It was September 2012, and I was lost in the Florida Everglades. Wild adventure? In a sense it could be considered one. I was in the process of changing careers from publishing to massage therapy, but at that moment my future seemed impossibly hazy. For starters, I was having trouble deciding on a massage school. One claimed to be accredited but cost almost twice as much as another local option…I had no idea how important accreditation was, and money was seriously tight. Plus, there was the fear that I’d be sinking thousands of dollars (regardless of school) into a field that I might completely bomb at. So, there I sat, lost, on the big borrowed bed.
A bed in the Everglades?! Oh, right. I was at the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center, a lovely site where we Buddhists go on spiritual retreats. A friend listened as I rattled off the pros and cons…school hours in each program, the vibe I got from each school, and then my laundry list of worries. She encouraged me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the primary practice of this Buddhism. Then she said something I’ll never forget:
“In Buddhism, no effort is ever wasted, right? Each piece of admission paperwork you complete, each step toward becoming a massage therapist will be helpful to someone else. You’ll see.”
She was right, as she often is. But recent events have unveiled other levels of right-ness we couldn’t have fathomed.
As you may have read from a past blog post, I injured my back almost exactly a year ago, benching me from massage for a month. What transpired from that event took me on a journey of conventional and alternative medicine, physical therapy, assertiveness training and so much more.
My back tried to pull the same stunt a few months ago, but I was wiser this time: before the problem became dire I got my ouchy butt back into PT and have been there ever since to reinforce strengthening my core, to stretch and work out tight areas and, as an important byproduct, to learn.
Just today at work, a client walked in and said her left glutes were severely tight and painful. My (new and improved!) manager kindly gave me the option to turn down this session because my own back was bothering me today. But when I heard my client’s predicament, there was no refusing her. As weird as it sounds, my elbow in her glutes, nay, anyone’s glutes, is part of my mission.
Every stretch I do, every massage technique that is performed on me, every word of caution I learn in PT as I heal, all of it is passed down more quickly than I can shake a stick at…or something. What I mean is that whether I plan it or not, what I learn becomes immediately helpful to someone else. A coworker strained his back the other day and came to work with symptoms that sounded similar to my own. I flooded him with so many self-care tips, I probably overwhelmed him. But I know what my manic mouth was doing. I’ve become a conduit of healing advice and massage techniques; it’s now second nature to me.
A year ago (similar to when I started my massage journey), my future was once again fuzzy, and I felt hopelessly lost in space. Between the worker’s comp hubbub and pain that left me loopy (Major Tom and I had a few lengthy dialogues…oh, if only I could remember them!), I couldn’t picture the outcome. Now I can see that I’m a more compassionate and more knowledgeable massage therapist as a result of the struggle. We might call it the most painful and expensive continuing education class ever offered, I guess. It was a grueling but immensely valuable experience, and I grew as a result of having experienced it. In a perhaps odd but definitely Buddhist sense, it’s been one of my life’s biggest treasures to date.
Oh, and that Major Tom pendant pictured above? It came in the mail today, a gift to commemorate the year’s anniversary of a difficult time and a reminder of my mission. Pendant or no pendant, I will never forget.