MTI Graduation Speech
(Delivered 2/6/00 at my graduation from the Muscular Therapy Institute,
retyped here from memory. Several non-verbal events were relevant
during my delivery, which turned out to be demonstrations of the way of
being I talk about, so I've included them in the writeup in [italics]. --MR)
I have an idea to share with you today, which I've come to in just the
last few weeks. I'll be addressing it to my fellow Muscualar Therapist
colleagues here [gesturing to my classmates], but anyone here today who
works with people in a helpful way will be able to translate it into
the language of their own discipline.
In the most general terms, I see two kinds of result that people get out
of massage. The first kind we can all achieve pretty reliably: clients
coming back saying, "Wow, I'm so relaxed," or "That muscle isn't tight
anymore," or "The pain is gone," and so forth.
The second kind I know some of us have seen and I bet many have
glimpsed, when the client comes back and maybe they're too much focused
inside themselves taking in new information to even be thankful to you
yet, saying things like, "Everything is different now," or "That muscle
has *never* been relaxed before," or they had a big emotional release of
I'll tell you about two examples of this that I've observed. I had one
woman who when I asked her in the initial interview if she was aware of
any areas of pain or discomfort right now, she said, "The thing I'm most
uncomfortable about is that I'm stuck in this stupid secretarial job,
I'm qualified to teach at the college level, but I'm not looking for a
new job and I don't know why." It seemed natural in that moment for me
to say, "Well if you want to, you can be keeping that question in your
mind during the massage." She said okay, and we talked out the rest of
the nuts and bolts of what the massage would be. [suddenly I saw an
old friend in the audience, was filled with glee, said a heartfelt "Hi"
and waved, totally lost my place, and people laughed. I was rattled for
a moment, then said suddenly, "No really, thank you all for being here,
you're helping me say this," and then I knew what I was saying
When I started working on her a few minutes later, it also seemed
natural to say, "So if you want, you can be open to the question 'Why
aren't I looking for a new job?'" I went on with the massage, myself
being open to what was going on with her on a body-level, and about
half-way through the session, she suddenly said, "Oh, I know what I'm
afraid of." I kept working, and a few minutes later she said, "Oh, and
I know why that fear is there, too." In the exit interview, she
explained to me what was stopping her from looking for a job, why it was
illogical, and what she could do about it. A week later she emailed me
that she'd gotten a college teaching job in her field.
Another woman once came to me [here I started to demonstrate by rolling
one shoulder so far forward it made a diagonal crease across the front
of my shirt], and she was saying, "Matt, my shoulder is so screwed up,
my tops never feel like they fit right and it's driving me crazy, can
you help me?" Well, I said since it's a chronic condition I probably
can't make it go away in one session, but if it's to do with muscle
tension we can probably address it over time. So we did the session,
and I had theories about what muscles might be tight or shortened, and I
did some relevant work, but while the muscles involved got more pliable
and looser, the structure of her shoulder wasn't changing at all. So I
gave up on that, but I didn't move on to other areas of tension, instead
I did passive body with that shoulder for the last 20 minutes of the
session. "Passive body" is just holding the shoulder above and below,
and really tuning in to what's going on in the body there, letting it
sink into your hands, maybe moving a little in a response to movements
you feel. When we talked after the session her shoulder was like this!
[rolling my shoulder back to level] She said, "My shirt fits, this is so
cool!" And as it turned out it stayed that way, it wasn't the kind of
thing where [scrunch] it went back when she woke up the next morning.
I share those stories with humility, because I know that I didn't *do*
these things. I don't have super-techniques in my repertoire that get
that kind of outcome regularly.
I know a lot of you are attracted to that kind of outcome, and I have
one clue to offer today, about where this comes from, and that clue is
The more you have control over the session, the more you proceed with
clear goals, exercising your finely-tuned skills and focusing on the
outcome you're working toward, the more reliably and powerfully you'll
be able to achieve the *first* kind of result I talked about, people
feeling relaxed, looser, more range of motion, and less pain, but the
*less* you'll see the transformational kind of result.
And the more you are open to the present moment... [here totally by
accident I *whacked* the microphone stand, awkwardly grabbed for it...
and then changed my contact from a grip into a gentle hold with both
hands, recentering for a little while and saying "Hmm"] ...open to
connecting with the person -- or technology -- in front of you, open to
your intuition, open to letting go your goals and preconceptions, and
willing to go with what seems right at the time -- all of which mean
*less control* over the session and its outcome -- the more the
transformational will be possible.
I don't think we can walk both paths at once. And all of us, I think,
are going to feel market pressures pushing us toward more control. "I
can achieve this and that result with people with these and those
conditions" sells better than "I'm open to people and great things are
possible." But personally, I think the second path is the path to
greatness in massage therapy.
And for everyone else here, I say to you that every discipline for being
with people in a helpful way has techniques that pretty reliably get the
kind of good results you're looking for. You can develop those even
further, or you can let them go in the moment and be open to what's real
between you and the other person, and great things are possible.
Every story begins with paying Him that I love, I wish to be free --
attention. -- Chet Raymo even from me. -- Anne M. Lindbergh
Copyright 2000, Matt Ryan.
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