Sunday, December 15, 2019

A five element review of my year: December 2019

As I approach the end of another year, I like to add up its pluses and its minuses, always hoping that its pluses are the greater.  On the professional front I am pleased to think that they definitely are.  On the political front, definitely not, as we just emerge from another unsatisfactory election and face an even more unsettling future expelled from the comforting family of our European friends.  But since the world as a whole is going through a period of great turmoil, with no end in sight, I will concentrate here on the joys my professional life has brought me this year, none more so than observing the blossoming of five element acupuncture in China.  

And appropriately for a five element acupuncturist, I am breaking down my time in China into its different elemental phases.  There was its initial Water phase, when the seeds of five element acupuncture’s re-emergence in China were slowly being sown, after Mei Long had met me at a seminar in the Netherlands, and then written about this to Liu Lihong.  Then Wood’s buds, planted so inspiringly by Liu Lihong, slowly germinated, first a few of them in our seminars in Nanning, then more and more, as the buds of China’s five element spring gradually spread, until they have burst into full summer blossom in the last few years under the warmth of the Fire element which Mei and I bring to what we do.

How happy I was when I came to China this October to see the fruit of all our work in the large team of Chinese five element teachers who now teach the basic five element principles to the many hundreds of those wanting to learn.  These teachers represent the true fruit of what we have sown in the past eight years, doing the Earth element’s work for us.  And then appropriately as we approach the end of the year, we come to Metal, as Liu Lihong adds his inspiration to all our work, and Guy Caplan bestows Metal’s quality upon all the teaching we do.   

Finally, the growing success of what we are achieving in establishing five element acupuncture’s position in the traditional medicine landscape in China lies in the capable hands of the strongest of all the elements, Water, for without Lynn Yang where would we all be?  She holds everything together, drawing things into a circle so that one seminar ends and without a hitch the next is already at its planning stage.   Without her Water energy the circle which symbolizes the re-introduction of five element acupuncture into China would not be complete. 

Liu Lihong once told me, “Now we need a Chinese JR Worsley to appear”.  I am sure the seed for this has already been sown, and will emerge when the time is right.  As he said, “There’s no hurry, Nora.  If it takes 100 years or more for five element acupuncture to establish itself in China, it doesn’t matter.”  I am a much more hasty person than he is, and I am delighted to see that it has not taken the 100 years he predicted, but less than the eight years I have been going to China, for I see it happening already.   

So each element has added its magical touch to my years in China.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Which element would tidy up his/her practitioner’s magazines?

Here’s another little lesson in following up even the tiniest clues to the elements, sent to me by Pierre from France.  I give his words in full, with a few small amendments to make for easier reading:

Just a few words concerning an interesting clue in order to help diagnose the elements.

I treat a male patient since 2 months. At the beginning I felt Water and
Metal a little bit. The others haven't aroused my attention.

After the two first treatments he felt better, but I can attribute this to 7
dragons and AE drain, not to Water treatment.

When I saw him last week, I found that he walked slightly too fast and with
a kind of forcefulness. Compared to my way of walking, I had doubts about
Water... And then when after the third treatment, he got up fast and strong
from the treatment couch, I realized that my intuition was good to change my idea
of his guardian element : indeed I moved from Water to Wood ( thank you for
your blog about bodily movement!) . After he left, I went into the waiting
room and all the magazines which were in a mess on the table before he came
in were now well arranged in ordered piles.

" What an interesting clue to help diagnose a Wood person! Structure of the piles of magazines!"
Here is my reply:

A very interesting observation, Pierre.

I think probably only Wood would tidy up the magazines. I (Inner Fire)
would definitely notice that they were all in a muddle, but would not like
to make the practitioner feel that I was judging him by tidying up! I don't
think that Earth would even have noticed (much too busy thinking about
his/her problems). I think Metal would have noticed, but would think it was
the practitioner's task to tidy up, not theirs.

