Wednesday, March 28, 2012

All about books

I am off to Heathrow in a few hours for my second trip to China, and packed in my trunk are various books I am taking with me as gifts.  They make an interesting bunch, each with its own history and its own special destination.

Gift no 1:  This is for Liu Lihong, who is my host in China.  It is a copy of Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée’s 100 Notions-Clés de la Médecine Chinoise (100 Key Concepts of Chinese Medicine), signed by Elisabeth a few days ago, specially for Liu Lihong.  As you can see, it is in French and I don’t think that Liu Lihong reads French, and therefore with it I have packed some part of the translation into English which I am doing for the edition which Sandra Hill will be publishing for Monkey Press.  I am two/thirds of the way through the book, and hope to have completed it by the end of the year, when I can hand it over to be tweaked into shape for publishing.  This is a book after Liu Lihong’s heart, as he seems to be as interested as Elisabeth is in everything which delves deeply into the classical texts.

Gift no 2:  This is for Liu Lihong’s father, who was a university teacher of English, and with whom I converse in English through sign language and the written word, as he is very deaf (and I am not much better!).  Since this is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, I thought one of Dickens’ books would be an appropriate present, and have chosen a lovely bound edition of Great Expectations.

Gift no 3:  This is for my students.  It is a secondhand copy of what we called JR Worsley’s Red Book, his book on Points and Meridians, the bible we all used, and still use, for our point location and selection.  The hardback edition has been out of print for some time, but I was fortunate to find a nearly pristine copy in the States, and just as fortunate to find a very cooperative bookseller who was happy to speed its passage across from the States in time to reach me just a few days ago.  JR signed my own copy 25 years ago, and I have photocopied his signature and pasted it to the front page of the students’ copy as visible evidence of the line of transmission stretching from JR to them, something very dear to all their hearts.

And then, in a much humbler place, I will be taking my own Kindle, reluctantly bought and even more reluctantly taken with me instead of the paper-bound books I love, but because I read so quickly and so much, and because the weight of books is always a factor when travelling, it proved a sensible buy last time I went to China.  But how pleased I was when I got back to put it aside and reach again for a proper book!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Something to make you laugh

Sometimes I just come across something which makes me laugh.  As I like sharing my laughter as an antidote to all the serious stuff I write about and to counter so much misery in the world outside, here is what set me smiling.

This morning, I saw the following book in the window of my favourite bookshop, Daunts of Marylebone High Street:  Moby Duck:  The True Story of 28,000 Bath Toys Lost at Sea  by Donovan Hohn.  Anybody with the inspiration to give a book this title deserves a read, if only for its title’s sake.

(All the non-English speakers reading this blog need to look up the reference to Herman Melville’s 19th century American classic Moby Dick about a whale here.)

I hope Daunts leave the book in their window for some time so that I can glimpse it and smile each time I pass by.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Let our patients surprise us!

It always pleases me to find how energized I feel after a day’s clinical seminar, and the one just past is no exception.  We had participants from Berlin, Dublin and the Netherlands as well as our usual core from England, something, with my own half-European background, that I really enjoy.  And since quite a few had met each other before at other seminars I had given, there was the usual happy buzz of people catching up with one another.

The most important thing for me is the enthusiasm and receptiveness I can sense in the room, and the real keenness in all of us, me included, to learn more from the two patients participants had brought for diagnosis and treatment.

These seminars also provide a kind of a moving benchmark for me, as I realize that my years of practice have taught me more than I sometimes recognise.  I can see that some of the signs of the elements I observe in patients are not as obvious to some of the class as they are to me.  And this always reminds me of the many, many times I took patients to see JR, and he would say “Fire” or “Wood” or “Water”, and at first I simply could not see this.  It was only gradually that I came to realise that what at the time I thought in an over-simplistic way were the signatures of Fire or Wood or Water had to expand and change to accommodate what JR was teaching me.

Looking back I recognize, too, that this was really the only way to learn – through what I got wrong, not through what I got right, something he always told us, as our faces fell at yet another new and often initially puzzling insight into the mysteries of an element.

The words imprinted on our five element hearts should be, “Humility, humility and yet more humility”.  We should never be arrogant enough to think that we know all the deep secrets the elements hide within another human being.  We should just be delighted, as I always am, that our learning is never finished, and that tomorrow’s patient may open yet another new gate on to the landscape of the elements.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Preparing for my next trip to China

I am now preparing for my second visit to China at the end of this month where I will again be holding a two-week teaching seminar in Nanning.  It is exciting to be going back so soon to see how far my students have moved on in their five element studies, and to give further encouragement to their enthusiastic response to my first visit.

Through a dedicated website they have set up I have been sending them lessons at regular intervals which they are downloading with great diligence and in great numbers.  I am therefore hopeful that I will find that they feel more confident about putting their newly acquired five element skills into practice in their own clinics.

On a happy note, too, I have been given an update on the sales of the Mandarin version of my Handbook of Five Element Practice.  To my surprise and delight, the first print run was for 5000 copies of which 4,500 have already been sold.  The book is now being reprinted.  It’s lovely to think of 4,500 people scattered around China all immersed in their five element studies!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The case for marking points before needling

I remember clearly being told by J R Worsley as a student that the most important reason for marking a point before needling is so that you know exactly where not to needle the next time when your first needle has not found the point.  I always liked that.  It made me more relaxed about my point location, because it somehow assumed that more than one needling would quite often be needed before we actually got the point.  I also remember him telling us that it didn’t matter how often we needled before we found a point.  The important thing was to find it eventually rather than worrying how long it took us to find it.  It is quite common for me to needle two or three times even now, and I don’t find this at all odd.  Instead, I am rather surprised when my needle accurately finds this infinitesimally small location first time.

If you are not sure where the AEPs (back shu points) are (and we all know how difficult backs can be), then, to be on the safe side when you are doing an AE drain, place needles down the Inner Bladder line not just where you think the yin AEPs are, but on points above and below these.  In this way you cover all eventualities.  It’s far better to accept that locating points on the back is always difficult than to pretend that it’s easy and miss the points for something as important as an AE drain.

Marking points is also important for another reason.  It is good to get a view of the line of the meridian, rather than thinking of individual points in isolation.  If you mark some part of the meridian line to help you orientate yourself, this provides you with a grid which can be seen when you stand back from the body.  You will find that a wrong location often leaps out at you when seen from a distance in this way.  For example, the three important upper Outer Bladder points, III 37 – 39 (42 - 44), can then be seen to be too low or too high, or it will become obvious that IV 24 (Ki 24) is marked at the wrong level, often too high on the chest in women, possibly because practitioners hesitate to ask their female patients to undo their bras to find this point.

Of course people reading this may say that we should not needle through points marked with a pen from a hygiene point of view, (though does anybody actually know anyone of the many thousands of patients where points have become infected through doing this?).   Nonetheless, good practice in this country at least dictates that points should be marked with a small circle and the needle placed inside the circle.  They can also be marked with a surgical pen, although these markings are difficult to remove and this should certainly not be done on the face.

We should always be prepared to use whatever aids we can to find points accurately and not be ashamed to do so.  I certainly am not, and will continue to mark all points.  I find it also concentrates my mind, as though the mere act of marking the point is already focusing my energy at that one spot.