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If you were to master the material on the ensuing pages,
it would be, in my estimation, the equivalent of completing
a five-year massage therapy program,
leading to a masters degree,
at a competitive liberal arts college.
Most recent additions:
Reviewed by: Mike O'Hara / Scranton, PA
Estimated reading/study time:
12 to 14 hours, depending of course upon your level of interest
Estimated hours of massage education condensed herein: 1,200 to 1,500
Estimated hours of education when one includes the linked "Pages of Wisdom", which I consider indispensable for commensurate character development: 2,000+
Journalism major, Fordham University, New York City
High school: Scranton Preparatory
Massage practitioner/therapist for 25 years
Contributor to national publications
Phone: (570) 343-6346
I view massage as a proactive approach toward taking charge of one's own health and well-being. With that in mind, let's review some key points from popular massage books and videos on the market. Then we'll add in advanced texts from both an Asian and Western perspective. In addition, we'll throw in some pop-psychology and other related material.
In part, the information contained here forms some of the research for a book I'm writing, parts of which are contained on the page dealing with sports massage. The topic is the correlation between Eastern/Western massage and physical/mental vitality. You may notice the use of many parentheses on these pages. I use them in an attempt to separate my comments from the work of the authors cited.
From "Job's Body: A Handbook for Bodywork" (3rd edition / 2003) by Deane Juhan
This book once seemed omnipresent around massage schools and active practitioners, but part of the original luster appears to be lost. For some reason Juhan throws a lot of superb ingredients in the air yet fails to hit the grand slam. This is a lengthy text, at times difficult to plow through, so the synopsis presented here may seem long as well.
"Fingers have ears."
-- George Quasha, poet/artist/writer from Barrytown, NY "The notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged."
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Without adequate tactile input, the human organism will die -- in a surprisingly short period of time. Touch is one of the principal elements necessary for the successful development and functional organization of the central nervous system. There is no sensation or emotion that is not translated into a muscular response of some kind. "Our tendency to live in the world of reality leads us to neglect what is going on in the field of sensations."
-- Paul Schilder, The Image and Appearance of the Human Body The temple at Borobudur, India, built around the year 800, contains a relief of Buddha receiving a bodywork treatment. Also, the Roman physician Galen is said to have written some 16 books on the topic. Most medical professionals agree on this: Most of the body's processes rely upon the appropriate movement of fluids through our systems. Many surgeries and prescriptions are administered without a realistic hope of success. They're done simply because no one knows what else to do. Only a small fraction of medical schools in the world offers a course that teaches the value and technique of touching. For the most part, "experts" have spent their careers building up mechanistic models. They are scarcely the ones to show us the way out of a predicament. (For me, the only way out of something is through it, and of course that's easier said than done.) Like clay, we either keep ourselves moist and malleable or we are drying and hardening. Bodywork is one of the most effective means available for generating the streams of full and precise sensory information which compose the largest and most concrete part of self-awareness. "Not only our geometry and our physics, but our whole conception of what exists outside us, is based upon the sense of touch."
-- Bertrand Russell My tactile experience is just as central to my thought processes as are language skills or categories of logic. (Please put that sentence in your pipe and smoke it.) It appears that the wiring of our nervous system is initiated at the periphery (the skin surface). The periphery helps organize the connections of the central nervous system, not vice versa. Similarly, it is the chemical and sensory makeup of the skin that provides the template for the connections and reflex patterns within the brain, not the other way around. The skin is no more separated from the brain than the surface of a lake is separate from its depths; the two are different locations in a continuous medium. 'Peripheral' and 'central' are merely spacial distinctions, distinctions that do more harm than good if they lure us into forgetting that the brain is a single functional unit, from cortex to fingertips to toes. To touch the surface is to stir the depths. As recently as 1915, James Knox Jr. of Johns Hopkins Hospital noted that in spite of adequate physical care, 90% of the infants in Baltimore orphanages died within a year of admission. In the same year, a New York pediatrician named Henry Chapin published a similar report that covered institutions in ten different cities. The mortality rate he reported was closer to 99%. Even the children who survived were clearly damaged by this lack-of-touch disease called merasmus, Greek for "wasting away." Animal breeders, farmers, veterinarians and zookeepers all concur that new animals must be licked if they are to live, in particular at the perineal region between the genitals and anus. In combination with tactile stimulation, this appears to jump-start the process of proper hormonal release. Animals who receive this early contact develop superior functions and immunological resistance that last them their whole lives. Their nervous systems appear more stabilized, better able to withstand duress. In the late 1950s, Seymour Levine concluded that animals that received adequate tactile stimulation as infants experience an accelerated maturation of the central nervous system ("Stimulation in Infancy," Scientific American, May 1960). Other studies demonstrate that early tactile stimulation leads to a more active sex life in adulthood. "Gentled" rats turn into better problem-solvers and are more eager to explore new environments. Adult animals can show these benefits as well from tactile stimulation. It just takes longer than when they're infants. Alexander Lowen (author of Bioenergetics) has pointed out that the central issue of schizophrenia is a person completely out of touch with their body. There's scarcely been a study of violent crime that doesn't solidy establish a connection between it and harsh, isolated childhoods. Dr. James Prescott is a developmental neurophysiologist at the National Institute of Child Health and Development. He writes that physical pleasure inhibits the development of rage and violence. He also believes that the deprivation of bodily touch is the root cause of emotional disturbances that include drug abuse, aggression, and sexual aberrations. (Remember that when The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the crime rate in New York dropped noticeably.) Inside every malfunctioning individual is a potentially loving creature struggling to get out. The trick is to so interact with this person who's been tactually failed so as to release the potentiality for something resembling the kind of humanizing experiences he should have enjoyed in infancy and childhood. It is the duty (Juhan calls it a "burden"; slippery choice of words) of the bodyworker to develop the quality of touch so acutely needed by the distressed individual. It is this type of "distressed individual" who shows up most frequently in doctors' offices, not people presenting obvious cases of disease, trauma, or congenital defect. Appropriate touch can penetrate to their core. Collagen is to humans and animals what cellulose is to plants -- the walls of the compartments. "The connective tissues not only bind the various parts of the body, but in a broader sense connect the numerous branches of medicine."
-- George Snyder, professor of anatomy, Kirksville (Missouri) College of Osteopathy and Surgery In the tendons and ligaments the tensile strength of connective tissue is superior to that of steel wire. To some degree, all connective tissue contains a transparent fluid ground substance similar to raw egg whites. (Others have compared it to Jello.) Disruption to the ground surface strikes at the very heart of healthy metabolic activity -- nutrients and cellular wastes cease to conduct their exchanges efficiently. Surgery subtracts from connective tissue. Pharmaceuticals add to it. Bodywork, in contrast, seeks to enhance its pliability and fluidity, neither subtracting nor adding. The billions of fine tubules of collagen fibers constitute one of the circulatory systems of the body. Within these tubules, one researcher reports finding not blood or lymph, but rather cerebrospinal fluid itself. (R.F. Erlingheuser, "The Circulation of Cerebrospinal Fluid Through the Connective Tissue System," in the Academy of Applied Osteopathy Yearbook, 1959) Unless this theory/finding has been utterly discredited since then, I find it surprising it hasn't worked itself into more common discourse.) This may be the key to understanding how tactile stimulation can reach the mind -- the whole mind -- from the surface of the skin to the spinal reflexes, to the subconscious responses of the lower brain, to the fields of awareness in the cortex. Stimulation of the skin has been clearly demonstrated to be a crucial factor in health pituitary function. The stimulation affects higher areas of the brain, stimulating pituitary secretions that affect the health of connective tissues and their ability to respond to trauma. These effects are very different from mere "relaxation." We must resist the tendency to focus our attention upon localized areas of the body at the expense of the whole. The physical and mental elements of the body are too interconnected to compartmentalize them this way. Surgery and drugs are the readiest means to cause immediate local changes in a person. Bodywork, on the other hand, courts the body's abilities to change its own internal relationships over longer periods of time. The role of bodywork is not to eliminate stress but rather to help sensitize the individual to recognize the right kinds and amounts. The most resilient strains of plants do not grow in greenhouses. The skeleton is held erect by the musculature, and not vice versa. The irony is that so many aches and pains are routinely examined by means of x-ray, a picture that erases the causative forces involved and focuses both the diagnosis and the prognosis upon the bony and ligamentous results of chronic muscular activity. There is no one single muscle that controls one single motion. We will almost never find a single discrete muscle that's tense. Rather, we will find areas of tension, or body-wide patterns of tension whose boundaries don't necessarily follow anatomical divisions as shown on charts. We'd be closer to the truth if we regard the body as having one muscle. Muscle tissue evolved out of connective tissue. A muscle in a state of sustained contraction is working. Its nutritional needs are higher than when it's at rest. Meanwhile, the sustained contraction reduces blood and fluid circulation to the area. If prolonged, tissue exhaustion occurs with toxic side-effects. Chronically constricted muscles then become an energy drain on the rest of the organism, hogging resources. Our nervous system is surrounded and supported by a framework of connective tissue formed by glial cells. The effects of bodywork upon these cells cannot but help improve the function of the neurons they support. Nerve cells are just as hydraulic as they are electrical. It is not a "spark" that jumps the gaps from neuron to neuron, it is a fluid, a chemical agent, a kind of enzyme or hormone. A nerve is less an electrical wire than it is a gland supporting minute secretions. Bodywork is capable of dissolving compulsive patterns that have infused themselves into our nervous system by pain and stress. Only when contact with the world is perceived as something other than jabs and buffets can the organism respond with something other than aggression and defense. In terms of long-term biological evolution, the human cortex seems very intent upon exerting more conscious control over instinctual responses and unconscious behavior. (Perhaps then, one of our purposes as humans is to align ourselves with this biological trend and simply notice when we're being reactive, so as to overcome the tendency.) Helping to correct the "solipsistic tendencies of abstract contemplation" (mental masturbation) is one of the most important roles of bodywork. (Or in other words, massage gets someone out of their head and back into reality.) Pleasurable sensations travel faster than do painful ones. If you can inundate the body with favorable, pleasant sensations, you can drown out the pain signals. Increasingly constricted capillaries require higher blood pressure to make them function at all. Once they burst or collapse, they will be replaced by scar tissue, making the local loss permanent. Areas of the body that are not adequately irrigated stagnate just like a sluggish stream, creating situations ripe for discomfort, disease and decay. Muscular relaxation is a prerequisite to any type of successful muscular retraining. (Rankin and Dempsey, "Respiratory Muscles," American Journal of Physical Medicine, Feb. 1967) Even more importantly, for hours after the session is over, this relaxation and these new sensations give the client the opportunity to experience and practice movements that are relatively free from the habitual sensorimotor patterns that define and dominate his "normal" state. Under these conditions, a great deal of relearning can take place in a short period of time, and the sense of conscious self-control can be tremendously enhanced. (Or in other words, massage helps erase the slate so you can actually write something new on it for a change, even when their current slate says 2+2=5) Except for the eyes and ears, the muscle spindles are the most elaborate sensory structures in the body. (P.A. Merton, "How We Control the Contraction of Our Muscles," Scientific American, May 1972) Muscle spindles are so named because they resemble spindles used in sewing. Objects pull on our muscles from the outside; emotions pull from the inside. The client's patterns of reflex contractions cannot be bullied into submission. We have two basic reflex responses: to withdraw and avoid, or to extend and explore. These responses become cumulative, or in other words they develop into tendencies that are mirrored in either a stiff, braced, defensive body or a relaxed, supple, open one. While we're manipulating stiff muscles, remember that the fixation is not in the tissues under your hands. It lies deep in the unconscious process of the mind. Our physical contact with the local tissues is merely a means of generating new sensory input into the sensorimotor process (feedback loop). It is the mind that is coordinating this process that must release its hold upon a fixed position. (I'm also getting here that we're helping to bring more awareness into unconscious and semi-conscious tissues and sensory-feedback loops.) As with chronic fixations, there is the tendency over long periods of time to confuse how I do things with who I am. An often-repeated mental event becomes a tendency, a tendency followed long enough becomes a habit, and a habit exercised long enough becomes a bit of personal identity. (Isn't this just how political opinions are formed?!) The entire musculature must learn to participate in the motion of any of its parts. Motion is not initiated in the cerebellum, which acts primarily as the monitor of the loop, the integrator. Without its guidance our movements would be far too herky-jerky. "Our most sacred convictions, the unchanging elements of our supreme values, are judgments of our muscles."
-- Nietzsche, The Will to Power The muscles of the eye are more densely supplied with spindles and tendon organs than any others in the body. We are surprisingly unaware that muscles are also sense organs, because the data they provide are handled almost exclusively by centers in the brain that are normally unconscious. Hallucinatory experiences are more likely to occur when we disassociate from our musculature, such as during meditation. The word sprezzatura appeared during the Renaissance to denote doing the difficult with apparent effortlessness. In sports and the arts, we admire not those who overdo their effort, but those who apply the appropriate amount of effort at the right time (this is an important message imparted during my mystical experiences). "The features of our face are hardly more than gestures which force of habit has made permanent."
-- Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past We put our personal signature on every movement and gesture we make. The manner of performing bodywork is just as important as the physical techniques. The goal is the sensory evocation of feeling states. (I'm sure we could all come up with a differently worded goal.) It is aimed toward shifts in mental response, not mere physical adjustments. And far more important than the local effects of a loosened muscle is the general feeling that accompanies the accumulation of many small releases. (I've always been one to recommend a whole body massage even when the client wants a localized one, and I've been talking about accumulated effect for a few years now.) The overall massage experience constitutes a break in the vicious cycle of discomfort, withdrawal, and diminished function. The body and mind are restored to each other through the interface of touch, and each finds in the other the lacking element. (We're seeing the obvious influence of Dr. Milton Trager here. According to Trager, the bodyworker should be in a higher space to begin with, or else there's nothing to impart to the client.) "Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are gardeners."
-- William Shakespeare, Othello "A large part of every 'voluntary' movement is both involuntary and outside consciousness."
-- Arthur Guyton, Basic Human Physiology, 1971 It is not possible to bring our musculature to a locked halt. Bob Wilbur is a jazz saxophonist who makes these comments: If the musician thinks about improvisation for long, he won't succeed. The rhythmic element is what releases the intuitive powers in great players. Then the notes are ripping and they are totally free. For the purposes of muscular performance, it works more to think about the goal rather than thinking analytically about each step of the process as it unfolds. (Salespeople might call this "targeting;" athletes call it "visualizing.") What seems to work is letting go into the goal, unreservedly. (In baseball, coaches tell pitchers to "trust their stuff" and not think so much.) Man is powerless to organize bits of motion into any purposeful sequence without first imagining clearly that sequence (as in learning how to walk or ride a bike). Our internal feedback/response system is so circular, it doesn't matter where relaxation begins: either through meditation or massage or wherever. Some types of cancer have been tentatively linked to the failure to cope with powerful, chronic, negative emotions such as anger, hate, or despair. You can remove both legs, two-thirds of the liver or a whole kidney and life will not be endangered. But if you remove an animal's adrenal glands, it loses its resistance to the slightest damage and dies within a few days. Chronic stress creates a sort of adrenaline/cortisol poisoning/overdose that interferes with our natural healing processes. Too much adrenaline keeps our organs on constant alert, fatiguing them and thus leading to quicker dysfunction. Tactile stimulation, in and of itself, offers a potent method of redressing a sluggish and imbalanced pituitary/adrenal axis. Lactic acid, one of the principle metabolic wastes of contracting muscle, causes not only acute pain but also acute anxiety when it is injected into healthy subjects. A local area deprived of oxygenation becomes a breeding ground for any number of diseases and breakdown processes. The task of teaching someone to accept pleasure can be more laborious than trying to teach them to avoid pain. One of the most significant natural releases for the human body, the orgasm, has been shrouded in an unfortunate pea-soup of mystique. Our classical concept of connective tissue must be expanded to include the webwork within each cell. Chronic stress leads to a general state of exhaustion. DNA has "connective tissue" -- water. Without water, it falls apart and disperses immediately. People and animals are naturally cooperative. In the face of his adversities, Job cried, "Is not my help within me?" (Job 6:13) Before the gods of nature and fate, unconsciousness is never accepted as an excuse. On the contrary, there are severe penalties for it. In Tragerwork, the focus is not upon specific localized conditions. The purpose, said Dr. Trager, is to break up sensory and mental patterns that inhibit free movement and cause pain and disruption of normal function.
"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of men of old. Seek what they sought."
-- Basho / Zen poet (1644-1694)
"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." -- Albert Schweitzer
"The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances."
-- Martha Washington
"I have gotten a lot of results . . . . I know several thousand things that won't work."
-- Thomas Edison
From “The Shiatsu Manual” (1994) by Gerry Thompson
A nice warm-up for newcomers, but not the shiatsu text to take to the bank.
- As originally taught in the West beginning in the late 1970s, shiatsu became associated with a strong and forceful treatment. By now this ‘rough & tumble’ approach has eased up a good deal.
- It is the shoulder that will hold tension if there’s a blockage in the energy flow toward the head.
- Tsubo is a Japanese word meaning ‘vase’.
- Back tension can reflect a kind of “armoring” which is often associated with personal matters from the past.
- Treating the lower body helps bring a person down from their head, into a more whole experience. Extreme tension in the back of the legs can reflect negative episodes in one’s past. Working the legs helps to release the grip these episodes still have over the person.
- Leg rotations and stretches help open up hip and knee joints.
- Gentle massage of the abdomen can jump-start the process of releasing pent-up emotions.
- In shiatsu terms, the arms are related to the heart. Gentle massage here can help soothe the emotional aspects of relationships. The wrists are directly related to the reproductive organs, so massage here has a transference/referral affect to help relax organs within the pelvic region.
- The upper chest holds suppressed emotion.
- By giving massage to your partner, you become more instinctive, intuitive, and calm yourself, and this sure won’t hurt.
- (In my experience, most people are traumatized in some way and build their lives around the trauma rather than face up to it.)
"Men are admitted into Heaven not because the have curbed or governed their passions, or have no passions, but because they have cultivated their understandings."
-- William Blake
"The secret of patience is doing something else in the meantime."
-- Spanish proverb
Regarding complacency: "Fat hens lay few eggs."
-- German proverb
"We trifle when we assign limits to our desires, since nature hath set none."
-- Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904)
From “The Complete Guide to Massage” (1995) by Susan Mumford:
Massage does not actually do anything to the body. What it "does" is to stimulate and encourage the body to carry out its normal functions. Some people think they are too fat or unattractive to be massaged. However, massage can have the opposite effect, making the person feel much better about their body. It is OK to massage the abdomen during menstruation, but the area can be more sensitive to pain during this time. A calm mind and steady touch will affect your partner more than you might think. Always keep your movements smooth and confident in order to encourage your partner to relax. To help your partner relax, use a lighthearted approach. Also, encourage relaxation to come from within -- it can never be forced from the outside. A tight lower back may contribute to a lack of hip movement. Some people have their most creative thoughts during a massage. (Here's a massage instructor/writer with excellent thoughts, but wow, she keeps taking two or three sentences to say what can be expressed in one. Can someone ask where's your editor?)
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature."
-- Helen Keller
"We must face what we fear; that is the case of the core of the restoration of health."
-- physicist Max Lerner
From the article "Pressing the Flesh”, by Joanne Kaufman
(New York magazine, January 12, 1998)
This article was sabotaged by the author's desire to appear trendy.
Massage is the indulgence of choice for the stressed-out.
"When faced with the choice between changing and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof."
-- John Kenneth Galbraith
"Don't ever let me catch you singing like that again -- without enthusiasm."
-- Frank Sinatra to his son
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
-- Oscar Wilde
From “Massage Made Easy” (1994) by Mario-Paul Cassar:
The Chinese practice of massage goes back at least 5,000 years, and historically they’ve believed in “complete health.” Massage along with exercise, martial arts and meditation was typically included in a health and fitness program. Hindu writing dating from 1800 BC indicates that massage was used for weight reduction and to aid sleep, relaxation, and combating fatigue. Ancient Greek women associated massage with bathing and it became a fashionable part of their beauty regimes. The Greek physician Herodicus professed to have had great success prolonging lives with the combination of massage, herbs, and oils. The Romans went a step further than the Greeks, building public baths available to rich and poor alike. Here people could have a leisurely soak in a communal hot bath, followed by a good rubdown with sweet-smelling oils. Celus, a prominent Roman physician, claimed that massage even cured paralysis. During the Renaissance, massages were popular with European royalty. Mary Queen of Scots (1542-87) was also enthusiastic about them. In 1779, Captain James Cook was finally cured of his chronic sciatica when he experienced a massage offered by 12 Tahitian women at once. (What a dog.)
