The Time is Now. It’s a lightening December morning in Carmarthen. 8am and promising brightness. Rush hour elsewhere but quiet enough in far West Wales for me to stand in the road to take a photograph. There down the street past the Blue Boar (I wish I could say it was the Drovers Arms but that is another of the hostelries in this ancient hard drinking hard working fighting market town of the Western Celt) you can just see an orange jacket. At 8am on the way to my clinic. At first I noticed his tousled ginger hair and healthiest of cheeks. The very way he held himself spoke of a good heart and a happy kindness. He was holding a can of Tizer in one hand and speaking on his phone with the other. In his flattened Carmarthen vowels and friendly uplifting voice he was “Where is the Probation then? is it…” The villains of the West.
At first I think Nick is slipping into that place we often come to where a natural sort of composting occurs. I wake terribly early after a party on the solstice, by the sea. Sober and excited while people sleep off wine and fun. All the necessary ingredients; foxes in the garden, wine, huge paella cooked outside, bright eyed youth and tossled haired women with silvery laughs and later, fine raspberry vodka brought that afternoon from Ukraine, safe from battle.
I creep guiltily through the sound of gulls, into the studio and see the fresh smears of water and froth on the palettes, rows of largest zinc tubes squeezed by strong hands, painting on painting of cliff and pool and wave. The sun shines through the clerestory from the Hastings East. Outside roses tumble and zucchini burst from old tins and pales. A fine mother fox eyes me and, not wishing to be late, slips around the side into her sandy den underneath the kindly shed.
All around is energy, purpose and kindliness.
at Nick Snelling’s, Hastings, 5am June 22nd 2017
WEAVING AND WAITING
We have different relationships to the seasons. In Traditional Five Element Acupuncture the new student is taught the traditional diagnostic method. This takes the form of a discussion together with keen observation and physical examination. It may take as long as an hour and is designed to build empathetic understanding of where the patient has leaned and moved in their energetic development. Where, like a tree, the energies have been balanced. What shape the trunk and branches of the body mind spirit have taken. What resources they came into the world with and how they adapted to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. This process develops strengths and reveals our weaknesses. Nothing is fixed, everything is change and movement up to and beyond our last moment. The practitioner of Traditional Five Element Acupuncture examines this balance and comes to a conclusion as to where the Constitution is weighted and which Elements and associated organ functions and systems predominate. This protocol we refer to as the Causative Factor. Thus someone may be an Earth type, a Fire type, Water type and so on.
In the traditional diagnosis a question we might ask is “what is your favourite season“, “do you have problems with Autumn”, how do you get on with the cold weather?” thus revealing something of a relationship with the Elements and seasons.
This morning I woke feeling nervous and scattered. I think as I have got older my relationship with Autumn and the Metal element has become more problematic. When I look back at my childhood I remember happily the crispness of the air, the collecting of conkers, the smell of woodsmoke and something of a new start after the Summer. Of course, in late September and October, the tendency is now inward and that may be uncomfortable as we experience so much of life as rising and upward, well at least in our youth.
The two organs associated with the Metal Element of Autumn are the Lungs and Colon. The rhythm of these organs from first to last breath lend us an understanding of the existence of that perfect small space between. In the focus on the breath in meditation practice we are encouraged to hold a small space between taking and releasing a breath. It is in this space that the still gift of Autumn is revealed. The space where the unknown new can enter.
In Autumn we often see webs on the dewy grass, evergreen shrubs and dense heathers. Waiting and weaving. Occupying the spaces.
“JR” Worsley returned from Korea, Japan and Taiwan and after studying Soulié de Morant and others adapted Traditional Chinese Acupuncture so that it became the elegant system that we have in the West today where it sits so appropriately as Five Element Acupuncture with our modern sensibilities, psychologies and indeed neuroses. The essential aspects of the Spirit and emotional energies which the oriental ancients took so for granted and which were suppressed in the development of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Mao’s China, are in the beautiful system of Five Element Acupuncture, made most manifest. I am sure that “JR” the wise yet somewhat hubristic young man from Coventry did not come into direct contact with the artistic ferment that was Abstract Expressionism in New York from the 1940s to the early 1960s.
However, everything is acupuncture and the blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy is a wonderful, enormous explication of energy, light and dark, elemental nature and our need to express that and to mediate those forces in the built environment. Nowhere is the history of the modern city so strongly represented as in New York City and it is there that the artists who collectively represent Abstract Expressionism boldly played out the interaction of natural forces in the city.
For the Abstract Expressionist energy could flow or shatter, take all the forms of water or light; diffracted, swirling or be straight as a laser beam, constantly in motion with the human subject/object striving at times for an impossible point of elusive stillness.
Illustrations; 1. Clifford Still PH-247. Still’s work has only recently been released for general view. 2. Barnett Newman Midnight Blue. It has been suggested that The Queen of the Night was inspirational, an Audley vinyl soc med to follow?! Imagine this vast canvas to Mozart! 3. Joan Mitchell, Salut Tom 1970. 4. Pauline Latham. 5. The East River Sunrise on Jet Lag. 5. “One of those” with “JR” centre and my erstwhile teachers and now friends including David Arditti and “Dr” Tim Gordon top right and the wonderful Meriel Derby bottom right and too many to mention from the Leamington Spa College “in the Dawn of Time”.
