“they were more like therapy sessions sometimes.”
This is an excerpt from some Facebook feedback I received at the start of the year. I think it gives an accurate picture of how acupuncture treatment provides a useful ‘pause’ in our lives to reflect and figure out some of our ‘stuff’.
One of the first lessons we learned at college was to listen.
Pretty easy. Not.
Think about it.
How often do you listen? All the time I hear you say. However, do you:
- Listen without judgement?
- Listen without forming an opinion?
- Listen without the intention of forming a reply?
- Listen with your eyes?
- Listen to understand an emotion?
- Listen and focus your concentration fully on the speaker?
- Listen to diagnose a voice sound?
Maybe it’s more complex than it first seems. ‘Active listening’ is the first step to learning this skill and Five Element Acupuncturists do it so often it becomes second nature. By googling ‘Active Listening’ we learn that it is a ‘communication technique used in counseling, training and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said’.
I’ll fully admit I struggle with the ‘remember’ part!
Listening truly forms the bedrock of a traditional acupuncture treatment. Providing time for expression, questioning, reflection, discussion, suggestion, emotions and healing is essential if acupuncture is to help us all move forward with our lives. It is, to a great extent ‘therapy’ or counseling.
Five Element Acupuncture is strongly rooted in treating the emotions and so it follows that these treatments may feel like a ‘therapy’ or a ‘counselling’ session. For this, I make no apology. Responding to the needs of the patient with whatever is on their mind at that particular point in their day is crucial.
So, as I’m sure you can imagine, an acupuncture treatment can focus on pretty much anything! It is not all aching knees and bad backs. Something for which I am grateful. This offers me such a challenging and rewarding career.
Each acupuncture point has a physical, mental and then a spiritual level. Sometimes the point is chosen for purely the physical outcome, other times for a mental level treatment. Often I use them for a deeper, spiritual outcome, when a patient needs to make a shift in life or help them take up a new perspective. This was quite a challenge for me whilst training. In fact, for sometime I couldn’t get my head around what spiritual even meant! I thought it was something to do with religion or God!
I have come to understand that it forms part of our core; it’s almost like the blueprint of our souls, the most fundamental and precious part of us that makes us tick. It makes us feel and show love, passion, courage, determination, intuition and often makes us heroic.
This makes each treatment a real privilege and a whole lot of fun.
Recently, it has also led me to offer a new, longer treatment option. In light of my previous blog on challenging our everyday patterns to keep our lives, work, thoughts and actions relevant and meaningful I have decided to introduce a two-hour acupuncture treatment.
The thought occurred to me today, whilst working with some serious topics with a patient in my clinic. One hour simply was not enough to cover our conversation, reflection and then include the needles. So, I happily now introduce to you the ‘Two-Hour Treatment’!
I recognise it is not appropriate for everyone. However, it is now there for when it is needed.
Time to talk
Time to reflect
Time to retreat
Time for you
See you soon!
Patterns are everywhere. Look up now and see. They are on that feature wall opposite. They are on our clothes, furniture, our finger-tips and all around in nature. The universe is based on them. Seasonal patterns, growth spirals in plants (137.5 degrees), planet orbits, mating cycles, they can be found all over the shop.
Yin-yang theory is a pattern too. A pattern of life and death, growth and retraction. An ever-changing cycle following a set pattern.
A set pattern.
A set pattern!
How many set patterns exist in your life? I’m talking about patterns that you dictate, routines that you live and think by. Stop for a moment and think about your set patterns. This can be tricky as they can be so ingrained that we can find it difficult to separate ourselves from them and objectify them.
Let me show you some of mine and let’s see if you recognise them?
A recent one that has emerged is falling asleep too early in the dark evening, say 9pm and then waking at 2pm wide awake and ready to go. I then lie in bed for an hour reading the news, checking emails and generally flooding my brain with blue light from my mobile. I then drift off back to sleep at about 4am and re-wake at 7am feeling tired.
My friend, this pattern is not working for me!
I would assign that pattern to a behaviour pattern. What about other patterns in my life? How about patterns of thought?
A routine thought pattern I fall into is lazy-lacking-motivation-boredom-frustration pattern. This one really aggravates me and it takes a while for me to work my way out of it. It normally results in some over reaction humongous house/business restructure overhaul to get me out of it and re-motivated. I feel exhausted just thinking about it, frankly!
It is fair to say that some patterns work well and others don’t.
Are you aware of your patterns that do and those that don’t?
Think of how much easier life would be if we could constructively critique our own patterns and use more of those that work and shed those that don’t.
The good news is, WE CAN!
