Saturday, February 2, 2019

The effect of needling Large Intestine 7 Warm Current on two Metal patients

I like to share interesting feedback from the practice of other five element practitioners, so below I pass on what I have just received in an email from Pierre Bulteau, who lives in Rennes in Brittany.  It is with his permission that I include this in a blog. 

Pierre is one of those brave people who have dared to take the courageous step to engage wholeheartedly in treating his patients using five element acupuncture, although trained in a different discipline.  He has had to do all his learning quite on his own, except for coming regularly to SOFEA’s seminars, because there are no other five element acupuncturists in his area.  I very much admire his tenacity and dedication in making this decision.  It’s never easy changing your approach to practice, particularly when there is nobody around to help you when you start doubting what you are doing.

I say that it requires courage to be a five element practitioner because we have no textbook to refer to and no fixed criteria we can call upon to define an element.  Who can describe, in words, the green colour on a person’s face or the sound of laughter which distinguishes Fire’s outburst of joy from the nervous expression of Water? Because we have to rely on our purely subjective skills, we have to learn to cope very much on our own with the inevitable highs and lows our practice demands of us.

So here is what Pierre emailed me in his own words:

“Today I would like to give you a feedback about the use of a point.  I had read in your handbook that you like using the point X7 to bring some heat to a Metal patient. In the last month I had the occasion to use it on two Metal patients.

The first one, despite the good treatment I give him since 4 months, still had cold feet all the time. After using Warm Current X7, his feet are normally hot now without collapse.

The second one is a Metal patient I have treated during 2 years. Until now, his health was good and the last year I just saw him at the season change. But on Monday when he visit me for the preparation of the spring he explained me a constant feeling of cold in the lumbar with chills since Christmas. I used again X7 with success because today he sent me a SMS to say that the symptom has disappeared.

It's wonderful to discover another way to use the points through an element and his channels.

Before, because of their weak kidney pulse I would have reinforced the kidney Yang. Now with five element acupuncture I stay on an element and I look for a point which can help this person belonging to a specific element.

What a wonderful system of healing!”

Aware that other branches of acupuncture locate X 7 at 5 ACI (cun) rather than the 7 ACI that we do, I asked him where he had needled the point.  This turned out to be at 5 ACI, which again raised the question in his mind, and in mine, about a practitioner’s intention when needling.  He then sent me a very interesting reply with his thoughts on this, which concludes with the following beautiful thought:

“So, as a quantum physicist that I am before being an acupuncturist, I really think that our faith coming from our heart is the key to allow a treatment to succeed. Indeed, consciousness has a direct action on the Qi.
No matter where you choose to locate a point, what really matters is to believe it with all your heart."

This has set me thinking again about what I always describe as the tricky topic of a practitioner’s intention, to be discussed further in another blog when I have thought this through in more detail.

I would like to thank Pierre for constantly stimulating my ideas with his often challenging questions in the many emails he sends me asking for help with his five element practice.  You certainly keep me on my toes, Pierre!


Friday, February 1, 2019

Reading about a heart-warming new community enterprise

It always lightens my heart to hear about a successful community project which is breathing new life into rundown city centres.  Nothing has equalled the glow that spread through me when I read an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian on 24 January, with the title “Could this local experiment spark a national transformation?

He wrote about a visit he made to a 5-year community project called Every One, Every Day, set up by the local council in Barking and Dagenham, and inspired by a group called The Participatory City Foundation

I quote from his article:  “They launched Every One, Every Day in November 2017, opening two shops (the first of five) on high streets in Barking and Dagenham. The shops don’t sell anything but are places where people meet, discuss ideas and launch projects. The scheme has also started opening “maker spaces”, equipped with laser cutters and other tools, sewing machines and working kitchens. These kinds of spaces are usually occupied by middle-class men, but, so far, 90% of participants here are women. The reason for the difference is simple: almost immediately, some of the residents drew a line on the floor, turning part of the space into an informal crèche, where women take turns looking after the children. In doing so, they overcame one of the biggest barriers to new businesses and projects: affordable childcare.”

