Finding Wisdom in Water’s Depths

John Kirkwood has been working, living and playing with the Five Elements for 30 years. In this article, he discusses how we can explore the Water Element – that of fear – during the coming winter season. John is the author of The Way of the Five Elements and The Way of the Five Seasons.

In the northern hemisphere winter is beckoning. Nature’s focus slides down and goes within.

As practitioners we are not separate from nature and its changes. To be fully present in the treatment room we must take account of the season and our relationship to it. Winter conveys the essence of the Water Element and all of its associations. Great yin: dark, cold, deep, within. How comfortable are we with what we find there, deep inside ourselves – the hidden places, the dark secrets, the cold corridors of our history?

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Summer energy urges us to get moving

Summer begins in early May according to the lunisolar calendar. Both the lunar phases and the solar year are combined in this traditional calendar used in many Asian cultures. Seasons are determined by the amount of sunlight striking a particular region of the earth. The months of May, June and July have the greatest amount of solar radiation in the northern hemisphere with the summer solstice being the midpoint of the season. Therefore, to get maximum benefit, we should begin our summer qigong practice in early May 2015.

Excerpt from Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis:

“Summer energy urges us to get moving. We want to be outside more often, we wear fewer clothes, and are in closer contact with nature. We like to spend time in joyful physical recreation and gatherings with friends. Summer stimulates creativity, which we may express with building projects, designing gardens, making music, art objects, and party decorations—anything that gives us warm pleasurable connections to people and outdoors adventures. During this season of splendor and shining fire, the energy of nature grows outward with color, warmth, and radiance. Now our Spirit comes alive with expansive awareness; it wants to make intimate contact with all the elements of heaven and Earth.

During the Fire Phase we feel that our Heart Qi, which was fueled by the Rising Yang Qi of spring, has come into full bloom with expressions of joy, compassion and a mysterious yearning for divine contact. The exuberance of fire, when controlled and cultivated, can be refined and directed toward the ultimate purpose of being human: spiritual awakening. However—if not properly harnessed—the great blazing of summer’s Supreme Yang Qi can scorch our Heart and mind. Summer Qigong practice will show you how to feed the Heart Network without getting burned.”

Qigong Through The Seasons presents a complete program of qigong exercises, specific meditations, foods, and tonic herbs that will keep you naturally healthy during the exciting summer season. Based on the author’s thirty years of clinical practice, personal training, and public teaching, this fully illustrated book will show you how to harmonize with the ever-changing energy of the natural world.

5 thoughts from Nora Franglen

Franglen_On-Being-a-Five_978-1-84819-236-2_colourjpg-webIn this extract from On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist, master acupuncturist Nora Franglen shares her thoughts on how much she hates “the placebo effect”, allowing the elements to surprise us, how to deal with “Aggressive Energy”, bringing acupuncture back to China, and a remarkable difference between two elements.

Read the extract…

The book is based on her widely-read blog about the wholeness of life as a Five Element practitioner. Nora Franglen’s breadth of interest shows how the curiosity and life experiences of the individual lie at the heart of what makes a true acupuncturist, over and beyond the necessary knowledge and expertise in the technicalities of practice. From her penchant for coffee shops to reflections on challenges she has experienced in the clinic, Nora illustrates how the Five Elements influence, illuminate and, ultimately, enrich all aspects of her life, and vice versa.

Singing Dragon attends the annual British Acupuncture Council conference

The annual British Acupuncture Council conference, this year held for the first time in Daventry in Northamptonshire, took place on 26-28 September and was a great success.

Franglen, NoraEckman, Peter (photo by Marina Chentsova Eckman)This was my first trip to the conference representing Singing Dragon as Senior Commissioning Editor and I was thrilled with our strong presence at the conference and to witness the real buzz around our books, particularly those authored by conference speakers. Our authors Peter Eckman and Nora Franglen spoke at the conference; Nora delivering the Keynote lecture on Saturday and Peter delivering a two-part lecture on ‘Resonance and spirit’. This was Peter’s first visit to the UK since 1997 so it was a privilege to hear him speak and the British Acupuncture Council were delighted to welcome him to conference.

