Dealing with Diagnosis: What to do when you don't know what to do

Last year we sent out a survey about your bodywork studies & practice. It included a question asking what your biggest questions & challenges were with shiatsu. Over the next few months, we will be sharing our responses to many of your questions. Below is our response to one of the most common questions we were asked:

Question - I often get overwhelmed with diagnosis. There are so many things to consider and so many methods of diagnosis (kyo/jitsu, pulse, meridian, face, tongue, voice, structure, motion, etc.) that often I just shut down and can't figure out what to do. How do I find the most important thing to work on at each moment in a treatment? 


Response - The word diagnosis itself can be a trap. A broader way to think about it is being responsive to the receiver. Watch, listen and let yourself respond naturally to what you notice. You simply have to listen, receive and respond. What comes to you, no matter how basic, has value.

Let yourself focus on what you do notice, instead of what you don't. Don't force diagnosis, don't go chasing after information. If you find yourself struggling, go more simple and more general. This applies to both diagnosis and technique.

Use Primitive Diagnosis for a Primitive System

If you have studied shin tai work, remember that the 'diagnosis' for the central channel and Governing Vessel/Conception Vessel is more primitive because they are a more primitive level of energy in the body. We use motion as the main diagnosis for this part of the system. That might sound boring or unimportant or not very 'professional' compared to finding constrained liver chi or a racing SP pulse, but motion can give potent information regarding the condition of life force and how to enhance it. 

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Beginning a treatment by addressing this primal part of the energy system (GV/CV) will naturally have you beginning with observation of motion. If and when the treatment moves into working with more specialized aspects of the energy system, like the 5 elements or 12 meridians, you can apply the more specialized types of diagnosis that you know for guidance. Notice what you are drawn to and what comes to you rather than looking to figure out every possible type of diagnosis. For example, you may find yourself becoming very aware of a client's hip structure partway through a session. If your attention is drawn there repeatedly and then you notice that motion is quite restricted through one side of the pelvis/sacrum, you might decide to do a structural evaluation and go through the structural adjustments. Another example could be that you find a client's voice particularly distinctive and all the sudden it comes to you that their cadence is very sing-songy.... this indicates imbalance in earth energy (ST/SP). But if a type of diagnosis is not coming to you with relative ease, it is not necessary to chase after it. 



Clear Perception Requires a Clear Condition

Being able to perceive a client’s condition requires that your system is clear and balanced. The best way to set yourself up for clarity of perception during a treatment is to prepare ahead of time. It is optimal to be rested, clear, aligned and relaxed. Good quality sleep, food, self-development practices, and treatments for yourself are key factors. When you are in balance and full of vitality, your physical body is clear, your information system is giving accurate feedback, and you are in alignment with the higher vibrational aspects of your being. This enables the flow of accurate diagnosis regarding the person you are working with and how to best facilitate freedom in their system. 

In your everyday life it may not always be possible to be in optimal shape for every treatment. In that case, make sure to do at least a few minutes or even moments of relaxation, meditation, proprioceptive exercise or conscious breathing before beginning a session. Getting more aligned is a part of the treatment process; it is ok to sometimes do that at the beginning or even during a session. Otherwise you will be floundering around, kind of faking it and not really making headway in introducing more flow of life force.   



Receive Information, Don’t Look for Information

If you find yourself struggling to figure out what to do during a treatment and what level of diagnosis to focus on, the best thing to do is take a few deep, quiet breaths, relax a little more and go into listening mode. Often when a practitioner is struggling they begin to look harder for things to see/diagnosis/understand - they thrust their energy outward, searching for information. This is a natural response. However, it is more helpful at that moment to actually soften and go into a more listening and receptive mode. You want to receive information, not look for information. Let yourself relax in the unknowing for a little bit without freaking out that you don't know what to do and you have to find something. You can do something general while you are in this process, like palming down the back, a fascia release or gathering in the hara.

While you are relaxing into this listening mode, notice where your attention goes in the receiver's body. Let yourself receive what their body is communicating. There is no need to label what is 'wrong' and figure out everything that is not working well. There is only a need to listen, notice and respond in a way that enhances the flow of life force. Maybe you don’t know which meridians in the legs are kyo or jitsu but you do notice the legs look very still and empty. Do some stretches, apply pressure to stimulate chi, rock and press on the sacrum. Simple, basic techniques executed with sincere intention will have a therapeutic healing effect. If you can keep this in mind it will be easier to relax and offer touch that is truly supportive to a receiver's well-being. It may be that you naturally move into some more specialized methods of diagnosis & technique during a treatment, but this is not always the case, especially when you are doing shin tai work. 

