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Conscious Discomfort

April 27, 20222 min read

I have two experiences that are coming together in my life in a very interesting way. I have the honor of being one of a panel of judges for an essay competition for student doctors and nurses. In this role, I am reading multiple essays around the topic of finding humanism in health care. Most of them share a kind of timidness, though. There is a slight hesitation in moving past the lessons of their schooling. The best ones are personal, thoughtful, and full of a loving vulnerability that gives me hope. They show courage and will to push against the constraints of their learning and hold received wisdom with a light, open hand.

In addition, I am co-facilitating a group for women to learn about and share their experiences around perimenopause. My role is to research and offer resources around what is actually happening in our bodies. It is a new topic for me, so everything I am learning is not fully integrated the way my massage therapy knowledge is. At our first meeting, I caught myself doing that thing I do when I am insecure about a topic: I was turning on an endless fire hose of information, and in so doing, dousing any sparks of connection in the room.

Reflecting on these experiences, I see what can happen when we haven't learned to be comfortable in our discomfort. With long experience wrapped around us, we can move through our lives with grace, noticing and attending to others because our own comfort is assured. Without the comfort of long experience (or institutional support), it becomes too easy to block our humanity with information.

I sometimes think this is the struggle, the sticky center, of the massage therapy profession right now. Can we break through our perceived status and our own insecurities? Can we move through whatever it is that puts a chip on our shoulder or makes us feel insecure and question, lovingly, what we believe to be true? Can we do all of this in service to humanity?

This week, our perimenopause group meets again, and I have consciously prepared less information and more questions. I look forward to sitting in the discomfort of not knowing, finally together and connected with everyone in the group.

I also have another stack of essays to read. The best ones emerge quickly -- they are the ones where the focus is lovingly turned on other human beings. The ones where it is not immediately clear whether this is a doctor or a nurse writing -- but it is immediately apparent that this is a human being who wants nothing more than to be in compassionate service to other human beings.

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Rebecca Sturgeon

In addition to being a valuable member of Healwell’s faculty and curriculum development team, Rebecca is also Healwell’s Education Director. She works tirelessly to organize existing courses and to create new opportunities for Healwell to offer meaningful and robust inter-professional education for massage therapists and other health care providers. Rebecca co-authored Oncology Massage: An integrative approach to cancer care (Handspring, 2021.) As a former teacher of writing at the college level, Rebecca is passionate about the written word and about all forms of human communication. In her massage practice, she focuses on integrating therapeutic massage as part of overall health and wellness care. She is also an experienced mentor to new massage therapists, and facilitator of learning groups.

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