Shizuto Masunaga (part.1): a genius on shoulders of giants

Shizuto Masunaga (part.1): a genius on shoulders of giants

Reading Time: 15 minutes

Within the field of Oriental medicine, Shiatsu is nowadays considered to be an established modality, especially when viewed from a Western perspective. Within the field of Shiatsu itself, there are often said to be distinct styles and one of the most easily identifiable is held to be Zen Shiatsu, created roughly half a century ago in Japan by scholar, thinker and innovator Masunaga Shizuto.

This series of articles will pursue three main threads. One of them will be to provide a historical account of the birth of a distinctive and highly influential style of Shiatsu and describe the process within the larger context of Japanese history and culture. In doing this, we will also examine Massunaga’s creation in terms of both tradition and innovation. Further, we will attempt to identify the attributes of Zen which gave it its name, and which might distinguish this style from other Shiatsu forms. A major theme which will emerge as part of these investigations will be the relationship between Masunaga’s creation and the broader tapestry of Oriental medicine, from which he drew both inspiration and direct influence on many levels.

No assumptions are made as to the amount of specialised knowledge an individual reader may have. Instead, it is accepted as a given that various readers will be interested and knowledgeable in different areas and to varying degrees. For some there will be superfluous detail in places, while for others certain basic concepts will already be understood and can be skimmed through fairly rapidly.

The Birth of Zen Shiatsu

Zen Shiatsu is a recently founded therapeutic style. However, due to its use of concepts and practices from the traditions of Oriental medicine, we may usefully regard it as a young and vibrant branch on an ancient and powerful tree.

The gradual formation of the style that came to be known as Zen Shiatsu is primarily the work of one man: Shizuto Masunaga. Born in Kure, Hiroshima prefecture, Japan, in 1925, his first professional field was psychology, in which he graduated from Kyoto Imperial University in 1949 [1]. Moving on to bodywork, following his mother’s influence – she hosted Shiatsu classes with master Tenpeki Tamai in the Masunaga family home – he later graduated from the Japan Shiatsu School [2] in Tokyo under Tokujiro Namikoshi. From 1959 he taught clinical psychology for ten years at the school, which held at the time, and holds still to this day, the exclusive right to licence Shiatsu practitioners in Japan [3].

We can only guess at the exact stages in the process of development and separation that took place in Masunaga the teacher and practitioner, but by 1968 he had established his own school: the Iokai Shiatsu Centre. From here, and together with a dedicated group of students, he proceeded to lead the process of deconstruction and reconstruction which would gradually lead to the development of Zen Shiatsu .

In terms of deconstruction, Masunaga went to extreme lengths to dismantle the style he had inherited – the Namikoshi Shiatsu of his teacher [4]. As far as reconstruction goes, he was able, as we shall see, to put together a holistic method which integrated the vital, energetic theories of traditional Oriental medicine [5] with key aspects of the result-based science of the West. The story of Masunaga’s efforts entails not only his bringing the spiritual essence back into Shiatsu [6], but also significant contributions to the evolution of Shiatsu through developing theories and practices unique to his system.

Shizuto Masunaga created a style of Shiatsu that re-integrated its original core of spirituality and vital energy. Following his special interest in exploring the mental, emotional, and spiritual components of the human entity, he crafted a system that merged ideas from Western psychology and physiology, traditional Chinese medicine and Zen Buddhism.

Because Masunaga was able to frame traditional Eastern concepts in conventional, modern Western terms, his style, Zen Shiatsu attained a wide appeal and has become perhaps the most popular form of Shiatsu internationally.

Shizuto Masunaga with a calligraphy starting with the 3 kanjis
“Ee-no-o” – meaning King/Emperor of Medicine.

The Iokai (医王会 ; Ee-Oh-Kai) Centre [7] still exists, even though its founder passed away in 1981. The name Iokai says a great deal about the ambitions of its leading figure. Translated literally, it would mean: Emperor of Medicine Association. This may strike the Western reader as somewhat lacking in humility, and thus the following set of contextual references may prove helpful.

