In the world of Shiatsu there are the personalities who practice Shiatsu on a daily basis and make it known, and those who highlight these same people through the media. Mihael Mamychshvili does both. For years he has been developing Shiatsu and his own method, and he gives a voice to great teachers and practitioners through what is probably the most famous live interview programme: Everything Shiatsu. But before being a media man, he is first and foremost a passionate trauma practitioner who never stops looking for solutions to free suffering men and women. Discovering a passionate and always smiling teacher.
Dear Mihael, I want to thank you for accepting this interview. Every time we had the chance to talk, I’ve noticed that you’re a man of incredible stories. In our small world of Shiatsu, you seem also a passionate man of the art, and you’re trying to promote it with your famous Zoom interviews and on “Everything Shiatsu” FB group, so I’m sure you have so much to tell. Are you ready?
(Laughs), Yes, I am!
Could you please tell us where you come from and what were your beginnings in life, because it’s already an incredible story.
I was born in the country of Georgia which was ruled at the time by the Soviet Union. It was an intense day where a big storm dropped 10 feet of snow and all roads to the hospital were closed so my father was trapped in a bar with his friends and my mother gave birth to me alone in the hospital.
When roads were cleared and my father came to the hospital to take me and my mother home, the hospital asked him to give a certain amount of his blood to Mother Russia/ the state. It was one of those strange rules the Soviets implemented in all the countries it controlled.
My father, being stubborn and defiant, refused to give even a drop. They refused to let me out until he did so and there was much stress. My father devised a plan and convinced my mother to place me in a bag with blankets and tie a rope to it with the purpose of lowering me from the second floor of the hospital, while my father waited outside in the dark and cold weather. My mother somehow agreed to this and the plan was executed with stealth and bravery and they ran away to my Grandfather’s home.
Needless to say that was an offence to the State and police were sent to look for them. My Grandfather and my father concluded that they could bribe the head Doctor of the hospital to sign on a document that my father agreed to give blood. An envelope with money was delivered and an official document was signed that blood was given.
This event was very visceral and embedded in my bodymind for as long as I live.
Gosh, what a story! After a few years, in 1979, your parents decided to move to Israel. How did it happen? Did you find it easier to live once you got there?
Israel was warm and wonderful and the 80’s offered great peaceful, rich memories. It was a time where many Immigrants from all over the world came to live there. The apartment building that we lived in was like the United Nations of nationalities. There were maybe 20 – 30 different nationalities living in the complex. Until this day the smell of Indian Curry reminds me of my childhood with Bollywood movies as our neighbours below were from India. There were also Persians, Russians, Asians, Europeans, Arabians and Africans all there, I loved the variety and especially the exposure to the different foods.
I was a bright kid that excelled in sports and school and even played on the Israeli Junior soccer team. My highlight was a trip to Norway and Denmark with my soccer team to represent Israel in a world tournament.
We have a big family and relatives on my father’s side of the family where all of them Immigrated around the same time. There were many gatherings, events, weddings and celebrations all the time, Georgian style which means; great food, dancing, poetry, music and just lots of love.
I had a lot of freedom and times of adventures in a beautiful country , the city I grew up in was tough but close knit.
You were quite a good football player and it has helped you through life’s trials and tribulations. But at the same time, it was the source of a great trauma.
As I mentioned in Israel I was very involved and excelled, but at the same time experienced traumatic events by people I loved and trusted. It was very confusing and I carried a burden for many years to come so well those memories were buried deep with shame, confusion and self preservation.
And again your parents decided to immigrate, this time to Canada. You’d think your life would have been easier, but in reality it was even harder. You even said that it was a new trauma in your life. Why was it so hard?
I just had my right of passage celebration at the age of 13, we call it Bar Mitzvah. A grand party of over 250 family and friends in a beautiful social hall is an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience.
Soon after my parents came to me and said we are thinking of Immigrating to Canada. The first thing I did was go to the atlas book and looked up to see where Canada was , as we never heard much about this vast country. I saw that it was in North America and for all of us kids America was America, the USA and the 80 ‘s were full of “America is great movies”. I thought we were moving to America, until we saw a promotional video of Canada and it was just breathtaking, the wildlife, nature, native heritage and clean cities.