What would you have done, as a Water person? Would you have noticed the
Pierre’s reply to me:

I have never arranged any piles of magazines in a practitioner's clinic. I notice that it is a mess, and I don't like mess. But I know that each thing is moving and unstable : so making an effort to tidy up the piles of magazines is wasting energy for nothing.  I prefer to leave the magazines in a mess.

In my own clinic, I tidy up sometimes the magazines in the waiting room, but always by sorting and throwing out a lot!   Like that, what is left does not seem too messy when it is!

It is by following up such very tiny clues that we begin to differentiate between the different elements.

As a postscript to this blog, I asked Guy Caplan (Metal) whether I was right about Metal not tidying up the magazines, and here’s his reply:

When I arrived at the Acupuncture Academy there were some Acu magazines and EJOM's on the table in the entrance hall.  I instinctively tidied them up into two piles and put them in order.  I don't know if this is a Metal trait or a bit of OCD!

So my observation of Metal is not quite right, is it?  And that’s how we learn that we can’t shut up any element into too tight a box, much as we would like to.   

 And then Guy followed this up by adding another insight into Water:

 When we had the Water group in front of the class, one interesting thing came up for many of them, about not wasting resources! Perhaps the fact of taking time with no goal for itself would be a waste of resources of time for energy for a Water CF?

Interesting how one small but perceptive observation by Pierre has led me, and now Guy, and I hope all those reading this blog, to do a lot of thinking.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Political mayhem and the Wood element

It’s nice if occasionally other writers do my work for me, as a journalist just did in an extract printed in a newspaper about Donald Trump last week.  So here is what this writer, his biographer, said about him: “I don’t think right or wrong are categories he thinks in.  The only category is, can he get away with it?  He loves fights.  That’s his comfort zone.  He likes people being angry and yelling at each other.  He gins that up any chance he gets… He’s comfortable when everyone else is uncomfortable, running and ducking for cover.  That’s how he got elected, pitting people against each other.  He’s into “bring it on” because he’s in his element.”

And I would add to that, “because he’s in his Wood element”!

I don’t think you can have a clearer description of the Wood element completely out of balance, with its enjoyment in stoking up the anger in others so clearly shown.  And I think Trump has a very shouting voice, and always talks with the finger stabbing at his audience, which we recognize as one of Wood’s signatures.

Whilst I’m thinking about the Wood element, it would be good to spend a little time wondering about which official out of the two Wood officials is the one that might most influence Donald Trump, the one I now like to call the guardian official.  Is it the Liver, the yin official, or is it the Gall Bladder, the yang official?  We know that the Liver’s function is to be responsible for making plans, and the Gall Bladder’s is to be responsible for putting these plans into effect.  I always like to think of the Liver as being the general sitting in his tent deciding on the campaign to be run, and the Gall Bladder the official in the field carrying out the general’s orders.  So which do we think most fits our impression of Donald Trump?  I feel that the Liver is more likely to be his weakest point.  It’s almost as though he represents the general sitting in his tent, sulking, as Ulysses did, whilst the army runs riot outside doing whatever it likes.  In other words, it seems as if his Gall Bladder is given no clear instructions on how to act by the Liver, which is why all those inappropriate tweets are sent off, significantly often during Wood’s time, in the middle of the night.

Enough said, I feel, about these somewhat unhappy excursions into the worlds of Inner Fire and Wood.  But how I wish both of the heads of state I have written about in these last two blogs would find their way to a five element practice room so that their poor, unbalanced elements could regain some equilibrium, and save their respective countries from much chaos and hardship.



Thursday, October 3, 2019

Political mayhem and the Small Intestine

To divert myself a little from the appalling political scene in this country, which mirrors what is happening in the US, I try to hone my five element skills by observing the leaders of the two countries in action on the world stage. I always add a proviso to my thoughts about the elements of famous people that since I don’t know them personally I have to base any tentative diagnosis on observing them at one remove on the TV screen.

