Body Presence

I won’t forget the first time working with a client who was terminal; cleared by his doctor to receive massage for easing pain his last few weeks of life. When I saw him approaching the office, I was shaken by how much I could “see” death in the body. Anyone who has been around death will understand this. It’s something your animal senses tell you, more than anything your brain can communicate. That feeling was one of the two things impacting me most from the experience. The other was how this man I’d just met, spent the whole session saying goodbye to things he valued in life, and how those things were the simple, solid basics we can often take for granted. 

Segue to a completely different experience; a recent power outage in my area. A county wide black out, we were out of power several days/nights, with no let-up and no promise of when it might come back on. We’re used to certain levels of ease in this country with daily living:  the grocery store, heat and lighting, gas stations a few blocks away, fresh food storage and refrigeration, and more. Taking these things away for multiple days forces you into more physical awareness, present moment necessity, and a consciousness of what is actually vital.

Two unconnected stories swimming around in my consciousness, with very different contexts. What they highlight to me is focusing on what’s of value:   human connection and support, physical well-being, sharing with others, basic animal necessities like food and warmth, and being physically present in the moment. All these things take us back into the body, out of our often over-processing minds. Staying grounded, aware, and in touch with our body keeps us in the moment, available for some of the most important things in life, all situations. Let the body be the guide more often, navigating the different waves of life, allowing us to feel and sense what is truly of value.


Copyright © Lara Stillo 2019

Soothing via the Senses


While everyone’s needs are uniquely individual, to be soothed, calmed, and thus supported, is something we feel both emotionally and physically. We stroke our children’s hair, lay our hand gently on someone’s shoulder, and pet cats or dogs; all gestures of caring and support for the recipient, usually felt by the giver as well. It always amazes me how much unspoken content is conveyed through this kind of touch, as well as how sensory oriented it is. How much volume and depth is communicated via the senses, one individual to another, no words used, and none often needed. 

If working as a massage therapist, this can be a continual exploration, good boundaries in place, for learning how to do soft tissue work while still conveying a sense of soothing, calming, and caring. Beyond the massage world, anyone can continue to grow in these depths with loved ones, including oneself. So often we direct impatience and irritation towards our bodies; overworking, judging, fearing, and rejecting them. During these times, consider doing the opposite: apply lotion with care, appreciating that skin needs this support; use rollers and sports balls on tight muscles with the focused intent to help ease the area; or a bigger challenge, simply apply the light touch of your own hands holding your face as you proffer compassion back to the self, back to the body, and back into life.


Copyright © 2019 by Lara Stillo

Focus and Presence in Physical Touch

Focused attention and being truly present can sometimes feel far-reaching in our fast-paced, distracted, contemporary life. Yoga, meditation, and spiritual practices often come up alongside these descriptions, but in this blog about the human body, health, and touch, I’m thinking of how these states work in massage; a physical communication from one body to another, where presence or the lack of it can make all the difference. 

When you focus in on a small area within a muscle needing support and relief, giving all your attention, intention, and presence to it, a “dialogue” without spoken language happens and a huge world seems to open. There is a feeling that time is suspended, and the physical, tangible, animal world of the human body seems deeper and more expansive than one could have ever imagined. Language is a beautiful art, but it does not always require actual words. In this example, touch and sensation are the language; no words in any created language are complex or broad enough to cover all they can convey. Whether you have a massage practice, work on family/friends, or do self-work, experiment even for just a few seconds with this level of presence and focus. Switching from the world of mind, thoughts, and words, and moving instead into physical body, feeling, and sensing. It can be a mysterious, beautiful journey where good growth and deeper healing can happen.


copyright © 2019 by Lara Stillo

Body Sensitivities? You’re Not Alone.

Everyone has physical imbalances, sensitivities, pains, and fears about the aforementioned. Many years experience has validated this to me over and again, doing bodywork full-time on pre teens to mature adults well into their 90s. Often the sensitivities and imbalances are very similar; we all slide off balance with muscle strength and weaknesses, on and off throughout life. This is a part of being organic. And our bodies are not suits we can take off at night for repair and reset, either. We’re in them 24/7, feeling the repairs in progress, or feeling the need for more rest so repairs can happen. I often tell clients, a spare “suit” would be great, but it’s not the reality. Another reminder, no one is alone in this.

Keeping in mind some have far more challenges than others and some can be life threatening, we all need to work on refraining from comparison, seeking instead to maintain empathy. Comparison is a pointless exercise, usually leaving us in misery. Empathy is crucial, for ourselves and for others. Recognizing bodies as organic, plant-like structures, unique to each individual yet with much overlap in how we experience them, helps foster empathy and further our understanding. Another challenge, seek to grow beyond concepts of ageism around the body. We all understand death exists for organic matter and have varying levels of fear around it. But all stages of human life are important, otherwise they wouldn’t exist. Extend this to yourself and others, and the body has room to re-bloom again in a different way.


