Where is Balance?

Balance is a word we see used a huge amount when it comes to anything to do with health and wellbeing as the ‘thing’ to aspire to achieving. It is used by a lot of therapists who often claim to have the way to helping us achieve ‘balance’. As such, it has become something we would all love to have and often spend a lot of time and energy focused upon, yet what are we really chasing? Do we even really have an idea what it means to us? And is it something so narrow we should be aiming for anyhow?

Firstly, I don’t believe one can truly have ‘balance’ if they are not connected to their inner world of emotions and feelings. We need to be able to experience sensations on a visceral level first to embody the experience, then to make sense of it on a conscious level; we cannot gain it externally without having a conscious connection back to the internal world.

Secondly, we can never actually achieve that point of perfect balance, as by my understanding it describes a static point, and as human beings, we are never static from birth till death. All the body rhythms, the blood, lymphatic fluids, the movement in the cerebral spinal fluids to name but are few all ebb and flow constantly like the tide, continuously moving and changing by day, by month, by season – we breath in and out right down to the cellular level and these rhythms are always in a state of movement or at a momentary point before movement starts again.

So rather than ‘looking’ for a specific point to focus upon, I prefer to look at it in terms of a ‘zone’, a place where we experience the energy we take in meeting the energy we give out, where all the organs and bodily functions are operating within their optimum ‘zone’. That zone is the place where we can move forward in our daily life with minimal effort, we are clear and focused upon our purpose and our actions to meet that are relatively unhindered by our psychological and ancestral patterning. Yet every moment or phase in life is ephemeral, so as we move onto the next moment, so we need to continue to be mindful of what it is that is pulling us one way or another.

So how do we know where that zone is and how can you find it? Every experience we have in life helps us gain a clearer idea of where that theoretical place is for ourselves. So therefore, to truly know where that may be, then we need to live and experience life, to explore where the extremes are, where the edge of our conscious world lies. When we know where the extremes are then we can gain a greater insight as to where our optimum or ‘balanced’ zone lies so long as we are doing all this with a conscious awareness.

We need to reflect on how good our entire being is when we are in a great place experiencing all the joys of life, and then we also need to embrace the dark moments, the times of despair, of deep sadness, of rage etc as it is often in those moments that the greatest insights into who we are and what drives us become apparent.

On a workshop many years ago the following saying was shared which perhaps best sums this up:

Whatever is happening is exactly what needs to be happening for you to learn what you are here to learn, so take notice what is happening.

So, rather than bury our head in the sand or suppress the feeling, the emotion, the ache or pain, ask yourself why you are at that point, what is your learning? When one can truly embrace both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, then one will start to understand where the place of peace between those is and what resources they can draw upon to maintain themselves in that zone.

Yin and yang stones
Yin and yang stones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To operate within the ‘zone’, we need to create a healthy routine to nurture the body and mind that includes appropriate exercise, good quality food and have some

form of mindfulness practice. However, integral to maintaining a routine that supports one to operate within their optimum zone is having time out from those routines. This is the cycle between Yin and Yang, just as day becomes night and day again; we need focused action followed by rest before embarking upon the focused action again. Understanding the importance of this cyclical movement allows us to reflect and experience what the differences between the two are.

So we need on occasion to let go of the focus and have an all night party, sleep all day and do nothing – let it all go and just be in the moment. Yet if we spend all our lives out on the extremities we tax and strain our body – It consumes more energy. If one works or approaches being ‘balanced’ in an intense and overly focused way, then even though they may be eating the right foods and doing the ‘right’ things, something is not right. The body mind is tight and unyielding.

So in summary, balance is something we pass by occasionally, however if we live with a mindful awareness of what is going on in our life, are proactive in our health and wellbeing including receiving some external input or reflection from trusted therapists, then we will minimise the extreme ups and downs and maximise the time within our own optimum zone.

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.

The quality of touch

Afer just coming back from a treatment from another bodywork modality, I have reflected on what makes a really good shiatsu treatment unique, and that for me is its focus on the quality of touch and connection with the receiver.

Inherent in touch is trust; I push too hard and the client resists or protects – it is an instinctive reaction. Touching and holding in a way that is supportive and nurturing creates a safe space, a possibility to explore moving away from where one currently is to somewhere more open and aligned with ones true essence. What comes to mind is the story of the elephant whisper in South Africa who had to first gain the trust of abused elephants in order to show them another way of being and ultimately save them from probable death.

Whilst our logical mind can justify ‘no pain, no gain’, deep inside something does not quite feel right when we are being pushed into a state of ‘alignment’. The right-brained, scientific approach to dealing with the body has a very sound basis from which to work and has moved our understanding of the human body forward in huge leaps and bounds, however harmony is the ultimate balance and I believe that the application of that knowledge with respect and trust of the receiver is that balance.

In my opinion, what one of the most important elements that every shiatsu practitioner needs to master is touching one’s client from their centre, or the hara as it is known in Japanese. When we think about it, we might ask what is so hard about touching someone? However, to really touch from our hara we have to ensure our body is in exactly the right place, which then means as a giver you can be 100% relaxed in the physical body to allow your self to breath deeply and connect with your deep essence. Only then are you in a place to be truly open to allow your receiver to trust and open to the connection between the two people. From a givers perspective it requires a constant feedback loop to ensure you are always in that place no matter where you are working. This is why shiatsu is mostly done on the floor, as it is easier to find that place when closer to the ground on ‘all fours’ in a crawling position. It is the realm of the pure essence of a baby, when a human is at the point in its life when it is in the moment 100% of the time (much to the great challenge to parents).

This is perhaps what defines part of the essence of shiatsu; it is not a therapy that is ‘practitioner doing work on a client’, it is two people working together to create a level of awareness. The practitioner more on the conscious, the receiver more on the unconscious yet ultimately it has to be the receiver who is calling the shots as it is their body. The saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” is one I use often with students. This is operating out of respect for the receiver’s innate healing ability and something that we as a human beings all need to learn and embrace in our life – self empowerment. We all have all the resources we need within – bloody hard to find the damn things though!!

Feedback Flower
Feedback Flower (Photo credit: jonathanpberger)

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