He goes on to say: “There are welcoming committees for new arrivals to the street, community potluck meals, cooking sessions and street lunches. There’s a programme to turn boring patches of grass into community gardens, play corners and outdoor learning centres. There’s a bee school and a chicken school (teaching urban animal husbandry), sewing and knitting sessions, places for freelance workers to meet and collaborate, computing and coding workshops, storytelling for children, singing sessions and a games café. A local football coach has started training people in the streets. There’s a film studio and a DIY film festival too, tuition for spoken-word poets and a scheme for shutting streets to traffic so children can play after school. Local people have leapt on the opportunities the new system has created.”

George Monbiot finishes by writing: “Perhaps it’s not the whole answer to our many troubles. But it looks to me like a bright light in a darkening world.” 

And it does to me, too.  So I hope sharing this will lighten some of my readers’ day, too.



Thursday, January 31, 2019

How watching a tennis match helped me observe something new about the Fire element

I am always fascinated to see how one small movement or gesture can make me see the elements from a slightly different angle.  The present example occurred during the award ceremony at the recent Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Anybody who has read what I have written over the years knows that I much enjoy watching sport.  This love of mine started when I developed scarlet fever as a young child, and, this being well before the age of antibiotics, I had to be quarantined for six weeks in a room away from my siblings.  I whiled away the long hours on my own listening to the daily cricket commentaries on the radio (no TV then!). This love of cricket moved on to my enjoying watching many other sports.

So it is no surprise to hear that I watched this tennis final on TV, and, apart from enjoying the tennis itself, was pleased that it confirmed something more for me about the Fire element.  I had already thought that the element of the winner, Naomi Osaka, was Fire, but then I noticed another quirk of the Fire element which I don’t think I had observed so clearly before.  Winners always take time to congratulate their opponents, and as she started to do this, she looked around uncertainly until she located her standing a little behind her.  She then turned right away from the camera in front of her to look straight at her opponent as she talked, and became so absorbed in talking to her that she seemed to have forgotten all about the camera that was on her.  It was almost as if the two of them were alone together, rather than in front of a huge stadium and TV audience.  The camera-man had to shuffle round rather awkwardly so that Naomi was still on camera.  To me this was an unexpected confirmation of Fire’s need to talk face-to-face to the person they are engaging with. 

Afterwards I went through how I thought the other elements would react in a similar situation.  I had seen Rafa Nadal, who I think is Wood, and Roger Federer, who I think is Water, accepting their winners’ trophies at different times, and both had continued talking to the interviewer, only glancing briefly over to include their opponents.  Neither, I felt, looked as if they wanted to turn their back on the cameras as Naomi had done.  I can’t recall any examples of Earth and Metal tennis champions, but I feel that it is probable that these two elements would be unlikely to have the same need to maintain the close eye-contact Naomi wanted.  I think Earth would accept its role at the centre of the vast watching audience, whilst Metal, which always likes to remain slightly apart from the people it talks to, would be likely simply to stand there quietly.  By contrast, Naomi’s movements were rather jerky and uneasy, and she never seemed to be still.

It was also interesting to read later that she had said that she was cross with herself for forgetting the speech she had prepared beforehand.  I think only Fire would be so unselfconscious as to laugh at itself so openly in this way, by “opening its heart” and therefore making itself slightly vulnerable.

It is by being surprised at some quirk of behaviour such as the example I am describing here that I continue to add to my understanding of the elements.  Observing the small differences between the way one person behaves compared with another is an excellent way of helping us refine our five element skills.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Announcing the publication of my new blog: A Five Element Companion

This can be viewed at

 Below I give my first entry for those who may be interested in starting to read my weekly entries:

 "1. I find that I have written down many more of my thoughts on my five element practice that have not yet seen the light of day than I thought I had.  My old Viennese astrologer friend, Dr Oskar Adler, whom I have mentioned before in my writings, always said that each of us has a duty to pass on whatever we have learnt to the outside world.  "We never know who will read what we have written and who will learn from it," he would say.  So in the belief that the more that is written about five element acupuncture the better, I will be using this new blog to pass on my thoughts to whoever wishes to read them.  I intend to add a new post about once a week, and these individual entries taken together will form my eighth book. 

