In the aftermath of a serious natural disaster such as an earthquake, the immediate response is to save lives in imminent danger and minimize material destruction. This story highlights the key lessons learned by an experienced Shiatsu practitioner, Nilsa Eberhart. Nilsa joined a spontaneous group effort to provide treatments to those impacted by the earthquakes that struck Puerto Rico in January, 2020.Under high levels of stress and danger, the sympathetic nervous system is activated. The upside of this is that we are now prepared for fight or flight – we are prepared to face the danger and the external threat. In survival mode, adrenaline will keep us going for as long as it takes.
The downside is that all the energy spent on overcoming external threat is borrowed from our internal organs. Who cares about sound sleep or good digestion in the aftermath of an earthquake? Who has the time to rest or to deal with emotional trauma? Nonetheless, our bodies still need sleep and digestion. We still need to process emotional trauma but these needs cannot compete with the post-disaster emergency. Our physiology is hard-wired to survive under any circumstances, so we will continue to exist in survival mode. At some point, however, the body will demand that attention is paid to rebuilding the internal environment and to emotional rebalancing. Today, we tell the story of those who reached out to help people who didn’t even know that they needed to take care of themselves before continuing to help others.
In the Spotlight
Nilsa Eberhart Diaz
Nilsa’s life underwent a radical change when she left her 30-year career as a graphic designer and art director in advertising and embarked on a learning quest in the field of pure energy bodywork. Living in Switzerland since 1983, Nilsa had no knowledge of energy work until her mother’s heart surgery. In the search for information on how emotions affect bodily structures, she came across the Shiatsu Program at the European Shiatsu Institute in Switzerland in 2000. After 4 years of study, she received her diploma in Florence, Italy from Patrizia Stefanini. In 2010, Nilsa returned to her native Puerto Rico with a bag of Shiatsu books and notes. Since then, she has continued on this path, studying Shiatsu and other Oriental therapies with teachers from Europe and the USA. In 2014, she founded the Zen Shiatsu Caribbean Institute LLC in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since 2007, Nilsa has dedicated herself to cultivating and teaching the inner alchemy practices and meditations of the ancient Taoist Kunlun System. In 2018, Nilsa published her first book, Rising Celestial Dragon and the Invisible Masters. Book 2: Rising Celestial Dragon and the Wisdom of the Stars will be published in December 2021. Giving Shiatsu sessions and teaching Shiatsu is her dearest mission.
During December 2019 and January 2020 the southwestern part of the island of Puerto Rico was struck by an earthquake swarm, including 11 that were of magnitude 5 or greater. The damage was extensive and, by 14 January, more than 8,000 people were homeless and camping outdoors in various types of shelters. There were refugees in 28 government-sponsored refugee centres spread over 14 municipalities of southern and central Puerto Rico. Tent cities were set up in five of the hardest-hit towns with room for some 3,200 refugees. A group of holistic therapists offered support to the evacuees, the volunteers, the soldiers and federal police officers. Only a few of them were qualified Shiatsu therapists. The groups travelled during the weekends to Peñuelas, with more than 300 evacuees and to a refugee camp in Yauco. The most common conditions were post-traumatic stress. Some had lost everything. Still others had had to evacuate their homes due to severe structural danger or because they lived very close to the water. Others were there to spend the night. The evacuees and the volunteers were exhausted, drained and suffering from insomnia, anxiety, fear and grief at levels they could barely handle. One of the volunteers was not able to sleep at all due to a combination of anxiety and depression.
For three weekends, groups of therapists supported hundreds of people in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual need. Many of the receivers experienced emotional and post-traumatic release. Most of them were able to relax and feel safe for the first time after weeks of fear and anxiety. We believe that this story can inspire our readers in different ways, since there are many valuable lessons to be learned. The first thing that comes to mind is not to let yourself be intimidated by the circumstances or the enormity of the task. If these wonderful people managed to bring rays of hope, relaxation and humanity to people going through maybe the worst days of their lives, then probably you can too. Secondly, this effort wouldn’t have been possible without the joint collaboration of many different therapists practicing different modalities. The power of the group is well illustrated by this campaign, as we see therapists from different approaches working together for the same goals: to bring relief to those in need.