Most people, like myself, schedule their next appointment with massage therapist and herbalist Michelle Boucher before they walk out the door. They recognize the magic that is she: the owner of Bliss In BodyWorks, side-splittingly funny, wise, and lighthearted, has helped others by healing herself. By staying tuned in to her own being she intuits what her clients need. Boucher’s style of bodywork is a dance that she and her clients do together.
Tell me a bit about your formative years.
There have been lots of epic moments that have brought me where I am today. I was born in Montreal and at age two, my mom who was wild and my dad a conservative decided to quit the rat race and become hippies. They bought a boat in Vancouver and the three of us and my brother sailed to Guatemala over the course of three years. That experience helped me to see what I refer to as “the otherness,” a term I recently picked up from a dear friend. It describes perfectly the unseen nature of the world that connects everything in one way or another. I believe we are all here to support one another. Growing up in Guatemala, a beautiful but poor country, until age 13 also sparked my passion for sustainability. We took only what we needed.
What career did you have prior to becoming a massage therapist?
I worked for LP Building Products for just shy of 16 years. I managed 70 engineers all over the world and the approval process of our capital projects. I was the hippie of the group and it was good while it lasted, but not where I needed to be long-term.
What did you learn at that job that you applied to your current profession?
LP Building Products sparked me to attend college, which I hadn’t done at the age you are “supposed to.” That was a great gift in terms of opening my perspective. I also learned a lot about math, which I surprisingly liked, business, and marketing. Oftentimes I had big ideas and a lot of heart but needed to learn how to implement those concepts in the real world.
What finally gave you the gumption to become certified in massage therapy at the Natural Health Institute?
In 2006, I decided to enroll in a massage therapy course to better myself and I think I knew at that time that LP was not the place for me long term. I studied for four years, while working at my corporate office during the week, and then was licensed in early 2011. In 2014, I went to visit my mother in Mexico where she had been living for the last 29 years. I found her very ill and brought her back to Nashville with me where she stayed for the next nine months. Overnight, I became her caregiver until she passed. That experience gave me a “what are you waiting for” kick in the ass to pursue my passion for bodywork.
What is it about death that serves as a catalyst?
The death of a loved one puts your own mortality right in front of you. I realized what was important—working through my own turmoil in order to help others.
What do you love about therapeutic bodywork?
It is an avenue that brings us into the present moment. However far down the rabbit hole my clients are willing to go I will meet them there. Some just want me to work out a kink in their neck and others crave a very deep emotional release. I focus a lot on muscle cell memory, which deals with trapped trauma in the body. Stressful events can cause disease or chronic pain.
Have you experienced this yourself?
Absolutely. At the corporate office I found it very difficult to voice my opinion. Truth to power was what I was seeking. Then I did an 11-week guided meditation called the Presence Process by Michael Brown, which was the first time I realized the trauma I held in my body, around my throat, from when I almost drowned as a kid. Discovering that connection freed me. For many years I felt as though I had a caseload of duck tape around my mouth and suddenly I was like a brand new person. I could finally speak out about the things I believed in! After that experience I decided that I wanted to provide space for others to explore and release their own pain.
It must be very moving to witness clients working through their issues.
We are conditioned and cultured by society to suppress our emotions. I want to hold space for people to be vulnerable. Crying, in particular, is a really powerful release because it allows you to let go. However, when you are helping people to unwind their emotional trauma you also have to protect yourself. Over time, I learned to work with other people’s energy without taking it on.
What is the difference between therapeutic and traditional massage therapy?
Massage therapy is about creating a sacred experience. My clients entrust their mind, body, and spirit to me, which means that I must be present in order for that connection to take place. Even if I just do a traditional Swedish massage there is still a sense of peace, or what I call the bliss factor, that integrates everything together.
What is your greatest motivator?
I recognize all of the teachers in my life by paying their wisdom forward. My reward is seeing that people listen to what I say whether it is ordering a product I recommended on Amazon or composting because they saw me do it first. But most rewarding is witnessing those ‘aha’ moments. That’s how I know I am on the right path.
What is one of your big life lessons?
Every person that has come into my life was exactly what I needed at that point in time. When the student is ready the teacher will appear. We all act as messengers.
Things always work out if you hustle and let go of that crazy fear. When I first opened up my massage studio I remember sitting there thinking the phone isn’t ringing. What the fuck did I do?! That was a big paycheck that I just left. (Laughs) Then I breathed, the fear passed, and I’d book out for the week. It’s always all good.
What is your secret sauce?
I am continually working on myself because the better I am, the better I am able to serve. I am also always learning and studying for new certifications like delving deeper into the science of aromatics, Thai and many other modalities. Knowledge, experience, and self-care are my top priorities.
How much did word of mouth play into the success of your business?
Referrals and partnerships are the greatest gift that anyone could ever give. There is a six-degree of separation between all of my regular clients. That is so Nashville.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever been given?
“That was the best massage I have ever had in my life.”
What’s some business advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
Life is about synchronicity. By slowing down I’ve realized everything happens how it’s supposed to. I also pay a great deal of attention to my intuition.
What advice do you have for others to get more in touch with their bodies?
Breathing brings you stillness. When you pause then you can listen. We’re in our heads so much. Quiet the mind through meditation or simply watching the sunrise. In those moments you realize most things don’t matter.
Do you have any last words?
Not only does a holistic lifestyle enhance your own health but also when you feel good you’re more inclined to be kinder to others. When you feel like shit you don’t wake up thinking, how can I make others happy? You’re like, “Give me a beer and a smoke. (Laughs)