I love what I do. All of it. Absolutely and completely. I have always been fascinated by the human condition and the potential we hold within and beyond our minds and physical bodies. I am a human potential researcher and performance coach and I have been doing mind-body work in one form or another my entire life. From the body awareness I developed riding and training horses and as a professional dancer and choreographer to my mind-body medicine training and research in trauma and resiliency I did during my doctoral work at UVA – it all informs me.
Tonight I sit quietly as a client of mine receives his first professional massage. My client is a 52-year-old man with a family, two mortgages, an upper class lifestyle and all the typical stress related with it. He is also a senior vice president of a multi-billion dollar company and carries all of the related stress associated with his career.
The invitation for my client tonight was to allow himself to receive physical care. Before the session we talked about the various ways in which his body was (and had been for years) reacting to having to perform beyond it resources. I wanted for him to begin to really feel his body and relax into the places where he has held the stress of his job, the responsibility of his family and where he clung to the tenuous ties of his marriage. We have worked together as client and coach for several months and have laid the foundation for my client to take his understanding and experience of his mind-body to the next level.
I use the term mind-body as a singular term for a reason. The premise of my work is that the mind and body are, in their natural state, one. When we are born our mind and body are integrated in a dynamic, informative and interpretive way. The mind informs, influences and interprets the body and vice versa. As we develop, we consciously and unconsciously adapt to fit into the norms of our culture. In order to do this, in most developed countries, one must often separate the mind-body into parts – thinking parts and feeling parts.
There are myriad paths to reintegrating the mind-body. In my experience, massage is one of them. The massage therapist, a longtime colleague of mine, is a gentle man and a master at what he does. He is as non-threatening as he is big; and he is a big man. Calming and soothing, professional yet warm. He is a good match for my client.
So here comes the “joy” part. I have the joy and privilege of witnessing my client not only receive his first massage but also begin to reconnect with his physical body. As I sit on the couch next to the massage table, I hear my client say, “Wow, what is that?” To which my colleague responds “That is some tightness associated with…and the connection here with this muscle is…so that there is an imbalance here and…”
As I listen I notice the change in the quality of my clients voice. His voice becomes softer and his speech is less pressured. As the session continues I begin to hear deep, slow breaths. Breaths that are coming spontaneously and naturally as his body relaxes. He is on his way.
This is the good stuff. The part when I know the co-creative relationship between he and I, client and coach, has taken hold. The part where a man who was so stressed out that he was physically numb on one side of his body is now not only able to feel his body but reflect that feeling through his thoughts and words. The part where a man who had no experience with any kind of mind-body work is connecting the work he and I have done with what is happening with him on the massage table. The part where a client who had no idea what mind-body work or a coach was when I met him is curious and trusting enough to hop onto a massage table and allow himself to be open to the experience. This is the good stuff. And yes, it is my joy too.