massage education, Modalities, Oncology Massage, Thoughts on the profession

Good Conversation, Better Work

For the past couple of months, I have had the immense privilege of hosting Healwell’s online webinar series, The Interdisciplinary Clan of Mystery.  This past Sunday was Episode 2, featuring Janet Booth, my new best friend and amazing, thoughtful human.  We spent an hour talking about end of life care, and what it takes for practitioners to serve clients at the end of life.  By the end it was clear — we needed at least two more hours.

 

marketing man person communication
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Talk is amazing.  And talk is cheap.  I found myself wondering this morning about the practitioners who watched the webinar, and whether anything practical was happening. We talked a lot about doing the inner work necessary to serve other humans.  Across the video conference lines, there was a sea of nodding, agreement, engagement and awareness.  Now, in our separate states, are we doing that inner work, or are we playing Candy Crush on our phones and ignoring our own uneasiness?

 

Since Sunday evening, I have been noticing all the ways I avoid or numb out.  Let me tell you, there are a lot of them.  It’s not always things that are clearly unhealthy.  Sometimes it’s exercise.  Or a book.

 

I had a new client a while back, coming for a massage after several months of not receiving massage.  Healthy, right?  Good self care?  Yet — I wonder.  During the intake I learned this new client had just received some very difficult health information.  Just received, as in about a half hour before the massage appointment.  The client made it clear that the entire massage was a time to forget this looming diagnosis.

 

It is not my place to tell someone how to handle their own bad news.  It is my place to serve without judgement and to create a place of safety.  But that client stayed on my mind for a long time.  I wonder if there is a place where that person can acknowledge what they feel in a place of safety and comfort.

 

Is there a place to be comfortable with our own discomfort.

 

I am working on creating that place and carrying it around me wherever I go.

 

massage education, Massage Tales, Modalities, Oncology Massage, Thoughts on the profession

Interdisciplinary

How about a quick peek into the emerging future of healthcare?

Interdisciplinary:  integrating knowledge and approaches from a variety of different approaches

Interdisciplinary Team: a group of professionals from multiple disciplines working together toward a common goal

I have been thinking and reading a lot about interdisciplinary teams in healthcare.  As the abstract “aging American population” becomes more concrete, both in my practice and my personal life, I am seeing humans who interact with multiple professionals, all for their individual care and keeping.  I am seeing this done very very well, and very very not-so-well.

What is clear to me is this:   the future of healthcare is interdisciplinary.  It is both necessary and desirable that humans have access to multiple professionals to address the multiple and complex needs of their healthcare.  Also:  the future requires us to communicate with one another.  While I know and massage and sometimes take care of people who are receiving interdisciplinary care, that does not always include great communication.

Take, for example, the cancer patient who also has hypertension*.  The oncologist and the nephrologist ask the patient for reports from other physician visits, but they are not asking to communicate directly with each other.  And neither of them wonders about the massage therapist who has been working with the patient since the cancer diagnosis.

In an ideal interdisciplinary world, patients could have access to a wide range of professionals and those professionals would speak to each other on a regular basis.  They might even, I don’t know, learn from each other and gain creative insights into sticky healthcare questions.

Unicorns!  Fairies! Rainbows!, you say?

This is not only possible, it is happening.  Wouldn’t you like to hear from a real interdisciplinary team about how they put it together, how they keep it going, and maybe even how the massage therapy profession can contribute?

You are in luck!

Starting this September, I will be hosting a monthly webinar series for Healwell where we explore these very questions.  We have secured some of the most interesting people working in healthcare today — the people who are asking the questions and creating the change.  Come and join us for the Interdisciplinary Clan of Mystery, where we explore how to deepen our service to the humans we care for, and broaden our perspective to invite collaborations, curiosity and plain old increased clinical knowledge.

We are going to have some fun, challenging, thoughtful, and (best of all) interactive conversations. Join me to take a peek at the disruptors, innovators, and smartest people working in healthcare today.

 

*–patients mentioned are composites or theories and do not represent actual humans

Modalities

Cross Training and Self Care

I am sitting at a table, trying to become more aware of my own movement habits and defenses.  It starts with keeping my posture upright and balanced, feet flat on the floor, trying to breathe into all sides of my ribcage and move from this supported posture, rather than from my usual habits.  Already, I notice how much I rely on my neck to initiate arm movement.  I make a small adjustment to my core engagement and try again.  It feels different, more easy.

I take a break for a short walk around the bookstore where I am working.  As I stop to browse I overhear this conversation:

“Your feet aren’t ugly.”

“Yes they are.  It’s just because I got my nails painted and they uncrusted my feet.  Really, my feet are ugly.”

