With Mothering Sunday approaching, I would like to reflect on what mother represents to us in Shiatsu and in Chinese medicine, and how that energy can be affected in all of us, regardless of who we are, and what our relationship with our mother is.
Mothering Sunday can be a difficult time for many, it can be hard for some to see everyone out with bunches of daffodils apparently happily celebrating with their mother with a big Sunday roast.
Not everyone has a mother still with them, or perhaps is struggling to become a parent themselves. Or perhaps their mother was not someone who was able to provide what was needed as a child and growing up, and the relationship is a troubled or painful one.
If we for a moment consider the archetypal mother, and what she represents – can you see how this might manifest in your own personal life, and how sometimes we can take these qualities to extreme….
For example, the mother represents unconditional love, nourishment, safety, care and support. But so often, when out of balance, these qualities can be tipped into negative and unsupportive behaviours such as a lack of ability to stop and look after ourselves., or a neediness. Nourishment for our Soul can be sought through overeating, or compulsive shopping, and at the extreme end; addictions, where we try to fill a place where we don’t feel loved, safe and secure, or where shame exists.
In Shiatsu we work with a system called the five elements, and the mother energy is represented by the Earth element. There often can be a deep routed source of destructive behavioural patterns, when this energy is out of balance.
Worry is a key indicator we identify with an earth imbalance, someone who is constantly overthinking or worrying, imagining the worst case scenarios, or just getting stuck in destructive thought patterns, with a disconnect from our bodies, being “stuck in our head”
When our earth energy has not been met fully, we learn to seek out other ways to get what we need in terms of nourishment or support. If you think of a mother – she will always do things for her children first and put herself second, but this can be take to extremes, and it can be detrimental to the wellbeing of the mother.
Often we will see people in caring professions who will work to excess to support or help others, but at a high cost to their own health and wellbeing. I’m sure you can think of a friend or relative who will do anything for anyone, but is resistant to accepting anything for themselves or creating space to look after and nurture themselves. Many of us do this to a greater or lesser degree, and I know this is something I have been working on in my life. Learning to say no, or graciously accepting gifts and acts of kindness from others can be a powerful way to start practicing finding a balance in our earth energy. A strong mother can hold the boundaries, as well as administer love care and support.
If a child growing up does not experience a healthy relationship with their mother for whatever reason, this can create difficulties in later life, where that person seeks out other ways to find security, a sense of belonging or nourishment, which can be damaging to our physical or emotional wellbeing.
In Shiatsu the power of touch can provide some of that at a very primal level. We seek out areas where the body can feel a sense of lack, and bring the quality of the Mother touch, of nourishment and support and safety, so then that does not need to be sought out in other ways. When we feel grounded, deeply nourished and supported, we can act from a place of power and choice, rather than from a place of lack or a sense of need.
5 simple ways to improve your life!
The following steps have been researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation. This evidence has been developed by a number of different organisations to help promote better ways to mental health and wellbeing. It is something I have used with clients to look at aspects of their lives where they might be able to make some simple changes, to increase their sense of happiness and wellbeing. You can look at each of these 5 aspects in your life, and see if you can add to or change what you are doing, and see if it makes any difference! Let me know how you get on!
CONNECT: BE ACTIVE: TAKE NOTICE: LEARN: GIVE
(The following breakdown and suggestions was taken from the Mind website)
There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.
It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.
With this in mind, try to do something different today and make a connection.
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.
Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being.But it doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good - slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise. Today, why not get physical? Here are a few ideas:
Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness.
Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities.
Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations.
Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. Here are a few ideas:
Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression.
The practice of setting goals, which is related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing.
Why not learn something new today? Here are a few more ideas:
Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research.
Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.
Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing.
Recently I was in the Gambia, visiting a rural community which I support as a trustee of a charity; the Kambeng Trust. Whilst there it transpired to be the Muslim new year, a national holiday was called, and worked ceased for the next two days ( New years eve is a different date each year in the muslim calendar, dependant on the moon, and Gambian's don't have much of a plan ahead mentality it seems!) I was curious to know how they chose to celebrate it, (and at such short notice!) What transpired was a simple ritual of visiting friends, family, neighbours and colleagues, and asking for forgiveness for any wrongs committed in the past year. and thus starting the new year with a clean conscience. To me this was a lovely idea, and got me thinking about our new year, how we celebrate beyond the boozing and fireworks, and what I choose to honour from the past year, what i'd like to let go of, and what I want to create or invite in for the new one.
