How to preserve our beautiful world using the power of Shiatsu

I was getting paid to wear wellies and walk around fields in the English countryside.

Solar farms were my happy place!

And working in solar energy was a dream come true.

I promoted solar projects built by my employer in the UK, Africa and Latin America.

Then a stint promoting European clean technology companies saw me dabbling in carbon management, plastics and energy storage.

Working in fast-paced environment for start-ups was exciting, but my mind and body were suffering. So-called ‘climate fatigue’ took hold.

Battling a ‘computer says no’ government, which made a lot of the right noises, but often didn’t follow through on its commitments, created a frustrating ‘them and us’ dynamic.

Stress symptoms manifested as unsettled digestion, brain fog, insomnia and anxiety.

On a whim, I tried Shiatsu. So bizarre and intriguing was the experience that, just two weeks later, I signed up to study it for three years.

Fast forward five years and I’m now a Practitioner sharing Shiatsu (and Reiki) on my travels around India.

This vast, stunning country is so varied. It actually feels more like a continent.

India’s burgeoning population presents complex issues – such as access to education and healthcare, infrastructure, air pollution and waste disposal.

I’ve often wondered how ‘alternative’ therapies like Shiatsu could benefit people who do not have adequate healthcare. Working acupressure points can be learned easily and shared with others.

When the Shiatsu Society chose to focus on ‘Green’ for the Autumn 2021 journal issue, it got me thinking about how Shiatsu could improve health not only for Indians but for all human and non-human life.

I tried to encapsulate my thoughts in the ’10 Principles’ guiding the use of Shiatsu for planetary health, healing and harmony. You can download them below.

What do you think of them? Anything I’ve missed?


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[Autumn 2021 – The Shiatsu Society UK Journal]

How to preserve our beautiful world using the power of Shiatsu

I started working in solar energy in 2013, a period that became known as the “Solarcoaster”. It was an extraordinary time for solar not just in the UK but worldwide. The case for solar was being made, with record-breaking days for countries running exclusively on clean energy, more installs of solar than any other green energy generation technology, and solar becoming competitive with fossil energy ( ‘grid parity’).

As well as supporting the growth of solar in the UK, I contributed to the company’s international expansion by helping to launch them into new markets in Africa and Latin America. Building solar on a shopping centre in Kenya, connecting Panama’s first solar farm and installing a hybrid system on a Kenyan tea plantation were solar successes that attracted media attention worldwide. We also built impressive projects locally on Blackfriars Bridge and the Tate Modern in London, and constructed solar farms for community energy cooperatives.

The company founder and then Chairman, Jeremy Leggett, relayed updates on the company’s progress using war language to amp up the drama. My colleagues and I were working “from the front lines of the carbon war, promoting solar in the fight against climate change”. It was a ‘them and ús’ analogy that felt accurate given the incredible support for solar around the world contrasted with the then Cameron government’s flimsy green promises.

Cutting solar incentives while continuing to heavily subsidise fossil energy and giving the green light to the nuclear mega-project Hinkley Point C (now delayed even further to June 2026, with costs spiralling to $23 billion) underscored the seemingly myopic mentality of those in the corridors of power and their disinclination to act in the best interests of people or planet.

This ‘them and us’ narrative is one that is now playing out even more ferociously driven by pandemic-related fear and contrasting strategies to safeguard health and wellbeing. In the resulting divisions within families, communities and nations I believe there is a role for Shiatsu as a therapy, not just of healing, but of reunion.

When solar met Shiatsu

During my solar years I began my Zen Shiatsu studies at The Shiatsu College in London. Learning to work through sensing and feeling came as quite a shock. As the world of Shiatsu unfolded and I realised the healing potential was far more profound than I could ever have imagined, two events in my solar world shook me to the core.

The government’s policy tinkering saw it attempt to reverse legally binding commitments for solar incentives. Around the same time, a robust report on the economic viability of solar that I’d pitched to a UK national outlet was completely mangled – the handiwork of a sub-editor, I suspected. The reality that those in power behind the scenes have vested interests in fossil energy started to become excruciatingly apparent.

I wondered if solar would ever see its time in the sun or whether climate deniers would win the ‘war’ and continue providing vast incentives to prop up fossil energy – and this at a time when we were supposedly aiming to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Around this time I stumbled on the work of Hungarian-Canadian physician Gabor Maté and his work on trauma and addiction. He asserts that a traumatic experience leads to disconnection from self, and therein lies the trauma. The pain of disconnection can lead some to self-medicate, e.g. with gambling, shopping, sex, eating, alcohol, drugs.

I also discovered integrative thinker Charles Eisenstein who proposes that our obligatory participation in a broken capitalist system locks us into a kind of consumerist trance, disconnecting us from ourselves. This disconnection can also be understood as a form of trauma.

