Massage & Intuition

Massage is teaching me a lot about intuition. That gut feeling. “Lose yourself.” Let go. Be in the moment. That thing actors and performers are always talking about.

I’ve made a great effort to “center” myself before each massage, and each time I do it really pays off (sometimes literally). Yesterday, a woman (a writer) left me a comment that said something to the effect of: “Did you say a prayer before the massage or set an intention? because I really felt it in the massage, very powerful & meaningful.” Many other comments I’ve received have been along the same theme, but each relayed to me in a unique way by that individual. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know you’ve made that deep connection with someone. I’ve experienced it myself in a good massage–it’s like the masseuse knows exactly where your pain is, and it sometimes feels like they are reading your thoughts because their hands seem “guided” to just the right areas of your body.

I’ve struggled for many years with living in the moment. Mostly, I think it was due to self-criticism and fear of judgement from others. I would choke when performing piano pieces that I had memorized and played perfectly 100 times by myself. I would miss a basketball shot game after game, a shot that I had perfected in practice over years of repetition. I would sabotage my own volleyball serves, hits, hammer, discus, javelin, and shot throws by actually talking myself out of performing my best–by distracting myself from the moment at hand. My coaches and teachers knew my weakness and encouraged me to stop holding myself back–but I didn’t know how. I felt like, when it got down to the moments when it counted, that a fear of success would overwhelm me, time after time, and instead I would fail.

The one-on-one environment of massage has given me a chance to redeem that part of me that wants so bad to succeed at something physical without my mental processes getting in the way. For the past couple months, I have been able to practice, one hour at a time, the art of accomplishing everything by doing nothing. I’m closing my eyes and allowing myself to be open to the subtleties of my interaction with another highly organized mass of molecules, and letting intuition guide my hands. Borrowing from the blind was a similar trick that I used in college competition. When I knew that my nerves would get the best of me that day, I would leave out my contact lenses and throw “blind”. My vision is bad enough that without my contacts or glasses on, people’s faces 3 feet away are blurry enough to disguise any subtle judgements or body language that I might perceive as negative. Thus, in throwing blind, I was centering or guarding myself against the distraction of the perceived judgements of others.

For someone as driven for results as I am, it is very difficult for the mental side of me to get out of my own way and let the intuitive side take over. But I’m learning that it is possible for me, and I look forward to applying what I learn here to other physical endeavors.

Sequoia National Park

It was a beautiful day to walk among the giant trees in Sequoia National Park (all my pics here). The sun was beginning to set and I was sitting on the last bench along the Trail of 100 Giants, listening to the sounds of Nature. The longer I was quiet, the more I heard, from the calls of several different birds (none of which were meadowlarks!) to some unsettling creaking noises coming from the nearby trees. I paid special attention to the creaking, in case of a “timber” requiring a full dash with the cat under my arm back to the campground. I noticed things were falling loudly and often from a very tall tree I had passed just back up the trail. I couldn’t make out what had fallen, so I walked over to investigate.

Scanning the forest floor and nervously glancing upward, I waited for another falling object. Not 30 seconds later (and not 30 feet away): Crash, crash, crash, whack! Something small and round hit the ground with a heavy thud. I couldn’t tell if it was some kind of pinecone or what, and my instinct told me to stay on the trail but I had to find out what it was. Just as I stepped off the trail, I heard crash, crash, crash, of the branches high above, then a whizzing past my head and WHACK! Another one had smashed into the trail right where I had been standing. I realized whatever was up in the tree was aware of my presence and wanted me to stay away from its stash! I stepped back onto the trail and picked up the heavy, sticky, fragrant green object (that had nearly put a hole in my cranium) and walked back to the bench.

I could tell it had been connected to the tree with about an 1/8-inch diameter branch that was still green. It had clearly been gnawed off at the end and thrown down purposefully by some animal high up in the tree. It smelled almost sweet enough to eat, but woodsy and pungent enough to be made into an alluring men’s cologne: I would have called it Sequoia Dusk.

I carried it with me for a while, smelling it over and over again, then just before leaving, I tossed it back in the woods in hopes that some animal would be glad to have it back. Today was a good day.

