The Killer in Me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 13)

Kennedy finally manages to make her move on Willow in this episode.  To Kennedy’s shock, Willow turns into Warren as a result of a rather passionate kiss.  We later learn that the transformation resulted from a curse Amy had placed on Willow (setting up a conflict for Season 8), though Amy did not choose the form Willow would take.  The magic decided on the ‘Form the soul requires’ to use Amy’s phrase.  Slowly, Willow begins to adopt Warren’s characteristics, even to the point of bringing a gun to the Summer’s household and almost replaying the scene which led to Tara’s death.  Ultimately, Kennedy manages to reverse the spell with another kiss, and Willow resolves her feelings of guilt about potentially betraying Tara by moving on with life, and love, in this world.

The other storyline in this episode is that Spike’s chip has begun to misfire, causing him severe pain.  He and Buffy seek a way to have it fixed or removed.  Giles takes the potentials into the desert to meet the First Slayer.  The potentials fight over who gets to drive, and Buffy comments that she bets Giles is really regretting letting his CA driver’s license lapse after he returned to England.  (As a curious side note:  I just happened to have recently renewed my CA State driver’s license, after being away in England.  the little driver’s ed booklet notes it is illegal in CA to put people in the trunk of a vehicle.)

This episode presents a perfect means to remember that Channel Divergences treat Form, not Function: Willow becomes Warren, outwardly.  She takes Warren’s form, but she still functions as Willow, at least at first.  In contrast, Spike’s chip is misfiring: function, not form. No CDs for him.  Amy, though, seems to have a functioning BL-KD channel divergence.  Her  Jing-essence met wei qi in such a way that she was able to see herself, even if that only happened when she hit rock bottom. For Amy, the channel divergence functioned to weave together karma (rock bottom repercussions), lineage (from her mother’s magicks), and form (Amy did turn herself into a rat at one point, now that I think of it…).

Although outward form may be thought of as a jing issue, in fact, the root of Willow’s pathology lies elsewhere, in the shen, and by extension, the Heart.  Yet all Channel Divergences go to the Heart, so to make a diagnosis, first consider the ‘trigger’:  Kennedy’s kiss.  Willow has cold feet, or cold limbs.  (A psychoanalyst might even have ventured that Willow wants to be ‘frigid’ sexually.)  The trigger shows that the pathogen current resides in the sinew vessels, affected with cold.  Then, look at where the pathogen will move next:  Willow is starting to act like Warren:  the shen, affect, and brain will take on the pathology.  All elements — the source-spell, the trigger, and the progression — point to the Small Intestine – Heart Channel Divergence as the appropriate channel to treat.

In general, the SI-HT Channel Divergence is where the marrow-nourishing ye-thick fluid begins to be consumed.  Wei qi heat enters the marrow, chasing the shen and hun spirits, giving rise to increasing pyschosis, schizophrenia, or epilepsy.  Regarding the SI CD specifically, ye is drawn away from the muscles, resulting in cold limbs (sexual sense), muscle atrophy, MS, and Raynaud’s symptoms.  The cold limbs result from lack of wei qi, as the wei qi has gone interior and can no longer circulate exteriorly to keep the body warm.  Motility and mobility of muscles is compromised as they are no longer nourished by either blood or ye-fluid.  Sinew wind symptoms, such as seizures, convulsions. and epilepsy begin to manifest.

It should come as no surprise then, that the SI CD trajectory contains a variety of points which relate to the sinew vessels, marrow, and wei qi.

The channel begins at SI-10.  This point moves blood into sinews.  Here, the body can harnesses qi to move blood and expel wind, or pathologically, blood and fluid are drawn away by this point from muscle in order to keep pathogenic factors latent.  Indications for using this point include a loss of strength, and numbness.  The body needs blood to hold onto feeling.  It is a useful point to add to treatments for MS.

From SI-10, the channel moves to HT-1, ‘Ultimate Spring’, before reaching the confluent point of the SI-HT Channel Divergence at GB-22.

GB-22 is also the confluent point of yin sinew meridians of the arm.  Both the sinew vessels and the channel divergences pertain to the terrain of wei qi, and this point is a place where chronic conditions often enter the body.  GB-22 was also once a contender as the point for the Great Luo of the Spleen.  It therefore connects to the luo vessels, to blood, and to the Da Bao.  Not only is the association with the sinews and blood continued at this point (an association usually thought of as related to the Liver’s mastery of the sinews and it’s relationship to storing blood in order to nourish the sinews), but at this point the relationship between blood and essence is established:  Blood enters essence to help give rise to marrow.  GB-22 is the canyon by which ye-thick fluid supports bone, marrow, and the brain.

