MASSAGE

DEFINITION

Massage

Manually manipulate (someone’s body), usually for medicinal or relaxation purposes

I don’t have time for a massage I’m much too busy!
And anyway, massage is for women, I’m a real man.
Real men don’t get massages.


People are so stressed these days! It’s just go, go, go, all the time. In modern city life you seem to get carried along with the flow. Everybody else seems to be moving fast so we should too. We don’t have time for anything. We work harder than ever, we have children to look after, we have to take the children here there and everywhere, we have bills to pay, we have a mortgage that we can ill afford. “I’m sooo stressed!”

But hang on, we’ve always been busy, I mean as a human race; we haven’t been sitting idly on our backsides for the last million years. In our developmental years we hunted and gathered, there was no agriculture, no supermarkets, no fruit and vegetable stalls. We caught beasts with our bare hands (ok, maybe a spear), there were no butchers to give us nice cuts of meat presented on a plastic tray and tidily cling wrapped. We had to do everything by hand; there was no machinery to assist us, and amazingly, we walked everywhere (sorry no cars).

So life in those days was pretty hard, especially if you had to fight off a marauding wild beast or two during the course of the afternoon, and the worst thing was there were no pubs to relax in at the end of the day, and nowhere to put your feet up and watch tv.

Let’s fast forward to modern times.

I would have thought that with all the wonderful modern inventions that are supposed to make life easier, we would be less stressed. We don’t have to worry about catching the food, that’s all taken care of for us. We don’t have to worry about chopping wood or felling trees to get warm; we have central heating. We have cars or public transport to move around in, so no more walking. We have children to look after, but then we always did, and children are nice to be around aren’t they? So what’s making us so busy that we don’t have time for anything else, and why are our stress levels so high that we reach for the drinks cabinet as soon as we get home! One word. Us.

I bet you thought I was going to say the dreaded W word, Work, but no, we have always had to work. Man has always been productive, and must find a way to pay for the goods and services he uses. So unless your chosen career is as a bank robber where you will probably spend most of your time relaxing in prison, or as a layabout, in which case someone else has to go out to work to pay for you, you will have to do some kind of work which gains you the method of exchange of the day – money.

Let’s get back to “us” though; we who are stressed in life. We who find it difficult relaxing, because of the turbulence in our minds.

Although we have been constantly evolving since Man first stood on two legs all those millions of years ago in africa, it has really only been in the last fifty years or so that the pace of life has gone supersonic, and I just don’t think our physical brains are ready for that.

Can you imagine our cavemen ancestors getting up at 5.30 am, gulping down a coffee, sitting in the car for an hour and a half in a traffic jam, followed by eight or nine hours of deadlines, under tremendous pressure to work faster and harder, followed by an hour and a half drive back home, followed by an argument with his wife, two screaming kids, and a reheated microwave meal? It would be enough to turn them to drink!

But the strange thing is, for some reason, we love it. We love the pressure, whether real or imagined, because we like talking to other people about how much pressure we are under and all the things we have to do. We talk in some pseudo-complaining manner which says, “look how stressed I am, but also look how busy and important I am.” We love telling people how difficult life is, especially the mothers who don’t have to work, because their husband is wealthy.

“You know janice, I’ve had the most dread-ful day, you wouldn’t start to imagine! First, little freddy was up in the night crying, and he just wouldn’t settle back to sleep, then emily got up early and wasn’t feeling too well, bit of a headache; so we rushed her down to the doctors, because you can’t be too sure about these things, then I had to take her to school, and freddy to playgroup, then I had to pick emily up and drop her at her ballet classes. Oh, and did I tell you how long it took me to drive down the high street, the traffic was ridiculous, they really need to do something about that high street, and now I’m doing the shopping before richard gets home, and I need to prepare the kids supper. I really should go janice, so much to do, so little time! Thanks for the coffee…”

We have allowed ourselves to become busier and busier, because it makes us feel good about ourselves. We have a sense of our own importance in the world when we are busy, and we feel as if we are making a contribution to the world, or at least to the size of our bank balance and ego. But can you see what we have left behind, whilst we battle on at the speed of light; whilst we concentrate only on the “me” in the world?