The effect they have upon me is surprisingly similar.  They both make me very, very angry.  I am appalled at their behaviour and at their total lack of concern for anybody but themselves – an almost pathological level of selfishness which dumbfounds me.  But despite the obvious similarities between them I do not think they are the same element, and will try and explain why not.  I have blogged before that I think Donald Trump is of the Wood element, but, after observing the effect Boris Johnson has on those around him and on me watching on TV, I think his element is Fire.  Despite myself he makes me laugh, as he deliberately acts the clown.  If you watch the people around Donald Trump, on the other hand, all you can see is apprehension, the fear that an unbalanced Wood can arouse in those around it, with only a strained smile on the faces of his audience.  So I will concentrate in this blog on looking at how I think the Fire element shows itself in Boris Johnson, and dedicate another blog to updating my comments on Donald Trump.

When diagnosing the Fire Element we always have to remember the very real differences there are within this element between its two sides, the one I call Outer Fire, with its Heart Protector and Three Heater officials, and the other, Inner Fire, with its Small Intestine and Heart officials.  Having just held another happy day’s clinical seminar at which we discussed in detail just this question of how to distinguish between the two aspects of Fire, this has made me look more closely again at the kind of Fire which Boris Johnson appears to be showing.

I often gather significant pointers to how the different elements reveal themselves by reading newspaper comments.  Today, for example, I read that Boris Johnson has created an “atmosphere of feuding” within 10 Downing Street.  He is, the article says, “only listening to two voices now”, those of Dominic Cummings and of his partner, Carrie Symonds.  Would Outer Fire be so unconcerned about the atmosphere within its team that it would allow feuding between its members?  I can’t see that it would, for it is the task of its two officials to maintain a safe and comfortable atmosphere, physically through the balanced flow of warm blood round the body, and emotionally through their efforts to protect the actions of the Heart in their midst.  I see no sign that Boris Johnson is concerned with doing this.  Far from it.  He does not seem interested in ensuring the overall well-being of anybody apart from himself, and appears ever more preoccupied with pursuing his own ends without regard for others.  His team are said to be at loggerheads with one another, all but his inner circle of two having been banished to the periphery of decision-making.  And it is one of the characteristics of the Small Intestine that it has to make its mind up quickly in order to ensure that it does not endanger the Heart, its yin official, and quick decisions are more easily made by a few people rather than thrown open to a large group.  This again points to Inner Fire.  

Boris Johnson’s voice, too, reflects what I regard as the hesitancy all Inner Fire people show in speaking, as their minds work hard at sorting out the words to express the complex thoughts they are engaged in.  His speech is certainly not the articulate speech that distinguishes Outer Fire people, who think before they speak, and when they speak do so without hesitancy.  I have always believed that Inner Fire uses the very action of speaking as a way of sorting out its thoughts, as it searches for exactly the right expression to articulate these thoughts.  There is therefore always a kind of “stop and start” feeling about listening to Inner Fire people, as they try to gather their thoughts into exactly the right form to express what they want to say.  Boris Johnson often mumbles or sounds hesitant, interspersing this hesitancy with sudden bursts of bullying, when he talks over the interviewer apparently without listening to what he is being asked and failing to answer directly many of the questions directed at him. Is his “element within” Wood within Fire perhaps?

I have written before that I thought that Tony Blair was also Inner Fire, but a much more balanced expression of the Small Intestine as it takes on the task of sorting the pure from the impure.  During his time as Prime Minister, though, he had in common one characteristic which he shares with Boris Johnson, and that was his reliance upon one or a few people who he allowed to have too much influence upon him.  In Tony Blair’s case it was George Bush.  I still find it disturbing watching the old clips of Tony Blair walking in the woods in America with George Bush, with an almost sycophantic, adoring look on his face.  It was the influence his obvious admiration for George Bush had upon him which I believe led to his decision to follow him into the disastrous war in Iraq.  Similarly, we are at the time of writing this (3 October 2019) watching a somewhat hapless Boris Johnson appearing to be trapped in the coils of a disastrous attachment to his adviser, Dominic Cummings.  The Small Intestine, when out of balance, as Boris Johnson’s so obviously is, can indeed lose its ability to sort the pure from the impure, in the case of both these leaders of this country leading to disastrous consequences.

