Sorry, I’m needing to suspend this blog

March 15th, 2008

My apologies.

I have had too many other commitments to keep writing this blog.

The pressures of earning an income, studying and writing another blog have meant that I haven’t had time to write this one.

I have repeatedly tried to find the time and have not been able to.

I shall return to writing this blog at a later date.

Once again my profound apologies.  I am very disappointed that I have had to do this.  Evan


January 10th, 2008

The Liver is the yin aspect of the wood element in the body.  Compared to the Gall Bladder (the yang aspect of the wood element in the body) the Liver is solid.  This means that it is the yin aspect of a yang element.  The wood element is particularly concerned with growth and blockages to growth and so the need to take action.  Ideally we grow smoothly and easily – and are able to readily deal with any blocks to this process.

The Channel

The Liver channel flows from the inside of the foot up the inside of the leg, around the external genitalia and across the abdomen.


Traditionally the Liver is said to be in charge of “The free flow of qi”.  This means that we can move smoothly from seeing a vision and devising plans to implementing them.  It also applies at the daily level – combining a good balance of activity and rest and moving smoothly from one to the other.

Getting ‘Hyper’ and Getting ‘Stuck’

If you feel like you are on overdrive then this is a liver problem.  The traditional saying is that, “The Liver tends to excess”.  If you can’t sit still and rest and are always planning the next initiative this is a Liver imbalance.  Likewise if you feel you can’t get stuck and feel chronically frustrated and/or depressed this indicates a Liver imbalance.


The Liver stores blood.  This makes it of particular importance for the female cycle.  It also makes it important for sleep.  The blood is said to return to the Liver when we sleep.


Insomnia, where our head is racing and we are thinking furiously indicates a Liver problem.  Likewise any disturbance to a woman’s cycle may involve a Liver problem (in our culture, where we are asked to live by the clock rather than in accord with our bodily rhythms, this is not uncommon).

Tendons and Nails.

The Liver governs the tendons.  These are the parts of our bodies that provide flexibility.  People who are particularly of a Liver body shape are ‘string beans’ or a ‘bean pole’.  These people are usually tall and skinny.  They often surprise us by being able to work longer and harder than those with more prominent muscles.  This is because it is the tendons that are being used.  (They will also often walk with a clumping gait and (in men) have a prominent ‘Adam’s Apple’.)

If there is a Liver problem the nails will be not be healthy (they may be soft, withered, deformed or chipped).

The Eyes.

The Liver is important for our vision.  This is true of our physical eyes and for our vision of our lives and what is possible in the world.

Dry eyes, nightblindness or dryness of the eyes indicate a Liver imbalance.  Likewise, having no vision or being unable to plan is a Liver problem.

The Health of Your Liver.

  • Sleep

Do you go to sleep easily and wake refreshed?

Do you have a problem getting to sleep because you are still thinking?

  • Planning and Doing

Can you move smoothly from seeing your vision to taking action?

Does your day have a rhythm and flow to it?

For women: does your cycle flow smoothly and easily?

Gall Bladder

January 6th, 2008

The Gall Bladder is the yang aspect of the wood element in the body.  As the yang organ it is hollow, compared to the Liver (the yin aspect of the wood element in the body) which is solid.

Curious or extraordinary

The Gall Bladder is slightly different to the other yang organs.  It manufactures bile (to assist with the digestion of fats) while the other yang organs don’t manufacture anything.  In the texts this is usually called ‘storing’, but this doesn’t make sense as the Bladder stores urine, so I have used the term ‘manufacture’, which I think is more accurate.  For this reason it is called “curious” or “extraordinary”.  (You may see in acupuncture textbooks reference to the “curious fu” or “extraordinary fu” which means the curious or extraordinary yang organs in the body.)

The Channel

The Gall Bladder channel runs up the side of the body – from the outside of the foot, up the outside of the leg and chest, the neck and side of the head to the outer end of the eyebrow.  Any problem along the course of the channel may indicate a problem with the Gall Bladder.


