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Dan Stretton

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Olympic Fever

in Blog
Olympic Fever thumbnail

I didn’t watch the Olympics. With a few exceptions, I’ve never been all that interested in sport. I’m not a big fan of Christmas either. Probably not two things you would have naturally linked together, but for me, this year, one has much reminded me of the other.

When I say things like this, people think I’m antisocial and can’t enjoy a good celebration. Actually, there’s nothing further from the truth. Gathering together in celebration of life, good health, love, endeavour, achievements, it’s all life affirming. It reminds us of why we get up every morning, why we keep going.  It’s good for the heart. Warm red blood flows in these veins too, I understand all this.

What I hate is how commerce seeks to feed on that impulse and what that does to human beings.

Every year, the anxiety of Christmas starts to creep into peoples lives at around this time in October. Expectations start to become artificially inflated as shops bombard us with tinsel, cards, presents, even bloody minced pies when we are still hoping for an Indian Summer. The anticipation, the fear of failure, the worry about where the money’s going to come from, is it going to be perfect etc. wears people out and creates a sense of dread.

…this Summer I was struck by the amount of people that told me how lonely and empty they felt

Switching back to the Jubilee and the Olympics, this Summer I was struck by the amount of people that told me how lonely and empty they felt. This was odd because, normally I hear this coming up to Christmas. Such statements have made me reflect on how this Summer has been like previous Christmas phenomena, but writ large.

In TCM terms:

Firstly, the Jubilee and Olympics on an external social level:

This was characterised by lots of Yang activities over an extended period with much, much commercial “hype”. The time of the year was Summer, hence an excessive extended period of Fire

Now look at Christmas:

Winter, a time of quiet reflection and Yin activity, solid food and much time spent indoors.

Christmas festivities invariably involve the aggressive promotion of excessive consumption on a commercial level, and increasing unrealistic expectations for personal happiness and peace.

(This celebration is a short burst of Fire in the depths of Winter)

Therefore, in my view the external, social aspects of these two situations:-

Yang is generated from Yin
Looking at the Yin of the Jubilee / Olympics
If Yin is the stored energy, where is the Yin?

The country, already experiencing the “Winter” of deep national austerity and has borrowed even more money to pay for the celebrations. This has increased the subconscious sense of emptiness within the population. Add to that, the pervading sense of insecurity over jobs and shortage of financial fluidity, there is a palpable sense of isolation as people suffer constant worry, usually in silence.

At Christmas we experience Winter, the darkest time of year. During the most Yin period of Winter, the “spark” of Winter solstice and Christmas are there to celebrate and mark the Sun’s journey back to the Northern hemisphere. Instead this has become the long drawn out “explosion” of the over hyped, exploitative Yang of Christmas as a commercial entity.

For health, balance has to be maintained. The Yang of the Olympics and the Jubilee was a period of empty heat, fire burning without substance just as the Yang of Christmas commercialism also creates a sense of empty heat.

It follows that excess Yang, based in lack brings about the collapse of the psyche into “emptiness” “loneliness” and “disconnection”.

We can’t stop for breath before retailers are propelling us prematurely into Christmas, but not before they’ve tried to flog us fireworks and halloween candy first!

This year, take a step back and when the pressures of “The Perfect Christmas” start to crowd in on you and the impulse to run amok in John Lewis is proving irresistible, remember that Christmas Day only lasts 24 hours, just like all the others. All that matters is good food, in sensible quantities and the time to relax and enjoy yourself.

If anyone else has different ideas, then to hell with them!



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The Psoas and why it is so important thumbnail

One of my favourite muscles in the body, the Psoas has enormous influence on the bodymind. I’ve taken an extract from my course workbook and worked it into a blog post to give you an sense of how important and tricky this muscle is to work with:-


The Psoas and muscles of the pelvis provide movement and support for the whole of the body on a physical, emotional and psychological level.

What is its function?-

It is the muscle mainly responsible for lifting the femur in order for the leg to make a step forward. Energetically it would not be too bold to say that its movement creates the ability of the organism to progress through its life at all levels. I think of the psoas as the thirteenth organ. Looking at the meridians it follows the pathway on either side of the Chong Mai from Ren Mai/CV1 through to Du Mai /GV4 from where the belt channel originates and joins to CV6.

