Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Publication of the revised edition of my Handbook of Five Element Practice

As I have mentioned before (in my blog of 18 November 2013), the last of my four books to be published in their new editions by Singing Dragon Press, the revised edition of my Handbook of Five Element Practice, has now reached the bookshops.

I am very happy indeed with the new format, which includes a much fuller discussion of acupuncture points to be considered at different stages of treatment, together with my list of about 60 favourite points.  In addition, it has what I regard as a very important appendix, a Teach Yourself Manual for acupuncturists of other disciplines who want to learn the practice of five element acupuncture.  I have included 16 carefully graded lessons in this Manual.

I originally wrote the Manual for my Chinese students and the many hundreds more acupuncturists in China who have no possibility whatsoever of receiving five element tuition.  There then seemed no good reason why all those other people who read my blog around the globe and wish to learn about five element acupuncture should not also have the Teach Yourself Manual available to them in an English version, hence this revised version.  The updated Mandarin version of my Handbook including the Teach Yourself Manual is also very close to publication in China as I write this, the 10,000 copies of the original version having now sold out.

The revised edition of my Handbook of Five Element Practice is now available through the Singing Dragon website www.singingdragon.com, which can be accessed through the tab My Books at the top of this blog.




Monday, January 20, 2014

Approach to treating a very ill patient

Learning to cope with treating very ill patients has always been one of the hardest things for me to do, as it probably is for practitioners of any medical discipline.  This is made even more difficult when I am asked to treat a long-standing patient with whom I have built up a close relationship over the years.  This has now happened in the case of one of my patients.

This patient has been fighting a complex history of severe ill-health over many years, and to the surprise of many has managed to stay as healthy as she has through what she maintains is help not only from her Western medical team but from her regular acupuncture treatments.  The chance that she would continue to live as productive a life as she has over the past few years must already have been rather slim, but I always lived in hope that what I was doing with the needle might be miraculous enough to stave off more serious illness.  Sadly this has not been the case, and she is back in hospital on a morphine drip, and has asked me to come and treat her there.  I have now visited her twice, and at each visit I am faced with having to decide what treatment to give.

We all have a tendency to blame our own inadequacy when a patient succumbs to ill-health so I had first to remind myself not to regard what I had done so far as a failure.  I had to tell myself that I had done the best I could.  Looking at the notes I made the last time she came for a treatment a few weeks ago, I see that she told me that everything in her life was going well and she was feeling fine.  We were then neither of us to know that this illness would descend upon her so suddenly like a tragic bolt from the blue.

It is always difficult treating somebody in hospital.  We can’t use moxa because of the risk of setting off the fire alarms, and access to a patient in a hospital bed, attached to various drips, is always somewhat hazardous, and requires us to move carefully round the bed, manoeuvring ourselves past the apparatus and the bedside table with all its necessary paraphernalia.  Then we have to consider how far it is fair to ask an already uncomfortable patient to change position or to sit up to expose the back.  Bl 38 (43), that most wondrous point which “helps every cell in the body”, as JR Worsley told us, is therefore sometimes ruled out altogether, or is difficult to locate when perhaps only a small area of the back is available to us and finding the scapula proves difficult.  Certainly the many moxa cones it needs to do its miraculous work are unfortunately out of the question.  Luckily, at my last visit, my patient’s husband appeared at just the right moment to help prop his wife up slightly to expose the top of the back.  But I still had to send a prayer up to heaven asking for help in locating the point, so little of the back could I see.  There was no question of doing an AE drain at either visit, as I would have liked to have done.

Then, because her lungs were very painful and her breathing laboured, I decided I needed to clear what I assumed to be an VIII-IX (Liver-Lung) entry-exit block, even though my pulse-readings did not absolutely confirm this for me, pulses also being difficult to take and to interpret in view of all the medication she is being given.  Again I could hardly find the ribs because of a distended stomach, and hoped that I correctly needled Liv 14, and not some other point on the abdomen.  Lu 1 was much easier to find, and I finished the treatment with command points on the Water element, her guardian element.  As I left, I was delighted to receive confirmation that I had indeed got the points when she suddenly said, with surprise in her voice, “I really feel better.”  How long this improvement will last only time will tell, but evidence of even the slightest relief was a gift to me, and sent me home slightly happier, as I left her sleeping peacefully, her breathing less laboured.

