It is with the encouragement of my good friend, Peter Eckman, the author of In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor (still in my view the best, if not the only, history of acupuncture’s migration from East to West), that I have started to think about writing a book about the first few treatments any five element acupuncturist should be considering for a new patient. I was at first a bit reluctant to do so, because it seemed to me to be a little superfluous. Surely, I thought to myself, everybody who practises five element acupuncture knows that we always start as simply as possible, directing all our attention at the element we have chosen, the one I call the Guardian Element, to see whether it responds to this focused attention. But to my surprise and dismay, though this may have been true of all who learnt in the good old days when JR held sway at his college in Leamington, it now most certainly is not, as I experience each time I teach a class of newly qualified acupuncturists.
I see instead people who are often confused, as we certainly were not, as to where to direct their attention. So many of them, to my despair, have been seduced into thinking that they somehow need to add to this pure approach all sorts of other things which have infiltrated into the teaching of five element acupuncture, the most harmful of all, in my opinion, being the, to me, odd idea that into the five element mix must be thrown a goodly dab of TCM to leaven it, with its quite different approach to the elements. So both the elements in the patient and the practitioners themselves doing this have become muddled as to where exactly the focus of their treatment should lie, with the resultant confusion which I witness when these practitioners ask me for help.
So whereas years ago there was no need for such a book, so firmly entrenched in all us five element acupuncturists was a simple, focused approach to the first stages of treatment, now there appears to be a great need for somebody to disentangle what has become a confused area of practice, and lay down again the beautifully simple principle which guides each day of my practice: “Just treat the element, and let the element tell you by its response whether you are focusing your treatment upon the right segment of the five element circle”.
So I am starting today, amongst all the other projects I am working on (a reprint of my Keepers of the Soul before the copies run out, my translation of Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée’s 101 Concepts of Chinese Medicine, and my latest project, drawing up a distance-learning schedule for my Chinese students), to write down in a clear, not to be misunderstood way, for each element, the simple first steps every five element acupuncturist should take when treating a new patient. It pleases me, of course, that this will also be perfect for my teaching in China.