Copyright © 2019 by Lara Stillo

Finding Your Balance

Bodies do not like extremes, yet our minds often do. Consider how much more difficult it is to live in the fluctuations of balance within the body, versus wanting it to be always the same, under our seeming control, staying how we prefer it to be. But we’re organic; always changing, evolving, ebbing and flowing. There are times we feel good in appearance, energy, and health, and other times we are fighting illness, trying to regain balance in one or more body systems, or rehabbing from injury.

No one is immune from these things, though we would all prefer to be. So while not suggesting it’s easy to let go of wanting the body to stay in an optimal space, perhaps this viewpoint is at least something to continue to grow in ease with. Allow the physical fluctuations within and without, understanding that bodies are a bit like oceans – vastly complicated, organic, and always in motion. Learning to surf the fluctuations of one’s own physical body is a lesson in humor, compassion, patience, self-care, and human empathy; a worthwhile study ongoing.

Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2019

The Human Body – Ever-Changing Garden

We only have the one body. When it’s injured, living in it can be a major test of patience, and one of life’s humbling lessons. Soft tissue injuries can be more exhausting and patience-pushing than bone breaks. It’s easier to determine when bones are healed; soft tissue healing has subtle stages of repair, can feel healed and not actually be so, can easily have set-backs, and can take anywhere from many weeks to several months. A maddening to sometimes depressing experience.

Looking at the body as a garden, always growing, changing, and in-flux, can help change how we view injury, healing, and self-care. And why not look for the enjoyment in what actually is? Rubbing arnica onto bruises to expedite healing in the tissue feels so soothing, both in the simple touch and the intention. Applying needed ointments to wounds from either injury or surgery requires patience and regular attendance, and can feel good in this kind of “mindless,” primal, animal way that’s a part of our very human existence. Moving our muscles in simple exercises during rehabilitation prompts a range of sensations we can dive into and fully experience, from uncomfortable to interesting to relieving.  Just slowing down to notice, completely feel, and be present in all these sensations becomes a fascinating, wordless world – a very human-animal world that requires our attention.

Making this switch in perspective can increase compassion for ourselves and others, deepen our patience, raise our present moment awareness, and can help us revalue the physical aspects of life, living, and being human.


Copyright © 2019 by Lara Stillo

The Measure of Energy Work

Energy work is ever interesting to me, though I don’t technically practice it. When it comes to the physical body, I’m mainly drawn by substance and tangibility; guided by practicality, animal instinct, and understanding form and function. Recognizing that we are solid matter, yet that matter is also made up of energy (refraining from a physics discussion here), how do we feel energy work as an experience in the moment, or notice what it’s effecting for us individually in the results?

I notice something over and again in receiving bodywork regularly, teaching it for 13 years, practicing it for 18:  there are many wonderful techniques out there in energy work, but the most powerful one to me is the intention and presence of the person via their touch, whether it’s on the physical body or outside of it. I cannot find words lovely enough to describe the communication relayed from one person to another via pure kindness of intention, all techniques aside. The focus of caring, compassion, love, and humanity that can be conveyed is beyond language, with depths probably beyond my human understanding. And each person’s touch is unique because every individual is unique. A beautiful, wordless world of communication in endless variety.

Whether giving or receiving bodywork, enjoy noticing what’s being communicated and shared, what is being given, and how much we can actually feel without any need for meaning, explanation, or comprehension – simply sensing, feeling, and expanding into a larger, wordless language.

Copyright © 2019 by Lara Stillo



Bodies: Endless “Art” Projects

An interesting benefit of physical self-care, you’ll never be bored with it. Consider it darkly humorous, but it’s a practical point of view: bodies are constantly changing, require ongoing care and maintenance, and are endlessly complex. So why not find ways to enjoy the self-care? 

In either self-work or receiving bodywork from a therapist, noticing and sinking into sensations felt is always informative and usually just wonderful, even if moderate discomfort arises. The latter is not about “no pain, no gain.” I’m not suggesting that for soft tissue work. You should be able to breathe or even sometimes laughingly swear, and that tolerance range varies per person and per the work in the moment. It is about feeling, awareness, learning, changing, grounding, and definitely about enjoying. 

Consider what it feels like having tight upper shoulders worked open. We usually feel tightness or even pain in upper shoulders much of the time; upper shoulders being workhorses and stress carriers for most. As different muscle tissue is addressed, any small area can give quite different feedback sensations to us. Aching, sharpness, relief like a sigh, discomfort that surprises and educates – all bring us into our bodies, more present, aware, and awake. We can also feel emotions attached to the different physical sensations. Sometimes anger, sadness, fear, gratitude, appreciation, pleasure, warmth and more can be there. Ever interesting to notice emotions and physical sensations appear as the soft tissue is manipulated and coaxed open. Good changes are happening; things are transforming. 

Allowing ourselves to be brought back into the physical body, feeling what’s there, honoring and taking care of what is, is a sometimes challenging journey we all take in this life, but it can be a loving, engaging, transformative one, too.


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2019