To talk or not to talk, that is the question -
This article began as a response to an email from a shiatsu shin tai practitioner. She was experiencing complicated responses to treatments herself, as well as in people who were receiving bodywork from her. A main question she had was regarding the role of a practitioner in providing advice to clients about lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, therapy, etc.). She also had concerns over the fact that most receivers did not have the will or ability to address changes that they needed to make to improve their health.
These are issues that are important for all of us as bodyworkers to address. We realize quickly after beginning to work with people that there is more to giving treatments than the hands-on work, although that is primary. From the initial hello and discussion, getting a receiver on the futon/table, leading them into the treatment itself, and getting them up and on their way afterwards, it can be a bit of a juggling act to keep the session focused on the hands-on work. People coming for treatment are often in dire need of compassion and assistance, and it is our job to make sure our hands do most of the work rather than our mouths!
Below are sections from the email (italicized in quotes) along with my responses (not in quotes) -
"In my experience, it is a real minority of people who are willing to put the immense time and effort that is needed into self healing. A lot of this is cultural conditioning that other people can cure or heal you, without the 'patient' having to do anything. People are very reluctant to address diets, other than maybe a basic alteration. We are so disconnected from our food and bodies, that it has become imperceivable that food and emotions are underlying the majority, if not all of the discomfort in our bodies and minds."
Shin Tai (an evolving form of shiatsu) focuses on clearing the primary information system of the body (the governing vessel & conception vessel meridians). This is done through working on many layers of the body: bones, muscles, organs, meridians, chakras, outerbody.... The practitioner learns to read which layer is the priority and works accordingly. Working directly with the body is considered the practitioner's main job. They are trained to clear restrictions and create more alignment & vitality. This helps to reestablish the receiver's will to take care of themselves.
When the body is more clear and 'online', the receiver then has access to more accurate information as to what will be best for them at that time. This might be in regards to diet, exercise, relationships, environment, job, etc. Their own body has the most wisdom regarding life choices and direction. Practitioners are instructed to give some pointers and references, but mainly to trust in the process of the treatment itself to empower the receiver's body to direct their life. Therein will be the most accurate, real-time information to best serve the receiver.
"I spent years in therapy, believing that if I fixed the emotions (childhood sexual abuse), then everything would be ok. But that didn't work. Then I moved to bodywork, thinking that would solve everything. But that didn't work either. Then the spiritual life took precedence as a solution. But no, that didn't solve everything either! Now it's on to dietary needs!!"
The fact that you are finding your way along different avenues that support your healing and development is in part due to the therapy, bodywork and spiritual work that you did. It is normal that the priority of what to address can change over time. For example, sometimes diet will be most important, and then it can shift to bodywork. Often, we as receivers do not recognize changes that are occurring because we are so attached to them showing up in a certain form.
That being said, shiatsu/shin tai practitioners are trained to give some instruction on diet, exercise and other self-development practices. Practitioners are also trained to know when and how to give information that could be helpful to a client. Of course these skills require years of practice and development, and every practitioner has different capabilities and strengths that they can offer their clients.
But always the main role is to do the bodywork. Not talk too much, nor get into the client's story or issues through words too much. If it seems like therapy or a nutritionist or a trainer could be helpful, the practitioner may give references. But we let the touch do our main work. That will empower the client to learn to listen to their own inner guidance, their own blueprint. Nothing could be more accurate than that. Getting caught up in discussions and advice about diet, etc. often do not penetrate and create shifts in the client. But working beneath the words, beneath the typical advice - that's where shin tai can offer a unique opportunity to empower transformation! It is not personal and can save the practitioner a lot of energy.
"I feel we are doing clients a disservice by not mentioning lifestyle. When people seek treatments, they often have no real idea of what is involved or the depth of what they are entering into. They just want to be 'fixed'. Personal responsibility is not something many people want to hear about. I have a 9 year old who feels and sees the effects junk and certain foods have on his system, as he holds a cramping stomach or has to stop playing football while he has another coughing fit. But then he sees others eating those foods and not having any visible negative effects. He won't do a 3 minute qi gong exercise to help strengthen his bladder, yet hates wetting the bed! Adults have many, many more years of resistance in them.
I was extremely disillusioned with shiatsu and had been for a while. Shin tai has recovered some life force around bodywork for me. Ironically, I am feeling the effects of shin tai at a deeper, more fundamental level, even during a time when both my physical and mental health is at such a low ebb."
When life force is recovered, people naturally have more energy and will to address the changes they need to make. They also have access to what direction would be most useful for them at a given moment in time. Of course, every choice is 'useful', but some bring health and development with more ease than others. The goal in shin tai is to empower the receiver to heal without so much suffering, without so many hard lessons that wake them up through crisis. It was years of experiencing clients not being able to make changes in the factors that created their illnesses that led shin tai work to make hands-on work the priority for introducing change into the receiver's life.
If you were receiving treatments with me and I heard how you were feeling and how you became disillusioned with bodywork, I would encourage you to really notice the feelings underneath that. Feel them. Feel how your body feels when you feel like that. Going through that and those feelings is actually uncovering the tone of pain that underlies your physical symptoms. Support yourself in whatever ways you can and whatever ways seem most pertinent and potent.
Touch offers a unique opportunity -
One of the unique strengths of bodywork is its ability to introduce change from deep within the body. Without any words, without giving any advice, without the receiver needing to consciously process past trauma - change moves forward. Restrictions loosen, life force surges, organs regenerate, emotions mature. Psychological distortion lessens. Consciousness and physical health grow.
It does not mean all problems go away and health is perfect. When I began receiving bodywork over 20 years ago, I was in a serious physical and emotional condition. I had little knowledge of how to take care of myself. I was so unaware of my body (although I didn't think so!) and unable to take much responsibility for my situation. Through a combination of treatments, lifestyle changes, supportive relationships and many, many painful 'mistakes' I worked my way towards a stronger more balanced state. But I still require much self care to function at a level that many people seem to take for granted.
Unleash the inner guidance -
It is each individual's responsibility to keep listening to their inner guidance as it grows in sensitivity. We can encourage our clients in this direction. That guidance will continue to lead them through layers of choices that may be dynamic, changing over time with the needs of their body. It is best to not to get attached to one way of eating, one path of healing, rigid beliefs about what is best and what will work. These things will change, they will shift. Each person can grow in power to read and act on the information that lies within their own body to lead then towards regeneration and vibrant health. There will be unexpected directions that this will take, and it is important to keep listening and engage in every stage of the journey.
It can be effective to share this knowledge with our clients as they move through the healing process. Look for moments when it is appropriate to talk to them them about how the work is affecting their body and their life. Keep your eye out for the times where a little bit of advice can go a long way. But keep the focus on using your hands. They will help unleash the inner guidance that lies within the body.