By Sam Belyea a.k.a. The Foot Whisperer
When did the disconnect occur between our bodywork community and the body? Seeking to serve the body as the extension of the individual client should be the goal of the session. Instead, we find a twisted range of apathetic therapists engaged in everything from just rubbing on oil all the way to human meat grinders that want to physically extract ‘tension’ from the body by brute force.
Who wins in this arrangement? The client is satisfied that they ‘got a massage’, the therapist gets paid but the body loses.
Introducing, an old but recently resurrected concept: The Body as Vessel. In this scenario we respect our physical body as an extension of who we are. Within the body’s physical tissues lies the ability to stimulate our souls, give and receive information instantaneously, ingest, digest and fuel our very existence. How did we forget about this!?
My Reflexology practice developed out of necessity, when my body gave out and my clients weren’t getting results from my Physical Therapy-based approach to bodywork. You know the one; that if you de-active this trigger point and stretch this opposing muscle then the result should be an unbinding of the core nerve innervation that results in decreased pain? Yeah, I found out first hand that’s total bullshit in regards to true healing.
So, with my staggeringly insignificant amount experience I vowed to find out how to help people recover from pain for real. Do you want to know what I found? I found that pain is a self-induced process! Yes! That the body causes its own pain to teach us! Can you imagine? That when we ache or hurt or our stomach gets upset or we get the flu that it is OUR BODY’S choice to suffer for the sake of accurately guiding us through our life experience? This was news to me and wasn’t taught in any text book I had acquired at that time. Instead, we are taught that the body’s pain is an independent problem that has to be resolved because this feeble body of ours is inherently prone to breakage. We are coached from an early age to be safe and apply formulas of self-care that are often the exact opposite of what we need to truly recover.
It is time for us to realize that our bodies are connected to who we are and the experiences we have through the power of our nervous system. The naturally interconnected web of information highways nullifies the separation between our physical tissues and our internal experiences. So when pain happens there is always an internal reason for the pain to occur: we are currently experiencing situations that plague us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Likewise, when we are feeling healthy and nourished there is an internal reason for that: We’ve listened and have taken in to our experience things that fuel us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Where pain occurs in the body is also significant and Reflexologists learn to map that pain by dividing the body into five major sections with each of the four extremities (feet, hands, face and ears) having a flavor based on the nerve pathways that connect to them.
So how do we treat our body like what it really is: the vessel that houses our life experiences, instead of a meat suit that requires punishment for being bad? We listen. We learn. We pay attention to pain, discomfort and dis-ease as messages instead of seeing them problems to be fixed within a sinking ship. Don’t try to massage it out because it will come back, don’t try to suppress it because it will be heard eventually, don’t try to justify it because it hates to be patronized and don’t try to cure it because that’s not the point!
The Body as Vessel represents a concrete understanding that all dis-ease occurs because our body loves us and wants us to succeed. Discomfort and pleasure are the body’s voice. When we are being made to feel bad it is our body disagreeing with our choices of what we are doing, thinking, feeling and experiencing. When we feel healthy, whole, inspired and well this is a purposeful affirming chemical reaction that is produced by our body saying ‘Thank you!’ Simply put: if it feels good, do it and if it doesn’t, don’t.
I have been convinced by the body that learning its language and seeing the body as a unique machine that trains us through our moment-to-moment state of being is the mission of the bodyworker. Likewise, teaching clients to do the same. Start viewing The Body as Vessel to begin the road to true healing.