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Slowing down to listen (to your body)

I re-opened my massage practice at the beginning of the year. Massage is pretty straightforward work, locate muscles throughout the body, work with them in such a way that allows the fibers to release and unwind. But the benefits of massage go far beyond just working out sore and stiff muscles, which I think we kinda sorta know, and yet, we collectively sort of forget that there's value in things that aren't hard, fast and productive. Which massage shouldn't ever be any of those things.

I say this because the number of times I get asked to "go as hard as you can, I really want to work those knots out" always knocks me back a bit.

I try, best as I can, to impart that sometimes, "going hard" is not actually what our muscles, our nervous system, our endocrine or digestive system need from us in a massage. Unfortunately, I tend to see a correlation among those that want me to "go harder" and those that suffer from significant chronic pain. It has me wonder if the "go harder" mentality is what they employ with their body in the whole of their life.

This post isn't about shame and blame of how those folks (or any of us) do or don't treat themselves. It is a post about our collective "miss" when it comes to our approach to caring for our bodies.

What I attempt to impart to them, and what I hope to impart to you through this post, is that more often than not, what your body needs is actually more softness, more comfort, more TLC.

It's compelling to go hard because , especially as Americans, we think that going harder and faster produces more and better results. And we like more and better!

But the body doesn't work like a manufacturing line.

And yet, it's really, really tough to change our approach and mentality toward the body when all the messaging and guidance we've been given is about controlling the body. Getting it to bend to our will and behave how we want it.

In being a massage therapist, I am exposed to the myriad ways we relate to our bodies as humans. I can often feel the disdain and resentment people have toward their bodies, sometimes grief and anger, heart ache or misery, exhaustion or depletion.

And I know that each ailment or issue that they struggle with is another chance to come into greater relationship with their body. Not a chance to push it harder, force it more or require it to perform better. But a chance to love it, know it and understand it deeper. To be softer, kinder, more compassionate.

Have you ever tried to force your child, your dog, or your spouse to do something? To push them harder and faster? How well does that go?

We know the answer because it is rare that relationships, be it with your body or with another being, respond very well to force.

In fact, forcefulness is not something that really exists in nature. That particular energy is almost exclusively one that is borne of the human psyche.

Because nature isn't built on harder and faster. It is built on deliberateness and slowness. It moves at a subtle speed, shifting, changing and adapting in tandem with the ecosystem around it. Sure, a tornado sweeps through sometimes. Hurricanes decimate land quite often.

We forget that our body is fundamentally a being that is hardwired into nature.

That chronic pain and tension you're experiencing? The self loathing and body image challenges? They didn't come on quickly, rapid fire, overnight so it stands to reason that the unwinding and releasing of those things won't happen with a harder, faster sort of approach either, on the massage table, or off.

I know, no one wants to go slow, do the hard work of practicing compassion or kindness. I KNOW. I know because it is a lesson I have to remind myself of at least once a month. No one wants to go hard, fast and get shit done more than moi. And you know what happens when I try it? Migraines. Eating a lot of shit food. Resentment. Lethargy. Not exactly a concoction for vibrant health and vitality.

But when I go slow, when I practice kindness, listening, attention to my body and what it needs- well THEN I experience an enormous recharge of energy, of excitement, an unwinding of bad habits and chronic stiffness and other body ailments.

But as I say with so much of what I write, don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself. See if, the next time you feel like shit and want to power through it, you try the opposite and actually still get the healing results that you thought going harder would provide. Your nervous system will thank you, that you can take my word for. (okay it won't literally thank you, but you get the point)

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