Monday, March 30, 2020

The Fire element 2: The Fire element's daily interactions with people

We may not ourselves be aware of how far each minute of our life lived amongst other people will be occupied with relationships of one kind or another.  I will use an example of this taken from the brief duration of a typical day’s journey into work to illustrate this.  We may be surprised to find how many tiny threads of relationship we knit together on this journey, from the moment we open our front door and turn to wave goodbye to our family, to an encounter with a neighbour, the interaction with a newsvendor and a ticket collector, the avoidance or acknowledgement of eye-contact with all those packed tight with us in the underground or bus, and finally the arrival at work with the greeting of our colleagues.  All these involve numerous small or large skeins of new and old relationships being sorted into their different threads.  This covers just a few short hours in a 24-hour period at most, and an infinitesimally small part of all the hours in one year in our life, let alone all the hours of all the years in our life.

In each of these encounters with another person, our Fire element’s need to establish a relationship wherever it finds itself with other people will be taxed to the full.  Just detailing all this activity is quite tiring, but not nearly as tiring as Fire may feel if, during these few hours between home and office, something occurs which puts excessive strain on this element, such as an argument before leaving home, an unpleasant encounter on the bus or the dread of a meeting with a feared colleague.  Here, the Fire element can experience such unpleasantness as blows to its heart, which cut sharply across its desire to spread warmth and joy around it.  Hence the potential for the physical heart to suffer if these blows become too frequent or too prolonged.

It is to this element that we owe our ability successfully to negotiate the myriad interactions with other people which pepper our every minute, and its health will determine how accurately we align ourselves with the reality of the encounters we make, and how realistically we assess their value, their negative impact or their relevance to us.  The constant level of hard work needed to help the Fire element in each one of us in its task of adjusting to all the demands others make upon us places a particular strain upon Fire people, for of all the elements this is the one which most ardently (oh, such a Fire word!) desires to make these relationships work.  That is, after all, what it regards as the main purpose of its existence.

This, then, is one of the ways in which we can learn to recognise people as being Fire people, and also one of the ways which helps us understand their needs better.  If we are of another element, and are surprised at what appears to us to be an over-emphasis on problems in many of Fire’s relationships, we may find this irritating because it is incomprehensible to our way of thinking,  It will therefore bring greater harmony to our own relationships with this friend or partner if we begin to understand the dominant role relationships play in their life.  Even if this appears to us to be an over-dominant, exaggerated role, we can do much to smooth the path of our own interactions with this person if, instead of being critical, we start to understand that they cannot stand back in their relationships in the more detached way that we, of another element, maybe can.  We have to learn that it is as impossible for Fire to do this as it might be for us to do the reverse, entangle ourselves in the complexities of relationships as they are doing.

What then are the ways in which we can help Fire in its relationships?  To a Fire person the answer appears so simple;  it is by allowing them to make us happy.  It wants to give and you have to be prepared to receive its gifts, even when they burden you.  To you these gifts may appear annoying, irrelevant or even overwhelming.  You may feel that you are being given what you do not need or, even worse, what you actively don’t want, but it will help you in your dealings with Fire if you understand that it is the act of giving which feeds it.  Fire may not consider how appropriate its gifts are, in fact will only do so in states of great balance, for it may be so intent on the gesture of giving that it does not have time to gauge how its recipient is reacting.  We can all fear gifts as much as welcome them, for they can make us beholden in ways we find disturbing.  All this is something which Fire does not naturally understand, but has to be taught to understand.  The burden of an unwelcome gift, and even sometimes of a welcome gift, can arise from the need to express gratitude the recipient may feel is being demanded of it, even though, to Fire, gratitude is not what it is seeking.  Instead it seeks the smile on the face, the warmth of eye in another person, and, if this is not forthcoming, it will experience this as a slap in the face, a rejection, something which can scar its heart.

 

 

 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Fire element: 1

Fire, the element of summer, can be thought of as being the time of the young adult, where Wood, our springtime, is the time of childhood and youth, and Earth, Fire’s child, provides our harvest time, when new life will be created in the shape of a child.  Fire’s position at the peak of the year, the height of summer, makes it in many ways the most visible of all the elements, open to the gaze of all, and exposed as no other element is to the full glare of the sun at its height.  Something of this openness is there in all Fire people.  It is as though they feel that they must reveal their true nature to all they come into contact with, having a need to be honest with themselves and others, and to be as transparent as they can be in their relationships to all around them.  With openness, of course, comes its inevitable companion, vulnerability.  If we do allow others to see us for who we are we run the risk of allowing too close to us those with less charitable motives.

