Life functions in the upper part of our body and the connection to our Universal power.
Presentation at European Shiatsu Congress, Amsterdam, September 6, 2020
Norbert grote Beverborg
Director Iokai Shiatsu Training Netherlands
When asked by the organisation of the European Shiatsu Congress to give a workshop I didn’t have to think long what the subject would be; the meridians in the upper part of our body and the influence they have on our spirit. Our mental state is reflected in the upper part of our body to a considerable extent. Opening up the upper part of our body helps in feeling more free and connecting to our deeper spirit and the universal power.
The past two years have been a turbulent time for myself. Lots of changes and challenges from which I tried to learn and am still trying to learn. I have seen how easily it is to cage yourself by your thoughts. How these thoughts are fed by your deeper fears and ego. I was limiting myself mentally by my ego and fears. My body reflected this, becoming more tight and less flexible. My mind in its turn reflected my body, also became less flexible.
As a shiatsu therapist such a period can be seen as a gift as it is most interesting and insightful to experience yourself what is happening. Not a pleasant experience! But interesting.
1. Spirit the root of life
Both in my practice as well as in my own life I regularly experience the deeper meaning of this phrase from the classical texts. Spirit is our connection with the Universe – with the divine if you want to express it that way – the unlimited source and true power behind everything in our lives. It is the spiritual connection between us human beings. When we are connected to the Universe, our life is light and full of possibilities. We are open to all the beautiful things around us and within ourselves. We feel the vibration of life within us and all the possibilities it offers.
Fig. 1 Heaven, earth and life
The above figure visualizes how life is an interaction between Heaven and Earth. The descending Yin ki forms the earth and the ascending yang ki forms heaven. In the interaction between heaven and earth life appears. You are living as a result of the earth and the power of the Universe. Spirit is our connection to the heaven or universe. The spark or power by which our life appears. But also the power en drive behind everything in our life! When our spirit is clear we’re powerful.
By way of our spirit we are all connected to the Universe and each other. By way of essence we are connected to the earth and more on a physical level is the transmission from our ancestors and all the humans and life before us.
2. What are meridians
Meridians are functions. They are invisible and manifest through the visible.
In our Western society, via our language we define things by using one word, while from an ancient eastern approach there isn’t one specific word to define something. To illustrate this, in our shiatsu school I often use the example of a meditation cushion. I show it and ask students to tell me what they see. They will say meditation cushion or Zafu. By simple one word we define the whole zafu, this is how our brain works.
Shiatsu has its origin in the ancient eastern medicine. Knowledge is defined in a language where graphical characters are used to define something. This creates a different way of thinking and imagination. When we go back to the example of the zafu and explain it from this Eastern way of defining, words like the following may come up: we can sit on it, close our eyes and feel what it is. It is something between us and the ground, something soft but still with some sort of flexibility, it will enable us to keep our pelvis upright in meditation, ….. and so on. Now we think of this zafu as a function. If we think this way, we will be more aware of what things are. Not simply a thing, but a complete function with lots of different aspects.
Thinking this way will help us to understand what meridians are: they are Life functions. Functions of our life as a human being. With all its complexity and deeper meaning of life in general and our connection to nature and universe. If we embrace this way of thinking, or better if we deeply try to understand this, giving shiatsu treatments will get a different meaning.
This way of thinking we can also apply on our own lives, to ourselves as shiatsu practitioners. We are used to look to ourselves and try to understand why we feel a certain way or why we fall ill. Mostly we do this by trying to understand which meridians, or functions are involved. We might treat ourselves, do meridian stretches. We try to help ourselves by doing this. We think we have meridians and treating or stretching these meridians will help us.
The above will get a different meaning if we realise that we do not have meridians. We are the meridians. We are our life functions. If you let this sink in, and realise this, it opens up a different understanding of your life. Its not something you might be able to explain in words. It is something you have to understand from inside. Words cannot express this as life itself cannot be expressed by words.
Coming back to our subject, we as human beings are part of the Universe. In our natural state we are open and free and through our Spirit we are in a continuous connection with the infinite potential of the Universe. Our functions as human being are in potential only limited by our physical body and the boundaries it imposes on us. Being human we have our desires, our fears, our ego. We put pressure on ourselves or feel that circumstances or people put pressure on us. We limit ourselves by allowing this. Our life functions will reflect this, as well will our body.
3. Selected meridians
Obviously limiting our life functions will show itself in our body. Depending on your constitution and condition this might create physical problems somewhere. In this workshop we will look in the upper part of the body and will zoom in to the functions of Stomach, Spleen and Liver.
In Iokai Shiatsu, in contradiction to the traditional acupuncture, the Liver, Stomach and Spleen meridians also run in the upper part of the body. I have selected Stomach, Spleen and Liver because in my practical experience I encounter them a lot. Also when you look at their function for life these meridians are interesting because mentally we limit our selves quite often in these functions.
Some aspects of the life function of the Liver are interesting in the context of this workshop. The main responsibility of the Liver is blood. As shiatsu therapists we are mostly more interested in Ki. Because we feel and treat Ki. Blood however plays an important role in eastern medicine. Blood runs through our body and organs. Each organ has its own vibration, its own Ki. This vibration is different for each organ and for each person. It changes depending on what we eat, breath, move an think. Blood is passing by all these organs. As a kind of ‘story teller’ it will pick up these vibrations. The life function of liver, with blood as its main responsibility, is influenced by this. Our Personal Character is influenced by this.
Spleen and Stomach are much related to the mental aspect. Digestion of everything around us and the capability of forming idea’s and putting them to practice.
The immediate influence of stress and mental aspects you will find more in the upper part of the body. You might find them in any of the meridians, but Liver, Spleen and Stomach are mostly involved.
In Iokai Shiatsu on both the upper part and lower part of our body we recognize 12 meridians. In this workshop we will practice on the Liver, Stomach and if there is time, Spleen meridian on the arm and neck.
Fig. 2 – Liver and Spleen meridian on neck and arm
Fig. 3 – Liver and Spleen meridian on the lower arm
Fig. 4 – Stomach meridian on neck, shoulder and arm
Fig. 5 – Stomach meridian on neck
Fig. 6 – Stomach meridian on arm
5. Practical approach
- Correct posture, hara, no thinking
- Touch shoulder
- Feel area of most stagnation
- Feel connection (up, down, back, front)
- Feel meridian(s) involved
- Treatment meridian(s)