Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A present from China!

The first email I opened this morning made my heart sing.  It is from one of my students in Chengdu, and I am passing it on in full exactly as she wrote it.  It delights me that this practitioner has gained such deep insights into five element acupuncture in such a short time (about 3 weeks during our seminars, plus a lot of learning in a small group with her fellow practitioners).  It is very heartening to get such positive feedback confirming that we are sowing the seeds for five element acupuncture's revival in China on such fertile ground.

"Recently I have some new understandings of water, and I’m eager to write to you to see if it’s right or not.

There was a patient of mine (I treated him with common acupuncture, not five element acupuncture), who I thought was a wood person for the first few times I saw him. I used to be quite sure of that because he argued a lot, and he liked to direct me what to do. And most of my friends of our Chengdu group considered him to be wood too. As he had read your book, one day when I told him about my diagnosis, he denied it, and he insisted that he is water but wood. So that day I had a longer talk with him, and I found that when he was talking with me, his eyes wandered, and his color was not green but bluish black. He kept telling me about this or that with a fast and droning tone and sometimes I had to stop him to ask another question. I started to think that maybe he was water, but I still thought that there was a lot of wood under water. And except for his casual back pain, he also told me about his main problem, excessive sexual desire, which obsessed him for years and I really didn’t know how to deal with it with common acupuncture. So I decided to treat him with five element acupuncture.
Because of the following two things, now I can be sure of his element, which is water. The first is of course the effect. He was very sensitive to the treatment, he would report his change to me every time after he was treated, and it was going to a very good direction. He found that he was becoming more and more calm, more optimistic to the future and more energetic. He now knew what direction he'd like to go to. The symptoms on his back and leg were almost gone, and his problem of excessive sexual excitement was much better too. The second reason was that one day we had a little argument, he kept saying things to let me know that he was right, which made me become very impatient and even a little angry, but instead of being irritated by me, he started to apologize to me. I thought if he was wood, he would become angrier than me, right?
      Now that I can be certain of his element, I have even more doubts. There are a lot of water people around me, but none of them are like him. They never speak out what they really think of. Even if they do not agree with my opinion, they hide their true feelings. But he seems to be much more overwhelming than other water people, he always pushes me to do things or accept things that he wants me to. Is it because he is a water person with a lot of wood or is this another characteristic of water?
      I was very confused about this until one day I remembered that I had read on Mei's blog that you described Mo Yan (the Chinese Nobel Prize winner) into "quiet flame", and I suddenly realized that since there were different kinds of fire, and there would definitely be different kinds of water, too! Most water people I knew may like small streams glide through the meadow, they skirt obstacles silently, but this patient is more like flood, he is so powerful and if there is a dam, he'll just rise until the dam is broken over. Am I right to comprehend it this way? And since he is becoming more and more calm after treatment, it represents that if a water person is so overwhelming like he used to be, it shows that this person is not in balance, right?

PS: After writing this letter, I read your descriptions of water again, and I found that what I need to know was already on the book! But this time I had much deeper understanding of what you’d written. And I realized that when you were not by our side, patients were our best teachers. We would never make progress if we don’t respect what patients teach us."


Friday, January 25, 2013

Watching the elements whilst I watch tennis on TV

I have just watched Andy Murray beating Roger Federer at the Australian Open, and whilst I was watching I was also looking carefully to see whether I still agreed with my previous diagnosis of their elements.  And I still do!   
So here are what I think are the elements of a few of the leading tennis players at the moment:

Roger Federer            Water
Novak Djokovic           Fire
Rafael Nadal               Wood
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga      Fire
Maria Sharapova        Metal
Li Na                           Fire
Kim Clijsters               Earth
Andy Murray               Water

Listen to Andy Murray’s voice.  It is a pure groan.  And his coach, Ivan Lendl, must be Metal.

Have fun trying to see whether you agree with me!






Monday, January 21, 2013

Teach Yourself Five Element Acupuncture for Acupuncturists - a proposal for a new book

The ideal introduction to a healing discipline such as five element acupuncture is in the form of a personal transmission from master to pupil. This was the only way people learned in the past, where the handing down of experience from one generation of a family to the next was common practice and the only type of learning available.  Modern forms of education, though, have increasingly emphasized the need to gather students together into classrooms, there to follow rigidly standardized courses with a ratio of one tutor to a roomful of students.  It is little wonder, then, that against this backdrop of formalized learning, the transmission of many years of deeply personal experiences from a practitioner to a student is a luxury denied to all but the very lucky few, those ones who have been able to find a teacher whose teachings they admire and who lives close enough to them to be available at sufficiently regular intervals to pass on his/her knowledge.