And, it’s pretty easy. Here are some pointers to get you on your way:
- Start small
- Notice some of your daily routines such as getting ready for work and analyse them for their comfort and effectiveness
- Notice if they make you feel ‘in flow’ or ‘at odds’
- Act accordingly, grow the ‘flow-ers’ and ditch the ‘odders’
- Use this reflective technique to assess your thought patterns too
- Create a ‘mental watcher’ to keep an eye on your own thought patterns. This just means being more aware of your own thoughts and see if they work for, or against you
- Take people with you. Encourage those who share your life to help look at how your patterns work for each other. Talk about the concept, reflect on your ‘together patterns’ and see if they are working for you
- Try to incorporate this pattern of observation every single day to keep your life flexible, responsive and fresh.
We are about to be bombarded with the whole “New Year, New You” hog-wash.
I hate it. It’s a cliché. It’s normally propagated by someone trying to sell you something!
Ignore it this year and instead, make a resolution to keep your patterns at the fore of your mind and keep them working for you every day of the year.
This January I will be using the theme of patterns in a great deal of my acupuncture work. Have a think about your patterns and maybe come with some ideas and puzzles that we can chew over.
Have a fantastic 2017!
I had this idea last September for developing small events called ‘Acupuncture Gatherings’. The idea is simple, as the best ones are. You and two friends can have a relaxed, in fact, very relaxed get together in my comfortable clinic surroundings for no other reason than to have some fun. I have ‘piloted’ the idea a couple of times and it has worked really well. It goes something a little like this:
Today’s menu of relaxing activities:
Enjoy a drink
Ask questions about your session
Have a go with my favourite point of all time
Sit back with the four-point peace combination (hands and feet)
Learn how to turn your phone into a haven of tranquility
Learn stress-release acupressure points to take away
I said it was simple! The event can be tailored to your own specific requirements and as always I am happy to answer any questions you may have about acupuncture gatherings and how they can be booked. The gatherings are only available in York as I do not have sufficient space in the Harrogate clinic.
The event is a great way to have a very different celebration with friends or family. Or it can simply be for no other reason than a kick-back, do something unusual and learn a few new methods to chill.
Prices start at £15 per person and the gathering lasts for about an hour and a half to two hours.
I love this idea and would be delighted to share more ideas with you about your event.
In this blog I have a think about how helping others can support our own wellbeing. Helping can Help you too!
In this blog entry I explore how experiences of acupuncture treatment can differ. Have a browse and see what you make of my scribblings:
Adventure with me into the winter world of hygge. What is it and how can it help you this winter?
Well that got your attention. You are possibly thinking I am about to spin you a tale about oiled-up Japanese warriors in uncomfortable undies imparting some great piece of life advice regarding sumo and acupuncture. Not quite. I’m talking about the other SUMO…
Shut Up, Move On.
I can’t clearly remember when SUMO exactly entered my life. It was around the time I was working in Cornwall on an ‘arms-length’ project with Caradon District Council. We were a very small team that was charged with creating a new service to help people in crisis. It was a complicated and frustrating process as well as highly rewarding and frankly, a bit of a laugh. As a team we used ‘SUMO’ a great deal when various economic, procedural and colleague issues arose. We had to, there was no time for sitting and dwelling on our numerous operational problems, we had to deliver for clients and funders.
Since those days I’ve used SUMO to help weather the things in life that are sent to test. I regularly tell my patients to SUMO and it proves to be a liberating mantra when we get caught up in lifes’ trials.
I still have the privilege of working with people in crisis. As I am sure you are aware, acupuncture is more than just a pain treatment. I firmly believe it helps nourish the human spirit also. How? I’m not entirely sure exactly how, but I see it happen all the time. Mostly it’s receiving support from someone who is on your side, listens without judgement and can be trusted. In combination, the needle part then allows the body to relax and the mind absorb new perspectives. Frankly, I do not spend too much time over thinking the ‘how’, more the ‘how can I do it better’ for the next patient through the door.
The crises we face vary greatly, but some of the things we can employ to help mitigate them do not. I have put together a hit-list of things we can do to SUMO when things get tough. It is a list as much for myself as it is for any other. I genuinely use these tips day to day.
When the going gets tough, try these..
- Use mantras. I do this all the time, with my fav being SUMO. I also use ‘I choose peace’ if feeling anxious and ‘F*ck It!’ if frustrated. I say them out loud as a constant reminder to break negativity and try and take a better path in my mind.
- Watch who you spend time with. Do they radiate positivity or spread doom? Minimise the doom-mongers if you are feeling off.
- Get rest and breathe. Deep breaths help release tension, feed the brain oxygen and lower heart rate, overall making you feel more chilled.
