Saturday, July 13, 2019

27. The way people walk

Since our observations will be filtered through our own personal spectacles, we will all observe the life around us from different angles.  I notice, for example, that I appear to be very aware of the way people walk, and can recognise them from a long way away just by the way they are moving and well before I can even see their faces as they come towards me.  This is therefore one of the things I look for in patients to help me with my diagnosis.  There may not be as much time to observe their walk as they move towards me in the practice room as there is out in the street, but if we extend the concept of walking to include the way a person moves in general, we can obtain a surprising amount of information even within the small confines of a practice room and the comparatively brief time we have with a patient.

My observation of movement was originally sparked by something my own practitioner at the time once said to me.  At the end of treatment I was told to get up from the couch and get dressed.  Apparently, although I myself didn’t realise this, I leapt off the couch in a hurry, reaching for my clothes almost before my feet had touched the ground.  “Goodness”, she said, “you are a speedy person.”  At the time, not having observed people as closely as I do now, I had not noticed that my movements are always quick, often much quicker than others around me, and speed up even more when I think somebody is waiting for me to leave and I assume, usually wrongly, that they are waiting impatiently, as I may well have thought my practitioner was.

Thinking back on this from my present standpoint, I realise that the speed of my springing up from the couch was closely associated with my fear, one that I have always had, that I am somehow outstaying my welcome and need to get myself out of the way quickly.  Fire, my element, is naturally an energetic element, but added to my natural Fire quickness was also Fire’s fear that it is somehow not getting something right.  I suppose this comes from its very heightened awareness of others and of others’ needs, and its desire to ensure that what it does is not upsetting to other people.  My rapid jumping up from the couch could then be interpreted as a clear pointer to the Fire element.  It took me some time to put this quick interaction in the practice room into context, and see it as pointing towards an example of the Fire element in action within me.

Another example was offered me when I was casually watching some golf on TV, and I suddenly noticed the golfer Rory McIlroy’s walk.  I can best describe it as a kind of jaunty stride.  It is certainly not a stroll nor does it appear to be a form  of hurrying, and yet I can find no better way of describing it than to say that he walks as though pushing the air aside in front of him, not in any way aggressively, but firmly.  It is definitely a stride, but done with a kind of joyousness to it.  He is so obviously an excellent example of the Fire element.  He can’t stop smiling as he walks, nor can he can’t stop wanting to make other people laugh.  You feel that if you were in front of him you would have to give way to allow this force of nature to pass by.

That set me thinking about the different ways the other elements walk.  I then compared McIlroy’s walk with that of another golfer who I diagnosed as the Wood element.  Wood, after all, is another very yang, outgoing element, with perhaps an even more forceful signature than Fire as its hallmark.  But this Wood golfer’s walk, though firm, differed from McIlroy’s because it did not have the same kind of joyous spring to it.  It was more of a firm placing of one foot in front of the other, a kind of a stomp, like someone claiming that bit of ground for himself, so that he made me more aware of the force with which each foot landed on the ground.  McIlroy’s stride makes me aware of the top of his body, as his chest pushes aside the air in front of him, the Wood golfer’s more of his feet conquering the ground.  This may seem a little fanciful, but I don’t think it is.  Wood, after all, emphasizes the feet, Fire the top half of the body.  If I think of a Wood person coming towards me, the word “striding” comes to mind, adding another distinctive layer to the concept of a walk.  Striding is first of all a vigorous activity, as though the air is being moved aside to allow the person through.  It is a robust form of walking, and is a good description of the kind of strong actions which Wood’s body enjoys.  If we are wondering if a person is Wood, therefore, it would be good to ask ourselves whether we can imagine them as striding rather than strolling towards that future which is where all Wood people want to head. 

All this made me think about my own Fire stride.  Did I have something akin to McIlroy’s walk, and did other Fire people, too, or had my observation not revealed a characteristic peculiar to all Fire people but only to the one?  I have not yet come to any satisfactory conclusion about this, but if anybody were to watch me walking along the street they might be surprised to note how often I glance in shop windows as I try and catch myself in mid-stride to analyse how I am walking.   

Whilst I am in the world of golf, I can also think of golfers who are Earth, and compare their walk to that of people of other elements.  Like many Earth people, I notice that they place their feet very solidly on the ground, and one could picture all their ten toes spreading out to find as much support for their body as they could.  I have often noticed this about Earth people, and realised that it is not surprising that an element with such a need for stability, literally for “ground beneath their feet”, should make their contact with this ground as firm as possible.

