Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The taking of "selfies"

The following is a quotation from a book I am reading at the moment.  It is a detective story, and its author has many interesting insights into life.  The book is called Death in the Tuscan Hills by Marco Vichi.  Here he is describing somebody who is leafing through a photo album.
He retired to the kitchen with a box of old family photos…..Photos were ruthless.  They showed moments lost for ever, people long since dead.  They were an attempt to cheat death, a painful illusion, and looking at them made one more aware than ever that time was a mystery.
After looking at them all one by one, he closed the box of memories with a sigh.”
Perhaps, indeed, people’s recent mania for the constant taking of photos, usually of themselves, rather than giving themselves time to observe life at first-hand through their own eyes, is part of an attempt to ”cheat death”, to re-assure ourselves that we are alive.  I observe with some incredulity and much sadness this endless taking of photos, the living of life at one remove which this represents.  So many pieces of electronic equipment, such as smart phones with their numerous gadgets, now put a barrier up between people and the world around them.  I wonder what effect this is having on our personal relationships.
I was also saddened recently to hear that, far from connecting people to one another, as Facebook is intended to do, it can have just the opposite effect, that of isolating people.  I have been told that young girls can now spend hours alone in their rooms taking photo upon photo of themselves until they are satisfied with the one they eventually feel is good enough to send out to the world as their image of themselves.  This is more a case of a disconnect from the world rather than a closer connection to it.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Being incurably curious

I have just passed a lovely sign on the outside of the Wellcome Collection in the Marylebone Road here in London.  Appropriately for its name and for what the Wellcome Collection does, which is focused on medicine and helping the ill, it says in bold letters “Welcome to the Incurably Curious”.  On the bus ride back home I decided that it would be good to adopt this as my own catchphrase, but with a slight modification.  I would amend it slightly to read “Welcome to the Curably Curious”, in honour of my calling as an acupuncturist, because it is our curiosity, in five element terms, which, far from “killing the cat” as the saying goes, helps us to cure.

And curiosity is what we need, an infinite dose of it throughout every minute of our working lives to help us understand our patients better and through this understanding restore them to good health.

I have always been incurably curious, from childhood onwards, staring unashamedly at people to try and fathom what makes them tick and how they relate to others.  I think people have always at some level puzzled me, challenging my Small Intestine to understand what is going on in another person at every new encounter.  I suppose it was therefore only natural that I would eventually gravitate towards a calling which feeds my desire to explore the intricacies of human relationships, however late in my life this was, for I only started practising acupuncture in my mid-40’s, exactly at the midpoint of my life when viewed from my present standpoint.  I am a living example of the dictum that it is never too late to change the direction of one’s life, and that it is often only by passing through the dark days that light begins to shine through.

For I came across acupuncture, or as I like to think somewhat fancifully, acupuncture found me, at a crossroads in my life, with the early part of my adult life, that of being wife and mother, almost behind me, and the next part hidden behind what seemed to me to be an impenetrable fog.  So the moment when I encountered acupuncture for the first time surprised me with its rightness;  it opened a door wide on to a completely new vision of life which has fascinated me, occupied me and preoccupied me ever since.

As a coda to this blog, I have just read the following passage in a book by Barney Norris called Five Rivers meet on a Wooded Plain (a lovely title in itself). This seems to me to describe very acutely what intrigues me so much about encountering other people:

“So I love watching the way another person holds themselves when they are alone and thinking.  Their actions and postures are windows into the vast and secret worlds below the surface of the day around me, the lives of others.” 

I love the thought of those “vast and secret worlds” which surround me.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An interesting treatment

A question:  if you are a five element acupuncturist and a patient comes to you with the following medical history, how would you start your treatment, particularly if the timescale is very short?  My patient was only in this country for a further week, was then flying to France for two more weeks, followed by another stay of a few weeks in London before finally returning to her home country at the other end of the world, with no five element acupuncturist within living distance.  

