Staying In Touch Through Unusual Times (2)

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HERE IS WHERE I POST OCCASIONAL ESSAYS, COMMENTS, AND NEWS ABOUT MY COURSES AND WORKSHOPS DURING THE YEAR. YOU WILL FIND ESSAYS RELATING TO THE STUDY AND PRACTICE OF SEIKI, SHIATSU AND DAOYIN QIGONG IN BOTH ENGLISH AND SPANISH BY CHECKING THROUGH THE BLOG HISTORY.

 Reflections on Covid 19. Opportunities for Change (2)

Coming out to play – Less On-line, More Outdoors

Like many of you, over the last few months I have been reflecting on the implications for practitioners and patients of the manual therapies, and for teachers and students too, as we adjust to a new set of social conditions brought about by the current crisis. Some of us have emerged step by step from strict lock-down regimes, only to have them reimposed when we become collectively careless or forgetful. The general situation is very concerning, not only with regard to Covid19, but in relation to many social and environmental issues. We need to go deep to find an appropriate response.
The limited horizon for offering regular  treatment has been a topic of particular concern  over which I have exchanged more than a few emails with professional colleagues and students. We have been among those especially challenged by the stringent rules put in place to control the pandemic. Once the more onerous restrictions have been relaxed, we may gradually be able to resume our classes and perhaps work directly with clients under strict conditions, but the new reality is that we will have to live with this virus and its effects for a good while yet.
CAUGHT IN THE NET
With the closing down of our normal avenues, the internet has at once presented itself as a primary resource. Many practitioners and teachers are employing new on-line services to offer various forms of remote treatment, also to continue or supplement their regular classes.  Nearly all of us were already “tuned in” via the electronic media on one level or another, and there is no doubt that we humans have a great need for connection, but I have been surprised by the intensity of this headlong flight into the on-line world.
Some colleagues have been exploring the possibilities of internet tuition for quite a few years, through regular courses, intensive workshops and the now popular webinars.  Already well prepared, they are now offering on-line courses to help us to help our clients/patients with on-line guidance in self-shiatsu, remedial exercises, distant healing, and indeed how to start on-line classes of our own as well!  The paradox is that the ephemeral world of information and the seductive immediacy of electronic media had already tempted us “en masse” to subjugate or suppress our embodied life to the imperatives of the interactive screen, and now we seem to be getting further enmeshed.
I know that many therapeutic benefits can be obtained by communicating appropriately at a remove, by letter, telephone or by a Zoom video meeting.  Emotional problems can be addressed and subtle psychological and spiritual benefits can also be transmitted or evoked this way. We can also learn many physical skills and techniques through virtual classes and courses. The internet has taken over, surpassed and improved on many of the functions of books and film, and now it is taking over the interactive experience of the classroom and workshop.  It is very far-reaching and very tempting, creating for many of us illusions of intimacy and the achievement of ideals, but with respect to our full bodily needs its range of inputs is nonetheless severely distorted, flattened or simply lacking. To summarise, I think it is mostly a case of receiving too much stimulation and not enough nourishment.
We get caught in that web, anxiously searching for something it can never provide. As well as things so obvious as  food, drink, and adequate opportunity for rest, purification and  renewal, our bodies need physical activity, safe company and caring touch – these last three being basic to human bodily life, social cohesion and identity.
So, while we are confined, our increased dependence on electronic communication is understandable; it may even be essential.  But we should resist over-emphasising its benefits when it comes to physical activity and real world engagement.
To recover and maintain our health, I believe we must ween ourselves off the internet and away from virtual on-screen “solutions” at every opportunity.
How are we going to put our embodied life to the fore?
OUT IN THE FRESH AIR
Returning to the core issue, I have been inclined to look for lines of action already suggested by the exercises and subtle healing practices of the Eastern Tradition.  With our particular orientation and skills, those of us who have studied some part of this tradition are perfectly situated to be at the forefront of a different trend, demonstrating the many possibilities of Daoyin/Do-In that can be learned and practiced together in pairs or in groups through real encounters in the “great outdoors” – in public parks and gardens, or in any suitable open space in our neighbourhood.
Moving outdoors 

I thought of all the years in England that I was able to offer outdoor classes in Qigong to ordinary people in my local community, as well Shiatsu students, clients and acupuncture patients. For about six or seven years I held two outdoor classes a week in two different locations, a park and a secluded cemetery, in all seasons. It was a useful and enriching experience for many participants – adding a relaxed social dimension to the healing work.