I can’t at the moment find any good example of Water golfers, though I am sure they are there, as all the elements are in every walk of life, but a supremely characteristic Water sportsman from another sport is Roger Federer, the tennis player.  There is a rhythm and sinuous flow to his movements which mimics that of what I am sure is his element, Water.  I would imagine that the Water element must be well-represented in dancers, for that reason.

Finally, an obvious Metal sportsman whose movements were not as flowing as Water’s, but were completely focused on the goal ahead was a former 100 metre Olympic champion, Linford Christie, whose almost trance-like stare as he looked up from his blocks ready to run always seemed to me to be the epitome of Metal’s determination to reach its goal.  Metal, like Water, is light on its feet, but does not float so much as glide.  It reflects a person that somehow wants to move upwards, and dislikes being tied to the earth, unlike its fellow element, Earth, which so clearly needs always to be tethered to the ground in some way.

It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that it is usually Earth people who develop a fear of flying, often experiencing the moment when the aircraft takes off as something frightening.  It is no coincidence that the Earth command points are on the feet and legs, whilst those of Metal are on the hands and arms.  Feet can only leave the ground for very short stretches of time.  Hands are free to move away from the body, and, most significantly, can stretch up above our heads.  Both positions of the two elements’ command points symbolically represent their respective elements’ needs, Earth’s to anchor itself firmly to the ground, Metal’s to allow itself the freedom to explore.




Some very Water-like words from Roger Federer at this week's Wimbledon tennis tournament

I have always thought that Roger Federer is Water.  I can’t see his colour or smell his smell when I watch him on TV, but his body movements are so fluid, as if he flows through the air, and I think his voice is the kind of groaning I associate with water flowing around rocks.  So I was amused to read the following in the Guardian newspaper a day or so ago:

“Their (the crowd’s) love for Federer is boundless.  And he appreciates it more than people realise. In an interesting aside later, the Swiss was asked how much time he spends alone.

Not much,” Federer said, pausing. “I don’t like being alone. I mean, I’m not afraid of being alone. I like being surrounded by my friends, family. It’s obviously the best. I like talking to people. Now with four kids anyway, there is a lot of that, which is perfect for me in my life because I’m very happy.”

I always think of Water people as being like individual drops of water that stream together with their fellows to form the flow of Water which creates a pond, a river, an ocean or a shower of rain.  It’s therefore nice to receive some confirmation of this in Roger Federer’s words.  I find it interesting, too, that he uses the words “I’m not afraid” when describing how he feels when he is alone.  There is a tinge of fear revealed in his use of the word “afraid”, even though he is denying that he is.  (Water never acknowledges its fear, for that makes it vulnerable.)  I asked myself if I, a Fire person, would ever say “I am not afraid of being alone”, and realised that I would not.  This is because I am not afraid of being alone, but if I feel lonely it will be sadness, not fear, that I feel.

Earth, too, will not enjoy being alone, for it enjoys being surrounded by the company of others.  Metal is perfectly happy being alone, since it is definitely the element which most enjoys its own company, often preferring it to that of others.  I don’t think it matters very much to Wood whether it is alone or with people, since it is so occupied with planning and doing things, and people will either help him do that or get in its way.

I enjoy piecing together fresh little thoughts like this about the different ways the elements express themselves, prompted by something that I read or see.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Another revealing glimpse into the mysterious world of the Water element

I have a dedicated searcher after five element truths to thank for the following addition to my understanding of the Water element, all the way from the South of France:

“I send you a very interesting thought about Water as Guardian Element. Like you I find it more difficult to identify this element as a CF. But, yesterday a Water CF person, a man, told me: " The treatment really helps me, I find myself more relaxed inside, but nobody can see that! (Water often expresses a relaxed attitude to avoid showing their fear)" and he continues, saying : "I realize that I am not an angry person like I thought because now in conflict with people I try to round the angles".

What a beautiful sentence, representing Water in nature polishing rocks, rounding the angles...! 

I continue to learn with Nature and your books as masters.”

Thank you yet again for your insights, Pierre.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Another happy SOFEA seminar day on 9 June

People tell me that I never like to trumpet the successes of what our little band of dedicated five element acupuncturists do to promote the calling that we love.  So this blog is my attempt to make good this fault a little.  It has been promoted by the following two lovely compliments we received from attendees at our London seminar last weekend:

I was truly starving for 5 Element teaching after 10 years not being in the UK for extra courses. So that was why my smile was from ear to ear for most of the day. Tears because of coming home again in this BEAUTIFUL 5 Element world.