- Axe the unnecessary. When you are up against it, cut out the unnecessary activities. Crisis can bring along a lot of extra work and so some of the regular tasks need axing. It is not possible to ‘do it all’, so don’t even try. Prioritise, by making a list of the most urgent and necessary tasks.
- Asking for help is a skill that few people possess during difficult times. Have some compassion for yourself and let others muck in. In most cases helping others is a rewarding experience, give them a chance to feel useful.
- Flip-think. This is a new one I am learning about. It kind of falls into the ‘silver-lining’ Ven diagram of disaster! Instead of concentrating on the downside to the crisis, thinking about what this time of perceived turmoil might be bringing in terms of new possibilities, new paths, new opportunities, reviewing existing plans, meeting new people, learning about yourself and others.
- Guillotine the guilt. Humans seem to be drawn to guilt. It creeps into all kinds of situations and takes hold without us even realising. Take time to try and recognise its’ existence. Analyse why you are feeling it, then cut its’ flaming head off. Guilt is mostly a total waste of time. It’s often a self centred emotion that tries to make everything about us. Well, newsflash, unless you have done something truly vile to someone else, it’s a waste of time. If you have done something vile, then tough. Maybe this dose of guilt will teach you to be a better person!
- Try and laugh. Seeing the lighter side of life can be a real tonic and humour helps us put things into proper perspective and enables us to deal with tough stuff. Seeing the lighter side is not disrespectful, but a way of diffusing intense emotions. Have a little titter with trusted friends, just be careful who you do it in front of! Raucous laughter at the expense of others can be damaging, so have tact.
- Put the kettle on. Make tea. Be British. When it all comes down to it, a nice calm brew can work wonders. Plus, it’s what we British do best.
Can Acupuncture help hay fever?
This blog entry follows the path of how one patient dealt with her annual hay fever problem. It interests me how she has used a variety of approaches to bring balance and manage the discomfort pollen brings. In her own words, she explains:
My Hay Fever Story
Yesterday, my husband expressed a desire to walk the planets here in York. Some of you may have walked from the sun along the old railway line towards Selby, stopping at each planet along the way. We walked to Saturn. Beyond that it gets rather far between planets…..
Just two years ago a walk like this would not have been possible for me. Not on the last weekend in June. Not on a warm, dry day and not after checking the pollen forecast and seeing the VH in red.
I had moaned quite a bit to Alex for a couple of years about my crippling hay fever. And moaned a lot about the fexofenadine I took which seemed to be the only thing that touched it but had other side effects. When I then had to start taking another medicine for another issue, I moaned about the interaction between the two drugs and wondered out loud if it really was better than the actual hay fever.
Alex suggested acupuncture. A course of five treatments over a month or so in March.
I was very scathing. I thought I had tried most alternative options. The nettle tea. The homeopathic remedies. Nothing helped.
But I got to moaning about my moaning.
Alex gently suggested acupuncture again.
Last year I had my five sessions, made light of how light the treatment was (expecting needles practically up my nose) and very reluctantly did not start on my fexofenadine in March. Scary.
Maybe it was my fear of what would happen if I did not respond to the acupuncture, but I decided I would hurl everything I could at this.
I topped up with homeopathic tablets. I brewed myself some nettle and herb teas and I bought huge amounts of barrier balms which I constantly dabbed on ears, nose, lips and around eyes.
I dropped my steroid nose spray but went for the natural ones. I kept to my prescribed eye drops but only because they did not differ from ones over the counter.
And yes, it all worked.
Last year, 2014, was one of the worst years for hay fever ever. It was a scary summer to experiment.
But it worked.
The relief was huge. Just to be able to face the outdoors and sit on a lawn. Yes! Sit on a lawn.
So this year. I am now nagging Alex in February. Hay fever treatment yes? Book me in yes?
And this year, there was a lot of other “stuff” going on with me which needed more immediate attention than hay fever coming up in June. I fretted that it had been a fluke. I flapped about whether Alex was able to get those hay fever needles in while I was flapping.
Alex calmly treated the flap as he always does and got those needles in.
And it has worked. Again.
I now encourage nettle growth around my herb patch. And I have planted the herbs I used last year in massive amounts so that I have a generous supply. Borage and Mint are in that brew. Also Moringa, which you cannot grow here but can at last be bought at health food shops in town. My Filipino friend swears by its anti inflammatory properties.
The balms I use are Hay Max. You can buy the dreamy frankincense one online. I have a friend who makes balms too and has sent me supplies of his orange and mint invigorator. I take Pollinosan from A.Vogel. I am sensible, I close windows and do not hang out my washing.