Where is it?-

The psoas is a large, thick, powerful bilateral muscle situated deep inside and mainly within the abdominal cavity. It runs from T12 diagonally over the pubic arch and inserts into the posteriomedial aspect of the lesser trocanter.

Contained WITHIN and on the muscle itself are the nerves of the lumbar plexus. The Psoas Major attaches to six vertebrae T12 to L5 and passes over two joints. It contracts and relaxes in sections depending on the work required of it. It is basically a hip flexor and encourages the FREE SWING of leg in walking and transfers weight through the trunk into the legs and feet. It is also like a guide-wire, a tensile structure, stabilising the spine.

It provides a shelf to support pelvic organs and viscera and it’s tone determines whether or not the abdomen has room for these organs.

The processes I use do more than strengthen or loosen. They create overall body awareness. This, more than any specific exercise allows the receiver to know whether what they are doing is beneficial for them.

So often we work on muscles that can be SEEN, to strengthen or relax them. For instance, we rarely if ever, exercise or even talk about the coccygeus muscle! Yet the muscles in the pelvis and psoas are “floor” to our bodies, antagonists to the diaphragm and throat.

Many back, knee, foot, shoulder and neck problems can be solved with correct attention to the functioning of this area of the body.

I like giving students tips on getting results fast for their clients but to date I have found no “quick fix” for this area. The simple fact is that years of bad habits are not changed quickly. People continue to do things that are bad for their bodies. It is not until they are compelled to recognise how uncomfortable their existence has become, that they sometimes do something about it. If they are ready to commit, just a little bit, the rewards are deep and lasting.

What I’m talking about is proprioception. Proprioception works not just in a physical, but also a mental, psychological and emotional way. A mind set can be changed but often it is a slow process and the client must be ready,on some level, for this change.

Teaching people to be aware of the psoas and pelvic muscles is like asking someone (who can do it) to describe how you lift your arm by activating different individual muscles. Try it sometime!

See if you can describe lifting a hot drink to your mouth by using individual muscles before the drink goes cold:

1. Tense the frontal fibres of the deltoid;
2. Relax the back deltoid fibres;
3. Tense the serratus anterior muscle; relax latissimus dorsi and teres major,

…and so on…

The interplay of muscles is complex, each muscle will hold movement memories of possibilities and restrictions which are good and bad, ie. its memory of R.O.M. (range of movement) and be limited by its A.M.B (anatomical motion barrier).

Now, translate this process to an area of the body which is just accepted as “being there”and rarely, if ever, specifically worked on.

The difficulties of getting clients and, even ourselves, to be body conscious are plain to see.



Working with Migraine thumbnail

Migraine is one of those conditions that you are bound to come across in your practice. Crippling pain, nausea and the sheer intrusion of this condition into the sufferer’s life means that many will be looking desperately for an answer to their problem. As a shiatsu practitioner you may well be a last ditch attempt. It can be daunting to feel like the last hope so where to start?

Here’s a few thoughts on the subject based on my experience and a short suggested treatment plan to try.

There are no nerves in the brain to register pain. Excess pressure is the reason for all types of headache/migraine. The pressure comes from the fluids which flow into and out of the brain not having “smooth flow”. Those are my favourite words for describing Liver Qi.

Pain in the eyes indicates some blockage to the optic nerve, once again caused by pressure. Releasing this pressure is where you need to start. Look at the 3 TCM causes of disease.

a. Accidents and Parasites

b. The 7 Emotions

c. The 5 Climates

Decide in your clients, what are the combinations of a b and c?

Find out the client’s priorities.  From the 3 Causes of disease,  what is really affecting them negatively?

Start at the feet, holding the big toe and rock the whole body from this joint. CLICK HERE to see how to do this.

Clear the lower legs, this will probably be painful.

Clear the thighs, front and back.

Open the lower burner via the buttocks and perineum.

Now soften the muscles for necks and shoulders (remember they start from the PSIS)

Now focus into creating flexibility on G.V. Move into the neck, start in prone and move to supine.

Reduce sinus pressure via Bladder 10. Work Stomach 6 to reduce tension in the masseter.

In my experience the big problem is going to be the concept of Liver Qi. People are either controlled or controlling, usually both in different measure. In a situation where the Liver drains Kidney Qi, the courage to move into a different space is not available.

