From the Heart Through the Hands


Meet Dawn

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Meet Dawn

I learned to associate caring touch with love and healing while living with my Dawncustodial grandparents in Kentucky during the first few years of my life. Growing up in Kansas and as a young adult in Nebraska and Texas, I spent time in what were then called “Old Folks Homes” with various singing and visitation groups; and I have always felt comfortable with the elderly.

While earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting at the University of California at Davis, I took classes with Mukunda Stiles and Dr. Jim Polidora and taught relaxation and massage workshops at the Experimental College. After moving to the Bay Area, I received my massage certification by serving as a teaching assistant for Judith McKinnon for her first class in what would eventually became the McKinnon Institute of Massage and continued studying various forms of bodywork. I organized and produced a workshop series, “Bodywork Alternatives,” which allowed people to spend a day or evening with the originators or master teachers of modalities gaining popularity at that time: Michael Reed Gach's Acupressure Massage; Arthur Paul's Ortho-Bionomy; Feldenkrais, Rosen and Trager methods; "Touch for Health" and others. I also began taking workshops from Stephen Levine and Helen Palmer

While working as a professional actress in the late 70's and early 80's and exploring various forms of meditative techniques, I was introduced to a unique residential meditation retreat known as The Enlightenment Intensive. This form of contemplative inquiry combined with communication in a dyad format resonated deeply with me. I trained with Lawrence Noyes to begin leading Enlightenment Intensives and eventually helped him train others to give them while continuing to deepen my own practice in this realm. The experiences that came out of that practice transformed my life and how I relate to others in deep, profound and lasting ways and became the ground on which the COMPASSIONATE TOUCH Program I created in 1990 was built.

After completing a 540-hour Certification in working with the dying through the Rosebridge Graduate School of Integrative Psychology, I founded COMPASSIONATE TOUCH for Those in Later Life Stages and began implementing the Program in care facilities in the Bay Area. I was also fortunate to be part of the Care Team for Kaiser Hospice in Walnut Creek for over five years, eventually training three other massage therapists who joined me in providing COMPASSIONATE TOUCH sessions to about 40 individuals per week. I have been privileged to speak and teach at a number of national and international conferences over the years, elucidating the power of touch for the elderly and the ill, particularly for individuals residing in care community environments.

In July of 2002, I appointed a former student and Professional Level Practitioner, Ann Catlin, as Director of my Program in order to give priority to maintaining my health after treatment for ovarian cancer, to write my next book and to help care for my mother in the last few years of her life. In 2007, Ann chose to go forward in her own way using the name Compassionate Touch®.

My professional experience within elder care and nursing communities over the past 26 years has afforded me a unique perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of health care systems in the US. Personal experience in shepherding family members through transitions from independent to assisted living, to nursing care, to Board and Care Homes, to hospice care and through the dying process has expanded that perspective and given me a keen awareness of the challenges that often face the elderly and the ill, as well as those who care for them. My personal journey through surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments for ovarian cancer reinforced my faith in the power of unconditional, compassionate and caring touch to provide comfort and solace to the body, mind and spirit.

Since I first met her in the early 80’s, Dawn has had a true, divine inspiration that has motivated her to reach people at a spiritual level through touch. Dawn has organized and co-led a number of training groups with me over the years and I have always appreciated her simple realness and compassion when working with people. Her work with the elderly and the dying comes from a place of service and it is intuitively true and so obviously healing. Dawn’s books are an extension of her experience and wisdom and many people are reached by her words and her art.
Lawrence Noyes, author: The Enlightenment Intensive: Dyad Communication as a Tool for Self-Realization
Seminar Leader, US, Canada and Europe

Dawn's work has sparked the imagination and expanded the capacity for sincere connection with those of us who have been trained by her. She has provided a unique path for us to be of greater service in our professional and personal lives. I am deeply appreciative of Dawn’s continued support and advocacy over the years for each of us, as students and as individuals . . . the basic concepts of COMPASSIONATE TOUCH for Those in Later Life Stages permeate the touch that I give, and what I teach. Over time, these concepts have become part of how I communicate with everyone, and the depth of their influence is seen with each passing year.
Leah Anderson, LMT, Groton, Massachusetts