Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Relax, NO RELAX!

It’s a word I don’t use with clients as it tends to generate tension
I prefer the idea of letting go, as holding is something we do a lot of

I have just returned from a 9 day meditation retreat; held in silence with no stimulus what so ever, I had lots of opportunity to let go. And it’s not easy. I found that I hold onto many things; ideas of who I am, ideas of what my body is, opinions, thoughts, the breath, muscle tension, memories oh just lots and lots and lots

Letting go is something that I aim for my clients to do, when I first treat them it’s often a good indication for me of how the session and the relationship is going. As we gain experience together letting go or the lack of it is a great diagnostic tool

I want clients to let go within the session because it’s so good for them on lots of levels, but my main reason is so they can experience the letting go and take it into their ever day life.
So much suffering is caused by holding onto things we do not need to. We then suffer what Jack Kornfield calls ‘mental rope burn’, a lovely way of describing the suffering  that comes from holding or clinging.

If we can take the feeling of letting go that we have on the futon and practice it when we are angry for being cut up in our car, when we are bored at work, when in an argument with our children/relative/friend, then we can change the situation in a really radical way.

It seems that letting go is a transferable skill, if we can let go of muscle tension then it feels very similar to letting go of our fixed opinion of ourselves and other. See have to see the holding but once we do the letting go feels very similar.


Like most transformative things it’s a simple process that needs applying over and over and it’s the application which is difficult. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Is sitting going to kill you?

Is sitting going to kill you?

If you Google sitting at the moment you will be swamped by articles proclaiming that ‘sitting is the new smoking’, ‘sitting will wreck your life’ and ‘sitting will kill you’.
Is it the latest fad, daily mail ‘polishing your shoes will give you cancer’ scare story, or is there something in the claims?

There is some compelling looking evidence out there, in a 2012 study publish in the British Journal of Sports Medicine it claimed that every hour spent sitting (well watching TV, which we assume is done sitting) cuts 22 minutes from your life span, whilst every cigarette cuts 11, shocking stuff!

However if you really look into the studies it’s clear that it is nearly impossible to distinguish the sitting from lots of other factors. So is it ok to sit all day?
My short answer would no. But it’s not a yes or no answer, as always it’s more complex than it appears.

Modern western people do sit for too long, office workers in America sit on average for 28hrs each week during the working week. That does not include travel to and from work and time on the sofa.

Desk bound people (most working people now) spend way too much time sitting and yes it does have lots of issues. Workers need choices; they need to be able to stand at their desks when they wish to.  And the improvements to physical and mental health are many, elevating mood, increasing productivity (whatever) lowering blood pressure and lots more. So what’s not simple about this.

There is a Buddhist idea of the ‘suffering of change’. One example of this is sitting and standing. We have to stand for hours and we so wish to sit down, we sit down for hours and we should really wish to stand up. My point is that humans are supposed to move, to move!

If we really get in touch with our bodies we can feel when it’s a good time to stand and when to sit. At the moment I seem to be cycling around 10-15 mins for each, with it being shorter when I’m tired. We get into trouble with sitting when we learn to ignore our bodies and ignore the messages that we send ourselves. I have written plenty about how this happens elsewhere. But just standing and then ignoring the bodies’ messages about this is also not the answer.

For me the answer is to get in touch with our bodies, listen to what they/we tell us and act on it.
It’s important to realise that both sitting and standing are skills. And they are skills that we are not taught in school, so many of us have to learn them as adults. 

There are lots of models to use and lots of very intelligent folks working on this. I would refer you to Kelly Starrett and Kit Laughlin as good starting places. You can attend a good Yoga class, learn to sit well in meditation or if you are in the Rowhedge area come and see me.

The BBC have broadcast a quite interesting programme on sitting; you can find it here 

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0415hbv




Thursday, 14 November 2013

The cost of treatment

I have written about the cost in money of Shiatsu and other alternative treatments and I’m sure I will return to that. This post is about other possible costs.

