Saturday, June 30, 2018

"Bug hotels"

Glimpsed for the first time on the pavement of the busy Euston Road in central London, a little notice saying “Bug Hotel”.  I was intrigued enough to stop and read.  It said that they (whoever “they” are) have allocated two small boxed-in garden areas along the road as spaces dedicated to helping small insects survive the stresses of town life. They have filled various little containers with different types of twigs and seeds as food offerings to any little creatures, to help them fight the odds against them in such a heavily polluted area of London  This is a lovely antidote for me to all the wallowing in the misery of the world which often constitutes my daily reading of the newspapers.

Whoever had the idea to help little insects in this way should be applauded.  And I love the name “bug hotel”;  it makes me smile every time I think of it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Another profound lesson from the master JR Worsley

A profoundly moving experience which has coloured the whole of my acupuncture life occurred when JR came to my practice for a day.  He had agreed to see six of my patients at hourly intervals.  I was therefore dismayed when he diagnosed that five of them needed what we call possession treatment.  I was shocked that I had not seen this myself beforehand, for this is a long treatment, which could easily last more than the hour I had allocated to each patient.  To help speed up treatment, JR said that he would stay the whole time in the practice room with me.

The treatment protocol requires the insertion of seven needles in a certain order, each needle having to be accurately placed so that the seven act as a combination to release this block.  We were also told that the needles should be left in for up to 20 minutes.  Locating these seven points is usually quite a lengthy business.  They are spread over the body, and since a few are particularly difficult to locate, it would normally have taken me quite a long time to find the points and insert the needles correctly, but with JR standing behind me and watching me as I worked, I relaxed completely, knowing that he would correct any misplaced location.  In the event, to my surprise I located each point without any difficulty for each of the five patients.  I heard afterwards from a fellow acupuncturist who was in the room with us that at each insertion JR simply nodded his head as if to say, “yes, that’s right”, and a mere few minutes after all the needles had been inserted, he would look at the patient and again nod his head, telling me to remove the needles.  Each treatment had barely lasted five minutes, and each case of possession had cleared.

Afterwards, thinking back on what had gone on in the practice room, I was convinced that JR was guiding my hand, such was the power of the energies he must have been directing towards my patients.  In effect I felt that he was treating my patients through me, and I did not think that it was fanciful to believe this.  It is this concentrated focus of all our attention with the aim of helping our patients, like a beam of light directed at one spot, which transforms what can become a purely physical procedure, the insertion of a needle at one point on the body, into something profoundly healing. 

I also remember JR saying that he did not really need to use moxa to warm a point, because he could do this simply by gently placing his finger over the point and the patient would feel the heat.  I thought I would see if I could do the same, and to my surprise found that the patient said “Hot!” as I palpated the point and before I had inserted a needle.  This confirmed to me that there is some transmission of energy between the practitioner and the patient which can become a powerful force if directed correctly.

To persuade myself of the truth of this in a more everyday situation, I rather mischievously decided that I would test out my theory when sitting on the top deck of a bus watching the world walk by on the pavement below.  I stared hard at the back of the head of a man passing below in the street.  To my delight, but perhaps not to my surprise, the man started to look around, gradually turning his head towards the bus, before finally raising his eyes to meet mine on the upper deck.  There was no doubt that whatever impulses I was sending out had somehow alerted him that somebody somewhere was watching, and he did not stop looking until he had homed in on me.  The same thing happened when I was sitting in the cinema and noticed a friend sitting many rows in front of me.  Again I concentrated on looking at the back of her head until I noticed her growing uncomfortable and starting to look around almost uneasily, before finally turning herself round completely in her seat and searching the back of the cinema until she had located me.

If my eye could send out such powerful signals quite a distance away, I could understand that the much closer contact with a patient, both through my eyes and through my touch, could have a correspondingly greater effect.  In my training much emphasis was placed on touch and its power to heal.  If this power is added to the action of a needle, then treatment can reach a profound level of healing in the hands of a caring practitioner.



Thursday, June 21, 2018

Two more incidents confirming my belief in the forces we can draw upon in treatment

Both of these cases concerned two very ill patients of mine, each, because of the severity of their condition, unable to talk easily to me to help me make my initial diagnosis.  The first was a friend’s mother, who was in a very advanced stage of bone cancer, in great pain and with a body riddled with tumours.  I really didn’t know how I could help her, but was determined to do something.  She was lying in bed, and severe back pain prevented much movement.  This was obviously not the time to carry out even the most cursory diagnosis, and I had prepared myself for this by asking my friend beforehand to describe her mother to me in as much detail as she could.  From this I gained the impression that she might be Earth, something reinforced by the yellow colour I thought I could see on her skin, although I did wonder how far this rather unhealthy yellow was not so much an accurate pointer to Earth but the result of her illness.  