What happens in Acupuncture? I am occasionally asked. Sometimes I go to the Colon point and press quite gently on “Joining of the Valleys”, the point Colon 4 on the Colon channel in the web of the thumb and finger, to demonstrate some sort of Gate Theory of pain, flow and release where most anyone will experience a dull ache as the restriction of flow is felt (audleyburnettacupuncture, Autumn in the Treatment Room, Nov 7 2016). Sometimes I will describe a more escoteric point such as Ming Men, Gate of Life, a Kidney point on the lower back or I might refer to a little social media film I have made on gutter clearing in Autumn ( https://youtu.be/9J1G7IMZ6KM).Yet again, once every fifty years an Abstract Expressionism exhibition will mean that all that remains is painting!
The power of Winter in Chinese Medicine is to contract, consolidate, reveal the inner structure of things and to nurture the essence. All is stripped away and we return to the dark. Of course that is only part of the story. Ming Men, the point right in the centre of the low back on a level with the kidneys is referred to as the “hottest” point in the body. While being on the Ren Mai, Governor Vessel channel which is a Yang channel, it also relates to the cooling yin aspect of the kidneys. While this seems contradictory to the Westerner, the strength of Chinese medical philosophy is the ability to reconcile opposites and to accept the apparently contradictory and random presentation of a patient’s symptoms. For life to be, the balance of hot and cold must be just so. Even one degree change of internal temperature may throw things out. Light and dark, yin and yang are in constant adjustment. So the kidneys have access to “life fire” and the first spark of life. The acupuncturist will often support the kidneys
with burning moxa on this point. All is acupuncture, all is poetry and for the Abstract Expressionists all is paint.
The illustrations are as follows; 1. The spark of life from an exhibition in the St Pankras Kerk, Leiden, Summer 2016, artist to be credited at a later date I hope. 2. Summer and Winter Solstice light 2014 courtesy of a friend of Caroline Seymour, Photographer. 3. Light on a patient in the treatment room above the town, with permission. 4. The St Pankras or De Hooglandse (Highland!) Kerk. Light as good as it appears anywhere.
The Quinces in mid November speak about processs, placement and time.
I have four Quince bushes that I can think of. Brought on from the fruit of different plants, at least one from Mog’s flinty London garden where they grow abundant as grapes and big as apples tight up against a Clapham wall. Philip was pleased with one he found when hedging this week which is growing in the hedge as a standard. Quite straight and tall and thus easier to harvest from. The fruit hide, protected by foliage and fearsome thorns until leaf fall in the first cold wind. Some stay tight and close to the twig and some fall to be caught in thorny clefts. You must allow time in order to be delighted and surprised in the search as the lovely golden green conceals them cleverly in the autumn colours and courage is needed as you crouch and reach into the bush to be speared everywhere, balding head included!
The rewarding promises begin to manifest a week later as the wonderful scent pervades the kitchen. Smell is one of the diagnostic tools in Chinese Medicine and survives in the toolbox of the modern Five Element practitioner along with Sound, Colour and Emotion. Such a sensual practice! The smell of Quince is extraordinary and I flare my nostrils lustfully and breathe deep when I first realise that it is the little quinces that smells so delicious in the warm kitchen. Quince is the foundation of a best selling range of candles and cosmetics (google Quince scent!). As we know from sexy pheromones, smell has physiological effects. Recent research has shown that even the smell of rosemary improves mental retention by 15%.
The Quince and its relatives, the Chinese and Japanese Quince form a most specific genus in the larger Rosacea family. The red brown colour developed on heating is also specific to the genus. Both fresh and dried fruit keep through the Winter. In Chinese Medicine Quince is known as Mu Hua or Wood Melon and is used to clear Wind Damp (rheumatoid arthritis), to relax the muscles of the back and to clear digestive stagnation and pain. It enters the Liver and Spleen channels. Similar delicious use can be made of citrus peel, Chen Pi, roasted till it is a little burnt and bunged into casseroles.
Recent research has suggested that the Quince contains strong antioxidant and antiviral pytochemicals, specifically anti influenzal. (Hamauza et al, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007).
If that is not enough, there is some evidence that Quince acts as a Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor. For the lay person that means more extra cellular Dopamine is swilling around for the feelgood factor. If you want an idea of that safely, find a Quince, brave the thorns, keep it a while and breathe deeply. Oh while flaring the nostrils fully!
The deaths of teachers, lovers, friends are gifts that pull us up sharp to see what is important outside. Poignant and allowing of space that nearer deaths cannot offer. So clear today as I awake alone in a room at a time when we are suddenly tipped into the Grand Guignol. Only three days ago I took Beautiful Losers off the shelf outside my treatment room. Leonard Cohen prepared his lovers for this. His songs of longing, loss and arrival have been reliable companions. I, my sister and some friends remained loyal in the decades when the troubadour was out of fashion.
Leonard Cohen has been an ally on many occasions. Recently I went for evidence to The Energy of Slaves in one of those you can’t say that moments of correctness.
As a teenager I penned the words in a slim blue spiral notebook and learned to strum the chords of Susanne and Bird on a Wire in a room in which I longed for depth and complexity and intimacy. Now at another end of the journey I want the simplicity of that room Cohen inhabited. His songs from that bright hot room still resonate.
Without my sorrow
To where it’s better