Kevin Durjan, Conference Manager, said last year that he was trying to bring back the spiritual side of acupuncture to the BAcC and this was clearly evident in the choice of the theme of ‘Shen‘ for this year’s conference. The lectures, sessions and workshops ranged from very practical sessions with skills which practitioners could immediately take back to their practice (Andy Harrop’s wonderful two-part ‘The treatment of scars using Japanese acupuncture’ is a prime example) to excellent insights into classical theory relating to spirit (Peter Eckman’s talks, and those of Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee).

Buck, CharlesBuck_Acupuncture-and_978-1-84819-159-4_colourjpg-webSinging Dragon’s expansive book list was commented on by many visiting the stand and we sold many books, particularly Peter Eckman’s The Compleat Acupuncturist, Nora Franglen’s series on Five Element Acupuncture, and of course Charles Buck’s new book Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Singing Dragon sponsored the wine reception on Saturday evening and we had a fantastic book launch of Charles Buck’s book. Charles and I enjoyed introducing the book to all those assembled in the evening sunshine and he then signed copies afterwards. The book is an accessible and engaging journey through the history of Chinese medicine that explains how modern practice has evolved and, importantly, reminds us that it will continue to evolve and adapt to modern circumstances.

As Charles says in his introduction, ‘We will see that classical Chinese medicine is really not a single tradition but the constant reinterpretation and adjustment of classical doctrine to meet the changing clinical challenges of different times, and yet supported by the structure that the ancient truisms gave‘.

By Claire Wilson, Senior Commissioning Editor for Singing Dragon

Singing Dragon New and Bestselling titles Autumn-Winter 2014 and 2015

This fully interactive brochure has all of the new Singing Dragon titles for the Autumn and Winter of 2014 as well upcoming titles for 2015. In here you will find books on Chinese medicine, complementary therapies, martial arts, nutrition, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Daoism, aromatherapy, and many more alternative therapies and ancient wisdom traditions.


Click on the covers or titles to be taken to the book’s page on the Singing Dragon website. If you would like to request hard copies please email hello@singingdragon.com with your details and the number of copies you would like.

Earth element activities for children – by Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke and Bettye Jo Wray-Fears

Welcome back to the monthly series of stimulating Five Element activities that can support development of children in all ages!   If this is your first time reading our blog, you can go back to our first entry in May to view the WOOD Element activities.  All of the blogs can be downloaded in a pdf format by clicking on the link at the end of this article so that you can enjoy making your own notebook of Five Element exercises for each month and season of the year. September---Earth-image-webAs the earth moves from summer into the fall, we might notice an unusual phenomena happening that sometimes looks like the earth can’t quite make up its mind what season to express.  If you live close to farm land it is the most apparent.  Bright yellow fields of winter wheat are in blossom looking like spring, some days have hot burning hours of sunshine feeling like the remnants of summer, or wisps of cool breezes descending with patches of trees starting to change to the autumn colors, and even sudden cold rainy days or nights that make one shudder at the memory of winter on their skin.  The transition from summer to fall is the most apparent transition time where all the seasons are expressed at one time, giving rise to the Element Earth.  In the cycle of the 5 Elements, this is where Earth Element exists, but truly this auspicious 5th Element represents the transitional time in between all the phases of life and seasons.

Earth herself is the ground that all the seasons cycle through.  It is the Earth that we lay down to rest on every night, and the ground we stand on when we awake.  Food, air, water, shelter, and everything that sustains life and gives it the nourishment and support to live and die, comes from the Earth.  We can experience this in the way we feel at home in our bodies, thoughts, ideas, and personal expressions of caring for others and ourselves.  Children who love to nurture other, pets, and gardens, and love to sing and dance content in themselves are expressing the innate nature of the Earth Element.  And those children that we see looking lost, not knowing what to do, needing to follow others or climb continually into the teachers lap, are often expressing the need for Earth Element to be supported and guided to find its own ground and center of balance to interact with the world.

