Last November, I studied with the Dalai Lama at his residence and temple in Dharamsala for three days, during my four-month sojourn to India. It was part of my ‘mid-life re-evaluation’ as I was questioning myself about my work, my life’s purpose and what I wanted to create for the second half of my life.
When I first became a massage therapist about 16 years ago, it was for two reasons.
One, because I had always been told I had good hands and I loved giving and receiving massages and two, because I saw it as a temporary career that paid a high hourly rate which would help finance the rest of my graduate school education so I could become a licensed counselor. Well, I got sidetracked and never went back to school.
I loved doing massage, it paid well, and I was helping people feel better immediately whereas counseling would sometimes take months or years, if ever, for someone to make progress and heal. With massage therapy, I received immediate gratification, as my clients got off the table smiling, refreshed and grateful for the transformation in their attitudes and bodies.
Last year, with the economy lagging and a major loss in my personal life, I found myself spinning my wheels to maintain and repair all of my stuff – the house, the yard, the car, the appliances, the plumbing, etc. I felt a spiritual void, as I was busy taking care of all of my material possessions, knowing that this couldn’t be what my life was all about.
I left for India to visit old friends and do some yoga and meditation, take some time to reflect and write, and explore the country. While I was there, I had the opportunity to study for three days with a group of Russian Buddhists as the Dalai Lama taught about what it meant to become a bodhisattva.
A bodhisattva is one who aspires to reach Buddhahood or enlightenment, someone who is motivated by compassion to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings. At times, I have questioned my massage work, wondering if I am doing enough to make a difference in the world, to help people, to alleviate suffering and promote more peace, love and optimum health on the planet. My friends in India were working with classrooms of students and non-profit organizations to increase literacy, to educate about health and hygiene, and to promote family planning in an overcrowded country with the fastest growing population. Their jobs seemed so big and important. I was just massaging people, one client at a time. Was I really making a difference?
Then I thought about what the Dalai Lama said and I realized I am helping to alleviate suffering one person at a time. There was no need to compare the value of my work to the work of others. My work is important, even if I don’t have a PhD after my name, even if I am not making $100,000 a year, even if I am working with only one person at a time.
As massage therapists, we are making a profound difference in the world, bringing relief and calm and joy to our clients on the table. There is a ripple effect, as they go back out into the world and contribute their energy to making the world a better place, by being more loving parents and partners, by being more productive workers, by easing their pain and contributing to their happiness, refilling their cups so they can go out and help others.
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