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Can Massage And Bodymind Learning Ease Inflammation In The Body Politic?

by David Lauterstein(more info)

listed in massage, originally published in issue 262 - May 2020

A few days after the US presidential election – which, no matter which side one was on, issued in a tumultuous time – one of my local therapist friends said what was needed was ‘a paradigm shift’. I believe the paradigm shift we need to actively promote is one that fundamentally includes the practice of kindness. 

It certainly has seemed too easy for people to harden their hearts toward one another. TV, radio and social media news concentrate almost exclusively on the exceptional and negative happenings in the world. The everyday, non-exceptional presence of people acting with care and respect toward each other is not considered news.
The natural perspective of massage and all forms of health care is inherently nondiscriminatory. People deserve respect and high-quality attention regardless of politics, the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, body type or income.


Human Rights


Beyond Fight-Flight Freeze

Even deeper than our nondiscriminatory position, massage and other therapies that have been sometimes characterized as new age bear a message that now is more important and universally relevant than ever. Let us not lose the power of the knowledge we transmit through our work.

We are surrounded by a media and culture that is somewhat inflamed by what I call the epidemic of hypersympathetonia (aka “HST”) – or living with a nervous system overly dominated by the sympathetic response. When we are stuck in the pattern of fight-flight-freeze, everything turns into something to be attacked or feared; or we stay stuck, frozen halfway between fight and flight.  HST is a social tragedy that results, cumulatively, in the inflammation of the body politic. I often think about Marshal McLuhan who wrote, The Medium is the Massage.  Perhaps the world of on-line interaction is an almost inherently inflammatory medium!


Marshall McLuhan The Medium is the Massage


Massage, of course, is an antidote to the anatomic, physiological and psychological consequences of HST.  It is one ideal antidote to the current tendency for socio-politico inflammation.

Our realm is about health and care – not just for self-help, but equally for the health of our communities, and ultimately the world. Our health increasingly is a function of our environment. We need to make the benefits of what we do as clear and as available to as many people and cultures as possible.

We can see, bright as day now, that the world needs the insights and practices preciously carried by holistic healthcare, and the realms of knowledge and insight associated with it.

The need for peace has come to the fore – whether we look at people striking out to silence those whom they take as their enemy or people seeking peace on yoga mats and massage tables.

It is exciting to note, in light of this need, that the development and spread of massage therapy, yoga and mindfulness in the West has been dramatic over the last 50 years.

Similarly, psychotherapy, humanistic religion, awareness of the mind-body connection, and clearer scientific understanding of the neuro-endocrine system have given us many tools we need to understand ourselves and others, to choose healthier behaviours, and to have compassion for the challenges human beings face from within and without.

Vast new resources now exist in our world.

Now is the time we get to put all this fully into practice.


Training Awareness Aldous Huxley Non-Verbal Humanities


Respect is Deeper than Positions

I have always felt that the knowledge embodied in the massage movement is essential information that everyone needs.  It is fundamentally part of what Aldous Huxley termed the “non-verbal humanities.”

What have we learned? Massage therapists and other holistic practitioners, at their best, embody the respect for being that goes far deeper than positions or behaviors; we acknowledge the importance of people feeling cared for and heard.

We convey nonverbally to clients:

  • They are worthy;
  • Touch conveys care best of all senses.  Since it is the first to develop in the embryo, it is the foundational language for communication (93% of which is non-verbal);
  • Each person is an anatomical, physiological and psychological miracle;
  • There is generally nothing wrong with them that what’s right with them can’t cure;
  • Their pain is not their destiny, nor capable of consuming their world;
  • Even though the sympathetic side of the nervous system is exciting, the autonomic balance, dependably stimulated by massage, is generally healthier;
  • The human body is not just a physical thing; it is a source of intelligence and knowledge. The lessons clients learn from massage and other healthy resources are lessons, I believe, we need throughout our society.


Skeletal Body Yoga Stretch


Free Minds & Hearts

The last thing we need is to take positions in massage therapy. Ida Rolf PhD spoke of the fixations of the body’s posture as a kind of disease; what we want is, rather, free movement. She taught that if we free the body, nature will organize it. Similarly we see fixations in postures of mind and heart as forms of dis-ease. When we free our bodies, hearts and minds, letting go of positions and postures, and honor everyone, we build a sustainable, workable world in which we can address in a heightened manner everyone’s desire for peace; a world in which the fight-flight-freeze pattern can become a thing of the past.

Ultimately, love is the answer. I believe even those stuck in hatred stay stuck because they have not found or experienced the love they need or want. To pick up this torch of care and love may be the highest purpose of what we do. The trick is not to let just a few people pick up this torch, but to have us all pick it up.

Each of us has to live with the contradictions of our time.  We can transform ourselves and we can help clients better access their own healing resources through our work. We cannot make anyone change.

I wish I could massage the whole world. I wish compassion would become as valuable to everyone as the acquisition of things, money or power.

We have our work cut out for us. But this is real work – maybe the most important anyone can do: to spread the power of love and peace throughout the world. People are crying out for real solutions to their concerns.

In our work, I am reminded of Marge Piercy’s poem, To Be of Use which ends with:

The pitcher cries for water to carry
And a person for work that is real.

May our real work make a real difference in this world.


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About David Lauterstein

David Lauterstein LMT MTI Cert. ZB Co-founder of The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin, Texas, has been a renowned teacher and author since 1984 and teaches Deep Massage and Zero Balancing throughout the US, at the Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy, and in the UK at the Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork.  He has his private practice in Austin at Creekside Whole Health Center at 1209 Parkway, Austin Tx 78703. David is author of The Deep Massage Book: How to Combine Structure and Energy in Bodywork (Order from Amazon USA and in UK through Bristol College of Massage and Bodywork - and Life in the Bones: A Biography of Dr. Fritz Smith and Zero Balancing, published in 2017 by Upledger Productions (available in the UK through  His latest book is distributed as the content of a new on-line continuing education course, "The Art of Massage: Ways of Touching"  David may be contacted via +1 512-785-3156;  and

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