Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Think element, not points

When we approach treatment, our mantra should always be: Think element, not points. We know that we treat by needling a series of points, but we must think of these points not as individual stitches in a garment, but as shaping the garment as a whole. It has always surprised me how much attention practitioners seem to pay to individual points, whilst placing very much in a subsidiary role the element upon whose meridians these points lie, of which they form only a small part.

I am convinced of the cumulative nature of working upon an element, rather than the need to rely upon the individual action of specific points. In my view it is therefore never just one individual point which does the trick, and turns the tide of treatment as it were. Rather, there is a gradual accumulation of effect, as the selection of different points on that meridian/element adds layer upon layer to the element’s effectiveness in redressing a patient’s imbalances. There may come a tipping-point as a result of one treatment, where ill-health turns at last to good health, but it is created, not by the points selected for that particular treatment, but as a result of having, with each preceding treatment, through the selection of one point or a series of points after another, placed weight upon weight on the side of the scales of health labelled balance.

The greater the over-emphasis on points to the detriment of the subtleties of the elemental and meridian networks to which they belong, the more practitioners are reluctant to engage with the elements at the deep level such a relationship calls for. This deep level of understanding helps remove the emphasis on individual points, replacing it instead with what I regard as a much simpler scenario. Here the power of each element and of its servants, its two yin and yang officials, remains always to the fore, with correspondingly less emphasis placed on deciding which of its points to select to harness its energy. All points belonging to an element enhance in different ways that element’s energy, each becoming one of the many doorways through which this energy can be directed. This is why it is possible for practitioners to choose quite different points on the same meridian and yet lead to a similar level of improvement in the patient.

If the effectiveness of treatment lies in the cumulative effect of selecting points on the same element rather than in selecting a succession of unrelated, individual points, it is then very much a matter for individual practitioners’ preferences which points relating to that element are selected at which stage of treatment. These selections are usually based on the protocols used in the particular branch of acupuncture in which they have been trained or by the individual teachers who have passed on their knowledge to them, and they will therefore vary from school to school and from practitioner to practitioner.

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