Here first is my patient’s medical history, which she has given me permission to write about.  She is a 70 year old woman, who had breast cancer 20 years ago, and had her left breast removed.  She refused to have chemo- or radiotherapy at the time, but has done other kinds of more natural treatments which she feels have helped her.  She developed cancer of the uterus and stomach about 10 years ago, had a full hysterectomy and was given 6 months to live.

Her most severe current problem is a blocked artery under the left arm.  She has been told that she is now at very high risk of a stroke. Her left arm swells up badly very frequently.  She also has very severe constipation, vertigo and panic attacks.

What do we do if we only have such a short time in which to treat?  We all learnt as students that we should gradually build up our patients’ energy by slow and steady treatment on what we have diagnosed as the guardian element.  That means an average of about 6 – 10 weekly treatments to start with.  This gives us time not only to get to know the patient but to assess whether the element we have chosen to treat is effecting the required level of change which confirms our diagnosis.  Should we then accept to help a patient when we have only a much reduced timescale to work with?

This is a dilemma which many of us have to learn to face, particularly in such a frenzied world where our patients are often away on business flying from country to country.  There will be many other reasons, too, why patients are unable to grant themselves the luxury of having the regular treatments needed.  So what do we do?  The simplest thing for me might have been to say I could not help  the patient because there was not enough time to treat her properly.  Experience has however taught me how effective a simple AE drain can be, even if there is little time to do much more.  Often I have found a surprising improvement in pulse qualities after removing the AE needles, even when I have found no AE. I see this as the elements giving a sigh of relief at being addressed, as though they know that help is on its way.

This was true for this particular patient, too.  She had no AE, somewhat surprisingly I felt after all the major surgical procedures she had undergone, but her pulses changed quite dramatically.  From feeling very uneven and jerky to me, they stabilized themselves before I did any other treatment.

If there is nobody apart from us who can offer the five element treatment which a patient asks us for, and that patient is in great need of help, as my patient is, then I think we have to tell ourselves that surely some treatment, however little, is better than none.  We have to be brave enough, as well, to adapt our treatment protocols which we learnt as students, and do whatever we think it is safe to do in the little time granted to us.  In other words, we have to take some short-cuts, something that is only advisable in these kind of cases.  This has to be done on the understanding that we must not be lulled into introducing similar short-cuts into our everyday practice, a temptation we might feel because we may think that we can speed up treatment in this way.  All of us in the world today, patients and practitioners alike, are always in a hurry and like to cut corners unless we take care not to.

Treatment given:
I am listing the following treatments with the above strict proviso.  These are the two treatments I was able to give my patient before she left London yesterday (all points with moxibustion and all tonified, except, of course, the AE needles).  She did not want me to needle her on her left arm, so all points on the arm were only needled on the right side.
Based on meeting her socially on a few occasions before she came for treatment, my diagnosis was that she was Outer Fire (Heart Protector and Three Heater).
Treatment 1:  Checked for IDs.  No treatment for this needed
                      Checked for AE:  None          
                      IV (Ki) 24  (I would not normally do this point at the first treatment, but she had gone through so much over the years, that I thought she needed this kind of spiritual resurrection which the point offers)
VI (TH) 4, V (HP) 7:  Source points, with moxa. (We were told by JR Worsley that we could use moxa on these points only after 2 years in practice. He said that novice acupuncturists have a tendency to leave the moxa burning for too long on the cones, which is dangerous over an artery)

Treatment 2:  Patient told me that she had felt very good indeed on the day of the treatment, and had had a surprising amount of energy the next day.

No blocks found (no H/W, no E/E blocks)
III (Bl) 38 (43): A point which reaches every cell in the body
III (Bl) 22, 14 (Normally we would wait a little longer to needle the AEPs (back shu points), and simply do III 38 at this treatment)  
VI (TH) 3 (tonification point)

* Patient suddenly said that she was experiencing one of her panic
attacks, and had to rush off to open her bowels. I talked gently to her to calm her down, and asked what she felt she was most frightened of.  She said that it was fearing that her partner might die before she did.  She had witnessed the death of a close member of the family at first-hand a few years earlier, and could not forget the trauma of this. 