She could hardly move, but her daughter and I managed to prop her up sufficiently for me to put needles in the three upper series of points for the AE drain (Lung, Heart Protector and Heart), where a great deal of Aggressive Energy appeared as angry red circles around all six needles.  I could only hope that there was no further AE on points lower down the back which I could not reach.  As the AE drained, I was amazed to see that the patient’s initially very burnt-looking back caused by so much radiotherapy treatment gradually lots its angry red and returned to a good, clear skin colour.  After this, I cleared a Husband/Wife block, and ended with Earth source points.

When I had finished the treatment, the patient looked much more peaceful and less distressed.  I tucked her up with a kiss, and went downstairs, leaving her daughter to sit with her.  About half-an-hour later, to my surprise, my friend walked into the kitchen where I was sitting with the rest of the family, saying, “Mum is coming downstairs behind me.”  She told me that her mother had not been able to stand on her own for the past few weeks, but now felt strong enough to join us.  My friend said that this was also the first time that she had seen her mother smile for a long time.  And there was her mother slowly walking towards us.

I continued to treat the patient and from that point onwards until her death six months later her spirit never faltered, even though it was obvious to all that she had not many more months to live.  This was a very moving experience for me, because it showed me so clearly that my acupuncture treatment could help a patient cope so much better even with a life-threatening disease and even in the last few months of life.  

The second instance of what I learnt from treating a very ill patient occurred at much the same time, when I was asked to come to hospital to treat a man who had just suffered a very severe stroke.  Again the patient was too ill to talk, but I did the best I could to make a diagnosis with all my senses on full alert.  He had been propped up in a wheelchair, so I was able to take his pulses, but he could not be moved sufficiently for me to do an AE drain.  Those were the days when the thorough early training I had received had inculcated into me a rigid adherence to taking all the preliminary steps we had to take before the first treatment, and even in such a serious case, I thought that I should do the Akabane test, particularly as I thought this might show some interesting readings because there had been such a severe left-sided stroke.

Carrying out the Akabane test was not easy, although easier on the hands than on the feet which were on the footrest of his wheelchair.  By dint of kneeling on the floor I managed to do the reading on all the meridians, but when correcting the block had to be careful to make sure that the lighted moxa stick did not burn my patient, because he only nodded slightly or blinked an eye to show me when he felt the heat.  To my surprise every single Akabane reading was out, with excess readings all on one side and almost no reaction at all on the other side.  I assumed that this was the effect of the stroke.  So I set about correcting them as best as I could, remembering that we were told that often correcting just one meridian’s imbalance would be likely to correct any others that were out of balance.  And this is what happened.  By this time I  thought that he might well be Metal (from the strong Metal smell and his colour), so decided to correct the Lung and Colon Akabanes first, to offer immediate help to his Metal element in this way.  After having done this, I re-checked the other Akabane readings, and found that they had indeed returned almost to normal, with much less discrepancy between the two sides.  I also corrected a Husband/Wife imbalance I found, something I imagine may often be the result of a severe stroke (the Heart under attack), and I completed the treatment with the Metal source points.  When I had finished I was delighted when my patient suddenly said, “I feel better now”.  When I had first seen him, I had thought he was very close to death.  Now I no longer felt this.

The treatments of these two patients confirmed for me the simplicity of the five element protocols I had been taught.  It was good see how the elements responded so powerfully to the simplest of treatments, and confirmed for me what JR Worsley had often emphasized, that to treat an element it would be enough to needle its source points again and again, and we would achieve the same results “only perhaps it would take just a little longer” than if we moved on to more complex element points.

What I learned from these two treatments also convinced me that the urgency of helping a very sick patient feeds some power with us, which can raise what we do to another level.  I did not think it was a coincidence that I had somehow been led to home in on the right elements and choose the right treatments.  The words, a practitioner’s intention, are bandied about rather too blithely, but I do think that if we are focussing all our attention upon trying to help somebody, our heightened senses may well be guiding us to select the right treatment,  At least this is what I have learned.