I’m not sure which of the points I needled helped her feel better, or whether it was a combination of all of them.  I like to think that it is probably clearing the Liver/Lung block which had the biggest effect, but it really doesn’t matter and I will never know.  The important thing is that, as I left, she had a slight smile on her face which lightened my journey home.

At my first visit last week she was lying in such a position that I was able only to reach the source points of Water on her feet, but again these were effective, removing that desperate look in the eyes which very ill patients have.  I interpreted the change in her to her Water element regaining control of her fear.  This look of fear had not returned when I saw her the second time, even though her physical condition had deteriorated.

The prognosis is not good, but I will continue to do whatever I can to help the elements ease her pain and distress.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chinese blog for Mandarin translations of this blog

Caroline, a five element practitioner from Chengdu (see my blog of 1 January 2014), has now set up a special blog in China to which she will post her translations of what I post here.  So now I will go through my recent blogs and send her any which I feel will be helpful for my Chinese students. 

Oh, the wonders of modern technology never fail to impress me (and  depress me, too, if I can’t work my way round them, as I often can’t.)  

Friday, January 10, 2014

A happy day, or what a simple smile can do

There was no particular reason why today became such a happy day for me, except perhaps for the fact that the sun was shining, dispelling the wind and the rain of the dreadful last few days of storm and tempest.  I suppose that was reason enough, though, for me to smile, and I realise after a day of exchanging smiles with everybody I came in contact with that when you smile the world smiles with you.

So as I moved from bus to greengrocer, to library, to bookshop, interspersed with a series of coffee bars (my usual daily haunts), a gentle layer of joy was laid over my day.  It even gifted me with the unexpected bonus of a lunchtime concert at St James’s Piccadilly, as I passed through the church and heard an excellent pianist practising works I had never heard before but which delighted me.

Now it has started to rain again, but I hope that the rain will not wipe the smile from my face.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

English translation of the wording on the back cover of "Les gardiens de l’âme", the French edition of my Keepers of the Soul

Sylviane Burner, the excellent translator of Les gardiens de l’âme, (my Keepers of the Soul), now published by Satas of Belgium (www.satas.com), has written a very moving tribute to my book which appears on its back cover.  I have in turn translated this into English, and have her permission to reproduce it below.  She has a true feeling for what my book is about, and I am privileged to have her as translator of what is definitely my most complex book.

“The Keepers of the soul – the five guardian elements of acupuncture” by Nora Franglen is not simply another book about acupuncture.  The author does, of course, talk about acupuncture, discussing the mysterious qualities of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water), which she has studied in depth as a five element acupuncturist.  Starting with the correspondences between the elements and nature and the seasons, she writes about each of them in detail and with a rare poetical approach.  Taking the reader on a journey of initiation into great universal truths and into the most intimate depths of ourselves, we are told about the characteristics, strengths and weaknesses which our guardian element, our constitutional element, has bestowed upon us since our birth.  Acupuncturists will learn to use the five elements, and most particularly our guardian element, to correct the imbalances we suffer from, and psychologists will discover the subtle workings of this guardian element which places its seal upon the personality of each one of us;  with surprise, we will learn to understand  why we react as we do, why we behave as we do, why we are attracted to some people as we are, why we are frightened by what we are, in other words, what makes us who we are as individuals.  Step by step, subtly and gently, and with enthusiasm and humility, Nora Franglen guides us through the complexities and byways of the human soul, truly a voyage into the infinite which opens up for us many perspectives to help us relate more easily to ourselves and to others, and to understand why, faced with the same situation, each of us will react either in the same or quite different ways.  In this journey into ourselves, as we pass through the cycle of the seasons at the whim of the vagaries of life, accompanied by an element which emphasizes our relationship to these seasons, it is our guardian element, truly a keeper of the soul, which will guide us throughout our life.

                                                                                                            Sylviane Burner

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How much do we owe our patients?

