ContemplationWe all want to be seen, for others to see the glories and, indeed, the horrors that lie within. At times this need arises from the unknowing of ourselves. “Tell me what you see…” At other times, we long to be seen for who we truly are in our strength and authenticity. The challenge, gift and curse (are they not one and the same?) of Five Element Acupuncture is to not only perceive ourselves truly, but all those who walk through the treatment room door.

Years ago when I first fell into Five Element world, I learned that Wood people were angry and shouted. Water was fearful, Metal was distant, Fire was the life of the party and Earth would suck you dry. This worldview was not only limiting, but also quite depressing. In the years since, I have studied with other teachers and come to learn that Wood is generous, Metal is unswerving, Water astounding, Earth can fix anything and Fire holds infinite optimism. If anything, Fire is more likely to blow a gasket on you than Wood…

There is a magic held within the power of perception. When we look out the window on a rainy day, we can have a choice. A choice to see muddy paws, slow slippery commutes and soggy clothes. Or we can see ‘the tears of Heaven’, bringing fertility and renewal to the land. When a client walks into our treatment room, we can see fibromyalgia, GERD and insomnia. Or we can see understanding, thoughtfulness and compassion. It’s true- we must be able to see both. But am I treating GERD or the fascinating human being who just happens to be walking around with that label?

When we cultivate our perception, we can see both. Pathology and potential, the sunny and the shady sides of the mountain. But this does not come easily, for we must truly see ourselves first. Small wonder that there are Taoist exercises based upon long periods in front of mirrors. James Hillman in The Soul’s Code has some thoughts on perception-

When John Keats writes, “I know nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the Truth of the Imagination”, he opens our own eye to see the workings of creative perception in human affairs…Seeing is believing- believing in what you see- and this instantly confers belief to whoever, whatever receives your sight. The gift of sight surpasses the gifts of insight. For such sight blesses; it does transformative work.”

This is not a plea for the fluffy bunny school of acupuncture practice. We must be erudite diagnosticians with exquisite skills of palpation, oscultation, perception and inquiry. And we must be able, nay willing to see the potential.

This is our function in each other’s lives; to hold space for each other’s beauty…

Marianne Williamson


3-5-12Western mind likes boxes. We seek meaning in the separation and delineation of the parts. The difficulty is that we forgot to do the last bit of the work- to return to the unity. To stand back and look at the big picture. The wood element and its associated season, spring is all about the big picture. It is the wood within us (our liver) that can access the grand plan. But having the plan is not enough. Spring invites action and the unfolding of the plan. Enter the gallbladder with its ability to dodge and weave, to adjust to continually changing circumstances. And what happens when the winds of spring blow through our lives and invite us to bend and sway?

Fergus would like to point out that you don’t want to end up looking like that tree.

So I invite you to explore the season of spring from Eastern mind (note that this is nothing to do with your brain- the Chinese had little regard for it, viewing it as a hollow organ where hopefully nothing gets stuck. We’re talking xin heart-mind here, folks.)

Wood is spring is benevolence is green is shout is rancid (fresh sap from a twig) is wind is anger is nails, eyes, sinews, ligaments and tendons is anger is cleverness is birth is the spear and the door is the east is is is…

What are you waiting for?

An invitation…

That arrived on February 4th. Get cracking.

”Speak from the heart.

She speaks from the heart and lies.

Doesn’t matter.  Be quiet.

You told me to speak.

You are stupid.

Yes? I don’t think so. Anyway

I know who you are.

You   are a pine tree.

Sixteen inches long, two feet across.

You are rotten. You have mushrooms

Instead of blood. You are a fly

On my back. You are that big long fly

Caressing together it’s back legs. I

Could eat you.

You are sawdust in my socks.

You are two weeks of this heat wave.

Don’t get smart with me, woodcutting work.

You are too heavy to lift.

You are filling my truck.

You are who started talking first.

No. I am who started talking first.

You let go of my splitting maul please.

 You are gasoline mixed 16:1 with oil.

You are too god damn loud.

Someday, you are going to cut my foot,

          You son of a bitch.

You are my hard hat that keeps slipping in the sweat.

Time to drink. Where is the water?

Sharpen the chain. Watch your step.

Yellowjackets, watch out!

Don’t lift with your back.

Don’t worry, Mother.

          Your words are imprinted in my mind!

 Time to pee on the ground.


There, on those gooseberries.

Who said that?

Who’s talking?

Who started this?

Look. A whole truckload

Of wood.”

“Woodcutting” by Dale Pendell 

Sky Dragon over Lake ErieIt’s been interesting, this third month of autumn.Unusually warm with thunderstorms- rolling booms echoing in the wee hours of the morning.  Thunder is said to recede in the second month of autumn, demonstrating the ascendence of yin and the increasing separation between Heaven and Earth.  October 22nd and still no frost in this part of the world…

It can be challenging walking this road. Most other folks are squeaking, ‘oh gawd, I’m not ready for this.’ This is true- you are wearing capri pants in Western New York in October.

I’m not sure what you’re ready for…

Lest I start to fret, the signs are auspicious. In the early mornings this week, the crow brothers have been holding their convocation on Ridge Road.