One of my main desires in treating people is to allow them closer, more immediate access to their bodies and therefore themselves. I strongly believe that the more we are aware of our bodies and the subtle shifts in energy or flow the better we understand ourselves.

This access to understanding does not have to be all hippy and out there, (although I did just write both energy and flow)! It can simply be by understanding that ‘when I am tense I hold the muscles in my jaw firm’, or ‘I've noticed that I tense my forearm’, ‘I think it’s when I’m worried’.

Simple little bits of understanding can lead to some powerful discoveries about how we are feeling and doing.  Part of the magic is that it can bring us into the now, it allows greater understanding of how we are really doing, now.

But there is a cost; one of the coping mechanisms we have is to learn to ignore just these signs. We are all inherently capable of being aware on the most deep level but for many, many individual reasons we learn that one way of anaesthetising our lives is to turn off these messages. In this way we are able to continue with the crappy job, the rubbish housing and the less than satisfying relationships.


In my experience when we turn back on these understandings we also can cause ourselves pain and difficulties as we experience in detail what we have been hiding from. Now I feel that the ultimate outcome is an authentic life lived well. And as we have been fortunate enough to be born into these strange bodies, in this strange place we must grasp the opportunity while we can. Sometimes the process is not pretty but the results can be. 


Monday, 17 June 2013

Bags (old and new)

Bags have been bothering me lately. Well to be fair I have been obsessing about bags. 
I have been spending a lot of my time out and about watching how folks interact with their bags. But more importantly how their bags interact with them. 


I find a huge amount of the  world makes no sense to me, little more so than fashion. 
I know I'm an old git, but the primary way I choose any item that's going to interact with my body is comfort. Specifically can I maintain good posture and movement patterns if I choose to buy and use this thing. 

Through some miracle we have been born into this body. This body, this one body. And it's this body that we are going to use to negotiate our way through from birth to death. 

Now I firmly believe that our bodies are designed to work, pain free (with the obvious exceptions of pathology and injury) until we are 110 years old, when we fall out of the apple tree, or crash off our longboard. 

To do this we need to set up and maintain great movement patterns. This means every day (and night) all the time. When it comes to movement what we do becomes who we are. As Kelly Starrett says practice does not make perfect it makes permanent.  

So when we hold a bag over one shoulder or one arm we change the dynamic of our spine, shoulders and hips. A bag held over the right shoulder forces that shoulder up (to hold onto the bag) which then tends to force the same hip up to compensate, curving the spine and changing the angle of the legs to the hips, affecting the knees and ankles. Ones ability to stand and walk is therefore compromised, over decades its very seriously compromised. 

Doing this every once in a while is one thing, but every day is another. Remember practice makes permanent. 

Throw high heals and restrictive skirts into the mix and we have no end of fun.

One body; come on. 










Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Shiatsu Survey


Shiatsu, paid hobby or profession?  

Shiatsu survey 2012/13

Motivation for undertaking survey;
Having graduated from the British School of Shiatsu-Do in 2012 I had what I think may be a very common question pop into my head. ‘How am I doing’, meaning how was my practice doing. I soon realised that I could not really answer this question as I had nothing to base it against. Of course I knew how I was doing against what I wished for, but I had no idea if my wishes were realistic. Like I imagine lots of other graduates do, I talked to my fellow ex-students to get a sense of how they were doing, but this was unsatisfactory.
I asked the Shiatsu Society, they were really helpful, but bid not really have the information I needed. So I decided to ask the questions myself.

Method;
Using the public facing part of the Shiatsu Society website, I contacted nearly every Shiatsu person who has their e-mail contact on their profile a total of 249 individuals. Asking them to fill in a short online survey. 95 individuals successfully completed the survey, 38.1% of those contacted.

I decided to ask a few simple questions; I wanted to limit the scope of my questions, to not make it an onerous task  and I did not want to pay for a ‘gold’ Survey Monkey account.

