Saturday, June 29, 2013

Further burdens upon Inner Fire

There are an almost unlimited number of outside pressures upon us exhorting us to be what we call politically correct (pc).  Those of one aspect of the Fire element, Inner Fire, like me, are particularly burdened here, since it is my Small Intestine which has constantly to find a way of dealing with these pressures.

I wrote in a previous blog (26 May 2013) about one of these pressures.  There are many others I have to deal with during the course of a day, but none so tiring, because so apparently insignificant, as what happened this morning.  This may seem to be a frivolous example of the Small Intestine at work, but, like everything our guardian element insists that we do, is also a very significant illustration of that official’s work.  So any practitioner reading this should take note, because it is only through understanding the load each official  bears as it attempts to do its work for the good of the whole that we learn to help our patients.

So to this morning’s tiny incident:  I feel very strongly that I must support my two small local newsagents, one at each end of a long street, at the centre of which, and closest to where I live, is a Tesco’s.  (This comes under the politically correct heading no 1, which is “Support your local shops”.)  I have a weekly subscription to the Guardian/Observer newspapers. (This comes under politically correct heading no 2, which is “Keep buying newspapers to save them from the threat of the internet”). 

The problem arises if 1) it is the weekend, as today, or 2) I am in a hurry, also as today, when it would, of course, be far easier just to pop into the Tesco’s just over the road.  At the weekend, one newsagent opens late on a Saturday and is closed altogether on a Sunday, and the other only opens for a few hours on a Sunday morning, so I have to remember to get there before it closes.  So today I set off virtuously on my long walk to one newsagent, forgetting that it was Saturday and not yet open, turned to walk back towards the other end of the long street, passing the doors to Tesco’s on the way.  I spent (or at least my Small Intestine spent) the 100 yards or so of this walk towards Tesco’s debating whether I would or would not succumb to laziness and pick up my Guardian there, or whether I should continue for another 5 – 10 minutes up to the other newsagent.  Giving myself the excuse that I was in a hurry, I gave in and popped into Tesco’s.  Each time I look at today’s Guardian now I feel a slight twinge of guilt.

To some people, this dilemma, which acts itself out surprisingly often, is a ridiculous waste of energy, but try to tell that to the Small Intestine. If it feels something is wrong - here supermarket chains crushing small shopkeepers - it has to do something about it, even at the cost of all the apparently unnecessary heart-searching that it has to do (and remember the Small Intestine's function is to advise the Heart to do what is right).

During the course of a day, there are many other similar examples of the dilemmas I am faced with.  These include things such as: should I buy a pint of milk from the little cafĂ© I like to support but at a higher price than from Waitrose, which, as part of John Lewis, is an acceptable supermarket to buy from;  or does my little dishwasher use more water than if I wash my plates by hand;  or should I avoid walking past my usual Big Issue seller because I have just bought a copy from another one further up the road, and will he therefore think I have abandoned him?

Not to mention, should I buy my books from my small local bookshop, rather than Amazon, or, a further dilemma, through the Guardian bookshop?  Which needs my support more, the local bookshop or the Guardian?  Or should I not buy the book at all, but order it from my local library, which also badly needs my support?  (These come under pc headings nos 3 and 4, Support your local bookshop, and Support your local library.)

Oh, the burden upon my Small Intestine of trying to do what is right! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The rewards of teaching in China

Mei has just forwarded me the following heart-warming email from one of our Chinese students.  I am passing on the flavour of what this practitioner said in her own words below:

“Today I treated a CV/GV block, and up the pulses raised! And our heart, me and my patient, was on the wings of joy. Really I can’t believe this, that the illness which has made him suffering for years will be indeed conquered by this tiny little needle?

He was very satisfied and his wife even moved to tears. Thank you so much for bringing our old treasure back to home!  Such a huge contribution.”

It is lovely for me to see our students over there putting into practice what they have learnt from us, and, as they often tell us, helping so many of their patients to a happier, healthier life.  It is such rewarding, worthwhile work.  Although I hardly need any more encouragement than I already have, this lovely feedback is further confirmation that what we are teaching falls on very fertile ground. 

I am looking forward with delight to my next visit to China, which this time will be to Beijing for a week at the end of September, where a group of very keen acupuncturists awaits Guy and me.  And after that, in November, back to our 5th visit to Nanning, to see how all those many students who have already attended previous seminars there are doing in their practices all around China.