Whatever the emotional, psychological causes you may encounter, on a physical level you are looking at incredible tension in lower legs, buttocks, lower burner, backs, shoulders and necks.

So simple really!

This blog post was inspired by a great question from a practitioner. If you’d like to help me write a blog post, please email me info@danstretton.com with a question.

Case Study: “Lucy” thumbnail

I have often been asked how I treat and what form of diagnosis I use. It is simply listening to the client’s presentation of physical symptoms, dealing with these on a physical level and while doing this allowing my palpatory perceptions to get to the real problem.

I’m calling this account a case study but in fact it focusses on the changes and revelations experienced by the client and how a diagnosis reveals itself over a number of sessions. As I am trying to get across my own way of working, you will see that I omit diagnostic models. But,if you want to discuss these below, I’d be happy to hear your opinions. I have called the client Lucy although this is not her real name.  Here’s the story:



A female client presented with the usual low back pain, tight shoulders and neck. She also complained of digestive problems, and the inability to cope with pressure changes in the atmosphere. This latter caused pain in the ears and gave her frontal and side head pain and often brought on the reflux.

She had seen all the relevant western medical specialists for the pressure pain in her head and was told that there was nothing wrong and that possibly the pain would eventually go away. In so many words, ” Clear off, there’s nothing we can do.”

She is in her mid thirties with three children, the first two were born with no problems and naturally, the third by caesarian section. At 7 and a half months into her third pregnancy she developed a large cyst in her right inguinal crease. She thought she would lose the child and that the growth was cancerous. The cyst was surgically removed and she had a c-section to avoid possible further internal damage during a normal childbirth because the surgery had left weaknesses within the gut.

The child was born fit and well 18 months ago.

She works 9-5 in front a of a computer and rarely takes any breaks.

Shortly after this third birth she was travelling on a high speed train which entered a tunnel and the pressure change of this brought on the first incidence of pain. This has since become the norm for her when this happens, e.g. closing the door after getting into the car, riding in the lift and air travel is impossible.

Physical examination revealed the following:-

1. Anterior rotation of the right ilium
2. Rotation to the left of the sacrum in the sagittal plane
3. Extreme tension in both gluteals creating lateral splaying of the feet but worse on the right
4. All the muscles of her back were board hard
5. Pain on palpation of Yu Points at Heart, Liver, Gallbladder, Stomach, Triple Heater, Kidney, Large Intestine
6. Governing Vessel showed blockages at Small Intestine, Kidney and Heart at the level of the Yu Points

Because I felt that this was a “special case” I broke my own rule of NOT doing a Hara diagnosis on a first appointment, did one and found Stomach full and hard and Kidney very active but bottomless and cold.


The First Session:

Concentrated on getting her to feel safe and comfortable with me, (working GV/Ki). I wanted to find out what her body was holding. I also released the gluteals, lower back and re oriented the ilium and sacrum.
She experienced warmth in her back and her headache disappeared. Both of these sensations were a first since the birth of her third (yes, she has had a headache since her third child was born).
I told her that this bodywork process would take several if not many sessions and that within the process she would have to make changes in her life


The Second Session:

On arrival, she reported a lessening of headache frequency and greater general flexibility. Very positive about outcomes and reported that she was now taking a break every 20 minutes when in front of her computer, was eating better and involving her partner in more childcare when they were both at home.
This session continued work via the Kidneys and into Small Intestine along the iliocostalis muscles. This latter was extremely painful even with the light touch of fascial work to assist release.
She became very emotional and burst into uncontrollable floods of tears. I stopped the session and allowed her to recover somewhat and she then told me her emotional story.

In brief:-

Controlled by parents on an emotional level, i.e. not allowed to express her emotions. As a small child she was distressed by continual parental arguments, was afraid of a family breakup but controlled her anger and fear at the restrictions placed upon her.
She moved away from her home area as soon as she could, but found relationships difficult due to her fears around them. She has, however had a stable, if somewhat one-sided relationship with the father of her children. But she is now frightened of further pregnancies since she has been told by her gynaecologist that this would be dangerous, due to the surgery to remove the  cyst and c-section leaving physical weakness in her lower abdomen.

She has a long term hormonal contraceptive device fitted with which she is not at all happy. Her partner is very resistant to having a vasectomy. The train journey which initiated the pressure pain was to see her dying father.


