4 Ideas for becoming a better bodyworker or movement therapist

Since I graduated massage school just over four years ago, my practice—meaning the actual what it looks like to work with someone who walks into my clinic door—has changed massively. In retrospect, I feel blessed for the times I didn’t get what I wanted (to be more skilled at certain techniques, to have more clients) because of how that forced something more primal and creative to emerge in me.

I don’t think I’m special in this regard. Actually, I’d be surprised to hear from anyone with whom this didn’t relate, at least to an extent. We struggle, we employ strategies, some of those strategies work and, thankfully, some of them don’t and we’re forced to evolve in one capacity or another.

Below are four big concepts that have emerged in this process, along with a quick note at the end saying what that concept evolved from, i.e. conventional knowledge that only took me so far. I write in second person, to “you” whoever you are. Of course, your path may be similar or different in all sorts of ways, so may you use what seems useful here as a deepening into your own investigation, and disregard the rest. I’ll do the same.

1. Train in at least one movement practice you’re unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, with. This doesn’t need to be something you hate, or even dislike, but perhaps that scares you a bit. For me, this was dance at one point (now a huge part of my life), CrossFit at another, the fine art of seated meditation now (yes, I count sitting as a movement in this context). Immersion in new movement skills tends to clear off stagnant thought-forms, held as beliefs, very efficiently. Don’t worry, though: nothing true that you know about the body will ever be lost; it’ll just help shake off the stuff that’s guising as knowledge but really getting in the way.

Before: you learned your craft, to the exclusion of others, which was perfect for its time.

2. Find time before each session to feel the love for your next client. It’s important to feel it, not just think it. Also, if that’s not real for you, don’t fake it—this is not about generating a love-state with your body; it’s acknowledging the driving force that’s already there—and a few moments of silence is at least almost as good.

Before: a kind of distance, especially in the field of touch therapy, helped find a professionalism that was really important.

3. Be aware of how you get involved in your clients’ experiences. When this is very overt, we call it counter-transference. What we’re talking about, though, can be much more delicate, and tends to look like a subtle fascination with your role as healer in your client’s process. It’s important here that the goal is be aware, not seek and destroy. If total transparency, i.e. no counter-transference at all, becomes a goal, we are much more prone to the ego’s subtle traps to tell us we’re “there” by shading the truth. The truth, as you know, of humans relating is a deep, rich and multi-layered affair. The purpose of this inquiry is to bring the light of aware attention to deep, unconscious conditioning that can manifest as energetic entanglement, i.e. their stuff becoming your stuff.

Before: cleansing rituals or mantras, needing to “ground energy,” feeling drained at the end of the day, especially if working with “negative” clients.

Please note here I’m not suggesting these practices don’t have relative value! They certainly do. But we can keep going in this inquiry, using these techniques as needed, but perhaps arriving at the heart of matters where they’re not needed as much if at all, as there’s nothing that needs equalizing or clearing when the day is done.

4. Before engaging with any movement or release technique, feel your own body first, specifically in the place on your client’s body you’re about to work. Can you? This act of feeling yourself inside out is called interoception, and there’s heaps of research coming out about mirror neurons and empathy and a whole host of technical talk saying “turns out we’re not as separate as we thought.” The gift you’re offering your client is a lot in the intelligence in your body invoking the intelligence in your client’s body, and that intelligence tends to wake up more when it’s given attention. (Have you noticed?) Let that intelligence guide your hands, metaphors and movement cues.

Before: learning anatomy by the book enabled a confidence to know where certain structures of the human body tended to be, and how to work safely and use the knowledge of those who came before us.

To our ever-deepening processes, and sharing the experience! Right here with you, LB

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