‘ohmeter,’ used for measuring skin’s resistance to see what substances, if brought into the body’s energy field, cause it to weaken, balance or become over stimulated. I can also use kinesiology muscle testing or a pendulum to ascertain information.”However, she notes: "I can stay relatively mainstream, if the client is uncomfortable with energy testing methods. I respect the individual and the journey. However, if asked, I will explain energy methods to them.”

She laughs and continues: "When they discover I am genuine, and not some kookie person, practicing way-out therapies, they feel more comfortable to try out new methods with the potential of helping them feel healthier. Even if it seems kookie and way-out, it works. Feeling healthy and being free of pain are worth the gamble into the unknown, in my estimation. I did it, and I am grateful that I did.”

Her clients are people who have not found pain relief through conventional methods – from such problems as whiplash, sports injuries and long- or short-term muscle, joint or soft tissue pain. People are taking more control over their health these days, she has observed, and they want to use alternative healing methods, as opposed to drugs. She works with pain relief by finding the trigger points in people’s bodies.

"You have to realize that pain locates itself in the belly of the muscle, and tight knots form themselves in strands of the muscle tissue. I work with the trigger points that cause referred pain from the muscle, and this referred pain can be elsewhere around the body. For instance, if I was working with someone who has carpal tunnel syndrome, I would work on the trigger points in the shoulder and neck, which can help release the pain they are feeling in the arms and wrists.”

She also works with people who are overweight, have poor skin tone, fluid retention problems, congested lymphatic systems, or people who have parts of the body "heading south,” which they wish to tone and firm up.
Her workroom is a fascinating place. It houses numerous machines that can be used to tone and firm the face and body. "I offer a health spa in the European tradition...not a beauty spa. I work from the inside out and my motto is ‘If you feel good, you’ll look good’ – that’s were the beauty comes in.”

She also offers hot stone massage and raindrop therapies. "I use incredible therapeutic-grade essential oils, only the purest oils available, to give the best results, but also for my own sake as my hands absorb the oils as well. I use them in a variety of ways to help release tension and relax the body; adding the hot stones and massaging with them further relaxes the muscles. The heat from the stones goes deep and melts the muscles to make it easier to release the tension and get the blood to the surface quicker.”

Benson becomes animated as she talks about the healing methods she uses. "The raindrop therapy involves dropping the oils onto the body from six inches above (the skin), to allow them to pass through the energy fields around the body. The oil is swept into the body through gentle movements and also through massage and stretching; this technique is something the Lakota Native Indians used to do.”

It is easy to see why Benson gets a lot of clients from word of mouth and has many returning clients, people who keep coming back after they have experienced these relaxing, releasing therapies.

Benson’s talents expand into the creative realm, too. She is an artist and has been involved with calligraphy for over 18 years. In calligraphic art circles in Toronto, she is sometimes referred to as "the artist formally known as Libby,” which was the name she went by at one time.

She loves working with and making paper. In Toronto, she made her living by making invitations for clients of the Japanese Paper Place. She launched them into the wedding invitation business, and loved the opportunity to help clients set the tone for their wedding. She believes the invitation is the single most important part of a wedding, showing the unique taste of the bride and groom, along with a hint of what is to come on the day of the wedding.
Extending her artistic creativity, at that time, Benson used to make the envelopes to go with her invitations. She is also well known for her copperplate calligraphy and occasionally teaches classes in it and other lettering styles. As well, she teaches card making, rubber stamping and drawing Celtic knotwork. For 10 years, she taught all of these artistic endeavors for the Etobicoke Board of Education Adult Day School. And, she was the calligrapher in the "Hands Over Time” series that TVO produced.

"I feel that every person that comes to learn is also a teacher. It is a two-way teaching; they are here to learn and, in turn, to teach me. Some very precious and treasured people have shown me the way...I am a guide for others. My dream is to continue this exchange on a one-to-one basis and through teaching what I know in group settings. The more I learn, the more I offer to share as a teacher with each client, and then it is their choice whether they want to learn more.”

She adds, "When you know better, you will do better.”

She believes spirituality is an important part of her work and who she is. "When you are working with a person, you need to honor all of their life’s experience – mental, emotional and physical because that is what influences their spirituality. I don’t separate out spirituality; it is who I am. I don’t analyze it in others; it is something you are,” she explains.

"I am truly blessed,” she says, looking around her house at the walls adorned with her calligraphic personal growth sayings. "Here in Muskoka, I have my family of choice and I am grateful to be here. I am evolving as a spiritual being and living here is an inspiring, expanding experience. Every day, I have my eyes drink in the beauty surrounding me.”