Third session:

She reported fewer incidences of head pain when in pressure change situations. Back pain in shoulders and neck were troublesome intermittently. Overall she is a changed person, smiling, agile and positive that her condition will continue to improve and is also experiencing fewer incidents of reflux.


“So how did the bodywork create the change?

The release of pain in her lower back from readjusting the pelvis and softening quadratus lumborum via deep Kidney work also released some of the fear.
There is a strong correlation between the muscles of the lower burner and the shoulder girdle. Releasing the lower burner including the diaphragm of the perineum assisted the other three diaphragm releases. This allowed her breathing to slow and deepen further supporting kidney function.

Her long held emotional blockages in Small Intestine, when released, allowed the deep pain in her heart to be expressed via the tongue (telling her story) . This allowed a dumping of psychological baggage further freeing her.

The train journey was taking her back into a situation which would not bring resolution to old emotional situations, and there would be no time to talk to her dying father to resolve these. Her apprehension toward the impending but inevitable death created a subconscious terror. This terror was controlled like all her previous emotional experiences.

It was simple deduction, if some might say “cod psychology” to relate the fear (Kidney) to the malfunction of her ears.

The reason I have written this partial and incomplete history is to try to explain my approach to this client.

So many people have a carapace of protection which they have created over long periods of time. This shield is often not against the outside world, although it may be, but mostly about not allowing themselves to experience their painful memories in the here and now and resolving them. It’s what talking therapies are mainly about.

However, as body workers, we know that the body memory is just as powerful as the mental one. This memory has a limit, and when full, dis-ease and its symptoms often manifest physically in areas of the body psychologically connected to the causative factors. If we are to make a difference for our clients we need to find a way through this carapace and find the relevant ongoing support for them.

In this case, I have used extremes of contact. Very light fascial unwinding to allow some muscle softening and deep, often painful work into the gluteals legs and feet.

Clearing the lower burner has been paramount, in conjunction with opening the four transverse diaphragms. To allow a re-integration of the information systems via the deep organ fascia. This will I hope lead to a cleared flow of energies at all levels.

I have no idea whether the pain caused by atmospheric pressure change will resolve, but I am heartened by the fact that during a further session she experienced what she called a “panic attack”. This happened whilst I was holding, very gently the adjacent points of Small Intestine 17 and Triple Heater 18, both of which have effects on the chest and hearing.

Why heartened ? Because, for me, this indicated a connection between her painful hearing experience and the deep fascial work I had been doing earlier in the treatment.

I have not given Zen or TCM diagnoses but feel free to comment on this. I would love to have your observations and any questions you might have.


All permissions for information disclosure have been obtained. 

Photo by Live

Images are used in accordance with the Creative Commons License

Sedation: Guaranteed not to put you to sleep! thumbnail

Verb: To sedate:- administer a sedative to, cause to be calm or quiet.

Latin: Sedere:- to sooth , and from which the English word “sit” is derived.

“Cause to be calm and quiet” has the greater significance for bodywork,when we calm or soothe an area of the body which is hot,painful,stuck,stiff or is in excess and not flowing as it should. This also relates to the emotions and general psychology of the client.

In Oriental Medicine,there are ,of course, two ways of looking at the processes involved under Yin and Yang.

When a client arrives, or becomes, full of tears and grief, is distressed and possibly frightened, sedation and comfort are the order of the day. They may also arrive ,or become,angry and full of rage. Imagine them like a big, red balloon just prior to bursting. We need to find a way to reduce the pressure before they explode.

A recent injury,particularly around a joint, may be swollen with restricted movement. This needs soothing.

The worst situation is where,over time, slights and injustices have been received by the client. They have built up inside them without relief ,causing internal stuckness,frustration and pain,which unless released ,calmed and moved suggests the prospect of major illness in the future. With the exception of the situation involving injury, I find that that a yang approach to the presented problems achieves a relatively swift resolution to these situations. The emotions are rapidly expressed and the balloon of rage, grief and fear become lessened and recognised by the client for what they are. A form of stasis.

Treatments range in their “yangness” but always involve a fair amount of bodily movement ,e.g. rocking,rotations-particularly of the hips and hip joint,twisting and stretching. All ,of course within a safe and non painful context. Discomfort is, in my book acceptable.Creating change is often uncomfortable.

