torsdag 21 april 2011

Multi-bed acupuncture in China and in the West

There is a movement in the West called multi-bed acupuncture. Most clinics the past few years have been and still are only one bed, one patient at a time. Multi-bed clinics take their view from the chinese set-up, which usually is anywhere from 2-10 patients treated at the same time. There are thin screens between the beds for privacy, but it´s a more communal experience and the effect is much more positive in treating the local community as a whole rather than single individuals in it.

People hear how other people´s treatments are going, they talk about their problems, they get support and share their experiences and a stronger social network is put in place. Purely energetically, simultaneous treatments of several patientes at the same time treats the local field of energy and intent in the community much stronger than if you treat one person only. The aid-organisation Acupuncturists Without Borders have made this a specific point when treating traumatized and destroyed communities in disaster zones and after natural disasters. You can read more about it here: http://www.acuwithoutborders.org/.

The multi-bed acupuncture project in the West often weaves together with something called community acupuncture too. Acupuncturists who work with this charge a sliding scale, where the client can decide themselves how much they can afford to pay. In London, that scale is usually between 20-50 pounds, but there are clinics in England who go as low as 15 pounds as well. Qualified acupuncture is expensive in the West since it is still kept outside the NHS-system. This means that people who really need it but have low income rarely can get access to treatments. The community acupuncture movement wants to change this. A clinic still has to go around, and the acupuncturist has to make a living, but with this, we can offer help that reaches those who really need treatments but who think they´re unavailable due to financial constraints.

Multi-bed acupuncture is the standard treatment in China, and has been, probably for millenia. These days, in a more capitalist China, there are private clinics where clients pay more money and have private rooms with only one doctor. In some treatments this might be necessary, but quite often the patient will actually gain more from being treated in a multi-bed clinic. In this day and age, we so easily glide more apart, human beings being small islands in an Internet sea, drifting gently but surely away from each other. The multi-bed treatments and community acupuncture tell us that we are all human, all have problems, and we can see the heart of people when they heal, just like in ourselves.

Daniel Skyle © 2011

Chinese medicine and Western medicine: differences. The 0-100 principle

The difference between Chinese medicine and the current Wester medicine is more fundamental than one might think. They are two different paradigms; two very different views on reality. And from their respective views on reality they perceive health and illness in very different ways, and then base their treatments on that decision.

I have mentioned it before in this blog, but I think it´s worth taking a deeper look at: the 0-100 principle of health and illness.

Picture that the health of an individual can move between 0 to 100. At 0-10, the person is just normally healthy: they are balanced within their life, have a reasonable harmony with their surroundings, and their physical health works fine for their work and chosen way of life. (Chinese medicine would treat, by the way, and is able to treat, all those areas). The higher up on the scale, the worse the situation has become and the deeper the illness will have gone into the mind and body of the person. The higher up on the scale, the deeper the illness will also have had time to go to put an imprint on that person´s personality and emotions.

The current Western medicine mainly focuses on the range of 70+. An illness is not actually seen as an illness until it is very clear and present in the person. Sometimes not even this stage is treated, and often has to wait until higher up towards 80-100 before something is done. Then there are a variety of treatments, mainly focused on pharmaceuticals or surgery. Some of the knowledge and treatments Western medicine can offer here are incredibly good. On the downside, there is also a high (and silenced) degree of mental and physical injury as well as fatalities due to wrong dosages inside the healthcare system and by patients themselves. (One argument that has been made for why acupuncture most likely will not survive with high quality and on a broad spectrum in the West, is that the pharmaceutical companies would not permit it. If you think this sounds paranoid, start reading up on the major pharmaceutical companies and their reach in the Western medical system.)

The old Chinese medicine focuses on the range of about 10-100. Since at least 200 BC they have stated that the most skilled doctors treat before it´s a disease – in this discussion, somewhere in the 10-20 range, before it even gets to 30. They see health and disease as a spectrum where the first small, small signs of a coming problem are visible in their diagnostic techniques. However, Chinese medicine has a weakness in the extreme range of 80-100. Here, Western medicine has some treatments that work with great efficiency, but there are also treatments at this end in Chinese medicine that seems impossible to Western medicine – such as one Western who recently saw an old man come in with a left-side stroke into a hospital, and two hours later be able to limp out, quite well, supported by his daughter. He had been diagnosed and treated immediatly, treated by acupuncture and the specific techniques for working with strokes that Chinese medicine has. This worked, as usual. But as a general rule, Chinese medicine has a weakness in this range compared to Western medicine.

In these two main paradigms of focus, a classically trained, fully skilled chinese physician would remark that if someone was your patient for a long time and actually ended up in the 70, you don´t know what you are doing, while a Western doctor usually, through his or her training, would not even look at the first 70 as anything much of interest at all – at best a preserve for physiotherapists.

The Chinese version is non-invasive, in the Western sense of the word. The primary treatment techniques are herbal medicine, acupuncture, tuina (when well trained, this is a high-tech version of massage that can also put organs back in the right place and open up very locked areas in a patient and restore blood-flow and energy-flow to them), and qigong. Acupuncture can treat a large range of problems and illnessess. It can treat chronic illnessess through increasing the physical and mental health of the patient, and decreasing the wear and tear from the chronic illness itself, even though it can´t remove it. Herbal medicine is usually seen as most efficient when it comes to reach greater depths in a person´s health, but it is very difficult to find skilled herbalists with good herbs in the West.

