Thursday, March 31, 2022

22-15 Sujata's take on Water's way of thinking

Here is my Water friend's answer to my question about how Water does its thinking. This follows on directly from the end of my last blog (22-14):


Thank you for asking me to write a bit about how Water expresses itself.  I have been thinking of getting back to writing for some time but nothing was flowing.  This will be a good beginning and I'm happy and grateful that you thought of me.  I am writing mostly about myself (and a few other Water people I know but I don't know how general this information will be).


Water, when unimpeded, flows.  It moves in an instinctive manner, not always logical, but usually by feeling its way - sending out sensors to the environment and modulating its response according to what it finds (or feels) is present around it.  Therefore, the way a Water person expresses himself (or herself) depends on how the Water person is feeling at the time and on who he (or she) is interacting with.  Water, in its comfort zone (as it often is with Fire), attempts to express its soul, or sometimes just bubbles along contentedly.  With Metal, Water tends to be more guarded, a bit on edge due to Metal's brevity and conciseness.  With Earth, Water can be very comfortable, but often slips into the mode of a listener, not revealing much of itself.  With Wood (depending on the intensity the Wood person displays), Water often has a disconnect, feeling sometimes unnerved by the push that Wood sends out.  Given a chance, Water would not try to push back (though if it gathers its resources, it probably can), but to bide its time and take a different direction at the earliest possible opportunity.  This is how Water functions when it is close to equilibrium or its natural state.  In times of stress, Water can be greatly affected by fear, reducing its natural flow to a frozen state, but Water, with its resilience, often finds a way to overcome this and continues moving on.

Thank you, Sujata, for these very illuminating descriptions about the way that you think.

22-14 How different elements express their thoughts

I have been thinking about how each element has its own way of expressing its thoughts, since I have noticed that their thought processes are so different.  This is very much in my mind at the moment because Covid lockdowns, whilst restricting my physical movements, seem to have accentuated my mental agility.  My element is Fire, the inner aspect of Fire, with the Small Intestine being what I call my guardian official.  The Small Intestine does the most sorting of its ideas of all the officials, and it likes to communicate the thoughts its very active mind is working upon.  I have often said that I think as I speak, sorting my thoughts out through the act of speaking. This can sometimes be confusing for the listener, for as I sift what I am thinking through, I may alter what I am saying, often in mid-speech, as my mind changes what I started to say.  It needs this form of communication, for in communicating with another person it is doing what all Fire people need to do, which is to set up a relationship with whomever it is with.  And what simpler relationship is there than the act of smiling at another person, one of the signature features of Fire people, and addressing words to another person.  Doing both at the same time is what makes my Fire element the happiest.  Smiles and words reach across the divide between one human being and another, bridging the gap in the quickest way possible, and thereby enabling a relationship to be set up between me and the other person.  


It is interesting to look at how the thought processes of the other elements manifest themselves, as far as I understand them.  The element I have always been most aware of, based on my close acquaintance with family members and friends, is the Metal element.  I always think of it as being almost the diametric opposite of my Fire, and have often envied it the kind of detachment it demands, which I can never achieve.  Its way of thinking illustrates this sense of distance between us.  Its thought processes reflect this, for it can stand back, look almost dispassionately at what it is considering as though from a distance, and then draw its conclusions before expressing them succinctly in very few words.  I have a Metal son who can be guaranteed to give me excellent advice about anything I ask him, and does this surprisingly quickly, as though he can think his way rapidly to the heart of the problem, see the solution and express it in the least number of words possible.  I may be talking through a problem to him for some time, going through all the ins and outs as I see them, and he will interrupt me in mid-speech, saying simply, "Just do this", or "Do that", and that is for him the end of the matter.  Metal's thinking is hidden, not out in the open as mine is, but this tends to make it all the more acute and to the point.


On the other hand, we can see Earth's thought processes in action quite openly, for it likes to think its thoughts through, often as part of a quite laborious process, going round and round a problem, like a cement-mixer churning things over, drawing the listener into this in its need to share its thoughts.  One of the burdens of being an unbalanced Earth person is therefore their inability to move their thinking on, as though they are a record stuck in the same groove, repeating the same words over and over again.  As practitioners we therefore have to learn ways of interrupting an Earth patient to prevent them from continuously working through the same thoughts in the same words time after time.  Here that lovely point St 9, Head Tied, comes to a practitioner's rescue.  I treasure the time when the moment I needled this point, my Earth patient, in the middle of telling me something, suddenly fell silent, as though he had literally at last been able to swallow his thoughts.  In balance, on the other hand, Earth will be very good at thinking problems through very thoroughly. 


Then we come to Wood, another quick-witted element, like Fire, its yang companion, but with none of the need to set up the relationships Fire looks for.  Instead, its thoughts are directed more upon action, ensuring that things are done properly and constructively, that the right structures are put in place to allow things to move forward.  It may send its thoughts out into the world almost in the form of orders (hence the shouting voice), dictated by its need to ensure that everything proceeds in good order.  A Wood friend told me that she thinks of her way of thinking as being like sending out branches from the trunk of a tree in many directions.  It does not matter to her if a branch gets broken off at some point, but each must first be firmly attached to its trunk within her.


Finally, I come to Water, and how often I realise that I delay writing about Water until the last, for I see it as the most mysterious of all elements, and even after all these many years of thinking and writing about the elements, at some level Water still remains a mystery to me.  So how do I envisage its way of thinking?  Perhaps its thoughts could be described as being much less clearly defined for me than those of the other elements, but nonetheless they often have the potential to surprise me.  For Water is a deep-feeling element, probably the one that can feel the most, just as the waters of the oceans hide more secrets in their depths than there are on land. 