A note of caution: Sometimes when a practitioner is struggling to find a direction during a treatment, they initiate conversation with the receiver. Sometimes this is a way to open a door to some helpful information and can lead the treatment into productive bodywork, but often it derails the session into an experience that will not initiate much change. Of course, every treatment does not need to be transformative to have value; some very powerful sessions are more integrative and soothing. But be aware of the tendency to engage in verbal dialogue when you are not sure what else to do. This serves to perpetuate the receiver's story rather than move beyond it, and prevents moving into deeper levels of experience that have inestimable value to both of you.


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The Mystery of the Governing & Conception Vessel

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The Mystery of Governing & Conception Vessel

In many ways, the governing and conception vessel meridians are a mystery in shiatsu. There is no diagnostic correspondence for them in the pulse, the hara or the face. There is traditionally no specific technique for treating and balancing the governing or conception vessels' chi.

In his book Meridian Exercise, Shizuto Masunaga says that the governing and conception vessel (GV/CV) stand above the other meridians in terms of importance. He states that they regulate the 12 classic meridians along with regulating the basic life functions. Herein lies the mystery: if governing and conception vessel are so important, why is there no diagnosis or specific treatment for them?

To help solve what seems to be a huge contradiction in the teaching and practice of shiatsu, we can look at two different dimensions of these master meridians. The first dimension is how they express themselves at the primitive or cellular level of life. The second dimension is how they evolve into a specialized system of energy in the complex human organism. Then we can synthesize these perceptions to create a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.

Shin Tai is an evolving form of shiatsu that makes diagnosis and treatment of governing & conception vessel a priority.

 

The Primitive Dimension of GV/CV

At the primitive cellular level, motion is the equivalent to meridian. Motion supplies life force or chi to carry out the basic life functions of the cell. Motion is also the same as primitive governing and conception vessel. In other words, the most primitive dimension of GV/CV is motion.

MOTION = BASIC LIFE FUNCTION = GV/CV

 

 

The Specialized Dimension of GV/CV

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As the fetus develops, recreating biological evolution, the governing and conception vessels develop into more linear pathways (meridians). The governing vessel then flowers into the spinal column and its inner components (the meninges, the cerebral spinal fluid and the central nervous system). The conception vessel flowers into the digestive system and its core, the hara.

These two master meridians also diversify into the 12 classic meridians of acupuncture, each with a specific energetic pathway and function.

 

 

Synthesizing the Two Dimensions

Solving the mystery of governing and conception vessel diagnosis comes from the perception and synthesis of the primitive and specialized way that they express themselves in the human being. Subtle motions, which can be seen throughout the body in response to breathing, indicate how well the primitive dimension of GV/CV is circulating throughout the system. Three phases of specific motions and their significance in the healing process is a key aspect of the shiatsu shin tai training. 

Evaluating the specialized dimension of GV/CV requires a more specialized focus. For governing vessel, the flexibility of the spine and the independent springing motion of the vertebrae show the condition of its more specialized aspect. For conception vessel, the homogenous and resilient quality of the hara shows its specialized dimension.

A shiatsu practitioner can help regenerate the most essential flow of chi in the body. By developing the perception of subtle motions and learning specific technique which addresses the uniqueness of the governing and conception vessels, a practitioner can restore the power of primitive life force in the system and assist the client back to a higher experience of life. Shin Tai is an evolving form of shiatsu that makes diagnosis and treatment of governing & conception vessel a priority.


Shiatsu Shin Tai expands on traditional Shiatsu massage to create an evolutionary system of diagnosis and technique that stimulates the flow of life force in the body. There is a focus on the treatment of the two primary meridians, Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel, creating a powerful system of diagnosis, theory and technique that facilitates deep transformation. A unique synthesis of structural, fascia, meridian, and chakra technique, this therapeutic bodywork clears stress from the body, and naturally stimulates the flow of energy.  

Upcoming Shin Tai Classes:


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The True Nature of Shiatsu

Shiatsu books give lists of conditions and symptoms that shiatsu can cure. But in the end, does shiatsu really ‘cure’ conditions? And does viewing and practicing shiatsu from that perspective allow us to access its most powerful potential? 

If a person pursues a path that does not resonate with their true nature, their potential for creating and expressing is often greatly diminished. Shiatsu is often practiced in a way that exhibits this dynamic; instead of taking full advantage of the unique capacity of touch, it tends to be approached from a specialized and conceptual framework that is not in alignment with its true nature.

