We all seek self understanding. In my case, I have been wondering what the connection is between my two strongest interests—environmentalism and professional touch. At first, they seemed to have little in common. One has to do with animals, ecosystems and avoiding exploitation or over-use of the planet. The other is related to healing, helping, connecting and becoming a better person. As I look further, I see there is indeed a strong correlation. Somewhere in between these two passions lies a core value that I take with me throughout life; that is always in the background of every conversation, every meeting, every phone call and all of my relationships with people and things.
As a massage therapy teacher, I had an enlightening experience as I watched one student work on her husband one day. This student is quite nice and manages to get straight A’s, however, she is also high impact—what the shiatsu folks would call a “fire” personality or constitution. Anyway, I watched as her voice become so soft and tender that I could hardly recognize the student any more as she checked in with him on pain and pressure. It made me realize that this is one of the reasons that I so love massage therapy. It has the power to change people, not just the receiver, but the therapist as well, as we become more in touch with our own bodies, more compassionate and more sensitive to others and the world around us.
So many people walk around numbed out, out of touch, somewhere else in time or place. They are not present. They are thinking of what could be, what used to be. They are fearful of being in the moment. Would you recognize it, if you were truly happy? Could you tell what happiness looks like, what it feels like? People become attached to their misery; they even benefit from it. My mom used to say: “tell three people and then let it go.” Many people could shut down and stop trying. Everyone has their reasons. It is up to us to continue fighting and to resist the temptation to quit, become sloppy or pretend we don’t care.
Environmentalism is all about caring. The easy path is to eat at McDonald’s, drive a big car, become materialistic, over-use technology and so on. The hard path is to be selective and discerning, to think about each decision carefully and its impact on the natural world. What if technology was reserved primarily for the sick, old and disabled? Imagine how healthy our society would be if elevators and cars, for instance, were only for people who couldn’t climb stairs, walk or bike. Western Medicine has also become technological and chemical. The technology allows us to see and do wonderful things in some cases, but it also separates us from our patients making healthcare less hands-on.
In some ways, environmentalism feeds the massage therapist. The therapist is a conduit for energy from the universe and by venturing into the natural world, we fill ourselves with this spirit. The pitter patter of raindrops, lightning strike, tiny white moths that look like fairies, hollowed out trees, ear-like mushrooms, rocky crags, whistling birds, rustling leaves, rushing waters, sunlight and morning dew… These natural cues calm our nervous system and remind us of a world that functions 24-7 without any help from us and that will continue after we are gone.
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