Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Being an unashamed Luddite*

The world gets more and more bizarre to me, and more and more in thrall to all the computerized gadgets being invented by the day to satisfy some never-satisfied appetite for the new.  I live near an Apple store and have seen the queues building up outside its doors on the days some new gadget is put on sale.  Presumably each of these must incorporate some additional feature considered essential by its buyers, a symbol of conspicuous consumption if there ever was one.

I am at the opposite end of this spectrum of a desire for new computer gadgets, having been lent an iPhone a short while ago only to hand it back when I could never learn its uses, and retreated back to a mobile phone apparently so outdated as to be out of the dark ages, - and only used by me for emergences.  And then only reluctantly because I need to put on my spectacles to see what I am doing, which means ferreting around in a bag, and then, because of my bad hearing, being unable to hear the person I am trying to contact because of all the traffic noise. 

Admittedly I am not a neutral observer of the computer scene, particularly, as happened recently, when I am sitting close to somebody in a coffee shop who is engaged in simultaneous computer-driven activities.  For there I am enjoying my morning coffee with my book open in front of me when a young woman rushes into the cafĂ©, plonks herself down opposite me (and the tables are quite narrow and intended for groups of people sitting closely with each other), talking all the while on her phone.  With one hand she holds the phone against her ear, with the other she fusses around in her bag to get out her iPad.  Talking all the while and passing the phone from ear to ear as she tries to open her computer, at the same time somehow she manages to interrupt herself for long enough to place her order with the waitress.  The she starts tapping the keys on her computer rather frantically, whilst taking off her coat.  By now I am watching fascinated by her ability to multitask – to talk and to type and to take off her coat, but then comes the coup de theatre.  Her coffee and a plate of toast arrives, and somehow to my amazement, by dint of moving the phone to which she is still taking from hand to hand, or holding it by her shoulder against her ear she manages to release one hand enough to pick up a knife and butter her toast, admittedly rather clumsily, but still sufficiently to be able to snatch at it, interspersed by gups of coffee, all the while still talking on the phone and tapping on the computer.

By now I am so jittery myself from all these frantic movements opposite me that I decide I have had enough and leave. I saw her again a few days later, still frantically engaged in all the same activities. Not once has she even exchanged a glance with me or the waitress serving her.  She is in a networking bubble all on her own.

I wonder what this is doing to her Earth element, as it tries to take in and process the information pouring in to her through phone and computer, as well as the food and drink which is there to nourish her.  I can visualize this poor element desperately trying to carry out its work, but not sure what to do first.  It certainly didn’t help my own Earth element, which couldn’t process what I was watching and had to leave.

 * A person opposed to new technology



Sunday, February 22, 2015

The joy of being with other five element acupuncturists

After depressing myself by writing the last blog, I am relieved to turn to a much happier subject for this blog, which is about another heart-warming seminar Guy Caplan and I gave yesterday at our clinic in Harley Street.  I love the word “heart-warming”, a word close indeed to every Fire person’s heart, such as mine, because it does feel as if my heart this morning is indeed warmer after a day spent in the presence of a group of dedicated five element practitioners and students.

We look at patients together, observe their treatments, include some practical work helping participants feel more confident about their clinical skills, and, most importantly of all, mull over together the problems we confront as practitioners.  Mostly, though, we concentrate simply on making participants feel more confident in what they are doing, and helping them by making them aware that they are part of a family of five element acupuncturists.  The main thing which I like to emphasize and which I hope they all take away with them are my two mantras, “The simpler the better”, and “Points are messengers of the elements, not the message itself”.

I am constantly bewildered by the emphasis so many people now seem to put on points and point selection.  When I trained all those years ago, we never seemed to worry about which points to select because the whole emphasis of training was on trying to find a patient’s element. Once found, or at least once we had made our first decision about which element to address, we carried out the simplest of treatments:  first, of course, A E drain, then source (yuan) points, tonification points, horary points, AEPs (back shu points), interspersed, obviously, by clearing any blocks, such as pPssession, Husband/Wife or Entry/Exit blocks.  I don’t remember us ever worrying about point selection, unlike present generations of practitioners who seem to spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over the actions of different points and when to use them, and disproportionately less time learning to look carefully at the elements of which these points are just the servants.

Another mantra of mine could be “Find the element and the points look after themselves”.  And if they don’t yet look after themselves, because you are new to the world of five element acupuncture, then look at a copy of the new edition of my Handbook of Five Element Practice, published by Singing Dragon Press, which lists in careful detail the points on each element to be used at different stages of treatment.

