Deborah Valentine Smith was intrigued by the different concept of Eastern Therapies and in the 70’s started to learn and help people. In this special interview for MysticMag, Deborah explains to us what Jin Shin Do and Asian bodywork therapy are and how she learned how to work remotely with great results.
Check out the interview below and also her two new books that are coming out soon:
“JingJin Yoga: Combining yoga asanas with the tendinomuscular meridians of Chinese Medicine”
“Imaginary Conversations with Mrs. Lao Tse: Consulting the Tao Te Ching on Children and other Everyday Things”
When did you discover your interest in Asian therapies and start to learn them?
In the 70’s I was part of a street theater collective that was originally created by a group of dancers. We taught stretch and movement classes as a way to support ourselves and the group. I became interested in how a student’s chronic tension could be released in a class and then walk in the door with them a week later. I shared my speculation with my ex-husband, who was searching for information on acupuncture to treat addiction. In the process, he had met Sensei Ohashi, the founder of Ohashiatsu, who was just starting to teach Shiatsu in New York City.
He told me I should meet him because “He talks about things the way you do.”
I studied with Ohashi from 1975 through 1980 and met Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, the founder of Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® in 1979 through a class she taught at his Shiatsu Education Center. I was intrigued by the Eastern concept of “body, mind, not two,” because that described my growing awareness of how emotions and attitudes are expressed physically.
Did you notice a pushback or a negative reaction when you started or right away people were interested?
People had no idea how to react. At that time the only bodywork disciplines that would be recognized by most people were Swedish massage and Chiropractic. Most people associated massage with sports – especially boxing – and chiropractic with “health nuts.”
I realized early on that I could not just tell people about acupressure, I had to show them. I was constantly holding points with friends and at social gatherings to demonstrate how amazingly effective the work was for common complaints like headache, muscle aches, anxiety, etc.
At that time, people were interested in the effects but had no idea what made Eastern practices different from Western approaches. Of course, my dancer friends immediately got the idea, because dancers do all kinds of things to heal injuries and keep their bodies functional. Interestingly enough, another group of people who were familiar with the work were veterans who had been stationed in Japan and Korea.
Can you explain to us what Asian bodywork therapy is? Is it beneficial to anyone?
Here’s the definition from the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia®:
“Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) is the treatment of the human body/mind/spirit, including the electromagnetic or energetic field which surrounds, infuses and brings that body to life, by using pressure and/or manipulation. Asian Bodywork is based upon Chinese Medical principles for assessing and evaluating the body’s energetic system. It uses traditional Asian techniques and treatment strategies to primarily affect and balance the energetic system for the purpose of treating the human body, emotions, mind, energy field and spirit for the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health.”
Because it works with all aspects of the human being, it can also start with what’s most accessible to treatment. I haven’t met anyone for whom it was not beneficial. Most people come to it for treatment of physical discomfort and find that the approach also addresses their attitudes about the discomfort and also emotions and attitudes that may be underlying causes. Ultimately, it can be a way to access the deepest, undistorted essence of a human being – the spirit – that is asking for awareness.
I’m also interested in Jin Shin Do. Can you explain to us what it is and if it’s used for some specific pain or can be done at any point.
Here’s the definition from the Jin Shin Do® Foundation:
“A unique synthesis of a traditional Japanese acupressure technique, classic Chinese acupuncture and acupressure theory, Taoist philosophy, Qigong (breathing and exercise techniques), Reichian segmental theory and principles of Ericksonian psychotherapy…Originated by psychotherapist Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® promotes a pleasant trancelike state, in which one can relax and move out of the head and into the body, accessing feelings and inner wisdom.”
Each Asian Bodywork Therapy emphasizes particular techniques that employ the common Chinese acupuncture and acupressure theory. Jin Shin Do® works primarily with holding points. Again, from jinshindo.org:
“Generally a ‘local point’ in a tense area is held together with related “distal points” which, though distant from the tense area, help it to release because of functional and energetic relationships.” Jin Shin Do® is unique to most forms in that it focuses on the awareness and participation of the receiver. We are working primarily at the “Qi,” or energy level. In Eastern philosophy, energy is directed by Mind. Engaging the receiver’s attention is a very powerful technique and often leads to understanding of what has contributed, sometimes over decades, to the particular imbalance.
In your view, what do Asian therapies bring to the table that we lack in the west? Is it a more integrated method?
It is more integrated in that physical, emotional, mental and spiritual layers “are not two” in this work. It also recognizes the influence of seasonal changes and the energy changes that happen through the day/night to respond to the environment, among other things.
I’ve mentioned the emotional and spiritual components, which are integral to the assessment of a person’s condition. I think the West is beginning to incorporate this wisdom. Ideally, a truly “holistic” health care system would include the Eastern goal of maintaining health through the recognition of the whole individual with the Western skill of addressing extreme pathology. To simplify, will be using acupressure for tension headaches and drugs and surgery for life-threatening emergencies.
In your website you mention that because of the pandemic you learned to transform the face-to-face sessions to remote sessions. Can you detail more about that process and how did you reach new people in different countries?
As many of my colleagues have also discovered, our emphasis on engaging awareness of the receiver in the process has given us many tools and techniques that can be used to guide a person in self-treatment. Especially with point-holding, almost any point combination applied by a practitioner can also be accomplished adequately enough to have effect by the receiver, sometimes with the aid of simple tools like two tennis balls in a sock. This can be done over the phone. Breathing and stretching exercises can be shared by Zoom.
People have been using YouTube to find out how to do just about everything for decades now, including energy work I have been surprised to discover that an energy connection can also be felt with the help of electronic devices. It’s a bit different, but unmistakably present. As you mention, this “new” technique has made it possible for me to work with people just about anywhere. Clients pretty much always come to me through another person who has experienced the work or by participating in classes.
I have always been the “wandering teacher,” going to venues where there are enough people interested to form a class. Zoom has made it possible for me cut travelling time by teaching the theory remotely and then meeting in person for the hands-on portion of a class. This has also made my classes more accessible to people who travel to get to them.
I also created an totally virtual anatomy and physiology course – Western Body, Eastern Mind – that integrates Western Science and Chinese Medicine. I took on the task to assist Asian Bodywork students who are meeting the requirements for AOBTA® Certified Practitioner membership. The material is totally online with the addition of a phone consultation as the student completes each section of the course.