SEIKI AND KATSUGEN: Spontaneous Movement in the Eastern Healing Tradition
Preliminary notes for a practical seminar. (This is part of a cycle of Seiki workshops that I continue to develop. Please see workshop area).
Katsugen refers to natural spontaneous movement, essentially the regenerative “life movement” of the body. It was so named by Haruchika Noguchi, founder of Seitai and a notable authority on Ki in Japan, but it was long recognised in the Japanese healing tradition under various names, especially in relation to certain Shinto practices. Spontaneous movement is an essential part of healing but it finds little space in contemporary therapeutic disciplines. Fundamentally, it may be seen as the continual expression of an internal autonomous process that continually seeks to maintain the harmony of all the body’s functions, from the grossest to the most subtle level.
It can be visualised as an innate intelligent force that penetrates the entire ground of our being, the “integrated Ki functions” identical to our body’s capacity to adapt continually to the environment as well as to resist and recover from injury and disease. It is also the functional basis of our growth and development.
In Western biology, the inherent tendency by which an organism responds to the environment and maintains inner stability is referred to as “homeostasis”. This also describes the total self-harmonizing capacity of the complex human organism – the networked systemic responses of the body-mind. All our therapies and medical treatments are mediated through this process; that is, they influence it and are also moderated by it (reactions and side effects as well as improvements). But due to our conditioned experience and behaviour as well as the narrow definitions and conventional aims of treatment, our perception of its function is limited and its inherent power is constrained or suppressed; healing is often not completed due to this lack of integration. Furthermore, due to conficting tendencies in the formation of our character during the early childhood years we often invest too much of our vital energy in controlling our own natural urges and creative instincts. This process of “body armouring”, first described by W. Reich, makes us numb and insensitive to ourselves and to others, and is also seen as a primary cause of illness, both in modern western developmental psychology and in traditional medicine.
The practices and disciplines of Seiki, as developed by Akinobu Kishi*, are explicitly orientated towards awakening our awareness of the life-movement process as the natural context and primary source of healing. We know that Ki (life-energy) seeks to flow naturally, but with stress and illness it becomes distorted and blocked. Shiatsu, acupuncture and other forms of subtle medicine can ease the obstructed flow in the body’s energy system, but usually there is no precise awareness of the process. Many changes happen unconsciously and, though we may often see or experience “reactions”, all are simply perceived as the result of treatment.
Through Katsugen practice (certain specific exercises) we can become more attuned to the patterns of distortion in our own bodies and begin to allow them some authentic expression; we start to feel our own movement way. Becoming more relaxed, trusting and sensitive we find within ourselves a guide to conscious change and liberation.
During Seiki treatment also, some spontaneous movements may occur, often beginning in the area of the diaphragm, the neck and shoulders or the pelvis. They are natural expressions that arise when mental control is relaxed and conditioned inhibitive mechanisms are released, allowing re-harmonisation of the vital energy centres, autonomic nervous system and other body functions. Movements sometimes seem strange, with muscular twitching, shaking, or vibrating, also accompanied by crying, laughing, moaning or other vocal expressions of emotional release, but they are quite natural, like yawning, sneezing or blinking. The process continues internally, promoting elimination via the body’s normal channels and functions. In the majority of therapies there is little space for spontaneous movement. Its benefits are mostly unrecognised and its manifestations are rarely understood. Fully expressed, these manifestations can be “difficult to manage” in conventional clinical settings and can even cause consternation and alarm, especially if there is post-traumatic stress or an inhibitive chronic shock state in the body.
Yet spontaneous movement has been recognised in many societies as an important part of healing and subtle medicine. It is known both in China and Japan, though in many places only a vestige of the tradition has been preserved and a coherent model of practice is difficult to find. (There is actually a history of interesting work in modern medical psychology that describes the effects of extreme stress and chronic shock and shows that the transitioning between the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system produces many spontaneous but normalising physiological expressions. These functions are most revealingly described in several works by Dr Peter Levine.)
Seiki offers us a comprehensive perspective on this essential aspect of healing, as well as clear guidance for its practical integration into our work. PL.