Classical Chinese medicine treat disturbances in health which they view as usually being something organic, something that coagulates: the longer it is left in place, the more it will go towards what Western medicine would call an illness or disease (external pathogens such as viruses are not seen this way, but your susceptibility to external factors can be changed and treated). Chinese medicine treats the range of 10-70 with a precision, skill and effeciency that Western medicine simply does not have techniques for right now. When you get up into the 70-100 span, Western medicine treats some things that an acupuncture doctor cannot do at all, and has great knowledge of crucial parts of physical health through Western science. When the Chinese version works well, and with good quality, it means two main things: 1) the person´s body, mind and life don´t become shaped by an illness; instead it is dealt with and balanced out so early that it never manifests and damages more. 2) It effectively treats general well-being and harmony in life too, including emotional imbalances, which means that good treatment will give the patient a greater ability to enjoy and savour their life.

From seeing patients and students over the last decade, and how they have fared in the two systems here in Sweden, I have to say that there has been a marked and strong bias for better health in those who used the Chinese medicine version in the hands of someone with long training and high skill. There have also been cases among them where Western medicine has been needed – and has treated the problem really well, since it fell within its specialized remit. But even then, the post-op healing from surgeries, for example, has been visibly increased by skilled Chinese medical treatment. I have also seen a range of treatments being done by Chinese medicine for things that Western medicine either couldn´t treat, or, worse, openly scoffed at – insulting and attacking the patient´s dignity for even daring to claim something was wrong, which is a horrible thing to do to a sick or injured person, especially from the position of power that doctors and nurses have in our society.

Any treatments within the range of unease and low-level mental lability or anxiety I have also seen better treated by Chinese than Western medicine during this time. Most cases have simply not registered as a problem within Western medicine at all – it is so far outside the locked box of the 70-100 that it is not seen as a problem, and there aren´t really any treatments for it. If the anxiety becomes bad enough, it might be treated with pharmaceuticals, but that´s often the end result today, when the system for Western medicine is kept being cut back ever year.

Discussing this becomes difficult without going into patient notes, but I offer the 0-100 model as something to think about and see in your own health. The programming we get in the West makes us only start seeing and reacting to problems once they are very, very visible: the current Western system indirectly tries to rob people of the knowledge of their bodies and innate minds, giving power to the hierarchy within Western medicine to decide what is right and what is wrong (if you choose to give it, of course. It´s yours to keep or give away. Or take back). There is a large and practical potential for treatments in the 10-70 range, long before you might end up with a more serious problem or illness. Does it cover everything? No. But if done by skilled professionals with long training, it does offer a vastly different, more vibrant version of health than the current Western system does.

In hospitals in China we can see what is probably a utopian model: the Two Wings, one with Western care, one with Chinese. The staff in each dedicated to their own unique skills and treatments, and patients free to go to either, or start in one place and then shift. The Western side has Western medicine doctors (xiyi yisheng), the Traditional side has Chinese medicine (zhongyi yisheng) doctors. Well ... sometimes I have a dream.

”The acupuncture points have become my friends over the years”

Quoted from my teacher in Beijing, a doctor with 40 years experience in Chinese hospitals. Wow. I want to be as good as this...

When I first began studying, I believed that points were just measured places on the body that might be located on a cadaver or in an anatomy text. Also, I believed that all points on the body were roughly the same: that they are all openings between the various structures of the body. Later, I began to appreciate subtle differences among the points. Some have more qi or more blood, some have less. In some places the type of qi is different than in others. Importantly, the exact nature of qi sensation that should be generated from each point varies, and should be varied depending on the desired effect. Each point actually has its own nature or personality. Once I began to truly note these differences among the points on my patientes, I became more and more interested in the classical point categorizations. It is from here that I began my explaration of the source, collateral and five transport points.

In fact, after many years, I now think of many of the points on the body as old friends. I know what they are like, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and when to call on them for help. When you get to know the points in this way, treating in the clinic is kind of like waking good friends from a slumber – gently prodding the points to wake them up and send them on their way. Also, as I´ve said before, some of the points are like jacks-of-all-trades, friends that you might call on to help with a wide variety of projects. Other points have very specific strengths and should be used in more specific cases. The points, to me, really do seem to have these different personalities.”

Holding pattern

There are four planes circling the night sky above London as I walk the last street home. Four big planes, I can see their lights at different heights. Can´t see if there are more. Four, just the slice I can see, so probably more ... Heathrow? Hope nothing has happened.
Four planes, in a holding pattern in the dark sky above London.

The Liver channel and the Wood Element, or ”What the hell are you looking at?”

Our current channel is the liver channel, and since the season is also Spring, which links to the Wood Element that contains the liver and its paired organ the gallbladder, we´re going to look a bit at both.

The liver and gallbladder in Chinese medicine are linked to one of the Five Elements called Wood. Wood is the energy and action of growing, of wood, forest, trees – of intent and energy that goes outwards and away, pushing out for new boundaries, achieving new goals. The element is linked to the emotions of anger, irritation, frustration and bitterness, but also to the ability to act, enthusiasm, and compassion. But – hang on. Remember that this list of emotions also reflects how clean and balanced someone´s Wood element is. The more blocked, the more constant anger, frustration and irritation there will be, a short fuse and angry demeanor. If it is very blocked (called collapsed), this will turn to resentment, bitterness or even hate. The cleaner it gets, there is simply the ability and intent to do, freely and constantly, with a large amount of active compassion for the universe.

