"Shibumi, sir?"
Nicholai knew the word, but only as it
applied to gardens or architecture, where it
connoted an understated beauty.
"How are you using the term, sir?"
"Oh, vaguely. And incorrectly, I suspect.
A blundering attempt to describe an ineffable quality. As you know, shibumi has to do with great refinement underlying
commonplace appearances. It is a statement so correct that it does not have to be bold, so poignant it does not have to be pretty, so true it does not have to be real.

The French writer/philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943) expressed a similar sentiment when she noted that words can be commonplace or
profound depending on the depth of the region in our being from which they proceed.

And "by marvelous
agreement," she said, they reach the same region in the person who hears them. I suggest that this same principle applies to touch, if only we amplify it with enough intention to extract it from deeply within our core being. This to me is the art of effective massage, once we've grown comfortable with the technique.

Shibumi is understanding, rather than knowledge.
Eloquent silence.
In demeanor, it is modesty
without pudency (a sense of shamefulness). In art, where the spirit of shibumi takes the form of sabi, it is elegant simplicity, articulate brevity. In philosophy,
'Shibumi' by Trevanian

where shibumi emerges as wabi, it is
spiritual tranquility that is not passive; it is
being without the angst of becoming. And in the personality of a man, it is . . . How does one say it? Authority without domination? Something like that."
- from Shibumi by Trevanian (1979)

Let's finish up this little discussion on the quality of touch by mentioning a few points from Thai Yoga Massage (2002) by Kam Thye Chow.  I'm not suggesting you run out to buy it, though the hour-long DVD it contains is a keeper:

1)
Sen lines (energy meridians) and the prana (life force) that flows through them can only be detected by experienced intuition.

2)  When a practitioner's mind is stilled, concentrated within the present moment, the energy flowing through the sen lines is easier to apprehend. (I consider it an act of selfishness to have a client on the table and my mind two blocks away, and I'm guilty more often than I care to admit.)


3) There is a vast difference between a mindful massage and one that is done simply mechanically. Only through mindfulness, an Eastern concept elegantly discussed by writers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, can a practitioner develop the skills of listening to the energy flowing through and around the body and feel the pathways of sen.

4) If you don't use your own body effectively, you can't develop the
whole-body
listening
that is essential to Thai massage (or any massage, let me add). Whole-body listening - now there's an enterprise we can take to the bank, no matter what field we're in.

Fundamental principle:

Where does all this leave us? Where does our short discussion of well-being,
sprezzatura, intuitive and empathic touch take us? Perhaps it's not too much to
suggest that the raison d'etre of a proactive massage is to help unleash the power of being present in the moment?

'For human beings, the state of
well-being is not a luxury. It is an
entitlement.'

"Conscious presence (in the here & now) is
the transformative agent that dissolves the charges of the past." So says Eckhart Tolle in
his engaging and best-selling
The Power of Now (1999). Present-moment awareness, he says, creates a gap not only in the stream of mind but also in the past-future
continuum. Nothing truly new and creative can come into this world except through this gap, this clear space of infinite possibility.
'Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle

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