ONCE UPON A TABLE tales from a master massage therapist

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about the 10,000 hours rule. He theorizes that success in a field is a matter of practice in a particular skill for about 10,000 hours. My hands, over two decades, have massaged over 10,000 bodies. It means if Gladwell’s theory is correct, I’m experienced in the work I do. I massage people from all walks of life including housewives, plumbers, office workers and athletes.


I  massage celebrities too. They’ve included, Marlo Thomas, James Taylor, Olympia Dukasis, Twyla Tharp, Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman as well  company dancers from  Mark Morris, Paul Taylor and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

Besides a private massage clientele, I’ve worked in the Conde’ Nast award winning spa Canyon Ranch and Cranwell Resort as well as day spas including Body and Soul and Essentials.

Over the years I’ve learned giving a massage is much more than technique. The most important thing, the thing that matters most is the kinesthetic touch. The Kinesthetic touch is the ability to energetically tap into a client’s body. It means making a connection, a bond between the giver and the receiver. It’s a learned rather than a taught skill. A skill practiced and repeated again and again and again.

At the beginning of my career, I didn’t know this truth. I hadn’t arrived at this level of understanding. After all even though I was “certified” I’d barely begun to scratch the surface of what it means to both give and receive a massage. My methodology was correct. Yet I hadn’t developed my “stethescopic” sense of touch, the ability to feel my way into the wisdom of another’s body, get inside under the skin where the essence of a being lives.

Back then I was concerned about restoring and relaxing muscles. It took a long time, patience and skill to develop an understanding of the body complete, its eleven functioning systems that together make us tick as human beings.

So next time you book a massage ask yourself what do I hope to gain from this experience?

ONCE UPON A TABLE Tales from a master massage therapist



Massage therapists use heat retaining basalt lava stones heated in special heaters. First an area of the body is massaged with oil that allows the stones to glide over the surface of the skin. The therapist slides or compresses a stone over tense muscles. The warmth of the stone helps relax and release  muscle tension.


According to Wikipedia Mary Nelson Hannigan created the technique after her inner teacher told her to use stones. She decided the technique would be easier on her hands as well as benefit her clients.


Most spas and resorts now offer a version of stone massage. It’s good to check on the therapists experience with this technique. There have been reports about people getting burned by stones too hot.


The technique is based on a Swedish massage using effleurage, petrisage, stroking and kneading movements.