A Modest Plan to Fix Your Machine

I tend to see shiatsu as part of a clever but modest maintenance plan for your body.  I wouldn’t necessarily put bodywork on the front line of a battle with cancer or heart disease (though shiatsu has been shown to help relieve the sufferings of chemotherapy) I think its a good thing to already have in place if (God forbid) you have to face cancer or MS or something you thought only other people get.

As such bodywork tends to lack glamor. If you’re freeing people from terrible circumstances with heroic efforts in the operating room or on the battle field then, well, people sit up and take notice.  But if you’re just a mother reminding her son to sit up straight, well that’s not very interesting is it?  Yet think of all the pain that is avoided if the son does take his mother’s advice. Preventative care is like the negative space in a drawing or the silence between the notes; you have to train yourself a bit to understand how important they are and once trainied you have to continue to remind yourself not to lose sight of their magnificent emptiness. Things like taiji, yoga, calisthenics and standing meditation require rememberance, mindfulness, and consistent effort (unfortunately).  I’m like many of you, hard pressed to turn away from my latest distraction in order to remember to sit up straight and eat my vegetables.

A well thought out plan is also a boon to getting on track and enjoying the benefits of a consistent maintenance plan, but like me, creating and executing good plans may not be the gift God gave you.  Don’t fret, I think its enough to be willing to look deeply and address what’s there in front of you with out judging and then acting sensibly.  What do I mean by that? Well strive to move from the particular to the general  in how you address your own needs.  There’s just a lot of information out there, a lot of workout plans, a lot of systems of spiritual exercise, a lot of approaches to dieting.  Start by looking at what you actually eat, how you actually move, what motivates you. Then look at what the science, what philosophy, what morality might be saying about these behaviors. What sounds right to you?  What did your parents eat? What did your grandparents eat?  What kind of lives did they lead and what kind of body have they bequeathed to you. Think about your childhood and think about your strengths.  Understand that you will tend to get more mileage out of playing up your strengths rather than laboring to bring up your weaknesses. Take yourself seriously. When, after weeks of research, you can’t find any scientific evidence supporting your 20 cookie a day dietary supplement than take yourself seriously enough to try something else.

Maybe you’ve heard that diet and exercise are useless. They’re useless and even harmful because they’re temporary measures.  Training and nutrition are better terms because they are part of your personal evolution. See if you can make this mindset change from serial dieting to giving your body the nutrition it needs to function optimally.  Transition from exercising here and there, waving your arms when the fancy hits you, to training in a way that suits your lifestyle and inclinations on a consistent basis.  Focus on making improvements and increasing your capacity. Bodywork is meaningful in a regime of training and nutrition but less so as a get rich scheme.

Look at bodywork in the context of your personal evolution.  Certainly some forms of bodywork work well to correct injury to the musculoskeletal system (depending on their severity) and that may be the reason you first explore Rolfing or Tibetan point holding but don’t lose sight of what an attitude toward prevention can bring.  When I say personal evolution I don’t just mean woo woo evolution but I also mean things like: “can you get more shoulder mobility with less pain?  Can you correct imbalances brought on by carrying that heavy ass son of yours for two years?” One source of ideas for these corrections for me has been the work of Kelly Starrett.  Here’s one of the early videos (2011) from his Mobility Projects as an example. In past blogs I’ve hinted at self shiatsu and its potential as a self-maintenance strategy and next week I’ll begin an exploration of what I could call level one relaxation (but don’t):  Sofa Shiatsu. Some of the things I will be trying to describe and show are inspired by Starrett’s work but adapted for non-athletes and normal Janes and Joes. Check me out next week for the start of the Sofa Shiatsu protocol.


Reponse Ability

Shiatsu is both treatment and training.  When you study shiatsu you’re bound to come across Shizuto Masunaga’s edict that when one makes an energetic diagnosis by palpating the back or abdomen that this action is both treatment and diagnosis.  in shiatsu one shouldn’t separate treatment and diagnosis or knowing.  The receiver should also not separate treatment and knowing.

Perhaps a particular physical or psychological pain has brought you to my praxis but rather than focus completely on whether the treatment relieves the pain or not the receiver, I think, is obliged to explore his own kinestheic sense and increase their own self knowledge.  You may think, “shiatsu and acupuncture are just placebos so of course you rely on a conditioned response from the client.”  Without directly refuting that statement just yet I would say that having the ability to respond to both the treatment and the knowlege it brings, is ancillary to the treatment and is instead part of your job as a client or patient seeking health.

One of the faults of our health (re: insurance) system is that we try to insure not just accidents and catastrophic occurences but also all of our normal maintainance.  If you have car insurance, you’re insured if someone barrels into you as you wait a stop sign, but you’re not insured for every oil change or tire rotation. That would increase your insurance costs exponentially.  Yet in the field of their personal health most people are hard pressd to do any “maintainance” unless their health insurance picks up the tab. Yoga or pilates classes, sure if my insurance will cover it.  Shiatsu or psychotherapy? Only if I can bill it to the collective. I’m not saying this is you, but the existence of particularly in europe, of socialized medicine encourages this type of thinking to a large degree. If you’re a “health nut” like me, and you try to make conscious food choices and exercise regularly you’re not getting any recognition, encouragement or financial incentives for these positive behaviors per se. But if you’re waiting until you’re “ripe for the emergency room” before you act, then the system is designed to kick in and give you the most expensive care imaginable. Penny wise and Pound foolish.

In this interview Dr. Smith tries to make the point that health care is theoretically inexpensive and that it would actually be inexpensive if the market were free and government would get out of the way and let health providers compete.  I think there are many merits to this argument but it presupposes a client and patient base willing to take responsibility, willing to pay for their oil changes out of their own pockets, so to speak.  The day when most everyone has the ability to respond to what their body is saying to them may be coming soon and is one of the advantages to using modalities like meditation and bodywork. If you’re willing to invest more mentally and psychologically in shiatsu than “I hope my knee pain disappears,” then evolving your own health routines are not far down the road.  As you evolve your own singular approach and awareness of who you are in this body, all of the seemingly hot air I spew about nutrition and training can be gradually integrated into your unique approach.  Eventually you may be willing and able to easily compare this surgeon with that and decide if you’re better off heading off to Poland for your dental procedure or Nicaragua for a cancer therapy. But as Stephen Molyneaux alludes to in the above article this mindset has to be in place before disaster hits. You have to buy your the insurance before the flood sweep your house away.

Begin with the simple routines and awarenesses in and of daily life. These don’t have to be shiatsu or yoga or kinesiology if you don’t believe they’re proven or effective. But don’t just wait around doing nothing, eating chips and watching Big Time Wrestling on Saturday mornings either. Don’t be penny wise and (£)pound foolish.