Treating in the Spirit of Happiness

“When we treat at the level of the Spirit, we promote happiness, and when we promote happiness, we promote health.” — Carl Johns

by Carl Johns, LMT, Director, ASIS Massage Education-Flagstaff

I have said many times in the classroom, if we make people feel good, they will be happy, and happiness predicts and promotes health in every way. Stress and anxiety will fade away. Pain will subside. The mind will clear. Interactions with the people around us will become more enjoyable.

There is a useful space for treating the pain and for working with the structure, but it has become our obsession in the world of massage and bodywork. It is often assumed that the work that targets symptoms and works with the structure is superior to the styles of bodywork that are more gentle and nurturing and that feel good. I do not think this is true, and I believe that each of these paradigms can share equal space within the same session.

I remember taking my mother-in-law for an acupuncture and bodywork session. The practitioner, like her, was from Japan and they shared a common culture and language. He spent a long time with her that day, and they engaged in a lot of conversation while the work went on. When she came out of the treatment room, this woman who was in considerable pain and hunched over a walker, stood up and threw her shoulders back, exclaiming: “I feel great!”

I don’t believe this result had anything to do with the particular technical choices of the practitioner that day, but had more to do with the level of human engagement while receiving the work. This is an example of treating at the level of the Spirit.

I spent 17 years offering bodywork to the participants at the Cerebral Palsy Center for the East Bay in Oakland, California. My lessons there had to do with slowing down, doing less, connecting more, being present, listening and being creative and playful with bodywork. The more I slowly learned these lessons, the better the results.

When we stop seeing the people we are touching in bodywork as problems to solve and start seeing them as human beings who will benefit from our undivided attention and presence, then we can start to treat at the level of the Spirit, engendering happiness and health, and moving toward a better human experience.