Over the past few decades, shiatsu is often used in a way that is trying to emulate the practice of acupuncture and other more western therapeutic practices in order to gain more respect with the medical community and general public. But just like when a person tries to imitate another in order to 'be better,' this method not only backfires, it misses the opportunity to utilize the unique capacity of shiatsu: to effect change at the most primitive layer of the information system. Instead of working in a specialized manner to adjust the function of the meridians and organs and systems of the body, shiatsu often has more power when it goes underneath these levels to address the core energy, or ki, of the body.

acupuncture
Instead of working in a specialized manner to adjust the function of the meridians and organs and systems of the body, shiatsu has more power when it goes underneath these levels to address the core energy, or ki, of the body.

 

We are not doing surgery, acupuncture, osteopathic or chiropractic work. These are very valuable therapies that each have unique healing effects on the body. But in shiatsu, we are working with touch that is applied within specific parameters. What is the most we can accomplish with this type of bodywork? In order to access the true transformative potential of shiatsu and shin tai (a form of shiatsu that uses Governing Vessel & Conception Vessel as a primary means of evaluation and treatment), we have to understand the origin and nature of touch.

Touch and touch response is the most basic sense of the primitive cell. Touch makes the distinction between the cell and its environment through responses in the cell membrane. The membrane registers changes in chemical composition, light, vibration, and pressure. 

Touch contains the information of all the other senses. For example, particles of a substance need to ‘touch’ the olfactory receptor neurons in the nasal cavity in order for it to be detected as a smell. When a sound is made, the vibrating sound waves that are created need to touch and vibrate the ear drum in order to be heard. Touch is a factor in all of the sensory experiences, and pressure is the medium through which it is discerned. 

shiatsu healing

Because touch is the most primal sense of the primitive cell, it is the most potent means to restore the primal life force of the body. And because touch applied with pressure is a primary characteristic of shiatsu, this type of bodywork has tremendous potential to effect change at this level of the body. Rather than try to emulate other methods of therapeutic practices (such as acupuncture) by introducing more complexity and focusing on specialized diagnosis and treatment strategies, we can instead amplify the unique transformational possibilities of our work by using it in a way that is in alignment with its true nature. By focusing on using shiatsu to restore primal life force through touch, we can unleash its greatest potential. 

 

 

If you are reading this article, you have most likely chosen to practice bodywork in some capacity. This means you have an affinity for this style of healing. Rather than study to become a doctor, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, etc., you have chosen to learn about bodywork. You are attracted to using touch as a means of listening, healing and transformation because it suits some part of your nature. In uniting your own nature with that of shiatsu lies an extraordinary opportunity for you to provide an expanding experience of freedom and creativity to those who come to you seeking health.

We welcome your comments & questions below.


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Hara: the path to manifestation

Vision of Life = Life?

We all have ideas, dreams and projects. We have visions of how we want our life to be. However, there is usually a disconnect between how our reality is actually playing out in real time and what our inner visions look like. Maybe there is that rare person whose total image of how they want their life to be matches their actual circumstances, but most people experience some degree of gap between their vision and their current life scheme. For many clients this is in the mix of reasons as to why they come for treatments. 

They might say ‘I have back pain’, ‘my digestion is not good’, or ‘I’m depressed.’ But as you get to know them a little better, you discover that the inability to create the experience that they desire is a strong force behind what is going on in their life that is making them unhappy. Many of the things that are bothering them physically or emotionally are actually symptoms of this disconnect. There is festering frustration and discontent with the difference between what they envision for their life and what they actually experience, and how that feels day in and day out.

 
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In other words, what they dream is not what they experience. Not the dream while sleeping, but the inner semi-conscious dream we have while we are awake. If there is an extreme disconnect, the inner dream becomes fantasy. The closer the dream comes to what is actually happening in the daily life, the less a person fantasizes, and the more engaged and creative the person becomes with what they are doing.

 

Hara is the translator

The hara plays a large role in translating ideas, images, and dreams into physical reality. There are several aspects of hara that contribute to this activity of manifestation. First of all, it is the physical seat of our digestive system, which converts food into usable fuel for our body to function and act in the world. The hara transforms food into energy so that we can act, so that we can carry out our visions on the physical plane. It also holds the reproductive organs, which function to spark and create new life.

Another factor in the hara’s function to translate dreams into reality it that it is the energetic center and physical component of the Conception Vessel meridian, an electromagnetic current which runs up the front of the body. The word conception is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

  1. ‘The process of becoming pregnant involving fertilization or implantation or both’ or 
  2. ‘The capacity, function, or process of forming or understanding ideas or abstractions or their symbols.’ 

When the Conception Vessel meridian is flowing with strength and balance, it gives the capacity for visions to begin forming into third dimensional reality through a process of fertilization. Ideas become pregnant. They enter the phase of developing into a fully matured form. The Hara is the most direct way to diagnose and treat the Conception Vessel and effect this capacity.

