Monday, July 25, 2016

"1 of the 48%"

I am still reeling from the result of the referendum.  And I don’t agree with many people’s passive acceptance that “Brexit means Brexit”.  It certainly doesn’t, or at least only if we, who so violently oppose cutting ourselves off from Europe, tamely accept that it does.

So I am on a personal mission to fight what I consider to be the good fight.  I have bought some badges supporting the EU, one of which I now wear proudly everywhere.  It says “1 of the 48%”, and has already provoked an argument from a “leaver”, but also much support from others.

And then I make sure that I buy a copy of the New European, which calls itself a “pop-up newspaper”.  It appeared within a week of the referendum, and gives a very healthy European slant to the news.  Originally, they said that there were only going to be 4 weekly copies, as a brief protest against the referendum result, but we’re on to copy 3 now and people are buying it, so I hope it changes its mind and carries on.

I also heard Paddy Ashdown talking on the Andrew Marr programme yesterday morning about a new group he and many others are bringing together called MoreUnited ( ) which, as he put it so persuasively, is there to give voice to the voiceless, those who don’t want to belong to any political party, but feel fervently that Britain should not cut itself off from its international roots.  It wants to campaign strongly against the idea that we have to go along with the idea of Brexit, rather than ensuring that we continue to fight against it.  So that’s another cause I decided to support.

And finally, to my own surprise, as somebody who has always been a floating voter, not attached to any particular party, I have thrown caution to the winds and have joined the Liberal Democrat party, because they are the only party who has said that they will base their plans for the next election solely on fighting to remain in the EU.

So it’s been a politically rather hectic few days for me, my pro-European feelings strengthened even more by the terrible events in France and Germany.  This is surely not the time to withdraw into an isolationist shell, as though we are trying to tuck ourselves out of sight in this corner of Europe.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Treatment of alopecia - another satisfactory use of a CV/GV block

A fellow practitioner, Jo Banthorpe, invited me to her practice for a day in mid-May to help with the treatment of some of her patients.  Before I arrived she warned me that she looked somewhat different from when we had last seen each other because she had developed alopecia, and now had large bare patches on her head.  She had therefore shaved her hair close to the skull to make these patches less noticeable.  I have Jo's permission to write about this.

During the day with her I asked her whether she had had treatment for a CV/GV (Ren Mai/DuMai) block, or had even considered this as being the cause of the alopecia.  I told her that over the years I had successfully treated several patients with alopecia, each having been told that there was little Western medicine could do to restore hair growth.  In each case clearing a CV/GV block led within a few weeks to the gradual re-growth of the hair.  I had been encouraged to select this treatment because I felt that such a drastic depletion of energy causing severe hair loss of this kind could only be the result of some serious energy block.  This obviously pointed to a CV/GV block.

I cleared this blockage on Jo during my day with her and awaited the result.  You can imagine how happy I was a few days ago to receive an email from her telling me that she was “delighted to report that my hair seems to be growing back! ” And “I don't think it was growing back before we did CV/GV, in fact I think I was still losing it but more from the hair line at the sides.”   She enclosed some photos of the back and side of her head, clearly showing the re-growth of hair.

This is yet another example of the drastic improvement in all kinds of conditions that clearing a CV/GV block can lead to.  It isn’t always at all clear from our often inadequate pulse readings that there is sufficiently severe depletion of energy to point immediately to a CV/GV block.  But if in doubt, and there is a persistent deep-seated condition which your treatment cannot seem to shift, then always think of this block. 

I remember quite clearly JR Worsley telling us that if the points for clearing a CV/GV block were on the wrist we would do it on every patient!  Those words have stayed with me for 30 years, and encouraged me to think often of this block and clear it, perhaps receiving confirmation only afterwards, when the patient’s symptoms change dramatically, that there was indeed such a block there.  So all of you out there who hesitate to diagnose this block because you are uncertain of your pulse-taking or feel reluctant to needle some of these points, just do this treatment. The block is surprisingly often there, and if it isn’t, it never hurts to do it.  It’s only like opening a door which is already open.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

