Sunday, April 6, 2014

A lovely Picasso saying

I have just come across something which Pablo Picasso apparently said:  “One starts to get young at the age of 60.”

I love that.  I am many years older than Picasso was when he said that, but I quite understand the feeling.  And it sends me off to China today very young in heart, if slightly creaky in body.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

We all want to be heard

I am off to China again with Mei and Guy in a week.  And as usual before I go, I like to think of what stage I have reached in my own approach to my practice, and what will be the main theme around which we will build the two weeks of our seminar over there.  The title which came to my mind this morning was: “We all want to be heard”.

It sounds so simple, put in that way, but actually it is one of the most difficult things of all for us to feel secure enough in our relationship to our hearer to have the courage to open up sufficiently so that what we say reflects truly what we feel, and therefore what is heard by our hearers is truly what we would like them to hear.  What is so important for a good five element practice is that a patient must feel they can reveal what they are really feeling whilst knowing that what they reveal  is being heard and understood properly.  All too often, even in the caring professions, patients’ words become distorted by hearers’ preconceptions. 

So my two weeks with my Chinese students will centre around the importance of allowing a patient sufficient space and time to feel emotionally safe with us, and ensuring that for our part we do not cast our own shadows over our patients so that what we hear is a distortion of the reality.  When a patient feels that what they are telling us is being heard as they want us to hear it, this allows the elements within them to express themselves freely. When we cloud a patient’s elements through incomprehension, we will not perceive them as they truly are, and will therefore be unable to respond to their needs.  Elements can so easily disguise themselves, and, like snails under attack, draw back into their shells when they feel misunderstood.  And this inevitably distorts our diagnosis.

I will use these thoughts as the foundation for our two weeks in Nanning.  This is all the more important because Chinese culture places no emphasis on the importance of allowing patients to open up emotionally, and Chinese practitioners have to be encouraged to dare take their first tentative steps in this direction.  I well remember an incident from a previous visit to China, when an acupuncturist asked me, “But how do I learn to talk to my patients about their emotions?” 

I hope that after a further seminar with us she will be given some more help on how to do this.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The stresses caused by inequality

I am reading a very interesting book at the moment, The Spirit Level: why equality is better for everyone by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.  It has made me think a lot about the particular stresses of modern life, and whether different countries are subject to different stresses.  Since I am off to China again in a couple of weeks, it has become particularly relevant for me to look at what stresses we in this country are exposed to compared with those of the Chinese.

I am fascinated by the main message of the book which is how much extreme financial inequalities, such as those now experienced in this country, affect everybody, not just the poorest.  I was interested to see, for example that it was noticeable how local communities reacted in different ways in New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in contrast to the Chinese response to its devastating earthquake in 2008.  In the much more settled local communities in China there was much greater cooperation and help for the survivors than in New Orleans, with its very deprived communities, where looting and violence were the norm.  Sadly, of course, as China, too, becomes an increasingly unequal society, with the rich now becoming the super-rich, the support of a local community is becoming as rare as in this country, where the rich are now holed up in their large houses behind barriers, and the poor hammer at the gates with rage. 

All this increases the stresses of modern life in terms of mental health, alcoholism, obesity, infant mortality, the crime rate and much more, but equally affects those living behind those barred gates to a surprising degree.  This is a terrible downward spiral, encapsulated for me in the headline yesterday in the Guardian newspaper which states baldly “Divided Britain:  Five families own more than poorest 20%:  Handful of super-rich are wealthier than 12.6m Britons put together”.  Such enormous discrepancies in wealth, the authors of this book say, are the direct cause of some of the most complex types of modern illness, called, somewhat wittily, “anxiety disorders”, “affluenza virus” or “luxury fevers”, as the status anxieties that a consumer society fosters in everybody cause increasing levels of stress, unknown by me as a child during and after the second world war, when we didn’t go shopping for ever more tantalizing goods because the shops were empty.

Nor did we feel the lack of this at all.  I remember quite happily listening again and again to the few gramophone records we had, and reading again and again the few children’s books we had, and not feeling deprived at all – rather the reverse.

