Saturday, June 2, 2018

Lessons from the master

(This blog will form part of my next book, where I expand upon the profound lessons I learnt when observing JR Worsley with patients)

When I am teaching, as I have been recently over a busy two weeks in Beijing, a question I am asked often serves as a reminder of some important incident which took place during my training or my early years as a practitioner, which I now see set me thinking quite differently about my practice.  Each of these incidents proved a catalyst, opening up new directions to my thoughts.  I am surprised to find how many such important events have occurred in my acupuncture life, and appreciate now that without them I would not have made the often unconventional detours I did.  Much of my development as a five element acupuncturist, and reflected now in my writings, has been based on what could be considered the rather unconventional approach I have adopted when measured against that of many of my peers.

I have often thought that the tone was firmly set early on when I was asked to teach an evening class about acupuncture at a London evening institute at a time well before complementary practices were in such common use as they are today.  This was also when I had only just qualified.  It meant that I was free to develop my own thoughts about my practice unhampered by others, since there weren’t any others around doing what I was doing.  I found myself talking about five element acupuncture to a very wide range of lay people, and therefore had to couch my thoughts in very general terms, rather than assume that my audience and I spoke the common language familiar to all acupuncturists.  I taught at several of these institutes during the first few years of my practice, allowing the differing groups of people who came to my classes to influence how I expressed myself and how far what I was learning from my practice could be translated into a language they could all understand, from the builder, the retired postman, the young student, the bank clerk and the unemployed people who crowded into my classes evening after evening.

This allowed me a freedom to be cherished, something I did not realise until later, for I was able to develop my own ideas quite independently of other professional acupuncturists, and quite unhampered or inhibited by opinions about the practice of acupuncture which might well have differed from mine.  When I rejoined my fellow acupuncturists two years later as part of my first advanced training course under JR Worsley, I brought the often rather odd ideas I had developed into my time with him, a time which proved to be the most exhilarating of all my years of acupuncture training.  It also proved to be a time of heightened tension in the five element world as it coincided with JR Worsley’s own fight to keep the college he had nurtured so carefully for the past 20 years untainted by the introduction of other less traditional forms of acupuncture as he felt strongly it would be.  Eventually he lost this fight and had to resign, and this led almost directly to my starting the School of Five Element Acupuncture (SOFEA) with the express intention of continuing his work of spreading the practice of this branch of acupuncture, and often, to my delight, with his active support.

I took every opportunity I could to observe JR in his interactions with patients, and was fortunate that the time of my postgraduate training with him coincided with his last years at Leamington. There was therefore a rather febrile atmosphere at the Leamington college during my last years there, with acupuncturists lining up on one side or the other of unfortunately an increasingly hostile divide.  Sensing this, I made every effort to stay as close to JR as I could, attending all his seminars and taking many patients to private consultations with him.  I view these few final years at Leamington as forming my own personal apprenticeship to the master of five element acupuncture.

It was during this period of intense activity that I experienced many of the seminal moments which have set my acupuncture practice on such a fulfilling course.  In particular I am now enjoying reliving some of the profound lessons I learnt when studying with JR. The first of these occurred when I was sitting in the classroom at the Leamington college during a lunch break watching a video of JR with a patient, in which he was asking the young patient a question.  I remember her looking puzzled, thinking for a minute, and then saying, “I’m not sure how to answer that”.  Unnoticed by me, JR had come into the classroom, and was standing behind me.  I heard him murmur, “Only a II CF would say that”.  Translated into the acupuncture language in common use now this meant that only a Fire person who was Inner Fire (the Small Intestine is given the Roman numeral II in five element acupuncture) would express herself in those terms.  Not only did this teach me a lot about the distinctions to be made between Outer Fire’s much more articulate responses to a question and Inner Fire’s verbal hesitancy as it tries to sort out its thoughts, it also taught me a lot about myself, and has continued to do so over the years, for it has made me, an Inner Fire person, so much clearer to myself.  So, I asked myself, was this the way I respond to questions, with the initial brief air of puzzlement this patient showed, before finally sorting out an answer to give which satisfies the Small Intestine’s need to pass only what is pure on to the Heart?  Now, whenever I try to work out whether a person’s Fire element is that of Inner or Outer Fire, I always draw on the image of this girl’s puzzled face to help me decide.

 

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