Hands at work, head bowed. So many of us spend time in this position. I find it curious that, as a massage therapist, I often assume a tense, hunched posture in an effort to relieve the tension and constrained musculature of another human. Lifting my head becomes important.
Early in my career I was thankfully employed by spas and health clubs until I could figure out what I actually had to offer. I worked in many conditions, none of them terrible, but there were some humdingers. By far the most challenging was the spa where I labored in a windowless, slightly musty room on the other side of a women’s fitness club, with no sound insulation.
Without fail, during one of my sessions, the dance music would kick in and end up going for hours. There I was: pouring it on, with carefully selected healing music on my boombox and an array of high-quality essential oils at the ready, the best intentions in my heart and my mind focused purely on the task at hand, and all of the sudden: nnn-tt-nnn-tt-nnn-tt-nnn-tt —– LET YOH BODDY – MOOOOVE TO THE MYOOOSIC . Entire mood blown, train of thought derailed, thanks to “Vogue.”
In my current office, where I’ve been the past six years, there are ample windows and not only do I get to feel and watch the sunlight move through the room, but there is yard and fruit trees, fresh air blowing through open windows, with field, forest and mountains beyond. Even while in session, with the curtains drawn, I can peek out between panels and see. You can be assured I don’t miss much that happens in my bucolic surrounds.
In the summer: Gary’s endless lawn labors, his and Jane’s kids and their friends running amok, incoming storms and tons of traffic. The autumn brings mist, wet grey that goes for days, torrents of rich khaki leaves blowing unending up through the field and into any low-lying place to clatter and gather. In the winter, the blinding white of sunlight against old snowfall, falling snow itself, aching stillness and dark.
In spring: the gradual dissolve of icy white ground into the browngrey of dead grass, the browngrey everywhere dissolving into green. Songbirds and free-range fowl; this year there will be guinea hens. If I forget to look up, their screen-door screech and the sight of them strutting by in my peripheral vision will snap me to attention, and I will remember: head up, child. Stand proud, like a chicken.
The need to raise my head is not mere scenery appreciation: it serves a purpose, that which I initially spoke of: the need to not be all tense and scrunched while attempting to relieve the tense/scrunch of a client. Remember the sage words spoken to you by your stewardess the last time you took a plane: “Secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” This, and many other things in the standard safety spiel of flight, is applicable to life: help yourself before you think you can help another. (Another of my favorites, which every time I hear it or consider it, is raised to near-koan heights: “Remember the closest exit may be behind you.”)
And I start with how I hold myself while I work: core strength engaged, head balanced on top of my body instead of hanging off the top of my neck: ears aligned with shoulders, shoulders in line with my hips, hips over my knees, and feeling that energy all the way through my feet. My head, therefore, naturally, is up and my eyes are looking a lot of other places than down. I am not on an assembly line, assembling widgets. Bodywork is, for all its proven efficacy and inroads into allopathic medicine, feels more like playing a Chopin prelude by heart, or doing tai chi. So I don’t have to hang on so hard.
Which brings me to my final reason for looking up: it is ultimately from whence my help truly comes. My best work doesn’t come from strain, parsing, fixing – all of which causes me to rivet my gaze. If I lift my eyes, I drop my agenda for my client because I am not staring at them and their trouble spots. Taking my eyes up from my work and gazing softly ahead, I am insisting on the intrinsic intelligence of my own two hands and their ability to listen/feel and heal, all by their blessed selves, which they do, they really do, and the less I try to help them the better off everyone is for the next 90 minutes.
Lifting up, I drop into the bliss of trust and surrender better. My intention for my client, whatever that might be – a cured headache, an eased heartache, reduced backache and/or utter and complete transformation of their circumstance – is enough. Intention is not intellectual: it is all heart, and with a lifted gaze, my head moves back on top of my spine, and my upper chest opens and expands naturally, allowing my heart to feel its fullness and power.