Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 New Year's Wish

As 2014 draws to a close, signalling the end of another year of my life, I am made increasingly aware of the steady passing of time, like the annual tick-tock of the clock of my life, a form of countdown to its end.  I don’t find this a morbid thought – quite the reverse.  It just sets me thinking about what I still have to do, and gives it additional urgency.  This is becoming all the more pressing since my body is finally admitting to its increasing age, with the gradual diminution of all kinds of faculties I have so far taken for granted, foremost among them my hearing.  This has always been a problem and is beginning now to affect my social life to the extent that I have to consider before joining others how far my struggle to hear what people are saying will affect my enjoyment of their company, and no doubt their enjoyment of mine, as I have to ask them to repeat what they have said.  And then there are my creaking knees, about which the less said the better.

But, and here is the flipside to this, all these physical problems which are after all minor compared with what many people are forced to suffer, persuade me that I have in a way to hurry up and do all that I feel I have to do before my body compels me to a full stop.  Certainly my mind appears to be more active than ever (at least nobody has so far dared tell me if this is not true!), though as all of us notice as we grow older, our memory, particularly of names but certainly not of faces, begins to suffer.  My sister, two years older than me, told me recently that she wanted to pack in as much travelling as she could “whilst I still can”, and I, too, want to do as much as I can whilst I still can.  But the big question is not travelling, which I am continuing to do quite happily (off to China again in April for my 7th visit), but what to write!

The book of my blogs, to be called “On being a five element acupuncturist”, will appear in bookshops in January, and I want to organize a book launch for it, as a way of celebrating its completion but also as a good pretext for inviting many people from my days as Principal of the School of Five element Acupuncture with whom I have lost contact in the years since I closed the school.  I hope the reception room at our Harley Street clinic will be large enough to hold everybody.  But after that, what?

I feel bereft without the project of another book to work on.  Blogs such as the one I am writing now certainly help me formulate my thoughts, but I ask myself whether I have anything left to say about five element acupuncture, or is it more about life that I need to write?  (And as I ask this question there flashes through my mind an odd thought about the way the Fire element walks which was stimulated by watching Rory McIlroy, the golfer, in a re-run of some of the highlights of the Ryder Cup this year on TV.  Remembering this is prompting me to write another blog about the elements.)

At midnight on New Year’s Eve each year I make a pledge to try and complete a further aim which I set for myself for the coming year.  I now only have about three days between now and the end of the year to discover what this year’s wish will be.  Will I manage to do this this year or not?

Happy end to 2014

I like to end my blogs of 2014 on an optimistic note.  And what could be happier in an age where people seem obsessed by ever more useless consumerism than to hear of the generosity of people towards those consigned to the bottom of the pile.  In London some of these are eking out a living selling the Big Issue on the streets.  I have my own familiar group of Big Issue sellers for whom I keep a stash of coins ready in my pockets as I walk around London, but I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town walking past a seller I had not seen before.  As he smiled at me, I asked him whether his takings for that day had been good.  “No, “he said, “it seems that everybody is just hurrying past to do their Christmas shopping.  But I must tell you about two lovely things that happened to me a few days ago.  One of my regular customers came rushing up to me on his way to fly off abroad for Christmas, and pressed a £50 note into my hand.  And not long afterwards, another person gave me £20.  That was my lucky day, wasn’t it?”

And I, too, was the surprised recipient of other people’s kindness.  In one of my favourite coffee shops, I decided to give myself a pre-Christmas treat of various goodies, and then asked for the bill.  The waitress said, “I don’t think you will be needing that,” and returned, not with my bill, but with a Christmas card from all the staff with my name on it.  I don’t know how they found out who I was, because I usually pay with cash, but I must once have paid with a credit card with my name.  And they refused to let me pay for my little feast.

So there is more generosity around than there often appears to be on the surface.  I left both the Big Issue seller and the cafĂ© with big smiles on my face.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The curse of the mobile phone

I have written before about the way in which I think the use of mobile phones and other electronic equipment is having a negative effect upon human interactions.  I am reluctant to condemn all these new inventions because in many ways they are miracles of human invention, but it is hard for me to see their good in a world now increasingly peopled by automaton-like figures peering into their screens with never an eye raised to acknowledge the presence of those they are passing by.

If you become used to allowing the demands of the mobile phone to control your life in this way, I wonder how this will affect human interactions in the long term.  More and more people now appear to be compelled by their insistent ringing tones to give mobile phones priority over everything else to the extent that they allow them to interrupt whatever social interactions are taking place at the time.

