I have a regular massage therapist who works with me therapeutically, who knows my tension areas and postural habits well so as to best help me release and heal. I am vacationing in Mexico this week with my family and the hotel includes a massage with our stay. I don’t usually patronize spas as I have found the massage is often hit or miss. I prefer the person who knows me and my body. I also like to support people who are working on their own and not companies who pay the therapist a very small percentage of the (usually higher) cost of the massage (tip well if you go to a spa!). But since I am here, need a massage and it’s included, I decided to have one.
It is a beautiful space. Relaxing and quiet, candles and aroma therapy, a fountain and soft, orange light. I am having a half an hour back massage. I assumed it would be clothes on, on a massage chair but it turns out to be on a table, warm pillow on my low back, oil with lavender, eucalyptus and bergamot. I don’t mean to make her uncomfortable, but I say that I too do massage and she says, “Oh, you do? I hope you like my work.” “I will”, I say. And I do.
She gives a wonderful massage. Even though I am on vacation my body is sore and tense. It comes along with us, doesn’t it? First, with the sheet over me, she rocks my body, pressing into the long muscles along my spine. She leans into the large leg muscles and presses her thumbs along the inner arches of my feet. Next, she gently rubs oil all along my back and down my arms. She works circularly which feels wonderful as well as long, broad strokes, warming up and softening the tissue. As the massage progresses, she begins to use deeper pressure with her thumbs and fingers. She slides her lower forearm the length of my back and walks the tips of her elbows between my shoulder blades, inbetween my ribs like stairs. After this I don’t much remember her other techniques as I entered the semi-aware state of deep relaxation one achieves during an excellent massage. She closed the session by ringing tiny symbols three times.
Since I had not come to her with a specific issue nor had she even asked for an area of focus, I just lay there enjoying being touched. I was struck by how important human to human touch is. So much so that we that we offer it to each other as a service. Some of us go to school to learn massage techniques, anatomy and physiology, and it’s many, far reaching benefits. Then, other people, in search of healing, relaxation and connection seek us out and pay us, with their hard earned money, for this important, essential even, component to human health. Across the board, massage therapists train in this skill to bring benefit to others, whether it be an ongoing therapeutic relationship, or just this one time encounter. Sometimes we just offer touch to each other. As simple as a hand shake, a pat on the back, an arm around a shoulder, an embrace. We offer touch to each other when we are overjoyed, sad, reflective and overwhelmed. Without any training at all, we offer each other massage to alleviate pain or promote relaxation, usually in the form of shoulder and foot rubs.
As I lay on the table, I could feel the strong bone of her forearm along my muscles and across my rib bones. More accurate, I could feel the flesh between us. Layers of skin and fat and muscle, which given the right amount of pressure, not too little so as to have little effect and not too much as to cause pain, create a primal connection. Allow the nervous system of the recipient to let go into the vulnerable state of deep healing, the mind to drift away on clouds of relaxation and the muscles to soften and unwind, releasing patterns of stress, hardship and pain that come with being human.
I have worked on many people for many different reasons: fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, acute pain, chronic tension, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, depression and anxiety, body image issues, post miscarriage and pre-and post birth, high blood pressure and many other reasons. I have been therapeutic and holistic in my approach. I have created a safe and comfortable environment. I have put care, skill, training and intuition into each session I have given. I am proud of that.
I am also humbled. From this 30 minute encounter, with a massage therapist who did not know any of my patterns, conditions or needs, I found great healing. It takes presence and attention to care for one another. It takes intentional touch and quiet listening to feel connected. It takes each other to fully heal. We heal, we regain wholeness, we come back to center in the presence of one another. And it takes very little.
As a massage therapist, I hope that you include massage regularly in your self-care. I have seen its numerous benefits and effects and wish it was not considered a luxury or privilege but was available to everyone. We all need it. But whether you do or don’t, I invite you to be a presence for someone. To listen quietly with your ears or touch or intuition. To put your full attention on someone who is in need of some compassion and connection. However this looks for you, however you do it, however you are for others. Or if you are the someone in need, to ask for it. Reach out for the healing connection that is another’s touch, listening, presence.
Let’s be present for each other, friends. Let’s heal the world one person at a time.