“Your quality of touch is different - I feel relaxed with it. I’m not reacting defensively like I sometimes do...
My body is open to it.”
I wonder how the world would be if we all knew how to touch and be touched with ease and grace?
This is what I strive for in every session - to contact the recipient in a way that has them relaxed and receptive. Why is this important? When the body reacts defensively by tensing or contracting against contact, or when anxiety builds up in response to it, the body is reacting more to the therapist instead of relaxing into it’s natural healing processes. I could create more tension for you, which could also get worked out during the session, but you’re probably coming to me to release tension you had before seeing me, not to create more tension to work through. Have you ever had a massage that left you feeling more tense? Let’s not do that, ok?
So what contributes to a quality of touch that instills trust and allows for the most easeful healing?
The first two skills that are taught in the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy training - ones that are repeatedly emphasized throughout the program because of their importance, are the skill of being and the skill of relationship. The skill of being pertains to the state of the therapist. As I begin a session, do I feel grounded, centered and neutral? Am I relaxed, present and aware of my state, or am I nervous or biased in some way? This will affect how the recipient responds, whether they’re conscious of it or not - on some level, their body will be aware of my state, even if their mind is not.
The second skill is the one of relationship (the basic definition of “relationship” is “a connection” - I’m not referring to a romantic relationship in this instance). In this connection, what kind of contact would feel most easeful or welcome by the recipient? How much space would they like and what kind of pressure feels most easeful? Sometimes there’s a wide range of contact styles - light strokes, heavy compressions, etc. - that feel comfortable for the body. Sometimes the recipient will be very specific - they may want very light, still touch and a wide focus from the therapist.
To get a sense of different focus styles, imagine gazing out at the vast expanse of the ocean horizon. Notice how that feels in your body. Then imagine you’re examining something very specific through a microscope, and notice what you feel in your body with that image - two different modes of focus. Considering the body, I could have a wide focus by opening my awareness to the whole body, including the space around the body. Or I could have a narrow focus by zooming in to one little point, like a vertebra in the neck. Again, the recipient’s body feels the difference, whether or not the mind is aware of it. The book Open Focus Brain, by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins, is a good resource for developing relaxed, open focus.
These “skills” can be applied to any experience in life where you’re interacting with another being. If you want to create the greatest ease in connections (relationships), and minimize reactive defenses, try working on the skills of being and the skills of relationship.
Skills of being:
Feeling grounded, centered, and neutral
This is a state of being present with self-awareness, mindfulness and allowance of what wants to happen - having a sense of equanimity. Perhaps we notice biases, judgements or habitual patterns come up. These are normal, so rather than judging the judgements, see if they’ll disappear if you ask them to, rather than hooking on to them. The level of neutrality you can hold may vary, depending on who you’re interacting with. Feeling some appreciation or loving kindness for yourself may help. Another way some people access neutrality is simply to look around the room and label (in their mind) what they see - i.e. I see a green wall, white lamp, brown wood door, etc.
In a grounded, centered, neutral state, the person you’re interacting with is least likely to react because there isn’t something to hook onto, positive or negative, and because you’re present with them. If you’re distracted, it’s more likely to create some interruption of the connection.
Skills of relationship, or connection:
Comfortable proximity and contact
This includes awareness of the energetic space (wide vs. narrow focus, for example), and awareness of the type of contact desired. In the context of a therapeutic bodywork session, I’m offering massage, craniosacral therapy or other touch therapy to someone laying on a table, so I’m trained and comfortable offering different types of touch. If you’re offering someone massage, considering the skill of relationship, notice what feels good to you and the person you’re touching. If you’re unsure or if you want to encourage verbal feedback, ask how the contact is. If you trust your intuition, they appear clearly at ease, you feel relaxed and connected to them, and you trust them to speak up if something is uncomfortable, then it may not be necessary to talk about the contact. And that may change tomorrow… each day is different.
What have you found to be helpful in establishing comfort and trust with touch? I’m curious to hear your stories - what has you feel relaxed and what hasn’t worked for you in bodywork sessions?
Feeling awkward about your first massage? Why? Have you heard stories of therapists digging their elbows in deep, leaving clients too sore to move? Some who think they know what's best but don't actually listen or pay close attention to how your body responds?
One client who has chronic migraines told me before a massage, "I'll kill you if you give me a headache." It was the slowest and most cautious massage I've given, and the client loved it! If you're considering your first massage, consider these tips. Take a look at the policies page to learn more.
Truthfully tell the massage therapist when something feels uncomfortable - pressure, massage techniques, temperature, face cradle, etc. Though I tend to be intuitive, I can't read minds. It's better to ask for something different rather than lie there in discomfort. Don't want to use the face cradle at all? We can work around that.
I practice active listening, without judgment, to better understand you and your needs and to create a strong therapeutic relationship. On the topic of judgment, I don't care if you haven't shaved today, if you're overweight or your feet smell (if you'd like, I can start with a warm towel peppermint foot wrap). If you have a communicable disease, I do expect you to tell me.
Intuitive energy healer, massage therapist and somatic coach in Asheville, NC, bringing you insight and inspiration on healing and conscious living. Formerly in Boulder, CO.