Consulting Lessons From My Shiatsu Therapist

© 2000 Becky Winant

Shiatsu is a type of bodywork that involves stretching and applying pressure at points to release or contain energy. Before he practiced Shiatsu, Ron had a career as an audio engineer — he understands technology and the engineering environments I often am working in. Even though we sometimes we talk about that, his most valuable advice for me comes from his Shiatsu training and practice.

Last fall I was listening to Jerry Weinberg explain to a colleague about how your intent to help others keeps you from doing harm. Where had I heard that before? From Ron, a Shiatsu therapist. I had taken a Shiatsu course to learn how to help ease the back pain of my partner, Robert. Ron instructed us as beginning students: Don’t worry about technique — that comes in time. Your intent to help alone will improve how the receiver feels. As I tuned back to Jerry talking about consulting intent and technique, I wondered what other parallels there were.

Shiatsu is a type of bodywork that involves stretching and applying pressure at points to release or contain energy. Like Swedish massage and other forms of bodywork, human touch becomes a tool for healing. Unlike Swedish massage, Shiatsu is based on eastern beliefs about the indivisibility of body and mind, the relative nature of reality, balance, life force energy and a system of diagnosing health based on meridians.

Before the light went on for me connecting physical therapy and business and system consulting, I had missed the full import of this statement from a book called Bodywork Shiatsu: “Contrary to the biomedical models that currently dominate medical treatment, we are not just a collection of chemicals, tissues, and functional organs. We are also a collection of processes, habits, and developments, in active relationship with the forces within us and around us.” There it is — I believe that might easily read:

Contrary to current organizational theory people are not just human resources with the necessary technical and managerial skills to fulfill specific jobs. We are also a collection of processes, habits, and developments, in active relationship with the forces within us and around us.

Before I decided to learn more about Shiatsu from Ron, I had been his client and still am. He has loosened my tight muscles and improved my attitude in addition to my physical well-being. Some of this help comes from his physical skills as a therapist and some comes from the philosophy that has shaped his desire to do what he does and share it with others, like me. Before he practiced Shiatsu he had a career as an audio engineer — he understands technology and the engineering environments I often am working in. Even though we sometimes we talk about that, his most valuable advice for me comes from his Shiatsu training and practice.

So, here are more lessons from Ron that I have found applicable to my consulting work.

Keep breathing

The basic idea is this: when we are tight or blocked we can only work through the situation if we remember to keep breathing. Breathing integrates the body and mind. In Shiatsu this aids in the release of energy.

In consulting good deep breaths can help us center and let go of our personal feelings or thoughts. This frees us from our own biases that may be blocking understanding and improves our ability to listen to our clients.

Stretching promotes flexibility

In Shiatsu stretching is part of forcing the body to release tightness and to move to points of greater flexibility. Ron usually finds that point beyond which your leg or arm just doesn’t want to go — usually signaled by a degree of pain. His application of stretching helps you extend your leg or arm further than your previous threshold. This usually results in a place of comfort where you can relax because you’re not using tight muscles to hold a more restrictive position.

Jerry has an exercise he does with his students, which I think he may call a Stress Module, but it could be called a Stretch Module. I have lost the original name, but it doesn’t matter since the two are related. The set up is for a situation which creates a problem for someone. The module is designed to increase the intensity of the situation. This causes the student to reach further — often with a certain amount of pain — yet the final result is the realization of new choices. The joy of new flexibility and realizing new choices for behavior often outlasts any momentary pain.

I have been aware of clients who have experienced a certain amount of pain as I’ve stretched them to think in new ways about system development. This endures only until that moment when they discover how this new practice frees them from a rut. Once freed they develop new creative ways to apply the new practices.

Effective treatment relies on the awareness of the therapist and the participation of the client

In Shiatsu there is a need for a connection between the therapist and the client. I believe it is a body and mind thing. For the therapist it is important to use his senses to assess the client’s situation. What he feels, smells, hears and sees all are part of the diagnostic process. Ron has said he finds himself breathing together with the patient as he works. In the beginning Ron would tell me to imagine a mid-point between his hands, one of which represented safety and the other doing the work. The working hand is the one that finds your pain. “Ow!” tells Ron he’s found a spot. As I found that mid-point, Ron would say, “Direct your breath to that point.” I did. Over the years I have found Ron able to work miracles, but he assures me he is just assisting me as I make the miracle happen. This mirrors a core belief I have about consulting. I can’t help someone if we aren’t there together.

My success is always their success first

Jerry talks about entering the world of the client to better interpret what is going on. I have experienced this. When I am tuned in and place myself there with my clients, I get a fuller sense of what is happening to and for them. Once there I gather information by listening, looking, feeling and … smelling? … well, yes I guess that would tell me something. Use pressure points to move energy Shiatsu involves acupressure. Acupressure, like acupuncture, uses the points along the body meridians to find “blocked energy.” However, it doesn’t involve sharp little needles, just strong hands and pressure. Different meridians relate to different organs. So, for example, there is a heart meridian and a large intestine meridian. If these should be blocked there is not always a literal translation to a heart problem or intestinal problem. More often these relate to classes of problems which could be physiological — for several possible parts of the body — or emotional or even behavioral.

In my consulting I associate the notion of blocked energy with client blocks about how to fix their problems. As a consultant you can observe where the energy goes. In some cases clients spend extraordinary energy to ignore what you or I might see as clearly a problem.

For example, a colleague asking for help with his current employment situation was in a company where employees were being treated like expendable pawns. Yet, managers expressed a concern that they were losing employees. Why weren’t employees getting the message they were valued? You already know the answer. And, not surprisingly two weeks later our colleague reported a huge layoff. The energy told us there was a problem. We even knew where to poke. But, we weren’t able to fix, which may have been due to a number of reasons. One of those was that we didn’t have the connection and participation stated above.

I just realized two minutes ago that I hadn’t considered the diagnostic aspect of meridians. I wonder what the consulting analogy is for the meridian system. If a client is blocked about a particular problem what might that indicate? I’m not sure. I guess there’s more for me to learn!

Keep open to more learning, keep practicing

This is my own addition, but I’m sure Ron would approve. It is how I approach Shiatsu sessions with Robert and how I approach my continuing work as a consultant.

I hope you forgive me if I tell you that the facts of my explanation of Shiatsu easily could have technical errors. If you really want more precision, I suggest you go to a professional. My personal recommendation would be someone like Ron Barron of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, my Shiatsu guy and a consultant’s consultant.

This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.