From GB-22, the channel moves to CV-17 and CV-14:  Wei qi homes to chest for sleep, and these to points guide the channel to the heart.  From the heart, the channel enters the diaphragm and the small intestine organ, going to CV-4.  CV-3, nearby, is the meeting of the leg yin sinew vessels and the end of the crura of the diaphragm.  The channel then rises back upwards to ST-12.

ST-12, a very common point in CD trajectories, is the basin into which trauma to the SCM — and therefore also to the Window of the Sky points — drains.  This pertains to both physical and psychological trauma.  When something cannot be ‘redeemed’ or connect to what comes from heaven, it goes interiorly at this point.  Alternately, trauma to concepts of redemption cause a counterflow into the heart, helping to create the ‘antihero’ archetype.  I mentioned the importance of neck releases in my treatment of the sinew vessels in Season Six — so again, the relationship of the SI Channel Divergence to the Sinew Meridians.

The next point on the trajectory is SI-18, the confluent point of yang sinew channels of legs.  Finally, the channel ends at BL-1, which brings the pathological dryness of a ye-depleted SI CD to the brain.  The result is that wind in brain begins to chase the shen and hun.  Brain fever is one possible symptom of this pathophysiology.  If BL-1 is too sensitive to needle in such a case, ST-42 may stand in its stead.

My favourite herbal formula to nourish the ye-fluid is Zeng Ye Tang.  To treat the sinew vessels, Niu Xi (for the legs) or Sang Zhi (for the arms) should be added.  Sang Ji Sheng pairs nicely with Sang Zhi to form a CD envoy combination, although Di Gu Pi, which cools the blood, and Sang Ye which releases the exterior, also make a good pair.  For a stronger focus on the sinews, Chuan Lian Zi, which goes to the SI meridian and regulates LV qi may also be a useful addition.  Qu Mai goes to the SI meridian and moves blood, to resolve wind symptoms.

As always these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have suddenly become your own worst enemy, please seek qualified assistance. 

Happy Slayage!

Potential (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 12)

This episode is all about finding the remaining potentials, committing to the mission even if you are not a potential, and getting prepared. The episode begins with Buffy training the potentials and teaching them the tools they’ll need in order to survive:  how to fight vampires, how to get information from your demons, how vampires lair.  Meanwhile, Willow and the non-combatants attempt to locate the Potential who lives in Sunnydale.  Willow’s spell seems to indicate Dawn is the next Potential, but the episode later reveals Amanda to possess that role.  The episode ends with a scene between Xander and Dawn, as they discuss how difficult it is to be part of a group in which everyone else seems to have ‘superpowers’, but you yourself do not.

In acupuncture, the Channel Divergences are like the potentials:  they are the groundwork of the primary meridians, but are not yet the primary meridians themselves.  This is particularly the case with the Large Intestine/ Lung Channel Divergence.

Physiologically, the Channel Divergences can be thought of as unfolding jing into the full person:  First, jing is provided by the parents of a person, and the jing embodies the Extraordinary Meridians.  The first CD, that of the Bladder-Kidneys begins to move this jing externally, to meet the world, wei qi.  Jing develops into blood (GB-LV CD), then blood begins to provide fluid for the opening of perception (ST-SP CD).  The fluid thickens, nourishes the brain, marrow, and sinews (potentially including the sinew vessels, through the formation of couli, pores), by providing the body with sweat, the yin of the Heart which anchors the shen in the Heart and in the Brain (SI-HT CD).  After the sinews and couli are in place, the nodes of the primary channels begin to form, and the San Jiao mechanism begins to combust jing to provide for the solid and hollow organs (SJ-PC CD).  Then the final transformation of jing into wei qi occurs, and the primary channels themselves begin to form with the LI-LU Channel Divergence.  The LU meridian then begins the cycle of twelve primary meridians, and itself gives rise to the sinew and luo vessels.  The sinews move exteriorly, the luo move pathogens interiorly, and back to the yuan level of the EVs.  The CDs continue to mediate between wei qi and yuan qi, however, and the organism functions as a complex, integrated being.

These transformations are able to occur because the Channel Divergences provide points at  which yin substance and yang transformative capacity meet.  The CD confluent points are exactly that, the confluence of yin and yang, the place where the yin and yang of a particular element come together.  As I pointed out in the previous post, no other channel system really allows for that sort of meeting.  (Although one could argue that the Sea of Yin, Conception Vessel, and Sea of Yang, Governor Vessel, do meet.)

