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 4
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.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Heatening email from a five element student in China

I love hearing how my Chinese students are progressing in their five element practice, so I was very happy to receive the following email from one of them:

Practising five element acupuncture these days, I got some feelings that I would like to share with you.

Now, more and more I feel that it needs love and patience, just like growing flower; we just need to water and add fertilizer, then wait for it to blossom.  We wait for five elements to blossom, wait for the blossom of every single life.

And for a period of time, I put too much emphasis on the diagnosis of the element, and neglected building connection and relationship with my patients, only until one of the patient gave me some feedback that I realize it.

So I calm myself down to listen, giving every patient as much time as can be, to let them express themselves. One of the patients has already received five element acupuncture treatments for half a year, but the effect is not quite pleasing. Till recently I open up myself, she said that she finds it difficult to express her sorrow and sufferings to other people, but she can pour forth to me. Afterwards, she sent me message telling me that she feels much better every time, on the second day after treatment.

How well this practitioner expresses what lies at the heart of five element practice.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The truth at the heart of five element acupuncture

One thing I am absolutely convinced of, and was from the very first day I was introduced to the elements through my own treatment, and that is that there are different aspects of our life force which make unique individuals of each one of us, and that these have been given by the ancient Chinese the symbolic names of what are called the five elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.   These different aspects create our life, and by some esoteric miracle of comprehension by these same ancient Chinese they were understood to have perceptible presences in each of us, so that we can hear them with our ears, see them with our eyes, smell them with our noses and feel them through our emotional sensors, provided these ears, eyes, noses and emotional sensors have trained themselves to do this.

There is thus a truth underlying my practice of five element acupuncture which is confirmed each day I spend simply observing my fellow human beings and myself, as well as each day I practise.  After all these thirty or more years of my acquaintance with the elements, I remain as fascinated by them as I was on that very first day at acupuncture college, and am in ever-growing awe of those early practitioners who perceived this truth and passed it on down the centuries and across the oceans to me, happening to sit at a party here in London next to a five element acupuncturist.  As I now book the flight for my next visit to China in the autumn, I feel how extraordinary it is that the journey of my own life is playing itself out in terms of these same elements, and how fortunate I am to be part of the great route of transmission from those olden days hidden deep in the past to the present day.  I am privileged to allow this small needle of mine held in my hand as I practise to draw to itself some of these centuries of understanding, and pass them on through the tiniest of manipulations to those who come to me for help.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How quickly Metal makes decisions

Although Wood is the element which controls decision making, it is Metal which is by the best element at making quick decisions.  It wants to make them all by itself, with no interference from anybody else. 

It is therefore a good element to give advice, because its advice is done in short, sharp sentences, and like any metal object cuts straight through to the heart of the problem

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An amusing confirmation of my diagnostic skills

As many of you know, I enjoy watching sport on TV, as much for the sport itself as for being another way of observing the elements revealing themselves under stress.  And ever since I was a young child, in quarantine for 6 weeks with scarlet fever, and forced to amuse myself with the only thing available all those years ago, which was the radio (of course then called the “wireless”), I have enjoyed listening to cricket commentaries and now watching cricket on TV.  So imagine my delight when yesterday I heard a commentator describe one of the cricketers, Joe Root, who I had already diagnosed as definitely being Fire, with the words “Root is the heartbeat of the side”.

How nice to know that the elements evoke universal echoes in all of us, not just in those who learn about them as part of their acupuncture training.

If you want to see Joe Root in action, those of you who are from the cricket-loving and cricket-playing countries of the old British Commonwealth, look him up on YouTube, and you will see Fire blazing away.


Beware of becoming too comfortable in our work

All therapist can fall into bad habits over the years, risking becoming careless in what we do.  One such pitfall is that we may become a little bit too comfortable in our work, not challenging ourselves as much as should do.  We may start to forget that each time we see our patient we see a slightly different person who is altered by the passage of time.  The patient before us is not the same person we saw at the last treatment.  We have to understand the need to see them with fresh eyes, requiring possibly a different approach from us.

It is indeed very difficult to retain a freshness of approach to our patients if they have been coming to us for a long time.   Often we are only too pleased to welcome patients we think are doing well, because we feel they are unlikely to challenge us by presenting us with new problems.  These are patients whose treatment we assume to know in advance.  Here we can be at risk of falling into rather too well-worn a rut if we are not careful, thinking that our patients will be as they were before.  Perhaps unconsciously we ignore the possibility that they may have changed in some way, since changes require us to make more effort.  It is much easier, we may think, to continue doing what we have done so apparently satisfactorily before.

And then we may not see, or choose not to see, something in our patient which should be pointing us in a new direction.  A long- term patient of mine, whose treatment I regarded as being simple to plan ahead for, turned up for one appointment not as I expected her to be.  If I had not been alert, I could easily have overlooked the slight change I perceived in her.  She herself volunteered nothing until I probed a little more and discovered that quite a disturbing event had happened to her, which totally changed the direction of the treatment I was intending to give.  Looking back on this afterwards I realized that I had been in danger of assuming in advance that I would find her as I had done before, and might perhaps have ignored the pointer alerting me to a need to re-evaluate the treatment I was intending to give her, which was now no longer appropriate.  We must never assume that we know our patient’s needs of today, since yesterday may have changed them



Monday, May 25, 2015

Getting to know our patients

If you are going to be of any help at all to another human being, as we as acupuncturists surely hope to be, then we have to make every effort to get to know who the person is who is coming to us for help.  And getting to know somebody is certainly not as easy as it may sound.  For each of us can present different faces to the world, having learnt during our life to adapt ourselves to the different people we encounter.  The practice room represents an unknown world, and at first patients will be unsure both about the treatment being offered and the person offering this treatment.  Practitioners, too, meeting an unfamiliar person, will have their own concerns to face in adapting to what is to them also a new situation. 

All this represents different kinds of challenges.  Patients are being asked to reveal something of themselves to a stranger about whose capacity for empathy and ability to put them at their ease they are initially unsure of. They will be asking themselves whether the practitioner is a safe person to whom to show any vulnerabilities, those which all of us may wish to hide from others, but which reveal the true nature of why we are seeking help.  The practitioner, too, will be trying to adapt to the many different ways patients present themselves in the unfamiliar situation they find themselves in.

There is a great skill in helping a patient overcome their natural reticence at opening themselves up to another person.  We have to learn ways of convincing our patients that we are a safe repository for self-exposure of this kind.  We need to know what kind of a relationship with their practitioner our patients feels comfortable with, since for each person this differs.  Some, with a trust in human nature, will assume that anybody in the guise of practitioner will be worthy of this trust.  Others, at the other end of the spectrum, will take much longer and request much greater evidence from their practitioner that the practice room is a safe place before lowering their defences.

The initial encounters between patient and practitioner are therefore delicate affairs, requiring great sensitivity on the practitioner’s part to all the little signs we give out indicating where others must tread warily when they approach us.  If practitioners do not pick up such signals, we are very likely to act too clumsily and effectively silence our patient.  Here, as with all things, a knowledge of the elements comes to the practitioner’s aid.  For each element demands a different approach from us.  And as we get better and better at analyzing the complex nature of each approach, this will give us increased insight into what may well be our patient’s element.