Monday, December 5, 2016

The pitfalls of making snap diagnoses

Since all five element acupuncturists know that diagnosing a patient’s element takes much time and is certainly not done in an instant, it is obvious that trying to do the same by looking at the necessarily brief glimpses of politicians and other famous people on television or social media can at best be a rather hit and miss affair, and at worst may lead us to making completely erroneous conclusions.  I remember well that I was convinced that Julia Roberts was Fire, because this is how I interpreted her endless smiling.  I told all my students this until one day, a good few years later, when my understanding of the different qualities of the elements had obviously deepened, I noticed a different reaction in me to this smile.  It certainly did not warm me, but, instead, irritated me with what I now thought was its artificiality.  I realised suddenly that, rather than giving me something, as Fire always tries to do, it was demanding something of me.  Once I had noticed this, I changed my diagnosis from Fire to Earth, and have stuck with that ever since.  This was a good warning to me always to hedge my conclusions about elements with a few question-marks.

So, now being an older and wiser observer of my fellow human beings, I hesitate a bit in offering my thoughts on the elements of politicians much in the news at the moment, but if I don’t add my slice of knowledge to what others are trying to learn about the elements, then I think that is a bit cowardly.  Those of us who have been looking at the elements for many years (in my case over 35 years) have a duty to pass on whatever they have learnt to those with less experience.  So here goes with what I have observed in two politicians very much in the news at the moment: Theresa May, in this country, and Donald Trump, in the United States.

At such a difficult time for the world, I find it interesting and disturbing that the fate of so many people is in the hands of two people I consider to be of the Wood element.  Leaving aside their politics, what is it about the Wood element which makes me wary of this element being the guiding force in a leader of a country (and in Trump’s case in a leader of the Western world)?  I’ve thought carefully about this, and will continue to do so as I observe their words and their actions over the next crucial months.  Here I can draw on the knowledge of the Wood element I have gained through my acupuncture practice.  If we think of the cycle of the elements as describing the arc of a human life from birth to death, then after its period of gestation in the seed of all life, the Water element, life emerges into the open in the Wood element, at its point of birth, and then on to early childhood.  I ask myself whether I want my leaders to express the childlike qualities which the Wood element can often show.

What, then, are Wood’s qualities which will manifest themselves in the positions of power held by a country’s leaders?   It definitely has a lot of strength and stamina, good qualities in a leader.  Its principal emotion is a kind of forcefulness of character which demands that others do what it wants them to do, and can express itself in outbursts of anger if those around it do not fall in with its plans.  We see this kind of anger very clearly in Donald Trump’s emotional outbursts and also the lack of control which accompanies them.  Wood does not yet have the maturity to rein in this anger if this would be a wiser course to take.  Theresa May, too, though much less overtly Wood-like than Donald Trump, shows flashes of anger if a situation does not please her.  A constituent of hers at a meeting with her said that she became very irritated when questioned too closely.  Observing her on a BBC programme, I noticed that as the camera panned back to her after I suspect she thought she was no longer on public view, she looked surprisingly cross – not at all the bland, controlled persona she had shown us during the interview itself.

So it will be very interesting to see how these two leaders deal with the inevitably difficult times which lie ahead for them.  It does not therefore surprise me that, as of this date, 5 December, Theresa May has not yet come up with any clear plans for how to proceed with Brexit.  Though planning and decision making are the prerogative of the Wood element, they can easily lead, on the one hand, to over-dogmatic statements (“Brexit means Brexit” being one of them), and, on the other, to hesitancy, if the Wood element is under stress.  And who, in the positions of power which May and Trump hold, will not be under stress in one form or other?  Rather worryingly for both of them, this sense of balance in their Wood element seems rather to be absent, in Trump’s case most obviously so, his Tweets being clear evidence of this.  Theresa May, too, certainly made some hasty, rather odd decisions soon after coming to power (reinstatement of grammar schools and delaying a decision on the Hinkley Point nuclear power station).  One of these decisions (grammar schools) has since disappeared without trace, and she rescinded the other very quickly and rather ignominiously in the light of China’s anger.  

She has said that thinking about what to do about Brexit keeps her awake at night.  Rather amusingly, I see this as a clear sign of the struggles her Wood element is undergoing to keep everything on track as it passes through its horary time between 11 pm at night and 3 am in the morning.  Angry as I am about all the unnecessary expenditure which will be spent on the Brexit negotiations and would much better be spent on care homes for the elderly or children’s playgrounds for the young, I know I will still find it fascinating to observe how what I consider to be these two clear examples of the Wood element in power will deal with that power.



