A Healing Encounter  – PMTI Graduation Speech July 31, 2010

Request to speak from eldest in the audience

Honoring the Ancestors who have contributed to the institution – Potomac Massage Training Institute – our PMTI.

Kevin Andreae - founder
Peg Buzy – Fieldwork Coordinator, nurse – my teacher
Mack Marshall – my classmate
Rachel Hawting – alumna whose family funded a scholarship in her name
Sarah Knowlton - alumna
Bob Niblock – instructor
Wendy Roberts – alumna
Marge D’Urso – my Reflexology teacher
Mickey Smith – alumna
Dori Anne Steele – my first level instructor
Joan Walford - alumna
Michael White - alumna

Greetings family! We are ALL family!  And thank you Bruce for your introduction.  I appreciate you and all you do and have done for this institution!  Tam and Missy, thank you for picking up the banner once again. Thank you for being the gift to PMTI during these days of transition.  I am so grateful to be here with you.  Tam – you were one of my students and look at you!  To the PMTI board, faculty and staff, you have done it again!  Another graduating class to be proud of.  To the family and friends of these graduates – you have made it through to the other side of long nights and days of studying, log clients, fieldwork, late night phone calls with classmates, meltdowns and all the other interruptions AND enrichments (because I know many of you have been under their healing hands, counseled them when they needed it).  Thank you for supporting them on this journey. They could not have done it without you. And to the graduates.  Take this moment in.  A lot has transpired since you first enrolled. Some of you may have even quit and made it back.  Babies have been born or are about to be, divorces and other deaths have occurred.  Jobs have been lost, loves have been found.  Life continued and yet you still made it to this day.  Some fellow students who entered with you couldn’t hang  and for whatever reason couldn’t complete this program – but you did!  Congratulations, congratulations, congratulations.

Now its time to exhale for a moment, do the feel good, to give thanks and praise as you prepare for the next piece of your work on earth.

It is truly my honor and privilege to address you today.  February 1993, 17 years ago, I was here surrounded by friends, family and co-workers who witnessed the incredible shifts I had made during the 18 month school experience.  Oh – the tears, the anger, the angst, the disappointments, the rage, the FEAR and I am here to say it was all worth it!

Each of us is called to this work for different reasons. For some it’s the frustration on their present job, others are looking for a retirement career, others are seeking more meaningful work or a longing to create a different life.  Some have been told they have “good hands” and others strictly see $ signs (though they would never admit that in the admissions interview)!

I didn’t ask for this work (or so I thought) and yet, it came to me and shook me from a deep, deep slumber.  I like to call it divine intervention.  From my first encounter with PMTI I was opened to the possibility of doing healing work. You probably think I am referring to healing my clients, my family, my friends.  No.  Not at all.  I am talking about healing myself.

You see, I didn’t like myself very much when I came to massage school. But I didn’t know it at the time. I was deeply confused caught up in the corporate world and climbing that ladder. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, yet it wasn’t for me.  I was TIRED! I had two small children, a husband who traveled all the time and a demanding boss.  The time was 1989 and here in DC we were in the midst of a recession/compression whatever you want to call it.  Let’s just say where we are now we have been here before.  I was in commercial real estate and my firm was really feeling it. I was frazzled, evil and pissed off with my life.  One Sunday morning in my small neighborhood church I cried out for Spirit to tell me what to do.

Take note.  Ask and you shall receive. Spirit heard my cry.  I was told to stay open and go within. I was also told to READ THE SIGNS and LISTEN! This was the beginning of developing a necessary skill for doing this work.  Read the signs and Listen. And so I did.

Sign one – Late at night, kids asleep, husband on travel. I turn on the television and Wild Orchid, a film starring Mickey Rourke is playing. If you haven’t seen it do so.  Mickey’s character was a recluse and voyeur who found it difficult to connect with others. At the end of this very interesting film a woman of note comes to him and puts her arms around him. He receives her touch and was open to love. It was sooo moving and I cried like a baby.

Sign two – I go to Wolf Trap with my now wasband to hear Pat Metheny. We sit next to a couple on the lawn and chat.  He is a psychologist in Shepherdstown, WVA and she is a reflexologist.  “What is that”, I ask?  And a long conversation ensues. Come to find out she also practiced massage at Coolfont where I had been on retreats. I loved this woman. . She was sooo hip and funky! (kinda like I thought I was or at least wanted to be!)

Sign three – I had just finished managing the construction of this fabulous log cabin in Sun Valley, Idaho.  A part of my bonus was a two week vacation there with my family.  One day I am in the kitchen and I reach up in the cabinet and the Yellow Pages falls off the shelf.  It falls open to “massage therapy”.  Now mind you, there was no “massage therapy” category in our metropolitan yellow pages.  “Massage” was the category and under it were big bold display ads with ink drawings of sexy women. “Massage” was the cover for “escort” services or “prostitution”.  And yet here, in IDAHO, of all places was massage therapy and one ad I will never forget the ad placed by a gentleman named Will  – it read read – “Have table WILL travel”. Cute, huh?

Sign four – Later in the vacation we go in town and I see a place named Boulder Massage.  I enter and its run by a couple from Colorado and we chat. But I am still not getting it.  Still a little dense,huh?

So, months later, back in DC I am sitting in the lounge at Dance Place in NE where my children are taking African dance and drumming.  A young man comes in and drops a stack of magazines which I had never seen before.  The now infamous Pathways!  I open it and it falls open to a middle section two page spread ad on PMTI announcing their programs and open house that next Friday evening.  Now it is clicking and I decide to go.

