Thursday, September 29, 2011

One of a practitioner’s greatest qualities must be curiosity

I was reminded yesterday of one of the most important qualities a good five element practitioner needs to possess, and if they do not already possess it, needs to cultivate as thoroughly as possible, and that is curiosity, pure and simple – curiosity, put baldly, about what makes us ourselves and those around us tick.

The particular incident from yesterday’s practice which made me think about this came about when I was called in by another practitioner to look at a patient of hers, “whom,” as she put it, “I can’t quite get a handle on”. She felt that the patient was holding her at arms’ length all the time, and wondered if she was not treating the right element, which she had, in my opinion, rightly, diagnosed as Fire. I could feel that though the patient was friendly, pleasant and smiling all the time, she was indeed keeping the deep part of herself firmly locked away from us.

Why was this? And what had happened that had made her so defensive? There was something here to explore, and our diagnosis of her element helped me find a way in. Fire wants above all to relate. It needs relationships, particularly sexual relationships, in the way that Earth needs to be nourished and Metal craves self-respect. She had not been in a long-term relationship for many years, because “I always choose the wrong person”. I decided to address this issue head-on and asked, “Did any relationship you have had in the past end by breaking your heart?”, and was not surprised to hear that, yes , one had. Her first really deep relationship had lasted 3 years and should have ended in marriage if she had not discovered very close to the wedding day that he was a serial philanderer. Living as she did in a very small, tightly-knit community, she was then forced to be a witness to his marrying a friend of hers with whom he now has several children.

It was interesting to watch the change in this patient as she talked about all this. There was obviously relief at being able to tell us her story, and a great deal of sadness as she did so, but also, after a lovely further treatment on Fire, starting with Ki 24, Spirit Burial Ground to resuscitate her damaged spirit, a kind of transformation within her as her Fire element started to heal itself at a deep level and no longer needed to throw up such a defensive screen around to protect her.

This was a lovely treatment with a lovely result, and a lesson to us all to persist in our questioning until we get to the core of a patient’s troubles. And I only really managed to reach this core when my persistent but gentle questioning at last got through her defences and made her feel safe enough to say what in effect she had held back from saying for years. Interestingly, patients themselves are often unaware, as this patient was, of the long-term effects of something that happened years ago upon the present state of their health. This patient’s ostensible reason for coming for treatment was not the hurt this failed relationship had inflicted upon her, but a physical complaint, persistent head-aches. It was only my questioning that gradually revealed to her the true depth of the pain this first love of her life had inflicted upon her.

Here the element we choose will guide us in the type of questioning we need to pursue. If she had been Metal, for example, I would perhaps not have focused so much on relationships but upon the areas of her life which had brought her the greatest sense of self-fulfilment. It is not enough, then, simply to say that the patient is Fire or Metal. We have to know exactly what kind of things have happened to force that Fire or Metal so far out of shape that it can no longer function properly. And we are only able to find this out by by being really curious to know what has gone on in our patient’s life and by not being afraid to tackle deep areas of hurt. I sometimes feel I go “where angels fear to tread”, but that angels are there to beckon me in.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Losing control in the practice room

I am still surprised at how easily I can allow myself to be controlled by a patient even after all these years of practice. This may come from my desire to please others (my Fire wanting everybody around them to be happy), which which can lead me too quickly to do something which I don’t really want to do and which I eventually realise is not right for me to do. My Small Intestine is also always only too ready to think that the other person may be right in what they are demanding of me, and it is only after some thought that I may decide that this is not so, by which time I may well have agreed to something I eventually come to regret.

In the practice situation this may reveal itself as not being quick enough to realise that in some way I am being manipulated by a patient, something as practitioners we all know can happen when patients, who may feel uneasy about coming for treatment, try to wrench control back into their own hands. This may appear as something apparently insignificant as a patient making an extreme fuss about the heat of a tiny moxa cone or being determined not to accept a practitioner's time constraints.

This is what happened today. A new patient, very uneasy indeed from the moment he walked in the door, managed to get me to make the next appointment on a day which I had crossed out in my diary with the words, “Keep day free” written in big letters across it. It was only after he had gone that I realised what had happened, as I tried to analyse the great feeling of disempowerment which his treatment had left me with. Though I was cross at myself for allowing myself to be outmanoeuvred in this way, I had to laugh because, feeling as I did that his element was Water, it had, as usual, managed to get its own way, and I, as Fire, had, as usual, allowed myself temporarily to be extinguished by its force.

Obviously each element will offer different challenges to different practitioners, and practitioners who are not Fire may not recognise this particular challenge, but everybody should look carefully at which situations cause them the greatest stress and then try to trace this back to the element or elements in their patients which are causing this. It is also an excellent way of helping ourselves track down an element, as I found in this instance. My careful unravelling of why this patient had made me uneasy helped to strengthen my belief that I was dealing here with Water.

