Ecology and Touch: Applying Interbeing to the Practice of Shiatsu Therapy
The goal of this shiatsu approach is to support healing by facilitating the receiver’s body-mind experience of the truth of their interexistence with Earth and all living beings, and as a result to create space for receiver to have a healthier relationship with Earth and all living beings.
For those unacquainted with the concept of Interbeing, I recommend first reading this brief text on the simple truth of interexistence by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn.
Below are four clinical strategies for applying
Interbeing to the practice of shiatsu. They are intended for
exploration and application by experienced practitioners of shiatsu,
massage and other forms of bodywork, and by students under the guidance
of a teacher.
Transpose the landscape onto the receiver.
- Cover the prone-facing receiver with a blanket
- While holding your intention on giving a treatment to the receiver, at the same time imagine that the receiver is now indistinguishable from the rest of the Earth. It is as if they have melted into the landscape and what is left is this kind of mountainous landscape of rolling hills and valleys.
- With your hands, first palpate those hills and valleys, and feel for the kyo and jitsu. Notice the meridians as rivers running through the landscape.
- As you give shiatsu, think about working this landscape, healing and restoring this landscape.
Transpose the Earth onto the receiver.
- While straddling the prone receiver, press down onto the landscape with your palms. Think to yourself, “I am treating the Earth”. Press and try to imagine you are feeling the Earth deep below. You are feeling for the Earth’s qi. If you feel a feeling in your feet, that’s good, that means you’ve got a circuit.
- With the receiver in supine, keep one hand on the hara and think to yourself, “the hara is the Earth”. Feel for the state of the Earth: where does it need the support of your touch.
Work the Five Elements in the context of both the receiver and the Earth.
- When working Water meridians (Kidney/Bladder), think: “I am working down to the core of the Earth” or “I am working down into the deep of the oceans”
- When working Wood meridians (Liver/Gall Bladder), think: “I am restoring the lushness, creativity, and spirit of the rainforests”
- When working Fire meridians (Heart/Small Intestine/Triple Heater/Heart Protector), think: “I am working on the Heart of the World” or “I am working Gaia, the mind/spirit/shen of the Earth”
- When working Earth meridians (Spleen/Stomach), think: “I am caring for Mother Earth”
- When working Metal meridians (Lung/Large Intestine), think: “I am restoring the most precious metals of the Earth”
Give the treatment while meditating on and experiencing interbeing.
- As you work, consider the deep interconnectedness of all life.
- As you touch the client, you may notice a generally more porous feeling. This is part of the tactile experience of Interbeing. It is important to work with strong compassionate intention and not get lost in this experience. This is not about “merging” with the receiver, this is merely observing that you and the receiver are part of everything.
- As you are treating, consider that when you are touching the receiver, you are touching the entire universe.
In my experience, this requires a lot of focus and grounding to simultaneously be mindful of working the client and exploring Interbeing. Although it may not be yours.
- This is not about:
- Forgetting about the receiver and the receiver’s needs and wants: they always come first
- Getting lost or ungrounded in environmental reveries
- Losing professional boundaries and personally “merging” with the receiver
- Forcing an experience onto the receiver
- This is about:
- Maintaining healthy boundaries
- Maintaining healing intention and pragmatism
- Being super-aware of the receiver and their simultaneously dualistic and non-dualistic nature
- Holding the entire experience with compassion.
I welcome your comments and thoughts on the use and efficacy of this approach.