Article Written for and published in
The Shiatsu Society Journal: Autumn 2016 issue
by Daniela Coronelli
Anatomy of a Seiki Weekend
Seiki is a hands-on Ki-therapy – developed and evolved by the late shiatsu teacher Akinobu Kishi (known to his students and friends simply as 'Kishi'), who spent most of his life exploring, researching and demonstrating the healing process. Today, Seiki
continues to develop through the work of his wife, Kyoko and numerous leading shiatsu teachers and practitioners who have been inspired to offer this effective and innovative style of Shiatsu. Seiki’s legacy to the Shiatsu world (and to other therapeutic approaches) lies in the research and development of its experiential methodology. It demonstrates clearly how the movement of physical and emotional distortions, in life, can be recognised and transformed by developing and refining Ki-sensitivity, mindful observation and an empathic contact between giver and receiver. This emphasis has evolved out of the embodied wisdom of the Do-In practices and the Japanese healing tradition of Kampo Medicine.
Beginning the Workshop
It was Saturday morning, in a sunny studio, in Devon, with a view of Dartmoor. A group of 6 people were invited to share names and say how and why they came to be attending this weekend Seiki workshop. Various reasons were voiced: of wanting to cultivate softness about one’s “inadequacies”; of discovering how to manage chronic pain and stress when working with clients; of wanting to be more visible and confident as Shiatsu practitioners; of lessening the sense of “doing”, in their contact with clients; and expanding their understanding of Seiki.
Unlike Kishi and Kyoko, with whom I worked for several years, and still, after many
years of facilitating Seiki workshops, I had prepared a lesson plan, aims and objectives as outlined in the advertising poster for the course, only to discover that I did not need them. In the week prior to the workshop, it had become clear that I wanted to facilitate the group learning, not from “knowledge” or past experience of Seiki, but from what would unfold in the group and in myself during the two days. I placed myself as one member of the group, with the intention of facilitating their learning through resonance, inviting the appropriate skills, and any responses, to arise in the moment, in a spirit of co-operation and of inclusion, with whatever would emerge.
The group comprised a mixture of regular, occasional and new participants. It is always good to see how a group evolves during the course of workshop. Over the years, I have witnessed a wide-range of therapists (though a large percentage of them, Shiatsu practitioners) coming to these workshops, and gaining these new skills to take with them into their practices.
Breathing, Gyoki and Seiki
Given what the group had brought in to the course, I used both structured and unstructured activities - making space, also, for enquiring: about patterns of breathing and moving and about exchanging Seiki, to facilitate their embodied interest in finding answers to their questions.
I first introduced the mindfulness practice of breathing with the whole body, which created a platform for being mindful of one’s patterns and the quality of one's breathing. This was well-received and, in addition to what it revealed, it helped to calm the busy mind and lift the group energy. It was a good basis for introducing and working with 'Gyoki' - one of the core practices of Seiki, which helps to cultivate and expand Ki-sensitivity by focussing the attention on the flow of movement throughout the body, as we breathe.
Gyoki helped to reveal and, for some participants, change, postural habits and muscular tensions that restricted the flow of their breath. It, further, anchored their attention to how they were feeling the flow of Ki, and how they were breathing. Later we transposed this quality of awareness and sensitivity into giving and receiving Seiki in pairs. Simply placing the hands on the other in this way, before introducing any further Seiki skills, had already had a transformative effect on the breathing and the receptivity of the receiver. This was evident to all, early on in the exchange of Seiki, in this group.
The Seiki Way of Working
In Seiki sessions, we learn to give attention and recognition, to where the movement of Ki wants to flow on its journey to balance. This involves developing skills of mindful presence and resonance. In this context I use the word 'resonance' to refer to our ability to resonate with the receiver, to feel empathy with them.
The areas our partner feels they want to be touched can only be felt and seen by us in real time and simultaneously (Akinobu Kishi & Alice Whieldon 2011). I have found the process of developing resonance with clients, and students alike, to be not only a medium of exchange, but also a way of transforming the movement of Ki in daily life - one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, as a practitioner, and in teaching. It by-passes knowledge-based ways of learning and allows both parties to value the original skills we bring into our exchange, whatever condition we happen to be in. It also values our being human.
