By Vanamala Mayr-Reisch
I always had the desire to help people and looking back, that was the best desire I ever could have had. It has and still helps me to grow and be the best version of myself.
As a young woman, I chose to work in hospitals first as an assistant to nurses, and later as a physiotherapist. I very quickly worked my way up becoming a person who was instrumental in helping people to get rehabilitated from paralysis.
I was barely sixteen years old when I walked through the main entrance of a private hospital to show up for my first job. It was a sunny day at the beginning of August. I was nervous yet curious, and my heart started to race when I caught a whiff of the typical hospital scent. This aseptic, cool smell of lodoform mingled with the sweet scent of flowers.
The peculiar thing was I already had a history with this place. Not only had my mother worked as a nurse in the same hospital years earlier, but I was also born there. What strange coincidence, and yet, it was foreign to me.
After the first two days, I realized that sixty percent of the patients had some form of cancer, and no matter how old they were, it was a crushing burden to carry.
Within ten days, I had my first encounter with death. The head nurse had asked me to help move a dead body into the morgue. Wow! That was a jump into the deep end. It was a sobering experience to see the elderly lady, whom I had just given a sip of cold tea an hour earlier, now lying there pale, lifeless and cold.
This very first job, in which I worked for one year, was the most grueling and hard work I could have done at such an early age. But I was young, innocent, and all I knew was relating to people from my heart and coming from a place of compassion. In a way, it forced me to very quickly grow up and prepare for my next adventure to become a physiotherapist.
I always was someone who loved a challenge and was curious to learn something new. I can’t pinpoint where this impulse came from, but I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world and find meaning in what I was doing. And so, after I graduated from the university, it didn’t come as a surprise that I committed myself to go the extra mile to become an expert in physiotherapy for neurological dysfunctions.
My choice had one significant advantage; I would spend several hours with each client per day and not be restricted to fifteen to twenty-minute treatments. I wanted to know the person whom I worked with. By spending that much time with one another, you get to know each other very quickly. You become part of their process, share their ups and downs, and comfort and motivate them through this difficult chapter of their life.
My passion for working in this field led me to one of my most intriguing jobs, setting up a rehabilitation unit for people with paraplegia within a large hospital in Munich. My job was to develop the concepts for the rehabilitation unit. I was part of a team implementing ground-breaking ideas in rehabilitating patients with severe neurological trauma. Are you asking how old I was? Well, at that stage, I was around twenty-three years old.
During that period, I discovered that I had the talent to speak in public. I got such a kick out of sharing my knowledge that soon, I gave lectures and training sessions to physiotherapy trainees in Munich.
Working with severely damaged patients has taught me to take each person as they are, to always be open to the unexpected and to find success even in the smallest changes. It has shown me that compassion and care are the most powerful ingredients for a successful healing process. It moves mountains and prepares the ground for unanticipated things to happen. Especially in Neurological science, we are far from knowing what happens exactly in the body. I recall cases of unexpected remission and overnight “miracles”. I have learned to take any patient seriously and to reach out, offering a helping hand along the way of recovery.
You might say what does that have to do with working as a Face Yoga instructor? My answer is “everything”. Our faces are the most exposed area on our body. It is the first place anyone looks at when they meet you. It is the place where we show or hide our emotions, where we carry a protective mask or pretend to be someone else. Where we open up to others and communicate whole stories by small changes in our muscles. It is the place where we have our most important sensory organs like eyes, ears, nose and mouth. No wonder that each face is unique and has its very own story to tell.
To work with people’s faces is the most exciting and astounding work. It is delicate and requires sensitivity. It requires the ability to see and sense what is happening for the person internally, and to invite the person “to come out”. It is as if you step out from a crowd and show yourself. It is the most exciting work to watch people opening up, peeling one layer after the other of their protective shield.
And with this transformation, suddenly, you can see that there is a tectonic shift inside the person. Something changes in their own beliefs about themselves. A fundamental shift that from that moment onward, this person cannot go back to the person they were before. Once you know, you cannot unknow it.
If you feel that you are not yourself, that you are living a life that has nothing to do with who you are, then I invite you on an exciting journey. What does it take to make this tectonic shift? What is it what you really want to live?
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