When did this become the old familiar way to be? I am taking the steps to lay my hands on someone and the work has already begun- my posture changes to very upright, my pace goes down to very slow so as not to scare a skittish horse, my hands land on the surface of that other person like heated air coming to warm a chill, and my breath becomes deep and slow. All this is without conscious thought, simply the way it’s done.
I can recall the first weeks at massage school and none of this happened- no awareness. Even second semester was not much improvement on my intention and tone. My kindness was evident but too many false moves, too little grounded-ness, and lots of un-sureness making trust difficult. I think it was the continuing work with rape survivors that taught me to go slowly, say little, and make firm contact in all ways.
There is something in showing that I will not be afraid of that ones pain no matter what I see- to hold steady and bare witness simply as a way of being with someone unfolding their worst. I remember in Swedish massage class that first I had to learn to work more quickly to make each massage stroke more sure and certain. Once I learned the form then I could consider pace and depth.
Thinking back to that time, I seem to be cleaning out all my own obstacles to my own best touch. I was learning how much came between myself and another when I was being unconscious, not being aware, not deliberately trying to join in being present.
There was also the work of listening. Now, without thinking about it, I am listening inwardly for what I might know from my own life experience, and listening outwardly to what is being told me and perhaps what is not being said, and thirdly I am listening for spiritual guidance that offers messages about what’s needed. I know I was completely numbnuts on this and had to be bludgeoned into noticing the obvious.
I recall a particular moment when I began work in the AIDS wars. I was doing massage on a man named Mikel. He was in decline and I was worried that I would not be good enough to help him die well. In a moment my being was filled with Light and I heard clearly that I do not work alone, that I was never alone, and I would be guided. This tender message washed me in comfort, the delight of knowing I was not working alone, and opened my heart to listen for more as time went on.
So many pieces now in place, so regular- all of them really hard fought and each learned over years and miles and many many people with long hours of hearing, seeing, feeling the worst. I feel like an old monk who goes deep soon, or an old baker that feels the rightness of dough without measuring, or maybe I feel like myself coming back around to myself after so many detours and distractions. It is a comfort to be really good at something after doing it for so many years. Maybe the changes that come will be small, maybe large, but the shift in tone, the peaceful quiet that comes at least is a rest from the worst for now.