Something Blue (Buffy Season 4, Episode 9)


“Control the outside, control within …  Out of my passions, a web be spun; from this eve forth, my will be done.  So mote it be.”  With these words Willow casts the spell that gets her invited to become a vengeance demon.  Of course, Willow hadn’t wanted her spell to go awry; she wanted to use her will to overcome her grief at Oz’s departure from Sunnydale.

As a side plot framing the episode, Riley opens with a comment about how he sees Buffy as a mystery to be understood; Buffy closes the episode by telling Riley he has a lot to learn about women.

From a Chinese medical perspective both plots — the will and the mystery of human lives — are related.  the Kidneys root both the spiritual aspect, zhi or will, and the virtue Wisdom .  One could say, as indicated by Ted Kaptchuk, that wisdom is the coming to fruition of the will.

Ah Willow — the will or zhi is a tricky spirit-aspect!  It is the image of a scholar above the heart, and can be used in writing to mean a ‘memorandum’.  The Ling Shu (ch 8) mentions that once purpose endures, then we can speak of will.  When will changes, then we call it ‘thinking’.  In the spell, we see that Willow’s will goes awry, and the thinking which should emerge from it is not clear, because the foundational purpose which holds the will in place, is not clear.  From a five phase point of view, the mother (Lungs, grief) could not properly nourish the child (Kidneys, will), and the controlling element (SP, purpose) could not hold the will together.  It would have been better perhaps had Willow turned to something more fiery, more joyful, to assuage her sorrow.  Something to rekindle the light, assuming she had fuel enough for the spark to take.  Which not all of us have in those moments of grief.  The other possibility, then, would be to just hold oneself, literally, in an embrace, and figuratively, in the sense of holding oneself together.  This is the earth-purpose element, which over the course of time will endure as the will.

However, will is also related to wisdom, and I would like to take a closer look at the will as it is related to wisdom, and how these two together relate to the shen and playing out of destiny.  Let us first take a look at the herbal tradition, before using it as a clue to possible acupuncture models.

Herbs that address the will in the Shen Nong Ben Cao include:

Ba Ji Tian (improves the will):  tonifies KD and fortifies the yang; strengthens sinews and bones, disperses cold damp.

Cang Er Zi (strengthens the will):  unblocks nose, disperses wind-damp and alleviates bi syndrome.  Enters LU channel.

Du Zhong (strengthens the will):  tonifies LV and KD, strengthens sinews and bones, calms the fetus.  Name indicates a lynch pin to stabilise a pivot.

Pu Tao (fortifies the will):  Treats sinew and bone bi, strengthens wei qi.  (Note:  Pu Tao are grapes.)

Peng Lei (fortifies the will):  Promotes growth of yin, boosts jing qi, quiets the five zang.   (Note:  Peng Lei are raspberries)

Qian Shi (fortifies the will):  augments KD, binds essence, strengthens SP, stops diarrhea.  Enters SP and KD channels.

Shi Mi (fortifies the will):  Honey supplements the centre and quiets the five zang.

Ying Tao (glorifies the will):  Regulates centre, augments SP qi.  (Note Ying Tao are cherries.)

The interesting commonality among the above isn’t that many enter the KD channel.  In fact, several do not — Cang Er Zi being the most peculiar of the group.  Rather, what I find most interesting is that several are used to treat wind-cold-damp bi.

On a physical level, we can think of wind-cold-damp bi as coming about when the body lacks the jing or blood to expel a pathogen.  As a result, the pathogen gets lodged in the body, often settling into the larger joints.  While these pathogens can become latent, slowly consuming the body’s reserves of jing, blood, fluids, and qi, that outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

On a metaphorical level, wind is often associated with change.  Cold is the freezing up a person who does not want to change.  Dampness can be thought of as satisfaction in life.  Someone who is having trouble changing, seizing up because something beforehand was so satisfying, could be thought of as having cold-damp-bi.  They are not exerting their wills in the most useful direction — that of adapting to the changes of life’s vicissitudes.

Using one’s will to change with life’s circumstances does not mean foregoing a grieving process.  In fact, sometimes the movement of grief outwards from the body can help move the constraint induced by Lung-metal, and allow the body to access the deep peace which comes from well-nourished Kidney water.  (Metal being the mother of Water, the Lungs’ constraint of qi and fluids can both prevent bi from being expelled and prevent the Kidney water from being adequately nourished.)  This movement, reflected in the Channel Divergences, is the same as the movement of inner wisdom outwards into the world.

As mentioned in previous posts, the Channel Divergences excel at treating Bi Syndromes.  The CDs often begin in the articulations of the major joints, uniting the jing found in bones and marrow with the wei qi which circulates on the exterior during the day (and interior at night).  According to this physiological paradigm, when the wei qi becomes stuck inside due to the presence of a pathogen, inflammation of the joints, characterised by a sensation of heat, can result.

