In a world of specialization, Mik (pronounced Mike) Rosenthal, founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Foggy Bottom Farm, has a vision for the cross-fertilization of personal growth, fine art and craft, and holistic living in a single facility. His dream, Foggy Bottom Farm, will one day become a brick and mortar reality with a retreat center on a 155-acre farm in Little Marsh, PA, whose owner has made it available to the group. According to Rosenthal, plans are currently being made to set a timeline and the group already has its NPDES certificate, granting permission to build. The construction will be funded by private contributions and other fundraising activities. Little Marsh is approximately 250 miles from Philadelphia and approximately 200 miles from New York City. Elmira-Corning Regional Airport is 40 miles away.
Foggy Bottom Farm started as a virtual reality — with an eight-part telesummit on how to create a sustainable life in February, 2010 — and the next step is a series of classes held at the Jewish Center in July, August, and September.
What distinguishes Rosenthal’s enterprise is not just the nature of the classes and workshops that are being offered, but the opportunity people will have to interact with other participants and become friends with them.
In his Princeton-based practice Rosenthal, who holds a masters in social work from Yeshiva University, sees many people who are bored. “They feel their lives are stagnant and wonder what else can they do — even as a hobby and something not part of what they do professionally,” says Rosenthal. His view is that by expanding their interests and learning new things, people’s lives will become more fulfilled. It is his hope that Foggy Bottom Farm will expose people not only to different possibilities, but to the people who are passionate about them.
Rosenthal, who grew up in Ewing, was familiar early on with fine arts and crafts. His mother, a school secretary, was a knitter; and his father, who taught special education and later moved to teaching photography and TV studio at Trenton High School, was a cabinetmaker. “I grew up in a woodshop and a darkroom, around people making things,” says Rosenthal, who himself has done photography, jewelry with hand-woven chains, and leatherwork.
Rosenthal earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology at George Washington University in 1963 and went on for a master’s degree in 1968 at American University in special and exceptional education, with a content focus on American thought and civilization.
After teaching junior high school in Trenton for two years, he wanted to understand his charges better and went to Rider College for a master’s degree in counseling in 1971. After a year as a school counselor in Hamilton Township, he went on to Rutgers University for an Ed.D. in cultural anthropology and history in 1974.
He then decided to open his own practice, with a focus on career counseling, but discovered that people were coming to him for personal issues as well. He then earned his M.S.W. at Yeshiva in 1980. Rosenthal says he thoroughly enjoys his work. “For me, it’s recreation. When you do something you love, it’s not work.”
One of the Foggy Bottom Farm instructors, Lisa Clonan, will be offering classes in the areas of holistic living and personal growth. She will share the insights she has gained both through her massage practice and her success in transforming her own life from a corporate manager to a massage therapist and life coach. She teaches two workshops on Sunday, July 24: “Balancing Divine Feminine and Masculine in a New Age of Consciousness,” 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and “Embracing Your Inner Goddess,” 1:30 to 4 p.m. She teaches “The Brilliant Body” on Sunday, August 7. Other Foggy Bottom Farm courses cover crafts and handiwork from knitting to woodturning.
A certified life coach and massage therapist, Clonan worked with Jim Granger, now in Taos, to develop a system for the “brilliant body,” a form of guided meditation that makes people feel safe and comfortable, and then coaches them in tuning into any pain, discomfort, or bodily sensations. As a result, associations often rise to the level of consciousness, and once they are acknowledged, the pain begins to dissipate.
Clonan opened her first practice, A Return to Wellness, on Nassau Street in 2005. Working with people who had chronic pain, she found a link between their emotions and where they were holding them in their bodies. Expressions like “pain in the neck” and “sick to my stomach,” she suggests, did not come out of the air.
People tend to live largely inside their heads, suggests Clonan, not even noticing a sore shoulder or elbow. But during a massage they become more aware. Sometimes when she is massaging a certain area, a person will remember a past event. Or they will spontaneously start to get teary eyed and not be sure why, but then feel better after a good cry. “We hold a lot more in the body than we realize, and our bodies are a lot smarter than we give them credit for,” says Clonan. “Our bodies go out of their way to get our attention when something needs correcting.”
One of Clonan’s massage clients, for example, had chronic knee pain that turned out to be connected to the person’s fear of moving out of a relationship. “Once that was acknowledged, that knee pain started to lose its charge,” says Clonan.
Clonan also believes that women can increase their power by achieving greater balance within, a passion that brought one friend to call her a “modern day Gloria Steinem.”
Her two July 24 workshops will expand on this. Women, she says, are mad at being trapped in very narrow roles. “Through time, women have been given one costume to wear — to be nice, to smile, and to be in a supportive role,” says Clonan. “The roles that are traditionally female by the eyes of our society aren’t seen as valuable.” The result? “I think under our nice surface, women are ticked off.” In dealing with her own anger, Clonan says, “I had to go behind that anger and realize that as women, we are all very, very powerful,” she says.
