The Philosopher's Stone Philosophy
Every massage therapist has a distinctive philosophy on massage and how to use it to create effective bodywork. Mine has roots in alchemy.
Philosopher's Stone. Quite a few people assume with that name I specialize in hot stone massage. But aside from the several amazing literary allusions (extra points if you guess my favorite!), I chose the name because the concept of the philosopher's stone embodies my understanding of and approach to bodywork.
A Little History
The philosopher's stone is a substance distilled to its purest essence able to turn base metals into gold, produce the elixir of life, and cure any illness. Creating it was alchemy's ultimate propose. Alchemy was the chemistry before chemistry with which we can also credit the foundation of modern day physics and it contributed to biology. This part you might remember from a blip in your science textbooks.
What might not have been included in the science history (or been heavily scoffed at if it was) is that alchemy has a magickal component. Our current understanding of the world would have most certainly excluded that this magickal element is also a spiritual one. In other words, alchemy was concerned with understanding how the spiritual interacts with and changes the material. With this view in mind, the philosopher’s stone looks less like a physical thing and more like a state of being. To find the philosopher’s stone is to say that you have reached Nirvana. The Massage Part Now I’m not saying that massage is going to propel you into enlightenment - no matter how transcendent the experience might feel! I’m also not suggesting you must be spiritual or believe in magick of any kind to benefit from massage. But the idea that we must work with and alter our internal realities before the physical reality can change is deeply important to all forms of healing.
Every medicine you will ever encounter must work with the body’s natural systems all of which are controlled by the mind, a distinctly different subject than the brain. (Many other resources - Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra is a good one - can argue that point with more grace than I am currently capable so we’ll take it as a given for now.) Neuromusculoskeletally, this means that hypertension or inhibition in a section of the body is caused by a logical-to-the-mind reason. Approaching the body with respect for that reason leads me to value the more finessed forms of massage therapy over those that rely more on force. By this I mean I prefer to suggest rather than demand anything change as I am working. I strive to create the safe space for change to occur. When we force or bully the body to make a change, to relax a muscle that is too tight or tone up one that is underactive, we risk slow, short lived improvements at best or causing potentially worse pain down the line as your limbic system throws your body into panic because a necessary compensation for a deeper upset forcefully removed then needs to be replaced. The goal then is to work with the mind’s logic instead of making the body do what we think it should from an outside perspective. We want to bring attention to an imbalance and allow your mind to make the corrections. To shape the therapeutic space in which we can invite desired changes and pain relief, I leverage stillness, listen deep, and follow the body’s established patterns. When change does not happen under these conditions, we know that some other muscle, tendon, ligament, or mindset must be released first. You are the Alchemist
Now I’ve talked about a lot of the things that I (though I hope you have noticed my frequent use of “we”) do to foster health, so let’s go back to basics. If the philosopher’s stone is a state of being and change comes from the inside out, my role is that of assistant. I am to respect and listen to you. You are the alchemist. Everything that happens in a massage session happens only with your permission and cooperation. It is your skeletal system, your muscular system, your nervous system that relieves your pain and restores your function. All I do is guide. So why do I call my practice Philosopher’s Stone? Because I’m here to help you return to life thriving and show you your power to cure your ails. What is your philosophy for massage? For health? For life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Share with someone you think would be interested :-)