Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Not yet finding the right element does not mean that the treatment you give is wrong

I was walking along thinking about the blog I have just posted Nobody likes getting things wrong (13 July), when I realised that I needed to add something to it.  If we are treating a “wrong” element, we may assume that we are doing something wrong.  But that is not what I believe.  We should not condemn any treatment we give as being wrong provided that we follow one of the basic rules of five element practice, and that is to ensure that we are not going against nature by taking more energy away from an already depleted element, or adding energy to an element already with an excess of energy. 

Our pulse-readings should tell us what to do, for they will help us assess the relative level of energy in the different pulses.  Any treatment we then give on whatever element we choose will not only not harm, but will be beneficial, because it will help balance out the different levels of energy between the five elements.  And anything which brings greater balance is to be recommended.

To all five element acupuncturists out there reading this I would therefore say “take heart”.  You can never harm a patient if you let the pulses guide you in this way even if you are unsure which element you should be concentrating your treatment upon.  Pulses alone are unlikely to pinpoint the patient’s element for you, (but you may like to take note here of Peter Eckman’s comments on my blog on Facebook about this). Using your reading of the pulses to help balance the relative strengths of the different elements one to another can help you lose some of your worry about whether the element you have chosen to treat is the “right” one or not.

Finally, in all my years of practice, no patient of mine has ever, I repeat ever, told me that any treatment I had given them had made them feel worse, except when it has temporarily exposed an underlying block, such as Husband/Wife or Entry/Exit, which the appropriate follow-up treatment successfully clears. 

I think nature is very kind.  The elements help themselves by disliking the states of imbalance which lead one element to have too much energy and another too little.  It seems that they try everything to even out any discrepancy in energy between them, which is why the treatment using energy transfers between elements is greeted with such a huge sigh of relief by all the elements.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nobody likes getting things wrong

One of the most difficult lessons for a five element acupuncturist is learning to train themselves not to mind when their choice of element eventually turns out not to be the “right” one. I can still remember my feeling of embarrassment when the whole of my Leamington class except for me thought a patient was quite clearly Earth, when I was sure she was Metal.  I remember cringing inside when I realised that there was something in the patient which I had not before then associated with Earth, but everybody else had, and my shame at having to admit this in front of the 20 or so of my fellow students.

I have often baulked at using the words “right” and “wrong” when talking about the elements, because these terms hide within them just this feeling I had in the class of not being good enough, or at least of not being as good as other people.  But there is definitely a “right” element, which is the patient’s element, and eventually “wrong” elements, which are the four other elements which are not this patient’s element.  We have to learn to accept, though, that discovering the right element always takes a lot of time and a lot of experience, but does not come as a result of a flash of insight in a few moments.  It helps, though, to know that the cumulative experience of years of practice undoubtedly speeds this process up.

 I have tried to think of better ways of describing an element as being either the “right” or the ”wrong” one, but have not yet come up with any satisfactory alternative.  So these descriptions may have to stay, despite making us feel just as inadequate as we felt at school when we got an answer in class wrong.  “Not yet the right element” is the nearest I have come to a possible solution, but, although it is an accurate description of the step-by-step process of diagnosis, it does not slip easily from the tongue.  Perhaps with more frequent use, though, it will gradually start to supersede the phrase “the wrong element” with all its unhappy associations.

I have often thought that this is one of the reasons why people hesitate to venture into five element acupuncture.  Other branches of acupuncture seem to display their diagnostic choices in less black and white terms, and can therefore seem to expose their practitioners less to public displays of what they may wrongly feel as their ignorance.

Significantly, though, this, to me, embarrassing lesson in not recognizing the Earth element taught me the most about Earth in the shortest time that I have ever learnt.  As JR would tell us: “You don’t learn anything if you get the element right.  It’s when you get it wrong that you learn the most.”



Friday, June 30, 2017

Meaningless mission statements

I often laugh at the slogans companies devise to advertise themselves.  Here are two I have recently seen:

In the Nat West Bank window:  We are what we do.
On the side of a van advertising building work:  Make sure the past has a future

I do wonder who thinks these things up.

In the early days of SOFEA, I was asked by somebody who was helping us with our advertising to think of something which defined what I wanted our school to represent, and I came up with a phrase which I still like:

An ancient form of healing for a modern world

I always felt it had been given JR Worsley’s blessing, because when he read it one day, I saw him nod his head and say, “That’s nice.”

I still think it is nice, and unlike some of the mission statements I see dotted around on every advertising hoarding and on the side of vehicles, I think it still means something.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Wood element in crisis

As those who read this blog will know, I think both Theresa May and Donald Trump are Wood, and both, unfortunately for the world, appear to be incredibly rigid, unyielding Wood, more stolid oak trees than graceful willows.

I was therefore amused, as well as horrified, by reading this in the Guardian newspaper yesterday about Theresa May:

“Wooden-headedness is a source of self-deception. It is also the defining feature of Theresa May’s prime ministerial stint, and particularly of her “hard Brexit” strategy.  On Europe Mrs May appears to assess a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring any contrary signs.  She then acts on her delusions and does not allow herself to be deflected by facts.  While this might be a good way of winning power, it is not a good way to exercise it.”

And the piece ends with: 

“Wooden-headedness is characterised by a refusal to benefit from experience.  Why not, Mrs May, learn from one’s mistakes and change tack?"

It made me think a little more about how I perceive Wood.  Changing tack, a very nautical expression for changing the sails of a boat to move it in a different direction, is very appropriate for describing the flexibility and manoeuvrability of the Water element.  It is certainly not how I would see Wood moving.  It likes to keep to a straight line, and once on that line is determined to stay on it as it presses onwards towards the future.

We all know that Wood’s function is to do with planning and decision-making.  When in balance these plans will be appropriate and lead to good decisions.  When under stress, which Theresa May always seems to be, the plans, once made, have been rigidly adhered to, and the decisions made on the basis of these plans can easily become the wrong ones.  She has been seen to change her mind suddenly and quite erratically (from a Remainer to a hard Brexiteer in the matter of a few hours, as well as all the volte-faces she has recently made in government). 

I think her dominant Wood official is likely to be the Liver rather than the Gall Bladder.  It appears to be much easier for her to plan (the Liver’s function) than to carry out the plans (the Gall Bladder’s function) by making the right decisions.  Others may see the differences between Wood’s two officials differently.  I have always been reluctant to specify which is the dominant official within an element, because I have always regarded the elements as an almost indivisible whole, the yin and the yang within them indissolubly tied together.  There are, however, definite differences in some elements which I have found easier to see, such as the difference in the Metal element between the Lung and the Colon official (taking in and letting go).

