Beyond Massage – Therapy



Whenever I go through the handout on the Human Energy Field is it always met with mixed feelings.  Some put a question mark on it, some find that their interest is piqued and are eager to do research, some are hearing of it for the first time and are fascinated while others have a mental block, some are familiar with the concept and it resonates well with them, etc.  Our paths in life vary, so our interests should, but somewhere along the line an understanding of the energy within and around us becomes important.  Certainly in Massage Therapy, as touch is used and it could never be only physical.  There is something in the space between the client and Therapist.  Something like the Emperor’s new clothes which can only be appreciated by those who are able to see/sense it.  The general understanding is that there exist vortices at many positions in our bodies, but the predominant ones coincide with our nerve plexuses.  Through repetition, our psyches have accepted the word ‘Chakra’ to connote this.  In reflecting on my client who seemed locked into an abusive cycle, I thought to draw a parallel with her behavior and the chakras, specifically the Root and the Heart, so that we have a better understanding of what we might be dealing with when we reach out to touch someone in the name of Massage.

The root chakra is located at the base of the spine, specifically below the coccyx, and radiates downwards from the perineal area of the body.  It relates to our sense of being connected to the earth and controls (for want of a better word) the lower parts of the body – feet, legs, hips.  It is influenced by the adrenal glands and thus associated with our survival responses, synonymous with our animal nature.  Survival of the species.  The heart chakra is located in the center of the chest and facilitates qualities such as love and harmony; extremely different to survival because it functions beyond our physical and emotional selves.  It speaks from our soul, so though we refer to love as an emotion, it is beyond that.  The often misunderstood gland called the thymus, which is a major aspect of our immune system, is associated with this chakra through which we are able to express unconditional love – a prerequisite for the non-judgmental behavior we are advised to show to our client.

While efforts have been made to simplify the functions of the chakras, it is the complexities of the system that is initially felt that makes pursuing knowledge of it so daunting.  The mind says: this is too much for me, and the brain obediently shuts the concept out.  It helps to see the system as an extraordinary metaphor which helps us to track various aspects of the body, emotions, mind, and spirit through visualization, and if we dare, through touch, as the energy field can be felt.  Either way, the point is to be able to assess imbalances that would later reflect as symptoms of disease and smooth them out so that we eliminate their manifestation, and be able to communicate to client that while existing symptoms will be addressed during the Massage, it is as important to also deal with the ones that preparing to take form so that a present situation is not exacerbated.  And while Massage may not seem to resolve some of the existing symptoms, it remains helpful in preventative maintenance.

Getting back to my client, she spoke of feeling good about herself as one of the positives of the new relationship she was in.  This sense of well-being is also associated with receiving a Massage and is one of the physical attributes generated by the heart chakra.  Spousal relationships are about the heart, so it is a given that lightness and even radiance in appearance should be an offshoot of healthy relationships.  Emotionally, this chakra helps of to give and receive love and forgive easily when we are wronged by our loved ones.  On the flip side, some of the emotions she felt in relation to her son’s father were guilt, loneness, sorrow, etc. which reflected an imbalanced heart chakra.  So the same heart functioned well with one person and dysfunctioned with the other.  And while I am talking of her, I am introspecting as it helps me to understand what my soul is saying to me about the persons with whom I interact.

She also suffered from chest pains which she called gas and would drink scalding hot tea in the middle of the day.  I remember her saying once that the pain was so bad she had to see a Doctor and was advised to change her diet if she wanted to see her son become a teenager.  Whatever the diagnosis, it was applicable as it was based on her symptoms, but her pain was also a physical symptom of a dysfunctional heart chakra and so too were the immune disorders which caused her to have repeated infections of a particular nature that she found justification for.  Our many hours of interaction were clarifying topics like these rather than dwelling on how lacking her son’s father was.  But old habit dies hard, so while she had a willingness to work on herself with this new understanding, progress was made and lost with almost equal intensity.

