love the body!
embracing beauty and love in lomilomi

Beauty, love, God and prayer for me ARE all related to massage.  Lomilomi has helped me feel both my inner and external beauty.  It’s even helped me simply to feel pretty.  And, massage also helps me feel love!  


In spite of my clinical massage orientation – I practice and teach Mana Lomi®, a clinically and structurally focused form of lomilomi Hawaiian bodywork – what stands out for me about the most profound healing massages I’ve received is how these massages helped me feel not just the release of stress and tension from my muscles and not just the way I move more freely after a massage.  What especially stands out is how these massages made me feel the essence of my true beauty and my sincere and deep love!!!  These were genuinely transformative, healing massages!!


bhh crying in bathroom

The early 1990’s was a difficult time of life for me as my marriage to my children’s father was approaching its breaking point.   This self portrait  shows me dressed in my business suit and  holding back my tears in  the only (semi) private place I could find at work.  I felt miserable and really lost!!

Around that time my gay massage therapist friend Claude joined my Quaker community after being ‘released’ from his role as pastor at the Methodist Church. I was on his support team during his final illness and passing.  Clearly, Claude had difficulties in his life!!  Yet in the midst of his pain and problems, Claude helped me to feel my beauty and my love.  In fact, my experiences with Claude led me to become a massage therapist.  

How did Claude help me connect with my love and beauty?  In many simple ways!  

Claude massaged me with loving hands and heart, he encouraged me with words and he graciously received support and gifts I had to offer.  In addition, he was a special friend to my children, making jewelry and other pretty things with them, taking them to the park and bakery, and doing other fun things with them.  

One day when my shoulder hurt Claude told me he could make it feel better.  I remember his confidence in the healing power of his touch and I remember that as he massaged me, he sang  a song with these special words:

bhh claude massage

How could anyone ever tell you
you are anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
you are less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice
that your loving is a miracle?
How deeply I’m connected to your soul.

And then he sang another song that included this simple line:

I love you just the way you are….

Being relaxed and open while receiving his massage, these words reached to the depths of my being: Wow! I am good enough! And I am lovable JUST THE WAY I AM!!!  What a powerful message!!!

Claude’s massage focused clinically on relieving pain in my shoulder, yet it was the love that flowed through his hands and the song that came from his heart and voice that took my healing to a deeper level.  This love eased my guarding and softened my heart.  His songs soothed and healed my hurt, weary and anxious heart.  This massage touched me so profoundly that I captured and reflected my feelings in this painting.    

Here’s another little revealing story.  One day Claude told me the full skirted blue-green knit dress that I was wearing was pretty.   Receiving his complement warmed my heart, yet it also made me realize that I was feeling GRATEFUL that Hung – my husband at that time – didn’t criticize my appearance.  What!!!  Underneath my weird gratitude, I believed I was unattractive!  

Receiving Claude’s complement, my natural beauty began to blossom and I was inspired to seek out more ways to highlight my beauty.  Oh… the power of kind and positive words!!! Thank you so much, Claude!!!

bhh rose fairybell

This drawing shows me with my daughter Rose and our cat Fairy Bell – named after the delicately tinkling bells Claude carried in his pockets. 


When my marriage of 14 years with Hung ended in 1992, my personal life became more chaotic.   A couple years later I was offered a termination offer from the well paying computer programming job which I had held for 10 years.  YIKES!  My children were 10 and 11 years old and computer work very successfully paid my bills!!  None the less, my termination was a blessing in disguise as it opened the door for me to become a massage therapist.  BIG SMILE!!!  At the time however it was also a BIG blow to my ego – OUCH!!  .  

My new partner Gary – now my wonderful, healthy and beloved husband – and I were caught up in dance of drug addition and enabling.  I was rescuing and enabling left and right while he was repeatedly seeking his next fix to avoid getting sick so he could go to work.  At the same time, he searched everyday for healing and release from this madness.  Thank God for treatment programs!  Gary is now a dynamite drug and alcohol counselor, helping others find freedom from the madness of chemical addition.

At that time in some ways I was holding our household together, but I certainly wasn’t feeling beautiful!!  Any of you who have been caught up in addition-enabling dance can probably imagine some of the crazy making nightmare kind of life we lived.


I broke down in tears one day in 1996 in massage school as we were studying the reproductive system.  Hearing sex described so clinically – separated completely from love – I fled from the room, followed by teacher Lauren.  When I sobbed out in embarrassment and pain, “I look so ugly when I cry”, Lauren responded “I feel the beauty of humanity in your tears”.  I was so comforted by her words, and my heart softened.

bhh collage rose opening

Around that same time I received a Temple style lomilomi massage from Emily, another massage school teacher.  As Emily firmly and carefully used lomilomi to massage my chest wall around my heart, tears slid gently down my cheeks.  Being thus lovingly massaged eased my heart open like a tender rose bud as I gradually felt my own beauty which had been so securely locked up for quite some time.   Oh…. the power of loving touch!!!

