Insight: Working Blindfolded

The Day My Hands Learned to See

By Nancy Elizabeth Goodpasture

It was 1997, and I was enrolled in the basic program at the Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy. Toward the end of the program, our Swedish massage instructors required us to perform full-body massages while blindfolded. It turned out to be one of the most magical days of my education.

 Our class of 12 gathered in one of the larger rooms where six massage tables were set up. Light filtered in through the Venetian blinds, soft music played, and candles were lit. Along with our two regular teachers, two other instructors quietly meandered around the room. We had split up into pairs, and one person nestled into linens while the other tied a blindfold around her or his own eyes.

I remember my heart was thundering. I don’t know why. I remember crying into my blindfold. I don’t know why. But it passed. I remember apologizing in advance to my “client” for touching anything I shouldn’t touch since I couldn’t see.

Yet, that day, I remember “seeing” more clearly than I had ever seen before.

Blindfolded, I saw the tendon valleys in her hands, the rise and dip of each rib, the landmark crest of her hips, the definition in her calf muscles, the texture of her skin, the strength and power in her body, the life in her breathing. And I could “see” with my fingers when I approached those few don’t-touch zones. By virtue of a curve, or a dip, or a rise, I knew where I was. I learned to trust my hands.

The room that at first seemed silent was actually filled with the sounds of healing. I remember hearing breathing, sighs from givers and receivers, quiet music, slow footsteps. I felt the energy of observant teachers close by. I felt the strong connections between my client and me, the other tables, our teachers, our school, and the world outside.

Just as there was no sight, there were no words. No one spoke, and no one looked, but volumes were said and masterpieces were seen.

I remember standing taller because I wasn’t tempted to hang my head to stare at my hands. I remember feeling my own body’s movement through time and space. I was lost in my sense of touch.

The teachers had to quietly urge us on—we were lingering, slowing down, really feeling the body under our hands and not just touching it. We could have spent hours giving just one massage.

I was calm. I was excited. I was alone, yet I was a part of the world. I felt and sensed so many things all at once.

When it was my turn to receive, it was from a classmate whose hands—I knew from experience—I really didn’t like. Yet after my massage, I was delighted to honestly tell her that it was the best massage she had ever given to me. Her hands were softer, her pace was slower, and there was no urgency or tension in her touch. 

That day has stayed with me. Now, as I work in my massage therapy office, I often close my eyes so I can see better. I find myself clearly visualizing my client, sculpting with my hands, painting with my fingers. And I trust myself more. Blindfolded massage was eye-opening for me. 

 Nancy Elizabeth Goodpasture has practiced massage for more than 15 years. Contact her at