Sunday 13 May 2012

My body fesses up to Ben Barnett

‘You’ve got to see Ben Barnett,’ said Nicky Hughes. ‘You really have.’ She’d done a session of Theta Healing with me, removing past blockages, re-setting my DNA and blasting out the bit of me that believes poverty is cool and that I’m not eminently lovable (allegedly). So, after all that, I still wasn’t clean and clear as a whistle?  Sheesh, does it never end?  But then I know the answer to that.  We go up and up, climbing those ladders…  We think we’ve reached some kind of understanding, that we’ve ‘made it’ and then…whoosh…down the snake we go, tumbling head over heels to that bloody START square all over again.

Every time you think you’ve ‘got it’ is the time to watch out, to be on guard.  Because, or so I’ve found, that’s when you’re in the biggest danger of all.  Your ego gets all smug and – no matter how spiritual and pure and elevated you may think you’re being – it’s bullshit.  And then, if you’re lucky, SLAM, you trip up and slide.  You know nothing again. You’re back to being a beginner.  Isn’t it wonderful?  As my new favourite Buddhist Pema Chodron says, ‘To be fully alive, fully human and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.’ 

Anyhow.  I was in Somerset and Ben was in London. I was broke and Ben is expensive. I figured I’d have to do without his magic.  Make do and mend.  But then, ka-ching, I found I was going to London and had spare time – a lot of spare time, as it happened. And I asked a magazine I write for if they’d like a review of his treatment and they said oooh, go on, so I suggested a trade to Ben and he was cool about that so – there you go.
He’s got big plans, has Ben.  He has a book in mind and would like to get his stuff out on TV.  And, you know, I think he’ll do it.  He’s good-looking, charming, talks a mile a minute and has that supreme self-confidence that says anything is possible.    He’s had celeb clients too (and yes, that does matter if you want to get a book or TV deal nowadays) – mostly, like the majority of good therapists, he won’t name names but Kylie has raved about him in print so she’s good for a name check.

‘How did you come to do massage?’ I asked, cos it always strikes me as an odd career. He laughed. ‘I studied engineering at university, then became a professional footballer player.’ Eh, what?  ‘Who did you play for?  He laughed.  ‘Barnet.  Yeah, Ben Barnett for Barnet. Great, huh? I kinda wished my Mum had had Inter Milan as her surname.’  

He didn’t want to turn into ‘an alcoholic footballer’ so, because of an interest in physiology, he took a massage course and was instantly hooked. ‘I had this sudden Aha moment of,  “Oh, okay, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”  He had a classical training in Swedish and remedial massage but then came across Hydrotherm which at the time was newly developed by John Holman. It’s a water-filled segmented pad that lies across the massage couch allowing a full body massage without the need to lie on your back. So no nose in the hole, no pressure on the chest, no turning over mid-stream, so to speak.  ‘Being on water, you become far more aware of your body and I can also feel far more easily where it is relaxed and where it’s being protective,’ Ben explains, also pointing out that it’s brilliant for pregnancy and for older people too.

It’s fascinating stuff. Ben says that assumptions sit in the body and that often our assumptions aren’t even current or conscious – they’re based on the past; on our past experiences which we then turn into universal truths.  ‘People often have protective responses and that’s fine but you have to ask, is the reason for that protection current? Is it still appropriate? Often the protective response is bigger than the pain itself.’

Interesting. He also firmly believes that bodies talk far louder than words and that is something I have always believed – that we hold our history in our bones, fascia, muscles, ligaments, skin, organs, not just in our heads.  As he works, he listens to the body under his hands – and he talks – or rather he talks on behalf of the body.  ‘I found early on that I had a compulsion to talk during treatment,’ he says. ‘Using my voice as a third hand. I just get a very clear feeling of what needs to be said – it’s as if I’m channeling your body.’ So, effectively, your body is talking to him and he’s just relaying it all back to your mind. If you feel what I’m thinking.

It was, to put it mildly, an interesting experience. If you’re unused to massage, I’d warn that you might find it  challenging. Ben – like most serious bodyworkers - prefers to work on a totally naked body (and yes, I know that’s an issue for a lot of people) but really, think about it…you don’t bat an eye if a doctor wants to examine your body; and if a gynecologist asks you to spread your legs, you don’t assume they want to give you one, do you?  Do you?  Yet we get coy around people whose job is to release tension in the body.  *shrug*
‘I do work on the chest area,’ he said. ‘But I always ask people if they feel comfortable with that or not.  Generally though, by the time I get there, people are usually so relaxed they don’t give a damn where I work.’

His touch is deep and assured.  Usually I tend to float off during bodywork but I became intrigued by what he was saying, my mind puzzling at the narrative.  He’d asked me to give him two words – how I would want to feel as I left the session and, eventually I had decided on Free and Clear.  Yes, I know I said in an earlier blog that I was going for Wild and Free but at the last minute I’d switched Clarity for Wild as Wild had seemed a bit wanton somehow.  I told Ben and he laughed – ‘Wild may come along for the ride,’ he said.

He also frequently reminds you to breath, something else I often forget to do and that, too, kept me in the present, in the body, rather than wafting out into space.  
‘The body is capable of miraculous things,’ he said. ‘This is all about using your body to unlock the potential in your life.’

It’s a great mix of the purely physiological and the spiritual.  Psyche and soma. It’s a bit like having an intense psychotherapy session without having to say a word, bypassing the need for rational thought; for guarded thought.  The body doesn’t lie – it cuts straight to the chase. For years I've believed we should be  moving towards this – the synthesis of talk and touch therapies. Biodynamic therapy did it to a degree and, actually, it’s something all good intuitive bodyworkers probably do anyhow – just without advertising it.

And what did my body say to him?  Did it spill?  Did it give up all its deep dark dirty secrets?  Hmm, yes, quite a few actually.  Quite freakily so.  Am I going to tell you?  Hell no! Go see Ben and talk to your own body! 


Tee said...

This was great. Thanks for sharing. ♥

JoJo said...

Fab blog. I've seen Ben on Twitter and looked at his webbie.... when I have money I shall go maybe....

Rob-bear said...

So very interesting. I'm afraid my body would spill way too much, if it started talking.

Thanks for the info.

Jake Barton said...

But, I want my body to lie to me. And to as many others as possible. Truth is terrifying. Interesting,as ever, to read about your celebrity, by proxy, lifestyle. Incidentally, Kylie raves about me too, in another context.
Have you ever considered journalism, Jane? You'd be awfully good at it.

Ashen said...

Oh those eyes.
I can imagine the responding water cushions creating a womb-like sensation.Definitely like the - no nose in the hole.

Ashen said...

Oh those eyes.
I can imagine the responding water cushions creating a womb-like sensation.Definitely like the - no nose in the hole.

Frances said...

Jane, you've almost convinced me to eventually have a massage someday. Does that sound tentative?

Truly, I have never had a massage, and imagine that I will get around to it eventually.