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Words, words, words!

So many words to read in so many different books and in so many different languages, and so little time to do this in!  I have a large pile of books sitting waiting for me to read – books I have borrowed from the local library (most of them), books I have bought secondhand from Oxfam or on-line, and then (just a few) books I have bought for myself using a generous book token given to me for my birthday a few weeks ago.

Looking at this pile, I realise again, as I have increasingly begun to realise, that I have no chance of re-reading any but a few of the many of my own books filling my book- cases.  Sometimes I look longingly at volumes of Marcel Proust (in French, of course – being a linguist), which are waiting hopefully for me to open their pages again, many, many years after I used them to work on as part of an (unsuccessful) postgraduate degree.  I say to myself that if I decide to submerge myself once again in Proust’s glorious French I will not be able to read anything new for at least a few months – and I don’t want to sacrifice for this the time I would like to dedicate to discovering some exciting new writer who will open my eyes to a new world of words.

The only writers I have regularly re-read in the past are some of the classical authors, such as Dickens, Trollope or George Eliot, and, perhaps considered slightly odd, some old-fashioned detective stories which belonged to my mother and to which I return again and again as they envelop me in a familiar and comfortable world of the past, such as Ellis Peters or Patricia Wentworth.

I now have an absolute font of knowledge about good detective stories.  As for many people, they are my escape into a fantasy world where the good always triumphs and the bad is eventually defeated.  In the real world the opposite often seems to be true, and particularly so now.  In these very uncertain times, I need an escape route like this which goes some way to relieving some of the distress I feel at what is happening in the world outside.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The filter our element lays between us and the world

The more I try to teach people about the elements, the more I realize that over the years I have worked out my own personal, possibly rather idiosyncratic way of interpreting the signals a patient’s elements are sending me, and using these as pointers to a particular element.  I imagine that all experienced five element acupuncturists must do the same.  None of these pointers will be exactly those other practitioners have discovered, because everything we experience has to pass through the filter with which our guardian element envelops us.  Even though some of the impressions we receive from a patient may have some similarity with those which others will experience, we will each put our own interpretation upon them.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I ran a seminar with Guy Caplan.  He is Metal and I am Fire, so inevitably we see life through two very different filters.  This was emphasized for me when both of us were interacting with a very lively Fire patient.  As usual, whenever I am in the presence of Fire in another person I relax because I can feel that I am on familiar ground.  So this particular patient, though very much out of control Fire, did not prove a problem for me to treat.  On the contrary, I felt I knew exactly how she needed to be treated, which was in a robust, quite challenging way, my Fire, as it were, blazing away to control her overheated Fire.  Guy, on the other hand, told me that he found her exaggerated gaiety uncomfortable to deal with, and would have taken longer to work out how to react to it and contain it.  We can interpret this as hot Fire threatening to melt Metal, whilst hot Fire just makes me feel, not perhaps always completely comfortable to be with, but certainly not difficult to deal with.

This is why as practitioners we should do all that we can to find out what our particular element is, recognize its qualities, make allowances for its weaknesses, and take all these factors into account when dealing with our patients.  This is not an easy task, because we all have a tendency to think that when we have an uneasy relationship with our patient the fault lies in them not in us.  It is good to remind ourselves at intervals that this is not so.  Often it is the balance of the elements within us, particularly that of our guardian element, which is shaping our relationship to our patient, and perhaps distorting it in some way which we fail to recognize.



Friday, November 11, 2016

A new world order perhaps?

I find it exhilarating – both fascinating and appalling – to be a witness to the enormous events of the past few months, now culminating in Trump’s triumph.  These events are called seismic, because, like earthquakes, they burst out and demolished much of the old political order.  First we had Brexit, and now we have Trump (Brexit, Brexit plus plus as he himself said).  Brexit was bad enough to deal with, and many of us, me included, are still unable properly to deal with it (which is why I now wear a badger proudly proclaiming “Brexit does not mean Brexit”, to be obtained from Joy Gerrard at, who very kindly designed this at my request).