And finally Trump as well!  I need hardly point to Trump in this context.  Enough said, as they say.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Interpreting the elements is always a subjective experience

I have been very interested by the comments people have posted on my recent blogs about the differences between Water and Metal.  Some have agreed with my observations, others not.  All have given me something fresh to think about.  They have made me realise that people reading what I write may be assuming that the very personal way I have learnt to interpret the elements over the years is prescriptive, and that they should see and feel things in the same way, rather than what I say reflects my own often maybe quite idiosyncratic approach to the elements.  What I mean by the word prescriptive is that it may be felt that others reading what I write should try and see the elements as it were through my eyes.  I don’t think that this is right or what I would like people to do.  Instead, it is important that everybody develops their own personal filters through which they perceive the elements.  Everything we do, think and feel reaches us only through these filters, and will be interpreted according to what they tell us individually.

What is absolutely essential, though, is that each of us, practitioners as well as anybody else interested in developing their understanding of the elements, subject this understanding to a rigorous system of control.  This is what I have been doing ever since my eyes were opened on to the landscape of the elements spread before me.  I have learnt that I must test carefully my assessment that a person I encounter might at first sight be Earth, for example, against those other people who I have previously thought might also be Earth, and then assure myself that these people have enough in common to warrant being gathered together under the heading of Earth.  Collecting together enough examples of all the elements therefore takes time, and requires a great deal of patience and self-scrutiny as we assess how accurate our diagnoses are.  Being accurate requires us to be very aware that we may often get things wrong, and then be prepared to amend our initial diagnosis.

Some people, of course, will find this the most difficult aspect of being a five element acupuncturist, because we can never really know that we have found a patient’s element until we are offered proof from the results of successful treatment.  As I have often said, what we do is not a calling for the faint-hearted, but, as I have also often added, but it is a calling which, if we persist, brings us incredibly rich rewards.

A headline on BBC news: “Scientists say that they have proof that marriage may be good for the heart”

I love it when Western science, after much earnest research, prides itself on discovering something that we acupuncturists take as self-evident.   Understanding as we do that the Heart official will remain healthy if it is happy, perhaps before we agree totally with this bit of scientific research, we should add an important proviso.  Just as it is likely that happy partnerships will nurture the Heart, is it not just as likely that it will suffer under the effects of unhappy relationships?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Something frivolous for a change (or perhaps not so frivolous)

As light relief from the horrors of this utterly unnecessary election and Brexit, plus the disasters of Trump, I am allowing myself to laugh at myself in this brief blog.

I am of the generation brought up in the real austerity days after the 2nd world war, when there was nothing available in the shops to buy, and in any case you viewed buying anything which was not absolutely essential as frivolous, and made sure that you saved everything you could.  “Waste not, want not” was the slogan then.  These words popped into my head this morning as I walked, carefully watching where I put my feet on the increasingly uneven pavement (is the local council cutting back on repairing the road as well as everything else?), when I noticed, as I often do, one of the rubber bands which postmen now throw away as they walk on their rounds.  These rubber bands used to be red, but have recently changed their colour to brown.

I am always tempted to pick one up when I see one, because I often need them for all kinds of things, such as packing books together to hand on to my friends, and I baulk at the thought of buying a packet when so many lie discarded at my feet wherever I walk.  And then I thought of how odd it would look to see me bending over from time to time to pick them up (and what if I toppled over again doing this, just as I fell a few weeks ago?).  And should I then wash them to remove the street dirt from them?

So with reluctance I leave them lying sadly abandoned there, although each time I see one a little pang passes through me at the sight of so much waste.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Further thoughts on the differences between Water and Metal (see my last blog on 27 May)

I do a lot of my thinking as I walk.  And I have been doing a lot of walking recently, both because I no longer drive a car (quite deliberately having giving up driving because I’m not sure that all my faculties remain as acute as they need to be to cope with London traffic), and also because, on a more temporary basis, I fell over and bruised my bottom so much that for the past few weeks walking has been a less painful alternative to sitting.  Anyway, on one of these walks I was mulling over my last blog about the differences between Water and Metal, and the following definition just popped into my head:

             Water feels, whilst Metal perceives.

“What is the difference between feeling and perceiving?”, I then asked myself.  You feel through every pore in your body.  It is an instantaneous, immediate reaction to what is going on around you.  Metal, of course, also feels, as do all the other elements, but in a different way;  I do not think it is its first reaction.  With Metal there is a hidden filter between it and the feelings which are being aroused, and this acts as a first stage before the feeling part kicks in.  We know that the Lung filters everything before it allows it through.  At a spiritual/emotional level it filters feelings, too, as much as it filters air at a physical level.  Once feelings are filtered and allowed safe to pass through, Metal then also allows itself to feel. 

This is how I arrived at the word “perceive” for Metal.  It seems to me to be a word which has implicit within it this kind of filtering process - first thinking about something, and then feeling it.

I would be very interested to hear from any Metal people as to whether they recognise this description.  They are perfectly free to disagree with me.  After all, that’s how I continue to learn.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Insights into the differences betweeen the Water and Metal elements

My lovely Indian friend from Bangalore, Sujata, whom I have treated over the past few years on the Water element, has sent me some very acute comments about how she perceives the differences between her own element and the Metal element, which she calls, very correctly, “the medium of air”.

Here is what she has just emailed me:

I was thinking of your previous blogs about observing elements in public places and I watched the swimming pool a bit.  While I was swimming I got the notion (perhaps a little fanciful, I don't know) of the difference between the medium of water and air in terms of connecting to the surroundings.  It is of course easier to see, smell and hear through the air but movements and changes in environment are conveyed sensitively and quickly through water and one can feel them with one's whole body and respond very fast.  This is the kind of antenna a Water person (like me) has, I think.  Constantly sensing the environment (even when apparently at ease or focussing on something, one part is always tuned outwards to sensing), looking for little ripples and trying to re-orient to those, physically or mentally.  Sensing is the very nature of Water, then moving towards or drawing away from, never being able to stand apart in isolation (like an island!).

