Giving Under Fire

Woman in field at sunset with arms outstretched

I don’t always enter a session in a state of meditative bliss. Ideally, as a therapist with a mobile practice, I would arrive at someone’s home after a calm and peaceful drive. I will have had an excellent breakfast, 1.5 cups of coffee, and a delightful, contemplative time of prayer. I will have prepped all of my supplies the night before and have mapped out my route with precision.

I am at least 99 percent humanoid, so the reality is often perplexingly different. Despite my efforts, my kids might have had a hard morning and I might have spent 20 minutes helping my daughter pick out something to wear because she is at that age where she has “nothing to weaaaar.” (Never mind her closet full of clothing.)

Last week, I made the mistake of reading a text right before going into a session. I discovered I was going to miss a ceremony at school where my daughter would be receiving several awards. It was too late to back out of the session. I was there and my client was ready to begin. It was such a blow. I felt sick to my stomach, but I gathered my professionalism like so many wildflowers into a bunch in the center of my being and resolved not to lose it. I tried to put it out of my mind. I sent a speedy text to my husband, hoping that at least he could be there. I surrendered my daughter’s feelings to the Almighty and prayed that somehow she wouldn’t mind that I wasn’t there. But I was still scrambling. I went to my favorite comfort-monger. Five years from now, this will be an amusing incident, perhaps a moment you won’t even remember. That helped an infinitesimal bit. I was entering the session full of self-talk and my mind was going in a hundred directions. My stomach still felt queasy and I was tempted to cancel. 

Time for the big guns: presence. I knew I had to move out of my thinking head and move into presence. It required discipline and great exertion, but I forced my mind to focus on my senses. I focused on connecting with my client, and slowly my thoughts faded back. I felt drained from the exertion, but I managed. I set the intention of doing a great massage. I was here, and I would attempt to offer the very best I could in that moment with who I was and what I had brought to the table (figuratively and literally). I think I managed to deliver a good service.

I always wonder if my client is going to pick up on my fatigue or whatever stress I may be bringing. Often my clients ask me, “How are you?” and I can tell they really want to know. They want to connect. I struggle in how to respond. I always desire to be authentic, but I try to keep my responses short and concise because I need the session to be about their needs, and they need the session to be about their needs. When therapists confide in their clients about something negative they’re dealing with, clients may feel an obligation to care for the therapist in some way, or perhaps even feel bad that the therapist is serving them in that capacity when they have negative issues to deal with. 

I have decided that I will do my utmost to diminish factors that impede my ability to offer a high-quality restorative massage. Life will sometimes be stressful, busy, or sad. I may bring residual elements of that into my work. I will seek to be authentic but also to protect my clients from getting sprayed with shrapnel from my emotional stress. I will sometimes fail. Awareness is heightened, and learning proceeds. I need to learn how to receive care so I can care. That is easy to write, more difficult to execute. What care do I need? Obviously, I sometimes need someone to chat with. I need mentors who can give me wise counsel. 

And, I need to refrain from checking my texts right before a session.

Arizona Righetti enjoys the freedom and flexibility of her mobile massage practice. Some of her other pursuits are history, writing, and camping in the mountains, deserts, and beaches of California. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2018 issue of Massage & Bodywork magazine, available at www.massageandbodyworkdigital.com.

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Comments

I totally understand this. It is so important to be present. And yes, it takes serious intention. Mindfulness, and putting self aside. Our work it truly selfless.

Thanks for sharing!