Monday, May 14, 2012

The art of the Art

Being a massage therapist requires a harmonious combination of talents. We need to be technically proficient and physically strong enough to do the work. We need to know anatomy and physiology. I wouldn't put myself into the hands of a massage person who didn't know her anatomy.

In addition to the technical sculpture we engage in, we need to also know how to dance. During a session, the client lies still while the therapist is in almost constant motion. It's an interesting dynamic. We lean in, then back off, we move from the head of the table to the foot, from side to side. We position a pillow under the knees, respectfully tuck the drape as needed. I can tell you from years of experience as a receiver of massage that the sessions in which the therapist moves smoothly, rhythmically and mindfully from one thing to the next are far more effective than sessions with less artful practitioners.

I'm thinking this morning about how essentially artful we homo sapiens are, how we began doing drawings on the cave wall the very second we figured out how. We hollowed out sticks, poked holes and played music, we started dancing a very long time ago. Why? Artful expression is a significant facet of who we are as a species.

It's not just massage therapy that, at its best, is both a science and an art.

Of course for those who prefer to lean into what is rational, art and artists are a bit problematic - or a lot! Art can't be measured and examined scientifically. Art is almost purely subjective. If you asked me why I benefit substantially more from a massage that's rhythmic and follows a graceful trajectory - like a symphony or a ballet - than a series of massage techniques, I could not explain it. Maybe it has something to do with the multiple rhythms that are a part of everyone's physiology. Probably it does. I also think that as a human being, I respond to art and that I'm healed by art as much as by technique.

I've received so many terrible massages that mostly had to do with a lack of artful expression by the therapist. There are many reasons why this happens. Some people aren't dancers. They want to heal others; it isn't their fault, but they just can't access the art of massage. In most cases I think it's because the therapist is completely burned out, overscheduled, fried. When I receive massages from therapists who are on auto pilot, I barely benefit from the work, no matter how skilled the therapist is technically.

The confluence of skilled technique and artful dance in massage therapy is a sublime experience that becomes more than a sum of its parts.

Art is slippery, there is no language that adequately describes its impact, but I believe in my heart of hearts that we can't live fully without it. May you take in something beautiful today, through your eyes, ears, nose or skin, please. And may you express yourself creatively in some way or another. May it be so!


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