Our Spirits Go Back to the Sun
By Steve Rogne, AOBTA®-CI
“When we die, our spirits go back to the sun.”
My 4-year old daughter Freja explained this to me yesterday. We were at the funeral of her great-grandfather. She asked, “Why did he die?” I explained that as we get to the end of our life, our body gets smaller and a bit weaker until it can’t hold our spirit anymore, and our spirit goes out of the body. Then, the spirit is everywhere; everywhere that there is light. The next logical conclusion was hers: “So when we die our spirits go back to the sun.” So, she’s got it so far.
My son Oscar is 7. His questions were a little more loaded. “What is a spirit?” It is what helps us smile and think and feel, I explained again. We’ve been over this before. Today he had a follow-up question. “But where is our spirit?” Time to think on my feet.
I said, “It’s in our cells, it is from the sun and it is held in the water of our body. And when we die it goes out of our bodies. Remember the water meditation,” I asked, “when we send our feelings out into the whole world so that we feel like the whole ocean?” He remembers, “It’s like that but we don’t come back into our body.” I said, “When we die our spirit is in the whole world, everywhere, all at once. We aren’t in a body anymore.”
“So great-grandpa could be in Antarctica now?”
“Yes. And also the North Pole at the same time.”
These stories are on my mind as I sit to write about my work as a shiatsu educator.
My mission as a shiatsu therapist and teacher is to help people realize the truth of their own being, in a way that is as simple and clear as can be realized by a child.
Since 2013, I have organized the Shiatsu Symposium and the Postgraduate Clinical Shiatsu Studies, through my school, Zen Shiatsu Chicago, and with the contributions of
wonderful teachers. These programs are high-level educational projects, combining deep contemplation of the classics, the lesser-used Collateral channel systems, experiential Daoist body arts, and the teaching legacies of Shizuto Masunaga and Akinobu Kishi.
A child-like creativity and simpleness infuses every profound teaching. One of my mentors, Winter Jade (formerly Lindy Ferrigno), explained her work to me: “I want each person to feel spirit as clearly as if spirit were a child sitting on their lap.”
I have curated these educational experiences because I wanted that clear feeling for myself as well. In giving my children direct experiences of spirit, and simple language to understand life and death, I see the fruition of my own years of study.
A pivotal moment for me was in conversations with Patrizia Stefanini, a quantum physicist and shiatsu instructor from Italy. Patrizia taught us for two days at Shiatsu Symposium in 2015. Her lecture revolutionized my concepts, first of the Triple Warmer, and then of my entire existence. (Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PZV2XMuUTo)
She patiently took us through the science of liquid crystals. The body is a highly organized liquid crystal. Every single cell is held within a webwork of gel. Every connective tissue has organized semi-solid liquid at its edge. Oh, and did you know that biological light courses through this gel as a signaling system to help guide chemical reactions to the exact places where they are needed?
Furthermore, this gel requires exposure to sunlight in order to organize itself. As we take in the fire of the sun, either through the skin or through the solar energy in the food we eat, our body stores that solar energy as organized water.
In a private conversation with Patrizia, she further explained that in experiments, it can be confirmed that as the organized light fields leave a cut leaf, the plant becomes more and more “dead,” until the time at which it stops emitting light. Once it has finished emitting light, there are no longer any signs of life.
She herself was with her mother at her time of death and had the opportunity to observe the light fields exiting her mother’s body. Patrizia has cultivated the ability to observe light fields and uses light emission as a diagnostically significant finding in her work with shiatsu clients. (A book that Patrizia contributed to: Energy Medicine East and West: A Natural History of Qi: https://www.amazon.com/Energy-Medicine-East-West-Natural/dp/0702035718)
Fire in the Water. Yang within Yin. Shen and Jing.
I prepared my children. “When we go to the funeral, great-grandpa won’t look the same.”
“Because dead bodies aren’t moving. Once the light has left our body, the blood doesn’t move, and the skin doesn’t shine the same way.”
They seem perfectly at ease around his body. They say goodbye to his body. They already know what has happened here.