 “Change the boundaries of your client’s awareness to bring them to a new perspective of their lives.”

Sedation of injury, after any medical intervention is finished, requires a knowledge of the anatomy at the site, and that pertaining to it, to restore movement and the reduction of pain and swelling. This is when the use of Moxa, compresses and cupping are useful additional tools to our range of hands on techniques.

Yin concepts around sedation are the psychological holding and reassurance of the client .Allow them to realise that by releasing emotions they will not fall apart,that their lives will continue,and that by putting down the excess baggage they will be able to move more freely through their lives in a calm and quiet way.

Show them how to “sedere”—sit comfortably!!!

Tonification, what is it? thumbnail

The Word “Tonify”

1. (verb):- To impart tone to (the body or part of it)
2. Of acupuncture or herbal medicine – increase the available energy of (an
organ, part, or system of the body)
3. Bodywork/ Shiatsu:- to create a flow of energy and bring life to a body

Zen shiatsu would indicate that this is an area which requires holding in order for the qi to flow into it and restore the flow.

The problem with this concept, in my opinion is that in today’s rush and hurry world the average client requires change at least in one or two sessions, therefore different approaches are a good idea to satisfy your clients.

Look at your diagnosis, take into account the age and general vitality of your client. This will determine what technique would be good for them.
Tonification may not simply refer to emptiness, flaccidity or coldness after all. It can also refer to stasis and protection, so all these conditions need to be factored into any original diagnosis.

Very often the client will be in fairly good overall health, but a part of their life indicates a need (it may be emotional or psychological) which has manifested in the physical as a need for tonification. So, depending on how robust they are physical techniques, other than holding, might be:-

Kenbiki . Tapping . Rubbing to induce heat . Stretching . Pummeling with fingertips or soft fists …

Think of how to induce qi and blood flow, and use it.

Tonification is not just physical. It is emotional and psychological. If you have the right qualifications to help with this, then perhaps this is the right form of treatment. If not, it is a good idea to have a network of contacts to which you can refer clients.

Encourage your client, if they do take up another therapy to continue with bodywork, for I find that a client will progress very quickly if the two therapies continue hand in hand.

Above all when the client visits you, make it a memorable one. YOU may be just the “tonic” they need.

Let me know what you use to tonify clients in the comments box below.

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Avoiding a Client Drought thumbnail

Want to know the key to having a recession-proof practice and avoiding client drought?

I can give you the answer in one word- NEED.

Talking with practitioners around the country bears out my own experiences running a practice in a time of austerity. I’ve found that the clients who come for personal development or for a bit of “me” time are the first to go when belts have to be tightened.

For them, you are a luxury. The practitioners who are doing well at the moment, and I mean thriving not just surviving are the ones who have clients with long term problems and are dedicated to dealing with them.
The backbone of a healthy practice will be the clients who come because they need to see you.`
These are often the “difficult” clients. I don’t mean awkward or overly demanding. I mean people with long term physical or emotional problems (usually both). Many of them have been to a dozen practitioners before you and you are their “last resort”.
To be the therapist everyone comes to, you need the skills to get to the source of long years of physical and emotional pain

Make a Difference thumbnail

WARNING: If you think there’s nothing wrong in the shiatsu world today, if you think that promoting your practice should involve proselytizing about shiatsu as a spiritual practice and you don’t want to be offended PLEASE don’t read this post. 

I’ve been a body worker on a full time professional basis for well over 20 years. I am still fascinated by the body’s reaction to human touch. The training I received was in shiatsu and this still remains the foundation of all my bodywork.

Over the years there have been many attempts to promote the effectiveness of shiatsu. In my opinion they have all failed. I think that what needs to happen in the “shiatsu” world is to come to the realisation that the word shiatsu is far too foreign to be easily and well accepted by the general public.

I want to see the end to the wearing of T-shirts saying “Shiatsu is great” and the giving away of hard earned, expensive training and expertise in cut-price events in village halls and even stalls at car boot sales.

New clients, when they come to me do not ask “what do you do?”. They ask whether or not I think I can Make A Difference (MAD). I would like to see practitioners communicating the benefits and results they have achieved in their work rather than hiding behind their therapy. By this I mean, feeling the need to explain what shiatsu is. In my experience this is almost impossible.

