“The history of massage is the history of touch” underlines the double-life of our sensory experiences. Playing its traditional role of therapeutic tool, massage also responds to new-found realms of experience based on the dynamics of human contact experience. The addition of method or technique to the innate act of touch only improves the quality of the touch. Massage is “value-added” touch. By whatever term you name it, touch is the act of connecting, of establishing communication between two beings. Method brings to touch a structured, more formal intention. And yet, again, the act of touch is the result of that intention, and healing the result of that act.
Tracing the ancient roots of innate touch that have evolved into the formal intentions of structured touch is a formidable task. It is a task, however, that needs doing. In this author’s travels around the world in search of the wide variety of massage practices, I have found evidence of only one common thread that would seem to bind all who practice this ancient healing art. That binding thread is that all who do this work share a very strong belief in the value and need for touch services in our world. Further, those who are able to stay in the field for a number of years not only maintain this belief but improve on it. It appears it is the binding thread, which also ties us to the past and may serve to take us into the future. It is a strong and deeply felt belief and has been maintained because this bonding belief is the one characteristic of massage (touch) that is its true and basic nature. The need and value for touch is inbred, inherent, and it is the single most important bond which ties together all who do this important work. We must first recognize this common bond, and then expand upon it to find more to bring us even closer together.
I’ve also observed a need to find something which validates this bond which ties practitioners together, their strong belief in the value and need for touch services in our world. Many have thought that regulation, or research, or association with the medical establishment would provide that credibility. I submit that the validation of massage therapy lies first and foremost in its innateness, in its primordial roots and in the fact of its place in the development of the human being. There is not so much a need for a magical phrase capturing the essence of massage, a well-written set of regulations, or double-blind and duplicated research studies. There is definitely a need for new recognition and acknowledgment of the primacy of touch in the practice of massage therapy. There are ample phrases and names of techniques and technical theory, plenty of regulations, and so much research available it comprises a lifetime of endeavor to uncover and study its contents. But there is little recognition and even less application in our world of the fact that touch is an innately needed but mostly unfulfilled value. The common bond which ties all practitioners together is the very ideal which gives their work its value.
Robert Noah Calvert is the author of The History of Massage, The Hundredth Monkey Conspiracy, and publisher of Massage Magazine and Skinship Journal. He is also the founder of the World of Massage Museum.
For more information, check out Robert Noah Calvert’s website.