I am always happy to acknowledge that everybody is free to develop their own personal take on the elements, and should indeed do so.  I am therefore sure that some people reading this may well disagree with my diagnosis.  But since I feel a strong affinity with all other Inner Fire people, having the Small Intestine as my particular guardian official, I am quite happy to express my own very personal understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of living my life under the influence of this particular official, and how my personal understanding may be helping me see signs of this in Boris Johnson.

I also like to think that my writing this will help me let off a bit of the indignant steam I feel rising within me as I watch the political shambles unfolding around me.





Thursday, August 29, 2019

A meditation on the spirits of acupuncture points

(Article prompted by a request for me to write more about the spirit of points from Seán O’Neill of the College of Five Element Acupuncture (CoFEA) in Dublin, Ireland)

One of the conventions of five element acupuncture is that points are said to have their own “spirit”, a quality intrinsic to them which we can tap into when deciding which particular point to select.  According to this convention, a particular action is ascribed to a point. This is a nebulous, very vague term, and I have never felt that much thought has been given as to what it actually means.  Nor is there any consensus about how a point has acquired a particular description.  The assumption behind the term is that when we decide to use this point, we do so on the basis that we think the action traditionally ascribed to this point is one that we feel our patient needs.

This raises the question as to when and by whom the qualities were ascribed to individual points.  In my case, I was fortunate to be part of one of the last cohorts of acupuncturists whose teacher was the great master of five element acupuncture, JR Worsley.  I would listen avidly in class when he would suggest particular points to be used for patients we would see in the college clinic, and write down what he told us.  I still have my notes taken at the time, which have acted since then as welcome signposts in the often bewildering landscape of the traditionally 365 or so points available for us to select from.

I remember one awesome day with JR during the Masters programme I completed with him (the last he was to take), when he took up his famous brown point reference chart which lists the names and functions of all the points, and read slowly through the list, from Heart 1 to Governor Vessel 28, spelling out the name of each point with love in his voice, as though these were his beloved friends.  About some points he said very little, about others, quite a lot, and this is when I realised that he had acquired some esoteric knowledge conveyed to him no doubt through his own acupuncture masters, but which I would never aspire to.  On the other hand, I have used my time as teacher to pass on my own understanding of the points I use to the students I have taught, based very much on what JR told us, but also on my own experiences.  And this is how the inheritance of a lineage moves on from generation to generation.

The problem I have with the term “the spirit of a point”  is that it can all too easily be assumed that a point can have a quality which is almost objectively established, much like that attributed to the action of a specific drug.  It does not take account of the individual practitioner’s understanding of why he/she feels this particular point should be selected for this treatment.  An objectively ascribed function of a point should be regarded as an alien concept to us five element acupuncturists, where each treatment we select is based upon our subjective evaluation of our patients’ needs, guided through the prism of our understanding of the elements and their officials.  Professor Liu Lihong in his book Classical Chinese Medicine emphasizes the contrast between the Western medical approach and that of traditional Chinese medicine by saying that “Western medicine is biased towards objectivity”, whereas Chinese medicine “places great emphasis on the subjective experience”. Each acupuncture treatment is therefore seen as drawing upon some subjective quality in both the patient and practitioner rather than on a fixed quality within a point which remains constant whenever this point is used.

This has made me look carefully at what actually happens at the site of an acupuncture point, something we rarely think about.  Each point can be seen as representing a slight opening along the pathway of a meridian.  This is where an acupuncture needle can be inserted which by its action can alter the flow of energy along that meridian in some way.  Each point is one of the many places where the energy passing along a meridian makes itself available to outside intervention, in the case of acupuncture through the insertion of a needle.  It is therefore where what is within us can react to influences acting upon us from outside.  It is also where what might be called intrinsic to the point, its particular quality, meets something coming towards it which the spirit of the acupuncturist brings to the action of selecting and needling this particular point.  To this must be added a further component, which is what the spirit of the patient preparing him/herself to receive this treatment also brings to the needle’s action.

