The Art of Jin Shin
Chapter 1 The Jin Shin Effect
Katie, a bright and studious sixteen-year-old, had been on antidepressants for three years when she came to see me. She faithfully kept her therapy appointments and meditated to reduce her anxiety. Still, her depression was so acute that she frequently needed to skip school or leave class in the middle of the day, felled by bouts of uncontrollable crying. Nothing seemed to be able to dispel the dark cloud of misery that enveloped her.
When she lay down on my table, I immediately noticed that her feet were completely pigeon-toed. More alarmingly, her entire body, especially her head, was rolling off to the right. It’s not unusual for older clients to present with asymmetry, yet hers was the most extreme resting body position I had seen in someone so young. Given that she had no known postural issues, I asked her about prior trauma. Katie couldn’t remember anything in particular. I made a mental note to schedule an intake with her mother after our session. Even without knowing her history, it was immediately apparent that I would need to start working my way through a descending sequence to move the energy down and out of her head. Slipping my right hand under her neck—a specific area known to clear mental and emotional blocks—I’d felt a large lump: the mass of knotted muscle and congested energy that was pulling her head to the right. I maintained a gentle hold on the area until I felt Katie’s quiet, uneven pulse become more lively and even. I moved my left hand to an area above her eyebrow to clear the mind. Keeping my right hand where it was, I placed my left on her tailbone, to jump-start her body’s source energy and harmonize the blood
essence. Holding on to the outside of her anklebone allowed her to ground herself physically and emotionally, and areas on the base of the ribs harmonized the digestive process and facilitated Katie’s ability to process her emotions. Finally, releasing an energy blockage on an area beneath her clavicle strengthened and cleared her exhalations, allowing Katie to continue to move sluggish energy out of the body on her own.
We saw an immediate change on the table after that first session; her body aligned itself perfectly, and Katie began to feel better right away. During the intake, her mother told me a very illuminating story: When Katie was two and a half, she had fallen out of a shopping cart and hit the left side of her head. She still had a scar on her face in the spot where she’d needed stitches.
Mystery solved. The injury was located directly on the path where the gallbladder energy moves—a pathway any Jin Shin practitioner can address to treat a client with depression. Given the location of the trauma, it was no surprise that she was getting trapped inside her thoughts, or “stuck in her head.”
Due to the severity of her symptoms, I saw Katie twice more that week. Soon we were able to downgrade to weekly sessions, with a prescription for the daily self-help that is a hallmark of the Art of Jin Shin. Katie stopped taking her antidepressants within just a couple of weeks and never missed school again on account of her depression.
Like Katie, the first time I encountered the Art of Jin Shin, I knew instantly that the course of my life was going to change. I had moved from the Netherlands, my native country, to pursue a career as a dancer in New York. At eighteen, I was a starry-eyed graduate from Holland’s most reputable pre-professional academy for dance, ready to start auditioning and itching to begin my life. Another recent graduate from the academy made the move to New York along with me, and soon a third girl, a model, joined us in a small walk-up on Thirty-Eighth Street. Every day we would hop on the uptown train to take classes at studios like Steps on Broadway or Broadway Dance Center, scouring audition notices as we stretched in the hallways.
What I wanted most of all was to dance on the real Broadway, inside one of those theaters with the classic lightbulb-ringed marquees. So when I found my way to a well-respected dance company called Lee Theodore’s American Dance Machine, I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Until one day during ballet class, when a turn I had executed hundreds of times suddenly sent me careening in another direction. As I rose onto demi-pointe and launched into a pirouette, a pop in my right knee brought me to an abrupt halt. I was sidelined for six weeks. Being young and resilient, I assumed my troubles would end there. Instead, that moment was the start of a recurring knee problem. At times I could muscle through. Periodically, however, the inflammation would get so bad that I would be out for weeks at a time, treating my symptoms with a combination of acupuncture and RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), as my teacher Lee Theodore insisted it was part of a dancer’s discipline to heal oneself and nurture an injury back to health. I kept up this regimen over the next year, without much change for the better.
