Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hot desking

What a very odd term this is, some of my readers may say.  It is one I heard for the first time a few days ago, but is apparently one used by all modern office workers.  It appears that it is very common now for those working in offices to share desk space with others.  Presumably the term has something to do with keeping an office space warm for another person.  Office workers are now peripatetic; they are asked to wander around each day looking for a desk on which to put their laptop and, presumably, also any personal belongings they have.  They stay there only as long as they need to, placing their things for safekeeping in a personal locker before leaving work.

I was told of a senior member of staff who had worked from her own office all her working life, but who now had been told that she, too, needs to take part in this daily scramble for desk space.  She is appalled by this, and feels totally uprooted.  Where can she put the photos of her family with which she likes to surround herself as she works?  And does she have to get rid of her pot plants which she tenders so lovingly each day?

I wonder what the thinking behind this is, apart, presumably, to save space.  If desk spaces are freed up when people are out of the office, I assume this makes it possible to cram more people into ever smaller spaces.  But what may be the human cost of learning to view your office, not as a place where you establish a second home (your own desk, your own things), but as a public space available to anybody?  Has anybody calculated that?  I wonder whether anybody has thought to measure the comparative job satisfaction of having a familiar against an unfamiliar, ever-changing place of work?  Would it not be as though every day you have to search for a new home which you have to try to make your own?  From a five element point of view, what does this do to office workers’ Earth element, the element which so strongly wants to make every place where it rests its home?

This reminds me of a patient of mine who came to me because her ankles had suddenly swollen so badly that she could hardly walk.  After enquiring carefully about what was happening when this trouble first appeared, it apparently coincided with when she was promoted and moved to an office on her own.  Aware that she was Earth, and therefore, as are all Earth people, is happiest in the company of people, viewing her fellow office workers as a kind of work family who surround her, I asked her whether she liked this.  It turned out that she hated working on her own in this way.  With my knowledge of the Earth element prompting me, I asked whether she could move somebody else in with her.  She was not sure whether this would be possible, but then, as often happens, the fates intervened.  The management wanted to rearrange office space and asked her whether she minded sharing her room with two others.  Of course she agreed.  Very soon after this, and with the additional help of treatment on the Earth element, the swelling on her ankles disappeared.

I always attributed the rather sudden disappearance of her symptoms to her Earth element’s relief at no longer working alone.  Perhaps symbolically her swollen ankles were Earth’s way of immobilizing her, trying to fix a home for her within herself when her actual office home had become too lonely for her.  Once the office had returned to being a comfortable place peopled by others, it could be said that her body could now return to its normal shape, no longer needing to try to find its own stability within itself, which is one way of viewing her swollen legs.  Fanciful though this might seem to some people, I don’t think it is.  Our physical symptoms always in some way reflect what is going on emotionally within us. 

I thought of this patient today, although she came many years ago, because she is further evidence to me of how any environment we are in, office as well as home, will affect our emotional well-being, either positively or negatively.  I suspect office planners rarely think of this when designing how their office spaces should be used. 

 

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wearing people down with Fire's smiles

The trouble with being Fire is that I share Fire’s burden of always needing to communicate with other people wherever I am.  I can do this through speech, of course, but communicating through our eyes is just as, if not more, powerful.  Yesterday the phrase “I wear people down with my smile” occurred to me after I had passed another person in the street, and, yet again flashing a smile at them, realised that they were reluctant to engage with me, indeed looked a bit dismayed at being asked to respond to my invitation.

Each element has its own burdens.  Fire’s are associated with its overwhelming need to relate to others.  I must now think of those of the other elements, and will write more about this when I have done a bit more thinking.  It is far easier to write about what affects our own element.  Imagining oneself in the skin of another element is always more complicated, even if, like me, one has tried to do this for years.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rats respond emotionally to acupuncture

It's good to hear of scientific proof that acupuncture works, even if only in rats.  In an article in the Guardian (22 July 2015), researchers in the States found that the acupuncture point St 36 reduced “chronic stress-induced depressive and anxious behaviour in animals".

But then we know that acupuncture reduces “stress-induced depressive and anxious behaviour” for many other conditions, not only in animals but, much more importantly, in humans, too.  And also, that it is not only St 36, but many, many other points which do this.

I wonder whether the rats used in the experiment might all have had Earth as their guardian element!
 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to learn whilst enjoying myself

There are many ways to learn, but for me none nicer than to put my feet up in front of the TV and watch sport.  I have a particular affinity for cricket because of what happened in my childhood.  In those days there was no TV, of course, but sport was brought to us through the radio.  I succumbed to scarlet fever and had to be put in quarantine for six weeks to protect my younger brothers, because in the days before antibiotics scarlet fever was considered to be a dangerous illness.  So there I was stuck in a bedroom on my own upstairs away from all the family, and with only the radio to keep me company.  As luck would have it, a famous cricket series between England and Australia was being played, and there were a lot of exciting matches to listen to.  I had no idea about the subtleties of cricket which I was listening to (what was a “silly mid-off”, for example?), but I got hooked, and once hooked this interest in cricket has stayed with me all my life, to the extent that not long ago I went to my first cricket match to experience it at first-hand.  It was only then that I realised just how fast people bowled, and how dangerous a cricket ball could be.

