Posts tagged ‘touch’

May 6, 2013

Lessons Learned by Touch

heart touch

Good morning! It’s Brooke here. This fall will mark 5 years since I learned how to throw a wrench in the predictable works of my life and how to take the road far less traveled, when I received my ticket to another life parallel to the one I had been living—my license to practice massage therapy. In the years since I traded my slacks and heels for Sketchers and a constant ponytail, I’ve learned some things about how to live an authentic life, how to love deeply despite physical perceptions, and how to honor the sacredness that surrounds us all.

grateful hands

Power of Silence: Massage therapy has taught me the power of silence, that silence is not dead and inert but palpable and alive. In my therapy room, clients can choose to chat during our sessions or be quiet. I give them the lead. For some, talking about the events of their lives or the pain they’ve been having is therapeutic. Sometimes, their words are constant; other times, the strings of conversation flow randomly. But in the spaces between the words, the silence is sweet and warm. I love the quiet. I am soothed by it, and it is one of my favorite parts of being a therapist. The silence holds a mutual contentment between my client and I—we are both there but not there, in the moment and somewhere else. I should amend that: I am there but my client is drifting. This anchoring has helped me develop a discipline of calming my mental chatter (which is constant) and being mentally present, not planning my next task. To me, massage has become a moving meditation.

Serving Others: I’m not sure if we are all wired this way, but I adore helping people. I’ve always felt this way in all parts of my life, even before massage came along. I love being a conduit of good things for others. But please understand this does not come from me and my designs—I believe that God gave me a soft heart and that I am simply an instrument to spread love in a world that badly needs it. It gives me enormous satisfaction to set things right, to restore what was lost, or to inspire hope for better things. This is my passion, and I find it humbling and amazing that I get a chance to do it every day—for a living!!! When I was in massage school, we had an internship before we graduated, where we worked in the clinic open to the public. It was my first chance to work on people other than my classmates, whose personalities and bodies I knew well. When I worked on a stranger, my perspective changed. Boundaries were different, not in the permission to cross them, of course, but how I perceived our short relationship during those 55 minutes. Then I would make my way to their feet. Feet are not always the prettiest or most well-maintained of body parts, but oh, they make people SO happy to be worked on—I never skip them unless someone is super ticklish and requests me to move along. In massaging people’s feet, I was struck by the analogy of washing people’s feet. In ancient times, washing people’s dirty, dusty feet was done by servants, was even done by Jesus. The act of it feels like a humble service. By gently cleaning and massaging a person’s foot, I am communicating that these (we think) stinky, dirty, misshapen, abused feet—and by extension, our whole bodies—are deserving of attention and nurture. What a powerful message to give to people.

you are so loved

Move by Touch and Feel: Over the years, I’ve touched hundreds of backs, shoulders, knees, and faces, and I loved it all. I’ve run my hands over injured muscles, achy joints, rough patches, and all manner of skin, gathering clues to the situations that lie beneath. I’ve struggled with my own brittle skin and painful cracks in my fingertips during winter. You might suppose a massage therapist would have silky hands, but there’s an awful lot of hand washing that goes on! Occasionally, I’ve surprised a few people (with and without warning) with my cold hands, but in just a few moments, my hands heat right up and everything (muscles and spirits) are as they should be—soft, warm, and pliable. This is a nice way to navigate the world. Instead of holding tight and breathlessly thinking about each second, then the second after that—let go and become soft. Relax into yourself and feel around in your psyche to understand what you need right in this moment. Breathe . . . close your eyes . . . and breathe again.


Other Lessons Learned: I’ve learned to love the skin I’m in. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is beautiful and different, and I get a front-row seat to this show every day. Intimacy comes in all forms, and by abiding by professional boundaries, I’m allowed to experience this in many ways. It sometimes breaks my heart, but it can also set my spirit alight. Lastly, I am blessed by gratitude. No matter how routine or crazy a day may start out feeling, once I’m reunited with my people, I remember how our time together is a special treat, a ritual anticipated sometimes for weeks, and my outer, frazzled shell of busyness and stress is crumbled yet again, revealing the elemental truth of being humans together on the earth, our innate longing to be accepted and connected, to be healed. Our dance.

May your week be blessed,


human connection

November 16, 2012

Personal Musings of a Massage Therapist

Hello, Family and Friends! This is Brooke. For the last 4 years, I’ve been blessed to be a licensed massage therapist at a beautiful retirement community. Massage therapy itself is truly a special occupation, one that allows you to help people in so many ways. I love being able to take my fascination with science and anatomy and use it to solve problems that people have with their bodies—maybe an injury here or there, a little tweak in the back, a stiff neck and shoulders, a tension headache that needs soothing. I also confess that I like to be needed and I adore making people happy. So, therapeutic massage is a gift I can share with people.

Some people may find the practice of therapeutic touch mysterious or unfamiliar, but really, it is very simple. The manual manipulation of soft tissue not only loosens tight muscles, but also reduces pain, warms tissues, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, improves immune function, reduces blood pressure, increases respiratory capacity, calms the nervous system, and influences hormone levels (among various other things). These effects are physical, and so can be observed and measured. However, the emotional components of massage are just as powerful. Recipients of therapeutic massage report feelings of well-being and happiness, of acceptance of their body, of connection and being cared for.  Actually, some psychological benefits of massage stem from physiological means—massage can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, and can increase serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone.  Also, massage can increase oxytocin, the bonding hormone that helps you feel nurturing connection with others. Now, I’m certainly not saying all good feelings and happiness can be explained by scientific rationalization, but in case you are the pragmatic sort, actual clinical evidence supports the benefit of therapeutic touch. There you go. Now for the more touchy-feely stuff . . .

Everyone has personal space, the invisible but palpable field of energy around them that is closely, often subconsciously regulated. One allows others into that personal space according to the social relationships he or she maintains with the others. For example, you allow your friends and loved ones close to you, but door-to-door solicitors you probably keep at a distance. When clients come to me for an appointment, they are allowing me to be in that personal space with them and share my therapeutic touch—this is a great honor. They trust that I will be professional and respectful while helping them to relax or relieve a painful knot or move more easily, and I convey my care for them through my hands and how I communicate with them. My hope for my clients by the time they leave my spa room is that we have accomplished what they asked for help with, and that they are calmer and happier than when they arrived, with looser muscles and softer spirits.

But what’s on the other side of this interaction? Most of us know what it feels like to receive a massage, but what’s your therapist thinking? I can speak only for myself, but while I try to convey a calm, peaceful, positive vibe to people I interact with, my mind is often filled with thoughts of the day feverishly pinging around like an out-of-control pinball machine.

Once a session begins, however, my monkey mind is forced to be present and connected with my client. I wrangle my thoughts and tuck them quietly away as the music provides a soundtrack to the action of my hands, and I am lulled once again into peaceful contemplation. Massage becomes a moving meditation and calms my anxious spirit, in spite of myself. Often I feel the same peace and expansiveness my client feels as we work together—we are sharing the same air and energy in the dim room after all.  As I ponder this interchange of energy, I think of this quote by Ofer Zur and Nola Nordmarken, which feels true to me: “Touch is our first language. Long before we can see an image, smell an odor, taste a flavor, or hear a sound, we experience others and ourselves through touch, our only reciprocal sense. We cannot touch another without being touched ourselves. . .”

Blessings and happy Friday!