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Sonia's Newsletter '13
This year's programme has been well attended, the format of the four three days retreat has been popular and requests to continue with this format has been repeated by many students.
We have been focusing on attachment and on the letting go of attachment. Indeed our source of suffering could be greatly reduced if we did not cling to our sense of identity, to what we consider to be ours, let it be a thing or an opinion.
When one comes to the Orchard either as a retreatant or a student on a course, it is understood that you come to such a place because you want to wake up, to have the opportunity to practice all the good qualities you know you are capable of.
It is not surprising therefore if you find that there is no place to hide from your habitual tendencies and that you are looking into the mirror at the reflections of who you are.
You may even feel cornered, I think in a positive way, by your habitual patterns.
The idealized notion is that somehow you're coming to this place where everything is smooth for you, where everybody does things the way you think they should. And now you have to face the fact that it is not like that.
Living in a meditation centre should be at times a challenge to your fixed views of the world. It is actually not so very different from every day life, except you are asked to reflect and question your responses and to come to more equanimity in what you do and how you do it. This is the point of such a place to remind you that you can wake up and that the practice and study is ever present.
So we come back to attachment, attachment to the way we want things and people to be. One way to lessen our attachment is through the practice of generosity.
Generosity, Dãna is an attitude and an action.This attitude of generosity is an opening of the heart to all living beings without any condition or expectation attached to it.
Do you wake up in the morning with the thought of how can I be of benefit to beings?
What would increase their well being? How can my life be of benefit to others?
If we were to put others and their well-being first, if we felt as much a concern for them than with our best friend then surely our self cherishing will lessen .
Dãna as an action can come in different shapes from sharing the teaching to cooking , gardening, cleaning to money, time and involvement.
In the west Dãna is not well understood and yet we are being given freely constantly whether we know it or not. In our interdependence with the world even our most basic biological functions involve giving. We see giving in action when we receive nutrients, oxygen, life and we process it in some form to pass it on.
We should not forget that without others we would not be able to exist or survive.
For some years now we have introduced the practice of dãna in the form of sharing activities around the Orchard and Maitreya House during retreats and outside the retreat time.
This is a practice we are committed to, as the late Namgyal Rinpoche said "it is for loosening our grip on self cherishing and on the belief that we are separate and fixed".
I like to quote here something that says it very well.
"When you are practicing generosity, you should feel a little pinch when you give something away. That pinch is your stinginess protesting. If you give away your old, worn-out coat that you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, that is not generosity. There is no pinch. You are doing nothing to overcome your stinginess; you’re just cleaning out your closet and calling it something else. Giving away your coat might keep someone warm, but it does not address the problem we face as spiritual practitioners: to free ourselves from self-cherishing and self-grasping." (Gelek Rinpoche)
"When we give, we need to do so with the awareness that our gift will be both appropriate and helpful. It is not an act of generosity, for example, to give money to a wealthy person or alcohol to a child. We also give what we can afford; we don’t jeopardize our own health or well-being. At the same time, we can give what is precious to us, what is difficult to give, because of our attachment to it.” (Dzochen Polong Rinpoche)
The Orchard is a place to practice all aspects of the path ,a place where there is no where to hide from yourself, where we are committed to be there for you and to make our time, energy and guidance available to you for your benefit.
We hope to see you in the New Year, in the meantime be well and happy. Sonia and Ad
Newsletter January 2012 from Sonia
Namgyal Rinpoche used to tell us that we were only allowed four emotions!
Loving kindness , compassion, joy, and equanimity are the four; also known as the Four Brahma Viharas, or the Four Immeasurables.
The teaching of the Buddha Sakyamuni is always concerned with the training of the Mind, abandoning unwholesome patterns and cultivating more conducive qualities for the benefit of self and others.
We scheduled quite appropriately four long weekends for the study and practice of the Four Immeasurables, starting with the Loving Kindness, Metta.
Metta, we can relate to it as a moment of tenderness in one’s heart towards challenging events or people in our life including ourselves.
And that one moment of turning one’s mind and heart towards others can be truly transformative for both ourselves and others.
The second long weekend will cover compassion, Karuna
When with Metta we begin to turn our attention and interest towards others then anyone can see we all need help. Compassion, Karuna is present when we work at relieving the suffering of others without considering if they are worth it or not.
Mudita, sympathetic joy, is present when we genuinely feel joy at others’ good qualities or good fortune. Their joy is also our joy and vice versa, wishing them to experience the state of mind that is free of suffering, called the Sacred Happiness.
Equanimity, Upekkha is present when we have let go of preferences and cultivate a state of mind that is unifying, ‘up to oneness ‘, in union .
All those four emotions have their counter-parts, they are also the antidotes for some of our destructive emotions.
It comes down to having a kind heart at all times regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.
We are looking forward to share this investigation over the year with you.
A year of practice of the Four Brahma Vihara’s, it cannot be more joyful than that!
How Sonia’s condition will develop, we don’t know but as she told during the last retreat in 2011: “if I did not practise Loving Kindness, I would not be able to be with you and sharing from whatever physical state I am in”.
In both the Metta Sutta and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness one of the virtues to be cultivated to enable one to reach a peaceful state of mind, is that of “being content with little”, this means a radical act of acceptance of “what is”.
May the coming year for all beings be filled with Loving Kindness, peace and happiness.
Sonia and Ad
Newsletter January 2011 from Sonia
As we step into the New Year I am moved to see all the suffering that exists in the world and the many different ways that it manifests. Yet I am equally moved to witness and experience the many acts of love in the world. As human being we have such possibility to vividly experience pain and joy side by side and to nurture a wholesome intention, be it ‘not to do harm but to do good’ , or to be helpful to many beings. This is why the Buddha spoke about “ this precious human birth”.
All these aspirations or New Year resolutions need to be cultivated through some well tried skills and means otherwise the power of habitual behaviours will prevail.
The theme of the programme for this year is “Training the mind and cultivating loving kindness”.
Wanting what we do not get and getting what we do not want is suffering.
In our quest for happiness we constantly bounce between choosing and avoiding or between pulling and pushing. We deploy great effort and ingenuity to get what we want and to avoid what we don’t want.
The way of Skilful Means offers a different route, instead we relax in the experience as it is without adopting or rejecting. You could say that it is the way of loving kindness. It
involves letting go of our attachment to result, to wanting something to happen. Instead we soften our grip on hope and fear and we dwell in the experience as it is at a cellular level in each moment, whatever the experience. Rather than living in the idea of a past or future we stay wholeheartedly with all the sensations associated with the experience as it is unfolding.
If for one moment we can stop our preoccupation with choosing and avoiding then we are immediately in the here and now, that is unconditioned, fresh and always new.
In Dec 2010 we offered a nine day retreat on the Four Roads that Lead to the Golden City, known as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. There is so much depth to this teaching that we decided to offer a three day retreat on each of the mindfulness theme. On most of these three day retreats there will be the possibility to study the text in more details with Ad.
We hope that you can join us in 2011 at the Orchard and we look forward to sharing with you the teaching and its applications.
“as long as space endures,
as long as sentient beings remain,
until then, may I too remain and dispel
the suffering of the world”
Newsletter January 2010 from Sonia
The immense kindness of all living beings is integral to our human existence.
At some time each one of us has been and will be the source of acts of great kindness and benefit for one another.
Without exaggeration 2009 has been the year of great kindness for the Orchard and Ad and myself. The generosity and kindnessthat we received has just been phenomenal. The many beings who offered selflessly their time, skills and material or financial support have transformed the Orchard into a more comfortable and beautiful environment for the practice of mindfulness and for the cultivation of compassion and clear awareness.
The on going direct personal and financial support that Ad and myself have been given means that we have been able to wholeheartedly focus on the teaching and of course on my recovery.
There is a strong sense of a sangha whose identity is now clear and well defined.
A word about my health: 2009 has been very challenging with a gradual deterioration; the many alternative treatments that I follow seem to at best keep me mostly physically comfortable but with no sense of a reversal of the condition. The practice of opening the heart and embracing whatever presents itself has been invaluable as well as the tender attention of my attendants.
The immense kindness and support have meant that the teaching has continued to flow, touching old and new students, here and abroad.
The latest news is that after two and half years of alternative treatments I am now taking some medication albeit a very small dose (half the minimum recommended) alongside some Ayurvedic medicine. This combination seems to work for now.
Already I experience a betterment of my condition and feel ready for the 2010 teaching programme.
The theme of the teaching for this coming year will be Purification and Surrendering.
We have laid out the teaching programme in such a way that a course or retreat is on offer each month either with Ad or myself giving you more flexibility and choice to attend.
There are two new courses, one in the spring and one in the autumn that blend an in depth study of the teaching of the Buddha with the practice of insight led by Ad www.touchingstillness.co.uk I would recommend these to anyone who wishes to have a more thorough grounding in the Buddhist philosophy.
The teaching for the autumn will be announced later in the summer and is likely to take a similar form as in 2009.
I hope you can join us this year at the Orchard and that together we come to realise the preciousness of our human life with all its wondrous potential.
Newsletter January 2009 from Sonia
Throughout 2008 I have introduced the contemplation of short texts to support the teaching I was giving and to provide a constant source of inquiring from the part of the students. Some are quotes taken from teachings I came across either in the course of attending a retreat or through reading, some other quotes are my own writing again based on teachings received.
I would like to share the following quote and elaborate a bit on it. You can read it aloud for yourself and you can also replace the word ‘meditation‘ with the word ‘life’.
“we are not looking for good experiences in meditation, wonderful or strange experiences. Maybe we will have them too, but it does not matter. What we are looking for is being able to relax, being able to let thoughts and emotions come and then let them go without them taking over.
The real meditation is to be able to learn that whatever experiences arise, it doesn’t matter; it is just an experience and you can relax in that. If it is a good experience, you learn to relax in that; if it is a bad experience, you learn to relax in that; if it is neither a good nor a bad experience, you learn to relax in that.
If you learn how to do that in all these three cases, then you have learned how to meditate”.
What does it mean that “it does not matter?” and “to relax in the experience?”.
This text is pointing to the skilful means of letting go of our attachment to result, to wanting what we do not get and to avoiding what we do not want, because all of these are subtle and not so subtle ways of living in the idea of a past or a future.
This is the greatest obstacle to happiness and to wisdom, being divorced from what is happening right now at a cellular level in each instant. Further more this divorce leads us into repetitive cycles of suffering.
And yet if for one moment we can stop this futile preoccupation with choosing and avoiding then we become instantaneously the here and now, unconditioned, fresh and imbued with an abundance of joy. A joy that simply is, not because of something we are pleased about or praised for, no, a joy that just is with no strings attached. That is why it does not matter if the experience is “a good, bad or neutral one” . The state of mind that is totally letting go is not hooked on hope and fear, the two great whips that propel us into action.
To relax in the experience is simply to soften our grip on hope and fear, it is not easy but it is a necessity. Instead we stay only with the sensations of the experience and not the idea of the experience, we surrender to the-not-knowing, how scary! But after awhile it is like slipping softly, gently in a hot pool and letting oneself float and float. This in turns becomes just another experience to let go of!
To illustrate what I just wrote I would like to share with you a conversation that took place between the HH. Karmapa* and a friend of mine who took along a photo of myself and the question of whether I would overcome the degenerative condition I am experiencing at this point in my life. His answer was: “It doesn’t make any difference because of the practice of meditation”. My friend went on to stay that I was a great meditator to which he nodded.
So I think the message is clear, when we can cultivate a state of mind that is free from choosing and avoiding we are then in Instant Presence, a state of infinite love and wisdom, regardless of our circumstances.
It makes sense to endeavour to cultivate this unconditioned state of Instant Presence rather than spending great time and effort controlling our circumstances, which by their very nature of being transient, is a never ending task!
So the teaching I am offering this year will be focusing on the ways to come to a total letting go of hope and fear and ways to come to the state of mind of Instant Presence, the two being inseparable.
May you be able to join us at the Orchard in 2009 and together we can strengthen our practice for the benefit of all living beings.
* HH Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism
Newsletter January 2008 from Sonia
The theme for this year‘s programme running through all the teachings is the taming of the monkey mind, releasing grasping and freeing mind.
My intention is that this study will set a stable foundation from which we can then explore the many aspects of how the mind get caught in grasping despite ‘knowing better’ and how to cultivate the many methods of freeing the mind.
In 2008 I am offering in each term a new format of a ten-day period split into two parts.
Time after time I found that after a five-day course students are ready, have more ease and gentleness to go deeper into the practice. The first few days being the more demanding part as it takes time to drop the worldly concerns, settle into a rhythm and focus on the practice in the here and now. This new format consists of the first five days dedicated to inputs, teachings and exercises; the second five days will offer conditions of a silent retreat to support the deepening of the practice introduced. During the retreat part there will be a two-hour session a day with the teacher, while the rest of the day will be for personal practice with group sittings and opportunity to meet with the teacher individually.
The first retreat offered in March will set the tone with this format. There will be another ten day retreat in July and one in November.
Another new format for 2008 is entitled ’ weekend practice’.
My wish is that more and more students of the Buddha Way take time to cultivate, to refine and deepen the qualities of awareness, loving kindness and wisdom that they contact through the teachings.
These weekends are an opportunity to be with the sangha and receive and offer your gift of turning the mind to the wholesome states.
In 2007 we received many retreatants, ranging for a period of one day to 6 months. So there is always a core of students in practice. Ad and I are more available and offer spontaneous teachings or join in the sittings as students of the Buddha Way.
The Orchard sole existence is for the training of mind and the cessation of suffering for oneself and for the many sentient beings.
Ad and I have received over many years extensive teachings from John Garrie Roshi and from the Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche as our principal teachers, together with their blessings for the teachings we offer and the conditions we’ve created.
Our aspiration is that the Orchard continues to be a place of refuge, a place where you can take a breath and let go of your pain and limitations, a place where the teachings refresh you and give you strength back in your home life.
Newsletter January 2007 from Sonia
"The generous heart is the happy heart"
Traditionally there are three kinds of generosity.
The first is the gift of what is needed
to whoever needs it
The second is the gift of fearlessness,
rooted in love and compassion.
The third is the gift of Dharma, or truth.
2500 years of dharma teaching
has risen from generosity.
We bow in gratitude to all those who,
with joy and love, in countless ways
sustain the path of peace and wisdom.
(From Ida S.Taylor)
On this clear, crisp December morning I am reflecting on the year, recollecting all the beings that I've met here at The Orchard and on my many trips abroad. The sharing has been so rich and diverse, joyful and inspiring and at times stretching, mutually changing the teacher, students and the teaching.
Who is the teacher and who are the students?
When Sonia takes on the role of teacher and you take on the role of students it is to support an invitation to an exchange, a two way movement of breath, of energy, of life experiences, of hopes and fears in the knowledge that our deep aspiration of happiness and free from suffering is possible and can manifest in the world for the benefit not just of self but of all beings.
Such aspiration IS possible to realize, others before us have realized it and many are at this moment putting all their effort in doing so and for that we all need help, support, commitment and loving kindness from one another. Together as a group of practitioners we can fulfil our aspiration.
This year has taught me so much and this was clearly lived and expressed in my teaching.
The 10 week retreat generated such positive energy and shifts in the students that of course it will be scheduled again for '07 in the autumn but more importantly it demonstrated to both Ad and myself that our vision of The Orchard as a full time retreat centre is very near, all it needs is a bit of reorganising, more on this later!
Since building the Zendo in 1995 The Orchard has moved slowly towards becoming a full time meditation and retreat centre. The teaching of Healing-Shiatsu which formed the main teaching activities for so long and which has supported all of the meditation courses and the centre is intentionally being phased out and replaced by the meditation retreats.
For the past 21 years Ad and I have tirelessly created here at the Orchard the conditions and conducive environment for the uplifting of suffering through the teaching of T'ai-Ji, shiatsu and meditation. You the students have responded beautifully with your dedication and practice over that time.
The autumn retreat was a good representation of our (yours and ours) dedication.
The gift of Dharma, of receiving the Teaching is so precious, the people and places that encourage and support these wholesome activities are also rare and precious.
How can it be best nurtured and preserved? As a meditator and teacher of Dharma this is an important point, how can I best continue to create the conditions to nurture in myself the gifts of generosity, of fearlessness , of peace and compassion and in doing so, support others to nurture those gifts too.