This is defence on many borders. The acupuncture lies there as the main defence and then I help out by layering up the troop lines.
I am convinced that most things are worth a try. If you are willing to put in a little work, you can find your combination of methods too. Talk it through with Alex.
If the thought of walking through grassy fields on the last weekend of June just makes your eyes, ears, throat and nose itch, give it a thought.
I’m a believer!
fresh new season
In line with Chinese Philosophy I have been very busy during the creative season of Spring. Spring is seen as the season of ‘Wood’ in China and possesses qualities of renewal, growth, creation, moving forward and vision to the future. It is without doubt my favourite season and I relish the new outlook it brings. By the end of February I am well and truly over the whole winter ‘thing’.
This Spring has brought a new flush of creativity as after seven years in practice I decided to have a makeover. Not me, my logo. Plus, my website was ageing (aren’t we all!) and needed some serious cyber-technical-wizardry to bring it up to speed. So, it’s goodbye little black stones and hello ‘Five Element Lotus Petal Icon’ (or Felpi for short!). I decided to embrace the world of social media and advertise for a graphic designer on www.peopleperhour.com. I’d never used this site before and thought it worth a shot, rather than ringing around designers in the area. After uploading the job onto the site and then heading off to bed I was pretty freaked out to sign on to over fifty proposals from as far a field as Pakistan, Iran and the United Arab Emirates! This I had not expected. I spent most of the morning sifting through all the talented people who had responded and plumped for a designer in an exotic and foreign land over the Pennines, Manchester! We had a brief conversation over the phone, where I pretty much told him what I didn’t want (helpful) and he set to work creating me a new look. I think ‘Felpi’ looks great and hope you like it too.
Next, the website needed an overhaul. That decision was simple and I texted my mate Emma Heptonstall in Vietnam. Thankfully she was only there on holiday so we arranged a meet up for when she got back and she told me what I wanted! I love Emmas’ no nonsense approach and within a week the fledgling site was built. She even coaxed me into using orange! Not a colour I would have thought about, but I think it looks brilliant. Thank you Emma, you’ve made a potentially intimidating process an absolute breeze.
I suppose at some point in this blog entry I need to ‘nutshell’ some kind of message and here it is:
It ‘feels good’ to refresh and renew aspects of your life. Moving forward is important. At the same time it ‘feels good’ to draw on the people and things in your life that enrich and support it. They bring different perspectives and help you learn and grow. This Spring has been a great example of this for me. How has it been for you? Think about what makes you ‘feel good’.
Oh and by the way ‘Feel Good’ is my new little strap-line for my practice as I am pensioning off ‘Relax, Heal, Enjoy’.
Hello brave new world!
The experience of several of my patients this summer has got me thinking about the stories we share about ourselves.
Like buses, there appears to have been a spate of knee replacement operations this spring and summer amongst my flock of regulars. Clearly this has brought concern, worry and anxiety as well as the eventual realisation that the long term gains far outstrip the short term inconvenience and discomfort. Each person has had their own experience and this has had a great deal to do with attitude, general health, listening to and taking appropriate advice. However, there appears to be a ‘dark’ side lurking to this experience that every person has experienced; that of the experience of others!
We all love to share our stories. Should it be at the expense of others? Every individual this summer has mentioned the ‘story of doom’ that a so-called friend, family member or neighbour has dumped on them, detailing how things have ‘gone wrong’ for them.
I have to say I’ve been in stitches (not literally) regarding some of the thoughtless and crass over-sharings that have been vented in my treatment room. My dark humour gives way when it clearly has an impact on the wellbeing of patients, soon to go under the knife.
So, I suppose the question behind this blog entry is….’if our stories do not positively contribute to someones challenge, is it better to keep quiet?’ I think the answer is a resounding YES!
Stories help us relate to others. They can help us off load and give us a sense of being heard or better understood. Which is fine. Stories that undermine the experiences of others or bring messages of doom and woe are unwelcome. This neither helps the teller nor, the listener as it makes them look thoughtless and lacking in empathy.
Putting a filter on our stories of doom for the benefit of others also has a wider implication for ourselves. Think about the back story you present to the world for a moment.
An acquaintance of mine regularly crowbars the fact that they were made redundant several years back. It is understandable that such a traumatic experience leaves a very big impression. They have gone on to create a fabulously successful business, with more opportunity and creative expression than the previous job could ever have offered. They make more money, have more control over their lives and are fundamentally better off in every respect. So why hold on to the story of doom?
By looking inward only they can answer that question. It is a question we should all ask of ourselves to make sure we are holding on to the good stories and not dragging the bad around with us unnecessarily.
Here’s hoping you are living ‘happily ever after’!