It was the first morning after completing a 3 days trek in the Colca Canyon. Back in my apartment in Arequipa, getting out of bed was ‘mission impossible’. I could hear my muscles saying, “Are you kidding me? You don’t really expect us to move?”
It was just two blocks to the closest massage parlor. So, as I slowly moved my legs, placing one foot at a time on the ground, I pleaded with my muscles, “Please, work with me. I promise just two blocks and I’ll make it up to you.”
Since I was staying in Arequipa, Peru for almost 2 months, I decided to purchase the 8 sessions package. After all, I had made a promise to my muscles:)
I walked in the massage room for my first appointment and there she was, waiting for me at the door. Her eyes were fixed somewhere between where I was standing and the open door behind me. She welcomed me in and asked my name. I wasn’t sure whether or not she was speaking to me. I looked behind me and no one was there. So, I answered, “Antonia.”
“Bienvenido señora Antonia!” As she moved passed me out the door, she told me to remove my clothes up until I felt comfortable, lay down on the table with my face inside the hole and she would be back in a few minutes.
Throughout the entire hour of my massage, I could hear my muscles saying, “thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
When it was over, I sat up on the table and came face to face with her. I looked at her name tag, OMG! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had not noticed before.
Right above her name were the words ‘Masajista Ciego’ – Blind Masseuse.
I just had my very first blind massage!!
At my next appointment, I couldn’t help but pay attention and observe her every move. She had a gracefulness about her and projected a sense of confidence and peacefulness with her voice and body. I wanted to know more about who she was…
(This is a short version of the many conversations that took place over the 8 sessions)
Meet senora Nelli
Antonia: Senora Nelli, how long have you been doing this?
Nelli: Almost 25 years!
Antonia: Is this what you wanted to do or is it something that you had to do?
Nelli: Oh, sweetie you mean because I am blind?
Good thing my head was inside that hole! I felt my blood going cold and just couldn’t face her (even though she couldn’t see me). Had I offended her?
She must have felt my body tense up because at that moment, she caressed my head bringing her hand down to my shoulders and in a comforting voice continued.
Nelli: That’s a really good question. I always enjoy answering it. Connecting and communicating with people is something I always wanted to do and have been practicing since I was a child, but didn’t know I would find my passion with giving massages until 17 years old.
Antonia: How did you know at such a young age?
Nelli: The Connecting and communicating or the giving massages?
Antonia: Both. How did one lead to the other?
Nelli: Well, at 13 months old, I caught a virus that left me blind. My mom became my world. She was always there with me and for me. Because I spend so much time in her arms, I learned how to see people’s expressions with my hands and feel their emotions. Just like any child learns to use their eyes and put an image to a word or learns how to distinguish different facial expressions and their meaning with their eyes, I practiced learning all this using my hands and by feeling the energy being projected by another person.
At a very young age, I was able to tell if someone was sad, angry, worried or afraid just by standing or being seated close to them. I was able to feel their pain through the energy their bodies projected. When I would touch them, my hands were able to follow exactly where that negative energy was being stored on their bodies. Most of the time, the tension build on their necks and shoulders, many on their backs and stomach area. I would touch that area, and gently rub it (as a child, this was acceptable!).
Antonia: Did you ever let your neighbors and family know what you felt?
Nelli: The first time I ever said anything was to my mom. I was 13 years old and had always felt that she was worried about me. I could feel a tension enter my body when she hugged me. One day, I asked her, “Why are you worried about me? What are you afraid of?”
She remained silent. I touched her cheeks and felt her tears run down.
Look… and Look Again!
As I dried her tears with my hands, I asked her, “Who do you see when you look at me?”
She replied, “I see you, my daughter.”
I took her hand and told her, “yes, but you only see my blindness.
You are not using your eyesight to see the person behind the blindness.
You have always been there for me and taught me to do things for myself so I wouldn’t feel less capable than other kids. You taught me about kindness and compassion towards others. Because of this, I learned to connect with people in their minds and hearts. I learned to feel their emotions and their pain so that I would be able to communicate by showing them kindness and compassion.”
I placed her hand on my heart and said,
“This is who I am! Look at me. Now, look again! Look deeper in my heart. Who do you see now?”
She replied, “I see a loving person who has a passion and special gift of helping others with the touch of her hands. You were right. I have been so worried about your future because of your blindness that it’s all I could I see. I never realized that your blindness has been a blessing for you to help others.
“Thank you, my sweet child for I was the one who was blind and you have just helped me to see again.”
Antonia: That’s an amazing awareness! Did you feel that your mom let go of her tension?
Nelli: Yes. She actually would invite neighbors, friends and family over and have me practice ‘connecting and communicating’ with them. At some point, I wanted to take it a step forward and learn techniques to help them release their pain. So, at the age of 17, I enrolled in massages classes.
Antonia: That’s how you found your passion in giving massages?
Nelli: Absolutely! In Peru, there’s a high level of stressful lifestyle. People put all their energies into their family roles. Finding a good paying job or career is very hard, especially if you are passed a certain age, that’s why you see so many taxis on the streets. Most of those taxi drivers all have a degree. Since jobs are so scarce, they all become taxi drivers.
One of the consequences of their stressful lives is body aches and pains.
As soon as a person ignores these signs, they distance themselves from their bodies and their inner voice.
Connecting With Our Bodies and Inner Voice
When I am giving a massage, I bring them back in touch with their pains and help them gain the ability to relax and release those pains. In my experience, relaxation is a very important part of our spiritual journey. Only when we are able to completely shut off the “outside noise” and enter a state of total relaxation and peacefulness, can we connect to spiritual values and listen to our inner voice.
Now, maybe this is a pretty bold statement coming from a blind person but, in all my years of experience as a masseuse and talking to my clients, I have found that people don’t use their full capacity of their eyesight. All our senses are important to truly live a life of pleasure and appreciate the world around us. I have learned to do this with all my other senses. In my opinion, most of this stressful lifestyle comes from looking at the physical/material aspect of all that’s around us. That automatically disables the other senses and detaches people from their unique selves. I can’t tell you how many times when I ask a client to describe what was around them while they were driving here or while waiting at the bus stop, they are not able to give me a clear picture. There is so much joy and pleasure buried beneath the everyday reality of their lives. I tell them the same thing I told my mom,
Look… and Look again! Practice this awareness in your life and you will slowly start living by feeling alive.
You will find it easier to make decisions and changes in your life based on who you are. When you allow your senses, especially your eyes to help you, you will see every situation clearly and we let your heart guide you, instead of the outside noise and material world.
The most important of all, is to do what you do ‘con cariño’, with LOVE!
Has Nelli’s story opened your eyes and mind?
Is there a specific area in your life where by practicing this awareness ‘Look and look again’ can help you see a situation or someone close to you clearer?