My clients are the best. They would never lie! So I have no choice but to believe everything they say.
When they tell me how they experience their bodies – their aches and pains, no matter how random or bizarre – I believe them without question.
I don’t need to put the stories my clients tell me into the boxes of what I know. I need to listen to them, search my internal database, and unpack the boxes that will help them.
This is what I mean when I say I practice “Traditional” Thai Bodywork. Traditionally, this hands-on work has been practiced among family and friends since the time of the Buddha. Traditionally, this knowledge has been passed on from family/village/monastery elder to children/apprentices/monks. Traditionally, this work encompasses herbal compresses, bone setting, herbal medicines like balms and liniments and plasters, midwifery, and mystical practices like protective tattoos. It has a lot of stuff to offer. And I can’t stop learning more and more of it.
But learning all the cool stuff (I’m not doing bone-setting, midwifery, or tattoos, though!) is useless if I can’t apply it. Having knowledge isn’t going to ease people’s suffering. That’s why I believe everything my clients say. I may know a lot about Traditional Thai Medicine, but YOU are the expert in how YOU experience your body.
What you feel, where you feel it, when you feel it, and how intensely you feel it are not things I can learn from Traditional Thai Medicine. All I can do is listen to you and try to find some techniques, some herbal preparation, that may help.
A lot of Thai Bodywork practiced in the States is formulaic. Each practitioner has a favorite sequence with some variations that they go through. Your whole body gets worked, maybe with you on your back, your stomach, or your side. I used to be that practitioner. I might spend a little extra time in a place that you said was hurting, but I really thought it was important to address the entire body every session.
Over the past 5 years, that has been changing. I had a session yesterday that proved how much my practice has changed and how important it is to listen to my clients. A regular client came for his bi-weekly appointment barely able to walk. He is scheduled for back surgery next week, so I thought it was his back. Nope. His foot. His right foot. The ball of his right foot, to be exact. We had worked on that area for some time in his last session, and he got great relief, but I told him that I thought he had a splinter and needed to see a podiatrist. To my surprise, he saw a podiatrist the very next day! And the podiatrist took a quick look, told him that there is nothing in there and that we all get pain there as we age because the tissue starts to die off.
My client didn’t need to go to a podiatrist to learn that he is aging. He needed to get relief from his pain.
So when he entered my office hobbling and grimacing, I knew we were going to spend some time on that foot. And boy did we. 90 minutes. An entire session spent on the ball of his right foot. I applied Thai drawing liniment, hot herbal compresses, and repeated that until the swelling had been reduced, the tissue softened and pus started to come out. I knew there was something in there!! And so did my client!
At some point, I asked my client if he wanted me to work anywhere else on his body. He quickly answered that if I could get his foot feeling better so he could walk again, he’d worry about other aches and pains later! Made sense to me, so we kept at it. That splinter had worked itself so deeply into his foot that I realized it was going to have to be cut out. So he is back to the podiatrist today demanding proper attention.
Demanding to be listened to.
Demanding that the podiatrist simply believe him.