Recently I was asked how I keep “my stuff” out of a massage. “My stuff” being my mental to-do list, my emotions, my concerns, basically, my personal life and anything else that doesn’t have anything to do with the client and his or her experience. I haven’t been asked this question in years, yet the response was immediate. This got me thinking, and inspired this post.

There are as many ways of clearing or focusing one’s self before going into a massage as there are therapists. Some therapists use a series of breathing exercises or stretches. There is the visualization of a hook, much like a coat hook, where one “hangs” all their own “stuff” outside the door. I’ve even seen some therapists actually hang or place a small basket along the path to the therapy room and “drop off” their goods–or bads–before going in.

This is a topic we dealt with in massage school, but I haven’t really had to think about it since because I still practice what I learned back in 2006. I was very blessed to be at a great school, BMSI in Overland Park, KS, which has since closed down in 2009 following the untimely passing away of the founder and owner, Michael Pizzuto. It was through his guidance, passion and insistence that “our stuff” didn’t belong in other people’s
massages that I learned a strategy for keeping it separated. Basically, it involves drawing a line in the sand, and repeating somewhat of a mantra, “(Client’s name) is a whole and complete person.” I learned that from Michael. Sounds simple, and really it is. After 6 years, it has become habitual, and seems to occur on a
subconscious level.

It has become a mental practice, much like turning a switch on and off. When I flip the switch into massage therapist mode, there simply is not room for anything except love, healing, compassion, positive energy, and acceptance. That’s the line in the sand. Anything crossing that line is simply unacceptable. Of course, no one is perfect and maintaining the intense focus required to stay completely client-centered can be challenging at times. That is where consciously repeating the mantra comes in. 

If I should find myself on the brink of mentally wandering, if there are outside distractions I cannot control that are threatening my focus, if I should start to get frustrated with a muscle that doesn’t seem to want to release, or if I should feel the remnants of any other emotions or thoughts that do not belong in the massage, I silently repeat to myself, “____________ is a whole and complete person.” I find that this immediately and effectively redirects and redefines the purpose of the massage.

It took a little practice to get to this point of automaticity, but now I am so grateful to Michael for sharing his personal practice with me so I could internalize it and also make it my own.

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