Massage for Clarity

A little while back, a client came in with some small physical aches and pains, but nothing major. “But there’s been a lot going on,” she said, “and I can just tell I need a massage.”

We spent 2 hours together on a combination of relaxation and deep tissue massage, energy work and aromatherapy. Afterwards, I walked her to the door. She turned and gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you so much! My life has been moving so fast that I couldn’t figure out what to do — and while I was on the table, I realized what my next steps have to be. It seems so obvious now!”

Sometimes all you need is to unplug and get quiet for a little while. Some people run, some people meditate, some people go sit under a tree. But sometimes, it helps to have another person to hold the space — and massage can be an ideal vehicle for an hour or two of quiet time.

8 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 8-Year-Old Self

  1. It’s going to get better. You cannot imagine how much.
  2. But first, it’s going to get way, way worse. Some of it will be evil people doing evil things. Some of it will be self-absorbed people doing thoughtless, cruel things. Some of it will be good people acting from a hellish brew of good intentions and spiritual laziness. The way you’re going to be treated is inexcusable; it’s ugly; it is not okay. Please don’t forget that.
  3. That said, no matter how personal it felt at the time, most of it truly wasn’t about you. It was about their own (sometimes literal) demons, or you were in their way somehow, or they really were trying to help, and radically misunderstood the situation. I don’t know if that makes it worse or better, but anyhow, that’s how it is.
  4. You will want to hate them. Well-intentioned people will tell you that hatred doesn’t do anything; it’s not true. Hatred is a cheap source of real power, and that’s going to be very seductive when you’re feeling powerless. But it’s a trap; hatred damages your soul in ways that are very hard to repair. It’s not worth it.
  5. You have all the same desires and drives as the people who hurt you. Find the seeds of the same words, actions, and attitudes in yourself. Know them, and know them well. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on other people’s sins rather than your own; that’s the easy way out. Do the hard work.
  6. The work is going to bear fruit. You are going to take the wreckage that these people made of you — and, let’s face it, that you made of yourself — and rebuild it into something beautiful.
  7. Believe it or not, you won’t have to do it by yourself. Good people will befriend you, and lift you when you don’t have the strength to stand. Some of the most profoundly broken people you’ll ever meet will love you and care for you when they don’t have to. Those are the ones that will put you back together, buddy. And believe it or not, God is going to do absolute miracles on your behalf. You’re not going to believe it til it happens, but that’s how it plays out.
  8. Coming full circle: It’s going to get better. Your life is going to be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Wish I could tell you how it all turns out, buddy, but I can’t. Truth is, I’m still waiting to see how it turns out, myself. But this is what I know so far.

Losing Ground With Style

Every common rock is disease-free, but we do not call rocks healthy or well on that account, because we intuitively recognize that health is more than the absence of disease; it is the presence of vitality.
Health is not an accident; it is a gift from God. As with any gift, health calls for gratitude, and gratitude cannot be merely spoken. A child who says “Thank you” to his grandmother for the hand-knit sweater and then never wears it is polite, but not grateful. Saying “Thank you” is appropriate as far as it goes, but embodying real gratitude requires right use of the gift.

Every gift has its right use. A sweater should be worn; an album should be played; a toy should be played with. Even that most generic of gifts, money, is meant to be spent — as is our health. The gift can be stewarded, but not hoarded. We are all spending our capital, and in the end, our last creditor drains the account. In N. D. Wilson’s unforgettable phrase, “death by living” is the best we can hope for. So the question is not whether we will spend our health, but how — and how quickly.

Healing is the art of slowing down, of losing ground with style. We all move toward the edge of the cliff where our last creditor is waiting. Healing is helping someone spin away from the edge this time, helping someone dance two steps forward for every three steps back, helping someone dance instead of just being inexorably dragged toward the edge, clinging in vain to a bean-sprout sandwich. He who saves his life will lose it, as the rabbi said. Might as well dance.

