Grenfell

12 Feb

IMG_0324Recently there was a memorial service in St Pauls cathedral. for the eighty or so people who died in the fire at Grenfell tower six months ago. Senior members of the government attended it, and spoke movingly about the victims. It was a remeberence ceremony, so in that spirit of rememberance…
I went up to the site where I took this photo, a few days after the fire went out. I grew up in West London and always loved the area. It was and is a truly multicultural place with a history of community action, lawlessness, spirit and charm. It epitomises the best things about living in London and is an area truly worth celebrating. I was horified to see the flames licking up one of those towers that loomed over the Westway and felt I owed it to that area of London to go up and offer what I could. So I asked around and listened on social media found some contacts and went up to work in the mosque for a few days.
The community who took the biggest hit from the fire was muslim and the mosque was in a state of turmoil around the disaster. A lot of the relief effort was being managed using their premises and the main hall where we worked was full of different groups who were also there to help. It was a beautiful room with that quality of intelligent otherness that permeates Islamic architecture. IMG_0318
We were in there all day, persuading people to have simple ear acupuncture, people who hadn’t slept for days, whose faces were criss crossed with the trauma of connection with those who had lost everything in the fires, who had seen their friends die, had spoken to them on mobiles and then watched their flats burn, or had watched them throw themselves from their windows rather than face the flames. When I got up there Ladbroke Grove the was alive with the horror of it. You could feel and see it in everyone. A feeling of trying not to go there and keeping positive and superficial because of.. it.  Before long ‘it’ got me and I felt myself sliding into shock, feeling numb, wanting to laugh, not being able to connect with the situation in the room in the Mosque because it was simply too much to cope with. It was too awful.
We didn’t come into contact with the direct survivors because they were already gone. They had been ‘rehoused’ in hotels where they were very hard to reach. They were often a significant distance from where they lived and received no help whatsoever, other than from volunteers who could find them. I never had any connection with them, but others from our team did and reported of massively traumatised people holed up in their rooms and hotel managers wanting to charge us for the space in hotel lobbys where we worked. They’re largely still there, waiting to be rehoused, while the media narrative has swung against them and depicted them as grasping immigrants playing the system. They want their lives and their community back. They regard those who put inflammable plastic on the outside of their block of flats to save a very small amount of money per square meter, as responsible for this. They won’t take accomodation in empty flats next to a distant motoway. Nor should they.
We treated those who had been in contact with either the disaster itself as onlookers, or as a support to those helping the living victims.
One thing that was immediately obvious working at Grenfell was that trauma moves from person to person affecting everyone who it comes into contact with. It moves through groups and communitiies.
It has been reported that there are eleven thousand people in the area suffering from a degree of PTSD as a consequence of that fire. That makes sense having been up there and spent time in the hall of the mosque. It makes sense from my memory of walking down the street from Notting Hill Gate and stopping for a coffee on that first day. I think I have it too.
Thus far the buck for this entirely avoidable accident has stopped precisely nowhere. No one is to blame, in a mass corporate homicide kind of a way. The conservative council put the cladding up. The cuts to fire services slowed and limited the response. The wrong advice was given by the emergency services and people died waiting for help. But then who knew just how flammable that cheap cladding was? Who would have imagined that putting something like that on the outside of a block of flats could be legal? Then there’s the matter of only one escape route from the building with main gas pipes on it which swiflty became impassable in the heat. The residents had worried about a fire, and had taken those concerns to the council repeatedly and been ignored and rebuffed. There were no fire doors, no sprinkler system.