The following exercises can be used with a family, classroom, or a group of children to experience qualities of Earth Element.    Remember, it takes patience to allow transitions to happen, and self nurturing to find one’s center and balance.  Both are developed expressions of Earth Element.  Allow the children to experience whatever arises in the exercises with support, acceptance, and safe boundaries, so that all five of the Elements are given room to grow.

Gardening

You will need little flower pots or recycled yoghurt cups, soil, and different kinds of seeds. Fill the soil in the little pots, make a little hole to put the seeds in and then cover with the extra soil.  Spray a little bit of water every day over the planted seeds, and watch for changes to happen.

Choose seeds that grow fast, like water cress, or sunflower seeds.  If you use water cress it is a great treat on bread and butter after they have sprouted.  Cress is also possible to grow on a piece of wet paper towels, but playing with the soil can give a little more of the feeling of the Earth Element for the children.

The idea for this exercise is to see the whole cycle of growth, like all the seasons, and to use what you care for, like the harvest of fall.

Balancing on Stilts

You need 2 big empty cans that are the same size, i.e., from coffee or soup; a piece of clothesline, and something to make round holes in the cans.

Use the bottom of the can that is still covered for the standing surface or top of the stilt.  Have an adult make two holes on the walls/sides of the cans, 2 cm under the bottom of the can (the surface of the stilt). The holes should be level and on opposite sides of the can.

Now pull the clothesline through each hole. When a child stands on the cans, the line should be long enough to make a loop that comes together to tie at the level of the hips for the child to hold onto.  Now you can walk on your stilts. Of course you use your stilts only outside. Have a lot of fun with it!

Kalbantner-Wern_Children-at-The_978-1-84819-118-1_colourjpg-web

Click this link to download this article.

For more information about the Five Elements and the way they can support child development, check out Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists published by Singing Dragon.

NEXT: Autumn Metal Element activities – fun with sizes and the cotton ball challenge!

 

June Wood Element activities for children – by Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke and Bettye Jo Wray-Fears

In our previous blog we introduced the element Wood through a visualization exercise to help children begin to feel the Element in themselves and the environment.  The focus was on the imagination and creativity qualities that Wood Element offers in life. We will continue with Wood in this blog and expand on the way it supports child development.

Beside creativity and imagination, the Wood Element gives us two other important gifts, our physical mobility and flexibility. Here we want to emphasize that the development of flexibility happens as strongly in the mental capacity as in the physical. A good analogy of a flexible nature in someone can be seen in a bamboo tree. No matter which direction the wind blows, bamboo will stand upright over and over again. The following exercise is an example of how you can bring this experience to a family or small group of children. It creates a lot of movement involving rolling, turning and stretching that is good for everyone. Above all, it is really fun and brings laughter and play into the dynamics of any group.

June Wood imageThe World is Coloured

Particularly in springtime we experience a large variety of colours in nature. Everything blossoms, budding fresh green leaves and flowers of every hue.  Everywhere you look nature is full of energy and joy for life. The following exercise can bring all of these qualities to everyone in the family or group.

The family members sit down on a big towel of their own, and are told it is a large tub full of different colours, whatever they imagine. Everyone chooses one particular colour that they are sitting in and shares which colour they selected.  Each can say the special reason why the colour they picked is their colour for today. 

Then everybody should “paint himself” –if possible everywhere- with his favourite colour, by turning on his towel, rolling and lolling about. Encourage each to try all the movements possible in their tub.

Then ask, “Is your body totally covered with colour? Well, now let’s paint the floor!“

Everybody rolls and rolls throughout the space. There are obstacles everywhere! If another person is touched, their colours mix. What colour is it now?

