TRIBUTE TO PAULINE SASAKI

Pauline’s first seminar in the UK caused a huge buzz in the Shiatsu community, one that reached as far as the mountains of Nepal, where I received a letter all about this woman and her wonderful teaching, from my friend Claire Sharkey.

This was in 1984. The Shiatsu Society was only 4 years old and numbered very few members. Most of us had done only a few weekends with various teachers – mainly learning new techniques or consolidating our 5-Element theory or our macrobiotic theory, whichever we had learned. A few of us had been able to study Zen Shiatsu with Michael Rose, who had recently returned from studying with Masunaga for a year in Tokyo – but the Zen Shiatsu theory was still a mysterious tale of the amoeba. I, for one, didn’t understand its significance.

We were struggling in the dark with our shiatsu, really, when Pauline arrived. I attended her second seminar and instantly realised that Ki was not just a word for Pauline. She knew Ki. She saw it, she felt it, she worked with it, she showed it to us. All the theories became fleshed out with the reality of Ki, and we began to understand what we were doing.

Pauline offered us her wisdom and clarity generously and without a thought of herself or her own importance. She just wanted us to know what she knew, see what she saw. Her teaching had a kindness and warmth that sprang from this, and so was utterly authentic, devoid of sentimentality. If she could see that we did not feel or understand what we were working with, she would support us, help us, literally hold our hands, until we did.

Some of my cherished memories are of Pauline curled up like a little dormouse in a corner of the teaching room, sleeping off her jetlag. Others include her memorable stillness and focus as she observed the Ki of our interactions, hands loose at her sides but full of awareness, like sheathed swords I always thought, for her touch was formidable. Sometimes I remember her smile, wide and sparkly, with something of the chipmunk about it!

Reflecting on Pauline’s importance in the history of Shiatsu, in which the lineage-holders have been male until very recently, I recognize her as a great woman Master, one who lived what she taught and who taught what she lived, who continued exploring and learning to the end, and whose influence will remain present for those of us who learned from her and in the students who learn from us what we learned. To have studied with her is a great gift.