I usually play jazz while giving an Esalen relaxation massage. I started doing this intuitively when I began my massage practice, mostly because it was the only type of music in my collection that seemed to have the right feeling and flow for the massage. I love going to the Village Vanguard and other jazz venues around Manhattan to hear the incredible abundance of world-class jazz musicians that play here in New York, and I’ve been learning from listening to the music and talking to the musicians. Today I realized that what I love about giving an Esalen relaxation massage and what I love about listening to live jazz is the thing they have in common—infinite variety and improvisation. It’s possible that no two performances of a song are the same, and this is definitely true of Esalen relaxation massage. With jazz, there is a framework that the musicians work within, so that the thing comes together as a cohesive song, but there are times within the song when the musicians take off with elements of the song and the vibe in the audience and whatever they are channeling through their soul in that moment, and they create and express something new and unique. This feels magical, and the audience is transported on a journey with the musician. I have really felt like I’m flying with the music, and never wanted to come down. (And no, it wasn’t the appletini!) This is the same type of groove that makes me and my clients love Esalen massage. There is a framework I work within—certain elements that I bring into every massage, because they are essential. And I make sure to give attention to every part of the body, and hopefully do roughly similar things on each side, so the body feels in balance and harmonious. I forgot to do a practice client’s foot, back in the beginning when I was still learning, and he wasn’t too happy about it. I said, “Imagine that I did it.” And he said, “Then why not just imagine I had the whole massage.” Point taken! 🙂 But within that framework there is an infinite variety of strokes, and variations of sequence, pressure, and so on. And then there is that mysterious element of improvisation that just takes over, causing me to explore a whole new way of touching a finger, or a face. This is the magical aspect of Esalen relaxation massage that I can never predict, but that I love to discover with each new client. It is a response in the moment between our two bodies and souls, unique each time, even with clients I massage regularly. For me, the integration of a John Coltrane extended note as I flow with a stroke down a limb is one of the juiciest, jazziest things I can imagine doing. It satisfies my heart.