Being appalled by what is happening in this country and the US is, in my view, easy – but to see this as forming part of some kind of important trend in the history of the world is much harder to envisage.  This only became possible for me after I heard Madeleine Albright, the US Senator and former Secretary of State, giving a very illuminating talk on the BBC Today programme yesterday.  Among other things, she said that “the social contract has been broken.  People are talking to their government with 21st century technology,  the government hears them with 20th century technology, and answers them with 19th century technology.”  I interpret this as meaning that there is a huge disconnect between how we are now governed and how we need to be governed in this new world of ours.  And what can be seen as the protest votes of all those who supported Jeremy Corbyn or voted for Brexit or have sent Trump to the White House are all signs of this huge disconnect.

Perhaps we are now seeing the last dying struggles of the old order, in which the money and power of the elite 1% has dominated over the feelings of inadequacy and abandonment of the remaining 99%.  Seen from this viewpoint, the triumphs of Jeremy Corbyn, the Brexiteers and Trump represent a powerful uprising of those who feel dispossessed and marginalized against an established order which has so far always favoured the advantaged, a sad symbol of this being the mantra of “austerity” imposed for many years upon the disadvantaged in many countries from Greece to this country.

Maybe, then, what we are seeing happening now are the death throes of one world order and the inevitable birth pangs of another hopefully more enlightened one.  It may be fanciful of me to hope that this is so, but hope is what we need when what has seemed to be a dark pall of despair has hung over us for so long.  We need now to hope for a breakthrough to a better world which will build itself slowly on the ruins of the breakdown we are witnessing today.

This is why I like to read the blog written by Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister., to be found at, because he and those working with him throughout the world are endeavouring to make the case for a new world order.  This gives me hope that there are enough people out there not content just to complain about the state of the world but to do something about it. ,

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thoughts on my return from China

So here I am sitting comfortably once again in my favourite London coffee shop, and feeling as though the past 10 days in China have been like a dream and never happened. This is always how I feel on my return from such a different environment and culture.  I am suffering a bit from jet-lag after our 11-hour flight, but not as much as I normally do, because Guy has given me a tip on how to combat jet-lag.  This is for acupuncturists only, I’m afraid, but consists in needling the horary points of the elements whose times we are entering as we move from one time-zone to another.  It does seem to work, although not every time, I found.  Certainly, after self-needling a series of points during sleepless intervals during the night, I woke this morning experiencing none of the heavy jet-lag I normally feel.

On our flight back, Guy and I enjoyed ourselves mulling over the very happy days we had spent with our students on the two seminars we held, and making plans for what we will be doing at our next scheduled visit in April 2017.  We always say that the seminar we have just completed is our best, but these two truly were the best, because we saw such an improvement in five element practice even in the short time since we were last in China.  I often feel that the enthusiasm and dedication our Chinese students show put our Western-based students to shame.  It is such a joy for me to see how what started in 2011 with a mere 15 students in Nanning has now grown five years later to many hundreds of practitioners throughout China.  This is an awesome achievement, and makes me very proud of all the work everybody has put into developing five element acupuncture there - from Professor Liu Lihong who first invited me, through Mei and Guy, and on to every one of those who have moved the study of five element acupuncture forward to where it is at present in China.

I would like to dedicate this blog to all who made our latest visit such a rewarding one, and in particular Lynn Yang who organized everything so beautifully, as she always does, and held everything together, from the moment of our arrival at Beijing Airport to that of our departure.  I would also like to thank her and Caroline who as usual acted as such splendid translators for us.  And then we owe a great deal of the success of our visit to a small army of helpers who took much of the strain of organizing the very large group of well over 100 acupuncturists into orderly ranks so that they could observe treatments in the practice rooms in small batches.  All of these helpers together made my 10th visit to China such a successful and joyous event.



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Off to my 10th visit to China

I will be getting on the plane to Beijing tomorrow where Mei, Guy and I will be giving two seminars.  The first will be over 5 days, for about 120 students, nearly all of whom we have not seen before.  To attend this seminar they must first have taken part in one of the introductory five element courses given by former students of ours, a healthy sign of how many acupuncturists over there already feel competent enough to teach others.  The second two-day seminar is for a more advanced group of about 50 practitioners, all of whom have come to some of our previous seminars.

Finally, to round off our visit, on our last day something quite different is planned.  The day will be spent at the Institute of Acupuncture of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Science, a Chinese medicine research institute under the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  I an told that it is responsible for 17 research institutes, 6 medical organizations, 2 pharmaceutical companies and a publishing house.  It has been working with the World Health Organization and has edstablished three centres of clinical research into acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine.

