Sunday, July 29, 2012

A review of my book "Keepers of the Soul"

I have taken the plunge (see my blog More about books of 1 July), and now one of my books, Keepers of the Soul, can be downloaded on to Kindle.  Confirmation that it was good that I have done this has just come through a lovely email I received yesterday from China.  The writer, Feng, studied acupuncture in Chengdu, but did not complete her studies because she did not like the approach she was being taught.  She moved to Europe, and then, quite by chance (if there is such a thing!), made contact recently after many years with my friend Mei, with whom she studied in Chengdu.  She is now so enthused by five element acupuncture that she will be coming to my seminars in the autumn, and wishes to become a five element acupuncturist.  

As you can see from her email, she has bought one of my books in its e-book version, and has sent me the following review.  I pass it on to you in her words:

“Dear Nora,

I downloaded from Amazon Keepers of the Soul to my Kindle one week ago and now I just finished it and want to tell you how I feel about it. I would put my thoughts together in the way as if I were telling a friend about this book and I apologize for my gerglish.

At the beginning what touched me most is the utmost sincerity of the author. As I started the reading I had the feeling as if I were watching the author explore the elements, she was a little bit tense and me too, she tried to convey to me the whole dimension of her interaction with the elements and sometimes she succeeded and sometimes left me try hard to figure out what she was confronting at that moment. I have never experienced this kind of approach the author has to TCM,  honest, sensible, totally unassuming, open, and by a highly cultivated western mind (?!). Reading the book brought some subtle awareness to my inner world and I had the feeling I could even make correction to some minor disorders inside myself without intervention of needles. This led me to imagine what the intervention of a needle would do to me! As the reading processed, the author becomes more and more relaxed and as it comes to the description of the elements with example of prominent people it is getting even entertaining. It is a book that opens and I would recommend it to everyone without restraint.

Greetings from the summer of Chengdu,

Thank you, Feng, for these interesting comments.  I particularly appreciate your words:  “It is a book that opens.”  That is what all books should do – they should open something new inside us so that we see the world and ourselves in a slightly different way.

I also like the comment that you felt “I was a little bit tense” at the start of the book.  I probably was, as I was trying to encapsulate in words all my feelings about the elements.  Whenever I write, I always feel the difficulty of capturing feelings within the sometimes clumsy and inadequate framework of words.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dispelling a myth about moxa

It’s lovely to get feedback from patients about successful treatments we have done.  So here is something I can share with you.

A long-standing patient of mine told me that she had been suffering for some time from persistent menopausal hot flushes.   Her element is Earth, and this is the treatment I gave her:

CV (RM) 12
III (Bl 38) (or 43 – if you prefer, which I don’t!)
XI (St) 41, XII (Sp) 2

All the points were tonified and moxibustion on each point was added to the treatment.  

My patient was amazed by the effect of the treatment.  The hot flushes stopped that night, and she hasn’t experienced any since. 

I hope this goes some way to dispel the widespread myth that moxa should never be used on patients suffering from hot flushes.  The opposite is true.  Whilst hot flushes make people feel very hot on the outside, they can remain very cold on the inside.  Indeed I suspect that the inner cold may be the reason why the Three Heater is working overtime trying to provide heat, but in the wrong place.  Moxa helps correct this imbalance by sending warmth deep within the body (and soul!) to the meridian network.  

This is called treating fire with fire.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The dark days are over!

Over the past years I have experienced many dark days when I despaired for the future of five element acupuncture.  Now, I can say with heartfelt relief, no longer.  It is not only that the whole of China appears to have opened up to welcome it back to its heart after many decades of absence, but in this country, too, maybe perhaps partly as a result of this or because the spirit of the age demands it, five element acupuncture appears to have regained its soul.  I see evidence of this all around me, and am deeply encouraged by it to continue my work in promoting it.

One small, but significant, evidence for this found its way round the world to me by a circuitous route, which illustrates how the world is now indeed one.  Mei Long, my young Chinese student and friend, translates part of my blog into Mandarin for her own mini-blog (called a weibo), which then speeds on its way round China and to any Mandarin-speaker elsewhere in the world, where it apparently attaches itself in some form to Liu Lihong’s blog which is read by a vast readership in China.  A reader of this blog is a young Chinese girl living in London who came to one of my seminars, decided to experience five element acupuncture for herself and now wants to study it. 

Things do indeed come full circle if we wait long enough.


Points are messengers, not the message

Some of you may have been surprised when I wrote that I dislike books which list the function of points in my blog of 17 June, The Simpler the Better (last paragraph).  So here are my reasons.

We should always remember that points provide access to the meridians on which they lie, and through this to the elements deep within, each point a tiny opening through which external energies can be drawn in and down and internal energies drawn up and out.   We sometimes forget this, because as acupuncturists we only work on the surface of the body, and our concept of the meridian network is often modelled too closely on the two-dimensional charts hanging on our walls.  But though we use the points as places where we needle, their function is to convey the messages our needles are attempting to send down to the elements upon whose meridians they lie.  They are therefore always messengers, never the message itself.

Books listing the various functions of individual points can confuse the unwary.  If used carefully such books may well add to our understanding of the points, though I myself doubt much that is written in them, wondering upon how much actual clinical experience they are based as opposed to theoretical musings about the ancient Chinese meaning buried in their names.  What worries me is that relying on these books for our point selection, which so many acupuncturists sadly tend to do, inevitably weakens the awareness of the link between point and element, and potentially makes a knowledge of the element secondary to the apparent function of a particular point.  As five element acupuncturists, we are on a slippery slope once we begin to think of the point as having a function all its own quite distinct from that of the element which gives it that function. 

We must never confuse the messenger with the message.  And if our treatment is getting nowhere, we should not shoot the messenger (the points we have used), but look to change the message (the element on which they lie)!

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I think the following is a beautiful description of the loneliness of grief, the feeling of isolation we all feel when we experience loss. It comes from a book by the American writer, Francine Prose, called Goldengrove, which is all about how a young girl copes with the death of her sister.

“So many of (those trying to offer comfort) said the same things that I might have thought that there was common ground, if I hadn’t known that I was alone on an iceberg split off from a glacier….. When they wept, I cried, too, and for a moment I almost believed that my iceberg might have room for another person.”

More about books

I have now put my Keepers of the Soul into e-format, and could sell it like that on Amazon for the Kindle.  And yet I have been surprisingly hesitant to take the last step, put off by the amazingly complex charging arrangements Amazon have devised, but more importantly by my reluctance to see my words encased, not in the enticing pages of book, but on a flat, metal (or is it plastic?) screen. 

The writer Julian Barnes has now helped me understand my reluctance a little better. This is from an article of his on his love of books in the Guardian yesterday:

“Every book feels and looks different in your hands, every Kindle download feels and looks exactly the same…..I have no luddite prejudice against new technology;  it’s just that books look as if they contain knowledge, while e-readers look as if they contain information.”