I want to wish you (Guy) and Nora all the best and hope to meet you one day again.”
“It was wonderful to be amongst like-minded folk and I really appreciate the feedback on my patients from a ‘fresh pair of eyes’.  I’m sure both patients will continue to do well with their treatments”.
As usual, Guy and I emerged from the day re-inspired from our day-long immersion in the world of the elements with a group of like-minded acupuncturists, acupuncture students and those just keen to learn more about the elements.  This time we saw four patients brought by some of those attending;  we helped with their diagnosis and supervised treatments for each of them.  We were delighted that the group understood that they need not be concerned about “getting the element right”, but instead have learnt to accept that this always takes time, remembering my mantra “Don’t hurry!  Don’t worry!”
We have devised a very useful way of helping with the diagnosis by asking the group whether they feel the patient makes the energy in the room go up, go down or “neither up nor down”, as the good old Duke of York says in the nursery rhyme.  Up is obviously more yang (therefore Wood or Fire), down more yin (therefore Metal or Water) and in-between is more likely to be Earth.  We have found this a surprisingly accurate way of discarding some elements and emphasizing the one or two the patient may be.  Usually the majority in the room, even among the 300 or more in China and the lesser number in this country, experience the same effect of a patient’s energy upon them.  This simple method by itself usually reduces the potential number of elements to choose from five down to two, or at most three, always a helpful way to start our diagnosis.
Our next London seminar on 29 September is now fully booked, with a waiting list, but there are still a few places left for our spring 2020 seminar on Sunday 9 February.  Booking forms can be downloaded from our website:





Saturday, June 8, 2019

My review of Professor Liu Lihong's book: Classical Chinese Medicine

Published by The Chinese University Press
The Chinese University of Hong Kong 2019
I would like to start my review of Liu Lihong’s book with the words with which he ends it:

"Why is this book titled “Contemplating Chinese Medicine” in Chinese? What is it that we are contemplating? It is nothing other than these underlying principles, nothing other than the mysteries of nature and life as deciphered through the orientations of time.”  

Liu Lihong was the person who invited me eight years ago to come to China to give an introductory seminar on five element acupuncture, and has since then steadfastly promoted five element acupuncture as a valid discipline of traditional Chinese medicine.  It was therefore a lovely moment of recognition for these years of my work in China since then to read the following in Heiner Fruehauf’s introduction:
…”Liu Lihong has developed the Institute (for the Clinical Research of Classical Chinese Medicine) into an influential platform that has reintroduced multiple classical lineages to contemporary scholarly discourse, most notably the Fire Spirit School of Sichuan herbalism (huoshen pai), the traditional system of emotional healing synthesized by the Confucian educator Wang Fengyi (1864-1937), and classical five-element-style acupuncture. Each one of these efforts has had a considerable impact on the grassroots momentum of Chinese Medicine education in China.”
Joyful at thus seeing evidence of the importance of my work in China, I was delighted at last to be able to read the book which was the catalyst those eight years ago for Mei Long to write to Liu Lihong, urging him to acquaint himself with this discipline of traditional Chinese medicine, one which she recognized was very close to his own approach.  It has been with much surprise and delight now to receive confirmation that all that I was taught by the great master of five element acupuncture, JR Worsley himself, all that I have since learnt for myself and from my readings of the classics through translations by Father Larre and Elisabeth Rochat, all of this finds strong, almost eerie echoes in what Liu Lihong writes.

Though the book includes much detailed discussion of herbal remedies, since Liu Lihong is a herbalist, I have come to regard it much more as a profound philosophical exposition of Chinese thought, and it could well have been entitled Classical Chinese Philosophy.  Certainly the profound insights about Dao, yin yang and the five elements, which are the main emphasis of the book, also form the bedrock of my five element practice.  In particular, he emphasizes, as JR Worsley always did, the importance of regarding ourselves as embedded in nature.  As he says:

“When discussing Chinese Medicine, the backdrop of the natural world cannot be forgotten. If you have a thorough understanding of the natural world, your foundation in Chinese Medicine will be sound and your understanding can progress.”(p. 375)

Of the many insights I gained from my reading of this book, none impressed me more than the clarity with which he compares traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine, clearly seeing that they spring from different approaches which cannot be melded together into one system as so many people now attempt to do.  Instead he regards them as complementing each other, provided that their fundamental differences are acknowledged.  For instance he writes:

“Western Medicine is clearly biased towards objectivity rather than subjectivity…..Chinese Medicine is vastly different in this respect and places great emphasis on the subjective experience.” (p.262)

I also find the humility he shows in relation to his own understanding of his discipline quite startling and very impressive, such is his respect for his masters whose influence on his development he acknowledges.  I always feel that teachers who are not afraid to know that they have more to learn are the ones I can truly learn from.