I just spent the last two days in workshops with Donna Mejia, a scholar, dancer, somatic scientist and excellent teacher.  I have pages of notes and ideas, and a much more clear understanding of why my neck hurts sometimes.  We barely scratched the surface of knowledge she has built through her study, yet we all left with new understanding of how our bodies move.

And we started in a way that I love, and that I wish was unnecessary.  Donna invited us to take a different approach to our bodies.  Instead of thinking of all the things they couldn’t do or the ways in which they failed us, we were invited to be grateful for the all that our bodies were capable of.  Even in a room full of people ready to spend four hours in movement, it is necessary to remind ourselves of what our bodies can do.

four person standing at top of grassy mountain
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This approach resonates with me because it is a position of strength, and from this position of strength — however tenuous — we are able to discover ways to move, breathe live and be with more ease.  It seems to me that we should not give up our position of strength because of ideas about what feet are supposed to look like.

In the time I have been sitting here, fresh from workshops and with movement awareness at the top of my mind, I have been blissfully unaware of what I look like, and yet deeply aware of my body in space.  Areas of ease and tension, habitual defensive patterns, ways to move more efficiently.  The side effect of all of this is a calm mind free of much of my usual internal chatter.

As with all things, maintaining this is a practice, ongoing and ever-evolving.

massage education, Modalities, Oncology Massage

The Impossible Task

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I have two hours this coming Thursday to teach a roomful of massage students about Oncology Massage.  I will fail at this task.  I know I will fail because I have deliberately, and with careful attention, set myself up to fail.  I look forward to it.

If you’ve been around me for anything more than an hour or so, you know that I practice oncology massage, and I teach oncology massage basics whenever I can.  This is a three day, 24-hour, continuing education workshop where we routinely end the class by telling people how much more they have to learn.

About 8 weeks ago, when I took a good long look at the syllabus for the Pathology class I’m teaching, I saw that I had one class period to cover oncology massage.  Just one class.  Two hours.  To me, this is barely enough time to really make sure the class understands what cancer actually is, other than something you wear pink or run 5Ks to “cure.”  I decided that I needed to get in front of this topic right away.

The information I can cover in two hours is maybe just bordering on enough to give students the right intake questions to ask — the questions that will help them know when they need to refer someone to someone who is trained in oncology massage.

Fortunately for me, every class mentions a cancer of whatever system we happen to be studying, so I have frequent, relevant times to set expectations.  I have repeated variations on the phrase “more training is needed” since the first week of class.  I have tried to repeat often that the best therapists are those who work within their knowledge and skill set — those who are generous with admitting they don’t know something.  I am trying to set them up to know what they don’t know.

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
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This Thursday, armed with our textbooks and the 70-or-so slides that go with it, we will attempt to talk through oncology massage.  We will fall short.  We will, in other words, fail.  And in doing so, we will gain the much more valuable knowledge of our own limits.  I will be happy with that.  If I can release these students from this class with more questions and curiosity than answers and certainty, I will have done my job well.

Let’s get to falling short.

Massage Tales, Modalities, Thoughts on the profession

Presence over Pressing

Yesterday I had one of the best days in my massage career in Louisville.

The day started with a visit to a hospice client*.  I spent a half hour moving slowly around her as she rested in bed, breathing deeply and slowly falling asleep.  Her skin was pale and papery thin.  I could see the round outline of her knee through her sheets.  This person, this frail body, needed nothing so much as my focused attention.  I softened my hands and laid them gently on her arms, shoulders, knees.  I held her hands in mine and gently moved her fingers.  I held her head while she breathed and relaxed her arms.  the thought came to me slowly, in the way that you might realize light has come into your bedroom in the morning.  The thought was:  how wonderful it feels to be exactly where I ought to be.

Later in the day, I worked with a few clients at my office, “healthy” clients who did not require the same kinds of adaptations as the morning client.  Even so, some part of the stillness from the morning stayed with me, as did the sense of peaceful presence.  With the people I had worked with before, I noticed a new layer of quiet reverence.  The stillness in me brings forth and honors the stillness in you.

As I am reflecting on this good day, I am remembering something a friend told me.  She came to visit for a weekend, and scheduled a massage with me during her visit.  We used to trade on a regular basis when I lived in Chicago, so she has received numerous massages from me.  After her massage, she hugged me and she said,”Your hands feel different.  It feels like your touch has come into its own here.  This place suits you.”

And she is right.  This place suits me.  Not just this physical place, but the place that holds the kind of work I did yesterday.  The place of calm ease and stillness.  The place where presence is so much more important than pressing.

