Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Theory versus practice

I have just spent a morning listening in admiration to Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée talking about the points I love, the Windows of the Sky.  She said that these could also be called Windows of Heaven, since the character is really that of heaven, and this added another layer of meaning to the use of these points.   Her knowledge of Chinese and of the ancient texts, both medical and philosophical, is very profound, probably the most profound of anybody in the world at the moment.  At a theoretical, abstract level, what I learnt is fascinating, but, as always, I find that I have difficulty applying to my practice what I have been told about the symptomatic application of the various acupuncture points discussed.  So much of what I learned today therefore interested me from a theoretical rather than a practical point of view.

And this is how I have tended to view what I learn from those books which list points in terms of their symptomatic importance.  I always like to ask myself whether those whose texts we are referring to, both those coming from the far-distant past as well as those recently published, were or are experienced acupuncturists.  What has always been a sticking point for me is how far we are able to accept that what is told us can be shown to be soundly based on practice, rather than just being anecdotal.  Being the kind of person who needs to assess how far I trust the experience of those teaching me, and thus remaining sceptical until proven otherwise, I treat such recommendations with caution.  It is only once I feel that somebody is basing what they are saying upon deeply felt conviction and personal experience, and shows the kind of human empathy and kindness I expect of those helping their fellow human beings, that I can add what I am being told to my own practice. 

Of course, this means that there are not many people who can convince me of the validity of their level of practical experience.  I have, though, been fortunate in having met some few people with deep enough experience and understanding to illuminate my path, foremost among them, of course, my teacher, JR Worsley.

In the field of acupuncture, one area which Elisabeth Rochat represents at the highest level is that which relates to pure scholarship – the ability to study an ancient language and reveal what it is telling us as accurately as possible.  Quite another area is that which deals with our practice – the ability to translate what has been learnt based upon having treated a sufficiently large number of patients to pass this learning on to other practitioners.  These two areas demand quite different skills, and must not be confused.  A scholar steeped in ancient Chinese cannot teach me what I feel confident enough to incorporate into my daily practice, but can deepen a different level of my understanding of what I do.  An experienced acupuncturist who I respect can teach me much that will help me in my daily practice.

I think people often confuse the two.



No comments:

Post a Comment