I was reminded of this at a restaurant I went to last week, where the owner said that she was quite happy for us to sit on as long as we wanted after we had finished our meal, because she was so pleased to find people who had not spent the whole of their meal shouting into mobile phones, as her other guests often do. She is appalled at the way these telephone conversations are conducted at high volume without consideration for other diners, but said, “I can’t tell people they mustn’t use their phones because I would lose too many customers if I did”.  Recently I heard the story of an irate diner, who, plagued by the incessant loud mobile conversation at the table next to his, had simply got up, grabbed the phone and thrown it into a large bowl of flowers where it bobbed about helplessly. “You’ve spoilt my meal, “he said, “so now I’m spoiling yours”.  I certainly often have a strong inclination to follow suit, but I’m not sure I have this man’s courage.

There appear to be very few people left who would still consider it rude to interrupt a conversation with a friend to answer their phones.  And if we increasingly ignore those that are physically close to us as we respond to the demands of those disembodied voices on our machines, what effect will that have on human relationships in the future?

Why the need, too, for so much hurry?  We have become slaves to these tiny machines.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yet another beautiful quote

“In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence.  Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable – which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live.  We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity.  But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.

Maybe I should have said we are like planets.  But then I would have lost some of the point of saying that we are like civilizations.  The planets may all have been sloughed from the same star, but still the historical dimension is missing from that simile, and it is true that we all do live in the ruins of the lives of other generations, so there is a seeming continuity which is important because it deceives us.”
                                                              Marilynne Robinson: Gilead   

I have just read this lovely book, from which I take this quote.  There is much both in the book and the quote that I don’t really understand at first reading, and yet I know that it is teaching me much about life.  I love what she says about our being “such secrets from each other”, and being allowed “to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us”.
It is always such a delight for me to read a good book and discover a new author.  I now find that she has written two sequels to this book over a number of years, one called Home, which I am just starting and the other just published called Lila. 
I am always slightly suspicious of writers who seem to churn out books at rapid intervals, probably urged on by their publishers, and I always feel much more secure when I find that a writer’s books appear at long intervals.  This may be unfair to the more prolific writers, but the long gestation of a book often allows me to savour the deep pleasure of words which have been pondered over, many often discarded over time, and just their essence appearing in the final book.  Too many books I have recently read have just been too long and too what I call “unedited”.  A good editor would surely have pruned much away. 
Long may the Marilynne Robinsons of this world work slowly to bring forth masterpieces such as the one I have just read.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Photos from Nanning

These three photos give a flavour of our visit.  The first shows the group of students in front of the Tong You San He centre in Nanning, with our host, Liu Lihong next to me and Guy Caplan to my left.

The second is a little group of us at the Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine in front of the statue of Zhang Zhong Jing.

The third shows Guy and me, with our third speaker, Lei Ming, and our interpreter at our seminar at the University.

Good Wood quote from Anna Karenina

You could not have a better description of the qualities of the Wood element than that from this passage which I came across when reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in my hotel room in China.

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.  And as he came out into the farmyard, Levin, like a tree n spring that knows not what form will be taken by the young shoots and twigs imprisoned in its swelling buds, hardly knew what undertakings he was going to begin upon now in the farm work that was so dear to him.  But he felt that he was full of the most splendid plans and projects.”

Back from my 6th visit to China

Each time I come back from China, I become increasingly aware of the importance tradition plays in its life and how much less this seems to be true of England.  This was particularly so on this visit when I gave a talk to some 300 students of traditional Chinese medicine at the Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine.  As I stood outside the lecture hall waiting to be introduced, I could hear the students in unison chanting a text appearing on the large screen behind the platform.  I was told that this represented a passage from the writings of Sun Si Miao about the purity and sincerity of the great physician, which they recite each day before they start their classes.  This is much as if medical students over here were daily to recite the Hippocratic Oath.

As they finished and I was led on to the platform, I felt  that I was being ushered into the presence of a long line of Chinese practitioners stretching back many hundreds of years, much as I always feel that JR Worsley stands at my shoulder as I talk about five element acupuncture.  This feeling was made even stronger by being asked to be photographed at the feet of a giant statue of Zhang Zhong Jing (150 – 215 AD), writer of the "Treatise on Exogenous Febrile Disease” which towers over the campus. The sense of a long tradition of traditional medicine is undoubtedly and quite understandably much stronger in China, the country of its birth, than anything experienced in other countries.  And it is now accompanied by a realization of the tragic discontinuity of these old traditions caused by the upheavals of its recent past.

This is why our visits are regarded by our hosts as a heartening reconnection to what has been lost.  Five element acupuncture is seen as a pure form of traditional acupuncture whose roots lie buried deep in the Nei Jing and whose great trunk is now growing ever stronger new branches back in China.

I am so very delighted by increasing evidence of the rebirth of five element acupuncture amongst the many new students attracted to the seminars we have been giving over the past three years.  It pleases me that the group of our first students are now themselves giving preparatory seminars to new students before we arrive so that we no longer need to teach the most basic principles of five element acupuncture, but can each time move on to a more advanced level.

