Archive for the ‘massage’ Category

Wet hair

Madre Angelita grew up near a river in Jose Maria, a village in the Sierra Norte.  She also grew up in two other ranchos and would live at one or the other or the third depending on the season and if the family needed to harvest, make cheese, or more closely tend the animals.  Her father lived in Jose Maria and was employed for many years as the municipal secretary. But he longed to work the land and walk in between his cows. And he missed his children. Angelita was happiest when her father was home and the family was reunited.

Angelita spent a lot of time in that river in Jose Maria. She and her sister would bathe in it and wash their long, thick hair that hung past their waist. One day when she was 12 years old, Angelita’s sister washed her straight, long, lustrous hair and went to sit on a chair.  She was particularly tired that day, and she fell asleep on the chair resting her head in a pillow of her own arms that she drapped in front of her on another chair.

The next day, all her hair fell out of her head! Why? I asked Madre Angelita. Because she fell asleep before her hair had dried, she answered. I asked Angelita if she believed that a person’s hair will fall out if they go to sleep with it wet, and she told me that she did.

When the sister’s hair began growing back, Angelita and her Tia made a poultice from white tomatoes. They rubbed the tomatoes on the sister’s head and left it there for hours.  When her hair grew back, it was curly.

Madre Angelita shared this story with me while I worked the knots out of her back. She’s too little and too old for the massage table, so she sat on the sofa and faced the wall, while I sat on the arm of the sofa, kneading and listening… absorbed and transcended by childhood memories tenderly wrapped and delivered in her sighing, sing-song voice.

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She was as hard as a corpse, and when I touched her, she trembled.  Some of us have turned into dry deserts, I told her. When the rain comes, there is no place for it to go, because the ground has never learned how to receive.

When offered compassionate touch, kindness leaves the body in the form of tears. Love overwhelms these women and they have no place to put it, even though it’s the thing they most need. But if they are heard and feel understood, a place opens up within where healing can enter and soften. Sometimes, this happens without words.

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Still movement

When I began going to massage therapy classes, I was most interested in Sport’s Massage. As a runner, I had been to a number of therapists and a session always meant pain and manipulating muscle. I was interested in the science of the body, and the way we’re all put together.

As I’ve experienced bodywork these past few years, I’m now more interested in the art of healing. I believe that healing takes place in the still moments.  If someone is brought to stillness and profound relaxation, their own body reaches back towards homeostasis, and the movement towards healing begins.

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She laid prone on the table, talking like a water fountain you can’t turn off. The table was drenched in words. Her parents kicked her out. Her mother was mean. She’s almost 40 going on 12. She won’t look you in the eye. Her head won’t stop hurting. It’s hurt for months. Maybe a year now. I looked to the Virgincita for compassion and grounding.

I asked her to turn supine. I asked her to imagine her mind a clear, blue sky, and wherever there is pain, there are dark clouds. Bring a small, steady wind to clear those clouds so that she can return her mind to clear blue. As she closed her eyes and visualized, she began to relax. The fountain stopped, her breathing deepened, her body loosened. I held the sides of her head for 20 minutes while the world stopped and transformed and released and renewed.

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Ground suffering

I meditate on this image when I massage the women. I like to think the Virgincita is comforting the Pope by grounding his suffering. She does so by seeing him and bearing witness to his pain. Not judging it, or making it disappear, but allowing it to be. This grounds his pain, so he can choose to release it.  She remains serene in the face of hardship, not taking any of it on herself, but making a place for it to come out into the light. Her hand rests so gently on his head. Nothing is forced here. He has come to her.

This serene Virgincita inspires me. When I massage the women, I lean on her example so that I might ground the suffering a woman in transition feels when the only constant she has in her life is the knowledge that her 5 year old son has two years to live. So that I might bear witness to the pain a 15 year old mother must feel when she herself lost her own mother. Her arms and legs are marked with self induced cuts, white scars on her dark, beautiful skin.  She doesn’t see her own beauty because it’s lost on her, somewhere beneath the cutting, the loss of freedom, the craving for someone to love her despite of it all, someone like a mother.

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I had a wonderful day at Buen Pastor yesterday.  More of the madres are requesting massage. Fortunately, it’s helping. We do arm rotation exercises and massage around the shoulder to keep this ball and socket joint limber. It’s great to see them loosening up and healthier these days. Another interesting experiencing was working with nerve pain. Using visualization and reiki, I worked with one of the madres to clear her chest and arm of radiating pain.  It was an eye opening experience for both of us.

I need to invest in a stool.  Some of the madres can’t get on the table.  So I place a filled suitcase for them to step on while I hold them to balance them as they maneuver the table. 

At one point, I went with Madre Lourdes for a walk downtown to buy some things. She’s one of those uplifting people who raise spirits simply by her presence. I truly admire her and cherish any time I get to spend with her.

In the afternoon, I listened to boy troubles, dried tears, and played Connect 4 and Jenga with the girls.  They love Connect 4 and are seriously improving their game as they learn strategy. I also got a chance to see Sara’s report card and congratulated her on raising all her grades since last year. It’s pretty amazing the effect that having a sponsor does to a girl’s grades.

Finally, I ended the day by giving Madre Patty her English lesson.  The sun had gone down and Fernando was still working on finishing up a numbers project.  So while he wrapped things up, I conversed with Madre Patty. She’s at the point where we can hold a conversation in English. She told me about Buen Pastor 30 years ago. Apparently, there were three times as many nuns, and they spent three times more time in prayer. Today, they “only” have time for 3 hours of prayer everyday. They pray in Latin. Madre Patty told me that when she first became a nun, she and the others were all given prayer books with Latin on the left and Spanish on the right, so that when they prayed, they would know what they were saying.  I found all of this fascinating.

We also talked about the differences between the words old, vintage, and antique. This lead to a conversation about the nun habit. Apparently, all the madres have vintage habits with long capes, flowing sleeves, and heavy material.  She explained them to me and they sound fantastic.  I’m hoping that one of these days, I can see a full outfit.  They don’t wear them anymore — but the madres do have them preserved in their closets.

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On a walk

I love this garden. It's always alone, abandoned, and overgrown.

A listening heart grounds suffering.

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