I've been practicing, teaching and writing about shiatsu since I graduated from the Shiatsu College in the UK in 1989. I spent the first ten years of my shiatsu studies trying to find the best teachers I could and then doing my best to copy them. It always worked for a while, but then I would come back to the same intangible sense that something important was missing. Meanwhile, to improve my skills as a shiatsu teacher, I studied NLP in some depth and that led me to Clean Language. That was it! – a way to bring language into my sessions by asking questions that make sense to the body. With its Zen-like simplicity and rigor, Clean Language invites both practitioner and client to listen to themselves in a truly mindful way.

How could someone who loved language as much as I did come to be practicing shiatsu, which in its original Japanese form at least is done almost without any words at all? Bringing this subtle and elegant questioning process into my sessions helps my clients listen to themselves, and helps us to come to a shared understanding of what they want to achieve. When you invite the bodymind into the conversation like this, painful and frustrating symptoms can rapidly turn into signposts on the path towards the kind of life a person really wants to be living. And in researching my book Words That Touch (2017), I found the neurological explanation for Lao Tzu's great riddle: the Tao that can be spoken of is not the “constant/eternal/real” Tao because speech traps us in the left brain hemisphere's abstract world of names, concepts and categories, at one remove from reality.

It's only through the right hemisphere and its wordless but deeply embodied way of knowing, that we can ever get a sense of what the unspoken Tao is really all about. This is how I love to work, integrating gentle and respectful questioning with the meridian-based bodywork of shiatsu. That way, we invite the two sides of the brain to have a better relationship with each other and our patients to have better relationships with themselves.

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