Kyo and Jitsu: casuse and effect

One of the core concepts in the Zen Shiatsu theory as developed by Shizuto Masunaga in the mid-twentieth century, is that of ‘kyo and jitsu’. The theory explains a dynamic within the functioning of the human being; from an idealistic state of perfect harmony, a kyo need arises. In order for the system to move back towards that state of harmony, there needs to be a jitsu action, with the sole purpose to assist the organism to meet its need. They are two parts of the same dynamic; one does not exist without the other. If there is no need, there is no need for action. No human is free of this dynamic; it is the essence of our life. Our needs are many, from the, simple unconscious activities we undertake for day-to-day survival, to the deep ancestral patterns we need to work with our whole life.

These deep ancestral patterns, or constitutional imbalances are what are referred to as genetic predispositions in the western model of understanding. I prefer to see it in the terms of the evolution of the human race; we model our parents who modelled their parents etc. This is the essence of the old saying, “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man”. In those early years children are infinitely more experiencing the world via their instincts, which are highly attuned to energetics. They watch and observe and learn from their parents how to operate in the world. It becomes the foundation of their being; it is the synergy of nature and nurture. Generally, once they reach seven years of age, they start (or in most countries now, they have already started) schooling, which in most systems involves rigorous training of their brain to operate mainly out of the rational, logical centre, which is the foundation of our modern western life. In those first seven years they have ‘soaked’ up the essence of their parents into the fabric of their being.

If we are aware of and consciously engage with the process of kyo and jitsu, then we can evolve through those deep patterns, to make a step closer towards that place of perfect harmony. This inbuilt cycle is an integral part of what drives an organism forwards, an unconscious purpose for it’s existence.

What is important here in terms of working with a person in a therapeutic context is the point, that if there is no need, there is no need for an action. In practice we might see the need, or kyo, as an inability to draw the energy it requires to function normally. The bodily response will be for the resultant action, or jitsu, to be overworking or drawing too much energy in its efforts to harmonise the system.

In terms of bodywork, where there is an inability to draw what is needed within the system, we may find the area cold and lifeless, or in a more extreme state, tight and protected without any give or resilience. Pushing or mobilising may create a deepening of that contraction or protection. It may cause a sharp pain that goes on beyond the physical to the core of the persons being. It cannot be beaten into submission. What it requires is holding, patience and trust in order for the body to feel safe, to start ‘breathing’ again, to bring the life of energy back to the element or area. It is the key part to work with in order to allow evolution of the individual. It is the place of the deep learning and a place they may need to be with for quite some time before they have the resources to move forward from.

On the other hand, the body’s own action to meet the need is overactive in its manifestation. It yells, it screams, it is noticed and it consumes our immediate attention. It niggles constantly until we are driven to do something about it. Yet it is only the messenger, the bearer of news that there is a far more pressing part of the body mind that needs attention. By focusing on dealing with the overactive, we gain instant gratification, a temporary relief, yet we do not meet the deep need. It remains hidden and we do not move along the continuum to the nirvana of perfect harmony, but we find ourselves back at the same point one week, one month, one year later with the messenger or jitsu action needing to yell louder. All great for keeping clients co-dependent upon your ability to take away the pain in the moment, but not in facilitating the deep growth of the individual and perhaps even the collective human race?

In my opinion, this approach is a fundamental flaw in the traditional western approach to medicine which works solely, in most cases, on dealing with eliminating or suppressing the surface symptoms. It often does not give the time or space to explore the underlying need. I am heartened however by a trend away from that approach to ones which are seeking to look for the kyo need.

So look beyond the surface to the depths to the key to health and healing.


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