But we have left precisely that behind. Me! I am not talking about the me you project into this fast moving life, it is the authentic me; the one who is at peace with him or herself, without the need to prove anything to anyone; the one who is naturally balanced and in tune with nature. You may find yourself smiling or laughing at loud, and saying:
“Don’t be ridiculous… Naturally balanced? In tune with nature? Who are you kidding? This is reality; we don’t live in some zen fantasy world where every man is at peace with himself, we live in the real world, and it isn’t like that!”

I would like someone to tell me what the “real” world is like, please? Violent, discontent, angry, afraid, stressed, full of hate, full of desire and power? Is that what the real world is like? Well if it is, I think maybe it’s time to talk a little bit about massage, and how it can help us all become less stressed, less angry, and maybe even less violent!
“How is it possible that someone who is not much more than a beauty therapist can help the world?” you ask. Let me tell you a story.

I was like everyone else trying to succeed in the city, always rushing somewhere to a customer, to a meeting, to another meeting, and I was pretty highly strung, always ready to snap at someone who I thought was stupid, or who had made a simple mistake. I worked in information technology, drove fast, ate fast food, got home late, had something to eat, and went to the pub for several beers to “chill out.”

I was really busy, but I wouldn’t say I was stressed! I talked fast and loud (some people say I still do). I earned quite a lot of money, but spent it on useless gadgets and entertainment whilst struggling to pay my credit card bills… I was still, I believed, a pretty nice guy, although from reading this you wouldn’t think so. I just got carried along with the rest of the world, moving fast.

One day I decided to give it all up, and travel to australia, so I sold all my possessions and went backpacking, although I didn’t suddenly become a zen master overnight! On the contrary, I pursued backpacking with the same vigour and pace as I had in my previous incarnation as a project manager, casually driving at breakneck speed around the whole continent in a matter of weeks, not months. It took several more years of travelling to start to slow down, due mainly to a lack of funds, not enthusiasm.

On one of the trips my girlfriend and I were planning, we decided to visit thailand, which I had heard was a beautiful country. Whilst there, I had my first massage; fully clothed on a mat on the floor. I had assumed massage would be done semi-naked on a table with oil rubbed into my skin, so was indeed surprised when the lady – who was over fifty but under five foot tall – started moving my body in ways I am sure nature had not intended it to move!

All the while she was stretching, pulling, twisting and pressing for two hours. Except I needn’t have worried, because in less than fifteen minutes I was almost asleep, or should I say almost in a trance, as I was aware of what was going on but had no urge to move any part of my body.

When I came to at the end of the session, I noticed something strange. I felt light headed, but my body felt heavy and I was breathing slowly and gently. I suddenly felt like all the tensions and problems I had ever experienced, had been gently lifted into the hands of the masseur.

I actually felt quite sorry for her, as only then did I realise how much tension I had been storing up!. Less than a year later we both went back to thailand intent on learning this magic, and starting a business in australia to help other people with stress.

Stress

A state of mental or emotional strain or suspense

The art we studied was called traditional thai massage, invented over 2,500 years ago and brought to thailand with buddhist monks from india, a time when they probably weren’t as stressed as we are now; but with all these men of wisdom, they had great foresight when it came to knowing that the technique they had invented would be needed in the future!

The first thing I noticed whilst learning was that when I placed my hands on another’s body to commence the massage, I got a genuine feeling of calmness and connectedness. It may sound strange to you, but I really noticed it.

The next thing I remarked upon was that although the person receiving the massage looked as if they were enjoying it, I was enjoying giving it. It was an activity which was performed in silence, with all movement slow and purposeful. No rushing around, no shouting, no deadlines, no talking on the phone. This was something which I the practitioner experienced, not the client.

For me, it was a revelation, to be able to do a job, which not only healed people of daily stress and strain, but made me calm as well. For the first time, I realised that there may be as much therapeutic benefit in giving a massage as actually receiving one. How could I, mr stress, become calm whilst working? It didn’t seem possible, but it was actually happening.

After qualifying in our chosen subject, we returned to civilisation to heal the nation of its ills. We came up with a name, designed a brochure, printed some leaflets and business cards, purchased our mats, and found a sports club to practice from. We waited for the door to be beaten down by weary city dwellers, eager to feel less stressed, eager to be more calm in life, but the knock never came. Not one.

