Monday, March 21, 2016

No Ego No Cry

I arrived early to find my client seated in his living room.*  "Come in, Rebecca," he said, "Sit down.  I need to talk to you."  The way he said it made it clear that he was not about to compliment my amazing promptness.

He asked me what it was that I was doing the last few times I had been there.  What kind of work did I call that?  It was an honest, direct question.  I gave him my stock line about Western, anatomy-based massage adapted to reduce any additional strain on his body.  He nodded to show me that he understood.  Then he described his last massage therapist.  Her strong hands.  How the work was so much more beneficial for him.  He wondered if this was something I could do, and if not, would it be worth it to either of us for me to keep coming back again?

I swallowed my tirade about gentle work and my knowledge of the physiological changes happening in his body.  I swallowed the urge to tell him I knew how to work with his body better than his previous therapist, that he was somehow wrong for getting more benefit from her work than mine.

Instead, I remembered the mantra I used when I was learning in Thailand:  no ego, no cry.

I asked him more about his previous treatments, if he could describe what he found particularly beneficial.  I listened to him talk about the skill of his previous therapist.  I nodded to show I understood.  The massage I gave him that day was more muscle-adhesion focused, still within the boundaries of my training and comfort level.

He invited me to talk to him about what I was doing so he could understand.  I inhaled and exhaled -- reminded myself that this was not a person trying to trip me up in a mistake so he had an excuse to fire me.  This was a person who truly sought to understand my approach to his body.  I explained what I could, answered his questions as clearly as I could.  I did all of this until he began to breath more deeply, and settled into his massage.

That day I discovered my next Why.  Why I am not done with massage.  My ego was my biggest struggle in Thailand, and that struggle came home with me.  In fact, it was started here.  My next challenge to to find out how to end it.  Here.

* -- identifying details have been changed

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Today is Why

You may recall that Beatrice helped me realize that I need to stick with this profession.  Since then, I have been struggling with the question of why.

Today is why.

I had 3 clients today, all with a cancer diagnosis in the same organ of their bodies.  You could guess the progression and prognosis of their treatment by the hair on their heads -- from bald, to pixie fringe, to long, heavy ponytail.  You could tell a little about their comfort with their bodies by their unguarded eyes -- and be careful not to assume the eyes match the disease progression.  The most raw fear peeks out from under that long, heavy ponytail.

The expectations we set together have been simple, realistic, and sometimes elusive.  "Give me that glowy feeling I always get from massage."  "Help me relax so I can sleep tonight." "Just make my legs feel more comfortable."  My past tendency was to say 'Yes.  I will do that," then spend the better part of the session worrying about whether or not I was doing that.

Today I tried something new.  Instead of "I will do that," I started with "I will hold that intention."  Instead of worrying about keeping my promise, I found myself present in breathing and being with the person in the room.  Out of that beginning, I found myself more able to feel and interpret what was under my hands, and feeling much more energetic at the end of the day.

I needed to learn and feel that again.  This is why I need to stick with this profession.  Or at least one of many "why"s.  It is my intention to keep open and aware for the next ones.