This, I have found, creates an atmosphere of equanimity, relaxation and trust, where learning can happen organically for all involved. One of the participants, who had attended previous Seiki weekends, mentioned how this had made a difference to overcoming his fear of learning he had experienced in his upbringing. There are other benefits from cultivating a resonant contact with clients, which can be useful to Shiatsu and to other manual therapy practitioners. It requires less physical and mental energy than following an idea of diagnosis and there is a sense of interest and learning that is kept alive with every session we give.
Back at the workshop, in the Seiki exchanges, working in pairs, I invited participants to integrate this “Seiki” way of working with their shiatsu touch, noticing, gradually, the effect their contact had on their partners and on themselves. For the newcomers to Seiki it took a while to adapt to the freedom of this new way of contact, to simply allow themselves to connect to the receiver from what they saw and felt during the exchange, without having to project a diagnosis onto them and then follow it through. Peer and group discussion, here, supported them in embracing the new and considering its benefits.
The group found two activities particularly useful, as a means of staying present, being able to observe and to respond to the movement of Ki: Amerta Movement and the reading of Mindfulness Poems.
Amerta Movement developed out of the work of the Indonesian movement teacher, Suprapto Suryodarmo. It is unlike any other established movement practice in that there is no set form, no prescribed poses or movements to follow, as in practices such as Qi Qong, Yoga, Tai Chi, etc. other than following one's own individual bodyfeeling in movement.
As a contributing author to the book 'Embodied Lives', I wrote about how the practice of Seiki had influenced, and been influenced by my practice of Amerta Movement. Both methodologies are based on the nurturing of embodied presence - in giving full attention to what is present, in movement and in the healing process, in the case of Seiki. (Coronelli, 2014).
From the perspective of Amerta Movement, form and structure are continuously in a process of modification. Movement can start from anywhere, be it a physical location, an idea or feeling. In the unfolding, from moment to moment, of what appears in awareness, there is an ongoing contact with one's own inner condition. This changes in response to the environment and context in which we are moving.
As a Seiki therapist, there is not the urgency to get a result or to initiate a change in the client's condition. In keeping also with Amerta Movement, Seiki relies on the ability to surrender to the moment - seeing, hearing, feeling and touching the environment that is present, in the form of the client and the surroundings, sensing where to place the hands, without relying on past knowledge or a pre-conceived strategy.
The Use of Mindfulness Poems in Teaching
I have always found that poems, written from the perspective of mindful awareness, have a profound effect in a workshop setting, and have used them for many years for this purpose.
Poetry has a way of cutting through the intellectual default setting that many of us have, delivering the essential qualitative message, as if by chance or accident. So, I have found that a well-chosen poem often succeeds where a more elaborate explanation might fail. So, during the course of a typical workshop day, I will
introduce two or three poems, one by one, at an appropriate time, depending on how the day is unfolding. Asking a different participant to read each poem, further assists the integration of individuals within the group development. (Black 2009)
Seiki brings a new dynamic to our Shiatsu practice, and a quality of self-awareness in the process of our healing work. Instead of having a plan of action in response to what we see in the client, we tune in to our client's present condition, and stay aware of our own, moving with the process as it evolves during the session, by being awake to the subtle variations in the client's physical tensions and blockages, their state of relaxation and their breathing patterns.
In my experience, practitioners who encounter the methodology of Seiki, recognise it as an important add-on to their skill-set, and also as an extremely effective way of working in its own right. I have added the use of Amerta Movement and Mindfulness Poetry as a further enhancement to my workshops, but true to the spirit of Seiki itself, will remain open to any future such changes. Seiki teaches us a way of always staying alive to the healing process, whilst observing our role in it, which will always be of benefit to the clients themselves.
Kishi, A & Whieldon, A (2011) Sei-ki: Life in Resonance. London & Philadelphia: Singing Dragon
Coronelli, D. (2014) The Echo of Life. in Bloom, K., Galanter, M., Reeve, S., (Ed.), Embodied Lives: Reflections on the Influence of Suprapto Suryodarmo and Amerta Movement. (87-95) Axminster: Triarchy Press
Black, A.L., Does poetry matter in the teaching of Mindfulness Based Interventions? (2009)