If you talk to me or anyone who knows me and has heard me vomit factoids about what pain is, why people are constantly in pain, and how massage therapists are the answer to everything - I mean really, if everyone got more massages the world would be a better place. Could you imagine what would happen if Kim Jong-un got his muscles massaged instead of his ego? - then you know how sciencey I can get. I love to science people. I love to figure out the how's and why's of musculoskeletal function and dysfunction. And then I love to blather on about what the ef is really happening under your skin.
But the truth of the matter is, a good massage does things that we can't even begin to explain. A really good therapist will use all these fancy techniques but the best therapist will rely on intuition and vulnerability above all. Let me explain. How it can't be explained.
I've been in the biz now for approaching 16 years. Back during my education, I took pride that my school was very science based. The data and statistics on how to work, how to approach work, how to understand muscles, joints, injuries and even the science of the emotion behind the injuries was all very impressive and left me feeling super smart. I took all of this to heart (or brain really) and continued down this path. Skipping merrily along all the while. Plucking more science here and there when I could. Resonating in the bouquet of science, if you will, that I had collected and named and categorized and pocketed.
But there have been times. I must admit there have been a few occasions that I scienced the shit out of a muscle or an injury or some debilitating issue, only to fall flat. I was so sure what I was doing was kicking some serious tight ass. Then my client gets off the table and I can see it in their face. There is no relief for them and, worse yet, my own sense of purpose flies out the window. Ego = deflated. Now it goes without saying, all you nay-sayers out there, that I did learn enough in my sciencey smart massage school to know when an issue is out of my therapeutic league. It's not like I'm banging my head on a wall expecting results here. I might be a little insane but really...
But, another but - and it's a big one - there have been OTHER times. These are the times that I'm talking about. These are the times that have humbled me. That have made me think that maybe, just MAYBE, there are powers here at work that I cannot understand. Enter intuition and vulnerability.
Many a session has unfolded like this - A client enters my space. We talk. They explain what they feel. I listen. Intently. (Of course). And not entirely sure what my course of action will be, we start the session. As I start to work, I'm thinking TPT? MFR? PNF? ART? DNR? (just kidding on the last one). I feel a little fumbly and not entirely graceful. I maneuver through and feel very uncertain that any of my killer techniques are actually accomplishing anything. The hour is up. My client dresses and walks out of the room. And they swear that was the best massage ever and they feel one quadrillion precent better. Ego = jumping up and down fist bumping itself.
What I am trying to emphasize here, is that as much as we try and explain away why this technique works and why that maneuver is applicable, often times we can't really explain anything. Sometimes we have to just lose our control to the universe as it were and give in to the power of ... what ... of ... I'm not even sure. I guess this is where great philosophical and religious debates arise. When I actually give in, though, when I actually let go and allow my intuition, the universe, the massage gods and goddesses, the knowledge of thousands of years of holistic thought to be all zen and present and shit... THAT'S when I get humbled. That's when the proverbial garden of all my hard work blooms and blows me away with it's beauty and awesomeness. 'Cause it's frickin' awesome.
Being a massage therapist is a lot like being a gardener, now that I really think about it. There's a ton of science and research behind what works and what doesn't. Sometimes we can feel like a great orchestrator of movement and wellness and sometimes the weeds take over and we kick ourselves for allowing that little intruder to even show itself. In the end, there is so much at play that we have no control over. The time of year, the weather, the elements, the nutrition, the hydration, the awareness, the openness or lack of openness. But when it all comes together, when the stars align... the result is breathtaking.
P.S. All these pics were taken of my mother's garden. Funny... she must have taught me a thing or two about planting seeds.
P.P.S. I have the best mother on the planet.