For anybody reading this who may be interested in cricket, and particularly those in Australia who will be aware that we are in the midst of an Ashes series, there is a further lesson about the Fire element which my TV watching is teaching me at the moment.  There has been a surprising turn-around in the fortunes of the two teams, with the English team suddenly transformed from a rather dour, inhibited group of players into a cheerful, expansive (and successful) team.  And what do TV commentators, and I, too, attribute this success to?  To the injection into the team of some new Fire people.  As one commentator said about one of them, “It’s good to see a smile on his face.”  Looking carefully at the whole team, I realised that three of its new members appear not only to be Fire, but a very outgoing kind of Fire, probably with the Three Heater as their dominant official, for they all seem to be what we could call “the life and soul of the party”, a Three Heater characteristic.

So if you can catch a few moments watching cricket on TV over the next couple of months, look out for the following cricketers for clear evidence of the exuberance of Fire:  Joe Root (in particular), Mark Ward and Jos Buttler.  And for Australians reading this, it is worth looking at  their captain, Michael Clarke, who I think is also Fire, but a much quieter Fire, probably with its official the Heart Protector rather than the Three Heater.

Thus do I continue to learn whilst enjoying myself!

 

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

When words are not enough

A reader of my blog asked me to explain one of the quotations with which I like to litter this blog. This was the line from a book by Elizabeth von Arnim in which she wrote, “With this thing of chiffon she tried to protect herself from the eternities” (my blog of 25 June 2011).  What did I think this meant?  I did not know how to answer her, because I couldn’t myself put into words what I felt its meaning was, or why I felt so drawn to it.  This happens often to me, usually when I am reading poetry, but, as here, novels, too.

This called to mind something I read in a book on poetry by the broadcaster Clive James, himself a very good poet.  He said that he often did not himself really understand what a certain line in a poem meant, but that that was part of its mystery.  I, too, often don’t fully understand the words I am reading, though some, those that I like to write about, resonate with something within me, as if they evoke a deeper meaning than mere words can convey.  This is what the quotation my blog reader asked about does to me, as does another line, this time of poetry, which reverberates deep within me each time I read it.  This is the line from a John Clare poem (see my blog of 29 January 2015), “I am the self-consumer of my woes”. Even though I am not sure what this means, I think that I understand it at a level deeper than words of mine can explain.  And for everybody certain poems evoke this deeper resonance, without their maybe quite understanding what this is.  I like to think that these words reach us laden with some touch of the eternal.

And this also reminds me of Pascal’s words, which echo within me each time I look at the night sky:  Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinies m’effraye” (the eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me).   We could also call these “eternal spaces” the Dao into which we disappear at our death, far-distant spaces which we can regard as terrifying, but also awesome and inspiring.  I think that they must provide the inspiration behind all great art.  For what exalts us inevitably at some level can also terrify us.

Little happy happenings

A few days ago, as I walked to pick up my daily newspaper, a series of happy happenings occurred which made my day start with a smile.  It was a sunny day, too, which always helps.

First I met an old man whose path has crossed with mine before, but with whom I have never exchanged a word.  For some reason, perhaps because of the sunny day, we both stopped, commented on the weather and then passed on, wishing each other a good day.  Then I walked past the window of a local café and was greeted by a waitress I don’t remember having seen before, who smiled at me and mouthed a “good morning”.  I then met a lady carrying a large bowl of strawberries, obviously meant for some festivities, which, on being asked, turned out to be food for a concert to be given by Royal Academy of Music students at the local parish church.  By chance I was heading to the Royal Academy, too, with a letter to the pianist I mentioned in my last blog (1 July), enclosing a copy of the blog, to thank her for giving me such pleasure at hearing her play.  And finally, as I walked back home, several people returned my smiles, as though we were all happy to be alive on such a pleasant Sunday morning.

These very brief happy encounters illuminated my day for a surprisingly long time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Treatment of a case of severe psoriasis

I am always happy to receive confirmation from my practice that the simplest of treatments is the most effective.  So many acupuncturists complicate their treatments by selecting all kinds of complex combinations of points, when, as I always say, the mantra “the simpler the better” always holds good in five element acupuncture.

So, with my patient’s permission, I am giving below the points I used for the first 7 treatments of a patient who came to me with severe psoriasis all over her body, and who is now, some 3 months later, almost completely symptom-free.  When I first saw her, the whole of her body was covered with large bright-red psoriatic patches of skin.  When I saw her this week, these patches were now normal skin-coloured outlines still faintly visible against the remainder of healthy skin, so that where, before, the eye was shocked by all these violent blood-red patches, now they have faded over the whole body.  Much of the upper body is completely restored to health, another confirmation, if confirmation is needed, that the Law of Cure which we all learned about at college is indeed true.  Impurities do leave the body from the top downwards, her back and upper body being now completely free of any signs of psoriasis, and only faint, normal skin-coloured outlines remaining from the waist down.  Her recovery has also been speeded up by the fact the she has been quite happy to discontinue the application of any cortisone cream which she was using on exposed part of the body before she came to me.