Her days were always stressful.  We would agree to meet and then I would neither see nor hear from her.  Then out of the blue she would call one night to apologise for not showing up and talk of how she is so stressed.  Too stressed to call to say she is too stressed to come.  That’s the root chakra at work with its imbalance.  It leaks vital energy and exhausts us.  Confusion comes easy, along with poor concentration and even lack of motivation.  If we keep on this path then we are soon robbed of our bodily awareness so things happen to us and they do not register until they’ve gone from bad to worse.  Some of these may comprise ailments of the back, hips, legs, and perineum.  Of course, there are perfectly logical reasons for these ailments, but it is worth quieting ourselves and re-balancing instead of just seeking medical or complementary therapy treatment for the symptoms.

She said that the new relationship filled her with life, energy.  Tasks were split, he went above and beyond with his role and she easily tackled hers.  She had the ability to respond appropriately to her stressors.  A sense of security was forming in the relationship, and she was enjoying her life.  These all reflect a healthy root chakra.  Her ill health was not exclusively physical, which is why the vibrations of the crystal and stones were so effective.  But a healthy being fitted her like someone else’s clothes and she sought to shake them off.  Why would anyone choose to stay in a sexual relationship that drains their energy and leave them with a deep sense of dissatisfaction?  It’s like eating food and getting no nutrients, so we have to eat more and more.  But at this time in history, that’s the new normal.  Is it possible that each act of that energy-draining sex pushed the root chakra further out of alignment?

Maybe it is easier to book a Massage and use the time to block out the reality of our circumstances rather than having to change things that we have grown accustomed to.  But then guilt nips at us because someone other than our spouse is tweaking our heart chakra as we lie on the massage table and we are feeling a sense of well-being; and it feels so good it has to be wrong.  And why bother to torture ourselves with a sense of well-being when it would be stumped out as soon as we get home?  Why waste our money?  This kind on thought pattern is one of the things that makes marketing Massage Therapy an uphill climb.  For even after we would have invested much in the most beautiful and peaceful ambiance for our clients, we still can’t seem to get them to pour in the door.  The Massage is not value for their money unless we can make their problems go away.  But how can we make it go away when they are deeply attached to it even to their detriment?

So the Human Energy Field should not be seen as an imposition of the East on the West, but a viable assessment tool from which our practice can benefit.  Over time we see how using this method can give us clues about the condition of our clients so that we are not limited to that which they disclose.  Our conversations during the session can gently lean towards the observed physical, emotional, and mental patterns of imbalance in their energy fields (or lives, if you prefer), and gradually permission can be obtained to smooth them out.  I say permission, because those of you who do energy work (Healing Touch, Quantum Mechanics etc.) know how easily a person can decide that what you are doing is hocus-pocus.  However ‘Energy Field Disturbance’ has long been known to exist, but only recently (around 1995) been accepted as a legitimate diagnosis in the medical field.  If the medical folks took time to acknowledge and document it, then – ta-da! – it is not hocus-pocus.

And while I am talking of the medical folks I want to touch on something that I’ve probably rehashed a million times…our blind trust of Medical Practitioners while we ridicule the work of Complementary Therapists as not being good/fast enough for our liking.  I remember working with an elderly lady whose husband had a book (can’t remember the name) with the names of different medications and their properties.  He found this necessary after a Doctor had given his wife two medications that together caused her to grow very ill.  There are so many drugs on the market now that we can understand if some Doctors are overwhelmed.  So his job was to research each drug she was prescribed and discuss any concerns he had with the Doctor.  How many people have the time to do this?  There are also cases where a client is prescribed two or more drugs in the same therapeutic category.  The additional one does not add to the effectiveness of the treatment, but increases the risk of the client.  And what about cases in which the right drug was administered, but in dangerously high doses?  How?  Easy.  Consider the person who is petite and using the same dosage for the same condition as someone 2-3 times their size.  Pound per pound, they are getting 2-3 times more.  But here again, how many Doctors have time to deal with small details?  If all does not turn out well for ‘petite’ it can simply be concluded that he/she is suffering from the side effects.  Everything has its place, so medication is valuable.  Honey is an excellent natural food, but have you tried eating too much?

