Friday, August 29, 2008

The Gospel of Sacred Touch--My Soapbox

I was recently asked why I do what I do, and instead of falling back on the same old reasons I've had for years, I decided to take the opportunity to do some soul searching.

I've always been sympathetic to activism, but never considered myself an activist. I'd like to see the end of wars and poverty and environmental degradation, but these causes have never drawn me into the fight. And it's not that I don't care deeply. Both as a child and an adult, I've literally been moved to tears at the sight of a smokestack dumping toxins into our air, the killing of our global brothers and sisters by violence, and the starving to death of children on this earth. Yet, I haven't made it my life's work to tackle these issues.

My life work is to touch (literally) other human beings and to teach others to touch too. In my recent soul searching, I re-discovered just how passionate I am about this. I know that touch can change a person's life. Being touched can connect a person to his own depths, to another person, or all beings in the cosmos. Being touched can bring a person to a place of stillness and peace, where she can realize her essential nature. Being touched with honor, love, and understanding can remind us of our inherent worthiness and basic goodness.


Touching another human being is no small matter and I want to do my part to make sure that touch is given it's true status as a sacred art. Every person who lies on the massage table, regardless of what they've done in their life, is a spirit in a body that can be reached with touch. I have no idea how many massages or bodywork sessions are happening in the world in one given moment, but it has to be a lot. Imagine glowing balls of light and love pouring from the hands of all the therapists working throughout the world at this very moment. That's my vision.

And sadly, just as there are toxins pouring into our environment everyday, sometimes there is professional, healthcare-related touch that is fails to honor the client's body and soul. Sometimes it's because an otherwise conscientious massage therapist is having a bad day; sometimes it's because the therapist has an agenda to achieve a particular outcome; sometimes it's because the therapists or schools that taught them were motivated by things other than spreading the gospel of sacred touch :) and in the worst cases, there are people who are consciously harming clients through sexually inappropriate touch.

I know I can't do a lot about most of this, but I can do my part in making sure massage students are educated to revere the bodies, hearts, minds, and souls of everyone they touch. And I can try my best to approach every massage I give with reverence for my client's body, heart, mind, and soul. It's not always easy--for any of us--but it's worth trying.

That's what drives me. That's my quiet activism. That's why I do what I do.

Love to you,

© 2008, Rebecca Mauldin, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Paying for Massage School

One of the biggest obstacles I see for people wanting to become massage therapists is paying for massage school. Tuitions alone run in the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands. Typically, tuition costs $9.00-$10.00 per contact hour. On top of tuition, students must find resources to cover related school expenses like books and supplies and pay for their living expenses while in school. Below are some ideas for funding your massage school experience.

  • Federal Financial Aid
    Some of the larger massage schools offer federal financial aid. This means their students are eligible for federally backed student loans. In order for schools to be eligible for federal funding, they must be accredited by a national accreditation organization. The fees for accreditation are expensive for the school and the staff time necessary to receive and maintain accreditation is also a big investment. This means that the smaller, more intimate massage schools usually are not nationally accredited. The last time I saw the statistics, less than 1/5 of massage schools offered federal financial aid. With the increasing corporatization of massage education, I’ll be curious to see if these numbers increase.

    The benefits of federal financial aid are that funding is more accessible and interest rates can be lower. Without federal financial aid, some students are unable to get loans at all. The downside about federal financial aid is that the schools that offer federal financial aid are often more expensive than those that don’t. I’ve seen federally funded schools cost as much as $20 per contact hour. Recent surveys indicate the average annual salary for massage therapy is about $25,000. At this rate of pay, repaying large student
    loans can be tricky.

    Other Student Loans
    There are non-federally backed student loans available. Students should check out student loans products carefully. I have seen some companies charge as much as 18% interest for non-federal student loans.

    Right now, one company I can recommend for this is SLM Financial. Their phone number is (888) 272-5543. They offer a Direct Career Training Loan product that your school may be able to help you with.

    Personal Loans
    For students with good credit and collateral, personal loans can help with tuition. Interest rates on personal loans are generally higher than on federally backed student loans, but personal loans can pay for schools that don’t qualify for federal funding. In addition to personal loans, home equity loans are a good option. The interest rates for home equity lines of credit can be lower than for personal loans.

    Other Resources
    When I started Rocky Mountain Institute of Healing Arts in 2001, I met with a representative of the Small Business Association (SBA) to discuss business loans. His recommendation was to look to, as he called it, “the Bank of Friends and Family” for financial backing. For some lucky massage students, The Bank of Friends and Family is a viable form of support.

    I remember a student whose grandfather helped each of his grandchildren with their college tuition. Her grandfather recalled the “massage parlors” of the past that were just a cover for prostitution and was not at all enthused about funding his granddaughter’s enrollment in massage school! The granddaughter took it upon herself to educate her grandfather about massage therapy as a career and healing modality. Somewhat hesitantly that he decided massage school could qualify as “college” for his assistance, but by the time she graduated, he was a convert.

    This approach of education and inclusion can be invaluable when a student is receiving financial support from a family member or friend. Parents or grandparents may want to contact the school’s administrative staff to discuss their educational programs or the field of massage therapy. If the student familiarizes him or herself with the financial potential of massage therapy and is realistic about employment opportunities, it can help assure family members who are considering giving financial support.

