As massage therapy practitioners and bodyworkers, we often enter this profession with a sincere desire to help others.
We learn the skills of hands-on therapy with the intention of supporting others through our touch.
Our focus and attention is directed outward toward our clients. While it is important to have a heart of service, we must not lose our ability to sense what is going on inside ourselves.
The key for keeping your capacity to receive life fully without being drained is in knowing how to take care of yourself.
The airlines have it right—you must put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those in the seat next to you.
If you don’t, there will be no one to help the child or the person in need beside you. It runs counter to how most of us were raised.
Yet when we know how to fill our own containers, it gives us a lot more to offer the world around us. Our gifts are more fully and easily expressed.
How to Connect with Yourself
When you enter the session room with a calm mind and heart-felt presence, this allows you to be more effective. Have you ever noticed that when you are tired, frazzled or distracted that you make more mistakes?
Research has shown this is true across all professions, not to mention our private lives.
Turning your attention inward and connecting with your body’s wisdom is a disciplined practice of self-awareness. The body is the portal to direct experience.
When we sense our body, we are more in the moment, and we are more here.
Many of us are discovering that we have lost a crucial connection with our bodies. Our bodies carry hidden wisdom about what we need, what we believe and what is getting in the way of living life deeply and fully.
Our body also holds the desires of our heart. The body has its own wisdom and ways of knowing, separate and distinct from that of the mind. The body often remembers what the mind forgets.
The mind thinks, while the body feels. From each of these ways of knowing we get valuable information.
Just as seeing and hearing are two distinct senses that offer us connection to the outside world, the body also gives us different feedback from within.
Our bodies have a unique language on its own.
Our bodies speak to us through sensation, movement and breath. We listen and feel with our bodies.
Body sensations are the physical clues that carry memory, thought, belief, emotions and intuition. We often use muscular tension to numb our emotions.
It is important to understand we either brace or yield toward life.
We are taught early in life to brace against what doesn’t feel good.
Our body is often living in the past, shut off from its innate wisdom. Both bracing and yielding happen in the body.
Remember, every body has a story.
Breath and Movement
Breath is the soundtrack of our life—our quality of breath determines how alive we are. If we don’t breathe; we don’t feel.
In our “little life” we learned that holding our breath would protect us from our feelings that we did not want to feel. As adults our breath often feels shallow, and it can even feel stifled.
Movement supports us in finding comfort and ease in the body. Movement like breath will either close us down or open us up.
Take a moment and watch little children.
Children are naturally open and spacious. They move, they wiggle and they giggle. As adults we lose our ability to move and wiggle; therefore our ability to live from our deeper self is often times lost.
Our body is special, unique and a valuable part of who we are.
The body is often dismissed as something less than the mind or soul. We have divorced ourselves from our body wisdom.
The body’s feelings are ignored and dismissed as unimportant or irrelevant. Many of us live largely from our heads, caught in our mental activity, and are only vaguely aware of our body’s natural sensitivity and wisdom.
Our body is a remarkable sensing instrument.
In addition to sensing danger and pain in order to survive, our body can also sense what is true or untrue on many levels.
Our body’s wisdom takes us beyond the conventional ability to see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Our body is both deeply sensitive and surprisingly wise.
Body wisdom is a wisdom that can only be felt. Body wisdom is a deeper knowing.
It bypasses reason and brings us feelings. Feelings are to be listened to and respected. Feelings are the roots to our tree of life.
If you cannot feel, you cannot access this deeper knowing. The deeper you enter into your body, the more alive you become!
So, how do we attune to this body-based knowing? How do we unpack the clutter of conditioning we have accumulated since child-hood? How do we enter into this deeper knowing that returns us to ourselves?
My work as a Hakomi body-centered practitioner for the past 20 years has been to help people get in touch with themselves on whatever level they are interested.
For some, it has been simply to mindfully feel their body and breath.
For others, it has been helping them to be more in touch with their authentic feelings and needs and to learn to think more clearly and kindly about themselves.
For others it has meant to discover who they really are. Our work together has almost always included some aspect of body sensing. It is important to understand because our body never lies.
Allow the following body-centered practices to become part of your self-care discipline.
The practice involves the qualities of mindful presence, becoming your own witness, tracking your felt sense and integrating the gentle language of invitation and inquiry.
- Breathe: Sit quietly and comfortably. Bring your awareness to your breath.
Find it, feel it and follow it. What do you notice about your breath? Where does your breath take you? Feel its rhythm. Feel its pace.
Feel yourself inhaling and feel yourself exhaling. Breathe in to the count of five and breathe out to the count of five.
Return to your natural rhythm and pace. Feel the stillness, feel the quiet. Notice what you notice and begin again.
I suggest you practice this daily, especially the time you have in between client sessions.
- An experience of felt sense: the felt sense is the foundation or ground of everything that forms your internal experience.
It is the means through which you can learn to hear what your body is saying.
To experience what the felt sense is, sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Feel the way your body makes contact with the surface that is supporting you.
Notice how the clothes feel on your skin. What sensation is wanting your attention? Perhaps some place in your body feels tight and in others it feels relaxed. If you feel tension, which way is it pulling?
Is it stationary or does it move? What are the qualities of the tension. Is it dull, sharp, heavy or thick?
Turn your focus inward to listen to the sounds of the tension. If this tension could speak what would it say?
Simply listen and feel what comes.
If you are feeling relaxed in your body, breathe into that relaxed part and allow it to expand to other areas of your body.
Pause and feel. Invite your body to soften and open. Allow your body to feel nourished, to feel safe and to feel whole. Give yourself permission to rest–feel yourself resting.
Feel the stillness and feel the silence, and always return to your breath.
- Movement: If you feel the urge to move, allow your body to express that movement.
Remember, the body is the portal to direct experience.
When we sense our body, we are more in the moment, and we are more here.
About the Author:
Kathy Ginn, LMT, BCTMB, is the creator of Ethical Dimensions and Life Empowered Institute. She is a body-centered Hakomi practitioner, Proctor-Gallagher Thinking into Results consultant, teacher and mentor. She offers body-centered coaching and continuing education focusing on personal and professional development, along with courses in Ethics as Right Use of Power. Her courses are offered through webinars and experiential classroom learning. She is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine and wrote “3 Practices to Self-Connect” for MASSAGE Magazine’s October 2018 issue.