The message obviously is that where there is satisfaction with our lives, whether we are poor or rich, the healthier and happier we will be.  And the more status stress we cause ourselves by trying to emulate all the acquisitive habits of the rich (their clothes, their homes, their furnishings), the more illnesses we will suffer from.  There is a lesson here for acupuncturists, since our aim must surely be to help our patients live as peaceful and as fulfilled a life as possible.

Do read this book.  It opened my eyes to many reasons for the increasingly stressful environments we live in now, and made me understand why the enormous inequalities we see in the world today inevitably lead to increased ill-health.  We need to strive for greater equality for the sake of the health of all, not just of the poor.

This reminds me again of what my Indian friend, Lotika, asked me:  “Why do you in the West want to be happy?  We just accept.”  And this is what even the poorest Indians sleeping on the streets do, as I observed them as they smilingly made way for me on the pavements, and pointed out helpfully where I had to go as I stood waiting for a taxi at Delhi station.  I learnt a lot from that.  I could not imagine the same thing happening in this country now.  It is more likely that, in the same situation, far from being offered help, my handbag would be snatched from me.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Today's dummy culture

Why do all babies seem to need dummies now? This question often occurs to me as I watch babies passing me on the street, all lustily sucking on dummies, or as I watch parents shove a dummy back into their offspring’s mouth even when the baby is not crying out for it.  Years ago, dummies were frowned upon;  it was thought instead that if babies cried they should be given the warm nipple with its natural supply of comforting food rather than the unpleasant cold plastic variety which gives a baby nothing, however much the baby tries to suck from it.

I find it interesting to speculate why the dummy has become such a universal accessory to a baby’s life.  It worries me that babies now grow up being sold an illusion, tempted to believe, as the dummy goes in the mouth and stimulates the sucking reflex, that it will provide food, whilst it does nothing of the kind.  It is a bit as though you offer somebody what appears to be a sweet in a lovely wrapping, only for them to find when the wrapping is undone that there is nothing inside after all.  It can surely not be healthy to keep on disappointing a baby in this way.

It is little wonder then that so many people have problems relating to food in their later life, since all eating habits start in childhood, as we know.  In five element terms, this shapes a person’s relationship to their Earth element, the mother element.  The provision of nourishment for her child, which is a mother’s first task, should always be associated with  the love and warmth of being held close to a mother, not the stuffing of a surrogate plastic nipple into a baby’s mouth.

As I watch babies sucking feverishly on their dummies, my heart bleeds for what this is doing to the development of their Earth element, and their capacity to nourish themselves later in life.  And perhaps, too, this goes some way to explain the sight of so many adults streaming along the road to work, all carrying their dummy-replacements, a plastic cup of coffee, as though they, too, have been brainwashed since childhood by the need to have something, anything, in their mouth to suck on.

Just as babies can’t nowadays seem to do without a dummy, so adults can’t seem to do without a cup of coffee in the hand.




410 words


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Encroaching upon the space of others

I am increasingly aware of how people appear to have less and less respect for the space of others.  I am sure this must somehow be related to the increasing immersion in mobile phones as people walk around, which cocoons them in a private world.  In the last few days I have noticed how often people walking towards me in the street, talking on their phones, or, worse still, texting with the undivided attention this requires, have often been so oblivious of my approach that they have bumped into me, or simply expected me to move out of the way.  This is particularly noticeable when it rains, and umbrellas are added to the mix. I then not only have to take avoiding action but have to duck under the outstretched umbrellas of those so unaware of me.

With mobile phones there is increasing interaction with people far away from us and increasingly less with those who are a mere few feet away from us.  This must surely impact upon human relationships, as it does upon the pleasure I take in a simple walk along the street.






Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A talk for the British Acupuncture Council's Annual Conference in September 2014

I have been asked to give the keynote address at the British Acupuncture Council’s Annual Conference at the end of September 2014.  I hesitated a little before accepting, since giving public talks is not what I wish to do now (except in China!), but then I decided to accept because what I have been asked to talk about is my role in the return of five element acupuncture to China.  And that is something I feel very passionate about.

