Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rhythm Heals.

I hope N.E.D. (www.nedtheband.com) will forgive me for borrowing their song title for this post, but it fits exactly what I want to say.  I have been thinking about oncology massage and geriatric massage, and why I am drawn to it.  I get asked this question a lot.  My stock answer is : "It suits me."  I never truly tried to dissect why.

Then I saw a documentary about this amazing group of gynecological oncologists who formed a rock band called N.E.D. In the documentary, one of the doctors talked about how music could help patients find hope and optimism in the face of a devastating diagnosis.  After the film, my friend and I talked about how nice it was to see physicians talk about the healing power of Art.

Which brings me back to what suits me.  Art suits me.  For me, the creation of any kind of art requires first a basic compassion towards and optimism about humanity.  To build something new and lovely out of one's mind and heart works best, I think, when the artist loves their audience.  Even when they don't know who their audience is.  For me, massage therapy, the Art side of it, feels like a pure and tangible form of love and optimism.  And working with oncology and geriatric clients magnifies that feeling.  As I reach out to touch people who are often at war with their physical bodies, I find that my technical skills and scientific knowledge mean nothing if I don't begin with love.  By this I mean what Christians sometimes call "Agape," the deep respect, care and compassion for our shared humanity.

I may not be making music like the #Rockdocs, but I am tapping into and creating rhythm.  The rhythm of breath, the rhythm of movement, the rhythm of a treatment addressing and responding to a person where she is, right now.  It heals.


Check out N.E.D.'s song here:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"I absolve you, mediocrities everywhere!"

I went to my first faculty meeting.  Besides the usual talking-too-much-about-nothing which plagues every meeting, this one had an extra level of despair.  The campus director was talking to us about student retention -- quite a challenge with our student body lately.  She berated us for saying sometimes that we thought this or that student did not have what it takes to be a massage therapist.

She told us, in all seriousness, that employers needed graduates at all levels.  They needed superstars to come in and be amazing.  They needed skilled journeyman-level workers who could come in and knock out some solid relaxation services.  And (she hesitated) they needed less skilled people who they could train how they want.

Pardon? I looked at my colleague to my left.  She looked like she was going to turn green and Hulk it out all over the room.  I looked at my colleague to my right.   She was rubbing her ears as if something was messing with her hearing.  Did our campus director really just say that employers WANTED mediocre, unknowledgeable therapists?

I started teaching because I love this profession and I want to make it better.  I have met and received massages from some pretty mediocre therapists, and rather than complain about them, I wanted to be part of the vanguard that made them better.  My vision is massage therapy as a 2- or 4-year program, depending one whether one wants to be a generalist or specialist.  I see myself, and my students as part of the health care continuum which includes physicians, nurses, napropaths, and a whole range of highly trained professionals. There is no room for mediocrity in my vision.

I do understand that students who struggle often become therapists who do amazing work.  I am willing to work with these students to get there.  I am not willing to push along a student who will not take anatomy or kinesiology seriously.

One of the two colleagues sitting next to me put in her resignation after the meeting.  She was that disillusioned.  Sometimes I wish I had the financial wherewithal to do the same.  But then, I remember the woman from Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Noble Bachelor," dismantling the walls that held her from inside, brick by brick.  Subversion takes years, sometimes.  It takes patience, always.  I tell myself that this is what I am doing.