Thursday, December 11, 2014

The curse of the mobile phone

I have written before about the way in which I think the use of mobile phones and other electronic equipment is having a negative effect upon human interactions.  I am reluctant to condemn all these new inventions because in many ways they are miracles of human invention, but it is hard for me to see their good in a world now increasingly peopled by automaton-like figures peering into their screens with never an eye raised to acknowledge the presence of those they are passing by.

If you become used to allowing the demands of the mobile phone to control your life in this way, I wonder how this will affect human interactions in the long term.  More and more people now appear to be compelled by their insistent ringing tones to give mobile phones priority over everything else to the extent that they allow them to interrupt whatever social interactions are taking place at the time.

I was reminded of this at a restaurant I went to last week, where the owner said that she was quite happy for us to sit on as long as we wanted after we had finished our meal, because she was so pleased to find people who had not spent the whole of their meal shouting into mobile phones, as her other guests often do. She is appalled at the way these telephone conversations are conducted at high volume without consideration for other diners, but said, “I can’t tell people they mustn’t use their phones because I would lose too many customers if I did”.  Recently I heard the story of an irate diner, who, plagued by the incessant loud mobile conversation at the table next to his, had simply got up, grabbed the phone and thrown it into a large bowl of flowers where it bobbed about helplessly. “You’ve spoilt my meal, “he said, “so now I’m spoiling yours”.  I certainly often have a strong inclination to follow suit, but I’m not sure I have this man’s courage.

There appear to be very few people left who would still consider it rude to interrupt a conversation with a friend to answer their phones.  And if we increasingly ignore those that are physically close to us as we respond to the demands of those disembodied voices on our machines, what effect will that have on human relationships in the future?

Why the need, too, for so much hurry?  We have become slaves to these tiny machines.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yet another beautiful quote

“In every important way we are such secrets from each other, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence.  Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable – which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live.  We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity.  But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.

Maybe I should have said we are like planets.  But then I would have lost some of the point of saying that we are like civilizations.  The planets may all have been sloughed from the same star, but still the historical dimension is missing from that simile, and it is true that we all do live in the ruins of the lives of other generations, so there is a seeming continuity which is important because it deceives us.”
                                                              Marilynne Robinson: Gilead   

I have just read this lovely book, from which I take this quote.  There is much both in the book and the quote that I don’t really understand at first reading, and yet I know that it is teaching me much about life.  I love what she says about our being “such secrets from each other”, and being allowed “to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us”.
It is always such a delight for me to read a good book and discover a new author.  I now find that she has written two sequels to this book over a number of years, one called Home, which I am just starting and the other just published called Lila. 
I am always slightly suspicious of writers who seem to churn out books at rapid intervals, probably urged on by their publishers, and I always feel much more secure when I find that a writer’s books appear at long intervals.  This may be unfair to the more prolific writers, but the long gestation of a book often allows me to savour the deep pleasure of words which have been pondered over, many often discarded over time, and just their essence appearing in the final book.  Too many books I have recently read have just been too long and too what I call “unedited”.  A good editor would surely have pruned much away. 
Long may the Marilynne Robinsons of this world work slowly to bring forth masterpieces such as the one I have just read.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Photos from Nanning

These three photos give a flavour of our visit.  The first shows the group of students in front of the Tong You San He centre in Nanning, with our host, Liu Lihong next to me and Guy Caplan to my left.

The second is a little group of us at the Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine in front of the statue of Zhang Zhong Jing.

The third shows Guy and me, with our third speaker, Lei Ming, and our interpreter at our seminar at the University.

Good Wood quote from Anna Karenina

You could not have a better description of the qualities of the Wood element than that from this passage which I came across when reading Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in my hotel room in China.

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.  And as he came out into the farmyard, Levin, like a tree n spring that knows not what form will be taken by the young shoots and twigs imprisoned in its swelling buds, hardly knew what undertakings he was going to begin upon now in the farm work that was so dear to him.  But he felt that he was full of the most splendid plans and projects.”

