Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Listening

“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”
Rachel Naomi Remen

I was talking to a friend the other night, a fellow LMT, about what makes a good massage. Massage styles vary from therapist to therapist and there are many different modalities to experience on a bodywork table. And while some people might joke that like pizza and sex, there is no such thing as a bad massage, I would argue that viewpoint. Despite the fact that I am a touch junkie and that I find touch therapies to be the most effective way of treating the patterns of dis-ease that manifest in my body, I am pretty discerning when it comes to massage.

So what makes a massage a "great" massage? Body work is a blend of science and art. Understanding anatomy and physiology, knowing the intimacies of the muscular system, being well versed in treatment techniques are examples of the science of the work. In New York state, the 1,000 hours of schooling that is required provides sound training in the science of massage. The art of bodywork is what the therapist brings of herself to the work and springs out of being present and listening.

In massage school we began our hands on class by learning a basic routine that addressed all the muscle groups. It was a massage that I received many times from many different students. One of the benefits to going to massage school is that for a stretch of time you receive a daily massage. As brand new therapists it was a wonderful to have a routine to hang onto because it helped us learn a variety of strokes, work on our pacing and flow and increased our confidence. Our one size fits all massage was pleasant to receive and I still use elements of it in my own practice, but it makes for a predictable massage, very relaxing and pleasant, but not a massage to write home about.

The difference between a good massage and a great one, I think, is the ability of the therapist to listen and respond to both what the client asks for and what she learns as she works. It comes down to listening. The greatest gift that I can give as a body worker is to listen. After all, the body is wise. There is much to listen to. If I listen to the tissues, the bones, the fascia, the movement, the breath and the energy, if I put my full attention into the place where my hands meet my client's body and listen, a dialogue ensues. I learn how to coax the tissues into softening. I learn the pathways that allow for greater ease of movement. The body tells me what to do.

The body "talks to the hand."

Bodywork is about being fully present, listening, connecting, and allowing the work to arise from a place of meeting. This is where the power to heal comes from- the gift of listening.

Wishing you balance,



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