I love Sujata’s insights, just as I always love hearing those of anybody of the other elements, since they help me understand their element from the inside as it were.  I will never truly understand what it is like to live a life under the protection of the Water element or of the other elements apart from my own, Fire, and even then it is only Inner Fire which I feel I really understand as completely as anybody can ever understand themselves.  So these small openings on to slightly unfamiliar elemental landscapes each helps me grasp a little more how the other elements perceive their lives and therefore adds to my development as a practitioner.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The importance of changing one's routine

It is always good when circumstances shake us out of a routine into which we have settled a bit too comfortably.  And teaching can become a bit like a routine if we are not careful to revisit what we are doing from time to time, not only to stimulate those coming to learn from us but also to encourage us to develop new ways of thinking about what we do.  Today, circumstances have forced me to do just that, and I am trying to devise a new plan to adjust to these new circumstances.

For the past few years we have always used the reception room at our Harley Street practice for our clinical seminars.  The room is large enough to hold about 18-20 people, although it is certainly not an ideal seminar room because it comes full of those deep leather sofas and armchairs all waiting-rooms seem to demand.  Before this room became available a few years ago, we used to run more frequent but smaller seminars from our own practice room downstairs, into which a maximum of 8 – 10 people could fit.  We have now been told that we can no longer use the reception room, which is why I have to think again about how I want to do my teaching.

Of course we could hire a room, and this might be sensible as all our seminars increasingly overbooked, but do I want to go to all the hassle and much greater expense of doing that?  And is the kind of seminar I have run really the best way to pass on my five element knowledge?  Is this change telling me that it is time to look again at what I am trying to do with my teaching in London, and perhaps my experiences in China can be used to develop a new approach to what I should be doing here.  I write “should”, but perhaps it should be “could”, for this surely is an opportunity to re-assess what I can offer and to whom I can be offering it.

Up till now I have not really considered these two questions.  Instead I have simply done much of the same at each seminar, and offered it to many of the same people, all of whom are on SOFEA’s distribution list and have registered their interest.  In other words, we advertised the seminars and accepted whoever applied on a strictly first-come, first-served basis.  Should I be a bit more selective about this, for example by restricting the number of students, and focussing more on established practitioners?  Would this be a better use of my time? 

I think that I should be doing more to help the more advanced practitioners, particularly since Guy Caplan is now expanding the teaching he is doing to include some of the groups I was already teaching, particularly in Europe, and others that I might have engaged with if Guy had not been there.  The important thing here is to gear whatever I do to a format which I would be happy to regard as part of what I now like to think of as my legacy.  And what this tells me is that I need to concentrate more on teaching the more experienced five element practitioners, leaving to others the task of inducting five element novices into the delights of what we do.

So I have made the decision, a decision essentially made for me by the withdrawal of the use of the Harley Street reception room, no longer to hold seminars open to everyone, from the student to the more experienced five element practitioner, but to offer my expertise only to the latter group.  This decision has been made easier by my experiences in China, where the very keen group of five element practitioners that have attended my seminars over the past six years are now themselves teaching various five element introductory classes throughout China in order to prepare those who wish to come to our more advanced seminars.  By themselves, in their highly organized way, they have thus made it possible to spread the word about five element acupuncture in the most efficient way and to as many people as possible, allowing me and my team to move away from the beginner level to the intermediate level (and, for just a few of the more experienced, to the advanced level), and therefore making it possible to reach more of the many hundreds enrolling in our programmes.

I am a little sad to have had to abandon novice five element acupuncturists to others, but I hope in future years to catch up with them as they in turn gain sufficient experience to welcome the kind of teaching I will now be concentrating upon.



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Why I enjoy teaching so much in China

I often ask myself why I enjoy teaching so much in China and why this is so different from the teaching I do in this country or in Europe.  The answer I always give people who also ask me this is that I find it easier, and, to that extent, more satisfying for many reasons.  The most obvious, superficial reason may well be the way I am welcomed over there, which is as a revered visitor.  This is so unlike how students in this country treat their teachers, where the approach is much more irreverent than reverent.  In China the reverse is true; there the culture is built on a deep respect for tradition, and for their teachers who embody this.

Through one of the serendipities of life (oh how I love that word!), I happen now to be reading a book called The Souls of China: the Return of Religion after Mao (yes, souls, not soul!) by Ian Johnson.  Here are some brief extracts:

Faith and values are returning to the centre of a national discussion over how to organize Chinese life……As one person I interviewed for this book told me, “We thought we were unhappy because we were poor.  But now a lot of us aren’t poor anymore, and yet we’re still unhappy.  We realize there’s something missing and that’s a spiritual life.”

 All told, it is hardly an exaggeration to say China is undergoing a spiritual revival similar to the Great Awakening in the United States in the nineteenth century.  Now, just like a century and a half ago, a country on the move is unsettled by great social and economic change.  People have been thrust into new, alienating cities where they have no friends and no circle of support.  Religion and faith offer ways of looking at age-old questions that all people, everywhere, struggle to answer:  Why are we here?  What really makes us happy?  How do we achievement contentment as individuals, as a community, as a nation?  What is our soul?

This reminds me of something the administrator of a large Chinese province told me as I was treating him.  To my surprise, he said, “We need you in China, Nora laoshi (Teacher Nora).  We have lost our soul.”  My surprise was that the person saying this was a provincial administrator, not, as one might expect, a practitioner of some spiritual discipline.  I smiled when I thought to myself how incongruous such a statement would sound coming from his British equivalent, a head of a corporation or a banker.  What it confirmed for me was the essentially spiritual nature which lies deep within the Chinese character, and it is partly this which explains much of the satisfaction I experience in my teaching over there.

For I regard five element acupuncture as a form of spiritual practice, not merely as a purely physical medical discipline.  It is that, too, of course, but it is much more than this, and it is this “more” which first attracted me to it, and keeps me so firmly enthralled by it that I cannot see myself abandoning my practice until my knees will no longer keep me upright and my hands shake too much to hold a needle.  Today, for example, I was faced with the need to help a longstanding patient of mine whose partner of many years had suddenly left without forewarning, leaving her devastated.  I cast around a little in my mind trying to think of what treatment I could choose to help her, but hardly had I taken her pulses when I was suddenly struck by the thought that, of course, these were the circumstances which were most likely to create a husband/wife imbalance.  The pulses themselves had not at first suggested this, so subtle can be the signs of this imbalance, and, as I often say, how crude and clumsy will always be our pulse-taking in the face of the very delicate nature of the pulses. 