This being so sadly the case now, and the situation being made even harder by the lack of good five element clinicians prepared to teach, I have decided to do what I can to fill a glaring gap by writing this manual based upon my Handbook of Five Element Practice.  Since I cannot single-handedly (or with just a few other five element teachers) satisfy the growing need for this kind of personal transmission of what I have learnt, then I hope this manual will provide something which I cannot offer in any other way.  The purist will complain that long-distance learning of this kind is not only far from ideal but perhaps should not even be undertaken, because the student can be given so little feedback.  But the purist is not confronted, as I am, with many hundreds of Chinese acupuncturists from all over their vast country longing to learn about five element acupuncture, and many more spread all over the world, eagerly learning whatever they can through this blog.

For Chinese and other non-English-speaking students there are the additional problems of language barriers which complicate communication, both written and verbal.  Hence the eventual appearance of these lessons in both a Mandarin version for my Chinese students and an English version for all those other people of different nationalities, equally keen to learn, if the numbers reading my blog are anything to go by, and for whom English must be their lingua franca.

The Mandarin version of this self-tuition course is being translated by Mei Long as I write, so that it will be available for our next seminar in Nanning in April 2013.  I am just completing the English version, which I am planning to issue in book form.  I have yet to decide whether I will also include a kind of addendum listing the (very few) points I use and my reasoning for using them.  This is something I am working on at the moment. 



Friday, January 18, 2013

Announcing the publication of my books as ebooks

As a great lover of books, who enjoys the feel of a well-produced book in my hands, I have been reluctant to move into the ephemeral world of what I regard as phantom books. I don’t like to think that in some way I am handing my books over to giant concerns who do not allow my words to be shared or handed on, as I like to do with books I read. But ebook format is very practical, particularly when travelling, and so I have bowed to the demands of the day.

Now my four books are available for downloading both through Kindle and, in ePub format, through iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony Reader Store.   

Whether in printed or ebook form, they can be ordered through my website www.sofea.co.uk.


How clearly an element reveals itself if we have eyes to see

Every day I receive confirmation that the elements do indeed imprint a personal stamp upon each one of us in the shape of one of the five elements.  It is both exhilarating and humbling to receive these continuing proofs of the truth of what I practise.  I received one such confirmation at a fellow acupuncturist’s practice a few days ago, when I was asked to help a patient of hers.

A few years ago this patient had suddenly begun to experience severe pains down his body, accompanied by strange involuntary jerking movements of his left leg.   I asked him whether he had been suffering from any particular stresses at the time the pains started, perhaps something which he might experience as a shock to the system.  “No“, he said, but then I noticed his eyes suddenly filling with great sadness.  “Is his element Metal then?”, I began to ask myself, as I saw this look of grief.  We are always being given pointers to the elements if we are sensitive enough to notice them, however slight they may be, little gifts of help.  And then came another gift.  He was silent for quite a while as I took his pulses, and then, out of the silence, unexpectedly said quietly, “I always wished I had had some relationship with my father.”  Aha, I thought, who but Metal would say this?  For of course Metal has a particular association with the father.

Metal is the “if only” element, the element that looks back into the past, and often thinks more about this past than about the present.  So here was a double pointer to Metal, the grief in the eyes and the immediate connection with a father who, though still living, is as though lost to him.

So I continued with my questioning, guiding it now along a path that my experience tells me that Metal will accept.  It wants to be left alone to make its own connections and assess for itself what is relevant or irrelevant.  So I suggested lightly that maybe something had indeed happened around the time all this pain appeared. “Maybe some stress at home or at work, perhaps?  But only you will know what that might be.”  And I added, “Perhaps the involuntary jerking of your leg is because you want to kick somebody!”  We both laughed, and then he was given his first treatment on Metal, just the source points, and he left with this rather light, almost joking remark hanging in the air.

A few hours later he phoned, and wanted to tell us both something he had never told anybody else before.  Two years ago his wife had had an affair with his best friend which had devastated him.  They had worked through this now, but he could not forgive his friend, and never wanted to see him again – another great loss in his life.  I suspect that now that he has admitted to his anger, he will no longer unconsciously need to kick out, either at his wife, or more likely at his friend, as good treatment focused on his Metal element helps him gradually heal.

This was further evidence for me that we need only lightly suggest something to Metal, and then stand back to allow them space to work out their own solutions, since Metal is so acute and quick at making connections for itself.

How much we achieved in such a short time!

I’m sure five element acupuncturists reading this will expect me to write about any other signs of Metal I noticed in terms of CSOE.  His emotion I have talked about, his colour was not very clearly what I associate with Metal.  I couldn’t detect any smell at all, but the sound of his voice was very flat, very yin, dragging me down with it.  This is the sound which I associate with Metal’s weeping tone.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beware of the incorrect use of junction points!

