Saturday, August 28, 2010

Doing little things with great love

I came across this lovely saying by Mother Teresa in my Indian friend’s blog, . “We are not born to do great things. We are born to do little things with great love.” And, as my friend Sujata adds, “And little things done with great love have the ability to change people’s worlds.”

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, as I am sure many of us do, with all the great horrors and sadnesses which pour towards us from every corner of the globe at all hours of the day, and with my own feeling of impotence at how little one person can achieve to push back this tide. It is therefore good to be reminded of the importance of each tiny act of help, and this is how I like to regard my acupuncture practice. As someone once said to me, “You can’t save the whole world, Nora.” Yes, that is true, but I have learnt to view each successful treatment as a small act of salvation, in its own way helping towards saving a person’s health, body and soul.

Sujata’s blog is a beautifully written unfolding of life in India of interest to those who want to know what is happening in one of the most powerful countries in the world today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Location of spirit in body

Sitting here, writing this, I am trying to work out where to place that area of my being which is at this moment concentrating on understanding my own feelings and trying to express them in words, in other words my mind and spirit. I can see my physical body in front of me, feel the chair beneath me, my feet touching the ground, and my fingers holding this pen (yes, I still write everything first with a pen!), but I cannot pin down where exactly these thoughts that these fingers of mine are writing down are emerging from within me. They must be coming from this body, because when I get up to make a cup of tea they follow me into the kitchen, and yet they seem to have no actual physical abode inside me. It is as though they are within each cell of my body, but also float free of it so that, when I am thinking or feeling, my physical body disappears. I am in a very real sense disembodied for the period of these thoughts and feelings, and will only be brought back to this body if I consciously direct my attention, as I am doing now, to think of its actions, in this case my fingers holding my pen and directing its movements into forming words, or if some pain or discomfort interrupts the flow of my thoughts, and forces some part of my body to my attention.

We rarely think how odd this all is, and how strange are the hidden workings of our inner life as compared to the much more visible, because physically palpable, workings of our body, but the inner dominates the outer in ways we remain largely unaware of. The life of our emotions has so strong a pull upon us that it has the power to shape our body, forcing it into all kinds of distortions and convolutions as it presses upon us from within. Our hunched shoulders, tightened lips, frowning foreheads and bent knees can often be an expression of an inner life hunched, taut, frowning or bowed.

And each element will express these tensions in different ways, depending on how it reflects its vulnerabilities or its aggressions.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Seeing life through different eyes

It is strange how differently each of us perceives the events we have passed through and the relationships that have accompanied us through these events. It is as though we each see through different eyes, experience things with different feelings and evoke such different responses from those we encounter that it could almost be said that all these happenings are happening to different people. It could indeed be considered surprising that there are sufficient points of similarity in these utterly differing experiences to make communication between one person and another possible at all, let alone productive, so isolated within our own perceptions can each of us appear to be.

This thought came to me after returning from a family reunion to which each member of the family reacted in quite different ways to discussions of a past most of us had experienced together, and reacted differently, too, to the new relationships now being formed through the inclusion of new members of the family. It was indeed difficult to find a common point of agreement in all the differing perceptions whirring around.

This experience taught me again the value of a knowledge of the elements, because I found that I could use it to steady myself in what often felt like the confusing gatherings I was included in during these few days of family get-togethers. If I could pinpoint the reactions of one family member to those of the Metal element, for example, I was better able to understand the reactions of some of the others to this woman’s sharpness, and could visualise more clearly why she had responded to her son as she did, why he reacted to her as he did, and why, then, he still bore the scars many years after his mother’s death. And I had similar insights in relation to the elements of other family members, including my own element, and these helped reveal why some of the relationships we discussed had been so fraught whilst others had been peaceful. In shedding greater light on myself, I came away much clearer about what I had found difficult in my earlier life, particularly during my childhood, and what I was still finding difficult all those years further on.

A thought about the Earth element

One of my Earth friends often asks me when talking about another person, “Do I need to worry about them?”, and she says this with a kind of weariness in her voice. I see this as a reflection of her own understanding of her role as supporter of others, the mother role, the person worrying about somebody else, but also, implicit within the weariness behind the words, is the feeling that this is a burden. It contains a question as to whether she has perhaps the right to shrug off this burden, as well as the question as to whether instead she ought to find the strength to bear it. And here I am given a role to play, which I see as elucidating further Earth’s need to be given as well as to give. For in her question to me is implied the wish, indeed the demand, that I be the one to take some of the burden, in effect to absolve her of the ultimate responsibility of taking on the burden of worry. By asking the question she has placed me, rather than herself, in the role of taking over the responsibility for providing the answer. Hidden within the question, too, is clearly the hope that I will reply, “No, you need not.”

Earth, then, can often experience others as potential burdens, as here in this example of my friend, with the fear always that they may not feel themselves to be up to the task of carrying the weight of what they are expected to offer others. This explains in part the plaintive note in an Earth’s voice, its singing, sighing quality carrying a demanding tone, a “gimme, gimme” tone, a kind of sucking inwards, as a baby bird sucks in food. This is how I regard one aspect of Earth’s need, and if we describe its emotion as “sympathy”, then perhaps in many instances we could add (in brackets) “for me, please”.

Metal’s griefs

We might think that Metal only grieves for a death, but there are many other kinds of losses it can feel. Its grief can indeed stem from the actual loss of a person, but it can also grieve for what can be as acute, or even more acute, than a loss, which is an absence, a person who is not there for them, either physically or emotionally, such as an emotionally distant parent.