It all happened very fast and in 6 months we said goodbye to all family, neighbours and friends. Went on a plane and landed in Vancouver, Canada. We did not know the language, we had one family who we grew up with In Israel that immigrated there the year before and my parents decided to follow them. We relied on them but they were also in the same boat with just a year under the belt.
I enrolled into a big high school that was mostly Asian and had many wealthy kids. I was sitting in class, learning French in English (Canada is bi-lingual) totally in oblivion. Here I am from a small country, small city, very small community, sitting there shocked and thinking, this is so bizarre and different. I was so shocked and overwhelmed I did not attend the classes for 2 weeks instead venturing into the city on adventures. My parents will drop me in the morning and I will walk through the front gates and leave the school from the back gates. My parents were busy just getting any kind of work they could find and started to work 2 jobs each around the clock for us to get on our feet.
Finally the school called my parents asking where I was? . If I was still planning to attend the school? My parents said
“We drop him everyday at school, what do you mean?”
Through a translator they were told I did not attend for 2 weeks. That day I came and was asked how school went today? I responded as usual, “It was good”. Needless to say my parents confronted me and I broke down and told them what was going on with me? How scared, confused and overwhelmed I felt with everything.
The next day they came to school with me and we talked with the counsellor of the school and they realised the mistakes they made with the classes they chose for me to attend. I was put through the English as a second language classes and received more help which I was never used to before in Israel. There everything was so easy for me, I excelled and was loved by teachers and even the principal. I was considered a gifted student and here “I needed help”, It was all foreign to me and I was becoming a “Mute”, someone who did not speak.
Soccer saved me through those few years in school and outside of school as I was very gifted also and started to win championships for my school and being known in the Canadian scouts as an up and coming star.
School just became worse with some bad teachers who liked to humiliate you and my attendance record was indicative of that. I was also bullied psychologically and emotionally, by a bully at school. It went on every week until one day I picked him up, threw him against the wall and threatened to “kill” him. This is also when I found the Library as a safe haven and read all kinds of books of self development, astrology, psychology as I wanted to understand myself and my place in the world.
A few times the vice principal was thinking of expelling me, but the principal who was Italian and watched our soccer games will comfort me and encourage me to work harder, to study harder.
Those first years I was very sad, very depressed, very angry and very alone.
That must have been a difficult time for you. At 18 years old, for the first time you go to a party and then… all went wrong.
Last year of high school. It was a “coming out year” on another level. I was getting more comfortable, doing better at school to try and graduate with a high school diploma. I had some great inspiring teachers who brought me out in their classes. Girls started to notice me and I became more social and accepted, with that also came alcohol and drugs. They made me feel “free”, as my inhibitions which were very strong dissolved and more of me came out. As more of me came out I was more attractive and accepted by others. When high school finished I exploded exploring the night life and life itself.
From 18 – 22 was a period of experimentation, recklessness, danger, self harm and self loathing. But there were also experiences that will occur in those chemically induced states of; divinity, energy palpation, great intuition, channelling and mediumship.
Everything changed when I fell in love for the first time with a twin soul and we both felt like it was an unfinished story. Feeling this deep love and our desire to explore inner landscapes started to slowly awaken me but I did not know it yet.
So, if we think about your life so far, we can say that there has been an accumulation of traumas that have almost destroyed you. How have you managed to get through it?
There was a very difficult period where I experienced a back injury which no one could help with. Where I was receiving many treatments from different modalities and was doing what I now call the “Circuit”. When this pain was not going away for months combined with the pain of a breakup with my first love, it was overwhelming emotionally.
I was asking myself, “why do I suffer so much for so long over and over?
Out of all things while organising my closet (which I normally don’t do), suddenly memories that were hidden in the subconscious of my traumas came up and shattered me to pieces. It felt like my reality was dissolving and I was sinking into a deep void of despair and darkness.
I was fortunate to be guided to a therapist with a similar heritage by a friend of mine who knew he would be perfect for me. I went and my life started to change as he was able to know exactly what I was going through on all levels. What amazed me was that he gave me the tools to change my state and spoke in a spiritual language that connected deeply with my spirit, while also giving me tangible tools and a space to melt and break down.
