To the Heart of the Matter

A Massage Experience

By Mari Gayatri Stein

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2010.

All beings want to be happy and secure. All beings want to be free of pain and suffering. But how do we attain this ideal, earthly goal? Massage goes right to the heart of the matter. It can elevate us without alienating us from reality. Through massage, we can reach beyond the affliction of our mortality and embrace our impermanence.

I have found massage to be a great equalizer. With the skillful touch of a savvy massage therapist, I am able to be in my body so completely that the sense of solidity actually dissolves. I become a channel of pure energy. After all, science has demonstrated that we are a unified force of vibrating cellular and atomic activity. When I immerse myself in the dominion of touch, time stands still, suffering is alleviated, and impermanence reveals itself to be a source of liberation, rather than a specter.

It may take time to surrender my physical resistance, but I always approach the massage table with willingness and joyful expectation. Little by little, the trapped energy in my tense muscles is released. As the massage therapist kneads the knots out of my arms, irons out the creases on my forehead, pulverizes the pebbles in my tired feet and toes, and rubs away the kinks in my back, thighs, and calves, I feel a surge of well-being.

When the physical tension breaks up into energy, it dissolves the deeper emotional holdings long buried in my body. Suddenly those underlying issues that have demonized me are cast off. I am able to relinquish the old concepts that bind me. With awareness comes the freedom to choose a benevolent path. Massage can lead us through a corridor of calm to an open door of clarity, compassion, and wisdom. Mindful touch is a potent tool of freedom. I always feel emancipated after a good massage session. I come away relaxed and brimming with altruism and magnanimous love for all sentient beings.

From My Nose To My Toes

So there I am, faceup on the table. The sheet is tucked around my shoulders. I’m always cold, so I have added a green duvet to the mix. It gives the table a layered look. One therapist said I appeared to be ensconced in a tea cozy.

Au debut, I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. This proves to be an invitation to my dog, Mumbles, to trot over and lick my nose. Then he does his accustomed series of doggy pivots and with a thump settles onto my meditation cushion. He knows it will be a while before playtime, so he might as well enjoy the vicarious vibes of my massage. Like a smile, relaxation is infectious. It begins to radiate around the room as Kate, my massage therapist, ceremoniously unwraps my left foot from the blue flannel sheet. Expertly, she applies pressure to my arch, my heel, and each toe. It is excruciatingly wonderful.

Pain in the service of healing is a breed of its own. I love deep work and always find it remarkable how the pain I choose feels so good, so liberating. As I let go of the tension in my feet, I feel as though I am easing my footfalls on life—my desire to control destiny and to fix those around me subsides. My body senses that my next step on the earth will be one of energetic reciprocity. I will become an organic part of the unfolding journey, instead of needing to choreograph each step along the way.

When Kate digs her thumbs into my calves, it hurts so good I moan. All that defensiveness is morphing into lighthearted, childlike joy. I imagine myself dancing in the forest with Mother Nature taking the lead. Life feels suddenly easier.

As Kate begins to apply long strokes along either side of my spine, I let go of grief. All my losses well up in a wave of emotion and then flow from my heart onto a sunny, sandy beach of warm memories. I taste the bittersweetness of life as the therapist articulates each rib and then dives into the denseness of my shoulder blades. It feels like a purification—a letting go of old stuff and embracing the shores of new possibility. I feel soft, malleable, and receptive. My vulnerability is akin to the tender center of a flower opening to the nourishment of the morning sun.

Now Kate works those tight, painful points around my eyes, cheekbones, and jawline. When she finesses the furrows on my forehead, she erases the worries lurking beneath them. Her knuckles punctuate the volume of my scalp and I tingle with well-being. Endorphins flood through my entire body. “Ahhh,” I sigh audibly. This is the life. I rest in that deep peaceful center—balanced in the body and at one in my soul.