So four weeks later, we put up a poster that said: “Introductory offer: First thirty people to write their names down will get a free massage.” Within less than a day, the diary was full. Success! we thought, people want our massage! In fact the promotion was so successful we extended the offer for an extra week and that too was fully subscribed. Success again!
Two weeks on, we looked forlornly at the empty diary, wondering where we had gone so wrong. Everyone had said they thoroughly enjoyed it and that they would definitely return soon. Sixty people had all received a free massage, and not one rebooked! Maybe we were just bad at business, we thought.

But as time went on, and I talked to masseurs in different countries, a pattern started to emerge which showed large variations in uptake of massage in asia compared to western countries.

In thailand, massage has entrenched itself in the culture, and you can see businessmen with their socks off having their feet massaged everywhere, something you wouldn’t see in the united kingdom or the west in general, for several reasons.

First, massage is a rather inconvenient stress reliever. You have to make an appointment, then you have to go there, get changed, lie down for an hour, then you have to get dressed again… It’s so much more convenient getting a bottle of wine, or stopping off in the pub on your way home from work. Alcohol relaxes you much quicker, you feel good about yourself you laugh and share a good time with other people, whereas massage is silent, and not as much fun as a bottle of wine.

Second, massage is relatively expensive in the west, and one hour of massage is roughly equal to five times the average hourly wage, so unless clients have a large disposable income, they do not value massage over say going out for a meal, or going to the cinema, viewed in the west as more traditional stress relievers, and that perhaps massage is a bit of a waste of money.

Third, most of the customers were female. Those who were male, came in because of a physical ailment only, like a sore back, stiff neck, tight shoulders, or something they couldn’t just shake off. The men weren’t interested in understanding that the cause of their back pain may be stress related and they may need to address their lifestyle, in order to combat these physical manifestations of psychological stress.

It got me thinking: “Why do men not like massage, when women clearly like it, if they can afford it?”

Well, Men are MEN! They are strong. They do not show their emotions. They must keep themselves together at all times, and stress is a man’s right. He has the right to get stressed, and make everybody else stressed, then deny that he is the cause of the stress. Am I right, ladies? Touch is intimate, and is something men associate with physical contact with a woman. They become uncomfortable being touched by someone, not because they don’t like the touch, but entirely the opposite; because they do like it, and they are afraid they may become stimulated physically, and embarrass themselves.

Men do not like to be perceived as weak, and they do not ever want to show their “feminine” side, which although present, is repressed in the dark recesses of the unconscious.

But true weakness is the non-acceptance by men that we are stressed and uptight, and that we do need someone to make our shoulders feel better, and our neck more relaxed. The power of touch has magical qualities, which de-stress the nervous system and leave Man ready to fight another mighty battle (probably in the office, not the battlefield).

Of course, some people like myself have already been converted to massage, but others have yet to experience how wonderful you can feel in just five or ten minutes. But I don’t believe that this is something that should be left in the realm of “professional therapists.” As you have seen by my personal story, people just aren’t that interested in feeling good, unless it’s free, and I can see why. It’s just too much hassle.

So what if the men are a little agitated, or shout at the children and their wife when they come home because they had a bad day? So what if the anger overspills into domestic violence, it’s just a little pushing.

I can hear many of you saying: “How do seriously expect massage to change that?”

Because massage makes people relax. It forces them to relax, and relaxed people, are not angry people. This is not about sending your partner off to some clinic once a week to have “anti-anger” and “anti-stress” massages. This is about two partners who are sharing their life together giving each other a ten minute massage when they come in from work. You just have to get into a routine of doing it. Even five minutes is better than nothing.

You can buy your own book, or get one from the library, or even go on a short course, or I’ll even give you some tips if you call me! But I guarantee the small amount of time invested in learning how to massage the shoulders, neck, back and head will pay you dividends for years to come. Giving the massage is almost as calming as receiving it (although everyone prefers receiving).

So even if you don’t want to change your lifestyle for something a bit calmer, the more people massage each other, the less stressed everyone will be when they are going to work, at work, on their way home from work, and back at home. Try it, you’ve got nothing to lose but five to ten minutes of your life every day and you may gain a lot more in return.

My teacher in thailand said she gave her farmer husband a ten minute head massage when he finished work, every day, because he was tired and stressed when he came in, and it made her life calmer and easier by doing so, “and anyway,” she said, “what’s ten minutes in a whole twenty four hour day?” and I have to agree. Don’t you?


By alan macmillan orr

‘the naturl mind – waking up’

2009

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