“Zen” in Shiatsu

Masunaga’s attention had been seized by a certain passage in the Buddhist sutra known in Japanese as Zoagon-kyo. The passage in question explains the importance of a thorough and spiritual (what we might today call “holistic”) approach to healing. The Emperor of medicine should, it urged, thoroughly examine the nature of disease, clearly identify origin and cause, treat the disease but also care for and enlighten himself as to the constitution of his own being.

Zoagon-kyo sutra, extract from the volume XLV

In this short passage we find a concise description of some of the key tenets of traditional Oriental medicine: the enquiry into the nature of disease; its origins and causes as well as its effective treatment, but also, and perhaps above all else, the caring for of one’s own person and the path to enlightenment through the calling of healing.

These ideas are not often stated quite this directly by either modern or traditional practitioners and teachers of Oriental medicine, but Masunaga seems to have been very clear on this point: the way of healing is a way to enlightenment. This of course goes a long way to explain why generations of people throughout the ages and in all cultures and situations in life have felt compelled to dedicate their lives to healing.

Thus, healing work should in no way be mistaken for a selfless giving of time, energy and life resources. It is a way in itself with its own promise of reward. In the preface to his seminal English text from 1977, “Zen Shiatsu”, we find the following lines written by Masunaga:

“In Zen it is important to have a good master to learn from. In Shiatsu your patient is your master. You can achieve satori by treating disease and restoring health.”

This underscores the importance of the word Zen in the context of the name given to Masunaga’s style of Shiatsu.

Further on in this chapter we will be taking a closer look at the practical aspects of the style, and in particular the emphasis on “natural pressure”, fluid movement and ergonomic posture. Once we have done this, we will be able to consider the question of whether or not the word “Dao” might have been equally as fitting, if not more so, to describe the essence of Masunaga’s contribution to Shiatsu.

There are two interesting stories regarding how Masunaga eventually came to name his style Zen Shiatsu. The first is the one with which the majority of practitioners tend to identify. The story goes that either Masunaga treated a Zen monk or that a monk witnessed Masunaga giving a treatment to a third party. Either way, it is related that the monk then likened what he had experienced, or seen, as Zen practised between two people.

The other story is somewhat less appealing to practitioners of Zen Shiatsu, but perhaps no less important in the larger context of Oriental bodywork therapies making inroads into Western cultures. This story relates that during the process of translating Masunaga’s book “Shiatsu” into English, his collaborator, Wataru Ohashi [8], suggested the name “Zen Shiatsu”. Ohashi argued that such a name would have a far greater appeal among Western readers. This has proved to be a powerful insight, and the story is not likely to be dismissed out of hand by those aware of Ohashi’s penetrating knowledge of the human psyche, and, on a practical level, of what sells.

What is certain, however, is that Zen Shiatsu has become a recognised and popular style of Shiatsu in the Western world, notwithstanding its relative obscurity in Japan. This obscurity is partly explained by the complete monopoly still enjoyed by the Namikoshi family organisation over the issuing of state licences for Shiatsu practitioners in Japan. The other major factor is the current low status accorded most forms of traditional Japanese and Oriental art, with a few notable exceptions (sumo, kabuki and ikebana being the most prominent among them).

The Two Sides of Masunaga

1. The scholar sage

This brings us to the two very different sides of Masunaga’s life story. On the one hand, it is possible to see Masunaga as a modern example of the scholar sage, a universal figure known and revered throughout Oriental history. On the other hand, he is very much able to be regarded as a product of his own particular time and place.

Ultimately, we will find that he can perhaps best be viewed as an exceptionally gifted individual who managed to successfully combine these two polarities. From the particulars of time and place, but equally from the resources of tradition, Masunaga created a thing of lasting value that outlived his own physical existence and continues to thrive.

