Depending on the type of business model you use, you may not need a strong connection with a mentor. Certainly, with consistent practice, peers and the occasional continuing education class, it is possible to be a successful massage therapist and help many people.
Many massage therapists have been doing just this for a very long time—but when you find a mentor, you will feel the difference in yourself and your massage practice.
Find a Mentor
Seven years ago, in Portland, Oregon, I learned how to give and receive an awesome full-body massage. In this class, I found a community and dedication to my life-long practice. Both continue to inspire me each day—but it was the ease I felt in the instructor’s presence and the example of her integrity that helped me understand that I had also found a teacher.
In the years since my first class with Nephyr, I have moved across the country more than once. I have visited her in Thailand. We’ve Skyped and texted.
She has been kind, and patient, and guided me.
She has both challenged and comforted me as I have grown in my practice. She watched as I started a business—twice—and became a teacher myself. She has helped make my mistakes instructive and my strengths clear. She has never tried to remove my uncertainty, but she has always helped me grow through it. In ways that I will and will never know, she has always simply been there.
Mentor, Coach & Fellow Traveler
My parents both worked in schools. In our culture, what it means to be a teacher is one part of what it means to be a teacher of Thai bodywork. In this tradition, and in many other traditional disciplines, a teacher is also a mentor, coach and fellow traveler on your independent path.
A teacher is someone who has a genuine interest in your improvement and growth. He is as invested as you are in your success as a way to transmit important human knowledge through time.
A teacher is someone who has gone before and whose example is a light we can follow when our own light is dim, not just someone with knowledge we do not yet have. A teacher knows where we might stumble, because he has. Teachers share their mistakes as well as their progress. They know the path and where the path can lead.
When I ask my teacher for guidance, it is because I have faith in her experience, knowledge and training. Over the course of our relationship, she has demonstrated her commitment to learning, practicing and teaching again and again.
Chain of Connection
I have been able to watch her take steps that I am now myself taking. Given her experience and understanding, I assume she is more likely to know best. But I know she won’t pretend to. Instead, she does what all good students do: She questions.
She wrote a blog post about it. In the post she explains what people need to learn: a body of knowledge, a teacher and experience that leads to understanding. When she doesn’t know, she asks her teacher, consults her body of knowledge and reflects on her experience.
She reaches her hand backward for support as I reach my hand backward to her for her support. Together we make part of a chain that disappears into the past and is vitalized by the experience of the present.
This chain of human connection is just as amazing as it sounds, even when it means practicing dutifully instead of excitedly; even when struggling to implement new knowledge and having to trust that practice will reveal understanding.
The longer I study, the more I realize that from a teacher, we do not learn to do. From a teacher, we learn to practice.
Who is your teacher?
About the Author
Jessica Dafni, L.M.T., C.Y.T. is an artisan therapist and writer practicing and teaching therapeutic traditional Thai bodywork, herbal therapies, traditional Thai yoga and practice development in Maine and elsewhere. Her knowledge and experience continue to develop through regular study and working therapeutically with clients to address a variety of needs. She wrote, “Are You Happy with Your Massage Clientele? Use a Roadmap to Attract & Retain Your Ideal Clients” for MASSAGE Magazine’s March 2017 issue.