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I'm getting massaged right now. The therapist is working in my traps/levator (you know, that big boulder just medial to your shoulder?) area and I am in pure bliss. I can feel pain referring to somewhere in my head and it's just releasing all over the place. It's so easy to feel how relaxed I am now, and how I'm getting even more relaxed by the moment, with no effort on my part. This is my time. I paid for this and I'm getting every penny's worth.

Or am I?

I got many massages and felt this way. I felt great afterwards. I could feel the benefit my body and mind received. I was more relaxed and less stressed out. This is body-mind therapy. This is what they're talking about when they say "emotional bodywork." Right?

Yes, it is. On one level. Of course: release muscular tension and some of your mental/emotional tension will release as well. When we feel good, we feel good, let's be honest! However, there is another level to this that I was missing for quite some time. And you may be, too.

I watched a demonstration given in class a week or so ago and I saw something that I've known about for a long time. The client responded in a way after the session that really clued me in to another layer.

During the session she experienced many emotions freely. The therapist was known for working with processing and emotional release and so she felt free (maybe she would have in any case) to express whatever came up for her at the moment. She went through some pretty sorrowful things and also some really big laughter. At the end it was clear she felt cleansed and renewed. She had passed through something really important.

After the session, when she talked to the therapist and those who were watching, she explained that throughout the session she had been paying close attention to her inner experience. She was not just noticing how her body felt and the tension that was being released, she was watching exactly what emotions, fleeting as they may be, were passing through her consciousness.

This may seem trivial to some. However, those fleeting emotions are a large part of our experience and we've been trained (whether habitually, culturally, or by our families,) to bypass those subtle things and pay attention only to the external, material world and whatever will make us happier in that world.

Relaxation and massage of my tired, sore muscles sure makes me happier in this material world. But real happiness is found deeper than that. Real happiness is found when we can let go of the unconscious (or conscious) strategies we act out to keep away uncomfortable feelings. Happiness is feeling free. Happiness is feeling joyful and whole, in my sorrow and my bliss. One way to do that with bodywork is to watch.

Watch what happens in your mind and in your heart as your therapist is touching you. Our bodies hold memories. Our bodies do not lie. Our bodies want to be free, along with our hearts and minds. Your body holds clues, a trail of crumbs back to your whole self. Listen carefully to those clues.

Does your knee whisper that it's sad?

Does your shoulder whimper that it wants to reach out?

Are your feet muttering angry remarks?

This may sound silly. So silly that if we feel even the smallest tiniest bit of any of those things when we're getting massaged we may blow it off. "Oh, that's just silly! Let me go back to relaxing."

Sometimes the feelings are so overpowering that we can't ignore them. Tears well up, or anger charges us. These are opportune occasions for me to feel something fully, acknowledge it, and let it go where it needs to go. When the feeling is more subtle, I've learned that I actually need to put effort into feeling it.

At this point in my evolution, I'm ready to put forth that effort to really see what is ready to be seen.

I'm ready to start receiving massage in a way that's new for me: a conscious, awake, aware way. I want to be a co-therapist in the massage. I want every opportunity to be an opportunity!

I'm discovering there's a way that I can be a massage client and while I am passive in the sense that someone else is manipulating my body, I am totally an active participant in the therapy in that I am aware of what is happening in my consciousness and if I notice that I feel "held down" when someone is working on my chest area, I can really focus in on that feeling and explore.

If that feeling were the bud of a flower peeking out between blades of grass and I just walked right over it, it would be crushed, never to open into a beautiful bloom. But if my consciousness is tuned finely enough to spot that bud wriggling it's way up between the grasses, I can get down there on my hands and knees and watch it closely, feed it water, move any blades of grass that may be in it's way, and do whatever it takes to allow that bud to open in it's own time.

That seed was planted long ago. It may have been planted through a negative experience, positive experience, or a neutral one. If the seed isn't allowed to sprout and grow, it will rot. We can either be a garden in continuous process of sprouting, budding, blooming, wilting, and dying, or we can be a barren land that is full of seed, but dry, or rotting and flowerless.

Let's get rid of all these fancy metaphors! I can either be a woman who is acknowledging what comes up, letting myself feel my emotions, 'good' or 'bad,' and be a radiant, sometimes confused, or hurt, or angry, or joyful, or kind, but always shining some form of the truth, and happy at least on some level, knowing that. Or I can be a woman who is constantly repressing things, because I think it will hurt too much and I'm scared to let what's really in come out. I may feel that things are ok, but in truth I feel a discontinuity, which stems from the lack of flow between my inner experience and my outer.

In truth, I am a mix of these two women. I don't always let all my emotions shine through, good or bad. I sometimes hold things down because I'm scared. I also sometimes let things bubble up, not knowing if they're going to be 'acceptable' or not, and I radiate in that glorious, divine spontaneity.

Using massage as a tool in my growth has been wonderful. And I'm amazed that I'm just now coming to the realization that I can really wrap my hands around it in a new way and utilize the time spent getting massage much more fruitfully and masterfully.

Let's forget even massage for a moment. I can use my attention in such a way that I notice what is happening inside all the time: while I'm talking to friends, while I'm driving the car, shopping, reading, writing, sitting in class, giving a massage, or anything else I can think of. I can direct my consciousness and use it as a tool to see the messages that come to me through me.

To notice what is happening in myself is truly a gift.

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