One of his recommendations was to meditate daily as he was a practising buddhist and experienced meditator. My personality was always an all or nothing kind of person, so I decided to take his advice and do a dive deep into a silent retreat of Vipassana at 22 years of age.
The experience was really healing and gave me a strong foundation to change my habits and heal my pain together with the therapist. During this healing period of time,I shared my traumas with my parents and family and it was not easy as everything was kept inside of me for so long.
In this process of healing, you decided to go to climb a high mountain in the Himalayas. And something happened there that pushed you directly into the arms of the Shiatsu. Can you tell me more about this amazing episode in Dharamshala?
At the age of 25 yrs old as I felt I was healing and working so hard to break my addictive patterns created by my pain, I gave myself a travel adventure to find more of me. This time consciously and with presence and awareness, to India, Thailand & Taiwan.
India has always “called me” since I was a kid growing up living above Indian families smelling curry and watching bollywood films as a kid. But it was a much deeper calling as if my soul asked to go to a place it’s been to before. I only understood why when I arrived there and after a few days of re-orienting myself I felt an aliveness and a familiarity to the country and people. I walked places that I knew I walked before.
When arriving in Northern India on a bus to the town of Dharamsala where the Tibetans and the Dali Lama live, I connected with an Englishman and a Japanese fella coming off the bus. We were the only foreigners so we huddled together by a Chai – Stand watching the sunrise. We hung out daily together as our connection was strong, George Kingston (Englishman) was a mountaineer who could not stop talking and Kenji (Japaneseman) was a quiet engineer, but when he said something it was profound, or extremely funny.
One day George packed our bags for us and woke us up and exclaimed that we were about to go on an adventure on a local mountain. We assumed it was going to be somewhat of a doable climb, but he forgot to mention we were going to climb one of the Himalayan mountains on a 4 day expedition. To make a long story short, by the time we came back my body was a mess and my chronic lower back pain injury flared up.
I was confident that I would find someone in town who would help with my pain with all the Tibetan monks and all classes and treatments offered there. I went to the city square and there was a bulletin board quite long and overwhelming with all the offerings. One stood out with a strange map of the human energy systems and was called Shiatsu Therapy. I came closer to it and saw a scroll taped on the poster and decided to open it and to my amazement and insatiable curiosity there was a treasure map drawn to find this healer.
I decided to follow the instructions and after alleys and valleys as there are no names to streets there, I found this home. I knocked on the door and an exotic looking man came out Yoda – Like, shiny eyes, teeth and skin. He looked at me up and down and started to laugh at me hysterically, it triggered laughter in me too. Then he went into a serious demeanour and said….
” I know exactly where you are from”. I answered “no one ever does.”
He proceeded to tell me where I was born, where I moved to and where I come from correctly. I was shocked and asked him:
“How did you know?” – He replied:
“A Shiatsu master knows everything about you in 5 minutes”.
I asked to be treated and he had no time that day and asked me to come the following day. That day came and I hesitated to go to him and changed my mind and the next day left that town not receiving a session from him.
When you returned to Canada at 26 years old, you’re looking for a way to learn a healing technique, but you’re not sure which one to take. But destiny pushes you a second time towards Shiatsu. This time it will be the right one. How did it happen?
After months of travel I returned to Canada and knew that I wanted to create my own destiny. To be my own boss and do it on my own terms and values. I was going to go into business management school as it was logical. Destiny stepped in and through a woman who I became friends with she convinced me to take a course that she was going to register for people in life transitions.
It was a 4 week course and it all fell into place for me like pieces of a puzzle. There I was discovering the importance of my values, my Innate abilities and how important purpose was to me. I also understood through the help of the participants and instructors that I really always was interested in helping people since I was a kid in the sandbox. If someone was in pain, or alone, or picked on I will try to do something to help.
Realising all that helped me start to look at different vocations that help people I made a list of 20 and then narrowed it to 5. I wrote those 5 lives out into the future in detail and chose one of them, the path of the healer.
I started to go to interview different schools but nothing resonated with me and what I discovered from my own healing journey about the bodymind. One day I came across a known college that was launching alternative programs and one of them was called the Shiatsu Therapy practitioner program.
“Shiatsu, where did I hear that before? Oh yes, the man in Dharamsala who knew everything about me in 5 minutes”.