Back from my 6th visit to China

Each time I come back from China, I become increasingly aware of the importance tradition plays in its life and how much less this seems to be true of England.  This was particularly so on this visit when I gave a talk to some 300 students of traditional Chinese medicine at the Guangxi University of Chinese Medicine.  As I stood outside the lecture hall waiting to be introduced, I could hear the students in unison chanting a text appearing on the large screen behind the platform.  I was told that this represented a passage from the writings of Sun Si Miao about the purity and sincerity of the great physician, which they recite each day before they start their classes.  This is much as if medical students over here were daily to recite the Hippocratic Oath.

As they finished and I was led on to the platform, I felt  that I was being ushered into the presence of a long line of Chinese practitioners stretching back many hundreds of years, much as I always feel that JR Worsley stands at my shoulder as I talk about five element acupuncture.  This feeling was made even stronger by being asked to be photographed at the feet of a giant statue of Zhang Zhong Jing (150 – 215 AD), writer of the "Treatise on Exogenous Febrile Disease” which towers over the campus. The sense of a long tradition of traditional medicine is undoubtedly and quite understandably much stronger in China, the country of its birth, than anything experienced in other countries.  And it is now accompanied by a realization of the tragic discontinuity of these old traditions caused by the upheavals of its recent past.

This is why our visits are regarded by our hosts as a heartening reconnection to what has been lost.  Five element acupuncture is seen as a pure form of traditional acupuncture whose roots lie buried deep in the Nei Jing and whose great trunk is now growing ever stronger new branches back in China.

I am so very delighted by increasing evidence of the rebirth of five element acupuncture amongst the many new students attracted to the seminars we have been giving over the past three years.  It pleases me that the group of our first students are now themselves giving preparatory seminars to new students before we arrive so that we no longer need to teach the most basic principles of five element acupuncture, but can each time move on to a more advanced level.

There were 70 students in this latest group, half of them new and half practitioners who had come to previous seminars. Unfortunately Mei Long could not be with us this time, so Guy Caplan and I had to work a little harder.  I was asked how many more new students we could accommodate next time we go, which will be in April 2015, and I said as many as can fit into the new premises of the Tong You San He Centre where we teach.  I understand this to be about 90 – 100.  Since we include in each seminar somewhat hastily arranged diagnoses of each new student’s guardian element, this represents a significant challenge to us.  But it is a challenge which I have learnt we must accept, since to leave a new student of five element acupuncture with no idea at all of their own element undermines their confidence in what they are learning. 

As groups of them line up for us to try and see what diagnostic pointers we can observe to help in our diagnoses, I always tell them that this is a very inadequate form of diagnosis, and not at all what they should be doing with their own patients, but that the time constraints we are working under make it the only possible one, given the numbers in our seminars.  The students are therefore quite happy if later during the seminar, after watching them carefully, we decide to change our diagnosis.  And each of then is given a treatment consisting of an Aggressive Energy drain and source points of the diagnosed element as a further way both of teaching them the basic simple tenets of our practice, and of allowing us to observe the effects of this treatment to help us assess whether we think our diagnosis is correct or not.

We came back, as usual, laden with presents, so that even though I took over a large batch of my books to give to any English-speaking practitioners in the group, and thought I would return with a half-empty suitcase, I was still overweight at the check-in desk!








Saturday, November 15, 2014

Good Metal quotes

I have just found these good Metal quotes, to be added to my quotes for Earth and Wood (my blogs of 31 August 2014 and 18 September 2014)

 “He grew in the shadow of this absent father, admired from afar.”
                                                                        Laurence Scott:  Witchbroom

 Nothing of grief was said
Only there was a space in the night sky
Where a special star no longer shone, a space
Was there and made him cry
And it did not help at all if anyone said,
Who had never watched her face,
“You will get over it, others have their dead”,
He did not listen, perhaps he did not hear,
The last thing he wanted was to get over it.
She was not there.  One star was now unlit.”

