[ Essay ] How to receive a proper massage 1/2

This is my experience on Reiki massage at Kibbutz Bardo, run by my friend Marina Lin.

As the smell of incense fills the air and the essential oil gets smoothed out on my skin, I close my eyes to prepare myself to be turned into human pizza dough. It is a comfortable, if somewhat routine, feeling. The hands have finished searching for stiffness in my tired body and locked their positions. The hands start digging. All right, here comes the “destroy” part—I brace myself.

Then just before the crescendo, the hands leave. My body is caught off guard. It has already shifted its orientation to protect itself from ruthless attacks. While my body is still trying to reorganize itself, there is another “attack” on a different place. I feel like Gulliver under a guerrilla attack from the Lilliputians: I cannot predict the location, depth, or movement. The massage stimulates, but does not indulge.

It is different from the expose-the-opponent’s-weakness tactics deployed in Chinese foot massage (I have no doubt that Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War is a mandatory reading for all Taiwanese masseurs). It is also different from the carpet bombing strategy adopted in Thai massage. Receiving Reiki massage is like playing with a cat: As soon as it falls into a pattern, it shifts the attention to a different place or sensation. I decide to give up predicting and let the massage take over my body.

The moment I “let go,” I start to feel the energy movement. I find out that my body compensates itself for the “lack” of deep penetration or broad smoothing by responding to the stimulation in a natural, wave-like manner (technically, human body is 70% water). In addition to receiving the pressure outside-in, the body massages itself inside-out.

It is not just the tactile sensation that is being stimulated. The air is occasionally filled with the scent of herb grass. The opening of snail shells are attached to my ears, letting me hear the remaining echoes of the vast ocean. As multiple sensory organs get their share of simulation, all sensations melt into one, leading into a gentle force of nature that grows inside my body. It is the moment of beautiful surrender, as noted in the book The Top Five Regrets of Dying.

Surrender is not giving up, far from it. Surrender takes an enormous amount of courage. Often we are only capable of doing so when the pain of trying to control the outcome becomes too much to bear. Reaching the point is actually liberating, even if it is not fun. Being able to accept there is absolutely nothing more you can do, other than hand it to greater force , is the catalyst that finally opens the flow.

My usual habit of reflecting the day disappears. I find it hard to separate my mental activity from physical sensations anymore. Everything inside me starts to melt into one. The mind and the body, separated by the ever-increasing complexity of modern life, (almost) reunites.

I lay down, letting go of my doubts, fear, sorrow, anger. I enjoy the simple awareness that I, simply, am.