I am drawing together some of the writings about my practice as five element acupuncturist which I feel will be helpful for any of my colleagues, particularly now those in China, who want to benefit from what I have gradually learnt over the years.  I am especially keen to pass on the lessons from my own acupuncture master, JR Worsley, with whom I studied closely for several years as part of my postgraduate training.  One of the many things I remember him telling us was that we would always learn more from what we didn’t get right to start with, especially our diagnosis of guardian element, than when we got things right.  I know that the mistakes I made in my early practice have always proved to be valuable lessons for me, and I therefore hope that what I write here will give five element practitioners a little more confidence and enjoyment in their five element practice." 

I will continue to add to my current blog when interesting thoughts strike me which may not fit the structure of this new book.



Thursday, December 27, 2018

My 2018 year-end summary

As the year nears its end, it leaves me with many mixed feelings.  Everybody knows how unhappy I have been about this country’s suicidal plunge into its Brexit nightmare.  I am a European through and through, half my family being Austrian, and I love my multi-national heritage which led me into a delight for languages.  I will finish this blog with something on this topic, but I like to include some more heart-warming and life-enhancing moments which have occurred.  These are the times which convince me that there is indeed a pattern to my life into which all those things which I consider important insert themselves, as though into some pre-ordained shape.  There have been many such moments during the past year, and I list a few of those I consider the most significant.

I have just come across something in a book I happened to pick up from a shelf of unread books, one that I had bought many, many months ago and often put aside as being something I did not at the moment feel I wanted to read.  And yet today there it was, and I found myself taking it with me to my favourite breakfast cafe for my last end-of-year favourite breakfast (a single espresso and a croissant), only to find an illuminating passage which spoke to me.

"Just as when, as we read some books, an almost confusing feeling… can take hold of us, we hand ourselves over to the flow of the words, to their sound, and trust that the text will somehow help us, that it will do something to us, this is much like what happens when he (the main protagonist of this book) is writing.  Forgetting all his plans and ideas, most of his notes thrown away  -  and whilst he hands himself over to the rhythm and poetic logic of the sentences, the smell of his pencils, their quiet scratch on the paper, he fills page after page with a story of which he had not before thought of one word.” (Ralf Rothman: Fire doesn’t burn)"

This exactly reflects what I often feel when reading - that a writer’s words mean something to me , although I don’t know exactly what, as though they reveal a truth hidden behind the actual words.  Certainly this is often how I feel about that most elusive of all forms of writing, poetry.  This I realise, too, is how I view five element acupuncture.  I know that there is a truth hidden behind my practice which I have tried in my own way to put into words in my books, but behind the words I have found to describe what I do lies a profounder truth about human existence, and its glories and its tragedies, which is beyond words, or perhaps only accessible to the most gifted of writers.  I cannot prove that the elements create life in all its varied forms as I describe their actions, and yet I know, at a level beyond words, that they do.

A profound confirmation of this thought occurred during one of my visits to Beijing this year.  My time there happened to coincide with a seminar given by Peter Eckman.  Those who recognise his name will know that he has written the only book, In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor, which covers in detail the history of five element acupuncture’s journey to the West,.  Peter and I have known each other for many years, and I was delighted that it so happened  that Professor Liu Lihong, the host of all our many five element seminars, also happened to be in Beijing at the same time.  Peter, Professor Liu, Professor Hor Ting of Yunnan University and Guy and I, plus Lynn who does absolutely everything that needs doing to ensure our stay runs smoothly, therefore found ourselves one evening seated together round a table in a Beijing restaurant.

Peter, I think rather with tongue in cheek, and much to my surprise, since it contradicts what he says in his book, came out with the controversial statement that he didn’t think that JR Worsley had followed any particular acupuncture master in devising his approach to acupuncture.   Whereupon Professor Liu said firmly, “There are three routes of transmission for any discipline.  There is the direct transmission from master to pupil, the indirect transmission through texts, and then", he said, pointing above his head, "there is direct transmission from above."  And this is how he felt JR Worsley had come to his understanding of five element acupuncture.  I loved the fact that somehow something of the truth about human beings embedded in our knowledge of the elements was transmitted directly from above into JR’s heart, to be handed on, often in the same way, to others.