Anger is a healthy emotion. It needs to be alive in us, but balanced: an inability to express anger is as bad as expressing too much. Part of getting more balance in ourselves is to be able to be angry when there is an actual reason for it, and then let that anger go. In Chinese medicine, this would be seen as the Wood element working well with Metal, since Metal gives borders, boundaries and ethical lines, but also cuts and divides and keeps Wood in check so it keeps growing well instead of becoming a field of dandelions eating up your garden.

The Liver channel itself is 14 points. It goes all the way from the big toe in the feet up to the crown of the head. The primary channel follows the inside of the leg, circles around the genitals, continues up the side and then goes deep, entering the torso, connecting to lungs, stomach, liver, gallbladder and continuing up the throat to the mouth, nose and top of the head to Baihui, point 20 on the Governing Vessel, the highest point on the body.

Treatments using the liver channel often focus on creating free flow in the body. Pain is seen as stagnation that has lasted a long time, and can be released through this; the liver in Chinese medicine is seen as liking free movement, like growth in Spring, and it gets more angry the more blocked the path is.

The liver is also linked to emotions in the body. They should move freely, but often get stuck instead and create problems and blockages in us and our lives and our health. The liver has a relationship with grief, even though grief is linked to the lungs and Metal, because often our grief is held back by anger. It is also this that links the liver channel to treatments of depression, because often depression can be based on underlying anger, huge amounts of it, but locked, like layers of shale in rock.

The ”external pathogen” for the Wood element is wind. An external pathogen is simply something that effects us from the outside of our system instead of starting inside. Wind is also something energetic that can go inside our system and create physical changes and domino-effects. Internal wind can be started from the inside or initiated from the outside, and it is when the emotions run wild and unbalanced or symptoms keep coming and going restlessly, never manifesting in one single place. This might have started in the liver or will be affecting the liver.

The Wood element and liver is also linked to the health of our ligaments and tendons, and in the old days the liver was called the General in the body, as it controls and governs movement. The heart was called the Emperor, since everything depends on it and it rules all else in the body.

Treatments on the liver channel itself is used for, among many other things, regulating menses for women, clearing up eye-problems, clearing up pain, clearing up external or internal wind, releasing tissues in general and releasing distension and pain in the chest more specifically. It can be used to calm down rebellious energy in the stomach – that is energy going up instead of down, seen as heartburn or digestion problems. It can also help treat specific organ problems with liver and gallbladder, but in Classical Chinese medicine things are not reductionist as in Western medicine, and treatments for liver and gallbladder would often involve other meridians and Elements to balance them with an organic whole and restore the health of the entire inner world of the patient, not just excise or focus on one single part of it.


The Stomach Channel in Chinese medicine and post-birth qi: how we get energy to live after we´re one year old

Well, god knows how we do that, really, given the stresses life can bring with it. But in Chinese medical view, there are two main different types of energy that powers living beings: xiantianqi and houtianqi, pre-heaven energy and post-heaven energy.

The stomach is much more important in China than in the West. This is not unique to the Chinese, it´s simply a reflection of a society were food is scarce and starvation a real possibility. The Stomach becomes crucial, something reflected in the old Chinese greeting which used to be ”Ni chi fan le ma?” - have you eaten? In the 19th century, due to Western traders, ”How are you?” came into the Chinese language instead in the phrase of ”Ni hao.” These days in the West, most have forgotten what it is like to constantly worry about getting food (interestingly, the Earth element that the Stomach and Spleen links to, has worry as a pathological emotional state). Everything in us is full, all the time, we can buy whatever we like in the store and the risk of a famine is as real as a science fiction series on TV. Due to this, most people have shi, problems of excess energy, in the West, while most people in China and developing countries often have a high frequency of xu, problems of emptiness or deficiency.

Daoism and Chinese medicine both see that up to the age of about one-and-a-half we use xiantianqi, pre-heaven energy, where we take in nourishment from the outside in a small way but keep on charging energy from the universe like we did in the womb. Once that age is past, we go into houtianqi, the energy of post-heaven, where we get nourishment and energy from three things: 1) food, 2) rest, 3) air. Long-term Daoist qigong- and meditation-practice will change this and slowly relink a person to the pre-heaven qi over work of many decades of training, while continously upgrading and refining our post-heaven qi and its ability to work in our body and life.

The Stomach is seen as the most important pivot for this, as it brings in crucial nourishment through food. It is seen as transforming food into guqi, ”grain energy” that nourishes our body. The Stomach is paired with the Spleen in the Earth Element, and they together are responsible for ”ripening and rotting” food while transforming some of it into pure qi that will work in our body. There is a long sequence of organs involved in distilling and refining this food qi to usable qi in the body, while the simultaneous western view of food disgestion takes place. Both exist simultaneously.

The Earth Element is also the Element that integrates things on all levels, all the way from our life to our ideas to information we get. It is the one Element that is destroyed the most in the lifestyle of the industrialized West. It is the Element that integrates the other four. In older Chinese drawings, sculptures or incense burners, the five were often depicted with Earth in the middle and the other four around it.