"When hope is taken away from a people, moral degeneration follows swiftly after."
-- Pearl S. Buck
"If everyone was satisfied with himself, there would be no heroes."
-- Mark Twain
"No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks."
-- Saint Ambrose (339-397)
"The problems in the world today are so enormous they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them."
From the article "The Magic of Touch”
(Life, August 1997)
By George Howe Colt
After the Oklahoma City bombing, volunteer therapists gave massages to exhausted rescue workers, numbed survivors and overworked pathologists. The state medical examiner observed that the massage therapists were accomplishing more in 15 minutes than psychologists could in an hour or two. Nursing home patients who received frequent massages showed fewer signs of senility. In the 13th century, German emperor Frederick II wanted to know what language children would speak if they were raised without hearing any words at all. Seizing a number of newborns from their parents, he gave them to nurses who fed the infants but were forbidden to cuddle or talk to them. The babies never learned a language. They all died before they could talk. As the historian Salimbene wrote in 1248, "They could not live without petting." According to the Touch Research Institute in Miami, massage lowers anxiety in depressed adolescents and reduces apprehension in burn victims about to undergo debridement (the painful procedure in which contaminated skin is removed). PET scans of severely touch-deprived infants show that critical sections of their brains are barely active, stalling entire areas of development.
"The human body experiences a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope. That is why the patient's hopes are the physician's secret weapon. They are the hidden ingredients in any prescription."
-- Norman Cousins
"See everything, overlook a lot, correct a little."
-- Pope John XXIII
"Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."
-- H.L. Mencken
"A book should be a ball of light in one's hand."
-- Ezra Pound
From “The Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy, Massage and Yoga” (1993) by Carole McGilvery, Jimi Reed, and Mira Mehta
How you can call a 256-page book that covers three separate disciplines an ‘encyclopedia’ is beyond me.
Essential oils believed to help with sexual problems include cedarwood, cinnamon, geranium, jasmine, patchouli, rose, clary sage, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang. In a bath, the therapeutic action of aromatic oils is two-fold. They are absorbed through the skin, moisturizing the dermis and entering the circulatory system; at the same time their aromas are inhaled, stimulating the brain and increasing your sense of well-being. An aromatic bath can detoxify the body, help problems like cellulite, joint stiffness, general aches and pains, colds and headaches, tone and condition skin, and relieve anxiety and tension. Cleopatra’s seduction of Mark Antony was carefully staged with a carpet of rose petals and rare and exotic scents. We can use natural aromatic plant oils to relax, heighten our awareness, excite the senses and create a mood for romance. (It's also said Cleo had a passion for pickles. What a lady.) The oil called ‘neroli’ helps us overcome shyness and inhibitions. Ylang-ylang is helpful for impotence or nervousness. Physical signs of stress include fatigue, self-doubt, sleeplessness and headaches. The Hara is one of the most powerful energy centers in the body. In shiatsu terms it is known as the Tan Den and is located below the navel. It is the physical center of the body and is featured prominently in shiatsu treatments. The Hara incorporates the Yin (earth) force flowing up the front of the body, and the Yang (heaven) force flowing down the back, merging into the lower abdomen. If you’re not feeling comfortable and relaxed, your partner will certainly become aware of this. Arms and hands can hide the most powerful emotions. Tight, clenched arms and hands often reflect insecurity, self-protection and unresolved anger. Whether the posture is intentional or subconscious, tension in the arms can cause headaches, neck pain, and aching shoulders. Massaging the arms and hands can liberate and relax not only the muscles but also the pent-up emotions as your partner starts to feel the wonderful sensations of letting go (emphasis added). The face constantly mirrors our health and emotions. Stress and tension are reflected in a furrowed brow, and lines around the eyes, mouth, and jaw line. A face massage can help soothe away headaches, anxiety and exhaustion, replacing them with a feeling of serenity. A massage between a mother and baby is a marvelous way of enhancing the bond that already exists. The baby will feel soothed and reassured. Massage has also been shown to calm “difficult” babies. (How about “difficult” adults? Hee-hee-hee.) In a “sensual” massage (Oh how I hate that term. All massages are “sensual.”) intuition will play a larger role. (Again I beg to disagree somewhat, since intuition should be in play during any massage.) Use your fingers to stroke up the soft inner arm. This is a highly sensitive area when lightly touched and the effect is both stimulating and relaxing. Repeat on the other arm. (No shit, Sherlock.) Yoga has the power to calm the mind and increase one’s concentration. Yoga does not reveal itself by theorization.
"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come."
-- Victor Hugo
"He who goes the oftenest 'round Cape Horn goes the most circumspectly."
- Herman Melville
"What is to give light must endure burning."
-- Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning
"If morals make you weary, depend on it, they are wrong."
-- Robert Louis Stevenson
From “The New Sensual Massage” (1992) by Gordon Inkeles:
Over the years I’ve stayed away from massage books that included the word ‘sensual’ or 'erotic' and so forth (or worse, Learn Massage in a Weekend!), but I picked this one up recently for half price and it’s not all that bad. An earlier Inkeles book, The New Massage (1980), was very well done, groundbreaking in fact.
As you massage someone, watch for the special smile that signals the profound release of tension masseurs know so well. Massaged babies grow faster, are more even-tempered, and generally prosper. One hour of peace stabilizes the mind as well as the body. A steady emotional calm, similar to the state people achieve after deep meditation, takes hold, banishing nervous tension. A well-massaged body becomes more alert and responsive. You transform your partner’s mood. Rarely can you talk anyone out of tension, but you can usually massage it out of them. "The feeling of loneliness and depression that is so apt to come in the nighttime when people are run down or in ill health is usually dispelled very promptly by means of massage.” -- Douglas Graham MD, Treatise on Massage (1902) The whole body is sensually programmed and probably meant to be massaged regularly. Stress has little power over a person with completely relaxed feet. After you massage them, most people will have trouble remembering what was bothering them when you started. “In Europe, massage is found everywhere, and many ‘wise men’ (or women) in the country or in towns have it to thank for their best ‘miracle’ cures.” -- Emil Kleen MD, Massage and Medical Gymnastics (1918) To improve a bad mood or banish fatigue, massage the legs. Massage is becoming an important tool for therapists who seek to develop a patient’s sexuality. Long-shut doors swing open; people change permanently.
"No one was ever great without some portion of divine inspiration."
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin
"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines."
-- Satchel Paige
"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."
-- H.G. Wells
From “The Massage Book” (1972) by George Downing
A mini-classic in the sense that it’s among the first of the “modern” generation of massage books written for a general audience. I associate this book with Granola Bars, Volkswagen busses, and peace signs -- a truly alive era. I can just picture someone buying this thing when it first came out and saying “Groovy.”
When receiving a good massage, a person usually falls into a mental/physical state difficult to describe. Trust, empathy and respect, to say nothing of a sheer sense of mutual physical existence, for this moment can be expressed with a fullness never matched by words.
"The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind."
-- William James (1842-1910)
(He) "Who builds a church to God and not to fame,
Will never mark the marble with his name."
-- Alexander Pope
From “Massage for Pain Relief” (1996) by Peijian Shen
This one is solid. Opening the energy channels, a basic theory of Chinese medicine, is an approach relatively unknown in the West, even to those practicing alternative medicine. The “Seven Extreme Emotions” are over-excitement, anxiety, anger, worry, grief, fear, and shock. A system of channels through which Qi (or ki, life force) and blood flows was precisely described over 2,000 years ago in the first Chinese medical book -- Nei Jing (Canon of Medicine). A well-known Chinese proverb says “A mediocre doctor cures disease whereas a good doctor prevents it.” (Ditto for a mediocre person.)
"Belief is when someone else does the thinking."
-- Buckminster Fuller
"Kindness in women, not their beauteous looks,
Shall win my love."
"When kindness has left people, even for a few moments, we become afraid of them."
-- Willa Cather
From “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Massage” (1998)
by Joan Budilovsky and Eve Adamson
Don’t be fooled by the title. This book is outstanding, despite Adamson's horrible writing skills.
According to Eastern medicine, the ability to deal with the aggravations of life is a sign of good physical health. Because massage works directly on connective tissue, breaking apart adhesions between muscles and keeping everything moving and flexible, it may promote the release of stored information, encouraging our conscious awareness of our emotional lives, and in turn, increasing our intelligent reactions to life. Alzheimer’s patients have been shown to be more communicative during and after massage. Massage helps to release repressed memory. You may also store your job stress in your neck muscles, your failed relationships in your lower back, and your low self-image in your slumped shoulders. On a more positive note, your optimistic attitude might be revealed by the spring in your step, your happy marriage by your easy posture. The part of the brain that deals with emotions (the limbic system) is more primitive and has existed far longer than the part that deals with rational, logical thought. Just because you score 150 on an IQ test doesn’t mean you’ll have the intelligence to succeed in the professional world, have satisfying personal relationships, or be able to maintain a deep sense of well-being and happiness. The limbic system is the brain’s emotional center. A more primitive area of the brain, the limbic system reacts to sensory signals and cues the body to act without analysis or interpretation. Heart disease has been linked to both physical inactivity and to a cynical or negative attitude. Sometimes the very best massage therapist won’t have any formal certification at all. When people feel pain, they tend to lean in toward it. According to some shiatsu practitioners, stroking and massaging the meridians is just as important, if not more so, than activating the pressure points themselves. Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) was a psychiatrist whose work was based on the idea that the body and mind are linked inextricably. He believed that disease is a direct result of psychological trauma that becomes trapped in the body -- a process called armoring. Reich believed the body could be segmented into areas that hold individual emotional experiences. Jin Shin Do acupressure is based in part on Reich’s theories of the segmented, armored body. Our sense of smell is approximately 10,000 times more acute than our other senses. Although we can see and hear things that are too far away to smell, vision and hearing are more recent evolutionary developments. The very survival of animals with lower vantage points -- including pre-humans moving around on all fours -- depends upon an acute sense of smell. As humans we’ve retained this sense although our survival no longer depends upon it. According to some research, scent plays a large role in what makes us choose a mate. When people describe “instant chemistry,” they may be referring to the influence of subtle scent undetectable to the conscious mind. Other studies have shown that in the presence of pleasant aromas, human creativity is heightened. (I’ve long felt this way about music.) Aromas seem to be particularly powerful in evoking emotional sensations and vivid memories. Unlike our other sense impressions that first travel to higher, thinking regions of the brain, olfactory impressions travel straight to the more primitive emotional center in the brain -- the limbic system. In Marcel Proust’s masterpiece Remembrance of Things Past, a main character takes one bite of a madeleine (a French cookie) and is transported back to his forgotten childhood. He then proceeds to relate this at length. It was probably the pastry’s aroma rather than its taste that took our character back into such vivid memories of past times. (Sometimes on a hot summer day if I catch a whiff of old lumber the right way, I practically feel I’m back on the boardwalk as a 10-year-old at the New Jersey shore -- this sensation comes over me instantly.) (In this section of the book, Budilovsky builds a strong case for the power of aromatherapy -- perhaps the best I’ve ever seen.) Aromatherapy takes advantage of our sense of smell to heal us in many ways. It uses pure essential oils that are extracted from plants; these oils are considered their soul, their vital energy. The ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia lists certain herbs whose scents were thought to have therapeutic benefits. Ancient Hindu scriptures list hundreds of aromatic substances for religious and therapeutic use. The Egyptians used infused oils as far back as 3,000 BC for massage, surgery, food preservation, and mummification. By fumigating Athens with aromatics as they were called, Hippocrates was able to stave off a plague, or so it is said. In Persia, physician/philosopher Avicenna developed steam distillation to create flower waters and essential oils. According to published studies by the Touch Research Institute (Miami), massage therapy clearly reduces various types of stress. Among children who survived Hurricane Andrew (1992), massage therapy decreased levels of anxiety, depression, and the stress hormone cortisol. Preschool children who received massage fell asleep sooner, exhibited more restful naptime periods, had decreased activity levels and better behavior ratings. (Another study from the Touch Research Institute (TRI) demonstrates that after massage, adolescents tend to become less aggressive.) Also according to the TRI, nurses and doctors treated to massage therapy showed significantly reduced levels of anxiety, depression and fatigue. In addition, they showed increased energy levels. Massage therapy has also been demonstrated to decrease diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol in adults suffering from hypertension. After 10 days of regular massage, recipients reported less emotional stress, depression, insomnia, pain, and fatigue. According to a different TRI study, victims of rape and spousal abuse experienced a reduced aversion to touch after massage. This comes in addition to decreased levels of anxiety and depression. Marion Rosen (born 1914) was a Jewish refugee who came to the United States after working with psychoanalysts and physical therapists in Germany. She developed the Rosen Method specifically for survivors of physical and emotional abuse and those recovering from addiction. The method aims to help release memories, stored in the body, that prohibit a person from achieving self-actualization. Practitioners recommend that the Rosen Method be used concurrently with psychotherapy. Sports massage was widely practiced and refined in the former Soviet Union before it became popular here. Soviet trainers experimented with ways to help athletes recover more quickly from training sessions, and they found sports massage to be effective in boosting performance and speeding up healing. In fact, the strength coach for the New York Giants once traveled to the USSR to learn about sports massage. When he returned, he started a sports massage program for his team. That was the year the Giants won the Super Bowl. Although there are different theories on the subject, many believe there exists in sports (and in life, for that matter) a psychological place called The Zone. When you are in The Zone, suddenly what was once difficult is now achievable. Everything you try works. All of us who've performed massage at a professional level have experienced the satisfaction of putting a client smack-dab in the middle of The Zone. Most of us (come on now, ALL of us) have been in that other place too -- the Anti-Zone (666?). Suddenly our confidence slips away. We become clumsy, we can’t quite think fast enough, we make one mistake after another -- even when doing things we can normally do with our eyes closed. Although we usually can’t invoke The Zone at will, we can certainly increase our chances of landing there, and one of the best ways for athletes to do so is to get a regular sports massage. Anything that helps to integrate your body and mind can help you have more frequent access to The Zone, and sports massage is one of the triggers. The body has a consciousness all its own: Memories and knowledge stored in its tissues; an awareness of pain and of particular strengths; the intricate network of messages being sent from one place to another through the system of nerve cells. In sports massage, as in regular massage, the body’s knowledge is stimulated, almost as if the massage therapist is asking the body, through touch, “Will you tell us what you know?” Through massage, the body can communicate its secrets to the conscious mind and begin the mind/body dialogue, introducing you to a more complete and accomplished participation in your favorite physical activity. For those of us who need a little more convincing, remember the theory behind creative visualization? When you envision yourself accomplishing something, you help your body move towards the actual goal. It’s just one more type of mind/body dialogue, but this time the mind starts the conversation. So if you think and see yourself as a champion -- excellent at your sport or professional calling, experiencing joy from the very act of participation -- your body will know what to do. If you’re also receiving regular massage, your body will be better able to fulfill your mind’s desire.
"If you're not out on the edge, you're taking up too much space."
"Rhythm is either something you have or you don't have, but when you have it, you have it all over."
-- Elvis Presley
"Before Elvis, there was nothing."
-- John Lennon
From “Pocket Massage for Stress Relief” (1996) by Clare Maxwell-Hudson:
A leading writer in the massage field.
Diluted essential oils (such as lavender) added to a hot bath can soothe jangled nerves, relieve muscular aches and pains, stimulate, or sedate.
"There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds."
"I have offended God and mankind because my work didn't reach the quality it should have."
-- Leonardo da Vinci
"The obvious is something which is never seen until someone expresses it simply."
-- Kahlil Gibran
From “Massage for Dummies” (1999) by Steve Capellini and Michel Van Welden
Like Budilovsky's book, this one’s a knockout. Capellini is one of America’s leading massage instructors and he sports a cracker-jack wit.
One of the first rules for giving a great massage is to focus on the other, not on yourself. Tune into what she’s feeling and how you can make her feel better. Another rule, or let’s call it a guiding principle, is to “go out of your mind.” Get the technique down so you can stop thinking about it. Let go of your extraneous thoughts -- even your thoughts about doing a good job. Another principle is to get creative and go with your intuition. As long as what you’re doing is generated from caring and commitment to your partner, it’s going to be the right thing. Maybe the greatest of these principles is to “let the love flow.” Certain people develop an ability to send a very distinct and palpable sensation of love into their fingers and palms. You can feel it when they touch you. Everyone has the potential to develop this ability. (Freaken’ awesome!!!) Capellini defines the word parlor (as in "massage parlor") as “A place to eat ice cream.” Not bad! By offering a sustained, intentional, caring form of tactile stimulation, massage is one of the best ways to impart emotional reassurance. By improving your attitude, massage improves your appearance. Most of the people we deem unattractive simply have poor attitudes. Sigmund Freud used massage with his patients. Our fingertips have the largest concentration of sensory receptors of any part of the body. With this unique sensitivity, our fingers can actually “see” objects. Said philosopher Bertrand Russell: “Not only our geometry and our physics, but our whole conception of what exists outside us, is based on the sense of touch.” (Buckminster Fuller has said pretty much the same thing.) In the early 1900s, Dr. Henry Dwight Chapin reported that when orphaned babies were routinely put in homes and left to wither away with essentially zero human contact, a startling 99 percent of them died within one year of admission. Those who survived suffered signs of retardation and maladjustment. There’s a type of feeling-with-intention available to your fingers. It’s called palpation. As much as half of all our blood is in our skin at any given moment. This accounts for the rosy glow some people have. (This reminds me of something a nurse once told me when I complained about cold hands after smoking. She told me it was no surprise, since smoking restricts circulation through the capillaries.) Massage lowers the heart rate. Recent research supports the view that the deprivation of physical pleasure is a major ingredient in the expression of physical violence. People need pleasure to remain healthy, and receiving massage is one of the most natural, healthy ways to experience pleasure without any negative side effects. A problem with getting a good massage is that you want another one.       For most of his life, Bob Hope received a massage almost every day. The skin is our body’s largest organ, and it’s brought back to life during massage. To wit, the French have a great saying ("Bien dans son peau”) for someone who is happy and content: “Good in his skin.” Which muscle is most delicate after a big performance? The ego muscle. Stroke it. When it comes to choosing a massage therapist, go with your heart and intuition. Breathing deeply and rhythmically, and focusing on this, brings awareness back to the body quicker than anything else. You can literally rejuvenate your body, sending extra-oxygenated blood all the way to your toes. The “laying on of hands” referred to in the Bible may actually refer to massage. Regarding the serenity that massage can induce, Capellini delicately picks out this line: “Be still and know that I am God.” It's part of the great mystical tradition of Western religion. (I say delicately because in that case it wouldn't take much to be seen as rather pretentious.) The author discusses the question of whether you should tip your masseur. I say, “Tip! Preferably in multiples of $20 or $50.” Keep your fingernails trim. When massaging the feet, start with the left one. This complements your partner’s natural digestive and circulatory patterns. Three ingredients of a good “sensual massage” (and oh how I hate that expression) are the right intention, spontaneity, and sensitivity. And here’s the defining characteristic of a “sensual” massage: “Soft hands,” as opposed to the pragmatism of hands trying to undo a Gordian Knot in someone’s trapezius. In this section, Capellini reveals -- with stark, lurid candor -- the body’s most sensual organ of all. It’s called the brain. If you can get inside your partner’s imagination, you can take him or her on quite a journey, and as Depeche Mode reminds us in The World in My Eyes, you won’t need a map.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
"True eloquence consists of saying all that should be said -- and that only."
-- La Rochefoucauld
"It is not best to swap horses while crossing the river."