I then needled I (Ht) 7 as a first-aid point, to help calm the Heart.  She recovered quickly and was happy for me to continue treatment.  I finished by needling the remaining tonification point on the Heart Protector:

V (HP) 9

She looked very peaceful as she left, and phoned me the next day before going to the airport.  She had slept for a full 10 hours after the treatment, and felt totally refreshed.

Treatment 3 will be in a few weeks’ time.  My suggestions to myself for the next treatment are:

Checking for blocks (of course!)
CV 8 or 14 (CV 14 addresses greater deficiency of the spirit than does CV 8.  Which point I choose will depend on how she is when I see her next)
VI (TH) 6, V (HP) 8 (horary points at horary time), or if that time is not possible, then:
VI (TH) 10, V (HP) 7.  I always remember JR saying that VI 10 Heavenly Well is a “much under-used point”, which is why I like to use it.  And which Fire person would not like to take a dip in a Heavenly Well? 

I think this sequence of two treatments is a good example of my dictum:  “The simpler the better”.  Just because somebody has been very ill, and even now is not out of danger does not mean that we should forget the basic rule of our practice, which is to do as little as possible, and give the elements the chance to do their work without too much interference from us.

(With apologies for the formatting errors in this blog.  My computer seems to have developed a mind of its own, and I don't want to waste any more time trying to correct things.)





Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Measuring life with coffee spoons

It is with delight that I come across pieces of writing which make me laugh because of their rightness.  I heard two such this week, one after the other in the space of a few hours, and here they are.
The first came during a day’s reading of TS Eliot poems on the BBC.  One of his lines reads:
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”.
The second was something I heard the art critic, John Berger, saying, when he was talking about writing, and which formed part of the TV obituary on his death a few days ago: 
“(Writing) helps me make sense of things.”
Both sayings resonate deeply with me.  As people who know me will recognize, I, too, appear to measure out my life with the coffee spoons I use to stir the many espressos I like to drink in the many different coffee houses around London in which I do my thinking and my writing.
And writing, which is something I have found I have to do, does indeed “help me make sense of things”.  It helps me make sense not only of my work as acupuncturist, but of my life in general.
So it is with great joy that I welcome these two quotations into my collection of sayings that enrich my life.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Two more quotes about the Wood and Metal elements

Sometimes I come across very appropriate quotations about the elements in books that I read.  I like to collect these.  Here are two more, one about the Wood element and the other about the Metal element, both from a book by Helen Dunmore called The Spell in Winter:

Wood quote:

I was bad at anger;  I’d always been bad at anger.  There was something pitiful in Miss Gallagher which muddled me.”

I, too, have always been "bad at anger".  That doesn't mean that I don't get angry.  I certainly do.  But my anger leaves a strong aftertaste in me which it takes me a long time to get rid of.  It is as though I am ashamed of feeling this emotion.  The "something pitiful" which the protagonist in this book feels is something which resonates with me, because I also tend to find quite legitimate excuses for the behaviour in people that has provoked my anger.

Metal quote:

“You live backwards as if there’s no tomorrow.”

I think this is a very acute observation of some aspects of the way in which Metal people live their lives, looking backwards and judging a past that is behind them.  I think that Wood, on the other hand, would like always  to "live forwards as if there will be no past".

