I’ve had back problems for more than half my life. I injured my back over 20 years ago in a skiing accident (you can read more about it here). And as a result I deal with chronic, dull pain most of the time. And it’s not getting any better with age.
I can’t load a dishwasher or bend over to do laundry without it freezing up on me and going into spasms, but I’m able to keep it pretty loose most of the time through long walks and regular massages.
One of my favorite places to get a massage is in Korea Town in Los Angeles at the Korean spa (you can read more about my experience at the Korean Spa here).
The women doing massages there don’t speak much English, but they have magic fingers…and I recently came to find out they also have magic toes.
I went with my close friend yesterday for her birthday. The massages here are inexpensive and I usually spring for 90 minutes, or sometimes even two hours. But I’m on a tight budget right now and made an appointment for 50 minutes.
After walking on the treadmill and sitting in the saunas and jacuzzi’s for an hour or two, my back is warmed up and ready for the hard core treatment performed by these ladies. My small, young Korean massage therapist came and got me and we got started.
These women are always good. Their ability to get the knots out that accumulate in my back and buttocks always astounds me. My husband is twice their size and when he gives me a massage he doesn’t seem nearly has strong as they do.
I get massages all over LA. I’m always excited to try out new places and experience new magic fingers. When I’ve gotten stuck in awful traffic jams, rather than sitting there with an aching back I’ll look up the nearest massage place and pull off the freeway and head over.
I had an amazing experience at a Thai place across LA from where I live. In the middle of the massage, the therapist placed her index finders into the sides of my neck (where Frakenstein wears his little neck nubs) and pressed with all her strength.
My whole entire body cramped up into one giant charlie horse and stayed cramped for what seemed like a full minute. Then it released into a complete and total relaxation.
In my early 20’s when I first started getting massages, I remember thanking a particularly good massage therapist at the end of the massage for being so good. And she said, “No…thank you for being such a good teacher.”
I didn’t really understand her statement for several years. I thought I must have misunderstood her. How could I have been a teacher, when all I was doing was lying there?
But after years of massages with many different therapists, I now know, that just as a psychotherapist one quickly learns how to improve in their craft when they are working with someone trusting and open.
I have a feeling that the Frankenstein Finger move doesn’t get used on every client that walks through the door. Only on the ones that really need it, and only on the ones this woman senses are open to receiving it.
Yesterday at the Korean Spa, the women held onto the bars they have hanging from the ceiling and dug her big toe into my left calf for at least 10 minutes with the weight of her whole body.
I’m always focused on my back problems and want those worked out I don’t want the therapist to spend as much time on other body parts. I was surprised, however, that with her toe she had been able to find a knot in my body that I was not even aware of.
And as she dug in with her big toe, I felt the tension and tightness all the way up through the back of my left leg, into my back, and then into a part of my head behind my left eye. As she loosened up the knot in my calf, the whole left side of my body relaxed.
All of a sudden the therapists energy changed. She was genuinely scared and motioned for me to turn over. As I did I got a glance at the clock and saw that there were only two minutes left in our 50 minutes and she hadn’t done the face up part yet.
I tried to ask her if she could ask the front desk if we could add another half hour into her schedule. It took a few different ways of asking before she understood and went and asked. When she came back her fear (of me getting mad at not doing my front side? Of her boss getting mad at her for going over in time?) was gone.
This young women, perhaps new to the job, had been so in tune with my body, she had lost rack of time. She had lost herself in her art, and when you do that, there is no such thing as time.
She is a true healer.
At the end of the massage, as she helped me back into my robe, she let out a huge giggle. She turned me around to help tie the front and bowed over and over to me with a large grin, and I bowed back. We hugged as I left the room.
I knew in that moment, that while i was laying there I had taught her a great deal. I had taught her that she was good…that she was great at what she does. Without words, she understood my body speaking to her. Without words, my body showed her where to focus and what to do.
I taught her that there is no reason to fear. That the ability to get lost in your art is a gift. That her and her gift are worth more time, and more money.
Gratitude and Growth
In therapy, you know a client has reached true healing when they find a sense of gratitude for their problem. When they transcend the emotional injury. When they have grown and learned from it, and are grateful for that growth and knowledge.
My back doesn’t get better. With age, it continues to get worse. But I have have found ways to be grateful for this injury. It has taught me so much about my body, how each and every fiber in it is connected, and that that connection is a miraculous thing.
It has taught me to trust my gut with strangers, to relax into healers’ hands.
And in it’s own way, it has helped me know I am a great teacher, a teacher for whom many are grateful. Whether or not they say it with their words.
We can tame our inner dragons, learn from their spiritual fire,
and in the process make some lovely new friends.