Monday, July 29, 2013

There Are More Things on Heaven and Earth

Last time I wrote about Christina, and I talked a little bit about True, as in, "what happens on the table is True." (quote by Tracey Walton.) "True" is the word that stuck with me after our session, and the word that keeps coming into my mind at unattended moments.  It came to me again in the form of Gina*, my client.

Like many of my clients, Gina has cancer.  She has a difficult cancer that most places would call end stage.  As in terminal.  As in: don't waste your time with chemo, Gina, just enjoy the time you have left.  Gina isn't having it.  Last time I saw her, she spoke for a long time about her quest for the next level of treatment, and about how the massages brought her to a calm place after living every day in anxiety. She asked me, in all sincerity, what kind of energy work I was doing with her.

I told her I wasn't trained in energy work. I didn't have that knowledge or skill, so I couldn't possibly claim to be doing energy work on her.

Smiling, Gina said, "Bullshit!"

She climbed on the table for her session.  I focused and grounded myself, like I always do.  I massaged her gently, cautiously, and slowly, like I always do.  I silently wished her peace as I did so, like any human being would do.

Gina's breathing slowed, her shoulders dropped.  After the session, she told me she felt a light and calm presence surrounding and infusing her body.  I thanked her, and hugged her, and decided not to wonder where that came from.


*-- name and all identifying details have been changed

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Question of True

"The bear is chasing you," she said, "You need to get out of that sympathetic state."  She twisted my ankle back and forth directing me to move my eyes.  Eyes open.  Eyes closed.  Eyes open.  Eyes closed looking up.  Eyes closed looking to the left.  She gave me words to focus on.  True.  Grudge.  Moral.  Joy.  Each one unremarkable in itself, but somehow every time she said a new word, a new wave of tears broke over my face.  I was the ocean, finally breaking through the futile walls built to control and contain.

I went to massage school with Christina, and I am ashamed to say I don't think I treated her as well as I should have.  She was deep into energy work, fields, auras, chakras and all that.  I was deep into science.  The evidence-based path that I knew was the only way to build respect for our profession.  We left school, parted ways, stayed tangentially in touch.  I went to see her because I was buying a room divider from her before she moved out West.

I couldn't help it -- she asked me how I was and I told her the truth through tears.  Not good.  Not fine.  Generous, lovely Christina -- she would not let me leave without doing some work for me.  She gave me her gift of time, attention, and, yes, energy.  I don't pretend to understand the systems she used.  I never studied energy work.  But I decided in my broke-openness to accept.  Just accept the gifts being offered to me.  I don't understand what happened, but I know I left feeling stronger, lighter, and better able to breathe.

I am reminded of something Tracey Walton said in a workshop about massage therapy research: "What happens on the table is true."  I couldn't find any evidence to support what I was felt except that I felt it.  I used to say, in my arrogance, that I didn't "believe in" energy work.  That I preferred to focus on the known and proven/provable physiological effects of massage.  I thought the woo-woo ness of some energy-based bodywork cheapened our profession.

After some years doing oncology massage, I was coming around a little bit, but still maintained a healthy skepticism.  But now I must admit that the work Christina does is, in the fullest sense of the word, True.