Everyone needs a special place.
My place is in a quiet sanctuary that is located in the deep recesses of my mind.
I can only go there when a special kind of professional takes me there by the hand.
I am not talking about a Buddhist nun, a Korean shaman or a practitioner of the dark arts.
My special person is a massage therapist, who has what can only be described as the touch of grace.
It is my firm belief that a good massage, not only relaxes the body, but releases a flood of the hormones of happiness that flood both the body and the soul.
For at least 90 minutes one of her massages shuts the doors of reality and opens my entire being to new vistas that take place in my personal sanctuary where cool thoughts, dreams and even hallucinations occur with regularity.
Her name is Lena.
She and her husband moved to the United States in 1991 from the Ukraine, just before the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
She has been practicing her craft for 13 years.
Many think she must be the best in the business.
Most of her regulars will not recommend her because they are jealous of her time.
She is that good!
With her variegated combination of effleurage, petrissage, circling and especially her long strokes, she sends me on a sanguinary trip that alters the context of my mind.
It has taken me over a year of apprehensive obstinacy but now I can surrender my body to her by assuming the corporal consistency of a rag doll.
That way I open myself to her aromatic and tactile spells.
On a scented loom she weaves and knits a tapestry of hormonal release that permeates every fiber of my body.
With the abject strength of a Russian bear and the nurturing softness of a new mother she pushes massive quantities of my blood through every vein and artery that energizes my mind while leaving my body in a stupor.
These feelings can last last up to 72 hours.
Then my withdrawal symptoms prompt me to anticipate my next massage.
For that elongated period I am in a mode I call my flowglow period.
Lena gives lie to those who accept the Platonic duality that our bodies and souls are somehow separate entities that often work at cross purposes with each other.
We can blame this false sense of a divided self on 18th century French philosopher, Rene Descartes, who gave us the idea of the ghost within the machine.
This skeptical mechanistic view of man’s human nature has been one of the staples of the liberal philosophy that has spent centuries undermining the basic integrity of men and women.
Touch is so important to the human person.
The average adult human lives inside an envelope of about 18 square feet of skin.
Every square inch houses thousands of nerve endings and various kinds of sensory receptors that inform the brain about its surroundings.
Touch is arguably the most important sense humans have.
It is essential to our well-being and health, as well as our perception of ourselves and our growth.
Without touch we would wither away and in extreme cases even die.
Studies have shown that touching releases a hormone named oxytocin into our system, which is one of the hormones that makes people feel good and happy and lowers blood pressure and reduces the level of stress.
The hormone can also affects many other things, from how we heal to how we feel about other people.
In fact touch is more than a way to stay healthy. It is a way of communication.
Touching someone can speak volumes of internal feelings and even attitudes.
Touch, in fact, is our first language, the language of the newborn and it can be more informative than verbal communication because it expresses information that can’t be communicated any other way.
When a baby is held, cuddled, and breast-fed, she’s getting crucial stimulation to build neural connections between her skin and her brain.
By receiving touch from family or caregivers, she learns how to touch and can then explore the world and her relationship to it.
It has been discovered that after prolonged physical contact such as a massage, the hypothalamic area of the brain experiences a reduction of activity, decreasing the body’s level of stress hormones, and increasing the level of endorphins.
Unfortunately our society has developed a negative reaction to touching.
European cultures have a much healthier attitude toward touching.
They shake hands more often.
They hug and kiss more often.
In our country, touch is considered an invasion in our privacy and it is banned from our life.
If you want to fulfill your need for touch in a good, clean, and healthy way, I suggest you get a massage.
I think it is important for all of us to reconsider and think about our attitudes on this subject.
By removing rational barriers or prejudice, we can pass on to other people a healthier attitude about touching and being touched.
Unfortunately we have sexualized touch to the extent that if anyone touches us, we think it must be sexual.
Too often, we associate physical touch with sex.