But the situation obviously pointed to a classic husband/wife situation (relationship problems being typical evidence for this imbalance), and though I wasn’t initially convinced that I was interpreting the pulse picture accurately, I decided to carry out the procedure.  The result confirmed what I had guessed might be there.  The patient’s pulses steadied themselves beautifully after treatment, and as she left she said, “I feel quite different.  When I came I felt I couldn’t cope, now I feel more hopeful that I will be able to deal with this.”  I am making sure that she comes for a further treatment within a week, as one should always do in such cases.  After all, this indicates an attack upon the Heart, which will remain vulnerable for some time and needs regular strengthening to prevent the block returning.

For me, the experience of treating my patient was akin to a spiritual experience.  The atmosphere in the practice room, from start to finish, reflected something deeply emotional.  Long after the patient left, this feeling persisted in me.  We were, after all, both in our different ways facing a situation of profound crisis, and I was being asked to help my patient at the deepest level.  Sometimes one hears the most beautiful sayings which illuminate one’s day quite by chance.  On the radio yesterday I heard Archbishop Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, a really gentle, caring man, say “We do not have a window into people’s souls.”  But even though I agree that I did not have a window into my patient of today’s soul, I felt that my treatment had allowed a little more healing light to stream into that window hidden deep within her.

This spiritual dimension of my work, and the fact that this is immediately understood by Chinese practitioners, is one of the main reasons why teaching in China is such a satisfactory experience for me.  Since the basic components of my work, such as the Dao, yin yang and the five elements, are familiar to every Chinese person, this makes it very easy for them to start to incorporate the principles of five element acupuncture into their practice.  No longer do I need to answer the kind of questions my students in England would ask me with a puzzled air, such as, “How do we know that there are things called elements?”, or “What evidence is there for the existence of acupuncture points?”  These are both perfectly reasonable questions for those not brought up in an environment where the elements perfuse every strand of everyday life, and where to cast doubt on the existence of acupuncture points and the efficacy of acupuncture itself could be considered futile and almost sacrilegious in the strict meaning of the word (an affront to a basically religious belief).  To embark on the task of introducing an understanding of the practice of five element acupuncture to the Chinese is akin to sowing seeds in already well-fertilized ground.

My conviction that what I practice represents a profound truth therefore receives welcome confirmation each time I set foot on Chinese soil.  There I am amongst people all of whom at some deep level speak the same spiritual language I do, even if we differ in the superficial everyday languages we speak. 

And how I continue to wish I could learn to understand and speak this lovely language to a level which would make proper communication possible.




Monday, May 8, 2017

People-watching: Insight into the Metal element (plus a little more on Fire)

Since writing my last blog on People-Watching, a Metal friend of mine, Jeremy, has given me the following insights into how he approaches sitting down in a café.  

This is what he has written:

"I read your blog yesterday and can tell you exactly where I sit in a cafe.  I have 2 parameters.  

First, I need to be able to see who is coming and going, so need to face the door or main entranceway (I also need to know how to get out in the event of a problem - but that is probably my army training).
Second, I need as much distance as reasonable from as many people as possible, so that I can get perspective on what is happening and get the minimum impact of other people's presence on my thinking and reflecting - I want to be able to see and watch everything and not have what I see and think disturbed..."
Thank you, Jeremy, for opening my eyes to other aspects of Metal. 
And a Fire friend of mine, having read my blog, agreed with every word of it.  She told me that she is very careful always to sit with her back covered, with nobody behind her.  This is also true of where she sits in the train as well as in restaurants.  This is obviously her Heart Protector doing exactly the kind of protecting that it should do.
How fascinating all this is!

Friday, May 5, 2017


As everybody knows, what I enjoy above all things is people-watching wherever I am.  And today, over my morning cup of tea and toast in a local café, I became fascinated by another illustration of the oddities of human behaviour and how everything we do reveals something about ourselves and the elements which direct our lives.

The café was only half-full, with many of its small tables unoccupied, providing plenty of choice for newcomers. It had a counter with six stools, two tables for four people and six tables for two people.  I started to notice that the abundance of choice itself was proving problematic to some people as they came in.  If only one table had been unoccupied, I realised the choice of where to sit would have been simple, because it would have made itself.  Here, though, the possibility of many different choices presented itself.  A woman came in, and I watched as she looked round, hesitated for quite a time, and then started to move round a few tables.  Eventually she settled herself down at a table next to one of the occupied tables.  It looked as though she was trying to draw herself as close as she could to another group of people, without actually joining them at their table.

I contrasted this with my own choice of seating a few minutes earlier.  Here I had quickly checked all the tables as I came in, trying to find one that was evenly spaced between the occupied tables, and had felt myself fortunate to find just what I like, which is always having some space between me and other people.  I realised I would certainly not have sat myself down next to somebody on the next table, as she had done, if there had been more room elsewhere.  I had deliberately chosen to distance myself as far as possible from my fellow guests.  Not only was I trying to distance myself but I was also attempting to do this in, to me, the most physically harmonious way possible, for I had chosen a table which positioned me carefully at equal distances from each of two other occupied tables, with an unoccupied table on either side, creating a kind of a pattern.  (The Small Intestine likes to put things in order and sees things in terms of patterns wherever possible.)

The next person who came in now had less choice, but still hesitated, first looking at the long counter, but then deciding to sit at a table, and again taking a little time to choose at which table to sit.  The man following her, however, plonked himself down at the counter without looking round at all, even though the counter was close to the now mainly occupied tables, and there was plenty of space elsewhere.  So obviously, unlike me, he didn’t mind being pushed up close to other people, and hardly seemed to notice his surroundings.

This reminded me of the cartoon of a theatre audience with only two couples attending, in which the couples seat themselves one behind the other, with the whole of the rest of the auditorium completely empty, and the woman in the row behind asks the woman in front to take off her hat, as she can’t see the stage.  I always think of this cartoon when I go to my newly-opened local cinema, and find myself each time in a fairly empty auditorium, and each time annoy myself by not being able to decide where to sit, because there is so much choice.  The same is obviously true for many people, as I see my fellow cinema attendees hesitating for quite a long time before deciding in which of the many empty rows of seats and the many empty seats in these rows to sit.

Of course, being me, I had to try to relate this behaviour to the different elements, starting with my own. Is it typical of Fire to be as cautious as to where it positions itself in relation to other people as I am?  I am very aware of how close other people get to me and realise that I welcome approaches from people I accept as being safe to be with (my Heart Protector working actively here), but am very hesitant to allow the kind of close contact enjoyed by those who welcome group hugs, a very Earth element pleasure, I think.