I have to provide a title for my talk, and two have so far occurred to me:  “Five element acupuncture comes full circle” and “The return of five element acupuncture to its roots in China”.  Probably I will decide on a title which brings these two thoughts together.

The real impetus to my accepting the BAC’s invitation is my strong belief that everybody involved in acupuncture, particularly those practising what I call modern Chinese acupuncture, commonly known as TCM, should be aware of how little of the spirit is involved in its practice, whereas how much of the spirit is there in the classics which all Chinese acupuncturists still learn as though by rote.  This leads to a kind of subtle schizophrenia in relation to their practice, where, my Chinese students tell me, no attention at all is paid to the spirit, despite it being so heavily emphasized in classical texts.

I feel the return of five element acupuncture to China is an important step towards bridging this unnecessary divide.  And it is regarded as such by all I encounter in China.  As one very senior regional official told me as I treated him, “We have lost our soul in China.  We need you here.”


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The wonders of the internet!

Yesterday, out of the blue, I was amused to see that nearly 1000 people had suddenly signed on to read my blog, most of them looking at what I wrote about the moxa stick.  Usually the number is a sedate 50 – 100 a day. 

When I traced this back, the majority of the pageviews had originated in Facebook accounts in the States.  Somebody somewhere over there, who has a very active Facebook account, must have linked me in to their account by accident.  There must be quite a few surprised Americans who have found themselves reading all about the uses of the moxa stick.  And it's one of my longest blogs, too.

Today the number has dropped a little, but is well above 400, so some 600 of those viewing my blog yesterday have obviously felt no further urge to discover more about five element acupuncture.  Acupuncture suppliers, though, may be surprised to find that orders for moxa sticks have increased substantially.

Footnote to the above, added 22 February 2014:

All is now explained!  My lovely publishers, Singing Dragon Press, shared my blog about the moxa stick (posted 9 February) on their Facebook page, creating, as they put it, ”an enormous positive response”.




Sunday, February 16, 2014

"The older mind may just be a fuller mind"

It’s heartening for somebody struggling as I am increasingly to remember the names of people, and assuming, like my contemporaries, that this is a sign of an aging mind, to read an article in the Observer today, quoting from another in the New York Times.

It appears that researchers in Germany are wondering whether indeed older minds may just be fuller minds, rather than atrophying minds.  The article states, cheerily, that “since educated older people generally know more words than younger people, the experiment simulates what an older brain has to do to retrieve a word.  And when the researchers incorporated that difference into the models, most aging “deficits” disappeared.”

The article finishes on this happy note for me:  “It’s not that you’re slow.  It’s that you know so much.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The many uses of the moxa stick

I have been asked to describe how the moxa stick (a cigar-shaped roll of the herb mugwort, encased in paper) can be used to help bedsores (see my last blog).  In order not to reinvent the wheel, I am attaching below a handout I gave my students at SOFEA some years ago which covers all the points I would like to make now.  It’s rather a long handout, because there are so many uses to which we can put the moxa stick!
"Mugwort appears to help cell regeneration and heals at a very deep level.  Its heat, if applied for a sufficiently long time over traumatized tissue, will eventually draw blood to the surface, and the action of blood helps in numerous ways to restore the body to health.  Everybody should be encouraged to have a moxa stick at home because it is one of the most effective ways of dispelling pain, getting rid of infection and general healing that I know of.  For non-acupuncturists reading this, you can buy moxa sticks from any acupuncture supplier.  It’s also sensible to buy a moxa stick holder at the same time to help extinguish the stick at the end of use, though a suitable sized candlestick holder is just as good.

I give below some of the many successful uses of moxa from my own practice.  In many cases the moxa stick was used as a support to acupuncture treatment, but it is very effective on its own.

How to use it:  You don’t need to remove the paper covering, a common failing with those using it for the first time.  This holds the moxa in place.  The stick can be lit through the paper.  It takes some time to light the stick properly, so be patient.  A great deal of smoke must come from it and you must feel great heat from the tip before you start applying it.  It often goes out, and has to be re-lit.  To do this, cut off the few centimetres of ash before starting to re-light it.  You need a lot of patience using the stick, so you must prepare your patients for this.  There is no point whatsoever applying lukewarm heat.  The stick must be so hot that it becomes painful after a little time, at which point you draw the stick slightly further away.

