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Massage Today
February, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 02

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT

Dear Lou,

Last month I finished my letter with a few words about your "soul's calling." This might have sounded strange. What does your soul have to do with your work at the spa? Isn't it exclusively the customers whose souls have to be coddled at the spa? After all, they're the ones who are paying.

Employees' souls, with all their clamoring needs, are often thought to be better left at home, or at least checked at the door when you come to work.

Personally, I think the opposite is the case, especially in spas. In spas, if the massage therapist's soul is not tranquil and wholly into the moment, the person on the table will feel it. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the overall spa operation for your soul to be well taken care of.

Spa Souls Past and Present

Historically, massage therapists employed in spas have not been on the top of the list as far as soul care goes. For example, when the Romans constructed prototypical spas many centuries ago, they created environments of beauty, pleasure, health, and great artistry, in an attempt to care for the souls of all those who entered. But, unfortunately, most of the massage therapists who attended the spa patrons in those days were slaves, and their souls were generally neglected.

Fortunately, our modern egalitarian society affords the spa therapist's soul the same consideration as the spa patron's soul. The only difference is that whereas spa patrons are there to relax and nourish their soul, you're there to work.

The question is: how can you turn your work at the spa into a soul-nurturing activity?

Many people in many different lines of work ask themselves that same question every day. Those of us in the spa industry are no different. Lou, even though you and I both became therapists and got jobs in holistic environments precisely because we wanted to avoid the trap of corporate America, that is exactly where we ended up. Instead of shunning this reality, it's better, in my opinion, to embrace it.

Preservation of the Soul

In the course of the past year, while engaged in a spa development project of my own, I stumbled across a book that has proven vastly valuable to me, and I think it will be for you, too. In fact, I'm going to send you a copy as a gift. The book is called The Heart Aroused: Poetry and Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, by the poet David Whyte.

Spas are corporations, just like banks and insurance companies. The same dynamics are at work, the same personalities, the same politics. The words of David Whyte helped me understand what I have to do to keep my own soul alive and well in the corporate workplace of the spa.When I felt a little lost in the workaday maze, not sure where I was headed, I heeded his words:

"The unawakened yet youthful soul within us is so entangled with the world and so physically alert, even in unconscious ways, to the tug of its own future, that it does not need to keep track of every detail in order to find its way in the world."

In other words, Lou, just keep following your instincts. Your soul led you into the spa in the first place because it is your soul that is taking you where you need to be in life. Things are happening for you now - relationships are being formed, experiences created and shared, skills gained - all because you happened to step into this world. You are being tugged by your invisible self toward a future that you cannot fully envision. The important thing is, you know you're on the right path. We sensitive therapist types are constantly seeking our way into the heart of life, listening closely to what is being "told" to us through the subtle clues of our lives on a day-to-day basis.

Following Your Own Path

It's critically important to do the absolutely best work you can and create the absolutely best relationships you can with all people you come in contact with while working at the spa. This is precisely what I did in one of my earliest spa jobs, and it has led to all the other opportunities that have followed.

People will notice if you are following your passion, because it is a rare thing. And following your passion means investing yourself fully into the whole of the life experience you have while pursuing that passion. In other words, a truly passionate spa therapist is as enthused about helping the janitor keep the place sparkling as relieving a guest's sciatica.

Watch yourself closely from the inside. Where is your life taking you? Now that it has taken you here, to this place at this time, if you commit yourself fully and passionately to the experience, it will accelerate you ever more quickly along the trajectory of your career. And don't worry if the path seems uncertain much of the time. That's normal. Just make sure it's your own wisdom you're following, not something imposed upon you from the outside.

As David Whyte said,

"If we can see the path laid out for us, there is a good chance it is not our path; it is probably someone else's we have substituted for our own. Our own path must be deciphered every step of the way."

What You Can Offer

And, finally, I'd like to leave you with my favorite quote of all from Preservation of the Soul. I had it hanging, in bold letters, on my office wall over the past year. Interestingly, none of the owners or other managers of the spa ever mentioned it.

There will come a time when you are absolutely fed up with your work at the spa. This point would arrive if you were working in an office or in a bakery too, but sometimes front-line spa people are hit harder because they are expected to be not only friendly, but calm, attentive, and focused while all along working intimately with a wide range of personalities.

When you do find yourself fed up, the normal response is to remove yourself spiritually from the situation, to take your soul out of the workplace and just go through the motions. When you reach this point, remember David Whyte's words:

"The very part of us that doesn't have the least interest in the organization is our greatest offering to it."

My advice to you as you continue to face the challenges that are guaranteed to come up, is to cultivate your own true heart, your own true vision of the path you are following, your own true soul, and then to invest that soul into the reality of your life as it is unfolding right now, which will often include the mundane operations of the spa. If you invest that part of you that is beyond what you're doing into what you're doing, the results will be surprising.

Take care,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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