Claudine Jones-Scene4 Magazine

Claudine Jones

Back when I was in the workforce as an administrative assistant for a small company, working out of a house in a quiet neighborhood, in my boredom I remember having a moment: a small voice inside my head said certified reflexologist.

Now I have always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind. I recently described myself to a pair of older women at a Gathering as a triple threat. I had to explain it to them, but when I was at the top of my game that's how I identified. Not as physician, executive, engineer, writer. No. Triple threat. Economically not the best choice.

When financial considerations required that I have a day job, I brought myself along with it. I think it took me a year or two to feel as though I could be authentic. The result of  my shift in attitude was a reputation for quirkiness. That's the only way I save my sanity.

So when that small voice talked to me, I was kind of surprised. It was so gosh darn specific. Couldn't resist.  I did some research, found an intensive 10 day training program, took some vacation and did it.  It was held in a lovely bucolic setting north of the Bay Area, which sadly has been completely destroyed in one of our latest fires. But when I was there it was magical.

 There turned out to be four of us in the class, plus the teacher. I had no training in Bodywork, unlike two of my other classmates. They were already massage therapists who were seeking to add reflexology to their skills. The third guy's English was quite tortured; not sure if he understood a quarter of the lessons. I do recall that he was  passive to the point of utter madness for the purposes of our training. This ran contrary to our teacher's ethos. You (the client) will not sleep during a session. If I find a reflex point that is sensitive, I will work it. It may be painful, I won't overwork it, but if there's anything worth doing it's worth doing fairly vigorously. Being wibbly-wobbly drove him nuts. In a mindful way, of course.

This place was also woo woo to the nth degree—a northern California thing. Like The Esalen Institute in the old days. One guy always wore a kilt (when he wasn't clothing optional); the other announced five days in that he had met his true soul mate in the dining hall & was not looking forward to telling his wife.  Dead serious.  The teacher was an ex-country band guitar player/singer. Had to give it up cuz of tinnitus. Once I got over my initial outlier feelings, I plunged right in. I was the only woman, I'm not exactly robust physically, and my wrists and hands got pretty tired. But I persisted because I think everybody had my back. They were very encouraging.

It helped that we started every session morning and afternoon with a short meditation, and a warm-up yoga, each person doing their own thing. We would trade off working on each other and because it was such a small class, of course we got a lot of individual attention. We also got to check in, and become weirdly intimate after a few days.

Since the facility also was at the location of Hot Springs, we were delighted to take advantage of the pools. We even worked in the water. There was another class at that time which was a combination shiatsu and water work somebody invented called watsu. Our instructor had trained in it, and after our day of work, he would invite us into the pool and practice on us. Crazy pants.  It essentially involves complete Trust, having someone support your body while you completely relax in the skin temperature water. The ultimate non-goal-ish aim is to be guided under the water and manipulated through various motions, like a dolphin, bending and moving through the space, rising up to take a breath, and going back under with the practitioner slowly going longer and longer between breaths, deeper into the pool. I remember having a sensation that this must be what it's like in the womb.

Anyway. Kind of cool. So cool as a matter of fact at the end of our 10 days when we were taking what was laughingly called our final exam, we all decided that we would work on each other and show off our skills in the water. There was a shallow pool we could do that in. Very eccentric and wonderful.  Gotta watch out though: too much and your feet get moldy.

To be a good girl and obey the rules, I followed this outstanding effort with a couple of more workshops/training sessions. One just a weekend with what were purported to be actual certified reflexologists, a mother and daughter team. With very specific and autocratic curricula. Once again very small class, and chances to get worked on. I remember when the middle-aged daughter worked on me, we chatted through the whole session about all kinds of things, and I would periodically Yelp with pain because her hands were so strong and she was not shy at all. I got off the table and started back to my hotel room, and a funny thing happened: I think I was feeling empowered on some level pursuing this quixotic craziness, and suddenly gave myself permission to take off running down the hotel carpet. I was light as a fuckin feather. Amazing!

Then I went to Seattle and took an 8 day intensive through the same organization. Again with the autocratic stuff. Up to and including having to memorize the definition of reflexology, I kid you not, and having to have it perfect on the written exam or no credit! Well that was just silly. The course rapidly devolved into the two last days being basically promotions for signing up for more classes. Very disappointing. Well I did meet some nice people. And also survived one of the looniest things that I've ever done.

The classes were being held in a hotel very close to the airport. I could not afford to stay in the hotel, so I lodged in motel about a mile away. A good goddam mile away in the opposite direction was a Safeway. So first thing I did when I arrived was take some bags and my backpack, walk along the highway over to the Safeway, go up and down the aisles planning all of my meals for the whole week, breakfast lunch and dinner, around the fact that I had a microwave and a tiny refrigerator in my motel room. Essentially planned everything out to include leftovers, small portions, utensils and dishes. This meant that I could have my breakfast in a big ceramic cup that I bought, wash the cup out in the bathroom sink. Make my lunch, take it to hotel where I would attend classes. Classes being over I would go back to the motel, and make my dinner and watch a movie. The only thing I actually remember buying was the cup, some milk and the biggest rotisserie chicken I could find. And eggs. I'm sure there was more. I do know that the walk back to the motel room with my bags and pack was so grueling I almost cried.

With all these classes, certificates, and skills accumulated over a year's time, not to mention all of the documented free sessions I gave to people as a condition of eventually becoming certified, I set up my own deal. Got my gravity chair, my loving little potions, lavender oil, Etc. Nice little basin to give the initial foot wash...something I learned at the first retreat, a great way to begin...many satisfied customers, if you can call 'em that. I was so relaxed I would almost zone out. That came to be my personal qualifier: if my client stopped talking and only grunted, and after a while I myself felt that almost mystical peace, I must have done something right.

Fast forward a couple years or so and I had not overly marketed myself, nor found any substantial revenue stream; I was not certified, nor did I plan to be. But I did pay it forward. I spent a memorable election weekend, stumping a Precinct with a bunch of other volunteers seeking to unseat a particularly virulent incumbent, a real Second Amendment asshole. In the evening or break, I would give a 10 minute reflexology session to anybody who wanted one. And I had taken my handheld massager as an afterthought.

Turned out that Precinct stumping can be pretty stressful; even given partisan filtering that had been done for us, we still ran across some odd ducks like the guy with the chainsaw who's not happy they're taking away my guns!? Gets the adrenaline going, as does voting. Counting all the volunteers, including our candidate, and then all of the people standing in line at the polling place, I probably logged 75 / 100 back rubs, with my tiny unobtrusive non-threatening plastic gadget. I found out then that there was no such thing as a partisan mini back rub.

I wish I could say that now.

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Claudine Jones has had a long career as an Actor/Singer/Dancer.
She writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2019 Claudine Jones
©2019 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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