Action:  Move the stick slowly over the area to be healed, keeping it as close to the skin as possible so that it receives maximum heat.  Tell the patient to tell you when it gets too hot so that you can draw it away a little.  It is important that maximum heat is applied, and that you warn the patient that it will get very hot, and that that is essential.  Obviously be careful not to blister the skin.  Don’t move the stick over too wide an area (an area of a few centimetres at a time is better), because the skin will cool down too quickly between applications.  You need concentrated heat for the stick to work.

Obviously it is easier if the patient applies the stick him/herself, as they are better able to control the heat, but this is only possible on areas of the skin which can be reached by them.

For any very localized problem, such as a small cut, do not move the stick at all, but hold it in one position as close to the skin as possible, withdrawing it only when it becomes too hot for the patient to tolerate.  This draws the infection out of the area, and is particularly successful with things like boils or whiteheads.  In these cases, you go as close to the skin as possible, wait until the patient tells you it is very hot and draw the stick away completely for a few second to allow the area to cool down a little, before re-applying

How often do you use the stick: There have to be frequent applications for any stubborn infection or skin condition to be relieved.  These must be at least once a day, for a period of at least 10 minutes and longer if the patient has the patience.  The longer and the more frequent the better.  One of my patients with very severe psoriasis over large areas of the body applied the stick for at least half an hour twice a day very successfully.  It took about two weeks for the very bad patches to disappear.  There is no contra-indication to the frequency of use. 

What it can be used for
Any infected area at all:  This means things like ulcers, such as those caused by bedsores, infected fingers, infected scar tissue or tooth-ache caused by an infected tooth.
Any skin complaints whatsoever, particularly stubborn ones like psoriasis. Psoriasis leaves a layer of dead skin on the surface, which eventually cracks and leads to bleeding below it. A patient should be given a supply of moxa sticks and told to use it over the most affected area of traumatized skin.  Because the heat has to penetrate the dead skin, it will take some time for the patient to feel any warmth, and the application of the moxa stick must continue until the area to which it is being applied becomes really warm to the touch and remains warm once the stick is removed.  Often the psoriasis is over a very wide area of the body, and it would take too long to moxa every patch of psoriasis.  I have found, though, that really concentrating on one small patch has an effect throughout the body, as if the healing in one area leads to healing in another.  So try one patch at a time.  Since the patient will do most of the work (although you can help at little each time he/she comes for treatment), it is important that you don’t give them too great a task to do, otherwise they won’t do it. 
    Time taken:  Probably at least 10 minutes on each badly infected patch until it glows with warmth. You know things are moving if the dry skin starts to drop off, the bleeding stops and a layer of fresh new, pink skin appears round the edges of the psoriasis patches.  This is the new skin forming below the surface which eventually pushes off the dead skin.  Carry on moxaing over the new skin, but more gently and from further away, as it is very delicate and you obviously don’t want to blister it.
    If the skin complaint is on the face such as pimples, where the moxa could burn the skin, place a layer of paper between the skin and the stick as protection, placing your hands carefully over the paper so that is does not get so hot as to burn.  The skin should be red and glowing when you finish, so suggest the patient does the moxaing in the evening, not just before they go out to work.
Boils:  For very localized skin complaints, like boils, do not move the stick, but hold it right above the boil.  You will find that the infected material will gradually be drawn out to the surface through the heat.
Whiteheads:  These can cause quite unsightly lumps on the skin, and are usually removed surgically.  The method for removing them is to hold the stick closely above them.  Again, the impacted sebaceous gland will heal itself, releasing the sebum.  If it is a large whitehead it may leave a little crater, possibly with some residual infection.  If this is so,carry on moxaing until the area looks really healed.
Cuts and blisters:  If there is bleeding, you can see a layer of healed tissue forming very soon after you moxa.  Large and weeping blisters will develop a healing skin overnight if moxa is applied.  Cuts also heal very much more quickly.
Surgical adhesions:  If there is scarring either on or below the surface after surgery which is causing adhesions, applying the moxa stick over the area will help the distressed scar tissue reintegrate better.  A patient of mine had had a hysterectomy two years before, and the scar still tugged painfully deep inside.  She used the stick successfully to get rid of the pain.  She said she could feel the tightness loosening as she applied the moxa stick.  It is very important to give a patient recovering from any form of surgery a stick to speed the healing, and it is excellent to get rid of infections over the surgical area, for example in the case of a Caesarian.
Viral complaints such as herpes and shingles:  I suggested that one of my patients should use the stick on a painful herpes patch of skin on her buttock which appeared at the time of each period.  To my surprise it disappeared after one application, never to re-occur.  I have also given it to a patient with shingles, and this alleviated the pain enormously. I imagine it would also help chicken pox sufferers but I have not yet had an opportunity to try this out.
Pain of any kind:  Wherever there is pain, such as aching joints, twisted ankle, soreness.  The stick will help the area feel warm and loved, and the pain often goes or at least lessens.
Drawing a splinter out:  If you can’t get the splinter out (i.e., if it is deeply below a nail), moxa over the nail.  This will get rid of any infection that might build up under the nail, and I have found that the splinter is gradually pushed out as the nail grows.

