Some years back, in 1993, we returned to the US from London.  I had just finished my advanced course of Zen Shiatsu at the Shiatsu College of London.  Then, for a whole year, I flew back and forth from Boston, MA to England to complete my Post Graduate degree at the College.

I worked with people who were referred to me for Shiatsu, Vegan/Macrobiotic cooking classes or Dietary Consultations. In those days, the internet and websites hadn’t become popular yet, so, I used the yellow pages to advertise.  On a rainy Sunday, I got a phone call from a lady who had been suffering for years with migraine headaches. She was so desperate and in such discomfort, she opened the phone book hoping to find someone working on Sunday that could relieve her from her excruciating pain and discomfort. I saw her that day, and it was quite a visit. She had a great sense of humor.  We enjoyed each other’s company after that initial treatment, and she became a long-term client, plus she referred to me her cousin and many friends.

I don’t usually like working on Sunday, but T.H. knew how to charm me with her Southern accent, and I could feel how desperate she was.  She arrived and I gave her a Shiatsu treatment.  During the treatment, she started feeling better, and her pain started to dissipate.  She was curious about the whole procedure.  She had never had or heard about Shiatsu.  But, she knew about Acupuncture and the way it worked.

Usually, when I start a Zen Shiatsu treatment, I take an assessment on the receiver’s abdomen where all the organs of the body are located.  Though I don’t deal with the organs themselves but rather with the energy lines or meridians, the assessment takes me in the direction of where I need to treat.   I palpate gently around the abdomen.  I look for the tightest and most depleted areas there.  Then, I pick two or three areas that I feel drawn to.  I test two meridians at once together, looking for a reaction.  I usually test a depleted or yin area, and a yang or tight/stuck area.  Often the most depleted one does not react, but the third, less weak location reacts with the yang.  By addressing that specific meridian, it works wonders by boosting the weaker one. It makes perfect sense, because it is so depleted, that it doesn’t even have enough chi to react.

I usually work quietly, focusing on the plan I create to treat the client. But, if I feel the person needs to talk, I listen and let them say what they have to say, as long as it is related to their own health symptoms.   Sometimes, it is part of the treatment when the receiver needs to discharge what is on their mind, or share something that is bothering them.

As I was working with T.H., I kept seeing this image of chocolate.  It was very strange.  My assessment was Gall Bladder and Kidney Meridians. She asked me after I was done treating her if I had any advice or recommendation for her.  I explained the assessment I had, noting that Liver and Gall Bladder work as a couple.  Liver deals with stress, and detoxifies the blood at night, among many other jobs.  Excess fat such as sugar, nuts, nut butter, chocolate, excess dairy and alcohol can affect the Liver and Gall Bladder, and create stagnation in the meridians.

Before I finished my sentence, she interrupted me and explained to me that every Sunday, after a long stressful week at Harvard, she would treat herself with a jumbo-sized bag of M&Ms.  She had never ever made the connection between the binge or her Sunday treat and her headaches.  We talked about sugar and its effect on mood, health, and our organs, especially the Liver and Kidneys, and our bones.  I explained how in Macrobiotics, I learned that sugar is a yin ingredient, as well as chocolate.  They affect the upper part of our body, mostly the head.  My advice was to notice if she eats chocolate again, especially poor quality kinds, to notice if her migraine headaches came back.  If she craved chocolate, she should buy better quality one.  I eat chocolate once in a while, but I will only eat the organic ones with very few ingredients.  It made sense to her and she was relieved to have found part of the cause of her chronic migraine headaches.  She was tired of taking pills to get rid of her pain.

She left with a big smile on her face, and pain free.  She booked another appointment and I have to say it was such a joy to work with her.  We used to laugh a lot, and she came on a regular basis for shiatsu to help her deal with her stress at work, and to learn more about personal self-care.  T.H. became more and more aware of her diet; she also started exercising, walking, and binging less on M&Ms.

I suffered from degenerative cervical discs, musculoskeletal injuries, and migraine headaches for years.  I had tried everything.  The Shiatsu treatments relieved 75% of my pain and enabled me to regain a quality of life I have not had in decades.

T.H. Secretary, Harvard Business School,
Cambridge, MA

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