And here I encounter a slight problem, for though, quite rightly, he claims that the best, if not the only true way of learning is to sit at the feet of an acknowledged master of whatever discipline we wish to practice (and did I not do exactly that when I was fortunate enough to find my way to JR Worsley?), how are we to find such masters in a world, as he says, where institutionalized classroom learning is valued more highly than the kind of personal transmission from master to pupil?  And even more pertinently, where are the great clinical teachers without which there can be no transmission of such profound age-old disciplines?  Liu Lihong, too, is also deeply concerned about the increasing depletion in the number of those who have sufficient clinical experience to warrant being given the name of masters of their discipline, whilst there are ever-increasing numbers of those eager to learn from such masters.

This is something I have had to struggle with during my time in China, for I often ask myself how can I and my small cohort of two other five element teachers, Guy Caplan and Mei Long, alone pass on as much as we can in the form of personal transmission through our seminars to as many people as we can.  It is with great relief, therefore, that, thanks to Liu Lihong’s efforts and that of those working at his Tong You San He foundation, I can at last be reassured that there is an ever-larger group of Chinese five element teachers who can now pass on their understanding of five element practice to others.

The world needs people of vision, such as Liu Lihong, and I am honoured to have been able to work with and for him.  I am profoundly grateful that my efforts to re-introduce five element acupuncture to the country of its birth have been recognized by him as making a significant contribution to his work in so firmly and courageously ensuring that classical Chinese medicine, including five element acupuncture, now takes its rightful place at the forefront of modern medicine as a profound medical discipline in its own right.

Finally, I want to express my admiration for the team of translators, led by the book’s editor, Heiner Fruehauf, who have made such a tremendous job of creating an English version which reads so beautifully and eloquently.  As a former translator in another life, and still a translator from French into English of Elisabeth Rochat’s work, I appreciate from a very personal point of view the many hours, days and weeks of hard work such an excellent translation would have demanded.



Thursday, May 16, 2019

More on Entry/Exit blocks

I do not myself rely only on my pulse-taking to help me diagnose a block of any kind. As I have said on many occasions, pulse-taking is a very complex art, much more complex than I think we like to admit to ourselves.  In effect we are attempting to read the state of the five different elements and their 12 officials with what I always like to think of as the rather blunt instruments of our finger-tips.  Of course we get more adept at doing this as the years pass, but I have never forgotten the lessons I learned comparing JR Worsley’s pulse-readings with my own, even after I had been more than 3 years in practice (plus 3 undergraduate years training myself to read thousands of pulses). 

He would tell me one of my patients had an Entry/Exit block or a Husband/Wife block when I simply could not feel this.  Conversely, what I rather simplistically thought to be some kind of a block would turn out not to be that.  In other words the delicate art of accurate pulse-reading was something I realised would take me many years to learn.  And in the meantime I realised that I had to look for other indications in patients which would help me suspect the presence of a block.  It is always good to remember, too, that it never matters if we try to clear a block of any kind, from Possession to a simple Entry/Exit block, if the block is not there.  It is then only like trying to open a door which is already open.  So it is better to err on the side of treating for a block even if unsure of its presence, rather than ignoring what might be a block.   

Since I am always somewhat suspicious of the accuracy of my pulse readings, I like to supplement what I think they are telling me with what I see as corroborating physical or other evidence of a block’s presence.  If energy is blocked, such blocks can occur at any level of body, mind or spirit.  In the case of a Husband/Wife block, for example, we must never forget that this represents an attack upon the Heart, and a patient must be showing signs of some desperation, of almost wanting to give up.  They may not articulate this in words, and some may like to hide their despair, but as good five element acupuncturists we should always be looking below the surface to see what is really going on deep inside a patient.  Unexpected outbursts of anger or irritation, too, are therefore as much pointers to a block involving the Wood element, as feeling that there is excess or lack of energy in the Wood pulses.  Over the years I have observed many physical and emotional indicators which may suggest the presence of an Entry/Exit block to help me supplement what the pulses tell me.  You can read more fully about these in my Handbook of Five Element Practice.