Traditionally in our culture at this time of year we start to make plans and make great promises of action for our resolutions for the coming year, but in traditional chinese medicine, we are in the time of deep reflection. This is a time to retreat from the world; to reflect and contemplate. It is a time for stillness. Spring is naturally the time to put plans into action, not the depths of winter.- look at nature! The trees have shed their leaves, animals are hibernating, and have food stored for the time of shortage. - Ask any keen gardener what they are doing this time of year? and you'll be hard pressed to get their attention away from the seed catalogue! We often use this time to make sweeping statements about diet, fitness, finances, or ways of living and with great intention, which soon begin to slip and slide as the year creeps in.
My invitation to you is to use the new year as a time to clear out what is not needed from the past, including unhelpful or stagnant thinking patterns, and create space for new ideas, intentions and plans which can move into action in the spring - following the natural patterns of nature. By all means make some resolutions, but be mindful of what your intentions are, and how you plan to put that into action. create small baby steps, and build from there, so that by the spring the intention is clear and solid, and action can be taken. Research has shown that people who are most effective at following through on their New years resolutions are people who have made a clear plan - a daily / weekly action which can be easily incorporated into life rather than grand sweeping statements - a clear how and when, not just the what - or the desired end result, but the detail.
With this in mind you might be interested in a couple of Apps to help you along the way. I find as my attention slips and my intentions slide, a gentle daily reminder can make all the difference; and there is a free app which I would like to introduce you to which you might find really useful.
To help clear the mind and create more space, daily mediation can be transformative. For some people, this can be a daunting thought and have no idea where or how to start.
Headspace have created a really easy to use app, which introduces you to mediation, and gives you a 10 minute daily meditation to follow. click on the button to find out more. Ive recommended this to clients and friends, and they've found it really useful.
I wish you all the best for a fulfilling, nourishing, stimulating and healthy 2014!
Touch is an integral part of positive health and development. Regular touch has been scientifically proven to have many benefits, particularly for those in later life. Humans need to touch and be touched. Touch lifts our spirits, relaxes us and helps us experience happiness in our lives. Without it, we experience sadness, loneliness and isolation. Physical contact is vitally important to all, especially for older people; yet in today's society touch is often absent. This may be due to negative associations or the lack of someone to share touch with.
Shiatsu is perfectly suited to the elderly, as it can be practiced on-site, whilst seated in a chair or lying on a bed, without the need to undress or deal with messy oils. Shiatsu can be an ideal way for older people to receive touch in a dignified and safe fashion.
Hannah’s Shiatsu is wonderful. I can’t wait for my treatments with her. She is very gentle and her Shiatsu is always just what I need; leaving me feeling so relaxed and peaceful. It was especially beneficial after I had my hip replaced two years ago, really helping to speed my recovery. Cynthia (aged 92)
Touch through Shiatsu releases the calming peptide hormone Oxytocin, which helps lower blood pressure, and increases the ability to deal with stress. Oxytocin is also a natural pain reliever, and helps stimulate overall health.
Regular Shiatsu can have many other benefits, such as helping to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. It decreases muscle stiffness, helping to increase flexibility and mobility. People also report higher energy levels and an increase in their sense of overall wellbeing. Shiatsu helps promote restful sleep, and can also help stimulate the immune system.
I offer on-site Shiatsu for those who cannot get to my clinics.
Clients can be treated gently and effectively for a number of different health conditions, and each session is completely tailored to the needs of that person.
If you have a parent or grandparent who you know may benefit, please do get in touch 07981992178
Summer is well and truly here and in full swing. In chinese medicine, this is represented by the Fire energy. When our Fire energy is in balance, we are very enlivened, active and outwards facing in the world. Imagine the flames of a fire dancing. The Fire energy also represents our self expression our ability to connect with others, to love and to express ourselves freely. One of the most wonderful ways to do that is through Song and dance. Our summer festivals give us plenty of opportunity to dance, but how about singing? in the shower? in the car? whilst cooking? where do you love singing?
If your energy is low and your not feeling so moved to sing and dance, then often this can be due to a depletion in the fire energy. We may have burnt out, or just not had enough fuel to nourish our soul. Singing and especially together in choirs is a great way to fuel that energy, and to bring people together, to connect and express themselves! Its also been medically proven to improve health and wellbeing!
I've been involved recently in a wonderful project which is all about connecting and nourishing that fire energy through singing. I am in the process of setting up a Wellbeing choir - a choir specifically for people to join to help with their health and wellbeing. (and no don't panic I won't be leading it - I've got a couple of fantastic professionals to do that!) And I would invite everyone to come along and join in! Its totally free, and you need no previous experience. There are no auditions, and you don't need to be able to read music. The range of music on offer is really broad, so there's always going to be a song (or few) you know (and love?!) and the emphasis really is on having fun and singing for the fun and health of it...