Anyway, Eastern, Western, Orthodox, Unorthodox, Conventional, Unconventional…whatever, the methods are there to help us return to a state of balance, but not necessarily in isolation.  And balance does not have to expense us.  Sometimes all we need to do is stop, and exhale slowly.  A blockage or imbalance in one chakra creates an over-compensation in another.  Over time this creates excess energy/chi in that chakra.  Given more time a new pattern develops through the entire chakra system, which is like negatively rewriting your DNA.  So let’s go ahead and let it out…the excess.  Exhale.  Sometimes a client might ‘exhale’ because of the release brought about by the Massage and we are not comfortable with it, but we don’t have to judge it.  But that is easier said than done as perception is tricky and judgment comes naturally with our frame of reference.

We can also look at the aspect of perception that is helpful.  Depending on which sense is predominant, we perceive more effectively with that one.  If we are visual, we are able to look for and ‘see’ a client’s aura or things about them, while auditory Therapists might be able to detect balance or imbalance by picking up sounds of harmony or disharmony in the client’s energy field.  Most of us are considered kinesthetic and are able to perceive through our hands thus being able to distinguish areas of fullness around an open chakra or the absence of such…suggesting a closed or blocked chakra.  Further, sensations of warmth or coolness or tingling are detected by some.  There are always those of us who can sense none of the above, but that does not mean nothing is happening or that energy field and all that is encompasses do not exist.  We can gradually develop our non-physical senses of perception starting with the intention to do so, and like everything else, practice is important.  For that matter, not because we do not see or feel something it means that we have not seen or felt it.  Remember we are complex beings functioning on many levels and our brains might not have developed a reference for every cue we experience.  When such a reference eventually develops, in hindsight we then understand what it is we had seen or felt.  And while we are getting there, let’s not try too hard.  What we need to know is always right there in front of us.  For example, having agreed that everything is energy, we can observe how energy projects itself through the eyes of our clients, or their voice, etc.  We can recall incidents in which we did not like ‘how’ a person was looking at us, or ‘how’ a person said what they said to us.  The vibrations of the energy through their eyes or tone brought us discomfort.  Oh the other hand, we gravitate to persons who make us feel pleasant when they look at us or speak to us.  The play of energy is subtle sometimes, but its effect on us is unquestionable as seen in the decisions we make as a result.

I was having a conversation recently about refinement and I thought of Massage Therapy.  Practice brings about refinement of our skills, but then we plateau off and are stirred to add to what we have.  We seek to know additional techniques and incorporate them into our practice so that if we were to compare our skills level a few months after starting a practice to where we’re at a few years after there might be things we no longer do and others that we now do which overall lends themselves to a highly refined or first-class treatment.  Looking at the concept of life being a circle that leads us back to the Beginning, refinement becomes critical as we cannot arrive there in daft/dense mode.  As we get closer to the light we gradually release our patches of gray and embody more light.  We can therefore understand why many Therapists feel drawn to energy medicine in its various forms as such facilitate self-development as well as help the Therapist to competently work with the lightened/refined bodies of clients.  Refinement connotes that we are on the upward arc of the circle in our return to light.  Some refer to that light as our Creator.  Workable.  But light is a creation of our Creator, so it is not Him/Her, and therefore cannot be the end of our journey.  We need to get beyond the light to that position of nothingness, where all is one, and even then we would not have arrived as the Beginning precedes all this.  The journey is long and complicated, and our knowledge of it is too little to return in self, so we do what we can with what we have in sincerity and mercy makes a way.  Hence we do not judge each other’s practice as we cannot say for sure that in ourselves we know the way.