-- Abraham Lincoln
From “Healing Massage Techniques” (1998) by Frances Tappan and Patricia Benjamin
A standard textbook. Tappan is a former associate dean of the School of Allied Health Professions at the University of Connecticut
Massage supports nature in the process of moving toward and maintaining high-level wellness. The practice of massage is found in some form in every known culture in the world. Massage increases mental clarity. There is an increased intensity and frequency of alpha brain waves associated with deep relaxation. A study appeared in 1995 in Lancet, a British medical journal, showing that wounds healed more slowly in people suffering from chronic stress. Massage causes a massive increase in the sensory input to the spinal cord. This results in readjustments in reflex pathways, which leads to spontaneous renormalization of imbalances of tonic activity between individual muscles and muscle groups. There is evidence that adequate pleasurable tactile experience in early life can influence the development of personality traits such as calmness, gentleness, and nonaggressiveness. The skin develops from the same primitive cells as the brain and is a prime sensory organ. Thus, the importance of stimulation to the skin for proper growth and development cannot be overestimated. If a person was physically abused by a parent with beatings on the back of the legs and buttocks, these may be emotionally sensitive areas. The practitioner’s job is to help patients or clients, not to rescue them from their life’s problems. A smooth, flowing, and regular rhythm helps to elicit relaxation in the receiver. Once established, rhythm should not be interrupted. Creating a pleasant rhythm is part of the art of massage. A slower pace is more relaxing while a faster one more stimulating. (So obviously, you don’t want a fast pace if you’re trying to coax someone to sleep. Conversely, athletes might appreciate a fast pace before competition.) Back massage triggers the “relaxation response” relatively quick. There is no one best way to perform a classic full-body massage sequence. The general intent is usually one of overall wellness. Most of our consciousness is focused in the head and face. Relaxing muscles here helps bring clarity of mind and release of mental and emotional stress. Holding back emotions, “holding back the tears,” is actually accomplished by creating tension in the face, throat, and diaphragm. Worry and anxiety are frequently held in the back. Just picture Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. For people who were physically or sexually abused as children, the buttocks are often a region of remembered pain and suffering. Legs: Having “a spring in your step” is a sign of vitality and positive outlook. The abdomen contains the viscera, the internal organs of digestion, elimination and reproduction. The word “visceral” has come to mean deeply felt, instinctive, and having to do with elemental emotions. Likewise, blocked emotions can be stored in the abdominal region. What is it to deliver a massage with care and love? Perhaps it’s when the practitioner does their work simply, always responding to the felt need, and yet without attachment to healing. Perhaps it’s a type of “caring enough not to care,” as the poet Dylan Thomas once put it. During the American occupation of Japan after the Second World War, General MacArthur considered outlawing the practice of shiatsu and anma (on grounds of sexual connotations). Many if not most of the practitioners were blind (an old tradition). Blind people of Japan appealed to Helen Keller to intercede on their behalf, and their appeal was successful. Perhaps the fundamental difference between Eastern and Western medicine is the emphasis on energy rather than anatomy. Imbalances of ki (life force) in the body may manifest themselves through physical symptoms such as acne, flatulence, migraines, and intestinal problems. On an emotional level, a traumatic event may create an imbalance that can reveal itself later as hypersensitivity or the inability to cope with emotional situations. Imbalances can also manifest themselves on the intellectual and spiritual planes, and you don’t have to think very hard to figure out what some of them may be. The book introduces the concept of the kata, found in Japanese arts (particularly the martial arts). It's a word that can roughly be translated as "framework." Perhaps we can also use "paradigm" or "context," as in "a model in which a process occurs." A student can trust the kata to deliver the result, even though the student doesn't understand all the theory involved. The student does not have to understand Chinese medicine, for example, to give a highly effective amma massage. The kata knows. David Palmer, one of the leading figures in American massage and inventor of the massage chair, says "We teach the kata which teaches the student massage. The kata is like a wise elder who has the wisdom of the centuries behind him." It transcends individual understanding. "If you trust the kata and develop an honest relationship with it," he says, "you will be rewarded with an unlimited stream of insights."
"Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained."
-- William Blake
"No farmer ever plowed a field by turning it over in his mind."
-- George Woodbury
"The best way out is always through."
-- Robert Frost
"Growth demands a temporary surrender of security."
-- Gail Sheehy
From “Body Reflexology” (1994) by Mildred Carter & Tammy Weber
A tender spot any place on your body indicates a point of congestion in the energy lines, which in turn means trouble in some area that may be far removed from the point. The natural release of endorphins during massage or acupressure is known to have a calming, even euphoric effect. The ear is a complex sensory organ endowed with a hundred acupoints. (I once gave a massage to a new therapist fresh out of massage school. When I got to her ears, she said "You can't massage them!" When I asked "Why not?", she said that's what her instructor told her. I wonder what other tidbits of disinformation she picked up in the classroom!) As your muscles become tighter they start to strangle you, squeezing arteries and closing off circulation. Tight muscles can also cause a heart attack. Drinking lots of water and breathing deeply facilitate optimal health. One of the most health-giving of foods is sauerkraut. When the sex drive begins to diminish, it is a sure sign of the slowing down of one or more of the endocrine glands that are directly responsible for the overall health and well-being of the body. A typical massage directly or indirectly stimulates points related to the endocrine glands. Low back pain is the largest single medical complaint in the United States. It’s generally caused by tight hamstring muscles. Accumulated stress and anger tends to make us age sooner as well as become ill or emotionally upset easily. If dissipated through massage, our disposition improves and responsibilities seem easier to approach. Stress depletes our energy, robs nutrients from our system, and creates a hormonal imbalance. Our entire personality and mental outlook depends on the health of the endocrine glands. A great way to alleviate stress and tension is to talk to a friend with a good sense of humor. Laughter reduces anxiety. Another way is to do some simple stretching exercises. Also, get plenty of rest. (I remember Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers making a big deal about this.) Live a life of integrity. Nothing creates so much stress as breaking an agreement. Also, rub the daylights out of your feet. Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects. It’s a powerful, healing force. It helps dissolve built-up hostility or anger. Studies done at the University of California at Davis demonstrated that several good hearty laughs a day are equal to five minutes of rowing a boat. Laughter accelerates heart rate and respiration. It can release adrenaline and motivate a person who feels depressed. It brings fresh air into the lungs. The medulla oblongata (midpoint of the occipital ridge) is the "power station" of life forces.
"There is only one way to find out if a man is honest -- ask him. If he says 'yes' he's not honest."
-- Groucho Marx
"There is no such thing as great talent without great willpower."
"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber."
From “The Healing Touch” (2001) by Mark Evans, Suzanne Franzen and Rosalind Oxenford
Kind of a low-grade massage book, not especially recommended for learning the craft. But on the other hand, I've rarely run across a massage text that didn't have at least one enlightening thing to say.
To enhance the responsiveness of the skin, two good combinations of essential oils are these: 5 drops of rose with 5 of sandalwood, or 4 drops of jasmine with 4 of ylang ylang. These drops are mixed with the regular massage oil to help promote a greater overall effect. (For the base oil, I usually use Hollywood brand safflower oil. The viscosity is superb, and safflower is said to produce the fewest allergic reactions -- perhaps one in 1,000, or less.)
"He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not remains a fool forever."
-- Chinese proverb
"My music is best understood by children and animals."
-- Igor Stravinsky
"Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today's jobs with yesterday's tools."
-- Marshal McLuhan
From “The Complete Body Massage” (1992) by Fiona Harrold
Harrold is director of the London College of Massage.
The foreword is written by Dr. Patrick Pietroni, senior lecturer at a medical school in London. A collector of old medical textbooks, Pietroni mentions a textbook on cardiology dating from 1890. The book included a detailed description on the use of massage in the rehabilitation of chronic heart disease. Says Pietroni, no such chapter has been found since in a similar textbook, but future books on the subject, he says, will be incomplete without one. In the East, massage is a fundamental part of family life. In The Odyssey, Homer describes its restorative powers for exhausted war heroes. In America during the 1930s, mothers were taught that to hold the child too much would result in dependency, leading to a selfish, arrogant adult. The better we feel about ourselves and our bodies, the less dependent we will be on material gain for such fundamental security. The price we pay for our stiffness and stress is diminished vitality and a deadening of our ability to react spontaneously or to be in touch with our deeper feelings. In an attempt to protect ourselves, we limit our range of experiences to ones we hope will neither challenge nor threaten us. Wilhelm Reich’s view was that physical gracefulness was an important clue to the person’s emotional well-being. Moving in a relaxed, easy manner indicated a healthy self. This approach has been extended by the American therapist Louise Hay. Sometimes when you give a massage, a person will suddenly remember the incident that led to the tension in the first place. Massage has a huge part to play in generating harmony within individuals, and as individuals we automatically extend this well-being to others. The human body is extraordinary in its capacity to renew and regenerate itself. Its own self-regulatory mechanism returns the body to a state of internal balance and harmony even after we stretch all its systems to cope with excessive pressures. It’s a process known as homeostasis In the course of our day -- thinking, concentrating -- our brainwaves resonate on the beta frequency. The more anxious or angry we become, the higher we go into Beta. If we stay there too long, we not only undermine our immune system but become fatigued and accident-prone. Deep relaxation takes us into the much slower alpha frequency, a meditative, trance-like state that recharges us even more than sleep. In the author’s experience, endorphins (produced naturally during massage) are more effective than any drug for pain relief. The buttocks store inordinate amounts of tension. It is here that we house our unexpressed anger and fear, unconsciously clenching the buttocks together to hold onto such emotions. We’re all familiar with the proverbial “anal retentive” person who is rigid, uptight, and has difficulty relaxing. Such a person is also likely to be guarded, unyielding and ungenerous in sharing emotions, possessions, and definitely their money. This is clearly because the person feels unsupported and essentially unloved. They trust no one and keep other people at a distance. Caring touch will disperse this type of apprehension, infusing a person with sympathy and reassurance. Muscles often twitch as they release their contracted positions and relax (perhaps for the first time in years, let me add). The backs of the legs are probably the most neglected area of the body. A good massage here will release tension we're not even aware of. The upper chest can feel vulnerable when touched. Our feelings of sadness and disappointment get stored and hidden in this particular area of the body. When someone sobs heavily, the whole chest heaves. Rounded shoulders can indicate the desire to protect and shield the heart from further upset. Reassuring massage in this area can encourage people to feel safe enough to let go of their defenses, and sometimes the grief or sadness will then emerge. When we block our true feelings and express those that are more acceptable, this conflict will register as tension in the facial muscles. The phrase “grin and bear it” describes such a situation well. A person’s whole life, or more accurately his or her conclusions about it, are clearly etched in the contours of the face. A lifetime of disappointment or resignation shows in collapsed muscles, a tired expression and a lifeless pallor. (I remember Werner Erhard in the est training saying it's so easy to spot someone who feels "I will never love again." It's written all over their face.) People who hold their arms close to the body are uneasy about taking up much space or asserting themselves. They experience themselves as powerless and victimized. Feelings and longings will be buried in the belly and shoulders, unable to find expression through the arms and hands. The hands, likewise, reveal much about ourselves that we don’t express openly. Picture a murder suspect in a courtroom, talking calmly yet at the same time wringing his hands, exposing the inner turmoil. A good massage of the arms and hands gives the individual tacit permission to expand and take up more space. Having loose arms and hands will likewise help us expand the nuances of hidden and unspoken communication. We can make a great difference in the lives of hospital and nursing home patients by massaging their hands when we visit them. Abdomen: We speak of our “gut feeling” as our true one, our instinct. We trust it to bypass the logic of our minds, to reveal the truth. When we are shaken to the core, we involuntarily empty our stomachs. Our insides feel “tied up in knots” when we are worried and anxious, making it difficult to eat. The abdomen houses powerful feelings such as anger, rage, and jealousy. Soothing, caring massage here can help us integrate these feelings (and possibly help us process them out more quickly). Releasing tension from the diaphragm is a valuable way of restoring a sense of balance and harmony to the whole person, physically and emotionally. Massaging the feet and the front of the legs is especially important for people who live “in their heads” or with their “head in the clouds.” Such individuals have limited perspective, neither informed nor balanced, as their feet are not firmly on the ground. The way we hold our legs also reveals our feelings of safety with our world. A rigid stance with locked knees declares “I will stand firm, I won’t give in,” or conversely “I must hold myself together.” Such an outlook and accompanying physical response tends to become rigid and fixed. Another association with the knee is fear. We speak of “going weak at the knees” and our knees shake when we are frightened. This corresponds with the traditional Chinese tenet that links the knees to the kidney, where fear is the influential emotion. A good leg and foot massage encourages a clearer perspective and a fresh outlook on life. A study in New Woman magazine found that only one in ten women is happy with her body. The same survey revealed that women consistently use this as an excuse for not reaching out for what they really want in their lives. Feeling bad about our bodies inhibits our enjoyment of life.
The above book mentions the work of American therapist Louise Hay. Hay specified some of the mental and emotional causes of various physical complaints. They are listed here briefly. (Taken from The Complete Body Massage by Fiona Harrold)
Head: The head represents “us.” When something is wrong here, it usually means we feel something is wrong with “us.”
Neck: Represents flexibility in thinking. Tension here may indicate we are being stubborn about our concept of a situation.
Throat: The throat represents our ability to speak up for ourselves and to voice our opinions or desires. Throat problems usually mean we feel unable to speak up.
Arms: The arms represent our ability to embrace the experiences of life. We store old emotions in our joints (awesome point; stretching is imperative), and the elbows represent our ability to change direction.
Hands: Grasping hands come from fear of loss or never having enough. Clenched hands cannot take in anything new.
Back: Represents our support system, and the upper back is linked to a lack of emotional support. The middle back is related to guilt, the lower back with material security.
Stomach: The stomach digests all the new ideas and experiences we have. When there are stomach problems, it usually means we are afraid. (Can someone say butterflies?)
Legs: Our legs carry us forward in life. Leg problems indicate a reluctance or fear to move in a certain direction.
Knees: Our knees are concerned with flexibility. Often when moving forward, we fear bending a little and thus become inflexible. This stiffens the joints as we want to move forward yet don’t want to change our ways.
"A man who will steal for me will steal from me."
- Theodore Roosevelt
"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
-- Pierre Pachet, professor of physiology at Université Toulouse, 1872
"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."
-- Pablo Picasso
"You see that fuckin' fish? If he'd kept his mouth shut he wouldn'ta got caught."
-- Mob boss Sam Giancana, pointing to a stuffed swordfish in a seafood restaurant
From “The Complete Book of Massage” (1988) by Clare Maxwell-Hudson
I’ve always been enchanted by this Brit. She displays such a classy demeanor and elegant style, the kind we’re hard-pressed to find in America. The book is published by Dorling Kindersley, my favorite publisher. If you’re browsing a bookstore and see the familiar “DK” on the cover or spine, you won’t be wasting your time and money. I’ve yet to see this publisher put out a single piece of crap, unlike their American counterparts.
Marriage counselors advise couples to touch each other more. In a research project at Harvard Medical School, a number of patients about to undergo similar operations were divided into two groups. The anesthetist visited all the patients the night before the operation. To one group he gave the usual information about the procedure. He gave similar information to the other group, but spent about five minutes longer with each patient; he sat on the bed, held the patient’s hand and was warm and sympathetic. After the operation, patients who had received the friendly approach asked for only about half the quantity of drugs the others requested, and on average were discharged from the hospital three days earlier. We have an instinct to touch and confirm what we see, or else museums wouldn’t need “Do Not Touch” signs. Even if you start giving a massage feeling irritated, anxious or upset, you’ll find it’s virtually impossible to remain in a bad mood while doing the soothing, hypnotic massage strokes. Ancient Greek and Roman literature mentions massage as a possible cure for melancholia and sterility. Julius Caesar was massaged daily to relieve neuralgia. The Roman writer Pliny was so indebted to his foreign masseur that he requested the emperor to grant him the highest honor -- Roman citizenship. Practically everyone you meet in India knows how to do massage. It’s incorporated into the Ayurvedic treatments, a system of medicine dating back to 1800 BC, with herbs, spices and aromatic oils being rubbed into the skin. During World War I, massage was used extensively in the treatment of nerve injury and shellshock. Here’s an old tale from the Orient: Once upon a time there was a young woman named Fatima who was constantly scolded and nagged by her mother-in-law. Eventually Fatima could no longer stand this and went to the local herbalist for some poison to kill the old woman. After some thought, the herbalist gave her a heavily scented potion. He told here this should be massaged into the skin daily, and that after six weeks her mother-in-law would die. Fatima did as she was instructed, and each day she would give her mother-in-law a massage. Gradually the old woman’s vicious temper seemed to disappear, an empathy grew between the two women, and after a while they started to understand each other. Fatima began to regret her desire to kill her mother-in-law, and as time ran out she became increasingly worried. Finally she returned to the herbalist and begged for an antidote to the poison. The wise old man smiled and explained that no antidote was needed. The so-called poison she had been massaging into the old woman’s skin was simply a safe mixture of aromatic oils -- the antidote to her situation. Aromatherapy: Dr. Gary Schwartz, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Yale, has found that certain odors can lower blood pressure. The scent of spiced apples was shown to be particularly effective. Around 400 BC, Hippocrates recommended having an aromatic bath and massage every day as “the way to health.” Leonardo da Vinci referred to the foot as “the greatest engineering device in the world.” A gentle, relaxing massage of the abdomen calms the nerves and stimulates the digestive system. If you suffer from stomach aches, whether caused by tension, indigestion or a bad period, this type of massage can soothe them away. A gentle massage to the abdomen of a pregnant woman soothes both mother and baby. So dramatic is the effect of regular massage to the face that one of the author’s clients opted for a regular facial massage instead of having a facelift. From Massage, Manual Treatment, Remedial Movements (1913) by Dr. Douglas Graham, recalling an episode he witnessed in Tonga, an island group in the South Pacific: “Three or four little children tread under their feet the whole body of the patient.” When you have a chance, let little kids walk up and down your back. The feeling is awesome. Children love to pummel the back too. (Take advantage of this!) Wrote the eminent Victorian doctor Thomas Stretch Dowse in 1887: “The mind, which before the massage is in a perturbed, restless, vacillating and even despondent state, becomes after massage calm, quiet, peaceful and subdued. In fact, the wearied and worried mind has been converted into a mind restful, placid and refreshed.” Regarding migraines, Dowse wrote “With gentle stroking, a condition of hypnosis is induced, during which the pain disappears.” (I love it. A Victorian doctor named Stretch.) According to Dr. David Sobel, chief of preventive medicine at the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center in San Jose: “Many people would be more helped by a skillful massage than the usual ministrations of doctors. We have become so accustomed to tension, we don’t know what it feels like to be really relaxed. How often I hear patients with hunched, tense shoulders and clenched jaws say ‘But I am relaxed.’ A massage offers the opportunity to glimpse deeper relaxation. Those who would think otherwise have probably never had a good massage.” Massage can help ease the vise-like pain of angina and alleviate the feelings of isolation that accompany such a condition. (This reminds me of the time a man took his wife to the doctor. After a preliminary exam, the doctor came into the waiting room and said, “Mr. Jones, your wife has acute angina.” To which Mr. Jones replied, “She has a nice ass, too!”) According to a well-known Victorian cardiologist, Sir Lauder Brunton, “In cases of cardiac disease, massage allows the other treatments to be carried out more easily than it would otherwise be, for it removes the feeling of weariness and irritability, fidgetiness and unrest. The appetite increases and the spirits become brighter.” Besides getting massages, it’s therapeutic to give them (as if it completes the cycle). In a relationship, sometimes it’s the “well” partner who’s most in need of a massage. They tend to be tense and over-tired. They have to live with the anxiety of the illness, cope with the extra workload and, as everyone’s sympathy is directed toward the patient, they frequently suffer from lack of attention. If this condition continues for years, the “well” partner can become exhausted, depressed, and even ill themselves. If the “well” partner can receive regular massage from the “sick” partner (or from anyone, for that matter), their feelings of helplessness will ease. The patient benefits from being able to give for a change, providing them with a boost in the self-esteem department. (Bingo!!!) The author first became interested in massaging cancer patients when a friend’s mother was dying of the disease. She felt isolated, frightened and anxious, and massage was able to calm her down almost miraculously. She had a nurse who felt powerless to help her and who just sat reading in the next room, thoroughly bored. Had the nurse been able to massage her patient, both of them would have benefited. Anyone who is trying to come off drugs (and maybe cigarettes and alcohol too?) will benefit from a regular massage. Drug addicts often suffer from a tremendous sense of shame: they know they’ve disappointed everyone, and they feel ostracized and untouchable. The fact that someone is prepared to give them some attention and touch them helps them regain both their self-esteem and their desire to get well. Finally, their abused bodies are receiving positive attention and they realize there are other ways of feeling good apart from taking drugs. Drug addicts suffer from poor circulation and cold extremities. The author has worked on runners, ballerinas and cyclists who felt that massage relaxed and cleared their minds, thus improving their performances greatly. Several ballerinas would not pass up regular massage because they were so much more supple afterwards. The health of the skin is a very accurate reflection of the state of the whole body. It has been called the “external nervous system” and the Chinese refer to it as “the third lung.”