Two Together

It will always go with love, this delicate sadness,
Almost delectable sometimes as in Autumn
When the copper and gold and yellow leaves surrender
To the afterglow of Summer.  I can recall
Feeling sad in September, thinking of school
And wanting the long holiday extended...

                                                                        Elizabeth Jennings:  Tributes

“So that, to this day, I feel almost as if I am a product of an immaculate conception.  Like Jesus who didn’t know who his biological father was either.  I have often thought it was this lack of knowledge of his earthly father that led him to his “heavenly” one, for there is in all of us a yearning to know our own source, and no source is likely to seem too far fetched to a lonely fatherless child”

                                                                        Alice Walker: The Temple to My Familiar


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sixth seminar in China

Guy and I are off to China again on Sunday for my sixth visit there and Guy’s fourth.  I had to tot up on my fingers the number of visits, and was surprised to find they were as many as that.  Luckily there is now a non-stop British Airways flight from Heathrow to Chengdu where, again, we will be met by our lovely Chengdu group of practitioners.  They shepherd us beautifully around from one airport terminal to another, and invite us out to a lunch in-between.  Then on to Nanning, where Liu Lihong and his group of practitioners will be waiting for us at the airport, with the usual huge clusters of flowers and warm cries of greeting, rather to the bewilderment of the Chinese travellers surrounding us.

We have a leisurely first day to recover from our jet lag (13 hours flight!), then the hard work begins.  Each day is full to the brim with teaching, supervising treatments and trying to give all those coming for the first time some idea of their element.  This entails observing them carefully throughout our two weeks there to see whether our initial diagnosis still feels alright, and, if not, trying to work out in double-quick time which other element it might be.  This is not something for the faint-hearted, and, as I have said before, it takes some courage even to attempt a diagnosis under such very rushed and quite stressful conditions.  I’m pleased, though, that at previous seminars I had sufficient time to correct any diagnosis I was not happy with.  And if these same practitioners come again this time, Guy and I will double-check whether we are happy with our original diagnoses.

As usual, there will be over 60 practitioners at the seminar, of which 40 have already been to previous seminars and 20 will be new people.  I like the mix of the more experienced and the total novices, and love seeing how the more experienced are now gradually stepping more confidently into the role of teacher.   

Publication of my blog book: On being a five element acupuncturist

I have just completed revising the final proofs of my latest book On being a five element acupuncturist, which will soon be hot off the Singing Dragon Press.  I call it my blog book because it includes the majority of the blogs I have been writing since 2010, and represents 4 years’ hard, but enjoyable work.  I find that seeing the blogs in book form is very different from reading them on-line.  Somehow by putting them together into a book brings something out from them as a complete text which differs from what I call the snippets which individual blogs represent.

Anyway, I, as a lover of books, and not a person who enjoys reading by Kindle, however necessary this can sometimes be, as for example when travelling to China, am enjoying seeing the blogs now in the permanent form of a book rather than the ephemeral form of a computer-driven blog.

The book can be ordered from Singing Dragon Press for delivery in early January.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Always query your diagnosis