The ability of the Stomach to digest food is very important. If the system is unbalanced, the body will not properly digest the food coming in and the person will become sluggish, with too little heat inside to transform food and move the body. This is often a problem with the Earth element itself, a yin problem. A yang problem would be too fast metabolic rate and no interest in food, where food is only fuel to move the organism. To the first person, food would not be particularly interesting, and they would eat very little but prefer sweets or carbs if they can. To the second one, food will be important to eat but won´t really taste much – it´s just fuel, something that has to be eaten. If the Earth element works well, the Chinese medical classics say ”You taste the five flavours” - that is, you truly taste and enjoy the food you eat, feeling each nuance of flavour clearly and savouring them.

In the Five Element cycle Fire releases into Earth like summer into indian summer. Earth opens into Metal, like indian summer opens into autumn.

Linking to the channels in the body, what is called interior-exterior paired channels, the Spleen is linked to the Lung channel, while the Stomach is linked to the Large Intestine channel. Spleen and Stomach is part of the Earth element, Lung and Large Intestine is part of the Metal element. This relationship is also seen between Earth and Metal, in that Earth is seen as creating the zhengqi, the Upright Qi, our ability to remain upright and straight and simply work or walk without becoming tired. If this fails to work well with Metal, which is linked to our spine and lungs, our spine will slumping, weaker, and tired.

The energy of the Stomach, Spleen and Earth element grounds us, integrates our life, puts both feet on the ground and keeps us centered. When in balance, it nourishes freely and gently, and lets us enjoy our earthly existence while we are here.

Back from China, old doctors (which you can´t find in the West) and changing universities

A lot of stuff in that title and a lot of stuff in this post.

I went to China for two weeks doing research for a book. The trip went very well, with some unique information coming out of it.

I also got the chance to attend clinic and learn from a laoyisheng, the honorific the Chinese use for ”Old Doctor”, usually a practitioner, man or woman, who is above 60 years old and has at least 30 years daily work in Chinese medicine behind them. The one I met is in his early seventies, with 40 years clinical experience in hospitals and clinics. He has also done deep research in trying to improve the skill and knowledge in the system he was trained in. Seeing his skill makes it all too obvious how much is lacking in the West, how little has made it over here. This man is, of course, at the apex of his professional life, and a naturally gifted doctor to boot, but you still feel sad about how little we have available of it. There are no Old Doctors in the West, pretty much due to the fact that Chinese medicine is too young here. Maybe we can produce some budding ones over the next century.

Another factor in this is the sheer number of patients. A typical Chinese doctor in hospitals sees an average of 20-40 patients in a day, sometimes a lot more, five days a week. A Western acupuncturist with their own clinic might have an average of 6-8 patients a day, and might not work every day of the week. Having access to the huge numbers means an increase in skills and diagnostics that the lower numbers simply will never approach.

I am also quitting the course at the university. The blog hiccups here a bit, over that, but the blog is supposed to be about what it is like studying acupuncture in the West, and my experience with some of the low-grade teachers is a very common complaint among students of chinese medicine in the West, so it is quite typical of what is like to study acupuncture here. Are they all Old Doctors and maestros of the art in China? No. Not at all. But the main Chinese training is five years minimum, full time at university, the chinese medical doctor course, and that will produce a very different level of skill than the average course in the West. There are downsides to the chinese training too, but just by it being closer to the source and huge in length compared to the courses here, it produces very different results.

So. Due to the way the course was structured at the first university, and due to issues with the teaching methodology of two of the modules (50% of the course), I will now be looking at another university course in London. This one is quite different to the first, with a stronger emphasis on Chinese medicine itself, and less a focus on the Western biomedical side as being something to adapt to. I will give more information about the difference between the two later.

I am also, due to 20 years of previous study and full-time work in the field, of course not the student these courses are designed for. So, right now, I am trying to find a course and way of training that will maximize my previous skills while upgrading the new ones. But at the course I am attending now, the past nine months of full time course has included 10 percent purely new information on the Chinese medical side for me. 5% of them, I can pick up straight out of books. The other 5% are the skills of good practitioners, and that is much more rare and valuable. But those are possible to reach without attending a university course where the amount of Western Physiology is 25%, packed with information and badly taught.

More on this later.

Next post will be about the Stomach, an organ much more focused on in China than in the West.

Learning is happening, with added Seven Emotions of Chinese medicine

Right. Learning is happening. Students go to classes, do tests, discuss things and debate what the teachers say. Some classes are interesting, some less so, as in all university programs. Clinic goes on, with discussions of diagnostics and treatments both in video-clinic and observation-clinic.

We found out that the class in ”qigong tuina” actually is a class in anmo, basic chinese massage, which the teacher said her teachers called it when she learned from them. I don´t know how this then became renamed qigong tuina, as that is something quite different to anmo, just like normal tuina is something other than qigong tuina too. Oh well. Like some other things here, I file it under the folder Shi ma? (”Oh, really?” in Chinese.)