The young woman who sat herself down so close to another group may well have been Earth, or at least had strong Earth qualities, needing the closeness of others around her.  Water, too, though, is in need of the company of others, but in a slightly different way, and this woman did not show the kind of hesitation I think I would have expected of Water, a hesitation combined with that quick glance round to check what is going on around it, and ensure that no danger lurks.  This is often Water’s way as it enters a new space, and one which can therefore potentially represent a risk.  I was a little more unsure how Wood would seat itself, but I think it would undoubtedly be less concerned with who the people were it was sitting itself amongst than either I would be or the woman who came into the café after me.

And what about Metal, then?  Here I am even more unsure.  I feel it would certainly slip in more quietly and unobtrusively, as the man who settled himself down quickly did, for this is the element with the lightest tread of all, but would it look around and seek to position itself in a specific relation to other customers, or simply ignore them?  I decided that I must ask my Metal friends about this.

This is how this morning’s breakfast gave me another lesson in the elements.

Thoughts on my return from an excellent time in China

When I return from China I always have to give myself time to pause a little, catch my breath and allow all the many happenings over there to settle so that I can assess them properly.  In a way, there can be no starker contrast than my two lives, one in China, now as I return from my 10th visit (or is it my 11th – I have lost count), and my familiar life here in London. For the few weeks I am in China, I am transposed into a life lived in the full glare of many hundreds of eyes. In London I can disappear for days into a quiet, almost meditative existence, interspersed at times by my hours of practice (now deliberately much reduced), my meetings with family and friends, and my much sought-after, much-cherished interludes of reading and writing.

Each visit to China yields new experiences, each time propelling what my little team of five element acupuncturists is doing over there further along the path of increased acceptance of five element acupuncture as an important discipline, with an exponentially increasing number of China’s own practitioners now reaching from province to province and city to city around this vast country.  And also stretching well beyond its shores, to Singapore, Malaysia and beyond, to Australasia.  Not being somebody who likes to bask in my own successes, I am, however, amazed at what has been achieved in the past 6 years of my visits, from teaching an initially small group of 10 interested TCM practitioners on my first visit to now holding two seminars, one of over 100 practitioners and the other of 70 practitioners, divided into an intermediate and an advanced group because of the large numbers.

For the past two years we have moved from Nanning in the south to Beijing, where the Foundation to which I am attached now has its own offices and will soon be setting up its own clinic.  When there I always give a talk to students at the Beijing University of Traditional Medicine, where hundreds of students crowd into the large auditorium, finding seats wherever they can, on the floor and gangways, or peering in from the corridors outside. The interest is overwhelming.

This time I also attended a new event which gave me a fresh insight into the burgeoning interest in traditional medicine in China.  I was asked to take part in the graduation ceremony of a teaching group of the Sanhe TCM College, under the name of Project Heritage.  This has been set up inspired by the work of my host, Professor Liu Lihong, to increase appreciation of the different heritages which underlie today’s practices of traditional medicine, including here, for the first time, five element acupuncture. The 500 or so graduates had all completed the first year of a course led by Profess Liu, of whom 100 will then be selected to pass on to their second year. This will be when five element acupuncture will form one of the seven disciplines of different medical traditions students can choose to study.

The first-year graduates were of many ages;  some were traditional medicine practitioners of many years’ experience, others simply students and some were lay people, all inspired by Profession Liu’s spiritual approach to his teachings.  As I stood there on the stage in front of these hundreds of people, expressing my admiration for the work the Foundation was doing to inspire new generations of practitioners, I felt honoured to be part of the amazing growth of this spiritual dimension to traditional Chinese medicine.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Publication of the second book of my blogs

I have just signed an agreement with Singing Dragon Press to publish a second book of my blogs, following on from my first book On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist.  The new book covers my blogs from January 2014 to the present.  We are calling it Blogging a Five Element Life.
I hope it will be published by the time of the BAcC Annual Conference in September, where I will be giving a talk on Saturday 23 September on the challenges and rewards of introducing Chinese acupuncturists to the practice of five element acupuncture.
I am also adding a note here to help those who come to our seminars and want to learn more about a five element approach to treatment.   At our seminars many questions are always asked about point selection.  I realise that some of you may not know that I revised and updated the second edition of my Handbook of Five Element Practice to include what I consider to be a more comprehensive discussion of the way in which we use point selection in five element acupuncture.  In particular, I added a surprisingly short list of the points I like to use.  It would be helpful for anybody trying to understand the principles behind five element point selection to familiarize themselves with the relevant chapters in this new edition of the Handbook (to be obtained from Singing Dragon Press).
At each seminar I also always emphasize my beloved mantra: “Think elements not points”, to help those who find difficulty in understanding the five element approach to point selection.
I hope everybody will have a good Easter break, and that spring will bring with it a bit more of Wood’s optimism.  


The tale of a learning support dog

This article in the Guardian made me smile, because here for once was a very cheery story on the education pages to offset the normal gloomy discussions on deficiencies in our educational system.  I learnt that “more and more schools now employ waggy-tailed staff to soothe students and even help teach them to read aloud.”

The dogs are trained by an organization called Dogs Helping Kids (DHK ) before they are handed over to a school.  Apparently the effect on children’s behaviour and learning is quite marked.  “Classroom dogs not only improve literacy skills but also have a calming effect.”  The dog “just goes to sleep and the children don’t want to wake him so they are really quiet – and these are children that do have a tendency to get a bit excited.”

One particular dog is learning how to become a “listening dog” who will help children read aloud.  “He will put his head in their lap and listen, prompting them to turn a page with his paw.”  As a result, children increase their reading levels. 

A dog’s presence in school also reduces truancy.  Children who have a poor record of attendance are allowed to take a dog for a walk with a teacher at break time.  “It makes (the children) feel quite special and their attendance has improved massively”.

What a heartening story!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Discovery of a little gem of a cake shop behind Oxford Street

One of the delights of London is how many coffee shops there are, and how often I have managed to find a new one.  As everybody who reads my blog knows, it is in coffee-shops that I do most of my writing.  To think my thoughts I need the peace of being in my own little world, with no distractions of phone or email to disturb me.  If the music is too loud, which unfortunately it often is now, one of the benefits of being hard of hearing and having to wear hearing-aids is that at a turn of a little switch I can shut all sound away, and stay cocooned in blissful silence for as long as I want.