    In reality, scholarships from massage school are difficult to locate and receive. I don’t intend to discourage anyone from looking for scholarships, but it’s important to realize that they are probably not the answer to massage school funding needs. At the time of publication, two organizations that offer massage school scholarships (The Spa Foundation and American Speciality Health), have postponed their scholarship programs. Libraries have scholarship books that list various scholarships; just ask the reference librarian for help. There are also websites that give information about scholarship opportunities.

    In many years of working at massage schools and running my own, I have heard a lot of massage students’ stories. There are many stories of people who have wanted to go to massage school for years. They held onto their dream, saved money as they could, and attended school when the timing was right.

Being a massage therapy is very rewarding. I encourage anyone who wants to become a massage therapist to keep working toward the goal of massage school. The profession needs people who are passionate about it! Sometimes (most of the time?), what we’re passionate about takes dedication, patience, and hard work.

For those of you who have already gone to massage school or are currently attending, please leave your stories about paying for school in the comments of this post. It would be helpful for others who are in the process of looking right now!

© 2008, Rebecca Mauldin, All Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cellular Memory and Bodywork: A Couple of Stories

There's a lot of talk about cellular memory these days. I remember the first time I was aware of my body's capacity to house information. Before I went to massage school or understood the body in any way other than what I'd learned growing up in Southern Appalachia, I was in a car wreck. As part of my rehabilitation, someone suggested I try out Trager therapy. I hadn't even gotten a massage at this point in my life.

During one of my sessions, when the Trager therapist was working on my right ankle and I felt a rush of heat in my body and, though my eyes were closed, I saw a field of red. Afterward, I told my therapist about this and she said, "Oh, you must be storing some anger there." I immediately dismissed this notion. First of all, it seemed impossible that I could store an emotion anywhere in my body and second, I never felt angry, so this just couldn't be! (I had a lot to learn about anger!!)

A week later, the incident buried in my consciousness, I returned for another session. This time, as she began moving my ankle, I was filled with a feeling of rage. It lasted only a few moments before I experienced an incredibly vivid memory. The memory was very real--as if I was reliving the moment. In the memory, I was 5 years old and my parents were hosting a 4th of July party. Something (I didn't recall what) happened and that made me very angry. I took off running and ran down a steep portion of our yard. At the bottom, I landed wrong on my ankle and sprained it badly. I had not thought of this event in many years and was astounded at what had transpired as my ankle went through the gentle movements of the Trager session.

After that, I began to relate to my body in a new way. I was a believer in the concept of cellular memory.

In the first ever massage therapy class at RMIHA, one of our students did not have a sense of smell. She hadn't been able to sense smell for many years although she did not know why. One day, I was teaching neuromuscular therapy for the abdominals. This is such a sacred region of the body that I had prepped the students for being especially senstive. During the practice, the student who couldn't smell was receiving the treatment. She began to feel emotional and started crying. Her partner in the trade was a good friend and high school classmate, and he did a wonderful job just softly maintaining his touch without pushing any agenda. She couldn't understand why she was feeling such grief, but was willing to stay open to the experience.

All of a sudden, she smelled a strong smell of cigarette smoke. (At the time, she thought someone was smoking outside the window). Then came a memory of her grandmother when she was dying of lung cancer. Her grandmother had been a lifelong smoker and even at the end of her life, as she was using an oxygen machine, she continued to smoke. The student felt a lot of sadness with this memory. She had loved and missed her grandmother tremendously. She continued to let the feelings and tears flow. After a while, the emotions subsided and her trade partner finished of the session with some soothing and soft strokes.

After that massage session, her sense of smell returned and has remained since.

I believe our bodies are amazing. They are excellent guides to healing, not only physically, but also emotionally.

Please share your own stories of cellular memory and healing in the comments!

© 2008, Rebecca Mauldin, All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Interviewing New Students

A fun and wild ride together!

The next session at RMIHA starts September 9th, so it's that time of year when the applications are coming in and I am interviewing prospective students. The applicants don't really know what to expect out of the massage school experience, but they are full of enthusiasm for whatever it holds for them.

This is the staging phase for a wild ride together. I'm witnessing the arrival of the people who will make up the Day Class of 2009.

Soon, we'll be sitting in a circle for the first day of class. Most will be nervous, wondering if they will be accepted and liked, if they will do well in the program, if they will like their classmates and teachers. The first few weeks can be intimidating because there's so much to learn and get used to. We're all getting to know each other and it's a heady time.

For now, it's a one-on-one relationship. The applicants know me but not each other. I try to imagine what they will be like as a group and guess who will be friends. I may have some inklings, but I truly have no idea what will unfold. I am hopeful and anticipatory myself.

These interviews remind me why I'm in the business of educating massage therapists. I feel lucky to have found this place in the world. So here's a big thanks to the incoming students. I'm looking forward to teaching and learning from you this year.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Spiritual Massage: The Video Version (for text version, see 7/27/08)

I've been busy putting together a video companion to the last post, Spiritual Massage: Suggestions for Receiving Sacred Bodywork and don't have new content for you in terms of a blog post. But I think you might like this video post. It's got some really nice photography and relaxing music (thanks to for the music; it's a great place to go for free--creative commons--downloads). So...I hope you enjoy the video!