a sacred or holy place.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about sanctuary. Massage practitioners use that word often when describing their practice: “Welcome to your sanctuary,” “This office is a sanctuary,” etc. I wonder if, when we use the word, we also put in the work behind making it true.
A sanctuary is a sacred place, a place removed from the daily life of the world where a person comes to connect with something higher in themselves. It takes more than quiet music, warm tables and soft sheets. It even takes more than a skilled practitioner. Creating sanctuary takes work and intention. Every time I walk into my massage room, I build this sacred space again.
I start by turning on the music in the room, for the practical reason of adjusting volume and testing equipment, and to replace all the scattered thoughts in my head with focus on my clients for the day. Then I put sheets on the table, smoothing them down to be inviting and comforting. The simple act of choosing sheets involves thinking of the client who will shortly be using them. Does this person run hot or cold? Is their skin sensitive?
I try to manage myself in the massage space as well — even when clients are not there. I save my task-based worries and general anxieties for my desk, with varying degrees of success. I have been trying to convey this idea to my students, and I am running up against the wall of metaphor: check your bags at the door, leave your garbage on the curb, put it at the coat check. At any rate, I know that whatever I set aside will either wait for me to come back and care for it or walk away.
I soften my hands — easier to let go that way — and root my feet. I create in my body something solid and rooted, but flexible and agile. The truth about creating a sanctuary is that it is a relationship with the space, and as such, requires work. I can call a place a sanctuary, but if I haven’t put in the work behind it, the place is merely quiet.