It is very rare to find an Entry/Exit block between the two paired officials within an element.  In all the many years in which I observed JR Worsley taking pulses, I never once heard him say that he had found such a block.  In fact, I remember quite clearly his telling us that the yin and yang officials try as hard as possible to share their energy in order to bring harmony to their element.  This is why he said we should always start by treating both yin and yang officials equally within any treatment.  Even when he diagnosed a patient as having the Gall Bladder rather than the Liver as their Guardian Official, we should not neglect the Liver.  And as I am still not sure of my ability to diagnose which official is the dominant one, I therefore continue to treat both yin and yang officials.

The only exception is when I diagnose Inner Fire, and specifically therefore the Small Intestine, where I try as far as possible to concentrate treatment upon the many Small Intestine points, having been told early on in my training that the Heart is considered a sacred meridian, and therefore should always be approached with care.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

An amazing response to simple Inner Fire treatment

Occasionally the treatment we give can have what are to me even now quite startling results.  One such outcome occurred during my last seminar in Beijing.  A young man of 18, who by chance happened to have been educated up to the age of 11 in England, and therefore spoke excellent English, came for treatment.  He was finding life very difficult, probably because of his difficulty in integrating himself into the Chinese educational system after all those years in England in a very different kind of a school.  Because his knowledge of written Chinese was very limited, he had been placed in a class which was 2 years behind his age group, a difficult thing for any child to cope with, and this, I think, had caused him most of his problems.

I diagnosed him as Fire, and he responded to me in a way which I felt was very characteristic of Inner Fire.  He had had some previous treatment on Fire early on his treatment some months back so I felt that we did not need to give him the four treatments on Outer Fire first, as we should always do before turning to Inner Fire.  (The reasoning for this is that we need to strengthen Fire’s outer defences before addressing its very heart).  I therefore thought it was reasonable simply to do the source points of Outer Fire, and then move on in the same treatment to Inner Fire, again with its source points.  We therefore needled a total of only 4 points.

I thought he looked and felt very different as soon as we treated the Inner Fire points, but I was not expecting what he said, as he walked towards me after the treatment.  This was:  “I feel as though I’ve just come out of a coma.”

No wonder I love what I do!


Friday, May 3, 2019

Procedure for diagnosing 130 budding five element acupuncturists in one day

I am often asked how on earth we have attempted to offer a five element diagnosis to the many hundreds of acupuncturists in China who have come to our seminars over the past eight years.  I am just returning from another week’s seminar in Beijing where we have tried yet again to do just that, so I would like to describe the procedure we have worked on over the years to do this.

Of the 300 or so practitioners who attended, some 130 were new to us.  All these had previously attended one of the many preliminary five element courses in many towns all over China organized by the more experienced of our five element group of practitioners, now promoted to the role of five element teachers.  By the time Mei, Guy and I arrive at a seminar all those attending will have been given a provisional diagnosis of their element as a starting point from which we work.

In China, nobody seems to worry at all when I explain that all diagnoses we make are only a first attempt at finding their element.  They are very unconcerned when we change these preliminary diagnoses, and may change them again during the week of our seminar.  This is probably because I always emphasize that none of us can ever truly “know” the guardian element until treatment has confirmed that we are on the right track.   

As encouragement for myself, and for others, I always like to remember JR Worsley telling us when we were students that we would all be able to diagnose as quickly as he did when we had as much experience as he had after his 45 years of practice.  I have now had 30 or more years of five element practice to help me, and if I add these years to those of Guy and Mei, I like to think that together we reach JR’s total of years.  Certainly to my surprise, every time to we return to China  the three of us are getting better and better at our diagnoses, and quicker and quicker at making them, too.  And we work together very well as a team.

So here I will describe the procedure for carrying out these multiple diagnoses which we have developed to cope with the ever-increasing number of those attending our seminars who wish to have some idea of their own element.  As we know, all five element acupuncturists should as far as possible be sure of their own element as an essential pre-requisite for their practice, for without this we do not know what shadow our own element unconsciously casts over our patients.  And all those attending quite rightly crave a diagnosis from the most experienced five element practitioners they can find.  I therefore think we have a duty to offer them our expertise in diagnosing the elements, with the proviso that we make these diagnoses in a rather idiosyncratic way to take account of the sheer numbers involved.  The Chinese, bless their hearts, willingly accept this without complaint.