This also reminds me of the time when a young practitioner friend of mine told me sadly, “I use the same points as you do, but I don’t seem to get the same results.”  I puzzled about this for a time, but eventually realised that he and I had a very different approach to our practice.  I was totally convinced of the power of what five element acupuncture could achieve.  He doubted it, and eventually moved on to practising another kind of more physically based acupuncture.  His doubts must have conveyed themselves to the treatment he was giving, whereas I came to realise my absolute conviction added power to the treatments I gave.  This was another of those profound lessons my practice taught me which have stayed with me to support me over the years.



Monday, June 18, 2018

Important milestones in my five element life

An experience in my early acupuncture life had a long-lasting effect upon me, because it brought me face to face with an area of life which until then I would probably have denied existed or would even have ridiculed.  These were very early days in my practice and I was still a very uncertain practitioner, often unsure of what I was doing.  I doubt if I had treated a Husband/Wife imbalance on my own before then, and found myself faced with diagnosing a case obvious enough from the pulse picture and my patient’s distress for me to be certain that this block was there.  At the time I had the mistaken idea, culled from I know not where, that it would be dangerous on a Metal patient, as this patient was, to do the part of the treatment which required me to transfer energy from Metal to Water (the Water tonification points) to help re-establish the smooth flow of energy from the pulses of the right hand to those of the left hand.  I felt that this would be going against the principle that we always need to strengthen the pulses of the guardian element, in this case, the Metal element.  In fact the rule is always to treat the Husband/Wife imbalance, whatever the patient’s element is, and then continue treatment with the source points of the chosen element, whichever that is.

I remember freaking out a little, wondering if I would be doing the patient harm by needling these points, so calmed myself by very slowly marking the points whilst trying to gather my thoughts.  I had forgotten that I had given my patient a copy of JR Worsley’s Talking about Acupuncture in New York in which he mentions the importance of treating this block.  As my fingers felt for the points to locate them before needling, she suddenly said, unprompted and after a few moments of silence, “That sounds like quite a dangerous thing that Husband/Wife imbalance your Professor writes about in his book.”  I remember sending up silent thanks to the good lord of acupuncture hovering over me, and with a sigh of relief, carried out the treatment and cleared the block, emboldened now by my patient’s unconscious confirmation that it needed to be done.  She never mentioned JR’s book again to me afterwards in all the many further treatments I gave her. 

I have always asked myself what had moved her to help me in this way.  And this proved to be the first of many examples of the power of the often hidden forces which can stir the elements to life through connections set up by something as apparently simple as stimulating the points as I mark them, or, as here, some unconscious request I must have been sending out for help in dealing with a difficult treatment situation.  I have found that, at other difficult times in my practice, help has surprisingly been forthcoming in odd ways, as though I somehow offer up a prayer for help to whatever powers rule the universe and summon an answer when I feel an answer is desperately needed, as in the case of this patient.

This is when the rational part of me, nurtured since childhood in the atmosphere of an agnostic family with no particular interest in spiritual matters, and with an unshakable trust in the power of orthodox medicine to heal, for the first time encountered something I could find no rational explanation for.  And yet my family had been prepared to welcome a rather odd cuckoo into their nest, an eminent astrologer whose writings I later learnt were evidence of a belief in much esoteric thought.  So perhaps there was something in the atmosphere at home that prepared the ground for my growing realisation that somehow my practice of acupuncture had the potential to tap into forces in the universe which lay beyond my experience so far.  The incident with my patient with a Husband/Wife imbalance first alerted me to this.  What had made her mention JR’s words about Husband/Wife at the very moment when I was unsure what to do?  I don’t really know the answer to this, but the feeling that my acupuncture practice stirs into life forces so far unknown to me or ignored by me has grown increasingly strong with my years of practice.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Publishing my "Five Element Compendium" in blog form

I find that I have written many more of my thoughts on my five element practice that have not yet seen the light of day than I thought I had.  The old Viennese astrologer, Dr Oskar Adler, whom I have mentioned before in my blogs, always said that each of us has a duty to pass on whatever we have learnt to the outside world.  “We never know who will read what we have written and who will learn from it,” he said.  So in the belief that the more that is written about five element acupuncture the better, I will be using this blog increasingly to pass on my thoughts to whoever wishes to read them.

These entries will form part of what I will call my “Five Element Compendium”. The dictionary tells me that a compendium is a “package of writing”, or “one-volume handbook or encyclopaedia”, which seems an appropriate way of describing what I will be posting. 


