Eight Days . . . That Changed Twelve Lives
The SHEN Personal Empowerment Workshop (Part I)
By Robert Ross
“After fifty-six years, I finally came out of
the bunker! I was seven years old, the war was raging, but now . . . now . . .
after this workshop, I’m finally free”
— SHEN eight-day workshop participant
In May of this year, thirteen people gathered together for an eight-day SHEN Personal Empowerment and Training Workshop in San Diego, California. We were from all walks of life and all professions — a writer, veterinarian, dental hygienist, mental health worker, acupuncturist, world traveler. Some were from the San Francisco area, and many from southern California. One participant resided in London. Some of the participants were returning for a second time, but for most, this was their first eight-day workshop experience.
Our purpose in taking the workshop was to learn SHEN healing techniques, and to be recipients of these healing techniques ourselves. All the participants were aware that very shortly they would be on the special SHEN “cradle.” A cradle is an apt term, used by SHEN practitioners to describe a cot that is strapped to a massage table. Climbing on the cradle and having a practitioner or a workshop participant place their hands on you in a specific manner, can start the process of releasing deep-seated and hidden emotions. We were there to learn that “particular manner” of hand placement. The new participants in the workshop would soon learn that some of these emotions would rise with a vengeance. Over the next eight days, the sounds of anguish and pain would be as common in our training room, as the sound of laughter in a school playground.
MY EIGHT-DAY EXPERIENCE
I took my seat in a half-circle around Jan Dederick, who was to be our guide and instructor for the next four days. Dederick was assisted by Ayleylaell Kinder, a San Diego SHEN practitioner.
SHEN therapy (also referred to as Physio-Emotional Release Therapy) was created by Richard Pavek more than twenty years ago. He was performing a hands-on healing with a woman when she began to experience a powerful emotional reaction which she described as “giving birth to herself.” At the time, Pavek felt a tremendous energy in his hands. A scientist by nature (with a background in aeronautics, electronics and chemistry), he wanted to know what was going on, and began studying the mechanics of energy and healing, which eventually developed into a system he called SHEN (specific human emotional nexus).
After setting up six massage tables and strapping six SHEN “cradles” to the tables, we gathered together around Dederick.
We introduced ourselves. I was apprehensive, excited and prepared for my own unfolding. All of the participants were there to learn SHEN healing techniques, and to practice these methods on each other. Everyone knew these were powerful techniques, and that as a part of the learning process, they were going to be experiencing their own emotional releases — their own unfolding.
The SHEN binders were passed out. The binders had the eight days broken down into morning and afternoon sessions. For example, on day one in the afternoon session, we would be doing a hands-on technique that might involve the “heart emotion center.” On day two, in the morning, we might be focusing on the solar plexus area. The pattern we followed was to gather in the morning, share our thoughts, feelings, dreams (from the previous night) and experiences of the previous day and evening. We then turned to a page in our binders that had the instructions for that morning’s session. We would pair up, work on our partner for about an hour, then be worked on for an hour ourselves. We would meet as a group, share our experiences, break for lunch and repeat the process in the afternoon session. Days would begin at 9:30 or 10:00 and conclude at about 6:30 p.m.
For our first exercise Dederick had us bring our hands together slowly, palms facing together, and stop at the point where we felt a certain energy between them. I brought my hands together slowly, not noticing any “energy” between them. I brought them together a number of times, until they touched. Still, I had no feeling of energy. I was determined to fully participate during these eight days, but I was not going to dream up any experience. I’m a skeptic by nature, if I felt it, I felt it. If I didn’t, I didn’t. For this particular exercise, I was the only one in the group who didn’t feel the energy.
Dederick then asked us to hold up our hands — palms facing outward. She went around the room holding up her hand to ours in an attempt to feel if there was energy coming from our left hand or our right hand. She wanted to see if we were right-handed or left-handed senders (of energy). In SHEN theory, one hand sends the energy (usually the right hand), and one hand receives the energy. We were all right-handed senders.