I always find it strange writing about Fire, because it is my guardian element, and I often think that I may be too close to it, too familiar with all its weaknesses and strengths, to look at it as objectively as I do the other elements.  On the other hand, the very fact that it has been my close companion from birth means that I have had plenty of time to study it in myself, and as five element acupuncturists we must always use ourselves as providing the most revealing examples of the workings of the elements.
 
Each element has its own burdens.  Fire’s are associated with its overwhelming need to relate to others.  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.

 
When I look at myself I am aware of some dominant characteristics which overshadow all the others.  I list them here in no particular order, although, as with all my writings, an order may later emerge as I think more deeply about what I am writing.  The first characteristic of mine which I regard as very typical of the Fire element in all its manifestations is what can almost become at times a rather desperate need to make everybody around me as happy as I believe they should be.  Locked into this is the odd assumption that it is I who know exactly where another person’s happiness lies, a quality which could be said to verge upon arrogance.  I notice this particularly when I feel compelled to give people things, as I all too often do, and this is when I realise that I have often not considered whether these gifts of mine may be welcome to the person to whom I give them.  Recently I came across a saying which is very pertinent to this, implying that the burden of being given something always weighs heavily upon the person receiving the gift, and can make them angry or resentful rather than delighted or grateful, which is how I hope my gifts will be received.  The gifts Fire likes to extend to others may indeed breed resentment in those they are giving them to. 


The smiles Fire likes to give, too, are offerings as much as physical gifts are, and, if not encountering responding smiles, will be experienced as rebuffs.  Very often, then, rather than judging the lack of response as simply an indication that the other person does not want to engage in any closer relationship, Fire may rather unwisely redouble its efforts in an attempt to draw something from the person they are trying to interact with.  We have always been told that one of the fundamental characteristics of Fire is its need to relate.  It likes to think that it is acting unselfishly in its offerings to other people, but in effect it is no more unselfish in this respect than are the other elements, for the process of giving feeds its own need, just as much as the processes of standing back and observing feed those of Metal.  In offering the gifts of love it is at the same time feeding its own Heart.

Being unselfish, therefore, has its flip-side, which all Fire people have to beware of.  The giver can be so intent on giving that he or she remains unaware of how these gifts are being received, and, even if aware, must be sufficiently balanced to withhold them when it sees they are unwanted.  There are two aspects of an element involved in every interaction with others.  The one is the emotional expression of that element coming from the person and the other is its reception in the other person.  This applies to all the elements, but the scope for a conflict between these two aspects, the one relating to the giver and the other relating to the receiver, can seem particularly stark in the case of the Fire element, which more than any other element, needs to foster mutually satisfying relationships to maintain its balance.

I have noticed increasingly, in a way that I did not do before, the energy the Fire element shows in all it does, as though a spring within it is always coiled and ready to be released at each new encounter with the world.  It is even there in its smile, an outpouring of warmth towards others, very unlike the timid, passive or more withdrawn smiles of other elements.  I don’t think I had realised until now quite how much yang energy is contained in this most yang of all elements, whose season, after all is high summer, the yang high-point of the year.

I think we often regard Fire as being a gentle element, perhaps because we believe that the love that it brings to bear on all things is a gentle emotion, which it so rarely is, just as Fire is far from being as gentle as the impression it likes to give of itself.  I have recently been looking at videos on YouTube of famous Chinese people to take as examples close to home for when I teach in China, and this is when I was struck, so unexpectedly, by the weight of energy pouring out in all Fire’s movements.  Watching yet again the Chinese pianist, Lang Lang, a very clear example of Fire, it is so vividly clear in the way he plays.  Through his playing he reaches out forcefully to the conductor in front of him, the orchestra around him and the audience beyond him, almost as though trying to capture them with his joy.  I compared this with other pianists I know, some of whom will sit quite still and withdrawn at the piano, so yin-like, as though communing silently with the music and apparently, during these moments of their playing, unaware of the world beyond them.

So if you are a five element acupuncturist and are trying to work out ways of recognising Fire, watch out for the energy you feel coming towards you.  And then learn to compare this with the very different energies of those other two powerful elements, Wood and Water.  Wood does not try to share anything with you in the way Fire so ardently would like to do, but wants more to force itself on to you.  Water’s energetic thrust is much more elusive, being apparently so gentle at one moment, and then, like flood water, sweeping you aside in its rush to survive.

