Remember how great you felt after your first massage? I know I was grinning like an idiot while trying maintain some semblance of calm, cool collectedness. You probably had no idea what to expect, even if others had recounted their experiences to you. Not really. Not in a how will it actually make me feel sort of way. While you may not have been able to relax quite as much as you did in subsequent sessions, there’s something magical about that first massage. I think part of the magic comes from not putting a limit on the amount of relaxation or pain relief you will feel.
That is what Buddhists call “beginners mind.” It’s an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions (thanks Wikipedia for that concise definition). You’d never had deep tissue massage, or swedish massage, or myofascial release, or any other host of massage techniques so you were open to what ever techniques your therapist used. You probably also didn’t have any idea of the way in which massage could influence your emotions and mindset. For instance, I had heard of massage brain but had no idea just how profoundly it could affect me. I remember thinking that I felt slightly drunk or high.
Unfortunately, as soon as we humans have a good experience we want to repeat it. Hard to blame us, really; who in their right mind doesn’t want a good experience? The problem is that we somehow think that the only way to achieve that experience is the exact same way we did before. You may become hung up on a particular technique, a specific lighting level, or a certain style of music, and completely disregard any other option. You’ve judged everything else to be inferior, even though you haven’t experienced those other things. But wait! you say, it just won’t be the same without those things being as they were before. You’re right. It won’t be the same. But you never know, it might be better.
As a general rule, kids are great at having beginner’s mind. They don’t recoil from new experiences the way adults do. If you tell them that you’re going to give them a different kind of massage than they had last time, they’re game. They don’t insist that it’ll only feel good if it’s done just like it was last time. Instead, they see this as another way to feel good. We adults would do well to emulate the natural curiosity and beginner’s mind that kids possess. I include myself in that call to action, because I can be just as guilty as the next person of getting stuck in the “way it’s always been” mindset.
I have a massage scheduled with a new therapist next week. I’m going to go into it with beginner’s mind and see just how different the experience is. What about you? Can you go into your next massage with beginner’s mind?