Winter has come and gone. We have just passed the Spring equinox. I send my greetings and warmest wishes to all as the time of natural expansiveness and creativity returns. This site has been quite dormant – but I am still here, back with the work and fresh ideas.
Actually, I have not been hybernating; rather the reverse. I have been quite busy, both with demanding family affairs, and with work – two or three meetings with the Seiki-Katsugen group in Madrid so far this year, and a very interesting and well attended workshop in the South of France organised with Julia and her Shiatsu Synergie School, also on Katsugen. This is a familiar and important aspect of Seiki, and often the focus of my workshops (see under earlier blog entries Seiki on the home page). There will be more workshops on the spontaneous movement theme – watch this space!
Blog or no blog – we can do less. I would have liked to have attended to this blog during the Winter months with a bit more dedication and regularity, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I will therefore have to admit that this may well be an occasional blog, rather than a continual stream of opinion and information such as is more characteristic of today’s on-line communications. Saying this, I immediately feel myself relaxing with a sigh of relief. Best to be straight about it. At every turn we encounter so many expectations.
Sometimes it’s best to drop what is not essential. The reason we are interested in subtle medicine and its related practices for healthy living is precisely so that we can adapt adequately to the pressures and challenges of ordinary life. Many people feel driven by circumstances but, in living day-to day, we are responsible for our own contentment. We can do less, rather than more.
Slow. I am naturally slow in temperament and have always suffered when demands for speed and efficiency pile on the pressure to deliver. I don’t think I am alone in this. Chronic stress is a big issue these days and contributes to many illnesses. Actually, I find efficiency doesn’t always equate with speed. So I chime with the Slow Movement that is (slowly) making its presence felt in many areas of life, the point being that other qualities and values emerge when we stop thinking only in terms of production and achievement. Naturally, I want to maintain the quality of my offerings, and I can affirm that this theme is of direct relevance to the whole trend of the work advocated and discussed here.
When we practice Taiji, Qigong or meditation, we are deliberately engaging in another rhythm. We are following the breath instead of the clock. We decide, initially, to take up the practice – it is an act of will – and indeed we often find ourselves somewhat agitated, but our breathing deepens in response to the conditions we are creating and the parasympathetic nervous system of the body recognises the spaciousness and calm. It responds to our advantage, allowing blood circulation, digestive system and inner organs to return to optimum efficiency and supporting the regeneration of the cells and tissues over the long term. Similarly, the benefits of Shiatsu and other physical therapies are optimised when we reduce the speed and intensity of our techniques. Tonification of the Qi and Blood in Eastern Traditional Medicine is always associated with mild, slow techniques, offering only minimal stimulation. Stronger, more active methods are appropriate for dispersing over-full conditions, blockage and pain, but overused they produce numbness and weaken the intrinsic energy. Sedation is never the main aim. Akinobu Kishi’s criticism of most shiatsu styles was that they are too interventive and too active. In other words they unwittingly reduce sensitivity and override the receiver’s potential awareness of their own integral body processess, their self appreciation and, ultimately, their will.
Shiatsu Slow. Shiatsu’s original advocates* recognised how the intimate, slow and deeply appreciated traditional Ampuku method inspired the confidence and trust necessary for healing, and so emhasised stationary, calm, penetrating pressure, based on Hara communication for the new Shiatsu therapy. These qualities set it apart from Anma, with its many and varied massage and manipulation methods, and were later placed in the forefront of the medical research that earned Shiatsu its independent licence from the Japanese government. Quiet Shiatsu touch could positively influence the inner organs via changes in the autonomic nervous system. The irony is that Masunaga, wishing to link traditional and modern medical knowledge, incorporated Hara diagnosis with meridian based treatments and set the course for a more active and interventive modern professional style. This trend has been taken even further by teachers in the West. In spite of the widely adopted name of Zen Shiatsu, little heed has been paid to the cultivation of a different, authentic Way of Zen, the art of “Non-doing” as a way of healing.
The Tao, Zen and Non-doing. This is a spiritually reflective healing path, an approach steeped in practical Taoist and Zen philosophy, one of non-intervention or spontaneous action in accord with nature and the present moment. Akinobu Kishi was dedicated to this approach, and almost its sole representative in recent decades. He had experienced both Namikoshi’s and Masunaga’s work first hand, and practised shiatsu diligently for many years, but while he appreciated their different personal qualities, he eventually rejected their methods as over-active. His Seiki Way was based on such Taoist principles as “Wei – Wu Wei”, sometimes understood as “effortless effort”. As in Soto Zen the practice of “just sitting” allows us to become very aware of what arises in our consciousness, so “just touching” is the gently shared discipline of focussed body-mind awareness, through which we can let go of stress connected to worry, fear, shock and anger etc. Movement arises by itself, as a stream flowing or a storm passing, and so we can allow our nervous system to find a natural way to harmony.
If our hands are offered in this non-selfish, impartial way, deep healing can be discovered afresh. “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes and the grass grows by itself”, says a favourite Zen poem. Delicate movement; surprising power! PL.
*Fusai Ota and Tamai Tempeki, to name two key figures