This is our commitment here at The Orchard and the autumn retreat has indicated to us that the time is right for The Orchard and us as meditators and teachers to change gear yet again!
If we as teachers are to turn our mind fully to teaching and guiding students, then we cannot give the same amount of time and energy to the running of the centre. Therefore, we feel ready to look at the possibility to invite The Orchard Sangha to play a more active role in the running and maintaining of The Orchard as a retreat centre.
Many details are to be worked out but this is the vision we aspire to and the strong commitment of mind-heart to our teachers and their gift of the Dharma. What else is there to do with this precious human life and conducive conditions we have?
Some of you have heard me talk about such a vision before and now it is time to pursue it confident and filled with loving kindness.
As soon as I am back from Australia and New Zealand at the end of March more details will emerge and you'll be the first to know about it.
Looking forward to seeing you again at the Orchard and to sharing the many gifts of Dharma.
In metta. Sonia
Newsletter Spring 2006 from Sonia
“The mind is everything,
what you think you become”
Teaching in so many different venues and to students from various cultures and sense of humour (!), is always a great learning, an opportunity to explore, to review and to change. I feel blessed and fulfilled by those exchanges and 2005 was no exception.
This abundance of mind-heart experiences replenishes and inspires me to go deeper into the practice and to continue to share with the many students. So my programme for 2006 is again filled with travels and teaching and personal retreat times.
The Dana practice introduced at the start of 2005 will continue as a valuable part of the loosening, letting go of our being. It also invites a reflection on the value we give to the seeking of true happiness where the 3 poisons, hatred, desire and confusion, are no longer the hidden driving force in our life.
I include here a few reflections from students on the practice of dana and meditation.
Wishing you joy and an open mind-heart for the New Year.
Be well and happy. Till soon, Sonia
mudra of generosity
Newsletter Autumn 2005 from Sonia
“When one is totally relaxed, the mind rests in its natural condition, empty, luminous and aware”
“ Wanting to grasp the ungraspable, we exhaust ourself in vain. As soon as we open and relax this tight fist of grasping, infinite space is there, open, inviting and comfortable”
These are only two of the statements that guided my two month retreat in Guatemala.
Overlooking Lago de Atitlan with its blue, purple colours, in the distance the volcanoes and the little villages, we lived in small kutis (huts) without electricity or running water. Most of the time the practice took place outdoors and in the night the star gazing was spectacular.
With one group meditation a day, we “pactised, or non-practised” on our own the last teaching Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche gave to all his students, Dzogchen. A very direct, simple but not easy teaching where there is “nothing to do or un-do, nothing to force, nothing to want and nothing missing!”.
We all benefitted greatly, as for myself my personal practice has deepened and transformed from new insights and realisations which were expressed immediately in the teachings I gave in January and February in Germany, Australia and New-Zealand.
They were rich times, very stimulating and affirming, where the fruit of the Dzogchen retreat really came out.
So, the flavour of all my teaching for this year is encapsulated in the two quotes above, simplifying without abandoning the skilful means necessary to truly come to realise the art of non-doing to reveal the clear, unfabricated mind. It is a delicate balance of “practice of non-practice”, powerful and unique for each being.
The importance of the Bodhicitta, the elightenment mind which is expressed in compassionate involvement and loving kindness for all sentient beings and in the aspiration to awaken speedily for the sake of all beings will continue to be explored and strengthened, together with the sharing of our wholesome states and activities for the wellbeing and awakening of all beings; the cultivation of the altruistic mind is at the root of our happiness and that of others.
The Orchard is replacing the small caravan with a deluxe, double-glazed new kuti (hut) as the demand from students to come on retreat is constant. The new kuti will provide a beautiful retreat environment for long term retreatants.
The annex to The Orchard, Gill’s hermitage at Cwm Cottage, is now ready, also offering deluxe conditions for students only a few minutes drive from The Orchard.
At the end of the year Ad and I are planning to do our annual personal retreat at The Orchard in our own kutis! So much travelling, visiting and being in very beautiful places all over the world, yet everytime we return home, we are struck by how beautiful, supportive and anchored The Orchard and the land around us are.
We want to continue to nurture that special environment which is benefitting so many and which holds such wholesome energy from all the years of teachings and practising. It will also mark our 20 years here. We moved in on the 1st December 1985 with only a small van of possessions and a cat.
It seems a lifetime away.
Looking forward to receiving you at The Orchard.
In metta, Sonia
“although peace and happiness do not
exist as actual thing or place,
it is always available and accompanies
us every instant”
Newsletter Winter 2004/05 from Sonia
You receive this newsletter whilst I am in Guatemala on a 2 month retreat, a time to deepen my practice and recharge. As a friend told me: “you cannot keep giving so much without some topping up for yourself too!”
2005 will again be a year full of teaching. At the end of January and through to the end of February I will be in Australia and New Zealand for teaching commitments that had been postponed several times in the last few years. So I am delighted and ready to travel that far again.
I am returning to Germany and Switzerland where the courses are well received. We even had to put on a special course for the partners of the shiatsu participants as they too were keen to study Mindfulness meditation.
The theme for my meditation teaching at The Orchard will be on the strengthening of calm abiding as the foundation to the insight into emptiness. The teaching of the paramis, the 6 virtues that support our awakening will also be integral to all the courses.
In the Healing-Shiatsu workshops, I’ll continue to focus on the quality of witnessing cultivated in the meditation training, rather than on the doing aspects of techniques and looking for results. They attract students from all over Britain and from abroad and so the 2-week format will be repeated in August.
2004 saw several students on long-term retreat at The Orchard, 3 and 6 months. This is a very special time and a rewarding work for both the students and myself, as guiding a meditator through the many faces of clinging, aversion and confusion to emerge with a new, clear and expansive view is so beautiful.
My own meditation practice continues to be a source of true refuge and strength, especially so now that for the first time in my life I do not have a living teacher to turn to.
For all the meditation courses and retreats I am introducing the parami of Dana. Dana is a Pali word meaning: “liberality, generosity, offering” and is the first of the “Six Paramis” ,”the virtues that helps us go further”. The others are morality, patience, energy, concentration and wisdom. Dana is the antidote to holding on and egoism or self-referencing. The Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche stressed this first virtue as most important to make genuine changes in one’s life. To turn one’s mind to the welfare of others through offering, giving, brings about a loosening of the self-referencing of “ I, Me and Mine”. It is the opposite of the attitude of poverty, where one sees the world in terms of lacks rather than offerings and openings. So many times in my life I’ve experienced this to be true in small and big ways, the more I give, the more I let go of my limited views and the more I receive gifts of all kinds, much beyond my imagination.
So, I invite you to join in this practice of spontaneous offering and opening, of trusting that as we freely give, in turn we are so nurtured.
Finally, as I will be away during the festive season, I send you all my warmest wishes for a happy Christmas and a joyous New Year.
In metta, Sonia
Newsletter May 2004 from Sonia
Sitting by the Lake of Konstanz in Switzerland following a two week teaching in the mountains, I am reflecting on the many seeds that have been planted this year.
In January the new Healing-Shiatsu Post-Graduate Intensive was well received with 19 students inaugurating this 2-week format.
The Medicine Buddha practice was introduced for the first time and we looked at applying its quality into the Healing-Shiatsu Touch. We gave ourselves permission to explore the many aspects that relate to healing and to shiatsu and to becoming a whole practitioner.
In February I returned to Canada for a two week teaching on the Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Right Speech, Manjushri. This was a powerful and healing time, adjusting to the reality of the Dharma Centre without the living presence of the Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche.
In March the Kalyanamitta Group provided more sharing and a strengthening for the participants who now feel better equipped to “go out into the world” sharing their skills for the benefit of beings. The Introductory weekend into Mindfulness Meditation which followed was fully booked with many new faces.
Gill Blair made the big step of moving on the 25th March near The Orchard and is gradually settling into a new rhythm attending to her new home and visiting The Orchard for her daily practice. It already feels very supportive to her and to the Orchard.
Long and short term retreatants continue to come to The Orchard and create an ongoing feeling of Sangha where spontaneous meditation and teaching sessions arise. The themes for the retreats for September and October focus on “training the mind” as it is the mind that is the driving force with the body its servant. When our actions in body, speech and mind come from a mind free from hatred, desire or confusion then the Four Immeasurables, Loving Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Serenity pervade our life and extend to all beings and non-beings we are in contact with. This is the highest aspiration and the reason for practice and retreat.
At the end of the year in November and December Ad and I will be away on retreat. This will take place in Guatemala with a handful of friends from Canada and Switzerland. The Orchard will remain open during that period for personal retreats. Do make sure you contact us before the end of October to make the appropriate arrangements if you wish to come during those 2 months.
I will be at The Orchard over the summer and in the autumn till the 27th October.
We look forward to welcoming you at The Orchard and till then be well and happy and may you continue your exploration of this precious human life with kindness and joy.
Newsletter January 2004 from Sonia
I wish you a very happy and peaceful New Year. May all your good wishes be fulfilled.
2003 has been a very full and eventful year with rapid and fundamental changes.
My commitment to studying with my Teacher, the late Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche, took me to Canada 5 times this year! My body and mind are still returning to balance after all these movements.
On the 22nd of October Namgyal Rinpoche passed away in Switzerland. He had just completed his Teaching in Europe, first at The Orchard, then in Germany and finally in Switzerland. This has been a shock, yet I had a premonition of his passing.
The extraordinary nature of this event is that the feeling of peace, richness and lightness are more powerful than that of sorrow.
I was fortunate to go to Switzerland and the house where he died and meditated close to the body before his cremation. After that I travelled to Canada for a week of special meditation practices at the Dharma Centre with many of his students.
All his students continue to meditate for the swift and auspicious rebirth of this very special being so that he may continue to help so many beings with boundless compassion and wisdom.
The Orchard is as always “a good environment for practice”, the very words Ven. Namgyal Rinpoche spoke when he first taught here in May 1997. It is only more strongly so now, after his visits and all the good work that students have done here.
Maitreya House (alias Rose Cottage) was blessed by Rinpoche in September and is feeling so welcoming and light that it is a privilege to be able to use it.
I have planned my teaching programme only till October as I intend to take a 3-month leave at the end of the year for retreat to deepen my practice. Most certainly I will add a few more events/retreats in the summer. Do check my web site or ring us to find out more about these additions.
2004 will see me regularly away from The Orchard as I have now quite a full commitment from students in Germany and Switzerland.
As I mentioned in my last Newsletter the commitment from students to the Practice and its home, The Orchard, continues to grow. A student is now investigating buying a house nearby for further support to The Orchard.
So, no-thing is permanent, that is quite clear, the changes are swift and I am reminded of what Rinpoche told me once: “Be careful what you wish for it may happen”. So,...
I look forward to seeing you or hearing from you in 2004.
Be well and happy, Sonia
Dharma the Next Generation
The Orchard is a dharma centre in Wales, established in 1985 and run by myself, Sonia Moriceau, and my partner, Ad Brugman. The changes that have shaped the Orchard over the past 25 years are intertwined with our own depth of practice and understanding. An important shift happened in 2001 when I spent a one-year retreat at the Dharma Centre of Canada under the guidance of Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche. Since then, students at The Orchard have made greater commitment to the teaching and practice. For instance, those who previously attended a five day course began to come on personal retreat for one to six months. I attribute this shift to the fact that students felt inspired by my commitment and found the courage to emulate what their teacher did. As for me, I felt more confident and had much more depth and clarity to guide students on long retreats. This trend is now well established. It creates a settled atmosphere where any student, no matter what their length of stay, finds it easy to settle, and is plunged without delay into the rhythm of the practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Nowadays there are always a few students on retreat at the same time.
This provides an environment that supports their determination to cultivate non-clinging awareness and compassion. The other shift has been in presentation of the teaching. Due to the more pressurized life that people now live, I find that I need to introduce ‘short’ practices that they can do back home; short practices many times a day! Students are grateful for this. They appreciate these condensed forms that can be applied to their everyday life and which go directly to the heart of the teaching.
In the past four years, I have been placing a different emphasis on the practice. I invite students to manifest the teaching out of a state of being rather than a state of you ‘have’ to do. I see it as exploring the art of practice in non-practice. This is more challenging for both teacher and the students as we move away from a set form to a more fluid, spontaneous expression arising from a direct experience.
This art of practice in non-practice arose out of the need to bridge the gap between retreat times and everyday life. Given the interconnectedness of all life forms and how as human beings our existence depends on the many acts of kindness of countless beings, it is vital to apply the teaching in our everyday interaction with all life forms. Indeed what is the relevance of a practice that does not extend to others? It is in living life with all its challenges that we come to the perfection of the paramis leading to realization.
This is what we are moving into now at the Orchard: living as a community with new and experienced practitioners; seeing how our intentions and actions have an immediate impact on others; looking deeply at our choosing and avoiding so that we can put an end to suffering for all beings. With such a faithful mirror, living in community is challenging and rewarding. I feel strongly this is where the actualization of the teaching can take place.
When our choosing and avoiding have calmed down, we are at ease, the breathing is relaxed. Only then the mind can rest in its natural state, luminous, awake and free from clingings. In 2002, Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche placed a lot of emphasis on the teaching of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and in 2003 on the transmission of Dzogchen.
This to me is a strong indication of the route to follow: first establishing mindfulness as a preparation to reveal the True Nature of Mind. This style of teaching rooted in everyday living seems very relevant to the here and now in the U.K. It attracts a wide spectrum of people from all ages and background – the majority being women. In the past year I have also witnessed the return of students who first came to the Orchard ten or fifteen years ago!
I offer my deep gratitude to my teachers Roshi John Garrie and Namgyal Rinpoche for introducing the True Nature of Mind and for their many blessings.
Requests for Healing
In the medicine Buddha meditation the first aspect to contemplate and to adjust is our motivation. The text says ’Reflect on our illness and pain and on the illness and pain experienced by others and generate a strong desire to be free of pain and suffering and to help others to be free of pain and suffering’.
This is asking us to meet and to know the inevitable truth that there is suffering, to be moved yet not overwhelmed by this truth. This in turn cultivates compassion, which is the ability to experience the suffering of others plus the ability to do something about it. This reflection on the pain and suffering experienced by ourselves and others is not meant to be depressing, on the contrary it can foster an unshakeable desire to be of service in whatever form is possible.
The second sentence recognizes that this is quite a task and that we need some help to be able to support others in time of shock, despair and pain: ‘As an effective means to do this, we will commit ourselves to invoking the healing forces within us, embodied in the Medicine Buddha, to the means of actualising these forces and to those who are able and willing to support us in this process’.
This takes into account that we alone have limitation and if we do not want to feel overwhelmed or inadequate when faced with the suffering of self and others, we need to train ourselves, to find a suitable practice, teacher and friends who will support us in this journey.
Here, what is offered is the practice of the Medicine Buddha but there are many other practices which will do just as well. I would like to share what I do when I receive a request for healing or when I hear of yet another tragedy.
First I make sure that I am in a wholesome state that is not tired physically or mentally, that I am openhearted and in a good frame of mind.
- Depending on my circumstances I can choose from the various ways of sending support to those in need.Throughout the day I hold the person in my mind-heart and from time to time I stop briefly and mentally and say ‘may this being be well and happy and free from suffering’, if I know their name then I say their name instead of this being.
- At the end of formal practice I dedicate the benefit of my practice to their well being, again I repeat mentally the sentence above together with their name.
- Any moment of joy or positivity I might experience during the day I offer it to their well-being.
- Or I do a full practice of M.B dedicating and include those in need by name, repeating one to three mantras per name. My understanding is that the power of the joining of mind-intention will support those who meet challenging times in their life so just one thought coming from an open heart can be transformative. It does not have to be elaborate.
It is a natural response one has towards a loved one; here the practice is to extend the same loving attention to someone who you may not know. I remember Namgyal Rinpoche asking us to give him news of how the person was doing. Are they better, worse? Do they need to be taken off the list? Again a few words of feedback would be enough.
