Category Archives: Seasons

September Equinox

Today is the September Equinox. Here in the southern hemisphere it is the Spring Equinox, the middle of our journey through the Wood Element; while in the northern hemisphere it is the Autumn Equinox within the Metal Element. For everyone all over the world, the nights and days are of equal length. The difference is that in the southern part of the globe, our days are getting longer and temperatures warmer, while for those of you in the top bit, your days are growing shorter and colder. But for one brief day, we meet in the middle. It makes me think of children on a see saw where one goes up as the other goes down, but they meet in the middle as the positions change. Today is literally a pivotal day in our passage between the Great Yin and Great Yang of the winter and summer solstices.

Lord of the Rings fans will be well aware that this is the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, though they never grow older than their 111 and 33 when they first entered the mind of JRR Tolkein. Happy Birthday Bagginses!

In something of a departure from the usual, in this blog I am republishing my review of Lorie Dechar’s new book Kigo which had it’s publication date of September 21st. It’s a wonderful addition to the library of Five Elements books and I’m delighted to recommend it. This review was first published in Pointers, Journal of the Shiatsu Therapists Association of Australia, Spring 2020 edition.

KIGO
Exploring the Spiritual Essence of Acupuncture Points Through the Changing Seasons
LORIE DECHAR ILLUSTRATED BY LORELEI CHANG

In Kigo, Lorie Dechar gifts us her poetic vision of the spirit of Chinese medicine. Nature and spirit are ravelled through this beautiful work and Lorie is our perceptive guide through the seasons. She unfolds the Chinese characters to pluck wisdom from their embedded symbols, inspiring practitioners to draw on their own inner resources to match the majesty of the points.

The Japanese word kigo means “season word”, very appropriate to the spirit of Five Element Acupuncture. Japanese haiku poets use such words to evoke the “Ah!-ness” of things. Dechar calls on the power of the kigo to remind us of the Ah!-ness of the healing encounter and to re-enliven our spiritual connection to the points.

As Dechar points out, “This book is not meant to be a how-to manual but something more like a letter of introduction to some of my most beloved friends, a series of meditations on time and place and the mysterious healing of the soul.” This perspective sets her book apart from many others which are oriented towards the treatment of conditions. Hers is first and foremost a work of the spirit of the points.

While the book is slanted towards acupuncture, an appendix details other ways of treating the points including flower essences and essential oils. Dechar also weaves Taoist, Western Classical and Jungian archetypes into the work, and incorporates the mythology of the Taoist spirit animals.

The names of her 52 beloved friends are paramount: “In order to grasp the spirit-level meaning of the point names, I find that it is important to meditate not only their poetry but also on the wisdom contained in the graphic design and energetics of the original Chinese characters.” To this end the characters are displayed as clear graphics within the text, a riddle to be deciphered, a message in a bottle that has been waiting thousands of years to be opened.

Dechar unpacks the subtle meanings of the characters, not only of the points, but also those of the elements, organs, colours, spirits, directions and other resonances, making for an easy way into Classical Chinese for the newcomer. Standing firmly in the Five Element Acupuncture tradition, Dechar chooses points that are particular to spirit. The selections often surprise, as she includes points that might be overlooked in a more mechanical approach to treatment.

Her personal relationship to the points is evidenced by prefacing them with her own haiku, each an homage to the spirit of the point.  In fact, prose poetry is woven through the text which makes the book such a delight to read.

Dechar’s  52 “friends” are divided among the five elements. While it is impossible to find just one to reflect the richness of her tapestry, I’ve chosen an example that is appropriate to our southern spring.

Gall Bladder 24 – Sun and Moon – Ri Yue

日月

Spring equinox. Twilight.
The sun dips down behind my back
as I greet the rising moon.

