Mark Vrooland is a Shiatsu Practitioner in Rotterdam. He has a wonderful blog, “Happy Hara.” – I am honored that he reviewed my book, Meridian Massage, Opening Pathways to Vitality. Below is the interview, copied by permission:
Cindy Black, a US-based writer and teacher, provides online classes in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for Massage Therapists. Her book ‘Meridian Massage, Opening Pathways to Vitality’ is popular among TCM-newcomers but is also valuable for seasoned practitioners. “It’s not shiatsu, it’s not Thai massage, it’s not acupressure. That has been my challenge: describing what it is, instead of what it’s not. “
When I spoke Cindy she was in sunny Florida. She moves with the warmth of the seasons. In the summer she moves back to Ithaca, New York, which is close to the border of Canada. Cindy is the founder of the Big Tree School of Natural Healing, a Massage Therapist, Acupuncturist and the writer of the book ‘Meridian Massage’, which is the reason we are on the phone right now.
“I did practice acupuncture for a little while, but I am just better at using my hands. So I pursued more education after I completed my Master’s degree in Chinese medicine. I really wanted to feel the heart and soul of it. I found a teacher in Canada, Khadro. She taught me a form of abdominal massage, Chi Nei Tsang. With her help, I could integrate all the knowledge I had been gaining over the previous years. This really opened up a whole ocean of possibility for me.”
“We have the same opportunity to observe as the ancients did. There is still the earth, the sky, wind, trees, grass, all of that…”
Straight to the Qi
“In shiatsu and acupuncture, we always try to diagnose and evaluate what’s going on with the organs and use acupuncture points to balance these organs. What I learned from Khadro is that you can go straight to the abdominal organs. Straight to the Qi. I was really taken by that. I began combining abdominal massage with hands-on contact to the meridians and acupuncture points. I used it on my clients with great success, and then started teaching it to other Massage Therapists.”
“My shiatsu training was pretty formal. Shiatsu has a whole theory and a method. It’s a wonderful method, but I am not good at following rules. I was taught that you always give shiatsu on the floor, not on a massage table. I found out, that if I let that rule go I, I could integrate points and meridians into my regular massage therapy work on the table. This became my practice of meridian massage.”
“Meridian massage is more of an approach than a specific method of massage. I am teaching the theory of Chinese Medicine to people who are already hands-on practitioners, like sport massage therapists. I help them to add this approach to their incredible skill of mindful contact. They combine it with what they already know.”
“My intention is to support people to return to their own Qi”
“The reason why I called it meridian massage is because I wanted it to be general. I am not teaching a technique. I teach the theory. Daoism is the philosophical and spiritual basis of TCM. From the Dao, it is said that we all have to find our own expression of life. We all find our own way. To me, that’s how I am teaching. I offer the theory and I encourage others to find their own unique expression how they apply it.”
A few years ago Cindy also started to give online TCM-classes. “I began teaching this in person. People asked me to put it online. At first, I thought it is not possible to do this, but then I decided to do it as best as I could. I have found that I can teach the theory very well this way. It was a surprise to me too!”
“Now I offer a 3-month intensive online course. From January to April we walk through all the courses. From yin-yang, five elements, organ systems and 60 acupuncture points. The people are working on their own, but once a week we have a live-meeting to review the material and take it deeper.”
What is the biggest challenge of our time where TCM can help?
“TCM helps to keep the Qi abundant and flowing. Because that’s the bases of health. It a very simple premise, but consistently maintaining that is a huge challenge. Because people, in general, are overworking and there’s all this external distraction. As that happens, as we get drawn away from ourselves. We lose our connection to Qi, to our own life force. My intention is to support people to return to their own Qi.”
Do you have any tips to reconnect with your own Qi?
“Take a little time each day to be in a quiet place by yourself. And feel your breath going in and out. Another translation for Qi is breath. So we understand directly from Qi by feeling our breath. It helps you to rebalance your system.”
Another exercise is to get in back in contract with the earth. Just stand. Be very conscious about standing on the earth. With your feet firm on the ground. Head to the sky. Just feeling your breath and wondering in the same way that the ancients did – before all of this knowledge, technology and information we have coming at us today. Just wonder about the earth, the sky and our place here. TCM was discovered by observation. We have the same opportunity to observe as the ancients did. There is still the earth, the sky, wind, trees, grass, all of that…”