So I would like to invite anyone who feels that they can and would benefit from this practice of responding to a request for healing to join the Blue Healer Minds. Simply give your contact to Sarah Hill (email@example.com), you can join or ask to be removed from the Blue Healer Minds at any time according to your circumstances. If anyone has a personal question regarding this practice I would be happy to help. In this case send your question, anytime, directly to me:firstname.lastname@example.org
Inspirations - Rinpoche's story
As part of a collection of stories by Namgyal Rinpoche's students about their personal experience with him which illustrate the many facets of this exceptional teacher, I was asked to write a contribution which I now share with you:
Long before I was to meet the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche I heard of a tall Canadian monk from my first teacher John Garrie Roshi through a story which impressed me a lot at the time. Little did I know then that decades later I would be at the receiving end of similar exchanges, being in fact a mode of communication our teacher used.
The story that J.G. Roshi told was, during a retreat in England led by N.R then known as bikkhu Ananda Boddhi, a conversation between the two of them took place at night during sleep/dream time. N.R was ‘standing’ at the end of John Garrie’s bed and asked him ‘what do you want for breakfast, cornflakes or weetabix?’ Come breakfast time N.R turned to J.G and said ‘it was weetabix, wasn’t it?’ to which he replied ‘No, cornflakes!’
This type of communication, these mind exchanges between N.R and his students were I believe common. Over the years I have worked with N.R and especially during the one-year retreat I undertook in 2001 in Canada, many times I was in communication with N.R in this way. There is no doubt that this is how N.R was able to communicate individually and simultaneously with a large group of students all gathered to listen to his teaching and be in his presence.
Imagination? Illusion? N.R could be quite specific and practical like in the story with Roshi as to leave you in no doubt that some words had been exchanged without even needing to voice them aloud or even be in the same room!
One simply heard N.R’s voice very clearly, for example, asking you to pass the water or to close a door or giving you his preference as to what sort of accommodation he’ll require when next in England. I remember during one of those wonderful evening events at his home to raise money for the Dharma Centre when Rinpoche ‘asked’ me without needing to move his lips or even look in my direction to pass a plate of food around. As I ‘heard’ clearly the words I stood up and reached for the plate glancing at him for some reassurance that I had ‘heard’ correctly. I was then met with a very satisfied smile from N.R! His ability to communicate in this way was also how he knew in detail what was going on in one’s practice.
During an insight retreat I was alone in my cabin practising a particular aspect and meeting some difficulty. The following day Rinpoche looked directly at me and told me how to approach this quite specific point yet I had not spoken to him, I was merely inquiring in the privacy of my own mind or so I thought!
In this same retreat I was practicing the slow walking in my cabin, naming each movement of the foot and leg like raising, lifting, moving, dropping, touching and placing as instructed. At both ends of the walking path I practised standing and noting where the intention of moving came from, the body or the mind, then continued with the naming of turning. I was breaking down the action of turning in many small movements accompanied with the naming. The next day in class Rinpoche told me that it was not necessary to do it like that, simply to name turning, as one movement was enough! How did he know I was doing it in such detail? The list is endless and all ‘conversations’ could be verified.
It was a wondrous form of intimacy in communication so clear, so direct and consistent, so unencumbered also so scary. In his presence I had to be careful or mindful of what I’d think or wish for as in my experience all wholesome wishes I made in his presence were fulfilled. Similarly all my shortcomings were exposed vividly.
Do I dare use language to describe this oh so fine ability of an Enlightened Mind? His was the pure state of Dharmakaya, a clear, luminous Mind from which there is nothing to hide, nothing to add or take away, just surrendering and allowing one’s mind to fuse with the Teacher’s Mind in Bliss and Emptiness.
This was the biggest teaching I received and am still receiving from N.R as although his physical presence is no longer here, his voice is still manifesting clearly. The last time I heard N.R’s voice clearly was in ‘07 when I began a long life practice, the Mandarava sadhana. Rinpoche gave me clear and lengthy instructions on how to find the Mandarava lake. At the time I did not know that there was a Mandarava lake!”
Healing-Shiatsu Touch Principle
"The art of witnessing through touch and breath"
1. Basic principles
- Attitude of acceptance and loving kindness
- Relaxation and letting-go of muscular tensions so Ki can flow
- The attention on the underside of the body
- The attention on the out-breath
- Where attention is, energy flows
- Allowing the energy to come to you
- To visualize and feel the cushion of Ki
- To lean and extend attention/ Ki through the cushion of Ki at 90° angle into the body, sometimes 1 to 3m deep
- Stillness in movement and continuity in movement and attention
- Three questions:
- How does the touch feel?
- Does the work echo?
- Has the pressure lasted long enough?
2. The practitioner
Healing-Shiatsu Touch asks the practitioner to cultivate an attitude of Acceptance and Loving Kindness so that the condition of the client is received as it is and is also felt as it is, with no judgement or personal
For this the practitioner needs to develop an awareness of who they are, physically and mentally so as not to distort what is or to impose their own views onto the client's condition. The tools to ensure that this becomes a reality and not a mere wish are:
a) Awareness of posture, centering and relaxation of the muscles so the work is done through Ki and not through muscular tension, strength or will power.
b) Awareness of the breathing patterns. The breath needs to deepen and the practice of letting-go on the outbreath whilst giving shiatsu is vital so that Ki can flow.
c) Awareness of mental attitudes. The attention is focused on experiencing and feeling in a direct and immediate way through the touch, rather than through thinking and intellectualising what one is receiving or doing. Cultivating stillness of body and mind so that thoughts, ideas, worries do not obstruct the flow of Ki of the practitioner.
What is our response to life events and how quickly do we come back to
balance? This is what the practitioner needs to assess in each session and
a) Kyo/Jitsu manifestations in the Body-Mind are not seen as imbalances but as our response to life situations. Kyo/Jitsu show how we attempt to find balance in the ever changing flow of life.
b) Kyo/Jitsu become an imbalance when we cannot let go of our response once the event has passed. Kyo/Jitsu then become a stagnation, fixation, a holding, a stopping of the ever moving flow of responses needed to survive well. It is like keeping on the raincoat though the rain has stopped and furthermore forgetting that we still are wearing the raincoat regardless of the weather condition!
Where attention is, energy flows.
Energy/Ki is alway transient, never static. The tsubo/meridian belong to the realm of the body and so are not linear or two-dimensional. Their true depth is three-dimensional rather than on the surface only of the body.
Therefore to touch with Ki the practitioner needs:
a) To approach the client with the attention of the backward circle, the underside of the body and on the outbreath.
b) To visualize/imagine and feel the cushion of Ki.
c) To lean and to extend the attention through the cushion of Ki at 90° angle and into the body sometimes even 1 to 3cm deep.
d) To practice stillness in movement and continuity in movement and in attention.
e) To ask three questions:
1 How does it feel?
2 Does it echo?
3 Has the pressure lasted long enough?
Mindfulness Meditation in Shiatsu
A friend of mine was telling me that his aerobic training sessions were for him "his meditation", he asked me what is the difference with what I do.
As a teacher of mindfulness meditation with over twenty years of practice it is clear that there are many different ideas and expectations about what meditation is.
Meditation, a not very satisfactory translation of the pali word bhavana, means mental development where one has to distinguish two kinds, development of Tranquillity and Concentration and development of Insight.
The word meditation evokes in each of us a response based on one of the three basic human characteristics i.e. the acquisitive, the averse, the confused. Each one of us tends to have one predominant way of responding to events, objects and people though all three characteristics can manifest at different times.
The aquisitive type will tend to find that "the world is all beautiful", so meditation is seen as a beautiful, serene and peacful activity filled with love, light and a sense of perfection. The averse type on the other hand tends to see the world as "an unkind, painful and cruel place to be", so meditation is used to withdraw from the world and to isolate oneself from it in a rather harsh way.
The confused type tends to swing between the two states of the aquisitive and the averse and is filled with restlessness and anxiety, a sense of not belonging and no place to rest. Meditation is seen as a means to calm and pacify the strong feeling of unease and therefore becomes the one and only reliable point of reference.
Meditation is primarily a mirror that reflects who we are without distorting the picture. Ideally one needs to be instructed and guided by someone who has been trained and who is practising. Teaching oneself is not the best and surest way, since we tend to see life through one of the three main characteristics our view is not whole but already distorted. A teacher will help see the whole picture while knowing how to guide based on your characteristic.
Students at first often believe that meditation or a meditative state is something that one day will strike them as though leaving it to luck or a happy accident.
Mindfulness meditation is a training, a method, one could even say a technique. So like any other technique one needs to be taught the instructions, how to apply them and then lots of practice.
The method is first of all to develop the skill of observing the body in the four basic postures, standing, walking, sitting, lying down and to link this awareness of the body to all life activities.
The meditation starts with the awareness of the body as it is slower and denser than the mind and so can be more easily observed. Through the repeated and consistent observation of the body and its activities, the practitioner will not fail to become more aware of the mental states that accompany the bodily activities.
From the observation of the body and mind one goes on to the training or taming of the body and mind. This means for example that if you perform a certain activity like answering the phone or opening the door your attention (mind) is with the body movement, not ahead of it or behind it. How often while one is doing a simple daily activity like switching on the kettle, the attention is on what has just taken place or on what is about to happen? Training the body and mind means teaching the attention to come back to what is happening at that moment, here in the body, now in this moment, no matter how many times one needs to call the attention back.
It is a not always easy, but simple method. Again this is practised in the four basic postures and in all daily life activities.
The next part of the training is liberating, freeing the mind. The practitioner will now have realized or at least touched on the experience that suffering or dissatisfaction in one's life is totally linked to the sense of self-identity, me and mine, my views and my needs, "wanting what I do not get and getting what I do not want".
The meditation practice will help us release our grip, our hold on the "this is me, this is mine" condition. With patience and kindness to this "me", we gradually become less dominated in our response to the world by the acquisitive, the averse or the confused characteristic.
Over time with lots of dedicated practice and a lot of good-will the four sublime abodes, Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity become our true refuge. A Zen master was reported saying that "if sitting is all that is required for enlightenment then surely all frogs would be enlightened!"
Mindfulness meditation is a training therefore available to all, it is not a gift therefore not to the privilege of the few. All that is required is an honest intention to look into the mirror again and again with a sense of humour and kindness.
The application of Mindfulness Meditation to Shiatsu is quite a specific process that follows the same sequence as the Mindfulness training, that is:
a) Cultivating an awareness of the body in terms of posture, breathing and energy movements
b) Training the body and taming the mind
c) Liberating mind
For the Shiatsu practitioner working with the body and staying mindful of its postures whilst giving Shiatsu is vital.
A posture is like a shape through which Ki flows. If the shape is distorted, for example uncomfortable, tight or holding, the flow of Ki in the giver will also be distorted.
The body is slower and denser than the mind so it is the first object of Mindfulness, to some extent it is also the easiest and safest to work with. Once physical ease in the practitioner is established, working with the attention/mind becomes possible.
"Where attention is, mind is. Where attention is, energy fllows."
So as the body posture is at ease, the breathing calm neither holding nor forcing, the attention then can rest where the hand touches the receiver's body. The deeper the attention goes, the deeper the Qi is stimulated. There is no need for great physical weight, only a balanced posture to support the attention/mind. A simple principle of Body-Mind which does not involve thinking only the application of mindfulness of body and mind.
The third principle, Liberating the Mind, is for all of us the most puzzling and most misunderstood. It basically means that the self-identity, "I, Me", gets out of the way of Shiatsu-giving and that there is no owner to this process. There is Shiatsu giving and the awareness of this process but no owner to be found!
This principle can be experienced in glimpses as it requires a practice of humility and deep letting-go that extends beyond one's Shiatsu practice to all areas of life. Perhaps for most of us it is an aspiration, but the fact that this principle is unfamiliar does not mean it does not exist or that it is not possible.
The quality of our Shiatsu-Touch is so linked to who we are. As committed Shiatsu practitioners our on going responsibility is to keep investigating and developing our being. Our birthright is to be well and happy and free from fear. The practice of Mindfulness with Shiatsu certainly offer glimpses into this reality for both the giver and receiver.
“The Breath of Awareness”
Breath as a tool for healing by Sonia Moriceau
As we breathe in we take in impressions via the senses, as we breathe out we let go of what we took in. This process happens with each in-breath and with each out-breath; the process of birth and dying.
Yet, as we breathe in we receive impressions and simultaneously we discriminate, we assess certain impressions as favourable and others as not favourable. In this act of in-breath we practise “becoming”, we shape our reality, our sense of self; we identify with our likes and dislikes. We create our personality.
The out-breath is essentially an act of emptying, of letting go, a freeing of identity in order to receive on the next in-breath in an unconditioned way, free from past fears or future anxieties. This is the potential of breathing.
Breathing is more the process of air passing in and out of the body, breathing is also the consciousness, the level of awareness of each person.
In Healing-Shiatsu working with the breath of one’s client is a central tool to diagnose and to evaluate the level of awareness of the client. By working with the breath one is exercising and awakening the client’s awareness therefore stimulating their own healing potentiality.
Students are often surprised that by working with the breath their clients become involved in their own healing process in a most direct and immediate way and at that moment strengthen their healing potential.
Letting-go of the breath, letting-go of becoming, letting go of the emotional weight necessary to keep our personality going, is a first act of healing, then taking in is free from conditions, free from holding on to a sense of “self”. Thus the healing potential of each individual returns to its natural rhythm.
As students discover their own potentiality through the mindfulness practice of breathing they also become more attuned to their client’s breathing.
In Healing-Shiatsu the touch-pressure is applied on the out-breath of the client, gently releasing on their in-breath.
Furthermore through their own practice the practitioner will have experienced that there is a gap between the end of the out-breath and the start of the next in-breath. This gap is not the same as holding one’s breath. Naturally as the out-breath ends there is a sense of “no-need to become, no need to be reborn” and the awareness rests in that gap or space; this is where the practitioner can meet the client’s awareness and potentiality, this is where healing takes place.
To cultivate the awareness of the “space” between the out-breath and in-breath is vital in the assessing and exercising of the healing potential. If at that point both practitioner and client can rest their attention in that “space” a true healing is experienced. This is the beginning of healing the human condition from its incessant grasping at the next in-breath in order to reaffirm its “personality”.
In practice it is easier to feel the breath of the person when working directly on their back, Hara or chest but with more experience it is possible to feel the breath of awareness in the legs, in the arms, in a knee, in an ankle or a toe. Basically where attention is, breath is; where attention is, energy flows.
Breathing goes on all the time for all of us, regardless of the activity, place or time. It is therefore a most suited tool to exercise awareness and to stimulate healing. It is a true barometer of where we are at, at any given moment.
Every thought, emotion, opinion or idea we have, is accompanied by a change in the breathing! Many times we are not aware of this but it occurs all the same.
By changing one’s breathing, by placing the attention on the softness of the out-breath, one can change the energy of a room; one can turn an argument into a dialogue. Therefore the practitioner can help change her client’s kyo/jitsu condition simply by practising awareness of the breath, especially at first the awareness of the out-breath in her own belly and simultaneously in her client’s.
Recently on a meditation retreat an acupuncturist friend of mine and I decided to test this, that breath is awareness, is one’s healing potentiality. Daily he took my pulses to check the state of balance but did not give any treatment. My practice was simply sitting and walking meditation. Both practices are based on mindfulness of the breath neither holding nor pushing, just experiencing the rise and fall of the belly as one is breathing in and out and allowing all thoughts, feelings, emotions and ideas to do the same, to rise on the in-breath and to fall on the out-breath, nothing more.
After the 7-day retreat my friend exclaimed that the energies were in perfect balance, no need for any treatment and he was truly surprised. He did not realise that awareness of the breath could be healing.
Practices based on sounds, laughter, chanting, all involve relaxing the belly and a deepening of the breath. Furthermore if the awareness is placed on the out-breath, the effects will be more long lasting and deeper, affecting the whole person and releasing the need for “becoming”.
Giving Shiatsu with the emphasis on the breath touches the person at her core; touches her consciousness thus triggering an awakening which always sends healing waves to all layers of the personality.
I would be interested to know of practitioners who include the awareness of the breath into their work and who would like more practical suggestions to help them incorporate this into their healing practice. Please feel free to contact me.
The Cosmological Cycle
By Sonia Moriceau
The Cosmological Cycle offers an interpretation of the 5 elements and their relationship to one another whilst placing the Earth at the centre.
The Cosmological Cycle emphasises the importance of the vertical axis Fire-Earth-Water with the Pre-Heaven Qi (Water) as the foundation and the Post-Heaven Qi (Earth) as the centre.
The vertical axis can be seen as the symbol of Essence-Qi-Mind.