Thursday, June 14, 2018

A lesson from JR Worsley: The importance of keeping control in the practice room

A further lesson which I learnt early on from JR Worsley was a very important one that we often don’t confront in our attempts to make the practice room a welcoming place, and that is ensuring that a practitioner must never allow a patient to take control of what goes on in the practice room.  For once we have lost control, it is very difficult to regain it.  Control can relate to many areas of our practice.  It can cover whether we allow a patient to dictate to us which points they will allow us to needle, at what intervals treatments should be spaced, whether or not we need to answer their questions about the treatment we are giving, and whether they choose not to answer our questions.  If we allow the patient to decide how the treatment will proceed, each of these situations is potentially one where we are assuming that they are the ones who know what needs to be done.  This is of course never the case, and is particularly true in the always tricky case of treating a fellow practitioner or somebody with some knowledge of acupuncture.

The following are some examples of times when I have lost control of the practice room in some way, showing how I at first failed to deal with the situation satisfactorily before finally, after hearing JR’s voice, regaining the control I was in danger of losing.

One of these changed totally the way in which I learnt to deal with patients I found difficult.  Of course we should never call a patient simply “a difficult patient”.  Instead, we should always add the words, “a patient I find difficult”, because our perceptions of people always colour our relationships to them.  A patient whom one practitioner finds difficult may be easy for another practitioner to relate to.  So it is always important to chart for ourselves what kind of situation we find difficult to deal with because often, when looked at closely, this will usually tell us more about ourselves and our own prejudices and inadequacies than about the patients themselves who we feel are making things difficult for us.

Analysed in this way, I realised that what particularly irritated me in a patient’s behaviour was often something as apparently insignificant as arriving a little late for treatment or always phoning to check the time of their next appointment, even though I had seen them enter this into their diary.  In such cases JR taught us a very simple procedure.  “Tell the patient what you find difficult”, but we must always make sure to include the words “I find” in what we say: “I find it difficult when….”   This is acknowledging that our feelings are filtered through our own perceptions.  It is then up to the patient to correct these perceptions or to agree that they are true.  This ensures that you avoid pointing an accusatory finger at them, and are instead asking them whether what you feel tallies with what they feel.

At the same time JR’s advice also taught me how important it was to confront any problem you are having with your patient as soon as possible, rather than trying to ignore it, because it is these sorts of problems, however trivial you may feel they are (does it after all matter if a patient is a few minutes late for a treatment?) which can take on a surprising level of importance out of proportion to their actual significance.  They can then cast disturbing shadows over our time with our patient.  For example, before I adopted JR’s advice, I would often be thinking during the treatment itself about how I should be dealing with the situation of the patient arriving persistently late rather than concentrating on the treatment.  Instead I might be cross at myself for being a bit too cowardly to dare say anything, perhaps fearing that I might offend them or that I was endangering the good patient/practitioner relationship I was trying to set up.  In fact the reverse would be true.  I was risking harming this relationship by the very fact that I was delaying dealing with a troubling issue which was getting between me and my patient.  And this was taking up precious time in the practice room which should instead have been spent concentrating upon the treatment.

Another layer was added to the incident of the patient arriving late.   After I had told her that I found this difficult, I noticed a slight change in our relationship which I had not anticipated.  She apologized and promised to make sure that she arrived on time, but actually started to arrive much too early with a rather defiant look on her face, as though challenging me in some way, which I found both puzzling and disturbing.  Something in the situation had obviously unsettled her.  It took me some time to realise that, instead of just accepting the simple fact that she needed to arrive on time, she had interpreted what I said to her as a sign that somehow she had lost face with me, and saw my comment as a reprimand which she was annoyed by.  She was telling me this not in words but in the rather defiant and slightly triumphant look on her face as she persistently arrived much too early for the next few treatments, as though saying, “See, I’m being a good girl now and doing what you told me to do, but I’m not happy with your ticking me off in this way.”  In effect, I felt she was acting like a sulky little child, and showing me an unexpected side to her character.  She was a high-flying business woman, and I had no doubt she was the sort of person who would always make sure that she arrived well on time for any of her important business meetings.  So why not with me?  Did I represent somebody who evoked a relationship where the roles of who was in charge were blurred or difficult for her to deal with, the obvious person being, of course, her mother, since I am quite a bit older than she is?

