We have a room off the back of our house that we call the outdoor living room. It has a roof, a floor, furniture, and open walls. In this space, I am part of the house and part of the garden. I hear the woodpeckers and early morning chirps of the birds, see an occasional small animal scurry past. I feel the cool breeze, and smell the beginnings of spring. And I can also hear what is going on in the house, it’s muted by the glass door, but I can still sense the pulse of our family slowing waking. It is the natural boundary between our house and the nature around it.
It occurs to me that this is the mental space I try to have each time I work with a client.
I listen to their tissues with the same wonder and awe of listening to the space around me. The slow gentle expansion and contraction of the craniosacral system, the currents and eddies of the lymphatic system, the pull and push of the myofascial system, the big sweeps of the musculoskeletal system, the vibrations of the nervous system. All the different parts of the body that sing a symphony to me as the client lies on the table.
Just as if I am sitting in the outdoor living room, still available to the house, but still present to the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the outdoors, I join them in their world, while still keeping a foot in my own world. Emotionally tuning in to the comings and goings of their lives, while sharing what is going on in mine, as friends joining each other for a few steps of shared life journey. “The teacher and the taught, together become the teaching.” I wrote this statement down at a course so long ago, and it has shaped my practice as much as any technique I have ever learned. Even though the client is on the table, there is still a dialogue going on in the room, between the client and myself, and also between my hands and the tissues underneath them. I get support from my clients, as they get support from me, and I often find that when issues are moving through my life, they are also moving through my clients’ lives, and we can brainstorm together different solutions or approaches.
But don’t get me wrong, a dialogue does not mean there is no boundary, that I am pouring all my personal energy into my client, or conversely, sucking all the energy out of my client. It is actually very different. It means that I am grounded and full of what I call “universal energy”, offering the overflow to the client for them to use however their body needs to use it. By making sure that my own needs are taken care of, and that I am energetically full, I can have all my senses present to my client, secure in knowing that I am safe from being “drained”, “overpowered”, “disconnected”, “triggered”, or the myriad of other ways I have heard people describe the energetic dynamics that can go on between a therapist and a client. And by being more fully present, it allows me to tune in to the entire symphony my client and their tissues are expressing, and through that listening I can hold a deeply healing space, where both of us are safe, nurtured, and connected. It is just as relaxing as sitting in our outdoor living room.
I love my job.