I am always delighted to discover yet again the elements’ ability to surprise me with the variety of ways in which they reveal their differences. 

 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

50. The Wood element: 2

I was with a Wood friend today and after a few hours in her company I realised that I wanted to ask her an odd question, which was, “Do you ever have doubts?”  I wondered why this question had popped into my mind and realised it was because the hours with her had in a subtle way undermined me.  She seemed so sure of everything she said, stating everything as an established fact.  It was as if I was listening to many statements all having the effect of a pronouncement, a kind of “this is so”, and “that is so” and “that is all there is to say about it.”
I asked myself why this had thrown me as much as it obviously did, because here I am now half a day later still slightly disturbed.  Mulling this over, as I always do when something happens which throws me off-balance, I realised that the strong certainty with which she talked about things had caught me on the hop by highlighting what I felt were my own uncertainties and making them look like weaknesses.

If I look carefully at the times when I think of myself as uncertain, it is not in fact the result of weakness, rather the reverse.  It represents merely the necessary time my Inner Fire (Small Intestine) needs to weigh up possible alternatives, because I always have to allow myself to see two sides of every situation.  In contrast to Wood  I am asking myself: “It may be like this, but I must also consider whether it may on the other hand be like this.”  And then my Inner Fire carries on with its ceaseless work of sorting what it is right for the Heart to do.

The Wood element, on the other hand, has other priorities.  Wood does not have the luxury of weighing up pros and cons.  It is there to get on with things, and its decisions have to be rapid and taken in a “no turning back” kind of spirit.  Once made, these decisions have to be put into effect as soon as possible, and once it has decided what its opinion about anything is, that fixes it, if not for all time, then certainly for the immediate future.  During the time I spent with my Wood friend, I heard many statements of fact which sounded as though they were my friend’s firm opinions.  With each of her emphatic statements I could feel any confidence in my own certainties fading a little, as my Small Intestine tried to take on board what was being so firmly offered as fact.  It often felt itself swayed by these dogmatic statements because it couldn’t give itself enough time to assess whether at heart it agreed with them or not. 

This was another important lesson for me on the differences between Wood’s ability to make decision and my own, and also gave me further insights into Inner Fire’s potential weaknesses, as well as its potential strengths.  These are related to its need always to see the other side of the question and therefore to evaluate the relative merits of the arguments being presented to it.   I feel that Wood has no such hesitations.  Once having made up its mind, that is it.  And as I put it myself, it can’t afford to have doubts, because doubts will hold it back from acting, and action is above all what Wood wants.

I learned a further lesson about the Wood element from one of my Wood patients who told me, rather aggressively, that he found my presence challenging, and, being also an acupuncturist, he attributed this to my being, he thought by mistake, of the Wood element.  Although I have learnt over the years never to show that I am taken aback by personal comments from patients, I found that I reacted inside myself with quite a vehement desire to answer back sharply, and had to hold myself back from doing so.  Afterwards I found that the episode had disturbed my inner equilibrium, and I tried to work out why this was.  By dint of some careful self-examination, I realised that this patient had projected on to me his own dislike of being challenged and had in effect made me angry, often the effect Wood can have when the Wood person or I are out of balance.  I then analysed my feelings to see what they told me about anger in myself and how far my reaction had been unbalanced, before finally using what I learned from this as a way of understanding not only the Wood element better, but other elements within me, such as Water (my fear of the anger) and Fire (my own element’s reaction to stress).  An interaction of just a few minutes therefore became through this a valuable lesson about the part of me which reacted to the Wood element, as well as about Wood and other elements in general.

Sometimes I come across very appropriate quotations about the elements in books that I read which I like to collect.  Here is one about the Wood element in a book by Helen Dunmore called The Spell in Winter :

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.

Thus do I learn a little more each day about myself, about my Inner Fire and about my relationship to the Wood element.

Finally, here is a lovely illustration of Wood’s sensitivity to the effects of acupuncture treatment.  It would help us in corroborating some of the principles according to which we work if patients were able to report precise effects when feeding back on the outcome of any particular treatment, but it is rare for patients’ assessment of improvement (or otherwise) to be so precise as to enable us to relate this to any particular treatment rather than to a combination of treatments.  To encourage us, however, it does, occasionally happen that a patient may say something like, “whatever you did last time made me feel marvellous (made my backache better, helped me cope better)”.
 
