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The Compulsion to Heal

Several years ago, upon returning to my massage practice after a month of meditation in the Swiss Alps, I suddenly found myself questioning my motivation as a massage therapist. Why did I feel so compelled spend my life working to alleviate suffering and pain in others. While compassion and the desire to be of service, seemed the obvious and noble answer, I began to suspect there were subtler, more disturbing reasons underlying my seemingly benevolent desire to help others.

After 20+ years as a professional bodyworker, it became uncomfortably apparent that much of my lifelong impulse to heal arose out of a subconscious fear of the inherent uncontrollability of bodies, minds, emotions and events. Often I was driven to "help" by my own frightened avoidance of pain as well as my inability to see the larger perfection behind the unfoldment of painful circumstances. In my smallness of vision, I wanted to improve, fix or eliminate that which I, in my myopic ignorance, had labeled a problem.

As massage therapists we master remarkably effective techniques to help our clients feel better. We can draw on our knowledge and training to analyze their physical condition with our minds, diagnose the problem and create a treatment plan. Yet how often do we rob people of rich and potentially transformative learning experiences by temporarily reducing their pain? Do we "heal" to solidify our egos in the role of healer, to reinforce our own sense of usefulness, power and purpose in the community. Is our rush to alleviate another's suffering influenced by our own fear of suffering?

As my view of reality has expanded and my tolerance for feeling increased, I see that the most profound healing often results from my ability to lovingly leave things alone, to let life unfold in it's mysterious magnificence, without analyzing, dissecting, judging or correcting it. The most potent compliment I can convey to my client is "I trust in the perfection of your life, I trust in your ability to handle and engage with whatever life is bringing you. I see your life as a perfect and unique unfolding of the Divine Dance, not as a problem to be solved." I can then offer my hands and my skill in compassionate assistance of the healing process.

Perhaps the ultimate goal in spiritual focused healing is to see the underlying folly of our belief that there is something wrong, something to be fixed, something outside of the harmony of life. Paradoxically it is this very acceptance of life as it is, the total embracing of whatever is appearing, that provides a fertile landscape for the inevitability of change. The softening of struggle is reflected in a corresponding softening of the musculature.

Conscious surrender of resistance brings an increased flow of life force through the body that in itself ameliorates discomfort and reestablishes an embodied receptivity that catalyzes the healing process. As we listen deeply, our hands are guided as part of a Divinely choreographed dance. Knowledge and skill can then be effectively utilized to encourage and support the natural healing that is emerging.

In addition to providing skillful massage, our role as healers is to be present as a faithful witness to the play of life, to remind our clients that the rises and falls and comings and goings and joys and sorrows are the inevitable dance of life, and to help them enjoy and relax through, the process of change. Through our example we can help them feel confident that life is embraceable and whatever is happening contains within it the ecstasy of aliveness. We allow and support rather than force healing. The sign of maturity in a healer is an increasing ability to stay curious and explore the present moment, creating an arena of spaciousness that allows change to evolve in its unique way. As we move out of the role of fixers, we can use our skills to become midwives for the embodiment.

by Vajra Matusow - Reprinted from Massage Magazine, March 1998