The Earth occupying the central place has a very specific significance and also application in Shiatsu.
The Earth receives, transforms and integrates according to the functions of Stomach and Spleen and the wider role of the Earth on the psychological and emotional level.
Being at the centre of the Earth acts as a pivot enabling the smooth exchange between Fire and Water, i.e. Water rises to cool the Fire and Fire descends to warm the Water.
From the stability of the Earth energy depends all other relationships within the Fire-Water axis and also within the horizontal axis Wood-Metal.
The Earth represents the relationship to oneself, ‘Me with Me’. This in turn influences how ‘me’ relates to my environment, how I receive and give along the Wood-Metal axis and how I am in touch with my deep aspiration along the Fire-Water axis. By placing the Earth at the centre I am asked to look first at “How comfortable and good do I feel about myself?” Am I friend with myself? Do I have a stable and caring relationship with myself?” The feelings of low self-esteem, lack of wholesome nourishment, confidence and security, failing to acknowledge one’s roots and the connectedness to one’s mother, are all the signs of the Earth being undervalued and neglected. By recognising the important and crucial role of the Earth I am asked to balance the ‘hub of the wheel’ first before attempting to correct the ‘spokes of the wheel’.
How well do I nourish my being so that my deep aspiration can be fulfilled and my relationship and expression in the world can bring about well-being and growth? That is what placing the Earth at the centre means.
The Earth acts as a mediator and regulator enabling ‘me’ to strike a balance between an attitude of self-protection, to an extreme cutting myself off from the world and an attitude of constant exchange, opening myself to the world along the horizontal axis.
If the Earth is too rigid then “I will not be able to receive or distribute the information appropriately”. If the Earth is too soft “I receive everything and distribute badly”.
The Earth can also be out of centre and so comes close to another element, i.e. Fire, Water, Wood, Metal, striking a distorted relationship with them.
The ideal balance within the Earth element is a state of alertness and relaxation showing in a natural state of ‘availability and receptivity’.
The Earth occupying the Centre has therefore a central role in supporting all the other Elements.
The Stomach and Spleen are the Root of Post-Heaven Qi and the origin of Qi and Blood: they therefore nourish all the other organs and naturally occupy a central place in human physiology. Tonifying Stomach and Spleen indirectly tonifies all the other organs.
Stomach and Spleen are also anatomically at the centre as they lie in the Middle Heater and the correct functioning of Stomach and Spleen in relation to the direction of movement of Qi is therefore crucial for a proper physiological activity.
Earth is in between Water and Fire and is the support of Fire. Thus, Stomach and Spleen are the main support for the heart. The Spleen also produces blood on which the Heart depends.
In the Cosmological Cycle the Earth is the neutral pivot along which the seasonal cycle unfolds. At the end of each season, the energy goes back to the Earth for regeneration. Thus, the Stomach and Spleen could be tonified at the end of each season, particularly at the end of the winter to replenish energy.
The vertical axis as symbol of Essence-Qi-Mind.
In the Cosmological Cycle, Water is the foundation of the other Elements. This corresponds to the importance of the Kidneys as the source of Water and Fire, also called the Original Yin and Original Yang. The Kidneys store the Essence which is the fundamental biological substance of life, they contain the Fire of the Gate of Vitality which is the motive force that transforms and sets things in motion.
Kidneys and Heart are directly related along the vertical axis. Rather than being a relationship of control or over-action, their relationship is one of mutual nourishment and assistance. The Kidneys govern Water and this has to flow upwards to nourish the Heart, the Heart governs Fire and this has to flow downwards to the Kidneys.
A healthy and stable Earth energy will therefore enable ‘me’ to make good use of my resources and essence and be in touch with my deep aspiration.
The Liver and Lung as the horizontal axis.
The Liver is on the left (in the 5 Element scheme) and its Qi ascends, while the Lungs are on the right and its Qi descends. The Liver is in the Lower Heater and sends Qi upwards, the Lungs are in the Upper Heater and send Qi downwards. The two together ensure the smooth flow of Qi between Upper and Lower Heater and among the internal organs.
It enables ‘me’ to exchange and express myself in the world.
Not very much is written in Shiatsu books about the Cosmological Cycle and its application. Yet I find it the most appropriate and immediate model to use in understanding my clients and their patterns of disease, also in Hara evaluation.
The Earth is what sustains us; it is such a fundamental energy in all of us and in nature. It is also a very accessible energy to work with enabling the client to regain some self-esteem and confidence; it is interestingly an energy that clients can connect with most easily at least on the intellectual and emotional level. Working with the Cosmological Model has given me permission to start at the ‘beginning’, that is with the Earth, where we come from and where we will all return.
In a follow-up article I will describe the patterns of imbalance when the Earth, ‘the Hub’ is out of centre, undernourished or too rigid.
H. Beinfield & Korngold: ‘Between Heaven and Earth’ (Ballantine Books, 1991)
A. Faubert: ‘Les Monographies d’Acupuncture Traditionelle’ (G. Tredaniel)
Giovanni Maciocia: ‘The Foundations of Chinese Medicine’ (Churchill Livingstone, 1989)
The Cosmological Cycle: yin and yang
The motherhand is said to be the yin hand, resting on the kyo enabling the yang hand, the working hand to do its job.
The motherhand is supportive, nourishing, watchful; it receives the messages and responses of the body and communicates these to the working hand and also it receives and interprets the messages and responses from the working hand, in effect it reflects all the movements of energy in the body.
Its quality is that of yin, quiet, unassuming, firm and gentle. It is stable, consistent; it offers an anchor physically and energetically to both the receiver and the giver; it is always present and does not move a lot; without it the working hand would be blind and unconnected like a wild horse without its rider. All the attributes of the motherhand are the attributes of the yin aspect in nature and in one's self.
By its yin nature the motherhand is often in practice mistakenly given a passive and secondary role to play. Yet the motherhand by the very nature of its yin quality is the most 'active', the most influential hand! It is the hand that makes contact first with the body and leaves the body last in any transition from meridian to meridian or point to point. It is the plug that switches on all the connections and communications within the body. It is the hand that initiates deeply all the shifts and subtle energetic movements. In its unassuming, stable, firm yet gentle presence it opens the flow of energy within the meridian, between the two hands and within the rest of the body. If the working hand needs to go deeper, the motherhand also will need to go deeper first, physically but certainly with mind/attention/Ki.
It has flexibility and adaptibility which means that it is constantly adjusting the depth, angle, quality of its touch to echo with the meridian, to speak its language, to be in tune with it.
The motherhand is the main point of reference for the receiver, giving a constant attention that creates stability and trust from which one's deep need can be observed and eventually met. The position of the motherhand is quite particular to each receiver and each meridian. The role of the practitioner is to establish where is the best, i.e. most interactive position or point for the motherhand in any given moment; it may not be where one was taught it should be! When the position is most effective there is a feeling of suction, the energy of the receiver and giver are glued together, like two hands holding. In fact one exercise I use with my students to feel the quality and presence of the motherhand, to become more aware of its continuous watching of the minute changes and adjustments needed, of its immediacy in responding and adapting, is to hold hands or to recollect holding hands.
The motherhand as the yin-active-hand has the effect of deeply relaxing the receiver so that there is no choice but to be in touch with one's deep needs and have these met. In this way both the receiver and giver are 'working' together to touch the deep needs. For the practitioner this is quite important as there is the attention and intention of the receiver plus one's own to support a healing. This is a true healing partnership with one's client, not a treatment relationship where the client may become too passive.
The motherhand is like the throwing of a pebble into a lake, it sends ripples throughout the lake and for a long time, ripples which the working hand picks up. In that sense the working hand has less and less to do if the motherhand is plugged in at a deep and subtle level.
In the same way it is possible to give a whole healing session working solely on the Hara, the core and the hub of the person, it is also possible to effect the deepest nurturing from the motherhand alone requiring little interventions from the working hand.
An exercise I do with my students is to hold the motherhand on cv4, to have only one hand on the Hara and to witness the changes in the diagnostic areas through one's awareness, intuition, through the motherhand or verbal feedback. It is quite revealing how the receiver is able to give herself all the diagnosis and the treatment she needs!
The energy knows what it needs. The practitioner having set up the conditions for that depth of receiving and feeling becomes then a witness of the receiver's shifts of energy, emotions, etc.
The motherhand has therefore the potential to influence the whole body, not just the area worked on at the time. Its work echoing like a wave throughout the whole system; the working hand being as Ohashi calls it "the messenger boy".
At times the motherhand can tease, what I call "make hungry" the energy within a meridian or area so that it provokes intentionally a response from a lazy or shy energy. We all know how healing and longlasting a non-judgemental, compassionate moment with another being can be, this is too what the motherhand does and in doing so enables the receiver to do her own healing.
The motherhand is the non-violent, non-intrusive yet most influential principle in a Healing-Shiatsu session.
Die Mutterhand hat eine unterstützende, nährende und beobachtende Funktion. Sie empfängt die Botschaften und Reaktionen des Körpers, gibt diese an die arbeitende Hand weiter, gleichzeitig erhält und interpretiert sie die Botschaften und Reaktionen von der arbeitenden Hand. Sie spiegelt tatsächlich alle Bewegungen der Energie im Körper wider. Sonia Moriceau erörtert ihre Wichtigkeit als ein Bindeglied zwischen Geber und Empfänger.
Die Mutterhand heißt es, ist die Yin-Hand. Während sie auf dem Kyo liegt, hat die Yang-Hand, die arbeitenden Hand also, die Möglichkeit, ihre Arbeit zu tun. Die Mutterhand ist ruhig, bescheiden, fest und doch sanft – Yin also in ihrer Qualität. Sie ist stabil, von dichter Konsistenz. Sie bietet Geber und Empfänger einen physischen und energetischen Anker. Sie ist immer da, bewegt sich nur wenig. Ohne sie wäre die arbeitende Hand blind und isoliert wie ein wildes Pferd ohne seinen Reiter. Alle Attribute der Mutterhand sind Attribute des Yin-Aspekts in der Natur und in uns selbst.
Da die Mutterhand von ihrer Natur her Yin ist, wird ihr in der Praxis fälschlicherweise oft eine passive und untergeordnete Rolle zugewiesen. Aber sie ist gerade weil sie von ihrer Natur her Yin ist, die „aktivste“, die einflussreichste Hand! Sie ist die Hand, die den ersten Kontakt mit dem Körper herstellt und sich vom Körper bei jedem Übergang von Meridian zu Meridian, von Punkt zu Punkt als letzte entfernt. Sie ist der Schalter, der alle Verbindungen und Mitteilungen im Körper einschaltet. Sie ist die Hand, die alle Veränderungen und feinen energetischen Bewegungen initiiert. In ihrer bescheidenen, stabilen, festen und dennoch sanften Gegenwart öffnet sie den Energiefluss im Meridian, zwischen beiden Händen und im Körper selbst. Wenn die arbeitende Hand tiefer gehen muss, dann muss zuerst einmal die Mutterhand tiefer gehen – physisch zunächst, aber auch mit ihrem Geist, ihrer Aufmerksamkeit und ihrem Ki.
Sie ist flexibel und anpassungsfähig und reguliert somit ständig die Tiefe, den Winkel und die Qualität der Berührung, um mit dem Meridian in eine Echoreaktion zu treten, seine Sprache zu sprechen, sich in ihn einzustimmen. Die Mutterhand ist der wichtigste Bezugspunkt für den Empfänger. Durch ihre ständige Aufmerksamkeit schafft sie Stabilität und Vertrauen, wodurch die tiefsten Bedürfnisse beobachtet und schließlich erfüllt werden können.
Die Berührungszone der Mutterhand ist bei jedem Empfänger und auf jedem Meridian sehr individuell. Die Aufgabe des Praktikers besteht darin, die beste Verbindung zu schaffen, d.h. die Mutterhand dort hinzulegen, wo die beste Wechselwirkung stattfindet. Und das muss nicht dort sein, wo wir es gelernt haben!
Wenn die Position am effektivsten ist, entsteht ein Gefühl des Hineingesogenwerdens. Die Energien des Empfängers und Gebers verschmelzen miteinander wie zwei Hände, die sich halten. Eine Übung, die ich mit meinen Studenten mache, um sie mit der Qualität und der Anwesenheit der Mutterhand vertraut zu machen, ist, die Hände zu halten oder sich daran zu erinnern. Dadurch wird ihnen mehr und mehr bewusst, wie die Mutterhand ständig die winzigen Veränderungen und nötigen Ausrichtungen beobachtet, wie sie unmittelbar reagiert und sich anpasst.
Die Mutterhand als die Yin-aktive Hand bewirkt eine tiefe Entspannung im Empfänger, so dass er gar nicht anders kann, als mit seinen tiefen Bedürfnissen im Kontakt zu sein und sie erfüllt sehen möchte. Empfänger und Geber „arbeiten“ zusammen, um diese tiefen Bedürfnisse zu berühren. Dies ist für den Praktiker sehr wichtig, da es sowohl die Aufmerksamkeit und Absicht des Empfängers gibt als auch die eigene Aufmerksamkeit und Absicht, die Heilung zu unterstützen. Dadurch entsteht eine wahre Heilungspartnerschaft mit dem Klienten und keine Behandlungsbeziehung, in der der Klient zu passiv werden kann.
Die Mutterhand kann man mit einem Stein, vergleichen, den man in einen See geworfen hat. Er sendet eine Weile kleine Wellen über den ganzen See, Wellen, die die arbeitende Hand aufnimmt. In dem Sinne hat die arbeitende Hand, wenn die Mutterhand auf einer tiefen und subtilen Ebene „eingeschaltet“ ist, immer weniger zu tun.
Genauso wie es möglich ist, eine ganze Heilbehandlung zu geben, indem man nur mit dem Hara, dem Kern und Mittelpunkt des Menschen, arbeitet, ist es auch möglich, den tiefsten nährenden Effekt ausschließlich von der Mutterhand zu bekommen, ohne dass eine große Beteiligung der arbeitenden Hand nötig ist.
Eine Übung, die ich meinen Studenten ebenfalls empfehle, ist, dass sie die Mutterhand auf Konzenptionsgefäß Nr. 4 legen, also nur eine Hand auf dem Hara haben, und die Veränderungen in den Diagnosezonen durch ihr Bewusstsein und ihre Intuition nur durch die Mutterhand oder eine verbale Rückmeldung mitbekommen. Es ist erhellend, wie sehr der Empfänger in der Lage ist, sich selbst jegliche Diagnose und Behandlung zu geben, die er benötigt! Die Energie weiß, was sie braucht. Der Praktiker, der die Bedingungen für diese Tiefe des Empfangens und Fühlens geschaffen hat, wird zum Zeugen, wie sich die Energien, Emotionen usw. im Empfänger verändern.
Die Mutterhand hat somit das Potenzial, den ganzen Körper zu beeinflussen, nicht nur die Zone, auf der sie sich gerade befindet. Die Arbeit der Mutterhand fungiert wie ein Echo, dessen Ton wie eine Welle durch das ganze System widerhallt. Die arbeitende Hand ist, wie Ohashi sagt, „der Botenjunge“.
Manchmal kann die Mutterhand auch necken. Dann macht sie die Energie in einem Meridian oder einer Zone „hungrig“, indem sie absichtlich aus einer trägen oder schüchternen Energie eine Reaktion hervorlockt.
Sie bietet also viele Möglichkeiten, diese bescheidene, feste und doch sanfte Hand – diese Yin-Berührung.
Wir alle wissen, wie heilend und nachhaltig ein absichtsloser, mitfühlender Augenblick mit einem anderen Menschen sein kann. Genauso ist es mit der Mutterhand. Indem sie da ist, gibt sie dem Empfänger die Möglichkeit, sich selbst zu heilen. In einer Heil-Shiatsu-Sitzung ist die Mutterhand das gewaltlose, sich nicht aufdrängende Prinzip und dennoch das einflussreichste.
Sonia Moriceau ist Gründerin und Leiterin des „Healing-Shiatsu Education Centre“ in Wales, wo die Meditation der Achtsamkeit als Praxis in die Shiatsu-Ausbildung einbezogen wird.