If we choose to regard Masunaga as one in a long line of scholar sages, we have much to support our view. As mentioned above, he initially studied psychology to a professional level. Augmenting this, he moved on to incorporate not only the art of bodywork, but also the field of movement. As if to emphasise the importance of the latter, his other translated text published in 1987 was called: “Zen Imagery Exercises” [9].

(C) John Veltri

In this later book (fluidly translated by Stephen Brown), we see the second major result of his life-long investigation into what he called “the echo of life”. The main body of the text consists of several series of exercises. The pronounced aim was to introduce the reader to simple movements, which would awaken and kindle the relationship of the individual to his/her own life energy or Ki (Qi).

In this text he also developed his descriptions of the meridians of Oriental medicine, and it is here that we encounter yet another area of endeavour in this remarkable man’s life.

Masunaga was a man who seems to have ceaselessly analysed, interpreted and applied traditional as well as modern streams of knowledge. His work was one of re-evaluation, re-interpretation, and synthesis. This synthesis was achieved over a lifetime and through the dual processes of mental exertion and practical application. We can infer in his work a spiral-like process of continual reassessment. By this we can understand a relentless instinct to discover and learn, but also to thoroughly test all theories and discoveries in the clinic – that most exacting of arenas.

These various attributes and accomplishments, when taken together, bear the hallmark of the scholar sage: endeavour in several parallel and connected fields; traditional knowledge painstakingly accrued; modern theories and practices examined and tested and, finally, a personal synthesis of the most effective and rewarding components contained within a substantially new creation.

2. A Man of his time

If we now take a look at the reverse side of the dichotomy, we find a man completely in harmony with his zeitgeist: the spirit of the age in post-war Japan. Ever since the Meiji restoration in the 1800’s, Japan had been undergoing a rapid transformation. In a relatively short period of time Japan transformed itself from a hermetically sealed, feudal culture to a modern, progressive society, open and willing – almost desperate – to assimilate that which had previously been strictly forbidden: Western values and practices, and of particular interest to us, the natural scientific method.

In medical terms, this meant anatomy and physiology and the modern practices of Western medicine. The crisis for the traditional Oriental healing arts that this inevitably precipitated took many forms, ranging from complete abandonment through partial integration to outright denial and entrenchment. The crisis had, however, merely begun and was to both accelerate and intensify.

By the end of the Second World War, Japan was utterly devastated. In material terms, food was scarce, infrastructure destroyed and national health depleted. The most naked symbols of this were, of course, the southern cities of Nagasaki and – even more notably – Hiroshima, Masunaga’s birthplace, both of which were annihilated by atomic bombs.

Spiritually, the Japanese were no less diminished at this time. The Emperor, having traditionally enjoyed the status of a god, had been thoroughly humiliated by the “cultureless” Americans, and shown to be no more than an ordinary mortal.

It is probably impossible for a modern, Western reader to imagine how this might have felt or gauge the impact it must have exerted on an entire people. What history has objectively and emphatically shown us, however, is that the consequences were far-reaching in the combined fields of the arts – expressive and stage arts no less than medical and martial arts.

The in-depth examination, which had steadily progressed during the past century, now intensified exponentially. A distinct feeling of life-or-death importance seems to invest this period, together with a fierce need to reinvent and re-invigorate the culture and identity of Japan.

We can see the consequences in such diverse fields as Butoh dance, Ryodoraku acupuncture, Aikido, Karate, macrobiotics, and, not least, Zen Shiatsu, although in each case the ratio of assimilation to conservation varies appreciably.

Whereas Butoh dance is a superb example of dance pioneers searching backwards towards the roots of “Japaneseness” in their art, Ryodoraku acupuncture is, by contrast, a system that was developed by Nakatani, its founder to reinterpret, explain and practise acupuncture through the application of certain key conceptual tools derived from modern, Western medicine. 

Aikido came into being as an urge to derive the maximum effectiveness out of the traditional fighting arts of jujitsu and swordsmanship, while framing them overtly in the language and practice of love and harmony. Aikido became a modern, synthetic art steeped in the time-honoured traditions of Japanese martial arts [10].