Sunday, December 11, 2016

An attempt to de-mystify the term "possession" in five element acupuncture

There is much discussion going on in China at the moment around the term used in five element acupuncture which in English we call “possession”.  I gather that the Mandarin word which has been used to translate it has all the overtones which the English word has.  I have always felt that this is an unfortunate term, but one that is so embedded in five element practice that I have been reluctant to discard it and seek another, less charged one.  But now, because of the Chinese hesitancy in continuing to use it, it seems the right time to think again whether we need to change it to make it describe more accurately and appropriately the condition patients suffer from.  
I need first to define my understanding of the condition itself before trying to come up with a suitable new term for it.  It will help by describing what is, in effect, the very simple test we use to diagnose it.  Here the practitioner looks very closely straight into one of the patient’s eyes, and assesses how the patient reacts to this strongly focussed look.  In everyday life it is rare for us to stare straight into somebody’s eyes in this way, unless in an aggressive or very loving way.  In the normal course of events such an intense stare becomes uncomfortable both for the person staring and for the person being stared it, so that both will try to break off this close eye contact as soon as possible.  As a diagnostic tool in five element acupuncture, we are looking to see whether the patient does not react as expected, but instead continues to maintain eye contact without any apparent sign of discomfort.  In a non-possessed patient, there will be an almost immediate movement to the eye, a blink or a turning away, as evidence of the natural discomfort felt at being stared at in this way.  In possessed people, however, this does not happen;  the patient continues to stare unblinkingly at the practitioner.
This is the only, I repeat only, fail-safe way to diagnose this condition.  If present, it then requires a specific treatment which will clear it if done properly.  For the actual procedure, I would refer you to my Handbook of Five Element Practice (chapter 7 in the new Singing Dragon Press edition), which describes this in detail.
I have thought a great deal about what can cause possession, and then why the term seems to me to be an inaccurate and therefore misleading description, however ingrained it is in five element practice.  Most of my learning has come from observing my patients, chief amongst which is my experience of treating a young woman many years ago.  She had come for help to enable her to overcome her inability to sit down and eat with other people, having instead always to eat on her own.  She could not tell me when this fear of eating with others had started, nor could she think of any particular reason to explain it.  A few minutes after I had carried out the possession treatment, she said suddenly:  “When my mother went blind when I was 6…”  When I expressed my amazement that she had not told me this before, she was surprised to learn that she had not, adding, “They took me away to stay with my grandmother, and I thought my mother had died.  That was when I started to refuse to eat with other people.”  I realised then that the treatment had unlocked a door to her past which had been closed since her childhood.  I have had similar experiences with many other patients, where the possession treatment opened up some past history which was hindering them from living a full life.
I have come to regard possession as a form of defence mechanism protecting a patient from reliving some overpowering previous experience, a way of shutting themselves off from continuing to experience something that originally overwhelmed them.  When I was studying many years ago, one of my tutors told us that he regarded possession simply as a more extreme form of obsession, a condition in which the patient tries to gain some control over something which has overwhelmed them, whilst, in most cases, still managing to lead an apparently normal life.  In some people, however, such experiences become so overpowering that they cannot be controlled and can lead to serious psychological conditions, such as schizophrenia.
I do not regard possession as being the result of the invasion of some external force which the term might seem to imply.  I see it instead as an internal mechanism which patients develop to help them cope with a very difficult situation which they cannot deal with in any other way.  It is as though they put up a protective glass screen behind which they can hide themselves from the world, but which is often not visible to those around them.  My young patient had been living an apparently normal life, except with regard to her eating arrangements.  Possession should always therefore be seen as an escape route taken by those subject to some intolerable inner pain.
It is not easy to think of a good replacement term which removes the connection to other uses of the term which have a religious or mystical bias.  I am thinking this through carefully, and the only alternative I can think of at the moment is the term “Internal Dragons”.   This is the name given to one of the group of seven acupuncture points used in this treatment.  I remember being told some years ago that the seven points we use could be regarded as seven dragons chasing away seven demons, an image I liked.  This may again come a little too close to the concept of possession as occurring as a result of some invasion from outside, a kind of take-over by an alien force.  However, we can think of demons in much the same way as we talk of a person being subject to the “demon drink”, something somebody brings upon themselves, not something which attacks them from outside. 
It is heart-warming to me that five element acupuncture has such a simple and profound treatment protocol for helping restore to good health people suffering from such dislocation in their lives, and one which can break down the internal barrier that life has forced them to place between themselves and the world outside.  I find the image of calling upon kindly dragons to fight the internal demons which are trying to take control of our patients’ lives strangely comforting.
If I, and others around me, can think of a better term which satisfies the Chinese objections, I will pass this on in a future blog.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How the elements cope with responsibility

