Wisdom of the Chinese Massage Parlor

I wasn’t sure if it was the pincer-like grip piercing my tender neck or the intrusive finger smuggling its way deep into my chest cavity, but for some reason I had the crystal clear epiphany that maybe going to Chinatown massage parlors wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.

After a friend and I had spent a long day walking around Manhattan, we were in need of some deep relaxation. After pondering the all-mighty midday nap, we opted for the more interactive idea of getting a massage.  We decided to take a stroll into Chinatown. We were dually warned, but I must have blocked it out, because when our dear referrer told us about this joint all my mind heard was: massage.

Yep, definitely not a Chinese massage.

The place was what you would expect for a $25 half-hour back rub beating. Having really no idea what I was getting into, I decided to just go with the flow. The very small, very nice Chinese lady who would deceive me in so many ways, spoke to me in sputtered English. I did what any confused, extremely naive client would do: I agreed. In retrospect, that was probably the moment I signed my name in blood.

She started out rough. And for the next 30 minutes, it was this roughness I would so desperately yearn. She dug, pulled, pinch, prodded, shocked, twisted, pummeled, gouged, kneed, passed gas (quite unashamedly), and repeated all of these things more times than I care to remember. In the midst of this, my body and mind were all over the place. My hands clutched the metal legs of the massage table so hard that the table shook. I was breathing like a madman. I must of sounded like a crazed sadomasochist. At one point, I literally thought I was going to cry.

Not quite a Chinese massage

I had no control whatsoever. I realized at this moment I could either count the milliseconds until sweet, glorious freedom or just surrender to the torture. And although I found it almost impossible to let my body go completely limp, I did begin to loosen up. This by no means helped the pain; it only allowed her more room to plunge deeper into my body. I think she touched parts of my skeleton that have never been and will never be touched again. She was a crafty one, that sweet, little lady.

There are many times in life when pain, suffering and basically a complete loss of control can create adverse reactions that limit our ability to learn from our experiences. When I was on the table, I could have chosen to get up, but I understood that my emotional reactions and physical urges (as well as the entire karmic event of me actually getting this massage) were trying to tell me something. As I settled into my state of being (tortured), I was able to re-examine the situation.

A Chinese massage.

Utilizing a new perspective, I came to other conclusions. The massage was teaching me a lesson in surrendering, sacrifice, respect and humility. It also gave me the inspiration to write this blog post. I am sure that physically I will be better off—it’s just that I might not recognize it until next year.

All jokes aside, how many times have you found yourself in an undesired situation? In that moment, how much of your energy is put towards avoiding or trying to stop that situation? How often are you present during these times? In these valuable moments, we exert so much effort in running away that we often miss what is right in front of our eyes. And worse, when we don’t realize the entirety of the situation, we tend to repeat it until we do.

Surrender to the moment, good or bad.

I’ve written about the wisdom of pain before, but this post is about recognizing your reaction to it so that you may be in a position to learn from it. The first step in approaching anything—be it a relationship, a lecture, a business meeting or a massage from hell—is the ability to listen. When we can listen with all the senses, with the inner ear, we can accept the lessons given to us without having to repeat them.

And I can tell you in all certainty that I will not be getting a Chinese massages any time soon.

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Becoming Your Home

This evening, I had the pleasure of cooking a three-course meal for a friend of mine. I was invited into his beautiful home filled with outstanding artwork and an amazing energy. The moment I walked in I was transported from the noisy, haphazard streets of Manhattan into an oasis of tranquility and calm. I was enveloped in a cozy and comfortable sensation that beckoned my authentic self. There was no need to defend, no reason to hide. This sanctuary was made for acceptance. This was a home.

Living in small apartments and moving year after year has left its trace of stress. It is never anything permanent, nor too much to bear, but rather a discomfort or a strong unease. Uprooting one’s life is never an easy action. Sometimes it is exactly what is needed, other times it is more of an unnecessary hassle. Yet each time I have rerooted my life, I strive for the same sense of home that I grew up with; the same sensation I immediately gathered when walking into my friend’s apartment this evening.