The official figures put the number of deaths at eighty five. The unofficial count is about two hundred people, forty four percent of them children. Anybody looking at the building and the footage of the fire can see that an enormous number of people were trapped in those flats higher in the block. The fire occurred during Ramadam. Groups of people were gathered to break the fast together. But then the fires burned with great heat, so it was difficult to identify the bodies. I have heard rumours of the fire service having a more accurate head count from the number of mobile phone chargers in the flats. There were apparrently a lot of phone chargers in there that night. Not all of those in the fire were legally here. Not all of them have been accounted for and most likely never will be as the political drive is to minimise the casualty lists and move on from this as quickly as possible.
But then many people simply can’t, and I’m one of them.
There are a number of observations and messages form Grenfell that are, to my mind, important.
When the chips are down, and a mistake has been made, those in power in this country will lie and connive to save their own skins. They have no respect for a group of poor immigrants. Even when it is clearly their responsibility they will not own that. This is a truism, but we hide behind truisms with a shrug and carry on as before, without really configuring our lives around them. At Grenfell this is what happened. They will do it to anyone they need to, and are not to be trusted at all, ever.  I don’t know for absolute certainty they have lied; that this is another Hillsborough disaster on a far bigger scale than the May administration can admit. The local community though are adamant that they have, and have said as much from the first day. The burnt out tower is a constant reminder of this thing that we should not forget again. The relief effort sprung from street level and continues at street level. We will need to learn to repeat that again and again, if things like hard brexit and global warming fulfil their promises.
This would have been very different had it been rich white people. This culture values some people more than others. It doesn’t, then, believe people have any intrinisc value. How valuable someone is based on perceptions of their monetary value and skin colour. We live in a world that treats people as disposable when they are no longer seen as of worth. That can be you too. IMG_0323
Emotions are a collective experience. We don’t each have our own, we share the emotional state of those around it. It’s not just shock and trauma, or ecstatic drugged up joy when the sun came up at raves in the early years of acid house and the crowd went wild, it’s anxiety, fear, worry all the emotions that so many of us who are being pushed too hard are experiencing. If one in sixty nine of a towns citizens are homeless, then we all experience that to some extent. If one in four people are experiencing mental health issues in a given year, then we all are. If many of those around us are worried to death about making the rent and eating, then that’s affecting us all. Substance agendas, eating disorders, porn addiction, that’s all of us.
Walking down the hill into Ladbroke Grove proper on that first day, I searched for the tower. Where was it? And then I saw it. It was, and still is, part of the sky line over the whole of that area of West London. It’s a gigantic grotesque murder scene twenty three stories high that describes horrible, terrifying ends for those in the blackened upper floors. And once you’ve seen it, you keep seeing it, like a monster suddenly popping out from behind a wall or down a quiet suburban street. It’s just there again.  Something so awful that it doesn’t become common place no matter how often you look at it. It turned up in my dreams afterwards and I keep transplanting it into the Brighton skyline in idle moments.
It has led me to feel that, in truth, Grenfell is everywhere.  Grenfell tower is hiding behind a wall or will suddenly appear down a quiet suburban street wherever you are. Grenfell is there when homeless people freeze to death, or when my patients come out of underfunded hospitals injured from the care they received. Grenfell is there when people have their benefits cut or can’t feed their children. Grenfell isn’t an isolated event that can have a line drawn under it with a memorial service in the City of London and be forgotten about. Grenfell is a process and we need to see it as that; refuse to accept it at every turn; understand with issues such as the subtle trauma of mass homelessness, the collective mental health crisis, and refuse to let it become part of our every day lives.
And the other thing. Simple, quick acupuncture practiced in groups was amazing, and could heal by stealth and calm in a way that was awe inspiring. That was the good thing. And that is the ethos behind the Dragon 2.0 Community Clinic. Chinese medicine to heal communities. If we work with one then we work with all, and if we work with all we work with one.

