Everyone, at some point in his or her life, suffers from pain. Pain is manifested at multiple levels. At one level, it is rooted in the body, directly caused by something. This is the pain felt, for example, after stubbing one’s toe. The pain is firmly rooted in the toe, definitely caused by the traumatic stubbing. At another level pain is less localized and more systemic, affecting the whole body at once. These types of pain are experienced at the chemical level, as part of the body’s response to painful stimuli. This pain manifests, for example, as the moments of sheer panic and anxiety caused by stubbing one’s toe. Adrenaline, with a host of other neurochemicals, pours into the body. This prepares the body to quickly flee from the offending end table or else to engage it in mortal combat: fight or flight.
Most of the real pain in life is not caused by a directly stimulated nerve, however. We only stub our toe every once in a while. Yet the body often releases fight or flight chemicals when there is no immediate danger to the living, breathing organism that carries the rest of our perceptions around. In other words, sometimes we are afraid for no real reason at all. The catch of course is that when the mind believes it is in danger, the body believes it too. The body then proceeds to release very real chemicals that cause very real physical responses: increased heartbeat and respiration, constriction of blood vessels, palpitations, and sweating. Then there is the full blown experience of fear (anxiety, panic, jealousy, anger, etc.), the sum total of all of these elements in the mind, which is a real manifestation of pain.
So how does one begin to treat a pain that originates, except for the occasional mishap, almost exclusively in the brain? The answer need not be metaphysical. The reason for this is the cyclical relationship between thought and the physical impressions felt through the body. The relationship exists in the form of a dance between body and mind, physicality and perception. Whichever dancing partner leads the strongest, whether body or mind, the other will quickly fall in step. If we choose, perhaps, to lead with the mind we will find prayer and meditation useful. Yet prayer and meditation require intense concentration and dedication to become truly transformative at the physical level.
Leading with the body is more tangible and perhaps easier to begin. It, too, requires the participation of the mind in the form of concentration and effort. When one begins to run, for example, one wills the body on with the mind, saying in effect, “Run now, body!” Any form of physical movement requires Will to begin and sustain, and it is through this sustenance of Will or “concentration” that the mind begins to calm. Calming the mind through sustained effort is not always possible though. Sometimes the body in question has been too long without movement. Sometimes the mind has been too long without focus. Sometimes there is just isn’t enough time. Luckily, there is another way.
Maybe it seems like cheating, but you can have someone else manipulate your body and mind for you. It’s not magic. It goes back to that old dancing couple, body and mind. During a massage the body undergoes a direct physical change that extends far beyond strength or range of motion. The same chemicals that prepare the body for action have dancing partners too. These chemicals create what’s known as the relaxation response. About thirty minutes into a full body massage, an “anti-stress” chemical environment is created in the body which quickly tunes the mind into a more “concentrated,” or meditative, state. This occurs because of the effect the massage has on the circulatory, endocrine, and nervous systems; the person getting the massage doesn’t require a thing!
Sometimes only massage is able to fulfill this role, though it can never take the ultimate power for healing from the individual. At best it is a profoundly powerful adjunct to the healing process that begins and ends within each person. The true purpose of any therapy is to aid in the evolution of the client towards a more healthy and balanced body, mind, and spirit. We at PRO MASSAGE wish you the best and hope that we can help you along your way.