The other day I found myself prone on a table in Fort Greene wearing just my underwear. That morning had been stressful. I’d gone from being asleep, to being awake and in public doing things without a real transition between those stages. I know this is not an unfamiliar experience in the city, but I was more on edge than normal.
So when I found myself, naked basically, on a table, the cushion soft beneath me, and the sheet on top of me light and gentle, my mind was still not turning off. It kept working through all the things I’d been doing before I arrived, and then plunging deeper into the bigger issues that managed to both subsume and take on the weight of all the other crap. In short, my head was a croissant of worry—layers of stress wrapped around themselves, into an ill-defined puff.
Suddenly, I became aware of two hands. One wedged below my right shoulder, and one resting above it. They were not rubbing or messaging or pressuring my shoulder, they were just holding it, like a container. At some point, it dawned on me that I wasn’t thinking about anything. My brain had transformed from a pastry of neuroses to an empty vessel, at rest. The sheer stillness of the moment startled me.
“Why does that feel so good?” I asked the owner of the hands in awe.
“That’s reiki,” Alexandra Lecube answered, and gave a little chuckle.
A couple weeks earlier, I’d run into a man who owns two well-loved Brooklyn restaurants, which is to say, a man whose life is full of stress. When I asked where he was rushing off to, he said, “I’m going to get a massage from Alexandra Lecube. She is a miracle worker. You should write about her.”
It turns out, Lecube, who began her bodywork practice 13 years ago, works with a lot of clients in the restaurant industry. Not only was she a waiter for a long time herself, and therefore understands the physical and emotional weight of that work, but also how difficult it is for anyone in the city–where our attention is consistently pulled in four directions at the same time–to stop, and pay attention to oneself. Namely, it can feel impossible.
“Everyday living prevents us from touching into the quiet places that can reveal some of the truth we’re actually searching for,” says Lecube. “I think we think we don’t have time. My clients do have time. Because once they come, they want to come back.”
Lecube studied massage at the Swedish Institute in Manhattan, and built her practice slowly, by word of mouth. She wanted her business to grow organically, and not to be pressured to make a living from her bodywork practice alone. So she always had more than one job. She now runs two space-organizing businesses: Lecube Massage, which addresses her clients’ internal spaces, and a decluttering business for people’s homes or closets–any messy place. Combined, she calls her business Lecube Space.
Technically, Lecube’s body work—a term she prefers to “massage” to emphasize that it is an ongoing healing practice rather than a treat you give yourself one day at a spa—is a mix of Swedish, Shiatsu, and Reiki. Reiki, to which I had the most profound reaction, seems on the surface like the simplest of all. As she did on my shoulder, it is the resting of the hands on targeted points around the body, so that any work that the body is doing in defense of internal or external forces, is absorbed by the Reiki practitioner’s hands instead. Meanwhile, your body can be utterly passive, in a state of complete rest.
Reiki can be used to address a massive number of issues, either purely physical, or ones that are emotional with physical manifestations (anything from cancer, to anxiety and depression, to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, infertility, fatigue, end-of-life care, and bereavement). My shoulder injury is nearly two decades old and though (post-surgery) I’ve tried strength training it, stretching it, and stabilizing it with alignment exercises (admittedly never consistently enough, but still), none of it has felt so healing as the sheer presence of Lecube’s hands, giving my shoulder total support, allowing it to operate purely within itself, not defensively against anything else.
Of course, all of Lecube’s body work practices are learnable, but what Lecube delivers is a special something, executed through a combination of pressure, rhythmic tapping, sliding, kneading, shaking, and frictional movements across the body. Lecube’s own delivery is something she has developed not only through years of practice on others, but also as she has grown into a more intimate relationship with herself.
“My childhood was a mix of happiness and pain, but it was the pain that sent me searching,” says Lecube. “And what I found was such a relief: That I could take refuge inside of myself. And I just kept coming back to that again and again and again. Sitting in meditation and being disciplined about practicing whatever it was. In discipline, in being rooted, there is freedom.”
All of this is compelling, and easy enough to follow. But words can only go so far in communicating feeling, let alone a semi-spiritual experience. So when she encouraged me to come in to her studio to understand more deeply by experiencing it, I was very open to this. “People I work with all say the same thing,” Lecube tells me. “They experience a kind of feeling they don’t feel very often. They leave there and feel connected to themselves in a way that brings them pause. For me, that’s all I can say.”
When I arrived at Lecube’s home studio, spacious and spic-and-span (in line with her apartment work at Lecube Sapce), we go straight to work.
I remove my shoes, she gives me a glass of water, and then she asks me how I experience my body in my daily life. I run, I tell her, which seems to have given me a right hip flexor issue. Then, there’s my shoulder. And in this moment, I’m under a little more stress than normal. She sits directly across from me. I can see her taking note of me in a simultaneously detailed and sweeping way. It is a little scary, and exposing, but so are most things that help us in some way.
I undress. She goes to work. Lecube’s fingers start doing all sorts of things—standard massaging, pressing, tapping, a sort of sweeping and brushing, as if she is a traffic controller, only she is controlling the flow of unseen energies somewhere deep inside of me. Eventually she has attended to every part of my body, front and back, to the tips of every extremity, over the course of 75 minutes.
At some point during the second half of my massage when I am on my back (the first half happens lying face down), she addresses my right hip flexor, the one that is tight from running. At first, she presses down on it very gently. It tickles like a motherfucker and I want to die, and I am so surprised by this because I had no idea my hip was something that could even be ticklish. As she continues to apply more pressure on it, my hip flexor feels like it wants to break out from under its own skin. I react but she keeps her hands there, patiently, gradually pressing further down into it.
“Being ticklish is a kind of defense mechanism,” says Lecube. “We’re just gonna check in here, see if it will let us inside,” as if my hip flexor is equipped with a gate-keeper and a tiny little door. By golly, eventually, my hip flexor did let her in. When she applies and reapplies pressure on it, I no longer feel like I need to scream bloody murder. Her assessment that being ticklish is a form of defense seems to hold up when she moves to my left hip flexor, which as far as I can tell is healthy. I have no reaction, other than good feelings, at all.
Eventually, she finishes. Her fingers have covered every surface of my body, front and back. She whispers into my ear that I can begin to transition upright at my own pace. My unpremeditated response is, “I feel like a baby,” as in, thoroughly and completely cared for. I felt like my heart was beating throughout my entire body, like I had turned into an ecosystem of nodes made of pure energy and increased blood flow. It felt like I was both ultra-present in my body, and not in it at all. It was, as she had hinted, a feeling I had never quite felt before.
Before leaving, we reconvene at the front table. I try to describe to her my experience I had when she placed her hands on my shoulder—as if the very localized placement there allowed my entire body to levitate. That was for good reason, she tells me. We have two nervous systems: sympathetic, which is flight mode, activated almost always while we are awake, just trying to make it through a day; and the parasympathetic system, activated in meditative-like states. “I down-regulate the nervous system to the parasympathetic,” says Lecube. “That takes over, and self healing can happen. We’re not working, we’re being, and that beingness is healing.”
I then remember the worry-pastry my brain had been prior to my arrival, whose bad energy had spread to my joints. But in that moment that energy did not feel distant so much as shrunken. Hushed. You might even say healed.
“Enjoy this time with yourself today,” Lecube says as I step out the door. The likelihood of that happening was not very high only an hour before that, before I met the woman whose fingers perform real life feats on bedraggled stress-cases, Brooklynites. And then I left, miraculously, at peace.
For more info, visit lecubespace.com