 

A third factor that contributes to the hara’s role in manifestation is related to the hip structure. I consider the hip structure as the boney aspect of the hara, and the hip joints as the mechanism that set the hara into motion. The hara and its motion are a large factor in moving our intentions into the life sphere and so play a role in determining what unfolds there. 

When we work with clients and treat the hara, it becomes more clear, strong and balanced. The organs begin to function better. Circulation and oxygenation of tissues is increased. The flow of the Conception Vessel meridian improves, and the hip structure gains mobility and alignment. The hara can better do its job to manifest images and intentions into the physical plane, and so people's visions about their life and their actual life itself begin to have a more direct correlation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hara Translates the Dream - clip from Conception Vessel/Hara Course

This is a short clip from a Conception Vessel & the Hara course taught at the International School of Shiatsu in Doylestown, PA in May 2015.  Saul Goodman is discussing the role of the hara as the translator of Governing Vessel information (i.e. our visions, inspirations & dreams). Hara treatment facilitates life force flow through the hara, through the organs, and through the Conception Vessel pathway.  As the hara begins to function at a higher capacity, this assists a person to actualize their dreams and visions and inspirations into their daily three dimensional reality.

Shin Tai at the Beginning of Shiatsu Curriculum

From Liz Arundel, Shiatsu Shin Tai Teacher, Scotland Just back from the teacher Training at the BSS in London.  We had such a fabulous time, exchanging Shin Tai treatments, playing with proprioceptive exercises and Qi Gong, showcasing the talented styles of teaching we all have, and sharing gorgeous food.

Thanks to Char Scrivener, Gill Hattersley, and Tracy Krikler for all the organizing.  The School is strong and providing excellent Shiatsu Shin Tai training for future students. So delighted to be back 'home'. Thanks gang!

 

British School of Shiatsu Teacher Training Shiatsu Shin Tai Cervical Adjustment

 

Shiatsu Shin Tai Training BSS Jani GolobicBSS Shiatsu Teacher Training

The Primary Information System Takes Primary Placement in Curriculum

Teachers at the British School of Shiatsu in London are gearing up for the beginning of their 2014-15 courses.  For the second year in a row, they are beginning their curriculum with Governing Vessel/Spine and Conception Vessel/Hara classes.  The study of the primary information system of the body (GV/CV) is now the primary part of their shiatsu curriculum.  

It makes so much sense to begin the study of shiatsu with the study of GV/CV!  The British School of Shiatsu is the first shiatsu school to make the core Shin Tai courses the first part of every student's training.  Beginning in autumn of 2013, Char Scrivener and Gill Hattersley, the directors of the school, put  the Governing Vessel/Spine and Conception Vessel/Hara classes before the more traditional shiatsu study.  Reports are that students seemed to thrive with the new curriculum, and that it was a fantastic success.

New Shin Tai School in Slovenia

From Jani Golobic: Hi friends,

I'm happy that I can tell you that we started with a 3 year, 700 hour Shintai/Shiatsu school in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  "We" are Gill, Char and me.  We have 12 students, and I think this is wonderful beginning.  Hurrah!

The curriculum is modeled after the one they have created in England, with Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel being taught before the more traditional shiatsu course.  Shin Tai is really making headway.

Shin Tai in Slovenia

Shiatsu Shin Tai in Slovenia

Shiatsu Shin Tai Bodywork Enhances Development

Bodywork Accelerates Motion Awaken Motion

Shiatsu Shin Tai bodywork initiates accelerated wave movement in the body.  We begin to physically, emotionally, and mentally integrate experiences and information that were formerly believed to be only available to us through reaching very high states of spiritual development, or by leaving the physical body altogether.  As Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel motion increases and the Central Channel accelerates its activity, the wave experience is activated while we are still in the three-dimensional form.

 

Higher Frequencies Affect Perception

When we bring a higher frequency vibration into our body, the whole quality of our material world is transformed in terms of how we create and perceive it.  In this way, we are using our physical form and its resonating capacity to bring the entire material plane into a higher vibration.

We are unifying within ourselves the paradox of particle (body) and wave (consciousness) and activating the abstract functions of our higher mind.  Evolution is taking place as a result of the interaction between our consciousness and our pre-programmed cellular memory.

Enhance Development & Expansion

We can see that the circulation of energy, as one of our primary experiences, not only directs our growth and development during gestation, but it also regulates information exchanges in this world.  As the GV and CV accelerate and integrate with the other energy functions along the spine, it opens the possibility for our continued development and expansion into a multi-dimensional experience.

multi-dimensional experience