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It probably didn’t escape your attention that we’ve recently launched a new blog. Most articles are still in Dutch, but we are working on translating them for you. Interesting articles, interviews, videos and even e-books regularly appear here. I will also appear in a regular column on the blog: a column in which I write about what I am doing as a teacher and head of the school.

There is one subject that has touched me a lot lately: the way of thinking behind the original Eastern medicine that is so different from our way of thinking in Western society. During my own shiatsu study, 23 years ago now, I was always captivated by the depth and wisdom of our teacher Sasaki Sensei. What he said arrived. I knew he was getting to a deeper layer of knowledge, but I couldn’t reproduce it, let alone understand it. Only now do I begin to understand why this is and what value it has for us as shiatsu therapists.

In our Western society we refer everything we perceive to a truth. A truth that can be physical, religious or otherwise.  Everything we see, we reflect to this truth. That is why we think that something is right or wrong, healthy or sick, weak or strong. The way of thinking behind the original Eastern medicine is another. It is contemplative and only sees what is there. Without judgment you see what is there and how it relates to other things. This is so fundamentally different that it can hardly be understood by us. Something is! No more than that. If you can really grasp that, it entails a completely different approach. Your understanding of sickness and health and your treatment as a shiatsu therapist get more depth. You are able to see a person as he is.

One aspect that is directly related to this is the way in which the texts about Eastern medicine are written. Not a well-defined Western language, but a writing that makes use of visual representations. A kind of picture of what one wants to express. You can imagine that this describes something in a completely different way than our language. It leaves room for interpretation about the meaning. Or as Sasaki Sensei so beautifully puts it: ‘space for deep thinking’.

During our training we sit on meditation cushions. In Japanese we call this a ‘Zafu’. To clarify the difference between the Eastern way of thinking and our own, I ask one of the students to describe what they are sitting on. The first reaction is often “A Zafu!” or “Cushion”.  When I wait and sometimes even longer wait, they start to understand. Then they describe: “it’s something that I sit on, that is soft and dark red in color. Something that adjusts when I move forward, it is a separation between me and the ground, it supports my sitting bones, it makes that I can sit upright”, etc., etc.  After this example for a number of students the penny drops. It is a very different description than we are used to. You describe what you perceive and what is there. Not a word you have learned to use, but to look at and observe from within yourself in an inquisitive way.

Another striking example was during the recent teacher training we had with our European colleagues. One of my Dutch colleagues stood in front of the group to explain what a side is. We were explaining the functions of the Galbladder meridian. A meridian that runs for a large part on the side of the body. She stood there for about half an hour and expressed all kinds of thoughts that emerged. “You have a side as a connection between front and back”. “A side allows you to move to the left and to the right”. In the end the most important aspect came up; “A side makes that you can look to the left and to the right from the centre and can see what is there”.

An important function of the Gall bladder meridian is that you can see from the center what is there. And from there you can make decisions. By center we do not only mean the physical center but our center as a human being. From this centre we can see what is there, without judgment or thought. If you allow the depth of this to sink in, this is a function that is essential for us as human beings. During the teacher training courses it became clear to me how different and deeper the function of the Gallbladder is than what you often find in Western books described as ‘making decisions’.

The Iokai Shiatsu Professional Training is a practical training. We explain the theory from an oriental perspective. The above is a nice illustration of this.