It is good to look at what happens at the interface between a patient, his/her practitioner and the needle which acts as the conduit between patient and practitioner.  Each of us can be seen as a distillation of the combined energies of the elements within us which emanate from us both as a shield and an invitation when we encounter another person.  In return, we receive from this other person a flood of different energies as though summoned by each of us when we encounter somebody else.  When we look at this interaction in terms of acupuncture treatment, the needle becomes the physical point of contact between two people, the practitioner and the patient. 

In Lingshu chapter 9 it says, “The needle is inserted in the surface area and remains a while, manipulated with delicacy and at the surface, in order to move the spirits.” In this context, in their examination of the patient- practitioner relationship,Father Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée add their own explanation in an article in the Review of Traditional Acupuncture.  They say that “the most important thing for healing is the relationship of the practitioner, the spirits and the patient.” 

We therefore have three components which, when acting together, contribute to the success of treatment: the selected point itself, with any particular qualities associated with it, the practitioner and the patient. In talking about the spirit of a point, though, we often focus only on what is considered to be the characteristic of the point itself, either forgetting altogether those two other aspects associated with any treatment, or regarding them as not as important.  It seems to me obvious that the spirits of both practitioner and patient also play an important role in endowing a treatment with a specific quality.  In fact, it is only when the three act in tandem and in harmony with each other that the “spirits” will move, as we hope they will.

Here I am always reminded of an occasion many years ago when a young acupuncturist friend of mine complained to me one day, “How come I use the same points as you do, but don’t get the same results?”  Thinking about this, I realised that the reason must have lain in my friend’s doubts about what five element acupuncture could do.  These were the early days of TCM’s onslaught upon the practice of five element acupuncture in this country, when people began to be persuaded that five element acupuncture would only work if it incorporated TCM into its treatment protocols.  My friend was beset by doubts about his five element practice, since he worked with a group of other acupuncturists who were telling him that five element acupuncture “had had its day”.  Eventually, he abandoned five element acupuncture altogether, and moved to a TCM-based practice.  I therefore assumed that the uncertainty he had about the efficacy of the five element protocols he was using was conveying itself both to the needles themselves and presumably, also, to his attitude to his practice, and robbing his five element treatments of the absolute certainty which I had then, and have maintained in my many years since then, that a pure five element acupuncture treatment offers a profound form of healing.

The great majority of points lie along meridians associated with one of the five elements.  The greatest influence acting upon a point must therefore be the fact that each of these points takes on some of the qualities of a particular element.  Any point along the two Earth officials, Spleen and Stomach, for example, reflect some of the Earth element’s fundamental functions, each point, from Spleen 1–21 to Stomach 1– 45 (a total of 66 points in all) bearing the stamp of this element.  

At the most fundamental level, any point which lies on a meridian associated with one of the five elements receives some of its “spirit” from the properties of that element.  To help them in their point selection, therefore, practitioners have to steep themselves in their understanding of the elements and their officials.  Because all our efforts are directed at establishing which of the five elements is what I call the guardian element (the element of the causative factor of disease, the CF), much of what might seem the difficult work of point selection is made very simple once we are sure we are directing our treatment at the right element.  For all we need then do is concentrate upon choosing points on one or other of that element’s officials, or on both of the officials, and the element will then take over responsibility, with little nudges from us as treatment progresses.   Every one of these points is able to express the “spirit” of its element.  To stop us novice acupuncturists from being too daunted at the wide array of points available to us, JR would always remind us that good treatment could simply consist in needling an element’s source points time and time again.  This would produce the same result as choosing more complex treatments, but “it may only take a little longer”.  The purity of five element treatments was one of the main reasons by JR would say that five element acupuncture is such a simple discipline, “any child would understand it”.

