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

The second part of this series talk about another unique aspect of Kibbutz Bardo massage: Going out. Or, I would rather say Going up.

The massage bed was set up in the middle of the apartment rooftop (Kibbutz Bardo is on the fourth floor). Dusk is approaching; the air is getting chilly. The incense candle is blowing in the mild wind. I look around. All I can see is rows of grayish apartments and reinforced concrete buildings. Here I am, wrapping myself in a yukata (Japanese bath robe) and exposing myself to the world. Hmm. The nomad part of me says Interesting. The localized part of me says Let’s get back in. The Japanese part of me says Be respectful. Two to one: Stay.

The massage begins with burning herb incense. The smoke reminds me of a signal—something that flies over the soldiers in trenches in World War I movies— Get ready. (Read the first part of this series to see what happens.)

When my abdomen is being worked on, I turn around and look up (where else can I look?). The stars and clouds are there, floating on the gray-blue sky. Well, thanks to Taipei’s perennial smog, there are only few visible stars. But they are, nonetheless, or perhaps because of that, beautiful. Seeing an ocean of stars high up in the mountain is a special experience, needless to say. But I find out that locating only a couple of weak shines is also valuable on its own. Because the radiance is so fragile and scarce, you cannot but stare at the stars, as if doing so keeps them shining longer. I play hide-and-seek with the stars, which constantly duck beneath the clouds.

As I fix my gaze into the open air, I start to lose the sense of my body. Or more precisely, I don’t know where my body ends and where the sky starts. This fish-eye lens view does not have a beginning or an end: Everything is connected. I enjoy being part of the universe, temporarily taking refuge in oneness away from the daily world of isolation. Having had my body internally dissolved into an energy field (metaphorically), I sharpen my focus—or I completely lose my focus, which might obtain the same result—much more easily than usual. There is no separation between me (the subject) and the rest (the object).

Funny, I say to myself. During our daily madness, we always dream of a vacation in a tropical island, as if complete relaxation is a luxury that can only be obtained by traveling thousands of kilometers and spending an absurd amount of money. Well, there it is—two floors above. Suddenly I want to wake up and run out on the street to claim that I found the secret formula for turning the urban jungle into a tropical resort: 1. Lie down. 2. Look up.

I wonder how many lost opportunities are around us—wonderful things we just haven’t noticed yet. But the new integrated me interrupts the old me: Don’t think too much. Let everything go. So I fall asleep. Ignorance is always bliss.