There were 70 students in this latest group, half of them new and half practitioners who had come to previous seminars. Unfortunately Mei Long could not be with us this time, so Guy Caplan and I had to work a little harder.  I was asked how many more new students we could accommodate next time we go, which will be in April 2015, and I said as many as can fit into the new premises of the Tong You San He Centre where we teach.  I understand this to be about 90 – 100.  Since we include in each seminar somewhat hastily arranged diagnoses of each new student’s guardian element, this represents a significant challenge to us.  But it is a challenge which I have learnt we must accept, since to leave a new student of five element acupuncture with no idea at all of their own element undermines their confidence in what they are learning. 

As groups of them line up for us to try and see what diagnostic pointers we can observe to help in our diagnoses, I always tell them that this is a very inadequate form of diagnosis, and not at all what they should be doing with their own patients, but that the time constraints we are working under make it the only possible one, given the numbers in our seminars.  The students are therefore quite happy if later during the seminar, after watching them carefully, we decide to change our diagnosis.  And each of them is given a treatment consisting of an Aggressive Energy drain and source points of the diagnosed element as a further way both of teaching them the basic simple tenets of our practice, and of allowing us to observe the effects of this treatment to help us assess whether we think our diagnosis is correct or not.

We came back, as usual, laden with presents, so that even though I took over a large batch of my books to give to any English-speaking practitioners in the group, and thought I would return with a half-empty suitcase, I was still overweight at the check-in desk!








Saturday, November 15, 2014

Good Metal quotes

I have just found these good Metal quotes, to be added to my quotes for Earth and Wood (my blogs of 31 August 2014 and 18 September 2014)

 “He grew in the shadow of this absent father, admired from afar.”
                                                                        Laurence Scott:  Witchbroom

 Nothing of grief was said
Only there was a space in the night sky
Where a special star no longer shone, a space
Was there and made him cry
And it did not help at all if anyone said,
Who had never watched her face,
“You will get over it, others have their dead”,
He did not listen, perhaps he did not hear,
The last thing he wanted was to get over it.
She was not there.  One star was now unlit.”

Two Together

It will always go with love, this delicate sadness,
Almost delectable sometimes as in Autumn
When the copper and gold and yellow leaves surrender
To the afterglow of Summer.  I can recall
Feeling sad in September, thinking of school
And wanting the long holiday extended...

                                                                        Elizabeth Jennings:  Tributes

“So that, to this day, I feel almost as if I am a product of an immaculate conception.  Like Jesus who didn’t know who his biological father was either.  I have often thought it was this lack of knowledge of his earthly father that led him to his “heavenly” one, for there is in all of us a yearning to know our own source, and no source is likely to seem too far fetched to a lonely fatherless child”

                                                                        Alice Walker: The Temple to My Familiar


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sixth seminar in China

Guy and I are off to China again on Sunday for my sixth visit there and Guy’s fourth.  I had to tot up on my fingers the number of visits, and was surprised to find they were as many as that.  Luckily there is now a non-stop British Airways flight from Heathrow to Chengdu where, again, we will be met by our lovely Chengdu group of practitioners.  They shepherd us beautifully around from one airport terminal to another, and invite us out to a lunch in-between.  Then on to Nanning, where Liu Lihong and his group of practitioners will be waiting for us at the airport, with the usual huge clusters of flowers and warm cries of greeting, rather to the bewilderment of the Chinese travellers surrounding us.

We have a leisurely first day to recover from our jet lag (13 hours flight!), then the hard work begins.  Each day is full to the brim with teaching, supervising treatments and trying to give all those coming for the first time some idea of their element.  This entails observing them carefully throughout our two weeks there to see whether our initial diagnosis still feels alright, and, if not, trying to work out in double-quick time which other element it might be.  This is not something for the faint-hearted, and, as I have said before, it takes some courage even to attempt a diagnosis under such very rushed and quite stressful conditions.  I’m pleased, though, that at previous seminars I had sufficient time to correct any diagnosis I was not happy with.  And if these same practitioners come again this time, Guy and I will double-check whether we are happy with our original diagnoses.

As usual, there will be over 60 practitioners at the seminar, of which 40 have already been to previous seminars and 20 will be new people.  I like the mix of the more experienced and the total novices, and love seeing how the more experienced are now gradually stepping more confidently into the role of teacher.   

Publication of my blog book: On being a five element acupuncturist

I have just completed revising the final proofs of my latest book On being a five element acupuncturist, which will soon be hot off the Singing Dragon Press.  I call it my blog book because it includes the majority of the blogs I have been writing since 2010, and represents 4 years’ hard, but enjoyable work.  I find that seeing the blogs in book form is very different from reading them on-line.  Somehow by putting them together into a book brings something out from them as a complete text which differs from what I call the snippets which individual blogs represent.