I started to read about the program and the hair on my body was raised and my whole being was shaking yesss! This is it!
I picked up the phone and signed up right away not needing an interview, or to sit in the class.
Who was your teacher? Do you have some memories of those years of Shiatsu training?
At 26 years old to start this program was monumental timing and destiny. I was so excited but a little concerned and nervous about my chronic lower back injury that flared out at times. I voiced those concerns to the head of the program and my main teacher, Ted Thomas. He looked me in the eyes and said most likely your pain will go away during the program. I believed him and pushed away those concerns and dived in fully. I felt this will be a time where a part of me will die and a new one will be reborn. I even shaved my head at that time and reclaimed my real name to Mihael from Michael (which was anglicised when we came to Canada). It was like finding a home, a temple, a training facility to reclaim my power, my essence, my truth.
The program was created by Ted Thomas who was influential in spreading Shiatsu in Western Canada. He was the perfect teacher, grounded, professional, accepting, good communicator, great orator, funny, quirky and well rounded. His TCM background was strong as he was also an Acupuncturist and herbalist and a real caring human being.
He surrounded himself with other diverse teachers who brought their own influences from their teachers and healing backgrounds. It was such an enriching experience as we were also introduced to Moxa therapy, Gua Sha, Cupping which I loved and still use. There was also dance therapy, counselling, nutrition and introductions to other modalities. But learning the theory of Zen Shiatsu and seeing it applied daily was like discovering a whole new universe and language to our sensory experiences.
The Hara training palpation was the moment when something opened up deeper in me and I could start to “see” memories of my classmates. There was an exercise where we exchanged diagnoses with everyone in class and to test myself , I chose to say out loud what I was seeing with every classmate and all of it was true, many including myself were shocked how accurate it was.
I felt extremely empowered with my life long sensitivity that I struggled with due to the traumas that I experienced. Now I could channel it to help someone and I felt strong doing that, like developing muscles that did not work well before.
We also had the opportunity to study in a hospital environment and practise on medical staff and that was promising to see that we might one day work in a setting like that.
Furthermore, I had the great fortune of using what I was learning in a job that I received as private care aid for an older wealthy man who had no family. I was with him for almost 6 months, 5 evenings a week helping him privately with other care aides, even as he transitioned to hospice care. I felt that he chose to die in my hands one evening where he was able to let go. It was a profound experience that I was honoured to be a part of and served me into my future as I experienced that honour a number of times more.
When we graduated I felt so strong and so excited about what I can bring to the world and materialising the most important thing for me, Purpose!
I remember writing on my wall – “ I want to help as many people as possible before I die “.
For me, fate, or universal Ki, constantly pushes us in a certain direction, and the first patients mark us for our whole life as practitioners. Can you tell us about your first patients?
When I started I took a self employment program to help me start my business/practice. It was subsidised by the government at the time and I applied and got accepted. I could not believe it as I was receiving training and education and being paid every week some money to attend and start my self employment business. For two weeks I felt that I was being tricked, where was the catch here? But there was no trickery and no catch, just great timing and luck.
I rented a room at a Naturopath clinic owned by an older persian man who became like an uncle to me in those years. I got cards, a website, all materials and equipment ready. My room painted and furnished, a cell phone and computer ready to go, but no clients. One week goes by, two weeks, no one is calling my phone, or sending email to book appointments and rent is coming up at the end of the month.
Remembering what I was learning in the self employment program I decided to approach a local health store and offer to do chair shiatsu for her clientele. I was so nervous and shy, but desperate. I mustered some courage, walked in, introduced myself to the lady owner and said;
“ I am offering to come once a week and massage all willing customers for no charge. Would you like to receive treatment to try it out?”
She replied ,
“sorry I don’t like to be touched”.
I was ready to leave with my massage chair and my head hanging low, at that moment her husband walked in, a big Czech muscle man and she said,
“Wait, my husband loves massages, he will try you out”.
The husband introduced himself, gave me the strongest hand shake I ever received in my life and sat on the chair. After 10 minutes he raised his thumbs up to his wife and said;
“This young man is incredible!”.
They agreed for me to come on Thursdays and encouraged me to ask for money from their clients saying you deserve it.