(Aus dem Englischen von Anne Frederiksen)
Interview with Pat O’Grady MRSS
Shiatsu Society News - Summer (2000)
Sonia Moriceau began training in Satipatthana, Mindfulness Meditation, in 1974 under the guidance of John Garrie Roshi. Her meditation practice led her to healing and Shiatsu. She started training in 1980 under Master Ohashi. In 1983 she founded the Healing-Shiatsu Education Centre in South Herefordshire where the practice of Mindfulness Meditation is an integral part of Shiatsu training. The Centre also facilitates Mindfulness Meditation courses and retreats.
P. It seems to me that our understanding of the terms health, ill-health and healing must be at the core of our practice. Could you say what the terms mean to you? I’m not looking for a definitive interpretation of the terms but rather those aspects which arise from your own experience and which influence your Shiatsu practice.
S. For me, the defining feature of health is not the absence of aches and pains and disease. It’s not that someone is healthy if they have nothing wrong with them. There are many cases where people spend their lives up to the age of 50 or even 60 with nothing wrong with them, but when they stop everything breaks down. Whatever has been pushed underneath comes up to the surface. So not having an illness, or even discomfort, in one’s life is not necessarily a measure that this is good, this is health. For me the measure is about flexibility, the ability to say “I can come back to centre, to a state of ease in my life”. In that sense, healing is more to do with re-education rather than ‘treatment’ or getting rid of something.
Ill health is when there is no change, no growth, no evolution in a person at all. If I use the example of a recent case with a lady who is not at all well, but through her un-wellness she is making many changes, having lots of realisations about herself, her emotions and her lifestyle. To me, that is healthy and, it is in that sense that I use the word evolution.
P. Can you elaborate a little on what you mean by evolution and growth. Evolution to what? Growth in what way?
S. If you think of evolution right from before we became human beings, there has been a whole movement to lead us to where we are now and all the time that has happened not because people stopped growing, but because they kept searching and adapting, transforming themselves at great discomfort. That is one of the interesting parts of so-called health and healing. It can cause great discomfort as we adapt, grow, expand and change and it needs to be ongoing so that down the line there will be a human being who has many more possibilities and potential than we had, say, a hundred years ago.
At the personal level, I would hope to walk a path that my own ancestors didn’t walk, so that I add a little bit to that evolution. It may not be outwardly very visible, but inwardly I am no longer acting out the same scripts or scenarios, the conditioning given to me, or the conditions in which I was. I have, a little bit, ‘transcended’. That to me is evolution, therefore that to me is health.
P. So just to clarify this movement within a person, could you explain?
S. Well really we need to get in touch with the ‘drive’ in ourselves, to transcend, you could say, our conditioning. That is really beyond theory. It is just something you can observe in every person and it is quite strong. It will make people do crazy things….. Internally it is an incredible drive that you could translate as restlessness.
We can take something simple like so called mid-life crisis. Very often it is mishandled or mismanaged because there isn’t enough skill, but it is basically that drive of “I want more, I want something else. It’s not enough.” So, of course, it is often projected either on to the family or job or environment, but the essence of it is very good. It’s, “I want something different. How can I get that?” It is really this search. We come back to the Kidney energy that wants something different. So we can speak in the terms that if you don’t have good Kidney energy, you don’t have good health.
So we come back to the whole issue of health. Illness is really when you have lost this drive. This drive to have better conditions. Whatever that means, and maybe people will go into it materially, but I’m looking more at that seed inside and if it can be shaped in another direction then you come to, really, a different form of evolution.
P. So health, ill-health you have explained. Is there anything about the word ‘healing’ that you would wish to add?
S. I think the word ‘healing’ means to make peace with that sort of situation. If we define health as the ability to come back to balance, health is also accepting that at times you won’t be well, at times there will be discomfort. I find that really important because so often clients complain of pain etc., but if you can accept it as part of the whole picture that one needs to make friends with, that is for me part of the healing process. Like the first Noble Truth, “There is suffering”. There will be pain, restlessness, grief, unhappiness, but who says there shouldn’t be! Nothing is permanent.
I think healing is having this broader view. Discomfort is okay as long as there is this movement of growth. This “I want to go through and in order to go through something I will be in discomfort. I will have to create change. I will have to move the pieces around in my life.”
I find that fascinating because once we accept it that way, it’s fine. Once we’ve accepted that the state of happiness or health is not just having a nice house, money in the bank, good relationships, although of course all this can help, it’s not the aim. If we accept that sometimes we could be homeless, friendless or have a feeling of aloneness and “What the hell am I doing?” then there will be healing. There will be movement. So it’s a little bit like changing our picture of the fairy tale. There is suffering, but there is a way out, but it’s not what we think it is. Here we come back to illness which is dis-ease, which is “I want to stop this change. I want to make things permanent. I want, for example to say No – having a house, money in the bank and a repaid mortgage is the ultimate happiness or the ultimate health. So I want all this energy, this movement, this drive, to stop.”
That is the big picture for me. It’s what helps me to understand what’s going on in my life and also to understand what’s going on in other people’s lives. Then I can see why someone keeps holding back and holding on, arresting this natural drive, this urge that wants to fly higher. Therefore there are conflicts and there is disease.
P. How do you see Shiatsu assisting the healing process?
S. I don’t use many words with my clients. I just hope to calm the restlessness and the confusion, which is in the kyo and jitsu and the bewilderment of “How do we live?” Really, to come to deeper and deeper levels in a person. Then they begin to get in touch with their deeper aspirations and because I know that language, that experience, I can pick that up so that when they say “What can I do next?” I can offer something – literature, meditation or whatever.
Shiatsu is really planting the seed of getting in touch with our deepest aspirations. Not just “How do I survive?” There are many levels of giving Shiatsu or feeling Shiatsu, but for me if I can hold that view then hopefully that will make way for the client to see that bright diamond point (as my teacher called it), so that they can connect with that. At that moment one gets very hungry for “I want more”.
P. You’ve probably mostly expressed your view about your role as a practitioner, but is there anything you would add?
S. Well it is something I would put another way. When I give Shiatsu, it is giving direct experience to people of what I have already described. Even if it is only fleeting, and it is usually fleeting at first. A moment of deep peace can express itself with just an out breath. The whole facial expression relaxes as if for a moment there is no “me”, the “me” that’s troubled, restless and confused and that is big. It’s just a moment, but it means for that moment that you have really contacted that deep source within and that will do its own work.
As a Shiatsu practitioner, I have to create the right conditions for that to happen. That comes back to me as a practitioner. I must live what I am saying, which means that I have to do that every day in my own life, in my own personal practice. When I am ill I also have to bring that view. It is automatic now and not a question of “Oh, I must remember”. Automatically I think, “Nothing is permanent” etc. So I really have to be that and from that place hopefully to inspire, but just to be there. Maybe as a mirror that says “It’s okay to have those contradictions, but also to have this diamond”. So my role is just to try to express that in the way that I am and in the external conditions I provide and that means I have a big job to do, to cultivate that for myself.
Again, as a practitioner, definitely only to speak from my experience. If one’s experience is just of a particular aspect of all this vast “thing”, if one can speak just from that place with sincerity, then that will touch the person in a good way. That in itself will begin to make the changes. I think we are all starved to hear sincere things. Not just a concept of good ideas but someone who can say something very simple and as they say it you feel they have lived it. So that is what I try to be in my own Shiatsu and not go into areas that I haven’t explored or that I know very little about. To stay within my understanding and my practice and because of my practice I keep growing, so I am not limited in that it keeps changing.
P. When people come to you they have wide spectrum of expectations. How do you marry these with your own understanding?
S. Well definitely I’m not trying to convince people with words. I come back to the practice of ‘Loving Kindness’. The more I practice it the more my understanding and experience of it changes. It is very much that others are not different from me. So if I can see the other person as just an extension of myself and I want good things for myself – I want to be happy, to be well, I want to take care of this drive, I want to maybe at the end of my life think “Well, I’ve done a few things different to my ancestors. I’ve moved on a little bit”.
So if I see others like myself I know this is also what they want. It is about applying Loving Kindness to their expectations. Very often people will come at the beginning for a shoulder pain or a backache and it’s on the surface, isn’t it? But if I also plug into the deepest aspirations of the human being I think we then have a meeting point. Perhaps not in the first session, but very often people will say “I know I’m coming to you for much more than my shoulder pain”. That is not a surprise to me. Neither is it a praise. It’s what we are all about, but at first we are shy.
Maybe the first few sessions we deal with the so-called symptoms or presenting conditions, but very soon there is another dimension, a layer that opens up because you have given them a taste of a place of deeper ease. Then you start relating to that. It’s like an echo. They’ve heard it themselves and that is why they want to come back, even when their shoulder is better. It is like you are talking that language or they are hearing that echo again when they are in that environment, in that room, with that person. That is how many meditation teachers work. Just being in their presence puts you in touch with that echo that you are looking for which is universal. So in my experience there is no conflict. I don’t have the view that they come for one thing, but I have the wider view.
P. Sometimes I feel ambivalence in my Shiatsu practice because I’m pulled between working on the presenting conditions and the deeper issues and I’m not looking at the totality and relaxing with that, which makes the Shiatsu less focused and less satisfactory.
S. We really have to cultivate this ‘bigger view’ though our own practice so that we can literally hold all those possibilities and contradictions and within that to know we are very limited, in some ways as practitioners, as to what we can truly do. I really believe more in the aspect of setting the right conditions and living what you speak, so that you come from sincerity and the rest is really up to the person’s, what we call, “path”. There is not so much an external person can truly do. They can inspire by their example and in their interaction, they can help you sense the amount of work there is to be done and, for example, pacify etc., but physically as an intervention there is not so much that one can do. It takes years to realise this because at first as a practitioner you really believe you can make big changes, but if you are sincere the changes that do happen are just the person walking in that direction anyway, and you were there. You did something valuable but it was not you who did it. It’s not that I am putting down Shiatsu or myself; that is just how it is.
You point the way by working on certain meridians, creating a sense of ease, rebalancing and helping the energy to move, but if internally there is resistance, a holding back, a stopping, ill-health or ill-will, there is nothing you can do until through the knocks of life the person just drops it.
For me, the greatest ability Shiatsu has is that it is non-verbal. That is very powerful because words can be confusing with different associations, interpretations and so on. I think because it is non-verbal it is a very beautiful tool. The hands are doing the communicating, the speaking. One of the ways in which the client can help themselves and, take part in the healing process is by witnessing what is happening to their energy as a result of what I am doing.
A sign, for me, of what is going well is what is happening to their breathing The breathing will become deeper, especially on the out breath. At the time of deep ease and deep letting go there will be, between the out breath and the in breath, a gap. Nothing is happening and very often the client will say later on “I didn’t want to breathe in, is that all right? What does it mean?”
So there is great stillness and at that level they have contacted that inner meditation space. At that moment there was healing. For me, as a practitioner, I kind of look for that throughout the session, to see if the work I am doing is bringing this. So this is something you can tangibly check. During that pause, that gap, the client is very acutely aware and very with it. Again, as a practitioner, I need to have experienced that many times to respect how to be at that point. I continue my work, but very deep and meet them in that space. Really this is an incredible space for them and the moment of self-healing. You just need one moment in your whole hour session like this and the whole thing is doing itself.
So as a practitioner, I feel I do less and less. It’s really not me. My responsibility is to put the right conditions in place and to be listening, to work with loving kindness and non-interference so that I witness what is going on and I am able to give the right interpretation to this. I am aware, e.g., that this is wholesome, not wholesome, not moving in the right direction so the client does most of the work, in that sense, and that makes them very active. It, in that way, empowers them and they feel it that way. They feel more active so they have more to say at the end of a Shiatsu session than I have, such as “This happened, that happened” all I have to say is “yes”.
P. You have already described what some aspects of communication mean to you. Is there anything you wish to add?
S. The issue of communication is about the practice of Loving Kindness, that I need to feel that we are not so separate. Their anger is also the anger I know. It’s anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, grief, loneliness, despair, joy, hope. We all have the whole range; none of us are exempt. Communication means I need to have that understanding; I need to know that it’s okay. Then I will not be afraid of those feelings, emotions and sensations in them or me. I will think “Ah, that is deep aloneness.”
It brings me back to the value of Shiatsu as I learnt it with Ohashi when he said, “You are on the floor with the client; they are not on the couch or standing next to you. You are touching, on the same level.” Ohashi is a small man; he took the tallest man in the room and stood next to him. There was a huge difference, but when he sat on the mat and the man sat, the difference was much less. That for me is what Shiatsu is. There is much less separation. The intention is really to touch, really contact our body and their body; really become more like one.
That is why I cannot use the word ‘treatment’. How can I ‘treat’? I can only have this two-way communication which becomes just one communication and in that I share my experience, my humanness and share theirs. In the midst of all that, there is, hopefully, a moment of deep ease which resonates in that person and puts them in touch with their whole human potential.
Im Gespräch mit Pat O’Grady
Mir scheint, dass unser Verständnis von Gesundheit, schlechtem Gesundheitszustand und Heilung der Kern unserer Praxis sein muss. Könntest Du erklären, was diese Begriffe für Dich bedeuten? Ich suche nicht nach einer definitiven Interpretation, vielmehr nach den Aspekten, die aus Deiner Erfahrung resultieren und die Deine Shiatsu-Praxis beeinflussen.
Für mich ist das bestimmende Merkmal von Gesundheit nicht die Abwesenheit von Leid, Schmerz oder Krankheit. Es ist nicht so, dass jemand gesund ist, wenn ihm nichts fehlt. Es gibt Menschen, denen bis zum 50. oder 60. Lebensjahr nichts gefehlt hat, aber wenn sie innehalten, bricht alles zusammen. Alles, was verdrängt wurde, kommt jetzt an die Oberfläche. Es ist also nicht so, dass die Abwesenheit von Krankheit oder von Beschwerden notwendigerweise ein Maßstab ist für das, was Gesundheit ausmacht. Für mich ist der Maßstab vielmehr Flexibilität, die Fähigkeit sagen zu können „Ich kann in mein Zentrum zurückkehren, in einen Zustand der Ruhe und des Wohlbefindens in meinem Leben.“ In dem Sinne hat Heilung mehr mit „Umerziehung“ zu tun als mit „Behandlung“ oder etwas loszuwerden.
Ein schlechter Gesundheitszustand zeigt sich dann, wenn in einem Menschen keine Veränderung, kein Wachstum, keine Entwicklung stattfindet. Um ein Beispiel zu geben: eine Frau, die kürzlich zu mir kam, fühlte sich unwohl. Aber gerade dadurch veränderte sie sehr viel, hatte viele Erkenntnisse über sich selber, ihre Gefühle, ihre Lebensweise. Für mich ist das Gesundheit, und in dem Sinne benutze ich auch das Wort Evolution.
Könntest Du noch weiter ausführen, was Du mit Evolution und Wachstum meinst? Evolution wohin? Wachstum in welcher Weise?
Denken wir an die Evolution, bevor wir menschliche Wesen wurden: Es gab immer Bewegung, immer Umwälzung, um uns dorthin zu bringen, wo wir heute sind. Das war so und wird immer so bleiben, weil die Menschen nie aufhören werden zu wachsen, zu suchen, sich anzupassen und sich unter großen Unannehmlichkeiten und Beschwerden zu transformieren. Das ist einer der interessanten Aspekte von sogenannter Gesundheit und Heilung. Wenn wir uns anpassen, wenn wir wachsen, uns ausdehnen und ändern, kann das großes Unbehagen verursachen. Aber es ist ein ständiger Prozess, und schließlich entsteht ein menschliches Wesen, das weit mehr Möglichkeiten hat und über mehr Potential verfügt als, sagen wir, ein Mensch vor einhundert Jahren.
Was mich betrifft, so hoffe ich, dass ich auf einem Pfad gehe, auf dem meine eigenen Vorfahren noch nicht gegangen sind, so dass ich ein bisschen zur Evolution beitragen kann. Das muss äußerlich gar nicht sichtbar sein, aber innerlich muss ich nicht dieselben Muster, Szenarien oder Konditionierungen ausagieren, muss nicht unter denselben Umständen leben, in denen ich mich einmal befand. Ich habe das - ein bisschen jedenfalls - „transzendiert“. Das ist für mich Evolution, das ist Gesundheit.
Könntest Du das ausführlicher erklären?
