Ama Lia, an intuitive healer, recently invited me to attend a retreat for healers in Bali. I had always wanted to visit this exotic, remote island in south-central Indonesia and was curious about Bali massage work. So last month I took off for the South Pacific to learn how the Balinese do it. Here's the first of three posts on my adventures.
Entering the open room, I was invited to sit on a low stool and place my feet in a tank filled with one-inch fish, which promptly started nibbling away at the skin, removing bacteria, dirt, and loose skin. Once the fish were full, my therapist removed my feet from the tank and proceeded to clean them with oils, then placed them in a wooden bucket filled with lemon, fresh tumeric, lemon grass, a huge assortment of tropical flowers and essential oils, and other organic substances. Then she gave each foot a vigorous scrub! Next, she soothed my feet in hot oil.
I was then escorted into a heavenly massage room; the table was draped just with a sheet. I was given a rolled-packaged panty to put on. I disrobed and got on the table. The open room was so serene, facing a mangrove with the sounds of trickling water, singing birds and croaking geckos. Ahhhhh, so relaxing! Then the Balinese massage began! The therapist started stretching and pressing at pressure points on the feet with force. “OUCH! Please do it lighter!” I requested, but I don't think my therapist understood. Then she grabbed my calves and progressed up the legs, squeezing and pressing hard on all the tired muscles! “Hey, go easy!” I've heard of compression, but this was too much!
Once my body was squeezed, pressed and stretched, the massage continued with application of hot oils that smelled like jasmine, or coconut oil, all very pleasant. Then my therapist administered long strokes to the total leg, up to the buttocks, then to my back. The pressure was almost irritating! Then I was asked to flip over! I felt like a fish! Oil was placed inside my belly button, and the therapist's hands swirled around my belly, making me feel like a baby! Then her hands worked their way up around the chest area, but avoided the breasts. Then the feet, legs and arms and hands got the treatment, while the face and head were saved for last! My therapist gripped my hair in her hands and gently tugged; it felt like the hairs were being pulled from my head!
I spent 18 days discovering such techniques, and had my therapists demo how they used their hands to do some of their movements. My conclusion: I can see the benefits of Balinese massage, but only if it’s done gently! One can use strong compression without leaving bruises! Most of the therapists had received only a month's training – not what I'd call therapeutic! But, it was worthwhile learning some of their techniques, and meeting so many nice, caring therapists! I'm looking forward to incorporating some of these approaches into my other healing modalities. But I'm not yet ready to give you the fishy feet treatment!
I got my start in massage when I was 17. On tour in Tennessee with my high school orchestra (I play trumpet), I was called into action one day after a rehearsal. Our conductor was in agony, stooped over and stricken with severe neck pain. I blurted out, with the confidence of an adolescent: “I can take care of you! "
I began working on his neck and back. Though I had never been trained, somehow I just knew what to do. After 15 minutes, I asked him how he felt. “I don’t believe it,” he responded, “all my pain is gone.” And he was no longer stooped over.
It was that day I became aware I possessed this strange and unusual intuition. There was no other explanation. Somehow, I had a knack for connecting with other people's pain. I continued giving massages to anyone in need, free, of course. I read books on the subject, and as I began traveling around the world, I would seek out healers from other lands, always looking to learn new techniques by offering “massage swaps.”
Then things got spooky. One day I saw a psychic who told me I had “healing abilities” and should learn how to develop them more. How did he know that? Was my intuition visible? Apparently so, as I was to discover a few years later, on a trip to Cuba. One night there, I joined in on a “spiritists” ritual – a kind of circle dance in which a large group of men and women danced around our smaller group in the center of the circle. Then, in middle of their dance, they stopped abruptly, pointed at me and started murmuring among themselves. I was scared. A guide explained what they were saying: ”She is a natural healer.”
They took me out of the circle and performed a “purifying ceremony” on me, brushing a bouquet of mint leaves and other herbs over me while reciting a healing blessing. I felt honored, validated, to be recognized as a “natural healer.” I now was certain that massage work was for me. Upon my return to the U.S., I enrolled in a massage school, aiming to get the best holistic training available. My hands were already experienced and sensitized to touch; I just needed to learn how to apply them to specific health issues.
Years of study and many hundreds of patients later, massage work remains my passion. I get the most gratifying feeling in the world when I am able to transfer my positive energy to a suffering patient and lift away the negative energy blocking their healing. I love helping others relieve their pain and teaching them how to improve their health.
My knack for healing still startles my clients at times, but I have learned to take it in stride. While I am doing foot reflexology, for example, a client will ask in amazement, “how did you know I hurt there?” I'll reply, “I don’t know, I just sense it”…and continue working until the pain is gone. Or, when working on a client with severe neck pain I'll find my hands going directly to the area that is blocking movement, and the client will say in awe, “I can’t believe you know exactly where my problem is…how do you know that? Again, I'll reply, “I don’t know, I just have this feeling.” Today, this sensory ability or feeling is known by the term, “intuitive healing.” But whatever it is and however you explain it, I consider it, above all, a wonderful gift. And I am so grateful I can share it.
Check back often to learn about the newest trends in massage therapy. I'm happy to share my ideas and approaches, based on more than 30 years of experience.