I came on my first Thursday and my first client was an older woman who was very shy and hesitant, she looked unwell and in discomfort. She sat on the chair and I worked on her for about 20 minutes as it was not that busy. She got up, gave me a payment, said thank you so much and walked out. I felt pretty good about myself and others starting to sit on the chair. After an hour that woman came back and said that is the best she felt in the last 2 years. She wanted to see you weekly for sessions as she was about to go through surgery and cancer treatments.
I handed her my card and she was my first weekly patient and later referred many cancer patients as she became a volunteer driver for other patients. My second patient was a Fibromyalgia patient who was in severe pain and depression. My third patient was someone who was out of an abusive relationship. she was suffering greatly as she was crying all session long every session.
The fourth was a “Frozen Shoulder” patient who I helped with only a few sessions after all other treatments failed for 2 years. It turned out she was a writer in a local newspaper and she was so grateful she wrote a 1 page article about her experiences with me. Needless to say, all patients with chronic shoulder problems and frozen shoulders were ringing my phone for 3 months.
I was starting to experience and learn quickly that many of these patients have experienced different forms of traumas that they will share with me, or be “revealed” during sessions and that was no coincidence.
I was quickly developing a reputation and later also worked with movie stars, musicians, singers in the entertainment industry. It felt good to be known but I wanted to pursue more meaningful work and saw that my work was with trauma and that is my destiny.
(C) M. Mamychshvili
After a few years, in 2009 you agreed that you can’t resist this destiny and you started a new adventure: a multidisciplinary clinic for trauma victims. You have to describe the huge work done in 10 years.
Once I started to look at the statistics here in Canada and the USA around trauma I was shocked. I saw a silent epidemic staring at me and not many were talking about this. I started to come across studies and research that showed conclusively that trauma was at the root of many diseases , Illnesses, disorders and chronic pain.
Countries like Canada that were “Insular” in nature had higher rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than countries like Israel. There was so much societal shame and guilt around it that people Isolated themseleves with this invisible disease.
The medical community did not have the proper training to diagnose it , or even recognize it. There was no awareness to it as we see and hear these days. The Covid pandemic just brought a magnifying glass to it recently.
I felt a tap on my shoulder from God, the divine, my higher self to do it, to open a centre for it and put a megaphone on this subject matter. My dear wife shared my vision and we both put everything we had into it.
We constructed a large space and created a beautiful healing centre and brought a team of therapists that wanted to work with trauma and chronic pain in an integrative way. We had a team of:
- Massage therapist
- TCM Doctors & Acupuncturists
- Naturopathic Doctors
- Occupational therapist
- Yoga, Qi gong and sound therapists
It took a few years to create an identity, a philosophy, a culture and a methodology. We created:
- Integrative assessment tools,
- we invested in in house education and mentorship
- Integrative programs that was results based
- Brought speakers
- Did outreach work in the community
- Supported organisation that are in the front lines
I am very proud of the work that we did and how many people we were able to treat and work with. Our programs were successful and family members will fly their loved ones from all over the world to our centre.
I am most proud of the collaboration that we managed to have with the Cardiology department at the local hospital as we were the only non medical team that were allowed to come in house and do talks to heart patients.
Eventually many of the staff came to our clinic and some of the patients too.
I have also had the honour to work with organisation that work with:
- Addiction and trauma
- Women Rape Relief organization
- PTSD Camp for first responders and soldiers
We create many innovative treatments and at times work in tandems as I did closely with a Hypnotherapist. He will create regressions and I at the same time help the body release the traumas.
I collaborated with the psychotherapists also , the acupuncturists , the osteopaths going at times from one treatment room to another.
At one point, it seemed like it was too much. Why did you stop the clinic?
To be honest I don’t know how I did all that I did for all those years. I was treating clients one on one, doing tandem treatments, mentoring my team, being a lead therapist and managing the progress of our clients who were in the integrative programs, doing talks, lectures, teaching and running the business with my wife. I was thinking of making it bigger and bringing partners and investors and continuing to grow this platform.