So today I found yet another little coffee shop, or more correctly a little cake shop.  It is called The Sicilian Collection, and is at 51-51A Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JH, email info@strazzanti.co. 

It is run by a young Sicilian woman, Emilia Strazzanti, who has been trained in cake-making by a five-star Michelin chef.  Her beautiful cakes are certainly proof of that.  I have rarely tasted cakes which are so light to the palette, rich in taste and utterly fresh. 

At the moment the shop is tiny, with just room for a couple of people to sit inside and drink her delicious, freshly made coffee and eat a slice of her cake, and with a bench outside for when the weather gets warmer.  She told me, however, that she will soon be extending the shop to the back of the premises, where there will be tables for lunch as well as coffee and cakes.

After enjoying two cups of excellent coffee with a slice of one of her cakes, I asked for a selection of three different cakes to take away as a treat for myself.  Emilia told me they were slices of:
1.      A Sicilian hazelnut and chocolate cake, made from hazelnuts from the north of Catania
2.      A Sicilian pistachio and lemon cake with crema di pistachio from Bronte
3.      A Sicilian almond cake with almonds from Val di Noto
I left her little shop with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Article for Chinese Culture Research Society of Singapore

Below is an article about five element acupuncture which an acupuncturist who comes to my seminars in China has asked me to write for the Chinese Culture Research Society of Singapore.  I am happy to include it in my blog as it provides a very general overview of my thinking about five element acupuncture.

                                   What is five element acupuncture?
Five element acupuncture is a branch of traditional acupuncture which is based on an understanding of the five elements contained in the Nei Jing and handed down over the centuries.  It recognizes that the five elements shape each human being, putting the stamp of one of them in particular on each of us.  I call this the guardian element.  It also goes by the name of the constitutional element.   I see it as protecting us when we are in balance, but can cause imbalance when it is under stress from some physical illness or emotional disturbance.

This element is regarded as the dominant element out of the five.  It dictates how we look, giving us a colour on our skin (not a racial colour), how we talk, giving us the sound of our voice, how we smell, giving our skin a certain smell, and the emotion which rules our life, such as joy or anger.  All these qualities of the elements are those listed in the Nei Jing and are still relevant today. In five element acupuncture they are used diagnostically to help us treat a patient and restore them to health.

A five element diagnosis is therefore based on what our senses can perceive:  the patient’s colour, smell, sound of voice and emotion.  Students spend a great deal of time developing these skills by training their senses.  We know that babies are born with very sensitive senses, but as we grow older we lose much of this sensitivity because we do not practise using our senses.  Some of these senses therefore become less acute over time through lack of use, and we forget to pay attention to what they are telling us.  We put perfume on our bodies to hide our natural smell, and put make-up on to hide our natural skin colour.  Some people can, however, continue to develop very great sensitivity to one sense or another.  For example, I have a nearly blind patient who tells me that she knows by a person’s smell whether that person is friendly to her or not.  A singing teacher will obviously have a highly developed appreciation of the quality of a person’s voice.
We obviously use our emotions every day, but because we are social creatures and have had to learn to live among many other people with their own needs and desires, we have learnt to suppress many of our natural emotional responses.  Society is also uncomfortable if emotions are expressed too openly.  For example, children are often told by their parents to be friendly and kind to other children, and they soon learn to be careful to suppress their natural anger, and not hit another child if it takes their toys.  In fact, children are often told not to express any emotion too strongly.  This means that some of these emotions are not allowed their natural outlet, and are forced to stay hidden inside us.
Some of this suppression of our emotions is a natural result of having to live in harmony with our fellow human beings, but if emotions are suppressed too much or for too long they can put great pressure upon us, and in particular upon the guardian element.  And this is where the five element acupuncturist, trained to observe changes in the sensory signals from the patient, will assess how far what he/she observes reflects a particular element in balance or out of balance.  These changes can be very subtle to start with.  That is why a five element practitioner takes time getting to know their patients, asking them about all the stresses in their life, both in the past and in the present, and through this questioning tries to work out which element of the five is the dominant element.
The understanding in five element acupuncture is that it is weaknesses in this element which lead to the appearance of physical and emotional problems.  Treatment directed at strengthening the element will give renewed strength and balance, and help the patient deal with the stresses which have led to imbalance.  We therefore place great importance on the relationship between the patient and the practitioner, because it is by establishing a good relationship that the patient will feel safe enough with us to take off the social mask we all have to put on in our everyday lives, and show the real nature of who they are and what their problems really are.  And it is by allowing the patient to relax with us that the guardian element shows itself most clearly.  Then the practitioner can judge from the sensory signals which this element is sending out what treatment the patient needs.  For example, a Fire patient’s face may be too red, or a Metal patient may appear to be excessively sad.

Treatment is always focussed on strengthening the guardian element.  It takes time, however, to confirm whether the element we have chosen is the correct one.  It is only by assessing the results of treatment, particularly patients’ own judgement as to whether their emotional and physical health is improving, that the practitioner can be sure that the diagnosis is correct.  It therefore takes courage to be a five element acupuncturist, because no textbook can tell you which element you need to treat.  The important thing I always tell students is “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry”.  Practitioners need to give themselves time to make the correct diagnosis.

Anybody interested in learning more about five element acupuncture will find it helpful to read my Simple Guide to Five Element Acupuncture and my Handbook of Five Element Practice, both of which books are now available in a Chinese edition.  My other three books are available only in English, but are being translated at the moment, and will soon also be published in China.

My great acupuncture master, Professor J R Worsley, always told us that everybody should study the elements, and start to learn to recognize them in all the people around them.  Understanding the different qualities of the elements helps us become more tolerant of each other, and makes the world a happier place.  For me it is one of the delights of being a five element practitioner that I can help people to a greater understanding of others, and thus make their lives and the lives of their family members and friends more contented.




Monday, March 13, 2017

Oh dear! Oh dear! I find that I am addicted!

I am reading a fascinating book by Adam Alter:  Irresistible: Why we can’t stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching, about our obsession with our smartphones, our emails, our endless Twitter twittering and our fascination with Youtube. 

It makes for a sobering read, none more so than when we are told that leaving a very young child unsupervised in front of those children’s gadgets which transfix a child’s eyes for hours, but deprive it all too quickly of the ability to look people in the eye, actually damages their little brains.  Even something so harmless as talking to a child on Skype reduces the importance of eye-to-eye contact because the child cannot apparently pitch its eyes at the right level on the screen to evoke the kind of immediate response it looks for in the presence of another person.