Nun, wir müssen mit dem „Antrieb“ in uns in Berührung kommen, um unsere Konditionierung zu transzendieren. Das geht wirklich über jede Theorie hinaus. Es ist etwas, was man in jedem Menschen beobachten kann, ein ziemlich starker Aspekt. Es kann dazu führen, dass dieser Mensch verrückte Dinge tut… Innerlich ist ein unglaublicher „Antrieb“ da, der sich als Ruhelosigkeit ausdrücken kann.
Wir können als Beispiel so etwas Einfaches wie die Midlife-Krise nehmen. Oft geht man damit nicht sachgemäß um, weil man nicht genug darüber weiß und nicht genügend angemessene Mittel kennt. Grundsätzlich aber geht es auch hier um einen Antrieb, um den Antrieb: „Ich will mehr. Ich will etwas anderes. Es reicht einfach nicht so wie es ist.“ Oft projizieren wir das natürlich auf die Familie oder den Beruf oder die Umgebung. Im Grunde jedoch ist das sehr gut. Es bedeutet: „Ich will etwas anderes. Wie kann ich es erreichen?“ Es handelt sich also um eine Suche. Wir kommen zurück auf die Nierenenergie, die etwas anderes möchte. Wir können also sagen, wenn man keine gute Nierenenergie hat, ist auch die Gesundheit nicht gut.
Kommen wir noch einmal auf die Kernfrage zurück: Was eigentlich ist Gesundheit? Von Krankheit können wir dann sprechen, wenn jemand diesen Antrieb verloren hat, diesen Antrieb, sich bessere Umstände zu schaffen. Was immer das bedeutet. Für manche mag es etwas Materielles sein, ich jedoch suche mehr nach den Samen in uns, und ob daraus etwas entsteht, ob etwas in eine andere Richtung zu wachsen beginnt und somit zu einer anderen Entwicklung führt.
Gesundheit, schlechter Gesundheitszustand, beides hast Du erklärt. Wie siehst oder erklärst du den Begriff „Heilen“?
Ich glaube, dass das Wort „Heilen“ bedeutet, Frieden mit solchen Situationen zu machen, wie ich sie gerade beschrieben habe. Wenn wir Gesundheit als die Fähigkeit definieren, ins Gleichgewicht zu kommen, bedeutet Gesundheit auch, dass wir akzeptieren, dass es Zeiten gibt, in denen wir uns nicht so gut fühlen, Zeiten, in denen wir Beschwerden haben. Ich finde das wirklich wichtig, weil Klienten so oft über Schmerzen etc. klagen. Wenn wir sie aber als Teil des Gesamtbildes akzeptieren können, wenn wir uns damit anfreunden können, ist das Teil des Heilungsprozesses, ganz im Sinne der ersten Edlen Wahrheit: „Leiden gehört zum Leben.“ Es gibt Schmerz, Ruhelosigkeit, Kummer, Trauer, aber wer sagt denn, dass es das alles nicht geben sollte!? Wie wir wissen, ist nichts beständig.
Ich glaube, Heilung hat diese weite Sichtweise. Es ist in Ordnung, Beschwerden zu haben, solange es eine Wachstumsbewegung gibt, ein „Ich will da hindurchgehen, und um das zu tun, werde ich Beschwerden haben. Ich muss eine Änderung herbeiführen. Ich muss die Dinge in meinem Leben bewegen.“
Ich finde das faszinierend, denn sobald wir das akzeptieren, ist es gut. Wir müssen akzeptieren, dass Glück oder Gesundheit nicht bedeuten, ein schönes Haus zu besitzen, Geld auf der Bank zu haben, gute Beziehungen zu haben - all dies ist natürlich hilfreich, aber es ist eben nicht das Ziel. Wenn wir akzeptieren können, dass wir manchmal heimatlos, ohne Freunde sind oder uns allein fühlen und uns fragen „Was mache ich hier eigentlich?“, dann wird Heilung eintreten. Dann ist etwas in Bewegung. Es ist ein bisschen so, als würden wir unsere Sichtweise von einem Märchen ändern. Es gibt Leiden, aber es gibt auch einen Ausweg. Meist aber sieht er nicht so aus, wie wir glauben. Hier kommen wir zurück auf das Thema Krankheit im Sinne von Unwohlsein, im Sinne von „Nein, ich will diese Veränderung nicht. Ich will, dass die Dinge bleiben wie sie sind. Ein Haus, Geld auf der Bank zu haben, das Darlehen abgezahlt zu haben, sind Ausdruck von höchstem Glück und wirklicher Gesundheit für mich. Damit sich nichts ändert, will ich diese Energien, diese Bewegung, diesen Antrieb nicht.“
Das ist das Gesamtbild für mich. Es hilft mir zu verstehen, was in meinem eigenen Leben vor sich geht und gleichzeitig, was im Leben anderer Menschen vor sich geht. Dann kann ich sehen, warum jemand etwas zurückhält, warum er an etwas festhält oder seinen natürlichen Antrieb bremst, diesen Impuls, der höher hinaus möchte. Deshalb kommt es immer wieder zu Konflikten und Krankheiten.
Wie kann Shiatsu diesen Heilungsprozess unterstützen?
Ich spreche nicht sehr viel mit meinen Klienten, hoffe aber, dass ich die Ruhelosigkeit und Konfusion besänftigen kann, die sich im Kyo und Jitsu zeigen, in der Verwirrung und der Frage „Wie leben wir eigentlich?“ Es geht wirklich darum, zu immer tieferen Schichten in einem Menschen vorzudringen, so dass er mit seinen wahren Sehnsüchten in Kontakt kommt. Weil ich diese Sprache kenne, diese Erfahrung habe, kann ich das aufnehmen, und sie können fragen „Was kann ich als nächstes tun?“ Ich kann dann etwas anbieten, sei es Literatur, Meditation oder etwas anderes.
Es geht im Shiatsu wirklich darum, einen Samen zu säen, der uns mit unseren tiefsten Sehnsüchten in Berührung bringt, nicht nur mit der Frage, „Wie kann ich überleben?“ Es gibt viele Ebenen, Shiatsu zu geben, Shiatsu zu erfahren. Für mich ist es aber wichtig, diesen Aspekt, einen Samen zu säen, zu berücksichtigen, denn dann tut sich, so hoffe ich, für den Klienten die Möglichkeit auf, den hellen Strahl des Diamanten zu sehen (wie mein Lehrer es nannte), mit dem er sich dann verbinden kann. In dem Augenblick beginnt er, begierig nach dem „Ich will mehr“ zu hungern.
Du hast wahrscheinlich das meiste über Deine Rolle als Praktikerin bereits gesagt. Möchstest Du noch etwas hinzufügen?
Nun, es ist etwas, was ich noch anders ausdrücken möchte. Wenn ich Shiatsu gebe, gebe ich direkte Erfahrungen an meine Klienten weiter, wie ich es schon beschrieben habe. Selbst wenn es nur flüchtig ist, und zu Beginn ist es meistens so. Ein Moment tiefen Friedens kann sich mit der Ausatmung einstellen. Der ganze Gesichtsausdruck entspannt sich, so als gäbe es im Moment kein „Ich“, kein „Ich“, das sich Sorgen macht oder ruhelos ist. Ein „Ich“, das sich Sorgen macht, ruhelos und verwirrt ist, ist ein großes, dominantes Ich. Der Moment der Ausatmung ist nur kurz, er bedeutet aber, dass der Klient in dem Moment wirklich mit seiner tiefen inneren Quelle in Kontakt gekommen ist und sie wird die Arbeit tun.
Als Shiatsu-Praktikerin muss ich die richtigen Bedingungen schaffen, damit das geschehen kann. Das hat auch eine Rückwirkung auf mich als Praktikerin. Ich muss erfahren haben, was sich sage, muss in meinem eigenen Leben, in meiner eigenen persönlichen Praxis all das erfahren haben. Wenn ich krank bin, muss auch ich diese Sichtweise haben, dass Leiden existiert. Für mich ist es keine Frage mehr von „Oh, ich muss das bedenken, mich daran erinnern.“ Ich denke automatisch, „nichts ist beständig“ etc. Ich muss also authentisch sein und von da aus kann ich, so hoffe ich jedenfalls, inspirieren. Am wichtigsten aber ist, dass ich nur da bin, vielleicht als ein Spiegel, der sagt „ Es ist in Ordnung, diese Widersprüche in sich zu fühlen, aber auch, diesen Diamanten zu sehen.“ Meine Rolle also ist es, das so auszudrücken wie es mir gemäß ist und die äußeren Bedingungen anzubieten. Das bedeutet, dass auch ich wirklich ein Stück Arbeit zu tun habe, indem ich all das selber für mich kultiviere.
Ich spreche hier natürlich nur aus meiner eigenen Erfahrung als Praktikerin. Wenn die eigene Erfahrung nur einen bestimmten Aspekt des großen Ganzen ausmacht, kann man nur von da aus aufrichtig darüber sprechen. Aber das wird die Menschen auf eine gute Weise berühren. Das allein schon wird dazu beitragen, dass Veränderungen geschehen. Ich glaube, dass wir alle danach hungern, Dinge zu hören, die aufrichtig sind. Wir wollen nicht nur ein Konzept von guten Ideen hören, sondern etwas, das auf einfache Weise ausgedrückt wird und authentisch ist. Das versuche ich in meiner eigenen Praxis zu tun. Ich versuche nicht, in Gebiete vorzudringen, die ich nicht erforscht habe oder von denen ich wenig weiß. Ich bleibe in meinem Verständnis und meiner Praxis. Da ich all das aber praktiziere, wachse ich immer weiter, bin also nicht begrenzt, weil sich eben immer alles ändert.
Wenn Leute zu Dir kommen, haben sie ein großes Spektrum an Erwartungen. Wie verbindest Du diese Erwartungen mit Deinem eigenen Verständnis?
Nun, ich versuche nicht, sie mit Worten zu überzeugen. Ich beziehe mich auf die Praxis der „Liebenden Güte“. Je mehr ich sie praktiziere, umso mehr verändern sich mein Verständnis und meine Erfahrung. Es ist wirklich so, dass andere nicht anders sind als ich. So kann ich die Leute als eine Erweiterung meiner selbst sehen, und genauso wie sie möchte ich, dass mir Gutes geschieht, dass ich glücklich bin, dass es mir gut geht, dass ich auf diesen Weg achtgebe, dass ich am Ende meines Lebens vielleicht denke „Nun, ich habe ein paar Dinge anders als meine Vorfahren gemacht. Ich bin ein kleines bisschen vorangekommen.“
Wenn ich also andere sehe, die wie ich sind, weiß ich, dass sie das, was ich gerade aufzählte, auch wollen. Es geht darum, ihren Erwartungen mit „Liebender Güte“ zu begegnen. Oft kommen die Leute zu Anfang mit Schulterschmerzen oder Rückenschmerzen, aber das ist nur die Oberfläche, nicht wahr? Wenn ich mich in ihre tiefsten Hoffnungen einstimme, finden wir einen Punkt, an dem wir uns treffen. Vielleicht nicht in der ersten Sitzung. Oft sagen die Leute „Ich weiß, ich komme wegen viel mehr zu Dir als meiner Schulterschmerzen.“ Das ist keine Überraschung für mich. Es ist auch kein Selbstlob. Es ist einfach das, um was es uns allen geht, aber am Anfang sind wir alle noch etwas schüchtern.
Während der ersten Sitzungen geht es um die sogenannten Symptome oder um den gegenwärtigen Zustand, sehr bald aber taucht eine andere Dimension auf. Es öffnet sich eine Ebene, auf der wir ihnen ein Vorgefühl geben von einem Ort, an dem tiefes Wohlergehen möglich ist. Dann beginnt der Klient, sich darauf zu beziehen. Es ist wie ein Echo. Er hat es vernommen, und deshalb will er wiederkommen, sogar dann noch, wenn die Schulter bereits besser geworden ist. Es ist so, als würdest Du die Sprache sprechen oder als würden sie das Echo wiederhören, wenn sie wieder in dieser Umgebung, diesem Raum, zusammen mit der bestimmten Person sind. So arbeiten viele Meditationslehrer. Nur, indem Du in ihrer Gegenwart bist, bringt es Dich in Berührung mit jenem Echo, nach dem Du gesucht hast und das universell ist. Meiner Erfahrung nach gibt es da keinen Konflikt. Ich bin nicht der Ansicht, dass sie nur wegen eines Symptoms kommen, meine Sichtweise ist da viel weiter.
Manchmal spüre ich eine Ambivalenz in meiner Shiatsupraxis, weil ich mich hin- und hergerissen fühle zwischen der Arbeit am gegenwärtigen Zustand und den tieferen Fragen oder Problemen. Ich schaue nicht auf das Ganze, bin nicht entspannt und das macht mein Shiatsu weniger fokussiert und weniger befriedigend.
Wir sollten wirklich diese „weitere Sichtweise“ durch unsere eigene Praxis kultivieren, so dass wir buchstäblich alle diese Möglichkeiten und Widersprüche haben und in diesem Rahmen wissen, dass wir sehr begrenzt sind in dem, was wir wirklich tun können. Ich glaube mehr an den Aspekt, die richtigen Bedingungen zu schaffen und dass zwischen dem, wie wir leben und dem, was wir sagen, keine Lücke klafft, so dass wir wirklich aufrichtig sein können. Der Rest ist dann Sache des Klienten, ist das, was wir seinen „Weg“ oder „Pfad“ nennen. Es ist nicht allzu viel, was wir als äußere Person wirklich tun können. Wir können durch unser Vorbild oder unser Beispiel und unsere Wechselwirkung inspirieren, wir können helfen, dass der Klient den Berg von Arbeit erkennt, der zu bewältigen ist. Wir können zum Beispiel besänftigen etc., aber physisch können wir nicht sehr viel tun, können nicht intervenieren. Es braucht Jahre, um dies zu erkennen, denn zu Beginn der Arbeit als Praktiker glaubst Du, dass Du wirklich viel bewirken kannst, aber wenn Du ehrlich bist, passieren die Veränderungen nur, weil die Person ohnehin in die Richtung gegangen ist und Du zu dem Zeitpunkt gerade da warst. Du hast etwas Wertvolles getan, aber nicht Du warst es, sie waren sozusagen in dem Moment bereit dazu. Damit will ich Shiatsu nicht herabwürdigen, auch mich selber nicht, aber es ist einfach so, wie ich sagte.
Du zeigst den Weg, indem Du auf bestimmten Meridianen arbeitest, schaffst ein Gefühl von Wohlergehen, von Balance und hilfst der Energie, sich zu bewegen, aber wenn innerlich ein Widerstand da ist, ein Festhalten, ein Sich-Sperren, ein schlechter Gesundheitszustand oder etwas, was sich dagegen sträubt, kannst Du nichts tun bis die Person durch die Schläge des Lebens diese Widerstände aufgibt.
Das größte Plus von Shiatsu ist, dass es nonverbal abläuft. Das ist sehr kraftvoll, weil Worte durch die verschiedenen möglichen Assoziationen, Interpretationen usw. verwirren können. Ich denke, gerade weil es nonverbal ist, ist es ein so wunderbares Werkzeug. Die Hände kommunizieren, sie sprechen. Shiatsu ist also ein Weg, der die Selbstheilungskräfte im Klienten aktiviert. Er wird Zeuge, was mit seiner Energie geschieht, und das ist das Ergebnis dessen, was ich als Praktiker anbiete.
Für mich ist die Atmung ein Zeichen dafür, ob etwas gut läuft. Die Atmung kann tiefer werden, besonders die Ausatmung. Wenn die Entspannung sehr tiefgehend ist und wenn losgelassen wird, dann wird zwischen der Ausatmung und der Einatmung eine Leere sein. Es geschieht nichts, und oft wird der Klient später sagen „Ich wollte nicht einatmen, ist das in Ordnung? Was bedeutet das?“
Eine große Stille ist eingetreten, und der Klient ist mit dem inneren meditativen Raum in Berührung gekommen. In dem Moment ist Heilung geschehen. Ich als Praktikerin schaue sozusagen während der ganzen Sitzung danach, ob meine Arbeit zu diesem Moment hinführt. Das ist etwas, was Du wirklich spüren und überprüfen kannst. Während dieser Pause, dieser Leere ist sich der Klient dessen ganz und gar bewusst, und er ist ganz und gar damit verbunden. Ich selbst als Praktierin muss das auch oft erfahren haben, um zu respektieren und zu wissen, wie es an diesem Punkt wirklich ist. Wenn ich es bemerke, fahre ich mit meiner Arbeit fort, sie wird tiefer, und ich treffe den Klienten dann in diesem Raum. Es ist in der Tat ein unglaublicher Raum für sie. Es ist der Moment, in der Selbstheilung geschieht. Es bedarf nur eines kleinen Augenblicks in Deiner einstündigen Sitzung wie diesem und alles geht von selbst.