So a day spent with my group of five element practitioners and students, all speaking the same language of the elements, is confirmation that at least in this corner of London the spirit of five element acupuncture in its purest form continues to flourish.  This confirmation has been given an additional boost by an email from one of the participants which I received at the end of the day, telling me how grateful he and other members of the group were to see “how you simplify 5E acupuncture in a way that we can all get a real grasp of the elements”.  Thank you, Dom, for those kind words.


An important book

I have just read an important book all should read.  It is The Internet is not the Answer by Andrew Keen.  As readers of my blog know, I am increasingly disturbed by the impact of what I call the electronic world upon us all.  We are enveloped (literally) in it.  Anything I do, where I do it, when I do it and what I do with it, can be tracked, as my life is monitored from minute to minute, my shopping preferences noted, my reading choices logged, my finances closely scrutinized and my telephone calls snooped on.

I am always surprised at the welcome given to all new inventions emerging almost daily from this electronic world, apparently with little thought given to any possible downside to them.  The latest evidence for this is the attention the fashion world is now paying to designing clothes with inbuilt pockets for mobile phones and all the other computer equipment people now carry with them, and with a self-charging capacity so that as we walk along we can charge this equipment up without the need to find a socket somewhere to plug it in.  We will in effect be plugged into ourselves. I had to look at my diary to check whether I had skipped a few months and this was April Fool’s Day!

Andrew Keen’s book points to the many pitfalls of this electronic world, not only ahead of us, but, dismayingly, already all too evident here and now.  The large all-powerful, all-devouring companies of Amazon, Google and the like already hold so much of our lives in thrall that it feels as though there is little any of us can do to counter their power except increasingly protest at this power and make, as I do, our own small gestures of protest.  These include doing things like buying my books at a small local bookshop rather than through Amazon, and buying my newspaper from my small local newsagent rather than at Tesco’s, so much more conveniently closer to hand.

So books like this one by Andrew Keen, based on very detailed, insider evidence of the terrifying consequences of all these huge monoliths gradually taking over ever larger slices of our life, are essential reading, particularly for those, such as politicians, wielding more power than I can ever do.  They do have the chance to halt the progression of these juggernauts over the land.  But at least people are now increasingly awake to the injustice of their hiding away their huge profits in secret tax havens in such a way as to avoid paying taxes on them, and are demanding action on this.  A small but, I hope, significant step. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Launch for On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist

We had a lovely evening last week at the book launch we organized at our clinic in Harley Street.  Many people from all the different aspects of my life came:  family, friends, acupuncturists and patients. 
And here you can see me reading a few extracts from book, and its lovely cover.
The book, like all my other books, is now available from Singing Dragon at //www.singingdragon.com/

Monday, February 2, 2015


I have just held a very heart-warming book launch for my new book On being a Five Element Acupuncturist, which has just been published.
My lovely new publisher, Jessica Kingsley, of Singing Dragon Press, was there to wish my book well on its way.  She has just emailed me to tell me how surprised she was that there were so many people at the launch involved in some way with music, and wondered why I had not mentioned music once in all the blogs included in my new book.  This in turn surprised me, because I had never realised that I had not written about music at all, and it made me think why this might be so.
I have come up with two reasons, one more profound than the other.  The simpler reason is because my hearing has got progressively and unfortunately rather rapidly worse, so that I am now finding it increasingly difficult to listen to music both live in the concert hall and on the radio.  I noticed this most acutely recently when I went to a concert in my beloved Wigmore Hall at which a Haydn quartet I know well from first to last note was being played, and I could not recognize it at all to start with, as though I were listening to some discordant music.  Gradually my hearing, magnified by my hearing aids, attuned itself better to the music so that after a good few minutes I began to appreciate that what I was hearing were indeed familiar sounds.  But, oh the sadness of being brought up so cruelly short by my body’s increasing frailty.
Interestingly, though, I can still play the piano, or occasionally now my cello, presumably for the same reasons that a totally deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie, can “hear” what she is playing because, as she says, she “taught herself to hear with parts of her body”.  And also because I hear the piano’s tones and the cello’s vibrations much closer to my ears than in the concert hall or on the radio.
The deeper reason is that I can write about what I read, as I often do, because I am using my own words to describe the words of others, but I do not possess a language which can describe music.  It has its own language of sound which I don’t have the understanding or knowledge to translate into words.
So these, Jessica, are two of the reasons why music is absent from my blogs, though so integral a part of my life since the days when as a young child I squatted on the floor listening to my grandmother and her quartet playing through the chamber music repertoire.  Apart now, of course, from this blog.