Having written about the Wood element in positions of power in my last blog (posted 5 December), I feel I should turn my attention to the other elements.    Most obvious of all is a very clear representative of the Metal element, Barack Obama (with, standing at his shoulder, one of the greatest statesmen of them all, Nelson Mandela).  I can think of no greater antithesis to Donald Trump than Obama.  Where Trump is impulsive, given to displays of unco-ordinated thought and action, we have in Obama the very epitome of the opposite, somebody who thinks things through carefully, utters no unconsidered word or action, stands back, observes and only then acts or speaks. Trump’s impulsive tweeting would be anathema to Metal.

So I am left to consider the remaining three elements, Fire, Earth and Water.  As those who have read my Keepers of the Soul  (Chapter 6) already know, over the years I have always used Tony Blair as an excellent example of one aspect of the Fire element, Inner Fire (Small Intestine).   This side of Fire has a toughness coming from its need to sort things appropriately for the Heart, and will feel that it must refuse to do what it does not consider right to do, and force through what it thinks right.  Whatever our opinion of Tony Blair’s decision about the Iraq war, he was convinced, and is still convinced, that this was necessary, and would not allow public opinion, so vehemently against him at the time, to sway him.  There was, too the added pressure exerted upon him from his association with George Bush (another Wood leader to go with Donald Trump and Theresa May), who drew Tony Blair in his wake.

I think that the other side of Fire, Outer Fire, is well represented by two flamboyant politicians, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, both able to attract supporters by acting the clown and making them laugh, a very different Fire quality to that of Tony Blair.

Fire and Wood are the two strong yang, outward facing elements keen to push themselves forward.  We can contrast that here with Obama’s Metal, with its inward-turning yin qualities.

We are now left with the last two elements, Earth and Water.  Interestingly, what I consider to be the most powerful element of all, Water, does not like to push itself too strongly into the limelight, as befits its deeply yin nature, making it the most hidden of all elements, as it works away in the dark.  The most obvious politician I can think of to show Water’s characteristics is Gordon Brown, briefly a Prime Minister, and yet somebody who for many years attempted to undermine Tony Blair and usurp his position.  When faced with the first opportunity to challenge Blair, though, he hesitated and retreated, only becoming Prime Minister once Tony Blair had resigned.  And as Prime Minister, despite so desperately wanting this position for so many years, he was surprisingly hesitant and uneasy in the limelight.

Finally, Earth, for which, David Cameron, our former Prime Minister, is a good example.  Here is a man at ease with himself, and easy in the company of others, with one of those soothing Earth voices.  Once having made the fatal decision to hold the referendum, he was unable to deal with its consequences, resigning immediately rather than facing them.  Powerful when surrounded by others in power (the yang aspect of Earth), Earth’s yielding yin aspect came to the fore when he lost the referendum, and like Gordon Brown, but for other reasons, he retreated rapidly into the background.  In the last glimpse of him on the Downing Street doorstep he was, appropriately for Earth, closely surrounded by his family.