Ich als Praktikerin fühle also, dass ich immer weniger tun muss. Ich bin es wirklich nicht. Meine Verantwortung liegt nur darin, die richtigen Bedingungen zu schaffen, zuzuhören, in Liebender Güte präsent zu sein, mich nicht „einzumischen“, damit ich Zeuge werden kann von dem, was vor sich geht und in der Lage bin, dies richtig zu interpretieren. Während der Sitzung spüre ich zum Beispiel, dies ist heilsam, das nicht, hier verläuft die Bewegung nicht in der richtigen Richtung. Der Klient aber macht die eigentliche Arbeit, er ist also selber aktiv. Das gibt ihm sozusagen die Vollmacht, und das bekommt er auch mit. Er fühlt sich aktiver und ist deshalb am Ende einer Shiatsu-Sitzung in der Lage, mehr zu sagen als ich, zum Beispiel, „Dies ist geschehen und das“, und alles, was ich dann nur noch sagen kann, ist „ja, so ist es“.
Du hast schon beschrieben, was bestimmte Aspekte von Kommunikation für Dich bedeuten. Möchtest Du dazu noch etwas sagen?
Beim Thema Kommunikation geht es um die Praxis der Liebenden Güte, die bedeutet, dass ich fühle, dass wir nicht getrennt sind. Die Wut meines Klienten ist auch die meine. Wut, Hass, Neid, Eifersucht, Trauer, Einsamkeit, Verzweiflung, Freude, Hoffnung, all das kenne ich auch. Wir alle kennen das ganze Spektrum, niemand ist davon ausgenommen. Kommunikation bedeutet, dass ich ein Verständnis von all dem habe. Ich muss wissen, dass es so in Ordnung ist. Denn dann habe ich keine Angst vor diesen Gefühlen, diesen Emotionen und Empfindungen in mir oder in anderen. Ich denke dann, „aha, so fühlt sich tiefe Einsamkeit an“.
Das erinnert mich an den Wert von Shiatsu. Als ich bei Ohashi lernte, sagte er „Du bist mit dem Klienten auf dem Boden, er befindet sich nicht auf der Couch, steht nicht neben Dir. Du berührst ihn auf derselben Ebene.“ Ohashi ist klein von Statur. In einem Kurs stellte er sich neben den größten Mann. Es war also ein riesiger Unterschied. Als er sich dann auf die Matte setzte und der Mann das auch tat, war der Unterschied weitaus geringer. Das ist das, was Shiatsu für mich bedeutet. Es gibt so gut wie keine Trennung. Die Intention ist die Berührung, ist der körperliche Kontakt, Klient und Praktiker stehen auf einer Stufe.
Deshalb benutze ich das Wort „Behandlung“ auch nicht. Wie kann ich „behandeln“? Ich sehe nur diese zweiseitige Kommunikation, die zu einer wird und in der wir unsere Erfahrung, unsere Menschlichkeit teilen. Und in der Mitte, so hoffe ich, gibt es diesen Moment des tiefen Wohlbehagens, der in dieser Person widerhallt und der sie mit ihrem ganzen menschlichen Potential in Berührung bringt.
Aus dem Englischen von Anne Frederiksen.
1974 begann Sonia Moriceau ihre Ausbildung in Satipatthana (Meditation der Achtsamkeit) unter der Leitung von John Garrie Roshi. Ihre Meditationspraxis führte sie zum Shiatsu und zum Heilen. 1980 begann sie ihre Shiatsu-Ausbildung bei Meister Ohashi, gründete 1983 das „Healing Shiatsu Education Centre“ in South Herefordshire, wo die Meditation der Achtsamkeit integraler Bestandteil der Shiatsu-Ausbildung ist. Das Zentrum bietet auch Meditationskurse und Retreats an.
We are happy to offer some of Sonia's teachings on CDs
Flowering the Mind of Loving Kindness (1 CD)
Peace to All Beings Meditation (1 CD)
Tom Thumb Blue Healer Meditation (1 CD)
A healing journey into the body, based on and inspired by the Medicine Buddha practice
Medicine Buddha Meditation (2 CD set)
including Medicine Buddha Meditation and Explanation of Text
A second set has the Meditation Buddha Meditation with a German translation
Books and Booklets
Books for Sale
1) “The Way is without flaw”
by John Garrie Roshi
This book is sold out and out of print.
It can be downloaded from here
2) “Practical Insight Meditation”, Basic and Progressive Stages
by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw
cost: £4.50 incl. postage.
3) "Tales of Awakening: Travels, Teachings, and Transcendence with Namgyal Rinpoche"
edited by Rab Wilkie & David Berry; 230 pages.
Price is £9.50 plus p/postage (£2 for within the UK / £5 for Europe).
Please place your order with Sonia.
In this collection of nearly 150 stories, students of Namgyal Rinpoche, a recognized master of meditation in Theravadin and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, relate and reflect upon what it was like to study with him in classes, retreats, and while travelling the world. The teachings and very personal interactions are diverse, luminous, sometimes shocking and often mirthful as Rinpoche patiently explains and compassionately demonstrates the nature of our reality and evolving consciousness.
Appendices include listings of books by Namgyal Rinpoche and other teachers of this living lineage, and of its centres and teachers around the world where the teachings flourish.
Booklets, Teachings by Sonia Moriceau
“A Collection of Teachings” by Sonia
seven booklets are now available.
The intention has been to present Sonia's words as she spoke to preserve the flavour and the spirit of her teaching.
1) Loving Kindness, teachings 2004 – 2011
A completely revised and updated version
The content (40 pages) covers the Metta Sutta; eight different Loving-Kindness meditations; practices for "Embodying Loving-Kindness" , "Opening the heart" and advice for everyday life. It also contains the texts for the Four Brahma Viharas chant and the "Peace to all beings"
Review: Very inspirational. When reading, it was like sitting in the Zendo listening to Sonia talk. The text is clear and well explained; the student questions and Sonia's answers were very useful. It acted as a comprehensive review of Sonia's input. Let me say how wonderful the whole work is and how precious.
2) Purification teachings 2004 - 2010
The content (18 pages) includes the practice of emptying, aligning the three centres, Vajrasattva practice and the Five Elements Mantra
Review: Marvellous, sufficiently concise and yet full enough to re-awaken the experience of being in the Zendo with Sonia.
3) Medicine Buddha teachings 2004 - 2011
A revised and updated version
The content (28 pages) includes establishing blue in the body, the Medicine Buddha Sadhana Practice (long and short versions), the original face, self healing, and healing others.
Review: Very strong, very clear and powerful - direct transmission in the written word.
4) Motivation, teachings 2004 - 2011
A revised and updated version
The content (15 pages) includes contemplation on interbeing, circle of support exercise, the four thoughts that turn the mind towards the Dharma and the nine contemplations on death.
5) Supportive Conditions 2003 - 2011 Revised edition
In consultation with Sonia it was decide that the original edition of the “Supportive Conditions” booklet would need further editing. May this revised edition make Sonia’s invaluable teachings more accessible.
The text has been expanded to 31 pages and covers subjects such as the foundation practices, the 4 postures, guidelines for a whole day of practice, reviewing practice and meeting obstacles, outer and inner support and the paramis.
Cost: £10 plus postage, but for students who already possess the original booklet, this new edition will be available for £5 plus postage.
A revised and updated version
The content (30 pages) include: healing; holistic clearing meditations and other practices for each level of illness. The content is based on teachings as given by Sonia on Holistic Clearing and Insight Retreats and Medicine Buddha Retreats.
This is a very clear and concise booklet with plenty to reflect on and practice. It is easy to read and the information given is at times quite challenging yet loving kindness shines through it all. It makes me "hungry" for more!
7) Body Work 2003 - 2012
The content (18 pages) covers the sati exercises of as arm & leg drops, cradle, frog & elephant; the various breathing exercises, plus hara work and the Feldenkrais movement work. They are illuminated by photographs. In total 18 pages.
View or download the booklets by clicking on these links
1) Loving Kindness, teachings 2004 – 2011
2) Purification teachings 2004 - 2010
3) Medicine Buddha teachings 2004 - 2010
4) Motivation Teachings 2004 - 2011
5) Supportive Conditions for Practice 2003 - 2011
7) Body Work 2003 - 2012
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Healing Touch DVD
In this video Sonia introduces the viewer to her unique and powerful healing touch approach, based on her 20 years of teaching Healing-Shiatsu. The foundation of all her work lies in the cultivation of loving kindness and mindfulness.
This is clearly demonstrated throughout the video with humour and inspiration. The sections on Healing-Shiatsu are very comprehensive, they include:
- The basic Healing-Shiatsu principles
- Hara Ampuku
- Hara Diagnosis
- Working on the Meridians
- The neck
- How to become your own master with no reliance on a system, a style or school
The whole video was filmed in a workshop situation and so has the genuine and spontaneous feel of live interaction with students. The viewer is transported into the heart of Sonia's teachings where her warmth and humour are a clear expression of her own meditation practice.
Cost: £30 (includes p.& p.)
“The Healing Touch”
A Healing-Shiatsu Masterclass With Sonia Moriceau
Video: Running time 88 minutes
Video reviewed by Jeff Ashby
(Published in Shiatsu Society News issue 92. Reprinted with the permission of the Shiatsu Society UK.)
The recording is made up of extracts from a five day Masterclass held in August 2002 at The Orchard, in Lower-Maescoed, Hereford.
From the beginning, the viewer is drawn into the Masterclass as a fellow participant, as Sonia introduces her unique and powerful approach to the healing touch, based on her personal meditation practise and over 20 years of teaching experience.
The importance of “loving kindness” and “mindfulness” in shiatsu practise is emphasised early in the introduction as Sonia lays down the foundation of her work with the participants of the Masterclass.
The topics covered include: Basic Principles, Hara Ampuka, Hara Diagnosis, Working on Meridians and The Neck.
Each section is dealt with comprehensively, with great clarity and depth, as Sonia demonstrates with “feline” grace, the simplicity and power of the “healing shiatsu” that she embodies in her everyday life.
Each section has much to recommend it and will no doubt be revisited time after time to pick out the particular aspect that you want to concentrate on at that time, but for me the work with “Mother hand” and the section on “Transitions and stretches” are both truly outstanding.
Sonia constantly reinforces the foundation of her work with what she calls the “pillars of shiatsu”. These recurring aspects are woven continuously into each section of the programme:
Working from hara, mother hand/working hand relationship, working with the breath, deep attention, and correct posture and body position.
There are many aspects of the programme that I found personally interesting and would like to follow up and I’m sure each viewer could compile a different list: Forward and backward circles when working the body, diagnosis through movement and stretching, movement around the body, listening and witnessing, and the concept of partnership, to name but a few.
The programme has the genuine and spontaneous feel of live interaction and is filmed in such a way that the viewer is just another participant moving around the room to find the best vantage point to view a demonstrated technique, just as we all have experienced at workshops or during our training.
It is not over-produced, or scripted, and at times the sound quality is a little variable, but this in no way detracts from the quality of the content or presentation.
Sonia advocates learning all the “rules” of shiatsu thoroughly, but advises that at some point it is necessary to “drop the rules and respond directly to the energy.” She focuses on becoming your own Master, free from reliance on a system, a style or a school.
Sonia weaves together all the threads of this Masterclass with her own special warmth and humour. Her favourite descriptive word is “beautiful” and she uses it many times in the video.
She would like us all to feel as though we are “lit up like a Christmas tree” and to share this light with others through shiatsu. She has the ability to communicate this feeling to others and does so ably in this recording.
For those of us who have not been fortunate enough to actually attend one of Sonia’s Masterclasses, this video provides access to a treasure trove of shiatsu experience and an opportunity to learn from a truly great shiatsu teacher.
To order the dvd send a cheque for £30 (incl. p&p) made payable to: Ad Brugman
Hereford HR2 0HP
Don't forget to include your name and address.
by Alison, The Orchard Oct. ‘05
"My experience of dãna as appreciation for the teachings has changed and deepened and I am sure it will continue to do so.
Often, before a retreat, I try to work out how much money to bring. There is often some fear involved about work being scarce, etc.
Then I come on the retreat and am bowled over by the richness and preciousness of what I have received. It is always beyond what I could have imagined. The fear falls away and I feel able to joyfully offer from an open heart what I truly have to give.
The teaching that Sonia as shared with me has brought me more happiness, healing and freedom than I could ever have imagined. There is no way I can “repay” what I have received, but I can offer what I have.
Two pitfalls I have encountered are holding back through fear or coming from the intention of seeking approval. The way I find the “right” amount to give is to use the feeling in the body and mind. Creating some calm and then feeling into how much to offer. The “right” amount always has a light, happy feeling in the body and mind.
More recently an aspect of dãna I have come to appreciate is the feeling of “joining”. That the student and teacher form a partnership which is about growing. That we do it together and also that this support goes out into the world. So all the teaching and support I receive also reaches all the people and situations I am in contact with in my life. By supporting the Teacher, it is helping her to support the many other beings she is offering help to. We are part of a movement towards wholeness."
by Jane Sethi
As I reflect back now nearly three months later on my October retreat, I feel an enormous sense of gratitude – to Sonia for suggesting it, to the Orchard and the Sangha for supporting it, to the practice I’ve done over the years and to the teachings I have received which made it possible.
I was at a point in my life where I was unable to see clearly what the next step was. Sonia advised me that, when we have an important decision to make, it is helpful to go into retreat whilst not searching for an answer during that time. In this way we return to a place of calm and are better placed to ask the question.
And so I embarked on a three-week silent retreat, following the retreatant’s daily programme, practising, taking meals and sleeping alone in my cabin. I received huge support from Sonia who laid out the conditions that would support me and from the sangha who ensured my silence was protected, shopped for me, respected my space and supported my practice. All this enabled me to go deeper quicker into the practice.
Although the programme did not change throughout the three weeks, the focus and the intent did. Initially and as always when at the Orchard, the focus was on mindfulness of the “body in the body”; becoming more settled, more grounded, quieter.
I spent time in nature every day – clear, sunny, warm October days – finding and carving a piece of wood, which would become my staff and close companion. And my activity time importantly always involved something grounding, so I was up trees picking apples or gathering the fallen autumn leaves in the orchard paddock.
After a week, I felt very steady. Wise warrior images came up strongly for me in a specific meditation Sonia had recommended I practised daily on cultivating the strengths. One recurring theme I found I was often working with was the issue of when to be sharper and when to be gentler; how to recognise distracted, unconscious patterns and how to bring myself back home or how to recognise when I felt raw and needed to soften, be more allowing. I also became increasingly curious about what happens at the point we realise we are distracted but still there is a resistance holding us from coming back to the body and from being present. On the other hand, and often in times of confusion and inner conflict, coming back to the body was a relief and a refuge. I felt I was resting on all the practice I had ever done in finding ways to gently encourage myself to come back to the sensations of the direct experience no matter what arose.
Once calm was established in the body, it was a time to go deeper and begin the practice of watching the mind and the activities of mind. Using naming to bring the mind back to the here and now, in this practice I began to find and know the still point of the mind from where I could witness its movements without being swept away. I became increasingly aware that there was an inner posture in the body and in the mind associated with this, which I could then use as a point of reference. It was a time of learning to use the mind more wisely, of allowing thoughts and feelings to just be there, of daring to let myself feel the unpleasant without fear of identification. It was a very simple practice and at times not at all easy, but a training in learning to really trust the practice, of being creative, of connecting with deep aspirations and of opening up to the sheer joy of the practice.
And briefly, although I had not thought about my “life questions” at all during those three weeks, it did become very clear to me what the next step was and included in this was a stronger and clearer commitment to the practice and a strengthening of my motivations and intentions. On a final note, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude once again to Sonia and Ad for their guidance and also to John and to the Sangha for their support.
May all beings be well and happy.
