“Peace is every step,” by Thich Nhat Hanh was a book that inspired me when beginning to hike El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, for the first time, in the spring of 2001. I had spent a week at Plum Village, his retreat center in France practicing ‘mindfulness’. As I started out, my very first steps of the 600 mile hike, I was surrounded by fog, hiking in clouds and the words, “Peace is every step” took on a meaning of their own, and became a practice of being in the here and now, not worrying about the future, the unknown, nor what’s behind, back where you started just doesn’t exist. When you are hiking in the fog, going uphill in the mountains, being in the moment is the only thing you can experience.
This summer marks 13 years of practicing massage. The summer of 2005, I moved to Moab, and rented out my first massage studio at The Healing Arts Center that fall. “True Self” is what I named my massage business, and it was a way of setting an intention for my practice. Setting the intention to be present in each massage, just as one would when meditating, or just as one would set an intention at the beginning of a yoga class.Massage has been my only job since I was 25 and I love the work even more than when I started.
My dad practiced zazen, sitting meditation, my entire life, sitting every morning and night. In high school, I began meditating with my him. In college, I attended a 3 day sitting meditation at The Chicago Zen Center with him and went back several other times after that. Last fall, my boyfriend and I attended a 2 day Vipassana meditation retreat outside of Chiang Mai.
I have never been disciplined with a sitting mediation practice, like my dad, but I have integrated meditation to be an essential part of my massage practice. I am not about to pretend I can explain Buddha nature, which is the same meaning as ‘true self’. But this passage from The Three Pillars of Zen by Roshi Philip Kapleau, the fundamental book in which my dad’s zazen practice originated from, touches on it:
“What then is Buddha-nature? Briefly, the nature of everything is such that it can become Buddha. Now, some of you, thinking there is something called the Buddha-nature hidden with us, may inquire as to the whereabouts of this Buddha-nature. You may tend to equate it with conscience, which everyone, even the wicked, is presumed to possess. You will never understand the truth of Buddha-nature so long as you harbor such a specious view. The Patriarch Dogen interpreted this expression in the Nirvana sutra to mean that what is intrinsic to all sentient beings is Buddha-nature, and not that all sentient beings have something called the Buddha-nature. Thus in Dogen’s view there is only Buddha-nature, nothing else.”
As does my favorite zen chant, ‘Kanzeon’:
“Kanzeon! Praise to Buddha! All are one with Buddha,
All awake to Buddha—Buddha, Dharma, Sangha—
Eternal, joyous, selfless, pure.
Through the day Kanzeon, Through the night Kanzeon.
This moment springs from Mind. This moment itself is Mind.”
My BA degree in Peace Studies was not a career oriented degree, and I had to constantly explain why I was studying something that wouldn’t land me a secure job. I was very passionate about mediation and a lot of my college credits were earned by hands on experience working with Education for Reconciliation, a mediation center that offered many services. After college, however, I saw that the nonprofit sector was suffering and the same people that were running the mediation center I had worked with for seven years were working longer hours but getting paid less. To get a decent job in mediation, I would have had to continue to get a masters and then be prepared to dive into the nonprofit world of being overworked and underpaid, with even more debt than I had already accrued. Once I started my massage business, as I was developing my clientele, I fielded a similar question that indicated a complete stranger’s concern and fear for my uncertain future, ‘but what are you going to do later, you can’t do massage forever’. I am very grateful to have a job I absolutely love, is rewarding, fulfilling and that also serves as a meditation practice.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers,” another Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote that has influenced the inner tapestry of my massage practice. When I am present to my clients, and then they are able to feel more freedom in their daily lives, both physically and emotionally, we are both able to have more inner peace in our lives. By bringing more self care into our lives, we can offer more space for our true nature to be, and hopefully we will act from compassion more often, both to ourselves and others. In this way, my massage practice is very much connected to my Peace Studies education after all, “Peace in oneself, peace in the world, TNH.” Treat yourself or someone you care about to a massage, “Be kind, unwind!”
For further information, please contact Ambrosia Brown at Telluride Wellness Center at 435-260-1122, firstname.lastname@example.org. Ambrosia hopes to have a travel blog on her website, as well, highlighting her recent trip to Baja and info on past off season trips. We are located in the Cimarron Lodge at the bottom of Lift 7, next to Carhenge Parking Lot. Wellness is the full integration of mind, body and spirit. We look forward to helping you towards a healthier life.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!