I may seem to be making rather heavy weather of this slight, but clear change in our relationship, but it made me uneasy enough to view her name in the diary with some trepidation, as though I knew there was yet another issue here that I was not dealing with properly.  It really felt that there was a hidden struggle for control going on between us in the practice room.  We have talked this through now, and she agrees that the situation of me being her therapist and she the patient somehow made her feel as though I had taken on the superior role, and she has always found that difficult, in whatever therapeutic situation she had been in.  And it turned out that it did indeed remind her of resenting her rather controlling mother.  I think we have now talked this through sufficiently to move on, but it has left a slight feeling of discomfort in the air between us, which I hope will be dispelled in time.
Often it is just this feeling I have that something is not quite right between the patient and me which leads me to understanding my patient better.  Sometimes, of course, the opposite can happen.  If a patient feels that we are moving on to emotional ground which they find too uncomfortable to deal with and wish to avoid, these become the times when a patient may suddenly stop treatment rather than confront what is causing the unease.  And I, as practitioner, may not be adept enough to work out a way of helping me get round this particular obstacle to treatment.

Another issue which can often cause us problems is the extent to which we allow a patient to become involved in treatment situations.  This becomes a particularly difficult area in five element acupuncture if we start discussing with our patients which particular element we have decided to treat them on.  I know that different practitioners have different opinions about the wisdom of doing this.  Some do not mind at all going through with their patient the reasons why they have chosen a particular element.  I am not convinced, though, about some of the practitioners’ motives for doing this.  Hidden deep within this decision may be the practitioner’s often unconscious need to get some reassurance from the patient about the treatment we are offering them.  We may feel we are on the right track if the patient appears to agree with our choice, or our confidence in our diagnosis may be undermined if the patient shows disbelief at our choice.  In both cases, we are in effect allowing the patient to influence the diagnosis, a bad idea when we consider that they are not trained to recognize the elements as we have been, and also because they may have a predilection for one or other element from their rather superficial knowledge of them.  By letting our patients influence our choice of element may well be because we may unconsciously be revealing our lack of confidence in our own diagnosis by drawing the patient in to help us.

I remember clearly the day during my training at Leamington when a group of students went up to be diagnosed by JR, and arrived back depressed in the classroom, because he had diagnosed quite a few of them as Earth, when they were convinced they were Fire, Fire apparently having a better press for them than what they regarded as the neediness of Earth.

This brings me to the always tricky problem which rears its head once we approach treating a fellow five element acupuncturist.  Here there is not just the compulsion we all seem to feel to support our treatment choices by drawing an acupuncturist/patient into discussing what treatment is needed, but there is the additional problem that a practitioner often has their own fixed idea about their element, assuming that somehow their own personal understanding of themselves makes them better qualified to diagnose themselves than their practitioner.  The opposite is true.  We often like to flatter ourselves that we possess emotional qualities which we admire, whilst ignoring those aspects of ourselves which have a less attractive side.  So we are not good judges of which is our dominant element, or even of the elements of our nearest and dearest.  I remember very vividly completely misdiagnosing one of my children, choosing to interpret his behaviour in a selective way which fitted my somewhat erroneous perception of him, much coloured, and I realise therefore distorted, by my love for him. 

We have to accept that all of us have a tendency to regard one or other element in a more favourable light than the others, however hard we try not to, because events in our personal lives have shaped our approach to the elements.  All this has proved an excellent lesson for me not to treat those to whom we are too close, although this can sometimes not be avoided, particularly if there is no other five element practitioner geographically close enough.  The important thing is to be aware of the drawbacks, of which there are many.




Never let a patient take control in the practice room

It is interesting how often somebody asks me a question or tells me about something which has happened in their practice which illustrates something I have just written or am thinking about.

I just received the following email from Hongmei, a five element acupuncturist in Singapore:

Last Thursday I had a small issue. One of my patients has been doing the 5 Element treatments for nearly 5 months. I strictly followed the procedure.  But last Thursday she urged me to squeeze her in (that day I was fully booked). I agreed to let her come to see me after my normal work hours. She was very bothered by her sleepless night, and asked me to do the CV GV for her. She had it first time in mid April , and then another time in mid May. Two weeks later I did some other treatment (clearing a different Entry/Exit block, CV14 and Earth source points). She said after this treatment she did not feel well, could not sleep and easily got upset. She asked why and wanted only the CV GV. I explained to her again how 5 Element acupuncture worked. I refused to do the CV GV for her again after I took her pulse , and suggested another treatment. She got very upset and refused to do what I suggested. I let her sleep in my clinic for a while. She then decided to do nothing. I let her go. But I felt awful. I was very tired. My energy was not good. I did not handle it beautifully. But it’s a good lesson. I am learning.”