In the morning the Institute will be host to the inaugural meeting of the new Five Element Acupuncture Association. This is an umbrella association covering those teaching five element acupuncture according to the principles handed on to them during the seminars we have held over the past five years.  As we know, there is always a risk that some may set themselves up as experts in their field based upon little practical experience, and this is particularly true of acupuncture in China where many thousands of practitioners now qualify from universities of traditional Chinese medicine each year.  The association will be aimed at ensuring that those intending to teach this particular branch of five element acupuncture are qualified to do so. In the afternoon we will be holding a seminar for the Institute of Acupuncture, making this a very full last day indeed.

As usual I am taking quite a few books with me as presents, including children’s books for some of the babies born to graduates of our previous seminars, some more of my books as presentation copies to the various institutes, and, this time, a selection of Monkey Press books which Sandra Hill has kindly donated, and which they are not familiar with over there.  I am also taking a selection of my own books which my publisher, Singing Dragon Press, has asked me to pass on to the Chinese publisher.  This publishing house has now signed an agreement for the publication of translations of my other four books, in addition to the translation of my Handbook of Five Element Practice (the book, which I proudly tell everybody, has already sold more than 20,000 copies over there).  Mei has already translated my Simple Guide, which is now in the process of being published. Translations of the other three books, the Keepers of the Soul (my very favourite book), Patterns of Practice and On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist (my blog book, I call it), are also already in the pipeline. 

So a lot of things are happening in China on the five element acupuncture front, something I feel I am blessed to witness and to participate in.

I will report back further on my return to London at the end of October.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

For simplicity’s sake – another heartfelt plea

Anybody who knows anything about me will know how often I plead for one basic principle of five element acupuncture, which is to keep it simple.  I always hear JR Worsley’s voice in my ear telling us that we really only need 3 minutes with our patients, one to look at them, two to decide on the point(s) to needle and three to say goodbye.  It was said jokingly (or at least I assumed it was), but like everything he said it hides profound wisdom.  The longer I practise, the more I have come to understand this.

As all good five element acupuncturists know, the aim of treatment is to hand control back to the elements within the patient as quickly as possible.  All treatment represents an interference with a patient’s natural energy, a temporary taking-over of control.  We were always told that it is not we who heal our patients, it is nature which does this through the elements which create the world outside and create our bodies and within them our souls.  So if we can find out where a hitch has occurred in the beautiful, health-giving flow of energy round the cycle of the elements, and help reinstate this natural flow, our work is done and we should withdraw from the scene.

From this viewpoint it can then be regarded as a waste of energy to spend so much time mulling over the actions of individual points rather than trying to pinpoint the element under stress and choosing points relating to that element. Sadly, though, I see too many people doing this.  We can call this “not seeing the wood for the trees”.

There is no doubt that it requires much humility to accept that observing the work of the elements in a human being demands skills which we can only acquire over time and involves much hard work.  For example, I like to tell people that it took me many years accurately to recognize the fear at the heart of the Water element, or that flushed red cheeks did not, as I assumed, point to Fire, but either to Wood or Earth out of control.  (In the case of Wood, it is because it is depriving its child Fire of the warmth it needs, and therefore Fire tries to stoke it up artificially, or in the case of Earth, it is because its mother, Fire, is out of control and passes on too much Fire to its child.  Fire never has permanently flushed skin.  Its colour flushes and then fades again quite quickly.  It often has a kind of blotchy red look.)  It took me a long time and much evidence from treating patients to recognize this and to accept that this was so.

But once we realize that what we need to do is study people as closely as possible wherever we encounter them (TV or cafes are good places to observe the significant interactions which point to one element or another), and gradually to build up a personal filing system of indicators for each element, then practice becomes simpler and simpler.  The mantra, as always, is “find the element and the points look after themselves”.  I don’t think it matters at all if I choose one point and another practitioner chooses another, provided both strengthen the patient’s guardian element.

Monday, September 12, 2016

We comfort eat when we don't get enough comfort from eating

A few days ago I was sitting in my favourite café enjoying my favourite meal of the day, which is breakfast – a small espresso with a drop of very hot milk and a fresh croissant to dunk into it.  I was contemplating the world around me, thinking how good it was peacefully to savour the taste of what I was eating, when a thought popped into my mind, which was how important it is to give ourselves the time to enjoy food.

