You can call that state of nirvana massage therapists seek for their clients “mindfulness.”

You can call it “centering.” You can call it “surrendering to the moment.”

Or you can call it what Spa Pechanga Massage Therapist Julia Haskins called it to a first-time client.

“I worked on this guest one time. He usually goes to other massage therapists because he likes a really, really tough massage, but I did the service. I did a deep tissue massage and when he came out, he sat in the quiet room. He sat there kind of looking around and after I cleaned up and walked past him, he looked at me and asked, ‘What did you do to me?’”

“I said ‘voodoo magic.’ He sat there for a long, long time. So that was fun … he wasn’t used to going to that place. I like to take them to that place.”

What is Mindfulness?

“That place” is the experience every massage therapist seeks to take their clients. The place where the mind empties, the body relaxes and the white flag of mental, physical and spiritual capitulation to the moment goes up.

Haskins and her fellow Spa Pechanga massage therapist, Laura Toliver, try to create mindfulness in their clients. They have the ability to put their clients in the proverbial zone to bring their guests into that place.

Of course, their place, Spa Pechanga, has something to do with that. The largest resort/casino on the West Coast, Pechanga, is located in the Southern California Wine Country, about halfway between Riverside and San Diego.

Additions such as expanding Spa Pechanga into a standalone 25,000-square foot sanctuary of wellness offering guests 17 treatment rooms, outdoor cabana massage services, a weight room with cardio exercise equipment, a movement studio with fitness classes and wellness consultations, a private spa pool complex, two hydrotherapy pools and a hair, make-up and nail salon with barbering services can all be on any guest’s agenda for getting to that place of mindfulness.

So yes, Haskins and Toliver have a Sistine Chapel canvas to take their clients to that place. But they also have their own ways to bring the entire package of mindfulness together to create mindfulness.

Transfer of Energy

For the personable Toliver, a 14-year massage therapy veteran, it involves cleansing and centering herself, praying and realizing that creating mindfulness in clients involves a “transfer of energy.”

Toliver realized there was a tangible energy transfer between massage therapist and client when she worked on a friend who was a professional bike rider. Toliver focused on the pain in his forearms, only to discover later that night she also had uncharacteristically sore forearms.

Toliver’s tips to enhance energy transfer and help support mindfulness include a pre-massage shower followed by the spa’s eucalyptus steam room. She makes a point to tell clients that this is all about them. Every movement she uses, from the slow-rolling emphasis she employs to the long stroke up the top of the back to the nerve-ending-rich occipital region of the skull is designed to create a mindful surrender of the senses to the moment.

“I envision myself in a bubble. So that nothing can penetrate me and whatever’s going on with me can’t penetrate them,” she said. “Again, it’s intention. So the minute I touch someone, love, kindness and peace is what I’m sending them.”

For Haskins, who started her massage therapist career in 2003 as a self-improvement project that would allow her to become more comfortable with people, she relies on Spa Pechanga’s signature essential oils such as Turquoise Sage, Prickly Pear and Ocean Dew. These allow her to center her clients and create a lasting sense of beneficial feeling.

“Sometimes, I’ll make a joke if they say something about them like, ‘You think these are for you, don’t you?’ But really, it’s for both of us because if I’m centered, they can be centered,” she said.

Surrender the Mind

From there, Haskins’ way to center takes on a next-level quality. Sure, there’s music, which she says is important not only to mood-creation – “Notes are important. Everyone has their own note” — but as a way for her to establish a rhythm for her massage strokes.

One of Haskins’ notes involves putting a warm towel on her client’s backs well into the massage. The fact there is more to that than a physical act shows the depth and breadth of her spa sorcery.

“I tuck them in and if they say something, I say ‘Yeah, as adults, we never get tucked in anymore,’” she said. “So it’s the nurturing part of me that’s brought out in massage.”

Aside from the action of surrendering the mind when you’re on the table, both Toliver and Haskins realized long ago that this — the nurturing, the therapist themselves surrendering to the process as their client also surrenders — is the essential truth to finding mindfulness.

“When we’re born as babies, it’s so important to be cradled and held,” Toliver said. “Some people are not held, they’re not loved. And when they come in to the spa, they need that touch. We humans need to be touched. We need to spread love and we can do that in this profession through what we do.

“And when they leave and they’re so satisfied and they are so loved, it’s a rewarding feeling. I love that part. I love it.”

It’s what has made them two of the best in their place, and at Spa Pechanga, at bringing clients to That place where centering resides.

About the Author:

With a diverse background including everything from writing to media relations to substitute teaching, Brian Robin brings an eclectic background as Pechanga Resort Casino’s copywriter. Brian’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Inland Empire Magazine, Palm Springs Life Magazine, and the Rose Bowl Game program. He is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton and proud father of two.

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