Sunday, May 26, 2013

One of the burdens of being Inner Fire

Oh, the ridiculous unnecessary pressures my Small Intestine official can put me under!  

Yesterday I travelled by train to Salisbury, not something requiring much mental exertions, one would think.  But with every train journey I take comes the moment as I walk along the platform when I have to decide whether I want to head for the carriage with the quiet zone, and opt for a journey theoretically free of people talking loudly on their mobiles, or just sit in an ordinary carriage and suffer.  As everybody now probably knows, I absolutely hate mobile phones, however necessary they have become, not only because of the complete disregard for other people their owners show, but also because they are increasingly cutting people physically off from contact with one another - ironically, because they are intended to do just the opposite.   So do I suffer a journey interrupted by the endless pinging of mobile phones, and forced to listen to conversations I have absolutely no interest in, or do I sit in a carriage in peaceful silence? 
Except it is rarely silent, I have found.  What usually happens is that somebody, finding that there are more seats available here than elsewhere, plonks themselves down without seeing where they are sitting, and immediately switches on their phone.  Then there comes the moment when I look round to see if any other occupant is as annoyed as I am, which they, surprisingly, rarely are.  So I am forced yet again to gesture to the signs on the window, to be greeted usually, not by an apology, but by irritation, with the speaker either hurriedly grabbing his/her bags to go to another carriage or walking through the carriage to the area beyond the door still talking loudly.
And this may happen not once but twice during a journey.  And if it doesn’t happen, then at every station along the route, as new passengers come, in I tense myself for another such encounter.  What an utter waste of my energy!  Wouldn’t it be far better for me, plagued as I am with bad hearing, just to turn off both hearing aids and sit in utter silence wherever I choose?  But I know that when I take my next train journey, I will go through the same rigmarole.
It is on occasions like this that I would love to be any other element than Inner Fire, so that I could allow my poor Small Intestine simply to relax and enjoy the journey, rather wasting so much time sorting things out in such an unsatisfactory way.  But sadly, I often think, it can never truly relax, as it sifts and sorts, sifts and sorts, to protect the Heart.



Saturday, May 25, 2013

Revising my books for re-publication

It has been a very interesting exercise for me re-reading my four books as part of the process of revising them for re-publication by Singing Dragon Press (see also my blog of 8 May).  First, I am happy that they are going to keep each other close company in terms of the design of their covers, because all will now have one of Hamish Horsley’s lovely photos on them, as the Handbook now has.  Anybody who came to Mandela Street or comes now to our clinic in Harley Street will recognise another of his photos, that of the students gathering together on the hillside outside their monastery, which is to go on the Simple Guide.  All four covers now have the same house style.

And beside the covers, there is what is inside them, my writing.  Luckily, and to my surprise, I felt that the only book which needed some work on it was the Handbook, a careful reading of the others confirming that they still expressed what I wanted to say.  The Handbook was another matter, and has made me think deeply about its content, particularly as this new edition is going to include my Teach Yourself Self-Help manual as an appendix.

Writing the manual highlighted areas which I felt the Handbook touched on too lightly, and sometimes even in a somewhat confusing way, and these related to points and point selection in general.  Amending one section had a knock-on effect on other sections, and has often led to a change in chapter order and content.  My poor translators, Mei Long for the Mandarin version, and Sylviane Burner for the French version, will have some work to do to bring the Chinese and French editions into line.  I haven’t yet dared tell my Russian translator, Zare Melyan, about the changes (although if she reads this blog, which I think she does, she will now know this!).  In a week or so I fly off to Holland to sit with Mei for a day and go through the new version with her.

But the exercise has been a very productive one, because it made me go back to first principles, and work out exactly the process by which I translate my well-known mantra of “the simpler the better” into point selection.  After many a redraft as I honed my ideas more clearly, I now have a version with which I am pleased.  

The publication date for the new edition of the Handbook will be the end of the year, with the other three books appearing a little earlier.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Two humbling experiences

I have been very humbled by two experiences I have had in the last month or so, one as I left China, and the other on my return.  Both are heart-warming reminders to me of how fortunate I am to do what I do. 