In 2013, we offered the first Shiatsu Symposium, a one-week gathering of 30 professional therapists coming for a carefully curated educational experience. Based on the popularity of that event, we launched the year-long Postgraduate Clinical Shiatsu Studies, offered every-other-year in even years, and a new Shiatsu Symposium occurs in every odd year.
Michael DeAgro developed and teaches the Postgraduate Clinical Shiatsu Studies and has contributed to the Symposiums. It is from Michael’s inspiration that I’ve learned how to put my senses into all of time and all of space. I know what it is to be in Antarctica and the North Pole at the same time. I know what it is to be here, now, with all my ancestors and my descendants and the whole tree of life. I know what it is to feel my birth and my death and to know with certainty that the reality of my being stretches infinitely before and after each.
At Symposium 2015, we had 60 students, some who were still students, or had just graduated, and some with 40 years’ experience, and everyone in between.
Cliff Andrews made the joke, “To all of you masters who can see through time and space with your little finger, tone it down a little, we’re keeping our focus very simple.”
It is simple. Life has the ability to heal. When there is injury, healing begins immediately. All we need to do is watch it.
This is the great lesson that Michael brings us back to again and again in our Postgraduate Studies. The lesson that all the teachers in the Symposium repeat.
The lesson that we learn from teacher after teacher is: keep it simple. Cultivate your own body. Resolve to oneness. Your mere presence should invite the client to move towards healing.
At Symposium on Day 1, Patrizia Stefanini says, “I watch the whole field of the client. If something sticks out, I invite it to return to the field.” After this one sentence of explanation, she demonstrates without speaking. It looks like shiatsu but a profound change happens in all the observers. She invites us to pair up and practice. Healing happens all over the room.
If something is sticking out, it is stuck in time. A movement hasn’t completed itself. Just help everything complete itself. Get good at completing things. There is nothing for you to do, no treatment plan to devise.
In training, it is sometimes different. In our training and our practice, we move up and down the scales of meaning. Now we practice the Sinew Channels until we feel the slightest movement and can see in empty space exactly where a person’s nervous system is limiting their imagined range of movement.
Now we practice Primary Channels until we can feel an emotion with our hands and tell when an organ is straining.
Now we practice Divergent Channels until we can hear the stories that prevent inner peace speaking themselves in our ears and feel them in the spine.
Now we practice Extraordinary Vessels until all of those dissolve into unity. No fixed positions, nothing held, everything arising when needed and resolving of its own accord.
The famous Zen Shiatsu teacher Pauline Sasaki called it “Antipathogenic Ki”. But we might as well just call it Ki. Movement. There is no such thing as pathology. All of it is needed. All of it resolves into the field.
We resolve these things in our own bodies until everything cooperates, nothing sticks out. The water is organized, the fire permeates everything. Our mere presence inspires healing. We watch the field of the client. Things stick out. We invite those things to resolve themselves back into the field in the order and manner most appropriate.
“I’m sad. I’m sad that great-grandpa died,” my son Oscar said after the funeral.
“It’s normal to be sad. You can be sad anytime.” I thought a bit. “You know what I like to do when I’m sad about someone who has died? I like to feel out into the air around me and find the feeling of them in the air around me. I think that helps.”
Oscar asks, “When did you start doing that?” I say, “I don’t know.” That’s the truth.
I’m sure I started doing it when I was a child, to some extent, but I know for sure I started doing it through my studies of shiatsu.
In Shiatsu Symposium 2017, we hosted masters of structural integration. Before the event even started, I sprained a sacral ligament unloading supplies. I had a pain in the butt, make no mistake. For three days I was treated by my classmates: expert shiatsu therapists applying methods taught by expert instructors. Sinew channel release, Sotai, Koshi Balancing. There was a lot to learn, a lot to consider. It wasn’t working.
After day three, my sacrum was still aching, despite the best efforts of my classmates. I got home and collapsed on my kids’ bunk bed. My daughter, 4-year-old Freja, came in and said, “Daddy, what are you doing?” I said, “My hip hurts, I’m just lying down and resting.” She said, “Oh, I’ll do some shiatsu.”