It should be a crime that touching has been reduced to nothing more than a desire for sex.
Everyone is so afraid of having their space invaded.
In many ways, especially for older men, the massage experience is much better than sex. (See below)
In my mind massage therapy has put to flight all these erroneous notion of touch.
It purefies as it heals and relaxes.
It is a wonderful experience and sometimes makes it hard to believe that something that feels so good can be good for you as well.
While there are obvious healing properties, Lena says that most of her people have massages for their sense of well-being.
I literally radiate such intensity of joy and near bliss that I can sit in my favorite restaurant and sip ice tea and literally stare at the TV, or even the wall for hours at a time.
I smile at everyone that walks by me.
They often smile back.
I am nicer to people.
I am more patient with my wife and grandchildren.
Some scientists suggest that human beings need a few hugs a day for a healthy life.
After a massage I feel aware of myself but emptied of all the negative and selfish feelings in my body.
You would be surprised at how much they are willing to receive a gentle hug!
I feel like I am in that insurance commercial where people pass on random acts of kindness and human consideration.
I really think that if the world could experience a regular massage, it would find the admonitions for peace and brotherhood that have fallen on deaf ears for years.
The Coco-Cola Company made a nice try years ago at trying to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony by drinking their product.
It was a wonderful ad but I don’t it was very successful.
The late G. K. Chesterton often opined that original sin ias the one Christian doctrine that never had to be argued.
Just look at the newspapers.
A regular massage would be a more positive step in returning human beings to that original state in Eden before the Fall that John Paul II wrote about in his Theology of the Body.
If Lena could give the world a massage twice a week, there would be much more peace and harmony in the world.
Like the prayer says if there be peace on earth, let it start with me.
If I keep getting these regular massages, it just might.
LOOK FOR PART II THE FIRST WEEK IN MAY
FOR AN ADDED LIGHTER LOOK AT MASSAGE THERAPY CHECK THIS POST OUT
I It it takes much longer
II there is never a performance failure
III he never has to take a pill
iv his afterglow can last for days, not minutes
v he can fall asleep before it is over
vi he can have several partners without guilt
vii he seldom needs a shower after
viii if he has a heart attack she is already dressed
ix much more of his body is engaged
x he Never has to worry about babies
XI he can hear the music
xii he can close his eyes the entire time
Don’t you just get tired of people boasting about their children and even their grandchildren?
I never do that because I am too busy bragging about their father and grandfather.
How is that for a segue on the foibles of the human condition?
There are all kinds of people out there.
We will only be exposed to several thousand of the billions that roam the earth in search of whatever will make them happy or at least content.
They come in all shapes and sizes.
Some are physically attractive while others are not.
Some are tall and some are short.
Some people you meet will be good and some will not.
You might even encounter a really evil person.
Since the rise of secular humanism absolute notions of good and bad have become very fuzzy if not unfathomable.
I think most people think of themselves as good people.
Even those who promote the most heinous of all human rights violations–I am thinking abortion–probably think what they do is for the good of mankind.
I would venture a guess that Adolph Hitler perceived himself as a good German for his attempt to bring an ordered peace to the world.
It was actually his able assistant, the troubled and conflicted Albert Speer, whom many historians call the Good Nazi.
It was that perception that allowed him to escape the gallows in 1946.
I would think that our current president thinks of himself as a good president, a good father and a good husband.
I am only qualified to comment on the first one.
But inside us we all know what is really good, wholesome and uplifting and what makes us feel dirty all over.
Some people have an innate crudeness and vileness that makes us squirm being in their company.
Movies are a lot like that.
Many years ago out of curiosity I saw the movie Caligula, which I believe might have been rated X.
This profane version of one of the early Roman emperors after the birth of Jesus literally made me feel dirty for watching it.
Academy Award winner, Helen Merren had a role in this film.
It was one of those movies where the lead characters were so vile, so evil and so repulsive that I wanted to run for the doors.