Healing takes in the whole person. It is not enough to say that we require words for the spirit and touch for the body. A living soul is made of dust and breath, body and spirit, coextensively. You have never touched a living body without putting your fingers on a soul. When you touch a spirit with a loving word, watch what happens to the body — pupils dilate, posture and muscle tone shift, cheeks flush, breathing changes. Sometimes a word heals the body. Sometimes a touch heals the spirit.

But in reality, we do not heal people, or even cause healing. Healing is a mystery, a gift. A surgeon can align bones and stitch up a wound, but we say that he set the bone and closed the wound, not that he healed the injury. He can bring the pieces into proximity with one another, but he cannot make the skin join, the blood vessels reunite, the fascia reconnect, the fracture remodel. A counselor can cause thoughts to meet that had been carefully hidden from one another, but he cannot reach in and fill the place where someone tore a hole in his client’s spirit. We remove barriers. We align the parts, hoping for wholeness. We create an opportunity, a container in which someone can receive healing, if it is given to them. And we wait, sometimes for seconds, sometimes for weeks. The work is too fine for any hands but God’s.

Mobility Resources

Beginning your own mobility practice is one of the most helpful things you can do for your body. If you’re thinking, “But I already stretch!” — it’s not the same thing. The goal here is not flexibility; it’s total freedom of movement. We’ll go into the physiology of it another time; today I just want to give you a few resources so you can get started freeing your body.

Here are a few starting points:

Beginning Intu-Flow  is a very comprehensive, full-body routine. I used Intu-Flow (and its predecessor, Warrior Wellness) daily for a solid year when I was getting started in mobility work. I still use it, although I have more tools in my mix now. The YouTube link above has the first 2 levels, and you can buy the full program on DVD from RMAX. (I should add that I heartily recommend pretty much everything RMAX has ever produced. Their hype-heavy marketing makes me absolutely crazy, because it makes them sound like an infomercial, and they’re so much better than that.)

Basic Systema Solo Work is one starting point of many, in Systema. The drills seem simple, but spend some time with them; you’ll be surprised how well they work at freeing up your body over time.

Systema Solo Work Under Pressure is another set of drills from Sharon Friedman that will reward all the time you put into them. Play with them; see what variations you can come up with on your own.

Another worthwhile, structured set of programs comes from Gold Medal Bodies. They use gymnastics as a delivery vehicle, which may not be your thing, but the initial programs, especially Elements and Vitamin, will be helpful no matter what goals you’re pursuing. For a little inspiration, check out GMB member Verity Bradford’s results.

Why Me?

Usually we associate “Why me?”with self-pity.

  • The car breaks down: “Why me?”
  • A pipe breaks and floods your bathroom: “Why me?”
  • You come down with a wicked head cold right before you have to give a big presentation at work: “Why me? Why now?”

The answer to those questions is always the same: “Why not you?” The incarnate Son of God was lied about, subjected to a sham trial, mocked, whipped, nailed to a tree and tortured to death, and you want your life to be easy? Get over yourself.

But there’s another time we think “Why me?”

  • God puts it into your heart to lead an initiative to feed the homeless in your city: “I don’t know…I mean, I’ve never done anything like that before…All these other people are so much more qualified.”
  • Your friend is sick, and it crosses your mind how great it would be to pray boldly for her healing: “I can’t do that. Besides, what if it doesn’t work?”
  • The best company you know is hiring for your dream job, and you hesitate to put in an application: “I’m sure there’s, like, a thousand people applying for the job, and why would they pick me anyway?”

Do you hear the “Why me?” behind all those responses?

The answer to both versions of “Why me?” is the same: Why not you? The incarnate Son of God did not let Himself be tortured to death so that your life would be easy. He did it so that your life would be great. When God built you in your mother’s womb, He built greatness into you. You were born to do great things.

The Son of God did not allow Himself to be tortured to death because He had nothing better to do that particular Friday. He had a purpose in mind. He took all your sin and weakness to the cross so it could die there. He rose from the grave so that you would know that no matter how bad the problem seems right now, there is resurrection on the other side of it. He is ready, right now, to walk with you into the life you were born to live.

“Why me?” wants a life of petty comforts and hollow victories over sham obstacles. “Why me?” wants a life of mediocrity and smallness.

But you were born for greatness.