Tuesday, February 28, 2012

David Hockney: a lovely example of the Fire element

I have just watched a warm interview with David Hockney, the painter, on BBC television, and smiled throughout.  I wonder whether it is only a Fire person who could paint such delightfully joyous paintings, with their ridiculous-seeming purple trunks and bright red branches. Somehow he even manages to make winter a joyous season.

Somewhat flippantly, this has made me wonder whether we can indeed diagnose artists through their artistic creations.  I doubt, for example, whether a Metal person could see nature in the prime colours Hockney does, preferring instead, I would think, subtler autumnal shadings.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A wise saying to make us think

I read this today in the Guardian newspaper: 

“The radical Brazilian educator Paulo Freire once asked, “What can we do today so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?”

This is such an acute question, and really made me think.  Surely the purpose of each day should be to do something that makes tomorrow different and better.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Using our two hands

I have recently been thinking about the question of why some branches of acupuncture have taught their acupuncturists to use two hands to needle and to take pulses, and why others prefer just one.  In five element acupuncture, or at least certainly how I was taught all those years back at JR Worsley’s college in Leamington, we use both hands in both cases.  Thinking about why this should be so, I decided to observe myself closely during my own practice to see how I felt about what I now do so automatically, and why I find great satisfaction in using both hands.

It isn’t just because this is the way I was taught, although of course the comfort of an old habit is part of this.  The main reason, I think, is because it feels good to me to enclose the needle in both hands as I guide it to the points.  In doing this, I also maintain a comfortable contact with my patient’s body.  In taking pulses, too, both of my hands take my patient’s hand and hold it against my body.  I am using both hands to convey as sensitive and warm a touch as I can.

Pulse-taking and needling done in this way encompass something much more than just making physical contact to obtain some diagnostic information. It is possible to approach the skin with a needle without any of our fingers actually making contact with our patient’s body, and pulses can be taken in a purely physical way, as we know from our visits to a doctor’s surgery.  Here there is no intention to convey anything through touch itself, which is so different from the importance five element acupuncture places on conveying warmth and comfort through our hands.  As I observe the one-handed way of taking pulses or needling it always feels to me as if practitioners are holding the other hand well away from their patient as though to distance themselves from what they are doing.

Our hands can and should be able to convey protection, love or respect, still anger and calm fear, the five dominant emotions our treatments are trying to restore to balance.  And they should continue to do this whenever we touch our patient’s body, whether to take pulses or to needle or simply to make warm contact.

So each time I needle or take a pulse I am offering something which, though apparently purely physical in nature, becomes something much deeper if coming from my heart.  Anybody hoping to make closer contact with the elements in their patients, and at the moment practising one-handed acupuncture, may consider taking their courage literally in both hands, and decide to learn to use both as a further expression of their care for their patients.

At a slightly different level, I shudder internally as I watch people needling a II-III (SI-Bl) block or a X-XI (Co-St) block on points around the eyes without tethering the patient’s head with both hands, and making sure exactly where the eyeball is.  What if the patient jolts their head, I think – and it can happen! And the reason I have heard practitioners give for not needling these points is precisely this fear. Using both hands reassures both patients and practitioners.

We are given two hands with which to embrace people, to cook with, to use a computer with, to drive a car with, why then do we cut ourselves so unnecessarily in half when we needle and take pulses?  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don’t let blocks block your mind

In a recent blog (8 January) I wrote: 

“Don’t spend too long trying to diagnose the major blocks (possession, husband/wife).  They are much more difficult to diagnose than you may think.  It doesn’t matter if you miss them to start with.  They become more and more obvious the longer they remain untreated.  An expert practitioner may see them straightaway;  a less experienced practitioner will inevitably take longer to recognise them.  There is a risk that a newly qualified practitioner will over-diagnose blocks because of the excitement of doing them!”

Clearing entry/exit blocks and other blocks of all kinds forms an essential and highly effective part of five element practice.  Detecting them is much more difficult than people think it is.  There are two main reasons. Firstly, too many people think that it is only through the pulses that most blocks can be detected, and, secondly, and far more riskily, people assume that their pulse readings are accurate.  The art of pulse diagnosis is so refined that even now, after nearly 30 years of taking pulses, I never rely only on my pulse readings to tell me if a block is there.  It is always worth reminding ourselves that the 12 pulses our fingers are trying to interpret are an expression of the unique complexity, body and soul, of another human being.  To interpret what they are telling us is therefore such a delicate, refined art, developed, with much humility, over many years of practice, that we should always add to what we think we are feeling other possible indicators of blocks to support our diagnosis.

