Friday, February 26, 2016

Another chance encounter

Readers of this blog know that I enjoy going to coffee houses and doing my writing and my reading over coffee.  Often, too, I don’t finish the cup, but just enjoy the smell and the feeling of excitement it always give me.  I have traced this back to when I was a teenager, and the first coffee shop in London opened in Wigmore Street.  This would be where I rendezvoused with an uncle who, being originally from Austria, was helping me with my German studies as I prepared for my university entrance exams.  Then a second coffee-shop opened in Hampstead, and again I can feel the thrill of travelling up to North London from our South London home, emerging in Hampstead High Street opposite the Everyman Cinema, and feeling myself in the heart of London’s intellectual life.  A coffee shop, a book, and something to write with and write on therefore still remain tinged for me with the exciting aura of the past. 

And I would like now to acknowledge the friendliness of all the staff at one of my favourite coffee houses, Paul’s, here in Marylebone High Street.  I now know each by name, and they always greet me with warmth.  And, too, to my surprise, I discovered recently through a chance encounter that two people who are often here at the same time as me happen to have known this same uncle who introduced me to coffee houses all those years back.  This is another example of what is called a serendipity – something that happens quite by chance, but seems somehow to be pre-ordained.

I love the word serendipity*.  Firstly, for its sound which has within it a clear reference to a kind of made-up childish word I use, “dippity”, which is in not in my dictionary, (although “dippy”” is, meaning “crazy” or “silly”, and” of uncertain 20th C origin”), and for me describes a somewhat scatty kind of a person.  And this always sets me thinking on a well-worn, nostalgic path which leads directly to my mother.  For I remember her well one day, a few years after I had established my acupuncture college, saying to me, “I always wonder how a flibbertigibbet like you got it together to run a school.”  So to her all the length of the half-century of the lives we lived together I must have remained this very scatty, dippity sort of person I certainly was as a child.

The thought of this serendipitous meeting with my uncle’s acquaintances in my favourite coffee shop this morning brought this all back to me.

* The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “serendipity” as ”the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident” (coined by Horace Walpole in 1854)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Three lovely books to add to my reading list

I love coming across good books, and am always very quick at putting aside others that I am not enjoying, even though I may only have read a few pages.  I realise that the secret of a good book is that it teaches me something new about the human condition, and was pleased to find the following in an article about one of my favourite yet not all that well-known American writers, Elizabeth Strout, whose latest book My Name is Lucy Barton is now included in this list.  The article quotes her as saying that ”…her five novels have begun “always, always” with a person, and her eyes and ears are forever open to these small but striking human moments, squirreling them away for future use.  ”Character, I’m just interested in character,” she says”.   And then, “But ever since I was young, I have seen writing as trying to help people.  That sounds so corny but that’s really what I see as my job – trying to open somebody’s eyes just a little bit for one minute.  So, yeah, there are times I think, “This is foolish,” but I don’t know that it’s any more foolish than any other acts of trying to help the world.”

I realise that in my own way I also like to think of my writing as trying to help the world understand human beings a little more, in my case particularly through the medium of the five elements.

And here are two further American writers with books I want to add to my list of favourites.   One is a beautiful writer of what are called graphic books, which is how they describe all types of illustrated books, from cartoons to novels.  The writer Lauren Redniss has illuminated my last few days with her book called Thunder and Lightning, which is about the natural forces of nature.  It is quite beautifully illustrated, with a handwritten text which intertwines itself around the illustrations so that each page becomes an interesting work of art.

And my final author recommendation today is a prize-winning book by Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See about a young German soldier in the Second World War and a blind young French girl. – very moving, very true and beautifully written.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Another example of the effectiveness of simple five element treatment

I have just received an email from a five element practitioner which illustrates very neatly how effective simple treatment can be.  She writes:

I have been treating a number of youngsters recently and one particular 13-year old girl has responded extremely well to some very simple treatments. Her GP had diagnosed her with hyperhydrosis - she was very self-conscious and anxious about her excessive sweating, especially of her head, neck and face, and this was preventing her from participating in sport at school. The GP wanted to prescribe beta-blockers and had also suggested surgery to sever the nerves responsible (!).
I was undecided between Water and Wood CF for this young girl, but plumped for Water and treated her with AE and yin source points only. At the follow-up appointment, she reported to have had three bouts of shivering on the way home, despite not feeling cold, and slept soundly for the first time in months. That week her sweating had all but disappeared and she had enjoyed playing badminton, and was looking forward to a night out dancing at her first non-school disco. I needled yin source points again and left it at that. It came out in conversation that she had fallen badly in the past and injured her coccyx - perhaps the source of the imbalance?
How wonderful that such a simple treatment has proved to be so effective - and has hopefully prevented this young girl from becoming heavily medicated or subjected to some fairly drastic surgery.
I am feeling truly humbled and privileged to be asked to treat these people, and to have the opportunity to put your teachings into practice - the simpler, the better. Thank you for such wise words.”
Thank you, too, Jo, for telling me this, and also for having the courage to stick to simple treatment.

