Lessons (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 1)


Season Seven, the last televised season of the Buffy saga, brings the audience full circle:  We are back at a rebuilt Sunnydale High, where Dawn has begun to attend classes.  The season will bring together characters from previous episodes, both good guys (like Buffy’s mother, the First Slayer, Angel, a reformed Faith) and bad guys (the Mayor, Drusilla, Warren, Jonathan).

I promised in a previous season that for season seven, I will use the Channel Divergences as my channel system of choice in making diagnoses and treatment plans.   The Channel Divergences, or CDs, are an appropriate choice, as the tradition of Chinese medicine remarks: “The CDs — the first studied channels”.   What makes them appropriate is although this is the last televised series of Buffy, it is the season in which we meet the First.  Buffy could only approach the first after long years of training.  Likewise, in acupuncture, we approach the complexity of the CDs last, although they are also ‘the first’.

In another way, too, this set of channels is appropriate: eventually, the Scoobies will seek to draw out the essence within all potential slayers, in order to manifest that potential in their exterior lives. The Channel Divergences are the channels which link the jing level with the qi level, and vice-versa. Choice of needle technique determines which direction the linkage will flow, either from the jing level outwards to the wei level, or inwards from the wei-exterior to the jing-interior.

 

The channel divergences are explained in the Ling Shu and Jia Yi Jing.   Unlike the sinew vessels which connect Yang-Yang and Yin-Yin pairs (e.g. Bladder TaiYang and Small Intestine TaiYang channels), the CDs are more similar to the transverse luo vessels, which connecting yin-yang pairs according to their five-phase correspondence (e.g. Heart and Small Intestine as fire-phase channels).  Unlike the transverse luo vessels (which connect channels laterally, at the extremities), and in contrast to the longitudinal luo vessels (which do not cross the major joints in their generally upward trajectories), the channel divergences do cross the major articulations of the body.  In fact, they tend to originate in the coxal-hip joint and the gleno-humeral-shoulder joint. They are thus associated especially with the treatment of bi-syndrome.

Bi (“bee”) syndrome is a pathology in which wind combines with dampness and either cold or heat.  Sometimes one element is stronger than another, but regardless of whether one has wind-damp-cold bi or wind-damp-heat bi, or even ‘heart bi’ or ‘bone bi’, the result is the same: pain. Pain tends to lodge in joints, though it is not limited to them.  Thus in the clinic, Bi most often manifests as various types of arthritis or joint degeneration with pain; but it can also lodge in the chest, throat, and heart, if those areas present an emptiness of humours and allow wind to take up residence where before the space was occupied by blood, clear fluids, or qi.

In terms of physiology, bi — or a CD pathology — is the body’s response when wind has invaded the body and cannot be expelled, but the body is nonetheless strong enough to keep the pathogen from entering into the primary channels.  To head off the attack by wind, the body seeks to make the wind latent. The body does this through supplying the wind with various bodily fluids or humours, beginning with the most dense: jing.  Jing has an affinity for bones and joints; hence the first manifestation of bi is often joint pain.

Unfortunately, just because it has been cordoned off does not mean the wind is extinguished; it survives and ‘consumes’ the humour making it latent.  When surplus jing has run out, the body calls up blood to keep the wind latent, then thin or clear fluids, thick fluids (associated with marrow) and sweat (associated with the heart — do check with patients if they sweat easily or not at all), ming men fire or ying qi, and finally with wei qi itself.

Each of these humours is associated with a particular confluence, based on the fu or zang organ of the channels which meet at the confluence. Thus the first confluence, between the TaiYang Bladder and the jing-storing Kidneys, supplies the wind with jing.  As the wind can ‘consume’ the humour in question, depleting the channel of its essential material for functioning, it causes the various symptoms which we will explore in this season. In general, the leg confluences are affected in acute conditions, while the arm confluences reflect more chronic conditions. The body starts with jing because it is the most stable and strongest humour; as bones, jing is also the most lasting, and thus can potentially keep the pathogen at bay long enough for the individual to complete his or her destiny in the world.  If a humour becomes too depleted, or rather, is already in a depleted state, the body will start to feed the pathogen with another fluid which it has more of.  In other words, the pathology may penetrate quite deeply from the outset.

 

In the opening episode of the season, Buffy battles the undead, students whom she did not or could not save when she was herself a student at Sunnydale High.  The three undead — a janitor, a school boy, and a girl with a clouded eye — are not quite ghosts, yet not quite zombies, either.  They were summoned through the aid of a talisman, as we learn from a re-ensouled Spike whom Buffy found huddled in the basement.  Who summoned them, or who created the talisman, is a question left open by the episode.

The physiology of the CDs relies on the seven sensory orifices of the head. This principle is derived from the fact that the trajectories of the CDs moves from the lower body, the ‘doorways to the earth’ towards the head’s orifices and the ‘windows to the sky’ points.  If these are blocked, the CDs begin to ‘malfunction’, as the pathogen cannot be expelled. The first task in a CD treatment which is oriented towards expelling a pathogen, rather than keeping the pathogen latent, is  to ensure the orifices are clear and open. The other task in a CD treatment is to ensure that the body has an adequate supply of whatever humour is being affected  by the pathogen. If the person does not have an adequate supply of the humours (jing-essence, xue-blood, clear fluids of the Stomach, ye-thick fluid, jin-thin fluid, and even qi itself) the first goal is to replenish them, and only subsequently to open the orifices.  Until the orifices open and the humour is plentiful enough to expel the pathogen, the overall treatment goal is to keep the pathogen latent.  Because the CDs contain points at which the jing and qi of phase-paired channels meet, the treatment can easily address both concerns. The points at which the phase-paired channels meet are called ‘confluences’.  The lower confluences often correspond to the ‘doorways to the earth’ points, and can be thought of as being more related to jing, while the upper confluences, which correspond to ‘windows to the sky’ points, as being more related to qi.  Keep in mind that this is a generalisation which clinical practice may not always bear out.

In Buffy’s case, although she was unable to save the undead girl from being eaten by a werewolf, she might still be able to open the undead’s clouded eye.  This may have the effect of allowing the undead to pass into the other world, once the ‘clear light’ returns to the eyes.  Such a situation would mean being unable to follow up with her by using a needle treatment, but sometimes patients get better after one treatment.  Such is clinical life.

A simple acupuncture treatment to ‘open the eyes’ is BL-1 and GB-37.  For deviated eye, GB-1 is also useful.  This is not a CD treatment, but a point-energetic treatment.  CD treatments specifically will be detailed beginning with Episode 7.  For now, I am just reviewing physiology and ‘pre-treatments’.  Along the same lines as opening the eyes, I would recommend a neck massage treatment, possibly with gua sha along the SCM to open the orifices of the neck, and along the ASIS and Greater Trochanter to open the doorways to the earth.  These treatments will be explored in greater detail in a subsequent episode.

In general, herbal treatment focused on the CDs will either utilise formulas for treating bi-syndrome specifically, or will contain as envoys a herb which affects jing, such as E Jiao, and a herb which affects wei qi, such as Sang Ye.  Sang Ji Sheng, Di Gu Pi, and other herbs which go to both the jing and the wei levels are also appropriate.

In the case of a clouded eye, Chinese medicine has several formulas to treat ‘eye screen’.  Among single herbs, Zhen Zhu Mu is particularly well known.  I would combine it with Gou Qi Zi (which tonifies jing) and Ju Hua (which, as an exterior-releasing herb homes to wei qi).

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have ‘eye screen’, cataracts, or ‘clouded eye’, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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