Anyway, I, as a lover of books, and not a person who enjoys reading by Kindle, however necessary this can sometimes be, as for example when travelling to China, am enjoying seeing the blogs now in the permanent form of a book rather than the ephemeral form of a computer-driven blog.

The book can be ordered from Singing Dragon Press for delivery in early January.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Always query your diagnosis

I woke this morning with a warm feeling in my heart.  Yesterday we had another one of our very successful and satisfying seminar days which I share with Guy Caplan.
I always like to focus these days on diagnosing the elements in patients our participants want help with, or, as this time, diagnosing the participants themselves who want a clearer picture of their own element.  You will note that I say “a clearer picture” rather than a definite diagnosis.  This is something I insist upon, because I am so aware that a diagnosis can initially only be a tentative hypothesis and awaits confirmation from the way in which a patient responds to treatment.  In other words, we are never sure that we have the right guardian element until that element has shown us, through its positive reaction to treatment, that this treatment is directed in the right place along the circle of the elements.
I know that hovering over all five element acupuncturists is the picture of JR Worsley interacting with a patient for a few minutes, and then turning to us with an immediate diagnosis of one element.  This picture can delude us into thinking that every diagnosis we make should be equally as fast.  But, as JR told us as students, it had taken him more than 40 years’ hard work to get to the stage he had reached.  We would all be able to do the same, he said, once we had the same number of years’ practice behind us.  So those of us with far fewer years’ experience will have to accept that tracking an element down to its source in a patient takes more than just a few minutes, and very often many more than just a few treatments.
What I tell students is that no patient minds how long this takes provided they feel our compassion for them.  A practitioner, Jo, who has attended many of our seminars, has just sent me the following lovely quote:  People don't care what you know, they want to know that you care.”  As long as we show we care, a patient will trust us to know what we are doing and allow us the time to work out gradually which element we should address with our treatment.  We must never allow ourselves to be hurried by our patients into feeling that things should be moving more quickly than they are.  One of the things we were told as students was that it takes about a month of treatment for every year of illness.  That does not mean continuous weekly treatments, but it is a helpful rule of thumb, and allows us to tailor our expectations to a more realistic level.
Once my patients have started treatment, I have noticed that very few of them, if any, seem to spend much time talking about their symptoms, but instead want to talk about their life in general.  In fact they often forget altogether why they originally came to see me, evidence that patients do indeed want “care”, and not necessarily a “cure”, although with care often comes cure, since usually the two are closely related.
Our next seminar will be in the spring. In the meantime, Guy and I are off to China again in mid-November.  Our usual enthusiastic group of practitioners over there are again organizing a preparatory five element course for the people who will be attending for the first time so that we will be preaching already to the converted.  And luckily the new edition of the Mandarin version of my Handbook of Five Element Practice, with its Teach Yourself supplement, is flying off the shelves over there, and will give Chinese practitioners new to five element acupuncture a firm foundation on which to base their practice.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Element-watching with the Ryder Cup

As everybody knows who has read this blog, I enjoy watching sport as a pleasant diversion from the horrors of much of what is going on out there in the world at the moment, and also because sportspeople reveal their elements much more clearly when under the extreme stresses competitive sport subjects them to.

So I have been watching the Ryder Cup, mostly on playback, since I was up at the British Acupuncture Council’s annual conference for part of the weekend.  And much of my watching has concentrated upon the Fire element, because not only is the leading golfer of the day, Rory McIlroy, most obviously Fire, but so is another well-known golfer, Sergio Garcia.  So that watching them together was a supreme example of the qualities particular to the Fire element.  Not only did they stoke each other’s Fire up so that they seemed to be having a little party between them all the time they played, but their joy also lit up the crowds watching them. 

If you are unsure about what exactly distinguishes the Fire element from other elements, you can do no better than playing back those parts of the Ryder Cup from the TV programmes showing them in action.  Watching these two golfers will teach you more about how to recognise the Fire element than any number of words.  They are examples of how Fire lights up both itself and those around them, and I can guarantee that you will not be able to stop yourself smiling when you watch them.  Only the Fire element will have this effect.

And then compare the effect these two people have on the crowds and on you with other golfers not of the Fire element, for example the American golfer Phil Mickelson.  I think his element is Water, and though he is very warm towards the crowds and encourages their participation, he does not make me feel that I want to smile in the same way as I do whenever Rory McIlroy pops up on the screen.  And there was also a rather angry Wood golfer I had never seen before, called Patrick Reed, who is also worth watching as providing a useful comparison with Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia’s Fire and Mickelson’s Water.

