Thursday, June 17, 2010

A little lesson in the difference between the Earth and Fire elements from today’s practice

It is in small differences, and in our ability to pick them up, that much of the secret of our capacity to understand the distinctions between the characteristics of the different elements lies. When we realise this, we can use this knowledge to test ourselves and widen our understanding.

I will give an example of this from my practice today. An Earth patient told me of the feeling of mental confusion she often experiences. As she did so, she lifted her hand and pressed it close to her head as if trying to still the thoughts she said churned around inside her. I asked myself whether this gesture could be considered significant as pointing to something particular to Earth. Would I, of the Fire element, ever make a similar movement with my hand? I tried to mimic this movement and realised that I was using a gesture which was totally alien to me. I wondered why this was, and came to the conclusion that, even if my thoughts become confused, which they often do, I clear my mind by talking, as if translating them into a verbal form is what I need to do before I can develop my thinking.* (See footnote added on 24 July 2010 below) By contrast, what my Earth patient apparently cannot do when she is out of balance is put her thoughts into words. Her hand movement was in effect telling me that her thoughts had somehow got stuck inside her head, and the movement could therefore be seen as an attempt to dislodge them.

When I translated this into the kind of treatment that might help her, I came up with the lovely point, St 8 (Head Tied!), located on her head exactly where she had placed her hand, and with a function we could say perfectly fitted what she needed, which was to disentangle the thoughts tied up in her head. Whereas these thoughts of hers had not yet been processed sufficiently to emerge as words, mine, by contrast, never seem to need this kind of help. Rather it is the words themselves which I speak which have to act as sieves for my thoughts, a completely different process, which highlights one of the differences between Fire and Earth.

Such distinctions may seem very slight, but they are significant as pointing to one element or another, as everything is that we do. And one of the best things to do is to mimic the words or the movements of another person to see how far the feeling this mimicry evokes in us can lead us to some new discovery about a particular element. Certainly my experience with my Earth patient today has taught me something both about her and about myself, and thus at a subtle level helped me to a deeper understanding of the contrasting thought processes employed by Earth and Fire.

*Footnote to this, posted on 24 July 2010
I have just read the obituary to Edna Healey in the Guardian of 23 July 2010. They quote her as saying. "Somehow the thing that's in my head is never matched by what's on paper....If only I could write what's in my head I might never have wanted to do anything else. But sometimes, it seems, I only really know what I think when I've heard what I've said."

Friday, June 11, 2010

A tragic example of the failure of the body’s coping mechanism

It may seem insensitive to write about the recent massacre of 12 people in the North of England in five element terms whilst events are so fresh in our minds, but I think I am justified in writing about this because five element acupuncture may be able to offer an explanation.

The question everybody is asking is how an apparently mild-mannered, “normal kind of a bloke” could turn into a mass-murderer overnight? Those who have studied five element acupuncture will recognise this as being, in all likelihood, an extreme example of what we call possession. I have always disliked this word because of its rather spooky, and totally mistaken, suggestion of alien forces invading us from outside, but it is the word in common use and, although not a helpful description, I cannot at the moment think of an alternative. A less emotive way of regarding this state is to think of it as being one step beyond obsession, at the point where obsessive thoughts and feelings become overpowering. Hence the poetic description which compares such a condition to being akin to internal demons taking over control. Luckily, as five element acupuncturists we have at our disposal the means of treating this, to which we give the name, again poetically, of summoning the dragons to fight the demons. Seven points are used in combination for this treatment and their aim is to help to re-balance the spirit and reconnect it to the outside world. If treatment is successful, it will in effect bring the patient back to himself/herself again.

All the many descriptions of Derrick Bird emphasize the look in his eyes, or more accurately, the absence of the kind of eye contact we expect when we look at another person. Without exception, they describe his face as looking blank and his eyes as staring past them as though he was not seeing them. From a five element perspective he is indeed not seeing them as you or I would. Instead he is looking at something inside himself, as though listening to some command from within himself which is driving him to action. It would be accurate to say that the connecting links between himself and the world have become stretched almost to breaking-point, but not totally severed until the moment when he turned the gun on himself and broke this connection. He is literally in a world of his own, in which what is going on in such a devastatingly disturbed way has now become divorced from any semblance of reality against which he can measure what he is doing.

