By Robert Chute
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, November/December 2009.
Susan walked. After four years of being my client, she rose from her wheelchair, largely due to my work. I had earnestly prayed for this miracle. “Please, God, use me to help her walk again.”
She did much more than that. She now lives independently, drives, travels the world, and does many things she couldn’t do when she was strapped in an electric wheelchair and trapped in the body of a near-quadriplegic. I was in a Christian church then; how this miracle had transpired was no mystery. God did it, and I was his fumbling instrument.
Since then I’ve become an atheist and I now have different explanations for this phenomenon. Much of what I did worked with a heavy dose of intuition, and isn’t intuition an everyday term for pattern recognition?
What changed me personally and professionally? Clients died. Tommy was the pastor of my church, the real deal, and certainly the best Christian I’ve ever known. Colon cancer made him a memory to his wonderful little girl. Bitterness decayed my faith. I reasoned that I had more compassion than God.
Ben was a master bodyworker and so very kind. The last time I spoke with him on the phone he had just come from blowing bubbles with his young son. Cancer got Ben. Then Sylvia, a vibrant, caring reflexologist succumbed. All too soon. All too young.
On September 11, 2001, I watched what everyone watched. Others found faith. I found faith was part of the problem. My belief was burned and crushed along with the people in the resulting dust cloud. I sometimes miss the comforting certainty belief provided.
As you read this, depending on the lens through which you see the world, you’re thinking this is an indictment of me or of faith. It is neither. This is a call, no matter what your belief, to find the sacred in your work.
You know therapists who have it—that something extra that elevates their work beyond the casual, the mechanical, and the mundane. I believe that special something stems from three things: connection, caring, and compassion.
Though I no longer pray, I still believe there is great power in bodywork, and the carrier wave of that power can be found in the sacred space between you and your client.
These “Three Cs” can set you apart, no matter your modality or skill. Secular or faithful, these elements are available to us all to inform, or bless, our work. What divinity I have left in life is in my family, my ideals, and the clients who come to me for help.