A good example of the Fire element

Here are some comments from the BBC Sports Website today about Andrew Johnston, the English golfer, a competitor at the golf tournament at Troon. 
"(Andrew) has delighted fans at The Open with his cheerful demeanour and says he will continue to do so when chasing the Claret Jug on Sunday.
The Englishman high-fived spectators as he walked down the 18th and his one-under 70 left him on five under, seven adrift of leader Henrik Stenson.
Playing in only his second Open, the hugely entertaining Johnston's rapidly growing popularity is down to his unique interaction with the crowds, as well as the media."
"It's been amazing," said the 27-year-old. "It's been such great fun.”
“I guess I'm just a down-to-earth bloke who likes to talk to people. You want people to go home with good memories. I'll chat to anyone from anywhere, as long as they're nice people who are nice to me."
Watch him on YouTube or Facebook.  You’ll learn a lot more about the Fire element after a few minutes of looking at him and listening to him talk.
I think he is Outer Fire (Heart Protector/Three Heater), not Inner Fire (Small Intestine/Heart).  The difference can often be seen by the way each aspect of Fire talks.  Inner Fire, sorting out what it wants to say as it talks, often stumbles or pauses in its attempt to find the right words.  Outer Fire is much more smoothly articulate.



Sunday, July 3, 2016

New direction for my teaching

The same Viennese friend of my family, Dr Oskar Adler, of whom I wrote in my last blog, The disappearance of things (27 June 2016), was the author of several extremely interesting books on astrology.  In them he often talked about life and the destinies life chooses for us and those we choose for ourselves.  One of his sayings has inspired me over the years.  He said that we have a duty to humanity to pass on to others anything we have ourselves learnt, however small and insignificant it may appear to be in our own eyes.  We will never know who may be out there waiting to hear our thoughts, and how these may add something to their life, changing it in some way that we may be completely unaware of.

Many years ago, an acupuncture student who came to observe me in my practice happened to say to me, somewhat frivolously I thought, “I think I learnt more from you in this one day, Nora, than I learnt in a year at acupuncture college”.  However exaggerated this comment was, it proved a turning point in my life, giving me, who was then a rather uncertain only recently qualified acupuncturist, the necessary courage and impetus to think of teaching others.  And that one remark has stamped itself on the last 25 or more years of my life, as I have endeavoured, through one form of teaching and another, to hand on as much as I have learnt from my own practice to as many people as possible.

During these years I have moved on from the first informal teaching of a few students in my practice, to founding my own acupuncture college, where I taught 10 groups of students over a period of 12 years or more, to more postgraduate work, running seminars and visiting practitioners’ clinics in various European countries, before what I regard now as probably my final reincarnation as a teacher of many hundreds if not thousands of Chinese practitioners.

With Dr Adler’s dictum in mind, I have now decided that I need to grasp another nettle, on-line teaching.  I am thinking of running a webcast where I can reply to questions about five element acupuncture that are sent to me.  I should probably have been thinking of doing this long before now, as I know that all the people I teach are completely at ease with their mobiles and their tablets, and are used to the constant interchange of ideas which this allows them.  

I would be very pleased to hear whether this of interest, either through comments posted in the comments section below or on my Facebook page.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

The disappearance of things

I have written before about a very interesting old Viennese musician and astrologer I knew many years ago called Dr Oskar Adler.  I remembered one of the things he would say after a curious incident which happened to me yesterday.  He believed that it is pointless looking for things that we have mislaid, because they really go missing.  You have to leave some time, and then they will re-appear.

I had further proof of this rather esoteric belief again.  Anybody of my venerable age will know that the one object they treasure above all others is the old people’s free bus pass, which allows us to hop on and off buses and in and out of tube trains at will, and gives us the kind of freedom denied previous generations of the elderly.  I always check that I have my pass before I leave home.  This morning, to my dismay, it was not where it usually is, tucked safely away in the front compartment of my rucksack.  I searched for a long time for it, looking into all the pockets of all the clothing I might have been wearing on my last trip outside, but could find it nowhere.

I decided that I should immediately apply for a replacement at the local Post Office, and so headed outside to do just that.  I was standing on the top step of the short flight of stairs leading to the road outside, when I happened to look down.  There on the pavement, tucked closely against the front railings, was my bus pass.  The road sweeper had obviously recently been, because the pavement was swept completely clean, the only object in sight on the ground being this little plastic rectangle in its white cover.  If I had grasped the right-hand rather than the left-hand railings to help me down the stairs I would have missed seeing it completely.

I still can’t think how it got there.  Rationally I could say that it might have slipped from the rucksack as I got out my front-door keys the day before, but I prefer the more mysterious explanation.  My bus pass decided to do one of those disappearing tricks the Dr Adler persuaded me to believe in, and simply took it in its mind to re-appear on another day. 

In the past, when something similar has happened to me, which it has done several times, the time between an object’s disappearance and re-appearance has often been longer, sometimes a few weeks.  And once I found the keys to my house, which I had desperately hunted for for days, hidden away a few weeks later under rubbish at the bottom of an outside dustbin.

