“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” - Thich Nhat Hahn
I start every bodywork session with by breathing, in sync with my receiver. I find that the simple act of conscious breathing being aware of in breaths and out breaths sets immediately the process of allowing oneself to let go of stress and begin to enter a state of relaxation. Truthfully, though I actually start every session with a speech! Not really a speech so much as a welcoming greeting, wherein I say "Welcome. Inside this space, is like a sanctuary. The phone gets turned off, and on the other side of that door - is your obligations; the bills, the job, the kids, the illness, the whatever that calls to you, obligates you or otherwise demands your attention or creates your worries. Inside, here in this space is just the now. Bodywork with me starts with and is a form of meditation.
Much is made of the capabilities of alternative therapies, but much of the evidence to support massage's meditation’s effectiveness in promoting mental or physical health isn’t quite up to snuff. Why? Many studies don’t include a good control treatment.
But when researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD sifted through nearly 19,000 studies, they found 47 trials that addressed those issues and met their criteria for well-designed studies. Their findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that mindfulness meditation makes perfect sense for treating anxiety. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” she explains. “They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit.”
“If you have unproductive worries,” says Dr. Hoge, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,'” says Dr. Hoge.
One of her recent studies (which was included in the JAMA Internal Medicine review) found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability. People in the control group—who also improved, but not as much as those in the meditation group—were taught general stress management techniques. All the participants received similar amounts of time, attention, and group interaction.
Positive Emotions Lead to Better Health: New research suggests that meditation, massage or any other mood-enhancing activity can serve as a nutrient for the human body.
In recent years have psychologists begun to appreciate the benefits of happiness and positive emotion — benefits that include everything from enhanced creativity to improved immune-system function. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, a leader in the field of positive psychology, posed the question, “What good are positive emotions?” and came up with the following possibilities.
Happiness broadens your focus and expands your thinking Positive emotions — curiosity, love, joy, contentment, wonder, excitement — expand your focus of attention. When you’re angry, your focus narrows to the source of your frustration and the object of your wrath. Your mind is like a heat-seeking missile, bent on destruction.
Contrast this with what happens when you get excited about something — your mind opens up and there’s a free flow of ideas and intellectual possibility. Curiosity abounds. This is precisely why passion is so essential to artistic endeavors. This is also why you need a high positivity ratio in the workplace if you want a high rate of productivity and a healthy bottom line.
When Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn and others studied the brain activity that accompanies this type of meditation, they found that it was the left frontal lobe of the brain that was literally turned on — the part that scientists refer to as the “happy brain.”
Positive and negative emotions can’t exist at the same moment in time. Embracing one negates the other.
Studies on touch have shown that something as simple as receiving a light touch hand from a compassionate friend or the act of petting your favorite animal can lower your blood pressure — so you can imagine the positive impact of the sustained and focused touch of massage - and, touch requires no prescription, nor has any negative side-effects.
The next time you find yourself feeling negative — upset, angry, sad, or worried — try taking an hour or so for massage and see what happens — it may provide just the escape you need from those negative emotions.
I have a friend who is a great writer. She talks often about sitting in cafes, journal in hand and spending time leisurely at creative writing. She had a window seat built into her apartment as the perfect spot to curl up and write. When she talks about this, I get a clear mental picture of her writing, with a big ceramic coffee mug, a pen and a journal. It looks beautiful. The trouble is - I have never seen it happen in real life. Having just started a new job, she is busier than ever, working crazy hours, running home to do laundry, dinner, cleaning up. There is always something urgent to attend to and she, like many of us finds herself procrastinating on important tasks like writing.
I have another friend/client...(actually I have so many that fit this same pattern I have lost track...there's are good chance if you are reading this you see yourself in here) She emails me and texts every week. "Boy I really need a massage" "Boy I have to get in there soon" The we start to talk about dates.."what about tomorrow? No, I Would love to but I have to do something for my sister...The next day? Gosh, I wish I could, but I promised so and so I would.... and on it goes. We always talk, and it never happens.
We all do, I think: we know there’s something we should be doing that’s really important for our well being, emotional or physical or spiritual, … but there are other less important we do instead. Sometimes it a case of over committing to others, Or sometimes its just a time suck. We check our email, respond to messages, read news, find interesting things to read online.
It’s hard to motivate yourself when no one is breathing down your neck making you do the thing right now. Especially when there’s a world of fascinating things online, or a million little tasks you can do instead.
What can you do?
Here’s what I suggest:
There is so much I want to write about the mystery and beauty of singing bowls, but I will start here.
I don't recall when I first became acquainted with singing bowls. As a young musician and martial arts practitioner with a curiosity about eastern philosophies and Zen teachings, I always sort of knew of them, but nothing about them.
My interest was re-awakened on may last trip abroad to further my studies in Lomi Lomi massage. A fellow student at the end of one days works,asked me if we could experiment with one of the 2 singing bowls in the studio and try to experiment with the effect of the vibrations on the body. First, I don't think this particular bowl was very good quality, and second I had no real idea what I was doing, but it ignited a spark in my head, to learn more.
That led to me to Rain Gray, a musicologist and I think one of the foremost experts of Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls. What I learned is that each one is unique, a delicate musical instrument that cannot be tuned. I also learned that no two bowls are alike. This was fascinating. You cant just buy any bowl. Rain estimates that for every bowl he approves, he samples or listens to maybe 100.
It turns out that the origins of singing bowls is a bit fuzzy and may have been lost to time. There has been much speculation as to what they were used for. It is said that all bowls today originated from 3 original singing bowls - still said to be in existence and secretly guarded.
From their lofty and magical homeland Tibetan singing bowls have traveled across the Himalayas, through valleys, and along ancient trade routes. Brought back to the west by jet-age travelers, these mysterious objects have aroused interest and curiosity about their origin and traditional usage. Their story, however, has laid hidden like the mysterious Himalayas, obscured by clouds.
Due to the communist Chinese military occupation of Tibet in the 1950's, and the subsequent, almost total, destruction of its monasteries (and 1.2 million Tibetan people, many of them monks and nuns, that perished during and after that time), the esoteric knowledge of the Tibetan singing bowls has all but disappeared. And although it has been more than thirty years since Tibetan singing bowls and their incredible sounds were first introduced to the western world, little has been written about them.
I am not an expert in Buddhism, Mediation, Chakras. There are plenty of people who ascribe mystical properties to the bowls. But what I offer you and describe to you is their effect on me, as a layperson.
First every singing bowl is different, and the quality varies dramatically. My modest collection of singing bowls are of the 17th & 18th century and so I can speak particularly about those. Each bowl is precisely tuned to a note at the rim and within the body of the bowl. These notes correspond to Chakras. The bowl I will present below has a rim tone of D which corresponds to the Sacral Chakra.
The Sacral Chakra is your passion and pleasure centre and it is located in the pelvic area. While the Root Chakra is satisfied with survival, the 2nd chakra seeks pleasure and enjoyment.
The sound is haunting, mesmerizing, calming. When a singing bowl is played, you cannot help but stop and listen. Even my dog, who is very hyper - upon hearing the bowl stops and stares in a trance like state.
I use the bowls often. Sometimes at length, but often briefly - to bring me instantly to a place of calm and peace. My heart rate lowers, by breathing slows and slowly the fainest of smiles washes over my body and makes it way to my lips in the form of the slightest nearly imperceptible up curl.
If you would like to experience this magic, ask me about singing bowls when you book your appointment.
A Really Good Massage Blog
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.