The class in theory is currently looking at the causes of disease, the sanyin. These include both internal and external causes, and then how their aetiology works, how they shape an imbalance in a person, and how this manifests in different ways depending on how deeply it has gone. Again, old Chinese medicine recommends treating before there actually is an illness noticeable at all, and the diagnostic skills of classical Chinese medicine teaches how to do this with great skill and precision.

If your qi is good and stable, you are rarely affected by external factors at all. But if it starts to weaken, they become a bigger factor. You also have the internal factors, one of which is the ”Seven Emotions” (qi qing). Well balanced, they are simply there, making life life and letting us enjoy it for good and for bad. Unbalanced, they can give rise to deeper imbalances pulling qi and physical body down with them and creating ill health that actually has emotional causes.

They are: anger, sadness, joy, grief, pensiveness, fear and fright.

Having too much of any of them will injure our health. If they do it for a long time, it will shape it and let the injury settle deeply in our system. The longer they go on, the more tense the person becomes and the easier they have for feeling that emotion even more, so the vicious cycle goes around and around, deepening.

Pensiveness might be interesting to look at a little deeper. It´s not a word used a lot. What it actually covers is blockages in the Earth element of the person: a constant worry or never-ending thoughts that just keep nagging and never stop just go on and on and keep going on without stopping and often just repeat the same things in loop on and on and on without stopping and never –
You get the point, right? Good. This is called sixiang in Chinese: obsessive thinking. If it´s done in a loop the size of a centimeter instead, it´s called mental illness.

Chinese medicine can treat emotional problems quite well, if the acupuncturist is skilled. It can´t do magic, can´t fix them, but it can balance them a whole lot and make someone´s life more harmonious and balanced both inside and outside. Westernized acupuncture cannot do this, so if you look for that kind of treatment, you need to find an acupuncturist trained in old chinese medicine, classical chinese medicine in one school or the other.

Emotions can be the joy of life, as well as the bittersweet. But they should not be the poison of it. Then there are treatments and ways of training that can, could, and will help to make life more worth living again.

Another Shi ma?-filing last week was a comment in clinic where a patient was coming in for treatment for infertility, which acupuncture usually treats very well, but she came in after 14 miscarriages and had four children before that, the youngest of which was 17. The reason for wanting another was that ”the others were too old now”. This seemed like a doubtful case for me to treat and help get more children, and I asked about that. The teacher answered, ”If you don´t, someone else will.” Really? They might, but the choice you make is always for your system and your integrity, not someone else´s. It´s the same logic that goes towards ”I won´t help homeless people because they probably get help somewhere else”.
Shi ma. Oh, really? File.

Full moon over London, talking to Zhang Zhongjing

and the homeless are fighting in the alleys. A man stands at Tottenham Court Station and takes pictures of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road; the voluntary corps of motorcyclists who block the city´s roving car-cameras are out, some of them in V-masks; a beautiful black woman on the bus smells of Africa, sandalwood, spices – so strong I´m almost there; the little kid at the Chinese take-away has eczema around his mouth at eight months old; there´s a charge in the air, a charge, but more quiet in this time of winter that is still isn´t really Spring.

But the evenings are clearer already, there´s a feeling of happiness and freedom and movement hiding just around the corner, like a director proudly standing in the wings, watching his actors hold the house in their hands.

I walk through London streets thinking of diagnostics in Chinese medicine. I look at people, a training I have done in huge amounts over the years. The goal is to be able to watch someone and set a first basic diagnosis in five seconds. In that time you see a lot; huge amounts of information is collated and discriminated, immediatly analyzed, cross-checked, deductions and inductions made. You also see if they have any particular tensions or injuries that change their body, and form ideas of how that might have impacted their health or might do in the future.

"The skilful doctor knows by observation, the mediocre doctor by interrogation, the ordinary doctor by palpation."
Zhang Zhongjing, 200 AD, author of Shang Han Lun

With time and training, you gain the skill of seeing their energy and shen, ”spirit”: their spark of life and connection to the outside world. This primarily resides in the heart and one of the places it shows is in the eyes, but it has many layers to it. Then you think of how you might treat this, and how to weave that together with the other treatment.

Full moon over London. Hark, listen to those sirens in the night.

London in 2011: year of the Metal Rabbit (it´s got huje teef like this)

It´s another year gone by since the Romans left their forts here. Another year gone by since Guy Fawkes tried to blow up parliament, later giving rise to the graphic comic V for Vendetta which in turn became a movie which in turn popularized the mask that V wore, and which now is being worn today by the supporters of Wikileaks called Anonymous.

Boris Johnson is still mayor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QplCetQYYKw. He still rides his bike about town, occasionally being involved in saving someone from traffic accidents, which he did once. Berkeley Square still stands in the postal code called West 1 in central London (W1), but it is very rare to find an nightingale sing here, like the old song says it would. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyofs0mreCc.

Life in modern London is both hard yet easier than probably ever before in history. It is a city of 12 million people; the capital of the United Kingdom – some would even say the capital of Europe in our time (I hope the French aren´t reading this).

It is the year of the Metal Rabbit, if we´re going to talk Chinese Zodiac. 2011. A lucky year, it´s said. Let´s hope. The New Year is on the 6th of February. Last year was the year of the Metal Tiger. So much Metal. Let´s hope it´s gold, not knives.

