Massage & Bodywork

July/August 2013

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Page 67 of 140

My favorite photographs are a balance between great clarity and a bit of blurriness. Those parts of an image that are out of focus make the image as a whole more alluring. So, too, our work is more potent—more useful for the client, and more satisfying for us if we are not completely focused, if a part of our consciousness is a little bit blurred. Another way to say it: it does us no good to be focused on our own body, stuck in our own thoughts. Nor is it ideal to be focused entirely, slavishly, on our client. Our talent emerges when we spread our focus, when our work encompasses both therapist and client. In between a focus that is frayed and a focus that is faulty, we can find a focus that is freed. In that serene center, you are aware of your own breath and also of your client's breath. You are aware of the sensations in your skin and your musculature, and also the information that your client's skin and musculature offer you. With that dual awareness, that freed focus, the massage becomes an active, reciprocal engagement between you and the client—an experience you have with the client, rather than something you do to the client. If we can let go of our ego (our ideas about what the client needs), and if we can let go of our tension (our desire to force the client to feel better), then we can engage more fully and more honestly with the client, wherever he is, whatever he wants. We will be better attuned to his needs, without the distractions of our own ego, without the interference of our own muscular tension. Similarly, if we can let go of the clock and let go of the unending distractions beyond the treatment room (the to-do lists and the family obligations and the financial worries), we can be absorbed by what is happening right at our fingertips. If we slow that swing between extremes, we can appreciate the necessity of both—the joy of giving of ourselves and of holding ourselves back. As we let go of that too-much focus, or bolster that too-little focus, we find both in proper proportion, and we come to that calm confidence in between: that soulsatisfying, body-nourishing moment of engagement; that focus that is freeing, where we are helping another being and being nourished at the same time. That effort is a perpetual process. It is impossible to find a perfect balance and stay there, as if frozen in place. Nor would we want to. Rather, if we acknowledge that we are navigating between these extremes, we can lengthen our longevity, abandoning the harmful concept of our careers as a slow, irrevocable decline toward burnout. And we can also temper our eager ego and our need to fix, instead inhabiting the supple, serene center and discovering a more potent capacity for healing. David M. Lobenstine, LMT, is the owner of Full Breath Massage in New York City. He combines an attention to the breath, along with deep tissue and myofascial work, to help clients inhabit their body anew. He also teaches a variety of continuing education classes. Find him at and See what benefits await you. 65

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