The Joy Is In The Journey

by Patrick McCarty

For almost three decades I have been involved with the teachings of Macrobiotic Shiatsu and its founder, Shizuko Yamamoto. My first exposure was overwhelming. Not by the volume of complicated techniques and information but by the principles of simplicity. Yes, strange as it sounds, the simple natural movements along with the matter-of-fact explanatory tone jolted my previous way of thinking. Innocent statements such as "illness comes from separation of body and mind" and "we all come from nature, live naturally" awakened a fresh framework of how to look at the body and life in general. At that time these uncommon statements were unique and insightful.

This introduction to traditional wisdom has had tremendous impact, not only on me, but on the thousands of clients and students that I have interacted with over the years.

What is the single-most dominant condition that we find in every person with ill health?

More often then not you will find the effects of stress at the foundation of most of the medical and health problems that exist, especially in developed countries. I'm not only referring to the obvious layer of stress that can be named and labeled as emotions, such as worry, anger, depression, irritability and so on. I'm also referring to the deeper, unconscious, but all too real sources of stress that exist and affect the nervous and other systems. Vibrations that influence the body to adjust in ways that eventually lead to disease. This subtler form of stress is vibrational and comes when beliefs, ideas, and concepts find themselves in contradiction within ourselves. Consider the vibrational quality of energy that your mind-body feels when you want something but have not gotten it. If indulged in regularly even simple statements like, I want to travel but I don't have the time nor money!, create an energy that your nervous system has to live with. How you are feeling day-to-day is the truth of your dominate vibration. In other words as you consistently think, you are. Your physical body is merely the whispering of the intangible, non-physical. Sometimes it seems to shout.
All too often we are overly concerned with arrival. Do you know what I mean? Our emphasis and efforts are primarily devoted to completion of our projects. It is as if when we finish with our tasks we can begin to breathe, enjoy, and live. There is a pretty big separation between doing things that we "have to do" and doing things that we "want to do." Where does such thinking lead us? Look around and we can see the results of this type of thinking. The mental states of anxiety and worry, which often lead to fear are too ordinary and constant. Is there no other way?

Mind-Body Connections

In the last several years there have been volumes written about the influence of our thoughts on our health. It is now well known that mental and emotional phenomena can stimulate neuron activity in the brain, in the process of which physical and chemical reactions are produced that stimulate functional or physical symptoms. According to John Sarno, M.D., "Brain chemistry does not initiate dysfunction in this case; chemistry is in the service of the psyche. In the mindbody process the physicochemical machine is driven by the emotions, not vice verse.1"
The ancient medical texts of China clearly defined the Mind-Body connection. Each organ system has both a positive and negative emotional state associated with it. Negative emotions such as worry and anxiety are connected with the pancreas and stomach, while impatience, irritability, and anger are associated with the liver and gall bladder. Fear is associated with the kidney/bladder system. Over 2,500 years ago it was taught that imbalance in the physical or emotional would cause harm in the associated system. In other words, all disease is psychosomatic (mind-body).
When shiatsu practitioners discover tenderness or pain when a tsubo (acupoint) is pressed, they are pointing out to the receiver an area of dis-connection. Applied pressure re-connects this part of the body to the brain and nervous system. The body now has access to this area. Once connected the body can heal. This truth is tremendously simple yet powerful. Our innate drive is to be whole. When connections are made nature effortlessly does what it does best. It promotes self-correction, establishes health and vitality which result in happiness. Equally true in all endeavors of life, the Zen monk, Shunryu Suzuki, refering to Zen practice wrote, "If you continue this simple practice every day, you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful. but after you attain it, it is nothing special.2"
Being connected (spiritually and neurologically) is nothing special because it is our birthright. Yet, being connected is being alive.

Day-To-Day Simplicity

Simple daily routines are also "nothing special." Our activities of thinking, breathing, eating, moving, and sleeping, ordinary as they are, are the foundations of our health. These simple principles and some fundamental techniques can make the difference between a life of vitality and love contrasted with the average life of suffering and unhappiness. Almost thirty years ago the concepts of "progressive development," "inner calm," "penetrating influence" found their way into my consciousness. Life today requires persistence and a constant and principled nature. Simple wisdom from the past, blended with your intuitive nature, may produce travel where you may just find the joy is in the journey.

1 The Mindbody Prescription by John E. Sarno, M.D. page 175
2 Zen Mind Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, page 46