Not being a two-year old, why did I come to the depressing conclusion that I, too, was addicted, but what to?  Of course it is to my emails, the only bit of electronic equipment I use.  I have, reluctantly, accepted the need for a Facebook account to pass on my blogs to a wider audience;   I can go for days without looking at it.  But I am, I now realise, hooked on checking to see if any new emails have arrived, so worried I apparently am with the need to answer them immediately, as though not doing so is impolite.

From reading this book I gather that this is a definite sign of an addiction.  I don’t have a smartphone so I can only check up on my emails when I am physically sitting in front of my computer, ready to tap away on a large keyboard with an old-fashioned mouse to hand.  Having now counted up how often I find myself returning to the computer when I am at home, and realising that my first action on coming back home is always to hurry to turn it back on again, I acknowledge that I do have as much a problem as if I had immediately to grab a glass of wine if I was a heavy drinker.  It may not be as harmful to my health as drinking too much, but it is probably as harmful to my peace of mind in its own way, because each email demands something of me, and often these demands are worrying or disturbing.  I am as much in thrall to this wretchedly addictive piece of equipment as anyone hooked to chatting endlessly on Twitter.

Of course, it is not only me, but all those countless others I see in the street or in cafes, their fingers twitching away at their smart phones, their eyes unable to look away to see the world around them, so busy are they scrolling up and down looking for God knows what.

I know that those emailing me can wait a few more hours or even a few more days for an answer from me, so I am resolved to watch myself now and reduce those compulsive excursions of mine to sit in front of the computer.  Let’s see whether I can manage this!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The effect of clearing a CV/GV (Ren Mai/Du Mai) block

I love hearing patients’ descriptions of how specific treatments make them feel.  Here is a lovely testimonial to the power of clearing a CV/GV block:

I feel that this experience has allowed the real essence of who I am to emerge.  For the first time in my life I feel that the real me has arrived.”

I don’t think you can have a more powerful statement explaining the effect of removing this major block to the healthy flow of the elements.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Something new I have just learnt about the Small Intestine

A patient whose guardian element is Inner Fire (Small Intestine) delighted me this week when she said, rather sadly:  “I run on my thoughts.  Other people seem to run on their emotions.”

Cars run on petrol, lorries on diesel, and she recognizes that she “runs on thoughts”. 

Yes, I thought to myself, that is an excellent description of what powers the Small Intestine.  It always has to think everything through, sorting and sorting its thoughts out to make sure that its companion official, the Heart, receives good advice.  I have described the Small Intestine official as acting as the Heart’s secretary, often doing its deep thinking for it, and then passing on what it hopes are only pure thoughts to the master of all, the Heart.

This is how I have learnt to distinguish Inner from Outer Fire, which is never an easy distinction to make.  If you think a patient is Fire, ask them some rather complicated question, and watch how they try to answer it.  Inner Fire often looks slightly puzzled, frowning a little as it tries first to take in what you are asking, and then start sorting out its reply to your question.  There will always be signs of a kind of slight hesitation, as if the answer is not easy to find, and the reply may sound slightly confusing, as though the patient is still sorting out what to say as they talk. 

Outer Fire, on the other hand, will tend to give a more straightforward answer, and one which is much less involved in its own thought processes.
Being an Inner Fire person myself, I have often said that I sort my thoughts out as I talk.  And now, hearing what my patient said, I agree that I, too, run on my thoughts.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The taking of "selfies"

The following is a quotation from a book I am reading at the moment.  It is a detective story, and its author has many interesting insights into life.  The book is called Death in the Tuscan Hills by Marco Vichi.  Here he is describing somebody who is leafing through a photo album.
He retired to the kitchen with a box of old family photos…..Photos were ruthless.  They showed moments lost for ever, people long since dead.  They were an attempt to cheat death, a painful illusion, and looking at them made one more aware than ever that time was a mystery.
After looking at them all one by one, he closed the box of memories with a sigh.”
Perhaps, indeed, people’s recent mania for the constant taking of photos, usually of themselves, rather than giving themselves time to observe life at first-hand through their own eyes, is part of an attempt to ”cheat death”, to re-assure ourselves that we are alive.  I observe with some incredulity and much sadness this endless taking of photos, the living of life at one remove which this represents.  So many pieces of electronic equipment, such as smart phones with their numerous gadgets, now put a barrier up between people and the world around them.  I wonder what effect this is having on our personal relationships.
I was also saddened recently to hear that, far from connecting people to one another, as Facebook is intended to do, it can have just the opposite effect, that of isolating people.  I have been told that young girls can now spend hours alone in their rooms taking photo upon photo of themselves until they are satisfied with the one they eventually feel is good enough to send out to the world as their image of themselves.  This is more a case of a disconnect from the world rather than a closer connection to it.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Being incurably curious

I have just passed a lovely sign on the outside of the Wellcome Collection in the Marylebone Road here in London.  Appropriately for its name and for what the Wellcome Collection does, which is focused on medicine and helping the ill, it says in bold letters “Welcome to the Incurably Curious”.  On the bus ride back home I decided that it would be good to adopt this as my own catchphrase, but with a slight modification.  I would amend it slightly to read “Welcome to the Curably Curious”, in honour of my calling as an acupuncturist, because it is our curiosity, in five element terms, which, far from “killing the cat” as the saying goes, helps us to cure.

And curiosity is what we need, an infinite dose of it throughout every minute of our working lives to help us understand our patients better and through this understanding restore them to good health.

I have always been incurably curious, from childhood onwards, staring unashamedly at people to try and fathom what makes them tick and how they relate to others.  I think people have always at some level puzzled me, challenging my Small Intestine to understand what is going on in another person at every new encounter.  I suppose it was therefore only natural that I would eventually gravitate towards a calling which feeds my desire to explore the intricacies of human relationships, however late in my life this was, for I only started practising acupuncture in my mid-40’s, exactly at the midpoint of my life when viewed from my present standpoint.  I am a living example of the dictum that it is never too late to change the direction of one’s life, and that it is often only by passing through the dark days that light begins to shine through.

