“Energy Work” in massage therapy usually refers to therapeutic massage in which the technique is physically minimal on the practitioner’s part, often not even touching the client’s body. This can be misleading because all bodywork of any type is energy work, since everything is energy. Things without energy don’t exist in the physical, relative universe.
In any case, I have found that there are certain truisms concerning energy as it functions in massage work and during a massage session, and they apply across the board regardless of technique or approach.
Since everything is energy, what we are talking about here is how to get energy to help us accomplish our goals in our massage sessions. Simply put: focused, purposeful energy is a function of presence and intention.
Presence means being in one place and not another. Seems pretty straightforward, and it is; but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. In fact, it can be very difficult for most of us. We have, by training and experience, very cluttered minds; lots of thoughts going every which/way. We doubt ourselves, most of us most of the time. Every thought has a clear and purposeful energy, but contradictory thoughts have contradictory, and so diluted, energy.
An example in a bodywork session might go like this. The therapist is working on a stiff neck probably causing headaches per the client’s complaint. The therapist is focused on the techniques he/she is employing and wondering if they are the ‘correct’ choice. The energy of the therapist is not going to be particularly functional at that moment – it is diluted, basically going in two directions at once which will cancel the effectiveness. Any time thoughts have incongruent directions, the net energetic effect will be weak. It would be similar to accelerating and braking a car at the same time – a lot of energy is being expended to little desired effect.
The ‘trick’ here is to hold one thought at a time, with no contradictions.
An example, and another analogy, is something I noticed while working with my dogs. I can usually communicate clearly with my dogs if I hold one thought while I speak simply and directly, having a clear and singular intention in mind. I walk them in the woods daily. I don’t want them to eat stuff off the ground, but it’s okay if they eat snow (which there is a lot of up here). It was not going well until I focused and unified my thought and intention. When I would say, “Don’t eat deer poop,” and I would picture in my mind simultaneously deer poop and my dogs not eating it, with my intention focused on that being a positive happening, the dogs began getting it. I started saying, “Eat snow,” and I pictured them eating snow and that being a positive thing, they did it. It surprised me how well it worked, and then again I wasn’t surprised, because that’s how energy goes.
Decide on an intention, hold that thought, and feel positive about it. If other thoughts intervene, and they will, practice gently putting them aside and return your focus to your original intention. Now, you can change your intention to suit the moment and the circumstances as you perceive them; the functional piece to get is to hold one thought/intention at a time so the energy is clear at any given moment. That would be the definition of presence for the therapist in a massage session.
Self-doubt is a problem for most of us, because most of us were taught not to trust ourselves, most unfortunately. One good way to diffuse that learning is to practice recognizing your first idea and go with it before wondering about it. Can you see how self-doubt inherently dilutes energy? Self-doubt is two thoughts going in opposite directions. When you practice and get used to going with the first idea that comes to mind you avoid the whole situation. The first idea is almost always a very good one anyway, and is most often tied to intuition and inspiration, so it’s a safe bet. And, of course, if it doesn’t seem to be working at that moment, you can always switch. And switch the focus, presence, and intention to the next idea. As you become more facile at this, the power of your energy and its influence on the moment will follow.
Keep at this, practice presence, intention, and focus. We will revisit these concepts from different perspectives in future articles, because when energy becomes more functional and operative in massage sessions, magical things can happen, and happen regularly. Peace and love.