Of course, since I don’t treat any of these people, I always have to remind myself and those reading this blog that I cannot be sure that I am diagnosing the right elements.  I therefore offer my diagnoses with the usual humility.  But it’s important that those of us who have been looking at the elements for many years (30 in my case) offer their expertise to those who are just starting on the road of five element acupuncture.  I am more likely to be right now than I was 30 years ago when I started on this journey.







Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good Wood quotes

I have looked through the list of quotations illustrating the Wood element which I gave our SOFEA students;  I am offering them here to my blog readers:

"She felt like a bulb must feel, she thought, at the supreme moment when it has nosed its little spear successfully up through the mould it has endured all the winter and gets it suddenly out into the light and the splendour of the world.  The freedom of it!  The joy of getting clear.” 
                                                                                        Elizabeth von Arnim: The pastor’s wife

The essential thing was to plot my next move.  But that was precisely what gave me the most trouble, the thing I could no longer do.  I had lost the ability to think ahead, and no matter how hard I tried to imagine the future, I could not see it, I could not see anything at all.  The only future that had ever belonged to me was the present I was living in now, and the struggle to remain in that present had gradually overwhelmed the rest.  I had no ideas anymore.  The moments unfurled one after the other, and at each moment the future stood before me as a blank, a white page of uncertainty.”
                                                                                                        Paul Auster: Moon Palace

"He was an old man, and he hated the snow.  Pushing on toward the river, he seemed to see in the storm the mortality of the planet.  Spring would never come again.  The valley of the West River would never again be a bowl of grass and violets.  The lilacs would never bloom again.  Watching the snow blow over the fields, he knew in his bones the death of civilizations - Paris buried in the snow, London abandoned, and in the caves of the escarpment at Innsbruck a few survivors huddled over a fire of chair and table legs.  This cruel, this dolorous, this Russian winter, he thought;  this death of hope.  Cheer, valor, all good feelings had been extinguished in him by the cold.  He tried to cast the hour into the future, to invent some gentle thaw, some clement southwest wind - blue and moving water in the river, tulips and hyacinths in bloom, the plump stars of a spring night hung about the tree of heaven - but he felt instead the chill of the glacier, the ice age, in his bones and in the painful beating of his heart.”
                                                                                       John Cheever:  The Wapshot Scandal

“It is ever so with the things that Men begin:  there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise.”

“Yet seldom do they fail of their seed,” said Legolas.  “And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for.”
                                                                                  J.R.R. Tolken: The Return of the King

“He was one of those sticklers for form who in every possible circumstance know the appropriate regulation, and are able to discuss it impersonally and accept it without question.”

                                                                                           Boris Pasternak: Dr Zhivago

“Mrs Thatcher has not come to terms with her abrupt departure from office last November.... Her interviewer says she appeared “a woman disoriented”.  Mrs Thatcher told her: “The pattern of my life was fractured.  It is like throwing a pane of glass with a complicated map upon it on the floor.”

                                                                                                  From a newspaper interview

And the following were things some of the things my Wood patients told me:

 "The world’s at your feet, but I have a total sense of lack of direction.  I feel rootless.”

“Damaged roots become warped maturity.”

 “All this abundance - I would like to get it into order.”  (A patient talking about spring)

 “It’s like living with somebody in forward motion all the time.” (A girl about her Wood boyfriend)








Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Seven Ages of Man (and Woman)

I have always liked to see the five elements as each embodying one of what are known as the Seven Ages of Man (though two of those ages are shared between the five elements).  If we think of human life as circling in stages from birth to death, each life forms a similar progression to that of the elements, as it passes from its beginnings in Water on to Wood, to Fire, to Earth, to Metal and finally back to Water again.  As Shakespeare puts it in Jacques‘ famous soliloquy in As you like it:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant…..

And finishing with:

………………Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I see each phase of this circle of life as imparting its own quality to that life, each adding the quality of the element which it represents to those whose guardian element it is.  There will therefore always be something of the child in a person with Wood as their guardian element, as there will be something of the exuberant joyfulness of the young adult emerging into the wider world of the adult in all Fire people, whatever their age.  Each Earth person will show something of the mature adult throughout their life, as will a young Metal  person show something of the wisdom of those approaching old age even in childhood.  Water, always the most mysterious of all elements, the beginning and end of all things, will show both the naivety of the child which Wood always shows and the age-old wisdom of those living at the end of their days, which Metal hints at.

If a five element practitioner is unsure which element dominates in one of their patients, and they are unable to get enough information from their five senses to point towards one element, an attempt to see their patients in terms of how they appear in relation to the kind of stage of life they represent is a further way of helping our diagnosis.  In my book Keepers of the Soul  I gave the example of my mother, definitely of the Wood element, as showing a childlike enjoyment of life at nearly 90 years of age, and I have a Metal son who I turn to to put me right about decisions in my life which my Fire element does not appear mature enough to make.