It starts on the 26th September, @ 7pm, at the St Michaels and All angels Church Hall, Vivian st, Windmill Hill
And if you're not in the Bristol area then why not check out your own local community choir? there are hundreds of them out there! Who knows how it might make you feel!
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
This is the definition of health by the World Health Organisation.
I love this definition because it opens up so much more, and considers the person as a whole as we do in shiatsu, not just a set of symptoms, a physical discomfort or dis-ease. In Shiatsu we consider that the whole landscape of a person's life has influence on their wellbeing, and that our emotional, spiritual and mental state is just as important and has bearing on our physical state. Yet so often my clients are surprised by this, and have had no concept that their physical difficulties may be connected to or influenced by their emotional or mental state, and that in engaging in the emotional they can gain such peace, ease and transformation.
By acknowledging our emotions, honouring them and owning them in a safe and supportive environment, our body does not have to do all the work for us. How many times have you felt your stomach contract, your shoulders tense or your jaw lock up when you've felt angry or upset by something?
Our bodies over time begin to respond and call out for attention, and when we do not listen, persist, until we are forced off work with stress, or an illness occurs and we have to stop and take stock (or not!)
In Shiatsu we honour all of a person, it is not just for times of physical discomfort or dis-ease. By having Shiatsu at times of difficulty, stress or upset, at times of change or transition; Health and Wellbeing in its broadest sense can be supported and maintained and inner resources and resiliance reinforced. Supporting you mentally, emotionally, and socially to maintain a physical state of peace, freedom and good health.
If Shiatsu is something you've heard about, read about, been told about but you just don't get it, then why not take this opportunity to find out more! I'll be offering FREE 20 minute tasters on Saturday July the 6th, at the Practice Rooms in Clifton.
Or you may already LOVE Shiatsu, and would like for your friend / partner / Aunt Jean to experience some of the benefits; but know they need to experience it first hand for themselves without having to part with any hard earned cash; then this is their opportunity!
Sessions will be run in the afternoon starting from 12.30 - 4.30pm click on button below to book your taster or call me on 07981992178.
I write this sat in my garden in a T-shirt for perhaps the first time this year, welcoming the warm rays of the sun onto my pale skin, and delighting in the signs of new life around me; the buds on the bushes, and the daffodils bright in the afternoon sun. It feels like its been a long time coming this year (2013). I know I am not alone in having struggled with the long cold winter and its effects on my engagement and outlook on life.
Can you notice the difference in how you feel on a warm sunny spring day? The expansion within? The sense of wanting to reach out in to the world, rather than contract inwards and away from it? The feeling of being able to look to the future and begin planning things with excitement and energy, rather than dread and gloom? This is the time of new beginnings and is a potent time in our cycle. In Shiatsu it is represented by the 'Wood' energy, and is something we can tap into and utilise at anytime you may feel like you need a bit more of that in your life!
I have decided to harness this new found energy to start a blog, sharing with you some thoughts and insights as the year progresses. I hope to bring you some understanding of where we are coming from in shiatsu, this strange Japanese word for what we do! I hope you will join me and enjoy some of the offerings I have!
Wood energy is part of the 'Five Element' system, used in China for thousands of years. It was developed by observation of the human condition; how we are in health and balance- and how we are when we are not! It became apparent that we have responses like the one described above to the different seasons of the year and the varying states of nature, as well as activity in our day to day life. These subtle yet profound reactions are all clues to our ever changing state. When out of balance, we can use this system to explore and respond to that, using the touch of Shiatsu. We can help the body re-align its natural desires for flow and connection with that which is going on around us in nature. An example of that is when we feel stuck in our life, indecisive, or frustrated, this is often an expression that the wood energy is struggling, and shiatsu can be a great way to re-engage and enliven that energy, releasing that "stuckness" and connecting us to our ability to be flexible, adaptable and in the flow again
Stretching is a great thing to do when feeling stuck, or at any time; and particularly in spring! Awakening your muscles through stretch also awakens that part of us which likes to plan, to have a vision and get things going! Side stretching can also help in decision-making too! So why not get along to that yoga class you've been thinking about all through the cold, dark winter andhaven't quite got round to joining?
Or keep your eye on here for my post about the Makka-ho Stretches - a series of simple stretches I sometimes share with my clients. They can stretch, enliven and activate all of the meridians we work with in Shiatsu.
So go on... stand up right now and see how it feels to stretch out! You know you want to!
Author: Hannah Currant
Hannah is a Shiatsu and EFT Practitioner based in Bristol.
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