Beyond the Immune System: Making History with Massage Part 2

Let’s take a moment for reverie.  For a minute just imagine that you are receiving an incredible massage.  Not just a good massage – an incredible massage, anywhere in or out of this universe, from anyone or anything.  Enjoy imagining receiving your most ideal, incredible massage.  (Please breathe and pause).

My guess, from having talked now with thousands of massage students, clients and therapists, is that some elements of what you experienced may have included feelings of total safety and a letting go of anxiety; a sense of unimpeded being; a sense of being un-isolated and easily connected to all of yourself and the environment you are at home in.

Massage is not a very revealing word for what we do.  From the experiences people report, it is certainly more accurate to describe it, for instance, as re-connection therapy.  Virtually everyone you ask, when they are freed to imagine what is or has been most extraordinary about receiving massage, report this sense of deep self-acceptance and a deep sense of being at home in this world.

Yet something about the concept of immunity kept bugging me.  I decided to look it up in the dictionary.  It means, get this, “exempt from public service.”  AHA!  I felt at once the glee of discovery and the tragedy imbedded in the very root of the word.  By placing immunity, “exemption from public service”, at the center of our healing ideology, our society has hitherto made disconnection, successful isolation, as the sine qua non for health.  Everyone’s an island!  This isn’t a definition of health.  It’s a prescription for loneliness and dis-ease!

So now of course it all came together – what’s the opposite of immunity? – COMMUNITY, meaning to “serve together.”  Let’s look and see what may be the beginnings of a community-based model for health.

What happens in a great massage?  We get a direct and extremely thorough experience of being beyond an immunity-based orientation.  The macro-immune system shuts down and we let someone else’s being contact us.  We step beyond immune-based living, beyond isolation, literally into community or, if you like, communion, an experience of oneness with another being.  We are one, if only for moment which feels like an eternity because in oneness our everyday sense of time and space is gone.  This touch of communion takes us out of our narrow selves and restores us to a larger, saner whole.

Insanity can be seen as the world-view based on the belief that we are fundamentally separate isolated beings with no connection to each other.  But even on a rigorous scientific level we encounter primarily connection and community:  atomic – there is no atom belonging to or defining me as opposed to the environment; ecology – the science of the environment in which interdependence and co-evolution are the rule; sociology – studying the intricately interwoven tapestry of culture requisite to civilization.  Please look around at the world we share!  Not even to mention our connection in time – evolution and history.  As a matter of fact, from a scientific standpoint it is virtually impossible to prove the existence of separate beings!  The fabric and interweave are what’s obvious.  On this common sense level then science and religion agree in saying there is no separate self-existing self, except as a more or less conveniently held fiction for the definite but limited benefit of certain “self-conscious” organisms.

In a precise sense we are rescued from isolation by massage.  We are, in other words, saved.  It is no accident that God’s saving grace, his life-giving touch of Adam, is so commonly used in therapists’ logos and literature.  Salvation means whole, not yet split.

Eating of the tree of knowledge really has been rough.  With our enhanced cortical capacity to draw distinctions we divided up the world into you/me, good/evil, us/them, friend/foe ever since and it has nearly killed us!  At the same time in the spiritual realm and recently in science, we see a striving for wholeness.  Gustav Schwenk in his incredible work, Sensitive Chaos shows how water inherently strives to form a circle – that’s why it meanders as a river, to try to re-unite with itself in circular form.  Sometimes I think human life is just striving for re-union on the basis of its fundamental water nature.

In massage we are redeemed by this wonderful touch from the sense of being isolated.  We remember our larger self.  We are not fundamentally separate.  Our deep need for community is fed.  The community grows and we are more alive.  While still getting permission from the person’s being, and protecting the person from harm, we affirm a new, more united experience of being.  This is the second coming.  Coming home to oneness.

This is what we have to teach.  This is what we have to learn.