If these ideas about our collective trauma hold true, I wondered if it was possible that many people in positions of power are too disconnected to make planet positive decisions. If so, maybe they are acting to secure their own survival rather than that of the planet?

Further, if disconnection from self is widespread, then people may be divorced from the somatic feedback that would indicate a healthy or harmful decision. I wondered if there could be a role for Shiatsu (alongside other therapies) to help reunite people’s fractured parts. Decisions made from a whole-person, centered space are more motivated by courage rather than fear, and is the fertile ground needed to nurture positive choices.

Shiatsu for people in my local community

Needing to understand more about Shiatsu and its impact on trauma I applied to be a Shiatsu therapist in the Complementary Therapy team at ChangeGrowLive, a UK social change charity. For six months I gave Shiatsu voluntarily to people experiencing substance mis-use challenges. The positive impact of Shiatsu on these people was unarguable. I saw firsthand the power of Shiatsu to calm nerves and help people to feel safe enough to relax their weary body and mind. People often fell asleep during sessions and slept better in general. With improved rest many were able to establish other positive changes in their lives.

That Shiatsu could alleviate the service users’ extreme levels of discomfort (manifested as physical, emotional, mental and psychological pain) gave me hope that Shiatsu could bring similar benefits to others experiencing a disconnection from self.

Global crises require new solutions

Much of my career in the environmental space concerned protecting the environment through the lens of kg of carbon reduction, kWh of green electricity generation, volume of diesel saved or percentage of recyclable material in plastic

packaging. However, whilst these are intrinsic to the pursuit of a cleaner world, they are not the whole story.

That new solutions are needed for the global crisis we face has never been more apparent. As Shiatsu practitioners, we are uniquely placed to go beyond measurable units into the invisible, but no less real world, of Ki, the energy that animates the whole of life, with the power to ignite healing at every level of existence – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Our therapy, evolved over thousands of years, establishes paths to whole health by helping the healing energies of heaven and earth to circulate, thereby unleashing our human potential. Shiatsu acknowledges the inherent interconnectedness of all life; the mind-body connections that are woven together by meridians, vessels and fascia; the Ki fields that connect and transmit our energy to others far and wide. Using clean language, touch, movement, visualisation and intention we encourage stagnant energy to move, excess and deficiency to rebalance and harmony to be restored.

Moving towards unity or separation?

With the approach of the The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) taking place in Glasgow 1-12 November 2021, headlines like this are unfortunately all too common. That we stand as a world still so divided on environmental commitments makes the prospect of finding cooperation and coherence to establish urgent life-saving strategies seem increasingly doubtful.

The post-Covid landscape has also left many of us both desperate for, and yet nervous of, human touch. Shiatsu, as one-to-one treatment or group classes, is ideal for moving us towards unity. We can encourage this movement by sharing our Shiatsu skills in our local communities – Qigong classes in a village hall; online lunchtime self-care sessions sharing acupressure points and Makko-Ho stretches for common ailments; or evening well-being sessions in a local health centre practising mindful movement and Hara massage.

Though these kinds of individual actions may feel small, if a central tenet of Shiatsu is Ki’s ability to connect all life, then every sharing of an acupressure point for pain, or breathwork to calm nerves, or compassionate touch for those nearing the end of their human life, will be gathered and experienced by others in a world-wide-Shiatsu-web.

Goal 3 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015 is: To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

10 Principles guiding the use of Shiatsu for planetary health, healing and harmony

The Principles are a ‘living’ concept that will be further expanded and evolved by all those who’d like to contribute. They will become more powerful and relevant as more voices contribute.

1. Interconnection

Ki (energy) is the binding force that animates both human and non-human life, activating the consciousness inherent in every thing. Within this web, practices to stimulate the movement of Ki to establish health and harmony at the microcosm will also be experienced at the macrocosm.

Since human and environmental health cannot be separated, it follows that prioritising a balanced life is how we can establish healthy functioning both inside and out.

2. Care of the self

In times of crisis, looking after ourselves is even more critical. A daily practice to establish a baseline state of connection to self may involve meditation, self-Shiatsu, Hara massage, Qigong or meridian stretches.

This is the path to whole-person living and is how we can best maintain our health and prevent dis-ease from arising.

With clear vision, flexibility and nourishment, we are more likely to make planet positive choices, and acknowledge when and how to fill our own cup, and when to support others to do the same.

3. Intuition and visualisation

Practitioners are guided by gut feeling, instinct or intuition and value this as a way to bring about health and harmony, in Shiatsu treatments and beyond.Visualisation helps to move Ki and also shapes the look and feel of a sustainable world. 

“The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.” – Einstein

4. Being of service

Service to oneself is as essential as service to others. With awareness of our own health, Practitioners make conscious choices around when and how to share Shiatsu with others.

Compassion fatigue and signs of working beyond one’s limits are understood and monitored with the assistance of the Practitioner’s colleagues, mentors etc.

