Friday, September 12, 2008

Massage School Graduate--Interview with Crissy Williams

Crissy Williams graduated from massage school and energy healing school at the Rocky Mountain Institute of Healing Arts in June of 2008. I recently asked Crissy some questions about becoming a massage therapist and she was willing to share our conversation with you.

Rebecca: Why did you want to become a massage therapist?
To be honest, I was never really sure that I wanted to become a massage therapist. It was never that clear for me. Instead, I spent a long time mentally catalouging attributes and knowledge that I admired in others--things that I wanted to call my own. I was lucky enough to have a few women in my life who repeatedly shared with me their knowledge of the body and recognition of its ability to manifest emotional challenges. Throughout various stress related conditions, from chronic infections to actually losing my hair, these women always had suggestions or solutions to offer. Yoga, breathing excercizes, meridean points, mantras, even a few massage treatments. These wise women seemed familiar with a world that I found both mysterious and endlessly intruiging. A world with "chakras" and "energy", a world where people recognize the toll that busy life takes on the body and spirit, a world where people are advocates of their own health and well being. This world, or body of knowledge, was ultimatley appealing to me. It sparked an chord in me that felt like deep unquestionable truth; I wanted to know more. Unfortunatley, I had no idea how or where a person learned these things, nor had I heard of a career path in which these practices were used.

Previously in life had come to the conclusion that if I could have it my way, my career would be as a "proffesional friend". To me, that is what these women had embodied-- support when I was in a weakend and vulnerable state. They had stepped in as someone who could teach me how to take better care of myself, and by the radiance in their smiles it was obvious that they applied this knowledge to themselves. I had no idea how they had gotten to where they were, but I knew it was somewhere I wanted to be.

Rebecca: How did you choose your massage school?
Crissy: It was a grand and exciting moment for me when I realized a person may actually be able to go to school to learn about natural health. This may sound funny, but in 20 years of life it had never occured to me before that there were schools out there to teach a person about "energy" and "healing". Having grown up in a very small and isolated Southeast Alaskan town, I had never been exposed to this type of educational possibility. I remember feeling positivley giddy when I sat down on a computer and first googled "natural healing". I was even more excited to find there were many school out there that offered various courses in body-based knowledge. I sent my adress to many schools asking for more information, but I only recieved one catalog. At the time I thought it a fluke that I had entered my address incorrectly to every school but the Rocky Mountain Institute of Healing Arts, but now I know it was no mere coincedence. This school had everything that I had wanted. Rigorous academics, intensive hours, small classes, varied topics of study. There were 2 things that really stood out for me about the Rocky Mountian Institute of Healing Arts. One, they offered a combined massage therapy/Heartworks program in which a person could learn about the physical and energetic body. This was my chance to learn what the heck a chakra was and how work with energy. Two, the school had an intimate feeling. I could tell it was a place where things were noticed and addressed, where I would be challenged to open my heart and break down emotional walls that I had learned to hide behind. I had been told my whole life that I was "over-sensitive" and I felt at this school I would be heard and empowered for what I saw in the world and in other people, not condemned. I chose this school becuase it seemed equally a place for personal and spiritual growth as professional training.

Rebecca: What stands out most for you in your massage school experience?
What stands out for me the most is the process I went through in order to get to know myself. If someone had told me before hand that I didn't know who I was, or what it felt like to live in my body, I wouldn't have believed them. There are things that we avoid in ourselves; experiences we have stored away in the "can't deal with this" file, recurring feelings that are unpleasant and also unexplained. During massage school I was led these forbidden corners of my psyche, and was given the support and tools to begin some long overdue sorting and recognizing. I was introduced to my super-ego, not my favorite character but an incredibley important contact in becoming aware of the workings of my mind, and finally putting a name to that ever self-critical voice. I was re-introduced to my body, to places that I had quit feeling and loving becuse I had been too busy criticizing. Massage school started me along a life long path of discovering and uncovering my true self--and this stands out for me everyday, in every relationship, in every moment.

Rebecca: What advice do you have for students in massage school?
Crissy: Stay on the pill until you are done with atleast 3/4 of the massage program. : ) HA!

My advice for prospective students would be to try your best to abandon your expectations. This is something that is especially hard for me, and therefore all the more important. So many of us talk about having an "open mind", but what doesn that really mean to us? By letting go of expectations for your massage school experience, you allow yourself to truly take in what is being offered to you in the moment and to let your heart guide you through the journey. I am not talking about letting go of academic or ethical expectations of the establishment. I just mean to be gentle with the expecations that we carry of ourselves and our relationship to massage therapy. You may spend nine months in massage school to conclude that massage therapy is just a stepping stone towards a different field of study. Perhaps practicing massage will open up an internal world that you had not anticipated and is now insisting that you take time to attend to and heal yourself. There are ups and downs, days you doubt your abilities and days you feel like a total badass. Take it all in. Let it be what it is. And don't beat yourself up if you end up going a direction you did not forsee.

Rebecca: Now that you are a professional massage therapist, what is you experience in the profession?
Crissy: My experience in the profession is different everytime I lay hands on another human being. The energy of a session varies so wildly, from strange to smooth, from tiring to envigorating, dreamy to electric. One thing that seems to hold true, it is almost always profound. There are many experiences I have as a massage therapist, but what feeds me the most in my practice is the power of compassion. There are so many sources in the world (both on a personal and a global scale) of pain and trauma, so many "big" issues, mountains of problems that leave us feeling miniscule and irrelevant in their shadow. I dont know, as one human being, how to tackle these attrocities, or even to accept them. Massage therapy is an outlet for me to give compassion to the planet, through individuals. Its like people come to me and their bodies say, "I'm so tired. I've been working so hard. Life isn't easy," and through touch I can say back, "I know. I see how hard you are trying. Maybe this will help you feel better." Massage therapy is a profession where it is your business to provide comfort through touch, and who are we to put boundaries around the possible outcomes? Practicing massage allows me to give something in the spirit of healing, growth, and love. I cannot think of a better job.


Anonymous said...

This is really great to see the perspective of someone who just graduated. Tonight was my first student clinic and it is amazing the different energy you feel from each individual you lay your hands on.
I really enjoy your blog. Keep it up!

Rebecca Mauldin said...

Hi Susanna, How exciting for you starting clinic! It's such a great way to gain confidence and learn so much. GOOD LUCK!!! p.s. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. Rebecca

79sparrows said...

Hey I love your blog! I'll be back.


Rebecca Mauldin said...

I'm glad you like it. Good to have you as a reader! Rebecca

Anonymous said...

I'm half way thru massage school and something clicked oin my brain and I can't make it thru a student to student clinic without having anxiety and going blank with what I'm doing..if I can't overcome this fear then I won't be able to finish school.

Rebecca Mauldin said...

We've had students in the past with something similar. I suggest finding a teacher or director of the program and sharing your situation. They should be able to provide you with plenty of support to be with the anxiety and work your way through this. It's not something that will automatically prevent you from being a massage therapist. Perhaps it's a sign that you care very deeply about it and will make a great MT. But I think you need to find someone who will give you some good individual attention. Good luck!