Along with the Liver the Gall Bladder is involved with our moving to action.  The Gall Bladder’s special role is initiating action.  When this is not working well we feel stuck.  (Try standing and then wavering side to side (from one Gall Bladder channel to the other).  When doing this it is impossible to take that first step to initiate action).

How is your Gall Bladder?

  • Fat Digestion.

Do you crave oily food?  Is an oily curry one of the joys of life?

Do you have trouble digesting fats?  Do they give you indigestion?

  • Moving smoothly into action.

Once you know what you want do you find it easy to go after it?

Does iniating comes easily to you?

Is initiating an effort for you?

An Awesome Post

January 1st, 2008

This is a guest post Eric Grey (who is in America despite the spelling of his name) who authors a blog called Deepest Health.  It is a chronicle of his study of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It has a wealth of content and is unfailingly well written.

This post is so great I wanted to post it in its entirety.  Unfortunately google punishes you for doing this so I’ll post enough to give you an idea of how good it is and provide the link.  It is about his commitment to become a scholar and sage as well as a practitioner of TCM.  It gives his commitment month by month for what this will involve.

1) January (GB) – Study/scholarship: Taking Confucian/neo-Confucian principles seriously means developing a serious and self-motivated attitude towards learning. Instead of being outwardly motivated, one becomes deeply interested in learning despite what rewards or penalties are associated with it. This doesn’t mean studying for no reason, or studying for the sake of studying. It means that one doesn’t study for grades, or for the sake of feeling clever. One learns to improve one’s own understanding and abilities, and takes this to be one of the most important activities possible. I will post later today about my current list of practices in this category.

2) February (LR) – Strategy/business: As physicians, we are likely to be in business for ourselves. Too often, CM schools neglect this topic in the curriculum.

3) March (LU) – Rest/activity: Sleeping and waking in time with the seasonal rhythms . . .

  • Set a sleeping and waking time for the month that is close to the cycle of the sun. Stick to it for a month, recording observations.
  • Regardless of the hectic nature of your schedule, take at least 45 minutes out of every day to simply sit and rest. Preferably do this in a beautiful atmosphere, free of electronic or other distractions.
  • When in a protracted period of stillness, such as when studying, break every 45 minutes to change position and relax your mind.

4) April (LI) – Care of planet/consumption:

5) May (ST) – Physical cultivation: 

  • Daily Qigong, Taiji, Yoga or martial art
  • Take a walk in the morning each day, begin with 15 minutes and increase by 2-5 minutes per day. Pay attention to breathing, and gradually increase the strenuousness of walking until you notice your breathing rate increase.
  • Begin some specific program of exercise, but be careful not to exercise to the point of tiredness.
  • Even something simple like doing isometric exercises at home and keeping track of progress could be a great practice – sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups?

6) June (SP) – Food choices: Moderation in food intake will help physical cultivation to be more effective.

You can join Eric (a couple of people already have) in his year of Living Sagely by visiting his blog, Deepest Health.  This would be well worth doing.  As would be leaving comments about what a great post this is.

The Triple Heater

December 21st, 2007

The Triple Heater is also called the Triple Warmer, the Triple Burner, or sometimes even, the Three Burning Spaces.  It is also sometimes known by its Chinese name Sanjiao.  It has no equivalent in modern western medicine.

The Triple Heater is part of the fire element in the human body.  The fire element is unique – it has two manifestations each of yin and yang – the other elements only have one manifestation each of yin and yang.  The Triple heater is part of the yang of the fire element in our bodies (the other is the Small Intestine).  The yin of the fire element in the human body is the Heart and Pericardium.

The Triple Heater is also different to the other organs and channels.  It is also used as a way to refer to different parts of the body.