London in January 2011...it´s a nation still fighting a war. As always. I don´t think there´s been a generation of Englishmen that have lived without England being involved in a war somewhere. Many nations do this just as a way to keep the nation together. It´s cheap (not in money), dirty, and it works, so politicians kind of stick with the formula and just keep things going. Even Caesar knew this when he fought the bloody annoying ”savage tribes” that inhabited both France, Germany and the island he travelled to and visited. The Celts, or Celtoi, were forced back to the north of England where a line was drawn and a wall was built and treaties made that they should stay behind it and never venture south. This was Hadrian´s Wall. It still stands, even though Rome fell a long, long time ago.

Or, as Caesar himself writes: ”On learning the enemy´s plan of campaign, Caesar led his army to the Thames in order to enter Cassivellaunus´ territory.The river is fordable at one point only, and even there with difficulty. At this place he found large enemy forces drawn up on the opposite bank. The bank was also fenced by sharp stakes fixed along the edge, and he was told by prisoners and deserters that similar ones were concealed in the river-bed. He sent the cavalry across first and then at once ordered the infantry to follow. But the infantry went with such speed and impetuosity, although they had only their heads above the water, that they attacked at the same moment as the cavalry. The enmy was overpowered and fled from the river-bank.” ...which only is one paragraph out of Caesar´s PR piece De Bello Gallico, On the Gallic Wars (and yes, he refers to himself in third person all through the book). He was 46 years old that day, and his death by knives from his peers in the sacred grounds of the Senate lies ten years away. This combat took place between Roman soldiers and celts 2055 years ago. In the newspapers today, Boris Johnson announced that they intend to go through with building an island on the Thames for a new airport. London needs more air-travel.

England has a new government, headed by a comedian duo called David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who seem intent on making the nation go faster down the drain than the impopular but possibly more efficient Gordon Brown. Tony Blair is busy spending the reminder of his life manufacturing excuses of why the dead from the war in Iraq aren´t his fault, you see.

Ipods are everywhere on the trains and buses; Ipads are coming now too, but more rare, seen only sometimes, and then new and wondrous in their thinness. Wifi is spreading through cafés but not everywhere: mainly in the chains, like Starbucks, Costas, Prêt (Prêt a Porter, a green food chain of sustabinable food, Ready to Go, pronounced by the locals as Prette, like soldiers in the Great War pronounced the town of three huge battles as Wipers – Ypres, site of horrible fighting three times). I once met a man who fought there. The last living cavalryman of England, he was, and, just like Caesar, he is dead now.

Preparations are taking place. The Olympics of 2012 are coming. The subway system is being given a huge once-over; as is the plumming, buildings, streets... As someone who has travelled a lot in London I just marvel at the idea that putting Olympics in central London will work. The city has no more place for traffic, no more place for people The only way to go is up (famous last words of the builders of the Tower of Babel).

And, finally, here´s the video the title aluded too. I knew you were kept waiting for it at the edge of your seat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcxKIJTb3Hg.

The Governing vessel and Conception vessel: Du and Ren channels and different layers of energy-work in Chinese medicine and Daoism

Some of the meridians we have gone through lately are not common meridians. The main meridians that seen as ”meridians” are the 12 that are paired and linked to the internal organs – what are called the yin and yang meridians, some of which we´ve looked at here before. These are usually called jing. On top of these are the luo; a network throughout the body of small energy-flows, like a fine mesh and web nourishing everything with qi. Some acupoints are specifically linked to link: they are called luo-points, and aid the flow between one meridian or organ and another.

The two latest ones are not part of these, however. They belong to a group called the Eight Extraordinary meridians – the Eight Extras, for short. We will look at these later. Usually they are not part of the main sequence of meridians except for two: the Governing and Conception meridians, the Du mai and Ren mai, which are the channels we have looked at before Christmas and now on the course. The other six have no points on them, they are only reached from other meridians and are pretty special cases. The Du and Ren, however, have their own points directly.

The Du and Ren mai are the body´s two main yang and yin channels. The Du goes up the spine; the Ren down on the front of the body from the mouth to the genitals.

They are said to form earlier in the fetus than the 12 yin and yang meridians and the luo. They are the main systems for yin and yang energy as a whole in the person: Du, going up the spine, into the brain, up over the head and down to the mouth, governs yang energy. Ren, going from the mouth down to the genitals and passing all down the soft, yin front of the body, governs yin.

These two are linked to a huge number of procesess and treatments in the body. In some qigongs and in Daoist spiritual practice, they also form part of the work called the xiaojiutian, or the Small Heavenly Orbit, where the practitioner moves qi through them in a circuit, sometimes stopping at specific points for specific work there. This is a technique that has been much misunderstood in the West. It shouldn´t really be part of health qigong. It´s Daoist training for spiritual work. The older traditions will prepare and train the body and mind in various ways for a long time so that the orbit opens up softly and gently by itself before doing anything conscious with it. In many systems that have come in fragments to the West, the Small Heavenly Orbit is done forcefully, or simply with the person trying to push qi through a tense body and mind, a practice that is much riskier for both physical and mental health than the softer one.

The Du channel treatments focus a lot on health of the spine, health of Yang energy in the body, and the health of being upright – the zhengqi. It also has a major facet of the connection between spine, brain and heart. All the Eight Extras border Daoist work rather than Chinese medicine, and like in other parts of Chinese medicine, there are many treatments that can only be done by a person with enough energy and clarity in their system. The people who wrote them down had it, later practitioners might not. Sometimes they call treatments ”arcaic” or ”ineffective”, without knowing that they themselves simply don´t have enough qi or clear intent to pull them off.

