Monday, September 18, 2017

Simple can be harder than complex

I came across this quote from the Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs, in a Guardian article a few days ago:

“Simple can be harder than complex,” he said. “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

This echoes what I like about being a five element acupuncturist.  One of my catchphrases when talking about my work is “the simpler the better”.  We certainly do have to work hard for quite a few years to get to the stage where we understand what it means to practise in the simplest, purest way possible.  This was a skill which JR Worsley so beautifully mastered and passed on through his teaching to us, his pupils.

I found it amusing and ironic, though, that the article in which I found this quote was entitled “We are at the mercy of devices we don’t understand”.  It was all about how incredibly complex the latest version of the i-phone which the writer had just bought had become, so that he ended up losing much of his stored data because he could not understand all the hidden instructions embedded in it.  This seemed to be hardly the kind of “simple device” which Steve Jobs had worked so hard to get his company to create.

But I like to think that our simple treatments can indeed move mountains.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Never ask a patient how they feel after treatment

It is never good to ask a patient to tell you how they feel at the end of a treatment.  A question such as this is usually a sign that we are looking to the patient to reassure us that we are on the right track.  Patients are not there to reassure us;  we are there to reassure them that we know what we are doing.  What a practitioner is really hoping with a question like this is that the patient will tell them that they are feeling marvellous.

In any case how can any of us put into words how we feel if we are asked?  There is so much involved in our feeling anything, particularly something like the result of an acupuncture treatment, when we are not sure what we are supposed to be feeling.  Being asked is therefore also likely to worry us to different degrees depending on the kind of person we are.  I know that when I have been asked this by some of the several practitioners who have treated me over the years, the question has always thrown me.  Being the person I am, I try to be helpful to whoever is trying to help me, and therefore I will think that I ought to say something complimentary as a way of thanking them for their help, however untrue this may be.  Other patients may think they ought to be feeling something, but cannot detect any change at all, and therefore leave the practice room disappointed.

A practitioner is the one who at the end of a treatment should be observing their patient so closely that they will be able to judge if the elements have responded in some way, always a sign of a good treatment (see my last blog about this).

We are there to help our patients, not puzzle or worry them.

Feeling our way towards a patient’s element

I always say that the work of a five element acupuncturist starts within themselves.  We should always ask ourselves “How does this patient make me feel?”  This feeling must then be linked to all the many other feelings our patients have given us over the years, and which, particularly in the cases of those patients we know we have treated successfully, have added to the pointers to the different elements we have gradually accumulated.

I have had a good example of this from a day I have just spent in Switzerland looking at six patients with two five element practitioners.  It was a productive day, as these days usually are.  I am with people who are keen to learn as much as they can from me, and I have to offer them as much of my expertise in diagnosing the elements and working out a treatment schedule as I can.  So days such as these are always challenging for me, because, unlike when I am in my own practice, I feel compelled to get my diagnoses right in such a short space of time, otherwise I will feel that I am wasting my host practitioners’ time (and money!).  In that sense, a day like this, as with any seminars I have run, has its own particular stress.   

It is by close observation of any changes at the end of each treatment that I receive some confirmation that we are on the right elemental path.  Changes can range from being quite obvious to being so subtle that I am sure that I would not have seen them in years gone by. Yesterday, for example, I observed two quite clear colour changes, one in a Wood and the other in an Earth patient, and a third patient looked much more relaxed and was communicating more easily with us.  There were also marked changes to how I felt about the fourth and fifth patients, as though I sensed that my relationship to them had shifted as their elements responded to treatment. 

Finally, the sixth patient blessed our day by putting the change he felt into words, such a rarity, and valued all the more for that.  This was a young man I diagnosed as Water, who was coming for his first treatment.  After his AE drain and his Kidney and Bladder source points, he stood up and said, with great surprise in his voice, “My feet feel as though they are touching the ground quite differently.”  I love the thought of the Water element sending good energy to connect him with the earth beneath his feet in this way.

This reminded me of what two of my Water patients told me after I had needled IV(Ki)1 on the sole of the foot.  Both said that they felt a rush of energy like a fountain pouring up their body. I remember thinking what an appropriate name for a point this was, Bubbling Spring, confirmation that the ancient Chinese really did understand the actions of the points they named.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The strange power of fashion

I find it both interesting and rather disturbing to note a fashion statement which reveals very clearly some of the confusion there still exists among even the brightest and most obviously liberated of women in relation to their footwear.  I am not a historian of fashion, but it is obvious even to my untutored eyes that the very high heels all professional women now wear appear to be a statement of what is called power dressing, because it is in these circles where these high heels are usually accompanied by extremely elegant suits with very short, tight skirts, revealing as much leg as possible accentuated by the height of the heels. Rather incongruously the wearers remind me of girls from a Folies Bergรจre chorus line.  It is as though we are being sent two quite conflicting messages: the first, the ostensible one, the image of the successful woman in whatever career she has chosen, whether as a BBC journalist or a city banker, and the second, hidden beneath this one, a much more sexually explicit invitation of availability.

I remember some years back the uproar caused by an employee at Harrods being forced by the management to wear higher heels than she wanted to.  Now the height of heels has become so entrenched in what women feel they should be wearing to work that it would probably cause an equal outcry if somebody appeared on our TV screens wearing flat shoes.

This was driven home to me most forcibly when I observed that most down-to-earth BBC presenter, Clare Balding, sitting uncomfortably in the TV studio wearing the most ridiculously high-heeled shoes for somebody of her sturdy build.  I always think of her as striding through the countryside wearing gumboots or flat sensible shoes.  The same thought occurred to me when I saw the BBC announcer, Gaby Logan, at the recent World Athletics Championship tottering over to a screen in the most uncomfortable looking, but undoubtedly highly fashionable high heels I had ever seen.  It somehow seemed a sad example of women’s almost schizophrenic approach to fashion that, at an athletics meeting where all the young girls wear the most comfortable trainers they can possibly find, the BBC announcer commenting on the races felt compelled to wear the most inappropriate shoes.

I watch business women coming out of their offices, taking off their high heels, reaching into their bags and with relief putting on their trainers to make the journey home in comfort. For the working day they must have squeezed their toes into shoes which my chiropodist says are crippling more and more of their feet. What a sad indictment of women’s slavery to fashion, and something that at one level can almost be seen as mimicking a return to the days of bound feet in China!

As a postscript to this, I have just heard Alexandra Shulman, Ex-Editor of Vogue, talking on BBC Radio 4 this morning.  She said that wearing high heels for her is like “being a bit more in control.”  How interesting!

Finally, Ivanka Trump can apparently see nothing incongruous in squelching across storm-soaked grass in high heels from the aircraft when accompanying her husband on a flying visit to hurricane-battered Houston.