The haiku provides a prologue to an exploration of the balance of yin and yang, inner and outer as they manifest both at the equinox and within ourselves. Then follows an unpicking of the characters of Ri Yue which illuminates the philosophical and spiritual implications of the Gall Bladder’s capacity for wise judgement, standing one’s ground, and the balance between extroversion and introversion, action and receptivity, speech and silence. Dechar then explores a clinical case of a woman whose hip surgery (which cut through Gall Bladder 30) leads to insights about her anxiety at the uncertainty of her plans. She takes us through the conversation of honouring both inner and outer, as if placing her hand on the door before inserting the needle that will open it.

The treatment of the points, however, is not formulaic and the structure of each varies. She offers needle techniques, treatment strategies, the use of words, touch, oils and flower essences to “open others and ourselves to these transcendent realms.”

Acupuncturists will find much to engage with in terms of needle technique and the incorporation of the whole practitioner into clinical practice. But equally practitioners of other modalities as well as patients and the interested layperson will find Kigo a fascinating tour of the seasons, the elements, and the points that are the vehicles for transforming body, psyche and spirit.

Kigo publication date 21 September 2020, Singing Dragon Press

Midwinter – Midsummer

Primordial Yin and Yang

Where I live, today is the shortest day. The winter solstice. The deepest, most yin point of the year, where shortening pivots to lengthening, contracting to expanding, closing to opening. Our prehistoric ancestors were well aware of this movement in the seasons, building stone circles to measure and celebrate the changes.

Just 10 days ago I was in Scotland in the northern hemisphere where our winter solstice is mirrored by their summer solstice, the polar opposite of our experience. It is difficult in the midst of winter to remember what it is like to be in the midst of summer. Travelling quickly between the two has given me some direct experience of the difference.

This annual passage from winter to summer and back is a profound illustration of the concept of yin and yang, a fundamental principle which underpins Chinese medicine. It is like watching the Earth breathe. In and out. Once a year. Breathing in, the Earth rises to the midsummer; breathing out, it falls to the midwinter. A rhythm whose mirror image plays out in the antipodes. A planetary pas de deux.

We humans are witness to this breath of the Earth but a few score times in our lifespan. Our Neolithic ancestors had even fewer views. Midwinter and midsummer rituals in their stone calendars expressed their awe of this rhythm.

We too can gain much from the observing and marking of these pivots in the year. The cycle of the year provides a template for other cycles in our lives, other movements between yin and yang. Shorter cycles of  month, day and hour; and longer cycles, of life stages and of generations. Being aware and present to these cycles within cycles provides us with guideposts in life. They remind us that change is constant. And at a deeper level, these cycles of time provide the context within which we experience each moment. After all, this moment which we are currently experiencing is all we really have. It is all we really are.

Photo: Maeshowe, neolithic burial chamber, Orkney. The entrance to the tomb is aligned to the midwinter sunrise

Season Travel

I was recently invited by my publisher Singing Dragon Press to write a blog as part of their marking of World Acupuncture Day on November 15th. As is my usual way of working, I chose to write about the current season. The wrinkle is that the current season in London where Singing Dragon is based is winter, while I am inhabiting summer in the Adelaide Hills.

Therefore it was an interesting exercise to write about winter and the Water Element without feeling its manifestations around me. It required a kind of inner travel to the cold, wet, dark of the northern winter where nature’s energy is shrinking, folding in on itself and withdrawing within. All this while experiencing warmth, brightness and energetic expansion as my sensory experience.

It took a few days of contemplating this polarity before, quite unexpectedly one day, the winter muse led me to the computer and poured out a Watery musing on the nature of fear. I was transported to the bleak winter landscapes of the UK and the resonances of that season.  It was not easy to hold the dual experiences of outer summer and inner winter, but it did work. I wonder if I was tuning into that same discombobulation that occurs when we physically transport ourselves to the opposite hemisphere and season. One of the ways of working with that seasonal upheaval is to hold points of the Element to which you are travelling, pulling yourself forward to your destination in a seasonal rebalance. While I didn’t actually hold Water points on myself when doing the inner season travel, my conscious focus on the qualities of winter and Water had a similar effect.

The blog is now the property of Singing Dragon so I can’t repeat it here, but you can read it at this link, whatever your hemispherical condition.

Finding Wisdom in Water’s Depths