The Ren channel treats yin of the body, and on it we also find the so called front mu points, direct gateways to some of the internal organs and their functions, points which are placed on the Ren channel itself and has a strong effect.

The Conception and Governing vessels are like midnight and midday, they are the polar axis of the body ...there is one source and two branches, one goes to the front and the other to the back of the body... When we try to divide these, we see that yin and yang are inseparable. When we try to see them as one, we see that it is an indivisble whole.” Li Shizhen, quoted from Deadman, A Manual of Acupuncture.

Various kinds of qigong and Tai Chi work the fascia and flows of the front and back of the body, including the channels. It´s generally seen as much more effective to have training that focuses on working the fascia, releasing it and relaxing it, rather than just working qi in the channels themselves: if the fascia is tense and not moving as one piece, the channels themselves will still be blocked, no matter how much one tries to move energy through them. In Daoist energy work, the Ren and Du are quite superficially placed. There are several further depths into the body with channels. Another one, next layer in from the Ren, and also one of the Eight Extras, is the Chongmai – the Thrusting Channel. But there are other flows even deeper than these, that form core work in classical Daoist work. Good training, however, will take the practitioner deeper in layers, letting the body open naturally, like a flower – much the same way a skilled acupuncturist will allow the system of a patient to open up too.

In the middle of creative chaos

Back in London. I see a train-conductor going off shift, carrying a copy of Don Quixote in his pudgy hands. He is in his fifties, bald, with glasses, slightly overweight: wonder if he sees his days, his life, this life, like fighting windmills.

A week ago I saw the old woman sit on the very ledge of London. They have punched - stabbed – a hole in Charing Cross Road and then sealed it, digging to the right instead. There are a few older houses in the middle of one of the busiest places in London, and there are still flats. The buildings themselves are from the 1900´s. They have torn down many buildings here now. But there, on what is suddenly a balcony out into a building site and traffic, with her apartment behind her, sitting in January weather, an old woman on a chair, smoking a cigarette as I pass by on a bus below.

She lives in what used to be hell in London: St Giles, the sink, home of the poorest of the poor. Now behind her, it is remade in huge skyrises that looks like made out of plastic and steel, a child´s toys where the people used to live in squalor and deprivation that is hard to even believe of London in the Victorian 1800´s.

One day the trains are cancelled. Sunday. Going back, I forget, and go to the station anyway. Sent on a run-around for buses that turn out not to exist I finally come to another platform, for another train, and go to another suburb where I have to change, and manage to get the right bus and then the right train. Flustered, tired, I think, the silly things we do with our life.

Rain, on the night streets of London. Chinese voices behind me on the bus.

Thinking. Preparing for the coming semester. Taking that breath before diving in. No, that´s wrong: I don´t think like that. Just already in there, planning.

I am now studying full time at two universities in two different countries. At least they´re on the same continent. Doing full time through web-based studies in Sweden lets me get the student loans I should have gotten for the course in England...ridiculous.

Bought more books: pediatric acupuncture, ear-acupuncture, Daoist classical healing practices through chinese medicine and ritual...and more needles. Sitting here in a Starbucks, writing this, a moving unit in the middle of creative chaos.

Stones into Schools: a review of a book and the work of many miracles of humanity

This is an incredible book, and this review not particularly impartial. Go buy it. Now. I mean, you can read the review too, if you have nothing else to do, but really, just go buy it.

The drive and intent to help the world takes all manner of strange manifestations. Some good, some bad; some brilliant, some misplaced. Some manifested out of ego; some out of genuine and selfless altruism. In 2009, it´s calculated that there were about 250 000 aid workers out there. The aid world is a multi-billion dollar industry, and sad to say, a circus that some are in for the money. The main part of them though, are incredibly brave people who try to help others, often in places and during times when things could be worse, but it´s hard to figure out exactly how.

Stones into Schools describes the work of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute. The first part of his story can be found in the book Three Cups of Tea, but simply put, he tried to climb Mount Everest back in the 90´s, kinda failed, got lost, ended up in a small, local village where they treated him as a returning family member since that was the culture they had with guests, and then he listened to them talk about how much they wanted a school for their children.

And Greg Mortenson kinda found himself promising they would get their school. They did, eventually, but only after first having to build a bridge to get the building materials across to the village.

From this, the idea was born to build schools all over Pakistan. Not only schools, but schools in the places that follow once you keep going from where the map says ”End of the road”. Not only schools, but schools focused on increasing girls´ and women´s literacy, letting the local community guide everything and with deals with the elders that the school must eventually have at least 50% female students. Usually they end up having much more.

Not only schools, but, over time, an honors program that takes the best and brightest and gives them grants for further studies, often to doctor, nurse or teacher, which they then head back with to help out communities on the edge of the world, people forgotten even by the nation they are in, let alone the rest of the planet.

Not only schools, but life, literacy, and future.

