Restless (Buffy Season 4, Episode 22)


The final episode of Season Four is a coda to the climactic fight with Adam the week before.  The basic plot line of what Joss Whedon called a ’40 minute tone poem’ is that everyone has vivid and disturbing dreams resulting from their previous magical unification during the battle with Adam.

All the Scoobies (clearly minus Spike) end up at Buffy’s house after the fight.  They initially intend to watch a film, but all fall asleep practically before the cassette is in the VHS player.  The episode then follows the dreams of each character, beginning with Willow, followed by Xander, Giles, and finally Buffy.  Throughout each dream sequence, the spirit of the First Slayer seeks to kill off each of Buffy’s friends, in the belief that the Slayer must fight alone.  This notion of alone-ness will become key to Season 7’s resolution; here it is brought out in stark relief within Buffy’s own lineage.

(A recurring element in each dream is the Cheeseman, whom Joss indicates is meaningless and random.  The Cheeseman will not be the focus of my treatment in this post, although I will note that cheese is a rather yin substance.  All the characters could likely use more yin substance after their epic battle.)

Restless sleep due to dreams is a relatively common symptom seen in the clinic.  Insomnia, of which sleep with vivid dreams is a type, can have several etiologies.  Generally, sleep is related to the quality of blood and the jue-yin (LV-PC) system.  It can also be seen as the ability of wei qi to enter into the body, where it protects the body at night while the hun-souls wander about in dreams.  The ability of the hun to return to the body depends on the quality of the blood, which carries these personality-related souls.  Because the blood, which stores the hun, is itself stored in the Liver at night, the hun are also said to be stored by the Liver.

However, little explored is the relationship of sleep to jing, source or primal qi, and one’s lineage.  Since I did not delve into the meaning of primal qi in my previous post, though it would have been opportune to do so, I will set up my treatment rationale by first teasing out the physiology of lineage in the Chinese Medical body.  I will start with the premise that our characters’ restlessness is due to floating Kidney fire.

What is floating Kidney fire?  Simply put, it is the fire stored in the Kidneys when located outside the kidneys.  Floating Kidney fire thus bears a certain similarity to ministerial fire, except that minister fire is physiological, while floating Kidney fire is considered pathological.  The Kidneys, though, are considered a water-phase organ.  So where does this fire come from?  One could think of the Kidneys as that point in the yin cycle when yin-water begins to turn into yang-fire.  This yang-fire then rises upwards in a process we relate to the Triple Heater mechanism.  Indeed, the ‘fire of the gate of life’ (or ‘gate of destiny’), ming men, is associated with both the left kidney and with the TH.  Physiologically, it is the burning of jing-essence into the source qi of the body, impelling it to move outwards into the world, allowing the body to transform what it encounters and assimilate those experiences according to the template provided by the KD-jing.  The process of assimilation and transformation in this sense is the same process by which we say KD yang supports SP yang.

However, if the KD-yin or jing-essence is insufficient, it cannot contain the fire, which flares upwards.  The Pericardium (xin bao luo)  is generally responsible for venting heat which comes from the Heart; because it deals with fire outside the sovereign fire of the HT or shao-yin system, the PC is associated with minister fire as well.  It is the first defence for the Heart against fire from Kidney yin vacuity.  In the case of floating Kidney fire causing dream-disturbed sleep, the PC must deal with not only the fire which the Heart emanates as a matter of course, but it must also contend with fire which should have remained in the shao-yin (HT-KD) system.  If this process does not happen efficiently, the blood grows hot (either because the PC vents some heat into its associated jue-yin pair, the LV, or because the Heart has a build up of heat, thus affecting the blood or affecting the vessels which store the shen).  Hot blood disturbs the Hun-souls.

As mentioned earlier, the Heart, blood, and hun are all involved in sleep.  Sleep depends on the quality of the blood.  The hun wander about and govern dreams.  The Heart is the commander of blood and storehouse of the shen, which the hun follow (cf Ling Shu ch. 8).

If the internal blazing of Kidney fire were severe, the pathology would overflow into the LV, causing rising LV yang and if the blood becomes scorched by the heat, symptoms of internal wind.

