I listened to my massage therapist the other day
as she listened to my body,
its messages guiding her warm hand
to pull and push and knead
muscles, tendons, ligaments… and spirit.
Ouch! I say. It hurts there… and there… and over there, too!
Shall I let up on the pressure? she asks.
And I say, Yes! Please!
And then, No, it’s OK – just want to let you know
what I’m feeling.
Breathe into it, she says.
And I comply, focusing on relaxing
rather than resisting her efforts.
Then I feel my muscle loosen.
She feels it, too –
Ah, there you go, she says.
As she works, she describes how muscles extend to become
tendons which fasten to bones
which are connected to other bones by ligaments.
No wonder, I say…
No wonder that painful spot in my neck
radiates to my hip
and then down to the ball of my foot.
Connections, all of one whole.
I’m loosening up… letting go of toxins,
trusting the sure hands
and warm heart of my massage therapist.
How does this feel? she asks.
OK, I say… so far, anyway…
knowing she delights in the challenge
of finding new spots that beg for release.
I trust her to proceed carefully…
pushing no further than I’m willing to let her go.
She lets me know that I’m in control here.
How much like the massage therapist
are spiritual companions, I reflect,
listening for the dynamic interweaving
of God’s presence in memories and experiences and meanings –
body and mind and spirit… all of one whole.
A pilgrim describes memories of a loved one
gone now many years.
Tears flow, her throat constricts, she hesitates.
The companion waits quietly,
listening to voice and gestures and posture.
When it seems right,
the companion asks gently where she is holding the pain,
knowing that focusing may help her honor her grief.
And he waits since the pilgrim is the one in control.
She takes a deep breath.
OK, she says, but it hurts so bad!
He died so long ago – it feels like yesterday.
And the companion leans in to listen,
so aware that this is sacred space they share.
A pilgrim talks about frustrations at work.
Decisions by others have impacted his performance.
The companion listens, then suggests – every so tenderly,
I wonder whether these are examples
of deeper frustrations that feel out of control.
Pain in one spot, she knows, radiates into other areas.
Oh, yes! he responds… there’s a connection!
But – and he hesitates – I was hoping not to go there today.
The companion waits, trusting her intuition,
and trusting the pilgrim to honor his boundaries –
to continue only so far as he wants to go this time.
Then he sighs… and sensing the other’s warm attention,
he delves more deeply into his spirit’s wound.
My message therapist listens carefully to the body.
She can name the muscles and ligaments and tendons,
bones and organ systems.
She gives counsel on exercises
to stretch and lengthen muscles and tendons,
to loosen up those constricted into knots.
I tell her she could write a book
and call it The Geography of Pain.
She asks, You know what the eleventh commandment is?
Eleven? No, I heard there were ten.
Ah… the eleventh commandment… is this…
Thou shalt not knot!
I laugh as I leave.
I have learned to trust her competence and her compassion.
I’m glad she listens carefully.