Now my task is to try to regain control at the next treatment, and to make sure that my Fire blazes sufficiently strongly to turn the powerful force of his Water into less threatening steam. A good lesson for me, and I hope for anybody else reading this who has found themselves struggling to remain in control in the practice room. And the moment we lose control, we also lose our ability to help.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Preface to the Chinese edition of my Handbook of Five Element Practice

I give below Mei Long's translation of Liu Lihong's Preface to the Chinese edition of my Handbook which has now appeared in bookshops throughout China.  I am very honoured that he volunteered to write the preface, and am touched with what he has written.  I think this preface is an important document charting the first steps in the return of five element acupuncture to its birthplace.

"The Handbook of Five Element Acupuncture, written by Nora Franglen, will soon be available to Chinese readers. Whilst for the 4th time reading this book admiringly, I must admit that I regret somehow that I have offered myself too eagerly to write the introduction. Since being still learning five element acupuncture myself, I realize that I could hardly give any comment on her book. However, to keep my promise, I’ll manage to write something here.

I came across 5EA because of Dr. Long Mei, who graduated from Chengdu University of TCM in 1991 and has lived in the Netherlands since 1997. In the beginning of 2010, she wrote me a 10-page-long letter, telling me how she came across 5EA, her understanding and experience of practising this school of acupuncture. Deeply touched by Mei’s letter, I realized how wonderful this style of acupuncture is. How amazing that the lineage, rooted in China, is still passing on abroad! Hardly can I stop feeling guilty unless making any effort to welcome it coming home. So last summer I invited Long Mei to run a one-week seminar on 5EA in Nanning.

Originated in China, 5EA has already undergone a history of more than thousands of years. In the second half of last century, prof. J.R. Worsley, an English master of five element acupuncture, made great efforts to promote this school of acupuncture. And thanks to his contribution, the transmission of 5EA has been carried on in Europe and the United States, benefiting so many people. Whereas in her homeland, 5EA has become unknown to Chinese people, both laymen and professionals. As prof. Worsley mentioned, it was an oral tradition, which is very much like the Zen tradition in China – no written history.

In his preface of ShangHan Zha Bing Lun, Zhang Zhongjing wrote: “Heaven distributes 5 phases to create and move 10,000 kinds of species. Endowed with 5 elements, human beings thus have their 5 zangs (organs), Fus and meridians. The deep secrets and the meanings of the manifestations and the changes of Yin and yang, which are closely interrelated and connected to each other, are revealed in such a subtle and profound way that they are hardly understood except for those who are gifted with profound insight.” As to me, this can be a perfect description of 5 element acupuncture.

… It is in finding our guardian element that has made 5EA so difficult and fascinating. Also, this is where we, as practitioners, need to improve ourselves. And by so doing, we are getting more and more into our senses.

To find the right element, is to understand the profoundness of human nature. So we have to, just as prof. Worsley said, “Get out of our mind and into our senses.” Getting out of our mind, as I understand, is to get into our heart. Therefore, to be able to understand and deepen ourselves in this style of acupuncture, we need to let go many ideas and concepts of stereotypes. Whilst the engagement of our brains is so emphasised as to gain the knowledge in the modern time, the heart, however, was much more involved in the old time. In the book of Neijing, the heart was regarded as the emperor, the brains, however, only as one of the Fu organs. It is here that we see the difference between the old value and the new ones. And it must be worthwhile for us pondering over such difference. Understanding the difference between the brains and the heart is probably the key to deepen our understanding in Chinese Medicine. 5EA certainly offers the shortest access to gain the essence of Chinese medicine.

As for the practitioners, 5EA, based on the principles of the Classics, has a special focus on the Spirit. This has made 5EA so profound a form of healing which guides her practitioners following a path that of a supreme physician’s (Shang gong), who always goes beyond the physical level. Whereas for laymen, understanding the elements would bring more joys to their daily lives and help them to live their lives in a healthier way.

In June this year, whilst attending the international TCM congress in Rothenburg, I had chance to meet Nora and from whom I received my treatment. Metal is my guardian element according to Nora. After following a complete process, Nora selected Yuji (Lu, 10, fish region), the most spiritual point of the whole body, she told me, to end the treatment. The point, Lu 10, made me think. As I always enjoy doing: getting the meaning hidden deep within the Chinese characters. I then realized that there must be a connection between character “鱼” (yu), meaning ‘ fish’, and another character “宇” (yu), meaning ‘the universe’. The secret behind Yuji, “fish region” must be” the universe region”! In the book of Yellow Emperor’s Yin Fu Classic, it writes: “the universe lies in our hand, everything in the universe lies in our body.”

Reading Nora’s Handbook, I’m inspired by her profound insights and wisdom; whilst getting her treatment, I’ve experienced the subtleness and sincerity. Being with her, feeling her faith and love for Chinese medicine, flowing out of the heart, I can imagine how delighted Nora feels that 5EA is coming back to the homeland, a journey which has been waiting so long. And I can’t stop admiring and respecting how she is, advanced in her age, yet childlike in spirit. But meanwhile, I feel awesomely sorry, and wonder: as being Chinese, what have we done and what can we do for passing on Chinese medicine?