In addition to a point’s association with a particular element and official, there is a further layer which contributes to point selection, and that is that certain points have been given specific functions in relation to the element to which they belong.  The most common of these functions is that associated with the group of points clustered around the arm and leg which we call command points.  These include what are called tonification, sedation and horary points, plus five individual element points.  Thus the Water officials, Kidney and Bladder, each have a Wood point, a Fire point, an Earth point, a Metal point and a Water point, creating an inner five element circle within each official.  These element points are like a reflection in miniature of the large five element circle.  Some points also have other functions when they form part of a sequence of points used in specific treatment protocols, such as those used for clearing Aggressive Energy, Possession, Entry/Exit blocks or a Husband/Wife imbalance.

In selecting which of the element’s points we should use at any treatment, we can also draw on our interpretation of the names the points have been given over the centuries, another profound and often confusing area of point selection.  A point’s name is very evocative, awakening in each one of us very different feelings, and finding personal echoes because of our particular life experiences.  There are many ways in which it will be up to each practitioner to choose a description which seems to him/her to best respond to their patient’s needs at any particular time.  For this reason, no two practitioners are likely to make the same choice of points for the same patient, though both may be making appropriate choices.

The trouble is that it is natural for people to like certainty.  Even the most experienced five element acupuncturist likes to have a handle to hold on to by being told that a point has a certain action, since this helps to give some fixed signposts in the often bewildering area of point selection.  Because there is so much that is indefinable in our work, any little pointer which helps us towards making a point selection may be too quickly snatched at.  I remember how eagerly as students we would seize on any description of a point’s action as though giving us a secure footing in the very mysterious world of point selection.  It requires some courage to accept that our own subjective input into point selection is a crucial component in the success of any treatment.  But then I have always said that five element acupuncture, with its emphasis on the importance of the practitioner’s input, is not for the faint-hearted.

I have concluded that the concentrated focus of a practitioner upon what he/she intends to be the outcome of the proposed treatment forms part of the treatment, if not its most important part, as though the practitioner’s energy directed at achieving the outcome of the treatment he/she is intending to give is itself something which adds to the depth and success of the treatment.  The spirit a practitioner brings to needling any acupuncture point is a function of a very complex interweaving of past experiences, the relationship of patient to practitioner, as well as something inherent within the point, at a deep level coming from its association with the functions of a particular element.  All this weaves together a web of personal associations which will differ for each practitioner.  Every time I needle Liver 14, Gate of Hope, I instil into this point all my belief as to why I think this patient is of the Wood element, plus all my years of delving into the mysterious world of the Wood element, and its Liver official in particular, and why I think it is good today to use this point to offer hope to my patient.

As a final illustration of the power of the interactions of the spirits of practitioner, patient and point is a moving occasion that occurred very early on in my practice when as a newly-qualified acupuncturist I found myself trying to decide whether I could detect a Husband/Wife imbalance in my patient.  Still somewhat unsure whether I was interpreting the patient’s pulse picture correctly, I started to mark up the sequence of points to clear the H/W, working rather slowly as I wasn’t sure that this was the treatment I needed to do.  As I marked the first few points on the foot (Bl 67, Ki 7),  my patient suddenly said, “That’s a rather frightening thing that Husband/Wife imbalance your Professor Worsley writes about.”  I had lent my patient a book by JR in which he described this imbalance, but she had never mentioned until this moment that she had actually read it.  I sent thanks up to heaven for this encouragement, and with a lighter heart continued clearing the H/W block which I felt her words had confirmed for me.  This was a moving example of the spirits of patient, practitioner and point combining to create a successful treatment.

Since traditional Chinese medicine places great emphasis on the subjective experience, as Professor Liu Lihong points out, there is nothing more subjective than an individual practitioner’s assessment of why he/she feels the patient needs a particular point or points on that particular day.  Each point becomes as though impregnated with our own personal narrative, which our use over the years has added to it.  I revel in the fact that every time I select a point, I bring to my selection the understanding of the particular element or official associated with that point which I have gained from my experience as practitioner over the years.  