Home.

It is like walking into a blanket that has just been pulled out of the dryer. Or maybe it’s like gliding into a warm body of water. I think I could even describe it as that feeling just moments before falling asleep. It is a perfect harmonious combination of ease and vibrancy. The encompassing nature of this energy is by definition soothing. It is the feeling of unconditional acceptance.

Many people live in a house, but not every house is a home. And that is the one thing that I make sure to bring with me every relocation I make. My life could never be complete without my home. Yet my home is not dependent on things. Beyond all my favorite decorations, homemade artwork and extremely sentimental items the essence of home is something I cultivate from within. Without this grounding anchor, my surroundings would never represent my idea of what home is.

I do love my incense.

Our environments reflect our state of being. I like to think of my home as a divine place, a sanctuary where all are welcome to relax, recuperate and enjoy. When I have guests over I notice they feel at ease the moment they walk in. I also notice that it is not the material things (or lack thereof) of my apartment but rather the energy I have been projecting. I like to think of the furniture, the walls, the colors and even the air of my home as an energetic ledger that is constantly recording vibration. Every thought I think, every song I play, every word I speak gets recorded into this invisible notebook. As these spaces gather specific vibrations, they build upon each other, developing relationships to their own surroundings. In this way, a commons is born.

Singing bowls, gongs, mantras and pleasant music will all support higher vibration.

The more I meditate, chant, pray and bless in my apartment, the more my apartment takes on those actions. Stored in their physical being, their very vibratory make-up (as we are all just the sum totals of sound vibration) takes on what I put out.

Have you ever been to a really crumby place? Maybe a hopeless hospital wing or a drugged out dealer’s pad (not that I would know). These places can be dark, unwelcoming and draining. It isn’t because the real estate itself is possessed, but rather its occupants are emitting a certain vibratory frequency which manifests its self in certain ways. Have you ever noticed a place that has been uplifted? Maybe an awesome yoga center moves into a town or a community garden is completed. When these types of frequencies enter into the energetic ledger, vibrations begin to rise and other results manifest.

This is not to say that one is better than the other. I will leave you to decide which vibration you choose. It is not the duality of the situation I would like to call attention to, but rather the mechanics of it. Our environment is an extension of our self. We are only a product of our surroundings and they one of us. This deep, intimate connection can never be severed, and although we cannot tangible see it (sometimes we can), this principle of existence is more concrete than the voice inside your head that is telling you it is not.

I was graced by great karma to spend just a few hours sharing the wonderful company of another’s spiritual abode. We are all graced by even greater karma that we can remain in that feeling where ever we go by just becoming aware of our vibration.

If you’d like a simple way to elevate your home’s vibration, try playing mantras. You don’t even need to hear them. Their vibratory effect will work just as long as they are playing at the slightest volume. Here are a few free ones you can download.

Evening in Manhattan

We walked through the crowded city streets. Water floated in the air, neither falling nor climbing, merely hanging. I imagined this suspended rain to be the home decor of one whose head lived in the clouds. It would certainly be a dreary way to experience life, constantly running into droplets of water.

As we made our way through the East Village my head swayed on its swivel. 695 was the magic number. We’d been searching for this Japanese place for only a few minutes, but it was unimaginably difficult paying attention to addresses. All we wanted to do was laugh. But alas, we were stuck searching for numbers in a sea of words. Or at least it would seem accordingly so, despite the widespread lack of numerals found on the storefronts and frontdoors of the buildings on 5th Street.

720. Damn. We turned around and laughed some more. We agreed we’d have to pay attention now because we were both beginning to crave supper. We counted down like a dyslexic couple on New Year’s, celebrating loudly at 695. I opened the door for the lady and we took our coats off. The place was small, but obviously upscale. The decor was modern and the lines along the walls stretched symmetrically, further than the eye cared to see. Immediately, the comforting aroma of homemade miso made its way to my nose. I smiled and looked for the waiter.