My second year in New York, a friend who suffered from multiple sclerosis went to see a woman named Philomena Dooley over in New Jersey for a session of a mysterious Japanese healing art. When he came back, he handed me a little wire-bound self-help book and said, “I think this is what you are meant to be doing.” Based on ancient Eastern principles of energy medicine and holistic healing, the modern day healing art uses nothing more than the gentle touch from a practitioner’s hands to remove energetic blockages that cause physical and emotional pain and disease.
As far as I knew, I was still pursuing my lifelong dream of being a dancer in New York. My friend, however, sensed something that I would soon see for myself.
A renowned instructor and master practitioner, Philomena had a nursing career before she discovered Jin Shin in the late 1970s through health problems of her own—a host of serious issues related to phlebitis, a blood dyscrasia that caused clotting and could lead to pulmonary embolisms and stroke-like
conditions. She had been under medical care for nineteen years, a self-described “semi-invalid” who had been hospitalized several times before a chance encounter brought her to the Art of Jin Shin. As a nurse who was married to a physician, she had access to the best medical care. Still, a daily regimen of blood thinners and painkillers had done little to alleviate her discomfort. So pronounced was her exhaustion that her children frequently had to help her up the stairs at night.
Fate intervened in the form of an approach from a benevolent stranger at a convention. Taking in her poor color and obvious ill health, a man named Charles told her in no uncertain terms that if she wanted to get on with life, she needed to go see a woman named Mary Burmeister in Arizona—the teacher and practitioner who had carried the message of Jin Shin Jyutsu from Japan to the United States. Lacking any means of investigating the practice in those pre-internet days, Philomena bought a plane ticket to see an associate of Mary Burmeister’s. Patricia Meador would give her sessions twice a day for ten days.
Over a series of hour-long sessions, Pat gently placed her hands on various areas on Philomena’s body, occasionally telling her about the connections she observed. On the fifth day, after her ninth session, Philomena was sitting poolside, the Ace bandages and compression stockings in which she customarily wrapped her legs set aside so she could dip her toes into the cool blue water. Summoned to the house by a phone call, she gathered herself and headed toward the living room. Halfway there, she realized she was walking without pain—and without the aid of her compression gear.
Her transformation was profound. First, the cousin charged with picking her up from the airport in Newark failed to recognize her. (To be fair, Philomena had also switched out the baggy pants she usually wore to cover her bulky compression bandages for a skirt and heels.) Then, when she went to see her physician for her weekly blood test, the nurse who examined her chart was so puzzled by the radical change in her numbers that she feared Philomena’s chart had accidentally been switched with another patient’s. The doctor came in to examine her, and Philomena told him the story of where she had been. “Whatever it is you’re doing,” he said, “keep it up.” Philomena had weaned herself off her painkillers over the previous week, and her doctor also took her off blood
thinners, then and there. Her problems never recurred, and indeed she never found cause to return to see her hematologist.
In the clean, spare practice room where she saw clients, Philomena asked about my reason for visiting her, and I told her about my knee problem.
“In Jin Shin Jyutsu, we call ‘problems’ projects,” she said as she paused to correct me. “Projects are fun, and we work with them.”
Philomena then took a firm hold of my little toes and tweaked them a bit. As she worked, she told me I could help my knee by simultaneously holding the inside and outside of the knee. The transformation from that one simple tweak right then and there was instantaneous. I returned to rehearsal the very next day and was never again sidelined as a result of knee pain. Occasionally, I would start to feel the stirrings of the old injury, and a little application of self-help would immediately resolve the issue.
Philomena also suggested I take a workshop with her that following week so that I could learn how to give sessions to my friend with multiple sclerosis. I took her suggestion.
