'The deepest healing work I've ever done'
When I was 11, I stood face-to-face with a burglar who had broken into our holiday apartment in Tenerife.
Over the years, I've been gripped by flashes of the terror I felt. The incident and the ordeal that followed, has had knock-on effects in my life.
I decided to try this week's therapy -- Shen -- to learn more about these painful emotions and the reliving of them.
That's the role of the Shen practitioner -- to help a client bring painful issues to the surface and, most importantly, to help them through them.
Shen was developed by American scientist, Richard Pavek. Today, my therapy is being done by highly recommended, and certified Shen therapist, Bodhidaka (or Bodhi), a native Dubliner and member of a buddhist order.
Based in Dublin's Harold's Cross, he is warm, open and has a presence which makes him easy to trust.
In explaining the therapy, Bodhi talks of emotions having a life cycle.
"Understanding the dynamics of how an emotion unfolds is key to Shen. Painful emotions are not the enemy -- just something that passes through if we don't resist them.
"If we do resist them, however, the painful emotions get trapped in the middle of their lifecycle and can manifest in the body as an ulcer, a knot in the stomach or chest pains.
"Through Shen, that tension is released. The underlying emotions come to the surface, are felt and leave, along with the accompanying discomfort," he explains.
"The number of sessions needed varies greatly, depending on how deep the pain is buried," he says.
It is recommended that a person with deep issues have six to eight sessions in close succession. Practitioners will only treat a client if they are sure they have a support mechanism -- be it a counsellor, psychologist or confidante -- should old emotions surface days after a treatment.
In the first of six sessions, Bodhi not only goes through my medical history in detail, but also various emotional states one might experience such as grief, insomnia, anxiety attacks, depression or compulsive behaviours.
I then take off my shoes and climb into a Shen cradle -- a type of campbed on a massage table. With my eyes closed, starting at my head, Bodhi holds my body in his hands in precise locations.
I also breathe in a unusual way as guided by Bodhi. Where tension is felt, he says, is where the body has contracted around a painful emotion in the past and trapped it.
To make contact with the emotional root, you breathe into that tension. Once relaxed, the muscle holding the painful emotion is released and the therapist repositions his hands to lift and draw the emotion from the body.
As this work is done people feel a variety of sensations, from tingling to a deep meditative state.
The remaining sessions are pure bodywork. During these, I both fall asleep (a common defense mechanism to avoid dealing with painful emotions) and see and feel emotions as if incidents in my past are happening right now.
I feel real fear, shock and upset, but they pass, and with them so does the tightness that has had residence in my being for years.
Verdict: Very gentle and supportive, Shen is the deepest and most effective healing work I've ever done.
An initial session with Bodhi Daka costs €90. To make an appointment or for information on a Shen workshop on November 5-9, call 086 317 9917.
Shen: How does it work?
Shen is an acronymn for Specific Human Emotional Nexus. It is a scientifically- researched hands-on energy healing system.
Its main focus is on emotional healing. It uses precise patterns of the electromagnetic fields of the body (the biofield) to resolve emotional blockages, psychological distress and many kinds of chronic pain that cannot be traced to a physical cause.
Shen has been thoroughly tested over the past 25 years in clinical settings, such as Dallas Memorial Hospital, St Joseph's Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, Medical College of Wisconsin Mental Health Hospital, Milwaukee and the Shanghai College of Traditional medicine in China.
Studies on Shen, in relation to migraines, depression and pre-menstrual tension, have reported lasting changes in the majority of cases.
For more information, visit www.shentherapy.ie