In this context, it is interesting to note the emotional ages of the friends we choose.  I have always chosen those who are further along the cycle of the elements than me, predominantly the Metal element.  I notice, too, that other people’s choices of friends reflect something about the need for their own element to receive sustenance often from an element not their own which stimulates them.

I have never made a statistical survey of people’s elements compared with the elements of their friends;  this would indeed prove an almost impossible task, given that we need to treat a person for some time before really being sure of their element.  But I suspect that many of us choose friends from amongst elements other than our own.  I have always certainly done so, because, I have decided, I do not wish to have to observe in my friends the weaknesses I see in myself.

Friday, September 5, 2014

An example of the insensitivity of modern medicine

I am often appalled by the insensitivity the medical profession can show towards its patients.  Hidden within the well-intentioned aim of ensuring that patients are not banished from any discussion about what the future course of an illness is thought likely to be, doctors have started to err on the side of telling patients too much about the possible implications of some slight symptom or some tiny deviation from the normal in the results of some medical test or other.  In so doing, they seem to forget that they are handing over the kind of information which is likely to frighten their patients.

I recently heard an example of this.  A friend of mine went for a general check-up to a newly-appointed doctor at her medical practice who conscientiously read through all her notes to familiarize himself with what was wrong with her.  She had had a slight stroke some years back and was on medication to stabilize her heart.  The doctor looked up from his notes, and said “You realise, don’t you, that it says here that you are likely to get Alzheimers at some point in the future.”  Apparently some research had shown a correlation between having a stroke and Alzheimers.

I asked my friend how hearing this had affected her.  She is a very balanced, practical person with a good deal of understanding of medical matters and a sensible approach to her own health, certainly not the sort of person who would indulge in worrying excessively about what the future held for her.  But she said that, despite her best efforts to ignore what she had been told, his words were still preying on her mind and had changed her approach to how she viewed her health.  And yet there was no indication whatsoever of her having the slightest symptom of Alzheimers, nor was there any medical or lifestyle advice which the doctor could have suggested to reduce the “likelihood” of it occurring in the future.  So what possible purpose, apart from making her fearful, had telling her this served? 

My father, who was a doctor, always said that he had seen so many miracles in his long medical practice that he learned never to predict the course of an illness, and to take away hope was in effect condemning a patient to an earlier death.  A little bit of hope was taken away from my friend yesterday by those few words, spoken no doubt with the best of intentions, but unfortunately with the worst of results.

We should never take away a patient’s hope.  We don’t have to pretend, even if it is obvious that a person is close to death, and we need to answer truthfully if asked, but if a patient wants to pretend that they have more time than we think they have that is their right.  And if hope allows them to feel a little better, however ill they are, they are likely to live a little longer, and perhaps die more peacefully.


Monday, September 1, 2014

The effect of treating a Window of the Sky point on an Inner Fire person

I always love getting feedback about the effect of treatment from patients, and never more so if this is immediately after needling.

I treated a long-standing patient with Inner Fire as his guardian element (the Small Intestine, rather than the Heart).  He always loves having his Windows needled, either II (SI) 16 or II (SI) 17, and occasionally both together when he feels the need for an acute sense of vision.  Today I needled II (SI) 16.  He told me that immediately I had treated this point, his sight cleared.  His vision had felt a bit blurred before, but it was now as if a veil had been lifted.

How lovely when we get confirmation of what an official can offer, and especially what a specific point adds to that official’s effect.  No element is more self-aware than the inner aspect of Fire.  As we know, it is the supreme sorter, and as we needle it, it immediately starts sorting out what its reaction to treatment is.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good Earth quotes

I have always liked writing down particularly relevant quotes about the different elements in the books I read.  The first quote is from an excellent book I have just finished reading by Jacqueline Winspear, who usually writes detective stories based around the time of the first world war, but this time has written a very moving story of a family and friends who volunteer to go to the battlefields in Belgium.  This is a very appropriate subject for a book at the time of the centenary of this completely tragic and pointless war.

“Thea was aware of Kezia, nodding her understanding.  She remembered a certain look, from the very early days of their friendship.  Kezia would often take her time with a question, ruminating over it in her mind, chewing on it like a cow with a clump of grass, grinding it down from side to side to get the goodness – only with Kezia, it was as if she were looking for something in the middle of the problem.  The truth, perhaps.”
        Jacqueline Winspear: The Care and Management of Lies
I also list below some of the quotes I used to give my students at SOFEA as a way of helping them understand the Earth element better:

“What Anna most longed for in the days that followed was a mother.  “If I had a mother,” she thought, not once, but again and again, and her eyes had a wistful, starved look when she thought of it, “if I only had a mother, a sweet mother all to myself, of my very own, I’d put my head on her dear shoulder and cry myself happy again.  First I’d tell her everything, and she wouldn’t mind however silly it was, and she wouldn’t be tired however long it was, and she’d say, “Little darling child you are only a baby after all,” and would scold me a little, and kiss me a great deal, and then I’d listen so comfortably, all the time with my face against her nice soft dress, and I would feel so safe and sure and wrapped round whilst she told me what to do next.  It is lonely and cold and difficult without a mother.”
                                                                       Elizabeth von Arnim:  The Benefactress

 “He was one of those monstrous fat men you sometimes pass in a crowd: no matter how hard you struggle to avert your eyes, you can’t help gawping at him.  He was titanic in his obesity, a person of such bulging, protrusive roundness that you could not look at him without feeling yourself shrink.  It was though his three-dimensionality was more pronounced than that of other men.  Not only did he occupy more space than they did, but he seemed to overflow it, to ooze out from the edges of himself and inhabit areas where he was not.!
                                                                        Paul Auster: Moon Palace

"I thought of life as work.  You have a certain amount of time given to you and you have to find dedication, passion, concentration.  You have to cultivate yourself and be fruitful very much like a patch of land.”
                                                                        Jeanne Moreau, actress: interview

What Earth patients have told me:

“I felt as though the rug had been pulled from under me.”
“I feel the ground a bit firmer beneath me.”
“I always like having a sense of being right at the hub of everything.”
“I don’t think I should always ask other people to feed me.”
“I feel very ungrounded.”
“I feel supported.”
“Everything’s been wiped away from under my feet.”




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How much reality can we stand?

I have always loved the quote from T.S Eliot’s The Four Quartets:  “Humankind cannot bear very much reality”.  And am particularly aware of the truth of this as I prepare to plunge into today’s newspaper, dreading yet another dose of all-too painful reality as I read what is going on in one country on the earth after another, and my heart bleeds for the people fleeing destruction with nowhere to go.

There seems to be nothing but misery in the world wherever I look, except when, with relief, I happen upon a TV programme showing some sport.  Recently it has been the Commonwealth Games and a cricket Test match which, to my and everybody’s surprise, England won.

I think watching sport on TV keeps me sane, a form of extreme escapism which lightens the weight of the world upon my shoulders.  And soon, an eagerly awaited event, golf’s Ryder Cup.  It happens to coincide with my talk at the British Acupuncture Council conference at the end of September, but having now learnt how to watch TV on my i-Pad, I will be able to catch glimpses of it at intervals between some more serious acupuncture input. 

Perhaps already I am slightly less of a technophobe than I was when I wrote my blog on August 14.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We are becoming obsessed with ourselves

I am trying to understand why people seem to feel such an increasing need to take photos of themselves, “selfies”, wherever they are, particularly with famous people.  And I am also aware of how often people walking along the street turn towards shop windows to look at themselves.  And not only look at themselves briefly to see whether they are looking alright, but repeatedly looking into window after window as they walk along the street.  Sitting in the bus recently I amused myself by watching how often those passing by on the street or standing at the bus-stop looked at themselves in the bus window behind which I was sitting. 

It seems as though the world has become a mirror in which everybody searches for their own reflection.  Is this self-obsession with their own images a way of convincing themselves that they exist?  And constantly taking photos of ourselves and looking at ourselves whenever we glimpse a reflection of ourselves is certainly a form of obsession.  It can’t be healthy to spend so long in observing oneself, rather than interacting with the world around us in a more fruitful, less selfish, way.  We are beginning to lose our awareness of others in looking so much at ourselves, as though we are living in isolation from one another.

I think back some years and realise that streets were usually lined with buildings which had smaller windows placed higher up the walls.  You would be lucky if you could see yourself at all, and certainly not the whole of yourself.  This craze for observing ourselves is therefore made much easier by the huge plate-glass windows all modern buildings now have, which show us from the crown of our head to the tips of our toes.   

So mobile phones which overwhelm us with their noise and their insistent demands to be answered immediately wherever we are, as though the messages they send out are more important than any communication with those we are actually talking to, have blighted us in yet another way, by providing the cameras through which we can observe ourselves uninterruptedly all day long for as long as we want to.  It seems we are beginning to prefer images of ourselves to our real selves.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

I am a technophobe

I am frightened of modern technology and the speed with which it changes.  In the old days hardly had I got used to the old VHS tapes when I had to learn how to use CDs,and now there are DVDs and smartphones and tablets and all manner of ways of listening to the radio and TV, or downloading programmes I have missed.  To me, it’s a bewildering array of complex bits of equipment, all of which need to be plugged in somewhere to be charged or to be connected in strange ways I don’t understand.   And all of which, I am told by younger people as they manoeuvre their way seamlessly through it, are apparently there to make my life easier.  This is not to mention social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter, which adds yet a further dimension to what I could do. 