At the moment, female literacy in rural Afghanistan continues to languish in the single digits. In rural Pakistan, the figures are a little higher, but not by much. The demand for schools, teachers, books, desks, notebooks, uniforms, chalkboards, paper and pencils in these two Islamic nations is immense, and the benefits of American investment in this ”intellectual infrastructure” are indisputably clear. Nothing that has happened since my unsuccessful attempt to climb K2 – including 9/11 – has changed my conviction that promoting female literacy represents the best way forward for Pakistan and for Afghanistan.
Education is one of the many basic values that Amerians of all faiths share with Muslim people everywhere.”

Stones into Schools details something even bigger than this (if that´s possible to conceive). In it, we follow Greg Mortenson in his work in Pakistan...and how it slowly starts to tip over into Afghanistan. Suddenly, he and his very small staff of brave people are helping communitites to build schools in Afghanistan...even into areas still controlled by the Taliban. Not only schools: hope.

And in the middle of this, the Kirghiz turn up. They want to have help with building a school in one of the most inaccessible places on the planet, the Wakhan Corridor (http://maps.google.se/maps?hl=sv&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4HPNN_svSE310SE310&tab=wl. You want to have fun? Try zooming in really close).

When word had reached Abdul Rashid Khan (the leader of the Kirghiz, blog writer´s addition) that the American school builder was scheduled to pay a visit to the Charpurson Valley, he had sent out a platoon of his strongest riders and his swiftest horses to find this man and ask if he would consider coming into Afghanistan to build schools for the sons and the daughers of the Kirghiz.”

Stones into Schools talks about Mortenson´s very clear hope – and there really is hope: here is someone who´s heart and fire burn like a beacon – his very clear hope to save whole generations of children and young people and give them the chance for a future for themselves and for communities torn by decades of war and sundered by earthquake, religious intolerance and bad governments.

It really is an astounding read, a brilliant read, a read with great compassion.

For myself, I think it might be the best book I have read in quite some time.


And if you wish, you can donate to their work here: https://www.ikat.org/make-a-donation/

Added: two videos, one incredible video showing the tour to one of the schools: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWyAU56p3ww

And one with an interview with Greg Mortenson on his incredible work. Part 1 and 2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKq5BECYwbE


On the Neijing, part I out of oh, lots

The Neijing – the Huangdi Neijing Suwen, if we´re going to be formal – is the bible of chinese medicine. It was probably written about 200 BC, but the text shows that whoever wrote it down did so from an existing and complex science. The Neijing contains two parts with 81 chapters in each. The first is called the Suwen, the General Questions, where Qin Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor who united China, is having a (made-up) conversation with his trusted advisors. They talk about such things as health, medicine, how illness and the treatment of it works, and how you can keep good health all through your life. Many of the tenets and views are daoist, and it was Daoism who gave birth to chinese medicine. Since then, it has shaped and affected it over the millenia.

The second part of the Neijing is called the Lingshu, often clumsily translated as the Spiritual Pivot. It´s more practical than the Suwen and contains advice on needling, for example, but some chapters also contains information on the treatment of shen disorders: disorders of the mind, emotions, mental states. These are very common among people in the industrialized West, where pressures on the body are often almost gone, but the pressure on the mind, emotions and nervous system is huge.

The copy my friend in LA recommended was translated from a well-known version from the Tang dynasty, (600-900). The author´s name was Wang Bing, a chinese medical doctor and scholar mostly known for the twelve years he put into doing an annotated and restored version of the then existing Neijing from the early 500´s. Wang was finished in 762: a new updated version of the Neijing lay there in front of him, filled with his additions done in red ink around the original text.

The more common version used today is from about 1060. But the text itself has been continously researched, debated, discussed and commented on and its practices upgraded over the past 2200 years, like the rest of the huge medical canon of China. It´s difficult to find good, complete translations of the Neijing. For someone to really understand the old text untranslated and in depth, pretty good skills at reading chinese are necessary, not to mention knowledge of classical chinese medicine – preferably long-time practice of same – Daoist practices and thought, chinese culture, politics, and Chinese history. And if you´re going to look straight at the old text, it´s nice if you can read classical chinese, not just the old characters but translate classical chinese itself, which is something else. There´s not a lot of people in the West who come to the text with those skills in their back pocket.

And in the blink of an eye that Chinese medicine has been in the West (roughly 1960´s and onwards) language has been and still is one of the big bars to deeper knowledge about the complete tradition. I´ll put up a video further on where a discussion on this is done from the medical text called the Shang Han Lun (the Treatise on Cold Disorders – a compendium mainly about how to treat illnesses that arise from cold weather or climates), that will show a little of how much depth has been lost.

I´m going to talk more about the Neijing later, there´s so much to look at when it comes to the core text of classical chinese medicine.

If you want to read one report of how Chinese medical training at the universities work with the Neijing, you can find it in Elisabeth Hsu´s book the Transmission of Chinese Medicine. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transmission-Chinese-Medicine-Cambridge-Anthropology/dp/0521645425/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1283882239&sr=1-1. Hsu (actually Xu, in pinyin) is an ethnographer, and for a couple of years she simultaneously studied with a qigong healer, an old classical chinese medicine doctor and at the TCM university that trained doctors. In her book, she compares the three and their ways of teaching as well as the different material they had, and their treatments. Can be a bit dry (reads like a thesis; probably was) but very interesting.

Coffee now. Yeah. Coffee.