So how does all this related to jing?  Jing is Kidney yin, and when it is weakened, Kidney fire escapes upwards.  Jing is also the lineage of the person, passed from parents to offspring; it binds the shen to the person and gives rise to jing-shen, associated with the marrow and through the marrow, with the brain.   Ming men is said to reside between the Kidneys, and the fire of shao-yin is the communication between the HT and the KD; the gate of destiny is thus located between the Heart-shen and the KD-essence, and is the ground wherein the two strive for harmony with one another.  Destiny emerges from the relationship between one’s lineage and the lessons one must learn in this life in order for the ‘little’ shen to return to the ling-soul located in the brain.  The formation of the original soul in the brain is one goal of Chinese alchemy.

I might also mention Buffy’s line, “I do not sleep on a bed of bones.”  The bones store the po-spirits (which, related to the rhythm of qi, are also said to be housed in the Lungs).  The bones are the most lasting of the body’s structures, and the po the most easily dissipated of the body’s souls.  (In fact, it is said that after every cycle of seven or eight years, a po-spirit exits the body; if it has trouble leaving, because it has become addicted to something, it leaves a herniation or other disruption in the vertebral column.)  In other words, the bones are one of the most lasting aspects of jing, a lineage which no longer walks in the world.  Buffy may be saying that she does not sleep on a lineage which cannot change; she is in control of where the lineage moves now.

When the Scoobies united during the previous episode, the jing of the slayer was shared out between them; it called forth the Ling-original soul of the first slayer, the original blazing of qi from the union of the first Slayer’s shen with an augmented jing (the source of the slayer’s amazing physical abilities and stamina).  That Ling-soul refused to remain mixed with a jing-lineage incapable of holding her.  The jing-lineage and bodies of Buffy’s friends could not contain the curriculum of lessons necessary for the Slayer’s shen to carry out its destiny.  Primal qi could not be contained in the Kidneys and overflowed into the TH and PC, aggravating their sleep in the form of floating Kidney fire.

After a long season, a simple diagnosis and treatment protocol will recentre our characters. After all, a good sleep will definitely be needed in order to survive the dramatic reversals of fortune awaiting all our characters in the next two seasons.

We have a few components to address physiologically.  Jing seems to be insufficient; primal qi seems to be blazing everywhere.  The Extraordinary Vessels are the vessel system which deals with both jing and source qi; they are also the vessels which are intimately involved with destiny as it works itself out in this life.

Since the previous episode dealt with incorporating others into the self — and indeed, Buffy insists that she has friends in this episode — then I would suggest Yin Qiao and Yang Wei Mai as the two vessels to use.  Yin Qiao is one’s view of the self; Yang Wei is the weaving together of external time in the person’s life.  The control points for these two vessels also happen to be KD6 and TW5.  Not only does this combination activate those EVs, they also nourish KD yin and regulate the venting of heat through the blood.

For a herbal prescription, I would choose Er Xian Tang, ‘Two Immortals Soup’.  The formula is often used for perimenopausal hot flashes (experienced by women in North America, but not by women in Japan, according to a study by Margaret Lock).  Er Xian Tang is composed of Xian Mao, Yin Yang Huo, Ba Ji Tian, Huang Bai, Zhi Mu, and Dang Gui.  Together, these herbs tonify the yin and yang of the Kidneys, but also drain pathological ming-men fire.  Interestingly, the nourishing of yin is accomplished through nourishing the blood as well as the essence.  The first three herbs nourish KD essence, the last one the blood.  Interestingly for our purposes, Dang Gui is also said (by Ted Katpchuk) to cause the hun to rejoice in itself, and is well known for its effects on hormonal processes in the body.  The formula also regulates the first two EVs, the Ren Mai and the Chong Mai.

I would add Ling Yang Jiao (which treats LV wind) with an eye to preventing further progression of the condition.  The Divine Farmer indicates that the horn for warding off vicious ghosts and preventing oppressive ghost dreams, a perfect fit for our exhausted gang.

As always, these posts are for informational purposes.  If you feel you would benefit from Chinese Medical treatment, please see a qualified practitioner.  For practitioners:  For more on minster fire, see Wang and Robertson (2008).  Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine.  Eastland Press.   pp108 – 133.

Happy Slayage!

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