Massage Therapy and the Cymbal Crash of Dis-ease

Last weekend I took an intense course in back pain taught to me by my lower back muscles and ligaments. I did kung fu on Saturday morning and, intoxicated by a renewed sense of power, later did a vigorous swim in Barton Springs. Came out of the water, then in the dressing room I leaned over and nearly collapsed with spasm and pain out of “nowhere”. Amazing how dis-ease can bring us so instantaneously low.

Later reading Care of the Soul (Thomas Moore) it is observed that symbol and symptom come from related roots meaning respectively “thrown together” and “fallen together”. The back pain I felt was like cymbals “crashing together”. Like cymbals crashing, our symptoms loudly call for our attention.

When the mind and body are in disunion, we eventually crash. That day my body was satisfied after kung fu but my mind said, “More!” as it often does.

Robert Sardello said, “The object of therapeutic treatment is to return imagination to the things that have become only physical.”

Massage therapy and other forms of inner work restore imagination to hurt places. Massage does it through the imaginative use of our hands, heart, and mind. Gradually the symptom recedes and the cymbal crash fades. The place which loudly grabbed our attention lets us go.

The two things that were disunited, in dis-eased relationship, are now replaced by an experience of ease, of peace. It’s like cymbals coming together as two praying hands.

And it occurs to me for the first time, I am thinking of one good answer to the Zen koan – what is the sound of one hand clapping?

Blessed silence.