No One Knows How to Give a Great Massage

The great painter and sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, after years of doing abstract art, said he wanted to do a little life-drawing.

“I had to make (quickly I thought; in passing) one or two studies from nature, just enough to understand the construction of a head, of a whole figure, and in 1935 I took a model.  This study should take (I thought) two weeks, and then I could realize my compositions.

I worked with the model all day from 1935 to 1940.  Nothing was as I had imagined…”

These days I read the massage magazines and I see one ad after ad, article after article touting answers – how you resolve neck pain, how such-and-such modality is so powerful, how you can easily be a business success.

You know what? I’m sick of answers.

Really none of us have the answers.  And I like it that way.

In math there are correct answers, sometimes in science too.  But in art, and massage surely is as much art as science, there are no answers.  There are only attempts we make again and again to touch another life in an inspiring way.

Each session is humbling.  Like Giacometti, capturing life, or responding in a thoroughly healing manner to the client, feels like it is almost impossible sometimes.  I love that mystery and sometimes find it intriguingly frustrating. That’s what keeps me doing bodywork, after more than 30 years.

The height of bodywork teaching is not to give students the answers or, as teachers or therapists, to pretend we have them.  We must be honest about the essential mystery of what will finally work.  No one knows what combination of strokes, encouraging words, emotional and mental insights will result in change.

So teaching seems ridiculous sometimes.  I say to my students I don’t have the answers, I’ve just been lost in the forest longer than you.

But I’m like Giacometti and I bet you are too.

I want to understand the construction of a life.  And I want to do my best to interact with the mystery of a life and how it can change with touch in such a way that the client and I feel that we’ve been lucky to participate in the miracle of human evolution.