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Conversations with the Inspiring Michelle Castor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Castor.

Michelle, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I always knew I wanted to be involved in healing work of some kind. Helping others to feel cared for and held has long been a calling of mine. I’d like to think it’s in my blood. My grandmothers were healers, in their own ways, and I know I am here because of them. While they weren’t both in healing fields (one was), they both offered me a sense of warmth and laughter medicine that I carry to this day. They have been beacons of how to be kind, laugh, show up, and have boundaries.

I studied Psychology at the University of Kansas, and right about 3.75 years into that degree, I realized the nagging feeling I had all along was telling me this wasn’t the avenue I was meant to take. It was at that time I was getting more involved in social justice work and wanted something where I felt like I could better marry my values with my healing work. This shift led me to my first (of many) herbal medicine class, and, eventually, connected me with my long-time teacher, Estela Roman, a curandera (healer within an indigenous framework of medicine) – partnering spirit and body and mind through yerbas, sobadas, temazcallis, and more. This remembering and re-accessing of ancestral traditions helped me partner my spiritual beliefs with my values and my healing. The sobada work she does and taught me ignited a passion for therapeutic touch. Which led me to massage school.

Post massage school, while I wasn’t convinced this would be more than a side hustle, through the encouragement of a few friends, I applied for Rocky Mountain Micro Finance’s Business Bootcamp and have not looked back from there. That program gave me the tools to take my work to the next level. I originally opened my business, Agua y Sangre Healing, in 2013. And went full time with that work about two years later, thanks to RMMFI. Since then, we’ve expanded in our current space, and have brought on an ahmahzing staff licensed massage therapist, Tameca L Coleman, who helps provide wonderful transformative bodywork sessions to our community. Most recently, Tameca and myself became trained in Trauma Touch Therapy, we had some wonderful interns assisting us this summer, and have been expanding our product line of lovely remedios made with love and ancestral magic. We have some more growth on our horizon, but you’ll have to stay tuned. 😉

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Oh goodness, is it funny or awkward if I say this question made me laugh out loud? It has definitely not been a smooth road, not that it’s been bumpiest either. To be a business owner as a queer, femme, curvy, mixed Latina – or anyone who doesn’t fit the bill of who we’re told is a business owner or professional (ie white straight cis man) – means you are constantly having to rewrite what it means to be a professional. It means taking this concept of “professionalism,” dismantling that, and expanding it. Because the “traditional” definitions don’t hold enough expansiveness and space for me. Even the investment opportunities that are out there, comparatively, are less as a femme of color. We could talk all day about how oppression factors into business ownership, especially for my Black hermanxs.

One of my biggest struggles, though, is one that is more within my control- my own self-doubt. There will always be people and systems out there who don’t respect you, who disrespect your boundaries, who try and cloud your shine – and while that is always frustrating and absolutely something to factor in and honor – it would be an entirely different game if it wasn’t for my fear of my own worthiness. If I wasn’t getting in my own way by telling myself I don’t belong, I don’t deserve it, I need to conform what others want of me, etc.

So, my advice to those just starting your journey is to honor and love yourself first. Honor your boundaries, your capacity, your vision, your passions. Find community in entrepreneurship – you deserve to feel seen, heard, and to be able to connect and relate with other like-minded folks who get it. Especially if you are a solopreneur, find folks who you can be real with about the struggles – and the highs – of business ownership. You don’t have to carry that all alone (it will never be sustainable to do so) and reaching out, whether to celebrate or to commiserate, is a vulnerable and strong and beautiful thing.

Finally, always keep coming back to what you know about yourself, what you trust about you and what is in your heart. That will be your rock and your guide on this path. This is your vision. Trust yourself.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Agua y Sangre Healing story. Tell us more about it.
At Agua y Sangre Healing, we create safer healing space for the change-makers, the caretakers, and the emotional laborers in our community. So, that healing can happen in community, and so that healing can happen for those of us that need it the most. We offer therapeutic massage, herbal remedios & self-care mentoring, and wellness classes to help you reclaim your entire being – mind, body, and soul.

I say safer space, because healing is political, the body is political. For many of us, our bodies have been policed too long, oftentimes for generations. I love that we bring that energy and understanding to our work, to our community. It’s our values manifest in the work. And we get that feedback regularly – that folks continue to think of us as a supportive space for healing for LGBTQ folks, BIPoC, curvy/fat folks – I’m really fucking proud of that. I rarely saw myself reflected in the healing work I found myself in because we are often told that “healthy” is thin and white and straight and able-bodied – all with enough disposable income. But healing and healthiness (can) happen in everybody, and everybody really truly deserves that.

This work sprang from a need and a want to provide more for our communities – having been fed up with the ways myself, or my friends and family had been mistreated in medical settings. I wanted to do work where people are centered in their own healing and trusted as their own experts on their own bodies. That is central to this medicine. I wanted (still want) more accessibility in healing, more compassionate and affirming healing, and more competent providers. We always have work to do ourselves as practitioners to keep learning and growing (really, unlearning and then re-assembling) so that we can continue to offer that in our work – and that we have continued to offer sliding scale services, free/donation-based community events, and focused our work on those of us most often on the “margins” of healing – I’m really, really proud of that.

Do you have any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general? What has worked well for you?
One hundred percent, find a mentor. As I mentioned earlier, you really don’t have to do all this on your own. I would encourage you to find someone who can help you to be a sounding board, problem solver, champion of your work, etc. (And, know what you’re wanting to get out of that relationship). Find someone who you connect with energetically, who understands you and your vision. Someone whom you can be in relationship with.

In thinking about networking, I’m wildly introverted (especially in networking spaces), but I enjoy networking in more relational ways. For instance, tabling at an event or teaching a class or having some kind of “role” – that helps me to connect and be present with others. I have learned that I am not well inclined towards telling someone my elevator pitch and then getting them talking from there (which is a great skill set). Instead, I’ve learned to play to my strengths. Why go to networking event after networking event if it’s stressful and I leave more drained? Is it worth it? Arguably, there’s always worthiness when we lean into the discomfort, and, I would recommend you play to your strengths and find the avenues and places you enjoy connecting with people. And, try to shake it up every now and then with something that gets you outside of your box. Remember, we’re re-writing the scripts, and just with healing, there is no one right way.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
With the exception of the picture of the hands in the water and the infographic, all other photos are by:
Fat Berry Photography (@fatberryphoto)

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