*–any names and identifying details have been changed

Massage Tales, Modalities, Thoughts on the profession

Tired Hands

I arrived at my friend’s house after a full day of clients.  As I made the short drive from my office, I felt my hands grow more and more heavy on the steering wheel.  I felt the muscles in my forearms tingle with weakness and the tips of my fingers throbbed as if they were bruised.

  “Please,” I said, when I walked in the door, “could you just massage my hands for a minute?”

The day that led to that state of manual exhaustion (pun intended) was the kind of day I consciously tried to build my career to avoid.  A one-after-the-other stack of new clients unlikely to schedule repeat visits.  Lovely human beings who were perfectly healthy and who only got massages when someone else bought them a gift certificate, or when they were on vacation at a warm, tropical resort.  Deep in the muscles of my hands and arms, I felt the weariness of spending hours doing the kind of work I did not want.  My hands were tired, and I could not imagine massaging another human that day.

I suppose if I were a better businesslady, I could have found and mustered a way to talk to each of these people about the way I work (not aggressively), about the value of regular massage for all people, and about building a relationship with one massage therapist over time.  I suppose if I were more focused on filling my practice, I could have done all those things the brilliant people at Massage Business Blueprint suggest you do to retain clients.

Maybe I am fundamentally, constitutionally, and semi-aggressively a slacker when it comes to standard business building.  I would rather live simpler and with fewer new things so that I can have time and leisure to walk in the woods, or sit and write, or sit and think about writing.  I would rather end the day with calm, relaxed hands.  The better to capture ideas with, my dear.

As my friend massaged my hands, I felt the weariness drain out like water.  In its place, surrounding every filament, fiber and fascicle, I felt a sparkling readiness.  Rest would come soon, and when it did come, it would be deep and restorative.  It wasn’t the work that made me weary, it was the chaos.  I have dropped my marketing efforts and forgotten the niche I identified for myself.  Time to sit quietly again, and  put the business where my heart is.

heart-mussels-harmony-love-161002.jpegDear Ones, I am your resource in Louisville for manual lymphatic drainage.  This is a gentle, profoundly relaxing, medical massage technique that is used as part of the treatment for lymphedema, but also has many beneficial applications.  My clients have found relief from allergy-related sinus headaches, post-workout swelling and soreness, post-surgical swelling and general tension headaches.  Come in and talk to me about it, and experience it for yourself.

 

Massage Tales, Modalities, Thoughts on the profession

When I’m Not Your Therapist

It happened again.  That moment with a new client where I realized with utter clarity that I am not the right massage therapist for this human.  The moment I knew:  about ten minutes into the massage, when the client said, “You can press harder.  I’m used to lots of pressure.”

I said, “Okay,” and thought, “I am not your therapist.”  Because this client wanted deep tissue, or this thing we often mistakenly call deep tissue.  And I am not a deep tissue therapist.

Don’t misunderstand me — I can (and do) work specifically, effectively, and therapeutically.  What I don’t do particularly well (and don’t care to) is to press REALLY HARD into someone’s tissues.  If that is the kind of bodywork your body wants, then I am definitely not your therapist.

I have a number of theories and twice as many opinions about deep tissue massage and when or whether it is actually necessary or effective.  I am pretty well convinced that the most profound effects come from work that is more gentle, based in finesse and knowledge and listening to the body of the person on the table.  I am also convinced that when a client is able to really be present, to drop fully and completely into their body, it is not necessary to be super aggressive.

There is an excellent (and I hope not cancelled) podcast called Change Agent.  On one of the episodes, the hosts explored the steps necessary to persuade someone to change their mind about something.  It came as no surprise to me that none of those steps involved shouting or force of any kind.  They talked about listening, seeking to understand.  About becoming vulnerable and sharing your own true and relevant experience.

This strikes me to be true for massage as well.  Massage is a conversation.  It is my nervous system (and knowledge and training), speaking to your nervous system (and wisdom and lived experience.)  It is the same with hands as it is with words — shouting is not conversation, it is argument.  Shouting is imposing my (or your) will, and that is just about the last thing I want to do as your massage therapist.

That being said, I am also aware that my particular touch may not feel right for everyone.  Our nervous systems speak different languages, and that’s okay.  I am happy to refer you (or anyone) to a therapist who is fluent in the language of you.

Because the other thing I a fully convinced of (and will write about later): scarcity is a dangerous myth.  Keeping a tight and jealous hold on my domain does not increase my prosperity, it does the opposite.  I am not in business to keep anyone from getting the best massage for their body.  Sometimes, that massage comes from me, and when it doesn’t, I will do what I can to help you find the person you need.