Seitai And The Healing Touch
Noguchi taught three approaches to the Japanese form of inner-directed movement he named Seitai. The first approach, katsugen-undo, is basically the same as what has been described as the open approach. My observation of it is that the only difference is the voice is not allowed so much freedom in Japan. In fact each approach produces slightly different results, due most likely to the cultural attitudes and group expectations and environment present.
There are three given movement/postures preceding katsugen-undo. In Japan these are performed from the position of sitting on ones heels. If this is difficult however, try them either from a kneeling position, or kneeling then sitting back onto a thick cushion or books. The movements are to produce a mixture of relaxation and tension after which one will have a desire to stretch and move.
1 – From the position of kneeling and sitting back on your heels, or onto some books or similar thing to take your weight off your heels, place
your finger tips on your upper abdomen. This is just above your navel. The aim is to be aware of whether you are tensing your abdomen and aid you to keep it relaxed during the movement.
2 – Take a slow breath in and as you do so imagine you are filling your being not only with fresh air, but also with light and health. As much as possible feel the positive force of cleansing fill your body.
3 – As you slowly breath out let your trunk drop forward toward the floor, feeling relaxed and keeping the abdomen free of tension. Also, imagine you are breathing out all darkness and ill health from your being.
4 – As you inhale bring your trunk to the upright position again, once more imagining breathing in light and health. Continue this movement and breathing meditation until you feel satisfied with it and feel more relaxed. If there is any desire to yawn during these movements, allow it. This is much encouraged in Seitai.
1- The aim of this next movement is to produce tension in the body. From the sitting position breathe in fairly quickly and lift your hips no more than three inches from your heels. As you do this twist your trunk and arms to the left.
2 – Hold that tense position for a few moments then drop back into the sitting position with a quick out-breath.
3 – Repeat this turning to the right, and continue twisting to alternate sides until you feel satisfied with the movement.
4 – End by turning one last time to the right, to balance your starting turn.
1 – Next comes the last of the preliminary posture/movements. This is only performed three times, at the end of which you relax and allow your body to stretch or move in any way it wishes. Allow the movements to continue for about twenty minutes or longer if you are inclined.
2 – Place your thumbs across your palms toward your little fingers. Clasp your fingers around your thumbs tightly to form a fist.
3 – Raise your arms so your hands and upper arms are vertical, and your lower arms are horizontal. Take an in-breath and pull your head and arms back slightly to create a tension between the shoulders and at the base of the neck.
4 – Hold the tension for a few seconds then breath out in a gasp and relax. Do this three times and allow spontaneous movement.
Teachers of Seitai place a lot of stress upon relying on your own being’s internal healing functions. In the book Colds And Their Benefits Noguchi points out that people who are ill have often lost sensitivity to their body’s natural response. As examples he says that such people, on trying to relax actually tense their body. They are unaware of their natural feelings of tiredness, perhaps they bury them with artificial stimulants such as coffee. Their body does not expand and contract naturally, but is stiff and immobile. Their own healing processes have been denied again and again. The cure for this is to start allowing their spontaneous action again. Symptoms of illness must not be suppressed by drugs. Such symptoms are signs of the body trying to heal itself, so must be worked with rather than against. The aim is not to cure the symptom, such as a headache, but to heal the causes. Noguchi goes so far as to say that the really healthy person is always feeling slight feelings of illness because they are aware of their reactions to the environment, and are constantly adjusting to it.
Noguchi stresses that it is not the movements of Seitai which heal us. To do the movements mechanically as if they were the thing which healed, is to miss the whole point, and be a return to keep-fit. But once you have learned to allow your body to heal itself more vigorously, you do not need to practise. It is cooperating with the process of your being’s own regulating and growth forces that is important. As you gain experience of this it becomes natural and automatic in your everyday life, so doesn’t need ‘practise’. Noguchi defines the use of Seitai as a movement to train the autonomic nervous system. So if your body’s capacity to order itself becomes sensitive, your body will naturally maintain itself in a normal, pleasurable condition. This might be like a windsurfer who is much more sensitive to the movements of the board than an inexperienced windsurfer. So the experienced windsurfer is always moving into balance, and their adjustments are much finer.