My Chinese experience came on the last day of my stay in Nanning.  My host, Liu Lihong, wanted to find out how each of the 60 students who had attended our two weeks of seminars had found them.  So we asked each one in turn to tell us.  What astounded me, and I hope pleased Liu Lihong, was the group’s unanimous expression of overwhelming delight in what they had learnt and how amazed they were at the compassion and understanding we showed the many patients whose treatments they observed.  This was a facet of practice apparently totally new to them, and opened a fresh window for them onto the importance of developing a warm patient/practitioner relationship.   

My other example, from the other side of the world here in London, illustrates just this important aspect of our practice.  It comes in an email from the practitioner who has been telling me of her experience in treating a terminally ill cancer patient over the last few months of his life, and how profound an effect this has had on her (see my two previous blogs on 27 Feb and 25 March).

Although she was sad to have to report her patient’s death, she sees her time with him in the most positive light.  With her permission, I give below her description of what the experience has meant to her:

The past months since his diagnosis in January this year have been a real roller coaster for him, both physically and emotionally. Things took a dramatic turn for the worse last Wednesday and I feel so relieved that his suffering and strife were not prolonged further and that he is now truly at peace.

I feel very privileged to have been invited into this person's life. His very obvious Wood CF was very refreshing to me, though not without its challenges to his nearest and dearest.  His thirst for information about his treatments and acupuncture as a whole was a delight and not at all threatening to me - he was extremely open to the whole Chinese medicine ethos and it could be said that he was rather unorthodox in his beliefs and actions, and extremely proud of the fact he was too!

His openness, honesty and need for straight talking could have easily come across as slightly abrasive, but for me it made the whole subject of cancer and death very accessible. At a time when some would feel the need to avoid or skirt around what is a very difficult subject, I felt able to talk candidly to him without fear of overstepping the mark or holding back, in order to say what needed to be said.

You have often said, Nora, how you learn so much from your patients. My relationship with this patient has been a very emotional, memorable and powerful lesson - but most of all, very humbling indeed.”

As with my patient Martine, about whom I wrote in the last chapter of my Pattern of Things, experiences such as those this practitioner had to learn to deal with touch us at the deepest level.  They leave us much changed, and by this change open us up to greater understanding of the needs of our patients. 

Both these experiences, from different parts of the world, remind me once again of the common thread which runs through all of us.  Whatever tribe, race, country or continent we come from, the five great fingers of the elements hold each of us in their grasp, shaping the deepest aspects of ourselves and giving us a common humanity.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The end of self-publishing my books is now in sight!

I am having an interesting and challenging time at the moment re-reading my four books with a completely fresh eye.

It is more than 10 years since I wrote the Simple Guide, 9 years since my Handbook appeared, 7 years since the Keepers of the Soul and 4 years since I followed this up with the Pattern of Things.  And now there is my fifth publication, the Teach Yourself Five Element Acupuncture for Acupuncturists, which is hovering out there, so far unattached and unpublished in an English edition, but already photocopied in its Mandarin version for my Chinese students.

The reason for all this activity is because I have just signed with Singing Dragon Press for them to publish all my books (  I hesitated for a little while (but only a short while) before deciding, because I felt that I might to some extent lose the freedom I now have to do exactly what I want with my writing. But with some relief signed last week, persuaded, among other things, not only by the respect Jessica Kingsley, the publisher, has shown me, but, as she so succinctly said, the fact that I now no longer have to pack up and post my books myself!

In fact the feeling of freedom this signing has given me has been surprisingly releasing, as if a burden has been taken from me.  To my relief, only one of my books requires major re-editing, and that is the Handbook, and this is mainly because we are going to add my Teach Yourself Five Element Acupuncture to it as an appendix.  This has allowed me to look carefully at the whole structure of the book again, in particular re-writing the sections on point selection and, for good measure, adding a list of my favourite points.

When I have done this, I will have time to think ahead to what I want to write next.  Is it perhaps time to draw my blogs together into a book?

I hope, too, I will also soon have time to get down to doing something more frivolous, which is designing my long-announced, long-delayed coffee shop blog.  In the past two weeks I have found another café that I like and another one, which would be horrified to find itself called a café rather than a coffee-shop, that I disliked, so full was it of beautiful people in designer jeans and designer trainers and designer-looking faces.  It’s the little, unpretentious, privately-owned cafés that would never need to call themselves coffee-shops that I really like, and whose owners never fail to welcome me as a long-standing friend.