I like to think that there are indeed “more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet).  This little incident lifted my spirits a little, just a little, from despairing and dreary contemplation of the weekend's political turmoil.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Oh England! What have you done to yourself!

I am devastated by the results of the referendum, as is everybody I know.

The most appropriate comment I heard during a dreadful night spent listening with increasing horror to the radio and watching TV was that of Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal leader, when he said: "God help this country!"

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Europe - In or Out?

Oh, this wretched referendum being forced on this country against our will!  Who wants a referendum except those who want us to get out of the EU?  Certainly, I don’t, and I don’t know many people who do.  I have always regarded myself as European to the core, and never a Little Englander, so I fervently hope that there are more people who think like me out there voting on June 23rd than those who don’t.

I come of a family for whom Britain’s connections to Europe dominated throughout the years of my childhood during the second World War, and one which had suffered deeply and often tragically from the xenophobic and racial hatreds which led to the war.  Unhappily, these now seem to be rearing their very unpleasant heads again, as poor suffering migrants, escaping the kind of persecutions my mother’s Austrian Jewish family had to suffer, are now being made scapegoats for many of the real problems people in this country (never the rich, mind you) are suffering.

I think we are going through strange and extreme times, of which the referendum is one symptom, as are the other odd signs of this, such as Donald Trump’s successes in the States, the rise of increasingly right-wing, almost fascist parties in Europe and the corresponding, and necessary, rise of parties of protest, such as those in Greece or Spain, and even what is happening to the Labour Party in this country.  The political uncertainties all this creates raise disturbing echoes of those at other troubled times, most obviously in the 1930s, which led to the rise of fascism in Germany and Austria, my mother’s and my birthplace. 

In turn, this has been accompanied, for me personally, by a renewed interest in the tumultuous background to my earliest years during the war.  By coincidence, several things have concurred to bring this period of European life to the forefront of my thoughts, among them the reading of some highly interesting books which have illuminated this period for me.  First there is the recently published book by Philippe Sands, the international lawyer, called East West Street :  On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, a book of great interest not just to lawyers but to all those whose family suffered persecution under Hitler.  Philippe Sands interleaves his legal discussions relating to the background to the Nuremberg trials with discoveries about the history of his own family in Nazi-occupied Poland.  Co-incidentally, there are connections with my own family, since Philippe bought my mother’s house in Hampstead, and my mother’s cousin helped him decipher and translate some of the handwritten German documents he discovered during his search for his family.

The reading of this book also coincided with a re-introduction through a friend to an Austrian writer, Ilse Aichinger, whom I remembered reading some years back but had completely forgotten about.  She told me of Ilse Aichinger’s only novel, called in its first English translation, Herod’s Children, published in its original German in 1948, with the translation appearing in 1956.  This book, too, is about the period of the second World War, and follows a group of Jewish children in Vienna whose only permitted playground is a graveyard.  It is not a realistic representation of Viennese life under the Nazis, but a kind of mythical transposition viewing the world through a child’s eyes.  It is a book which deserves a much wider readership than it has at present.  So I am now on a mission to try and interest Daunts’, my favourite bookseller, to re-publish it, as it deserves to be out there again as one of the discoveries of forgotten masterpieces which they pride themselves on publishing.

Finally, to round off these few weeks of immersion in the past, I saw an amazing film called Son of Saul, about a Jewish prisoner in a concentration camp, who is part of the Sonderkommando, those prisoners who were set apart and given a few more months of life in order to act as guards shepherding their fellow Jews into the gas chambers.  He thinks he sees the body of his son, and the film is the story of his despairing attempts to find a Rabbi amongst the prisoners so that he can give his son a proper burial.  I was persuaded to see the film only after a friend reassured me that you do not directly see any of the terrible events taking place, but as dim background to the camera’s view which is trained always upon the father, particularly just on his face.  It is one of the most moving and, yes, uplifting, films I have seen.  Go and see it if you can still catch it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Example of why it is so satisfying teaching my Chinese students

Here is an email I have just received from one of my acupuncturist students in China, who brought several of her patients to our recent seminar for us to help diagnose and treat:

"Thank you so much for what you did to help me to diagnose my patients' elements in Nanning and Beijing.  When I came back home I treated them.  Almost everyone feels well, and I also see the changes in them, especially in my mother-in law.  I treated her on the Metal element. She knows that she should let go more, and she is softer as a person.  So now I can get on well with her.”