"What goes from the heart, goes to the heart."
-- Samuel Coleridge
"Take rest. A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop."
-- Ovid (43 BC - 18 AD)
From “The Joy of Reflexology” (1995) by Ann Gillanders
Another classy Brit. Her video based on this book is awesome.
The aim of reflexology is to correct the three negative factors involved in the disease process: congestion, inflammation, and tension. It is individuals who heal themselves. Other people such as doctors are merely agents of change. The majority of people exhaust all forms of conventional medicine -- drugs, physiotherapy, surgery, and so on -- before, often as a very last resort, they seek out some sort of relief through complementary medicines such as reflexology. Today most of us are subject to the physiological changes due to stress without the exercise needed to redress the imbalances created. (Shall we call imbalance The Word of the Year? It's like our bodies have the right tools; we've just stuck them in the wrong drawers.) It’s been said that the pains in our feet are reflected in our face, and this is very true. Note also that the curves of the feet look just like the curve of the spine. Our early ancestors discovered some of the principles of healing by observing how animals cured themselves when ill. Wild animals first seek out solitude, somewhere they can completely relax. A feverish animal quickly hunts up an airy, shady place near water. It will remain there quietly, eating nothing at all and drinking frequently until it has recovered. A rheumatic animal finds a spot in the direct sunlight and lies there as the pain is slowly baked out of its system. Because the correct functioning of the reproductive system of both the male and female is so susceptible to stress and tension, reflexology can be of great benefit. In women, menstruation can cease completely if stress levels become too high, and men in similar situations may find it impossible to maintain an erection. Many couples who had experienced difficulties in conceiving a child have reported successful conception after an extensive course of reflexology. The pituitary gland regulates the activity of most of the other endocrine glands in the body. This is why it’s often referred to as the “master of the orchestra.” The pituitary lies between the eyes and behind the nose, where it is protected by a strong arch of bone known as the sella turcica, or Turkish saddle. The thyroid gland has a great influence on our mental well-being. It might be a reduction in sunlight that accounts for the increase in admissions to psychiatric hospitals typical during the autumn and winter months. Since the big toe relates to depression, anxiety, and other stress-related conditions, it’s not surprising to find great sensitivity here among those suffering from those conditions, especially during that time of year. In ancient Rome, arthritis was considered to be such a burden that the Emperor Diocletian exempted citizens suffering with severe arthritis from paying taxes.
"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"A man cannot make a pair of shoes rightly unless he does it in a devout manner."
-- Thomas Carlyle
On patience: "What wound did ever heal but by degrees?"
"Churning water, for however long a time, does not produce butter."
-- Buddhist saying
From “Massage Basics” (1997) by Davide Sechi
This one's as mentally stimulating as an episode of "Friends".
Massage can release latent psychosomatic energies. Sometimes this is expressed in dramatic ways such as bursts of tears, bouts of laughter, or intense shaking. (The author sloppily wrote "explosions" of laughter, so I had to clean that mess up.) Never perform a "flat' massage, devoid of enthusiasm. You must "be there" and be aware of what you're doing.
"In our day, when a pitcher got into trouble in a game, instead of taking him out, our manager would leave him in and tell him to pitch his way out of trouble."
-- Cy Young
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
-- Thomas Edison
From “The Thai Massage Manual” (1998) by Maria Mercati
The earliest writings regarding Thai massage were written on palm leaves, were considered sacred text, and were held in safekeeping in the old capital city of Ayutthia. Many of the precious original texts have been destroyed. (This seems to be a recurring theme of mankind: If it's good, ban it or burn it.) With its origins firmly rooted in Buddhist philosophy, it's not suprising that for much of its history traditional Thai massage has been regarded as a religious rite. For many centuries, its practice was confined largely to Buddhist temples. Thai bodywork can be looked at as "yoga that's done to you." Its aim is to reduce the stiffness and loss of flexibility that comes with the ageing process. Thai bodywork is best known for its manipulations, stretching all the principal joints just a little more than they get stretched in everyday life. Before physical contact is made, the practitioner should take a moment to clear his/her mind of all extraneous thoughts.
"One should accept the truth from whatever source it proceeds."
-- Maimonides (1135-1204)
"A captain too daring is dangerous to his ship."
"You must approach each man by the right door."
-- Henry Ward Beecher
From “Total Massage” (1976) by Jack Hofer
Cheezy, pretentious, dated. Take this little nugget for example: "With your forefinger, brush her nipple like a bee landing on a fresh honey-laden Blue Appolusa flower." Gag me already.
"If you did not get it for yourself, where will you go for it?" -- Zen saying "It is apparently much easier to be serious than frivolous." -- Eric Hoffer (Now he's talking.)
"He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city."
-- King Solomon
"It is thought and feeling which guides the universe, not deeds."
-- Edgar Cayce
From “The Chinese Massage Manual: The Healing Art of Tui Na” (1999)
by Sarah Pritchard
It's not unusual to see people queuing up in long lines outside hospitals in China, waiting for the Tui Na department to open. Bones have been discovered, dating to perhaps 3,000 years ago, with inscriptions describing a female shaman known as "Bi" who healed people with massage manipulations. (And you expected me to take the bait and go for the easy play on words. Tisk tisk.) With larger numbers of Western-trained doctors arriving in China in the early part of the 20th century, it looked like traditional Eastern medicine might die out. Fortunately, this movement was formally rejected at the National Medical Assembly in Shanghai on March 17, 1929, and each year this day is celebrated as Chinese Doctor's Day. Another dude who wanted to dispense with traditional Chinese medicine was the great Chairman Mao -- that is until the Long March of 1934-35. There were no drugs, anesthetics or surgery available, and doctors of traditional Chinese medicine came to the rescue, achieving amazing results with vast numbers of wounded and sick soldiers. Chinese medicine is an energetic rather than mechanistic form of medicine. In other words it works to free stuck energies which are seen as the source of maladies.
"The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it but to lay a straight stick alongside it."
-- D.L. Moody (Boston evangelist, 1837-1899)
"When you shoot an arrow of truth, dip its point in honey."
-- Arab proverb
"No man is sane who does not know how to be insane on proper occasions."
-- Henry Ward Beecher
From “The Healing Touch of Massage” (1995) by Carlo De Paoli
De Paoli is an osteopath and aromatherapist in London.
In ancient Egypt, massage was taught in temples as a sacred art. The human body has more than 200 joints. When a woman is close to her period, it’s recommended she cut down on caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. When a male has sexual problems, it’s often a combination of mental stress and tension that leads to the debility. In China, the treatment is to first relax and then tone the body. This advice is valid for both men and women. A tense scalp can slow down the superficial blood flow, contributing to poor sleep. Depression: No one can claim that massage is a cure for depression. However, a soothing and caring touch can alleviate the hopelessness and sense of isolation that accompanies this state of mind. Anger often seems to be the result of unresolved past events when we once felt neglected and humiliated. We store this anger and it overflows at the slightest confrontation or misunderstanding. In Chinese medicine, anger is considered to be an emotion of the liver. Massage around the upper body and feet relaxes a body tensed with stored anger. Sadness is considered to be an emotion of the lungs.
"People who have no vices have very few virtues."
-- Abraham Lincoln
"God writes my music."
"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."
-- football coach Lou Holtz
From “The KISS Guide to Massage” (2001) by Clare Maxwell-Hudson
Combine the world’s best massage author with the world’s best publisher (Dorling-Kindersley) and you have the best introductory book ever written on the craft of massage. KISS stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
Increasing the body’s natural production of serotonins by massage therapy reduces the need for some antidepressant medications. It appears that the way we’re touched as infants can affect the way we interact socially for the rest of our lives. During the Middle Ages, massage was kept alive as part of folk medicine, but practitioners were often persecuted by the Church which thought the healing powers came from the devil himself. It would improve our understanding of the skin if we thought of it as the external nervous system. According to Dr. Candace Pert, an American neurochemist, “When people feel pleasure, as they usually do during a massage, they focus on the present moment rather than staying involved with worries and preoccupations." Self-assurance that is not aggressive is a valuable asset, just as timidity and lack of firmness may be the reverse. The most important element of a massage is rhythm. A rhythmic massage will send waves of relaxation through your partner’s body. When buying essential oils, make sure you’re getting the real thing and not some synthetic approximation. Massage is one of the best ways to get hyperactive children to sleep. Massage should not be approached tentatively. You should use your whole body to make movements. In June of 1900, an article on massage was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It highlighted the massage technique of “kneading” the skin, stating this form of massage could result in a fall in arterial pressure, “both mean and maximum.” Don’t overwork a tense area in one session. It has probably taken years for it to get so tense, you can’t expect to get rid of it in a single session. Your partner will subconsciously pick up on an unsure touch. The face contains a huge number of nerve receptors. Therefore a face massage can have profound effects all through the body. A study conducted by the Touch Research Institute in Miami demonstrated that massaged children are more cooperative. Maxwell-Hudson, perhaps the world’s leading massage instructor, likes to use the word masseur. So do I. Perhaps both of us feel uncomfortable with some of the pretense behind the term “massage therapist.” The term was certainly borne of necessity to help separate the conscientious massage practitioners from the “joints on the highway.” However, the term has a cold, clinical ring to it, inconsistent with the simple elegance of a real massage. If you want to hear music, who do you turn to: A musician, or a "music therapist"? Many Native Americans (or for the less politically correct, like me, Indians), practice foot massage. Their belief is that the feet are our connection with the earth and the earth’s energies. This mind-set is also said to be pervasive in India. Since the foot is so well supplied with nerve endings, practically the whole of the body can be stimulated by a really good foot massage. It’s been demonstrated that regular massage can help smokers reduce their cravings for nicotine. Medical books from the 1800s frequently advocated massage as a remedy for constipation. Japanese hairdressers traditionally finish their haircuts with a massage. It helps to improve hair conditioning. In a study conducted at Miami’s Touch Research Institute, babies were either rocked or massaged. The rocked babies subsequently woke up when they were put down to sleep. However the massaged babies, who were alert during the massage, fell asleep quickly and soundly when they were put into their cribs. Massage of the abdomen can help babies suffering from colic. By increasing the circulation and encouraging peristalsis, it can help your baby expel gas and relieve constipation. Most babies love to have their legs and feet massaged. Adolescents may be reluctant to be massaged so you may need to keep repeating the offer. According to Dr. Stretch-Dowse in his 1895 Lectures on Massage: “The most sullen and morose child seems gradually to be imbued, under the influence of massage, with the attributes of a docile, willing, and kindly disposition.” In a 1998 study, 28 adolescents with attention-deficit disorder were given either a massage or relaxation therapy for 10 consecutive school days. The massage group was happier and fidgeted less following the sessions and no difference was seen in the control group. At the end of the period, teachers reported better attention and better classroom behavior in the massage group. THIS IS KEY: As children grow up, there often comes a time when physical contact with them is greatly diminished. Children who no longer wish to be cuddled enjoy the formality of a massage, and a caring touch can encourage them to voice thoughts and concerns that may otherwise be difficult to express. Massage can meet their touch needs without upsetting their move toward independence. This is on top of all the hormonal changes occurring at this time. Massage can be used as an aid to conception. In 1999, research at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London demonstrated that mothers with postnatal depression showed the benefits of massage. They were taught to massage their babies. After five sessions it was found there was an increase in bonding between mother and baby, and the mothers were less depressed. Massage can shorten the grieving process in bereaved people, although it can at first bring up many painful emotions. Galen (AD 130-200), chief physician to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, recommended massage for gladiators both before and during exercise. Approximately one-third of absences from work can be attributed to the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. Regular exercise, particularly swimming, is very important to maintain mobility. Queen Victoria, who suffered from rheumatism that standard treatments failed to help, was so impressed by the positive effects of massage that she spoke publicly about it.
"Goodness is easier to recognize than to define."
-- W.H. Auden
"Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a certain way."
"Time and money spent in helping men do more for themselves is far better than mere giving."
-- Henry Ford
"Be good and you will be lonesome."
-- Mark Twain
From “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Massage” (1997) by Stewart Mitchell.
Mitchell is director of the School of Complementary Therapies in Exeter, England. He is also an expert in the study of aromatic oils.
It may be that health is not a state that must be achieved through personal effort, but an attitude toward life. Esthetically, the ancient Greeks associated physical culture with the unfolding of mental and spiritual faculties, and set up massage schools in their beautifully built centers of health known as gymnasiums. In the Far East, performing musicians and actors have traditionally learned massage practices as aids to their artistic development. Exponents of kathakali, an early dance form originating in South India, are treated with deep massage from the feet of their teachers. Research into child behavior shows that, given the choice between either food or comforting touch, most infants opt for touch. NOTE WELL. This point is brilliant: Massage has been found to be a useful extension of communication between partners or colleagues when familiar verbal patterns of relating become exhausted. Massage can create emotional space, reducing the intensity of conflict and providing cooling-off time without repressing the real issues. The powerful nonverbal communication of massage enables friends to address the physical burden of each other’s problems without necessarily involving direct or unwanted confrontation. Most people find massage increases awareness of their bodies. Unexpressed emotion is often contained in hypertense muscles. The shoulder muscles are also commonly recognized as reservoirs of dysfunctional tension. By redistributing the tension within our muscles, massage helps give grace to our movements. People who are jumpy are liable to find that even their simplest communications are misunderstood. There is a direct link between our enjoyment of physical contact and our deep memories of life in the womb, yet this reassuring association can be disrupted by later experiences. Because touch is such an undeniable need, untouched people can feel misunderstood. When people are lost for words, it seems natural to extend a reassuring hand as if to say “I understand you.” When we have no one to provide touch for us, we may seek the comfort of another physical sensation. For some people this leads to an abusive relationship with food. (Or perhaps alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.) When we rediscover touch and movement through massage, the benefits of this rediscovery are both physical and mental. When the strokes of massage successfully deal with tension, the locked up energy immediately becomes available. For some, this might manifest itself as a desire to tackle a long overdue job, but paradoxically the release of energy can also lead to a long, deep, refreshing night’s sleep. In many cultures, adults tend to associate the intimacy of touch with the intimacy of sex. This creates the dilemma, both for receivers and givers of massage, of reconciling sexuality with the physicality of massage. This is not a unique problem, since research suggests that the subject of sex occupies much adult thinking time. For some people, getting a massage will represent a challenging experience; the submission of control and extension of trust involved is considerable. Gentle massage of the sides of the neck stimulates the vagus nerve and has a calming effect. The vagus wanders down through the chest to the abdomen. The sensitivity of our hands is vital in massage. It provides direct communication with the unspoken thoughts and feelings which are expressed in the tension of the person being massaged. Being therapeutic tools, it’s not surprising that a therapist’s hands are regarded as highly emotional structures, as the expression “laying on hands” suggests. Hands can adopt mini-postures such as empty clenched fists. They can drop things, become suddenly very moist, and are subject to nail-biting mutilation. All these actions can speak louder than words to a sensitive observer. The tension of the hand, in its tiny muscles, in the ease of its joints and the warmth of its circulation, gives an indication of general tension in the entire body. Likewise, massaging just the hands can diminish tension throughout the entire body. Anxieties seem to provoke tension in the neck more than anywhere else, probably as an expression of defensiveness. These tensions can become chronic. Most patients given neck massage would like it to last forever. Most Oriental cultures share a physical and spiritual regard for the feet that goes far beyond the concepts of care accepted in Western countries. In the East, the feet are revered as a sacred part of the body. They represent our contact with the earth.
"It is as hard for the good to suspect evil as it is for the bad to suspect good."
"We often give enemies the means of our own destruction."
"The singer will have to go."
-- Rolling Stones producer Eric Easton in 1963
"In war, just as in loving, you've got to keep on shoving."
-- General George Patton
From “The New Massage: Total Body Conditioning for People Who Exercise” (1980) by Gordon Inkeles.
This book was groundbreaking when it came out, and it still remains one of the best massage books ever written.
A thoroughly clean body helps to double your partner’s enjoyment of massage. Skin, the body’s largest organ, is routinely starved for the better part of a lifetime. Like some of the other outstanding massage books on the market (although this one is hard to find), the author refers to the givers of massage as masseurs. It’s the second-rate authors who refer to them by the sometimes-pretentious term “massage therapists.” Kneading is probably the most important element of any massage. Many “sophisticated” exercise programs have come to regard constantly aching muscles as the inevitable price beginners must pay for developing their out-of-shape bodies. It’s always a great pleasure to massage people who have stoically accepted this preposterous notion. "The veins unfilled, our blood is cold, and then
We put upon the morning, are unapt
To give or to forgive; but when we have stuffed
These pipes and their conveyances of our blood
With wine and feeding, we have suppler souls."
-- William Shakespeare, Coriolanus Vacationers who eagerly strip to almost nothing on a warm beach will stubbornly remain fully clothed in a warm living room. One of the real delights in massage is liberating the body from the suffocating influence of clothes, shoes, and jewelry. Severe headaches will sometimes miraculously disappear after only 30 seconds of pressure over the temples and forehead. ”I began thinking mechanistically enough to accept migraine for what it was: something with which I would be living, the way some people live with diabetes.” -- Joan Didion, The White Album. (Massage was the standard medical approach to migraine at the end of the 19th century.) People come to a massage not to be reminded of how tense they are, but rather to relax and forget about all their problems. "Socrates, sitting up in bed, drew up his leg and rubbed it with his hand, and as he rubbed it said, “What an unaccountable thing, my friends, that seems to be which men call pleasure.” -- Plato, Phaedo Although once a bulwark of their profession, the medical field has all but abandoned the practice of massage. Anti-sensual conditioning, plus the irresistible temptation to prescribe one of the 30,000 drugs now available, seems to have freed doctors from the messy responsibility of actually touching their patients. The first rule of massage is that you have to keep your partner warm. One of the great joys of massage is watching your partner regain the use of his very own smile. "It is astonishing how quickly relief and sleep can be effected to seemingly sleepless patients. Time and again I have been called in the middle of the night by men of high standing and great mind. Indeed, during my practice in Washington, I frequently had to shut off the light in the White House, telling the officers at the door, as I left, that the President was asleep.” -- Hartvig Nissen, Practical Massage and Corrective Exercises (1923) Persistent worry will soon register as persistent nerve and muscle tension. Massage-induced sleep is usually so profound that people in it seldom move at all. Sex therapists can use massage to provide patients with a new perspective on what it means to be touched. Excessive chatting during a massage functions only as a distraction that takes the mind away from the body. Any effort to bring your partner to a specific point of view during massage is a very personal violation. If one learns anything during massage, it is to be silent and more attuned to your feelings. In our society, where pain is practically the only sensation people allow themselves, pleasure becomes a revolutionary act. When muscles are repeatedly overstrained, the constricted blood vessels are finally unable to bring in sufficient nutrition. Massage is one of the surest antidotes to the loneliness most handicapped people endure. Being touched gently and carefully by another human being is tangible proof we are not alone.
"There is no growth except in the fulfillment of obligations."
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."
From “The Book of Shiatsu” (1992) by Paul Lundberg
A fine place to begin one's shiatsu education. A 2011 re-reading of this book after several years on the shelf produced as many new insights as if I just bought the book for the first time.