“In the quality of the qi of the west you will find the same quality of qi as in autumn, there is something urgent, a concentration and a gathering.p.18 of The Lung, Larre and Rochat

This morning as I stepped out to take the dogs for our pre-sunrise jaunt, the air held me captive. Clear and exquisite as if the inhalation could extend to my toes and beyond.

“The ideogram for clear and fresh is qing. The qi of the lung has to be qing…The lung and the qi of the lung has to be the clearest inside the body with the double function of expanding and diffusing, and the only way for the upper part to act is to descend.”    pp.13-14, Larre and Rochat, The Lung

I’ll stop worrying now.

The yin is encroaching…

All is right in the world…

Same but different…

nasturtiumEarly on in the process of the Independent Study Project, I realized that the plants were catching my eye in a different way. My first training was in Plant Spirit Medicine- it was then that I began to see the invitations. Same plants I had scuffed through for years. Suddenly, they were saying

hey over here

It takes a bit of getting used to.

Nasturtium is a plant of summer. It spreads and lolls, lovingly entwining itself with all around it. Yet in autumn, it suddenly took on an intensity of color that would stop me in my tracks. Same but different.

It was a garden where, as one might expect, grasses flourished. It was not tended. It had been turned loose. It seemed as if the earth of the fields had been lifted out entire and placed unceremoniously into this garden.

“It’s so strange,” Hiromasa said.

“What is?”

“In the spring and the summer and the fall, the garden seems to be covered just the same with grass, but it’s different each season. Depending on the season, there’s grass that stands out, and grass that doesn’t. When the bush clover and the rest of the autumn plants have already lost all their flowers, though you can’t tell where they are right away, you can see the Chinese bellflowers and gentians taking their place that it seemed you couldn’t make out until then…”


“So that’s why I said it’s different. But even though I said it’s different, to tell the truth, I feel like this garden never changes in the slightest, too. That’s why…”

“It’s so strange?”

“Yeah.” Hiromasa nodded tranquilly. “It’s different while seeming the same. It’s the same while seeming different. Plus, I get the feeling that it’s not a matter of which of the two it is, but that perhaps it’s the way of the world for it to be both ways, naturally…?”

“That’s amazing, Hiromasa,” Seimei said.

p.188 of Yumemakura Baku’s Onmyoji: A Translation with Introduction by Karen McGillicuddy, 2004 Senior Thesis

The second month of autumn

ContemplationThe hexagram for the second month of autumn is Kuan, Contemplation (View). In this hexagram, we find the crux of the autumn equinox, the balance point between summer and winter solstice. Traditionally, during sacred ritual in ancient China, the deity was first invoked with a libation and then the sacrifice was offered.

“The moment of time between these two ceremonies is the most sacred of all, the moment of deepest inner concentration.”

At this time of year we too stand between the invocation and the sacrifice. Autumn invites us to move inward, to bring the lessons and gifts of summer deeper within. Most folks see the autumnal equinox as the beginning of autumn; the ancients saw it as the peak of the season. Small wonder that we mutter and complain of the weather for we expect it to conform to human expectations which have little relationship to the movement of the seasons.

                       “When the wind blows over the earth, it goes far and wide                                          and the grass must bend to its power.”

In case you were wondering, we’re the grass not the wind…

What I forgot to say…

Ms. Bu WeiI and my classmates presented our Independent Study Projects on Tuesday. What a great day…what a revolutionary idea- an academic program where you not only learn from your teachers, but also from your classmates!


The question to all of us was- how has this informed you as a practitioner? In my presentation, I did my usual gig. I threw up an enormous amount of random information and hoped it stuck to the wall. Upon reflection, I think a summary is in order…

Lesson #1- Efforting means you’re probably doing something wrong.

I began the project with grandiose ideas of not only cracking the code of solar and lunar calendars, but also taking on Chinese cosmology, astronomy, astrology and phenology. Not to mention compulsively checking dates in the middle of trying to correlate the Native American moons to the seasonal almanacs. At a certain point, I realized that if I pulled my head out of the mounds of data and got my ass out there in nature, it was right there in front of me. All I had to do was watch the light, feel the air, observe the gentle tugs when something caught my attention. Do the work, but don’t mistake your personal agenda for the work…

Lesson #2- Theory informs practice. Practice drives theory.

(Just for the record, that pithy aphorism is straight from the Academic Dean.) There is no substitute for putting in the work. And at a certain point, the feet must start walking. The lessons emerge as we walk the road. You can look up the bus schedules, check out the destinations, compare fares. At a certain point, you’re either on the bus or you’re not.

Lesson #3- Who’s doing the work?

When I began the project, I thought I was doing all the work. Then, at a certain point, the lights came on and I realized the project was doing me. Nature was gently nudging-

hey take a look at this…

And then it became a dance. Sometimes we whirled in unison, other times I trod heavily upon its tender toes. But it became a partnership. A play where I realized I had a 2 minute walk-on role upon which the scene hinged. The show would still go on regardless. But I had to show up to the best of my ability.

“The forest person will scrutinize you closely. Maybe she will sniff you. Maybe not. But she will size you up, that’s for sure. Sacha Huarmi wants to see if you are complete, if you have the fiber to see the training through to the end.”      Dale Pendell, Pharmakopoeia