Four years ago today, I graduated from Port Townsend School of Massage. We were a small graduating class of seven, which allowed close friendships to form during our fourteen months of weekends spent learning together. I was honored to be the student speaker for the ceremony, which included family, friends, and teachers in addition to the seven of us.
My talk referenced a set of guidelines that we had created on our very first day of massage school. It was during our Ethics class, and, though we had literally all just met, our teacher asked us to brainstorm what type of relationship we wanted to have with each other, and how we hoped our school experience would play out. We came up with eleven points that we all agreed on, and that became our credo for our time in school.
We titled it our Statement of Intention, and it read as follows:
- Practice building trust by being nonjudgmental and undefended.
- Know I am fully connected and know I have all I need right now.
- Be fully present.
- Be free of expectation.
- Create a space for all to feel safe in participating.
- Do our best in the present moment.
- Treat others with care and respect.
- Create, explore, and maintain boundaries.
- Honor each other as individuals.
- Be healthy and open in communication.
- Come with love.
For the graduation, I took each point and gave an example of how we did each of these things. In planning and giving the talk, I was moved to tears and laughter remembering how we honored each other by following these intentions. We weren’t always perfect, but we were pretty darn close! In short, during that fourteen months, we transformed from a group of total strangers to a cluster of close friends. We intimately shared each other’s ups and downs, both relating to the stresses of school and the intricacies of our “regular” lives. We truly had each other’s backs…and not just in the massage sense of the phrase!
Fast forward four years, and what’s been on my mind is the significant relationships I have developed with my massage clients over time. I reflected on how the above intentions also applied to the formation of these friendships, and how they continue to be carried out during interactions I have with my clients today. Some of the intentions are more applicable than others, and some of the relationships are naturally closer than others. I have had the privilege of working with some clients since the beginning; others are still new to me and I to them. But each time I ponder the relationships that have been built and nurtured over time, I feel truly blessed to be in the field of massage.
I am reminded of a quote from Carl Jung: “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Through my relationships with clients, I have been transformed!
Here are a few examples:
- The client who invites me to her house to see her flowers, then gives me pots AND soil so I can plant and tend flowers while I am recovering from surgery.
- The client who thanks me regularly and profusely for the friendship we share, reminding me that relationships are the TRUE treasure we seek in our lives…and that the voids we feel cannot be filled by materialistic striving, but CAN be filled by the contentment and satisfaction of close and ongoing relationships. Simple yet profound.
- The client who makes me laugh, each and every time she comes in for massage — sometimes, hysterically!
- The “elderly” client, who tells me that he has always had close relationships with his massage therapists, he supposes because …”the client is required to present himself (and be) physically open to hands-on manipulation. This then triggers the brain that it is alright to open up emotionally as well”. Wise words from a wise gentleman!
- The client with whom I have always sensed a deep personal connection…even though we rarely exchange a single word during massage.
- The client who sends me a text to say that her husband has had a near-fatal heart attack and is in the ICU; that client’s husband who comes in for massage three weeks later, very much alive and looking for a gentle and soothing touch.
- The client who asks me to come to her house to massage her whole family on the day of her wedding anniversary, as part of the celebration!
- The client who graciously offers his person and truck to help me move, even though it means showing up after an 8-hour shift that began at 1:30 am!
- The client who, at the end of a massage, states: “I am not sure which was better…the massage or the conversation!”
- The client who, when I mention I am moving to a place that will take only two of my three cats, offers to take in one of mine…and does so…even though she has three other cats!
- The three clients with whom I started a writing group, which has recently turned into a “let’s have dinner out” group.
- The numerous clients with whom I have listened to and shared stories of body image issues, feelings of doubt and self-worth, and every other topic that (mostly) women struggle with on a day to day basis.
- The clients who have come in after divorce, miscarriage, a diagnosis of serious illness for themselves or a loved one, death of a loved one, or other personal tragedy; to be touched, cared for and listened to in a meaningful way.
- The clients who have listened to me during times of personal challenge!
- The clients who invite me into their homes, to give them massage in an environment that sheds perhaps a bit more light on their personal lives and struggles.
- The clients who have allowed me to share in their joys, successes, and all-out victories!
- And so many more!
These last four years have held more unexpected and touching experiences than I could ever have imagined possible on that graduation day. Looking through my massage school materials to find the Statement of Intention, I came upon a quote that was on the cover sheet for our student handbook. It’s a quote we have all no doubt heard, but oh, how appropriate it seems right now:
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau.
My massage journey thus far, the relationships developed and experiences shared, continues to far surpass my greatest expectations. A heartfelt thanks to all who have played and continue to play a part in this fabulous undertaking. I appreciate each of you, and look forward to the next four years!
In good health,