The Triple Heater as Body Divisions.
The Upper Heater is above the diaphragm and so includes the heart and lungs.  The Middle Heater is from the diaphragm to the umbilicus (belly button) and so includes the stomach, spleen and liver.  The Lower Heater is from the umbilicus to bottom of the torso and so includes kidneys, bladder and intestines.  This division refers to the three processes of energy processing in our bodies – inspiration and exhalation (upper heater), digestion (middle heater) and elimination (lower heater).  In acupuncture you will see breathing difficulties sometimes called an “upper heater disorder” or a digestive upset called a “middle heater problem”.  (This will depend on the root cause of the problem referred to.)

The Triple Heater channel begins on the ring finger (the one closest to our little finger) near the outer boundary of lower part of the nail.  It then travels up the middle of the yang side of the arm (the outside with more hair on it) across the shoulder, up the neck around the ear and ends at the outside edge of the eyebrow.

The Organ
There is no physical structure that corresponds to the Triple Heater as there is with all the other organs.  It is a collection of functions.

The Functions
The Triple Heater distributes energy throughout the body.  One traditional description of the Triple Heater is “The Official in Charge of irrigation (or the waterways)”.  It sends the energy that is taken from the air, food and water we take in and sends it to the different parts of the body.

Like the other arm yang channels (the Small Intestine and the Colon) the points on the Triple Heater channel aren’t used much to treat the ‘organ’ (or in the case of the Triple Heater to effect its function).  The points are mostly used to treat local problems

Two new courses

December 21st, 2007

My friend Geoff Wilson is running two courses next year. His website is Art of Health, where you will find details of the courses. He also has a blog.

The first course is on food and health. The course covers all the important health problems and how to address them using the approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Food is an especially accessible way of addressing our health problems. We all eat every day, by eating the right food we can do much to promote a long and healthy life for ourselves and our family.

The second course is on oriental psychology. This is a much neglected aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In most acupuncture courses it receives almost no attention at all. Geoff’s course uses the Buddhist and Taoist classics to address our situation. It is earthed strongly in a tradition and is concerned with making a difference in the modern world as well.

Both courses begin in 2008 and he is offering a cut price deal for the first fifteen people who enrol. So check them both out at Art of Health, they could be just what you are looking for.

Both courses have recently received accreditation in the US for professional development points for Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners.

Four or Five Stages of Learning: a case study of learning Bogglific on Facebook.

December 18th, 2007

This is the story of a friend of mine, whom we’ll call Jane, discovering Bogglific and getting better at it.

Bogglific and How It Is Played

What’s Bogglific?  It is an on line version of Boggle on the social networking site Facebook.  It is a 4X4 or 5X5 grid in which random letters of the alphabet are displayed.  The game is make words from the letters.  To form a word the letters have to be next to each other.  The player enters the word they see in a box and hits return after each word is entered.  Players can elect to play with penalties for incorrect words or without.  The players receive points for words which other players don’t get.  There are two lengths of game – forty-five seconds or three minutes.

This is a case study of how learning occurs in a very simple situation.  I think it shows some important things about how learning occurs – which I’ll talk about after I’ve told you the story of Jane learning Bogglific.  She has become quite proficient by now.  She has a large vocabulary and is a quick learner.  She is also quite analytical: her changes in perception (which I set out below) came from analysing what better players did.  From a couple of months ago as a complete beginner she now rates in the top 200 of over 5,000 players.

How Jane Learnt to Play Bogglific

Beginning.  At first Jane approached Bogglific by looking at a letter and seeing what other letters were around it and if they formed words.  In this way it was easy to find three and four letter words.  As she got better at this she was able to find longer words.

First realisation.  Groups of letters form many words.  That is a group of letters such as a,t,e,s make up several words (seat, eats, sate, eat, ate, eta, sat).  Once you see a group of letters there is no need to look for these words you just ‘know’ they are there and can enter them without thinking.

Next comes the seeing of different groups of letters.  There are prefixes, (such as an- and re-) and suffixes (such as -ing and -er).  There are also groups of letters within words (such as double letters).  These different groups of letters can then be put together to form longer words.

Second realisation.  It is possible to see the whole ‘board’ and look for the clusters of letters within it.  That is the first look at the board is the whole – not searching it for particular groups of letters but seeing the whole array of letters and where the different clusters are.

