The cold wind buffets my face as I push open the door on this, our first wintry-feeling day. A shell mobile jangles to announce my entrance, but otherwise it is peaceful inside. We say a quick greeting to each other and soon I lie face down on the massage table, the thick white towels enveloping me in warmth. A Chinese flute plays Faure's Pavane, accompanied by harp. I allow myself to relax completely, as strong capable hands seek out and start to heal aches and pains, tensions held for years.
The temptation to sleep hits almost immediately, but instead I make myself think. This is my time - eighty minutes or so to remind myself of what's been going on in life, to process it, and to collect together the learning that has been going on, and let go of some stuff if need be. Two weeks ago when I had my first massage, I was shaking off the shock of an intense fortnight of dealing with someone else's stuff, and getting a property ready for sale, all on top of the busyness of family life. This time I am more relaxed, in holiday mode. Easter with its sadness and then its joy has come and gone. I've had time to remember God and be thankful to Him for so many things.
Hallowed be your Name - I remember what I learnt from listening to a sermon yesterday - the importance of praising God, and the acknowledgement to myself that in my spare moments I'm not thinking about God, but often fantasizing about things for me and about me. Since then I've been trying to train myself to nip those thoughts in the bud, and to meditate on Christ, his sacrifice, God's glory, and prayer.
I think about the difference between holidays and term time, and how I have almost come to a standstill this week, with plenty of time for reading and thinking. And I wonder how next term will play out? Will I have this luxury of thinking time in my days? Or will I be busy, as I was in first term?
Give us today our daily bread - I think about my diet, and am thankful for a peaceful tummy today, after 48 hours of pain and discomfort. I think about self-control, and how I quickly lost it over the weekend and ate one (currently) forbidden food after another in the space of a few hours. Even in small amounts, they caused a large and miserable reaction two days later. I know that I can continue to stay on this restricted but healthy diet, if I just exercise more self-control. I cringe inwardly in pain as my neck and shoulder muscles are worked on, knowing that I can be strong and endure when I know that something is for my ultimate good. I remember something I read last night in an Elizabeth Goudge novel, quoting the apostle Paul: "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection" and going on about an old man living alone ... "The hard chairs, the straw mattress, the plain food, the water instead of wine, the struggle to turn towards the things of the intellect a nature almost wholly attracted by the things of the body. Well, he'd won the fight. There was no sensual hunger that he had not conquered now except the hunger for a child" ... and I wonder where I am on the scale of self-control, and how much of my life revolves around my own comfort?
I think about this last year of good hearing. It is almost twelve months since my ear surgery, and I am oh, so thankful that hearing is something I now don't have to think about - no more difficult conversations or awkward situations. Interestingly, though, it seems that the chronic shoulder pains that my massage helped today have likely stemmed from years of holding my head to the side to hear better.
Now I have almost dozed off. The warm, slowly moving hands continue their good work on me, each inch of my body stretched and relaxed. The music stops and now I soak up the silence, punctuated here and there by the sound of a bus, or someone speaking outside in an Asian language.
"Ok," she says, when she is done.
"Ok," I respond, and get ready to head back out into the world.