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  • Dawn Oei

Learning to value what we do

Updated: May 18

When I first graduated from the British School of Shiatsu-Do London, I was contacted by a well established organisation asking if I could offer a Shiatsu to their director in preparation for a workshop that he was running at the weekend. I would not get paid but a lunch would be provided. I was happy to gain as much experience as possible and was also curious to find out about the organisation (it was close to my school and I knew that they ran workshops at weekends. I was intrigued). I travelled to the venue the following day. The session went well. I found out that the director was not new to Shiatsu. He was from California and first received Shiatsu in the early 1980s. He was pleased with the treatment. I was asked if I would be available to provide Shiatsu sessions in the future. Yes but I told them that I would have to charge a fee for subsequent sessions.


A few months went by and I was contacted by the organisation again. "Could I offer a free Shiatsu to the director in exchange for lunch?" I explained politely that I would have to charge a fee. "Could you offer a free session for the organisation's cause?", I was asked. Whatever their cause was, I had to decline because a) They weren’t paying me; b) They gave me a day's notice; and c) I held a full-time office job for which it wasn't always easy to apply for time-off.


This story is about learning to value who we are from the outset. When a skill that we have is valued, it raises the energetic vibrancy of the work. There also comes a point when there needs to be a true exchange of energy. Money and consideration is part of that exchange. It is a form of energy like food. It also values the support that we provide.


To qualify as a Shiatsu practitioner, we undergo three years' worth of full-time study: theory and practice of Shiatsu including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Classical Shiatsu, Zen Shiatsu, anatomy and physiology classes, homework, writing case studies and diagnostic papers, attending supervised student clinics and intensive residential study weeks in preparation for our second and third year exams. It can be an intense journey of self-discovery and self-development. By then, we would have given at most 300 treatments leading up to the diploma. I have worked as a volunteer Shiatsu practitioner for a charity that offered support to clients living with HIV and Aids.


Perhaps the organisation could explore ways to incorporate the cost of therapies into their budget? This would benefit more users including their other staff not just their director. Otherwise, they are creating a hierarchy of treatment. In the long-run, it would also benefit the therapists who will be paid for their time and effort.

The organisation still contacts me every 6-8 months. Last week, I heard from them again. I told them I was now living in Edinburgh. They wanted to know if there was "a generous Shiatsu practitioner to offer a massage tomorrow and if I knew any of your Shiatsu friends who may be interested?" I replied, "I am not sure who is available. Many practitioners I know will charge for the treatment. It is an exchange and also values the practitioner." I hope that on some level, they understand this.


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