I'm trying out TMJ massage, and it feels super weird yet helpful. The masseuse works on the outer jaw (aka face) first. Then she presses a finger against the inside outer back of the mouth. If you think of sexual ideas when that description processes, you're in good company here. The work addresses a few layers: physical, emotional, and spiritual.
On the physical level, she applies pressure to extremely tight muscles. I've worn a night guard for almost two decades. Her intention is to get to the bone, free the muscles of lactic acid so that they experience ample blood flow. She presses first against the lateral pterygoid and then against the medial pterygoid. These are the muscles that meet at the 90-degree angle of your jaw. See a great illustration of the muscles in Rice University's online anatomy and physiology book. The pressure on my lateral pterygoid pinpointed my tension, and for a few days now I've felt my jaw as greatly relaxed. It's surprising because I didn't think there was this type of relief available. Truly, I did feel awkward with my mouth open, back on a table, her finger in a finger cot at the back of my mouth.
The times that other humans utilized my interest or trust to their desire, the times when I didn't have a choice because I didn't know how to decipher option, how to logically assess emotional risk... these thoughts surfaced as she put her finger in my mouth. The emotional level of the massage involved my personal history with abuse. It offered its perceptions and cautions. I quelled the anxiety with deep breaths, and at one point I actually fell asleep which I didn't think was possible to do in that situation. So the masseuse offers this safe and professional environment in which she performs actions similar yet very different to others I've experienced. She requires her patients to sign an agreement in which she clearly states that any sexually aggressive remarks or actions will end in immediate termination of the session and full payment. (!) I like that last bit. To me, it signifies that she cares for and protects herself with clear statements of expectation. When she treats herself with respect in this manner, I trust that she'll treat me with respect.
All of this combines to create a safe space for my spiritual level to evolve. How does free blood flow around the jaw contribute to my sense of place in existence? I feel the increased blood flow as a sense of relaxation in my jaw, and my head feels more like it's floating and less like it's tight. This creates a buttery space for thoughts, if you will. So my mind thinks of flowers and mountains with water landscapes. I encourage it to develop colors and patterns, especially when I feel tension at work. It's why I have a picture of mountains and water just behind my monitors, just past the area where I look for six or seven hours each day. All of this -- the muscles and bones at the physical level, the emotions at my human level, the spiritual practice that comes from attempts to trust someone to provide assistance -- all of it combines in purpose. When I think of purpose and combination, I'm existing in the spiritual realm. When our lives have meaning and we rest in our bodies, we are one with nature and its undulations.
Well hello there.