 

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Dragon Acupuncture 2.0

5 Nov

Following a break over the summer, we’re opening a developing a new clinic space at About Balance 22 Gloucester Place. 

This clinic is designed to make acupuncture treatment available to the broadest cross section of people in Brighton possible.  The cost of treatment will be  £10 per session.

We have a donations box in the reception for anyone who would like to support what we are doing and help us build the project. 

At present we are running two drop in sessions per week between 9.30 and 10.45 on Wednesday and Friday mornings. We will extend the times to much longer sessions when we have more fully worked out this model of practice.  

We’er trying to make our note taking and client intake paperless, so if you”d like to speed up your first visit to clinic please  fill in the contact form below and we’ll send you out a health check list to fill out prior to your treatment.  

We are exploring other changes to the way Chinese medicine is practised, emphasising preventative and personal measures such as lifestyle, diet and movement practice.

This clinic is a response to spiralling housing prices, wage stagnation and the rise in the cost of living in Brighton.  Many people are finding themselves increasingly unable to manage and this affects all of us.

We need a clinic that is economically relevant to everyone in Brighton. Those with chronic health issues, and those of us who are struggling with stress, anxiety and depression.  We need, perhaps more than ever, to create a space that supports the many, many people in this town who, in different ways, are in need of support.

Please come down and check us out, or tell others who you feel might benefit.

 

 

Movement for life. A plug for the brilliant thing that is Qi Gong.

1 Sep

 

fullsizeoutput_55aHow does physical posture and spinal alignment affect our physical health and vitality? Common sense would suggest that the way that you hold your body would have an impact on your capactiy to move your arms and legs more or less freely.  A tense shoulder will limit movement of your arm, and tight back will limit hip rotation and impair movement of the leg.
But if that’s the case then if the muscles in the back, hip or shoulder are held tightly then it would suggest that perhaps the internal organs might be impaired in their function too.
What if your diaphragm was tense and tight, wouldn’t that perhaps affect your breathing, or possibly any of the organs that will connect to diaphragmatic movement? Surely if your posture is hunched over and you can’t breathe deeply then there’ll be less oxygen in your system.

What about the kidneys?  MRI scans have revealed that they change shape dramatically with physical movement, are constantly massaged by the dropping diaphragm, and move about nine miles per day (!!!). Kidneys are crucial for the maintenance of correct blood pressure’ and the management of salt and osmotic processes across the body.  You want those guys working their very best.

Is it possible that if your muscles in your pelvis are habitually tight and shortened that blood flow will be constricted and your heart will have to work harder particularly in moving blood in the legs? I mean it’s only a bit harder.. minute to minute not a problem, but over twenty years, that’s going to mean something, right?

0c43dceb82839fae884525d62e9a25d0--chi-kung-kung-fuThe ancient Chinese had a long standing obsession with maintenance of youth and vitality.  Chi kung is the chinese science of body movement. It focusses on improving the relationship between the emotional and physical tension and the organic processes of your system.  It’s about how to optimise your physical vitality and slow, or reverse, the ageing process.
In practice it is learning relaxed whole body movements that create ease and comfort and a sense of freedom in your body. This is quite good for you emotionally… alright it’s very, very, very good for your emotionally.  Chronic postural habits are almost always a reflection of an emotional state.

Chi kung is a kind of intricate two thousand year old moving healing practice, which has no parallell in the western view of the body. It’s one of the eight parts of Chinese medicine. It underpins  ‘soft’ martial arts like Tai Jii or Bagua.  With good material and consistant practice the physical and emotional benefits are quickly apparent. It hasn’t really appeared in the west because of the issues of Chinese culture, poor translation and the closed nature of Chinese society since the cultural revolution.  It’s ideas about the body are radical and far reaching. Shifting and massaging and enhancing the deep levels of the body with posture and aligned movement.  We’ve been doing it and trying to get people to do it for years. Qi Gong is about regaining freedom and ease in your body which is your lost birth right,  and we think it’s probably important to help people to find this.

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Keith Simpson runs daily classes in central Brighton in the mornings Tuesday afternoon and Thursday evening for further details info@internalintentuk.com

Karen White teaches a class on Tuesday evening in Hanover tel 07984697041

Calum Thomson is teaching a class on Thursday morning call 07760492136 or 07540496076

So when did you last do a detox?

