Out of Touch
by Michael Braunstein
Can someone please tell me why it isn’t called “anti-social distancing”?
There is nothing that feels more unnatural than constant awareness of staying distant from other human beings. Yet that is the cloak of consciousness we have wrapped ourselves in during this strangest of historical years, 2020.
Since the dawn of human existence on this planet, Homo sapiens has been essentially a social animal. In couples, clans, families, tribes, nations, we seek to rekindle the natural feeling of connectedness. There is a deep metaphysical need to heal the separation that the physical existence contradicts. Though we see bodies and itemize objects that surround us and create the illusion of separateness, we innately and even scientifically recognize we are connected and one with all of existence. That’s just a fact of quantum physics and cosmology that we cannot deny. Even though our eyes want to tell us there is space between us, there is not.
Though only minds can truly join, we spend a great deal of our time trying to join bodies with one another. Bodies can never actually be one. Only minds can do that. Humans can be of “common mind” but never common body. It is the desire to be one that drives us to actually crave the phenomenon of touch.
One can imagine an early caveman standing up too quickly in the wrong part of his cave and smacking his skull against the overhead granite. No doubt the first thing he did was utter some kind of caveman expletive, followed immediately by his hand rising up to rub his head where it hurt. Then perhaps his cavewoman counterpart came over and gently rubbed it for him. She gave him the first massage.
When something aches or is sore, we want to touch it or rub it. It’s natural. When you’ve been sitting at your cubicle for an eight-hour day, you may reach up to your shoulders and give them a quick rubdown. The only thing better than doing it to yourself is having someone else do it for you.
The first time I saw a “massage” was in some old black & white movie on television. I think it was a gangster movie and the guy was at a golf course clubhouse getting a rubdown after a round. As a youngster, I thought massage was something done just for a rich duffer drinking a mint julep and smoking a cigar in the swanky side room of a country club locker room. The idea of massage having actual therapeutic benefit escaped me. I was happy to learn I was wrong.
Backs to basics. In Western culture, what we commonly know as massage is a form of Swedish massage taught by Per Hendrik Ling in the 19th century. Swedish massage is mostly long, stroking movements that manipulate soft tissue and muscles. Up until the late 1970s, it was by far the most common. Its therapeutic values are understood and include improved circulation, both vascular and lymphatic, relief of pain and the reduction of stress.
Massage therapy helps keep energy moving through the body, a major tenet of all traditional therapies. Whether we call it chi or ki or prana, energy must flow freely for optimum health. With massage, the actual physical manipulation of the muscles and tissues improves circulation. Healthy blood flow is essential. But remember, blood isn’t all that flows through the body.
The seemingly simple action of massage can result in slower and deeper respirations as we relax. Oxygen intake can increase and the circulation of air in the lungs is better. Phlegm and mucous is loosened in the lungs and congestion can be relieved.
With easier breathing, our blood pressure can lower as we relax. The flow of blood to all the tissues and organs is improved. Body temperature regulates and toxins can be removed from tissue.
Nice to be kneaded. Humans have a complex lymphatic system to move lymph through the body. Important to a healthy immune system, the lymphatic system helps remove pathogens and toxins. Massage can improve that flow and help alleviate blockages. Many of today’s professional massage therapists take additional training to learn how to improve lymphatic flow for their clients. Usually, lymphatic massage is gentler and accompanies the deeper, tissue massage to which we are accustomed.
Massage can also increase mobility in chronically disabled patients. Many causes of decreased mobility are linked to connective tissue problems such as arthritis. Connective tissue massage focuses on the tissue that connects the muscles to the skeleton and each other.
Massage therapy can also be quite specialized. Techniques such as Rolfing, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, acupressure, Feldenkrais, Hellerwork, orthobionomy and many more have specific uses and require advanced training. Incorporating these techniques helps the therapist offer more to the client. But the style of massage that is the basic is still a derivative of Swedish massage. Summarily, a massage can have tremendous physical, emotional and mental benefits.
Cave dwellers. So now, after a questionable dictate demanding isolation due to a suspicious virus circulating in society, a dose of touch might be just what is best for any and all humans. Consider the benefit that a therapeutic massage can bring you. Visit your local massage therapist. Your immune system will thank you. Just mind your noggin when you stand up to emerge from your cave.
Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.