The problem I have with massage…

“The problem I have with massage…” is not exactly the phrase I wanted to hear from a new client! (Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?!) “…is that I’m unable to verbalize when the pressure is too deep.”

“Aaaah… I can total relate! I’ve experienced this frequently myself.” (I sigh with both relief and empathy!) She went on to explain that even when the therapist invites her to speak up, she just can’t do it and ends up feeling sore for days afterward.

Many of us were not raised in an environment that supported us voicing our needs and desires. Sometimes it wasn’t safe to do so. Programming begins at a very young age, and when we receive the message that our preferences don’t matter, we might adapt by shutting down to protect ourselves. Children might learn to keep their requests quiet out of fear of upsetting the adult in charge, and choose instead a strategy of remaining silent in order to be accepted. Heartbreakingly, we might internalize the message that we don’t deserve to be comfortable or nurtured or that nobody cares what we need.

This cycle can be broken if we intervene, but many of our childhood coping mechanisms run on auto-pilot until challenged. Massage is already a tricky situation because the receiver is in a vulnerable position, both physically and emotionally. Once the relaxation response kicks in, our rational thought and speech centers are subdued. It’s easy to feel that the therapist is the authority who holds all the power, and to slip into the erroneous belief that they know what is best. We’re certainly trained to think this way by the western medicine model.

You are the authority on your body! Please remember this!

I commended this woman for her awareness and for having the courage not only to show up, but to share this with me. Given that I use a gentle pressure and am able to tune in to the nervous system’s response, I felt confident that we could successfully work together. We negotiated a new strategy in which I would ask if she’d like less pressure because she said it felt easy for her to answer “yes” if that were the case.

For the same reason, I ask if a client is feeling chilly rather than if they’re warm enough. I’ve witnessed again and again that someone will say they’re fine only to discover goose bumps moments later. Sometimes the reply is that they don’t want me to go to any trouble or to interrupt the flow. Please believe me when I say that any qualified, caring massage therapist does not want you shivering or flinching on the table!

We can all learn to be more sensitive to one anther’s needs and recognize the difficulty that many people have asking for what they want. Posing a question so that they may respond with “yes” will be helpful for those with a people pleaser coping mechanism. (There’s a lot of us out there!) I find that slowing down, listening deeply without intent to formulate a reply, and tuning in to body language is beneficial.

We can also learn to express our concerns upfront and ask for help when we have difficulty. This can be a stretch from our comfort zone for sure, but if you believe your massage therapist will not respond supportively, it’s probably a hint to find one that will. Speaking to the therapist before booking a session can shed some light on their listening skills and activating intuition can serve as a filtering process.

Massage shouldn’t hurt! (Not unless you want it to, and even then it’s debatable. That’s a discussion for another day.) I’m here to advocate for everyone everywhere to speak up for themselves and ask for what they need. If you find words are elusive in a session, try a simple “Ouch!” And if that is not respected, “STOP”. There is absolutely no need to suffer in silence on the table. Life is painful enough as it is, there’s no reason to endure more at the hands (or elbows) of a hired professional.

United We Stand

Political unrest and emotional upset are growing daily. We seem to have entered an alternate reality in which confusion rules. Anger, fear, and hatred seem to be increasing exponentially. It is a challenging time for us all. My personal challenge is to become a warrior of truth while standing within my values. Without kindness and integrity, I have nothing to offer. Without courage and conviction, I risk loosing the freedom to express myself. In a sense, I have been training my entire adult life for this opportunity to be fiercely loving.

liberty

I struggled with joining the resistance. In yoga we learn “what you resist, persists” and the law of cause and effect teaches that we attract that which we fuel by our attention. How can I participate in an effort that would only enhance the negativity I see growing? Yet I am unable to remain silent and watch as justice becomes an obscure memory of a long neglected democracy.

I realized that standing for my beliefs of freedom, equality, diversity, and fairness is completely different that fighting against a man, an executive order, or a threat of tyranny. Speaking up for the civil rights of my fellow citizens activates the energies of synchronicity to support the efforts of preserving justice. It is possible to amplify the power of change by keeping my focus on love rather than fear.

While it is true that I wish the popular movement had chosen different language than “resist” and “protest”, I am able to get beyond these labels and see the heart of the matter. I see people waking up and getting involved in their own unique and creative methods. I see brave souls taking action and joining together to protect one another and this planet we call home. I see the necessity of getting involved, knowing I could not live with myself if I sat on my meditation cushion as the country I love falls into ever-deepening despair.

I see clearly that I am able to contribute my voice and participate in a way that is aligned with my truth. We each bring our own individual offerings to the whole, and together we create a synergy that could not be accomplished without each and every member. Every instrument is invaluable to the symphony. It matters not if you play the violin, the trumpet, or the triangle. It matters only that you show up and play.

It Starts with the Spirit

As I continue to immerse myself in the realm of healing, I am noticing more and more how it all starts with the spirit. As my own personal practice deepens I am uncovering spiritual wounds, some of which are decades, even lifetimes, old. As I work on these issues, repairing the damage from the countless times I abandoned or betrayed myself to please another or gave up on my dreams because they seemed too improbable or difficult, I notice the subsequent emotional and mental distress that developed. As this pain lingered in my psyche, sometimes it settled into my body in the corresponding chakra or organ and caused physical ailments or discomfort.

For example, lately I have been feeling tightness in my neck. When I turn my head there is a crunchy sound and some limitation in the range of motion. Attempts to remedy this from the outside have achieved only temporary results. That’s because it’s a symptom of a deeper issue. Stretching or massaging the muscles feels great and of course is beneficial to the body. However, as I sit with the pain and open to the meaning it carries, I realize it is actually the result of a lifetime of being afraid to express my true self blocking energy flow in my throat chakra. This fear is perhaps justified due to previous experiences, but now it is not serving my highest good and it’s time to let it go. No amount of bodywork will cure pain that stems from spiritual misalignment. Reiki, on the other hand, uses divinely guided life force energy to heal the original wound, and reminds me of my true nature, which is fearless.

As I concentrate on this concept during my daily self-treatment and Reiki meditation, I can slowly feel the tension melting away as my muscles no longer feel the need to protect me from condemnation or restrain me from speaking my truth. I feel chronic low-level stress and anxiety that I’ve come to accept as normal begin to fade as I remember that it is safe for me to speak my truth. I am growing to realize that many people will not care to hear what I have to say, and that’s just fine. I’m not saying it for them, although if they are ready, my words might benefit their well-being. I am speaking the words I do for me, because it is my path to share the wisdom I receive from Spirit, whether it is received or not. Interestingly enough, as I freely communicate from the heart, I am discovering the path to recovery from all that ails me. Truth is medicine and as I tend to my spirit, all else is healed.