Does getting a massage last?
I hear people say from time to time that they feel like they might “undo” their massage if they go out and do something that challenges or upsets their body afterward. Like if they were feeling all pleasant and noodly and then their friend jumped out of the bushes with a scary mask on, that that would instantly make them all tense again and “undo” the feeling that they were enjoying.
Could that be true? Does getting tense again from some external event, a fright or lifting something heavy, take away the effects of the nourishment and support we just received.
We would all like to hold onto that feeling when it comes along, that feeling of all-is-right-with-the-world and being here now. Of being really comfortable in our bodies.
But if the feeling goes away again, did it not matter that we experienced it?
And how often do we need to experience such a feeling to have it make a difference in our life?
Any beautiful experience we have, although it might be a passing moment, becomes part of our life and our history. Our body is our memory.
Muscles can shift their tone quite quickly, it’s their special power to be able to change from supple to hard and back to supple in a second.
And it’s one of the great misconceptions that we are working with muscles when we give and receive massage. It’s true, we are touching muscles, and skin and fascia, but we are working with the nervous system.
It’s the interaction between the therapist, the client and the client’s nervous system (and actually the therapist’s nervous system too) that creates the change that happens during the session.
We aren’t so much touching muscles as touching the brain, and all the extensions of the brain that run throughout the body.
Our body is the memory of all of our experiences, and the nervous system is the sensitive creature that feels our environment and our internal state and the place where those two domains meet, and then informs our choices of how we are going to be in the world.
When the nervous system receives loving kindness it affects us profoundly. The therapeutic interaction allows us to change our state of being, and it provides proof to our sensitive nervous system that our environment is, and can be, a place of safety, support and love.
If we can be more at ease in our environment, and with all the inevitable interactions that take place as an embodied being embedded in an environment, that will have a huge effect on our lived experience. As our lived experience of the world shifts toward safety and love, that in turn affects the lived experience of every person, and every other living thing that we interact with.
So, does this positive feeling, that feels so transitory sometimes, actually last?
Even if I taste a ripe peach once and never again, I know that such a thing exists. I can search for that sensation, and I can know when I’m not there and when I’m close. I can access the memory of that sensation.
Take a moment now and remember a beautiful event from your life, a taste, a view, a moment of relationship. As you allow yourself to return to that place and time and those sensations, can you feel subtle shifts in your physiology and your state of mind?
It could be that the experience you thought of was something from years ago, and yet it still has the power to move you. These deep, positive feelings can last for a long time.
Seeing the possibility of feeling more at ease, more present, less anxious helps us imagine a future that can be different than what’s come before.
That experience finds its place in our nervous system, and the memory stays with us, even as our muscles continue to shift their tone.