Over five days, more than a hundred of us gathered from all over the world in a rented conference room at a New Jersey hotel. Though much of what Philomena was teaching went over my head, I instantly embraced Jin Shin’s profoundly simple, holistic philosophy. As Westerners we tend to think that ailments have a single cause, and that one person with fifteen ailments might require as many different kinds of treatments or prescriptions. In contrast, many Eastern philosophies suggest that everything, from energy in the body to events in the world, moves in a continuous cycle, with each individual part being connected. Looking at the body from an energetic point of view makes sense of even very disparate-sounding dysfunctions—like bunions and lung issues, as in the case of one of my clients, a jazz singer in her eighties. Yolande Bavan came to a case study of five sessions that I conducted with an apprentice. Her lungs improved and it was easier for her to fill them with oxygen, and we were lucky to witness her phenomenal performance at a tribute to Duke Ellington.
The practice itself is both simple and infinitely complex. What struck me right away was how much you can learn about the body just by feeling and looking. As Philomena talked us through her process, demonstrating on a volunteer, we saw transformations take place with our very own eyes. A raised shoulder, visibly out of line with the rest of the body, would sink down into the table as she gently held on to the underside of the opposing knee. Pigeon toes would gradually turn outward as she held the volunteer’s upper thigh, and cupped hands would resolve with a release of the upper back. Philomena guided us through body readings, training our eyes to notice congestions within the body—a rolled-in knee, a locked shoulder, a distended abdomen.
I felt like a newly awakened being. The career I had trained for all my life flew out the window during that seminar. Soon afterward, I asked Philomena whether she would be willing to continue training me privately, and I became one of the few lucky people to benefit from her extended instruction and mentorship.
In short order I was able to give comprehensive treatments myself, at times using specific protocols recommended by Philomena, and with astonishing results. I practiced as much as I could on whomever I could get my hands on, mainly dancers I knew from company and class. My first real clients were an artistic couple referred my way by Philomena: Milton Resnick, a well-known painter, and his wife, Pat Passlof, a professor of art and fellow painter. Milton dealt with arthritic conditions among other ailments, while Pat had vision and digestive problems, all of which were alleviated by our continued sessions. I started working with my ballet teacher, whose persistent neck problems resolved within a couple of sessions. Soon she was sending me any injured or ailing performers she came across, principal dancers from New York City Ballet and the Joffrey among them. My practice filled up immediately, and over the years my client base has expanded to people from all walks of life.
Sometimes the practice is used for maintenance, to alleviate conditions that are a natural by-product of the aging process or to support clients experiencing serious illness. Sometimes I find myself using it as a form of first aid. Once, on
a flight to Paris, a woman walking down the aisle literally fainted into my lap. She fell in the right place, I told my family later. She promptly recovered once I treated her in the back of the plane. Then there was the man who collapsed onto a New York City sidewalk while I was out walking with my daughter. He had fallen straight onto his face and lost consciousness. After some bystanders helped to turn him over, I held the base of his head at the same area where I had helped the woman on the plane, and within minutes he regained consciousness. He stood up and, refusing help from the waiting ambulance, attempted to make his way home. With some convincing, we managed to get him into the care of the EMTs.
Often people come to see me as a last resort, after they have exhausted many options in the search for relief. Alex, the usually chatty superintendent of the building next door to mine, is our unofficial block mayor. When I ran into him wearing a back brace one day, he was in so much pain that despite sixteen sessions of physical therapy and multiple doses of heavy pain meds, he had been forced to hire other people to take over his building duties. I suggested he come for some Jin Shin. After just one Jin Shin session, he took off the brace and discontinued the meds. Given that his work is so physical, we continue to see each other for regular touch-ups.
I have worked with expectant mothers who had been previously unable to carry the pregnancy to term and were able to deliver healthy babies with the support of the Art of Jin Shin. With late-stage cancer patients looking for relief from their pain and the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and with clients struggling with back pain, digestive troubles, addiction issues, or anxiety and depression, some of them at risk of developing opioid dependencies due to long-term struggles with pain.
Though this book is limited to a simple set of self-help techniques, the Art of Jin Shin is vast. I have been practicing for nearly thirty years now, and I learn something new with every client.
As you explore Jin Shin’s simple and gentle techniques for energetic rebalancing, I hope you will discover the potential for increased health, balance, and vitality that Jin Shin has to offer.