What is Your Legacy?
By Nancy Waltz Dail
I want to thank Emily Rice, Jill Moran and the conference committee for all their hard work organizing this conference. And to all of the individuals who have served on the conference committee over the years, you have given a legacy of service to our region and to the profession.
Let me also say, it is not possible in this keynote to acknowledge everyone who has left a legacy to this profession. So if I do not personally mention you at this time, it is not because you have not given enough to the profession. What we have done together over the years has been a serious amount of teamwork. I have been personally blessed to have so many wonderful peers in my life – this has given me more than the projects we took to task. These people are all golden in my book and irreplaceable even by time.
What history remembers and what we remember as we live it are two different streets. I am reviewing a history of massage book currently and I recently read a chapter on the time period I have lived. What the author wrote and what I remember as important are two different perspectives. When I brought those points to the attention of the publisher, she said, “ You bring up valid points, Nancy!” What that will mean in the end, is up to interpretation!
This is the interesting thing about our profession. The artistry and craft and how we incorporate the science is so subjective that when we stop doing massage or pass on, our work does not always evolve. Often history tells us, we have to re-invent technique and modalities. Our individual legacies are extremely important to the history of massage.
Most people when you ask them What is your Legacy?, they respond with children, land, physical things that can be passed on, until they think beyond the monetary to what were or are the contributions that you have made while you were alive.
I would be remiss to not mention my family! This my greatest personal legacy! All 3 of my children are Licensed Massage Therapists.
What is your legacy? How does one Create a Legacy? Legacy is defined as “something received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past” (Webster). Gift, land, bequest, inheritance, heritage.
It also means how someone is remembered, and what contributions they made while they were alive.
Professional legacy (Short term and long term) is different from your personal legacy.
Alissa Haines said, “My legacy, so far, is probably a lot like most of my colleagues: People who sleep better. People with less pain. A kid with sensory issues who now hugs his mom. People who have more to give their families & jobs & passions because they FEEL better.”
Your professional practice is providing a memory in all your clients. I love massaging massage therapists. Their bodies are so in tune with receiving massage, your hands can “hear” the relaxation of tissues almost as soon as you touch them. Our skilled professional touch is leaving a legacy of healing to countless clients on a daily basis.
Adjective: denoting software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use. It was made so well, it is hard to replace. What if we did our job so well, massage therapy as a whole was irreplaceable?
In the last year or so that I have been contemplating this question, I have also looked at why I became a massage therapist and what things I have derived from the experience. I have also asked my friends similar questions. This is what I got from David:
“Why Choose the Life of a Massage Therapist? David Lauterstein
Here’s some of what I got from studying and doing massage therapy:
• I got to learn how to touch people in a way that sometimes made a profound difference in their lives.
• I got to learn anatomy that helps me, my clients and students understand how bodies work.
• I got to learn how to move in a way that is both graceful and strong.
• I got to learn physiology that reveals the miraculous processes in the body and mind.
• I got to work with a fascinating array of clients – from spiritual teachers, to bookies, to dancers and bus drivers, actors to day traders, psychologists, politicians, musical and martial artists, and marital counselors.
• I got to start a school 25 years ago which helped me reach out and touch, through our grads, hundreds of thousands of people we would otherwise never have touched.
• I got to study with some of most wonderful, brilliant, imaginative teachers in the world– Rolfer, Daniel Blake, Dr. Fritz Smith, MD, Paul Brown, Bob King and so many others.
• I got to feel every day that I didn’t need to question the worth of what I did.
• I got to receive bodywork sessions that triggered experiences that were as close to enlightenment as I’ve ever come.
• I got to meet what must be the kindest, brightest, most hopeful people there may be in any profession – massage students and therapists.
• I got to feel, no matter what missteps the world seems to make around me, that I am on a path that is absolutely positive for me and for others.
There is no good reason to persist in work that makes one less than happy. And there is every reason to begin, now rather than later, a happier, healthier life.”
Thomas Moore said Care of the Soul “ In a sense, all work is a vocation, a calling from a place that is the source of meaning and identity, the roots of which lie beyond human intention and interpretation.”
“To me massage therapy is a calling that makes me happy on a daily basis. I believe in safe touch..that it will reduce violence..I think massage therapy provides an avenue for security that we have perhaps been missing.”
I remember the first massage I received in 1972 from Dr. Jay Victor Scherer. I used to back pack horses into the Carson National Forrest in New Mexico and had at one time 14 horses. An incident with a horse’s front hoof connecting with my skull fractured my frontal and nasal bones, gave me a concussion, two raccoon eyes, and headaches.