3 Jul

 

images-2A little while ago I heard a story about a man in Canada who, whilst being extremenly fit and healthy, did a hair toxicity test to see if he had heavy metal or chemical contaminants in his body. Why he did such a thing wasn’t elaborated.
The analysis revealed that he did indeed have quite high levels of some contaminant in his body.   He opted to pursue a process known as ‘chelation’ which drains heavy metal toxins from the body. Chelation is a very powerful form of detox and requires a great deal from the persons system, but he wanted the heavy metals out so he opted to do it. A year and a half later he died from multiple cancers.

This is an example of going too far with a detox.
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Detoxing has developed a lot of appeal in this culture. This is largely about alcohol and drug intake, as well as feeling ill because of long term frustration and anxiety. There’s a large industry associated with it. It has ideas of redemption and control associated with it.  These are attractive if your drinking is excessive and particularly when you have yet another nasty hangover. Obviously if you’re emotional health isn’t good, then alcohol and drugs become more appealing.

The big organ in charge of detoxing in the day to day is the liver.  If you want to support  your liver, milk thistle helps a bit, nettle tea and berberis tincture are definitely useful. Starting the day with lemon juice in water or a table spoon of olive oil and lemon juice are helpful. Cooking with turmeric which has been broken down in oil is helpful for liver detox amongst many other things.  Liver maintenance will tend to improve your mood.

In terms of toxin management, the most useful things from a Chinese medical point of view is good sleep, hydration and digestion.  The solid pillars of good health in most people.

If you aren’t sleeping well and for long enough and clearing your colon regularly, then this will downgrade your health in a way that no amount of abstaining from this and that, or fruit fasting will help with and fruit fasting may well weaken the digestion and in the longer term your physical health, if you over do it.

The most important thing is not always to clear toxins out of your body. The issue is toxin and pathogen management; how we assist the body by making it strong enough.  If it’s strong, it can either process toxins out of the body, or if they are overwhelming, buy itself time and hold them somewhere safe until we are strong enough to clear them out. This is what is known as a healing crisis. We have an illness and are stronger after it.
The body is amazing at holding environmental toxins or potentially damaging health issues in areas of the body away from the internal organs and brain. It routinely stores these things in joint cavities, and body fat, in the gums and the shoulder and the hips and knees. If you have intermittant chronic joint pain then it may well be part of the process of toxin holding taxing the system when you’re more tired or depleted than usual.
A favourite storage place is in the nails and the hair.

What the alarming test of the unfortunate man revealed was that he was effectively managing heavy metal toxicity, and that his body was adapting in such a way as he need do nothing.
We live in a toxic world and all carry various things around with us that when we’re healthy do us no harm. Sadly for him, in the panicky attempt to cleanse his body, he in all likelihood undermined the very systems that supported his health.
The way Chinese medicine looks at the body is that it is an immensely complex system that’s always looking for other options and another way of getting round a problem, and it seeks to assist people in finding another way to deal with a situation, physically or emotionally. His was doing just fine, as is ours a lot of the time if we just relax ensure that the basics of day to day health are in place of digestion, hydration and sleep and let it get on with looking after us.images-3

 

Gums and Cancer

14 Jun

images-1Articles suggesting an association between an early and terrible death from cancer and routine dentistry have been doing the rounds on Facebook for some time.  It’s an interesting subject, especially if you’re neurotic, middle aged and have had a root canal.

There is a degree of controversy surrounding the issue, with some denying the link and claiming the procedure is safe and some being more cautious.  For the neurotic and middle aged there has been debunking.

Phew.28982bcb232a2e98f03f3738b6ab1e8c

That said there are similar associations between gum disease and heart disease which tend to bear out a link between poor oral health and serious degenerative illness.

 

The gum in Chinese medicine is a dumping ground for a pathological threat that the body doesn’t want to enter the internal organs.  This could be an environmental toxin, a virus, mould or bacteria, or potentially something related to emotional trauma that can’t be processed and must be suppressed.

The body has a number of such dumping grounds, the sacrum and pelvis is one, the shoulder blades is another.  If you have a regular clicking in a shoulder, then in Chinese medical terms this would indicate an area of contained micro-inflammation that were it to enter the interior of the body would spread and threaten the delicate internal organs.