In reply to this email, I just sent Hongmei the following extract of something I had just written, with the title “Never let a patient take control in the practice room”, a particularly appropriate piece to help Hongmei at the moment, I feel.

A further lesson which I learnt early on from JR Worsley was a very important one that we often don’t confront in our attempts to make the practice room a welcoming place, and that is ensuring that a practitioner must never allow a patient to take control of what goes on in the practice room.  For once we have lost control, it is very difficult to regain it.  Control can relate to many areas of our practice.  It can cover whether we allow a patient to dictate to us which points they will allow us to needle, at what intervals treatments should be spaced, whether or not we need to answer their questions about the treatment we are giving, and whether they choose not to answer our questions.  If we allow the patient to decide how the treatment will proceed, each of these situations is potentially one where we are assuming that they are the ones who know what needs to be done.  This is of course never the case, and is particularly true in the always tricky case of treating a fellow practitioner or somebody with some knowledge of acupuncture.”

Reading through what she has written carefully, I see that there are a few things that I would like to point out which might help in future, apart from the obvious fact that she seemed to allow her patient to interfere in the treatment more than is wise. 

1. We shouldn’t need to explain our selection of treatments to our patients, because this is to draw them into the practitioner role, something which it is always unwise for us to do. 
2. Then there is rarely, if ever, a need to clear a CV/GV (Ren Mai/Du Mai) block more than once, provided we are sure we got the points the first time.
3. There are many reasons why patient say that they don’t feel good after a treatment.  It’s unusual, because all the elements like being helped, but often it is a way of a patient trying to control the treatment, and should not be regarded as evidence that we have given the wrong treatment.  Patients have all sorts of different motives for not wanting to acknowledge the success of treatment.
4. “She refused to do what I suggested.”  As soon as a patient refuses to allow us to do the treatment we think is necessary, we must immediately stop treatment (after all they are in effect withdrawing their consent to any further treatment).  At this point, Hongmei should have told the patient she could not help her any further.  She should certainly not have let her “sleep in (her) clinic for a while”. Allowing the patient to sleep in the clinic sounds as if Hongmei was worried by her patient’s reaction, and was trying to placate her – never a good idea

What I admire about Hongmei’s account of this interaction with her patient is her honesty in seeing that she did not handle the situation well.  When she reads the remainder of my blog from which the extract above is taken (see my next blog), she will see that I give my own examples of how I, too, have often lost control in the practice room, and therefore failed to help my patients.  We all live and learn, as I do after all these years in practice.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A new approach to my blog

I have been particularly interested in looking at the important milestones in my acupuncture life (see my blogs of 1 and 2 June).  I now see that what I want to write about will fit well into the structure of different entries in this blog, though each may be a little longer and a little fuller than they have usually been.

My next few blogs will continue to list some more of the lessons I received over the years, including those from my time studying with JR Worsley.

Each element needs to love and be loved, each in a different way

I recently received an interesting question from Pierre in France, an acupuncturist who is fascinated by learning as much as he can about the elements:

“I have a new question about Fire CFs.
We know that they want to share, and to give love. And they suffer if their love is not received. But do they need more than the other CFs to be loved or is it just a human need, regardless of the CF?"

After much thought, this was my answer:

“It is a human need for everybody to be loved, but each element expresses its need for love in different ways.  Fire more than the other elements enjoys the act of loving.  It warms its heart, so it will find it more difficult than other elements if there is nobody around for it to love.  It is not only that Fire wants to receive love.  I think its greater need is to offer love.  Other elements don’t have the same level of need to offer love.

Your question has made me think, and I may write another blog about this, because what you asked raises interesting questions about all the elements.”

What he asked set me thinking about the ways in which the different elements do their loving.  Whatever our element, we all have a Fire element, with the Heart deep within it, which wishes to love and be loved, but this need will be tempered by each element’s specific needs.  So what do the non-Fire elements want from their loving? 