I asked this question of myself just before Christmas when a long-term patient of mine unexpectedly appeared after quite a long absence abroad and expected a treatment at the start of my Christmas holiday period, almost, I felt, as though by right.  In the past I think I would have felt compelled to make every effort to fit him in, even though I was officially already on holiday, and I did a lot of heart-searching along the lines of, “Why did he not have the good sense (and courtesy) to get in touch beforehand to check whether I would be available?”

At the start of his treatment, many years ago, we had done a lot of good work together, and he attributed the regaining of his good health entirely to his acupuncture treatment.  This long and successful association made me feel very close to him, and has in the past persuaded me to make every effort to fit him in on his infrequent and very brief visits to London from abroad.  But when I heard his voice on the answering machine I realised that, with my new-found aim of looking after myself a little more and not placing myself under too much stress, a good Christmas break was more important for my well-being, rather than re-adjusting my schedule to fit  him in at the last minute, as I used to do.  So I didn’t treat him, but suggested he contact a colleague of mine, which he decided not to do.

Each practitioner has to work out the parameters within which he/she works.  Mine, I realise, have not been as rigid and as carefully delineated as I have told my students they should be.  In other words, I am often a bit of a push-over for patients in need.

Perhaps this recent example is a sign that I am at last learning to harden my heart a little more than I have done in the past.


The importance of getting feedback from other practitioners

Because it is so difficult to pinpoint one element out of the five which stamps a person’s life with their individuality, we can be guilty of trying to simplify things by sticking to rather rigid guidelines by which we judge the elements. This can become a kind of false short-cut without our being aware of this, and we can then refuse to deviate from these whatever the evidence which should be persuading us to modify our understanding.  We should never say things like, “Oh, this is obviously Wood, “ or, “It can only be Earth”.  We should always say, “I think this is….”, and wait for time and good treatment to confirm or alter our opinion.  

I can still remember my amazement that a patient I was absolutely sure was Fire turned out instead to be Metal when this was pointed out by a tutor.  And I only really began to understand the Earth element’s need to turn thoughts over and over in their mind, when a patient of mine I was sure was Fire proved instead to be an excellent example of Earth.  In both cases, I had to stop myself from expressing my initial reaction, which was “Oh, no, I think you’re wrong”, forcing myself instead to face the fact that I still had so much to learn.

So any five element acupuncturist reading this should take what I am writing to heart.  We always need those with more experience than we have to open our eyes (and ears and noses!) to deeper levels of understanding.  Even now, after more than 30 years of studying the elements, they continue to surprise me with some unexpected display of an aspect I did not associate with them.  Good five element acupuncturists must never mind stumbling around for a time in the unknown, because every new person we meet is an unknown.   

It’s what makes our work so exciting.  That is, of course, one of the delights, to me, of my practice.  Thank goodness it will always be challenging, never boring.

Translating my blogs into Mandarin

As I have blogged before, I am planning to publish my blogs of the past three years (or a significant selection of them) in book form in the New Year, if Singing Dragon Press is happy to add a fifth book of mine to the four they have just re-published (see my blog of 18 Nov 2013).  I regard these blogs, specifically those about my acupuncture practice, as an essential component of my teaching work, and therefore of particular relevance to my Chinese students.  Mei has already translated parts of my blog to add to the mini-blog she sends regularly to China, but this has so far been on a very ad-hoc basis, depending on the time she has available.

I now think it is time to make sure that anything I write which I think will be particularly useful for my Chinese students to learn from should be translated into Mandarin on a regular basis, rather in the somewhat haphazard way that now happens.

As things happen, or as they seem constantly to happen to me in relation to my Chinese adventures, an opportunity has now presented itself to do just this.  A very enthusiastic Chinese acupuncturist from Chengdu, Caroline, with an excellent understanding of English, has volunteered to translate my blogs as a I write them.  So I hope today’s blog, which is now speeding through the ether to China, will become the first in this new regular publication of my thoughts for a Chinese audience.

Thank you, Caroline, for offering to help all those who can only read my blogs in Mandarin. 

And a Happy New Year to all my readers!