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Massage Today
May, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 05

The Heart's Evolution

By David Lauterstein, RMT

The current war in Iraq and the events of 9/11 continue to be a clarion call. Perhaps the most important message to be gleaned is that the world has reached a new limit of how far it can progress by relying solely on the education of the mind.

While we may be advancing in intelligence, we are lacking in emotional development, and as long as mental prowess stays the primary focus of education, the heart will remain comparatively barbaric.

We are in ever-increasing danger: Prejudice and genocide are rampant in the world, fueling vengeful and violent counterattacks; hypocrisy between the truth of religious doctrine and the failure to live according those values is prevalent; corporate greed, with little regard for ethics or social impact, is one of the taproots of heartless action; and people suffer every day from political allegiances to the self-interests of corporate profiteers, and the failure to take action to ensure a livable world for our descendants.

These atrocities indicate stunted hearts! What need is more desperate than education of the human heart? It has been said that, "To be [a blues singer], you don't have to play the guitar brilliantly or have a beautiful singing voice - blues singers don't, as a rule - you have to be open enough about your emotions to make them important to whomever happens to be listening. The more direct the path from your heart to your fingers and throat, the better you are." This corollary holds true for the types of education and touch we need. The more direct the path from one heart to another, the deeper the learning.

How Do We Educate Our Hearts?

In my experience, massage is possibly the best way to educate our hearts. The experience of receiving and giving high-quality touch is an experience that largely bypasses the thinking mind. Touch is direct and loving, and reminds us to reconnect with our internal and external worlds. We are alive! This fundamental miracle should give cause for reflection and wonder each day. Of all the particles and waves in the universe, how unlikely that they should coalesce in planetary life, and in our living, breathing, conscious selves! At the heart of massage therapy and teaching is the embodiment of skill and kindness. When students encounter the kindness and skill of teachers, and learn to touch with clarity and compassion, they begin to evolve. Convincing the hard-hearted (those with contrary opinions) can seem impossible; but try touching the hard-hearted and watch what happens almost at once: They begin to relax. Their nervous systems become more balanced and drop out of the "fight or flight" response. They become kinder to each other as a result of being treated more kindly. They remember that the greatest gift is simply to be alive. They stop focusing on external gratification and the acquisition of material goods; they stop fixating on rage, envy, and hopelessness; they stop emphasizing mental development; and they regain their health and wholeness in a single hour of massage that seems to last an eternity, realizing that they had somehow lost touch with their inner worth and health. There is a renewed dedication to remembering the wholeness that lives within each of us.

Reason plays a secondary role in the heart's evolution. Science, reason's handmaiden, does not recognize the existence of spirit and art, but sends a more general message; however, massage is both an art based on the science of the body, and a spiritual exercise. Massage does not utilize a medium of tones or strokes of paint, but the very substance of life itself: human beings, with their unique tissues, thoughts and feelings.

Massage is manual evolution. The art truly and desperately needed now is the evolution of the heart. Can we make as much progress in the human heart as we have with, say, computers? Isn't the necessity of this next evolutionary step obvious?

As students and clients explore anatomy, massage, and the psychophysiology of stress, they come to appreciate the deep, original meaning of kindness. Beyond our differences, we are the same "kind"; we are "kin." This lesson is communicated to some extent in every massage: The enlivened heart knows the kinship of life.

We can no longer proceed as a civilization without committing ourselves to advanced kindness, including the awareness that humans share the same feelings: Virulent hatred, the hunger for power, and uncontainable lust are not just the property of our villains, any more than great love, courage, ferocious loyalty and compassion are reserved for heroes.

The key to advanced kindness is enabling both reason and feeling to inform our responses: having total compassion toward the feelings we have, tempered with a vast, measured thoughtfulness that precedes our actions. These advances should be incorporated into the everyday challenges faced in elementary, secondary and college education. Currently, the only educational context in which I see this happening is in a few holistically-oriented massage or psychotherapy training programs - programs that are exploring a model for future education.

Receiving, giving and learning about skilled, compassionate touch is one of the keys to a healthy world. In such a world, the heart is given a chance to catch up to the mind, and we recognize that what we know "by heart" is equal to or greater than what we know with our heads alone. The idea that "What the world needs now is love, sweet love," has changed from being a subcultural sentiment to a sociopolitical fact. Touch is the most direct way to actualize love in the physical world; it is the key that opens the door to the next step in human evolution.

David Lauterstein is Co-Director of Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin, Texas. He is author of "The Deep Massage Book" and "Putting the Soul Back in the Body." David has been inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, received AMTA's Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year Award, and in 2013, was recognized as "Educator of the Year" by the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. For more info, visit


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