Recognising the Soul-Body-Mind Connection in Healing Work
by Esther Mason
I am a Shiatsu practitioner with over 20 years’ experience. After completing an MA in Music at Vienna University I moved to London where I studied Shiatsu Therapy. Shiatsu is a deeply relaxing hands-on, non-invasive treatment based on Traditional Chinese Medicine originating in Japan. I treat the body using finger pressure, gentle rotations and stretches along the meridians/channels of the body. The treatment takes place fully clothed on a massage table.
Additionally, I trained in Systemic Constellation with the CSC and completed courses in Sukshma Marma Therapy which is routed in the ancient Ayurvedic tradition subtly manipulating marma points (vital points) along the nadis (energy lines) through transcendental touch to purify, strengthen, rejuvenate and revitalise the body. I support people throughout their experience of pain and illness, grief, work challenges, pregnancy and childbirth, care giving, end of life and also in times of personal growth and development.www.integrativebodytherapy.co.uk
Recognising the soul-body-mind connection in healing work
I had worked purely with Shiatsu for many years, when I began to notice that on occasions, something was missing to help my clients heal. My personal journey of finding peace and strength through Systemic Constellations led me to train in this work and then integrate it into my Shiatsu practice. I discovered that the two approaches complement each other in profound ways.
According to Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM), illness develops due to obstruction of the flow of Qi (our vital life force, created by the constant pulsation of contraction and expansion). Stress of any kind distorts our natural equilibrium. Under stress our body stays permanently contracted and compressed and illness can develop – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – as a result of this blocked flow.
Shiatsu, a Japanese physical therapy based on TCM and 5 Element Theory, helps to release and restore this flow, using touch, manipulative techniques on pressure points and meridians, gentle manipulation, holding, rocking and stretching to release tension and to restore balance. The ability of the body to heal itself is strengthened contributing to feeling resourced, centered, whole and in the flow of life to unfold.
In my work, I start from the premise that energy is the foundation of all processes occurring in the body. Stuckness can occur psychologically, on an emotional level, on a systemic level inherited from one or multiple members of the family, or physiologically through lack of awareness and connection with the body. A patient experiences stuck energy as a disconnection from themselves (their thoughts, feelings, memories), a disconnection between the pain and the rest of the body, and a disconnection between themselves and the knowing field.
Typically, patients come for treatment because they experience physical symptoms of disease or pain. Shiatsu allows the patient to relax deeply and let imbalances emerge by themselves. When I see patients who come with physical or emotional imbalances initial bodywork relaxes their system and allows hidden patterns to emerge. Then, through my training in Systemic Constellations, I am able to make the connection between the body felt sensations and disturbances in the systemic field.
Shiatsu is the entry point to take in the information provided by someone’s body – the posture, the stance, the eyes, the complexion, the tone and melody of the voice, and the aura; all this can tell so much more than words. It requires the stance of a quiet, open and empty practitioner to listen, watch and sense.
In contracted, stagnated areas the Qi needs to be dispersed, in weak, empty areas gentle holding and warming strengthens the Qi. The exchange of giving and taking between Yin and Yang can flow again. Yin and Yang are in constant flux in our body. This is the flow of Qi – receiving and releasing, taking in and letting go through the breath and blood flow, through digestion, through liquids. The palms of the practitioner become representatives of qualities which are missing or are weak in the body. In Chinese Medicine the body is seen as a garden with all the elements: Metal, Water, Wood Earth, and Fire. All elements need to be in balance, they control and nourish one another and we are whole and well.
When touching weak or painful areas on a patient’s body, I seek to understand the root causes of the pain. Pain is so complex. A practitioner can only see and treat what is present in the moment. Every time you peel another layer of onion you find a new cause. The aim is to work towards balance, both in terms of the 5 elements (Shiatsu) and the orders of love (SCW).
When I sense that Systemic work might improve a client’s wellbeing, I carefully ask questions to establish whether a client is interested and ready to enquire more deeply or not. I explain how I work systemically, and we either arrange a separate session or we add time to the next Shiatsu treatment. The contract happens with the client’s agreement to look closer into the issue or imbalance.
Working on a painful area, questions like ‘How long have you felt this pain’ or ‘When did this pain appear for the first time’ can connect people to very early memories during childhood. It reveals important facts about a parent or both parents, the dynamics in their family of origin, and the wider family system. Sometimes I will inquire further and/or hold an image in my body/heart/field as if I become a representative in the constellation. By simply holding the area of pain and acknowledging the trauma which occurred in childhood allows life force to flow again.
When Lara *, a 28-year-old woman, came to see me, she was seeking help for her severe eczema, headaches and back-pain. She also suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks, constipation and self-harming. She had been prescribed many different medications, but nothing seemed to help.
Lara was in deep pain. She had had an accident when she was 16 years old, which resulted in a spinal injury. However, from the bodywork we were doing, I was sure there were systemic issues at play too. I was guided by my knowledge of the Orders of Love to ask questions about the family system to help Lara reconnect with what was missing, unacknowledged or hidden away.
Lara told me that she had fallen pregnant when she was 18, but had the embryo terminated because her boyfriend did not support the pregnancy. She had kept this a secret from her parents and had to deal with the physical and psychological consequences of the termination on her own.
A short and gentle constellation allowed her to connect with her mother. I asked her to ground and relax, connect to earth and close her eyes. I invited
her to sense her mother, to get a feeling where she was in the room. She was able to immediately sense her mother standing with her. With her support Lara was able to look at her baby. By fully acknowledging the soul of her baby, she was able to release grief and guilt. She was able to let love flow freely which she had chosen to hide.
The Shiatsu following the constellation was focused on holding and listening to transmit the motherly and earthly energy of safety and love by keeping one hand, palm down continuously in a resting and supporting position. The body can relax and let go of stress. The silence and the touch allowed the healing movement to continue.
In Lara’s case the treatment was gentle and slow. The energy was like the energy of a mother soothing her child and through this earthly touch, Lara experienced the energy that was missing in her life. It was nourishing, calming and strengthening. She was crying for much of the day following the session. It was the first time that she could acknowledge the baby and release the pain.
In Eastern medicine terms, the touch in this case was that of the Earth element. This required as much surface of my hands and arms to be used as possible, so that the touch was deep and slow. If, instead, a client needed clarity and focus, they might need more Metal – then the touch becomes precise, using shorter, stronger pressure with the fingertips and elbows. If the Wood element is out of balance, the touch will be faster and flowing, rocking and twisting to create flow in the body.
When we feel pain, we often try to disconnect from it. Whole body parts are prone to be detached from us leading to even more pain and discomfort as we give the area more prominence. By lovingly accepting all of us including these areas we become more whole again.
On a physical level there is a big sigh of relief in the whole body when events that were forgotten are acknowledged and put into the context of the pain and disease. This does not always happen in one session. Further one-to-one constellation sessions and treatments may be important to resolve the issue completely. During the constellation, connections between symptoms and systemic entanglements become visible. Although patients will feel relief and peacefulness in the body, not all stress will have left at the physical level. By following up with the physical touch of Shiatsu, the constellation is continued, the initiated movement can be physically felt and seen, in more upright posture, deeper more relaxed breathing and a general sense of softening.
Combining Shiatsu with Constellations enables me through the physical level to gain access to the non-physical part. Glimpses of the non-material world of the client emerge, sometimes through images or words, often with a sense of the weight of the fate of the patient. Holding the space for all this weight, the client can bring back parts of themselves from which they were cut off. Healing takes place.
*Name changed for confidentiality