Third realisation.  This perception of the whole leads to the possibility of developing strategy.  It means that Jane can decide what to focus on: lots of small words, longer words, or more unusual words.  It may be possible to win with one obscure word if no one else gets it.  Or it may be possible to win by having a great number of small words.

At this stage it is possible, with simpler games to do other things while playing, such as have a conversation that doesn’t involve much thinking.  The playing has become at some level a routine or ‘habit’.

Bogglific also offers the option of playing solo.  This offers the player the possibility of trying out different ideas and seeing the results without the distraction of other players.  Jane used this to increase her ability to see groups of letters and especially to develop her ability to see the whole array at once.

At this stage other factors than perception become relevant, such as the speed of typing and knowing the other players (different players are better at different groups of letters) so this is where we’ll leave Jane’s learning.

What can we learn from this simple experience of one person?

Firstly progress is by jumps in perception.  Jane didn’t work her way gradually from seeing letters next to other letters to seeing groups of letters.  This perception changed in a flash.  In one game she saw isolated letters in the next game groups of letters.

Secondly the growth in perception is growth in seeing patterns.  From “one letter next to another forms a word” to “groups of letters mean several words” to “this array of the grid offers these groups of letters” to ” this array offers the possibilities for these kinds of strategies”.  Each realisation lead to a more inclusive way of seeing.  It was a better organisation of perception.  It wasn’t just seeing more letters next to each other, it was seeing differently.

Thirdly it helps to have a place where there is less pressure to compete where it is possible to try out ideas and see the results.

Fourthly, it is possible to learn from others.  Jane could see that other players were doing something she didn’t understand – she then set about watching what they did.

Applying this to learning.

Education is the learning of patterns.  Drill has its uses – to speed up the routine, once the patterns are perceived.  But without this perception of the patterns drill is literally meaningless.

In whatever you are learning look for the patterns.

In whatever you are teaching help the students perceive the patterns (not necessarily by telling what they are, but by assisting them to see them for themselves).

It will be helpful to have ways that the performance of the better practitioners can be analysed.  So that students have a way of learning and aren’t just told to ‘hang around’ in the hopes that excellence will somehow ‘rub off on them’.  This is a problem with many a mentoring program.

It is good to have a place to try out different ideas.  At this point pressure to perform will be counterproductive.  The fad for frequent testing in education is very dangerous.  People need the space just to play and tinker – to see what happens when they do something and if that doesn’t happen then to try something else.

Is Jane’s experience the same as yours?  I’d love to hear about the good and bad learning experiences that you have had.


December 9th, 2007

The Pericardium (sometimes called the Heart Protector) is part of the fire element in the body.  The fire element is unusual – it has two manifestation each of yin and yang.  Unlike the other elements which have only one manifestation of yin and yang.  The fire element in the body manifests in the heart and pericardium (yin), and the Triple Heater (sometimes called Triple Warmer, Triple Burner or by its Chinese name Sanjiao) and Small Intestine (yang).

Organ and Channel.

The Pericardium is the membrane around the heart.  In western medicine it is fairly unimportant.  In acupuncture it is of major importance.

The channel runs from just outside the nipple down the inside of the arm (the side with less hair on it) to the tip of the middle finger.

Points along the channel (as with all the channels) are used to treat local problems.  With the Pericardium perhaps the best know example is usiing it to treat “tennis elbow”.
As the Pericardium is part of the fire element in the body it is affected by fire.  Because it is the membrane around the heart it can be used to treat the heart, especially problems associated with the ‘mental’ aspect of the heart (fainting. loss of speech, constant laughter).

A healthy pericardium means we can open and close our heart as we need to.

Checking the health of your Pericardium
Can you open your heart to others?  Or are you cold?
Can you close your heart to others?  Or do you get too hot (manic)?
Do you have hot palms when the weather isn’t very hot?
Do you have any pain along the inside of your arm?