It can also mourn all that it will never have and all that was never there. It can grieve for the things it has never done and will now never do, for what it has never known and for what it will now never know, for the losses it will never make up and the joys it will now never experience.

These are some of the losses which Metal, of all the elements, can experience the most profoundly.

Some qualities of the five elements

Fire wants to share
Earth wants to involve
Wood wants to tell
Metal wants to observe
Water wants to make sure

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A few more thoughts on the Wood element

Here are a few more of my thoughts on the Wood element:

I regard one of Wood’s qualities as focusing on the concept of order. A world in which things move in straight, ordered lines, have their allotted place and move forward in their allotted way seems to me to give an image of Wood’s ideal world. And this desire for order is always accompanied by a sense of movement. When I represent Wood graphically to myself, I visualise it as a series of straight lines, which run up and down, from right to left and from back to front, as though forming the squares of a Rubik cube which, when rotated, re-forms itself again into a further small square. If I were to put this feeling into words, I would describe it as someone saying, “And this is so, and that is so, and yet again this other thing is so”, forming a kind of movement at right angles to itself, and in words always spoken with precision and with emphasis.

One of the distinctive characteristics of Wood’s speech is that it could be said to want to “tell” rather than to communicate. To tell somebody something is just as much a way of ordering things, this time through the structure of words. Wood’s telling something can be described more as making a statement, rather than taking the form of a discussion with others. This is where its talking differs from Fire’s whose communications turn into two-sided affairs, moving from one person to another and back again. Wood’s is in one direction only, towards the person spoken to, with far less emphasis upon the need for the words to be returned to it by the person spoken to, or, if Wood is very unbalanced, with no attention at all paid to the need for discussion with the other person, almost as if they are talking to themselves. The image I have of Wood’s speech is to think of it like a tennis player practising alone by hitting a ball against a wall, where I see Fire as taking part in a game of two players, one on each side of the net, hitting a ball of words to one another across the net

When I asked some Wood people what they want of their interaction with others, they all agreed that what they wanted was to “engage” with them. This is an interesting word. My dictionary gives it a very active meaning, which includes the sense of battling and grappling with, and is much used in military terminology. It implies more than just interacting, for there is the sense within it of some kind of a struggle, or, at the very least, pressure from one side to push against the other, which we can see as representing the push behind all that Wood does.

It is by continually adding little snippets of insights like these that I gradually accumulate more and more understanding of what it is like being of a particular element, in this case Wood.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Report on Mei's Five Element Seminar in China

I received an email yesterday which warmed my heart. It is from Mei Long, about whom I wrote in my blog of 1st June, Five Element Acupuncture comes Full Circle. She has just returned to the Netherlands after giving a seminar on Five Element acupuncture to Chinese acupuncturists. This is her report, which I quote (almost) verbatim, with her permission to include it in this blog.

“Dear Nora,
I was back to Holland yesterday. A very nice flight.

My whole trip to China, my staying in Nanning, all the time I spent there with Liu, his family, his students, colleagues and friends, everyone, was simply wonderful!! Particularly with Liu. We have had quite some deep conversation (he invited me to stay with his family when I was in Nanning), which was really inspiring, touching and warm.

The seminar turned out to be a success. The very first moment when I got there, “the Institute of Classical Chinese Medicine” which was set up 5 years ago by Liu and his friend, Dr. Tang who is now the head of the Guangxi University of TCM, I was taken! There is definitely something special in the air, everything I saw and experienced, everyone there, every greeting I received, every cup of tea I got, in every small thing they did for me, I could feel it. Something which is very traditional has been carefully kept, valued and cherished in that small but wonderful ‘Institute’. I feel their respect, gratitude, warmth, above all, so hearty! Not surprisingly, there are quite some students of Liu are all Fire! No wonder I feel even more comfortable with their company.

I do believe people are inspired and taken by Five-Element acupuncture. Liu’s wife (who works mainly with herbs) and daughter (19 years old) listened to the whole seminar, as well as the wife of the head of the university. They all wanted to learn and practise this style of acupuncture in the coming future! They are serious about it. An acupuncture colleague who has good contact with Liu was also invited to this seminar (she read my letter to Liu early this year). She lives in Chengdu and works more with herbs than with needles, because she always feels that ‘something must be wrong with how people practise acupuncture here’. She was so grateful and inspired by the seminar that when she came back to Chengdu, she switched to Five-Element acupuncture immediately! ‘Finally I find the way’ she said to me. And it was like a whole new world opened up to her. She told me quite some stunning stories of her patients! For instance someone suddenly crying out for 8 min. after possession and AE treatment, and feeling wonderful afterwards. So she experienced right away how deeply this Five-Element acupuncture can touch people! I had great fun with her. Wonderful person. Her daughter, 13 years old, was there every day as well! Finding the seminar absolutely interesting! At the end of the seminar, I find we are talking to each other in the language of Five-Element.

Liu, Tang and myself are all quite happy with the seminar. The fact that Five-Element acupuncture is coming back to China is historic, said Liu. They promise that they will do everything they can to offer the opportunity to those who really want to learn it. I told your story with Five-Element acupuncture, how it changed your life and your passion for the Elements, your encouragement to me… China thanks you all, JR, you and Koos… Liu said to me, when the time is ripe, he wants to invite you and Koos to China! You got the warmest greetings from him, he asked me to give his book to you and Koos.

I gave your books to the Institute, and I said it would be great to have it translated into Chinese. Liu said we need your permission. I agree it would be wonderful to have Liu’s book translated into English, I’m a bit afraid my English is not good enough.

…After all I feel so privileged and grateful to be able to do all this. I’m just so lucky.