The point at which a state of possession so alters a person’s ability to function normally that their behaviour becomes visibly disturbed varies from person to person. People may continue to function surprisingly normally until something causes a collapse. Up to this point, possession can be said to provide a form of safety valve for the internal chaos within, but if there is no release over time, this valve may blow, as it did in Derek Bird’s case, where the apparent trigger appears to have been his fear of going to prison for failure to pay his taxes. Fortunately in most cases it does not manifest in such an extreme fashion, and can also appear in very mild form which can only be detected by the most acute observer. I have for example recognised it in well-known people on TV.

Possession could therefore be said to have developed as one of society’s ways of coping. It is only when this coping mechanism fails that we see the kind of actions which we have witnessed this week. As a five element acupuncturist I always feel that I am fortunate in having a treatment at my fingertips which I can offer to help patients release the build-up of pressure such as that apparently experienced by Derrick Bird and, by this means, hope to re-establish a proper connection to the everyday world. If treatment is successful in doing this, people are then better able face up to whatever deep-seated problems have led to such despair. I see the dragon treatment therefore as offering a kind of rebirth.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Wood element in full flow

I saw an excellent example of the Wood element last night on BBC TV. In a programme on BBC2 called “Mary Queen of Shops”, the presenter, Mary Portas, had been asked to help a woman who runs an independent bakery in London now under threat from the local supermarkets armed with their much larger selection of specialist bakeries. Mary’s task is to try and identify what could be called a shop’s unique selling point, and encourage the owner to change their approach. You can watch the programme for yourselves on BBC iplayer, and you can see that, although the owner originally asked for help, she is determined from the start to prove that she knows better than Mary. So the whole hour-length programme shows the battle which arises between Mary’s attempts to guide the owner towards the necessary changes and the shop-owners’s steely determination not to change anything she has been doing “for 26 years”, the leitmotiv of everything she said. It seems obvious that the shop-owner and the presenter are both Wood people, neither happy to cede ground to the other, and both quite enjoying the ensuing fight. As a counterbalance to this, there is also the baker himself, who is sidelined by the two battling women, but I think is soft Earth, just getting on with things in the middle and trying not to get involved.

It is amusing and rather sad to watch, because of what it shows of human frailty and Wood’s inability to “see” when it is out of control, as this woman so definitely is during the programme. You could say that she made the wrong decisions and was a bad planner, first in contacting Mary Portas for help and then not planning for the effect of this help. But it teaches us more about Wood in an hour than we would learn in a year’s study of what is written about the element.

These are the kind of TV programmes which any five element acupuncturist or student should be watching, ones in which people are under stress and show all those unbalanced sides of themselves which place their elements in starker relief than normal.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Five element acupuncture comes full circle

A few days ago I gave a seminar for five element acupuncturists in the Netherlands. It was a fruitful experience for me because I was talking to a group of acupuncturists who have learnt their five element skills from a practitioner, Koos van Kooten, who in turn came to our courses at SOFEA. He has moved on, developing his own insights and his own approach, and has drawn in his wake an increasing number of Dutch practitioners devoted to deepening their five element knowledge. All this is very satisfying to me, and provides just the kind of justification for my work at SOFEA which warms my heart.

Amongst his group was an acupuncturist, Mei Long, who trained originally in China and who told me that, after much exploration of different branches of acupuncture, she had come across five element acupuncture, and recognised it immediately as representing a calling for her. As part of this calling, she had felt driven to get in touch with a well-established contact of hers in the world of acupuncture in China, who still has links to acupuncture's traditional roots and wishes to strengthen them, a rare thing in modern China. As a result of her approach he has asked her to run a week’s course on five element acupuncture for acupuncturists in Guangxi College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China.

This person turned out to be Liu Lihong, whose name I had come across whilst looking at the work of Arnaud Versluys. Liu Lihong is said to be “at the forefront of a Chinese renaissance movement that aims at reviving the depth and the core values of Classical Chinese Medicine”. This is where things come full circle, for JR Worsley said to an acupuncturist friend of mine, Sarah Matheson, some years ago that “the Chinese will be asking us to bring five element acupuncture back to China”, and it appears that they have indeed at last come calling.