Tag Archives: mindfulness

The experience of presence in Esalen relaxation massage

There’s a lot of talk these days about being present, being in the moment. Schools are teaching children to be mindful and present. The military is using mindfulness techniques to train soldiers to be more effective. One of the things that differentiates Esalen relaxation massage from other massage modalities is that the practitioner is grounded in presence, and helps the client to be more present.

What does it mean, to be present?

Ordinarily, our minds are working all the time, and often at very high speed, to process the constant bombardment of information from our environment, including our devices, televisions, and the many people around us in New York City. This is a survival mechanism, and we need to function this way a lot of the time. But the brain is a thought-factory, and it continually produces thoughts, images, memories, and so on, whether or not we need to be thinking. Being present means being aware of more than the thought factory, and even learning to disengage from the stream of thoughts for brief periods of time. It means opening to a bigger awareness within which the mental functioning is occurring. You can do that right now as you are reading this.

What more is there to be aware of? There is our physical sensations, emotions, and a deeper level of experience that many spiritual traditions call the soul. It is possible to develop our awareness of this more subtle level of experience, which is a source of mystery and delight. As a long-time practitioner of the Diamond Approach, I have learned to develop subtle awareness, and I communicate this to my client on the massage table through my presence.

How does Esalen relaxation massage cultivate awareness?

This type of experience is hard to describe because it is a non-verbal type of awareness that doesn’t use the ordinary mind. The doorway to presence is through physical sensation. Through the relaxation that occurs during a massage, my clients focus on the pleasurable physical sensations in their body, allowing the thought stream to quieten for periods of time. Once this happens, the subtle awareness can open up.

Some clients notice energy moving through their body, or experience magical color. Sometimes the music might begin to move through the body like a flowing river. Each client and each day is unique, so the particular experience of presence is different in every session. But what is common to all my clients is that the after-effect of a session is a feeling of relaxation, peace, and ease that lasts for hours and even days. This is the gift of presence, and we can all learn to experience it more of the time.

It’s amazing how something as simple as quieting our thoughts can bring us in touch with a feeling of fresh possibility, mystery, magic, and meaning.