Learning Massage, Learning to Live

This article was written by one of my erotic massage students, Paul. It’s inspiring! He has more writings on his blog The Listing Bucketeer
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My wife and I have always enjoyed receiving a good massage.
Mostly we’d fill the need by heading out to the local clinic or spa, but we also read a few books and took the occasional class on massage techniques. I tried diligently to apply them.

Yet I struggled with how to give my partner the kind of massage experience that I know I like to receive. As a ‘geek’ who earned his living in a technical profession, I’d never thought of myself as very skilled in the physical department. My kinesthetic sense is ‘poorly developed’. I imagined I would never be very good, and that I would still have to send her out to a spa for the best treatment. When I was giving a massage, I had to check the clock frequently to make sure I didn’t shortchange her. It never crossed my mind that I could enjoy giving a massage as much as receiving one.

Lately, however, I seem to be getting better. Without effort, the massages I give are now longer. Even my wife tells me I’ve improved.

Reflecting upon my breakthrough, I saw that the massage lessons I’d begun to absorb had important applications to all of my life. Practicing massage had now become practicing life. I can now thank the good instructors I’ve had, not just for teaching me how to offer physical nurturing, but also about being present and accomplished in the world.

In the spirit of heartfelt thanks, here are some of the lessons they’ve taught me, and a few hints on the value they’ve brought to my life away from the massage table. I’ll start with one of the most important lessons I learned, my massage epiphany.

Keep your attention on your hands: your hands must receive pleasure as well as give it. Look for and treasure the physical sensations that are present in every act of touch. You need only pay heed to them and they are yours. The same applies to life. If I pay attention my point of contact with the world – in whatever I am doing – I can find pleasure in the doing of it. I have only to focus. When I locate that joy and passion in whatever I’m doing, I am so much more creative and productive that it amazes me without end.

Maximize the amount of contact in the hands. Don’t be rigid. Let your hands be soft, and allow them adjust to the contours of the body as you move over it. This greatly enhances the feeling and warmth you can deliver through them. With life and work too. Even as I am working to accomplish some end, being rigid never helps – being adaptable does. Hence, I can try to maximize my contact with the activities I am pursuing by adapting myself continuously to their ‘contours’ as I work with them. I can feel where my efforts meet with resistance and where they are fruitful, and adjust accordingly.

Minimize takeoffs and landings. The best massages have a sense of continuity, a feeling that the hands never leave the body, but simply flow effortlessly from one point to another. In my non-massage life, in this world of multitasking – of a thousand ways to be connected at all times and at any moment – I still find I’m most satisfied when I minimize these interruptions. I’m most productive when I achieve that state of flow that comes from working on something to the exclusion of all other thoughts. I look for that flow, and try to enhance it.

Watch the reactions of your subject. There is rarely value in a motion or technique that has your partner flinching or grimacing. If you see signs of deeper relaxation, you may want to do more of what led to that. Out in the world, I need to employ the same philosophy. It’s easy when I’m hell bent on accomplishing some task to get so absorbed in the activity – in goals and milestones and deliverables – that I fail to notice that I’m not creating the result that’s most important to me. I need to adjust, and I can only do that if I’m paying attention to the results of my actions.

Vary your touch – sometimes hard, sometimes soft. There is no one pressure to use all the time or on every part of the body. Sometimes tired muscles are crying out for deep kneading; at others, just a whisper of warm fingers over sensitive skin is ideal. In daily living, I continue to learn and relearn that there is no one “touch” – no form or style that suits every occasion. There are times when affairs just need a gentle nudge in the right direction; other situations may call for me to put the pedal down and charge straight through. If I’m taking a one-size-fits-all approach to life, I need to wake up.

Explore the unknown. Always deliver your massage in a spirit of discovery. What new contours can you feel as you work? Are there shapes in the muscles or bones that you can learn more about with your touch? Use your attention on your hands to learn new things about the body of the person you’re working on. They too will learn from this. Away from the table, I need to approach every activity with the same spirit of inquiry. What am I learning about this area of life as I work with it? A job or activity pursued without that sense of adventure soon becomes dull and lifeless. Where can I step outside the comfortable boundaries of what I know? When I’m constantly discovering new things, I’m also a much better teacher.

Slow down. It’s almost impossible to go too slowly when giving a massage. Most of the time, you will probably be going too quickly, and will miss important feedback along the way. Your partner will be mentally willing you to linger longer in almost every movement. Oblige them. In my life, I’ve found myself rushing as well. How many times, I race through an activity with a sense of urgency, only to find that I have to do it over. Even worse, I finish a task successfully only to find that it was really something else that needed doing instead. I would have noticed if I’d just taken a moment to reflect along the way.