A taught, strict, and ponytailed Japanese man seated us in our recently assembled “custom” table. No more than a wedge behind the cash register, our seat was a semi-obtrusive, lane-blocking last minute addition to an already skinny restaurant. We didn’t care. In fact, we laughed.

The meal came and it went. Descriptions were unnecessary because really we weren’t paying attention. All we wanted was a plane ticket to anywhere, a trip for an evening, maybe a few days. Just some respite from the city. The lonely city filled with millions. We could relax. Joke. Even banter. We gawked and criticized, poked and profiled. We took in all the sights. By the time our check came we were one foot out the door, money tossed on the table.

I held out my arm and she threaded it like a needled. We swayed up and down the avenue. Hideout to hideout.

It wasn’t ever about the destination. It was always about the ride.

New York City

On a tiny island with millions of people, I have come to find my home.  An intriguing place, Manhattan offers a world of possibility fueled with lightening fast speeds that can either elevate or destroy you.  Whether you’re searching for enlightenment or fists full of money, NYC can accomodate your progression.  At the same time, it can be your biggest hurdle.

In the epicenter of what many call the modern world, New York City stands as a platform for rapid movement.  Both literally and energetically, everything moves fast here.

Before I came to the East Coast, I was used to a life of open spaces, leisure, and sunshine.  In Los Angeles, life was a task that could be put off until tomorrow.  Procrastination and the settled nature of my ways was tolerated with tones of acceptance and relaxation.  If I missed a week of yoga or sat at home waiting for my next gig, I knew that I could always ‘pick it up’ tomorrow.

This mentality does not exist in New York. If you decide to wait around, life will not only pass you by, but it will beat you up.  The first week in my new abode gave great testament to this.  Low on energy, I spent a lethargic amount of my time in bed.  The move, the city, and other emotional dramas were keeping me unmotivated.  Since school hadn’t begun and I had a week to settle in, I decided to do it slowly.  And boy, was this the wrong thing to do.

I felt like I was going crazy! Energy was flying over my head at a thousand miles per hour.  Walking around on the street, I felt like one of those music videos where everyone is flying by while you’re stuck in slow motion.  I was on a different playing field, separated from the bustling life of everyone else.  My un-productivity was never more apparent and it literally repelled people away from me.  It was as if I existed in an alternate dimension.

Not only was I energetically segregated and ostracized, but things in my life started to collapse.  Money problems arose. Issues with school – a school I had yet to attend – came up.  Trouble with mediation and my yoga practices manifested.  Everything that I was usually able to sustain in Los Angeles was thrown into chaos in New York.  Something had to be done.

I began to break my sloth-like stride.  I got up in the mornings, I read books, I walked around and engaged in conversations, I meditated with fervor and practiced yoga with consistency.  I stopped being lazy and adopted an attitude of action.  Really, I just decided I was going to become a New Yorker.

I know this sounds like a cheesy New York City Council Ad, but what I am explaining is much deeper and probably applies to any place in the world.  Its just that in New York the energetic current was so overwhelming that I was unable to continue using my usual Los Angeles model of energy.

Once I adopted this new form of intense and compact energy, I saw a mergence of fields. It was as if all the puzzle pieces came together at once.  Instead taking an energetic beating, I was now riding the wave of NYC.  Once in motion, I was amazed at the ease and speed of which things came together.  Within a week I had an internship, job opportunities, success in school and a community of yogis to call my own.  Everything fell into place.

The zeal of a city such as New York is a thing to marvel at.  A man-made complex of whirlwind energies capable of rapid evolution and regression is based on the collective energy of motivation, directness, and action.  The megalopolis is a true testament to the collective power of humans.  Used in the correct way, it could propel our world into greater realms of evolution.