He was one of the most evil and perverted rulers in all of world history.He took great pleasures in torturing, abusing and humiliating his thousands of innocent victims.
This underscores the fact there is some good in us–even in those who violate the most basic of human rights–the right to life.
After all they said Adolph Hitler was kind to little children–Aryan children I presume.
We are a society that fosters that kind of narcissistic self-love.
We excuse everything that people like us do.
Fortunately unless we have drowned ourselves in a steady flow of the sordid products of our culture or listen to too many Obama speeches (One?), we still are deeply attracted to that which is true, good and beautiful.
Last February more than one person suggested I see the PBS special series, Downton Abbey, about an aristocratic English family struggling to maintain its heritage and dignity, amid the maelstrom of a world war and the rapid changes of a modern society.
At first I resisted but eventually I decided to pick up a copy of the first season.
After all Elizabeth McGovern is one of my favorite actresses.
The first 20 minutes nearly rendered me comatose until my ear started to adjust to the proper diction of a British accent.
As I got to know and understand some of the characters, I became attracted to them as people because mostly all of them from the lowliest servant to Lord and Lady Grantham, radiated a profound sense of honor and courage.
I was enchanted by their stiff-upper lip morality, honor, pride in family and history and their innate desire to do the right thing.
This was the Edwardian period in English history,which had a personal moral code that had a force stronger than British law.
Of course there were the perfunctory “bad” people, whom I immediately despised.
But even some of them over the course of several years seemed to have some redeemable features.
These characters were so real and human.
Amidst all the strum and drang of the war and later the Spanish flu pandemic in Season II, I was attracted to the innate goodness of their characters.
A week or two ago my wife and I saw the limited-run movie, October Baby.
October Baby is about a woman who learns she is a survivor of a failed abortion.
The New York Times, in a front-page story admitted that it is making a dent at theaters across the country.
The movie tells the dramatic story of Hannah, 19, a home-schooled Baptist who is told by a doctor that her ailments — asthma, seizures, mood swings — are the result of being born prematurely after failed abortion attempt.
She sets out to find her birth mother, a quest that ends in tears and regret.
As I had guessed it was inspired by the story of Gianna Jessen, who was delivered alive at a California clinic after a late-term saline-injection abortion.
I have met her and broken bread with her and others on two separate occasions.
I think it is cruel and insensitive for the Times to demean her by saying as a paid speaker at anti-abortion events she tells of her struggles and medical conditions.
As if Planned Parenthood, whom they love and favor takes hundreds of millions of dollars to spread their vile propaganda and destroy over 300,000 human lives, each and every year, since 1973, doesn’t take the money.
There is something deeply personal about the movie that touched me deeply.
I liked the people in it, even Hannah’s natural mother, actress Shari Rigby who rejects her a second time.
One of the movie’s most poignant moments that the NY Times failed to mention occurred during an out-take interview after the film.
When Rigby was offered the role, she wanted to know, how did you know?’
She had done the same thing as her character and was still suffering for her choice.
The film acted as a sort of catharsis where she could finally forgive herself as her screen daughter did in the end.
There are also wonderful performances by Hannah’s father, who had his own issues with her.
Her boyfriend, who obviously loved and respected her, treated her like a lady when they were forced to share a motel room for lack of funds.
Both actors radiated desire and conflict and in the end chastity won and they were both the better for it.
Though she was a Baptist in the movie, she learns the true meaning of forgiveness from a Catholic priest in a cathedral that she just wandered into.
Like the characters in Downton Abbey, these were mostly good people, who were tempted, did wrong and punished themselves.
In the end they all got down on their knees figuratively and opened their hearts for forgiveness and guidance.
Hollywood does not make movies like October Baby.
Their benefactors would laugh them out-of-town.
They would rather lose money on something that appeals only to our prurient natures.
I don’t see how people like that sleep at night!
That’s why I want to surround myself with morally good people and not just some self-proclaimed Good Nazis.