Thursday, June 28, 2012


Back in the mid 90s Stephanie and I attended shiatsu massage classes.  Both of us practiced it for a few years.  For me it started when a friend received a gift certificate for a shiatsu massage from her husband.  He worked with the wife of a practicing shiatsu massage therapist.  This therapist eventually turned into one of my mentors.  He talked me into taking classes.  I talked Stephanie into joining me on this strange journey.  This is her side of the story.

In 1994(ish), Kim and I decided that our calling of the day was to be Shiatsu therapists. I’d been working as a programmer / database architect for five years and was in the midst of my second mid-life crisis. I’d left the world of full time employment and was working temporary gigs as a consultant. The pay was insane (almost double what I made as a salaried employee), so I was able to take large chunks of time off to follow the Dead and Phish around the country and take week long Shiatsu workshops with the Ohashiatsu school of oriental massage in Evanston, Illinois.
Shiastu is different from regular, Swedish massage in a number of ways.  Firstly, the client is fully clothed and lies on a mat on the floor. Secondly, instead of trying to work out muscular knots, the goal is to manipulate energy (chi) in the body in the same way as acupuncture, on the same points (tsubos) on the same energy lines (meridians) in order to restore overall balance.  There is an entire philosophy of Eastern medicine which this type of massage follows, which makes the training that much more intensive.
At the beginning of our training, we went to a week-long workshop at Honeycreek, a camp in Wisconsin with cabins and a lake and a mess hall. The experience was magical and transformational, and we were hooked.  There’s nothing better than a shiatsu massage, and a non-stop week of it, even by novices, was heavy-duty.
The main gist of a session is to restore balance by releasing stagnant energy from meridians that are blocked (jitsu) and to increase the energy in meridians that are lacking (kyo). Each meridian relates to different internal organs which relate to various emotional excesses or deficiencies, so restoring balance is considered to be healing to both body and mind.
That week changed my whole energetic configuration. A major block in my yang wood meridian (gall bladder) was coaxed into releasing some of its control – and my overall outlook on life was just different afterward – similar to how I was changed by my first Grateful Dead concert.
I don’t necessarily believe in the whole theoretical model on which the practice of shiatsu is based, but I do agree with the need for models as a way of describing and distinguishing the framework for being. There are many models that were created to define the self  - like chakras, auras, and astrology – but I don’t think they are ‘Real’ because they are immeasurable and subject to individual interpretation.
 I see them as just tools, like a language, to help people get on the same page when discussing the subtleties of existence. It was uncanny, however, that the deep-seated pains and ailments in my body correlated directly with the personality traits of a jitsu wood element with a kyo earth element.
 It would be ridiculous to believe that five elements (water, fire, metal, wood, earth), which were chosen before the periodic table was invented, can define our state of being, just as the alignment of the planets at our birth could never generate a predestined personality - I am a Scorpio and my personality didn't change when when Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf influence on our solar system.
Question:  How many of you really identify with your astrological sign and feel it is an accurate representation of your character?  How many know your moon sign and rising sign - are these accurate as well?   
Sorry - I lost focus...this post is getting long - ask me more about my mid-life crises and my stint as a massage therapist / yoga instructor some time, and you will hear more about my thoughts on Shiatsu.  And ask me about the Echo of Life - remember that?

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