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Roots: An Excerpt from 'From Source to the Ten Thousand: Shiatsu and Life Practice'.

This short text is an excerpt from Chris McAlister's new book: 'From Source to the Ten Thousand: Shiatsu and Life Practice'. The expected Release Date is early 2025.

AI generated watercolor tree with many roots going into the ground.
This image was AI generated for the purpose of this article. | Photo courtesy of Chris McAlister

Treading Carefully


When we deal with real human tragedy, we need to tread carefully.


It is tempting to think that if we mobilize our really big canons, we can shift the heavy stuff easily and quickly. Occasionally, that may be true. Usually, it takes a lot more guile, a lot more care, and a lot more time.


As any gardener knows, if we simply pull hard enough at the leaves of a weed, those leaves give and our hands come away with a gratifying bunch of foliage, which we can then cast aside with a satisfying sweep of the hand. Is anything gained? Yes, cosmetically the garden looks neater and nicer.


Beneath the surface however, the weed, its root intact, turns inward and starts to regenerate. The result of this is that the weed gains in power – it uses the resistance to consolidate its strength and return with renewed vigour. It’s a bit like cutting our hair or shaving our beard – ultimately futile – we know it will all simply grow back in time.


We need to dig, with specific instruments, tools specifically designed for the purpose. We have to probe, carefully, alongside the root of the weed until we get ourselves all the way down to the level where the roots spread out widely into the earth from which they draw sustenance. There, we need to continue carefully separating the roots of the weed from the particles of the earth, so that we loosen its grip, without separating tendrils from the mother root – each part that separates can become a separate life form with the potential to establish its own life force and life direction.


As we carefully, painstakingly separate each tendril, each strand from the earth that has supported it, we can gently liberate and loosen the interaction until we have the whole weed, and every single tiny branch of root liberated and ready to safely discard.


Transferring this comparison back to the treatment of fellow human beings, the process can take many months, years in fact, and our impatience, our pride, our need to achieve are some of the most potent factors that count against a full liberation of the weed – the traumatic energy form, in this case.



Extending Sideways


If we extend this metaphor sideways, we can also begin to consider the way traumatic energy interweaves itself with fresh, authentic energy streams, making the release of trauma all the more complex.


Imagine the weed once more. Visualize its roots extending in multiple directions down into the earth. Imagine how those roots extend into the root systems of your prized plants, those flowering beauties you spend so much time and energy tending. Do you really wish to simply rip up the roots of the weeds with a violent and powerful tug? Or would we be better advised to carefully separate out the strands of the weed roots from the roots of the plant we love and cherish?

Chris McAlister, shiatsu teacher and author, leading a shiatsu class

Within our souls and psyche we have memories of wonderful happenings that enriched our lives in multiple and complex ways. Intertwined among them are horrendous visions of adverse events that left us burned and scarred, withered and stunted. It is not simply a case of bombarding the area with heavy artillery to blitz the landscape and clear the scene for new planting and a fresh start. Those old and beautiful memories are a source of richness and nourishment. They are vital and necessary for our development. But they need air. They need space. They need clear and clean nourishing soil to grow in, to gain in significance, to provide us with internal nourishment.


Separating the negative energies from these vital, positive resources is a delicate job and will necessarily take time to achieve.


 Patience vs Prestige


Once again, patience is our friend and prestige is definitely not - if we are constantly looking for quick and impressive results, we will be doing ourselves and our clients a tremendous disservice. The results we are looking for will likely not happen during one of our treatments but far more likely during a dream, a conversation with a friend, a train journey, while taking a shower or perhaps while sitting on the toilet.


We might commit to paying our clients and their precious energies the respect of taking our time, removing pressure from ourselves and allowing the work to follow the inherent pace that is needed to gently separate the roots of trauma from the roots of the authentic qi residing in the soil of the bodymind.


In doing so, and continually committing to do so, we will be attuning ourselves to the essential movement and the eternal moment of the healing process as it spirals continually upwards and outwards, inwards and downwards towards pulsating vitality.

This is an excerpt From: ''From Source to the Ten Thousand: Shiatsu and Life Practice'.

About the Book: This book is a collection of observations ranging from aspects of professional practice to the philosophy of healing itself. Each theme is presented as a microcosmos but helps also to demonstrate a coherent set of methods, insights, and spiritual avenues that form a cohesive whole.

The landscape is never superseded by the map and this volume will - necessarily and by definition - be found wanting and incomplete in any number of ways. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the reflections contained within it may be of use to both fresh-faced novices and seasoned veterans alike. 


About The Author:

Shiatsu teacher and author Chris McAlister

Chris McAlister Learn More:

As a Shiatsu practitioner and teacher, Chris has a unique background. During the late 1980s and early 90s, he studied in Japan and China for a total of six years with teachers at the height of their powers.

His main Shiatsu teacher for three years was Takeo Suzuki, whom Masunaga trusted to run classes at the Iokai Centre as his health began to fail. Chris then went on to study with half a dozen Shiatsu teachers when he came back to Europe by inviting them to teach classes for him in Sweden. He also entered a collaboration with two colleagues: Jan Nevelius and Jeremy Halpin, with whom he wrote 'Touching the Invisible: Exploring the Way of Shiatsu'.

While in Japan, Chris also studied acupuncture. His first teacher was Peter Yates, himself an Englishman with many years experience of Shiatsu, Qigong, and martial arts. Chris continued his studies with Kimiya Gotoh, an expert in Ryodoraku – an acupuncture method incorporating aspects of Western medicine in both diagnosis and treatment.

Chris studied Taiji Chuan for seven years with three different teachers before finally becoming a student of Chen Pei Shan, lineage holder in the Chen family Taiji tradition. He studied Xing Yi Chuan in Canton, China as a student in residence with a master of the Chinese internal martial arts, Liu Guo Hua, known as Wa Guo.

He also studied Qigong, not only with Peter Yates and Master Hua, but with a living treasure in the form of Daoist priest, S.K. Lew. Chris was part of a small group of students who had the privilege of studying every year for five years with Master Lew. Each year they would learn one more aspect of the Dao Dan Pai monastic system from the Yellow Dragon temple in Guangdong province, China. Master Lew passed a few years ago at the age of 97, actively teaching students and treating patients until the week before his passing.

On returning to Europe, Chris studied Chinese herbs with Ted Kaptchuk in Amsterdam for two years. Ted was undergoing an intense period of re-evaluation of the history and traditions of Chinese medicine which gave Chris valuable tools leading to insights that inform his approach to study, practice, and teaching to this day.

Chris has put many tens of thousands of hours of observation and practice into building up an approach to the Internal Tradition, which we may call Alchemy. He has taught students in many countries, has treated all kinds of people from the hyper-healthy to the dying, and experienced a wide range of abilities and gifts, sensitivities, and powers in both his patients and his students.

These experiences keep his awareness clear – everyone is his teacher and life is a constant learning process. The Poetry of Touch: Alchemy, Transformation, and Oriental Medicine is the most recent literary manifestation of this awareness.

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