Copyright:  Nora Franglen 2019

Saturday, July 13, 2019

27. The way people walk

Since our observations will be filtered through our own personal spectacles, we will all observe the life around us from different angles.  I notice, for example, that I appear to be very aware of the way people walk, and can recognise them from a long way away just by the way they are moving and well before I can even see their faces as they come towards me.  This is therefore one of the things I look for in patients to help me with my diagnosis.  There may not be as much time to observe their walk as they move towards me in the practice room as there is out in the street, but if we extend the concept of walking to include the way a person moves in general, we can obtain a surprising amount of information even within the small confines of a practice room and the comparatively brief time we have with a patient.

My observation of movement was originally sparked by something my own practitioner at the time once said to me.  At the end of treatment I was told to get up from the couch and get dressed.  Apparently, although I myself didn’t realise this, I leapt off the couch in a hurry, reaching for my clothes almost before my feet had touched the ground.  “Goodness”, she said, “you are a speedy person.”  At the time, not having observed people as closely as I do now, I had not noticed that my movements are always quick, often much quicker than others around me, and speed up even more when I think somebody is waiting for me to leave and I assume, usually wrongly, that they are waiting impatiently, as I may well have thought my practitioner was.

Thinking back on this from my present standpoint, I realise that the speed of my springing up from the couch was closely associated with my fear, one that I have always had, that I am somehow outstaying my welcome and need to get myself out of the way quickly.  Fire, my element, is naturally an energetic element, but added to my natural Fire quickness was also Fire’s fear that it is somehow not getting something right.  I suppose this comes from its very heightened awareness of others and of others’ needs, and its desire to ensure that what it does is not upsetting to other people.  My rapid jumping up from the couch could then be interpreted as a clear pointer to the Fire element.  It took me some time to put this quick interaction in the practice room into context, and see it as pointing towards an example of the Fire element in action within me.

Another example was offered me when I was casually watching some golf on TV, and I suddenly noticed the golfer Rory McIlroy’s walk.  I can best describe it as a kind of jaunty stride.  It is certainly not a stroll nor does it appear to be a form  of hurrying, and yet I can find no better way of describing it than to say that he walks as though pushing the air aside in front of him, not in any way aggressively, but firmly.  It is definitely a stride, but done with a kind of joyousness to it.  He is so obviously an excellent example of the Fire element.  He can’t stop smiling as he walks, nor can he can’t stop wanting to make other people laugh.  You feel that if you were in front of him you would have to give way to allow this force of nature to pass by.

That set me thinking about the different ways the other elements walk.  I then compared McIlroy’s walk with that of another golfer who I diagnosed as the Wood element.  Wood, after all, is another very yang, outgoing element, with perhaps an even more forceful signature than Fire as its hallmark.  But this Wood golfer’s walk, though firm, differed from McIlroy’s because it did not have the same kind of joyous spring to it.  It was more of a firm placing of one foot in front of the other, a kind of a stomp, like someone claiming that bit of ground for himself, so that he made me more aware of the force with which each foot landed on the ground.  McIlroy’s stride makes me aware of the top of his body, as his chest pushes aside the air in front of him, the Wood golfer’s more of his feet conquering the ground.  This may seem a little fanciful, but I don’t think it is.  Wood, after all, emphasizes the feet, Fire the top half of the body.  If I think of a Wood person coming towards me, the word “striding” comes to mind, adding another distinctive layer to the concept of a walk.  Striding is first of all a vigorous activity, as though the air is being moved aside to allow the person through.  It is a robust form of walking, and is a good description of the kind of strong actions which Wood’s body enjoys.  If we are wondering if a person is Wood, therefore, it would be good to ask ourselves whether we can imagine them as striding rather than strolling towards that future which is where all Wood people want to head. 