After pairing up, we hit the cradles. My first experience on the cradle was quite relaxing. As a group, we were not only becoming familiar with working on each other, but with following the instructions that were laid out on diagrams for each session. The student trainee would place one hand on the area we were working on, and one hand on the opposite side of the body. For example, if we were working on the heart area, the sending hand might be placed underneath the cradle, directly opposite the heart. The receiving hand would be placed gently on the person’s heart area. One hand was sending energy and one hand was receiving it. The hands would be held in these paired positions for two to three minutes.
After our session, we met as a group and shared our experiences. I shared that while I was on the cradle I was in a very relaxed state. Others seemed to be having more dramatic experiences, vivid images, memories, tears, or jerks and muscular responses from various parts of their bodies. That was O.K. I thought, if relaxation is all that I felt, I was going be honest with myself and honest with others. I felt nothing special — just relaxed.
We gathered in the morning, I felt a little different since day one, but couldn’t really define what that meant. We shared our thoughts about the previous evening’s experiences and our emotional states in general. As we went around the room sharing, I noticed that tears were beginning to flow from various participants more readily. I would soon see those tears were like trickles of water through dams poised to burst. I shared that I had slept well and felt very relaxed the previous evening. For some reason though, during day two, I started feeling uncertain about being in the workshop and found myself thinking “what am I doing here?” We were in day two, participants around me were beginning to have some major emotions surface, and the best I could do was feel relaxed? Was I resisting something? Little did I know what was in store for me. Our assignment in the morning session of day two was to work on the throat center and flow of energy through the arms. In SHEN theory, there are four emotion centers in the body. Each center has certain emotions associated with it. For example, the heart area has the emotions of love, sadness, hatred, grief, reverence and remorse. The throat center, although a major center, doesn’t have any particular emotions attached to it, but is a link to the other four emotion centers. The afternoon session focused on what is referred to as the Root center. This center holds and focuses on the emotions of terror, horror, and massive grief. Again, I noticed that others in the group seem to be having major emotions surface during the session. My experience was one of deep relaxation. At home that evening I reflected on the day’s events. I felt different, kind of in an altered state. Up to that point, I enjoyed the group, and enjoyed participating in the exercises, but doubt still lingered in my thoughts. What am I doing? Is this workshop for me?
Day three, my emotional dam began to show cracks. I shared in the morning group session that it felt like my heart was opening. I couldn’t describe the feeling more accurately, other than to say that it felt like my chest area was more relaxed, more receptive.
In the morning session we worked on the Solar Plexus emotion center. The Solar Plexus area (according to SHEN theory) holds the emotions of anger, fear, anxiety and excitement. While working on my partner, someone in the room had a major release of emotions. Words, tears and anguish gushed out.
The anguish from the other table affected me. The words “love, fear, not feeling safe, not feeling loved” shot across the room, as though they were meant for my ears only. The words entered into my thoughts. Finishing with my partner, it was my turn to lie on the cradle. Soon, I found myself in a very deep state, my body felt asleep, yet I was conscious. Near the end of the session tears were streaming from my eyes.
We met after the session and it was my turn to share. Before I could finish a sentence, I began weeping. I shared that in my relationship with my wife, I had always felt loved and had always felt safe in our relationship and in my home. But now, for some reason I needed to know if my wife felt loved, felt it, in her heart, and felt safe. This became the most important thing in the world for me. Does my wife, the most significant person in my life, feel loved, by me? And does she feel safe? I had to ask her — that evening. I had to know.