George Ohsawa [11] founded Macrobiotics in an attempt to redefine the principles of Oriental philosophy (primarily yin and yang) and apply them to the daily bread all humans ingest, in the wider service of world peace and harmony.

There are numerous examples of this process of re-invention, re-interpretation, and re-incorporation right across the board in Japanese cultural life – including Shintaido, Sotai [12], Noguchi Taiso as developed by Michizo Noguchi and the Seitai and Katsugenundo exercises developed by Noguchi Haruchika [13]. Synthesis of varying degrees is the common denominator. Zen Shiatsu is another prime example of this phenomenon. It is, after all, highly likely that some or all of these movers and movements were well known to Masunaga. One famous example is the Makko Ho exercises developed by Wataru Nagai [14] (1869-1963). At age 42, Nagai suffered a stroke leaving half his body paralysed. His doctors told him he would likely have to spend the rest of his life half paralysed, dependent on support and probably unable to work. Nagai developed the Makko Ho exercises while looking at a textbook on Buddhism at the home of his father, a Buddhist monk.

(To be continued)

Editor’s notes:

  • [1] Kyoto Imperial University is now called simply Kyoto University
  • [2] Now known as Japan Shiatsu College
  • [3] In fact, two other schools have the right to issue state licenses: Kuretake and Chosui Gakuen. The author is making the point that they all come from the same crucible of the Namikoshi school, which is technically correct.
  • [4] It could be argued that Shizuto Masunaga had to dismantle his inheritance from two teachers: Tenpeki Tamai and Tokujiro Namikoshi.
  • [5] He was influenced by various well known authors and by the presence of Izawa sensei, who taught oriental medicine at the Japan Shiatsu College.
  • [6] To this extent, he has preserved the legacy as witnessed in the final chapter of Tenpeki Tamai’s “Shiatsu-ho”, which advises readers to recite the Lotus Sutra at least once a day to open their heart.
  • [7] The Iokai Shiatsu center of Tokyo is currently run by his son Haruhiko Masunaga.
  • [8] Read the interview of Ohashi, where he describes how he changed the title of Masunaga’s book.
  • [9] Zen Imagery Exercises: Meridian Exercises for Wholesome Living; Shizuto Masunaga, Tokyo, NY: Japan Publications, 1987
  • [10] Read “Those Aikido masters who spread Shiatsu“ by Ivan Bel
  • [11] George Oshawa (1893-1966), born as Nyoichi Sakurazawa, founder of Macrobiotics had a major influence on several Japanese Shiatsu masters. To find out more, read: “L’histoire des pionniers Japonais en France – Les Années 50“ by Ivan Bel
  • [12] Sotai-ho (操体法) is a Japanese form of manual therapy, invented by Keizo Hashimoto (1897–1993), a Japanese doctor from Sendai. The term So-tai (操体) is the opposite of the Japanese word for exercise: Tai-so (体操). According to its inventor, it is based on traditional East Asian medicine (acupuncture, moxibustion and bone setting or sekkotsu) combined with his knowledge of modern Western medicine.
  • [13] Seitai (整体) refers to a healing method with multiple origins formalised by Haruchika Noguchi (1911-1976) in mid-20th century Japan. The term means “correctly aligned body”.
  • [14] To find out more about Makko-Ho and Dr. Wataru Nagai, please read “Trois pratiques d’étirement (1) – Le vrai Makkô Hô japonais“ by Stéphane Cuypers


The Blackened Pot

The Blackened Pot

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Trauma can occur either through sudden and violently destructive events, or through a gradual process of attrition. Both can be devastating but both can be prevented and alleviated. It is never too late and there is no such thing as a hopeless case. No one need ever abandon hope. There is always something that can be done and once the first step is taken, others may follow. A combination of methods is likely to be the optimal way forward and, as a holistic therapy with many avenues of intervention at its disposal, Shiatsu has a primary role in this. The most important part of the help we offer may be empowerment – every word said, deed enacted and thought envisaged is in the service of empowering our clients’ liberation from the strait jacket of trauma. In the process, we can not only reclaim, and regain our original energy but discover gifts and abilities we never suspected we had.