Certified Masseuse

I gave 12 massages this weekend (Thurs/Fri/Sat) and I’m feeling good, except a little fatigue in my thumbs, forearms, and low back. Only 18 to go and I will officially be a certified masseuse. That’s a major cross-off on the things to do before I die list. I’ve recently added “Read the encylopedia (or every wikipedia entry)” to that list, inspired by an Oprah guest on Friday. Kind of a silly goal, partially considering that wikipedia entries are constantly being updated, but I’d like to see how far I can get from A to Z.

My foster dog ran away today. That may not be entirely true. All I know is that I came home with 40lbs of dog food tonight and my brother wanted to know if I had taken the dog with me today (to sit in the car while I massaged?). So we will see if she turns up in the next couple of days. If not, I’m sure she will find a little girl that needs a nice puppy dog and Esa will have a very happy life.

Life update: I’ve applied for an International Environmental Projects Manager position in San Ramon. I’m hoping the move will be enough of a change to satisfy my need for a shakeup. I love making people feel better through massage, but I’m afraid it’s not my all-consuming life’s work. Perhaps it’s best for me not to have an all-consuming life’s work…

Steve Irwin Tribute

I spent a few hours on Sunday watching the Steve Irwin tribute marathon on the Animal Planet channel. Along with millions of other people, I was very moved by a life so well-lived.

Here is a poignant excerpt from Steve’s interaction with a crocodile he rescued and rehabilitated from its prison in a concrete dungeon, where it was certainly doomed to a miserable life ending in boots and purses:

“We love our crocs. We love our Charlie, even though, if he gets half a chance – he’d kill any one of us. And it’s because he’s carrying a lot of scar tissue; he’s carrying a lot of pain from his tormented life. [to Charlie] ‘Are you a naughty boy? Can I give you a pat on the tail? He’s a cute little crocky…ROAR!!!! Oh, oh, oh!! You’re alright, mate, you’re alright….he’s a good boy.’ [commentary] Excellent, and this is why we catch crocs – we love them.”

“If there’s one thing that I, Steve Irwin, would want to be remembered for, it’s be remembered for passion and enthusiasm! Conservation is my job, my life, my whole persona.”
~Steve Irwin, 1962-2006

See the Art in me – Chemistry

I put on some Jars of Clay today for old-time’s sake: “Our hearts, a bubble maker’s dream – moved on by winds of everything.” That is pretty much how I’ve been feeling lately–moved by winds of everything–while trying to figure out what to do with my life.

I got some new clues as to the direction of my life’s work today, while having a lovely lunch with my cousin Bekka in Laguna Beach. She was interested in what I liked about Chemistry/Chemical Engineering.

I told her I loved the philosophical nature of the subject–that you are dealing with a lot of theories, abstract concepts, and things you can’t see with the naked eye, yet affect your life in so many ways. I was (and am) particularly fascinated with the Chemistry of food’s interaction with the body (nutrition), our Chemical reactions to our world (love/attraction, energy flow between people/animals/objects), and with Chemical reactions between humans and their environment, particularly poisonous ones (trash burning producing carcinogenic dioxins, for example, or urinated prescription drugs contaminating surface/drinking water).

This simple discussion opened my eyes to why my current oilfield job wasn’t completely satisfying to me…it didn’t allow me to indulge in any of these subjects as part of my work. However, I picked up valuable skills in my three years here–project management and communication, which will help me in my future endeavors. I think massage makes sense to me as a next step…as it physically encourages chemical reactions in the body and allows me to continue my study of human energy interaction in the context of client/therapist relationships. The discussion made me feel like I am on the right track.

As for the other Jars of Clay lyrics I enjoyed today: “I plead to everyone: See the Art in me.”

I love this statement, and to me it means that we ARE art – each one of us comprised of unique life experiences, evolutionary adaptations, thoughts and intentions, and perfect as-is, simply because we exist. You don’t have to like every piece of art you come across, but you must respect that each one is a living expression of the universal energy, and therefore equally worthy and valuable as you, yourself, are.

Long-term relationships

Long-term relationships require people to ask each other for changes, big and small, from time to time, in order to make the relationship work. This is because 2 separate individuals cannot be expected to meet each other’s needs naturally and fully all of the time. When needs are not being met, one partner must ask the other for a change. I am one of those rare people that is extremely open to change. I welcome change like a new friend, and generally view change as a chance for growth and learning. Ask me for a change, and we can reach an agreement. Just don’t ask me to change the past. I cannot change the past. You must let go of the past if you want a future.