Friday, June 14, 2019

Another happy SOFEA seminar day on 9 June

People tell me that I never like to trumpet the successes of what our little band of dedicated five element acupuncturists do to promote the calling that we love.  So this blog is my attempt to make good this fault a little.  It has been promoted by the following two lovely compliments we received from attendees at our London seminar last weekend:

I was truly starving for 5 Element teaching after 10 years not being in the UK for extra courses. So that was why my smile was from ear to ear for most of the day. Tears because of coming home again in this BEAUTIFUL 5 Element world.

I want to wish you (Guy) and Nora all the best and hope to meet you one day again.”
“It was wonderful to be amongst like-minded folk and I really appreciate the feedback on my patients from a ‘fresh pair of eyes’.  I’m sure both patients will continue to do well with their treatments”.
As usual, Guy and I emerged from the day re-inspired from our day-long immersion in the world of the elements with a group of like-minded acupuncturists, acupuncture students and those just keen to learn more about the elements.  This time we saw four patients brought by some of those attending;  we helped with their diagnosis and supervised treatments for each of them.  We were delighted that the group understood that they need not be concerned about “getting the element right”, but instead have learnt to accept that this always takes time, remembering my mantra “Don’t hurry!  Don’t worry!”
We have devised a very useful way of helping with the diagnosis by asking the group whether they feel the patient makes the energy in the room go up, go down or “neither up nor down”, as the good old Duke of York says in the nursery rhyme.  Up is obviously more yang (therefore Wood or Fire), down more yin (therefore Metal or Water) and in-between is more likely to be Earth.  We have found this a surprisingly accurate way of discarding some elements and emphasizing the one or two the patient may be.  Usually the majority in the room, even among the 300 or more in China and the lesser number in this country, experience the same effect of a patient’s energy upon them.  This simple method by itself usually reduces the potential number of elements to choose from five down to two, or at most three, always a helpful way to start our diagnosis.
Our next London seminar on 29 September is now fully booked, with a waiting list, but there are still a few places left for our spring 2020 seminar on Sunday 9 February.  Booking forms can be downloaded from our website:





Saturday, June 8, 2019

My review of Professor Liu Lihong's book: Classical Chinese Medicine

Published by The Chinese University Press
The Chinese University of Hong Kong 2019
I would like to start my review of Liu Lihong’s book with the words with which he ends it:

"Why is this book titled “Contemplating Chinese Medicine” in Chinese? What is it that we are contemplating? It is nothing other than these underlying principles, nothing other than the mysteries of nature and life as deciphered through the orientations of time.”  

Liu Lihong was the person who invited me eight years ago to come to China to give an introductory seminar on five element acupuncture, and has since then steadfastly promoted five element acupuncture as a valid discipline of traditional Chinese medicine.  It was therefore a lovely moment of recognition for these years of my work in China since then to read the following in Heiner Fruehauf’s introduction:
…”Liu Lihong has developed the Institute (for the Clinical Research of Classical Chinese Medicine) into an influential platform that has reintroduced multiple classical lineages to contemporary scholarly discourse, most notably the Fire Spirit School of Sichuan herbalism (huoshen pai), the traditional system of emotional healing synthesized by the Confucian educator Wang Fengyi (1864-1937), and classical five-element-style acupuncture. Each one of these efforts has had a considerable impact on the grassroots momentum of Chinese Medicine education in China.”
Joyful at thus seeing evidence of the importance of my work in China, I was delighted at last to be able to read the book which was the catalyst those eight years ago for Mei Long to write to Liu Lihong, urging him to acquaint himself with this discipline of traditional Chinese medicine, one which she recognized was very close to his own approach.  It has been with much surprise and delight now to receive confirmation that all that I was taught by the great master of five element acupuncture, JR Worsley himself, all that I have since learnt for myself and from my readings of the classics through translations by Father Larre and Elisabeth Rochat, all of this finds strong, almost eerie echoes in what Liu Lihong writes.

Though the book includes much detailed discussion of herbal remedies, since Liu Lihong is a herbalist, I have come to regard it much more as a profound philosophical exposition of Chinese thought, and it could well have been entitled Classical Chinese Philosophy.  Certainly the profound insights about Dao, yin yang and the five elements, which are the main emphasis of the book, also form the bedrock of my five element practice.  In particular, he emphasizes, as JR Worsley always did, the importance of regarding ourselves as embedded in nature.  As he says:

“When discussing Chinese Medicine, the backdrop of the natural world cannot be forgotten. If you have a thorough understanding of the natural world, your foundation in Chinese Medicine will be sound and your understanding can progress.”(p. 375)

Of the many insights I gained from my reading of this book, none impressed me more than the clarity with which he compares traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine, clearly seeing that they spring from different approaches which cannot be melded together into one system as so many people now attempt to do.  Instead he regards them as complementing each other, provided that their fundamental differences are acknowledged.  For instance he writes:

“Western Medicine is clearly biased towards objectivity rather than subjectivity…..Chinese Medicine is vastly different in this respect and places great emphasis on the subjective experience.” (p.262)

I also find the humility he shows in relation to his own understanding of his discipline quite startling and very impressive, such is his respect for his masters whose influence on his development he acknowledges.  I always feel that teachers who are not afraid to know that they have more to learn are the ones I can truly learn from.

And here I encounter a slight problem, for though, quite rightly, he claims that the best, if not the only true way of learning is to sit at the feet of an acknowledged master of whatever discipline we wish to practice (and did I not do exactly that when I was fortunate enough to find my way to JR Worsley?), how are we to find such masters in a world, as he says, where institutionalized classroom learning is valued more highly than the kind of personal transmission from master to pupil?  And even more pertinently, where are the great clinical teachers without which there can be no transmission of such profound age-old disciplines?  Liu Lihong, too, is also deeply concerned about the increasing depletion in the number of those who have sufficient clinical experience to warrant being given the name of masters of their discipline, whilst there are ever-increasing numbers of those eager to learn from such masters.

This is something I have had to struggle with during my time in China, for I often ask myself how can I and my small cohort of two other five element teachers, Guy Caplan and Mei Long, alone pass on as much as we can in the form of personal transmission through our seminars to as many people as we can.  It is with great relief, therefore, that, thanks to Liu Lihong’s efforts and that of those working at his Tong You San He foundation, I can at last be reassured that there is an ever-larger group of Chinese five element teachers who can now pass on their understanding of five element practice to others.

The world needs people of vision, such as Liu Lihong, and I am honoured to have been able to work with and for him.  I am profoundly grateful that my efforts to re-introduce five element acupuncture to the country of its birth have been recognized by him as making a significant contribution to his work in so firmly and courageously ensuring that classical Chinese medicine, including five element acupuncture, now takes its rightful place at the forefront of modern medicine as a profound medical discipline in its own right.

Finally, I want to express my admiration for the team of translators, led by the book’s editor, Heiner Fruehauf, who have made such a tremendous job of creating an English version which reads so beautifully and eloquently.  As a former translator in another life, and still a translator from French into English of Elisabeth Rochat’s work, I appreciate from a very personal point of view the many hours, days and weeks of hard work such an excellent translation would have demanded.