I have been thinking a lot about this recently, because my book, called by the titleof this blog, is just about to be published and no doubt people who know little about what I do will ask me exactly what being a five element acupuncturist means.
It is rather a misleading name, because somehow it assumes that only we of all the acupuncturists who practise acupuncture base ourselves on the elements. But that is not true. All acupuncture points have a relationship to one, so in its widest sense all acupuncturists should call themselves five element acupuncturists. But in the narrow sense used to define what I do, five element acupuncture has taken on a very specific meaning. It describes a particular branch of acupuncture which diagnoses according to specific sensory criteria, used by a five element acupuncturist to determine the different states of balance or imbalance of these elements in our patients.
We are each the walking, talking, breathing illustration of the elements at work, and in particular – and this is what most narrowly defines five element acupuncture – of the imprint one of those elements makes upon us. This is called, variously, the element of the causative factor of disease (the CF), which is how I learnt to call it when I trained at JR Worsley’s school in Leamington, the constitutional element, or, in a phrase coined by me, the guardian element. I call it that because this term has a resonance for me of the words guardian angel, and reflects what I feel is one of this element’s most important features, the protective arms it throws around us, acting, when we are in balance, as a powerful guide as to how our life should most profitably be lived. In some ways it represents our fate, the destiny handed down to us through our genes, making us who we are and like no other.
The aim of treatment can therefore be regarded as being much wider and much deeper than simply attempting to lessen or get rid of physical complaints. I see it essentially as engaging as productively as possible with the direction a patient’s guardian element points to for that patient. As I have said before, each treatment can therefore be regarded, at its deepest level, as a potential date with destiny.
And thus I see myself as being privileged, through my knowledge of the elements, at being allowed to work at this level – an awesome legacy passed down to me through generations of acupuncturists which I must cherish and in turn pass on to others, not least my gratifyingly receptive students in China, who, because of their history, quickly recognize this legacy in a way I think European students take longer to do.