On rare occasions, feedback can be even more specific.   I treasure still, like some beacon in this particular wilderness, the memory of a Wood patient who, when I needled Gall Bladder 40, described immediately in perfect detail the pathway of part of the Gall Bladder meridian.  He traced the movement of energy down to the toe and back up along the outer leg, where with great accuracy he showed me the odd lateral dip the Gall Bladder is said to take at mid-calf, and then continued to draw a path up over his knee to his abdomen, finally arriving at his head, where he said, “I seem to feel something up here at the side of my eye.”  I have had other Wood patients describe the line of some movement of energy along a Gall Bladder pathway in this way, but none so precisely as this.  It may well be that Wood, the element which structures us, can feel the structure of its own shape reasserting itself as more energy, like sap in a plant, courses through its pathways as a result of treatment.   I have not had such detailed descriptions of the passage of energy from patients of other elements.                 
 
 
 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

49. The Wood element: 1

I like to keep a picture of each element in my mind as a template against which I can measure those I meet, and from this I recognize whether they do or do not fit into this template.  So here let me first discuss my thoughts about the Wood element.

I always think that one of Wood’s most important functions is that of bringing order out of chaos, adding structure to the unstructured.  Its desire is to ensure order wherever possible, for it wants a world on which it can impose its own structure and design upon what might otherwise be disorganized and unstructured.  We order and arrange things into boxes when we want to tidy up our homes or our offices. This seems to me to be an accurate image of what Wood wants to achieve in life. The picture that comes to mind here are those TV pictures of bank employees leaving their offices with all their working possessions stuffed into boxes after the banking meltdown in 2009 as the banks closed their doors for the last time.  In a similar way I can see the Wood element trying to enclose everything it does within the narrow confines of individual boxes.

It might seem as if a bud, which is Wood’s signature in nature, appears to have a much less clearly defined contour than the boxes I have just talked about, but in fact each bud is a very structured object, whose shape has to adhere to parameters strictly laid down if it is to grow properly into a fully grown leaf, plant or tree.  Without this well-planned structure, laid down in what I like to call the DNA of the seed, a bud will wither and die. This is a symbolic representation of what the Wood element within us needs to offer us if it, too, is to fulfil the functions it is there to fulfil.

A world in which things move in straight, ordered lines, have their allotted place and move forward in their allotted ways seems to me to be an image of Wood’s ideal world.  If I were to put this feeling into words, I would describe it as someone saying, “And this is, and that is so, and yet again this other thing is so,”, forming a  kind of movement at right angles to itself, and in words always spoken with precision and with emphasis.  When I represent Wood graphically to myself, I visualize it as a series of straight lines, which run up and down, from right to left and from back to front, as though forming the squares of a Rubik cube which, when rotated, re-forms itself again into a further small square. 

Wood always tends to speak with precision and with emphasis, creating a sense of order with its words.  It can be said to want to “tell” rather than to communicate.  To tell somebody something is just as much a way of ordering things, this time through the structure of words.  Wood’s telling something can be described more as making a statement, rather than taking the form of a discussion with others. This is where its talking differs from some of the other elements, such as Fire, whose communications become a two-sided affair moving from one person to another and back again.  Wood’s is in one direction only, towards the person spoken to, with far less emphasis upon the need for the words to be returned to it by the person spoken to, or, if Wood is very unbalanced, with no attention at all paid to the need for discussion with the other person.  The image I have of Wood’s speech is to think of it like a tennis player practising alone by hitting a ball against a wall, whereas I see other elements as taking part in a game of two or more players, one or more on each side of the net, hitting a ball of words to one another across the net.

When I asked some Wood people what they want of their interaction with others, they all agreed that what they wanted was to “engage” with them.  This is an interesting word.   My dictionary gives it a very active meaning, which includes the sense of battling and grappling with, and is much used in military terminology.  It implies more than just interacting, for there is the sense within it of some kind of a struggle, or, at the very least, pressure from one side to push against the other, which we can see as representing the push behind all that Wood does.