Some people reading these thoughts of mine will disagree with my conclusions, but I hope what I have written has at least made them think a little more about how the elements, in shaping all of us, shape our politicians in very specific ways.  These may often be disturbing ways, but equally often, I hope, positive ones, too.  After all, South Africa would still be under the thrall of apartheid if there had been no Nelson Mandela.  I hold fast to my thoughts of him as a good antidote to fearing what Trump may unleash upon the world.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The pitfalls of making snap diagnoses

Since all five element acupuncturists know that diagnosing a patient’s element takes much time and is certainly not done in an instant, it is obvious that trying to do the same by looking at the necessarily brief glimpses of politicians and other famous people on television or social media can at best be a rather hit and miss affair, and at worst may lead us to making completely erroneous conclusions.  I remember well that I was convinced that Julia Roberts was Fire, because this is how I interpreted her endless smiling.  I told all my students this until one day, a good few years later, when my understanding of the different qualities of the elements had obviously deepened, I noticed a different reaction in me to this smile.  It certainly did not warm me, but, instead, irritated me with what I now thought was its artificiality.  I realised suddenly that, rather than giving me something, as Fire always tries to do, it was demanding something of me.  Once I had noticed this, I changed my diagnosis from Fire to Earth, and have stuck with that ever since.  This was a good warning to me always to hedge my conclusions about elements with a few question-marks.

So, now being an older and wiser observer of my fellow human beings, I hesitate a bit in offering my thoughts on the elements of politicians much in the news at the moment, but if I don’t add my slice of knowledge to what others are trying to learn about the elements, then I think that is a bit cowardly.  Those of us who have been looking at the elements for many years (in my case over 35 years) have a duty to pass on whatever they have learnt to those with less experience.  So here goes with what I have observed in two politicians very much in the news at the moment: Theresa May, in this country, and Donald Trump, in the United States.

At such a difficult time for the world, I find it interesting and disturbing that the fate of so many people is in the hands of two people I consider to be of the Wood element.  Leaving aside their politics, what is it about the Wood element which makes me wary of this element being the guiding force in a leader of a country (and in Trump’s case in a leader of the Western world)?  I’ve thought carefully about this, and will continue to do so as I observe their words and their actions over the next crucial months.  Here I can draw on the knowledge of the Wood element I have gained through my acupuncture practice.  If we think of the cycle of the elements as describing the arc of a human life from birth to death, then after its period of gestation in the seed of all life, the Water element, life emerges into the open in the Wood element, at its point of birth, and then on to early childhood.  I ask myself whether I want my leaders to express the childlike qualities which the Wood element can often show.

What, then, are Wood’s qualities which will manifest themselves in the positions of power held by a country’s leaders?   It definitely has a lot of strength and stamina, good qualities in a leader.  Its principal emotion is a kind of forcefulness of character which demands that others do what it wants them to do, but it can express itself in outbursts of anger if those around it do not fall in with its plans.  We see this kind of anger very clearly in Donald Trump’s emotional outbursts and also the lack of control which accompanies them.  Wood does not yet have the maturity to rein in this anger if this would be a wiser course to take.  Theresa May, too, though much less overtly Wood-like than Donald Trump, shows flashes of anger if a situation does not please her.  A constituent of hers at a meeting with her said that she became very irritated when questioned too closely.  Observing her on a BBC programme, I noticed that as the camera panned back to her after I suspect she thought she was no longer on public view, she looked surprisingly cross – not at all the bland, controlled persona she had shown us during the interview itself.

So it will be very interesting to see how these two leaders deal with the inevitably difficult times which lie ahead for them.  It does not therefore surprise me that, as of this date, 5 December, Theresa May has not yet come up with any clear plans for how to proceed with Brexit.  Though planning and decision making are the prerogative of the Wood element, they can easily lead, on the one hand, to over-dogmatic statements (“Brexit means Brexit” being one of them), and, on the other, to hesitancy, if the Wood element is under stress.  And who, in the positions of power which May and Trump hold, will not be under stress in one form or other?  Rather worryingly for both of them, this sense of balance in their Wood element seems rather to be absent, in Trump’s case most obviously so, his Tweets being clear evidence of this.  Theresa May, too, certainly made some hasty, rather odd decisions soon after coming to power (reinstatement of grammar schools and delaying a decision on the Hinkley Point nuclear power station).  One of these decisions (grammar schools) has since disappeared without trace, and she rescinded the other very quickly and rather ignominiously in the light of China’s anger.  