As Jeffery Yuen explains, each CD pair relies on a different physiological fluid to support the wei qi.  The initial BL-KD pair uses jing to support wei qi.  When this is exhausted, the body then calls upon blood, associated with the GB-LV confluence.  Following this, thin fluids of the ST-SP are used.  The next three confluences represent deeper penetration of the pathology into the body, and the articulations most often affected are in the glenohumeral joint, the joints of the clavicle, and the cervical spine.  First of these deeper pathways to be affected is the SI-HT confluence, associated with ye-thick fluid, followed by the SJ-PC, and finally the LI-LU, which relies on qi, pure and simple, to support wei qi.  In other words, by the time the pathogen reaches the LI-LU confluence, all other modes of support in the body have been used up.

For our purposes, the first CD pair, BL-KD is most illustrative of the process whereby the manifestation of the will transforms itself into that wisdom which sees the over-arching pattern in one’s life.  This over arching pattern is the ‘will within the will’, mentioned by Ted Kaptchuk in The Web that has No Weaver.

How does this happen?

BL40, “wei zhong”:  The alternate names ‘blood cleft’ and ‘central cleft’ (zhong xi) indicate that this is a place where the central aspects of a person’s life, particularly those related to emotional life, accumulate.  From here, the person’s knees bend to take up the burden of moving through life.

BL36, “cheng fu”:  The name means ‘to aid responsibility’ and once a person has accumulated a ‘curriculum’ to be worked out, this point helps the person achieve the proper manner of working out that destiny.

Du4, “ming men”:  It should come as no surprise that in responsibly working out one’s central issues in life, one will eventually come to the ‘gate of destiny’.  From here, the BL-KD CD goes to the Kidneys, which store essence and transform it through the triple warmer, and then into the Dai Mai.  As mentioned in other posts, the Dai Mai helps us let go of those issues we hold onto long after they’ve outlived their usefulness.  To progress from the gate of destiny, a return to the self and a letting go of what isn’t the self is necessary.

CV4, called the Great Central Pole, as well as “ming men” and origin pass, together with CV3, also called Central Pole and “qi source” are the next stops on the way to bringing out the inner unfolding of our being.  At these points, the unfolding is directed celestially, as indicated by the star-associated names.  Here, the original qi stored in the KD begins to burn upwards.  As noted in our previous post, both points are also associated with the Huang, which incorporates notions of the blueprint provided by the Chong Mai and the emergence of shen from the union of qi (both pre-natal from the KD and post-natal from the SI) and blood.

Du11, “shen dao”:  Pass around to the spine, a person who has recognised what is important to do and what is not, and who has harnessed the roots of her or his being, is then led along the path by which her spirit or affect can, with clarity, become manifest outwards into the world.  This is the point of spontaneity (Dao) of being (shen).

BL15, “xin shu”:  From the spirit walk, one is led through the HT, which stores the shen-spirit-affect;  and BL44, “shen men”, the ‘spirit gate’ is the next stop.  Note that the ‘shen’ referred to is the person’s own spirit or affect, their own psychological make-up, and not some other entity, which in Chinese Classical medicine would be referred to as a ghost.

CV17, “original child”:  this is the place where the person has returned to themselves and become the person they always were, from the beginning.  After shedding the accumulations they had held onto, which created the burden of life, and having taken the responsibility of working out those accumulations, the person came to knowledge of who they were.  Shedding all that was unnecessary, they set their sights on a path of transcendence, and were led along the path most suited to their particular spirit.  Doing so, they gained entrance to their own Heart, passed through the doors of their spirit, and found that ‘child’ concealed behind all the other layers.

BL10, “celestial pillar”:  From here, the original child can achieve its transcendence, the celestial pillar pointing to the pole star indicated in CV-3 and CV-4.

Some people would include BL1, “bright essence” in the BL-KD CD trajectory.  In the eyes, the shen-affect can be seen, and a person who has come to harmony with the overall pattern of her or his life has a clear affect, with bright eyes from which shine a purified, transformed jing-essence.

In this way, acupuncture could help Willow transform her grief and loss into the wisdom of self-knowing.  As we will see in the coming episodes, that transformation is exactly what happens:  she recognises her attraction to Tara and takes upon herself her particular spiritual path in the world.  (It will all go awry by the sixth season, but we’ll address that when we reach season six!)

As for herbs to give Willow, the following three from the Ben Cao would be appropriate:

Suan Jiang (settles the will).  I think this is the leaf of the Chinese Lantern plant, but I’m not certain, as I do not personally stock it!

Long Yan (quiets the will).  Well known for its ability to supplement the HT, blood, SP, and qi, especially in cases of insomnia, this herb would help Willow come to a bit of peace.

He Huan (harmonises the Heart and will):  Even better known than Long Yan Rou, He Huan Hua and He Huan Pi are sometimes called “Chinese Prozac” for their abilities to tranquilise anxiety.  In this case, He Huan is that path from GV-4 to GV-11, via BL-23, CV-3, and CV-4, discussed above.  He Huan should not be used for more than a month at a time, as some of its chemical constituents may collect in the liver.  In such cases, a ‘treatment holiday’ for a few weeks would be in order.  Not only does such a holiday from treatment give the body a chance to clear out whatever may have collected, it gives both the patient and practitioner a chance to evaluate how well the treatments thus far will hold.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel that Chinese Medicine may help you transform the mystery of your life into wisdom gathered from a life well-willed, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

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