This post is Grassroots, meaning a reader posted it directly. If you see an issue with it, contact an editor.
If you’d like to post a Grassroots post, click here!

March 3, 2021

The Body Doesn’t Lie

Relax. Resist. Repeat.

It’s been a running joke among my friends and family that listening to my voice at times causes agitation. My father complained once that my “gravelly voice was irritating his canker sores.” Many years later, as he was praising my most recent song (written and featuring yours truly), I asked if he remembered the canker sore comment… Well, what did I expect?

We’ve all had a moment with a person like my dad in our lives: someone who slings a hard comment our way that allegedly helps us define ourselves. Sometimes they land hard, sometimes we call BS. If I learned anything from my dad’s New York-edged sense of parenting, it was to develop a thick skin. But thick skin comes with it’s own set of problems- we stop listening, tune out and stop being curious. And callousness can be a career killer in the arts where sensitivity, exploration and vulnerability are sources of great work. So how do we know when to call BS and when the proverbial shoe fits?  Some authors like to talk about ‘Agreements,’ or circular self-guiding principles for self-actualized existence. It doesn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tautology. Where the rubber meets the road, however, is the how.

My how includes my other career as a massage therapist, or as we say in the arts, my side-gig. I never saw taking the time to learn and understand the body as a step away from my passion for music. It was a step toward (and at times a Main-gig). Music is simultaneously a physical and mental art- musicians spend decades learning the technical ability to play their instruments. Ask any master musician how they approach their best performances and inevitably part of that answer will circle around “staying loose.”

As a massage therapist, I’ve spent years palpating, studying and understanding the tension. Massage, by definition, is manual release of the muscles and their connective tissue. My experience has shown me that tense thoughts are hard to hold on to when the body is relaxed. Relaxation elicits both chemical and mental changes, transforming thinking. The number one comment from clients post-massage is that they “feel better” than before they arrived. Usually followed by “I feel more loose.”

When you’re in the business of relaxing others, you learn what relaxation looks like.   You also learn to see tension. But seeing something in others is vastly different than acknowledging it in yourself. Tension in soft tissue, while palpable to a massage therapist, is usually a subjective experience. People walking around with their shoulders nearly pinned to their ears are usually the ones who say “I feel good. I feel loose.” It takes time, persistence and commitment to connect palpable muscular tension to “the experience of tension,” especially when our daily activities require us to ignore it. It’s a process that has to be repeated over and over to be understood and assimilated into both the mind and the body. Even as the observer of this situation, I can’t say that I fully understand how to relax myself! I’m still learning. But I have learned some ways to keep myself “loose,” and as a result,  deepened my understanding of music.

I view all the things I do in my life as intimately connected. It’s an assertion I rest on the continuity and persistence of my existence: I didn’t split bodies when I chose to do something different (though I think that might be the premise of a famous Sci-Fi film).  In fact, I chose to stay in my body and understand it better. Our bodies are the vehicle by which we interact and interpret the world around us. We move through states of relaxation and tension without largely acknowledging either. But the presence of either can have monumental consequences on our perception and what we manifest in the world.

As gruff as my father may have been about my gravelly voice (and as much as I may have wanted to deflect it with my ever-thickening skin), he had a point:  The musculature surrounding my larynx was overly tense, causing unnecessary “fry” in my lower register.  It was as much a slight as it was a technical critique. Little did he know! It took me years of exploring that tension to appreciate and understand how to let it go.

When it comes to how to keep yourself true, to be discriminating between BS and TRS,  the body is our greatest resource. Learning to listen can take time, but our truths lie in the body.  The body doesn’t lie.

Published on behalf of David D’Alessio, who you can read about here

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Ramiro Fauve  |  Contribution: 610