Before that I will be visiting Berlin for the first time, to look at patients with two acupuncturists there (as well as taking a peek at the new Picasso collection in the Berggruen Museum).  And then in August on to Toulouse to meet Dr Marie-Christine Lavier, the daughter of Jacques Lavier, JR’s teacher, to hear what she has to tell me about her father, and to take further steps towards publishing my translation of one of her father’s books which Singing Dragon Press are interested in.

A busy, but happy summer and autumn ahead!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My approach to pulse-taking

I have been privileged to receive from Peter Eckman a draft of his latest book which is about pulses and is about to be published, like my books, by Singing Dragon Press.  I love its title, The Compleat Acupuncturist: a guide to constitutional and conditional pulse diagnosis, an echo of Isaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653).  The book discusses in great detail the many, many different ways in which pulses are taken and the many, many different ways in which they are interpreted. 

This has set me thinking about my own approach to pulse-taking, best summed up, I feel, by something I said to those attending my last SOFEA clinical seminar.  In effect I told them, a bit tongue in cheek, to “forget the pulses”.  This is something I often find myself saying to practitioners in an attempt to remove some of the unnecessary burden they feel when trying to interpret pulses.  I suggest, instead, that they should concentrate on looking at the patient as a whole whose pulses are only one of many manifestations of the elements.  I always labour the point that the extreme subtlety of what these 12 pulses are telling us makes their interpretation an art which has to be honed over many years, and like all arts is a skill that is never perfected.

My approach is based upon what I was taught as an undergraduate at Leamington, where the importance of pulse-taking was never over-emphasized.  We were told simply to take as many pulses as we could (100 a month, if I remember correctly), and gradually learn to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the different pulses in relation to one another.  The aim was mainly to detect energy blocks, such as Entry-Exit blocks or those occurring in a Husband-Wife imbalance.  It was firmly drilled into us that pulses never told us what the Guardian Element (CF) was, because even if treatment was directed at the right element, it might well be this element’s pulses which showed the least response to treatment because of its role in shepherding the other elements into balance.

The famous 27 pulse qualities were only mentioned once by JR, almost as an aside, when, as part of what was apparently considered necessary to complete the syllabus, he raced through the different pulse qualities in about 15 minutes with obvious disinterest, ending with telling us, “and that’s all you need to know about the 27 pulses qualities”.  This appeared to be a doorway through which he did not think it necessary for us to pass.

Another occasion with JR had a much more profound effect on me.  I told him at one point that sometimes I felt that I couldn’t interpret anything my fingers were trying to tell me.  He said, “I know what you mean.  I will feel the same, and then perhaps a month later I will realise that my pulse-taking has moved to another level.”

These words of his hover over my fingers as I take pulses even now.  I never wait too long to try and interpret what I feel, and can even find myself talking as I take them, almost as if I want to allow my mind to do its thinking through words so that it sets my spirit free just to feel.  And then I try to add what I am feeling to what my other senses are telling me to help me interpret the signals the patients is sending me through everything they do or say.

What worries me about approaches to pulse-taking is that pulses represent one of the few aspects of five element practice where we ask for a physical response from a patient’s body.  All the other forms of diagnosis are much more ephemeral.  We can’t physically touch a smell, a sound of voice, a colour or an emotion, but we can certainly physically touch a hand to feel a pulse.  And the physical appears to provide a reassuring refuge to which we can retreat if our other senses confuse us and prove too elusive.  I have decided that this is the reason why all novice practitioners (and quite a few experienced practitioners, too!) immediately reach for the hands of the patient lying there on the couch, rather than paying attention to the patient as a whole, as though needing to anchor themselves immediately in the physical.  Sometimes I feel, rather wickedly, that this is a bit like a drowning person grasping a lifebuoy.

Except in the case of blocks, where I always try to add other information to what my fingers may be telling me, pulses play an almost subsidiary role compared with what I learn from the total picture presented by the patient.  So Peter and I, both trained in the same school, but he, unlike me, having received much more extensive training in other disciplines, have arrived at somewhat different points on the scale of the importance we attribute to what our fingers can tell us.  I am nonetheless fascinated by all those other approaches his new book covers, but which I know I may only ever appreciate in theory, not in practice.

 (See also my other two blogs on pulse-taking: The mystery of pulses, 22 October 2010, and Using our two hands, 24 February 2012)