A patient of mine died this week. Not unusual since I work for hospice as a massage therapist. But I had the privilege of seeing this patient less than 24 hours before she died…this was a special patient for me….and her death sprouted some thoughts.
I put hands on people for comfort, sometimes pain relief, sometimes to calm an agitated mind or soothe the restlessness of dementia. My work straddles the energetic and physical worlds squarely. I prep people for their next adventure in this world or not, not just by softening their tissues and tensions, but by aligning their energies and removing obstacles to their systemic flow.
There’s a great harmony in us when things are whistling along in balance and unison. Even among tumors or tension or swelling or poor circulation or a failing heart, the intelligence of the bodymind is stunning and inexplicably bold. Something in us is conducting the process and my hands can only glimpse at the vastness behind that intelligence.
Not everyone believes in a great inner light or a Source of creation. But what’s undeniable when working with people’s bodies, is that there’s an energy existing within and around the actual physical cells and presence. Human energy and physicality while the body is alive are inseparable. We’re multi-dimensional. I can say that word, “multi-dimensional” without knowing exactly what it means, because what I feel under my hands affirms it to be true.
I can’t explain what it is, but I can feel it’s there. Like the difference between pressing your hand to the door of a small closet versus pressing your hand to a door that opens to a vast sacred temple. You can feel there’s a difference without knowing exactly what’s in every room of that temple or the mysteries contained within.
That’s us. The sacred temple with untold mysteries and treasures. Wisdom and libraries of memories and experiences. I can feel this power under my hands, to varying degrees, when I work, which makes hospice work particularly humbling.
When the body dies, something else comes alive. There’s a stirring in the airwaves. A pressure in the room, it’s crowded. Physically, I can tell you that death feels heavy and the body is lighter when there’s life in it. There’s an orchestra of organization happening in the tissues as preparation for death begins, like packing for a trip, making sure the dishes are done, the heat is turned off, the bags are packed.
Our experiences and consciousness lets all kinds of vibrational medicine into our beings. Sometimes I can feel those vibrations in my hands when I work on people. We all know there are multiple systems in the body: circulatory, lymph, nervous, respiratory, etc. We know these systems move and flow, they have channels and direction and purpose and function. Our energetic and life-directing channels do, as well.
We are rivers of motion. What directs the motion, and the “why” of how our physical systems generate what they need, well I can’t discern the reason or the why in my hands, but I can feel that it’s there.
Death is a great paradox. Our lives are vast and miniscule. As I work with people who are close to death, I have the question: How can you ever document or contain the beauty and wisdom contained in one single day, let alone an entire lifetime? It’s surely too much to even try to record. It is infinite in its reach. And yet, there’s the full moon and the North Star and the sun and the billions of miles of unexplored space and time where a single lifetime feels smaller than a grain of sand.
We live as if a single thing in our human experience is all consuming. “The bus was late! Can you believe that?! My whole day was ruined! I have to rearrange the kids’ schedule, I can’t make it to my client!” One moment can inform our mood, our thoughts, our observations. If we don’t release that tension and process it fully, we carry it right along with us into the next moment, into the next day, into the next year. These moments can create a sweeping tone, though everchanging and malleable, to our lives. This tone informs our stories, who we are, where we’ve been, what we’ve done and seen.
Part of what I do is help release the tension and harmonize the tone. I observe the stories contained in human experience through listening with my hands, without trying to assign a mood or judgment. My job is energetic observation. Because a funny thing happens when your hands are listening. The energy and tissue underneath your hands begins to organize and soften.You don’t have to prove anything to a neutral observer. You are just being witnessed and kept company, the great keys to freedom.
This is what meditation does, as well. If you practice profoundly neutral observation of your own experiences, those experiences often change, soften and become richer before your eyes.
Life is massive and inexplicable, to be alive, bursting with constant creation, interactive, spilling over with motion and sensation. Death is massive and inexplicable, to be leaving your body, bursting with creation, spilling into a new state of being, sliding out of this dimension.
Despite the sadness and drain of working with the dying, hospice work is giving me the kind of perspective I couldn’t have gained elsewhere. To know with growing certainty we are sacred, gifted beings, honored with the joy of being vast and miniscule together, through connecting, communicating, and opening up to what’s next.