There was one thing I queried with her.  I asked her why she had used "yin source points only", and omitted the yang source points.  It turned out that she had slightly misheard what I had said about treating children less frequently and needling on the left side only, and somehow thought that meant doing the yin points only, not the yang.  But the results she obtained by just addressing the yin is a further demonstration of the power of simple treatment.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Heart 7 again: Addition to my blog of 5 Feb

The practitioner, Ruth Wallis, with whom I shared a happy day last week (see my blog of 5 Feb), has emailed me with a slight correction to what I wrote.  Apparently students were told to end the first treatment with Ht 7 rather than a source point of the element they have chosen only if they could not decide which element to choose.  As she puts it, “If I am happy with the CF then I do not use Ht 7”, adding that “you have at the back of your mind it’s all too easy to think 'O its ok not to assign a CF straight away because you can always use Ht 7 after AE'.”

And therein lies the problem, and what I consider to be the mistake.  This is my reply to her:  “But who is “happy with the CF” at the first treatment?  That’s really the problem.  People are so worried about getting the “right CF” straightaway that they don’t give themselves time to address the elements and instead reach for Ht 7.  You are right when you say about it being easy to grab at Ht 7 instead of looking for the element.  I’m going to write a follow-up email based on what you wrote.  Thanks for stimulating me!”

Each treatment is there to ask a question of the elements and we must get used to gauging their responses so that they eventually guide us to the right element.  Note the word “eventually”.  We should not try to model ourselves on the example of JR Worsley, who some of us will remember saying with conviction after only a few minutes with the patient that “he/she is Wood”.  He would say that we would all be as proficient as he was at diagnosing the elements if we had done the same 40 or more years he had.  But few of any us have this amount of experience.  I have completed some 30 years as a five element acupuncturist, and still acknowledge that I need quite a few treatments before I am ready to convince myself that I am treating the right element. 

Because element-diagnosis is such a rarefied skill, we should waste no time in the practice room.  And by not addressing a particular element by reaching instead for Ht 7 we are doing that.  The Ht 7 treatment will tell us precisely nothing about the patient’s element (unless by chance they happen to be Inner Fire), and it will only defer to the next treatment what some seem to regard as the dreaded moment when they have to make up their minds and plump for one element.  It is far better gradually to train ourselves not to be fearful of “not being sure” of the element, and instead accept, as I do, that the initial absolutely necessary period of uncertainty, often extending to several weeks of treatment if not more, is a natural part of the process and not to be feared.  We should not be surprised at the difficulty of pinpointing the unique complexities of each human shaped by one particular element.

And even JR would query his own diagnosis.  I remember him saying about a patient of mine, “That’s odd.  I’m sure he is Earth, and yet his colour is not Earth’s colour”, and he went away puzzling about that.

We should all enjoy the mysterious world which each human being opens up to us, and accept that this ultimate unknowability makes our work to fathom which element lies at the heart of each of us difficult but enthralling.  And we should never be in a hurry, always remembering one of my mantras “Don’t worry, don’t hurry!”  Patients don’t if we don’t.





Friday, February 5, 2016

A plea for caution in using the point Heart 7: Spirit Gate

It is always a joy for me when I have confirmation that what I have taught somebody has really taken root, and is now flourishing.  One of the difficult things I have had to learn as a teacher is to accept that much of what I try to pass on to others may fall on fallow ground and never produce the fruit I so much hope for it.  Last weekend, though, thankfully the opposite happened.  A practitioner asked me to come to her practice to help her with some of her patients.  This proved to be a very satisfying day for me, and, I could feel, for her, too.  She was eager to learn from my experience, and this encouraged me to pass on what I could.

There was just one thing that pulled me up short, and which she asked me to write about.  For some reason which I still cannot quite fathom, she had been told during her training as a student at the old College of Traditional Acupuncture in Leamington that the first treatment should consist of the Aggressive Energy drain (good), but followed, not by the source points of the element she had chosen to start with, but by Heart 7, and this for every patient.  For the life of me I can’t think why this rather bizarre first treatment had become embedded in what was essentially a five element practice.  Why would the first official to be treated always be the Heart?

In the good old days, when JR Worsley controlled the curriculum, we were always being told to be extremely cautious about needling the Heart.  It is in many ways a sacred meridian, touching our very core, and therefore to be approached only with great care.  It is for good reason that one of the few times we use it for any guardian element is as the last point in treating a Husband/Wife imbalance, the point which we call upon to restore balance at the deepest level.  Apart from that, it can be used as a First Aid point for emergencies affecting the Heart, and, of course, as a command point, the source point, for patients with Inner Fire (the Heart and Small Intestine officials) as their aspect of the Fire element.  Here again, though, we should be wary of over-use, and concentrate treatment more upon Small Intestine points.

So please, please, all five element practitioners reading this, direct your choice of points firmly to the element you have decided upon from the very first treatment, and leave the Heart well alone.  And do at least 4-5 treatments on that element before deciding that a move to another element is called for.  To help those who are rather unclear how to start their five element treatments, you can look in my Handbook of Five Element Practice for a detailed discussion of point selection in general and for point selection for the first few treatments in particular. 

And give Heart 7 the respect it reserves.