Perhaps I should leave it to Water people themselves to describe their own thought processes for me, since these, much like what Water always does, puzzle me a little.   I have therefore decided that I will send this blog to a young Water friend of mine in India, who always gives me interesting insights into her element.  Perhaps she will be able to add something to my understanding of the way Water thinks. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

22-13 Do I think our guardian element changes during our lifetime?

Many people ask themselves whether our guardian element (CF or dominant element) changes during our lifetime.  I, too, have thought carefully about this for many years, as I have noticed that people, particularly acupuncturists, seem to like to change their own element for another one, often perhaps because they may think it has a better press.  As with all my thoughts about the elements, I always start with myself, because that's the person I know best, having had a lifetime in which to study my own particular element.  

I have often thought how fortunate it was for the direction of that part of my life which was spurred into activity when I encountered the elements for the first time that whatever power or force which controls our individual destinies should have placed me firmly into the little corner of the five element circle housing the Heart and the Small Intestine, and in particular into the welcoming arms of the Small Intestine.  For it is this official, with its intense, unending curiosity and inability to be satisfied with anything until it has probed it to its very core, which made it inevitable that I would never allow my thoughts about the elements to harden into fixed ideas.  Instead, I like to ferret away at every new idea I have, and amend it or discard it if my ever-inquisitive mind feels that is necessary.


Looking back at the whole of my now very long life, I can never remember a time when I was not trying to sort out the world and its people, particularly my family in my early years.  In fact they would joke that I was always telling them, "Don't you think you ought to....", as I tried to direct their behaviour in a direction I thought was best for them.  And that is still my first reaction to any situation, as my Small Intestine very quickly (and it is probably the quickest thinker of all the officials) decides what it thinks should be done, and immediately wants to put this into action.   


From the evidence of my own life, therefore, I can see no change in how I have approached my life from my earliest days to now in my ripe old age which would indicate that the Small Intestine is not my spiritual home.  Nor have I seen any sign of any similar changes in all the hundreds if not thousands of patients who I have treated or observed over nearly half a century of practice.  


Do I therefore think our element changes during our lifetime?  To this I give an emphatic answer, "No, I don't."


But then other people may well disagree with me - which is fine.


Monday, March 7, 2022

22-12 We should all try to make a difference

I recently read an obituary for a film maker, Roger Graef, of whom I had never heard, but who obviously made many excellent TV films concentrating on changing the ways that victims of injustice were treated.  It quoted him as saying:  "All I ever wanted was to make a difference", and that sparked a new line of thought for me. Surely, I asked myself, that is what every one of us, from the highest to the lowest in the land, should aspire to.  And I thought to myself that it would be good if this could be carved into the tombstone of my life, "Nora made a difference".


Can I predict now whether my life will indeed have made a difference to somebody, or to some groups of people?  And if so, in what way?  I'm thinking now not so much of a personal difference, to my friends and family, but to a professional one, as a five element acupuncturist.  All the people who have been treated by me, the people I have talked to in my evening classes, the people I have taught at SOFEA, in European seminars and now in China, all the people who have read or are still reading my books or watching my teaching videos, all these together add up to a goodly number of people.  And among these must surely be many for whom what I have done, either by teaching them, talking to them or treating them, has had some effect upon their lives.  And, if this is so, then I have indeed, through my five element practice, made a difference.


But the kind of difference I would like to make is less personally focused upon me than that.  I would like to feel that through my actions I have managed to contribute to rescuing five element acupuncture from the peripheral position it was beginning to be consigned to at the time of JR Worsley's death, and placed it firmly back centre stage again in the eyes of the acupuncture world.  I think we have taken the first steps on the way to doing that, but there is still a long way to go to loosen Western medicine's hold upon the practice of all complementary medical disciplines, including still much of acupuncture.  First steps are always the most difficult, but I am happy that, in this battle for the survival of traditional forms of Chinese medicine, I have managed to enlist the help of the Chinese acupuncture world, with its vast resources, particularly through the contributions made by Professor Liu Lihong.

I hope that by the time I am no longer able to teach, more steps will have been taken, and perhaps even, if the Chinese are involved, there may have been giant strides.  Then indeed I like to think that I would have earned the words on my epitaph, "Nora, you did make a difference." 

Friday, March 4, 2022

22-11 Do all Fire people need to share?

I have suddenly realised that one of the reasons that I have felt compelled to teach (and it is a compulsion, a deep need) was because I like to share my joy in talking about the five elements.  And this need to share is, I now know, one of the mainsprings of my life.  It leads directly to my enjoyment in talking about whatever interests me to everybody I meet, and then moves on to my need to teach and to write.  All these different facets of my life have now come together creatively for me in helping me promote five element acupuncture.

I wonder, though, whether all Fire people have this need to share, or is it more a characteristic of Inner Fire?  My Small Intestine, such a curious official, always tries to sort the meaning of life from all that goes on around it.  It likes to work busily at trying to decipher what it sees, hears and feels, and then hopes to find words to explain what it discovers.  My happening to come across the mysterious realm of the elements all those years ago has provided me with perfect food to feed my curiosity.  That I discovered the exciting new world opening before me just at a time in my life when I was ready for new experiences has always seemed to me to be a perfect example of the often supreme serendipity of life.