5. Space/time

Practitioners understand the need to practice doing not-doing, and to bring a sense of peace resulting from ‘effortless action’ or ‘actionless action’ to even the most fraught circumstances.

In a state of profound concentration and flow, vision and action may align to establish movement towards unity, health and harmony.

6. Power/autonomy/leadership

Practitioners have sovereignty of themselves and respect this in others too. Practitioners demonstrate a whole-person approach to health through ‘living their practice’ and sharing their knowledge with others when appropriate to do so.

7. Language

Practitioners understand the impact of words so use them wisely.

Clean language is practised including the use of metaphor to reveal new insights and a deeper level of understanding.

Communication may be non-verbal too expressed through body language and the transfer of information in the Ki field. Thus positive expressions of language may be felt beyond the immediate.

8. Nature

Spending time alone with the natural world perhaps as part of a daily practice is how Practitioners may root themselves in a meaningful connection to all that is sacred.

During this communion Practitioners may discover new ways to ‘be’ in relation to Nature and how to coexist alongside all life.

9. Local

Sharing our practice(s) among people in our local communities ignites positive change at grassroots level. Healthy Practitioners contribute to the health of individuals, which creates healthy communities.

Positive effects ripple out through the Ki field, strengthening ecological and social wellbeing as a result of Shiatsu’s ability to unite and connect.

10. Diversity

Embracing the diversity of Shiatsu styles and Practitioners contributes to a depth of practice with a greater potential to meet and cooperate with all forms of life.

What did I miss? Hit REPLY and let me know! Or message me here.

Diskit Monastery, Ladakh

The healing opportunity within localisation and diversity

I write this from Ladakh (Little Tibet, or The Land of the High Passes) in north India, a melting pot of cultures in a barren landscape where centuries-old traditional ways of life are under threat from the perceived desirability of modern development.

Norberg-Hodge proposes localisation as key to a sustainable future because it is a locale’s unique knowledge and skills that are best placed to guide harmonious development within the limits of the local ecosystem.

Closer to home, The Bunloit Wildland Project illustrates localisation in action. This Scottish estate of more than 500 hectares is set to be transformed into an ‘open natural laboratory to advance rewilding. It will restore peatlands, return commercial plantations of non-native species of trees to mixed woodlands and aim to significantly increase biodiversity.’

Even closer to COP 26 is the Glasgow School of Shiatsu which, since 1986 has been empowering people with the incredible healing power of Shiatsu. Students have established transformative projects in local communities, sharing their practices to benefit many different people in Glasgow.

Shiatsu – part of planetary stewardship

In June 1972, a terminally ill Rachel Carson gave a commencement address to graduates – here is an excerpt from “Of Man and the Stream of Time”

The stream of time moves forward and mankind moves with it. Your generation must come to terms with the environment. You must face realities instead of taking refuge in ignorance and evasion of truth. Yours is a grave and sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity. You go out into a world where mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and its mastery — not of nature, but of itself. Therein lies our hope and our destiny.

Almost 50 years later, Carson’s call to face our collective responsibility for the ecological crisis on planet Earth feels even more relevant and urgent. Carson’s ‘shining opportunity’ could be the sharing of Shiatsu, in all its styles and forms, in our local communities.

Despite attempts to thwart its development, it is predicted that by 2050, solar power will become the world’s largest source of electricity1. Shiatsu may not proliferate this rapidly but it does endure, providing a different kind of energy, a healing light to carry us forward into new realms of consciousness and existence.

Should you ever find yourself doubting (as I do regularly) your power as an individual to stimulate positive change, try connecting with your Hara and recall these words from the Dalai Lama XIV: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

shiatsu reiki acupressure

Do the Principles inspire any ideas for you and your Shiatsu practice? Share your thoughts on the Shiatsu Society UK Members’ Facebook page, or message me:

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About Me

I founded SJA Holistics to help people get well, feel great, and stay well using the power of practices derived from Eastern Medicine including Shiatsu, Reiki, Acupressure and Qi Gong.

For over a decade I’ve worked with Ki and have first-hand experience of how energy- and body-work can lead to positive health. Working with the energy body as well as the physical can bring profound changes to mental, emotional and physical issues.

After completing three years of study for the Professional Shiatsu Diploma, I honed my experience working voluntarily for six months in a national UK charity giving Shiatsu to people recovering from substance misuse.

It is my mission to help you recognise your own self-healing ability and to empower you with the skills and knowledge you need to dramatically improve your self-care.

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My Approach

We create your current health picture. Then we get clear on your goals so that we are aligned from the outset. This makes it easier to monitor progress.

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Intelligent Energy

Every one of us has a universal energy, also known as lifeforce, chi, prana and Ki, that underpins our whole existence, and within that, our health. Stimulating the flow of Ki is how you can get well, feel great and stay well.

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