Many people ask me about my Rebalancing training in India – how did it differ from Canadian massage school? Why did I go so far to learn the art of touch? Here is a glimpse of how it began.

Before we began any bodywork training, we had two weeks of meditation camp and group therapy. Sudha led some exercises with infectious enthusiasm, even the ones where she’d say, “The space is open,” and pat the empty place in the centre of the circle of fifty students. Come on, she seemed to say, expose your darkest, your worst, your most painful, and we will shine a bright light on you to help you through. Not many were brave enough in those early days to show themselves to a roomful of strangers. But those who did, who told their stories of abuse and neglect, shed tears and years of suffering, followed by relieved and grateful laughter.

On another morning, she sent us off to our individual mats and cushions. In the vast marble-floored room with its bank of windows letting in the Indian winter sun, we settled into our own private spaces. “Stroke yourself,” she said. “Like a beloved. Run your hands slowly, lovingly over your hair, along your throat, down your arms, chest, and belly, the length of your legs and all around your feet.” Then she added, “And all the while you’re caressing yourself, murmur your name. Say it as you would to a dear friend, a lover, a child.”

I sat on a plump red cushion, legs folded, eyes closed, and began. My hands slid over my hair. How soft it was. My name in my mouth like butter. What a beautiful name. Deepam. It means light. My touch was light; light and firm, the way I liked to be touched. My throat, the warmth of it under the smooth leatheriness of my palms. My small breasts, the roundness of them, the soothing touch of my hands there. My name. My name. As if I loved me.

From nearby to my right came the sound of sobbing. A woman gasped and wept as her name, Sangeeta, burbled like a hiccupping mantra.

All through the room names were chanted, filling the space with watery music. A love bath. The touch of my hands on my legs, my feet, the sound of my name. My beloved.