How many times have you had the question “Is shiatsu a dog or a bowel condition?”

This ability to degrade something you’ve spent time and money studying needs to be stopped. I’m not advocating changing the name of the therapy, nor am I ashamed of it, as some have claimed. What I do say is that when you are qualified call yourself a specialist in your field of greatest interest. This could be pregnancy, trauma, sports injuries etc. If questioned, say that the basis of your treatment is in shiatsu Chinese/Japanese concepts of energy work.

When you are trying to convey the benefits of shiatsu, do you feel “hog tied” by what you can and can’t say about it? By talking about their condition and the results you have achieved for past clients, in relation to their condition, you will hold their attention and demonstrate your expertise better than any “what is shiatsu” script could.

When it comes to your practice make sure you can USE the processes and theories of shiatsu rather than just giving shiatsu…

..and Make A Difference(MAD)!




in Blog
Creativity thumbnail

I think that the period after qualifying is very often the make or break time for graduates who want to become full time professionals. Post training support is essential, finding an experienced mentor who has or has had a busy practice of their own is a good investment.

Coming up to the time of your final exams is probably the one time in your career that you have the most information at your fingertips. Your treatments will be “textbook”. They need to be after all, you are focused entirely on meeting the requirements of your examining body.

It can be frustrating, you have learned a huge amount during your studies, you’ve come a long way but you still feel that there’s so much more to learn.

But, actually you have much experience under your belt already. Don’t fall into the trap of just doing your “textbook” treatments. There are three reasons why:

1. You’re going to get bored. Often you will experience a raft of clients all with the same problems, all coming at once. Doing the same style of treatment based on the same diagnosis will be uninspiring and disheartening.

2. You’ve got the freedom to try various techniques and approaches to similar problems. You’ve got the freedom to experiment and learn from your successes and failures

3. You are starting to build on your greatest asset…YOU. To stand out from the crowd you must develop your own style. Experimentation and the courage to make mistakes is THE fastest way to stand apart and attract new business.

So, get creative, no ones testing you on your technique.

What’s important to your client is the question “Will this work?”

Don’t be afraid to experiment, but don’t spend an hour on the right foot, when it’s the left shoulder that’s the problem!
Your client wants to feel heard, make sure they do.

Attachment vs. Commitment thumbnail

I was a full time bodyworker for around twenty years. I have run practices in various locations throughout Great Britain and Europe. I have also taught probably hundreds of students over the years, people who I felt were proficient, sensitive and professional bodyworkers. So why do so few make it as full time therapists?….

Many associations and societies exist to help and support practitioners throughout their career, but how many of them really know what is needed to make it as a full-time bodyworker? I mean full time here, not for pocket money. You didn’t spend thousands of pounds/dollars/hours to just play at the fringes. We all need to be able to earn a respectable wage doing something that is hard, often exhausting but ultimately one of the most rewarding things someone can do.

As they say in the L’Oreal ads, “Because you’re worth it”!!

“So why attachment vs. commitment?” Well, here are my definitions of the two.

Attachment: A dangerous thing. When we become attached, we invest everything we’ve got in outcomes. Every single conversation or transaction between potential and actual clients holds us in it’s grip. We lose sense of our worth and the quality of what we offer. This will show as a quite desparation, envy, competitiveness and a deep sense of insecurity. Some people may sense this and walk away, others may be drawn to you for that reason. These are not good therapeutic or professional relationships. Either way, attachment will drain you, it will tire you and eventually it will erode your sense of worth and commitment to your life path.

Commitment: You need this; it’s what got you through the most difficult times when you were training. The dead ends, the late nights, the irritated spouses and fed up kids etc. You’ve shown that you have it. So now you’ve got the piece of paper, don’t lose it (not the paper, the commitment!). What drove you through the difficult times? Your belief in the power you had discovered in your chosen therapy. But there is good news.

Commitment is a renewable resource. Your commitment to yourself and the quality of what you offer to the world and what you are capable of is the fuel for growing your practice.

One word of warning though, don’t hide in the “Isn’t this stuff wonderful!” crowd. Get your support networks going, rejuvenate your commitment in whatever way you can. But be prepared to take yourself out into the world with it. You will be ignored and criticised, but countless people will have many reasons to be glad that youwere there to help them and that is the greatest reward of all.