I woke this morning with a warm feeling in my heart.  Yesterday we had another one of our very successful and satisfying seminar days which I share with Guy Caplan.
I always like to focus these days on diagnosing the elements in patients our participants want help with, or, as this time, diagnosing the participants themselves who want a clearer picture of their own element.  You will note that I say “a clearer picture” rather than a definite diagnosis.  This is something I insist upon, because I am so aware that a diagnosis can initially only be a tentative hypothesis and awaits confirmation from the way in which a patient responds to treatment.  In other words, we are never sure that we have the right guardian element until that element has shown us, through its positive reaction to treatment, that this treatment is directed in the right place along the circle of the elements.
I know that hovering over all five element acupuncturists is the picture of JR Worsley interacting with a patient for a few minutes, and then turning to us with an immediate diagnosis of one element.  This picture can delude us into thinking that every diagnosis we make should be equally as fast.  But, as JR told us as students, it had taken him more than 40 years’ hard work to get to the stage he had reached.  We would all be able to do the same, he said, once we had the same number of years’ practice behind us.  So those of us with far fewer years’ experience will have to accept that tracking an element down to its source in a patient takes more than just a few minutes, and very often many more than just a few treatments.
What I tell students is that no patient minds how long this takes provided they feel our compassion for them.  A practitioner, Jo, who has attended many of our seminars, has just sent me the following lovely quote:  People don't care what you know, they want to know that you care.”  As long as we show we care, a patient will trust us to know what we are doing and allow us the time to work out gradually which element we should address with our treatment.  We must never allow ourselves to be hurried by our patients into feeling that things should be moving more quickly than they are.  One of the things we were told as students was that it takes about a month of treatment for every year of illness.  That does not mean continuous weekly treatments, but it is a helpful rule of thumb, and allows us to tailor our expectations to a more realistic level.
Once my patients have started treatment, I have noticed that very few of them, if any, seem to spend much time talking about their symptoms, but instead want to talk about their life in general.  In fact they often forget altogether why they originally came to see me, evidence that patients do indeed want “care”, and not necessarily a “cure”, although with care often comes cure, since usually the two are closely related.
Our next seminar will be in the spring. In the meantime, Guy and I are off to China again in mid-November.  Our usual enthusiastic group of practitioners over there are again organizing a preparatory five element course for the people who will be attending for the first time so that we will be preaching already to the converted.  And luckily the new edition of the Mandarin version of my Handbook of Five Element Practice, with its Teach Yourself supplement, is flying off the shelves over there, and will give Chinese practitioners new to five element acupuncture a firm foundation on which to base their practice.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Element-watching with the Ryder Cup

As everybody knows who has read this blog, I enjoy watching sport as a pleasant diversion from the horrors of much of what is going on out there in the world at the moment, and also because sportspeople reveal their elements much more clearly when under the extreme stresses competitive sport subjects them to.

So I have been watching the Ryder Cup, mostly on playback, since I was up at the British Acupuncture Council’s annual conference for part of the weekend.  And much of my watching has concentrated upon the Fire element, because not only is the leading golfer of the day, Rory McIlroy, most obviously Fire, but so is another well-known golfer, Sergio Garcia.  So that watching them together was a supreme example of the qualities particular to the Fire element.  Not only did they stoke each other’s Fire up so that they seemed to be having a little party between them all the time they played, but their joy also lit up the crowds watching them. 

If you are unsure about what exactly distinguishes the Fire element from other elements, you can do no better than playing back those parts of the Ryder Cup from the TV programmes showing them in action.  Watching these two golfers will teach you more about how to recognise the Fire element than any number of words.  They are examples of how Fire lights up both itself and those around them, and I can guarantee that you will not be able to stop yourself smiling when you watch them.  Only the Fire element will have this effect.

And then compare the effect these two people have on the crowds and on you with other golfers not of the Fire element, for example the American golfer Phil Mickelson.  I think his element is Water, and though he is very warm towards the crowds and encourages their participation, he does not make me feel that I want to smile in the same way as I do whenever Rory McIlroy pops up on the screen.  And there was also a rather angry Wood golfer I had never seen before, called Patrick Reed, who is also worth watching as providing a useful comparison with Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia’s Fire and Mickelson’s Water.

Of course, since I don’t treat any of these people, I always have to remind myself and those reading this blog that I cannot be sure that I am diagnosing the right elements.  I therefore offer my diagnoses with the usual humility.  But it’s important that those of us who have been looking at the elements for many years (30 in my case) offer their expertise to those who are just starting on the road of five element acupuncture.  I am more likely to be right now than I was 30 years ago when I started on this journey.