That led me to think how little attention we often now pay to the simple pleasure of eating when we can dash into a coffee-house and grab a quick drink and a bite to eat on our way to hurrying to wherever we are going.  This made me consider what this is doing to our Earth element, our mother element which is there to nourish and support the other elements, and which needs to be nourished and supported itself if it is to do its work properly.  It has to learn how to do this, as all elements do, as they gradually take over the role their mother has taken on in the womb.  I now watch with dismay as mothers stuff bottles into small babies’ mouths in their prams in the street or even in buses amidst all the tumult and traffic noise.  Here there is none of the peaceful enjoyment of feeding time which we should be allowing our babies, and which help their tender little Earth elements to assume their role.   

I wonder how far our lack of attention to the actual process of enjoying the food we put in our mouths, particularly in the early days of a child’s life, is one of the reasons for the sharp rise in obesity we see all around us.  The Earth element can only develop as it should in a loving, caring environment, where it is able to welcome food as something which warms and nourishes it.  It needs this to sustain a healthy relationship to food throughout later life.  If it is denied this comfort because its Stomach official is asked to snatch at the food that reaches it, it will try to hold on to as much of this food as it can, being unwilling to discard what is unwanted because it is not given enough time to process it.   Rather than satisfying it, then, the food that reaches it is tantalizingly snatched away as it is gobbled down in the hurly-burly of modern life.

This may perhaps be one of the reasons behind the success of so many TV cookery programmes.  Do we, through them at one remove as it were, learn to enjoy again, or even for the first time, the delights of food cooked as it should be, as though we are kidding ourselves that this is how we are feeding ourselves?  Is this, too, the reason for the runaway success of The Great British Bake Off, with a mother or a grandmother substitute for the whole country so clearly there in Mary Berry, as the TV immerses us in succulent images of home-baked cakes, so Earth-like a delight?

Somewhere hidden in this, too, may well lie the reason why I hardly pass a person in the street who is not holding a cup of coffee or tea in their hands, often making no attempt to drink it, a substitute for a mother’s nipple if there ever was one, as though their Earth element is sending out a constant reminder to them of its need for attention.

And is this, too, why I so enjoy sitting in a coffee house with my coffee and croissant, a reminder, perhaps, of home and hearth (and mother) all those years ago?

Friday, August 26, 2016

The challenge of treating very young children

In the early days of my practice I was very reluctant to treat young children.  I knew that they could not themselves tell me what was wrong, and without talking to them I was not sure how I was going to diagnose their element.  Everything I learnt about them would therefore have to be filtered through what their parent told me. (For simplicity’s sake I will call the mother the parent, although the same holds true for the father.)  Before seeing the child, therefore, we need to arrange to talk to the mother quietly on her own, and not in the child’s hearing.  Ideally this should be done face to face, rather than on the phone, and certainly not by email.  A private talk will also yield crucial information about the mother’s relationship to the child, and here we have to use our diagnostic skills to discover what exactly is going on between mother and child.

Most, if not all, problems in young children (and in later life!) originate in family life.  The difficulty for us here is that most parents are often unaware of the part they play in this, for, like most of us when faced with unpleasant facts, we are reluctant to admit to our own responsibility.  A parent of a distressed child often has unresolved issues around being a parent which may well be, and usually is, the prime reason for disturbance in the child.  I have some very good examples of this from my own practice which have reinforced my conviction that if only I could treat the mother, the young child would probably not need treatment.  This conviction, and often my experiences of failing to help the child, have reinforced my increasing reluctance over the years to treat young children.    

I was fortunate that I was able to take the first two children I was asked to treat to see JR Worsley.  This was at a very early stage in my practice, when I did not know how I should approach treating them.  The first child was a young boy of about 3, who was said by his mother to be completely out of control.  He would only let his mother touch him, refused to relate to anybody else and had been given a provisional diagnosis of autism.  His mother and I had to drag him kicking and screaming from the car to the practice room, where JR, after looking at him quickly, told me to carry out the AE drain, despite his loud protests, with his mother and me holding him firmly on my lap.  As I recall there was no AE, although I have since often found a surprising amount of AE in even the youngest child. 

JR diagnosed the element as Wood, and told me to follow the AE drain with the source points on Wood on the left side only.   To my surprise, shortly after the treatment, the young boy suddenly fell quiet, turned his head to look at me and kept eye contact as I walked away, something he had not done with any of us before.  I interpreted this as the Wood element diffusing his terrible sense of anger.   From then on, for the few treatments he continued to come to me once a fortnight for the simple five element command point treatment JR had recommended, he would run happily to greet me as though he enjoyed his treatments.  Nobody would then have diagnosed him as other than a normal little boy.

