It was a rainy September day when I had the chance to sit down with Jocelan Coty. Jocelan is one of Hollyhock’s long-time staff. In fact, her career has spanned thirty of our thirty-six years. As her final season comes to a close, Jocelan and I stole a moment to connect on her time at Hollyhock and the lessons which will remain close to heart.
Jocelan, you’ve been a member of our Bodywork Team for sometime at Hollyhock. I would love to know how it all got started.
After spending my young life in the Okanagan, I lived for twelve years in Vancouver. I spent the last ten of those years trying to figure out how to get out of there! Then an opportunity arose to come to Cortes Island. Hollyhock was a part of the draw, but also just being out of the city and somewhere with a community-driven environment.
I guess I could say that my life on Cortes became a series of communities, my children went to Linnea Farm School so I was a part of that community, I had a community through the small store I opened here, I spend years on the Island’s Advisory Board, and then of course there was Hollyhock. Hollyhock has been a community for me for many years.
I’ve heard through the Cortes grape-vine that Linnea Farm School was an incredible alternative school. Did your children graduate there?
Yes, it was wonderful. They used to spend the first six weeks of school learning about horses. Everything was about horses: Social Studies, Math, English. Plus, they would ride, and have a horse show. It was just a wonderful transition from summer into school, this beautiful outdoor activity. My elder daughter continued with it and she is now the head trainer at the Equestrian School in Duncan. That was a big part of her young life, we have pictures of her when she was really little riding horses at Linnea.
Were you working as a Bodyworker in Vancouver, when you decided the city life wasn’t for you?
No, actually I was an entrepreneur. I was a partner in quite a large business in Vancouver selling futons, bedding, and furniture. We had fifty employees, four stores, a whole production facility, and lots of overseas business with Hong Kong. It was intense and wonderful. I loved it. That was a community for me for a good ten years, but when you start having a young family, it was a bit too much, and so I let go of it.
You mentioned earlier that you opened a small store here on Cortes too?
I ran a natural food store in Manson’s Hall for about two and a half years. I had been involved in natural foods for a long time already, attending conventions, and having a cook come in for our staff in Vancouver. I really enjoyed filling that niche on the Island. Due to other concerns, I had to let the store go. But that was when people started to recognize that we really needed a Co-Op here. That’s how the Cortes Co-Op began. It was really nice to see that community evolution.
What an amazing legacy to leave with Cortes. Where did Hollyhock fit into this journey?
I knew people who were involved with Hollyhock. Originally, I didn’t plan on working here but it’s a small community (even smaller then!) and Siobhan Robinsong knew that I was a yogi back in Vancouver. Hollyhock needed a Yoga Teacher, so she asked me. I said no…several times! But she just didn’t take no for an answer, so eventually, I said I’d give it a go. That’s how I got started a Hollyhock. I was actually the yoga teacher here for nineteen years.
I loved that you first said no and that Siobhan just kept persisting! Was it while you were Hollyhock’s Yoga Teacher that you began pursuing bodywork?
Yes, I started bodywork in 2000. It was something I always wanted to do, but I had trouble fitting training in with my young family, all while living in a remote place. Back then, Esalen trainers would come to Hollyhock. I took a one-month intensive with Dean Marsden and Brita Olstrom, and that was kind of when I really started. Since then, I try to train two to three times a year with different modalities and have ended up learning many different approaches. Recently, I’ve really gotten into the Osteopathic side of things.
Could you explain what Osteopathic treatment is and how it differs from other modalities?
The closest comparison to an Osteopathic practitioner would be a Chiropractor. You work with the skeletal body as well as a number of other health-related things, like diet and cranial-sacral. I’m training with Dr.Kerry D’Ambrogio, learning what he calls “total body balancing” which is cranial, fascia, muscular and structural work. It’s very all-encompassing, which is what I like about it. I’ve been training with him for a few years now, and that’s where my career is headed after Hollyhock.
I can tell how committed you are to your career. It’s really inspiring to hear that every year you’ve sought further training.
It’s endlessly interesting and there are so many approaches when it comes to bodywork. I’m interested in seeing people move through their issues. So having a number of approaches is so worthwhile. If one thing doesn’t work for a client, you have something else in the toolbox to help them strike that balance.
You’ve helped many people find balance at Hollyhock, through yoga teaching, presenting, and bodywork. What was one of your highlights?
I’ve always really, really appreciated the people I work with. It all goes back to the word community. We have a great team and Elizabeth MacDonald, our manager, has always been wonderful. There have been lots of pulls to go somewhere else over the years, but the clientele and staff are what has kept me here.
Out of all the clientele you’ve worked on, is there one moment that really stands out for you above all the rest?
There are many stories to tell about bodywork sessions. What comes to mind is an experience that was very strange to me. But, it was also so human. I think that’s a part of being a bodyworker, you relate to people on this open-hearted, non-judgmental, human level.
During my session with one guest, a series of unique elements presented themselves and I thought: “there is a story here.” He opened up, and his story really stayed with me. In bodywork, you are often moving through an emotional process with people. There are just so many layers to someone’s story. Then, there is my own projection and attempt to understand. That’s kind of the story of bodywork. Yes we see a lot of people who just want a quick massage to feel better, but we also get people like this, who have such amazing, deep stories that just stay with you. It triggers all these thoughts and questions, like: How do you meet someone where they are at? How do you remain non-judgemental? I learnt a lot in an hour with him. He was an incredible teacher.
What an incredible lesson to take away from your work and bring into your life, learning how to meet someone, exactly where they are at. As you reflect on your thirty years at Hollyhock, what is your biggest takeaway as you move to the next stage of your career?
When I first started at Hollyhock there was a tremendous amount of political strife in the bodywork department. One of the things I find so hopeful is watching the evolution away from strife, away from personal agendas (and sometimes vendettas!), in favour of a positive, holistic, group experience.
Thirty years is a good part of a lifetime to grow up myself. I went from having young children and trying to fit work around my life, to having grown-up kids with their own worlds, as I focus more and more on my career. It was intense at times. I would call it a sort of bell-curve. I started my time here with nice gentle morning yoga teaching, which rose to an intense period where I was often working sixteen hour days between yoga and bodywork, and now I’ve been letting myself come down on the other side. Every day, there has been something to learn. People open up to a bodyworker. It’s such close, intimate contact. At times that means letting people here from the city project their stress and angst. In other moments, it’s people gifting me precious stories from their lives. I’ve heard so many amazing stories over the years and I’ve always felt that this was a my greatest gift, and greatest privilege.
Jocelan Coty is a yoga practitioner of over 40 years, a highly-skilled bodyworker, a Gerson Juice therapist and advocate for optimal health. She finishes her thirtieth year at Hollyhock this season, and will continue to pursue healing arts and comprehensive body care from her studio on Cortes Island, through intermittent mobile services on Vancouver Island, the lower mainland of British Columbia and Whitehorse, Yukon.
Feature Photo: DM