Welcome to the first interview in a series with female leaders, teachers and practitioners in the holistic therapeutic fields. These are women whose teaching has inspired me and I have been keen to learn more about their personal philosophy, experiences and the influences on their professional practice. I hope you enjoy hearing their story too! Let us know your thoughts, Nicole.
Profile: Dinah John BA MRSS(T), Shiatsu Practitioner and Principal of The Shiatsu College Norwich
Originally an English graduate who taught English at Language schools in Cambridge and for a year in Sudan, Dinah was introduced to Shiatsu by Clifford Andrews in 1985 and has studied with and worked alongside him since then. Dinah is a popular teacher, invited regularly to schools on the Continent as well as in the UK, where her clarity of presentation, breadth of experience and her enthusiasm are widely appreciated. Dinah is the principal of the Shiatsu College Norwich. Dinah has taught along with the founder teachers on Shiatsu College Post-Graduate CPD courses for many years and is also a long-standing editor of the Shiatsu Society Newsletter.
Why did you choose to learn Shiatsu, what brought you to the practice?
It was really just chance that led me to Shiatsu. In the mid-‘80s I was actively involved in anti-nuclear and peace campaigning, engaged with the counter-culture, unhappy with the status quo and wanting to make the world a better place…
As an English graduate I had no direct career path and, after travelling and teaching for a while, was still wondering ‘what shall I do when I grow up?’ I met Cliff Andrews when we were both working in wholefoods and took an introductory course with him in ’85. It dawned on me that Shiatsu fulfilled all my needs: a simple small way of making the world a better place; helping others; requiring nothing material beyond hands and heart; an extraordinarily fascinating and endless field of study - and a potential spiritual path too
What does Shiatsu mean to you now, what purpose does it serve you as an individual?
Well Shiatsu still fulfils all those needs it met originally. I feel very lucky that my fascination and delight continues – with the amazing variety and complexity of human beings and our body/mind/spirit connections, with Chinese medicine, with that endless potential for learning about myself and about the nature of life itself - while still allowing me to offer a kind heart and a helping hand to others along the way.
What is your philosophical approach to your practice - as a teacher and as a therapist? (i.e. what do you see the purpose of your healing practice in the life of the individual - why do it?)
I suppose I’d say a primary notion for me is that we are pure spirit incarnate in this physical form for the short span of our lives here on earth. Always on some level my aim is to support people to fulfil their potential in this life – to live more fully, healthfully and joyfully
Who or what, has been the biggest influence on your path as a practitioner and why?
I have to answer Cliff as the ‘who’! He introduced me to Shiatsu, I’ve studied with him since the ‘80s and worked alongside him since graduating in 1990. He’s a brilliant teacher, a gifted practitioner and I’m deeply grateful for all that I’ve learned from him.
I’ve had a number of other truly wonderful teachers, the most influential being: Pauline Sasaki, Nicola Ley, Carola Beresford-Cooke, Paul Lundberg and Ted Kaptchuk.
For the ‘what’, I’d say an experience I had when teaching in Sudan in 1981. I spent a day knowing that I’d be dead by nightfall… It’s a long story but the influence it had on my relationship with life - and its transience - has been endless and profound
What significant lesson/s did one of your teachers teach you?
So many special lessons – mmm - Pauline taught me that Ki is ‘outside space and time’, that ultimately each of us is responsible for our own healing and that whatever happens in a session we should just ‘always be interested’.
Nicola Ley taught me to ask for help from outside – heaven’s energy, earth’s energy, angels, ancestors, goddess power…
Ted Kaptchuk taught me that ‘our job is to relieve unnecessary suffering and to deal with necessary suffering’
With the insight you have now, what, if anything, do you wish you had known at the beginning of your journey?
I wish I’d learned sooner to value myself more, to work less hard, to strive less for perfection, to relax and trust more - in the Shiatsu, the healing power of the universe and my own abilities
What benefits or hindrances, if any, have you encountered as a female practitioner or noticed when teaching women?
There have always been more women than men in Shiatsu classes and I’ve been lucky to be taught by some very special, inspiring and leading women teachers. I think the most striking thing I’ve always noticed about the gender issue is that only a very few women are as confident and sure of themselves as many of the men tend to be…
What advice might you give to student practitioners training now?
Be patient and kind yourself - it’s a lifelong and richly rewarding road you’ve taken. You need not only to work on your personal development but also to take care of yourself if you’re truly to be of service to others in this world
What is the next step or stage for you? What are you working on developing?
Ha – I’m still working on those answers I gave above! (The question - 'What I wish I had known at the beginning of the journey') I’ve also worked a lot with death and dying in the last few years and would at some point like to develop a workshop bringing some of that life and death experience together to share with others
Interested to find out more...?
If you are interested in learning more about Shiatsu Training, please visit www.shiatsucollege.co.uk. You will find more information on the 1 year Holistic Acupressure Certificate, the 3 year Shiatsu Diploma Training and one-off events or workshops within each region. Dinah is the principal of the Norwich Shiatsu College, if you have any questions relating to the course feel free to contact her on 01603 632555 or email Dinah. Dinah John is also a Shiatsu practitioner working at the Shiatsu Centre in Norwich if you are interested in a treatment with her.