Noguchi teaches that an open and receptive state of mind is needed, and this he calls ‘tenshin’. Anybody who has watched animals such as a pet cat or bird, can see that occasionally the cat will do certain stretches or movements. This is not because they have read a book about what the best exercises are. They do them instinctively. Babies have this open state of mind also, and they can be seen to make a great many of these movements and sounds spontaneously. Therefore, if you have a relaxed state of mind in which your body is allowed free expression, katsugen undo will occur by itself. Maybe you will start to stretch, yawn, or even scratch without thinking about it or directing the process.
For those who are so out of balance they are not aware of their body’s needs, initial help from another practitioner is useful. To this end Seitai has an approach named yuki – pronounced rather like you-key. It means to touch.
Yuki – Touch Healing – Touch Play
In the Far East there is a concept concerning human energy or life force which they call Ki. In China it is called Chi, as in Tai Chi. Noguchi describes Ki as the force behind the form of the body and its processes. He says it is the Ki that directs cellular processes, and causes them to grow in the correct shape and size to form our human body. The movement of our heart, for instance, is not the same, Noguchi says, as a piece of chalk being moved around. Our movements come from within, directed by Ki. In its expression, Ki is felt as our motivations. From these motivations we move an arm or leg. But more important still, without motivations, as occurs with some people who retire and lose their motivations, their being loses its health. Therefore, Noguchi says that instead of treating the shell, the body, one ought in such cases to treat the Ki and to restore the quality of its positive motivations.
Most ancient cultures have developed explanations of this subtle energy field within and around the body. Western science and medicine is now beginning to be able to demonstrate it also. Dr. Dolores Krieger, who is a professor of nursing at New York University became interested in the subject after studying the work of Oscar Esteban, a Hungarian healer. After studying with Dora Kunz, Kreiger was able to work with the energy field in effective healing. She went on to teach ‘therapeutic touch’ to nurses in a master’s level course at New York University.
Valerie Hunt, a professor of kinesiology at UCLA has been able to demonstrate the presence and importance of the energy field using a electromyograph. This is an electronic device measuring electrical activity in the muscles.
The Japanese teach that when you place your hands on another persons body, you respond to it. You will feel the energy field if you take time to watch your sensations with awareness. Sometimes your hands feel cold, or there is the sensation of ants crawling on them. If there is a cold response, it may be that there is a lack of vitality in that part of their body. You must continue Yuki – that is, directing Ki energy – until the hands return to normal. They also say that you will gradually learn to work with these subtle feelings with greater discernment through practise. Noguchi says that on the part of the person receiving Yuki there are observable changes. Their pulse rate increases, they feel more relaxed and sometimes sleepy. The effects are 1) relaxation. 2) heightened sensitivity. 3) discharge. There is certainly a very real help from Yuki, and at present there is much research into how such techniques can be used in healing the sick.
The way I was taught yuki was very simple and without any theoretical background. It is as follows:
The Practice Of Yuki
Yuki is practised with two people. There can of course be many couples using yuki at the same time. One person is the receiver and one the giver. The Japanese who taught me did not limit themselves with ideas of the healthy healing the sick. They used yuki because it was fun to do. But it can be used to help someone who is below par.
1 – The starting point is that the receiver can choose whether to lie down, sit or stand. They become quiet and receptive to the giver. The giver allows their own inner-directed movements, as occurs in katsugen-undo. But the giver holds in mind that what they are allowing is in response to the receiver. I have found a useful way to begin is to be about three feet away from the receiver and hold your hands out towards them as if warming your hands. From there follow the delicate urges to move. The idea is not to massage the person, but touch is allowed as you simply follow what your hands and body want to do.
