• Emily Corley

My Beginnings with the Five Elements



My involvement with the five elements began in earnest 32 years ago. It was a Saturday morning, and I was in bed with my two daughters. I was squeezing in as much bed time as I could with my early risers, the fate of every young mother. This morning was different. My three-year-old, the older of the two, looked sick, a cold I thought, with an emerging cough. On second thought, I’d seen her look years before on the face of my older sister with whom I had shared a bedroom.

My sister had childhood asthma, a condition with which one simply suffered at the time. I sat vigil with her, a self-appointed job that took me through many days and mostly nights, willing her to take the next breath as she lay as still as possible in bed struggling to make her lungs work despite their terrible and debilitating asthma-induced inflammation. I was terrified she would die. Miraculously, she didn’t.

My daughter had that same pallor, the color of oxygen deficient skin that happens when someone is suffering from asthma. A quick phone call to her pediatrician precipitated a five-day hospital stay at Boston Children’s hospital, every parent’s nightmare.

So began a four-year journey to get her off the only drugs available to stabilize sudden onset, severe childhood asthma. Her drugs were systemic stimulants that hopped her up like a fox in the chicken coop. I learned everything about allergens in food and the environment and the importance of eating healthy food. We went on and off various diets, with mixed success. I determined to keep a spotlessly clean house, mopping wooden floors to keep down the dust. Despite everything, we were in and out of emergency rooms a handful of times every year.

Looking for answers, I began to inquire about solutions outside of allopathic medicine. It only offered drugs to manage her condition. I wanted her to get better. By the time she was six, we were in a homeopathy practice that specialized in pediatrics. It helped, somewhat. At the age of seven, she saw an acupuncturist who practiced five element acupuncture. After several treatments, I cut her medicine in half.

I wanted to know everything there was to know about acupuncture, why people feel better, get better. Her asthma improved. I tried it as well, felt immeasurably more like my old self, unencumbered by the accumulated stress of parenting young children, and was hooked.

Two years later I was in acupuncture school studying what has become the most inspiring, revelatory, and profound system of thought I have encountered, the five elements. What hooked me was not simply a beautiful system of medicine, but a system of medicine that is born of a profound understanding of life itself.