It took a personal loss of my cousin who suddenly had terminal cancer and who I loved like a brother to make me stop. I went to try and help him and that experience woke me up from a bullet train that I was on. I came back home after he passed away and told my wife we are stopping this , we suffered tremendous stress creating this vision. The timing was good as not long after the pandemic came. I felt that I did all I could and grew tremendously and time to shift my life and my focus in a different way.
You’ve created a new approach named Neuropath Reset. What is it about? Why this name?
What I learned towards the end in our centre and our clients , that yes we can help them heal and change with our Integrative programs and create even miracles; but there was something missing and that was giving them the tools to do it themselves also. I also learned that Shiatsu therapy on its own is not enough to help people with trauma and chronic conditions. My exposure to all the modalities and through my own personal growth and evolution from a therapist and clinic owner perspective, I put together a more comprehensive approach to support, educate and treat people.
I started to create a language and architecture of healing and with it combined the many tools I acquired to create the NeuroPath Reset Method. Part of it is hands-on work combining shiatsu and working with the nervous system , part of it is coaching/guiding, spiritual work, Intuition and teaching tools.
The other part is group work that my clients partake in.
Initially I started to experiment and hold weekly groups of 10 – 15 people and teach them tools for self discovery, healing and trauma release. I taught the tools individually and then started to put them in a sequence, the result was powerful and profound.
I kept twiking it and will continue to add to it I am sure , but for now it is a powerful process that I take these groups through. The beauty in it is that they acquire many tools of self regulation, assessment, release, alignment, resilience.
I always preface the experience with these words:
“Some of you are going to realise things you never realised before.
Some of you going to remember things you have forgotten
Some of your pain will go away
Some of you going to release things you are storing
Some of you are going to break down and one of you will want to leave.
And you will be the ones that will create all of this.”
With the Covid crisis, you decide to do two different things: filmed interviews and education. Can you describe these two new activities in addition to your Shiatsu practice?
Well like everyone when COVID hit I wanted to continue supporting my clients and my community. With the help of Cliff Andrews I realised I can do distance healing and my clients to their surprise found it powerful and effective. This is where my coaching experience also came in handy and teaching the tools online was effective. Now half of my practice is working with people online all over the world.
I also saw that our global shiatsu community needed a platform to come together and hence the Everything Shiatsu video podcast came about. This has been a labour of my love for this therapy but I also saw that we as shiatsu therapists need to come out of the shadows and help out communities more.
I have enjoyed learning from the guests, keeping our community inspired and have seen a renaissance happening right before my eyes in the Shiatsu world. I believe there is much more we can do and we have something unique to offer in these difficult and complex times.
That’s why I want to share my work with trauma with all shiatsu therapists and am excited about my upcoming international workshops in Portugal, France, Austria and more to come.
Finally, even though you were trained in many therapeutic techniques, you came back to Shiatsu. How do you live this relationship with Shiatsu?
Shiatsu has always been at the core of everything that I do , the tools, the education, the approach. It even helped when we were working with all the modalities as it is such a great compliment to various methods of treatment, but also a great source of assessing what’s going on holistically looking at the big picture and using our innate intuition. Many in my clinic did not know about Shiatsu and how a Shiatsu therapist can run these kinds of programs and play a vital role in the whole process, but the clients always knew and felt understood and seen through the lenses of Shiatsu. The therapists also saw first hand what Shiatsu can bring on all levels and had tremendous respect.
Integrating the other methods and tools that I have acquired is seamlessly woven into Shiatsu , the principles are alway Shiatsu based. Like presence, intuition, holding space, creating a safe therapeutic process, offering that special touch that is centred by the hara and our intention.
I want to thank you very much for your time and your dedication to help people around you.
I’m the one who thanks you.
- Summer intensive course: back to the roots of Shiatsu – 7 to 13 July 2024, with Ivan Bel - 27 December 2023
- Interview with Wilfried Rappenecker: a european vision for Shiatsu - 15 November 2023
- Interview Mihael Mamychshvili: from Georgia to Everything Shiatsu, a dedicated life - 22 April 2023
- Biography: Dr Haruchiki Hirata 平田内蔵吉 (1901-1945) - 21 April 2023
- Interview Leisa Bellmore: update on her Shiatsu research - 27 March 2023
- Interview: Viktor Gulyás, vice-president of the Hungarian Shiatsu Association - 16 February 2023