The afternoon session focused on the Kath emotion center. Kath is a term that describes the area below the solar plexus emotion center — between the pubic bone and the navel. The Kath center holds the emotions of shame, embarrassment, powerlessness, centeredness and empowered confidence. One change I did notice was that while on the cradle, my states of relaxation were getting deeper and deeper. More often than not, I was hovering between a sleep state and a wakeful state. At times I would hear myself snore, yet I was awake. And while working on my partner, I was also aware of the “energy flows,” as they are described by SHEN theory. I could distinctly feel in my receiving palm, a warm, almost tingly feeling, as the energy went from my sending hand, passing through the recipient’s body, to my receiving hand.
The afternoon session went well. We shared and called it a day. Tomorrow, day four, Richard Pavek, the founder of SHEN therapy, would be joining the group. I’m apprehensive about meeting him.
We gathered for our morning ritual. Richard Pavek is there. He is by nature unassuming and quiet. He briefly introduces himself to the group. He has the look of someone who has seen a lot. By the end of the day, I will understand that look a little more. The dam was poised to burst.
The previous evening I had asked my wife if she “felt safe” in general, in her life and in our relationship. By bedtime I asked her again, “well, do you feel safe in your life?” She paused for a moment and said “yes.” The question on feeling loved would have to wait until the morning. Before she headed out the door in the morning, I asked her, do you feel loved? I explained that I felt loved by her, but it was important for me to know if she felt loved, by me. We hugged. She left without answering. The answer would have to wait until the evening.
We paired off for the first session of the day. This morning we would be working on the Heart emotional center. An appropriate area, given my state of mind.
I was first on the cradle. My partner checked me for comfort; head on a pillow, knees slightly raised with a pillow underneath.
SHEN theory embraces Fritz Perl’s thoughts on emotions. To quote Perl: “Emotions have a life with a beginning and a natural ending and when not completed, remain inside us affecting everything we do.”
As I laid on the cradle, my thoughts drifted to the people I know. In my life, I have special people. Sometimes I don’t know how special they are. Last year a person I know developed a deadly disease. When I visited the hospital, I felt a certain amount of anguish, sadness, and frustration over his predicament. And once, while leaving the hospital, I had to stop. I couldn’t walk, and could barely breathe. The sadness was overwhelming.
I don’t know when or how I felt it, but at some point while lying on the cradle, and having hands laid on me, I thought of this special person. Something welled up in me — at first it was sadness and tears, then an emotion gushed forward — so powerful my chest began heaving up and down. I was crying out, weeping uncontrollably, and my breathing became rapid and shallow as I gasped for air. This episode lasted for probably ten minutes or so. All the while, I thought of this person, and the words “you’ve broken my heart, you’ve broken my heart” kept repeating themselves. I knew, without a doubt, that the person I was thinking of had broken my heart. After reflecting a bit, I knew where that phrase came from, “broken heart.” The heart was more than a muscle. That area of the body did hold emotions. And I knew that area of my body had been hurt, had been constricted — for lack of any better word . . . my heart had been broken by this person’s unfortunate condition. I had felt some of these emotions at the hospital — but they were stuck, lingering or buried deep within. SHEN theory talks of stored emotions being released. I had held this grief in my body for over a year. Day four, this grief had been released. Perhaps now, my heart could mend.
We were at day four of an eight-day workshop. But for me, in many ways, the workshop had just begun. The theory, the thoughts, the words, the hands-on techniques had taken on new meaning. Any doubts that I had had about SHEN had been dispelled. It was no longer in the realm of new-age metaphysics or wishful thinking. SHEN was an efficient, practical tool that worked.
The afternoon session was productive for many in the group. I don’t know if it was Pavek’s presence, or the fact that the group was primed and ready, but the sounds of emotional release were being heard throughout the room. Things were happening that defied rational medical explanations.
The day ended at about 6:30. I was tired. I headed home to my wife and to hear the response from my question “do you feel loved?”
(To be continued in the next issue)
For local information about SHEN, please see ad on page 21 or contact the SHEN
Therapy Institute at (415) 332-2593 or e-mail SHEN_ISTA@hotmail.com
Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
Copyright 2001 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved
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