And something that has just happened rounds off my year with a smile, and makes this very sad year which seems to be heading inexorably towards the tragedy of Brexit end on a slightly happier note for me.

In September I wrote to JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame suggesting that it was time that an ardent anti-Brexiteer like her should stand up more and be counted to help fight the cause of us Remainers.  For those of you who didn’t know I had done this, here is my September email to her, via her Press Secretary (email drafted with help from a PR expert (Gill):

"Dear JK Rowling,
For years I have not only admired your literary genius but also your strong political voice on many of the big issues of our time. So I have an ask. The anti-Brexit campaign is well meaning but failing. I know you have already spoken out about the stupidity of this decision, but as we draw closer to this political madness becoming a reality, could you maybe go even further? I am no publicist but could we get Harry Potter yelling from the rooftops to protest? Or a series of powerful tweets from you to help galvanise the country to halt this impending gloom?

Yours, in hope,
Nora Franglen"

I heard nothing back, and assumed that my email never reached her ….. except that, a day ago in the Guardian, I read the following:

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Leader: Author Rowling mocks Corbyn on Twitter:  JK Rowling, a longtime critic of Jeremy Corbyn, has mocked the Labour leader’s position on Brexit in a series of 16 biblical-style tweets. Entitled “The Visitation of the Corbynites: A Festive Thread”, the Harry Potter author includes the claim that the possibility of “Saint Jeremy” bringing a “Jobs First Brexit” is “bollocks”. 

Do you think she did, after all, get my email, and heard my plea?  I’ll never know, but I like to think it may not just have been coincidence that she wrote this series of tweets.

I sent this email to many of my family and friends, finishing it with the words, with which I am rounding off my blogs for the year:

A Happy Christmas, and now a Happy New Year, to you all from a smiling Nora!  Let us hope the world becomes a happier place in 2019.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Unravelling the puzzle of point locations a little

For many years I was completely unaware of the fact that different branches of acupuncture used anatomical locations for some of their points which differed from the ones I had been taught.  The first five or more years of my practice were spent in a complete five element bubble, since at that time JR Worsley’s college at Leamington was the largest college, and many of us who trained there were completely unaware of the existence of other schools of acupuncture.  I know I certainly was, until rumours started to spread around the acupuncture community that acupuncturists who had visited China were bringing back with them another form of acupuncture which appeared not so much to complement what we had learned, but to cast doubt in the minds of some five element acupuncturists about the validity of what they were practising.  This was first brought home to me when standing in a lunch queue at an acupuncture event and being told by a fellow acupuncturist, with some disdain in her voice, “JR has a very odd way with moxibustion”, followed by, “You don’t still only do five element acupuncture, do you?”.

I always find it interesting when I observe how often people are only too happy to grab hold of anything which might seem to undermine some practice or concept which holds a dominant position, almost as though they cannot wait to mock what before they expressed admiration for, or indeed, as in the case of many five element acupuncturists, actually used for years in their practice.  This happens all too often, particularly where somebody has been pre-eminent in one discipline.  Perhaps it is then only natural that those sheltering in the shadow of such a person may start to feel increasingly disempowered, and look for ways of asserting their own independence of thought.  This happened most famously with Carl Jung’s abandonment of his admiration for his mentor, Sigmund Freud, and the same thing happened in this country when JR Worsley’s legacy to acupuncture started being mocked in the way I encountered.

In a very short space of time this was followed by a growing onslaught by the acupuncture world in general, led unfortunately by the British Acupuncture Council, on the right of five element acupuncture to be considered as a stand-alone discipline.  I have written a lot about the difficulties I, as a devoted five element acupuncturist, have encountered in defence of my practice over the years, but in this blog I want to look at how influences from China have apparently changed this country’s approach to the location of certain points, and how far this is still something five element acupuncture needs to take into account.

