My name is Vanessa Richard and I am a Spécialiste en shiatsu and a meditation instructor.
In a former life, I was A PhD in International law and I have worked as researcher at the National Centre for Scientific Research – CNRS. In spite of a successful career, the opportunity to travel around the world to speak in conferences, the award of a prestigious research financing, recognition from my peers and job security, I did not feel I belonged.
I started practicing meditation and attending Tibetan buddhist teachings in 2013 and, one thing leading to another, I became the director of my meditation centre (Centre Shambhala de Marseille, non profit association, 2017-2019) and since 2018 a meditation instructor. This led me to realize that energetic work is a field where I feel at the right place, helpful and nurtured by my activity, and that I needed to work with people rather than merely studying them. The gap between my professional life and the fields where I thrived grew so wide that it became intolerable. Burnout. Psychotherapeutic work, meditation practice and buddhist teachings gradually helped me to connect to my true self and to look beyond the tons of beliefs and fears that I had about myself and life. And once I found myself again, shiatsu came forward.
Shiatsu and meditation have a lot in common: confidence in the self-healing abilities of the shiatsu receiver matches the confidence -that meditation instructors cultivate- in the fact meditation practitioners already have awaken qualities. We are here to give meditation practitioners the space they need to find and explore their own wisdom, not to give them advice. I believe that the same approach prevails in shiatsu, following which knowledge is only here to nurture the shiatsu practitioner’s humility. Likewise, the approach that each person, in all their aspects, is precious and deserves to be treated with consideration. That, as traditional teachings on boddhicitta (‘awaken heart’ in sanskrit) say, it is when we give up all hopes of fruition that we genuinely put ourselves at the service of the situation instead of trying to be the knowing-who-knows or the healer-who-heals.
Joining Heaven and Earth
Buddhist and Taoist traditions, among others, say that human beings link Heaven and Earth.
With ‘hands that know’, I could have chosen some massage practice where the earth aspect, craft, is very strong but it didn’t satisfy me to go towards sensation/feeling/touch only. Shiatsu combines this Earth aspect with that of Heaven, qualities of observation and exploration of one’s own experience, art in addition to craft. The acquisition of knowledge in Eastern energetics, which has no end, feeds the way we connect with another human being, which can genuinely be reached one way: with our heart. Likewise, meditation -resting on Earth with our spine erected towards Heaven-, leads us to feel that the space inside and around us is much wider that what we usually perceive and helps us resonate subtly with it. To meditate is to cultivate the art of being human.
Why “Les mains justes” (‘Right hands’)?
It’s an excellent question, thank myself for asking!
‘Right’ refers to the ‘right action’ of the eightfold path walked by every human being in search for Awakenement, according to buddhism:
right understanding (or view), right thought (or intention, feeling), right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and samadhi (right concentration, presence, synchronization, centering, realization of enlightenment.)
Here right isn’t opposed to wrong. It refers to the idea of being perfectly in line with the situation here and now, in the direction of enlightenment. The right action is the action which does not create any suffering for oneself and others, action which lets go, which does not cling to fear or any coveted result, action which feeds on the qualities of right vision, feeling, speech, livelihood, effort and mindfulness.
It also is a reference to the expression ‘heavy-handed’ and ‘light-handed’ and the idea of knowing instinctively how to calibrate our action.
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