What Happens When Your Massage Client Disappears?

I have received student sessions for years – it’s a requirement at our school (I know – tough life for us teachers!)

I commonly have the experience that, in the best sessions, one forgets the therapist is there.  The touch feels so trustworthy and clear that the focus is not on the therapist’s touch, but rather on the experience in one’s own body (or mind or heart).

Years ago I mentioned this to my mentor, Dr. Fritz Smith, the founder of Zero Balancing.

I said, “Have you noticed that in really good sessions, the client has the experience that the therapist kind of disappears?”

He said, “Yes.”

And thought about it for a moment.

Then he asked me, “But what happens when the client disappears?”

I was speechless.  What did he mean?  For many years now I’ve puzzled about this question which I barely understood.  What happens when the client disappears?

This week I started to get an answer.

I was receiving a session from a student.  His touch was quite reliable and there were moments in which I didn’t experience him as being there.  However, the session wasn’t as effective as either of us had hoped.  Afterwards as we talked and I had a rather suddenly deepened understanding of three distinct levels of touch and client experience.

Level One – You experience the touch of the therapist.  You feel their hands, their warmth, and infer their knowledge of anatomy and technique as they work.  You are more or less pleasantly touched by them.  This is the level of most massages.

Level Two –  You do not mostly experience the touch of the therapist.  The foreground of your experience is not your experience of them; it is the experience of yourself.  You feel yourself deeply relaxing.  You may see visions, colors, have new thoughts, restored hope, feel “energy” flowing more freely and abundantly through your body, etc.

Level Three – You do not even experience yourself.  You, the client, as the consciously experiencing subject, have disappeared.  Some of our most profound touches result in the client going deeper than self-consciousness.  The sense of self, the consciousness of being separate from the rest of nature, disappears.  Clients may experience relevatory moments or sustained periods of what some people call unity-consciouness.

I’m reminded of a book whose title I’ve always enjoyed (a bit more than the book) – Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object by Franklin Merrell-Wolf.

At our best, we humans are not self-centered beings.  During a great massage and at other transcendent moments, often those created by art or spiritual practices, we experience ourselves as part of a larger whole.

This leads to profound relief from what I call “reality fatigue”.  We, as our dreams show us each night, are capable of imagining and, history has shown us, of living in many realities.  It is fatiguing to live just in this one time and space, this waking world of 2011.  How refreshing and necessary to disappear into the space and time of more infinite possibilities!  Letting go of the present, letting go of the self, we all have the opportunity for rejuvenative participation in the wholeness of time and space.

I hope, in 2012, to have and to provide more opportunities for people to creatively disappear and then to re-appear with renewed enthusiasm for life!

What happens when the client disappears?  Who knows?  🙂