More recently, a shared a project with a Japanese friend of mine where I now live in Tenerife, combining Seiki with Shinrin-Yoku (a meditative “forest bath” experience) has convinced me again that this option has much potential.  I realised that going outdoors could once again prove to be a radical yet productive way to explore new healing pathways inspired by Daoyin/Do-In, the original and continuing stream that brought forth modern Qigong, Shiatsu, and Seiki, the practices on which we normally focus here.
Currents in this flow are constantly merging and mixing according to the influence of the times. It is good to be aware that labels are often affixed to these tendencies to suit our temporary needs and convenience, giving every practice its particular quality, but fundamentally holistic body-mind therapy must be based on physically shared experience.
ALIVE, LOCAL AND INTIMATE
In small scale, local initiatives, the gentle disciplines of body-mind harmony through movement and touch can be taught and practiced at a basic level.  Intimacy, presence, attention and care can be mutually encouraged. In Summer especially, but with practice at any time, small Qigong classes, or meetings for one-to one treatment, professional or otherwise, can be organised in private gardens, airy conservatories or terraces. Depending where we live, a quiet corner of a local park or field could prove suitable.

Outdoor treatment; sometimes discretely touching

Here “social distancing” can be prioritised while certain discrete modes of touch are possible as guiding indications. These are offered in an appropriate, attentive and respectful manner.  It seems that few people in the world of the bodywork therapies (including shiatsu) have been seriously experimenting with adapting their practices from the traditional format and setting to outdoor meetings or working indoors at a respectful distance – using a mask whenever advisable – but Seiki and Qigong are ideally suited to such a spacious approach, and I want to go a little further with this idea.

 

Personal attention

We can invite our clients,  individually or in two’s and threes, also our students, friends and family members too, to participate in a practice session suitable for their needs. This could be in our own garden, but we can suggest to a client with a suitable open space at home that they provide the “invitation”  so their treatment can continue with private sessions in exercise, postural awareness, breathing practice. The point here is that the encounter is live and complete, with all the healing potential available.

We can imagine and practise hybrid forms of engagement where the client/receiver becomes more actively involved – following guidance of a teacher practitioner but taking the work into their own hands – self controlled manual techniques, enhanced stretches, spontaneous bodily movements and free expression etc. where the therapist/ supporting partner is mostly keeping a respectful distance. Arms-length touch can then be offered occasionally, even sustained contact is possible, but consciously harmonized with equally important factors such as observation/attention and presence. These amount to to holding and safeguarding a potent transformative space which offers the “guiding partner” and the “receiver” shared creative freedom in the clarity of their different roles. Seiki practices typically lend themselves to this kind of adaptive exploration. The subtle disciplines that foster this relaxed, attentive and spacious way of working have characterised Kishi’s “Seiki Way” since its inception. Seiki is usually communicated and developed through shared practice in a small group setting.
AN INTEGRAL LIFE – WE ARE NATURE
The bodies we inhabit are the origin and base of all our lived experience over of millions of years of evolution, endowed with a complex nervous system”programmed” by Nature to feel, touch and move in the physical world and to “read” any situation we are in.  In fact, though we experience ourselves as individual persons, each of us consist of a coherent body of phenomenally sensitive self-regulating open-networked bio-systems. And these complex biological and social functions are modified and controlled through subliminal organic responses to the living environment as well as by our conscious will.  Actually we are making things up as we go along, and so is everything else, from viruses to oak trees , from snails to elephants to forests and oceans. In our ordinary life, the environment provides both information and nourishment for all our needs. Science has vastly amplified this information, so we are especially well-informed in many respects, but that same science is now presenting us electronically with set menus of information in reduced and pre-digested form, in patterns that seem to unite us, but which may actually distance us and separate us.
Our health is expressed in our breathing-body-mind, founded on our belongingness to the whole of  Nature, around us and within us. This is something we can practice consciously in daily life, to support our own well-being and that of our community.
PL. Aug. 2020