Steve Finnemore, Massage Therapist
Massage and mindfulness
Have you, like me, noticed that there is a lot of talk about mindulness nowadays? Mindfulness is about learning to direct our attention to our experience as it unfolds here and now, rather than living in our heads. Too many of us spend our time being depressed about the past or anxious about the future. Being mindful connects us with the present moment. Mindful eating, for example, is about thinking about the food we’re eating as we slowly chew each mouthful, carefully and thoughtfully, and then swallow calmly, enjoying every moment that the food is in our mouths.
I was thinking the other day about how intricately mindfulness is involved in receiving massage. Massage is fundamentally about touch: the healing that occurs from a massage is through touch, and that same touch can bring about mindfulness by connecting you to the here and now. The sensations that you feel whilst you’re having a massage will bring your thoughts to the present, make you think about what you’re feeling, what sensations are happening to your muscles whilst you’re being massaged. You will feel the therapist’s hands as they glide over your skin, their fingers as they outline a muscle on your back, the pressure as they begin to loosen a tight knot.
When I massage someone I ask them for feedback on how the massage feels to them (to much pressure? too little pressure?), and this encourages awareness and mindfulness, bringing their thoughts into the here and now.
So mindfulness can help us to focus on now, which thereby helps us to realise how much of our time is spent thinking, and how often these thoughts take over. Through mindfulness we can learn to take back control, letting go of thoughts that we don’t want - at least for a moment or two. By doing this we reduce the power of our thoughts to intrude and make us depressed or worried. For many of us these thoughts are in our heads all the time, sometimes too many of them all at once, loud and distracting.
Next time you have a massage let the mindfulness begin to bring you to the here and now, distracting your mind from the battle of thoughts, and helping you to relax and heal.