Shiatsu for Sylvia

   I first met Sylvia a few months after she was diagnosed with leukemia. Sylvia was about 40 years old, married, with a young daughter.  Her doctor told her that she had chronic leukemia, and that there was no treatment for it.  She should just come back every three months for a blood test, and when it becomes acute and life-threatening, then maybe they could do a bone marrow transplant, the only possible way to save her life.  So Sylvia was sent home with a time bomb in her body, and told to do nothing.  The first thing Sylvia said to me was: "I don't believe there's nothing I can do."  I agreed. 

   I worked with Sylvia on her healing in various ways: Esalen massage, sweat lodge.  Sylvia told me about her childhood relationship with her mother, and felt that the emotional patterns that were established then may still be affecting her health, especially because some aspects of that relationship were repeating in her marriage.  So when I signed up for a 5-day Table Shiatsu workshop at the Esalen Institute, I saw that there was an emotional healing workshop offered at Esalen the same week with an excellent teacher, and suggested to Sylvia that we spend that week together at Esalen.  And so we did.

   My shiatsu workshop with Jim Gallas was superb, and the work resonated with me right away.  On the third morning of the workshop, we finished learning the shiatsu sequence for the back of the body, and I wanted to do a run-through of the whole back sequence.  So at lunch, I asked Sylvia if she would be a guinea pig for my shiatsu practice session.  We went to the classroom, and I worked on her back for 45 minutes, compressing dozens of acupressure points, stretching, rocking, getting movement in her arms and legs.  It was my first time performing shiatsu on the entire back of the body.

   Afterwards, Sylvia said to me: an amazing thing happened while you were pressing on my back.  She told me that she found herself face to face, vividly, with her mother, who had passed away years ago.  Her mother had been an alcoholic, and Sylvia had always felt that her mother loved the bottle more than she loved her daughter.  So Sylvia, on the shiatsu table, said to her mother: I need you to tell me why you didn't love me.  What was wrong with me?  Maybe I wasn't pretty enough?  Maybe I wasn't smart enough?  Maybe my heart wasn't good enough? -- and at that, Sylvia produced a knife and said to her mother, Just tell me, if my heart wasn't good enough, I'll cut it out right now with this knife.

   Her mother looked at her and said: Sylvia, there's nothing wrong with you, it's me, I'm the one who had a problem.

   Sylvia suddenly understood her mother and her childhood in a new way.  She had never realized this before.  My understanding of this experience is that Sylvia had opened herself to exploring this aspect of her emotional life, and she had been focusing on this during her Esalen workshop that week.  So the energy clearing that she received on the shiatsu table was like turning the key in the lock; it facilitated a breakthrough in a process that Sylvia was already giving her attention to.

   And this was only my third day of shiatsu class!  When we left Esalen at the end of the week, Sylvia really wanted to receive more shiatsu, and I really wanted more practice.  So for the next two weeks, Sylvia came to my house nearly every day for a shiatsu session.  Months later, her blood test results came back showing no evidence of leukemia.  She had not been receiving any oncology treatment, but was consciously, actively working on healing her life, her personality, and her emotional body.

   And that is how I came to love and respect the power of shiatsu.