Any one who has ever made bread will know, as I do that we never tire of the mystery: how does such an ordinary lump of “greyness” such as yeast, transform a set of ordinary ingredients into the extraordinary and sustaining life force which is bread? “MOXA” for me seems like a similarly ordinary kind of substance which can also achieve extraordinary results.
Moxa is a substance which comes from a weed called “mugwort”. It is a very ordinary little plant that grows in the most unlikely places. It is a traditional East Asian treatment closely associated with acupuncture and it was used to treat TB in Japan in the 1930s before the arrival of antibiotics and TB drugs. It was accompanied by medical research. Moxa works by boosting the immune system. Nothing extraordinary so far, except when we begin to look at the extraordinary and alarming statistics around the spread of the drug resistant TB in Africa. 98% of those who die from the disease today live in the developing world.
I first met Merlin Young when I was going for acupuncture for a back condition. Together with Donald Eadie who is a fellow patient, he started talking about the benefits of Moxa (which we were already experiencing in our own treatment) for people with TB.
Merlin might just describe himself as an ordinary practitioner with extraordinary dreams – a dream of bringing Moxa, a safe, simple, unpatentable, and low-tech therapy to those places in Africa where thousands are dying of TB. A dream of handing over a process and a training without thought of gain or fame to the people within and around clinics, health visitors, nurses - and the families of patients.
The extraordinary and the ordinary come together in both these dreams it seems to me, even more so in the discovery that a resource for the poorest needs to be handed over not from strength and affluence but through the sharing of what essentially belongs to everyone through ancient wisdom.
As well as sharing in the treatment of Moxa on our respective spines, Donald Eadie and I share both a friendship and a belief that lighting candles can make a difference in a world that needs people like Merlin and Jenny (his colleague) to use their skills with Moxa to prevent TB. Could it be that the “burning of lighted candles” and the burning of Moxa are in some extraordinary way connected? Whatever the connection and the consequences the concept of MOXAFRICA was born. Together with great support and invaluable expertise from Jo (Merlin’s wife), the Charity was founded and in the last year Merlin and Jenny have made their first in roads into Africa to teach the use of Moxa. The women who run the first of the clinics visited by Merlin and Jenny received them generously and enthusiastically, and now passionately believe in this process and have now become responsible for its future development.
How extraordinary is that? Already after only four months the treatment in Uganda is producing early and exciting results. Soon there are plans for a parallel study in Cape Town (the heartland of drug resistance in Africa) with the realistic plan of their developing more rigorous research with the University of the Western Cape.
Merlin calls it a David and Goliath story with David being the Moxa encountering the drug resistant tuberculosis which is Goliath. However one may describe this, for me it is an example of the merging of what and who exist in our world: ordinary people doing extraordinary things, offering ordinary and overlooked solutions to seemingly extraordinary problems.
An ordinary lighted candle can sometimes seem to bring about extraordinary things. After all: “thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened” (Buddha). No matter how extraordinary the suffering, the ordinary belief that all is possible with the goodness and love of one for another brings an extraordinary light to dark places.
If you would like to know more about MOXAFRICA, or would like to support it with a donation towards the expensive fares and the setting up of clinics, please go to the web site: www.moxafrica.org
All donations of “lighted candles” and/or money are gratefully received.
Bernadette Arscott RLR.