You may notice a circularity in the logic of Chinese medicine. Westerners think of cause and effect as a linear progression of ideas and events from A through B to C. Eastern philosophy regards events as mutually conditioned, arising together. They are not seen as distinct from the environment in which they occur. The background is as important as the foreground. (I experienced this truth first-hand during one of my mystical experiences in 2003.) For example, a headache is not just an event in the head, nor is it merely a pain, or something to be stopped without regard for its origins, nor even treated on the same basis as someone else’s headache. Rather, it is an obstruction of ki, related to the overall energy patterns in the whole body of the particular individual, their circumstances, and lifestyle. Treatment might involve work on the arms or legs as well as (or instead of) the head and will bring more lasting and satisfactory changes than will an attempt to block the superficial symptoms. "The union of the Ki of Heaven and Earth is called Human Being.” -- The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (circa 100 BC) The major energy channels flow near the surface of the skin. One cause of disease is excess sexual activity. The heart and liver bear the brunt of all emotional difficulties. Sadness results from disappointment, or more seriously from separation and loss. It is said to dissolve the Ki and principally affects the lungs, expressed in a weeping sound. Sadness is felt in the heart and affects the whole chest. Worry springs from anxiety. It is related to pensiveness, which manifests itself as an obsession with order and detail. If suppressed, anger turns into depression.
Because of the density of tendons and ligaments found at joints, ki and blood do not flow so easily here.
As you know, the Lower Tan Den is found about three cun beneath the navel. The tan den’s corresponding (or perhaps ‘partner’) point is found in the center of the spine, between L2 and L3. It’s known as the Mei Mon, or “Life Gate,” and it’s the seat of kidney yang.
Some styles of shiatsu make a rule of following the direction of yin and yang channels up and down the limbs to “tonify” ki. However, in the Zen style it’s considered more important to keep contact with the center and work outward. For instance, the yin channels flow up the inner surface of the legs, yet we always work down the legs, even though this goes “against the flow” of ki in the yin channels. The two hands connect and open the channels and the ki moves spontaneously if we make good contact and develop “penetrating pressure.” We don’t need to tell ki where to go. It will go there itself. (This is a very contextual assertion, for it allows us freedom of movement.)
The structure of a tsubo is more three-dimensional than the word “point" suggests.
The 12 primary channels intersect with eight “extra” channels that circulate a little deeper. These extra channels act as reservoirs of ki. (Other sources use the word "capacitors" in the sense of storing excess electrical energy within a circuit.)
The lung channel actually begins deep in the solar plexus, making its formal appearance at L1, the “Central Residence,” the spot that helps lung ki descend the arm.
As it traverses the neck, Large Intestine rides atop the SCM.
The main channel of the spleen meridian ascends through the diaphragm.
The heart channel actually begins in the heart, though it doesn’t announce its presence until it reaches the armpit. Imbalances here and in the heart can produce restlessness and insomnia.
The small intestine channel, as do all yang channels, meets up with the governing vessel at GV14 (Da Zhui / Great Hammer).
Don’t get so involved with detail that you forget to relax and lean from your hara.
The Triple Burner has no precise form, but it harmonizes the functions of the body’s upper, middle and lower regions. Some schools of thought hold that it helps channel constitutional ki from the Mei Mon to the other organs.
Sciatic pain often follows the path of the Gall Bladder channel.
Anger makes ki rise to a “rebellious” degree. Headaches may be one result.
It’s a temptation to work on jitsu (active/grassy) points, but we can achieve better results by tonifying the primary kyo (passive/root-like) distortion with penetrating pressure. This also helps release ki that’s built up to an excessive degree in areas of compensation. In general, to tonify a kyo condition takes precedence over dispersing the excess of a jitsu condition.
In a kyo state, the ki is weak or scattered. Palm pressure is called for to help attract ki.
In a jitsu condition, the tsubo can be taller and thinner, drawing energy into itself. (If I recall correctly, tsubos can feature various degrees of spin.)
We always retain an open or beginner’s mind. Otherwise we contaminate our awareness with our preconceptions.
The point Bladder 1, at the inner corner of each eye, is known as “Eye Brightness” and can assist with insomnia.
An “extra point” known as Peaceful Sleep is located about halfway between the earlobe and GB20. If you’re looking for a confirmation that ki is flowing more freely in your client/partner, you’ll hopefully notice the slightest of wavy motions in their body.
The stomach channel splits in the foot. The main branch ends at the second toe, and the secondary branch ends at the middle toe. (One more reason to encourage energy flow between toes.)
"In duty, the individual finds his liberation from dependence on mere natural impulse."
"The only way three may keep a secret is if two of them are dead."
-- Benjamin Franklin
"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"
From “The Book of Massage” (1984) by Lucinda Lidell.
Some of the pre-1990s massage books, including this one, feature an inspiring tone not often found in later years as texts became more 'clinical.'
Everyone needs to escape "the tyranny of time." (What a remarkable expression!) For all too many of us, stiffness and pain are a way of life to which we’ve become habituated, and it is often not until we give or receive massage that we realize that our muscles are tight, or come to see how much of our energy is consumed by tension. In the early 1960s, the American psychologist S.M. Jourard showed that our perception of how much we are touched by other people seems to be clearly related to our self esteem, to how much we value ourselves. When giving a massage, it’s essential that you keep your attention on the “here and now,” for your hands will be weakened or deflected by an absent mind. (I've found that giving a massage helps pull me into the “here and now,” though not as much as getting one does.) Paying attention to your partner will help keep your mind from wandering. At its highest level, massage can be a form of meditation. For any form of massage, working from the hara (described above), enables you to be flexible yet resilient, to work with your intuition rather than your mind. A good, caring massage penetrates right to the depth of your being. The more rhythmical your strokes are, the more relaxed and safe your partner will feel. The shoulders are one of the principal storehouses of tension in the body. Whether we wear a constantly smiling mask of appeasement or one of mock surprise, with eyebrows fixedly raised, the patterns frozen on our faces help reveal our attitudes and character. By enabling us to relinquish some of our masks, a caring face massage can lead to a sense of deep relaxation and connectedness throughout the whole body, and to the comfort of just enjoying “being” without having to appear to be something else. In correct shiatsu technique, pressure emanates from the hara (located three finger widths below the navel). It’s our center of energy. Pressure from the hara becomes controlled and considerate, allowing energy flows that are sensitive to that of one's partner.
The 'kyo-jitsu' method of treatment was advocated by the late master Shizuto Masunaga as an alternative to the established school, which recommended formulae, or combinations of tsubos, for the treatment of specific problems. (Masunaga's work is examined on this site.)
Points near the end of a meridian are often the most powerful in removing blockages or relieving pain along the course of that meridian.
Almost every tsubo on the Bladder Meridian along the back directly influences the supply of ki energy to another meridian.
The medial portion of the "two lane" Bladder Meridian tends to affect the physical plane of the body. The outer channel mainly influences the mind and emotions.
The Liver Meridian as it runs along and/or near the adductors is tight on most everyone, affecting digestion.
Sexuality presupposes free movement of the pelvis. The lower back and buttocks may become stiff and painful as a result of long-term suppression of this instinct. Each energy meridian has a psychological function as well as a physical one. Thus these meridians also deal with “digesting” information and events. When life presents us with something we cannot “swallow” or “stomach,” it creates tension in the throat and neck muscles, as well as affecting digestion. To kill yourself is to kill the hara -- “hara kiri.” It is at times of stress that our need for physical contact is more intense. We yearn for the release of tension it brings and the reassurance that our troubles are shared. In many tropical countries, baby massage has always been an integral part of child rearing. Young children need touch and if this need is not supported within the family or if touch is actively discouraged, the child experiences a conflict between wanting to reach out and withholding the impulse for fear of rejection. This withholding creates a pattern of muscular contraction which in time becomes chronic and unconscious. It can manifest itself in tight, withdrawn shoulders and arms that hang limply by the sides, unable to reach out for the touch they yearn for, afraid to strive for what they want in life for fear of failure. The way we use and move our hips expresses our attitudes toward sex and elimination (or shall we say, going to the bathroom). A pelvis that is not blocked can swing freely back and forth when we move, but a pelvis that is full of tension moves as one solid block, causing the legs also to move stiffly. Tension in this area may affect the buttocks too and often indicates lack of full sexual expression. The belly is the seat of the hara, our center of gravity, strength and vitality. It is closely linked with our legs and our sense of grounding. It houses our gut feelings, the instinctual drives of hunger, sexuality and emotional fullness or emptiness. If we breathe fully and deeply, our belly moves with our breath. If our belly isn’t relaxed, our heads take control, often disregarding our basic needs. Between the head and the belly lies the heart, our emotional center, which becomes engulfed in the conflicting pulls of gut feelings and reason. Only when all three centers work in harmony can we achieve integration and balance. Our chests are capable of containing great intensity of feeling, but when the diaphragm is habitually tightened, limiting our breathing, we starve ourselves of vitality, both physical and emotional. Individuals with over-expanded chests appear to have an inflated upper body, often dwindling down to an underdeveloped lower half. As personalities they can seem rational, assertive and self-sufficient. But in reality they are defensive and scared of letting go. In our faces, many of us choose a mask of innocence, or sometimes superiority, in order to create a specific impression upon others. Or, more importantly, our masks are geared to obtain a certain response, perhaps to give ourselves satisfaction for the unfulfilled needs of the child we still carry with us. In the face, the jaw correlates with the pelvis. Tension in one is often echoed in the other. A clenched jaw may be suppressing anger and is scared of losing control or letting go. A tight pelvis is often holding back from being sexually assertive. The eyes are said to be the windows of the soul, and in fact, the retina of the eye is derived from brain tissue. The word aura literally means "breeze." To those that can see auras, the shimmering layers of energy do appear to move as if blown by the wind. The astral body extends a foot or more out around the physical body. It relates to the individual’s emotional state and thought patterns, and it is through this aura that we sense the moods or “vibrations” of other people. Negative thinking or unresolved emotions can filter down from this part of the aura to our physical level, manifesting itself as disease. Extending out still farther from the body is the finest part of the aura, known as the spiritual or causal body. This may extend from a few feet to hundreds of yards, depending on the spiritual evolution of the individual. (Some say it can extend for hundreds of miles, if not further.) Damage to one of the seven chakras (centers of energy) through physical or emotional trauma will be manifested as dysfunction in the corresponding areas of the body. The aim of healing arts such as acupuncture, shiatsu and massage is to restore the individual’s balance of energies and to bring her or him into harmony with the universal pulse of life.
"Every man must carry his own sack to the mill."
-- Italian proverb
"Partial culture runs to the ornate, extreme culture to simplicity."
-- Christian Nestell Bovee (1820-1904)
"The greatest sin is to be unconscious."
-- Carl Jung
"A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him. "
-- Ezra Pound
From “The Tao of Sexual Massage” (1992) by Stephen Russell and Jurgen Kolb.
You already know my misgivings about the term “sexual” massage. What’s even scarier is the often misused word “Tao”, which gets thrown into book titles like nobody’s business. That said, this is a fine book that presents significant information.
Contemporary Taoist teachings encapsulate wisdom and information passed down to the Chinese from a legendary culture, known by some as the Sons of Reflected Light, about 14,000 years ago. The ancient Taoists were masters of observation, not theory. The most respected living Taoist masters say their predecessors could literally see the energy meridians as they observed the patient. One of the main obstacles on the path to Wu Wei is seriousness. It’s a form of emotional pestilence (infection). The path to attainment is built from laughter and lightness of heart. Negativity toward sexuality leads to chronic tension in the muscles throughout the body. The woman or man you are living with or are attracted to is likely to be very much your internal opposite. For some people, bliss is as hard to bear as pain. At the beginning of a massage session the recipient is usually inclined to be judgmental and resistant. Pride and arrogance are held in the upper back, and it helps to pummel this area with closed fists. This is called “Pounding the Rear Door.” By working the hamstrings you can release your partner’s inclination to resist new experiences. Gentle percussion to the upper chest loosens your partner’s “inner judge” who likes to control pleasure and inhibit fun. It can unblock childhood feelings of passion that have been dormant for years. The strain of trying to maintain control over life manifests itself in our hands. When they're relaxed, the person can surrender to the rest of the massage. Muscular tension in the upper back is related to rigid attitudes.
"A bad workman always blames his tools."
"The dog doesn't bark for you. He barks for your food."
-- Portugese proverb
"The men liked to put me down as the best woman painter. I think I'm one of the best painters."
-- Georgia O'Keefe
From “Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin” (1971) by Ashley Montagu Montagu is former chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers. Anyone who performs massage at the professional level should be required to read this book. What a pleasure to pick up a work like this and have it turn into so much more than I ever expected. This book is powerful.
- The author says that when he first started to research this matter in 1944, little experimental evidence was available. His primary interest is the manner in which the tactile experience, or its lack, affects the development of behavior.
- "We feel, we love and hate, are touchy and are touched, through the touch corpuscles of our skin." -- J. Lionel Taylor, The Stages of Human Life (1921)
- Skin sensitivity is apparently earliest and most completely developed during prenatal life. There is a general embryological law that states the earlier a function develops, the more fundamental it is likely to be.
- Nerve fibers conducting tactile impulses are generally larger than those associated with other senses. The feedback from the skin to the brain, even in sleep, is continuous.
- The tactile area of the brain associated with the skin is enormous. For years, few researchers made any note of this. Tactile experience has an enormous effect upon human behavioral development.
- Distressing thoughts may break out as boils in the skin.
- In a 1921-1922 paper presented by the anatomist Frederick Hammett, it was discovered that rats who were gently handled by humans were generally fearless and friendly, without signs of tension or irritability. Rats who didn't experience the "human touch," short of feeding and cage cleaning, were frightened, bewildered, anxious and tense in the presence of people. (I've noticed similar behaviors among kittens and cats, not to mention the behavioral patterns of humans who grew up with the genius of The Beatles as compared to the numbnut-corporate-puppetry of mono-dimensional non-talents like Eminem, who can be better described as Eminenema.)
- A newborn animal must be licked -- usually by the mother -- if it is to survive. In particular, the perineum is a prime area that needs this licking the most. (This fully corroborates the comments made by Steve Capellini in Massage for Dummies, where he discusses licking the perineum as nature's means for kick-starting the gastrointestinal system.)
- When we speak of "licking and love," we are evidently speaking of a fundamental and essential ingredient of animal affection, and equally clearly of an essential element in the healthy development of every organism.
- Workers at the Cornell Behavior Farm (J.L. Fuller, Science 158; 1967) found that, with no licking at all, many newborn lambs fail to stand and subsequently die. If the newborn makes the effort to rise prematurely, the mother will often hold the lamb down with her foot until she's finished licking. (As has been suggested elsewhere on this site, licking of newborn mammals kick-starts vital processes.)
- The manner in which the young of all mammals snuggle and cuddle against the body of the mother and against the bodies of their siblings or of any other introduced animal strongly suggests that cutaneous (skin) stimulation is an important biological need, for both their physical and behavioral development.
- Horses exposed to human handling immediately after birth developed unusual traits as adults, including more responsible behavior during emergencies. ("Early Handling by Humans is Found to Benefit Horses") New York Times, 27 December 1968
- It appears probable that for human beings, tactile stimulation is of fundamental consequence for the development of healthy emotional or affectional relationships, that "licking" -- in both its actual and figurative sense -- and love are closely connected.
- In an experiment with monkeys, (as described in Maternal Behavior in Mammals by Harriet Rheingold, 1963) mothers who failed to establish a strong maternal bond with their offspring were themselves denied such bonding as infants. Further, their sexual behavior was problematic. They became mothers in spite of themselves. (This sounds sadly familiar to all of us, and it points to another purpose in life -- busting through the cobwebs and shackles (if any) of incomplete maternal bonding. If these incompletions go back several generations, it's up to us to break the pattern now, and there are ways of doing this, though they aren't always pretty.)
- It can be seen that among humans, stroking is an evolutionary extension of licking. Both are tied in strongly with love.
- The French have a phrase to describe a boor, an ill-mannered person who is awkward in his relations with others: un ours mal leche, "an unlicked cub."
- It is possible that the uterine contractions of human labor provide infants with the benefits that animals get from licking.
- The most hazardous journey a human being ever takes is the passage through the four inches of the birth canal.
- The typical gestation period in humans is 266.5 days. Curiously enough, it takes another 266.5 days, on the average, for babies to crawl. Some will argue that half of the gestation period of human infants actually occurs outside the womb, ending at the 18-month point when the baby starts crawling. Further, the author suggests that society is not meeting the post-birth needs of the infant still within its gestation period.
- Nature has designed a special location for marsupials to continue their post-birth gestation terms: the pouch.
- Getting back to humans, among the most important of the infant's needs are the signals it receives through the skin, its first medium of communication with the outside world.
- Back to nonhuman mammals (I'm sounding like that old song, "Meanwhile, back in the jungle. Meanwhile, back in the states."). By licking her young, mommy kick-starts the gastrointestinal, genito-urinary, and part of the respiratory system. The labor period at birth is relatively short as compared to humans, as the licking compensates.
- (Speaking of gestation periods, Buckminster Fuller explains how ideas themselves have gestation periods, and a Bucky-book or two are on the dinner menu of this web site . . . eventually.)
- When a newborn baby fails to breathe, a quick slap to the butt is sometimes all it takes to establish respiration. However, another old established practice was to immerse the baby in cold water, or sometimes cold and warm water alternately. The author contends it's this cutaneous (skin) stimulation that activates the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. The effect of a sudden cold shower upon respiration is well known, and is indicative of a similar series of events.
- Studies have also shown that infants born prematurely and in many cases by C-section exhibit more nervous irritability than children brought to term. Again, the author suggests this could be due to the lack of contractile stimulation afforded by the uterus during labor. Also, he says evidence suggests that if C-section babies are given adequate caressing for some days after birth, this lack of uterine stimulation can largely be overcome.
- The only known successful treatment for diarrhea in babies is breastfeeding.
- Some merchants dealing in wool and hides know that superior boots (and veal), come from milk-fed calves.
- Hand-milked cows give better milk than their machine-milked counterparts.
- What is established in the breastfeeding relationship constitutes the foundation for the development of all human social relationships.
- Erasmus Darwin was the grandfather of Charles. In 1794, he published Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life. He noted the subtle smile seen on babies after they finish breastfeeding. As breastfeeding is more predominant in some countries than in others, some nations are more remarkable for their gaiety and others for the gravity of their looks.
- In his seminal Psychosocial Medicine (1948), James Halliday repeats the saying "anxious mothers produce anxious babies."
- During the 1800s, more than half of infants in their first year of life regularly died from a disease called marasmus, a Greek word meaning "wasting away." As late as 1920, the death rate for infants under one year of age in various institutions around the United States was nearly 100%! (It doesn't take a rocket scientist to surmise that neglect in adults leads to death as well. I don't think the Bible instructed us to "visit the sick" without good reason.)
- Prior to World War I, Dr. Fritz Talbot of Boston visited the Children's Clinic in Dusseldorf, Germany. What piqued Dr. Talbot's curiosity was the sight of a fat old woman who was carrying a very measly baby on her hip. "Who's that?," Dr. Talbot asked his host, Dr. Arthur Schlossmann, who replied, "That is Old Anna. When we have done everything we can medically for a baby and it is still not doing well, we turn it over to Old Anna, and she is always successful."
- After World War II, studies were taken to discover the cause of marasmus. It was found to occur quite often among babies in the "best" homes, hospitals, and institutions. Babies raised by physically-affectionate mothers in "less well-off" environments fared much better. It was learned that if a child is to prosper, it needs caressing and cuddling, even more so than breastfeeding.
- Although blind and deaf, Helen Keller reached the pinnacles of human communication in her glorious lifetime. Her education came through her skin.
- The touch of a cold hand is not pleasant. The touch of a warm one is, an observation that brings us to the consideration that skin sensation cannot be a matter simply of touch or pressure, but must in part be a response to temperature.
- Clearly, it is the quality of touch that conveys the message. A jab or slap obviously transmits a different message than a tender, gentle caress. Differences in skin pressure may make all the difference between a painful and a pleasurable sensation. It is probably in something of this manner that infants are able to discriminate between those who care for them and those who do not. (Brilliant!)
- (And let me further assert that adults too have built-in "Bullshit Detectors.")
- Just by the manner in which it's held, the infant can tell what the holder "feels" about it.
- "The ego is the perception of the bodily self, and what one feels and knows about the body is the skin." (P. Lacombe, Revue Francaise du Psychoanalyse, 23; 1959)
- It is not unlikely that persons who have received inadequate stroking in infancy develop into shallow breathers. There is a high incidence of asthma among persons who as young children were separated from their mothers. Putting one's arm around an asthmatic while he is having an attack may abort or alleviate it.
- Whether it's better to breastfeed or bottle-feed a baby is still debatable, but research is clear on this point: The manner in which the baby is fed makes a world of difference. Warm mothers are in, cold ones are out.
