Saturday, June 20, 2020

Some thoughts on seasonal treatments

A fellow five-element acupuncturist who lives in Malawi, Sophie Barrowcliff, has asked me about seasonal treatments, and this has made me think about the often tricky question of when exactly we should be giving them.  I quote here from her email:
“The seasons here are not just the opposite way round to the northern hemisphere, and I wanted to have your opinion on a question that has long bothered me.

We typically have a hot season, wet season, and dry  season.   The start of the rains, when everything bursts into life, is clearly spring. The hot rainy months are summer   And the end of the rains, the golden harvest time of autumn.  This is followed by our cold season (May-July), with cold winds streaming from the south and the lowest temperatures of the yearly cycle; it feels wintery. And yet it is only the start of autumn, the retreat back into the earth, with the leaves only coming off the trees in a month or two.

Sometime in August/September the winds change, it rapidly warms up, it gets progressively drier and everything feels dead and the land is parched: this is the dead inertia of winter. This is the conundrum for me - how winter here is actually hot!   So as I treat patients, I constantly vacillate as to which the best seasonal treatment is.”

I was taught about the elements and their relationships to the individual seasons in this country, Great Britain, which is in a temperate zone where each element can be allocated to a distinct season.  I have therefore never had to deal with the complications presented by the tropical weather which Sophie describes.  Her questions have set me thinking.
The purpose of giving horary and seasonal treatments is to help a patient’s energy attune itself better to the environmental energies around in terms of the time of day, for horary treatments, and of the relevant season, in terms of seasonal treatments.

It is easy to see that it is likely that a Metal person will benefit from having his/her Metal energy boosted during the hours of the day when Metal is at its strongest according to the 24-hour Chinese clock, which will be at that time according to whatever time-zone we are in anywhere on the planet.  The problem is how to adapt seasonal treatments to places where the seasonal differentiations are not clear-cut.  The question for Sophie is when exactly is she to decide when autumn is for her Metal patients.
I think it would be sensible for her to assess each seasonal treatment on its own merits, adapting to what may well be fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions.  For example, if she is treating a Water patient, it might be good to give Water its winter seasonal treatment during the “dead inertia of winter”, but not if it is hot outside.  If she feels that there is still autumn in the air, but the leaves haven’t yet dropped from the trees, she might be best to wait a little until giving her Metal patients their autumn treatment.
I also like to ask patients which season they feel they are in, and adjust my seasonal treatments to fit in with what they tell me. I do this because I realised very early on that each of us can have a very different idea as to which the current season is after discovering that more than half of the students in one of my classes thought we had definitely moved into summer, whilst the remainder were equally sure that we were still in spring.  Patients, too, may well have a different take on the season from us as practitioners, and we should therefore learn to adjust our treatment to correspond to a particular patient’s assessment of the season.  For example, it doesn’t seem right to give a patient a Wood seasonal treatment if he/she feels that we are still in the depths of winter.  In other words, a practitioner needs flexibility in deciding which seasonal treatment to give which patients when.   
And then there is still, to me, the unresolved question as to whether we should give everybody a seasonal treatment in each season irrespective of their element.  I know that some practitioners do this, but I do not.  This is because I remember giving a Fire patient a winter seasonal treatment (the Water points of the Bladder and Kidney), and for her to be one of the very few patients who told me that she had not felt well after treatment.  This made me decide not to experiment any further with seasonal treatments off a patient’s element.  I am a practitioner who rarely moves away from a patient’s element, so that giving seasonal treatments on other elements does not sit easily with me.  On the other hand, many of my fellow five element practitioners may be quite happy doing this.

I hope what I have written here helps you, Sophie.