I went to Jay specifically because of the headaches, but was quickly intrigued by massage therapy, his school, his hands, his touch, and his healing aura that surrounded the school and permeated the environment. There was purple light everywhere. Jay was an old school therapist and he gave me my first neck adjustment. Back then, that was part of the massage treatment. After the massage, I felt transformed and had a destiny moment; a glimpse of my future as a massage therapist. It was a challenge as Santa Fe, NM was filled with a transient society in the early 70’s. Classes were at night and it seemed like I had different classmates every night. I persevered and shortly Jay realized that I had not left and that I really wanted a diploma and a career as a massage therapist. During the day I studied with Sensei Nakazono. Aikido taught me balance and was the basis for understanding body mechanics and moving around the massage table. Medicine classes included the five element theory, acupuncture, acupressure, and meridians. I knew I was in the right place when I learned that my teachers exchanged treatments with each other. For me, this experience was the foundation for my career, my practice, the seeds of founding a school, investing in a profession and my future.
Jay guided me to my first AMTA convention in 1974 in Scottsdale, AZ. He literally said, “You are going”. I was to take the RMT exam. There I met other individuals who had been care taking the profession from the 40s when the AMTA was first organized. It struck me that there was such an age difference between me and them. It did not matter – they embraced me and before I even knew it, I was secretary of the Massachusetts AMTA chapter. Perry Plouffe was responsible for that transition. You only have to look around you to understand her legacy to our profession as national president, leader, massage therapist and conference organizer.
I also met Ruth Williams, who told me the reason we learn Swedish massage as a foundation is because there is hardly another modality that does not have some form of Swedish technique in it. Ruth was an educator, school owner, leader, author, and gifted massage therapist. We enjoy the field of massage therapy today because of her legacy and others like Jay Scherer, Perry, and Sensei who laid a foundation for us to build on.
That very first convention taught me that massage therapy was a huge profession and that education embraced the whole field. The excitement at that convention was electric and contagious at the same time. I left enthused by the education and impressed by the educators who had care taken the profession to that pivotal time.
I had to wrap up my New Mexico education in 1974 as my mom was dying with cancer. Sensei took me aside before I left and told me I would not be able to save my mother. He helped me accept her illness and prepared me for the inevitable. I had thought I would be able to care for her for a while, but she died the day after I arrived home while I was in the Boston hospital. I remember that I was afraid in the end to touch her. She was so sick. That is one reason I am so grateful to the Society for Oncology Massage for their work today. Tracy Walton comes and teaches Oncology Massage at DSM every other year. As a part of that, we have a clinic, open to the public for survivors and individuals who are struggling with cancer. This last October, I was so moved by the clinic, I wrote a poem about the experience.
In memory of Kate Waltz-Hixon, my best friend…
A Reflection on the Oncology Massage Clinic…..
If the Walls Could Talk
By Nancy Dail
If the walls could talk
the paint would weep
pain, frustration and cry
relief that compassionate touch provides
Relief to let go, not fight,
to freely absorb nurturing energy.
To somehow regain, refresh, renew
To arise with enough fight
To be a warrior again.
If the walls could talk
they would reflect the joy of
peace, a bright light
bouncing off auras, souls vibrating
frequencies, a quiet hum.
Therapists bolster, quietly support
with grace, strength, a soft touch,
a soothing hand
only giving without judgment
If the walls could talk
they would witness the miracle of transformation.
Pain reduced or dispelled,
worry becoming mist,
anxiety dissipating .
The air, so heavy from fear
evaporates, changes, melts.
Frowns develop into a relaxed visage,
a smile emerges,
and for a time relief embraces the clients.
The work is done.
If the walls could talk,
they would say well done.
I can not begin to express how appreciative I am for Tracy’s work as an educator, massage therapist, author, and expert listener. Her legacy is huge for this profession, and she is still working on it! Therapists that take this continuing education are working and volunteering their time, giving a legacy of touch in hospitals and practices all over the country. The Society for Oncology Massage is a wonderful organization and they will need help furthering their goals.
After my mom died, I moved to Maine and started my practice. I also became an EMT, served on the ambulance service, made inroads with physicians in the ER and OR, worked for two chiropractors, and for years traveled to AMTA events and meetings in MA and New England. I have been hooked on conferences and conventions ever since that first one in 1974.
One of the messages I got from my massage training is that you can never stop learning. Once you stop seeking education, you lose perspective of who you are and your purpose. Retaining humility allows you to listen to other human beings and helps you to be the vehicle of their journey. We are not their journey.
Thomas Moore says “When soul is involved, (or inner self), work is not carried out by the ego alone; it arises from a deeper place and therefore is not deprived of passion, spontaneity, and grace.”
“Massage is an art and science used by the Massage Therapist to encourage balance and well-being in the individual; the responsibility lies in the individual to heal himself.” Nancy Dail
Education has been a primary directive for me. I have studied with Jack Meagher, Benny Vaughn, Ruth Williams, Paul St. John, Rich Phaigh, Bob King, Upledger, Jim Hackett, Elliot Greene, Jackson Petersburg, David Lauterstein, Dr. Hancock, Whitney Lowe, and so many more.