- "Love as it exists in society is merely the mingling of two fantasies and the contact of two skins." -- Chamfort (1740-94), Products of the Perfected Civilization (1969)
- There can be no doubt that if people don't get love, they sometimes substitute food. (I've long suspected that regular massage can help reduce food cravings and thus control weight. Ditto for smoking.)
- "The decisive form of our interactions with things is in fact touch."
-- Ortega y Gasset
- If you pick up a good dictionary, the longest citation might be found under the word "touch." (When I was in grade school, I remember reading that the longest citation belonged to the word "run.") The Oxford English Dictionary defines "touch" not just as something we do, but as something we also feel emotionally. The OED says that touch is "the most general of the bodily senses, diffused through all parts of the skin, but (in people) specially developed in the tips of the fingers and lips." It is of interest to note that in the brain, the area devoted to the lips, on the central gyrus of the cortex, is disproportionately large by comparison with that devoted to other related structures. This is equally true of the fingers (especially the pads).
- Bali is a major island in Indonesia. In their book Balinese Character (1942), Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead describe how the infant is intuitively able to read the mood of the mother: The child is either carried loosely on the mother's hip or sometimes on a sling. The baby receives its cues as to whether the outside world is to be trusted or feared directly from contact with the mother's body. Though the mother may have schooled herself to smile and utter courteous phrases to strangers and those of higher caste, and even though she displays no fear in her artificially grimacing face, the screaming baby in her arms betrays the inward panic.
- Since the infant spends many hours on the mother's hip while she pounds rice, it is of great interest to learn that Colin McPhee, the leading authority on Balinese music, found its basic tempo the same as that of rice-pounding. (Which doesn't say much for the current Dark Ages in American pop music.)
- The Balinese wake and sleep as they wish. (I hope to mention this topic again, using material from Buckminster Fuller, who lived similarly and left behind an intellectual legacy second to none.)
- The Balinese infant sleeps in its mothers arms. We of course tend to sleep alone as infants. In fact, we sleep alone for most of our lives, then we get married and are expected to make an immediate transition to sleeping with someone else. Here in the West, children "go" to sleep -- literally -- reinforcing our feelings of separation from others.
- Says the author, one cannot help wondering whether the unexplained occurrence of "crib death" or "sudden infant death syndrome" may not be due, at least in part, to inadequate sensory stimulation, particularly tactile stimulation. Further, it would be interesting to know the incidence of SIDS in cradle-raised vs. crib-raised babies.
- The behavior and motivations of all mammalian infants are directed towards maintaining contact with the mother.
- There can be little doubt that in tactile stimulation electrical charges are transmitted from one individual to the other.
- Touch as interval has never been properly investigated. An interval in music is the difference in pitch between any two notes.
- The skin remains the most alert of the senses in sleep and is the first to recover upon awakening. Anna Freud has commented on the close interrelation between the need for sleep and for touch. Says Ms. Freud: "Falling asleep being rendered more difficult for the infant who is kept strictly separated from the mother's body warmth." Children who have been briefly separated from their mothers will, during the period of separation, suffer from disturbed sleep. Say Heinicke and Westheimer in Brief Separations (1965), disturbances in sleep are directly connected with longing for the parents. (In the late summer of 2003, a close female friend of mine moved to another state. A day or two before I found out, I had experienced my first sleepless night in a couple years.) Besides longing for the parents, the child can express an unwillingness to be alone at bedtime. (To me this sounds more like the reactivation of an upset carried over from a previous lifetime, an issue the child hopes to resolve this time around.) Moreover, even after being reunited with the parents (after separations ranging from two to 20 weeks), a majority of the children still exhibited sleeping difficulties. (Let me contend right here that an on-again/off-again relationship is destined to go nowhere, and here's some evidence. Also, I'd love to see a high-fallutin' "Sleep Disturbance Clinic" actually prescribe massage instead of pharmaceuticals.)
- Aldrich et. al. found that among the less generally recognized causes of crying in infants is the need for fondling and rhythmic motion. They need and want to be cuddled. (Journal of Pediatrics, 27; 1945)
- "An ego (person) that is not grounded in the reality of body feeling becomes desperate." -- Alexander Lowen, The Betrayal of the Body (1969)
- When a child is angry, hurt, or frightened, "tactual soothing" (touch) restores his equilibrium. When a mother is afraid of intimacy, the child will sense the fear and interpret it as rejection. Further he or she may develop a feeling of shame about his or her own body. (Lowen)
- To be roughly handled has been considered by many women, especially women of the working classes, as an indispensable evidence of love.
- In lab studies, rats who receive greater tactile stimulation show greater emotional stability.
- The inadequately touched animal is an emotionally unsatisfied creature. However, the satisfaction of tactile needs has to date not been considered a basic need. Yet, it is one, since without it the organism will die.
- The early development of the nervous system of the infant is to a major extent dependent upon the kind of cutaneous stimulation (structured touch and cuddling) it receives.
- The physiological mechanisms involved in tactile deprivation can be expressed in one word: shock. Birth is a major shock, and mothers appear designed to mitigate its effects in the moments immediately following it. The effects upon the infant of such satisfactions of his tactile needs are remarkable.
- "There is no conception in man's mind, which hath not first been begotten upon the organs of Sense." -- Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) And may I wonder out loud: Can massage actually generate creative thought? I would suggest yes.
- Schizophrenia (the word stems from the term "split mind" and may now be called bipolar disorder) may well be a manifestation of a person totally out of touch with their body (Lowen). Lowen attributes the condition to a lack of body contact with the mother, which the child views (unconsciously, I'm sure) as abandonment. It grows up feeling that nobody cares, and develops separate personalities -- one based on rigid (armored) body patterns, the other on ego image.
- Says Otto Fenichel, the schizophrenic's loss of emotions stems from a loss of contact with the outside world. He is estranged from others, withdrawn, detached. (Could it be that structured touch from another person is the conduit between the subjective self and the outside world?)
- The author also reports the case of a girl who, suffering very badly from acne, was sent by a perceptive physician to a beauty parlor after other attempts at a cure failed. Her massages at the beauty parlor worked -- the acne was finally cured.
- The Japanese are very conscious of the significance of texture. A bowl that is smooth and pleasing to the touch communicates not only that the artisan cared about the bowl and the person who was going to us it; he cared about himself as well.
- Significant breakthroughs in the treatment of schizophrenia have been reported through the use of massage. The author also reports prescribing a regimen of expert massage for a severely asthmatic patient. It worked, and he suggests the massage began to alleviate the patient's lingering trauma from receiving no tactile stimulation as a child. (Her mother died during birth.)
- Failure to receive tactile stimulation in infancy results in a critical failure to establish contact relations with others. Supplying that need, even in adults, may serve to give the individual the reassurance he needs, the conviction that he is wanted and valued, and thus involved and consolidated in a connected network of values with others. The individual who is awkward in his contact relations with others is clumsy in his body relations: in shaking hands, in embracing, in kissing, in any of his tactile demonstrations of affection. This is principally because he has been failed in his interactive body-contact relations with his mother.
- To a very significant extent, a measure of the individual's development as a healthy human being is the extent to which he or she is freely able to embrace another and enjoy the embraces of others . . . to get, in a very real sense, into touch with others.
- Touch-deprived individuals are likely to be found lacking in tact, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "the ready and delicate sense of what is fitting and proper in dealing with others so as to avoid giving offense, or win good will; skill or judgment in dealing with people or negotiating difficult or delicate situations; the faculty of saying or doing the right thing at the right time."
- Curiously, the word "tact" comes from the Latin tactus, meaning "touch." Until around the 1850s, the British at times used the two words interchangeably. In its modern sense, "tact" was adopted from the French early in the 19th century. What the word really means is "to delicately touch" another. We say of a tactless man that he has a heavy touch. (A bull in a china shop.)
- The quality of tactile communication experienced during infancy determines the kind of psychomotor, the sort of emotional response, the infant learns to make to others. This sort of emotional response will become a fixed and permanent part of his personality (is that so?), upon which she or he will subsequently build many learned secondary responses.
- Infants of the Netsilik Eskimo rarely cry. With close skin-to-skin contact throughout the day, the mother can anticipate the infant's needs tactually. The infant doesn't have to cry out. This helps set the stage for an adulthood that can handle undue amounts of stress.
- In America, the mother is more likely to avoid close, continuous physical contact with the child in the first few months of life. The mother is more likely to respond only when the baby expresses a need or demand. This helps reinforce our cultural pattern of isolation, especially when compared to the Eskimo. (This is taken from a doctoral dissertation presented by V.S. Clay at Columbia in 1966. I have no basis to discuss how mother/infant relations have changed in the ensuing years.)
- In a study of the sleeping patterns of Japanese families, anthropologists William Caudill and David Plath noticed a correlation between sleeping alone and committing suicide. (Psychiatry, 29; 1966)
- In New England, many babies spend a good part of each day alone in a crib, playpen, or yard. (Just the thought of this makes me cringe.) The behavior here is similar to that found in England, where many families delight in sending adolescents off to boarding school. (To me, this helps create a very intelligent society, but one sadly lacking in empathy. On the other hand, how is it that most of the truly superior music of the last 40 years has come from Britain?)
- Says novelist E.M. Forster: To the English, emotions are like fish struggling to find the surface of the water, but don't quite know how. "For the most part, we see them moving far below, distorted and obscure." He adds that English literature is like a "flying fish" -- occasional proof that England contains emotional depth.
- Anna Freud has pointed out that young children have a "primitive need" for close and warm contact with another person's body while falling asleep. She goes on to say "The infant's biological need for the caretaking adult's constant presence is disregarded in our Western culture, and children are exposed to long hours of solitude owing to the misconception that it's healthy for the young to sleep, rest, and later play alone." She adds that this neglect is a direct cause of sleep disorders.
- In the late 1960s, William Caudill and Helen Weinstein compared child-rearing methods in Japan and the United States (Psychiatry, 32; 1969). Generally speaking, they found that Japanese mothers spend more time with their children and emphasize physical contact over verbal interaction. This may have a direct bearing on Japanese culture. Japanese tend to be more group oriented, self-effacing, emotional and intuitive in decision-making, and more comfortable with the nuances of non-verbal communication. Further, in America the context of our associations tends to come from an attitude of physical separateness. It's an unexamined assumption. Japanese are more likely to operate from a context of connection.
- Bathing practices also come into play. In keeping with their sleeping habits, Japanese families tend to bathe together, even when the infant is little more than a month old. American mothers tend to wash their baby from outside the tub. Caudill & Weinstein's summary includes the comment that American babies are thus taught to press out into their environment, whereas Japanese ones are encouraged more to live harmoniously within it.
- But in Japan, something drastic happens when the child reaches walking age. He's suddenly left on his own a great deal of the time, and now he must conform to the implicit taboo on touching other people. Haring says the consequences of this sudden break can be seen in the aggressive behavior of many Japanese adolescents.
- Freud believed that touching should comprise no part of therapy. "Freud himself was a bit of a cold fish," says the author, "and one cannot avoid the suspicion that he was insufficiently fondled as an infant." (Odd, however, that in his book mentioned above Steve Capellini says that Freud did use massage in his practice.)
- The skin is an organ that requires just as much attention as the mind.
- The infant is programmed to be touched by its mother.
- When a man's defenses are down, when he is dying, his last -- like his first -- word is likely to be "mother." (In the 1930s, a great-aunt of mine died at home. She was totally paralyzed. However, in the moment before she passed away, she sat up in bed, stretched her arms toward the ceiling and called out, "Mother!")
- Impersonal child-rearing practices, which have long been the mode in the United States, will produce individuals who are able to lead lonely, isolated lives in a world of materialistic values and its addiction to things. (One of these things, I submit, is education and knowledge without wisdom and empathy. This type of education is the Modern American Religion.) The contemporary American family constitutes only too often an institution for the systematic induction of mental illness in each of its members, a consequence of our concentration on making each of them a "success." (Oh, I can get so politically incorrect here, but of course I'll spare myself the aggravation.)
- The evidence points unequivocally to the fact that no organism can survive very long without externally-originating cutaneous stimulation (which in adults basically means caring touch). The next time I'm at a party and someone asks me what I do for a living, maybe I'll say I'm an Externally-Originating Cutaneous Stimulator.
- It is not words so much as acts communicating affection and involvement that children -- and indeed, adults -- require.
- When affection and involvement are conveyed through touch, it is those meanings, as well as the security-giving satisfactions, with which touch will become associated.
"It often happens that I wake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember I am the Pope."
-- John XXIII
"It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse."
-- Adlai Stevenson
"To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform."
-- Theodore White (journalist, 1915-1986)
"The stupider the peasant, the better the horse understands him."
-- Anton Chekhov
From “The History of Massage” (2002) by Robert Calvert
The founder of Massage magazine, Calvert comes up a little stiff and dry as a historian. His extensive quotes are laborious and overused, and he gives short shrift to the Asian side of the story. Despite these weaknesses, some vital history emerges.
- In various parts of the world, massage is still a health practice as common as eating the right foods and getting enough sleep and exercise.
- The author considers Ashley Montagu's book Touching as "seminal." I tend to agree.
- Though he ran his own school, the author describes himself as a massage practitioner, not a "therapist."
- In his personal experience, Calvert has noticed that people are helped not so much by technique, but by the degree of care and compassion behind the touch.
- Massage schools seldom offer more than a few hours of historical background to their students.
- Massage conveys its benefits through the character and healing intention of those who give and receive it.
- Virtually all massage regulations were originally intended to control prostitution.
- Today's best-selling massage textbook is Mosby's Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage by Sandy Fritz.
- The state of Florida has been at the "leading edge" of massage regulation in the past 15 years.
- Several great civilizations of early America -- including the Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas -- each featured a tradition of healing steambaths that included massage. They rivaled the great public baths of Greece and Rome. The steam room was also popular among many American Indian tribes.
- Hippocrates, the father of Greek medicine, was of course known for describing the benefits of massage. In addition, however, he also promoted the benefits of proper diet, rest, and plenty of water. (Also, we may not have an adequate understanding of the Greek use of the word diet. It may refer more to the Greek concept of regimen as described elsewhere on this site.)
- "The proper office (role) of the physician consists in tuning and touching in such a manner the lyre of the human body as that it shall give forth only sweet and harmonious sounds." -- Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
- When the great Egyptian city of Alexandria was conquered by the Moslems in the year 642, it contained 4,000 bathhouses (centers of massage as well).
- In 1785, a Frenchman named Savary wrote about his experiences receiving massage in Egypt. His description applies equally as well today: "We experience a suppleness and lightness 'til then unknown. It seems as if we truly lived for the first time. There is a lively feeling of existence that radiates to the extremities of the body."
- "The excess of bodily exercises may render us wild and unmanageable, but the excess of arts, sciences, and music makes us too faddled and effeminate. Only the right combination of both makes the soul circumspect and manly." -- Plato
- Hippocrates firmly believed the body was fully capable of curing itself. To him, symptoms such as fever were but expressions of that capability. Said Hippocrates, "Nature acts without masters."
- Anointing was the first recorded word in ancient writings that has links to the present-day term massage. (The Catholic church holds a certain degree of reverence for various oils.) Anoint comes from the Latin inungere (to smear on). The Latin unguere means "to smear." (I believe this is the origin of the Catholic term Extreme Unction, now known as the Sacrament of the Sick, or in other words the final anointing with oils in anticipation of death.) Moreover, the word Christ comes from the Greek chriein, meaning "to anoint."
- Asclepiades, a Greek physician who lived from 124 to 40 B.C., believed that life was the result of "atoms" constantly on the move within the body. Disease and death was caused by obstructions of their movement. (A belief similar of course to Eastern concepts of the flow of ki within the body.) It is believed that Asclepiades made the discovery that sleep can be induced by gentle stroking.
- Galen, a Roman who lived from 130 to 201 A.D., was a renowned physician of ancient times, second only the Hippocrates.
- One of the greatest punishments Roman authorities could inflict upon a town was to close its public baths.
- In both ancient Greece and Rome, massage practitioners were usually slaves, and good ones were highly regarded.
- There's a famous story about the Roman emperor Hadrian (76 to 138 A.D.). He once saw a veteran soldier rubbing his back against the marble at a public bath and asked what he was up to. The soldier replied, "I have no slave to rub me." Hadrian then gave him two slaves and some gold to pay for them. Another time, Hadrian saw several old men doing the same thing -- rubbing themselves against the wall, hoping for the same result from the emperor. The shrewd Hadrian instructed them to massage each other.
- The Greek/Roman era of commonplace massage appears to have ended with the last Olympic games of 393 A.D.
- In the Middle Ages, some women who cured people through massage were considered Satanic, and thus were burned at the stake. In this Christian-dominated era, virtually everything to do with exercise and public baths (including massage) was banned. Even many midwives were considered witches.
- To a small degree, however, some baths were revived as healing facilities for the sick and dying. A leader in this regard was King Charlemagne (742-814).
- Avicenna, the great Arab scholar/physician who lived from 980 to 1037, described massage as a means of fighting fatigue. He also wrote, "If men exercised their bodies by motion and work at appropriate times, they would need neither physicians nor remedies."
- Paracelsus, born in Switzerland in 1493, is sometimes called the Father of Chemistry. He wrote an amazing sentence that demonstrates his awareness of the mind/body connection: "A man who is angry is not only angry in his head or in his fist, but all over . . . all the organs of the body, and the body itself, are only form-manifestations of previously and universally existing mental states."
- The ancient Greeks praised their athletes, though they reserved even higher praise for their ascetes -- those who developed their mind as well as their body.
- "Exercise the body continually, render it robust and healthy to render it wise and reasonable." -- Rousseau
- The healing ritual of the Catholic church known as the "laying on of hands" may literally refer to massage. Gradually this concept was replaced by more symbolic rituals.
- By the mid-1800s, many physicians used drug therapy almost to the exclusion of other available treatments. Also around this time, the "movement cure" emerged for a few short decades. Combining elementary massage and stretching techniques, the movement cure was an early attempt at a proactive lifestyle designed to forestall illness before it began. Also around this time, the Swede named Per (Peter) Ling influenced the development of massage by insisting that its study be grounded in anatomy. Many books refer to Ling as the "father" or "grandfather" of modern massage, but the honor should perhaps go to Johan Mezger (1838-1909). It was Mezger who created the first system of massage therapy as a stand-alone healing art.
- Some ancient Greeks recognized the role of vibration therapy. The means? Riding a horse.
- The People's Medical Advisor of 1880, while describing Turkish baths, notes that although people can be scrupulously clean, they can still be surprised by the amount of "effete matter" still on their skin. (Nothing beats a hot soapy bath with someone else scrubbing you down with a bath brush -- that's clean, rubbing off thousands of dead skin cells you never dreamed you still had.)
- According to the author, too many of today's massage practitioners are more interested in learning how to do a technique than in learning the theory behind it.
- The inclusion of anatomy and physiology training in massage programs did not begin in earnest until around 1925.
- The first real textbook on massage was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg's The Art of Massage (1929).
- In China as in India, Thailand, and perhaps several other countries, the practice of massage was often associated with and performed in or near religious temples. In medieval Europe, old temples were used by monks, nuns and priests to care for the sick and wounded who couldn't afford physicians. This type of care included massage and helped keep the body of knowledge alive after the fall of the Roman Empire.
- As early as 1860, Florence Nightingale included massage in her training school for nurses.
- Between World Wars I and II, massage was used as a remedy against bedsores. It was also performed to enhance recovery from illness or surgery.
- ("The greatest part of all chronic disease is created by the suppression of acute disease by drug poisoning. Every acute disease is the result of a purifying, healing effort of Nature" -- Henry Lindlahr, M.D., circa 1919)
- Lindlahr also said, "There is no way for the vicarious atonement for the violation of the laws of health. Only through obedience to these laws can health be regained." (I just love that term "vicarious atonement.")
- From the late 1800s until 1938, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg ran the famed Kellogg Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. He noted that massage had been performed "from time immemorial, and among widely separated nations."
- During the heyday of the Industrial Revolution, factory owners in British cities often provided Turkish baths for their employees. Turkish baths were even used as hospitals for the mentally ill.
- In Victorian times, massage and hot baths were sometimes used as treatments for rheumatism.