I have recently noticed that practitioners are increasingly choosing to use the junction points of an element’s two officials together as a matter of course, for example VII (GB) 37 with VIII (Li) 5 for the Wood element, much as they might choose the paired source or tonification points.  I don’t know when or why this started to be common practice, but it was certainly not the case during my own training.

It’s good to think what the function of a junction point is.  What is it actually joining to what?  What it does is provide a link between the paired yin and yang officials, drawing energy from one to the other. What happens when we needle VII 37 and VIII 5 together is that we are just drawing energy from Liver to Gall Bladder by tonifying VII 37, and from Gall Bladder to Liver by tonifying VIII 5.  But there is only a point in doing this if one or other official is relatively deficient compared with the other.  This does not seem to be the reasoning behind the current and growing use of junction points.  Usually, the yin and yang officials share their energy and balance any discrepancy without help from us.  To draw energy away from one official to the other through their junction points as a matter of course without first considering whether either official needs this support therefore appears to me to be wrong, and may well be a waste of a treatment.  And we should never waste treatments.

At an advanced training course with JR, I remember how cross he became when somebody suggested the junction points of Three Heater and Heart Protector as a choice of points for a Fire patient.  JR said, “Are you choosing these because you really think that this patient needs his Inner and Outer Frontier Gates opened, or just because you can’t think of any other points?”  He said he would choose them only if he felt that the gates were blocked between the two officials.  The only other junction points I ever heard him selecting together in all the years that I observed him with patients were those of Stomach and Spleen, XI 40 and XII 4, and he explained that he chose these, not because they happened also to be junction points, but because of the spirit of what each point gave the other. 

There are, however, some rare cases when there might be inequality between the yin and yang officials, which needs correcting and which will appear as what is called a split pulse.  In all my years of practice, the only time I have found a marked discrepancy of this kind, and used the junction points to treat it, was in a patient who had had a colostomy bag fitted, and whose Lung pulse was markedly much stronger than his Large Intestine pulse.  Here I tonified the junction point of the LI, LI 6, to draw the excess energy from the Lung.  The Lung and Large Intestine pulses returned to balance with one another, and the patient immediately felt better. 

We also use junction points when we want to correct an Akabane imbalance, but this time we draw energy to the same official from one side of the body to the other, not to or from its paired official.  And of course they can be used individually for what we call "their spirit", for example III (Bl) 58 or I (Ht) 5, where my choice will be based upon their name and what I think this point therefore offers its official.

So I would plead with all five element acupuncturists to think carefully about their reasoning for choosing paired junction points.  They should ask themselves whether they are simply choosing them because they can’t think of anything else to do!  If that is the case, then choose the source points, or, if there is enough energy in the mother element, the tonification points.  These are points which can be repeated again and again.  But to keep on choosing junction points is like keeping on trying to open a door which is already open!



Saturday, January 5, 2013

Five element distance learning course

I am very much enjoying working on a distance-learning course for my Chinese students. It is quite an intellectually demanding challenge to shape the course, and decide what to include and what to omit. Luckily I have my Handbook of Five element Practice (Mandarin version) to base it on.  I wrote this some years ago, rather quickly, to help my SOFEA students, and on re-reading it now, I’m glad that it will provide a good foundation for those in China wanting to expand their acupuncture skills to include five element acupuncture.

I have completed 10 lessons so far, with suggestions on practical work to accompany selected studies of the text.  I will expand this to about 16 - 18 lessons so that by the end of the course I hope that those who are already acupuncturists will feel sufficiently confident to start practising five element acupuncture, and those who are just interested lay people, of whom there are many in China, will know enough to decide whether they want to start studying it themselves.

I have to keep on reminding myself to remember what we take for granted in our approach to our practice and what my Chinese students have found so intriguingly different.  And here the word “compassion” springs to my mind whenever I think of their surprise.  What represents the warmth and closeness of my relationship with my patients is something that they find surprising and, in many ways disturbing.  One of my students asked, ”But how will I learn to deal with my patients’ emotions?”  Our approach is so different from the standard TCM approach they have been taught at acupuncture college.  What they find most surprising is what we as five element acupuncturists take for granted, which is that we are there to support our patients emotionally.

In the West, with our years of emphasis (over-emphasis some of us would say) on self-development and “finding our inner you”, it comes as a surprise when we encounter cultures where introspection of this kind is a luxury or even frowned upon.  So not only do Chinese students have to learn the technical aspect of five element acupuncture, they have also to make a major emotional re-adjustment inside themselves as they approach a practice which demands empathy as the most important quality in a therapist.

And if all goes well, and I am happy with the course, I may well think if publishing it in English, too!  There are many people all over the world, and not just in China, if readers pf this blog are anything to go by, who may be interested in learning more, and who have no access to any kind of five element teaching.