After a few minutes everybody sits up.

 “So, now let’s paint the soles of each other’s feet – pick a partner and ask your partner which colour he would like.  Apply the colour firmly on your partner’s soles. When you are done, everybody stand up and make footprints with big or small steps in the whole room! Now, try to walk in the footprints of another person and see what it feels like to walk in their steps.”

Everybody has to go under a shower afterwards. Everyone searches for a place in the room for himself/herself and shakes the colours off vigorously under their shower.

To end, everyone must hop until they are dry!

The physical activity of this exercise allows the Wood Element’s need for large movements, imagination, loud noises, and stretching for everyone.  Allow the dynamics of the group to unfold. There might be natural directors that appear as others ideas and creativity come and go. Give room for each to experience and work out what might be difficult or easy in the interactions and instructions. Experiencing any difficulty is as important as experiencing the ease in all of the Five Element exercises, as participants have the opportunity to try out new solutions.

If anger appears, allow this. Anger is the natural response to frustration and the emotion expressed in the Wood Element. Activities that give children permission to experiment with anger, supports healthy development as they learn how to manage this strong energy. For those that struggle moving through this emotion, the following exercise can be added:

Lightning Power

Kalbantner-Wern_Children-at-The_978-1-84819-118-1_colourjpg-webSit without shoes on a chair.  Cling your toes into the floor and tense all the muscles of your feet.

Now imagine a lightning bolt which sends the anger down into the floor. If the child likes he/she can also clench the hands and make a grimace with the face.

After a while relax and enjoy how much lighter everything feels now.

We invite you to look for what comes next month as we enter into the Fire Element and season of summer. This article can be downloaded in a pdf format by clicking on this link so that you can start creating a notebook of Five Element exercises that will be offered each month. You can find more information and examples of how the Five Elements support development in children in the book, Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists, published by Singing Dragon.

NEXT: July Fire Element Activities – nicking socks and making faces

 

Springtime Wood Element activities for children – by Karin Kalbantner-Wernicke and Bettye Jo Wray-Fears

This blog is an invitation to parents, teachers, therapists and mentors of children to join us in having fun with a seasonal series of stimulating Five Element activities that can support development in all ages!  These entries can be downloaded and printed off in pdf format by clicking this link so that you can enjoy making your own notebook of Five Element exercises for each month and season of the year.  We hope you have as much fun being creative with these ideas and projects as we have with many children and families.

May Wood imageSince we are beginning this series in springtime we will start with the Wood Element, the perfect place to start any activity with children. Wood Element marks the time of new beginnings and all the bursting energy of creativity and expanding growth like the first spring flowers breaking through the ground and fresh green buds on the trees and bushes. If you have lived in a place that has long, cold winters, you know the antsy feeling of wanting to move, jump, and stretch in every direction to greet the sun and warm air of the coming spring! This is exactly what children feel physically as they are developing gross and fine motor skills and testing them out for the first time, or emotionally and cognitively as they are learning new activities and seeing the possibilities of what they can do next from their new development!

The following exercises can be used with a family, classroom, or group of children to experience qualities of Wood:

 A Tree in the Forest

Have the group of participants get comfortable and read the visualization below.

Imagine you are a seedling of your favorite tree or plant in the earth. You can feel other seedlings around you nestled in the soil tucked up tight with the earth and each other to keep warm from the cold of winter.  But now the earth is getting warmer.  You feel something growing bigger inside you day by day.  You feel itchy and antsy to let it out, until finally the energy gets so strong that it bursts out in every direction!  Your roots shoot down into the soil, and your trunk, branches, and leaves up and out towards the sun.  You feel the roots of the other trees around you and playfully you all race each other toward the sun and sky!  Feel how strong, fresh and new you feel in the freedom to grow!