She has said that thinking about what to do about Brexit keeps her awake at night.  Rather amusingly, I see this as a clear sign of the struggles her Wood element is undergoing to keep everything on track as it passes through its horary time between 11 pm at night and 3 am in the morning.  Angry as I am about all the unnecessary expenditure which will be spent on the Brexit negotiations and would much better be spent on care homes for the elderly or children’s playgrounds for the young, I know I will still find it fascinating to observe how what I consider to be these two clear examples of the Wood element in power will deal with that power.



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Words, words, words!

So many words to read in so many different books and in so many different languages, and so little time to do this in!  I have a large pile of books sitting waiting for me to read – books I have borrowed from the local library (most of them), books I have bought secondhand from Oxfam or on-line, and then (just a few) books I have bought for myself using a generous book token given to me for my birthday a few weeks ago.

Looking at this pile, I realise again, as I have increasingly begun to realise, that I have no chance of re-reading any but a few of the many of my own books filling my book- cases.  Sometimes I look longingly at volumes of Marcel Proust (in French, of course – being a linguist), which are waiting hopefully for me to open their pages again, many, many years after I used them to work on as part of an (unsuccessful) postgraduate degree.  I say to myself that if I decide to submerge myself once again in Proust’s glorious French I will not be able to read anything new for at least a few months – and I don’t want to sacrifice for this the time I would like to dedicate to discovering some exciting new writer who will open my eyes to a new world of words.

The only writers I have regularly re-read in the past are some of the classical authors, such as Dickens, Trollope or George Eliot, and, perhaps considered slightly odd, some old-fashioned detective stories which belonged to my mother and to which I return again and again as they envelop me in a familiar and comfortable world of the past, such as Ellis Peters or Patricia Wentworth.

I now have an absolute font of knowledge about good detective stories.  As for many people, they are my escape into a fantasy world where the good always triumphs and the bad is eventually defeated.  In the real world the opposite often seems to be true, and particularly so now.  In these very uncertain times, I need an escape route like this which goes some way to relieving some of the distress I feel at what is happening in the world outside.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The filter our element lays between us and the world

The more I try to teach people about the elements, the more I realize that over the years I have worked out my own personal, possibly rather idiosyncratic way of interpreting the signals a patient’s elements are sending me, and using these as pointers to a particular element.  I imagine that all experienced five element acupuncturists must do the same.  None of these pointers will be exactly those other practitioners have discovered, because everything we experience has to pass through the filter with which our guardian element envelops us.  Even though some of the impressions we receive from a patient may have some similarity with those which others will experience, we will each put our own interpretation upon them.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I ran a seminar with Guy Caplan.  He is Metal and I am Fire, so inevitably we see life through two very different filters.  This was emphasized for me when both of us were interacting with a very lively Fire patient.  As usual, whenever I am in the presence of Fire in another person I relax because I can feel that I am on familiar ground.  So this particular patient, though very much out of control Fire, did not prove a problem for me to treat.  On the contrary, I felt I knew exactly how she needed to be treated, which was in a robust, quite challenging way, my Fire, as it were, blazing away to control her overheated Fire.  Guy, on the other hand, told me that he found her exaggerated gaiety uncomfortable to deal with, and would have taken longer to work out how to react to it and contain it.  We can interpret this as hot Fire threatening to melt Metal, whilst hot Fire just makes me feel, not perhaps always completely comfortable to be with, but certainly not difficult to deal with.

This is why as practitioners we should do all that we can to find out what our particular element is, recognize its qualities, make allowances for its weaknesses, and take all these factors into account when dealing with our patients.  This is not an easy task, because we all have a tendency to think that when we have an uneasy relationship with our patient the fault lies in them not in us.  It is good to remind ourselves at intervals that this is not so.  Often it is the balance of the elements within us, particularly that of our guardian element, which is shaping our relationship to our patient, and perhaps distorting it in some way which we fail to recognize.