From the MASSAGE Magazine Guest Editorial, “A Call to Full-Body Presence,” by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, in the February 2009 issue. Article summary: Massage therapists must develop the ability to maintain and model a strong therapeutic presence, both in and out of the session room.
Have you ever worked with a client so full of complaints that you were pulled right out of your own body, maybe even struggling to figure out where the session should begin or end? When you face a challenge like that with a strong therapeutic presence, you can literally ground that chaotic energy and remain centered and whole as you proceed gently and surely through the therapeutic process.
But what happens when that chaos is not in your session room, but outside, in the world around you? That’s when your ability to maintain and model a strong therapeutic presence benefits everyone you touch, both in and out of the session room.
The foundation of this transformational talent is called full-body presence. This is the ability to feel all parts of your body, with a strong flow of healthy energy moving through you. It connects you to healthy inner and outer resources, and gives you a good sense of boundaries.
As a massage therapist, you cannot afford to work without full-body presence. Indeed, you need it in all corners of your life. It keeps you centered and able to enjoy every moment. It helps you navigate tough situations, giving you access to your intuition. In a society full of dishonesty and duplicity, full-body presence helps you steer clear of turmoil with much less effort.
Every day you’re exposed to new things that conspire against your full-body presence. While the ability to generate an inner state of well-being should be a natural process, it’s trained out of us almost from the beginning.
The first impediment starts with an educational system that encourages left-brain, linear learning while ignoring the more right-brained, body-centered intelligence called intuition, gut knowing, emotional intelligence or inner wisdom. From a young age, we’re taught to disregard the whispers we hear internally that are telling us of important issues and directions in our lives. If we don’t unlearn it, this disregard can trip up our decision-making and our ability to enjoy the fullness of whatever life brings.
While left-brained intelligence that helps us understand anatomy and physiology is vital in our practices, we are all called now to more whole-body knowing. We must learn to remain present in all of our cells, trusting and living from the wisdom of our being. So don’t throw out your left-brain education; just add your gut knowing, your heart’s whisper of inspiration, and round that out with the inner vision of who you truly are.
Another place many of us lose full-body presence is in self-judgment—what we believe we should be but are not. Our inner perfectionist can kill the pleasure in our lives, crippling our ability to grow and learn. Even when we work harder to overcome our perceived deficits, when the inner critic is cracking the whip, we do so from a narrowly focused, goal-oriented place. Then we miss out on all the joys and learning along the way.
This is a call to silence your inner critic, so you can hear and heed your natural body intelligence. How can you tell the difference between the two? Your natural body intelligence never blames or makes personal attacks. Instead it helps you recognize when you’re off course, so you can make a correction without hearing a negative chorus that makes you feel unworthy.
The third place we’re challenged to create full-body presence can be found in the cultural messages of “shoulds” about how we’re supposed to look, dress and behave. When we’re bombarded with messages that say we’re not thin enough, strong enough, tough enough or smart enough, it’s urgent we understand who we are from the inside, rather than being ratcheted around by the outside environment.
So choose your sources of information and inspiration carefully. Make sure they support your health and growth without being full of shoulds.
This is not a call to isolate yourself. This is a call to become more self-referenced rather than allowing the external world to dictate your inner state of being. This is a call to turn off the radio, TV or computer when you’re bombarded with negative information. Settle back inside yourself, and see how you feel without all that pounding on your senses.
Recently, a client of mine was beside herself with anxiety. It turns out, as she worked all day on her computer, she kept the TV on in the background—and the stock market news was overwhelming. Her normal serenity was shattered, and the stress was causing all her tension spots to spasm.
I reminded her of one simple thing you can do to keep your equilibrium in a crisis: Get the news you need and then turn the TV, radio or computer off. You don’t need to traumatize yourself. Stay connected to your world—listen and receive what’s important—but stay inside your full-body presence. This gives you access to your internal navigation system that lets you know when you need to meditate, move on, listen to calming music, take a walk or just check in later to find out what’s going on out there.
This is a call to cultivate your full-body presence. It’s one quality you’ll want to pass down through generations as the global village becomes a more complex place to live. Through full-body presence, you can create inner peace, an attribute that is easily shared if you know how to resonate out to those around you—and we all need to learn how to do this, if we are ever to have peace on our planet.
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, C.M.T., C.S.T.-D., creator of the training and audio series, Healing From the Core: A Journey Home to Ourselves, has taught CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release for the Upledger Institute since 1986, and for the past 10 years has provided staff-development training at the Esalen Institute. Information on her workshops can be found at www.healingfromthecore.com.