An example of this would be a patient I saw a few years ago who had Crohns disease that went into remission, but who then developed a frozen shoulder.  In terms of Chinese medical theory, his body had succeeded in holding inflammation away from the gut.

The gum and cheek bone is a location into which a lot of the meridians dump rather than allow entrance into the body.  If you have surgery on the gum or destabilise it structurally you then run the risk of latent inflammation being released into the body, particularly as surgery involving anaesthetics and trauma weakens the immune response.

In western medical terms the issue is anaerobic bacteria in the gum being released down into the body where they can busy themselves disrupting your health in their self generated oxygen supply.  This accords nicely with Chinese medical theory.

 

To maintain gum health oil pulling is reputedly effective.  This involves holding a tablespoon of high grade sunflower, sesame or coconut oil in the mouth for twenty minutes before spitting it out and washing the mouth with hot salt water. This will draw toxins from the gum and enhance gum health.

Obviously good dental hygiene is a sensible precaution.

If you have to have dental intervention then go into it rested, well hydrated and rest after it and your body has a better chance of recovering and containing what has been released.

In the long term sinus problems may turn into issues in the gum.  Your sinuses are a route out for pathogens and a barrier to their entrance deeper into the system.  Blocked up and infected sinuses may threaten the wider system and need looking after.

If there’s something bad smelling and rotting in your mouth where possible, treat it or get it out.

 

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De-Stress Ear Acupuncture.

23 May
Dragon Project

Dragon Project

 

 

images-1The Internal Causes of Disease

In Chinese medicine there are two main categories of disease causation:the  external and internal causes of disease.  The external causes are climatic, environmental factors and dietary.
In our culture, whilst environmental and dietary factors are important, an enormous number of health problems stem from the internal causes of disease.

The internal causes of disease are emotional. The idea of physical health problems being caused by our emotions only really gained traction in medicine relatively recently, but Chinese medicine has a profound understanding of the way emotional tension, from the superficial level of ‘having a bad day’, to deep childhood trauma, affects our health.

Our emotional health and physical health are inseparably, interwoven aspects of our well-being.

Stressed Out Brighton

Brighton is a ‘fun’ city , but people in Brighton are surprisingly tense.  Many of us are in insecure housing with sociopathic house-mates;  we’re managing debt; we’re underpaid; we’re entering the ninth circle of hell and on a daily basis doing the morning commute to London;  we’re using alcohol, and powders and pills to unwind, and then the hangover is making things worse.

The pressures on us in the day to day are causing record numbers of people to seek help for panic attacks, stress, anxiety, depression and being emotionally overwhelmed; and this level of emotional pressure is also making us physically ill.  Many of our patients report issues with anxiety and unmanageable, stress levels.

Discussing this recently at clinic,  we concluded that the majority of people, we were treating, were suffering from issues of stress, anxiety and emotional tension.  This was the background to whatever ‘physical’ ailment with which they were attending clinic; and that we needed to work more effectively with stress.  To do that we needed to do it in a way that is both effective, and cheap enough to allow people to access our service as often as they need to.

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The NADA Protocol 

The NADA protocol is a five point ear acupuncture treatment developed in drug rehabs in the New York in the eighties.  It had a remarkable, success record with people experiencing extreme, emotional distress, when giving up crack cocaine. The five points do the following things.
Adrenal; takes the body out of a sympathetic flight or fight nervous state into parasympathetic, calm.
Shenmen;  draws your consciousness down into your belly, and out of your head.
Kidney: addresses issues related to adrenal exhaustion and mental weariness as well as calm the adrenals.
Liver: smooths the emotions particularly anger and frustration; stabilises the endocrine system and assists digestion
Lung: diaphragmatic release and emotional release; works in harmony with the liver and kidneys; assists in excretion and breathing issues.