You have to be relaxed and comfortable in order to give the best massage. If you’re feeling pain because you’re hunched over the table in some awkward position, your partner will sense your discomfort, and will not be able to relax either. Make sure you look after yourself first. How many times have I forgotten that lesson in life! How many times have I struggled unproductively on some deadline, when what I really needed was to take a break? Maybe go outside or do some exercise or get some sleep – or just do something different for a while until I’m ready to tackle my task freshly. Usually I tell myself I don’t have time to relax. Afterwards, I see I wasted far more time running on three cylinders. Looking after me is essential to looking after my purpose in the world.

Be grounded: maintain your presence. You can’t give a good massage if your mind has left your body and is off doing other things. Feel the earth with your feet on the ground, breathe fully, and bring your attention back to the here and now. With other endeavors, I am constantly amazed at how that little exercise of reestablishing my physical presence enhances my ability to deal with life’s challenges. I must be a little dense, though, because I still seem to forget this lesson about a hundred times a day! Breathe!

Create a time and place where you will avoid interruptions. You can’t deliver the ideal massage experience if the phone is ringing, the kids are interrupting, or you have to leave in the middle to move the laundry. With every other task I undertake, the same applies. It pays off when I take that little bit of effort at the outset to ensure that I can do my work without needless interruptions. That’s true whether I’m in a business meeting, pruning the roses, or having friends over for the evening. I might even shut down my email before writing that piece I’ve been planning!

Don’t watch the clock. There’s no rule that says a massage has to be a certain length. If you’re relaxed, if you maintain your presence, if you pay heed to your partner’s reactions, and especially if you focus on enjoying the feeling in your own hands as you work, it will be just long enough for both of you. The same goes for life.

Your technique is less important than your engagement. Don’t worry too much about mastering all kinds of special strokes. Study only when it moves you, but always make sure that you are enjoying what you are doing. If you’re not, the best techniques in the world will not satisfy the person who’s receiving them. Ah, this is a lesson I have struggled much with in life. I think I need to learn this new skill before I can try that activity. I need this training before I can do that job. I need this certificate before I can tackle that career. It’s not so. Do the activity that moves me, apply for the job that excites me, choose the career that calls to me, and the learning will come with it. I still need to take this lesson to heart!

Don’t worry about getting it right. You don’t have to be perfect in order to give your partner a great massage. Focus on your intention, the gift you wish to deliver with your massage. Do whatever it takes to enjoy the giving of it as much as they enjoy the receiving. Accomplish that and you’ll do better than just getting it right. I find this an even more challenging lesson for life. Getting it right has been my mantra. Turned around, it’s been my straightjacket: never make a mistake. Employing this lesson from massage, I try to remember that mistakes are Nature’s way of letting me know I’m still alive. Focus on my intention, and despite my warts, I can still contribute something wonderful to the world.

There is much value in stillness. Sometimes you just need to pause with your hands on your partner’s body. Feel the points of contact, their body rising and falling with their breath. Be aware of your own breath in communion with theirs. Feel the stillness within you and around you. Stay with this longer than you think you need to. In my workaday life, too, there is much value in stillness: taking time to meditate or reflect on life and my place in it; walking in a deep wood or watching the ocean; relaxing to a peaceful piece of music. It’s also invaluable to stay with this inactivity a bit longer than I think I need to.

Take joy in doing a great job. Revel in your partner’s relaxation. Comment on her peaceful expression. Give yourself credit for a gift well given. For sure, this is another important life lesson I so often forget. I finish one task and I’m on to the next. I march through life without pausing to acknowledge my accomplishment: reminding myself how much I wanted to achieve my objective yet how insurmountable it looked when I set out. When I run on automatic without stopping to pat myself on the back from time to time, life soon starts to feel like a treadmill: all motion but never arriving anywhere. It’s time to step off for a while.

Remember, there is a time to give and a time to receive. The best practitioners of massage always make sure to get their own massage needs well met. This greatly enhances their ability to deliver. Besides, what’s life without a good massage from time to time? Now, where is that wonderful woman when I need her?
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Great words of wisdom indeed. I love it when my “students” surprise me with their mastery. If you would like to learn how to give and receive a great massage I encourage to come see me or check out one of my classes.

Ki


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