by Naomi Rose
Reprinted from Massage Magazine, Issue 104, Sept. Oct. 2003
Most people dont think of massage and writing as having anything to do with each other. After all, one is nonverbal, the other verbal. Even the human brain relegates these abilities into different hemispheres, the right and the left. But massage therapists and bodyworkers do need to write sometimes: for professional reasons (brochures, educational literature, newsletters, articles, even a book); for personal expression; or to heal a larger spectrum of people than can fit, one by one, on a massage table. How, then, can massage therapists use their tactile skills to create writingand "touching" writing, at that? To understand more clearly, lets explore what touching writing is.
Touching writing touches the readers heart and being, as well as the readers mind. When you are touched by a piece of writing, the effect is instantaneous, obvious, and intimate: your heart expands, you experience a shiver of recognition. The barriers between you and the writer, and you and your deeper Self, fall away. Youre returned to a state of connectedness and wholeness, of belonging to both your true self and something larger than yourself.
To write in a touching way, you cannot set about to do it with your intellect. You can only bring yourself into an inner place where what you are writing touches you. It is by the genuineness and depth of your own experience of being touched that you convey the feeling and energy of that experience to another.
Happily, people who heal through touch are the perfect ones to write "touching writing." They know well how caring, adept touch releases energies from the clients body and psyche, and brings to the surface stories that have been waiting to be eased into consciousness. Touching is more than their profession: it is their way of knowing, of addressing the fullness of a human being. Most massage therapists are drawn into the field because for them, touch is the medium through which healing and human connection takes place.
And now, a paradox comes in. The layers of knowing that go into doing massage and bodywork often take place at an intuitive, not intellectual, level (despite the training preceding the actual work). How, then, can a touching healer articulate what s/he does in writing? How do you translate that inner knowingwhich often is wordlessinto words that (a) make sense, (b) transmit the intention, and (c) touch your readers?
This is where touching healers have an edge. Touch brings up images, memories, and stories in the body. As a massage therapist, you already know how your clients bodies speak in code through their symptoms, then tell their stories more directly as the energies are released. This is true for you, too. Attending to the images, memories, and stories inside you lets you write in a natural, nonlinear, and trustworthy way. This approach, called Writing from the Deeper Self, originated many years ago out of my own healing work.
HOW TO WRITE FROM THE DEEPER SELF
Your body is your ally, your capable vehicle, even when it comes to writing. Rather than trying to figure out with your mind what youre going to dowhich takes you out of the present moment, and can induce stress in the body (the opposite of the self-intimacy that brings on touching writing)ease into your body. Stretch. Do head rotations. Give yourself a light, calming massage. Sink into deep, comfortable breathing. As you do, the "fight-or-flight" response that kicks in automatically during stress will drop away, leaving you relaxed, receptive, and present.
In this relaxed state, any intention you have or question you ask yourself relative to writing will reveal itself with clarity, and begin to draw from you what you need to fulfill it.
Examples of intentions include: "I want to write about my work so readers understand and are attracted to it.""I want to write a book about my experiences with clients who have been healed through massage.""I want to write a brochure that makes my readers feel theyll be in good hands."
If you dont have a clear intention, an open-ended question works, too. "What happens inside me when working with my clients?" "How can I write about my training, experience, and philosophy in lay terms?""How can I help educate other massage therapists without resorting to jargon?"
Unlike the intellect, the heart will not write you off by handing you a list of things to do. The heart will listen, sense what you are calling out for, and bring you an image, sensation, or memory that matches your request. Its easy for the intellect to discount what the heart supplieslets say, the image of your living room when you were a childas irrelevant to your question: "What does my old living room have to do with writing about my work?" But if you trust what youre given and let it unfold, it will become the linchpin, the underground foundation, of your writing.
This doesnt mean let go of making sense in your writing. Eventually, there will be a logical beginning, middle, and end. But you dont have to begin at the beginning. At this point, you may not know where the real beginning is. What you are after is to find and follow the heart of your story. In the above example, right now all you know is that there must be some connection between your current work as a massage therapist and the living room of your childhood. The very mystery of this link will keep things interesting.
This is a much better place to write from than the panicked, "I guess I have to say something. Hmm, the refrigerator really needs cleaning ." Honor the incipient story that your own body has brought you to. Start writing about your old living room, even without yet understanding its significance.
As you let yourself explore the information your body brings you, you will find yourself entering inside your own felt, sensed experience. Youll see colors, notice impressions, sense something in the wings. As your conscious (and critical) mind takes a backseat, youll find yourself being touched by whats inside your inner world. When this happens, you will feel it, including in your body. And suddenly, so quickly that you may not be able to write down fast enough what comes, you will understand the connection between this image-memory that your heart gave you and your intention or question from your current life. "Oh! That living room when I was a childthats where my father sat when he was tired, and Id climb up behind his chair and put my hands on his head!" And all at once the connection between the work you chose and the compassion that first gave signs of it is vibrantly clear, and available to your adult understanding.
Now that youve located the heart of your writing, your logical mind can come in and put things together. It may not be appropriate to dwell at great length on the living room scene (unless this is fiction or a memoir). But now that it has anchored you in your open, vulnerable self, you can use itand your response to itto weave those felt details and deeper level of understanding into your more cognitive writing. Once you know the heart of your story, you can backtrack to the beginning and lead up to it, use that scene to illustrate a larger, otherwise more abstract message, and weave references to it wherever they fit (especially in the conclusion). This way, you have both mind and heart, thanks to your wise, willing body, bringing you inside your experience and out again so you can share its aliveness and meaning with others.
If you go deeply enough into your own experience, your writing will automatically touch those who read it. But to become an even more touching writerto specifically touch the experience of your readersextend your experience to theirs. Make connections from your story to their likely experiences. Draw parallels to help them understand how your story also reflects theirs. Regarding the living room example and the significance to your work it eventually illuminated, you might write: "Not everyone has had this identical experience. But probably somewhere in your decision to become a massage therapist was some childhood realization that touch could help people."
However you handle it, if you consult your body and move with its wisdom in your inner experience so that you, yourself, are touched, your readers will be more than educatedthey will be touched. And they will be grateful.
© Copyright 2003 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.
from Massage Magazine,
HEALING THE WRITERS WOUNDED LIFE (reprinted from Writers Connection, December 1986)