Interview with MaryJo Johnson of Open Pathways to Health
Q: When did you open your business and what prompted you?
A: I have been practicing acupuncture in Manhattan since 2007, and opened a part time practice in New Paltz when I moved here in 2013. I was really excited to move to a community where people were growing food, where I could enjoy fresh air and see the moon and stars at night and have a garden, and where I would have an opportunity to practice in a beautiful natural environment.
Q: What makes your business unique?
A: What makes my practice special is my breadth of training and life experience. I was involved in the healthy food and complementary medicine world for many years before I went to school for my masters in Oriental Medicine. I also have a Masters of Divinity degree. When I give a massage or an acupuncture treatment, I can also talk about the role of exercise, nutrition, herbs and supplements, meditation and spirituality–depending on the needs and interests of my clients. I want to inspire people to take charge of their own health, and to learn first hand how, for example, changing sleep habits and impact weight loss, or changing diet can reduce body pain, or healing from a viral infection can influence energy levels, or how grace and forgiveness can transform everything.
Q: How would you like to see your business grow?
A: I currently see a wide variety of clients, and I want to keep it that way! But generally I’m really happy to meet people who are interested in improving their health, either because of the need to deal with pain or heal from an acute or chronic illness or because they want to prevent disease from happening or recurring. As a 17-year cancer survivor, I’m sensitive to the needs of people who have been diagnosed; I’m also interested in the role that emotional distress plays in health and disease. Most people experience my work as very restful and calming, and that contributes a lot to the healing process.
Q: What is your favorite part about what you do?
A: I really like the sounds of nature around my studio, practicing in front of a fireplace in winter, and the gentle breathing or snoring of my clients as they totally relax on the treatment table. I chose this work to be present with people when they are healing. I can’t get enough of that.
Q: How does your business fit into the larger movement to revitalize the Hudson Valley?
A: I choose to accept 100% currents in my practice because I believe in the importance of investing in the local economy. I volunteer for the board of the High Falls Food Co-op for the same reason. Before I trained to become an acupuncturist and massage therapist, I was a Human Resources Director. I like systems analysis–specifically, understanding how organizations work and figuring out how to get people and businesses to work better together. I want to see people thrive here in the Hudson Valley, and that means knowing about how to keep our families and community healthy, and our farms and our environment clean and healthy. The Food Co-op is all about that, and the beauty of a cooperative organization is that the profits stay local by being re-invested in projects or returned to the membership.
I’m very interested and involved in the permaculture movement, and have been a frequent attender of the Permaculture Meetup that happens monthly at the community center in Stone Ridge. We often ask each other to define permaculture at our meetings. Here’s my definition, for those who may not be as familiar: Permaculture is the practice of 1) Observing relationships of harmony, balance, economy and complex mutually beneficial interdependence in the natural world and 2) Helping humans to fit in and get with the program.
As a health practitioner my focus is primarily on individual human bodies, creating harmony and balance in that system. But my work also relates closely to the natural world and ecology as I am recommending in my practice:
• Nutrition derived from a healthy local ecosystem
• Outdoor exercise, connecting physically with the natural world regularly
• A natural approach to that avoids toxic chemicals and recommends simple and economical solutions to health concerns
• Meditation and growth in the areas of self-knowledge and compassion, which allows us to become positive contributors to natural world that surrounds us and supports our life.
Q: How have you been using Currents in your business?
A: I’ve used Currents for projects around my studio, from poison ivy removal to construction. I’ve also used Currents to pay for business services. Local currencies are very much in line with the principles of permaculture, and Apricot Forest practitioners have used Currents to pay each other for treatment and to purchase business services and training.
Q: What other measures do you and your business take to support local economy?
A: I’m starting an organization based on the principles of permaculture called Apricot Forest Community Wellness Cooperative. Right now we’re a small group of complementary practitioners and growers who have an interest in permaculture. We are getting to know each others’ practices, encouraging each other and cooperating to get the word out about how natural health and complementary care can benefit our communities. We’re creating a workshop series for parents that incorporates teaching from multiple practitioners skilled in movement therapies, acupuncture, massage, herbalism, nutrition and farming. We’re hoping to give people a fascinating and multifaceted view of the ways that they can create a healthy lifestyle and environment. Stay tuned!