While demonstrating a massage technique, one of my students said, “Ruben, that looks like it feels really good in YOUR body, as a practitioner.”
I replied, “Well, yes. That’s exactly the point of being a body worker. The more you practice massage, the better it feels in your OWN body, and the client benefits from that.”
It was one of those “ah-ha” moments that teachers love to experience. We discussed a common thought trap for new body workers: the stream of self-doubt and anxious “Am I doing this right?” internal questioning.
Hypercritical self-judgment won’t be contained, in your mind, as a new practitioner. It will be expressed subtlety, or more noticeably, in your touch. Doubt and uncertainly will be perceptible, and your work will lack deeper effectiveness. A tentative or distracted massage stroke does nothing to promote grounding or comfort for your client. Your client may not be able to articulate this, but the session will feel incomplete, less than nurturing.
My teacher, Kondañña (Barry Kapke) used to say, “After years of practice, years of bodywork, you arrive at a place where you don’t need to diagnose, fix, judge or force any change. Your work is distilled to its pure form. You offer the weight of your body and your presence.”
For the body worker, the foundation of the session must be this: offering the weight of his/her body and absolute, undivided presence. Over years, the work is simplified to its core. In that pure form, the practitioner is liberated from self-doubt, judgment and fear. Experience helps one to trust one’s knowledge of the body, anatomy and technical skill. The client participates, and sometimes facilitates his/her own practice of self-care. A client will be less inclined to develop an unbalanced dependence on the practitioner’s bodywork.
At the end of a session, if I have been able to stay in my breath, and maintain these essential core principles of bodywork, I am invigorated, more alive, and unburdened by the work. That is why our work must become a Practice, with a capital “P.”