A Blackened Mess

You enter the kitchen and the stink and smoke tell their sorry tale – a pan was left on the stove; the moisture content is burnt off and the pot is a blackened mess. It happens every now and then – thankfully not all that often – and the question arising is: how best to deal with it?

There exists a small minority of people who have the time and the wherewithal to deal with it immediately. Windows and doors are opened, the pot is emptied, water is applied, scrubbing ensues, and the pot is returned – almost – to its pristine state.

Many people take semi-immediate action and the pot is left, half-filled with water, to soak. Some folks deal with the pot later that evening, some the next day and some put it off for several days or a even week. There is no essential difference between these relatively minor time delays in terms of returning the pot to a useful and rehabilitated state.

At the other end of the scale are people who have neither the time nor the ability to do anything restorative at all. The pot is viewed as a casualty. It is set aside. It moves gradually further and further away from the centre of attention and, in time, ends up out by the step or in the yard somewhere. This situation leads to a more or less permanent state of complete dereliction.

Picture this pot, lying abandoned outside, exposed to the elements of wind, cold, heat moisture and dryness. Amid this exposure, a small portion of the damage will be eroded over time. Unfortunately, the same is true of the innate structure of the pot itself. There is no win-win here, just a slow, local decay, leading to gradual pollution of the immediate environment.

There is, of course, another, less dramatic way to blacken pots – constant use with no serious attempt to clean. This is a slower but equally devastating process for the pan, which will inevitably find itself gradually relegated to the back of the cupboard, neglected and unused, until the day it is eventually rediscovered and probably discarded.

Going back to the cleaning operations alluded to above, a pertinent question arises: is the pan ever really returned to its pristine state? The answer is: probably not. There will either be scars or remnants or a combination of both. Either the cleaning is so intense that it actually removes a layer of metal from the pan, or the cleaning will stop at the level where the final remnants of carbon are firmly lodged into the pot’s current state of being. In most cases, we will witness a mixture of the two scenarios.

By this stage, the metaphor we are exploring will probably have become abundantly transparent – the blackened pot is, in fact, a traumatized human being. We have understood that trauma can occur either through a sudden, intense and violently destructive event, or through a gradual process of attrition. Both can be devastating but both can be prevented, or at least alleviated.

Viable Treatment Methods – Shiatsu has a Primary Role

The subject of trauma has now become a far more viable one than it was just a few years ago. It is acceptable to talk about it in many different arena, and viable methods for treatment are emerging, based on everything from therapeutic discussion through NLP, EFT, TRE and hypnosis to bodywork and energy-based treatment modalities. A combination of methods is widely assumed to be the optimal way forward. Shiatsu has a primary role in all of this.

Still, it is a subject that needs illumination from as many angles as possible, and although a metaphor can never mirror the object of comparison with exact precision, imagery does have the advantage of activating senses that rational approaches cannot…

If we imagine that a person, like a pot, may be the subject of an intensely damaging event, which forms might this take?

Attributes of Trauma

War and the atrocities associated with it are an obvious example. Any kind of attack involving physical violence, even an accident, can be traumatizing in a similar way. Natural catastrophes need to be included, of course: earthquakes, fires, floods and tornadoes. Death, especially multiple deaths, can leave people feeling shaky and untrusting of the world around them. This is especially true for the very young and the very isolated. People suddenly finding themselves unemployed or pensioned off may easily experience such events as traumatic. Domestic partnerships that break up, seemingly without warning, especially where a double life is revealed, are also the stuff of trauma for certain individuals.