When thinking of the Wood element it is always good to have in mind the image of nature outside on an early spring day.  We can see buds pushing themselves up from below the ground as though summoned into the warmth and daylight as the cold dark days of winter yield slowly to lighter, warmer days.  I did not fully appreciate the force required for each bud to break through the often hard soil to emerge above ground until one day I happened to be walking across a concrete wasteland where a building had once stood, and noticed tiny little patches of green here and there below my feet.  On examining them more closely I realised that they were the first vestiges of little plants, and was amazed to see how these tiny growths had managed, each individually, to break through what I could now see was a very thick layer of concrete, perhaps at least 1 metre deep, cracking it open to allow the plant to reach the sunlight.  Over the next few weeks I watched these tiny growths become taller and taller, until when I returned a few months later, I found small trees, now a few feet high, their roots embedded deep within the concrete, but creating large cracks in it as they grew.  The fact that a single bud has the power to split concrete apart in this way has always remained a vivid illustration for me of the force impelling the Wood element upwards and forwards.

And a sense of movement must always be associated with this element, for movement of all kinds is what Wood enjoys.  It can be said often to appear to enjoy activity for activity’s sake.  One of the traditional qualities associated with it is that it controls our tendons and ligaments, the parts of our body which dictate our movements.  They tighten and relax as they propel the body forward, back, up or down. If you clench your hand it is the Wood element which first tightens your fist and then relaxes it to allow it to lose its tension.  If you do this a few times in succession, you will feel how much effort is needed to keep this repetitive movement going.  Eventually your muscles will be too tired to respond to your brain’s command and simply allow the tendons to lie still there as though defeated.  All sportspeople have to concentrate much of their work on honing the Wood element in themselves.  Just watch footballers out on the pitch before a match gradually exercising their muscles to a condition which will allow them to work at full strength for the whole of the match.

We are usually quite unaware of all the normal effort involved in moving around in our daily life, unless we are ill, when every attempt to move is exhausting, or when we are too tired to make the effort and are just glad to sit still.  But there, hovering behind each everyday movement we make, is the Wood element doing its busy work without our noticing it.  We can see this easily when we watch a body on the move, as we observe Wood controlling every stage of this activity, from a blink of our eyelid to the lifting of a leg as we walk.  But we have to remember that the elements also do their work in all the other spheres of our life, those which relate to our mind and our spirit.  Wood’s influence extends to these, too.

It does this by adding impetus and strength to our mental activities and emotional impulses (those of our spirit).  If we translate this image of a Wood person striding strongly into the future into a mental image, we can see how the same impetus which guides our movements can guide our thoughts and the way we respond emotionally to life.  It is likely that a Wood person may not wish to dwell too long upon the intricacies relating to our approach to life, the decisions we need to make, the way in which we distinguish what is essential from what is not essential for us to do.  They are more likely to want to move on quickly to a new thought, a new decision, a new approach to life, not wishing to dwell too long in one place in the same way as their feet itch to move their body forward.

If we want to deepen our understanding of some of the qualities of the Wood element, it will be good to look at its role in forming the initial phase of each cycle.  Let us think first of the impetus needed to change things from a quiescent phase as they slow to a stop to a more active phase as they start up again at the beginning of their next cycle.  I have many mental images of the way the different elements display themselves.  I find a picture of the Wood element that I have is very helpful here, which is that of an old steam train.  We can all visualize the train gradually coming to a halt;  its engine slowly stops, releasing steam, its wheels slow down, each becoming visible as it emerges from the blur of its movement at speed.  The train appears to be releasing its breath until at last, with its final puff, it comes to a halt.  The movement from slowing down to halting leads forward from what we can call the Metal phase of the train’s cycle of movement, its ending phase, to its Water phase, almost its dormant phase, as movement stops and all falls quiet.

What then will need to be done to re-invigorate the train’s energy to allow it to be re-started?  All kinds of bustling activity will have to take place.  Similarly much effort is involved in moving things forward from the passive Water phase of winter to the active Wood phase of spring.  It is to Wood’s natural energy that we owe the ability for things to restart in this way.  In the steam engine, all is activity, as coal is heaved manually into the furnace, shovelful by shovelful, to power the furnace which will drive the engine forward.  The driver and fireman leap into action, as though trying to keep up with the fire devouring all that they feed it with.  Gone is the temporary peace of the stationary train.  All is hurry and bustle.  Activity has replaced non-activity.  Thus does spring’s Wood energy bustle in its attempts to bring life back to the apparently lifeless energy of winter.  Keeping this image in mind is a very practical way of understanding the power that Wood harnesses in restarting all cycles.   

