Review The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine
Dan Keown
Publisher: Singing Dragon, March 2014

This is a review of a very exciting and ground-breaking new book which, for me, is a game-changer and which I recommend to you. It will change how you understand the human body!

First, would you join me in a spiritual version of desert island disks? What are your favourite spiritual practices? And if you could only take one practice, which one would it be?

If I were only allowed one particular exercise it would be the Inner Smile. This wonderful meditation exercise supports physical and emotional health, develops compassion, acceptance and love, and also wakes up our higher consciousness.

It is also very easy. It only needs us to do two things that we can do already. The first is to relax. We all do that sometimes. In bed. Sitting at a cafe watching the world go by. On the bus. After a long walk and looking at a lovely view. Just let your body sink into relaxation. It’s a familiar place.

The second element of the Inner Smile is to transmit kind messages through our nervous system and into our bodies. We have that skill too, but usually with others. We all know how to give careful loving kindness to someone who is vulnerable, anxious and in suffering. We do that when we lean down to care for a small child who is hurt; or we cup our hands and hold a baby bird that has fallen from its nest.

When we practise the Inner Smile we relax. Then with the same caring attitude we would give to a hurt little child, we turn our attention within and send loving thoughts and feelings through our own bodies.

This strategy is hugely beneficial as it releases tension and allows a flow of healing agents. It is psychologically positive too because it enables mindful and compassionate self-care, which then spills over to care for others. It also brings us into a healthy relationship with our bodies. Our souls inhabit these wonderful vehicles and through practising the Inner Smile we become fully aware of these ‘temples of the flesh’.

Familiarity and rapport with our own bodies is a crucial key to good health and integrated spiritual development.


Familiarity with our bodies means that we understand how our bodies function. We know how important attitude, food and exercise are. Many of us are also engaged in healthcare and healing, for ourselves and for our clients. It is therefore crucial that we understand human anatomy because this guides how we practise our healthcare.

For a long time I have wanted to read a book that fully unpacks the insights of Chinese medicine in a way that satisfies my curiosity and can also meet the demands of a western medical mind. Dan Keown, a British medical doctor who also has a degree in Chinese medicine, has finally written that book. The Spark in the Machine is sub-titled How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine and it is brilliant. There is a touch of genius about it.

It has substantially transformed my understanding of my own body, healthcare and healing. I absolutely recommend The Spark in the Machine to you if you have the slightest interest in health and healing. In my opinion it is a significant breakthrough book and may come to be regarded as a classic.

It is beautifully written with a warm humour and a rigorous scientific approach. It provides a wonderful, holistic and in-depth description of how classical Chinese and modern western medical approaches can merge.

With great care and intelligence Dan Keown explains how the body’s natural electricity, its qi, flows through, around and organises the body. He describes how the body and its organs emerge and develop from a single dividing cell, and the miraculous ways in which it connects and interconnects.

As a result of reading this book when I practise the Inner Smile my whole experience has changed. I have a far better understanding of how the thoughts and feelings of my mind and heart are generating a flow of electricity and benevolent qi through the fascia (like cellophane or cling-film) beneath the skin, around and into the tissues and organs. I am entranced by the thought of my lungs being an upside-down tree. I absolutely sense the three levels of my body as being similar to a garden: the lower compost level of my abdomen, liver, kidneys and intestines; the middle level of soil of my lungs and heart; and the flowering plant at the top in my head, mouth, eyes, ears and brain.

I am grateful for the knowledge and insights.

One of the gifts of our age is the continuing integration of classical wisdom and modern science. What is constant however is the miraculous wonder of nature, our bodies and the cosmos.

The Spark in the Machine is available from Cygnus Books here