Archive for Lessons from the Table

Lessons from the Table: Sometimes You Have to Cut Your Losses and Move On.

Junked Car


Sometimes the risk doesn’t pan out. The plan fails. Your goals remain unmet. You have taught me that while striving for new accomplishments and new goals can be a reward worth the risk, true wisdom also acknowledges when it’s time to stop trying. It can be a painful decision, and one that makes you ache deep inside, but knowing when to walk away from an endeavor is a lesson that is hard won and bittersweet.

Life includes loss, failures and mistakes. Sometimes the hardest choice is the best one. Take a new path, remedy a mistake, and move on to the next challenge.


Lessons from the Table: Search for What Makes You Happy

Rubber Ducks

One of the things I like best about working with people is finding out more about hobbies and crafts and all sorts of things people love to do in their spare time.

I’ve watched people learn about knitting, leathework, pottery, coin collecting, equestrian, felting, jewelry making, beading, painting, cooking, baking, home improvement, wood carving and a hundred other skills. I listen to you talk about challenges, frustrations, educational moments, mistakes and best of all, funny stories about your new hobbies.

You’ve taught me that the process of learning and discovery doesn’t stop when you find a career or job you enjoy. Often, it’s the hobby that’s your true passion, and the job is something that allows you time for your hobby.

When you find something you love, you’re drawn to it.

And sometimes you keep looking. For some of us, it’s the process of searching, learning and trying something new that is the hobby. Bouncing from one hobby to the next isn’t a bad thing, it just means you’re curious, inquisitive and love to experiment.

Photo credit: CCL, user: krikit


Lessons from the Table: Do-Overs Exist

Starting Blocks at Vacant Starting Line Before Event

You can start over at 40, or 50, or 60, or even 70. You’ve taught me that we can begin again at any age. We can begin better relationships, better families, better careers, better play time. It’s not always easy, but there is more possibility than we like to admit.

It takes breaking out of habits, forming new relationships, dealing with the fear of doing things you’ve never done before. Until you try, you will have that sense of regret – of the one thing you didn’t try. Starting over sometimes means ending painful relationships, setting strict boundaries or starting a climb up the ladder from the bottom rung. It’s frightening, stressful, and above all nerve-wracking.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from you is that you can begin again. You can reinvent yourself at any age. Even if you have to start over, you can create a life you’d prefer if you take a risk, step into the fear and start something new.  In fact, it is in looking back to those moments when we initiated a “do-over” that we understand what we overcame to step into something new and begin again.


Lessons: Family Members Cut Deepest

hand with tissue

There is something in the power of the immediate family. Children know exactly what words to say to bring parents to tears, and a single glance or comment from a parent can break a child’s heart. You have taught me through your stories the power of family, not just to love, but to wound. I didn’t understand the power children have – especially in their teens and twenties – to completely stymie, anger or upset their parents. A casual comment denigrating a choice or belief or an offhand comment about relationships can leave the parent scrambling for composure.

And parents, even the parents of seniors still wield tremendous power over their children. In the same way as young children do, they can make tiny comments that cut to the quick. All the worse is the change in relationship as the aging parent loses functions and mental clarity.  There is grief and sorrow in watching a parent’s decline.

I have learned to appreciate family and to navigate carefully to keep my own defenses up and to keep from inadvertently hurting anyone. Your stories of your own families have taught me both appreciation and care are necessary.

Photo Credit: CCL – user: yatzz


Lessons: Grief Marks the Soul in Enduring Ways

person in grief

I wish I hadn’t learned this lesson. I wish I hadn’t seen the grief that writes its name on the soul and leaves it there. I have learned of the exquisite pain of loss of a loved one. I can’t say I’ve experienced it, or even that I can understand a fraction of the pain it causes. But I see how it marks an individual and how it shapes their every action afterward – it becomes a self-defining moment.

There is no silver lining for some events. There is no understandable reason or explanation for some things. There is no turning back – only moving forward into grief and loss. I’ve watched you fight to understand what can’t be. I’ve watched you struggle with the meaning for these losses, whether they are parents, brothers and sisters, or children. Divorce and the end of relationships cause a different, but no less affecting grief.

I knew that grief could mark the body, causing pain, discomfort and restrictions. But I didn’t understand how it shaped the soul and how it could redefine the way you see yourself and the world. A person isn’t the entirety of the losses they have sustained, but that loss shapes them in a fundamental way.

This is one lesson I wish I hadn’t learned, simply for the pain it’s caused. But it’s one I’m honored to begin to understand and one that I know massage and therapeutic touch can help heal.

Photo credit: CCL user: fallingwater123


Lessons: There Is a Place for Stillness in Life

still water

Once I accepted the power of stillness in my sessions, I became more convinced that there is a place, no, a need for stillness in life. We live our lives in constant connection with one another. We watch tv, blast our iPods, email, text, blog, tweet and connect to others in a hundred different ways. But the most balanced of us  are the ones who carve out time for stillness in their day. They find moments of emptiness where existing in a still moment is all the input they need.