Liu Lihong, in the midsummer of 2011, at the foot of Green Mountain, Nanning"

Friday, September 9, 2011

Heart-warming encouragement

I have just received the following from an acupuncturist in Germany who is trying to deepen his understanding of five element acupuncture by working his way through my books. We have decided that when I feel he is ready for me to do so, I will come and visit his practice to help him with his patients. I give it to you in his own words:

“So far I read your guidelines* and do it now a second time. After finishing these, I will start with your handbook from the beginning, in which I sometimes dip in and read a chapter.

Your words are very, very helpful for me, because I had a lot of different information about 5-Element-Acupuncture in the past, and have now a good and safe point to start again. I like your observations of people and situations in general very much, as well as your relationship to feelings (like asking the pulses how they, the organs, feel). I looked for this kind of treating / observing for many years.

For me one of the most important point of your work (so far I may be able to assess this) is that you try to see the whole world around you in the context of the 5 elements. It is not a kind of work for you, it is your life. That seems to be your claim (I hope this is the right word), and it is also mine.

As well I’m fascinated about your clarity with all the different steps of 5-element-procedures. Most of the people who teach stuff like this are not this clear, sometimes they are not close enough to the bottom (which includes me as well).

I like it when you write about your weakness as well, because only if we are clear at this point, we have the best possibility to develop. But I like also, that you don’t hide your knowledge, develop your books and blogs. Sometime we are not brave enough to do this (who am I, to tell other people that is right and that is maybe wrong…). But without this, I would not have the gifts of your work. It is very kind of you to spread this out in the world, as well as back to China. All people need a way like this.”

It is receiving encouragement for my writings like this which makes all my work worthwhile.  Thank you, Christian.

*Tips on How to Start Learning about the Elements, SOFEA website

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Five element acupuncture to the rescue during the Christchurch earthquake

I was deeply moved and heartened to hear of the work of one of SOFEA’s graduates, Jane Grofski, in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand. This is her account of treating people from the Search and Rescue Teams with five element acupuncture.  I hope this dispels one of the myths still hovering out there that five element acupuncture cannot be used for emergency treatment:

“We’ve had 7460 earthquakes now in the last 11 months and so you can imagine the state some of my clients are in. It’s certainly challenging to live through.

I worked for the Search and Rescue Teams here after our largest earthquake and gave them all a 30 minute treatment. They were queuing all day and I got through about 170 firemen each week. I remembered your words about being tough enough to stay on our feet for a long time! It was incredible to see how much faster they processed all their stress and fatigue with acupuncture treatment. Some of them said they felt better after the 2 weeks in Christchurch than when they had arrived!

I worked from the principle of using all the most basic points. Check for blocks and use source and command points. Somehow it seemed there were more Fire elements among the firemen! The chest points helped frequently with processing the grief and the CV points were also common. I have developed my skill of being able to ‘see’ the meridians and points, so I could treat the points that just looked like they were the most blocked. In fact at one point the lights went out and the patient’s body looked like it was covered in glow-worms – really beautiful and not something I’d seen before (I don’t treat in the dark!).

I believe there is a great use for acupuncture in trauma care. I’d like to develop treatment criteria for other acupuncturists in acute trauma care and that would be a great topic for us to discuss. Often the firemen were actually dealing with previous issues and some had seen thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dead bodies in their lifetime. My basic principle was that if I could speed up their ‘processing rate’ then they would be able to deal with their daily stresses and fatigue. They are all highly trained and incredibly well self-managed emotionally; they just required their system to be ‘sped up’ to deal with the increased load. They responded particularly well to treatment as they were already in a highly focussed state of mind and motivated to get the best results from treatment.

I've now been asked to be a specialist consultant for the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group based on the initiative I set up here. I would like to see acupuncture used more extensively with the trauma teams and am applying for a grant to enable me to research this more extensively."

I give Jane’s contact details below. She is interested to hear from anybody else who would like to share their experiences in working in this area. And perhaps there is some person or organization out there who would be interested in helping her fund her research:

Jane Grofski
Equilibrium Health and Wellness Spa
4 Teal Close, Ferrymead
Christchurch, New Zealand
021 795 855

A postscript to the above:  I have just received the following from Jane to add to my blog: 

"At the time of going in to work with the Search and Rescue Teams, my two children and I were out of my house and living in a tent, without sewage, water or electricity. It really was such a strong calling to go and do this work."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A moment of triumph!

I went today to the Garden of Peace at the National War Museum here in London, which was inaugurated in 1999 by the Dalai Lama. A pillar commemorates his visit, and shows on three sides an English, Tibetan and Mandarin version of his words of peace to the world. I was overjoyed to find that, with a little bit of a helping hand from the English version, I could just about decipher the Mandarin characters for 15 May 1999. I also thought I recognised part of a character which had something very like the rather magical flourish beneath the character for the Dao, which I thought might represent one of the characters for the Dalai Lama.

I felt a stupidly warm glow of self-satisfaction at such a tiny achievement!