My preferred way of teaching is not to draft what I want to say in advance, as many people feel they need to do, but to gain inspiration from those listening to me. I may have a topic in mind, perhaps a title for my talk, just as the title for this blog is prompting what I want to write about here, but I rarely have any idea what words are going to come from my pen (if I am writing something) or from my mouth (if I am lecturing or recording myself on video). In fact, past experience has taught me not to attempt to fit my teaching into what is, for me, the straitjacket of a prepared text. I've tried to do this in the past, feeling that I should rein in my very impromptu lecturing style, but with no success. Quite the opposite. I was asked by my translator tin China to give her an outline of what I intended to say to help her prepare. And at times I have tried to do this, only to realise how far I was diverging from what I had intended to say in order to elucidate some additional point I felt needed saying. This acted as an inhibiting factor on me from the start, confusing my thoughts and almost bringing me to a halt.
I always like to relate people's behaviour, here my way of teaching, back to a person's element, and I have therefore thought a great deal over the years about where this, to some people, rather odd way of delivering my lectures comes from. I now recognize this as being an understandable product of my Fire element, and specifically, of my Inner Fire official, my Small Intestine. It will be useful here to summarize the Small Intestine's task as part of the family of the 12 officials, for this does much to explain the way I like to teach.
The Small Intestine is known as the sorter, the official in charge of sorting the pure from the impure, and disposing of the impure through the Large Intestine, as its physical counterpart does in our body. It is the closest official to the Heart, being the yang official tied for all eternity to the yin of the Heart, and this close relationship gives it its most important function, that of ensuring that it gets things right for the Heart. It is there to help this Emperor of the kingdom of body, mind and soul rule with justice and fairness. If the Small Intestine is weak and gets things wrong, it will allow impurities through which will pollute the Heart. The need to sort things out therefore influences all that I do, including what I say and write, and how I do both. I have to be sure that what I say at every point represents the truth of what I wish to convey.
Whilst I am talking, therefore, I am at the same time checking to see that the words I am using accurately reflect what I wish to say. If I am lecturing to a group of people, I also watch my audience carefully all the time to check whether they follow what I am saying or are puzzled by it. If they are, I then adjust what I intended to say to take account of my audience's reaction. From the listener's viewpoint I may then appear to qualify one statement I make with other statements which I think will add to what I am saying until I am happy that I have covered all I want to talk about. Hence my poor Chinese translators' bewilderment, as they try to follow some unexpected detours before arriving back at where they expected to be.
I have observed how other people approach their teaching, none more so than my fellow acupuncturist, Guy Caplan, who accompanies me to China. He, I clearly see, prepares his talks very carefully, sticks to what he has planned in advance to say, and certainly doesn't confuse his Chinese translators, as I tend to do. But then this is his Metal element working within him to determine his actions, so different from my Fire element, with its Small Intestine working so busily to get things right.