Friday comes.  I walk in to the basement of this building in Takoma Park, DC.  Grungy orange carpet, paneled walls (remember those days?) On first glance I notice I am one of two black people. (Did I tell you at the time I had issues with white folks even though I worked with them everyday and had just moved from MADISON, WI????).  So I stroll up to the front and listen to the rap about the school, its programs, etc.  How many of you did open house. (I think its mandantory now!) Anyway, I had never seen a full body massage demonstration.

So the teacher gets the table ready and this woman walks in and my judgment barometer goes off the charts. Before I go any further you need to know I had loads of judgments back then especially around class, race, size, religion, party, you name the label and I probably had a judgment.  (Now if the tapes are rolling be very clear what I am saying is in context of where I was then (kind of like Shirley Sherrod at the NAACP meeting).  Anyway . . . the teacher who is about to receive the massage walks in. She was of European descent of large girth wrapped in nothing but a sheet. My mind was racing – woman of another race, pretty heavy, whew!  I don’t know about this? So much judgment. Third thought – I could never give her a massage, I may as well leave!

However, I stay and watch as she is made comfortable on the table. The lights are dimmed, the music starts playing (something I had never heard before – soft, soothing – in 1991 probably Enya or Steve Halpern)  The giver places her hands gently under her partner’s head. There was silence in the room, only the music was playing – it was almost reverent, devotional and so I momentarily closed my eyes. But when I opened them there was no longer these two white women giving and receiving massage.  What I saw was amazing! There was a beautiful pink light enveloping them both –  It was only for an instant and I will never forget it.  They were presencing something I had never seen before.  Only later did I learn pink was the color of the heart chakra, the color of love.  What I had witnessed was an unconditional loving experience. It was palpable, it was visible, it was healing.

This began my journey towards transformation. I ran home, told my husband I had to do this and I wasn’t sure why, wrote my boss a memo that when accepted to massage school (not if) I would work parttime or quit and my life began to change.

The biggest lesson I have learned since walking through the doors of PMTI is this and I quote:

When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter.  As you see him you will see yourself.  As you treat him you will treat yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.

Powerful words from A Course in Miracles. Enough to make you throw judgment right out the window!

There are many, many instances where this has been demonstrated in my practice.  Every day I cross the threshold as my clients.

I remember about 15 years ago, someone was referred to me who was living with HIV.  Half-way through the session he began to weep.  I asked him should I continue and he said please do.  After the session we chatted. And I asked if he wanted to share what the tears were about.  He indicated that I was the very first massage therapist who did not give him massage wearing gloves.  I was amazed that anyone would wear gloves to give massage.  I knew you could not contract HIV through touch and yet, a memory came back.  As a child I had horrific atopic dermatitis (eczema) and there were many who were appalled by my skin.  There was one friend, however, who would rub my arms gently to keep me from scratching.  She was my best friend and I loved her for accepting me as I was.

Even earlier in my practice, I had a client who came to me living with cancer. She was beautiful, rosy and full of life. When I opened the door I was in for a shock.  She was lying on the table completely bald. She obviously had invested lots of money in her wigs. We had the session and at the end I massaged her bald head. She cried as well.  It was only years later when I was going through a bout of alopecia and I was getting my bald head massaged and the tears welled up in my eyes did I remember her.

Every encounter is a holy encounter – a healing encounter – It is an opportunity to be in appreciation and gratitude to your clients as they appeal to you for help.  For in doing so, you bring love into their awareness and it naturally comes back to you.

It is not up to us to change our clients but merely to accept them as they are.  In so doing this, they learn to accept and love themselves and that is where the healing begins.  I heard this in a film last week, our fingertips don’t fade from the lives we touch. How true, but it is not the touch they remember . . . it is the feeling they walk away with and the best feeling is that of the pink glow – unconditional love.

You and I are called to do healing work and my teachings have taught me,

The only way to heal is to be healed and that those who are healed become the instruments of healing.

Who can bestow upon another what he does not have?

And who can share what he denies himself?

My time here at PMTI and my experience as a massage therapist opened that big thick metal door to my healing.  It was here I began to let judgment go.  It was here I began to trust.  I wanted to be healed so that I may heal.  I wanted to model good health and be a woman of integrity.  How could I ask that of others if I could not do that for myself.  Learning how to read the signs (a skill I honed at PMTI) led me to the right folks to help me address a deeply seated autoimmune condition.

It has been a journey.  17 years is a long time to do this work. (even though I know some who have practiced 25 or 30 years but they are few and far between).  I remember after 7 years in practice I was about to end a 25 year marriage. (see how this place opens for you change and healing!)  I told a friend “I have to find a job” thinking I could not sustain myself as a massage therapist.  And she said, “Mama Kathy, you already have a job this is your job”.  And I have never looked back.  10 years later I am still in practice and it is the bulk of my income. And it provides a lifestyle which allows me to share my other gifts to the world.

I believe our mission whether or not we know it or not no matter what profession you choose is to show up as light and love in the world. You can have the best techniques of any massage therapist and still be unable to maintain a steady flow of clients.  However, my experience is that if you allow yourself to be the hands, the ears, the heart and the touch of the divine – abundance is yours.

Go forth.  Be the hands, the ears, the heart and the touch of the divine. Do that and remember to always return home to the divine inside of you. Wish only to be healed. For in your demonstration of healing you heal the world. Read the signs, listen and look for the pink glow. . .

Congratulations again, and thank you for making this your choice!

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