If you look carefully at this collage I made, you will see a rose bud in 3 stages of fullness.


I recently attended a fund raising event by the Seattle Girls School an exciting middle school which educates girls to love life, to develop confidence and to embrace their innate intelligence AND their natural beauty.    

At this fund raiser we spoke about our experiences choosing between being smart or pretty.  The very well put together woman beside me said with a laugh that she had certainly taken the pretty path.  I realized for most of my life I’ve chosen smart at the expense of pretty.  Why must I choose between them??  Can’t we be both smart AND pretty?  

bhh on nana's steps

I remember dressing to feel pretty in early middle school.  In particular, I remember a pair of black shoes and a blue plaid skirt that I loved.  I wore them everyday for a couple of months because I felt so sharp wearing them.  As it happens, until that time I had been an average student.  

This all changed in ninth grade when without any extra effort I found myself at the top of my class earning mostly A’s.  I was frequently ridiculed by the popular boys.  One cute boy asked me if I got my clothes at the local thrift store.  OUCH! I froze, turned red and had no idea how to reply!                                        me at about 6 years old

The most dramatic and painful incident in ninth grade was receiving a black hate valentine on Valentine’s Day signed by most of the boys in the class. How did those boys suddenly become so cruel!!!?   

Although when I moved on to high school and started hanging out with my academic peers the malicious ridicule stopped, ever since then I have dressed casually with very minimal make up.  To tell the truth, sometimes my clothes are well worn and even sometimes ratty looking….  OUCH!


I remember my mom scolding, “You don’t know what the boys will think!” when I walked out of our house one day as a teenager wearing a T shirt sans brassier.  I retorted defiantly, “that’s THEIR problem.”  I certainly wanted to believe it was not my problem, only theirs. 

bhh loving waianapanapa rocks

But attitude or no, I realize now how that incident from my teen years has contributed for the past four decades to the way I often rolled my shoulders forward and crossed my arms to minimize the appearance of my breasts …. It’s time for a new choice!!!


And then there’s the butt thing!  I have what is known in my family as a Hopkins butt.  The Hopkins – my mother’s family have broad fannies.

For me growing up with a Hopkins’ butt was a curse, an ugly thing, something which I desperately wished would just disappear.  My negative attitude persisted until my early 30’s when in one day two separate people complimented me on my butt:  a male co-worker on whom I had a crush and my then 3 year old son YiAn.  That was the day I began to appreciate my shape back there.

me at Waianapanapa Park in Hana, HI, 2009


Momona is the Hawaiian word for fat.  It is defined in the Hawaiian-English dictionary as “fat, fertile, rich, fruitful, soft, and sweet”.  Momona means sweet and juicy like a peach!  One of my big and round Hawaiian language teachers one day exclaimed, “I’m momona and my husband likes me this way!!”   What a different feel momona has than the English word fat!!!  


The word momona helped me to accept and appreciate the natural size of my body, and to experience it as beautiful.  For me this comes after years of believing I was too fat, and years of trying to either loose weight or keep it off.  Loving my body just the way it naturally is opens the door for my body to relax into its full natural size!!  The word momona supports me in standing tall and strong, and with my head held.   Oh the power of words!!


Wow!  To allow myself to feel big as a good thing!!  What a concept!!!  How different this is than shrinking in order to feel slim!!

Recently at the end of a lomilomi massage session my client said, “I feel great!  I feel big!   I feel like my body is as big as it naturally is.

Now I realize that when I intentionally try to look slim I tense my muscles as I try to force my body to be smaller than I really am.

Interestingly, sometimes when I dance hula I imagine that I am plump or even fat.  Why do I do this?  Because I’ve noticed that I usually most enjoy watching the bigger hula dancers.  To my eyes, they usually move more smoothly and gracefully.  And when I imagine that I am big while I am dancing I feel more grounded and in my body.  My entire body has a sense of weight and moves more easily. YEAH!!

When I share lomilomi with others I touch with love to  create a loving reflection in which the recipient can discover their own beauty and their own love.  What a gift!!!  What an honor!!!  What a privilege!!!  What a responsibility!!!  Reflecting love and beauty is my constant vision as I share Mana Lomi® with others.

Mahalo - thank you - all my dear readers. I send you my love.

Barbara Helynn Robles

Copyrighted 2010 Barbara Helynn Heard

For more information visit www.lomilomi-massage
Email barbaraheard at msn dot com
Olympia, Washington  All materials are copyrighted. If you would like to post articles on your website or use it as training material, permission is granted as long as all contact and credit information remains intact. Thank you.