The Essence of Touch
When we offer someone a massage treatment, do we have the subtle idea that we are doing something to someone else to fix them, or are we humble enough to let our hands do the listening without ego, self-centered motives of the shadow healer? The shadow healer is an archetype which is primarily interested in personal gain and heroic power. Often disguised as fake-humility, secretly seeking praise and recognition, the shadow healer has the need to be put on a pedestal of greatness, which creates superiority and polarity which in the end can lead to burn-out or inappropriate boundaries with others. We need to be alert when this shadow is lurking in the background and is therefore always good to check our motives for offering healing touch and what our expectations are.
“The importance of the touch before we even enter into the technique.”
The way we touch during our treatments as therapists, largely depends on our capacity to listen. If we come into a session with a pre-thought out sequence and technique that we are going to do, we are immediately creating a one-way dialogue. A monologue. An “I am going to do something to you” situation. This implies that I am the doer and you are the non-doer. Active and passive. Separation. Duality. If we arrive with a calm curiosity of what we may find and the intention to simply allow ourselves to listen to what the other person needs, then we begin to open up possibilities for homeostasis in the body and just by being there and listening we can facilitate the process of self-healing. For this to happen we need to surrender, let go of prejudice, be invisible, humble and aware of our own personal limitations with a high level of self-care and self-awareness.
How to approach the body during a session of bodywork?
When we are teaching our courses on Thai massage we have some principles that we share to help others understand the importance of the touch before we even enter into the technique.
Although for some people this can seem dogmatic or unnecessary, this form of prayer is a simple request for guidance to know where and how to touch the other person. This can be in the form of a prayer or a quiet moment to centre the breath. It can also be the moment where we recognize whatever is going on in our personal life and we leave our story at the door and come into a state of presence to begin listening and touching the other person.
Before engaging in that first contact, we must check in with our body posture. We adjust it accordingly in order for both the giver and receiver to be comfortable. This is something to continuously check throughout the whole session and the best way to know if they are comfortable is to ask yourself the same question. If we have tension or use muscle power or shake then the other person feels it.
Full and complete awareness of what we are doing – hands, minds and hearts as one unit will allow for complete synchronicity and harmony in the symphony of your being. Of course our minds may wander and be distracted by thoughts and emotions, but this is a great opportunity to observe the monkey mind and again and again come back into the present moment. The here and now. Regular meditation and a deeper self-awareness are tools to help facilitate this.
Hara in Greek means our naval energetic centre. Understanding that this area is to be facing the other person helps us to stay open and grounded, with the understanding that all movement and stillness originate from this place. When we are not focusing the other person with our hara, then it is difficult to observe and respond to their needs.
We use gravity, not muscular power to go deeper when necessary. When we use force, we often meet resistance. When we wait for the body to allow us to go in further, we can do it gracefully and gravity is the wind behind our wings. When we are aware of this, we don’t get tired because we are not using our own efforts.
Moving from one posture to the other is an art, so as not to create sudden, clumsy, jerky movements. Slow, steady rhythm and grace are essential for smooth treatments and help the giver to remain invisible and a guiding force instead of a doing force.
Touching the other person as if they were a newborn baby with precision, love, care and sensitivity is vital because this helps the other to feel safe. Safe to release and safe to relax. We are not going to drop them. Our whole hand is fully active and relaxed – firm and gentle.
Offering sessions to other people which involve touch demands an incredible amount of awareness and questioning – who am I to be doing this work? We must never stop questioning who we are and why we are doing what we are doing. We may give a great treatment and feel amazing and then give a session in which the other person feels nothing inspiring. It doesn’t matter. Our aim should not be to please the other. Our aim should not be to heal another. Our aim should be to do our best and forget the rest. There will always be praise and blame. There will always be judgments and comparisons. The work we need to do is to stay equanimous with what other people say, take their feedback in an earnest way with the desire to listen and improve but without emotional ups and downs. When someone says we are great, do we feel great? And vice-versa. Can we feel the same way with either? That’s the tricky work. The part that is often overlooked in this world of healing touch.
Never underestimate the message your hands are giving…the signals which are coming from you and to you…and don’t deny them their innate intuitive nature…
When the mind is clear the hands may do the walking as the body is doing the talking…let them explore…and simply trust that process.
This is the invitation. To actively, gently and fearlessly question yourself and simply touch.
Read the 1st part of the “Essence of Touch”, analyzing what does it mean to touch and to be touched.
Find the full article (in German) about “The Essence of Touch” on Yoga Aktuell Magazine.