Yesterday one of my clients paid me the best compliment ever after her massage. She said, “You create great sacred space.”
Wow! I was speechless for a moment. What a lovely observation, and such a kindness for her to share it. I believe that creating space is a necessary foundation for effective bodywork. In fact, I’ll take it one step further to say that it is the bridge between a therapeutic massage and healing. I strive to see the art of touch as a sacred act and to witness the divinity within each and every one of my clients. The most advanced massage techniques are rendered powerless if the person receiving them does not feel safe, comfortable, and accepted. In order for someone to truly let go and relax, they need to trust their therapist. Creating sacred space is the key for making this happen.
Sacred space can be created anywhere at anytime. It has absolutely nothing to do with fountains or statues or crystals. Of course, these items can be included and no doubt contribute to the healing energy of a treatment room. However, in my eyes, sacred space is actually more a way of being than one of doing. In my humble opinion, bringing one’s awareness fully into the present moment while remaining fully centered in the heart and unconditional love is the basic recipe for creating sacred space. It can be done on a crowded subway car, a desert cliff, a grocery store, bedroom, temple, office, or beach. It only takes a second, but sometimes it takes a lifetime to remember that the divine is within us all.
Several times each week, I work with clients who desire the benefits of massage, but are obviously anxious or even terrified about getting undressed. As a recovering shame-aholic, I understand this dilemma completely. When you dislike your body, you want to hide it. You don’t want anyone to know your secrets of imperfection for fear of being rejected or humiliated. I lived most of my adult life like this. It’s debilitating and isolating to experience the world through these lenses. As a compassionate person and professional therapist, I want everybody to be 100% comfortable during each session, so I take the time to explain that I will leave the room while clients undress as much or as little as they wish, and that they will be covered and their privacy protected. Yet I often still recognize that look of panic in their eyes while we are chatting before the session begins.
One day after working with a client like this, I was bicycling home and came across a hawk resting on a fence. I stopped to witness this creature’s majestic presence. I contemplated how regal this bird looked and felt a wave of inspiration. This hawk has never, not once, been ashamed of it’s body or feathers or beak. It has never thought, “Oh, if only I was sleeker or faster or more colorful.” It does not sit around criticizing itself or categorizing its faults. It just simply is. A hawk accepts itself exactly as it is, without a need to compare itself to another. (Or at least, so I imagine!) Can you visualize a beautiful bird like this hiding its head under its wing whimpering, “Don’t look at me! I’m not worthy. I’m just a hawk. I should have been an eagle.”??? NO!
So why do we humans treat ourselves this way? I believe it’s because we’ve forgotten who we truly are; that we are unique individuals with talents and passions that contribute to a better world; that we are worthy of being loved and accepted just the way we are. Not because of what we’ve done to prove this worth, but just simply for being ourselves. What a relief it is to drop the constant stream of self-criticism and to relax into the comfort of self-acceptance. I invite you to try an experiment and invoke the spirit of the magnificent hawk next time you feel doubts about your appearance, performance, or worthiness. It’s impossible to feel ashamed about anything when you’re in the flow of proud hawk energy.
Yesterday a family of four visited the spa where I work. I was lucky enough to be assigned to the father. You see, this man clearly did not want to be here. He sat sullenly in the waiting room, arms crossed and brow furled. His responses to my questions were extremely curt and he volunteered absolutely no information about his needs or hopes for the session. As it turns out, his wife had drug him into the spa, insisting that he needed to relax. Well, he was determined to resist!
Lucky, you ask? Why on earth would I feel lucky to spend an hour alone with this man when he’d rather be anywhere else? Well, the truth is, I love a good challenge! And I assure you that the sweet feeling of victory when winning grumpy clients over is truly incredible. This type of situation is not uncommon in my business. I used to get very stressed out. Ten years of experience has taught me not to take it personally. I understand that some people don’t like to be touched, or are worried about being judged, or think bodywork is a fu-fu pampering treatment that is a waste of time. I get it. But since this person has showed up on my table, I am determined to give him the best experience possible.
Ninety percent of the time I am able to win the reluctant client over in the first 15 minutes. It starts with a big breath or a deep sigh once they begin to realize that it’s comfy & warm on the table; that a compassionate person is completely there for them; that a trained and skilled professional can easily locate their tension areas & has tools to provide relief. I image that my acceptance of the situation without judgement is a welcome respite from the demanding world. So, yes, I enjoy a good challenge. It makes my heart sing. Even when the client remains unconvinced that massage is NOT for them, I know that they have still benefited from the experience of healing touch.
This particular gentleman? Ten minutes into our session and he says to me, “I can’t believe that feels so good!”. I made a joke about the spa not being such a horrible place to spend a Saturday afternoon, and he laughed. He asked me a few questions about the tension in his shoulders and I was then able to explain that it doesn’t need to be that way. We have the power to make choices that support our wellness and comfort in our bodies. Bodywork is a tremendous resource for resetting our systems to relaxation, which is the foundation for good health. Now, I doubt I will be seeing this fellow on a regular basis, but I am delighted that I was able to plant a seed in his mind about the options available to him.