When finished have everyone draw a picture of what they saw themselves as in a forest with each other. Pick a wall or board to have everyone create the forest with their pictures hanging together.

A Family/Group Springtime Walk

Talk about springtime and get ideas from the group about what they notice with the plants, animals, and colours in nature.  What does their body and air feel like in the room when they talk about this? Wood Element brings the development of imagination, movement, planning and creativity. Allow all ideas, there are no right or wrong answers.  Let them express how they experience and relate this time of year to themselves.  After everyone has a chance to share, get ready for a walk outside and invite all to pick one item up from nature that reminds them of spring.  When you get back from the walk, place all the items found on a table or cloth for everyone to touch and admire. This can be left on a season table somewhere in the room or house, and the children can be invited to continue to add items and be creative with the table throughout the season. Remember, that it is not about looking perfect to the adult eyes!  Let the children find all the awkward and balanced expressions of Wood Element and have fun seeing what they create. Permission to play and express is the key to growth.

Splitting the Tree

Every Element has an emotion associated with its development. The creative energy of the Wood Element brings emotions of frustration and anger when this dynamic desire cannot Kalbantner-Wern_Children-at-The_978-1-84819-118-1_colourjpg-webmove. This last exercise we offer is to support the healthy movement of anger. Use pillows, plastic bat, cardboard tube, anything safe to allow a child to get as physically active as she/he needs to express their emotion.

Imagine a big trunk of a tree on the floor in front of you. With an axe, you want to use all your power to split the trunk. But it is so hard to do that you get really angry! Take all your energy and power and keep striking the trunk until you feel tired and can rest, feeling calm.

For more information about the Five Elements and the way they can support child development, read Children at Their Best: Understanding and Using the Five Elements to Develop Children’s Full Potential for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists released in April 2014 with Singing Dragon.

NEXT: June Wood Element activities – a colourful world and lightning power!

The Compleat (not Complete) Acupuncturist

Eckman_Compleat-Acupun_978-1-84819-198-3_colourjpg-webWhen people look at the beautiful cover of Peter Eckman‘s new book, most think that the printers have made a terrible, embarrassing mistake. They have not. In the dedication of The Compleat Acupucturist, Eckman apologises for “stealing” the title from Sir Isaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler. In 1653 Walton wrote:

in this Discourse I do not undertake to say all that is known, or may be said of it, but I undertake to acquaint the Reader with many things that are not usually known to every Angler; and I shall leave gleanings and observations enough to be made out of the experience of all that love and practise this recreation, to which I shall encourage them. For Angling may be said to be so like the Mathematicks, that it can never be fully learnt; at least not so fully but that there will still be more new experiments left for the trial of other men that succeed us.

In the following apologia (not apology) taken from the book, Eckman explains how this treatise on integrating the various disciplines of Oriental medicine into a whole coherent model, with pulse diagnosis as a common thread across different traditions, uses the same spirit of acquainting the reader with things not usually known.

APOLOGIA1

The archaic language of the title is intended to convey the author’s somewhat “tongue in cheek” approach to the notion of “completeness.” It is certainly not the intention to claim that this treatise covers all or even most of what informs the practice of the art and science of acupuncture, nor that the author is asserting any special claim of mastery. Rather, the idea of “compleatness” refers to the goal of integrating various notions of Oriental medical theory and practice from such diverse sources as India, Korea, and Japan, including their interpretation by Western practitioners, into the discussion of a subject that is often tacitly limited to the Chinese tradition. As will be repeatedly emphasized in the text, the author is not arguing for the superiority of any one style of acupuncture practice, nor disparaging any of the traditions that may not receive as much attention as others in this book. It is the author’s view that, ultimately, all the teachings and traditions of Oriental medicine are aspects of the same shared perception of the nature of reality, in health and illness, and are to be honored for their part in elucidating the nature of the whole.