In the past I have always called upon family and good friends to help me navigate my way through what I see as very choppy waters, but surely it is high time for me to confront my fears and at long last learn how to use my iPad, which I’ve had now for more than a year, rather than looking at it apprehensively each morning as I dutifully charge it up before putting it aside unused for another day.  

So today I have finally decided to contact somebody who call himself a computer geek and provides a one-man support system for people like me.  Dare I lift the phone to ask for help, or will I leave it for another day, as I have left it for so many days?

As they say: “Watch this space”!



Monday, August 11, 2014

Writing and reading as acts of creation

I am delighted once again to have chanced upon another good book, “We are all completely beside ourselves” by Karen Joy Fowler, which has made me see life from a different perspective, as should all good books.  The only tiresome thing about it is its long-winded title, one of the many similar titles with which new books are often for some reason now burdened, perhaps to make them stand out from the crowd, but which, because of their long-windedness, slip from my memory immediately.   

Apart from being beautifully written, it is also beautifully constructed with a startling shift of perspective midway through it which sent me straight back to the beginning again to see whether I had missed some pointers which should have alerted me to this surprising development.

I learn about life as I read, and I also learn about life as I write.  My writings, as for example of this blog, do not merely repeat thoughts I already have, but form stages in the process of developing these thoughts, which would not therefore see the light of day without the act of writing them down.  It feels as though I am drawing these thoughts from within me as I write.  Each then becomes a tiny act of creation, so that often as I read afterwards what I have written I surprise myself, as though I am reading something new written by somebody else.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Article for the Acupuncturist, the British Acupuncture Council Newsletter

The following is an article I have submitted to the British Acupuncture Council's newsletter as an introduction to the lecture I will be giving at the BAcC Annual Conference in September 2014.

“Returning the spirit to acupuncture in China

We are used to thinking of the transmission of traditional Chinese medicine as being a form of one-way traffic passing from East to West, but somewhat to my initial surprise, I have become a key factor in its journey in the opposite direction, from West to East.  Specifically, it has become my task to take the first steps in helping five element acupuncture build a bridge back to its land of birth, China.

Over the years China has made many different, often contradictory attempts to try to integrate its traditional form of medicine within the framework of Western medicine or to find ways of making Western medicine fit within it.  It has never been quite clear whether it should view it as a powerful indigenous medical system on a par with or even superior to Western medicine, or as a more primitive branch of medicine which Western medicine had in many ways superseded.  This uncertainty has hovered over China’s at times almost schizophrenic approach to its traditional medicine, and is one of the reasons for the confusion which this still causes, not only in China but to practitioners of Chinese medicine round the world.   In other words, can Chinese traditional medicine be viewed as a stand-alone, intellectually coherent form of medicine based on more than 2000 years of continuous practice, or has the appearance of Western medicine in the past 100 years or so demoted it to an inferior, ancillary role?

It will be obvious from my writings and my teachings that I am utterly convinced of the former, but sadly I am not sure how far my view is shared by many of its practitioners either in China or the rest of the world.

Through a series of what could seem to have been coincidences, but I regard now as clearly defined steps along a path which has guided me throughout my long association with acupuncture, I was led to meet Professor Liu Lihong at the Rothenburg conference in Germany a few years ago, together with his very good friend and translator, Heiner Fruehauf. Liu Lihong is described as being “arguably the most important Chinese medicine scholar of the younger generation in present-day China.  His controversial book Sikao zhongyi (Contemplating Chinese Medicine) became an instant bestseller when it was first published in 2003.  Since then, it has attracted a larger and wider circle of readers than any other Chinese medicine book in modern times.  His book represents the first treatise written in the People’s Republic of China that dares to openly discuss the shortcomings of the government-sponsored system of TCM education in China, which informed the evolution of TCM around the globe.”

I was then invited by him to give a seminar on five element acupuncture to acupuncturists at his research institute in Nanning in South China in November 2011, the first of five seminars I have given there to a growing number of acupuncturists.  At my last visit in April, Professor Liu, who is himself a scholar of the classics, when introducing me to the class of 70 acupuncturists, said, “The seed of five element acupuncture is a very pure seed.  I think it originates directly from our original classic Lingshu, “Rooted in Spirit” (Chapter 8 of Lingshu), or “Discourse on the law of needling” (Chapter 72 of Suwen). That is to say it fits easily within the Neijing. It is therefore not created from nothing.  It has its origin in the far-distant past and has a long history.  The seed which underlies its practice is very pure.  For many good reasons, this seed has now returned to its homeland and started to germinate.  In Nora’s words, its roots have started to penetrate downwards.”

I have been invited to give a keynote lecture on “Returning the spirit to acupuncture in China” at the BAcC conference on 26 September 2014, when I will be describing in greater detail the process by which the roots of five element acupuncture are being encouraged to grow steadily stronger in China.