Friday, July 1, 2011

Massage Therapist Me pt.2

After getting through training and establishing myself in a location; then there was the part about actually doing the work.
Today you have 2 basic approaches to massage:
One is the medical/clinical model; very technically oriented similar in procedure and protocols to what a physical therapist does. A few less years of training than a PT, usually, but not always. Almost always less pay and it works best if an MD does the billing.
Two is the luxury/spa model. Not so much about rehabilitation as just relaxation and being papered. (Whenever I hear (or type) the word Pamper I think of Procter & Gamble Pampers™)
In 1984 the spa thing had taken root a little in Bakersfield. That's why Hairwest had me there.
Hairwest's owner John told me the story more than once about how at the Elizabeth Arden spa clients were never spoken to by their first names. Massages, pedicures and the more servile tasks were always done by black women. What? why did he keep telling me that? He knew I wasn't going to change. 

I have an analytical mind, kinda, as analytical as my adhd allows. However it was and remains to this day the more ethereal qualities of massage that intrigue me. I studied anatomy and physiology to know where I was when working on body parts. To understand what the goals are. The science based ways of getting there, not so much.
The additional classes I took were almost always about what we called "energy work". Along with Swedish Massage I was taught Shiatsu at the Santa Barbara School of Massage. Shiatsu is a type of acupressure. Acupressure and acupuncture work on the eastern model of Chi. The life force energy. The same life force energy utilized in Martial arts, Yoga and Tai Chi. In other words, energy work.
Energy work is also part of a number of western techniques (modalities). Reflexology (feet) Therapeutic Touch etc. Reiki and Ortho Bionomy, two of my favorites, were developed from both east and west.
Even after studying and getting to know these new ways to use the life force energy, my mainstay is the energy you can feel in my hands guided by intuition. All the new information and skills were added to my tool belt. For example most of the time I find Ortho-Bionomy by it's self is best with geriatric clients. It's just so gentle and is all about the freedom to release instead of work out areas of tension or stress. I took a dozen extra classes from 1983 to 1993 but still I prefer the plain old Swedish massage best. 
I think more than any other tool, what I used the most was what got the whole thing started. Making a genuine connection.
This connection, I have to explain. 
I started my spiritual quest about the time I got our of high school. Unsatisfied with what I had been told in Sunday School and I suppose I was an early adopter of the kind of cynicism based on the hypocrisy of most religions, so popular in media today. My working hypothesis was and still is that:
 “the parts of any belief system that have truth in them can be observed or experienced by anyone. no information or special process should be necessary to at least perceive what ever it is.” also “the meat, as it were, of whatever is meta physical is beyond words or forms” additionally “the idea that whatever is beyond our physical world is even aware of us any more clearly than we are of  ____ or that _____ is interested in us at all is conjecture.” finally “ i admit to a bias in my seeking towards what is light, life, growth and from those kind of sources”  
Like as not, during massage sessions I imagined myself in the roll of a farmer who considered himself a steward of his land and crops. I turned the soil to provide oxygen and encourage the natural regeneration of health and life to the soil.  While not wanting to tie my quest with a particular dogma I did make one concession to efficiency; Most of the time the massage was a kind of meditation I did. I called it “Let go and let god” Sometimes My mind would wander a thousand miles away to topics no way connected to the client. My hands and arms did their work untroubled by my analysis or the observations of my ego or libido. I could only do this well after a couple of years of practice. Always with clients whose physique I was already familiar with. I would stop and focus on any new developments in the regular client’s body as needed. 
This was actually what I always had in my advertising: 
Harmony and Balance of Mind * Body * Spirit. 
I never got a client from this part of my advertising approach. I did use others that worked quite well. Almost every client I got was because of where I worked or the yellow pages. I still thought it was important to be up front about where I was coming from. 
I did a fair amount of work in the clinical setting. Dr’s office, hospitals etc. Like I said before, I never thought is was my niche but I dutifully went where the business was and did my work in the expected professional manner. 
The ego based, elitism based part of the spa experience still offends me deeply.  The concept that every person just by the fact that they were born a human deserves the nurturing of the other humans is at the base of why I did (still do sometimes) this work. I tended not to work in places with a high degree of the status symbol bs. Some places like Hairwest did the spa thing on a casual basis. As with clinical I dutifully went where the business was and did my work in a manner of mutual respect.
My dream was always to work in a place that was mostly spa-ish but where the emphasis was on the whole person and virtually no attention to the fee they paid. 
I did that in my mind every time. The fees varied, free is absurd, the client has to value the service in a tangible way or it’s pointless. I got tips often ($100 once) but never expected them or encouraged them. If I did it implied that I didn’t do my best every time. (tried to do my best, I too am human an tend to vary).
I did always make it a point to offer single parents (our nation’s real heros as far as I am concerned) and elders on a fixed income. If you were old, bux-up and collected SSI, no discount.   
I got close to working in that situation a few times. See pt.3

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