All this made me think about my own Fire stride.  Did I have something akin to McIlroy’s walk, and did other Fire people, too, or had my observation not revealed a characteristic peculiar to all Fire people but only to the one?  I have not yet come to any satisfactory conclusion about this, but if anybody were to watch me walking along the street they might be surprised to note how often I glance in shop windows as I try and catch myself in mid-stride to analyse how I am walking.   

Whilst I am in the world of golf, I can also think of golfers who are Earth, and compare their walk to that of people of other elements.  Like many Earth people, I notice that they place their feet very solidly on the ground, and one could picture all their ten toes spreading out to find as much support for their body as they could.  I have often noticed this about Earth people, and realised that it is not surprising that an element with such a need for stability, literally for “ground beneath their feet”, should make their contact with this ground as firm as possible.

I can’t at the moment find any good example of Water golfers, though I am sure they are there, as all the elements are in every walk of life, but a supremely characteristic Water sportsman from another sport is Roger Federer, the tennis player.  There is a rhythm and sinuous flow to his movements which mimics that of what I am sure is his element, Water.  I would imagine that the Water element must be well-represented in dancers, for that reason.

Finally, an obvious Metal sportsman whose movements were not as flowing as Water’s, but were completely focused on the goal ahead was a former 100 metre Olympic champion, Linford Christie, whose almost trance-like stare as he looked up from his blocks ready to run always seemed to me to be the epitome of Metal’s determination to reach its goal.  Metal, like Water, is light on its feet, but does not float so much as glide.  It reflects a person that somehow wants to move upwards, and dislikes being tied to the earth, unlike its fellow element, Earth, which so clearly needs always to be tethered to the ground in some way.

It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that it is usually Earth people who develop a fear of flying, often experiencing the moment when the aircraft takes off as something frightening.  It is no coincidence that the Earth command points are on the feet and legs, whilst those of Metal are on the hands and arms.  Feet can only leave the ground for very short stretches of time.  Hands are free to move away from the body, and, most significantly, can stretch up above our heads.  Both positions of the two elements’ command points symbolically represent their respective elements’ needs, Earth’s to anchor itself firmly to the ground, Metal’s to allow itself the freedom to explore.




Some very Water-like words from Roger Federer at this week's Wimbledon tennis tournament

I have always thought that Roger Federer is Water.  I can’t see his colour or smell his smell when I watch him on TV, but his body movements are so fluid, as if he flows through the air, and I think his voice is the kind of groaning I associate with water flowing around rocks.  So I was amused to read the following in the Guardian newspaper a day or so ago:

“Their (the crowd’s) love for Federer is boundless.  And he appreciates it more than people realise. In an interesting aside later, the Swiss was asked how much time he spends alone.

Not much,” Federer said, pausing. “I don’t like being alone. I mean, I’m not afraid of being alone. I like being surrounded by my friends, family. It’s obviously the best. I like talking to people. Now with four kids anyway, there is a lot of that, which is perfect for me in my life because I’m very happy.”

I always think of Water people as being like individual drops of water that stream together with their fellows to form the flow of Water which creates a pond, a river, an ocean or a shower of rain.  It’s therefore nice to receive some confirmation of this in Roger Federer’s words.  I find it interesting, too, that he uses the words “I’m not afraid” when describing how he feels when he is alone.  There is a tinge of fear revealed in his use of the word “afraid”, even though he is denying that he is.  (Water never acknowledges its fear, for that makes it vulnerable.)  I asked myself if I, a Fire person, would ever say “I am not afraid of being alone”, and realised that I would not.  This is because I am not afraid of being alone, but if I feel lonely it will be sadness, not fear, that I feel.

Earth, too, will not enjoy being alone, for it enjoys being surrounded by the company of others.  Metal is perfectly happy being alone, since it is definitely the element which most enjoys its own company, often preferring it to that of others.  I don’t think it matters very much to Wood whether it is alone or with people, since it is so occupied with planning and doing things, and people will either help him do that or get in its way.

I enjoy piecing together fresh little thoughts like this about the different ways the elements express themselves, prompted by something that I read or see.