Finally, the secret is always to think of the moxa stick if there is any problem on the surface of the skin.  If the patient feels better from doing it, then tell him/her to carry on, if worse (which I have actually never found), then to stop. If nothing happens after 4-5 days of application, then there is no point continuing because it is ineffective.

Three warnings:  1. Patients (and practitioners) often don’t apply the heat for long enough or close enough to the skin.  You have to get the technique right and have the patience and time to carry on applying the stick over some days for it to work.
                             2. Make sure you have extinguished the heated stick properly, otherwise it will continue to smoulder for a long time.
                            3.  Because it creates quite a lot of smoke, it's best to use it in a well-ventilated room, or ideally outside in the open, such as in the garden.  Some people find the smell it leaves behind quite strong, but don't allow that to stop you from using it!

Copyright: Nora Franglen 2014"

I hope those reading this will start using the moxa stick more.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My third hospital visit to treat my patient

This continues on from my blog of 20 January.

I never know whether what I am doing helps my patients until they themselves provide me with evidence of improvement.  Assessing the result of a previous treatment in the case of a very ill patient therefore becomes all the more crucial.  This week I was blessed with hearing my patient say as I approached her hospital bed, “Nora, they are amazed at how well I am.”  And I was amazed, too.  She is continuing with her weekly chemotherapy, and is tolerating the side-effects surprisingly well.  She is still on painkillers, but no longer needs morphine, and her lungs are now functioning without distressing her so that she has no need of additional oxygen.

Her eyes were bright, and she was surprisingly cheerful, considering that she is suffering from painful bedsores.  They are thinking of allowing her home in a few weeks once she has completed the chemotherapy sessions.  The hospital can’t believe that she is tolerating the chemotherapy so well, but I know that III (Bl) 38 (43), that miracle point for helping the blood, can indeed produce miracles and help her body cope as well as it is with the poisons being pumped into it.

My treatment this time was III 38 again (one of the few points in five element acupuncture which can be used repeatedly), IV (Ki) 16, which JR Worsley told us is like a III 38 of the Kidney, finishing with III (Bl) 67 and IV (Ki) 7, the tonification points.

I will see her again in a week and hope that the improvement continues.  As I left, she called out to me, “I love you” which sent me on my way with tears in my eyes. 

I wish, though, that I could have used the moxa stick to help her bedsores, but the smoke would not be allowed because it might set off the fire alarms.  One of my patients managed to persuade the doctors to let her sister use it on her bedsores in hospital, and told me that they cleared up miraculously quickly.  If I were younger, I would like to have looked at doing some research on the moxa stick and its ability to help all kinds of skin problems.  Often bedsores for the bedridden are the most painful thing  they have to suffer, and could so easily be helped with this little magical stick of mugwort, the support of the medical staff and a little bit of inventiveness at finding a place with some suitable outside ventilation.