The numbers are staggering. In the United States, a person is assaulted or beaten by their intimate partner every five seconds, and approximately three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.
Sometimes you have to be dangerously close to a problem to see the solution. Chris Smith understands this. A survivor of abuse as a child, Smith found bodywork to be a bastion in uneasy waters as she began seeking means for self-care as an adult.
The complexity of influences on our well-being, from environmental toxins to fast-paced lifestyles and media overload, is mind-boggling. The multitude of traumas that inundate our daily lives is relentless, particularly in urban settings divorced from the soothing rhythms of nature. Given this, when we seek remedies for our suffering, whether mental, emotional, or physical, where do we start? Who do we turn to? How do we find the source of our problems and our healing?
Massage therapists and bodyworkers are a giving profession by trade and are often ready to donate their talented touch whenever and wherever needed. Relief activities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi are no exception. Of course, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA; www.fema.gov) is advising against reporting directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency.
“I call it my shark bite,” Phyllis says, whose entire left side from breast to lower abdomen has scars from five operations, all of which occurred within one year as the result of migrating cancer and other complications. One-quarter of her lung, four ribs, part of her breast and its surrounding tissue, her uterus, and a segment of her lower intestine were removed.
A New York voice. An intentional pause between measured words. A snippet of emotion piercing the moment. A perseverance shining through a tired soul. This was retired New York City firefighter and massage therapist James Kearney telling his story in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
As a survivor of torture I know how wounds of violation can live in the body and the mind. My recovery included bodywork, and so I know both its assets and liabilities in resolving shock of this magnitude. I am now both a practitioner and a teacher of somatic therapies for survivors, which has added substantially to my perspective on what it takes to rebuild one’s life from the pyres of hatred.
In February, we at the McKinnon Institute of Massage were honored to provide massage for Alaska Airlines employees at the San Francisco and Oakland airports following the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. With short notice, the McKinnon On-Site Team pulled together to organize the needed personnel. Alaska Airlines is a regional carrier, and many of the people on board were from the Bay area. For us this went beyond a sad story on the evening news: our friends and neighbors had died, more were in mourning, and we were directly affected.
When the strands of the many cultures of Mexico are woven with the threads of a new spirit of healing and transformation, the resulting garment is like a huge brilliantly colored shawl (rebozo). This shawl extends between Mexico and the United States as an embrace, bringing warmth and comfort to those it touches. In the little town of Fortin de las Flores, near the Gulf of Mexico, Americans and Mexicans gather to weave this rebozo for themselves and for all the people they know. One particular gathering a year ago stands out as a shining example of the tapestry of healing.
Traumas usually follow from loss, and any loss can disrupt our sense of self, identity and permanence. We easily recognize some losses, like that of a loved one, of health, of possessions or of affection. Some losses are more subtle, such as loss of an ideal, or one’s sense of purpose, hopes or plans.