2 – The receiver can also allow their own movements in response to the contact with the giver. In watching the Japanese use yuki, there were all levels of response. Sometimes the receiver remains very quiet, even sleepy. Other times both partners move into a lovely dance of responsive spontaneous movement and contact – or a fast moving play with lots of laughter. The contact may be delicate or full. Very often the hands of the giver do not touch the receiver, but move at a distance from them.
3 – The receiver is to be respected. In Western groups who were unfamiliar with ‘tenshin’ or waiting, on occasion I have seen the giver drop any openness to the needs of the receiver and consciously decide what ought to happen, and drag a receiver to their feet. The giver felt that was where they ought to go. The inner situation or movements of the receiver were thus completely ignored. This non respect for another person’s integrity is not the way to use yuki. The interaction between giver and receiver in yuki, if allowed to develop naturally, often shifts to a mutual giving and receiving.
The experience of yuki is one of the most delightful facets of inner-directed movement. Not only does it develop sensitivity in a relationship, but it also enables two people to discover a world of non verbal communication and meeting. It develops the sensitivity of responsiveness necessary in intimate relationships. Finding that the Japanese had developed this gentle way of strangers meeting and touching showed me an unsuspected side to their culture. Teaching it in the West people have sincerely thanked me for showing them how to discover their own beauty and flow in meeting another person.
Working With A Sick Person
The Japanese practitioners of Seitai say that yuki can be useful if a person is feeling unwell. If the person you are giving yuki to is actually ill, there need be no change in the way you give it. It is best if you have practised inner-directed movement for some time to feel easy with allowing spontaneous movement. It is enough to hold the sick person in mind and open yourself to what arises from within. It doesn’t even matter if physical contact is not made.
In Subud the movements (latihan) are sometimes allowed in the presence of a sick person. Unlike yuki, there is no attempt to touch the sick person. Members of Subud are not allowed to work with the opposite sex when giving healing or help with questions. This must be understood as being a culturally created difference. It is important to remember however that the different approaches demonstrate the significant fact that the process can work well in various settings and ways. The physical distance of thousands of miles in reality makes no difference. The biggest barrier is not distance or even degree of illness, it is the beliefs, convictions and limitations we live within.
Open to your inner-directed movements with the person in mind who needs support. It does not matter whether the person is near to you or many miles away.
Paths Of Wonder And Joy
The dimensions of experience you can meet within yourself through inner-directed movement appear to be without limits. If you have tried the different approaches described above and in the earlier chapters, you will have seen that a slight shift of attitude or a different image or question held in mind focuses you in another experience. This means that as long as you have established yourself in the basic open and surrendered process, you can reach into many different areas of your own potential.
The pathways described below are not necessary to use in practising inner-directed movement. Although the simplest form of the practice – the ‘open approach’ – is the most profound, because you are unique and have your own special needs, it may be that you get special help from using these pathways. Opening your being to allowing spontaneous movement is still the basis of each pathway however.
The Pathways do have a great power of healing and personal growth. This is because you are not just a physical body. As described elsewhere, your internal nature can become stiff and aching through lack of activity, just as your body does. The Pathways are designed to take you through a series of experiences that mobilise your being in a way difficult to find outside an extraordinarily full and wide life. If you work through these Pathways you will emerge feeling a very different person, and in real ways reborn. To get to this point it is not enough to practise each path once. You will need to use each one until you feel easy and fluid in it. If you are using the first one ‘Contraction and Expansion’, being easy and fluid means that you can move easily between the opposites, and any tensions or hesitation within the practice have been worked through. This does not mean you have to stick with one path to the exclusion of the others until it is perfect. By all means move around in them to add variety.
The paths are great sources of healing and personal growth. They will bring about a remarkable change in your experience of life and relationships. They will open doors to aspects of your own talents and love not previously met. They will take you into an awareness of what was previously invisible within you.