There is no such thing as a “routine” massage — except when there is. And those are the times when it’s really evident how much blur has crept into my focus.
For most massage therapists, our initial training deals heavily with massaging healthy people. We get lots of time and practice developing our skills for a human body with no evidence of any sort of disease. Many of us get so good at it by the time school and clinics and practicals are over that it becomes, well, it becomes automatic.
Except — we only have to step one foot out into the world of actual humans to know it isn’t automatic, and it is our responsibility to make sure it never becomes automatic. Humans are complicated, and so many of us struggle with some kind of imperfection. It’s what makes us so lovely and amazing. And it’s what makes it necessary for every therapist to be awake and aware all the time with every client. If I forget that my first client has had inguinal lymph nodes removed, or that my last client just had a fairly large mole removed from their shoulder — I risk causing anything from discomfort to damage.
It is a little bit of a rarity for me to work with someone who has a simple health history form. As I was working with a client like this the other day, I realized I had left something very important outside the massage room — my focus. I struggled to stay aware, alert and engaged with the human on my table. I managed to stay connected (enough) and do some good (enough) work with my client. I felt lucky that the work was good enough for the client to re-book with me. And, I know I am capable of much better.
I’ve traveled through the land of therapist burn out. This is much different. I look forward to seeing clients, and at times my mind will not be quiet when I am working. There are habits that build the skill of focus, and I have been neglecting those habits.
Every individual in my massage school class had one unique, special thing that they were the best at. For me, that was focus. It was, at least in school, my superpower. I am no comic book superhero, though. My superpower takes time and attention to maintain. Yes, in order to maintain my focus, I must — focus.
And once again, life invites me to extend to myself the same compassion and understanding I try to extend to clients, students and everyone. To stumble is human. To stand back up again — also human, though it feels like a divine effort.
Breathing in awareness, breathing out diffuseness, I focus.