- During World War I, spas were used as nursing stations in Europe. In England, wounded and shell-shocked soldiers were sent to spas to recuperate before being sent back to the front lines.
- Just like the Greek and Roman baths, the spas of the 18th and 19th centuries were places of culture, healing, public discourse, and the arts.
- Massage stones, such as those seen at leading spas around the world today, were used by the ancient Chinese.
- The term "massage table" is relatively new, coming into use only in the late 1920s. Prior to then, people received massages on a "couch." The Greeks and Romans used marble slabs called plinths. (Some old-timers and traditionalists in the massage field still use the word plinth, I believe. Also, when I got a massage in a bathhouse in Moscow, Russia, I lied down on a concrete slab that doubled as a bench. The masseur proceeded to slap the crap out of me with birch leaves, and it sure didn't tickle.) It wasn't until the early 1980's that the face cradle came into common usage. (I hate working without one.)
- The earliest massage lubricant was probably olive oil. Even the Bible displays some awareness of aromatherapy: Psalms refers to the "oil of gladness" and "oil to make the face shine." Plato considered oil almost as important as food.
- In 1877, Dr. Douglas Graham noted in the New York Medical Record that sprains can recover in one-third the usual time through the application of massage.
- 50 years ago, Swedish methods were the dominant form of massage. Today, the typical practitioner applies an eclectic mix of wider-ranging techniques.
- By the early 1950s, massage had practically disappeared from the medical community in the United States and Britain.
- Currently about 40 to 50 percent of massages are performed in the home.
- The author asserts that David Palmer developed the massage chair with the intention of providing acupressure. Ironically, most practitioners use the chair to offer massage techniques.
- In nearly all spas of the world, one of the major revenue producers is massage. Spas and resorts are by far the largest employers of massage practitioners.
- An unfortunate attitude has developed in many massage schools of today: that spas are mere starting points for one's career. (Some spas themselves, and especially cruise ships, are part of the problem, with their "meter is running" attitude, as if the massage table were a taxicab to Kennedy Airport -- a mere revenue generator rather than an opportunity to radically improve the recipient's outlook on life. What's called for is balance in this regard.)
- In 1889 while traveling through Europe, Dr. Graham lamented the fact he had such a difficult time finding a general, relaxational massage. He felt the practice had become too confined by the application of "scientific" massage. (A few years ago, I believe it was Dr. Albert Schatz of Temple University who noted that 80% of Americans want and seek out the "relaxational" type.)
- During World War II in the Soviet Union, massage was used as an element of complex rehabilitation treatment for wounded soldiers. Apparently there is a vast Russian literature on massage development waiting to be translated for Western practitioners.
- In Japan, a centuries-old tradition is to massage cattle for several days before slaughter. This meat is expensive and desirable because it's believed the massage renders the muscles supple and free of stress, thus very tender.
- Most massage practitioners do not belong to any professional organization. Only about 50% of practitioners work at massage full-time. Up to half are not performing massage one year after they graduate from a school.
- American students tend not to have the patience to learn the theory behind techniques.
- Oftentimes, massage association leaders and members of regulatory boards have also included owners of massage schools. Most people who join associations do so for the insurance coverage, generating a lot of revenue.
- In promotional literature printed in 1984, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), listed some of the benefits of massage. Most of these we're more than familiar with. However, here's a great one they mentioned: Massage leads to greater ease of emotional expression. If we can produce this for a client, we've more than done our jobs.
- In 1992, the Journal of the American Medical Association released some findings from a study concerning the growing field of alternative medicine. The study found that people don't seek out alternative forms of health because they're dissatisfied with their doctor or the health care system in general. They use "alternative" therapies because these are more "congruent with their own values, beliefs, and philosophical orientations toward health."
- More than 98% of those who take the NCTMB exam (National Certification for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) pass it. When it was developed, the AMTA touted it as being voluntary, though in effect it quickly became non-voluntary.
"Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them."
-- polar explorer Richard Byrd
When asked what he thought of Western civilization: "I think it would be a good idea."
-- Mahatma Gandhi
“The great problem of our time is that we don’t understand what is happening to the world. We are confronted with the darkness of our soul, the unconscious.”
-- Carl Jung
Key points from the book "The Lost Art of Listening” (1995) by Michael Nichols, PhD:
Much of the conflict in our lives can be explained by the simple fact that we don’t really listen to one another. To listen well we must forget ourselves and submit to the other person’s need for attention. Most failures of understanding are not due to self-absorption or bad faith but to defensive reactions that crowd out understanding and concern. We don’t hear what's said because something in the speaker’s message triggers hurt, anger or fear. We can understand each other once we learn to recognize our own defensive reactions and take charge of our responses. Being listened to means we are being taken seriously. Most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we really are. We don’t realize how important being listened to really is until we feel we’ve been cheated out of it. As soon as you’re able to say what’s on your mind -- and be heard and acknowledged -- you are unburdened. Reassuring someone isn’t the same as listening. When we learn to hear the unspoken feelings that lie behind another’s anger or impatience, we discover the power to release the bitterness that keeps people apart. We all need the ballast of a person we can talk to, someone who we know will be there. The listened-to child grows up relatively secure and whole. In the words of psychoanalyst Ernest Wolf, “Psychological solitude is the mother of anxiety.” Being listened to spells the difference between feeling accepted or isolated. When we see sadness or depression in someone, we tend to assume something’s wrong. Maybe that something is that nobody’s listening. When people don’t say much, it’s less likely they have nothing on their minds. It’s more that they don’t trust the other person to be interested or tolerant enough to hear it. Feigned attentiveness doesn’t work. The closer the relationship, the more vulnerable we are to hearing something said as hurtful, frightening, threatening or infuriating, even when it wasn’t meant that way. People who don’t talk to us are people who don’t expect us to listen. When we listen with empathy, we allow the speaker to go deeper into his or her experience. Better listening starts with a sincere effort to understand what’s going on in the other person’s private world of experience. The best way to get the listening you need is to make the other person feel listened to first. Listening well is often silent but never passive. The person who has something to say wants to express both an idea and a feeling. Whenever a woman is perceived by a man as nagging, it probably means she hasn’t received a fair hearing for her concerns in a long time. Feelings are facts to the person experiencing them. The simple (and enormously difficult) act of not becoming reactive when listening has a tremendous impact on our relationships. It enables difficult people to be heard. We must learn to tolerate a certain amount of anxiety, and one way to do this is by listening harder. (Brilliant stuff!) One way to help free the listener from withdrawing into a defensive posture is to hear in the anxious speaker the voice of an unhappy child demanding to be heard. That is, after all, the part of ourselves where our most urgent feelings come from. Even though the other person might come off sounding nasty, he or she is hurting and desperately needs to be heard. If worse comes to worse, say “I’m upset, I can’t really listen right now, but I will later.” The issues that come up over and over again typically represent the person’s core concerns, not necessarily your shortcomings. Formerly difficult and disagreeable people begin to soften perceptibly as soon as you let them be who they are. Learning to listen involves a paradox of control: controlling yourself and letting go of control of the relationship.
"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook."
-- William James
"People living deeply have no fear of death."
-- Anais Nin
"People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them."
-- George Bernard Shaw
"It is personalities, not principles, that move the age."
--Oscar Wilde (I get what he's saying, though I don't entirely agree.)
From “Wilhelm Reich: Selected Writings” (1960)
Rating: Dense at times, and this adds to the overall pleasure. Challenging. Provocative. Reich's ideas eventually riled up the U.S. Government to the point of throwing him in jail, where in died in 1957. His work is consistently referred to in most of the significant massage texts written over the past 20 years. The material related here may seem a bit "adult" or over the edge, but a serious practitioner of massage needs to be aware of Reich's legacy.
- The tendency of humans is “to get along with each other” at any price. This behavior is disastrous when one wants to get at the truth.
- The author mentions moments of deep eye contact with infants and toddlers -- moments of true communication.
- Over the years, Reich writes, his work has been slandered by enemies and friends alike.
- I (Reich) found myself outside the boundaries of the previous 5,000 years of thought. It was a new and different realm.
- Truly healthy and functioning people live “outside the box” of normal social structures and dictates. They are misunderstood and feared.
- When a man can’t get it up, he’s experiencing a withdrawal of biological energy from the genital region. (Whether this withdrawal is a direct result of incomplete communication within the relationship is a suspicion I hope to explore.) Early in his career, Reich noticed a correspondence between the rigid character structures society places upon us and genital “deadness.”
- Sexual energy never becomes misdirected unless there's a psychic inhibition in place. Reich was surprised that Freud had overlooked this fact.
- Everyone who has managed to preserve a bit of sanity knows there’s only one thing wrong with neurotic patients: the lack of full and repeated sexual satisfaction. Psychoanalytic theories actually distract us from learning this, maybe because it’s too simple.
- "What is the most difficult of all?
What seems the easiest to you:
To see with your eyes
What lies before your eyes.” -- Goethe
- The severity of any kind of psychic disturbance is in direct relation to the severity of the disturbance of genitality. The prognosis depends directly on the possibility of establishing the capacity for full genital satisfaction.
- The guys who brag the loudest about their sexual conquests are ironically the most psychologically disturbed.
- Man is the only biological being that has destroyed its own natural sex function, and that is what ails him. In this climate, we can’t understand marital unhappiness or religious ecstasy. We’ll continue to believe in the antithesis of nature and culture, instinct and morals, sexuality and achievement. We’ll consider what is sick healthy, and what is healthy, sick. We’ll overlook the fact that humans fear happiness.
- Man is spontaneously gentle. However, the type of gentleness we usually see is a pretense, a façade.
- This point may be heatedly challenged by some, but Reich claims that talking and laughing during sex indicates a serious lack of the capacity for surrender, which requires an undivided absorption in the sensations of pleasure. (Perhaps the feminist agenda of taking the phrase “surrender to your husband” out of wedding vows reflects a neurotic mind-set. Also, I've seen massage texts emphasize a similar point: chit-chat can be a nervous mechanism of distraction.)
- Insomnia is one of the leading indicators for lack of sexual gratification.
- Clinical experience shows that man, as a result of general sexual repression, has lost the capacity for ultimate vegetatively involuntary surrender. (Reich’s italics.)
- Contrary perhaps to the findings of Nancy Friday, Reich believes that fantasy diminishes the quality of nonverbal communication during sex.
- The disturbance of genitality is not merely one more symptom among others in neurosis, it is the core symptom. Genital disturbance goes beyond the sexual disturbance as described by Freud; it is the failure to achieve the full orgasmic response.
- Definition of Oedipus Complex (coined in 1910): The positive libidinal (erotic/sexual) feelings a child develops toward the parent of the opposite sex. This may be a source of adult personality disorder when unresolved. In Greek mythology, Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother.
- According to Reich, adequate discharge of sexual energy determines the degree to which the Oedipus complex runs a person.
- Freud himself, in a meeting of his “inner circle” that included Reich, once said that psychotherapy would someday meet a dangerous competitor: Organotherapy.
- Between 1922 and 1926, Reich was asking himself the question, “From where does social suppression of sexuality originate, and what is its function?”
- If the masochist does not really strive for pain, if he does not experience it as pleasure, why does he ask to be tortured? He wishes to burst and imagines that only torture will bring this about. This is how he expects to obtain relief. What’s going on here is an inner tension that has not been discharged. The masochist needs and wants liberation from this, to achieve orgastic response -- the very thing he’s afraid of.
- The fear of orgasm is part of every neurosis.
- People have an enormous fear of letting go. But when they finally do, their hard features of character disappear and they become soft and yielding. At the same time they develop an elastic sort of strength.
- Neurosis can be defined this way: The sum total of all the inhibitions of the natural sexual pleasure which in the course of time have become mechanical. Moreover, the psychic conflict between sexuality and morality works in the biological depths of the organism as a conflict between pleasurable excitation and muscular spasm.
- The direct counterpart of sex is anxiety.
- Being on the front line of psychoanalysis (in the 1920s), "I was not on the best of terms with the official psychiatrists and other clinicians."
- Sexual energy can be bound by chronic muscular tensions. The same is true of anger and anxiety. Reich found that whenever he dissolved a muscular inhibition or tension, one of the three basic biological excitations made its appearance: anxiety, anger, or sexual excitation.
- Character armor is functionally identical with muscular hypertension, the muscular armor. They cannot be separated; they are one and the same.
- Sexual excitation is by no means identical with or produced by blood flow. There must be something in addition to the blood flow, something that, according to its biological function, produces anxiety, anger or pleasure. This unknown something could be nothing but bio-electricity.
- When a highly charged body is connected by wire to a lesser charged one, an equalization of energies begins. (There really is something to this theory then in the context of massage.)
- Orgasm is a phenomenon of electrical discharge.
- If a balloon is not allowed to expand while air is pumped into it, it would experience constant anxiety, that is a feeling of oppression and constriction. If it could talk, it would implore us to “deliver” it from this painful state. If the balloon knew it would feel this way every time air was pumped in, it would become afraid. In time, it would develop “theories” about the “evil, sinful, and destructive” natural force of air. Since everything in nature moves, changes, develops, expands and contracts, this armored balloon would behave towards nature in a strange and antagonistic way. It would consider nature to be the playground of the devil. Feeling some last traces of nature in its inner soul, this balloon would sentimentalize it, as in “sublime love.” At the same time it would create pornography without a sense of contradiction.
- During orgasm, the contraction of the genital musculature is so powerful that it transmits itself to the whole organism. At the time Reich wrote this in the early 1930s, he could find nothing in the literature that discussed this dynamic.
- The body exists in a constant state of flux, that is, expansion/contraction. (Similarly, a good massage text will remind you that muscles, even in their resting state, are never static. They are constantly vibrating.) If this expansion/contraction dynamic is disturbed, if one or the other predominates, then a disturbance of the biological equilibrium of the body in general is inevitable. This creates a state of anxiety, more particularly orgasm anxiety, which is the fear of expansion and involuntary contraction.
- By 1933, Reich was expelled from the German Psychoanalytic Society, though no one had the courtesy to inform him. For similar political reasons, Freud had to flee from Vienna to London.
- In a living organism, the cosmic orgone energy functions as a specific biological force. Body fluids are charged with this energy which also expresses itself in the emotions. Literally, emotion means “moving out” and/or “protruding.”
- Reich notes that overspecialization of academic pursuits is not especially productive, a point also made by the great Buckminster Fuller. He also notes that words and language can be horribly confining, and Fuller expressed the same opinion as well. A therapist tends to notice that a client uses words to camouflage a problem. (I partially credit “My Friend,” the mystical state of awareness I’ve experienced a few times, with helping me to choose better words and modes of expression as I prepare this online book.) In fact, a good therapist may ask his client not to talk for a while, so that the body can begin to express itself in a way words cannot. Word language very often serves as a defense. (If you don’t believe this, listen to right-wing-whacko talk shows on the radio, Sunday-morning preachers on TV, or a speech by Bill Clinton.) The truth tends to lie outside the realm of language and concepts (or at least the language and concepts we’ve been working with so far). Words as we know them usually lack the power to elicit positive change in a person.
- If you pin down a long, undulating snake at one point, all other points will be affected to a certain extent.
- The armored individual does not himself feel the armor as such. If you try to describe it to him in words he won’t know what you’re talking about. This armoring can lead to arthritis, ulcers, angina, and cancer. The diaphragm is constricted. What is commonly called “nervousness” is the result of hypersensitivity of highly tensed muscles.
- The central task of orgone therapy is the destruction of the armoring. In the armored individual, the normal function of pulsation is more or less restricted in all organs, and plasmatic currents are blocked. This normal condition is reinstated by dissolving the attitude of holding back.
- Next to respiration, the orgasm reflex is the most important motor manifestation in the animal kingdom.
- The deepest longing in a human being is the longing for orgasm. (Maybe Reich is right, but he opens himself up to spirited debate on this point.) The basic function of muscle armoring is that of preventing the orgasm reflex from taking place.
- The inhibition of the emotional language of expression works at right angles to the direction of the orgonotic streaming. (The stream flows up and down through our bodies, and the armoring is lateral.)
- The segmental structure of the muscular armor looks like the structure of a worm. (Think of a belly dancer imitating the undulations of a worm, and consider how she'd be hampered by holding patterns in her abdomen.)
- When armoring is reduced, a person's initial response to his renewed sensitivity will frequently be renewed armoring. The person may express hatred and rage.
- Lack of armoring/holding/restrictions in the chest will express itself in the arms and hands, as seen in great artists, musicians and dancers. Militarism everywhere makes use of the expression embodied in the armoring of the head, neck and chest. Militarism is based on the armoring, not vice-versa. (Is it fair to say that militarism is a disease?)
- Most people have a high degree of functionality in their hands and arms. However, once the movement becomes associated with the expression of longing or desire, the inhibition sets in (as in when we're afraid to touch and embrace those we feel the most attraction for). In women, the chest armoring is often expressed as a lack of sensitivity in the nipples.
- Pinch an undulating worm in the middle of its body. You are now interrupting its orgonotic excitation, just as armoring would. The back end of the worm now moves side to side while the head pulls in. Humans would act the same if this were done to them, and it’s no coincidence that we express the word “No” by shaking our heads sideways -- contrary to the direction of the orgonotic flow. (We all know people whose fundamental message toward life is “No,” and this is expressed in their body language.)
- As blockages in the armor begin to build, we see young children less interested in playing, adolescents who fail in school, and adults who function like a car with the emergency brake on.
- The bending forward of the torso, while the head falls back immediately expresses “giving, surrender.” (My body involuntary assumed this position several times during my periods of “mystical” awareness.) In the animal known as man, there still functions a worm. Both man and worm carry his head high with pleasure and low with anxiety.
- In the colic of infants, vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea. Energetically speaking, strong waves of excitation run from the middle of the body upwards and downwards, toward mouth and anus.
- The total movement of the body in vomiting is physiologically the same as in the orgasm reflex.
- In most people the pelvis is “dead” and expressionless. On an emotional level there is no perception of sensations or excitations. (Maybe that’s one reason Elvis scared so many moralists into calling him “Elvis the Pelvis.”)
- No matter how much physical loosening you can offer the pelvis, no matter how mobile it becomes, there will be no true pleasure sensations until the anger has been released from its muscles. In this regard, Reich says he’s seen few cases of the sexual act that were actually based on love; it’s more often an acting out of rage, hatred, sadistic emotions and contempt. This applies to the majority of people in all social strata. We even have a scientific axiom ”Omne animal post coitum triste.” (Every animal is sad after the sexual act.) Man has only committed the error of projecting his anger onto animals.
- Once pelvic armoring is broken down, we see a gentle, natural forward movement of the pelvis -- an expression of longing, desire, surrender.
- Sexual activity occurs inevitably when the orgasm reflex functions freely and there are no social obstacles in the way.
- During orgasm, the human is nothing but a bit of pulsating nature. The movements expressed during orgasm reveal a “cosmic longing.”
- The dissolution of the diaphragmatic block leads inevitably to the first orgastic convulsions.
- The arms are merely extensions of the chest; the legs of the pelvis.
- The expressive movements in the orgasm reflex are functionally identical with those of a living and swimming jellyfish.
- When applied to scientific research, what appears to some as naiveté is actually the deliberate exclusion of prejudice. This approach leads to decisive new conclusions. (I think we can apply this technique to life itself quite productively, thank you.)
- Neuroses are the result of a stasis (damming up) of sexual energy. The elimination of sexual stasis through orgastic discharge eliminates every neurotic manifestation. The difficulties involved in this therapeutic task are chiefly of a social nature.
- Energy is the capacity to do work. There is no known energy that could fuel the total life apparatus of our planet. The energies that achieve this work can derive only from non-living matter itself. They have remained a closed book to science for thousands of years.
- The repression of instinct is not a natural phenomena. It is the pathological result of our suppression of sexuality.
- Note: Most of the material in this book was written originally in German, the great language of science and Reich’s native tongue. I’m noticing gaps in the powers of expression of the English translator, which may or may not be due to Reich’s occasional lapses of clarity in the original German. Therefore I patch together at times what I consider a more clear expression of Reich’s concepts, selecting words that are not the translator’s. I believe this will have a greater impact upon the reader. I’ve also taken ideas at times from one section of the book and placed them alongside ideas from previous sections, as I have with other books listed on this site. This sometimes leads, I believe, to a little more oomph in the presentation of key concepts.
- We put tremendous mental and physical energy into suppressing our sexuality.