This is what we do:  To help us, we are given photographs of the new practitioners grouped together according to the element to which they have been assigned in the introductory seminars.  We then count the total number for each element.  This seminar (April 2019) the numbers were:

Wood: 17,  Fire: 10,  Earth: 32,  Metal: 21, Water: 42, plus 11 still left undiagnosed.   

From experience we know that if we work quickly, we can get through this large number in a day, divided into a morning section from 8.30 – 12, a long lunch-break of 2 ½ hours from 12 to 2.30 (the Chinese always take a nap after lunch), and an afternoon session from 1.30 – 5.30.  Five chairs are placed on the raised platform at the front of the large seminar room, and Mei, Guy and I sit in the front row of the audience group, with many people sitting on the floor all around us, and everybody else seated behind us.  There is always a scramble for people to get as close to us as possible, because they want to hear the discussions we carry on between us. 

This time we started with one of the larger groups (when our minds were fresh!), choosing Earth first, because starting with the largest group, Water, was likely to give the room a more uneasy feel (Water’s fear showing itself as it is asked to talk in front of such a large group of people).  An Earth group is much more at ease, and this helps to settle the room down nicely at the start.

Five of the each group sit down in turn on the platform in front of us, and we look at this small group as a whole to see how far they seem at ease with each other (or not), and whether any particular person stands out from the group in some way.  Then each of the five is asked to talk a little about anything they want, as we listen to their voices (the audience group is told to do this with closed eyes for part of the time), and observe them closely.  Over the years everybody coming to our seminars has got much better at spotting the odd person who doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the group.  This may be the one who sits forward whilst the others sit back, the one who turns to look at the person talking, whilst the others look straight ahead, or is constantly moving whilst the others remain still.  We have found that the audience as a whole has become surprisingly good at pointing out any significant differences.

Mei, Guy and I then put our heads together and decide whether or not we agree with the provisional diagnoses.  We discuss quite openly where we have doubts and why this is so and which element group we think a person should be re-allocated to. 

When we have gone through an element group as a whole, we ask all those we still think are that element to stand together on the platform for us to take a look at the group as a whole.  And here we may change our diagnosis again, because in the large element group, one or two will now stand out as feeling different.  These we then re-allocate to join another element grouping during the day.

At previous seminars Guy had the bright idea of providing coloured stickers in the five element colours, which we would put on those we had diagnosed so that everybody could see from a distance which element we had provisionally allocated to those attending.  This time, instead of a coloured sticker, each person was given a much more visible ribbon to wear around their neck, the colour of which could be spotted a long way away to help us if we decided to change a diagnosis.

After this seminar I totted up how many changes we made for each element. For Wood it was 5 out of 17, for Fire it was only 1 out of 10, for Earth it was 17 out of 32, for Metal 8 out of 21 and for Water 8 out of 42.  From this random survey we could conclude that the Chinese five element acupuncturists running the preliminary seminars are better at diagnosing Fire (nearly 100% right), than Earth (only about 50% right)!  For some reason there are always a large number of Water people at our seminars, and practitioners over there therefore have a lot of practice in diagnosing this element.

This may seem a rather complicated procedure, but it works surprisingly well, and is an excellent way of helping a large group of practitioners learn more about diagnosing the elements in one day than they will learn from seeing only a few patients at a time.  We do the diagnoses at the start of a five-day seminar, which leaves us nearly four days in which to change our minds.  When you are sitting in front of a roomful of people, all wearing very visible coloured ribbons around their necks, it becomes surprisingly easy to see those who respond to what is going on in an expected way and those who don’t.  I was delighted that the last thing I did as I left the platform on our last afternoon was ceremonially to remove the red ribbon around a young man’s neck and replace it with a yellow ribbon to great applause in the room.  I had been talking about the Fire element, and in my usual Fire way had stoked up a lot of laughter in the room, except in this young man who only looked puzzled.  “He looks worried as though trying to process something, and isn’t his colour yellow?” I asked myself.  “He must surely be Earth, not Fire”.  He himself was delighted at the change, as he had felt that he didn’t really fit in amongst his fellow Fire practitioners.

We have also added another simple diagnostic technique to our teaching, which is to ask the group whether they feel a patient coming before the class makes the room feel “up” or “down” (i.e., yang or yin).  If “up”, then it is likely to be either Wood or Fire, if “down” then Metal or Water, with Earth “neither up nor down”, or “both up and down”.  This is again a surprisingly simple way of helping those new to five element acupuncture start examining the feelings different elements evoke in them.