Sadly, however, I was only allowed to treat him a few more times. JR had pointed out that I should do possession treatment on the mother, luckily a patient of mine, something I had not yet noted, but very shortly afterwards, the mother abruptly stopped treatment for both herself and her child. The child’s father, who was very happy with my continuing to treat his son, explained his wife’s decision to stop treatment by the fact that she was very disturbed to think that I might think that she was the cause of the child’s problems, something she denied totally.  He himself could see that she was much too possessive of the child, but could do little to persuade her to allow me to continue treating their child.

I had similar experiences with two other mothers, both of whom, though ostensibly wanting help for their young children, refused to acknowledge that there was anything in their own attitudes to their children which might be contributing to the problem, and both quickly discontinued the child’s treatment very early on despite quite clear evidence that it was helping.

Of course, other practitioners may have had happier experiences of treating children than I have had, and their experiences may well be with less complex mother-child relationships than mine have been.  I’m sure, too, that much can be done to help young children deal with whatever problems, psychological or physical, they come to you with simply by trying hard to diagnose the element by means of any information you can glean, then doing an AE drain and basic five element treatment. 
I am happy, though, that I can finish this blog with a rather lovely story of the successful treatment of a young child, though I never saw the child or inserted a single needle.  A patient of mine had an 18 month-old daughter who had suddenly started to suffer from asthma.  Could I do something to help, she asked me.  With some of the unhappy experiences I had had in mind, I was at first reluctant to do so, but then I put on my five element hat, and asked myself.  “Why would a little baby develop asthma?  Why would its Metal element be in such distress?”  Metal, being the element of our relationship to our father, I asked whether anything had recently changed at home, particularly in relation to the child’s father.  She told me that he had joined a golf club, and was now away from home for much of the weekend.  Before this, the whole family had had happy weekends doing things together.  I talked through the needs of the Metal element with both father and mother, and suggested that the father should make every effort to be with the child as much as he could, perhaps sacrificing some golf for his child’s sake. This was rather a long shot on my behalf, and I wasn’t very optimistic that this would help.
To the father’s credit he did this, and even I was surprised when the mother told me that, after a few weeks of increased attention from the father, the child’s asthma started to improve, and eventually disappeared altogether.  And this without the need for any medication, or any needles.  Here both parents had enough insight into family relationships and were open to listening to advice, something which is unfortunately rather rare, as we know.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thoughts on the Fire element and other elements prompted by watching Usain Bolt and others at the Rio Olympics

Usain Bolt is, of course, pure Fire, at the moment the most visible example dominating our headlines.  Watching him interact with the crowd has added to my knowledge of Fire, and made me think more of what it tries to offer those around it.  So here are some more of my insights.

Fire wants to share its smile, its laughter, its thoughts.  If you watch Fire’s eyes they are always looking directly in the eyes of another person when they are talking or smiling or laughing to make sure that their speech, their smiles or their laughter are being received by somebody.  You could say that Fire regards them as gifts they want to offer others.

All elements can talk, smile and laugh, but their interactions will be directed outwards in different ways because they come from a different space within them, created, as everything we do is, by a particular guardian element.  Wood wants to command attention, point something out, Earth wants to ensure that all within hearing respond to it, for it likes being at the centre of a circle, not demanding one to one attention.  Metal, true to its natural desire to observe and judge life from a distance, will tend to keep many things to itself, saying the minimum that it thinks needs to be said, often choosing to keep its thoughts to itself, unless actively asked to share them.  Its smiles and its laughter are more like brief flashes breaking out, as though disturbing its preference for silence.  Compare, for example, the quiet celebration of joy that Jessica Ennis (Metal, I think) shows at winning with Usain Bolt’s tumultuous one, where he draws the whole world around him, spectators and TV audiences alike, to help him share his joy.

Finally, there is Water, always last in my list, because it is such a mysterious element and so difficult for me to pin down, with its often rather hysterical outpourings of speech and emotion, which are more likely to make us step away rather than drawing us towards it, because it makes us feel unsure of what we are experiencing and how we should be reacting.

I use a study of myself, as Fire, more than of anybody else in trying to fathom the secrets of what Fire wants of life.  Thinking of Usain Bolt, as I was this morning, I realised that my need to share my thoughts appears in the urge behind my teaching and my writing, particularly of my blogs and now in my Question and Answer Facebook sessions.  And I want to share my thoughts immediately, almost unable to wait until I have somebody with me, either in person or through social media of some kind, with whom to share them.  I can’t not share, just as Usain Bolt can’t not smile. 

Hence this blog.