We are built to need each other. Human beings aren’t well suited to isolation.
This was my massage therapist’s response to me lamenting that I couldn’t get the tension in my shoulders to let go on my own. This was news to me, believe it or not. To my amusement, I realized that instead of enjoying my much needed massage, I was busy trying to figure out exactly which muscles I needed to stretch to make her job obsolete. Even though my career is based on the fact that human beings can’t solve all their problems on their own, it turns out I secretly believed that I could.
It’s not that I hold onto deep guilt about needing help. I accept that it happens, but I’m prone to mistake self reliance for isolation. I have a habit of seeing a need for help as a subtle failing, albeit a forgivable one. In this case the belief was that if I was a good yoga teacher I wouldn’t need massage. But what if the physical make up of our muscles is such that they are healthier when they have massage? If this is true my premise that once I’m a good enough yoga teacher I won’t need massage anymore is not only wrong, but is going against the natural order of things. Talk about setting myself up to fail!
I am not a closed person, but I will confess to a history of reservation. Part of it is the aforementioned feeling that if I was really living correctly I wouldn’t need others, and another part is wanting to hedge my bets against needing anyone. If I think I need a specific person, eventually that person won’t be there. I certainly haven’t enjoyed the pressure of another needing me, and I wouldn’t want to inflict that on anyone else.
But that refers to specific people, not a big picture truth of people in general needing community. I see this truth all the time: when I open up and communicate more, rather than closing down, my world gets larger. Of course, this requires risk. Relationships of any kind are always accompanied by an intimate relationship with the unknown.
Perhaps our biology pushes in the direction of opening up to others. Who amongst us would choose to be so vulnerable if the rewards weren’t so great and the consequences of shutting down so severe?
Consider the necessity of pollinators. A hummingbird needs a plant’s flower for sustenance, just as the plant needs to be pollinated. Massage therapists can make a living doing something they (hopefully) enjoy, but when I get a massage it’s not a one-to-one exchange of money for healing touch. There’s an exchange of ideas, and in our case a friendship has grown out of working together. When I feel better not only do I benefit, but my yoga students benefit directly. Almost everyone I am involved with each day benefits in some way; I have more patience, better focus, and I’m more likely to say yes to some last minute adventure. Perhaps telling the story of how I wasn’t injured but needed help releasing some tension inspires someone else to get the help they need and feel better. And on and on.
Remembering that I’m not meant to exist in isolation has opened up more than just being able to enjoy body work. I find myself being more patient with the people around me, and more patient with myself. I’ve started looking at my stumbles and trouble I’ve gotten into — and the injuries that have forced me to rely on others — not as something to get over to get on with my real life, but the whole point. I’m not saying I can keep this mindset up 24/7 (have you met me?), but checking into this grace daily has brought a deeper release than even a full body massage.