I have embraced connective tissue massage, myofascial, neuromuscular therapy, cranial sacral therapy, acupuncture, shiatsu, polarity, therapeutic touch, applied kinesiology, body/ mind and energy work, research, lomi lomi, rolfing, movement therapies, sports massage, Orthopedic Massage, and a continued study on the structure and function of the human body.
I have developed my own working philosophy of Dimensional Massage Therapy.
This journey helped found the Downeast School of Massage, the Maine AMTA chapter, the AMTA Council of Schools, the original AMTA sports massage team, and my investment in education of the field as well as 10 years on the New England Conference Committee. My journey has given me peers that I highly respect and bonded with over working for the profession. I can not express how meaningful it was to be on the AMTA National board with Bob King, Elliot Greene and others, to create standards with Sally Niemand, Ruth Marion, Iris Burman, Kathryn Hansman-Spice, Margaret Avery Moon and Steve Kitts for COMTA or to work on onsite teams. Another opportunity: Comta always needs onsite evaluators.
I have presented to physicians, hospitals, colleges, nurses, peers, and to the public all over the world.
It took me four years, but I did write a book, Kinesiology for Manual Therapies and produced A Gift of Touch, a teaching DVD. I continue to travel and teach, run the school, and practice massage.
Now, I serve as a committee chair for the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. It is an organization comprised of schools, administrators, faculty and CE providers. It probably is no surprise that I plan their conferences. This year we will make history by inviting multiple stakeholder organizations to come together to collaborate for the profession. In July in Minneapolis, MN we are holding the first Educational Congress. I am excited to be a part of this amazing event and legacy. Pete Whitridge the current president of the Alliance is himself a teacher and CE provider. Thank you Pete for your devotion to this great field of massage and your contributions to massage education and to the Alliance.
To serve as a chapter officer, a committee chair, or strive to be on an association board, to teach, to present to the public, to write, research, practice, or to touch safely; these are the mechanisms to develop your legacies.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent persons
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And to endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch
Or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know that even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived –
This is to have succeeded.
The New England Conference has succeeded in leaving a legacy of healing. Being at this event has touched our hearts, educated us, allowed us to mingle with our peers, and to explore new and old products one-on-one with vendors of our field. It has birthed ideas, fueled our hearts with enthusiasm and taught us that continuing education is a very big part of our profession. It has given us a true sense of accomplishment from putting on a successful conference to laying this legacy of healing. It has whisked us away from the isolation of practice, helped us prevent burnout and given us the opportunity to share our ethical dilemmas.
So I ask you again, what is your legacy? For you are the future of this profession. You get to make the choices that will fulfil your journey. You will leave a legacy of touch just by your investment in your practice. But what else can you do? What can we do together to further this profession?
For me, I am not done yet. I hope to continue to make history. Many of you know that my mother was one of the first women to ever fly a plane. She flew with Amelia Earhart and was secretary for the Hyannis airport while she attended Boston University from 1926-1930. Her legacy to me was to teach me that you can do what you want to do in life, you just have to do it. We are all pioneers in one of the greatest profession there is.
I urge you to create your legacy to leave to the profession of massage therapy. Remember, this is your journey, but sometimes you might need a road map, so here are a few suggestions:
• Start small; involve yourself in taking continuing education
• Find a mentor who can help you see the forest through the trees
• Involve yourself in your state chapter – join a committee, or a national committee
• Look at how you can further massage in your community or in your state
• Make a five year plan – look at your life as a journey and plan your route.
• Ask yourself, why am I in this profession? What can I do to further the profession?
• Start small – you do not have to be President tomorrow, either in your state chapter or for the National Board.
• Do you want to teach? Look into the standards for teaching from the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. AFMTE.org
• Take courses that will prepare you to teach.
• Surround yourself with individuals who are visionary.
• Link yourself to a school that supports standards, provides CE hours, and supports graduates.
• Reach out and meet your peers. These are people of like minds.
• Research massage – The Massage Therapy Foundation has provided us with the mechanisms of research. Another wonderful organization to investigate and they have conferences!
• Write – the Alliance has many members who are authors and publishers attend our conferences. Authors are giving. There are many present here! You do not have to start out writing a book, review books for publishing companies, keep a journal, and write articles or newsletters to your clients.
• Present about massage.
• Get massage yourself.
• Attend ethics classes and share your experiences with peers.
• Embrace your passion and explore expansion.
• Remember self-care and prevent burn out.
Whatever you do, remember that massage therapy provides a social service that is unquestionably valuable to the human race. Be proud to be a massage therapist. This is a wonderful, satisfying career. Enjoy the ride and give back. Create your legacy.
“I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together. ” Liora from Facebook.
Keynote speech for the 32nd AMTA New England Regional Conference in Framingham, MA, March 20, 2015.