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Gardener Vs. Mechanic: Perspective on Healing

In my work as a massage therapist, I have two major roles:

1. A mechanic, going in and making specific repairs and,

2. A gardener, tilling the soil, watering the plants, and watching the internal weather. 

As a mechanic, I focus mostly on the structural, chemical, and anatomical elements of health. So, just as when my motorcycle starts making weird noises, if I can determine what part is broken and fix it, we’re back on the road again. This perspective works really well for loosening tight muscles and finding the physical source of tension in the body (i.e. which muscles, tendons, ligaments).

However, this perspective alone isn’t going to tell me what got you there in the first place. What movements (or lack thereof), postural holding, or mental/emotional traumas led to this current state? With my work I seek to empower clients to understand their body and health. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and other natural medicine systems, the body is viewed as a dynamic ecosystem of relationships. Just as in my garden I pay attention to the quality of the soil, the changes in the weather, and pour love and care into each plant, when working with clients we explore you as a holistic being.  For holistic healing, we must look at the emotional, mental, spiritual, and environmental, as well as structural and chemical components of your body. What is the root cause of your back pain? How do you use your body? How do you carry yourself… with confidence, or staring at the ground… and if so, why? Imbalances in your diet or self-care can lead to unhealthy holding of tension and pushing your body out of alignment.

To be clear, there's always a time and place for every perspective to be valuable. [JUMP LINK] Also, not every session needs to evaluate all the interconnected systems of your body. Sometimes you just want a relaxing massage so you can walk out into the world feeling great, and if so, we can totally take care of you. In the case of acute and immediate situations, the mechanic may be the better choice. The gardener works slower, moving with the seasons, so if you’re feeling ready to go deeper and explore the patterns at the source of tension, we can take it just a little further: is your garden getting enough water? How’s your internal weather?

Why is this all so important?  Well, we live very mechanical lives in this society. Often work and culture is very pragmatic, looking for the fastest and cheapest way to get the job done. But when we approach our health in this way, we may make the mistake of thinking that painkillers are going to solve 15 years of bad spinal alignment and posture. But as gardeners, we can view the pain your body sends you as a message: Something is wrong! And something fundamental needs to change: posture, diet, exercise, sleeping patterns, stress management, or a combination of many things. Gardening your body back to health isn’t as easy as swallowing pills, but it’s the only way to truly solve the problem, as opposed to just hitting the snooze button on the alarm.

To learn more about the gardener/ mechanic dichotomy in health, books that explore Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold, are excellent resources. This particular piece of literature takes us through the history of healthcare becoming so mechanical during the scientific revolution, and the benefits of balancing this with complimentary natural healing systems.


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