Getting back to Massage, this is one thing, when we add the word Therapy to it it takes on a different meaning.  Massage can be seen as a neurological mechanism that activates our relaxation response, which opens the door for healing…therapy.  Otherwise it would be like injecting a muscle that is contracted.  The needle could break.  There is no health benefit to be derived from that.  So relaxation is important, yet we do not value it much.  I’ve spoken to several persons about relaxation being a benefit of Massage and they see no need for it.  They believe that they can relax in from of the television and save themselves the expense.  But is that relaxation?   We are often so tense that when we do things that move us from a high state of tension to a lower one we call that relaxation.  But when a Massage is performed on us and we feel our bodies let go then we understand.  Relaxation takes on new meaning.  Therapy can now begin.  I can now run to my door and put up a sign outside that says: Massage Therapy In Progress.

At this point the play between conscious and subconscious is noticeable.  Almost anything the Therapist does would facilitate healing because the subconscious part of the client is accessible and if the Therapist advises that light strokes are best from hereon, that is accepted and the client benefits from it just as much as they would have from the deeper strokes that they might have initially felt necessary. If the Therapist does feathering and says that he/she is stripping the client’s aura of the pain or negative energy, the client will feel pleasantly lighter at the end with little or no pain as subconscious is avidly working with the suggestions to bring about the client’s heartfelt desires.  This is not to say that the Therapist should use this as an excuse not to work hard when necessary, but an example of Therapy at work during Massage.  Many of the clients desiring Massage suffer from pain.  What is a Therapist to do with all that accumulated pain at the end of the day?  Leave it to saturate their space?  If energy cannot be destroyed then the pain will inflict the Therapist or someone else.  It therefore has to be transformed through neutralization or any proven method that has worked for the Therapist.  Thus Therapy is a two-way street in yet another light – the client feeling better having released their pain, and the Therapist having taken such and effectively disposed of it.

Another example would be the ‘mind’ body.  It is fascinating when we understand that most of the brain’s activities take place without our conscious awareness.  Most.  That is a strong word.  It clearly says that we do not know ourselves.  Anyway, the very active unconscious part of our mind is very protective and one of the things it does well is to repress memories that it considers harmful to us.  Because energy is in a constant state of movement, these very repressions move their way into our physical bodies over time and they manifest as pain.  Would we seriously be able to remove the pain with our skilled hands while the repressed memories remain?  It would shift from one part of the body to another, or temporarily withdraw into the non-physical self then later return.  Do we then see the need to take the Therapy part of our Massage work seriously?  Do we also see the need for knowledge beyond Anatomy and Physiology and Massage Techniques?  Is it possible that we are drawn to energy therapies because we dare to call ourselves Massage Therapists so the Therapist in us has awakened and is ready to do its work?

This may help us to appreciate why clients may describe the treatment based on ‘how’ they feel afterwards regardless of the techniques employed during the session.  It directly speaks to the state of mind of the client.  The session is valued for its physical benefits, but more importantly for the ability of the Therapist to make the client feel at ease and confident during the treatment.  As the relaxation response sinks into the physical body, the energies of the other bodies are able to permeate it and allow it to self-heal.  Therefore we cannot discredit the idea of the Human Energy Field.  If we do then the Sphe-re, Reiki etc. practitioners would have no basis for their practice, and if the chakras do not exist then there is no system of metabolizing the energy needed by the meridians, and if the meridians are deprived of energy then the work of the Shiatsu, Acupuncture etc. practitioners is a hoax.  That reminds me…one of my clients asked whether I practiced Acupuncture because her sister sent some needles for her and she was eager to use them.  Amusing.  I explained that years are often dedicated to understanding the pathways through which energy flows and how that flow is affected/directed by the elements, sound, breathing, etc. resulting in good or ill health.  As yet, I have no urge to track down invisible lines in anyone’s body and stick needles into them.  Until I have the requisite knowledge doing such would only make me feel like I am the tailor of the Emperor’s suit.  A well-paid profession, but I can’t stand the thought of that lone person in the crowd shouting to my client that her Therapy is no Therapy.