For I came across acupuncture, or as I like to think somewhat fancifully, acupuncture found me, at a crossroads in my life, with the early part of my adult life, that of being wife and mother, almost behind me, and the next part hidden behind what seemed to me to be an impenetrable fog.  So the moment when I encountered acupuncture for the first time surprised me with its rightness;  it opened a door wide on to a completely new vision of life which has fascinated me, occupied me and preoccupied me ever since.

As a coda to this blog, I have just read the following passage in a book by Barney Norris called Five Rivers meet on a Wooded Plain (a lovely title in itself). This seems to me to describe very acutely what intrigues me so much about encountering other people:

“So I love watching the way another person holds themselves when they are alone and thinking.  Their actions and postures are windows into the vast and secret worlds below the surface of the day around me, the lives of others.” 

I love the thought of those “vast and secret worlds” which surround me.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An interesting treatment

A question:  if you are a five element acupuncturist and a patient comes to you with the following medical history, how would you start your treatment, particularly if the timescale is very short?  My patient was only in this country for a further week, was then flying to France for two more weeks, followed by another stay of a few weeks in London before finally returning to her home country at the other end of the world, with no five element acupuncturist within living distance.  

Here first is my patient’s medical history, which she has given me permission to write about.  She is a 70 year old woman, who had breast cancer 20 years ago, and had her left breast removed.  She refused to have chemo- or radiotherapy at the time, but has done other kinds of more natural treatments which she feels have helped her.  She developed cancer of the uterus and stomach about 10 years ago, had a full hysterectomy and was given 6 months to live.

Her most severe current problem is a blocked artery under the left arm.  She has been told that she is now at very high risk of a stroke. Her left arm swells up badly very frequently.  She also has very severe constipation, vertigo and panic attacks.

What do we do if we only have such a short time in which to treat?  We all learnt as students that we should gradually build up our patients’ energy by slow and steady treatment on what we have diagnosed as the guardian element.  That means an average of about 6 – 10 weekly treatments to start with.  This gives us time not only to get to know the patient but to assess whether the element we have chosen to treat is effecting the required level of change which confirms our diagnosis.  Should we then accept to help a patient when we have only a much reduced timescale to work with?

This is a dilemma which many of us have to learn to face, particularly in such a frenzied world where our patients are often away on business flying from country to country.  There will be many other reasons, too, why patients are unable to grant themselves the luxury of having the regular treatments needed.  So what do we do?  The simplest thing for me might have been to say I could not help  the patient because there was not enough time to treat her properly.  Experience has however taught me how effective a simple AE drain can be, even if there is little time to do much more.  Often I have found a surprising improvement in pulse qualities after removing the AE needles, even when I have found no AE. I see this as the elements giving a sigh of relief at being addressed, as though they know that help is on its way.

This was true for this particular patient, too.  She had no AE, somewhat surprisingly I felt after all the major surgical procedures she had undergone, but her pulses changed quite dramatically.  From feeling very uneven and jerky to me, they stabilized themselves before I did any other treatment.

If there is nobody apart from us who can offer the five element treatment which a patient asks us for, and that patient is in great need of help, as my patient is, then I think we have to tell ourselves that surely some treatment, however little, is better than none.  We have to be brave enough, as well, to adapt our treatment protocols which we learnt as students, and do whatever we think it is safe to do in the little time granted to us.  In other words, we have to take some short-cuts, something that is only advisable in these kind of cases.  This has to be done on the understanding that we must not be lulled into introducing similar short-cuts into our everyday practice, a temptation we might feel because we may think that we can speed up treatment in this way.  All of us in the world today, patients and practitioners alike, are always in a hurry and like to cut corners unless we take care not to.

Treatment given:
I am listing the following treatments with the above strict proviso.  These are the two treatments I was able to give my patient before she left London yesterday (all points with moxibustion and all tonified, except, of course, the AE needles).  She did not want me to needle her on her left arm, so all points on the arm were only needled on the right side.
Based on meeting her socially on a few occasions before she came for treatment, my diagnosis was that she was Outer Fire (Heart Protector and Three Heater).
Treatment 1:  Checked for IDs.  No treatment for this needed
                      Checked for AE:  None          
                      IV (Ki) 24  (I would not normally do this point at the first treatment, but she had gone through so much over the years, that I thought she needed this kind of spiritual resurrection which the point offers)
VI (TH) 4, V (HP) 7:  Source points, with moxa. (We were told by JR Worsley that we could use moxa on these points only after 2 years in practice. He said that novice acupuncturists have a tendency to leave the moxa burning for too long on the cones, which is dangerous over an artery)

Treatment 2:  Patient told me that she had felt very good indeed on the day of the treatment, and had had a surprising amount of energy the next day.

No blocks found (no H/W, no E/E blocks)
III (Bl) 38 (43): A point which reaches every cell in the body
III (Bl) 22, 14 (Normally we would wait a little longer to needle the AEPs (back shu points), and simply do III 38 at this treatment)  
VI (TH) 3 (tonification point)

* Patient suddenly said that she was experiencing one of her panic
attacks, and had to rush off to open her bowels. I talked gently to her to calm her down, and asked what she felt she was most frightened of.  She said that it was fearing that her partner might die before she did.  She had witnessed the death of a close member of the family at first-hand a few years earlier, and could not forget the trauma of this. 

I then needled I (Ht) 7 as a first-aid point, to help calm the Heart.  She recovered quickly and was happy for me to continue treatment.  I finished by needling the remaining tonification point on the Heart Protector:

V (HP) 9

She looked very peaceful as she left, and phoned me the next day before going to the airport.  She had slept for a full 10 hours after the treatment, and felt totally refreshed.

Treatment 3 will be in a few weeks’ time.  My suggestions to myself for the next treatment are:

Checking for blocks (of course!)
CV 8 or 14 (CV 14 addresses greater deficiency of the spirit than does CV 8.  Which point I choose will depend on how she is when I see her next)
VI (TH) 6, V (HP) 8 (horary points at horary time), or if that time is not possible, then:
VI (TH) 10, V (HP) 7.  I always remember JR saying that VI 10 Heavenly Well is a “much under-used point”, which is why I like to use it.  And which Fire person would not like to take a dip in a Heavenly Well? 

I think this sequence of two treatments is a good example of my dictum:  “The simpler the better”.  Just because somebody has been very ill, and even now is not out of danger does not mean that we should forget the basic rule of our practice, which is to do as little as possible, and give the elements the chance to do their work without too much interference from us.

(With apologies for the formatting errors in this blog.  My computer seems to have developed a mind of its own, and I don't want to waste any more time trying to correct things.)