I always find it reassuring to receive confirmation of the universal nature of human qualities. This is something we usually take for granted in everyday life. Politicians, for example, assume that those they negotiate with experience the same feelings they do, and are as horrified by the same injustices acting themselves out in far-flung places in the world out there as other politicians are. We think, too, that ordinary human folk, reading of tragedies such as the recent loss of the airliner or the ferry disaster, will be able to understand the sufferings of the bereaved at one remove. Unthinkingly for the most part, we assume that what others round the globe experience as suffering or joy mirrors our own experiences of suffering or joy.
Since as a five element acupuncturist my working life
revolves around attempts to understand just what makes my patients suffer or be
joyful, I am made particularly aware of my assumption of the universality of
human emotions when I go to China,
from where I have just returned. I wrote
in a previous blog on 30 March, “We all
want to be heard”, which was about what I was expecting to be the focus of
our seminar over there. I can now truly
say that not only did the Chinese acupuncturists show that they did indeed hear
what their patients wanted them to hear, but that their responses to their
patients reflected an increasing understanding and ability to respond to their
patients’ emotional needs.
There were about 70 acupuncturists at the seminar, of whom
half were new to five element acupuncture.
It was heart-warming to see how well those who were now practising five
element acupuncture had integrated into their practice what they had learnt
before. The comforting impression I returned
with was a mixture not only of deep satisfaction at
how many acupuncturists are now treating only with five element acupuncture,
but – and this is perhaps the most surprising aspect of it all – how much
easier I always find it handing on my knowledge to Chinese acupuncturists than
I used to do to my English students. As
I told them in China, “you are all already halfway there compared with European
(and presumably also American) students, because an understanding of the elements
is deeply embedded in all of you from the day you are born, whilst non-Chinese
students have to learn what is initially an alien language from scratch.” I well remember an English student asking me
at the end of her first year at SOFEA, “but how do you know that there are
things called elements?”
It is therefore a continuing delight to me to see how much
of what I want to convey to others about the wonder of the elements’ presence
within all of us is understood by my Chinese listeners almost before I open my
mouth to speak. I notice how relaxed
this makes me feel, as though I am wandering in a landscape with familiar
landmarks, rather than the often difficult terrain I have had to negotiate over
the years as my five element beliefs encountered the surprisingly sceptical
opinions of my TCM colleagues.
I am very fortunate indeed to be accompanied on my visits to
China by two very dedicated fellow five element acupuncturists, Mei Long and
Guy Caplan, Mei from the Netherlands and Guy from here in London. We have now been together over there twice as
a group, and Mei and Guy have also taught there once more without me in
November 2013 when I was recovering from my recent illness. We act as a very unified group, each of us
having slightly different roles which complement each other. It helps that Mei is Chinese and can speak
without requiring the help of a translator.
I’m sure this is a welcome relief from the inevitably interrupted
communications which Guy and I make as we wait for our words to be translated. Again we were lucky to have two very good
translators to help us, Caroline and Nuha, both themselves acupuncturists, and I noticed this time
how many of the group understood more English than they admitted to, laughing
at my jokes before they were translated.
I think there is quite a lot of English study going on during our
And there were many jokes.
We had a very happy time indeed, working hard and playing hard, too –
many lovely meals out, some Karaoke evenings, and a festive atmosphere as
though all of us were enjoying a holiday together. And this is how I think the Chinese group
view their time with us, as one long drawn-out holiday experience. In a way, I do, too, returning refreshed and
stimulated by the enthusiasm and warmth with which we are surrounded throughout
our time there.
I am only just getting used to carrying my own bags, too. In China, I was not allowed to carry
anything at all, a small group waiting patiently for us in the hotel foyer
every day at whatever time we emerged from our rooms, ready to grab my bags and
lovingly accompany us the 100 yards or so to the centre where we taught. I can’t remember the last time anybody helped
me carry my bags in England!