Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Finally off to China!

This is my last blog before I am off to China, and then there will be a silence from me for three weeks into which will pour all the impressions awaiting me there – impressions not only of the vast country and its people, but of what I foresee as being an awesome moment, as I touch the spirit of the place from whose roots what I do sprung more than two thousand years ago.

I like to see myself and all those practising five element acupuncture each as a tiny bud upon one of the branches of the might tree of acupuncture. I know that my own bud will be nourished by visiting its ancient homeland, and I hope in turn that my visit will add a little bit more nourishment to its roots.

I am busily rehearsing the few lines of greeting in Mandarin with which I hope to start my seminars both in Nanning and in Beijing, but I am not holding myself to saying them if my courage fails me at the last moment and I find myself reverting to the safety of English!

I look forward to reporting back in future blogs on my return.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The dangers facing traditional Chinese medicine

I am preparing what I want to say about five element acupuncture on my visit to China, and am finding the process surprisingly challenging. After years of talking about my love for what I do, how exactly do I want to convey this love to a new audience, and an audience, above all, whose understanding of the elements is so very deep-rooted that I hesitate to think that I have anything new to add to what they already know?

And then today, to help me in my search for the right words, I came across a fascinating video of a Chinese master of traditional medicine discussing the problems he sees confronting it today, and this gave me the lead I needed. He talked about the “standardization process” to which it is being subjected in China, and which, he says, is leading to a “thinning out of the depth of Chinese medicine.” The evocative phrase “thinning out” resonated with me, and goes right to the heart of what I think is happening not only in China but throughout the world; it has undergone a process of etiolation. This is a lovely word I have often longed to use, and which leapt to my mind as such words do as I write. The dictionary defines it as “making plants pale by excluding light” and “giving a sickly hue”. I think this is a vivid and true description of how I view the dangers facing traditional Chinese medicine everywhere, including in its birth-place, China, and which threaten to drain it of much of its vitality.

So off I fly next week to add what I hope is my own little bit of bright colour and light to what is taught over there!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Some beautiful quotations to share

I love coming across quotations which illuminate my world for me, and make me see things quite differently. I give you some that I have come across recently, and have been carrying around with me in my diary (yes, I still use a hand-written diary!). I glance at them now and again, and receive each time a renewal of that initial feeling of shock at words so simple and pure, and yet which say so much. Each of us will read some significance in them which is personal to us alone and to nobody else, such is the universal meaning hidden within them.

The first is by W B Yeats, and was sent to me by a friend of mine, both of us well beyond the 50 years of the poem, but the poem spoke to both of us nonetheless:

My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
                                                        W. B.Yeats

The next two quotations are by that strange and idiosyncratic writer, Mervyn Peake, taken from the wall of an exhibition on his writings and drawings at the British Library:

“Neither be afraid of the unorthodox subject nor in finding delight in the contemplation of commonplace things. Anything, seen without prejudice, is enormous.”

"…. When every heartbeat hammers out the proof
That life itself is miracle enough.”
                                                        Mervyn Peake

And finally, in my eyes the purest of all these quotations, this time by an American poet, Samuel Mensashe, whose obituary I read on 22 August 2011, and about whom I knew absolutely nothing until then, but whose works I am now trying, with some difficulty, to track down:

For what I did
And did not do
And do without
In my old age
Rue, not rage
Against that night
We go into,
Sets me straight
On what to do
Before I die –
Sit in the shade,
Look at the sky

Old wounds leave good hollows
Where one who goes can hold
Himself in ghostly embraces
Of former powers and graces
Whose domain no strife mars -
I am made whole by my scars
For whatever now displaces
Follows all that once was
And without loss stows
Me into my own spaces
                                                       Samuel Mensashe

I think his phrase, I am made whole by my scars, is one we can take into the practice room with us, both as applied to ourselves, for surely we hope that we are whole when we practise, and eventually, too, we hope as applied to our patients. The healing, the “making whole” of their scars, will, we hope, apply to their physical scars, of course, but more profoundly still to their emotional scars, which should ultimately form the focus of our work at its deepest level.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Regaining control in the practice room: how the elements cast their magic upon patient and practitioner

This is a follow-up to my blog of September 13th on losing control in the practice room.

I am delighted to be able to say that this patient’s next treatment not only restored my faith in my own ability to maintain control, but also, and, far more importantly, showed me once again how the elements cast their magic not only upon our patients as they start to heal them, but also upon us as practitioners, as they remind us of their ability to transform.

My patient appeared at the door of my practice room as, in my eyes, quite another person. He greeted me less nervously, and with a warm smile that had not been there last time. He was much less nervous of the needles, chatted about his week’s work very easily, and interestingly did not, as he had done last time, demand a time for his next appointment. Instead, he apologized that his work-schedule was making it difficult for me to fit him into the times I normally see patients. The relationship between us had relaxed markedly. I can only attribute this to the transformative effect, on my patient, of strengthening his Water element and thus reducing his fear, and, on me, of helping me understand that the somewhat threatening interplay between us at his first treatment was caused by his fear and by my not responding appropriately to this fear.

And so I continue to learn.