Poetics of Touch Concept Number 18


Poetry works against expectation using the element of surprise.
It works well if it isn't too surprising. -- Susan Reddington

Planning to use some improvisation is a predictable part of massage, however, variations in sequence often begin spontaneously. Your hands passing over the client's shoulder detect a knot and stay there to massage it thoroughly.

If one side of the client's body needs significantly more work than the other then apply dynamic symmetry to achieve balance. Spending five minutes on one shoulder and fifteen minutes on the other may be perfect. Clients do though, expect your hands to travel in sequence from their shoulder to arm to hand or vice versa.

There will always be moments of waiting, wondering, and hoping for you and for clients. Notice how expectation and actuality are unfolding and begin to notice rhythms of touch in daily life. Are the people who bag your groceries doing it with care? How do you know? What impulses of gesture and speech arise if they start to put the plums at the bottom?

When the interlocking worlds of technique and meaning are in sync, clients praise "wise hands" and "intelligent touch." They feel your caring and care for themselves. Clients also appreciate experiences they understand. If you say, "I do Swedish Massage and Polarity," be ready to describe your work in lay person's terms. Don't be surprised though, if listeners segue into bodywork stories of their own, before you can say, "long strokes with oil."

Ideally, predictability of presence, protocol, movement, and communication form the majority of massage. Gradually, through spontaneity or planning, a few pleasantly unpredictable elements are introduced to enrich the massage experience.

Four movement options describe this Poetics concept:

1. Hypnotic -- surrender and trance, primarily predictable:
Emphasis is on repetition, breath, ample oil, and smoothness. Make some back-and-forth strokes symmetrical like a pendulum's swing.

2. Dynamic -- energetic with a wide range of options, predictable or not:
Lively touches, artistic flourishes, and grand sweeps are dynamic. Pauses can create strong focal points.

3. Playful -- quick, fun, bouncy touches, primarily unpredictable:
In response to light playful touches, clients might rediscover their childlike joy and feel uplifted, hopeful, and glad. In the massage poems dance, laugh, and sing, may be signs of playfulness.

4. Still -- stillness invites deep breaths and calmness:
Stillness has a predictable lack of movement, but can be unpredictable in placement, duration, intensity, and imagery. Staying still while holding points in stillness encourages sleep.

Predictable and Unpredictable should never be puzzling:

Clients do not want to decipher massage. They want you to have "the touch" or "magic hands." They are happy when massage is "something special" and easy to receive. Clients want to interact with you -- sometimes more, sometimes less. They want to feel better and bask in inner peace.

Some proficiency may be available simply for the asking:

Let your hands automatically interpret desirable qualities that are familiar. May my hands be safe, strong, and flowing.

The massage journey:

Although Angeles Arrien, an anthropologist and storyteller, said the following about life, it sums up the massage journey for me and perhaps for you: "You can count the seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the apples in a seed." When I took my first massage class in 1971, my goal was to learn massage to do with friends.

Copyright Cinda Mefferd