Living with the “Enemy”

Running an acupuncture practice is a good thing. I would also say that running a greasy spoon cafe in Bermondsey is a good thing but I guess it depends on your taste. I would prefer to be a patron of the greasy spoon cafe than the owner and in this regard, I think I have made the right career choice. My small cosy clinic tucked away in a narrow street behind a beach in what was a 17th Century fishing cottage in Sitges is a nice place to spend my days. 

This blog is aimed at practitioners, if you have been to my clinic for treatment, you may also find it interesting but I would recommend that if you have got this far, then just put the kettle on and make a nice tea instead.

Are you a practitioner? I assume you are. I want to talk about Chapter 75 of the Nan Ching Classic of Difficulties 難経. If you know it then it’s talking about the controlling cycle 相剋 within the 5 elements. So, for example, Metal controls Wood, Wood controls Earth etc. I’m sure you get the picture. In practice, this is worth exploring not from the points-based usage or syndrome patterns, but more from the actual art of practice itself and the running of a clinic and the general energetics that underpin this art.

I’m not sure of the kind of practitioner you are and I’m sure you are a good one, for me, I am not so interested in the physical aspect of the person I’m treating. Although most of the symptoms are physical, there is still an energetic matrix that is behind it. This is rather like the space between a person, the aspect of the interaction that is usually in the subconscious realm. A treatment interaction will start even before the patient arrives at my clinic and continues long after. 

At the moment, we are in an interesting situation where we are “social distancing” and there is an awareness of an invisible aggressor. Our awareness is tuned into the possibility of an attack. This kind of raw awareness of chapter 75. Compare this to  Chapter 69, which is the generating cycle 相生 ( Earth generates Metal, Metal generates Water etc, the mother-child relationship ) and you should see that it’s only one half of the picture.

I hate to say it, but, most people want to experience this generating aspect in their reality and are over-attentive with their own views. The desire to believe that you are right, that this is how “my world “should be regardless of the opinion of the other, is commonplace these days. Check out the current cancel culture in social media and you’ll get my angle. It is the most selfish aspect of life, quite natural and simply writing this now is a kind of paradox or koan because I am seemingly disagreeing with something and therefore my awareness has shifted into the aggressor mode. Of course, we want love and peace..but at what cost?

This reminds me of something that happened a while ago:

Imagine you see a couple arguing, and in this particular instance, the male is behaving very aggressively towards his girlfriend ( Chapter 69 ). You decide to intervene ( Chapter 75 ), but suddenly the aggressor turns on you instead, because you have taken the decisive or political role, at best, you’ll take a better beating. At the very least your intervention would initially be energetic, but then it must end in the physical and for sure, more than likely, you’d come out worst off because the aggressors’ intention is likely stronger than yours. I can speak about this from personal experience. When I lived in Bermondsey in the 90s I saw a couple arguing very aggressively, I looked, I thought about going there, and momentarily my energy was with them, but I walked away. This was definitely a wise choice in hindsight. I didn’t see what happened to the girl, but it was getting nasty. It was a segment of their reality of which I knew nothing about. I think had I intervened, I would have taken a serious beating, and most likely it would not have ended well. Of course, another option would be to stand there and say I’m calling the police but let’s get real, this is Bermondsey south London. I was in my final year at Westminster University Acupuncture degree course. I had a lot on my plate. Deciding to walk away was not the act of a hero but more about the act of self-preservation of the good I could do in the future. I was very clear about my actions at that moment in time. Maybe you want to judge me, but my reality is unique as is yours and the events surrounding it are certainly unique. To emphasise further the complexity. There are 5 interactive phases, but in an aggressive situation, there will be 4 interactions or phases. Victim, Perpetrator, Police and Family…OK, we could say the 5th one is Medicine.

Have you read the Art of War? I would have liked to have quoted something here but I had my excellent copy nicked from my reception a couple of years ago and haven’t been able to replace it yet. However, the general idea of this book is to prevent war, rather than make it. It’s not about peace either, but rightful governing and controlling through non-aggressive presence. If you get a chance, please read it.

Although difficult to do in practice, It’s important to coexist within the framework of both chapters 69 and 75. As with the current situation with COVID 19, the virus is not likely to go away. If you decide you want to fight it, then you will create aggression and segregation within society. An act of war is like this, it’s making choices between right and wrong at the expense of a true non-aggressive presence or strategic planning. Cultivating non-aggressive presence is how you will develop a good acupuncture practice and will cultivate your own awareness and preservation. Social distancing is chapter 75 in practice and if you like, a “Karen” who refuses to wear a mask because of her privilege, is 69. In fact, there are many examples of these chapters in daily life interactions and relationships. The creative, generating cycle mentioned in chapter 69 is only the other half of the controlling 75. The end result in treatment is the same whether you are tonifying or dispersing ( shunting ).

As long as you hold this dynamic dualism between the two, then resistance will be lessened in practice. As explained above in my personal example, an act of kindness can be an act of weakness too. All of the time this is going on in my clinic at a very subtle level. Is treatment an act of kindness? Not necessarily. A discussion for another time perhaps. However, at the moment I’m working mainly with just one patient at a time. Usually, I would like to see two together at 30-minute intervals. Treating one to one I lose a certain dynamic and thus I am drawn more intimately with the patient

Dedicated to Scott Walker who passed away recently

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