Women, she realized, need to understand their strengths and nurture them. She says, “You have to stand in your power. That means accepting that we are a lot more multidimensional than the role society has cast for us.”
For Clonan, multidimensionality means bringing into balance the masculine and feminine energies within — the male energy of being aggressive, forcing things to happen, and pushing things out in the world, and the female creative energy of being able to take things in and transform them.
For Clonan, these two energy streams exist within each person. “When speaking of energy, we’re all born into a body,” she says, “but that doesn’t mean that because you are born into a female body, your energy is 100 percent female. We’re all a balance of different energies.” She adds that the feminine energies often work as a check on unbridled male energies.
Clonan grew up in Colonia, New Jersey, where her father was a police officer. “I couldn’t get away with anything,” she says. “By the time I was in high school, he was a captain, and I was living with a built-in lie detector.”
After graduating from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1992 with a degree in marketing, she got a job in merchandising at Pathmark’s corporate offices. Then she moved to Tremio Foods, a sausage manufacturer in Hawthorne, New Jersey. She had a long commute and, realizing she needed some kind of change, she decided to go to massage school at night. “I wasn’t exactly sure where it would all lead,” she says. “It was something I always wanted to learn, but I never thought I was going to make a huge career change.”
As it turned out, Clonan fell in love with massage and decided to take a leap of faith; she left her corporate job and started her massage practice. Then in the last trimester of her pregnancy, she closed it. After getting credentialed as a life coach, she opened a new practice, The Unlimited Self. She currently works out of Natural Alternatives for Wellness in Allentown. Clonan also teaches massage at the Gentle Healing School of Massage in Cranbury.
The move to life coaching was a natural one. She had noticed that after a massage, her clients would stay and talk, and she found herself in the role of coach and motivator. “If I was doing it, I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing, and I realized how much I enjoyed it,” she says.
Clonan suggests some small steps that women can begin to take that will move their world in a saner direction:
Acknowledge your anger. After letting their anger bubble to the surface, Clonan says, women can let go of it, which opens the way for positive change. She offers one sign that women are indeed beginning to do this: “Look at how many new businesses are started by women who opt out of the corporate world and create a business that fits around themselves and their families.”
Pay attention to your physical side. Take some time to live inside of your body not just your head. “You are living in an entire body,” says Clonan. “We live in a mansion and tend to spend our time in the closet.” She suggests living in — and listening to — your whole body by being fully present.
Get in touch with your power. For Clonan, true power is heart power; it is love, not force. The first step, she says, is realizing how powerful you are and actually saying to yourself, “I am a powerful being, capable of making change in this world.”
Support one another. “Traditionally women are very competitive with each other, but men have long had their secret societies and promoted each other, and women have been fighting for the scraps left behind,” says Clonan. She urges women to protect their newly developing power by standing together and seeing each other as true colleagues, realizing that there is enough to go around for everybody.
“When a woman turns on her own inner light, she illuminates the entire world,” says Clonan. “Believing in the power of the self is the greatest gift you can give yourself.”
In her own life, Clonan has seen ebbs and flows in her relationship with her own power. When she left the corporate world and created an entirely new life for herself, she felt very powerful. But then life stepped in. “I was thrown for a loop at 39 when I gave birth to my first child,” she says. “All those female stereotypes came back for me.” She kept wondering how she could go back to work after having this beautiful child, and thought that if she still wanted to further her other interests, she must be selfish.
To bring her life back into balance, Clonan recast her personal mythology. Once she was able to go inside and see where those myths were created, she was able to modify them and move ahead with her life. “You’re rewriting your story,” she says. “Once you see where the myths were created, you can fit them into a new life.”
Quilting, Foggy Bottom Farm, Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, Princeton. Sunday, July 24, 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Three-session workshop presented by Elana Tenenzapf. Continues July 31 and August 24. Register. $120. Visit website for information on the purchase of tools and fabric. 609-921-1782. www.foggybottomfarm.org.
Personal Growth Talk, Foggy Bottom Farm, Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, Princeton. Sunday, July 24, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. “Balancing Divine Feminine and Masculine in a New Age of Consciousness” presented by Lisa Clonan. Register. $24.
Also, Personal Growth Workshop, 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. “Embracing Your Inner Goddess” presented by Lisa Clonan. Register. $40.
An Introduction to Woodturning, Sunday, July 24, 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Three-session workshop presented by Brad Sears. Continues July 31 and August 14. Register. $144 plus a $5 materials fee.
Holistic Living Workshop, Sunday, August 7, 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. “The Brilliant Body” presented by Lisa Clonan. Register. $40.