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Alice Whieldon and Nick Pole talk about Seiki, Clean Language and Shiatsu Coaching

December 2017

N: If you ask what’s the difference between shiatsu as a form of treatment and shiatsu as a form of coaching, one thing that’s important to remember is that the whole idea of coaching comes originally from sports, from an athlete having something they want to achieve, and knowing they need help to do that. That’s what a coach is for – not just to treat an athlete’s painful joints or to teach them new skills; the coach’s real job is to help that athlete find something that is already there inside. And that links directly to the principle that both Kishi and Pauline Sasaki talked about – trying to connect to the healthy energy, the life-energy of the client, not just treating their symptoms or fixing problems.

A: Absolutely. In the book that I wrote with Kishi, he talks about ‘syo’ diagnosis: thinking about diagnosis as looking for a useful meaning to arise. It’s about asking, ‚What does this life want in this moment?’ So Seiki and Clean Language seem to work from very similar principles, and it’s the principles that lead to the practice, not the other way round. That’s fundamental to the Seiki approach in shiatsu, that’s it’s not the map that makes the reality, it’s reality that comes first. But it’s those principles of bringing stuff up from an open space that we’re both working with that makes these two practices somehow complementary.

N: And one thing I researched in writing my book is the neuroscience behind that metaphor of ‘open space’. Normal talking therapy can often be a left-brain to left-brain thing, focused on conversation and analysis, but what we also need is a right-brain to right-brain embodied sensing of togetherness in a therapeutic relationship. In shiatsu of course we’re using touch and we’re not talking much, so we’re much more into a right-brain to right-brain embodied sensing anyway. In that shared field between client and practitioner, just a few vey simple  Clean questions will help your client connect with that ‘something’ that’s already inside them. So in that sense we’re getting into the Ki of the words and the Ki of the gestures that go with those words.

A: I like that. To do a really good job, one has to make the unseen world articulable – you have to articulate it. It’s just in that moment. It doesn’t last, but it’s necessary to be able to do that. That’s the whole job.

N: Yes, when you do that you open to this field of shared intention, and that’s where all the information is, not in our heads. It’s coming from the empty space, the space of beginner’s mind.

A: So if someone was asking, ‘How does Seiki connect with Shiatsu as a form of coaching?’ I suppose for me, in shiatsu at its best the practitioner is more of a teacher than a therapist. They’re there because they’ve ‘been there’, and the job is to help people learn, so I’m asking ‚How does this person learn?’…‘How can I help this person develop?’ rather than ‘How can I cure this person?’ Our sensitivity and our wisdom need to develop in order to do that. So for me, a key emphasis is what Namikoshi, Masunaga and Kishi all talked about, the ‘syo’ diagnosis – that treatment and diagnosis are completely inseparable. For me Seiki gives you a real chance to do that in practice. We know the theory, but how do you do it in practice?

N: That’s very popular as an approach now, that we’re not here to fix you and so on, but what is it about the practice of Seiki that makes it the one that really works for you?

A:   In a way, the practice is that principle. It’s not coming out of meridian theory or a fixing theory. But you try to bring that principle to every moment that you’re with somebody, so that the question almost is, ‚Who are you?‘ and ‚Where is the point of connection here?“ And I suppose with questions that you’re always asking people to keep looking at that as well. So Seiki’s an investigation, it’s constant research, and it never claims to know the answer. In the next millisecond, the answer could be different. So it requires a real openness from the practitioner.

N: Anything else about that openness?

A: Yes, it also requires an understanding of that. You’re not just working intuitively, you use intuition at first because it may be all you have.  This work is intellectually coherent for me, and that’s very important. You have to be in the moment to do it, and Seiki gives you permission to do that.

N. We do have to talk to our clients a bit, and my question is how can we do that in a way that helps them listen to what they themselves are saying? That self-listening is where the movement of Ki really begins. How can we talk to our clients in a way that the talking becomes like an ambassador for what we can then do with touch. It’s not a separate process. We’re not just gathering information, it’s an analogue process as we move from words as content to words as sounds and words as a way of bringing the Ki into awareness. Often then, there’s a natural point, at which both of us agree that this is the place to stop talking and begin shiatsu. So I say let our talking be the best possible ambassador for what we do when we’re working with touch.

A: I like that. I’m doing things differently, but I do recognize a resonance in the approach.

N: And I guess with the coaching theme, I always put an emphasis on how to keep the verbal left-brain happy while the right-brain is having a very somatic experience, a very non-verbal experience. How can the client take that away in a way that connects with their whole brain, both left and right, and attends to the left hemisphere’s need for a bit of a To Do list, as well as the right brain’s ability to connect with the much wider field, which the left brain cannot do. For example, to have a mindfulness practice that you can take away. I think a lot of people really need that and value that. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you need some daily mindfulness exercise to practice, that has emerged genuinely from the process, from your own listening to yourself, not something that the therapist has said, ‚Here’s an exercise I want you to do’.

A. Yes, it’s very, very hard to change yourself.  We just have a little tiny chance to be free of our stuckness.  We need to put in a lot of work and also get a bit of help in guidance. The work we do in bringing what you call the right-brain stuff into the left-brain understanding is part of that help. That’s why I use Clean questions in teaching Seiki – to clarify the practice of Seiki itself and to help people get in a better relationship with it as practitioners.