An experience of Interconnectedness
by Marion, July '09
In a wonderful moment
At one of Sonia's workshops some years ago
I fully experienced the total ease of loving kindness for the first time And wrote a poem about the beauty of this moment.
Now, after having been Sonia's student for a few years,
I attended one of Ad's workshops
For the first time
And again – and yet in a new way - I wander in awe and see the beauty Around me
And of the teaching that both teachers are so generously giving us.
Coming from the same source Embodying different aspects Offering both
So that it can be one
They allow me to experience the interconnectedness of everything The richness and beauty of the dharma, of life.
Going back to my poem from back then
I can see Sonia’s teaching, Ad’s teaching and the Sangha’s teaching in it. Who wrote the poem?
In a difficult moment I meditated with Sonia’s picture in front of me Making contact with her
Connecting with her.
With the opening of the heart to Sonia I strongly felt her support
Something else happened, too.
Ad appeared in front of me and supported me.
The sangha appeared around me and supported me. We were all breathing together
Witnessing together what is
Offering calm, love and acceptance to each other.
Moment from moment
I breathe in and out
And I know that
You breathe in and out
And that ultimately there is simply Breathing in and breathing out.
May all beings be well and happy and feel connected with the breath of oneness. In gratitude – Marion , July 2009
Reflection on the healing potential of awareness
by Lara Cusdin, NZ, Feb.’06
Tenderness meets Liberation
“It is truly a gift to be fully present for another human being”
What is it to be present, for ourselves, for another?
After a 2 day workshop with Sonia Moriceau an accomplished shiatsu and meditation practitioner/teacher, I was truly inspired.
Inspired by the truth, by the true nature of mind which is what Sonia uniquely brings to shiatsu. Forget the techniques, meridian diagnosis and pressure points.. oh they are there but as a shadow to the real healing.
And what is the real healing you ask... what is the only true healing for any imbalance of mind/body/soul ... AWARENESS AWARENESS AWARENESS
It is beyond words, but if I could describe the experience I had when Sonia laid her hands on my body, it was her intention of mind, the pure awareness of mind and direction of Ki that penetrated through my body and out to the other side (of the universe). I was beyond my own pain and for a brief moment could see the appendage of what we call this bag of flesh and bones, it was like cutting through butter. It was as if she were a torch (mind) and shone into the cave (body) and exposed the cells of my being where healing needed to take place, and through her as light bearer I was able to bring my awareness to that cave and through breath cleared away the cob webs and literally breathed life into it once more. Her Ki became my Ki became universal Ki and joined together in a dance to awaken the mind/body/spirit which desires recognition for healing to take place.
So simple, so tender, so deeply profound.
I was touched by greatness.
We must learn to be fully present for ourselves so we can be fully present for another and for the universe, everyday.
I am reminded of another profound quote: “can you awaken to the miracles already present” by Namgyal Rinpoche.
Reflections on Private Retreat
Amarana, Aug. '05
"After the outbreath a space opened. And the next inbreath comes out of that space, without any thoughts. When we meet ourselves in that space we can meet ourselves truly with openness.
The inbreath, if not coming from that wide-open empty space, can be dangerous as it then feeds the thinking mind.
We students are here at The Orchard in order to allow our "ego" - the opinion that we have of ourselves - to dissolve, to free ourselves from it so that the wide-open empty space can show itself to us and we can come to meet everything in a wholesome way.
We students are here at The Orchard to learn, to stand on our own feet, to become "MATURE".
You, Sonia, supports us with your strength and the clarity of knowledge of the liberating wholesome path".
"The earth is a place of loving kindness."
"I sat on the cushion with awareness of the inner posture, watching from a place of being upright – gentle and tender, the movements of the belly as I breathed in and out.
Space upon space began to open up, at the same time in my head there was the feeling of the thinking mind; Not following the contents of the thinking mind, only the feeling of its texture.
At that moment I experienced: The thinking mind thinks. It is its nature, its gift, its movement. Each contact of the senses, each movement of the thinking mind create thousand of new movements in the thinking mind.
It is interesting to watch it from the safe place of resting,
in the space of watching the belly.
Nothing can stop these movements of the thinking mind, it is not even necessary to stop them. With this realisation, at that moment all began to disappear.
Through this emptyness Sonia‘s voice,
asking us to visualize and to feel in the belly the embers and with each outbreath softly and carefully to warm them.
It was the hearing of words themselves, they warmed the belly softly and allowed the warmth to grow through the whole body, in each cell and very strongly in the heart.
From there, the warmth did flow, dancing everywhere, to the people in the room, to the Orchard place, further and further, over lands and mountains, over seas and seas, over the earth over stars and stars, endlessly.
Heart warmth, soft warmth to everything and to everyone.
Then in my being arose the experience:
"The Earth is a place of loving kindness".
Again, Sonia’s voice, asking us to look with our mind’s eyes into our hands.
There was nothing and at the same time there was all. Metta everywhere.
Thank you, Sonia, for having the possilbility to be your student and to learn the way of opening the heart.
by Amarana Spaeti, december ‘08
In November 2009 a group of students gathered at The Orchard to participate in Sonia’s "Opening the Heart, Transforming the Mind" workshop. An important part of the workshop was for each student to write their own motivation. Over several damp and overcast days students could be seen deep in thought as they opened their hearts and connected with their deepest aspiration and motivation.
We are now privileged to share some of these motivations with you.
"May I open my heart to my loved ones
and through them to all beings in this world who are together interlinked and involved
in creating the beauty and pain of this world.
May I attain a pure and clear mind - that simply is.
May my heart become a boundless loving space - accepting all
- asking nothing in return
As, when the sun comes breaking through the clouds dissolve
so, may I spread overflowing love and warmth into this world".
With heartfelt thanks for the goodness in my life,
and for the sake of myself
and all beings, may I maintain and implement my desire to continue on the path
that leads towards enlightenment.
There is a lily within me With the wish to grow There is a white blossoming Moved by the wind
Held by the sunshine
Within the flowers of all other beings A walking wood of flowers.
May I always relate to the flower With the wish to grow
In every being that I meet.
May my actions and thoughts
to let grow
the wood of flowers.
Like the flowers in my heart
May the bud unfold
Each moment of each day ......... growing Stronger
In its yearning to cherish, honour and serve all
In its desire to take joy in the welfare of all
In its gratitude for the preciousness of this life In honour of all beings who have brought me to this place of guidance
and awareness. May my path and vision stay clear
May I walk (and dance) in the light (and lightness) of an Awakening, opening heart
That beats as One with the whole Universe.
We do not want to die still locked in this cycle of pain. This life is our golden chance to be free. We may not always know how to open the heart, but when we are near one another, may we always be stirred to find an opening, a crack that will allow the light in, so that we can embrace each other's joy and pain, until the heart breaks so open, like the flower that bursts from its bud into the light because it cannot stay closed any longer.
By the power of this practise may my heart be opened so that my attitude to all beings will be one of loving-kindness and awareness.
Just as a mother naturally puts the needs of her baby before her own out of pure love; may I purify my heart and mind so I can do the same for all beings.
Because all living beings are part of us and there is no separation, in order to gain enlightenment each being needs to be treated with loving kindness and respect.
May my heart open to all living beings, their pain and their joy, and may my words, actions and thoughts be to the benefit of all.
May I remember that all beings - in whatever form and manner they appear - are my guides and kind teachers in my training of wisdom, compassion and non-clinging awareness. May I serve them well.
May my determination to reach the goal of enlightenment for the benefit of all beings be strong at all times.
Why do we seek enlightenment? To rid ourselves of pain and suffering? For the riches of a trained and skilful mind? If this is our only motivation, we will never reach our goal. By understanding each being we understand our own faults and virtues. So each being; known or unknown, visible or invisible offers us the gift to learn wisdom and compassion. We practice for the benefit of all beings.
For innumerable beings in innumerable worlds;
For countless mothers in countless lives;
For the benefit of precious ones that are now, cherished ones that have been and loved ones that are yet to be;
May I develop compassion
May I develop wisdom
May I serve for the benefit of all beings.
"Mindfulness is easy, I just keep forgetting"
by Sandra, Dec '11
These words were to echo in my mind throughout my personal retreat in August. I was looking forward to some sunshine and the opportunity to practice again at the Orchard, as well as perhaps meeting with others sharing the practice. In the event, I was the only person taking a personal retreat. Distant thoughts of leisurely chats over lunch soon disappeared. As did my hopes for sunshine as I watched the lightning flash vividly over the Black Mountains.
I wanted to focus on the teachings of the first three practice retreats on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, which I had been unable to attend. Sonia and Ad drew up a programme and this prepared me for the final retreat in October. To be honest, I could have joined the final retreat without having done the first three but, for me, this way felt more complete.
Once my initial resistance passed – and I am now quite used to watching my resistance rise and fall - I felt myself move into a different space. Sonia and Ad met with me regularly and their support was incredibly important. I cannot say that there were any sudden insights whilst on retreat. However, as the days passed two realisations re- surfaced. One was the importance, for me, of support and the role of the sangha in providing that support. No matter whether practice is done alone or in a group, I strongly felt that each and every one of us who share the practice is a thread in the fabric that holds and sustains the others. It was comforting to acknowledge that and I thank all of you – your presence was tangible.
The other realisation was that I do not have to be so hard on myself when I fall short of my own expectations. In any given moment I am doing the best I can with the tools available to me at that moment. If I can remember to practice mindfulness in that moment, just witness without judgement arising, then situations can be transformed and a completely different scenario makes itself available. Unfortunately, and here’s the catch, I don’t always remember the mindfulness but as long as I keep returning to it, then that is my practice.
Thank you Sonia and Ad for your patience and understanding, and to Gill and Amarana for your kindness and quiet support.
The retreat was truly a gift for me.
Notes on daily life
by Amarana, Dec '11
Most of you know I have been here since January 2010 as Sonia’s attendant. This means that, during the day, I am mostly in my teacher’s private space. And this is an extremely fragile space, almost for me the same experience as being in the Zendo during a workshop, during a talk with the teacher or during formal practice. And the same question when I enter the Zendo arises as when I enter the teacher’s private space. “What is my intention?” I can find no difference between the teacher’s private space and the Zendo space, and often I have wished that this certain quality of deep respect and open mind and heart I experience here so naturally could happen to me in other spaces too. And now I can say that after these two years, changes in other spaces happen more and more too.
It was not always very easy to accept the inner answer about my intention when entering the teacher’s space as an attendant. I could hear stories about I and ME and MY in the inner conversation. It was not always for the benefit of all beings like it is written in the books or taught in the teachings. However, to notice that, just to notice that and to be honest with that and to see the teacher smile was supportive enough or more than enough to come back to a wholesome way of being. What is important is to be honest and this in itself benefits all beings because it is from the heart. And to experience that unwholesome patterns can change into a wholesome natural movement towards everybody. This lets me feel hope and joy.
Do we any of us know all our feelings when we meet the teacher for a private talk? But the talk is over after some minutes. Practising in the teacher’s space is not over so quickly. It goes on for hours. What a wonderful gift and opportunity, and challenge, to realise there is no longer any possibility to run away. Just to meet myself, just meet the in breath, just meet the out breath, just meet the feelings, just meet the space and the thought in the mind, just see the teacher, just feel the teacher, just meet the teacher, just experience now you can practise, now you are just in the practice and now the practice, the teacher and you are becoming one, the whole is one and is the realisation of the Dharma, sometimes, if only for a fraction of a moment, it is the moment, it is now. The teacher’s presence is like thousands of mirrors around us, and they all let me see where I am coming from, what is going on just now, and where we are going.
One day Sonia and Ad were away and I was on my own in their house. I thought “I can go a little bit less mindfully today so there will be a little bit more time in the evening for doing my own practice”. And it worked very well for a while. It was quite joyful also and I was very, very fast. Then, suddenly, whilst emptying the rubbish, a fine, sad voice started to move around my heart, and I could feel my breath around the heart. The voice started to grow and asked “Why are you turning away from me?” and just at that moment, the Dharma’s preciousness established itself again in me and a glimpse of understanding of the truth. There is no way to run away from the wholesome mindful practice which can only make us happy. And this is finally nothing to do with being fast or slow, it has to do with always opening to the Dharma, which gets strengthened in the teacher’s presence and which gets stronger and stronger too in environments away from the teacher’s presence.
My teachings are easy to understand And easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them, And if you try to practise them, you’ll fail.
My teachings are older than the world. How can you grasp their meaning?
If you want to know me,
Look inside your heart.
(Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu)
Notes about teacher - student relationship
by Amarana, Dec '11
My understandings during the last years of being in my teacher’s space have come not from who the teacher is but from how she is doing what she is doing. The teacher is not offering me her personality but is the teacher in how she acts. They offer me the teachings through how they act with me in everyday life. And through this, a dependent relationship cannot grow. On the contrary, they are offering me endless possibilities to practise and, as such, they let themselves practise too. This leads to liberation and an independent way of growing. And this becomes an aspiration for me that, in my intimate friendships, I can learn to cultivate this way of being together because I can see that, through this kind of meeting, grows respect and loving kindness.
“The Master has no mind of her own. She works with the mind of the people.
She is good to people who are good. She is good to people who aren’t good. This is true goodness.
She trusts people who are trustworthy. She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy. This is true trust.
The Master’s mind is like space. People don’t understand her. They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.”
(Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu)
Thank you Sonia and Ad for your open space in which we can move as your own children.
For all of the friends who have made this opportunity possible through their generous support, creating a place for attending our teachers, a big bow and gratitude. And so let us flow all together, near or far, with awareness of the preciousness of each of us.
And thank you to Jane for helping me express my thoughts in written English. Amarana
Remembering the 1st time
At the end of Ad’s summer retreat on Loving Kindness this August the group was sitting in Maitreya house eating lunch and a couple of people reminisced about what had brought them to the practice at the Orchard. Later on I reflected back to my own first visit to the Orchard in the summer of 2004.
A friend of mine had been to one of Sonia’s shiatsu weekends in Nottingham and the experiences she described intrigued me. I decided to sign up for a 5 day shiatsu Master class at the Orchard soon after graduating from my shiatsu course. At that time I knew very little about Sonia’s teachings or the Orchard.
As the day of the workshop approached I felt myself becoming increasingly nervous. On the drive down from Derbyshire to the Orchard my nervousness was becoming very uncomfortable. I found myself lost on the Herefordshire country lanes for about an hour. I think part of me was looking for an excuse to just turn around and go home.
Then by chance I found the Orchard. Ad was in the garden and welcomed me with a smile. Sonia was outside greeting people and introduced herself and showed me to my room. My nervousness was now reaching breaking point and I found myself regressing back to behaviours of a three year old child. Sonia walked me down the path to Maitreya house and up the stairs to the single room. She then told me she would have to go and I stood alone in the room engulfed by fear wondering what I had let myself in for. I went down for supper accompanied by a deep sense of apprehension and dread feeling way out of my depth.
Walking into the first session in the Zendo I found myself one of two men in a group of around twenty people. After Sonia demonstrated the various exercises and we practiced them I experienced feelings of being clumsy, scruffy, too big and awkward and just too male. As the workshop progressed I found myself taking great refuge in the sitting practice a space in which we didn’t need to express ourselves or do anything ‘Just Sitting’.
I slowly started to let people in and made some nice connections. I also continued to feel very self conscious and still felt very awkward around some of the group. I began to find myself mentally making excuses not to attend the sessions ‘I have had enough input’, ‘I am too inexperienced’. ‘Surely it would be better for the group if I took time out’. Eventually I plucked up the courage to talk to Sonia once I had what I thought was an air tight excuse.
I stood in front of Sonia outside the Zendo and started to tell her why I thought I should miss the next session. Then to my own astonishment I started to talk myself back into the session and before I knew it I was back in the Zendo sitting on my cushion. After the session I reflected back on this surprising turn of events. All through my childhood and adolescence I had stubbornly held on to my point of view and right to exclude myself despite the compassionate attempts of others to involve me. Yet here Sonia didn’t even speak one word and my air tight excuse and fear dissolved, held by the energy of Loving Kindness I rejoined the group. It was a humbling lesson that there are far greater forces than my own stubbornness.
Later on in the workshop I did miss a session this time for more wholesome reasons with Sonia’s support. At the end of the course I left the Orchard with the feeling that something deep and stuck was beginning to shift and change.