REAL BOD­IES

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Magic hands masseuse Ali Zaidi

Artist and masseur Ali Zaidi gets hands- on about heal­ing the body, mind and spirit. Ig­nore the pic­ture, though, he doesn’t prac­tise rake- i…

Let me be­gin by say­ing that I was not al­ways com­fort­able with my body the way I ac­cept, re­spect and love it now. Love is an im­por­tant word and one that I re­peat­edly re­turn to through my work as a self- con­fessed con­nec­tor.

I don’t typ­i­cally tend to my gar­den in the nude, ei­ther, by the way — han­dling all those tools would just be an ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen!

So, a bit of back­ground. Grow­ing up in Pak­istan, be­ing the younger to a very sporty older brother, the com­par­isons were rife and af­fected me no end. Mak­ing things, dra wing, gar­den­ing with my mother and se­cretly danc­ing with my shadow was much more my idea of fun than pump­ing iron.

But one day, want­ing to fit in with the other young men, I ended up with a bruised, swollen hand as a re­sult of my failed at­tempts at break­ing tiles. I fondly re­mem­ber my fa­ther taking my hands in his and telling me, “Th­ese are your tools of ex­pres­sion, son, look af­ter them al­ways.” And he was right.

I was very aware of my many dif­fer­ences as a young­ster, but I found a real sense of be­long­ing when I en­rolled at the Na­tional Col­lege of Arts, in La­hore. From there, I im­mersed my­self in the worlds of hatha yoga and tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion, which brought me closer to a deeper un­der­stand­ing of self, and the con­nec­tion of the breath to the body, the mind and the spirit. Sud­denly ev­ery­thing else in the world started to make sense — which leads nicely to what I do now as a con­nec­tor. Yes, it’s a thing.

In a nut­shell, I seek com­mon­al­i­ties from within dif­fer­ences while also cel­e­brat­ing the unique­ness each of us have, re­gard­less of age, gen­der and sex­u­al­ity. I con­nect wher­ever or how­ever I can: through art, cook­ing, gar­den­ing, or mas­sage/ heal­ing. It starts with

the eyes, a smile, a hug and fi­nally the touch. I can’t put my fin­ger on ex actly when I started mas­sag­ing, but it dawned on me early on that I had a gift of t ouch, through hold­ing peo­ple’s hands, or in giv­ing un­hur­ried hugs. It was as if the per­son’s body told me what they could not ac­tu­ally say.

I started re­spect­ing my in­tu­ition and, when in a state of calm­ness, I could feel the vi­brancy of what was be­ing com­mu­ni­cated with great clar­ity.

Touch guided by one’s heart pro­duces a sub­lime ex­change of en­er­gies, and over the years I have ex­pe­ri­enced many forms of heal­ing, from gong baths to vo­cal ther­apy, and mas­sages, in­clud­ing ayurvedic, shi­atsu and tantra. I in­cor­po­rate the last of those into my heal­ing process and it’s in­formed by my own ex­pe­ri­ences of the prac­tice, learn­ing from the texts and meet­ings with a di­verse range of prac­ti­tion­ers.

The joy of tantra is that it plays with the po­lar­i­ties of mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine, pro­duc­ing a third space that is one and many at the same time, stay with me — a space of au­then­tic­ity where one can just be, in pure love and ac­cep­tance, free of prej­u­dice, a space where you are in­vited to leave be­hind what doesn’t serve a pur­pose, a space to re­new your­self by let­ting go. No, I haven’t been watch­ing Dis­ney’s Frozen lately.

When I re­ceive a re­quest from a new client, we have a con­ver­sa­tion about how they feel, and what in par­tic­u­lar prompted them to book a ses­sion. We move on to do­ing syn­chro­nised breath hugs, fol­lowed by a short ex­er­cise that in­volves tens­ing and re­leas­ing the mus­cles from head to toe, then we start the mas­sage. It is pur­posely slow- paced, a ten­der reaf­fir­ma­tion to the per­son’s body that it is in a safe and non- judg­men­tal place. Every part is touched with equal amounts of care be­cause most of us hold deep is­sues of guilt and shame, so it is im­por­tant to touch with in­ten­tion. It’s in this state that the heal­ing be­gins to take place. Re­peated ses­sions are re­quired, though.

On a reg­u­lar ba­sis I also make time for self- love — which, be­fore you get car­ried away, is dif­fer­ent to mas­tur­ba­tion. The fo­cus is the whole body, not one par­tic­u­lar re­gion. I also treat my­self to mas­sage ex­changes and im­mer­sive ther­a­pies that al­low my mind, body and spirit to dance to­gether.

I’ve cer­tainly come a long way from danc­ing with my own shadow.

“Touch, guided by one’s heart, pro­duces a sub­lime

ex­change of en­er­gies”

NOVEMBER 2018Pho­tog­ra­phy Fran­cisco Gomez de Vil­l­aboa

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