August 8, 2009

Beautifully Useless

Sometimes we find that our brains just won’t stop working, particularly during times of stress. Images of things we wished we had or hadn’t done and images of all the things we have to get done keep playing and re-playing in our heads: many times accompanied by distracting and disturbing emotions. Sometimes this even happens when preparing to give a massage or even during a session. And it can be hard to clear our minds and return our very necessary good, healing intentions to the task at hand.

I read a wonderful book by Lois McMaster Bujold once, called The Sharing Knife. In one of my favorite scenes, a character named Dag is consoling the much younger runaway Fawn just after she suffers a sudden miscarriage and is trying to process a staggering kind of emotional loss previously unknown to her. “Think of something beautifully useless,” he tells her, recounting his own story of floating on a lake staring at water lilies when he was young. “There are a lot of senseless things in the world, but not all of them are sorrows. Sometimes—I find—it helps to remember the other kind.” When Dag finishes his story, he adds, “Later, in some very dry places, the memory of that hour was enough to go on with.”

I love the whole idea of something beautifully useless. I have my own versions of Dag’s water lilies. A pink rose in a blue vase, for instance. As a tiny child, there was a single rose bush growing in the courtyard of our rented house. And my mother would let me take the scissors and cut just one pink rose to put in a blue glass bud-vase left to her by her grandmother. The memory for me is pure joy. I was too young to attach any more emotion to it than that: just the appreciation of a perfect pink rose in a glowing blue glass vase. When I call such an image to mind, even if I can only hold it and nothing else for a few minutes, I find myself more relaxed, more rested, more centered, and I can return to my massage or other tasks with renewed presence.

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