Kidney #2

December 3rd, 2007

The kidney is the manifestation of the yin aspect of the water element in the body (the yang aspect of the water element in the body is the Bladder).  The kidney is more solid while the Bladder is more hollow.

The emotion associated with the kidney is fear.  If we are afraid we ‘go to water’.

The Kidney stores the vital fluid jing.  The jing is something like our constitution – what we are born with (some people are born healthier than others).  Any congenital problem, development or reproductive problem is a kidney disfunction.   Our constitution makes a contribution to digesting our food also – some people have delicate digestions from birth.  If you’ve had a bad chill on the kidneys you will know that it affects your appetite.

The kidney is in charge of the water in our bodies.  Primarily this means urination.  However disturbances in urination can lead to water retention (oedema) or dehydration.  There are also the usual disturbances such as frequent urination or waking many times during the night to urinate.

The curious concept of  ‘marrow’.  The marrow is the stuff in our bones (roughly the same as in modern western medicine).  However this is expanded in acunpuncture to include the contents of the spine and cranium.  Thus deformities of bones and problems with spine or brain are to do with the kidney in acupuncture.  The lower back (roughly where the kidneys are located), knees and feet are especially related to the kidney.  When we are very afraid our knees knock (it doesn’t only happen in cartoons) and we feel week in the lower back.

Three orifices.  Two down, one up.  The kidney is in charge of the ear, the urethra (and genitalia) and the anus.  As sexual vitality declines men (especially) will take a kidney tonic to assist them in this aspect of their lives.  Diarrhoea in the early morning (commonly known as ‘cock’s crow diarrhoea) is especially indicative of a kidney problem.  When we are afraid it can lead to one or both of our two lower orifices opening (to put it delicately).

The kidney has a role in our breathing, especially in inspiration.  Think of how you can battle for breath when you are afraid.

Finally, the kidney (our constitutional strength) also provides the fire of digestion.  Think of how your digestion shuts down when you are afraid.

Old age is easily seen to be the diminishment of jing and kidney energy (kidney qi).  Problems with bones, hearing, urination, diminishing vitality – especially sexual – is all part of old age.

Checking out the kidney function is your life.  If you have problems with one of the following see if it matches with other parts of the kidney’s function.

  •     Bones, especially feet, knees and lower back.
  •     Breathing, especially the in breath.
  •     Sexual vitality
  •     Fear
  •     Hearing (including listening).
  •     Digestion.

When one of these occurs for you, or someone else, check if any of the others may be present as well.  Most likely at least one of them will be.

The Kidney #1

November 21st, 2007

The kidney is the yin manifestation of the water element in the body.  Being the yin aspect of the water element the kidney is more solid than the bladder, which is the yang aspect of the water element in the body.

The Channel.

The kidney channel begins on the sole of the foot – the only acupuncture channel to do so.  The point where the channel begins (Ki-1) is behind the ball of the big toe and towards the centre.  You will probably feel a kind of hollow.
It then crosses the arch of your foot, crosses behind the ankle and then continues up the inside of the leg and onto the torso.  It finishes just below the clavicle (collar bone).
Any signs or symptoms along the course of the channel may indicate a kidney problem.  With all of the acupuncture channels any sign or symptom along its course may indicate a problem for that channel.  This gets complicated on the torso especially: which means that other ways of diagnosing are also used.

The Organ.

Vital Fluid
The kidney stores one of the vital fluids, called “jing”.  This is often translated “essence”, but there are other translations also.  This is something like what we mean when we talk about our ‘constitution’.  It is the bank of energy we are born with.

Experiencing Your Kidney

If you get up during the night, do you walk on a cold surface?  If so, do you then feel the need to urinate?  (For instance if you walk across cold tiles to get back to bed, by the time you have done so, do you feel the need to urinate again?)
Try walking on a cold surface as normal.  Then find a way to walk on it without kidney-1 making contact with the cold (by scrunching up your toes walk on your heels and toes or just by walking on your heels).  Does this feel different?  If so, how?
Do you have any signs or symptoms along the course of the channel.  Eg pain or skin outbreaks or discolouration?