Alice Whieldon and in conversation with Gill Hall
Growing out of the 2017 European Shiatsu Congress (ESF), a conversation started about women in Shiatsu. Specifically, some people at the Vienna Congress expressed a view that the lack of women on podiums and running high profile workshops reflected an ongoing problem. Gill Hall and I discussed this together and collaborated in a webinar and in developing these thoughts.
As we know, the overwhelming majority of practitioners are women and a disproportionate number of international teachers are men. For some of us, the Shiatsu environment can feel like stepping back into a world we thought we had left behind in the 1980s. This essay is a reflection on some of the issues discussed, privately and publicly. It is not based on formal research and, I suggest, it would be good to put some research together to get a better idea of some of the facts.
by Alice Whieldon PhD
The key to what makes Shiatsu different from most science-based, as well as complementary medical systems, is that it is soul medicine.
The term ‘soul’ is western and can refer to different things in different theological systems; it is used to here to refer to the unchanging, original self. For most of us, our souls are obscured by the busyness and drama of mind and body which are, by definition, in a state of ill-health. The human condition is one in which we are identified with this noise of mind and body, but this is not who we really are. Who we really are is the unchanging bit.
In soul medicine, while we work with the stuff of mind and body because that is the material presented to us, we do not work for the primary benefit of mind and body. This is because, working on mind and body is not where real help lies. Real help, where change is fundamental, lies in addressing the soul to help steer its way back to consciousness and fulfilment. This is why Masunaga called Shiatsu, the ‘King of medicine’; because it deals with health at the core.
by Alice Whieldon
In Shiatsu, diagnosis and treatment are the same. Diagnosis is treatment; treatment is the process of diagnosis. Masunaga and Kishi both stressed this point; it is the Japanese Shiatsu way and for Kishi this was the dynamic moment of Seiki Soho. But, it can be hard to achieve in practice.
Our modern, western language and ways of thinking tell us that we can separate diagnosis and treatment. The English language certainly does, other European languages may have nuances I know nothing about, but my guess is that they are essentially the same on this. In any case, language does not map onto reality piece by piece. The word ‘table’ has no actual relationship to the thing that is or is not a table; ‘me’ is the name I call myself, it is not who/what I am.
Welcome to the second interview in a series with female leaders, teachers and practitioners in the holistic therapeutic fields. These are women whose teaching has inspired me and I have been keen to learn more about their personal philosophy, experiences and the influences on their professional practice. I hope you enjoy hearing their story too! Let us know your thoughts, Nicole. For further articles by leading female practitioners visit:
Profile: Alice Whieldon, MA PhD SFHEA MRSS(T)
Alice has spent her life researching the keys to what helps in finding fulfilment and acting less from old traumas and patterns. In 1985 she came across Shiatsu and it was this work, along with the Enlightenment Intensives, that struck particularly strong chords for her. She has remained a student of both disciplines ever since.
As body-based therapists, as creative people, we need to be uncompromising in our pursuit and propagation of the truth. We need to be asking ourselves some basic questions and we need to be unflinching in offering and debating answers. This is the way to our own health, the health of our clients and the health of Shiatsu.
One of these questions is simply: what do we think we're doing? It is one we often assume we know the answer to but can rarely articulate. Indeed, I have met hostility from therapists on asking this question – I find this breathtaking. What business do we have being therapists if we are unable to approach the most basic questions about what we are setting out to do?
Kishi by Alice Whieldon & Paul Lundberg
Paris, 1971, the ragged end of Cultural Revolution and a city raw from student protest; a backdrop of Vietnam spiralling to the inevitable crash. A tired young Japanese man emerges from the dark of Gare de L’Est after a long journey by sea and the Trans-Siberian through Russia. Clutching only a suitcase and a piece of paper with a name and address, with little English and no French, a half-completed degree in landscape architecture and the blessings of his Shiatsu masters, Namikoshi and Masunaga, to carry the torch of Shiatsu to Europe, 21 year old Kishi Akinobu (then Shinmei) takes a step into the dusty European bustle of the city of his dreams and marks the beginning of a cross-cultural love affair that would last over half a century.
by Alice Whieldon MRSS(T)
This article was inspired by my work with Kishi on our book, Sei-ki: Life in Resonance, The Secret Art of Shiatsu 2011 Singing Dragon. Kishi worked closely with Masunaga for 10 years before developing his own approach. While writing the book he looked back with renewed interest at those years with his teacher, recalling the man and reading his work, some of which he had rescued from a rubbish bin where they languished after Masunaga’s resignation from The Japan Shiatsu College in 1968. These are not his words or thoughts but are informed by our many conversations.
Meridians were not originally part of Shiatsu; they were introduced by Masunaga sensei for about 10 years as he experimented with different ways of explaining the work for the purpose of teaching. They are not mentioned in Japan’s official Shiatsu training which follows Namikoshi’s original model. By defining Shiatsu in major part as ‘meridian work’, I wonder if we are limiting it unhelpfully and sticking with a format that was never intended to carry the practise as it does now?