She rubbed around the area, and then asked: “How does it feel?” I said, “It feels a little better, thanks.” I felt her frown behind me. She said, “I’m not good at shiatsu yet…”
That wasn’t how this was going to go. Time to put on our shiatsu pants. I said, “No, you can do it. Here, rub your hand around until you find a great place to stop.” She did it. “Now, imagine that the sun is inside my hip. Imagine that it sends its light out from my hip to all the stars.”
She paused. “Daddy, the sun is a star.” Right. Of course. My mistake. “Ok, Freja, imagine there is a star, let’s say the sun, in my hip, and it shines its light to all the other stars.” A second later, my hip jumps and adjusts slightly. I stand up, a little disoriented.
“Ok, Freja, you got it! Thanks for some great shiatsu!” She was very pleased.
I shared that story with the students at Shiatsu Symposium 2017. For all our striving and trying to “get it right”, all the effort and imagination of a 4-year-old is what I needed to help my hip. Can we drop the effort of an adult, and cultivate the imagination of a 4-year-old? It takes practice, but it’s worth it.
At Symposium 2015 Paul Lundberg said, “How should we begin this session? You’re sitting up. Ok, I think we’ll start that way.”
Paul is returning from Europe to Zen Shiatsu in April 2018, to teach Guidance Methods of the Seiki Way. Paul, the author of the landmark text “The Book of Shiatsu”, is looking forward to transmitting his life’s work in the U.S. He studied for 30 years with Akinobu Kishi. One of the participants of Symposium 2015 said: “I think Paul has forgotten or discarded more Chinese Medicine knowledge than I’ve ever learned.” He approaches every session with profound experience and utter open simplicity. His teaching themes are: “knowing yourself,” “towards a unified, global sensitive awareness,” and “just continue,” helping practitioners develop a rhythm of personal cultivation and healing that propagates into the community. (Guidance Methods of the Seiki Way with Paul Lundberg: http://www.zenshiatsuchicago.org/courses/paul_lundberg/)
Michael DeAgro is returning in September 2018 to begin another year of Postgraduate Clinical Shiatsu Studies. Again, we’ll learn to see through time and space with our little fingers. (Postgraduate Clinical Shiatsu Studies: http://www.zenshiatsuchicago.org/postgraduate_studies/)
Shiatsu Symposium in October 2019, “Inner Life – Organs, Emotions, Nourishment,” will be about how to directly feel fluid, organs and emotions under our hands, and to appreciate the networks of nourishment from the most esoteric to the most scientific explanations.
Any practitioner with at least 100 hours of training in any Asian Bodywork discipline is invited to join these events. The prerequisite is that you can basically treat the primary channels using basic techniques without someone explaining the locations. Beyond that, we invite practitioners of all disciplines to join this journey of self-discovery. What you learn will enrich your practice, help you relate to your work in soul-nourishing and pragmatic language, and help you, your family, and our local and global communities to resolve into oneness.
Like our symptoms, emerging, guiding us and resolving. Like our spirits of light, coalescing in our body and returning to the field. All observed and felt as clearly as a child sitting on our lap.
The Rogne Family
Steve Rogne, Zen Shiatsu Chicago Director, AOBTA®-CI, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM) is a Certified Instructor with the AOBTA® and has been studying movement education and bodywork since 1998. With a background in Musical Theatre, Steve is familiar with the whole range of human performative expression: movement, music and action. His goal is to make himself and others into well-tuned human instruments, capable of responding to life freely and fully. Steve became the Assistant Director of Zen Shiatsu Chicago in 2003. Over three years he committed himself to development of the school’s infrastructure and credentials. Under his guidance the school became a member of the AOBTA® Council of Schools and Programs. Since assuming directorship in 2006 he has been deepening the school’s commitment to vocational training while expanding the center to provide continuing education for many professions. Steve is also a professional musician, having performed with the Grant Park Music Festival Symphony Chorus and other area ensembles.