Massage Is My Meditation
The problem with writing about massage is that I cannot shut off my brain and enjoy the massage.
The chatter of a writer's mind rarely quits. (Well, at least, this writer's mind.) I am writing when I walk my dogs, when I drive my car, when I shower. I am writing even when I sleep. (I can prove this: My husband says my fingers type in my sleep.)
Recently, I scheduled a lomilomi massage at Ville de Coco day spa at Outrigger Luana Waikiki.
When I arrived, I started making mental notes: The décor was modern in dark, painted woods and accented in sleek chrome. Soft music played. Water trickled from a fountain.
I sat on a modern sofa in the waiting room, where oversized framed images illustrated various finger nail designs. Long finger nail designs. Extremely long finger nails, as worn by the woman who would later run my charge card. I do not do my nails. Never have. But I will admit that the nails in these images looked like art.
A woman appeared from behind a wall to great me. She was young and asked if I was Kim, as if she was expecting me. And she was. I’d made an appointment a couple days prior for a lomilomi massage
. She spoke softly, exuding the calm of massage therapists everywhere and asked if I’d like water. Another common massage therapist behavior. Personally, I appreciate it.
“Yes, please.” I said, and she returned with a chilled glass. She presented it to me, and I made sure to note it was presented atop a bamboo coaster on a teak tray. Then, I tasted it and noted the flavors of strawberry, orange and lemon.
Minden sat across from me and presented a tray with three small, covered jars. “What scent would you like for your massage,” she asked, opening each, one at a time, and letting me get a good whiff. There was rose for beauty. Lavender for relaxation. Peppermint for energy.
I was going to hear the Dalai Lama speak later that day
. I chose energy.
Minden led me past a salon area, past a rainbow display of nail polish, and, again, I thought of works of art.
The massage started with me lying on my stomach, my face cushioned in a special cradle. I noted the table itself was heated and that an extra blanket in addition to a sheet covered me. I snuggled into the cocoon.
My mind chattered, and I made mental notes. But, then, I remembered something Gregory Pai had said the day before, deep in the valley of Palolo at Broken Ridge Korean Temple
, the largest Korean temple outside Korea. It was constructed in the colorful architectural style unique to Korea with replicas of pagodas and statues that date back to the fifth century.
Here, on Saturday afternoons, Greg leads a mindfulness meditation sitting for two hours. On the Saturday before the Dalai Lama’s talk, he guided a group of 35 people of all ages and color in sitting meditation, encouraging us to still our bodies and minds. One of the things I remembered Greg saying was to follow the breath. Pay attention to the body’s reaction to every inhale and exhale. This was the way to empty the mind.
Minden started on my upper back, using her forearms and elbows in long strokes, and I forgot about Greg. I forgot about my breath. Instead I started thinking about possible themes for this blog essay. Something about good things coming in small packages, maybe. Minden was petite. The spa was cozy. Or, how attention to detail made all the difference. Minden leaned down to whisper in my ear, “How is the pressure, Kim?” She took care to fold the sheet in even creases at my waist.
My writer’s mind continued to chatter away. And, then, Minden hit my hips.
Every massage therapist has a specialty, whether they realize it or not. Even young Minden. Minden's specialty is the hips and glutes. After years of running and biking long distances, my body’s larger muscles tend to tighten when I spend hours writing in front of a computer. Minden took care of that.
With the long strokes and elbow use for which lomilomi is known, Minden freed my frozen hips.
What was it Greg had said to do when your mind wandered? Go back to the breath? When I re-focused on my breath, I realized I was drooling. Right through the opening of the face cradle.
Massage is my mindful meditation. Indeed.