These points synergise and amplify one another to make the NADA protocol an amazing treatment for stress, anxiety depression or perhaps not that surprisingly giving up smoking or other substances. It’s like an all purpose grounding and centring treatment and we can deliver it at speed.

We’re offering this as a service at clinic because we recognise that huge numbers of people would really benefit from calming down both emotionally, and in terms of their physical health.  We think this is the tool to do it quickly, effectively and cheaply.

£5 for each treatment. Drop in between 10.00 and 18.00 Monday to Wednesday

The Drugs Don’t Work. (Or not in quite the way we hoped)

14 Feb

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At Dragon we frequently see older people on medication for chronic conditions.  There are of course, a variety of conditions that lead to repeat prescriptions;  diabetes, high blood pressure, angina; frequently need to be managed using western pharmacology.  If you don’t take insulin when you have type one diabetes, you will die. If you don’t manage your blood pressure carefully, then you will have a stroke which may necessitate a lot of medication and may maim or kill you.

What has become apparent over the years is that it is generally true that if people take one kind of pill, then they tend to end up taking another one.   Medication for chronic conditions frequently results in taking other medication for conditions that arise in tandem with the original condition.  If you take codeine for a back problem, then you may well tend to end up taking a proton pump inhibitor to assist with the acid reflux from being on a pain killer that affects your liver and digestion.  If you are on ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure or amitriptyline for a variety of conditions, you may be prescribed viagra for erectile dysfunction.  If you’re using Gabapentin perhaps as a consequence of nerve damage in diabetes, then you may be prescribed an SSRI anti depressant to cope with the suicidal thoughts and anxiety which can be a side effect of Gabapentin.

Sometimes this cascade of medication is quite unavoidable, but sometimes it isn’t.  Western medicine has become an arm of a gigantic and powerful industry that has an interest in medication for chronic conditions.  This has to be understood if one is using the products prescribed by a doctor.  Many chronic conditions that are addressed with a repeat prescription are directly emotionally  related.  They are a consequence of emotional tension held in the body.  Long term digestive conditions, pain, headaches, insomnia, erectile problems, a host of gynaecological conditions, asthma are frequently emotionally inspired problems.  If you go to a doctor to have these conditions treated then they will do their very best to help.  What you will come away with is very likely to be a very powerful compound that will almost certainly do something to your body that helps with the condition.  It usually won’t cure it, it will alleviate it as long as you are taking the medication, and it will have side effects that may not be immediately apparent.  If you are taking more than one compound then the way they interact is a frequent cause for hospitalisation. Bring your body into the equation with it’s variations in biochemical function will be impossible to accurately predict other than that, usually, it won’t help.

My father was a doctor and was adamant that it was important to avoid using medication unless it was absolutely necessary.  If you could manage without it, then you were better off doing so.  Having worked in hospitals, he was clear on the importance of  trying to stay away from them because of they are intrinsically dirty and dangerous places.   If you’re adhering to the statement in the hippocratic oath ‘do no harm’, then a restrained and minimal approach to western medical intervention is the safest bet.

Unfortunately, the large drug corporations have an interest in your using their product.  A doctor facing a chronic health problem will have a pill that addresses the issue, there may have been significant advertising behind it, there may be pressure to prescribe it in terms of time and resources available, and there is an increase in emphasis on a branded products for every ill that has invaded the teaching and practice of modern medicine.

As with many ‘alternative’ therapies, Chinese medicine represents a gentler and safer approach to the management of chronic health conditions.  It won’t lead to a cascade of side effects requiring more medication and intervention.  It won’t lead to nasty surprises further down the line such as the issues of long term proton pump inhibitor usage, or over the counter pain killers.   

Also it won’t make the drug companies any money, but then do you want to give people this cynical, who both make this and hold the patents for this which we know does this?  It’s hardly reassuring is it?

Don’t not go to the doctor, don’t not take medication, but equally don’t assume that it’s safe, always properly researched and this industry is adhering to high standards ; or that everyone in the process has your best interests at heart, because, sadly, they don’t.