- It was only the mystics who -- far removed from scientific insight (and intrusion!) -- always kept in contact with the function of the living.
- Experienced gynecologists are aware of a connection between cancer and sexual dysfunction.
- Many women complain of a feeling that “something is not right down there.” What was once alive in puberty is now relatively dead. The generally prevailing sexual inhibition of women explains the prevalence of cancer in the breast and the genital organs. The sexual inhibition may have existed for decades before it manifested itself as cancer.
- The German word for “understand,” begreifen, means literally to “feel out” or “touch.” (If I recall correctly, Buckminster Fuller drives at the same point.)
- The most striking phenomenon in the orgasm reflex is the striving of both ends of the body, of the mouth and the genitals, to draw near to one another.
- The human mind has always conceived of love as being capable of coping with hate and destruction. It’s also clear that hate can kill love and that love, in its struggle against evil, can turn into hate by mere frustration. Notice the similarity of the words “good and evil” with “God and Devil.”
- The life-positive manifestation of natural genitality is love for love’s sake. To the armored individual, such manifestations are intruders. (They violate the comfort zone.) Therefore, whenever the armored individual meets with natural love, it attempts to exert the pressure of social ostracism. They will say bad things about the other person. Armored individuals will try to eliminate this menace to their existence. In other words, when the armored individual meets someone with far less hang-ups, they freak out.
- Reich says his work was embraced by colleagues until around 1930. This work included publication of The Function of the Orgasm in 1927. But then, as Reich began to research the natural streaming of energy that occurs in the human body as the blockages to full orgasm become released, he was met with fury -- by the same colleagues. (Einstein’s discussions on relativity were known to provoke other physicists into fistfights.) Yet Reich’s description of streaming, which he calls a natural function, seems to parallel the Tantric descriptions of kundalini energy, a body of knowledge in existence for at least 5,000 years. (Reich successfully reactivated these folks, touching a raw nerve.)
- Reich adds that the danger and treachery he faced always seemed to arise out of “pre-orgastic anxiety,” the well-known fear of involuntary experiences. “This is a crucial disturbance in armored man,” he writes. Further, Reich says he realized by 1955 that these people felt threatened at the core of their being, as if their very existence were threatened. Their organisms must feel like perishing under the strain and threat of changing for the better. To make themselves look better, they have to beat down the truly exuberant person.
- Orgasm re-regulates natural, involuntary bodily functions. It helps erase sadistic hatred.
- Alcoholism serves as the artificial reminder of what is left over from an original sense of life and its potentials.
- To return to health, sometimes we have to get a little more sick at first.
- "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” -- Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762)
- Humanity has failed at establishing a moral life in accordance with its creator. No attempt to remove the plague of war has ever succeeded. There is something basically and crucially wrong in the whole setup of man’s procedure of learning to know himself. Despite the works of great philosophers through the ages, the world is still an empty place; the mass of mankind remains untouched by all their philosophical digging.
- It is certain that God is Life.
- It is possible to get out of a trap, a prison. But first, one must recognize that’s where they are. The trap is man’s emotional structure, his character structure. One can decorate the trap to make life more palatable within it. This is done by the Michelangelos and Shakespeares and Goethes (on this point I’m suspecting Reich is a speck off-base). But where’s the exit from this trap? It’s in front of our noses, and we see it, but anyone who moves toward it is declared crazy or a criminal or a sinner. As soon as some get close to the exit door, they start screaming and run away from it, or else the others try to kill him. Only a very few slip out in the dark of night when everyone else is asleep.
- If you live in a dark cellar too long, you will hate the sunshine. Still, we carry deep memories of life before the trap existed.
- A life well-lived and loved smacks in the face of the armored individual as the color red stirs up the emotional system of a wild bull.
- "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)
- Our society tolerates seeking the Kingdom of God, but it screams bloody murder if someone actually finds it.
- You do not strive to make your heart beat or hands move. By the same token, we don’t “strive” for the truth. It’s already in us. Truth stirs up the deepest emotions and thus stirs to high activity the urge for the genital embrace. It is, therefore, no wonder that every truth seeker in history has been accused of “immorality.” Truth stirs up those emotions that would upset the orderly way of life so crucial to armored man’s existence.
- Truth is not an “ideal.” It is a daily way of doing things. However, in normal life it’s the truth, not the lie, that’s suspected of being phony. We can’t preach the truth, but we can show people by example how to find their own way toward it.
- One of the basic truths in all teachings of mankind is to find your way to the thing you feel when you love dearly. (Werner Erhard said something similar, basically “Tell me what you’d do with your life if you weren’t wrapped up in earning a living, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Buckminster Fuller also discusses this idea in depth.)
- As long as people fear the streaming of living life in their bodies (full orgasm), they will fear truth and avoid it by all means. To touch the truth is the same as to touch the genitals. (As much as I want to play with this last line, it’s a speck too significant to be maligned this way.) Therefore stems the “Touch It Not” of anything serious, crucial, life-saving, of anything leading toward true self-reliance. (If you don’t believe this statement, turn on your TV and watch the nightly banality that passes for the evening “news.”) This explains the great taboo about touching genitals as well as the truth. (This taboo may be archetypal and primal. When I was in second grade, I had a dream in this regard, and the fundamental message was loud, clear, and unmistakeable: DO NOT TOUCH!)
- (Perhaps the only way to get out of Reich's "trap" is to, paradoxically, accept being there rather than coming up with a new "escape plan" every few weeks.)
- People blessed with special awareness need to keep aloof, as best they can, from the maze and entanglements of daily routine and popular opinion so they can pursue their well-reasoned trains of search and thought.
- There exists an objective functional logic in the universe. Some people call this logic "God." For people to have noticed these patterns, must not this same logic of nature exist within ourselves as well? Otherwise, how could we have noticed the logic in nature?
- Reich says that man is the only animal species that develops armoring, and this he says is the story behind Adam & Eve, who were chastised by God for eating from the tree of knowledge.
- People can experience terror when the armoring is removed (as in a primal scream?)
- The astounding work of Wilhelm Reich opens up a new line of questioning: "What is the process of breaking through our holding patterns?"
"Many people might have attained to wisdom had they not assumed that they already possessed it."
-- Seneca (4 BC - 65 AD)
"The wicked are always surprised that the good can be clever."
-- Luc de Clapiers de Vauvenargues (1715-1747)
"Who so would be a man must be a nonconformist."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"It is the nature of all greatness not to be exact."
-- Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
From “The Power of Empathy” (2000) by Arthur Ciaramicoli
Ciaramicoli is a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School where he is instructor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry. Despite his credentials, he writes in human language.
- "I would not exchange the sorrows of my heart for the joys of the multitude."
-- Kahlil Gibran
- Empathy is the light that shines through the darkness of our pain and fear to reveal what we have in common as human beings.
- Someone who seems like an enemy may only be afraid of you.
- "Emphatic inference is everyday mind-reading. . . . It may be the second greatest achievement of which the mind is capable, consciousness itself being the first." -- William Ickes, Emphatic Accuracy
- Empathy is the antidote to hopelessness.
- If we don't receive much empathy as a child, it's that much harder to pass it on as an adult.
- Being emphatic is much more important than having empathy.
- Says psychologist William James, part of wisdom is to believe in what one desires. Belief is one of the indispensable conditions for the realization of an object that seems out of reach. Believe, and you shall be right. Doubt, and you will again be right, though you shall perish.
- Edgar Allen Poe once said that when he wished to find out how wise or stupid or good or wicked anyone was, or what his thoughts were at the moment, he would mimic the expressions of their face. Then he'd wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arose in his mind and heart.
- Psychologist William Pollack notes that when someone feels empathy for another, it is unlikely they can so dehumanize the other person as to commit acts of aggression against them.
- A journalist once told Mahatma Ghandi that his work with poor people was just "wonderful." Ghandi replied that he was doing it for himself. The journalist then asked, "What do you mean?" Ghandi replied, "How can I have empathy for others without having empathy for myself?"
- Emphatic listening is always centered on the other person, and its goal is to make the other feel uniquely understood.
- Says Douglas Steere, a Quaker writer: "Holy listening, to listen another's soul into life, into a condition of disclosure and discovery, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another."
- Sex, even "great" sex, cannot fill up the empty spaces in a person's heart and soul.
- Through empathy we learn how to love each other deeply and truly, and we discover why the search for the real person rather than the right person is central to our quest for happiness.
- Research conducted by psychologist Vicki Helgeson indicates that women who fit the classic profile of the "self-sacrificing female" were more likely to have dangerous heart conditions. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64/5: 1993)
- "To know the need of men and to bear the burden of their sorrow, that is the true love of men." -- Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov, Russia
- In All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs, Elie Weisel talks about the power of relationships within a concentration camp: The Germans tried to get the inmates to think only of themselves, to forget relatives and friends, to tend only to their own needs. But what happened was just the reverse. Those who retreated to a universe limited to their own bodies had less chance of getting out alive, while to live for a brother, a friend, an ideal, helped you hold out longer. (Still, I have lingering doubts about Weisel's overall "peace credentials," given his headlong rush of support for America's second Gulf War in 2002.)
- (According to Werner Erhard, a relationship whose purpose is confined to itself is doomed to failure. To withstand the turbulence, to have any real meaning at all for the matter, it must be dedicated to a purpose greater than itself.)
- Self-help books urge us to be optimistic. They rarely explain how to remain hopeful when we encounter defeat time and time again. (The way to do this is to include defeat as part of the package. If a baseball team has a praiseworthy season, they still lose 40% of their games.)
- "Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others."
-- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- In a 20-year study, psychologist Cathy Spatz Widom followed 908 children and found that those who had been abused had 50% more arrests for violent crimes than did a control group. (Boston Globe, October 16, 1995)
- "Honesty is stronger medicine than sympathy, which may console but often conceals." -- writer Gretel Ehrlich
- "Imagine that every person in the world is enlightened but you. They are all your teachers, each doing the right things to help you learn patience, perfect wisdom, perfect compassion." -- Buddha
- When Mother Theresa was asked how she could work with lepers, she answered "Because they give me so much back."
- In his classic book On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers writes that the acceptance of each fluctuating aspect of another person makes it, for him or her, a relationship of warmth and safety. The safety zone of being liked and prized as a person seems a highly important element in a meaningful relationship.
- Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest and master storyteller, and he once offered his thoughts on the pop-psychology book called I'm OK, You're OK: The theory is deadly teaching. It imposes on you the obligation to feel OK, and unless you feel OK there is something wrong with you. I need not feel OK in order to be OK. I may not be OK, and that is perfectly OK with me. In fact, someday I plan to write a book called I'm an Ass, You're an Ass. (I simply hate when someone asks me, "How are you today?" It's a controlling type of question, often masking a concealed sense of superiority on the part of the asker. I always feel like replying, "What difference does it make?")
- Carl Rogers says, "When I accept myself as I am, then I change. I believe that I have learned this from my clients as well as within my own experience -- that we cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed."
- "No one is as whole as he who has a broken heart." -- Rabbi Moshe Leib (Fuckin' brilliant, and why is it that half the time I type rabbi, the word "rabbit" comes out? Anyway, EMBRACE your broken heart!)
- All real living is "meeting," says the Jewish scholar Martin Buber. And when we meet, we sometimes collide. (Collide? For me it's usually a nuclear explosion! Also, I remember how my Jesuit theology teachers in high school and college when ape-shit with praise over this guy. Maybe I should actually read him.)
- If you "let go of your hold" you will gain "inward relief" says William James. (A major point we can take to the bank. We'll be visiting this one again.)
- "If I am attached to another person because I cannot stand on my own feet, he or she may be a lifesaver, but the relationship is not one of love. Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love." -- Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (We'll be getting to this book on this site.)
- "The grace that enables us to accept ourselves simultaneously stirs up within us an urge to break down the walls that separate us from others." -- Wilkie Au, a Jesuit priest
- "One can only understand the power of the fear to be different, the fear to be only a few steps away from the herd, if one understands the depths of the need not to be separated." -- Erich Fromm (The author, Ciaramicoli, was surely on top of his game -- even inspired -- when he pulled together these last few items.)
- "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (Matthew 7)
- We are all capable of evil. Each and every one of us.
- "As you go through life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think." -- Joseph Campbell, quoting an Indian initiation rite
- "If man did not believe that he must live for something, he would not live at all." -- Leo Tolstoy
- "Whenever you fall, pick something up." -- Oscar Wilde
- "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven." -- John Milton
- Smiles have the capacity to induce smiles in others directly and almost irresistibly, without any appreciable cognitive mediation.
- Most of us have heard the great phrase about why God has given us two ears but only one mouth. It's attributed to the Greek philosopher Zeno who said in the 5th century BC: "The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less."
- At its most root level in Greek, pathos means "that which happens to someone" or "experience." A second meaning is "emotion" or "passion." This is the sense in which Aristotle used the term. The "em" part of empathy denotes "within," so the word empathy can be taken to mean "getting inside another's passion."
"It is irresponsible to trust the untrustworthy."
-- Werner Erhard
"You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you."
-- Eric Hoffer
"Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal."
"Those who do not feel pain seldom think that it is felt."
-- Samuel Johnson
From “Self Matters” (2001) by Phillip McGraw ("Dr. Phil")
Rating: Pretty good. I was predisposed to slam this guy, but he won me over to a certain extent. McGraw could never hold a candle to Werner Erhard, but to his credit, he manages to produce a rarity: a self-help book that actually helps, not confuses. I read this book because I got it for free and McGraw is currently at the forefront of the pop-psychology gang. Fortunately, he speaks well for his profession. The inclusion of "Self Matters" also reflects one of my major goals for this online book; for now, let's call this goal one of capturing in print what we may call the elusive "technology of going-for-it." While some of the source material appears to lie in the self-help category of books, a more vital source may lie within the field of business and, in particular, sales.
- If you don't wake up enthusiastic in the morning, that's a good sign you're out of touch with your life's purpose. Most of us are "too busy being busy" to ever get a glimpse of our purpose. Constant fatigue is another sign we're out of touch.
- You can't play the game of life with a strategy of "let's not lose" or "let's play it safe." You must live to win.
- By ignoring who we really are and need to be, we stress our systems to the point of shedding years from our lives. Prolonged stress can take away as many as 14 years. It takes tremendous energy to suppress our authentic selves.
- It's not merely our right to find our authentic selves, it's our responsibility. We owe it to our families, not to mention our communities.
- You cannot change what you do not acknowledge. (It just occurred to me why so many people fall for the so-called "security" of money. They feel it buys them time to solve their problems. Sure it does; they'll confront the problem four or five lifetimes from now.)
- A lie unchallenged becomes the truth.
- "Not choosing" is itself a choice.
- Whether we realize it or not, the world expects us to not upset the status quo. If we do, we can get labeled as someone who's "not convenient."
- The manner and style with which we engage other people determines their reaction to us. It communicates about nine times as much as our words do.
- As the Bible says: To whom much is given, much is expected.
- As another saying says: Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you're right. (Henry Ford said something along these lines.)
- Every thought we have produces a physical reaction.
- "Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself."
-- Charles de Gaulle
- In a famous experiment, researchers filled a jar with fleas. After jumping and slamming themselves against the lid a few too many times, the fleas soon learned to stop their jump about a half-inch from the top. Amazingly, once the lid was removed, the fleas still stopped their jumps about a half-inch from the top of the jar. We all have patterns in our lives where we stop short, even though the jar lid has been removed. We spend too much energy worrying over and being controlled by what's already happened in our lives.
- "If there is no wind, row." -- Latin proverb
- The psychologist Alfred Adler observed that we form mental pictures of ourselves around a few key defining moments from our lives. These moments anchor our emotional reactions to the world.
- "I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one."
-- Mark Twain
- Some of our most critical choices in life result from the search for a love we feel is elusive.
- If we have self-doubts, the world will pick on them like open wounds. (Remember the saying, "Doubt is the devil.")
- A craving for worldly success can be as addictive as any drug. (Yet it's an addiction the world, including our educational system, applauds.)
- When we don't believe in ourselves, we try to find someone else to do it for us.
- In one of his seminars, McGraw met a 64-year-old woman who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. What the woman said is highly instructive: "Because of him (her abusive step-father), I learned to withdraw from my body." (How many of us are still withdrawn to a certain extent because of traumatic childhood experiences?)
- In a moment of high brilliance, in one single paragraph that more than justifies the price of the book, Dr. Phil describes how this woman returned to future seminars as a volunteer: She would love the "stoniest souls" in the room until they melted. Now matter how shut down, backed up or embittered they were, she would not let go. She knew from experience where they were and she went in after them. She absolutely was not going to leave anyone behind.
- We can affect other people, even from a distance, just by how we carry ourselves. (Don't think they fail to notice.)
- We need to look out and love people who aren't very loveable.
- We respond not to what happens to us externally, but rather to how we internalize the circumstance.
- "The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your arm."
-- Swedish proverb
- "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." -- Eleanor Roosevelt
- As humans, we're more likely to believe negatives than positives. To compound the matter, our negative internal dialogue gets loudest when we need it the least. A "prerecorded tape" starts running our psyche. Tapes are never positive. They are lightning-fast rehearsals based on negative past experiences. They say "Danger! Danger!" even when no danger exists.
- There is no such thing as a positive tape. They tend to operate below the level of consciousness. They tell us, "I won't get to first base with this guy; I'll never get this job." When the tape is in control, guess who is the passenger! Once we're more aware of these tapes, we're more in touch with the script that's running our life. This script may have been written years earlier, often by someone else. Who needs an old script pre-determining a current event? Moreover, scripts anesthetize our fear of the unknown by limiting ourselves to familiar territory and outcomes, even when the experience is not very fulfilling.
- When we start to feel out of control, we resort to our self-limiting scripts. They are comforting -- just look at a panicky actor who forgets his lines.
- When we're at the mercy of a fixed belief, when we're living from a script, we'll resist any change to it.
- There's a direct, instant communication-link between our nerve cells and immune cells. That's why stressed-out people are more susceptible to illness. (That's why people who get regular massages can probably live longer, healthier lives.)
- Because we're a society of people who don't really know ourselves (we're not anchored), we're highly vulnerable to input from all kinds of external sources: parents, peers, authority figures, newspapers, magazines, advertising, movies, the Internet.
- Even when it's counterproductive, we don't maintain any behavior, dialogue, or thought pattern that doesn't provide us with some kind of reward or payoff.
- For most of us, it's less important to be happy and successful. It's more important to be right. Our payoffs, however illogical, are powerful.
- We script our lives to have certain incomes, certain relationships, and certain lifestyles. Although we say we want more, we're uncomfortable about taking the steps. Too many of us will settle for the familiar script rather than reach out for something that's actually fulfilling.
- Scripts govern what we say and do. They also impose expectancies or roles on other people.
- "In flying, I have learned that carelessness and overconfidence are usually far more dangerous than deliberately accepted risks." -- Wilbur Wright
- Too often the days of our lives are built upon negative momentum.
- There's a raging controversy in psychology over the best way to help people change. Do we change feelings and emotions first, then let behavioral changes follow? Or do we change behaviors first? McGraw suggests doing both at once.
- "We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." -- Carlos Castaneda
- Without the capacity for forgiveness, we're destined to a life marred by anger, bitterness, and hatred. The lack of forgiveness chews away at our health, not to mention our soul.
- Consider the technique used by American Indian tribes to punish abusive behavior: The whole tribe simply disconnected from the offender, refusing to acknowledge his or her presence. He or she was made "invisible." This was the worst possible punishment. The tribe simply withdrew their investment of energy in the other person. Why waste precious energy with the simmering rage of unforgiveness? (Which reminds me of a great quote from Ayn Rand: "The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.")
- When we're in touch with our authentic self, we have benchmarks that show up: confidence, optimism, a sense of purpose (and let me add, a sense of humor).
- "To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves." -- Will Durant
- Real friends will tell you the truth even when you don't want to hear it. They'll also help you get what you want, even though they think you're a little nuts.
- "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it." -- Jonathan Winters
- A racehorse has to run, a bird has to fly, an artist has to paint, a teacher has to teach. There is something in each of us we have to do.
"Earth's crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God."
-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning (apparently during a mystical experience)
"Scoundrels are always sociable."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
"He was like a rooster who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow."
-- George Eliot (Marian Evans Cross, 1819-1880)
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