The questions were;

  1. When did you graduate?
  2. On graduation what were your plans/dreams regarding practising? (To treat family and friends only with no charge. To treat part time as an additional income. To (eventually) treat full time as my main income. Wasn't sure)
  3. How would you describe your Shiatsu treatment situation at the moment? (I don't treat using Shiatsu at all. I treat family and friends for no charge. I treat part time as an additional income. I treat full time as my only income. A mixture of the above (please say more below))
  4. If you describe Shiatsu treatments as an additional income, please say what % of your income it represents in an average month.
  5. If you indicated that Shiatsu treatments are part of your income please indicate briefly your other sources of income.
  6. If you describe Shiatsu treatments as your full time income please indicate what % of your household income the Shiatsu treatments represents (does someone's financial support make it possible for you to practice).
  7. Please say how much you charge for a Shiatsu treatment (if you have a sliding scale please indicate the scale)
  8. On average how many paid Shiatsu treatments do you do per month?

I hoped that when taken together the survey questions would offer a quite broad range of answers about the ‘state of play’ in Shiatsu

Results;
On graduation what were your plans/dreams regarding practising?
43.1% answered; To (eventually) treat full time as my main income
45.2% answered; To treat part time as an additional income
2.1% answered;  To treat family and friends only with no charge
2.1% answered; Not sure

How would you describe your Shiatsu treatment situation at the moment?
13% answered; I treat full time as my only income
76% answered: I treat part time as an additional income
3.1% answered; I treat family and friends for no charge
2.1% answered; A mixture of the above
1.1% answered; I don't treat using Shiatsu at all

If you describe Shiatsu treatments as an additional income, please say what % of your income it represents in an average month.
The average for this question over the 95 respondents was 28% of income

If you indicated that Shiatsu treatments are part of your income please indicate briefly your other sources of income.
63 people filled in this question of which 33.3% indicated that they earn the rest of their income from activities which could be described as related to Shiatsu. From teaching Shiatsu, Qi gong, Yoga etc to acupuncture. The rest varied greatly.

If you describe Shiatsu treatments as your full time income please indicate what % of your household income the Shiatsu treatments represents (does someone's financial support make it possible for you to practice)
Of the 11 people who filled in this question the average was 55% of household income.

Please say how much you charge for a Shiatsu treatment (if you have a sliding scale please indicate the scale)
The average lower amount was £35, the higher was £41.

On average how many paid Shiatsu treatments do you do per month?
The average number was 19 per month, however if one takes away the few outliers who have high numbers this drops to 16.
  
Outliers;
Of the 95 respondents there were 16 individuals (16.9%) who stood out and therefore could be considered outliers to the main body of the group. These individuals see a far higher number of clients per month than the main group and therefore had a much higher income. Below I have shown the gross average income from Shiatsu, both with and without the outliers included.


Average gross pay lower level of sliding scale with the 16 high earning outliers included 
£603 per month
Average gross pay higher level of sliding scale with the 16 high earning outliers included 
£759 per month
Average gross pay higher level of sliding scale with the 16 high earning outliers excluded
£347 per month
Average gross pay higher level of sliding scale of the 16 outliers
£1,806 per month


Conclusions

This survey was of practitioners who have remained registered with the Shiatsu Society, and as such may be seen to be picking up the most active shiatsu graduates. It is not a survey of all graduates of Shiatsu schools, of which there are many, many more.
I wanted to ask questions to allow myself and others to measure how we are doing, to have a guide to what’s happening within the Shiatsu world. I wanted to know the average number of treatments, average charge per treatment for the average Shiatsu person.
It’s a sometimes difficult emotional process, coming close to graduation and after to manage expectations. My hope is that this will help.
It seems clear that Shiatsu can offer an OK part time income (£347) to most practitioners and to a few a reasonable full time income (£1,806). It’s interesting to note that of the 16 higher earners 50% identified themselves as being Shiatsu teachers. This may have implications for teachers within schools managing students’ expectations. It’s clear that their Shiatsu experience is not the norm.

So paid hobby or profession? I don’t think it’s for me to say, but I think it’s an interesting question.