Some create that stillness with meditation. Some create it through meditative actions or walking. Others create it through prayer. As stillness becomes part of a person’s daily life, the body reacts differently to massage. It starts to bring more awareness of the body and its emotional or mental connections.

It’s easy for me to find stillness in massage. I find the strength in stillness in a hundred small moments a day. Stillness is the breath I take when I first put my hands on a client. It’s in the deep breath I take to encourage my client to breathe. Stillness is the pause I take mentally before I open the door to walk into a massage, or the pause I take as I step out on my way home.

Photo credit: CCL user: irargarich


Lessons: There Is a Place for Stillness in Bodywork

drop of water

My clients not only teach me how to be a better person, they also teach me to be a better massage therapist. One thing I didn’t understand for several years of my practice was the effectiveness of “stillwork.” Acupressure, Craniosacral Therapy, fascial work – all of these types of massage work with the massage therapist holding  tissue in one place for an extended period of time.

If you’d asked me as a student if I would ever use stillwork, or even if I found it effective on myself, my answer would have been a resounding, “No!” But eight years later, I rely on this same stillwork on some of my most bodywork-savvy clients.

Why would lighter, sustained holding be more effective than a well-placed elbow? I’m not sure I have a good answer, but I do know that for people with extensive experience with massage and a strong mind-body connection, this type of lighter, less-active massage usually succeeds where deeper or more invasive techniques fail.

It’s almost as if instead of pushing change into the body, stillwork requests a change in the body, coercing it and shaping it with tiny, soft movements. It often brings intense moments of meditation and relaxation to clients when I use it, and generates an enormous amount of energy in the body.

You’ve taught me to use these techniques to calm clients down when emotional issues arise, or when the mind seems to keep racing ahead. You’ve shown me the body craves stillness and connection, and the patience of a few minutes lingering on a spot that needs tending to.

Photo credit: CCL – user: pink sherbet


Lessons: Leave the Safety Net at Home

safety net

I have a low risk tolerance. I tend to over plan and under execute. My clients have taught me that sometimes you have to jump without the net. You might hold your breath or you might relax into the fall, but that first step, it’s always a doozy.

But the payoff can be spectacular.

Photo credit: CCL user: iamchad

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Lessons: The Strength of Vulnerability

baby hedgehog

Something happens on the massage table. Some sort of truth-serum spills into the brain when the body relaxes. The tongue loosens, and a client shares a story with me. Every day, I am humbled by the vulnerability of people. As humans, we wake up, put on our armor and charge inot the world, fighting our battles, winning our cause, driving toward goals. Some goals require a ruthlessness or tenacity that shields our weak spots and protects our exposed areas.

But on the massage table, I hear the vulnerability that must be hidden during the day. I hear about risks you’ve taken that made you vulnerable to another person. Chances you took that exposed your true self to the scrutiny of others. I hear about the meaningful connections made when we make ourselves vulnerable.

Most of all, I sense the strength and acceptance of self of that person who has the courage to stand vulnerable in front of others. It’s a strength that grows with the telling. It’s a strength that unnerves or unbalances adversaries and foes. Vulnerability requires an acceptance of self that opens up the mind and body even as it exposes you to others.

And that acceptance of self, that mastery of your own weaknesses and foils: that is true strength.

Photo Credit: CCL  user: monica arellano-ongpin

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Lessons: Everyone Has Favorites

yarn on shelves

Everyone has Favorites

Everyone has a weakness, a secret vice, something they love doing even though they know it’s not the best thing for the body. I’m not talking about Krispy Kremes, cheesecake or pinot  here. Rather, we all have things we love to do which are hard on the body.

Take, for example, knitting. I have quite a few knitters, and though it’s rough on the hands and wrist, and sometimes kinks up the neck from staring down while working, it’s not something they’re willing to give up. Likewise, I have golfers with bad backs, runners with achy knees, and guitarists with carpal tunnel syndrome.

If it’s something you love, you’ll figure out a way to reduce the damage to the body. You’ll figure out how to stretch after a set, how to hold the needles with your wrists relaxed, or how to pot new plants on a table so you don’t have to bend over. You might slow down your pace in marathons or rides, or you might settle for 9 holes instead of 18. The lesson I’ve learned from you is that the mental acuity and challenge of those hobbies more than makes up for a little discomfort. And if massage helps you keep doing what you love, keep getting massage!

Finding a hobby that truly engages you and makes you happy is a beautiful and meditative use of your time. And for those who keep searching, learning one new thing after another? Their love is the search, the acquisition of new experiences and knowledge and the pride that comes with mastery of a new skill.

Photo credit: CCL user: hello-julie

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