Such indicators will consist of some physical or emotional evidence of blocked energy.  For example, I may observe that a patient rubs their eyes or ears, or has some white mucus at the corner of their eyes, and, even before taking their pulses, I may already be thinking, “Aha!  II-III (SI-Bl) block!”.  Or they may complain of a bloated stomach or of sinusitis, and I think, “Aha!  X-XI (Co-St) block!”.  I may notice that the patient seems unexpectedly irritable today, and wonder whether the Wood element is blocked (VII-VIII (GB-Li) block or VIII – IX (Li-Lu) block).  I may be surprised at a patient’s colour, and see that it is whiter or redder than usual, and so on.  All these are warning signs of some disturbance in the officials which I will add to my pulse diagnosis.

Finally, we were always taught that a Husband-Wife imbalance was life-threatening, because it shows stress on the Heart.  If we do not diagnose this correctly to start with, do not worry, all you practitioners out there.  No patient of mine has actually died because I failed to detect a H/W immediately.  Obviously we need to clear it as soon as possible to relieve the pressure upon the Heart, but again I have never known a H/W block to be there without the patient showing quite obvious signs of deep distress to guide me to it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Some things that irritate me

I’m just back from a teaching trip to Europe, and as I passed through Gatwick Airport I was irritated once again by the dreadful creep of the word “Your” in front of every advertisement for a company.  Apparently Gatwick is now “my” airport.  The blame for this must be laid at the door of Marks and Spencers, who some years back, when things were going badly for them, suddenly had the bright idea of designing a logo which said on all the packaging “Your M & S”.  At the time I thought this was a clever PR trick, seducing us all with the implied intimacy of a long personal association with M & S.  But it has now become so ubiquitous that it has become a cliché, and should be dropped.

The other cliché I have grown to hate is the use of the gerund, that part of speech I can still remember from parsing English and Latin sentences at school, the dreaded “-ing” word.  It appears everywhere now in all the meaningless slogans called “mission statements” which even the acupuncture world was not immune to.  My school was asked to provide one as part of its accreditation programme and I came up with the words, blissfully free of the gerund, “An ancient form of healing for a modern world”, which I’m still proud of, and which still represents, in a kernel, the truth of what I do.

Every company apparently now feels they have to attach to every advertising hoarding some banal statement such as, “building a better Britain”, “working for the community”, and so on and so on.  They are all utterly meaningless, and yet the practice seems to be growing by the day, and should also be dropped. 

The worst example I have so far come across is one I glimpsed on the side of a van, obviously that of some kind of gardening company involved in smartening up people’s window-boxes.  It said, “Fusing people, plants and flowers”.  Instead of window-boxes, the image that came into my mind was that of a beautiful Botticelli painting of some young woman, in a flowing gown, her hair entwined with roses, and enfolded by flowers, not, I imagine what the gardening company wanted me to think of.  At least this beautiful image took my mind of the banality of the words which had prompted it.

I’m waiting for the dreaded day when I will see, blazoned above a hospital entrance, my two pet hates combined together, in the words “Your hospital, caring for a healthier world”.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Looking for different elements in people on TV or radio

Because of all the problems this country is facing, I have been listening to a lot of radio and watching a lot of TV recently.  To lighten my mood amongst all the gloom I have been amusing myself  with trying to work out whether there is any correlation between a particular element and the kinds of work those I am listening to or watching do.

Foremost amongst the people I have looked at are journalists who report the news.  You would imagine that a certain kind of journalist who becomes a newscaster is there to present the human face of the news, and would have some of the qualities of the two elements which like to communicate warmly, Fire and Earth. And I think most of them are.  Things get a little bit more complicated when I looked at more investigative journalists, those that are required, not so much to relate to us as to dig down and ferret out the news.  And here, as I would expect, it is Water above all, with Metal following behind, which dominate.  With Wood it appears to be those journalists often more directly involved in action.  

I’m afraid that the list is of people perhaps familiar only to a British audience, particularly to those tuned to the BBC, but all can be viewed on U-tube or video extracts, if you are interested enough to track them down.  I have also added names of other famous people, such as sports people and politicians, to plump out the list a little.

So here goes with my list:
Wood:  Kate Adie, a former war correspondent, Caroline Wyatt  (a current BBC defence correspondent), Peter Snow, Michael Gove
Fire:  Evan Davies, Andrew Marr, Bruce Forsyth, Chris Evans
Earth:  David Dimbleby, Fiona Bruce, David Attenborough, Jon Snow, David Cameron
Metal:  Frank Gardner (a BBC defence correspondent).  There must be more, but I haven’t found anybody to add to the list yet.
Water:  Robert Peston, John Humphrys, Jeremy Paxman, Gary Lineker, Arsène Wenger, Alex Ferguson, George Osborne, Ed Milliband

I find it interesting, and appropriate, that the Water element dominates the list, evidence of its ambition and desire to reach the top and stay there.  Many of the heads of financial institutions who appear on TV regularly to defend the banks appear to be Water, too.