Dr. John Shen

Dr. John Shen

I was asked to write another piece for The Acupuncturist, the newsletter of the British Acupuncture Council, on a teacher who inspired me, and this was my submission:  

Dr. John Shen – who gave two memorable seminars in London in 1979 and 1981 – probably had more influence on practitioners of my generation than any other teacher.  He was a man of extraordinary intelligence, enhanced by his practice of daily meditation from the age of 17 until the end of his life. His single greatest skill was diagnosis. Combining a forensic knowledge of the pulse, traditional Chinese face-reading, a vast mental database of past patients (for many years he saw 200 a day) and Holmes-like observational and deductive powers, he regularly dumbfounded us with his skill. This diagnosis went well beyond differentiation of the disharmony, disease and pattern. The question that he always asked – and answered so brilliantly, time and time again – was, ‘why is this person ill?” It could be constitutional weakness, events that occurred in the womb, problems of childhood or adult events. Displaying what seemed like psychic powers (he always took pains to stress they were not), he would reveal extraordinary and intimate details about a person’s past, their behaviour and daily habits without being told. And though he clearly took pleasure in astonishing his patients and students with the pinpoint accuracy of his observations, his approach served a vital and healing purpose. Explaining ‘why’ helped his patients to change what could be changed in order to help the healing process, and to understand and begin to reconcile themselves to what was in the past and could not be changed. Well beyond his herbal and acupuncture treatments, he offered a profound understanding of human life – a deep, solid and practical wisdom. And while he regularly warned his patients to “very be careful” when homing in on behaviours that needed to change, his mantra was always ‘don’t worry”. He once said, “If you go to the hospital for a check-up and the doctor tells you that you have cancer or some other serious disease and could die in a few days, don’t worry! You must say: Now I’m alive and can do something about it – rest and sleep. If you sustain your energy and don’t let it disappear you needn’t worry about any disease.“

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