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64 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j a n u a r y/ fe b r u a r y 2 0 2 1 STANDING GROUND WITH ANIMALS Where Presence and Intention are Essential By Lola Michelin Grounding, breathwork, presence, intention— these are all tools in the bodyworker's toolkit, practices that often separate the satisfying session from the spectacular. They inform our palpation, allow us to get inside of our work, and affect the subtle energy fields within and around bodies. People familiar with these practices are often drawn to healing work. Studying massage and other manual therapies often cultivates these states in even the unsuspecting. As an animal bodyworker, these practices go beyond just tools that enhance and elevate my work. Presence, intention, and groundedness are essential. Presence serves to keep me and my client safe. Being grounded encourages nonverbal conversation and establishes trust. Intention helps to foster empathy for a species other than my own. We can choose to anchor ourselves using the breath or meditative skills in any situation, including during massage. But step into a cattle pen or a kennel or a barn aisle, and that mindset is both automatic and immediate. It is both the reward and the requirement of working with animals. There is no opportunity to let thoughts drift to a grocery list, the day ahead, or a to-do list. The animal requires (and affords you) absolute presence.

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