The subtle undermining of an accepted five element tradition extended also to the area of point location, where people started discussing whether the five element locations used, based on a long-established tradition going back through to JR Worsley’s teachers, Jacques Lavier and Wu Wei Ping, came up against the locations modern Chinese acupuncture was now deciding for us, and which have come to be replaced by many British acupuncture colleges.  I am certainly no historian of acupuncture, nor have I any way of knowing whether the point locations which have gradually superseded some of those used in five element acupuncture have clinical validity or not.  And this is the only factor in the debate about different point locations which I feel needs to be taken into account.  If I needle a point in my well-practised five element location will a point at a slightly different location used in modern Chinese acupuncture, and following hard on its heels, modern British acupuncture, have the same clinical effect?

We sometimes think that acupuncture does not lend itself to “evidence-based research” in quite the same way as scientifically-based therapies, because it does not seem possible in a holistic discipline such as ours, and similarly in any of the different forms of psychotherapy, to obtain sufficient objective evidence of the efficacy of any clinical procedure which cannot be measured by some physical instrument.  But I think my many years of practice have provided me with just as much evidence that the points I use in treatment have actually effected material changes in my patients, and ones which are perceptible to others, provided that their senses are sufficiently honed to perceive sensory and emotional changes.

When a patient says, as one of my patients did yesterday, that “the treatment you gave me a few days ago really made me feel I could face life again,” is that not evidence of the efficacy of the particular treatment, made possible by needling specific acupuncture points?  The problem is that a reader of this blog only has my word for this, and if I were to invite observers into my practice room during the treatment, might the presence of unfamiliar faces affect the patient’s response to the treatment, and perhaps nullify it?  I do, though, have what I like to call one objective proof of the location of one of the disputed locations of an acupuncture point as a result of a moving encounter I had when consulting JR Worsley about one of my patients.

This point is the one on the Kidney meridian which in the five element point numbering is IV (Ki) 7.  As any five element acupuncturist knows, this is one of the first points in the combination of six points, needled bilaterally, used to clear one of the most serious energy blocks recognized in five element acupuncture, that of a Husband/Wife imbalance.  IV 7 is a tonification point, drawing energy from Water’s mother element, Metal, and in the five element location is at 3 ACI (cun) from the prominence of the medial malleolus.  We were taught to needle all six points before taking the pulses to see whether we had cleared the block, in effect checking whether the patient’s Heart energy - (I (Ht) 7 is the last point in the procedure - was recovering sufficiently to combat the spiritual despair which is one of the main indicators of this block.

I had taken a patient to see JR Worsley, and he had diagnosed this block, leaving me to carry out the treatment.  As this was early on in my acupuncture career, it took me some time to mark up the points, particularly those on the Kidney meridian which require much careful measuring of the leg, so when JR returned I had only had time to needle the first two points, III (Bl) 67 and IV (Ki) 7.  Before I had told him that I had not completed the whole procedure, he took the pulses, nodded at me, and said, “That’s cleared.  Good.”  It was then that I realised that the re-establishment of a strong connection between the Metal and Water elements through the tonification points must have been sufficient to clear the block.  From then on I have always checked the pulses at this early stage in the procedure just to see if this often happens, which I find it does.  Each time, though, I go on to carry out the full procedure because I recognize that needling the remaining points strengthens the connection between the elements which a H/W imbalance shows has been weakened.

From this, and from my own later experiences, corroborated by my years of clearing many H/W blocks, I know that the tonification point on the Kidney meridian is definitely where we locate it in five element acupuncture, at 3 ACI from the level of the medial malleolus.  The Kidney source point, IV (Ki) 3, too, which also forms part of the H/W procedure, is at a different location from the more recently accepted location.  I therefore recommend any practitioner trying to clear a H/W block to adopt the five element anatomical location of these two points.  I like to think that I am stepping in the footsteps of an acupuncture master in using the points exactly where he told us they were, and feel that something of the energy I felt passing from him through to the patients I brought to him for consultation is transferring itself a little to me as I needle the points where he told us to find them.