It is so pleasing for me to receive such strong confirmation that what we have been teaching over in China for the past five years is falling on such productive ground.  I’m so glad that this particular student of ours is now getting on better with her mother-in-law, with whom she lives.  It shows how important for our relationships it can be if we work out what the elements of our nearest and dearest are.  We can then allow them to express themselves in the way they need to, rather than bemoaning the fact that they don’t behave as we would like them to do.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The power of releasing blocked energy

I love clearing what we call energy blocks, a technique which really forms the bedrock of five element practice.  All illness can be described as being caused by different forms of blocked energy, being the result of some impairment of the balanced flow of energy from element to element round the five element circle.  The most common form of block, and one we address at a patient’s first treatment, is that which leads to the presence of Aggressive Energy, an AE block, where one element in distress passes its disturbed energy on along the cycle, not to its child element but to its grandchild, throwing it across the circle “like some hot potato”, we were told.

It always amazes me how many physical complaints can disappear simply by expelling this negative energy from body and soul, and how often it will occur as a result of some mental or physical trauma.   Any form of surgery, for example, life-saving though it may sometimes be, must always be viewed as traumatic for the body (and soul), and therefore benefits from checking for the presence of AE afterwards.  It may well be there, and will hinder recovery if left to fester for too long.  In a fairly healthy person I assume that AE will gradually seep from the body without treatment, otherwise nobody would recover from surgery or other traumas, which of course they do, but recovery will be speeded up if this simple treatment is done as a matter of course.

Then of course there are all the frequent day-to-day blocks we encounter, which we call Entry/Exit blocks, blocks which occur at the exit point of one meridian and the entry point of another.  These lead to localized areas of pain and discomfort, which can speedily be dispelled by the needling of just a few points.    Finally, there is the most powerful Entry/Exit block of all, that between Conception Vessel and Governor Vessel, a CV/GV (Ren Mai/Du Mai) block. 

I remember JR Worsley telling us that we would do the points for a CV/GV block on every patient if only they were on the hand.  I recall laughing at the time, but I have since realised how true this would be because of the wondrous power this releases at the deepest level.  I suspect many of us choose not to detect this block from a natural reluctance to needle what is the most intimate part of a person’s body.  To help our students at SOFEA overcome their inhibitions, we always made sure that they had marked up these points on both men and women as part of their training.  (And here I will pass on a tip I have learnt from Chinese acupuncturists, who are much less reluctant to needle these points than the more inhibited English.  Turn a patient on their side with their knees bent, rather than, as we were taught, needling the points with the patient lying on their back, a more vulnerable position, certainly for women.)

A patient on whom I have just needled a CV/GV block told me that she felt very different immediately after the treatment.  “I feel more centred, more grounded, more upright.”

See also my Handbook of Five Element Practice for more on all kinds of blocks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Nostalgic memories

It is strange to become aware of social change happening before my eyes as happened today.  I was reading an excellent book about Shakespeare’s life by James Shapiro, called 1606 – Shakespeare and the Year of Lear.  Shakespeare wrote Lear around the time of the Gunpowder Plot, with Guy Fawkes one of the conspirators.  For the next 400 years this day has been remembered by the fireworks displays we hold on 5 November.

But I now realise that things have changed almost without my noticing it.  It must be many years since I last passed a few ragamuffins on the street pushing along an old pram in which they had stuffed a hastily-dressed puppet, and calling out to me as I pass, “A penny for the guy?”  We still celebrate Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks, but children no longer re-enact the event symbolically by wheeling a model of Guy Fawkes around in an old pram.  Are there indeed still any shabby old prams out there suitable for this, rather than the huge modern contraptions blocking our pavements?  And pennies have long since disappeared.   But I was pleased when my colleague, Guy, told me that he remembers as a child dressing his teddy bear up in old clothes, propping him up in the street and begging passers-by for pennies.

Another nod to our past has thus gone almost without our noticing it.  Just as I can’t remember how many years it is since I last heard groups of carol singers knocking on doors up and down the street before Christmas, although maybe this still happens in small rural communities where people know their neighbours.  Some of the carol singers would gather in groups and collect for a charity, but often we would open our door to two or three young children, who would launch into feebly singing a few odd bars of “Good King Wenceslas”, before grinding to a halt because they didn’t know the words.   Perhaps nowadays, too, it would be considered too risky for young children to knock on doors on their own in the evening, another sad indictment of the times.

When customs such as these which have persisted for centuries lose their relevance, dwindle and die out, a little fabric of our social history is torn away with them.  Now all the new customs are created, not on the streets but at one remove on social media through our mobile phones.