An Eastern Way of Management: A Deep Dive into “In-Between” Management and Visceral Senses (Part II)

This is the Part II of our report on Session I, “In-Between Management and Bodywork”, from Ecological Memes Forum held in December 2019.

We had the privilege to welcome as navigator of the session Yasushi Fujimoto, CEO of Neural Intelligence Company and professor of neurophysiology at Sophia University and the University of Tsukuba. He is well known for his bestseller book on his unique theories on the body.

In the session, we explored the connection between contemporary management and visceral senses, with a focus on awai, a Japanese concept of a space in between.

Yasushi Fujimoto

Visceral senses and the consciousness of awai

Mr. Fujimoto’s expertise used to be development studies. Upon graduating university, he set off to a set of travels across Asia and Africa as part of a governmental foreign aid program, which eventually took him to the Philippines.

What caught his attention in the Asian island country was in fact the vitality of the Filipino people. It seemed to stem from their physical strength, which the majority of Japanese people lacked, says Mr. Fujimoto.

His return to academia signified his new study on the autonomous nervous system. The research eventually made him a bodywork expert with a mission of restoring vitality in the bodies of Japanese people. Now, he is well known for facilitating various bodywork workshops for universities and organizations.

Let us dive into the concept he introduced during the Forum Session – awai of the body.

Here in Japan, one often hears the phrase, “Focus on your tanden” (tanden is a Japanese concept of the “center of the body” or the seat of one’s internal energy). People tend to concentrate on the point below the navel and in so doing incline forward into a stiff position. This, says Mr. Fujimoto, does not work.

Instead, we may see our tanden as the space between stomach and back, a physical center of the gravity of our body.

As participants split into pairs, one was instructed to touch gently on their partner’s lower belly with one hand and their lower back with the other hand. In this moment, the seated partner was told to close their eyes and simply “feel” the gravitational center somewhere between the hands laid. Gradually, this was to give rise to a visceral sensation, or a consciousness of the internal body. Breath slowed down, and the body straightened up.

This is what Mr. Fujimoto calls the “awai approach”. It avoids fixing a point of focus and rather allows for a whole “space” for the practitioner to bring about their natural internal fluidity.

If you want to try it by yourself, you can simply touch your lower back with the back of your hand.

The secret of the “God Hand” lies in the non-interventional balance method

Further, our navigator introduced three methodologies of manual therapy.

The first is called the direct method. As the name suggests, it refers to a therapy in which the patient’s body part is directly treated. It may provide a feeling of instantaneous healing, but the unhealed origin means it goes back to the state of pain or discomfort. A good example of this is massaging.

In contrast, the indirect method counts on the body’s reflexivity by applying pressure in the same direction as causes the pain. This brings about the body’s natural reaction to “snap back” and fix itself.

The second bodywork was simply a touch on the partner’s shoulder

The third is called the balance method. It involves a highly gentle “touch” that induces in the patient a sensation, a realization of the state of the muscle. Once you realize this, you can, says the navigator, let the self-regulation (self-balancing) of your muscle work its way through recovery. This manual therapy is what some people refer to as the “God Hand” or hands of miraculous treatment.

In order to give a good gentle touch in this balance method, the practitioner must have a sense of presence. This stems from sensing deeply into what is happening to the body of both, and tapping into the space between them (awai). A consciousness of awai then can induce what Mr. Fujimoto referred to as the “reversal of perception”, an alternative way of accessing the connectedness between ourselves and the outside world.

Reversal of perception (taken from slides)

Next-stage management: a much-needed synthesis of internal senses and the “in-between” consciousness

At the end of the session was a panel dialogue with both of the speakers moderated by Yasuhiro Kobayashi, founder of Ecological Memes.

In this dialogue, Mr. Fujimoto took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of establishing a solid self-consciousness based on subjective sensory experiences. This, he explained, emerges from a healthy balance between “exteroception” – the reception of external stimuli – and “interoception” – that of the internal state of the body.

What then connects non-interventional somatotherapy and self-consciousness to next-stage management? Yasuhiro asks Professor Ohmuro.

“You mustn’t make it clear”, says the professor. As a manager, evidently you are expected to share the vision and mission of the organization. Yet, it is important to not clarify how one might get there. It is an managerial approach that requires courage, but without a clear guideline, each member will need to tap into their own paths by delving deep into the self. This, says Prof. Ohmuro, is where Mr. Fujimoto’s self-consciousness comes into play.

Yasuhiro Kobayashi

Management and visceral senses.

In-between management is one in which the manager him- or herself will seek to diversify their own perspectives. It is a highly “internal” approach necessitated by the rapidly changing external environment.

Surely, such deep dives into the internal world are becoming a new norm in management and leadership across the globe. From reflection camps and self-discovery workshops to meditation and mindfulness, leaders are recognizing the real importance of digging into, questioning, and sophisticating the deep layers of self-awareness.

Amidst this movement emerges a novel yet much-needed union of management and visceral senses.

To all the leaders and leaders-to-be out there, why don’t you take some time to get in a bodywork pair with a friend or loved one and let yourself be immersed into the sense of awai?




Shuhei Tashiro

Shuhei Tashiro is a social entrepreneur and aspiring anthropologist. His current graduate research at Heidelberg University draws on anthropology and transcultural perspective to better understand the different ways people dwell in the Anthropocene. He also co-directs Ecological Memes, a Japan-based community of regenerators. Further, as co-founder of Sustainable Ocean Alliance Japan, he has coordinated various projects and campaigns to advance the agenda of ocean sustainability. His passions include diving, DIY, and writing on topics such as activism, culture, and philosophy.