I have come up with the following simple definitions of how I see the other elements’ relationship to love:

Wood takes love for granted
Earth needs love
Metal accepts love
Water craves love for reassurance
And Fire, as I told Pierre, wants to give love

 I am sure that other people will have very different ideas from mine, particularly people who are not Fire people themselves, but then everything we feel has to pass through the filter of our own element.  My thoughts are therefore unashamedly coloured by my Fire element, I expect.


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Lessons from the master JR Worsley

When I am teaching, as I have been recently over a busy two weeks in Beijing, a question I am asked often serves as a reminder of some important incident which took place during my training or my early years as a practitioner, which I now see set me thinking quite differently about my practice.  Each of these incidents proved a catalyst, opening up new directions to my thoughts.  I am surprised to find how many such important events have occurred in my acupuncture life, and appreciate now that without them I would not have made the often unconventional detours I did.  Much of my development as a five element acupuncturist, and reflected now in my writings, has been based on what could be considered the rather unconventional approach I have adopted when measured against that of many of my peers.

I have often thought that the tone was firmly set early on when I was asked to teach an evening class about acupuncture at a London evening institute at a time well before complementary practices were in such common use as they are today.  This was also when I had only just qualified.  It meant that I was free to develop my own thoughts about my practice unhampered by others, since there weren’t any others around doing what I was doing.  I found myself talking about five element acupuncture to a very wide range of lay people, and therefore had to couch my thoughts in very general terms, rather than assume that my audience and I spoke the common language familiar to all acupuncturists.  I taught at several of these institutes during the first few years of my practice, allowing the differing groups of people who came to my classes to influence how I expressed myself and how far what I was learning from my practice could be translated into a language they could all understand, from the builder, the retired postman, the young student, the bank clerk and the unemployed people who crowded into my classes evening after evening.

This allowed me a freedom to be cherished, something I did not realise until later, for I was able to develop my own ideas quite independently of other professional acupuncturists, and quite unhampered or inhibited by opinions about the practice of acupuncture which might well have differed from mine.  When I rejoined my fellow acupuncturists two years later as part of my first advanced training course under JR Worsley, I brought the often rather odd ideas I had developed into my time with him, a time which proved to be the most exhilarating of all my years of acupuncture training.  It also proved to be a time of heightened tension in the five element world as it coincided with JR Worsley’s own fight to keep the college he had nurtured so carefully for the past 20 years untainted by the introduction of other less traditional forms of acupuncture as he felt strongly it would be.  Eventually he lost this fight and had to resign, and this led almost directly to my starting the School of Five Element Acupuncture (SOFEA) with the express intention of continuing his work of spreading the practice of this branch of acupuncture, and often, to my delight, with his active support.

I took every opportunity I could to observe JR in his interactions with patients, and was fortunate that the time of my postgraduate training with him coincided with his last years at Leamington. There was therefore a rather febrile atmosphere at the Leamington college during my last years there, with acupuncturists lining up on one side or the other of unfortunately an increasingly hostile divide.  Sensing this, I made every effort to stay as close to JR as I could, attending all his seminars and taking many patients to private consultations with him.  I view these few final years at Leamington as forming my own personal apprenticeship to the master of five element acupuncture.

It was during this period of intense activity that I experienced many of the seminal moments which have set my acupuncture practice on such a fulfilling course.  In particular I am now enjoying reliving some of the profound lessons I learnt when studying with JR. The first of these occurred when I was sitting in the classroom at the Leamington college during a lunch break watching a video of JR with a patient, in which he was asking the young patient a question.  I remember her looking puzzled, thinking for a minute, and then saying, “I’m not sure how to answer that”.  Unnoticed by me, JR had come into the classroom, and was standing behind me.  I heard him murmur, “Only a II CF would say that”.  Translated into the acupuncture language in common use now this meant that only a Fire person who was Inner Fire (the Small Intestine is given the Roman numeral II in five element acupuncture) would express herself in those terms.  Not only did this teach me a lot about the distinctions to be made between Outer Fire’s much more articulate responses to a question and Inner Fire’s verbal hesitancy as it tries to sort out its thoughts, it also taught me a lot about myself, and has continued to do so over the years, for it has made me, an Inner Fire person, so much clearer to myself.  So, I asked myself, was this the way I respond to questions, with the initial brief air of puzzlement this patient showed, before finally sorting out an answer to give which satisfies the Small Intestine’s need to pass only what is pure on to the Heart?  Now, whenever I try to work out whether a person’s Fire element is that of Inner or Outer Fire, I always draw on the image of this girl’s puzzled face to help me decide.