Would You Like a Cup of Tea?

I woke up yesterday morning with my first thought being a metaphor about shiatsu.

(Don't ask me... sometimes it's a goofy song, like Pink Floyd's "Pigs"; other mornings, something else totally random. Who knows where my brain gets off to while I'm asleep..)


Anyway, the thought was along the lines of how the difference between other types of massage and shiatsu was like the difference between having a conversation with someone while standing at your front door, or inviting them into your living room to sit down for a while with a big mug of tea.

And, please, this is not to dis' massage in any way. I get regular therapeutic "western" massage. It's awesome. But I think there is a difference for many people in how shiatsu is received, based on my own experience, as well as what my people are telling me. Considering that the most recent comment along these lines came a few days ago, it might explain why my mind was chewing on this.

This odd analogy also seems to synch with how Zen shiatsu is described.

Allow me to lamely paraphrase what I read in David Sergel's 'The Natural Way of Zen Shiatsu':

From the ancient Chinese perspective, humans exist between the forces of heaven and earth.... heaven's force is along a vertical axis, earth on the horizontal. Ideally our activities are balanced reception of the two.

Our Western experience is more imbalanced toward the earth/horizontal side. More material, more superficial... and, as an example, western style massage is considered to move along the horizontal planes of the body.

Shiatsu is given with a more perpendicular (vertical) direction. The touch is directed inward toward the body's core; it's penetrating, and so it is perceived as going deeply within ( ... without being invasive. After all, I did say 'invited in for tea', not dragged in and tied to a chair.)

With the practitioner's intention, the treatment becomes like an intimate conversation between friends. It may touch on sensitive topics, but without offense, if the practitioner is mindful and compassionate. The shiatsu giver is careful not to prod or cause pain, which could cause a defensive reaction, but is willing to go deep enough while being supportive, so as to allow the receiver to explore those vulnerable places and bring healing energy to them.

Once again, this is not to suggest that one way is better than another. I know I'm not the kind of person that wants every person that appears at my door to come in and hang for a few hours. Nor am I always open to that experience, no matter who it is. After all, I got lots of things going on along the horizontal plane.

But when I am really needing that, and that need is met, it's always deeply fulfilling.

How 'bout you? Do you have a shiatsu or other bodywork experience to share?