The Massage

Today I rode my bike uptown to cash in a gift certificate for a massage. I figured that a good deep massage on my hip would help loosen it up once and for all. I was a little late so I biked furiously through the crazy traffic. It was in the low 70’s and beautiful out. When I arrived on 72nd street I was sweaty and out of breath. After a couple of wrong turns in the building, and a missed phone call from an old college friend, I was guided into a small apartment with a massage table.

Gulping down water I explained everything to the massage therapist that I explained in the previous two posts. I also told him that I wanted him to concentrate on my hip and leg. He looked at me calmly and explained, “I could do a deep tissue massage and probably work it out a little and bring you some relief, but from what you have described this won’t solve your problem. I suggest that you let me do a craniosacral massage instead.”

He then explained briefly that it was a very gentle process. I agreed but asked that if it didn’t bring me much relief if he wouldn’t mind beating the hell out of my leg a little at the end.

Over the last few weeks I have been working really hard on doing long deep stretches. My flexibility has improved markedly, but my hip was still out of whack and my whole body was torqued a little bit. What I really wanted was to be put on a medieval style rack and get stretched out a little. I trusted this guy right away though and if said it was better for me i was inclined to believe him. It was a long intense experience and I’m going to try to write it all down.

I laid down on the massage table face up with my legs slightly propped up over a rolled up towel. The room light was dim and there was massage music playing (you know- birds, wind, flutey/piano melodies floating in and out) but the sound of traffic on 72nd was still pronounced. Every minute or so a bus would come blaring by and I pretended that it was the sound of crashing waves. It was difficult for me to fully relax at first. I found myself twitching and shifting to get comfortable. The therapist supported my ankles very gently and asked me to relax. After a few moments he asked if any images or colors were coming to me. I realized that this type of massage was going to be closer to guided meditation than a physical activity and I was okay with that. I can’t remember exactly what we talked about before the massage, or at the beginning, but I had a sense that I would be trying to access long lost trapped emotions. Before we started he had referred to the process of trying to massage a cramped up muscle, and described it as trying to hide or run away. I took that to be a direct reference to the connection between the tense muscles and the emotions and realized that craniosacral massage was more about inviting the emotions to come out into the light rather than chasing them away.

He guided me to be aware of my body and to feel it relax but I also made an effort to open myself to hidden emotions. One of the first things I thought of was that I had never had the opportunity to truly grieve for my father’s death. I thought about him a bit and tried to touch on all of the things that might be at the root of my pain. After some time he asked me if I was feeling any tingling. I was getting more relaxed and I could feel little bursts of energy in my feet. He then moved to my side and ever so gently slipped a hand underneath my middle back. I felt a bit out of balance but relaxed into it. I was concentrating on my breathing and found that I had relaxed significantly. I again worked to access feelings of grief about my father. I wasn’t talking much because the thoughts were coming strong and I didn’t want to disrupt the flow. Soon I saw a piece of paper gently floating the floor and I knew it was about my father. A year and a half after he passed away my whole family went to the beach to scatter his ashes. It was a pretty emotional event for all of us. I shot footage on my little photo camera which probably kept me from really going with the emotion. I know I cried but still didn’t feel that I had fully grieved. The following day as we packed the car to leave a piece of paper blew around the corner of the building we were staying at and landed near my wife Suki. She didn’t pay it much attention but after a while when it scooted closer to her she picked it up. It was my father’s cremation certificate. The way that it floated into my thoughts kind of paved the way for emotion to flow out of me. I grieved for a while, deep breaths and sobs. I fought that part of me which quickly wanted to close off the emotion. I knew that I need it to come out. as the sobs subsided I felt the oddest sensation. It was kind of like a slow wave rolled up my spine- like a fish swimming up stream. it was slow and mild- not like a muscle contraction at all. The therapist felt it too and said something about it. I steadied my breath as he moved to the other side. When he moved his hand it felt as if my whole side had dropped several feet- ie. the muscles had truly relaxed.

I was feeling pretty good about having been able to access those emotions and my thoughts drifted from my father to my mother. I know that I have some serious issues with her. Ever since my father died we’ve had our ups and downs but we have grown closer. It’s weird, but I had the sense that i needed to stay away from specific memories. I wasn’t trying to dredge up the past but trying to help feelings seep out of their hidden nooks. It was all happening in a strange time out of joint kind of way- I was having several thoughts at once- but it wasn’t frantic and I wasn’t trying to hold onto them just let them glide past. in retrospect I think that i was giving myself permission to forgive everything so that i could forgive myself. i guess that I had talked with the therapist about a broad slew of issues that might be part of the pain syndrome, and had touched on Sarno etc. So things like my relationship to my parents, siblings, and children were mixing together. I think that more than anything on this earth I want to be a great parent. I’m a good one- but I’m not great- I give a lot- but I can be short with my kids, i can get easily frustrated with them, etc etc etc. So as i thought about my mother i thought about her in a really abstract way- in a really sympathetic way- which i think gave me permission to think about myself this way as well. At one point I saw this grey floating image of a face and tried to hold on to it or clarify it but it floated past. I tried to give it meaning but it had none.

all of a sudden I thought of my friend Gene who had called as i came in the building and i laughed out loud. We were both half-assed religious studies majors in college, and something about the mystical nature of the experience just felt hilarious. i wasn’t laughing at myself as much accessing a kind of mystical joy and then I laughed even louder because I thought of my friend Xan Price’s movie that i had seen the night before. It was completely psychedelic- liquid time and symbol based meaning, yet funny. In Xan’s films, people have relationships with odd objects- the characters are kind of southern gothic gone wild. These objects are often creatures- in any case there was such an odd direct relationship between what I was feeling and what I had seen the night before that I really felt a belly laugh come through me,

The therapist reminded me to be very conscious of my body and to focus on my sacrum. I did and we both felt it go loose. His touch was so light that at times I couldn’t tell if he was touching me or my skin was simply tingling. As he wound down he did a little bit of harder massage to my neck which illuminated how loose i had become. I lay on the table for a bit after he was done and I felt wiped out. I ached all over, as if i had run 10 or 15 miles and when I got off the table I realized that my body was significantly straighter. I still had pain in my hip but it was reduced.

I took my time riding back to Brooklyn. Tonight, I swam- I was much looser- the pain is still there but I have a sense now that it’s on the way out.

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