What Wood finds difficult are situations which challenge its need to stay on the move, things which force it in some way to come to a halt.  We can visualize examples of this in physical terms as situations in which Wood people are prevented from moving, for example if they work in a sedentary office job.  This was true of a Wood patient of mine who felt that her working life was spent as though she was chained to her desk.  Inevitably this had an effect upon her health, and might indeed have been regarded, as I did regard it, as the main cause of her physical symptoms.  All of them, from her migraines to her back-ache, disappeared after treatment of her Wood element, and this treatment included my suggesting that she would benefit from changing her work at a desk for something more active, if this was possible.  I found it almost laughingly appropriate that when she returned for follow-up treatment some months later she told me that she was now happily working for a gardening company which involved much time spent in the open air tending to the growth of plants, such a Wood-like occupation.

It is always good to think of the elements as together creating a complete cycle of activity, with each element allotted its specific activity within that cycle.  I think of them as each waiting for the element before it to do its work before it takes over for the time of its activity.  In terms of the year, this reflects its particular season, before the change of season dictates that it is time to hand over to its successor element.  Because the demands of our element so dominate our lives, I feel that each of us is reluctant to allow our element to give up its place, as each season has to the next in nature.  In a profound way, each us, so closely tied in with our particular element’s demands and wishes and under its power, would much prefer to bask in the blessings our season showers us with, not merely for that one season each year but for the whole of the year.  In my case, Fire might like to enjoy a lifetime of summers, and Wood would bask in the joys of the year’s renewal in a lifetime of springs.  But, as we know, this can never happen, so instead each of us must make the most of what our element’s season offers us once each year.

We therefore also have to take the greatest advantage of where our element places us in terms of the cycle of any activity.   Wood is the element that most enjoys doing things just for activity’s sake, and is less interested in completing an activity that it enjoys starting.  The bud, after all, hands over to the summer, Fire’s season, to draw it up to its full height.  In a similar way, Wood people are not as interested in completing what they have started as perhaps we would assume they should be.

I had a Wood patient who was happiest in his retirement working on repairing a boat he had bought.  On asking him what kind of a boat, I was not surprised when he answered, “wooden, of course”.  Interestingly, his wife complained that he spent all his time fiddling around with different bits of the boat, but never actually completed it sufficiently to take it out on to the water.  I did not find this odd.  Wood people like working on things (particularly, as here, if they are made of wood), but are not so concerned with finishing them.  They just enjoy the doing of things, often just for doing’s sake.  Other elements, above all Metal, want things to be completed, or need to have things complete.  For Wood, completion can bring to an unsatisfactory conclusion what they most enjoy, which is actively continuing to carry on doing what they are doing.

A Wood patient told me this week:  “I always have these bright ideas, but then I never do anything about them.”  If we translate this into an image of the Wood element in nature, this is like shoots popping up on all sides above ground in spring, many of which simply get trampled underfoot without growing to full size, with only a few gradually given the time and space to develop into mature plants.  I cannot, for example, imagine any other element expressing itself in these words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

48. An element's yin and yang officials

It is good to remember the fundamental qualities which distinguish the yin officials from their yang counterparts.  We can think of all that is yin as being inward-facing, internal, and all that is yang as being outward-facing, external.  If an element’s two officials are regarded as acting as a unit, as they should be, then the yin official remains hidden within us, whilst  the yang official is turned towards the outside, protecting it.  It acts as a connection, a link, between ourselves and what lies beyond us in the world outside.  Each yang official therefore creates an opening for cosmic energy to enter and leave the element with which it is associated, whilst each yin official concentrates its work deep within us.

Although each of us is handed over to the protection of one element as our guardian element at birth (or perhaps at conception, who knows?), one of its two officials has a greater influence upon us than the other.  On the analogy of the term I coined for our element being our guardian element, I like to think of this as our guardian official.  I always say that it is difficult enough to pinpoint a person’s element, let alone decide which of its two officials is dominant.  This seems to be most easily done in the case of Inner Fire, where the overwhelming number of people, if not all perhaps, form part of the extensive group within it of those with the Small Intestine as their guardian official.  This particular official is the odd one out, acting almost as if it is a guardian element all on its own.  I have come to this conclusion because in all the years that I observed JR Worsley diagnosing one patient after another I never heard him say that person’ guardian official was the Heart, although he very frequently diagnosed people, like me, as Small Intestine, what we five element acupuncturists call a II CF.  I was told that one practitioner had been diagnosed as having the Heart as her guardian official, but since this was told me by the person herself and I did not directly have confirmation from JR himself, I was always rather suspicious that there was a slight element of self-diagnosis in this.  After all, who would not like to feel that they were under the supreme Controller’s special protection?  But there may well be people out there with the Heart as their guardian official that I have not come across.