I want to talk about the dos and don’ts when getting a relaxing mindful massage. Now you may wonder – are your seriously going to write about getting a massage? Kind of but not really. It is all about the ability to disconnect and relax, and naturally, famous mindfulness. Let’s be clear, I am not a massage junkie. But sometimes, that is what my body and mind require. Often in the past, it did not work. Until I could have a mindful massage.
My end of month mindful massage
Sunday night marked the end of a tough month, challenging quarter and absolutely fulfilled first half of the year. By June the feeling of overwhelm peaked and, as much as I knew I was on a short fuse and needed to stop, I kept going until the end. As I mentioned in my weekly thoughts 2 weeks ago, the best way I find to deal with overwhelm is to just get stuff done.
But the month end arrived and with it, for good or bad, a bunch of deadlines. After enjoying blissful disconnect for a day and a half, 4 hours of Exhibition Road festival meant my body caught up and I was both mentally and physically exhausting. Time for a massage.
What else is there to say about the massage?
As I laid down in the hope of some peace, my mind jumped in dreadful lack of focus. As I tried to block thoughts and relax using the little I know about meditation, I gave in. And the thought of this article quickly formed: the dos and don’ts of getting a relaxing massage. How ironic, trying to relax while my brain is putting together words and thoughts to write this.
How do you really relax? But more importantly, why are we so obsessed about relaxing. Our mind is hardly made for it. At least I know mine is not. But in time, I found little tips on how to make the overall experience less (mentally) painful. In fact, I am talking about a mindful massage but it can apply to any mindful activity you chose to relax – or almost any!
What to do
Have nowhere to go
I have tried to squeeze in a massage in the schedule, start the day relaxed on my holiday, end a long day of work. Almost all failed at this rule. I have learnt that Urban has now made it possible for me not to be dependent on any therapist availability or even opening hours. Lately, I book a home massage at 9 or 10 in the evening. It means kids are in bed, I probably have time to deal with any email or chores, and I really have no other plans than going to bed.
I am sure for a more reasonable human being, a middle of the day massage on a Saturday works just fine. I struggle with Mummy Guilt, so this time is a winner. I get rid of the watch and the phone. And the only place I have to go to is right next to me, so it can wait the full 60 minutes.
Maybe for you a mindful relaxed moment means something else. But whatever it means, don’t keep an eye for when it needs to finish. Spoils the party.
Take time to prepare = don’t rush
Urban allows me to book a (mindful) massage with very little notice. And no, they have not offered me affiliate sales though I am sure I could get some sort of discount if I refer friends. Any similar system anywhere in the world would do. This one works for me in London.
What little notice allows me is to know whether that is indeed the right evening for me to take a moment to myself. Because it does not happen often, I have to really chose it right. I found that booking weeks or even days in advance ended up causing me more stress than not doing it at all. A last minute event meant I was rushing to it or really just thinking about what I had to do.
The other part is that taking time to prepare means you transition from whatever you are doing into your own moment. I light candles, put the blinds down, get my towels ready. Sunday, I even brew some fresh mint tea. It helps me tell myself I am done with whatever else I was doing, and time for nothing is about to start. For someone that rarely does nothing, I do require this sort of education.
What not to do
Trying to stop your mind
There you go planning to be so relaxed. You close your eyes, start to feel the oil… and then the email you forgot to send, the shopping you have not done, the friend you forgot to call. Or the blog you are yet to write (in my case). It is like your brain just entered a roller coaster ride through your memory and the more you hit the breaks the more it keeps on going. Most likely the same was true the first time you tried to meditate. That is why an app like Headspace can work, because Andy will tell you that this is happening. He gives the analogy that rather than fighting your thoughts, you just watch them like traffic going on the street of your mind.
Your mind has not been designed to stay still (it is my belief, I am not bringing research today). In fact, moments to relax are often the best to bring out some creativity or bring to memory old thoughts or desires. Because our mind wonders. I am convinced now (rightly or wrongly) that letting your mind wonder ends up what is actually making you relax and be mindful. You are not trying to get anything done (other than perhaps stay awake) and you are not limiting your mind to a single thought. That way, it can expand and go.
If you find it really hard to miss out on all the things you are thinking you can always have a voice recorder next to you, but it depends on how much you are comfortable with your therapist knowing your rambling thoughts! If you are relaxing by the beach or on a cafe, try and keep a notepad (to avoid mobile intervention). Over time, you may even stop needing it and be comfortable with your mind.
Have a goal
This is my expertise. I want to have a massage because I need to fix my shoulder. Or I need to fix my back. Or I need to fix the pain in my legs. Truth is I have so many aches and pains for no reason, I could always have a reason to have a massage. Just not enough budget. So even when I don’t have a specific pain, I always want the massage to be strong so it “works” my muscles and I often get very anxious when the therapist is doing a super light massage.
What's the point. What a waste of time. If I am spending time doing this, might as well get it to do something.
Yes, all that goes through my mind when my massage is “normal”. I have come out of many relaxing spa massages with a feeling of time wasted. Even though the massage themselves were great. I forgot to enjoy the ride and focused only on the destination. And guess what? Even those where I was being “treated” ended up never having the full effect that I originally planned? First, I cannot be fixed in a single massage. Second, there is usually much more to fix than the apparent pain. Most notably, our mind and ability to relax and be present. To teach ourselves how to have a mindful massage.
This was a key difference on my Sunday evening massage. The massage was the destination. Nothing else.
The concept of mindfulness has been widely spoken off. I knew that was what I was missing when in one of the sessions, Catia asked me to hold a sheet of paper in front of my eyes while trying to have a conversation with her. She kept asking me questions and I kept trying to peek over the sheet of paper to speak to her. I was not allowed.
I then had to fight the paper away from me while it was actually pushing into me. It was a weird exercise that ended up with a very wrinkled paper and a total inability to follow what she was saying while I was trying to do that.
She got her point across. At each moment, for instance when I play for the children, there are often blockages that do not let us enjoy our time fully or even focus on the conversation about the school day. And when we make too much of an effort to move those thoughts away in a forced manner, it only grabs even more focus.
It is important to accept that our mind is a non stop machine. The fact that we stop in a massage bed (or a beach) does nothing to stop it. So embrace it. Then you can relax.
Photo by Adrian Motroc on Unsplash