Seymour Koblin brings Eastern arts to Central Europe
Posted: February 5, 2009
Koblin doing his daily tai chi exercises.
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Life was all about rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm ‘n’ blues, jazz and wild nights with jamming crowds. But the Bohemian lifestyle took an unexpected turn for the musician Seymour Koblin when, one night after a performance, he felt major pain in his abdomen. A stomach flu was raging in town; the hospital was crowded; they did not give him a blood test – they just told him to go home, watch his diet and rest.
A few hours later, Seymour was crawling on the ground to pick up the ringing phone. He answered, hardly able to speak. “They told me nothing is wrong with me.” His band manager took him to hospital immediately. At the hospital, Koblin underwent an emergency appendectomy. Everything seemed fine at first, but halfway through the night, the hospital called his mother to say the musician’s life was threatened and he might die by the morning.
“The doctors didn’t understand why my state worsened. All I remember is that I was leaving my body, and I very clearly saw my body on the bed. It was the most beautiful feeling I had in my whole life. It was warm and light. I was going higher and higher, but it was darkness I was going into. I did not see any light,” Koblin says.
Seymour returned after hearing a voice telling him to get back in his body because he had work to do. “After this experience, I knew I cannot put my health into other people’s hands. I was 24 years old when that happened. My age, I think, is mostly what helped me make it,” he says.
The Koblin File
Children: One son
Marital status: Single, living with a partner
Interests: Composing music, writing books, has exercised tai chi every day for the past 30 years. Koblin started studying tai chi, chi energy, shiatsu and macrobiotics.
Learning the trade
As Koblin began his studies, he looked for teachers in New York City, where he lived, eventually studying under Wataru Ohashi, Michio Kushi and Shizuko Yamamoto. “I discovered a lot of health tendencies that I need to take care of as we studied future problems one can have, discovering them by reading the body. Between chi exercises, shiatsu treatment and nutrition, I found the basis for my holistic practice.”
Koblin created his own healing technique called Zen-Touch shiatsu. “This technique is very different from traditional shiatsu, which is somewhat painful. Zen-Touch should never really hurt, and if there is any pain then it is comforting, releasing pain. It is a nurturing form of shiatsu with loads of stretching and body contact,” he says.
Koblin moved to San Diego and opened up the School of Healing Arts. The school later added “International” to its moniker, as Koblin is now based in Prague and teaches and heals at schools and health centers all over the United States, Canada and Europe.
Koblin says his goal is to balance the natural healing powers that people have within themselves. The point is not to treat symptoms, as it is in traditional shiatsu, which uses pressure points on the body to treat a specific malady. With Zen-Touch, Koblin aims to find ways to activate bodily energies so the body actually treats itself.
“Every case has to be assessed individually. Every person has their own unique story, a reason why they are ill and a unique way of changing it. Everybody is healthy, just the blood and the energy that flows with it needs improvement, needs balancing,” he says.
In Koblin’s almost 20 years of holistic healing experience, the most difficult illnesses to cure, he says, are the ones we are attached to. He finds this common in his practice and says all people do it to a certain degree. “We identify our symptoms with ourselves. We say, ‘Oh it’s just me, and that me has survived; it got me to this point after so many years and was not so bad.’ So what if that me would change? Then my life will look very different. And one of our greatest fears is that of the unknown. We fear we will lose everything if we change; we feel we will lose ourselves.” Koblin’s answer is to take little steps: first exercising two minutes a day, focusing on breathing, and the rest will follow.
Koblin, who practices tai chi every day in his Žižkov flat, remembers when he first started studying holistic arts 30 years ago in the United States. At that time, people were more serious and more committed to learning, he says. He gets the same feeling in Europe these days. “I am enjoying the Czech Republic, because people here are generally a lot more dedicated to learning. I see Prague getting faster, becoming Westernized, but there is still this essence, the connection to commitment to dedication,” he says.
Koblin perceives that studying holistic arts, alternative medicine and eastern philosophy in general is too fast in the United States and that it lacks continuation and depth. The United States was opened to alternative medicine and eastern studies in the 1950s, one of the first in the alternative health movement in the Western world. “It started there, but now, I and other teachers are going elsewhere to teach, because we all came to realize that people in the U.S. are moving way too fast, and they don’t have the commitment to study the real tradition. … When you have so many different ways to go, it is very tempting. It’s like a buffet; you want to try everything, so why would you want to stay with just one dish? It is attractive to try something new, but it is also a way to stay in the past. I can try many things and still come back to have my old problem.”
He contrasts this with the atmosphere here: “Czechs are receptive; they are slower. They can slow down easier, it seems. I generally sense both here and in lots of traditional Slavic countries that people still somehow remember these traditional roots more, the traditional way of healing, as when you have a good remedy for a cough from your grandmother. This has been removed from a lot of other places like the U.S., where people tend to have lost their traditional memory.”
When speaking of tradition, Koblin also notes that classical Western medicine and the alternative health movement are slowly integrating. Some people do not have one but two doctors, including one from the alternative medicine field.
“I wish we could more integrate these two approaches [alternative and Western] in curing diseases and meet somewhere in the middle. Both have much to give,” says Kateřina Bittmanová, a physician. “I have been practicing medicine since 1981, and so much has changed only since then, and who knows how much more will still change? These two directions should help one another.”
According to Koblin, Western medicine trains doctors for emergency, more urgent situations curing acute syndromes. Eastern medicines – Vedic Hindu and traditional Chinese medicines – are better at looking at the overall picture and work as preventive or long-term treatments. “Western medicine can help in life-threatening illnesses and can bring you back to life. The matter is to integrate the two, to know what is going on before a problem gets really bad. Integration of alternative and Western medicine is just a question of time.”
Such integration is already a common practice in China, where people have two types of doctors. “What happened in the U.S., and, I think, will also happen here, is that over 25 percent of the country were spending so much more money from their own pockets on alternative medicine that is that hospitals started opening alternative medicine centers right in the same building.”