Posts Tagged ‘chinese medicine’

img_0920.jpgAdam watches Sunita as she lowers herself into the snake-creeps down posture. It’s one of the most difficult moves to perform in the sequence that makes up the standard Beijing 24 Yang form. He knows women half her age who could not even attempt it, and he’s hoping she will not ask him to follow, because his knees are still hurting after this morning’s meditation.

She feels him watching. “You are thinking something Adam. I feel a question in your silence.”

“How can you know that?”

“Because your thoughts are like half bricks hurled into the still pond that is the universe. I feel them from a distance.”

“I’d no idea I was such an unsettling influence.”

“I do not say you are unsettling. Only that you lack the art of stillness. So,… ask your question.”

“I was just wondering, how long before I start to feel the energy in Tai Chi, Sunita?”

She stops now, looks up at him, her stillness broken for a moment. “How long, Adam?”

“It’s just that I’ve been practising for months and I don’t feel anything yet.”

She thinks for a moment, then stands, looks at him directly in the way that always makes him blush.

“Hold your hands in front of you,” she tells him.

“Like this you mean?”

“Yes, that’s good. Now close your eyes and relax.”

Adam closes his eyes and waits for her next command.

“Tell me,” she says. “Without opening your eyes, how do you know your hands are still there?”

“Well,… I can feel them, Sunita.”

“Good. What you feel is energy, Adam. Now move your hands gently. Wave them like clouds in the sky. Can you still feel them?”

“Not so strongly now.”

“No, your mind is thinking of the movement, thinking of controlling it. The mind is happier dealing with little things like that. You must find the stillness in the movement, then you will find the energy again.”

“The stillness in the movement? That makes no sense.”

“A part of you is always still, no matter how fast you are moving. Find him for me, Adam. Listen for him. He whispers to you at that point where one breath ends, and  the other begins. ”

Adam seeks the stillness. With eyes closed, he listens for it at the closing of his breath, and slowly finds his hands again, finds the feeling in them, then finds them joined to the feeling in his arms. Then his chest becomes alive at the  rhythm of his breath, and then his legs are tingling, alive at their contact with the earth. At first he’s excited by this extraordinary discovery, but then his mind pops up once more, denying the experience, questioning it: “But Sunita, is all of this not just my imagination?”

“Of course it is, Adam,” she replies. “But tell me, what is not imagination?”

Read Full Post »

The short answer appears to be yes.**

I’ve been anosmic (no sense of smell) getting on for a couple of years now. Before that my sense of smell was intermittent to put it mildly – sometimes sharp, though mostly non existent. But to lose your sense of smell completely is a hell of a thing. Yes, it’s insignificant compared to going blind or deaf, because you can function quite normally, and the only danger in it is you might not smell the presence of life threatening things like gas or smoke. But for the sufferer, the world becomes a very bland place indeed.

Our sense of smell touches us in subtle ways, triggering memories, or adding immeasurably to life’s experience. To walk over a peaty moorland or through a rose garden and not smell it is to take away so much of what the world has to offer, disengaging you from it emotionally – because a sense of smell does connect you intimately with life – arousing you, comforting you, warning you, or even sometimes repelling you. And to take all that away? Well, you have to be without it for a while to understand what that means.

I’d reached the stage where I was thinking I was going to have to get used to it. My local GP was unable to offer me anything other than a steroid based nasal spray that made me ill. So, I decided to visit a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, who rather spookily turned out to be the spitting image of a character from one of my books* – we’ll call her Doc Lin**. I’ve had TCM before for a bout of tinnitus. That was a very positive experience and quite an education, so I wasn’t going into this blind – any skepticism I might have felt regarding TCM had already been banished during that earlier episode, some five years ago. I knew TCM worked for certain things, but would it work for anosmia?

Doc Lin reassured me that, yes, TCM could probably help – that she had helped others with anosmia and it was certainly worth a try. I’d need around 12 sessions, she reckoned, one each week. It would cost me £350 if I paid up front, then there would be herbal concoctions to pay on top – maybe another £100. Of course when you’re used to free healthcare, you balk at the cost of paying for treatment, and wonder if you’re being spun a line by someone more interested in your money than your health. So yes, it was a risk, but it’s not every day you meet a character from one of your books, so I gave the gal my card and I signed up.

The sessions involved an exam of tongue and pulse and some diagnostic questioning, then thirty minutes of acupuncture, followed by fifteen minutes of massage. I’ve also been taking a liquid mixture of Ginko Bilboa and Ginseng. I’m eight weeks in now. I’d found the sessions very relaxing, and energising, but my sense of smell had remained stubbornly absent.

Until a few days ago.

It was a jar of coffee beans. I flipped the lid off it and was overwhelmed by the scent. It came as such a revelation, I was quite emotional for a while. But alas, the experience was all too fleeting. Indeed, by the time I’d stuck my nose in the jar for another delicious whiff of it, I was back to my old anosmic self. However, these brief glimpses of a world restored to all its glorious scented completeness have been recurring with increasing frequency. I’ve smelled both strong odours, like coffee and camphor and tea-tree oil, but also what I’d describe as more delicate things like camomile tea, and toothpaste. I was also walking in the hills at the weekend and smelled the earth for the first time in years. It drew me up, and made me gasp with wonder at it.

As I write, it’s gone again, so my recovery is somewhat fragmentary and tentative but, even such as it is, I’m very grateful for it, and for once I feel I have some good news to tell Doc Lin when I next see her. I’m sure things can only improve further from here.

If you’ve lost your sense of smell, and western medicine has been unable to help you, it does seem possible that TCM, however it works, can achieve the  impossible, and restore it. So don’t give up, don’t resign yourself to a textureless world. Go and talk to a practitioner of TCM.

*If you’d like to meet Doc Lin, you’ll find her in my story “Push Hands” here.

**Update July 2013. It didn’t last. It was a glorious scented interlude, but all too brief – disappearing after only a few weeks. After that I tried the ENT department of my local hospital where I was diagnosed with nasal polyps and had more luck – all be it temporarily but for much longer, with a course of antibiotics and corticosteroids. That acupuncture worked was immensely satisfying, but that it worked for so short a period, was also disappointing. See my other blogs pieces on anosmia for more updates on my intermittent journey back to a scented world.

Read Full Post »