So here is the treatment I gave her.  I diagnosed her element from the start as being Wood, and I am still happy with this diagnosis.  I applied moxa cones to each point, and used tonification needling technique (except of course for AE!).  I have given the number of moxa cones for Bl 38 (43) in the list below, as these vary.  The number of moxa cones for other points are those given in JR Worsley’s well-known point location chart.

Treatment 1:  No AE, GB 40, Liv 3
Treatment 2: (a week later): Bl 38 (43) (7 moxa cones), Liv 4, GB 37
Treatment 3: (a further week later) Bl 38 (43), (11 moxa cones), GB 40, Liv 3
Treatment 4: (3 weeks later: I was away in China so could not see her weekly as I would have liked) Liv-Lu block (Liv 14, Lu 1), Liv 4 (this is an energy transfer from Metal)
Treatment 5: (2 weeks later) : Bl 38 (43), 7 moxas, GB 20 (no moxa because on the hair line), GB 40, Liv 3
Treatment 6: (3 weeks later):  GB 25, Liv 4
Treatment 7: (3 weeks later): GV 24, GB 40, Liv 3.

Because her skin is recovering so well, we have scheduled her next appointment to be in 6 weeks’ time, but I have told her to phone me for an earlier appointment if any red psoriatic patches re-appear.

Thank you, Elly, for letting me write about your treatment!

 

 

"Music is no more than a decoration of silence"

I have just been to a lovely series of concerts by students at the Royal Academy of Music here in London, hearing some of the most beautiful playing of music that I have heard for a long time.  There was one particular young Polish pianist, Martyna Kazmierczak, who enthralled me with the joy with which she played.  In her introduction to her pieces, she quoted an anonymous 15th century composer who apparently said that “music is no more than a decoration of silence”.

Somehow this resonated deeply with me, and set me thinking about my own work.  It made me wonder whether the same profound thought, slightly adapted, could not also apply to what I do.  Could one perhaps say that the span of human life, which can be seen as akin to a piece of music from its start, our birth, to its completion, our death, is indeed no more than a decoration of silence, an illustration of the Dao?.  We all emerge from the vast silence of the Dao, live the span of our life, and then disappear again into the vast silence of the Dao at our death.  It feels good to me to be able to say that what I do is then no more than a “decoration of silence”, and that by my work I make the silence of the Dao within each of my patients slightly deeper and slightly more pure.

 

 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Decision fatigue

Each element is subject to its own stresses.  Mine relate to the functions of the Small Intestine within the Fire element.  We know that its task is to protect the Heart, its close companion, by making sure that it only allows the pure through.  This involves the never-ending work of screening everything coming to it before it allows it to pass.  Physically, of course, this means its work in filtering out impurities in the blood, but at the deeper level, which acupuncture recognizes, it also filters all that relates to our thoughts and emotions.


The Small Intestine must constantly ask itself, “Is this the right way to do this?”, “Is this the right thing to do?”, “Is this how I should be feeling?”  This is demanding work, and just as surely as we can become too tired to walk another step, so my Small Intestine can grind almost to a halt after a day of such constant activity.  It is as though I succumb to decision fatigue, lacking the strength to work out what I need to advise my Heart to do.  If I am not careful, this is when I may start to do the most inappropriate things, say the most inappropriate things, send off an intemperate email by mistake, or make a sudden decision based on ill-founded reasons.  With the years, I have grown better at recognising the early signs of this tiredness, and have learnt that I need to put all my thoughts on hold until my Small Intestine has had time to recover.  I have also learnt never to press the Send button on a difficult email until I have slept on it and woken to a refreshed Small Intestine, now able to resume its tasks and thus more likely to make the right decisions.
 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Curiosity – a five element acupuncturist’s most important quality

I have always maintained that one of the qualities we must develop in ourselves as five element acupuncturists is being curious about other people (and about ourselves).  Without this, we will never be able to help our patients.  A lack of curiosity is evidence that we are not really looking at them with the depth of interest we need to have to see them as they are.

I was glad to have my belief in the importance of this quality confirmed by something I read in the newspaper today.  A reader wrote the following:  “There are many reasons why we should cherish Albert Einstein.  What a pity then that biographer Steven Gimbel (about whose book there was a review in the Guardian on 13 June) omitted one of the greatest: curiosity.  Einstein is quoted as referring to this important disposition on several occasions, asserting:  “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”  Perhaps it was curiosity that led this patent clerk to become such a great physicist, and perhaps it is curiosity that our schools should cherish, rather than testing and league tables.”  (Quoted from the Guardian readers’ letter page today, 19 June).

Oh, how I agree with that!  Perhaps I, too, have “no special talent”.  But I am certainly “passionately curious.”  And it is this curiosity which leads me to explore every more deeply the world of the elements within each of us.