Another reason for choosing the word “compleat” is that it suggests, to the author at least, the archetypal symbol of the circle, with all its associations, and harkens back to the initial publication some 30 years ago of Closing the Circle,2 jointly written with Stuart Kutchins. The present treatise can be seen as the fruit of the premises first presented there, manifesting here as a practical approach to the clinical practice of acupuncture, in this case based on the art and science of pulse diagnosis.

This treatise is also an attempt to create a more unified theoretical foundation for Oriental medicine.3 Whether it will be possible for someone to discover a unifying theory that covers both Eastern and Western medicine is a subject best left for future investigators.

The Compleat Acupuncturist is available now from the Singing Dragon website.

1 From the Greek, meaning the defense of a position against attack.
2 Eckman, P. and Kutchins, S., Closing the Circle: Lectures on the Unity of Traditional Oriental Medicine. Fairfax, CA: Shen Foundation, 1983.
3 “Most of the really great breakthroughs in science are unifications. Newton’s laws of motion unified the sky and Earth as ruled by the same physics; that was radically different from the earlier Aristotelian concept, in which the two realms were separate. Einstein’s laws of relativity unified space and time.” Owen J. Gingerich (a science historian at Harvard), quoted in Chang, K., “Quakes, Tectonic and Theoretical.” New York Times, January 15, 2011. Available at www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/weekinreview/16chang.html, accessed June 18, 2013.

Singing Dragon at the National Qigong Association’s 18th Annual Conference

 

The National Qigong Association held its 18th annual conference in Valley Forge, PA, last weekend. This is always a fun conference to attend, and Singing Dragon got a great welcome, not least because Damo Mitchell (author of Daoist Nei Gong, and the new Heavenly Streams) was Saturday night’s keynote speaker, and he spent a lot of time hanging out with the attendees on the Singing Dragon stand over the weekend.

Damo Mitchell speech panorama

Damo’s keynote on the fundamentals of Nei Gong

There were lots of interesting things going on. Damo’s keynote on the fundamentals of Nei Gong (simple but not so simple) was extremely well received, and followed up by an excellent workshop the next morning which took attendees through the first principles of Nei Gong – learning by doing and giving a strong grounding in how to take the first steps towards enlightenment…

Damo Mitchell and NQA President Mark R. Reinhart holding a copy of Damo's book, Daoist Nei Gong

Damo Mitchell and NQA President Mark R. Reinhart holding a copy of Damo’s book, Daoist Nei Gong

The conference workshops always offer a vast range of approaches and styles, so attendees were as usual spoilt for choice. Old hands know that Daisy Lee (Friday’s keynote) always does a wonderful workshop, and this year it was open to men as well as women. Amongst many other highlights, Solala Towler, author of Cha Dao, and editor of The Empty Vessel, taught the Great Spiraling Dragon Qigong from Wudang, while NQA Chair Mark Reinhart ran a workshop on Qigong for addiction. Singing Dragon publisher Jessica Kingsley flew over from London for the conference, and had a great time trying to learn how to paint bamboo in Maryann Charmoz’s excellent workshop on Chinese Brush Painting, and refreshing a dim memory of the fan form in Mary Sturtevant’s popular workshop.

Attendees ranged from Masters with decades of learning under their belts to the newest of practitioners, and as we’ve seen from previous conferences, the emphasis is always on openness and enthusiasm.

Damo Mitchell speaking with a NQA conference attendee during his book signing

Damo Mitchell speaking with a NQA conference attendee during his book signing

The Singing Dragon reception (any excuse for a party) on Saturday evening following Damo’s keynote allowed everyone to let their hair down and chat informally to the conference big names, who are always generous with information and advice – good fun. In summing up at the end of the conference, Mark encouraged everyone to bring a friend new to Qigong next time. It certainly seems they would have a good time if they came.

All five of the sales and marketing staff from the Singing Dragon Philadelphia office made it out to the conference at various times over the weekend and really enjoyed it.

 

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2013.