Believing in Touch

I have never been a very conventional religious person. Maybe those of us who practice massage therapy are, however, in touch with something deeply spiritual underlying all beliefs.

From an early age I did have a respect and attraction to the sacred, often through art and music, and also from a deep hope that humans would collaborate in creating a peaceful world.

I was intrigued by the experience of spirit or energy – doing yoga on my own when I was 17, I had a first experience of dramatic sensations of energy flow in my body. Then I spent countless hours listening to and playing music of all kinds, mostly blues and rock and roll – I loved the moments when the music seemed to be playing me, not the other way around.

I studied Asian music in Berkeley in 1967 and remember an astonishing concert of a Japanese shakuhachi (bamboo flute) master in which somehow we were all transported into a dense forest with deer running through it.

I graduated with a degree in music composition, but didn’t find that satisfying as a profession. I got into therapy and read a lot in the realms of psychology and eastern and western philosophy/spirtuaility. Eventually I got a job at my favorite bookstore, the Whole Earth Center in Evanston, Illinois.

In 1974 I was at a bookseller’s convention in Atlanta and was pleased to meet the people who made the “Dharmaseal” decals we sold at our center. They were disciples of Richard Alpert “Ram Dass”, himself a devotee of an Indian teacher. On the second day, I went to talk with one of the Dharmaseal people, Miribai, but she was busy with a customer and, touching me on the shoulder, apologized for not being able to talk at that moment. I walked down the aisle a bit disappointed. As I walked, I started to feel better. Then much better. Then incredibly well! I felt that there was a sun inside of me, radiating out from the core of my being. Eventually I was almost surprised that other people couldn’t see it. That moment was my first big “crack” in the cosmic egg.

I thought if just a single touch can affect a person that powerfully, I want to learn more about that!

That led to me becoming a massage therapist, then a massage teacher, moving to the kinder, gentler community of Austin in 1984, then eventually to starting a school, The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School, in 1989.

I still don’t practice only one particular religion; the closer I get to the formality of any one, the less I am inclined to proceed. But I have learned much from the Jewish, Christian, Sufi, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. But probably the most I have learned is from massage therapy. From working with the body and the way it connects to and affects the mind, emotions and the spirit, I have learned most of what I know and value. I am tempted to say I’m a practitioner of Massage-ism.

The insights which come from studying and practicing massage are, to me, the missing piece in our culture and in our education. The value of kindness, the respect for boundaries, the knowledge and valuing of the miraculousness of our anatomy and physiology, the cultivation of clear and high quality relationship within the setting of true heath-care for the whole person, the role that healthy touch can play in our world – these are just some of my learnings.

I thank my teachers, clients, school staff and students. You are my lucky stars whom I have been guided by. Through massage therapy and education, I have found a path that I can walk with enthusiasm and gratitude – the world revealed to us by our bodies and healthy touch.

I believe in touch.

~ David Lauterstein, TLC Co-Director