Massage & Bodywork


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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 75 KNOWING AND NOT KNOWING I don't know what our profession will look like next week, let alone next year. But I do think that the awfulness of the world has given us an opportunity—one that we should not squander. We have struggled through weeks and months without massaging; for some of us, that struggle continues. For others, that struggle will likely emerge again with the next wave and next lockdowns. I find solace in searching for what COVID can offer us, even as it denies us so much. I appreciate the mundane details of my work as I never have before. Never did I think I would feel nostalgic for refilling my oil bottle or folding my sheets. But beneath that simple nostalgia, there is something more. The human body is determined and enduring. It weathers storms. It surely needs our massages less than we would like to think. And yet, that is not a cause for disappointment but a cause for further celebration. The human community will outlast this virus, and the others still to come. Because of the ceaseless determination of the body, the endless capacity to find new ways to adapt and survive and thrive. As massage therapists, we have the chance to further the body's determined spirit and to offer our presence to each body that finds its way to our table. I know now that each session is an honor bestowed upon us, a gift that each client gives us—the possibility to help that body function a little more effectively, to thrive with a little bit more ease in this bizarre world we all share. May we embrace that possibility as never before. Note 1. Sandeep Jauhar, "People Have Stopped Going to the Doctor. Most Seem Just Fine," New York Times, June 22, 2020, www.nytimes. com/2020/06/22/opinion/coronavirus-reopen-hospitals.html. David M. Lobenstine has been a massage therapist, teacher, and writer for more than 15 years. He is a co- author, with Carole Osborne and Michele Kolakowski, of the forthcoming third edition of Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy (Handspring Publishing, February 2021). He teaches in person and online. His aim, with his clients and in his teaching and writing, is to enhance self-awareness, so therapists can do what they love with efficiency and ease. Find him at and moving a little more, they can alter the most foundational workings of the body: they can encourage the activation of their parasympathetic nervous system, and diminish the (over)activation of their sympathetic nervous system. All of what I offer, for sure, is richer and more satisfying if accompanied by touch. The combination of contact and presence is ever potent, a force that continues to surprise me in what it can accomplish. And yet, we can still accomplish a great deal without touch. Or perhaps a better way to put it: the power of our touch is only truly useful when accompanied by the power of our presence. We already know this, even if we don't like to acknowledge it. If you race out the door after arguing with your partner at the breakfast table, that first massage you give is probably not going to be all that satisfying, for you or for your client. When we are bored or distracted or consumed by our own thoughts, the session feels like it drags on endlessly, and clients invariably seem more annoying and demanding and less easily satisfied. In other words, when we are not present, the session suffers, no matter how many advanced certifications we hold, no matter how many elaborate strokes we can offer. Our COVID era has confirmed the power of presence because, in much of our lives right now, presence is all we have. We can't touch the wide world beyond our pod. But we can still care about that world. Phone calls are back in vogue. Rumor has it, people are writing letters again. Against a backdrop of vast suffering, we are more likely to actually take a moment and acknowledge the bounty of good all around us. Our bodies haven't fallen apart because we are more present for ourselves—and more present for each other. Touch is limited, but presence is not. Our work is no less important now than it was before the world was consumed by the pandemic. If anything, your work—whenever you resume practicing—is more important as a result of these touch-starved months. But I believe this moment can also teach us what is truly essential about our work. To be our most effective selves, and to offer the most benefit to each client, we must acknowledge how humans heal. We don't heal because of fancy tricks and special techniques. We don't heal because someone drizzles oil all over us and pummels us with all their might. We heal when we are encouraged to inhabit our bodies with no expectations, when we have a place where there is nothing to do except experience the present moment, and when we are given the chance to find our way back to our own innate sense of ease.

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