Massage Therapy as a Mindfulness Practice
Is Meditation for me?
I have always loved the idea of meditation. As a gal with years of non-stop thoughts and worries, meditation sounded like peace from the chaos of the mind. Yet I believed it was basically a brain shutdown. I thought, “how can meditation be for me when I can’t stop from thinking constantly? I’ll never learn how to meditate!”
A few years ago, a psychology professor of mine introduced me to the book Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn. This book (plus psychotherapy and massage therapy) changed my life. It taught me about mindfulness meditation. Put simply, mindfulness meditation is noticing the little things going on in and around you, without any judgement. For example, you could notice your breath, and focus on that. When your thoughts begin to wander, you focus on where they are going, but then bring your attention back to your breathing. You could also tune into whatever sensations are happening in your body, or what is happening in the present moment. What do you feel? What thoughts are passing through your head? What do you hear? It is 100% guaranteed that your mind will go somewhere else and that is okay. Just take notice of it, and then bring it back.
This practice helped me begin to operate from the perspective of now. Not yesterday, not in two hours, not next week, but now. I can now see things for what they are, instead of getting lost in my usual constant stream of thoughts. I also have better control over my emotions. Being more aware of and being mindful of my emotions has been amazing.
Putting into Practice:
One day, while I was in school for massage therapy, I was receiving a massage and thought, “hmm, what would it be like to receive a massage mindfully?” So I tried it out the following actions and haven’t turned back:
When my massage therapist is working my shoulders, I place my full attention on what this feels like in my body. Wherever the hands go my mind goes! When my mind wanders, I gently bring it back to the sensations of my body. This makes an already enjoyable and relaxing experience even more therapeutic for me. It allows me to really get out of my head and feel what it is like to be present in my body. Every body is different. One person may enjoy listening to a mindful meditation while receiving a massage, someone else may want to ask their massage therapist to vocally remind them of where they are at on their body to help bring attention back to the moment and the body. Personally, I enjoy for it to be mostly quiet with some peaceful music.
If you’ve ever had doubts about meditation in the past, or always wanted to do it but weren’t sure how, I recommend giving this practice a try.