At this point we need to pause and consider the subjective element. A common phrase that has some relevance is: that which does not kill me, makes me stronger. That is true for some people and in some circumstances and is a subject well worth exploring in depth and at length. However, it most certainly does not apply universally. An event that does not kill us can also leave us maimed and scarred for life – traumatized. Some of the deciding factors include innate sensitivity, existing support structures, available healing resources and prevalent cultural surroundings, which either encourage getting “back on the horse” relatively quickly or succumbing to one or another kind of passive acceptance or even, in worst case scenarios, victimhood.

In all conflicts area, the kids are often the first victims of war violence

Resuming our list of events that may traumatize quickly and suddenly, we need to include any kind of sexual violence or assault. Once again, we need to return to the subjective – that which one person might internalise to the depths of their being as a crippling attack on their foundations, another may brush off and put down to experience. Some individuals may even gain immense strength from overcoming apparently disabling levels of abuse – such individuals then have the opportunity of becoming role models for other survivors.

The probability of events proving traumatic or otherwise depends also on their repetition or singularity. While an isolated violent and dehumanizing event may be survived with only minor consequences, one that is repeatedly experienced will eventually destabilise even the strongest of constitutions. The word “torture” now enters our space, since repeated assaults are fundamentally construable as torture and the results will almost certainly be traumatic.

Consequences of Trauma

The consequences of trauma can include everything from a slightly reduced to a fundamentally altered personality. A person may need to cede relatively smaller or comparatively larger portions of their innate character to conserve enough life energy to survive the experience(s) in question. In any case, the result will be a proportional reduction in life essence and a corresponding diminishing of the expression of life force and thereby personality. Another person may choose to explore completely different aspects of their personality to develop survival strategies – some even adopt the very methods that were exercised upon them…

In extreme cases, there is also the question of additional personality traits and sub-divisions within the basic character. Here we enter the realms of so-called obsession and multiple personalities. Neither is especially uncommon – mild obsession can be seen on football terraces, at concerts and in certain gangs. Multiple personalities are on view at many workplaces and social forum. These are usually not problematic but if left unchecked and/or boosted by mounting inner tensions, peer pressure or other unfavourable external influences, can eventually become serious problems.

The consequences of trauma can include everything from a slightly reduced to a fundamentally altered person

This reminds us of the pot which, through careless use and neglect, can become just as dysfunctional as the pot that was suddenly scalded. The result is similar, even though the process is quite different. Gradual attrition is certainly no less destructive than sudden assault. The exact opposite can be true – an acute experience can be dealt with swiftly and effectively, whereas a gradual, creeping influence can go relatively unnoticed and therefore seep insidiously deeper and gradually deeper into the layers of the bodymind.

Effects of Trauma: Mental, Emotional & Spiritual Levels

It goes without saying that assault and torture – both sudden and gradual – can be experienced on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and, of course, spiritual. We have already dwelt at some length on various physical examples – all of which tend to include or entail a degree of spill over into other levels.

Mental and emotional assault can be exerted in workplaces, families, relationships and via social groups and social media – of which there are an ever-increasing number. Peer pressure and the need to conform are the avenues for many of these traumatic events. Political and religious propaganda provide obvious examples of mental and emotional assault, while unspoken codes of conduct in familial and spousal relationships might constitute the more subtle end of the spectrum. Neither is necessarily more offensive or benign. Once again, some yield and buckle under, whilst others are relatively unaffected or even find themselves developing as a result.

In all circumstances, we need to bear in mind that trauma is never a foregone conclusion, given the innate durability and resilience of humankind. Equally, we need to be aware that trauma is all around us, often concealed behind superficial personas, made over to resemble “normality”.

Spiritual assault can also take every conceivable form, from discreet to overt. Since punishment can be doled out in an infinite variety of manners and reward is likewise multi-spectrumed, the range is infinite. In some cultures, public exhibitions of cruelty are used to reinforce drastic codes of behavioural conduct, whilst in others far more subtle codes of bodily and verbal language are used for coercive purposes in spiritual milieu. The key factor will invariably circulate around the erosion or negation of spontaneous free will.

