Monday, July 29, 2013

The Mantra of a Massage: Keeping My Brain in the NOW

Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado
How hard is it to empty a head and just be? For me, it takes super-human strength and is as elusive as a Walmart associate when you need one. There are rare times I try to find this meditative state; when I pray and when I am the recipient of a massage. A certain degree of attention deficit has always been with me, so I find both of these activities very challenging to do without incessant brain chatter from the voices inside my head.  

Today was my lucky day; my favorite masseuse Melissa at Massage Envy was available at a time I could actually be there.

I like Melissa.  She asks enough questions for me to feel like she knows what I need and cares about me, but not so many I want to wring her neck and remind her that I am PAYING to de-stress here!  She is a single mom who shares just enough information to make her approachable, but not so much as to make me feel like I need to friend her on Facebook.

As I sank into the soft sheepskin pad on the padded table that was covered with a luxurious sheet, I reminded myself to just BE here today.  Don't try to solve all of the world's problems; don't review all the to-do lists in my head.  Just clear the mind and relax into the experience.

There are certain "touchstones," if you will, that help me remain present.  The things that seem to work best are focusing on my own breathing, the touch of the masseuse, and the music. My breath, taken in and then released, deeply and slowly, is my favorite way to bring me back to this moment.   If I am truly to benefit from the massage, I believe that to pay attention to where her hands are on my body is a good way to stay in the now.  New Age music is typically piped into the rooms of any spa for the relaxation and enjoyment of its clients.  Instrumental music without lyrics helps me dwell in the moment. her oiled hands slipped down my aching spine, I envisioned the skin on my shoulders and upper back to be taut and smooth, and the flesh she was smashing toward my glutes probably resembled a puddle of Shar-pei wrinkles gathering in voluminous piles.  Shar-pei dogs are so adorable. We saw that cute one in San Diego, waiting for his owners to finish their dinner at a sidewalk cafe. Oops. Deep breath in...and slowly out.

Melissa's fingers expertly find the knots in my shoulder.  As she palpates the tender areas to release the tension, my muscles start to relax and enjoy her touch. And on to the next one. Ouch! Sometimes she presses deeply, concentrating with one or two fingers on the tightness that is there. If only I weren't such a klutz. That shoulder injury has been there for almost three years.

It was a snowy winter Saturday and I had just let our Boston Terrier outside to take care of his business.  I followed him onto the deck, but only walked onto the first icy stair when my feet flew out from under me. As I careened down the steps on my butt, my right arm flew high into the air behind me, and...sigh.  This relaxation is hard work.

Clearing my mind, I try to look at the back of my eyelids.  It's very dark. There's nothing there. That's the point. NOTHINGNESS is what I want to focus on for the time that I am here. In my mind's eye, I see calm and relaxation flutter over me like a gauzy blanket.  I take in another breath, slow and deep, and notice the warmth of Melissa's hands gliding over my back.

"I was going to ask if you're getting ready to go back to school..." she says in a soft voice. I feel my body tighten. "But then I remembered, you've just barely retired.  Are you happy about that?" 

I relax. "Yes," I whisper, smiling as I say it.  Usually a one word response is all the cue she needs to know I'm not up for too much visiting at the moment. Pretty soon, I'm lost in the darkness behind my eyelids and the tumbling thoughts in my brain.

The soft New Age music has an oriental quality to it.  There are wooden flutes, and some very strange stringed instrument that is starting to annoy me.  It sounds like the thickest string on a guitar, very loose, and vibrating with a reverberating TWANG at varying intervals!  New Age music.  I have a few tracks on my iPod.  I should set up a new playlist...I could label it "New Age..." DUH.  Or just "Easy Listening..." so that I can...A-HEM...another deep breath in and out.  A new song is playing. Thank heavens. I certainly didn't want to focus on that LAST one.  It was so annoying.

I've requested that Melissa focus on my back and glutes today. My shoulders and lower back are always aching with stress and knots.  She is doing such a good job.  Again, I let the moment wash over me, taking in the sensory experience for what it is...human touch, skin on skin, taking in the positives and releasing the negatives, listening to the soft music that is filling the room.

Before I knew it, Melissa had pulled the soft blanket up to cover my shoulders, and asked how everything went.  "It was wonderful.  I feel great," I smiled up at her.  It really was a nice experience.  Meditation is a work in progress for me.  I did better today than some days, believe it or not. There is always room for improvement with me, it seems.

Deepak Chopra has this to say about meditation:  "Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It's a way of entering into the quiet that's already there - buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.

I certainly have my share of the 50,000 thoughts, now I just need to find the quiet. If Deepak says it's there, it must be!


  1. I was so with you here! My mind is a chatterbox, too!

  2. My brain never shuts off. I know EXACTLY how you feel. It is absolutely exhausting at times. I SO need a massage, although I would probably just use it as nap time. :)

  3. Thank you, Susan and Ashley. One thing I love about blogging is that I realize I'm not the only one with some quirks and eccentricities. Having this circle of supporters, however small, is uplifting and unifying.

  4. Excuse me while I go set up an appointment! Love it, Denise. Comforting to know my brain isn't the only one that is all over the place! Lovies!!

    1. I'm sure we're not alone in our struggle to quiet the mind chatter.

  5. I hear you. Sometimes it sounds so noisy in my head, I simply want to shout "SHUT UP". And most of the time it's inane chatter too so not really anything worth hearing :-) Do you still have your Boston? I love those dogs. Bostons and French Bulldogs are my favourites.

    1. Angela, my Boston stayed with my ex. And I just received word that the French bulldog puppies are available; we have been on a list for over a year. He'll get that dog, too, if he wants it. I can't afford $2,000 for a puppy, no matter how adorable! I'm okay with all of it, though. My lifestyle is very spontaneous, and having a dog would not be fair to the dog, and challenging for me right now.

  6. Not sure if you are familiar with David Ji, but he was a student of Deepak Choppa's and also even met the Dalai Lama. He has a great blog on his website for 21 days of meditation with instruction. I love him. If you're not familiar with him check out his site.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Rhonda. I looked him up online. David Ji seems to be pretty enlightened.


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