Thoughts on the profession

The Imperfection of Sight

“It wigs people out when someone actually sees them.  And it wigs us out to fully see ourselves.”

I am fortunate to be able to teach in a number of different venues, and I love them all.  My favorite, though, is the almost overwhelming intensity of a short workshop. With a room of people who have chosen to spend their time and money in a very particular way.  I teach continuing education, and in the workshops we often take time to consider ourselves, and what version of ourselves we bring to our clients. 

A few days ago, we were talking about working with people who are seriously ill.  We were considering medical decisions, and what we might do if we are working with someone who makes a decision that is different from one we might make.  The question on the table was about a specific case; about our thoughts, resistances, and feelings.  It was about what we would do.

Everyone in the room took the time to think about the question.  They sat in their groups and talked animatedly with each other and when we came back together, they gave their thoughts in echoes. 

Of course we would work with this person. 

We are massage therapists.

It’s not our concern what decision someone makes.

And that was the end of it.  Or was it?

I agreed with and believed everything they said. We are compassionate professionals and we practice unconditional positive regard.  Everyone’s health care decisions are their own to make.

And yet.  After the work is done and the client feels better and we get home alone at night with our feelings and our truth, what is there? Is there only a practiced neutrality that never allows for any conflict or feeling of distress?  Are we that good?

We are not.  I know deep in my own being we are not.  Because we are human.  The thing we are good at is hiding the uncomfortable bits of ourselves.  Our fears.  Our prejudices.  Our anger and our hurt. 

There were only a few minutes of class left.  So, I took a deep breath and offered some homework.  Dig a little deeper, I said.  I told them the truth.  I had conflicted feeling about working with the person in our scenario.  I saw wasted resources in the decisions being made.  I have prejudices that are causing me tension around the whole situation. 

If we don’t take out our darkest feelings and consider them, how do we trust our light? 

Remember when you were a child and were scared of the monsters under the bed or in the closet? Remember that a swift antidote to those fears was to go and look.  Put on a light and see the places where your fears reside. 

ancient art artist artistic
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It wigs us out when we see ourselves.  Because when we do, we must acknowledge the parts of ourselves that are not kind, not loving, not full of unconditional positive regard.  In our oversimplified way, we might think this makes our kindness and love somehow invalid.  What is does, really, is give us the tools we need to make our kindness and love richer and more true.  It saves us from collapsing under the weight of our unacknowledged shadows.  It returns us to our wholeness. 

The students left with the homework.  I hope they went home and looked into their own hearts and saw everything, or a little closer to everything.  I know some of them did not.  But I believe some of them did, and that is enough.  It is imperfect and it is enough. 

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.