As soon as our personality, our creativity, our thought processes, our integrity or our adaptive, bodily resources are compromised, the stage is set for the sudden or gradual onset of trauma. Once again, all kinds of internal and external factors will determine whether we do or do not, in fact, experience the events as traumatic. Nevertheless, we are able to identify a wide range of causative events that can produce a traumatic state if allowed to proceed unchecked.

Unravelling Trauma with Shiatsu

Using all of this as our context, we turn to the undoing, the loosening, the unravelling of trauma. Let us remind ourselves that prevention is obviously far better than cure and that there are a thousand ways in which trauma can be obviated through greater or lesser acts of mindful conduct and kindful communication. This barely needs to be said and yet we find ourselves in a world where trauma is, if not common, then certainly not uncommon.

Concerning the subjects of repair, rehabilitation and regeneration, suffice it to say that it is never too late and there is no such thing as a hopeless case. No one need ever abandon hope – neither client not therapist, neither friend nor acquaintance. There is always something that can be done and once the first step is taken, another may follow and from there others become increasingly possible.

The methods available are now numerous and increase daily. Some may find that a verbal exchange helps to initiate the process. Others react more favourably to hands-on interventions at the outset. Shiatsu is a wonderful example of a holistic therapy that has at its disposal myriad fruitful avenues of intervention. One very important component of the therapeutic process is empowerment. From the therapist’s perspective, this may be the single most important part of the help we offer – that every single word said, deed enacted and thought envisaged may be in the service of empowering our clients’ liberation from the paralyzing strait jacket of trauma.

Shiatsu in emeregency situation, Puerto-Rico’s earthquake 2020 (C) Nilsa Eberhart

Endurance, Courage and Commitment

From the client’s perspective, the most important tools will most likely be endurance, courage and commitment.

Endurance is important because the way will almost certainly not be straight and neither smooth, almost certainly not downhill. There will be curves and bends and the uphill stretches may at times seem impossible to endure. An image to keep with you might be the spiral – you will probably have to pass through the same territory several times. Many, perhaps. Each time you do so, you will feel slightly stronger; have a tad more perspective, a little more knowledge of yourself. You are spiralling past the same point, but you are not the same person.

Commitment is just as important because one of life’s little truths is that until we commit with our whole being, no substantial results will ever be achieved. When you find yourself ready to commit – from inside the marrow of your bones out to the ends of your eyelashes and the tips of your toes – then you are truly ready to travel the path of rebuilding your original self.

You will need every ounce of your courage to initiate the process and to keep it going through the many challenges which you will certainly face. You will need to be brave in facing things that are as repellent as anything on earth, things that you once feared would destroy you. This courage will be repaid ten-fold, a hundred-fold and you will be able to find support to maintain this bravery with the person or people you decide to trust as you unravel the pain of the past and move towards your birth right.

There is no limit to what you can achieve and even if the pot was initially as black as sin, know that you can not only reclaim, recycle and regain your original energy but discover gifts and abilities you never even suspected you had.

Find the courage within yourself!

A Cloud with a Silver Lining

Shifting metaphors at the very end, the Japanese remind us that trauma can be a cloud with a silver lining. They hold that a broken ceramic vase, when repaired with golden coloured glue, becomes an even more precious ornament than a run of the mill object that survives unscathed. How can this be? The reason resides precisely in the paradox of suffering: when we are forced to go through difficult processes to gain wisdom we grow in immeasurable ways. We become more flexible, we dig deeper into our resources, we broaden our perspective and finally, we develop compassion.

Suffering in itself can be said to have no intrinsic merit. This presumption notwithstanding, it is held in many spiritual circles that knowledge gained without arduous effort has little value. Effort in itself may equally be viewed as fruitless and barren. It is exactly in the combination of effort and effortlessness, suffering and liberation, panorama and painstaking process that development is to be, if not expected, then at least predictable.

The recipient of trauma can, in this light, be seen as rich pasture indeed.

Kintsugi: repairing ceramic with gold