Elul 25 5775  – September 9 2015

“Those who know how to repent are those who can commune with their hearts, who can recognize with exquisite sensitivity where there are falling short of the mark. The rest of us lie asleep even when we are wake. We fail to save ourselves.”  – Erica Brown, ‘Return’

Prepent 25 is just 4 days away from a new year and its accompanying tasks, ceremonial and practices that go along with the holiday. Do we have honey? pomegranates? when do I make my phone calls and send out the email greeting? have I done any of the repenting and reflecting to get me through the door of New Year’s Day with at least some sort of feeling ready?

It’s a lot of stress.

So: How about a pre new year massage?

I got one last night. Nothing fancy. A legit Chinese massage place near my house where I’ve been going on and off for years. Well, mostly off. When was the last time I treated my muscles to this kind of care? I wondered as I lay there letting Ja’s hands do their painful healing thing way into my aching shoulder. What took me so long??

The official excuse this time was post bike ride. Legitimate. But the fact is that I know a massage is critical for when it’s getting stressful and the body needs adjustment and yet I grew up with the notion that massages are the privileges of rich ladies with cucumbers on their eyes and not the simple critical treatment that a normal body needs, in one way or another, with or without the cucumbers.

I walked out feeling much better – the tightness in my left shoulders and neck much improved, my breathing deeper, more relaxed.

DSC_0712I am not alone in the ‘why am I not doing this more often’ camp. I recently read this piece in the good men project site:

“How could I have allowed myself to go so long without a massage? As a former therapist, I know better. For more than twenty years I’ve been coaching and encouraging people to get regular bodywork — especially men, who tend to resist taking care of themselves in a nurturing manner as with touch and massage. “

There is this Jewish tradition of hitting our heart during the high holy days prayers as we list our transgressions and ask for forgiveness. hit, confess, hit, confess, again and again, our heart and body. It is ancient – at least 1,800 years old: “Rabbi Meir said: ‘Why do people beat their hearts in remorse? Because the heart is the seat and source of sin.” (Midrash Kohelet Rabba)

For years now I’ve replaced this hitting with a light massage, a tapping on the heart, as if to say – dear heart, I’m sorry… dear body, how hard you work, how silly and harmful are my way ways. Less rage, more compassion, more commitment to change. Pain helps move emotions in the body, and a good massage will make you moan. But we’ve enough pain on our hand already. Make it gentler on yourself this sacred season. 

But still go for a real massage!

Let’s prepare today by taking time for any sort of massage – short, long, self, with help of others, even just a mini pressure of one hand on another is enough to send the message to our head and heart – we are in this together, working lovingly to appreciate the efforts, evaluate what’s stuck, and begin again the ritual of release.

For bonus points – book a massage for someone else you know could really use it and wouldn’t do it for themselves… (and yes that may include yourself)


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