I am not somebody who enjoys experimenting in my acupuncture. I regard myself as a steady plodder, and like to think I work my way along paths well-trodden before me. One of the ways in which this somewhat cautious approach reveals itself is in my choice of points. I have often said that I have a very small repertoire of points, concentrating mainly on those few points which have a close and safe relationship with the element I am treating. I focus mainly on the command points,then on other points on the elements which I have gathered together over the years, on points which release energy blocks of all kind, and finally, and only then, on that difficult but important category of points which we select, as we say, “for their spirit”. It is this group which causes every acupuncturist the most trouble, since it is like opening a can of worms, as we ask ourselves which point exactly we need to use today for its spirit for this particular patient, and often can’t come up with the answer.
What I don’t usually do, though, is experiment. I have not had the habit, as other acupuncturists apparently have, of looking up the list of acupuncture points and branching out in a new direction by choosing a point I have never used, usually basing this choice on a point’s name. I have thought about this quite a lot recently, because I am at the stage in my practice where I am enjoying injecting something new into it, and what can be newer than using a point I have never used before? So, venturing on to new terrain, I have done this for one or two patients and then stood back to assess whether I have learnt anything from this experiment, and whether, more crucially, my patients, thus experimented upon, have responded in ways that differ from their responses to the more familiar kinds of treatment I have offered them before.
What I find, not unexpectedly, is that I really could not say what effect any of these new points have had, except that, as usual, my patients have continued to improve as they did before with my familiar array of points. I asked myself whether there was any sign that something new had occurred, and came up with the answer, “no”. So on a very small sample of just a few treatments, certainly, a mathematician would say, not a statistically significant number of any kind, I learnt nothing which shook my long-held belief that the fundamental nature of any five element treatment consists in addressing the element, rather than worrying about the points we use to address this element. I will always stick to my mantra, “Think element, not points”, to help me in my practice. The selection of points then always becomes secondary to the importance of selecting the right element.
So take heart all those many acupuncturists who seem to worry too much about point selection, and particularly about what exactly “selecting points for their spirit” means. All points, particularly those all-important command points, have a “spirit”.
Once you find the element, the points will look after themselves.