Saturday, May 3, 2008

Talking About Being a Quaker

My back is a mess. As much as I try to relax, I store all of my tension and stress in my shoulders. Last fall, my shoulders got to the point where they were so tight that when I leaned over to tie my shoes, my entire back seized up. I couldn't move for about a minute, and for the next week I had trouble standing, walking, sitting, or lying down (it's funny how often you have to do all of those things). Finally, I went to the doctor and he prescribed therapeutic massage. This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. And even better, with the health insurance I have through my job, the massages come out to about nine dollars a session.

The massage center I use bases appointments more around the client's schedule instead of seeing the same person each time, so I have seen several different massage therapists. Before we get started, we usually talk a little bit about why I am there and my exercise habits, so yoga usually comes up. Then the massage therapist has me get on the table and gets to work. It is usually about this point when she says something like, "wow, those are quite the knots you have!" This is not reassuring. I assume that these massage therapists see a lot of backs with problems and I don't like to think that mine is especially alarming.

Once the massage begins, I try to focus on my breath and send it to the area in my back that the massage therapist is working on. Even if I'm not conscious of it, this kind of deep breathing always has a prayer-like quality for me, and I can get pretty deep into it.

The other day, after working for a few minutes, the massage therapist said, "that's some breathing!" This completely brought me out of it. I responded, "uh, yeah." She said, "so is that from doing yoga?" I said I guessed it was. Then I hesitated and added, "And I'm a Quaker." She paused. "Did you say Quaker?" I said that I did. She was clearly confused, so I mumbled, "It's kind of like meditating" and she let it go.

It didn't seem like that strange of a thing to say when I said it, but I guess I forget that people have no idea who Quakers are or what we do. I just assume that if a client said that he was a Buddhist, she would know that he had a religious breathing practice. I feel the same way about being a Quaker. If she thought about it again later, maybe she looked Quakers up on wikipedia and saw the weird picture of George Fox there. I think that may even make her more confused.

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