Preparation, like training, can also mean tonification, making something stronger and more resilient.  The Channel Divergences are not only useful for removing latent pathogens and bi-obstruction syndromes from the joints; they also can be used to tonify the humours associated with them. The manner in which the CDs are able to make a pathogen go latent relies precisely on this physiological trait of augmenting particular humours.  The needling technique in such cases is deep-shallow-deep, with vibration at the deep levels.  The points are needled on each side, beginning at the start of the channel, then needling bilaterally the next point in the sequence, and so on, until the upper confluence is reached.

(As a side note, the humours, like Xander and Dawn, support the emotion and virtue (or power) associated with each of the five phases.  I will explore this theme later, in Season 7’s episode 16.)

In the Channel Divergence system, the LI CD is the perfect channel for overall tonification in absence of pathology.  It is also used in cases when yang has collapsed.  If Buffy really wanted to strengthen the Potentials, nourishing yang and securing the primary meridians through the LI CD is a good place to start.

The YangMing mechanism of physiology, associated with the LI and ST and characterised by ‘closing to the interior’, relies on the internal branches of primary meridians.  At this point in the Channel Divergence system, only wei qi is left to maintain a pathogen’s latency.  Jing, Blood, and Fluids have already been consumed, and finally the San Jiao-KD yang has failed.  As will be discussed in a later post, the San Jiao mechanism is ‘lit’ by wei qi at the first breath after birth.  This implies that as a pathogen consumes humours from within, the San Jiao’s humour will be consumed before wei qi, which initially came from the exterior.

LI/LU CD symptoms include spontaneous sweats depleting the LU, HT, and ST of fluid,  poor, poor digestion, and the collapse of yang (in the primary meridian cycle, collapse of yang begins to appear at the Bladder meridian, though the exact symptoms are slightly different; in the primary meridian system, the body still has fluids, possibly even phlegm.  Kidney jing may have begun to degrade and enter the bloodstream as cholesterol.  Here in the CD progression of pathology, the body is dry).  Oddly, the LI-LU CD is good for treating hair loss patterns.  Perhaps this is because of its relation to wei qi, the cou li, and exterior portions of the body, like hair.

To explain the process more chronologically, Lung breath moves to the Large Intestine wei qi to circulate interiorly; the interior circulation of wei qi then ‘light’s the San Jiao mechanism like a flame receiving oxygen.  Eventually, the process of supplying organs with jing and qi reaches the outermost sinew vessel, the TaiYang-Bladder channel.  At this point in the pathophysiology of the patient, the SJ mechanism has failed due to a full combustion of jing-fuel.  Therefore, the treatment principle is to build essence and yin to combust and keep the patient’s physiology going.  Once essence and yin are built up, treatment can be followed up with a front mu/ SJ mechanism treatment.  (I will elaborate on the SJ physiology at birth in Season 7’s Episode 17, which will examine the front mu points as they relate to the SJ mechanism.)

The LI CD trajectory is rather short.  It begins at LI-15, ‘shoulder bone’, from which it then splits into anterior and posterior branches.

The anterior branch moves from LI-15 to ST-15, ‘room screen’.  This is a reflex point for SP-15, and is good for treating lumps in the breast.  Because SP-15 is good for treating fullness in the abdomen, I would wonder if the point may also have an effect on uterine fibroids and other masses in the lower warmer.  From ST-15 the channel the moves on to ST-12, the lower confluent point of the LI-LU CD.

The posterior branch moves from LI-15 to DU-14, the meeting point of all yang channels, and a point well known for expelling wind; the point is closely associated with the body’s wei qi.  From Du-14 the channel goes on to GB-21, ‘shoulder well’.  This point has the capacity to release the jing well points of all the arm primary meridians.  Again, the association with wei qi is present.  From GB-21, the channel moves on to ST-12.

ST-12 is the lower confluence of the LI-LU CD, and is the place were qi enters interiorly.  The point has associations with the diaphragm, which draws qi inwards.  It should come as no surprise then, that from ST-12, the channel meets the Large Intestine organ, which can be interpreted as plunging to ST-25, the LI mu point.  From here, the LU meridian begins to take its shape.  The Lung primary meridian begins in the middle warmer at  CV-12, then goes to ST-25 before moving upwards to CV-13 and CV 17 (where wei qi homes to) and emerging at LU-1.

From ST-25, the LI-LU Channel Divergence moves to the Upper Confluence at the Window to the Sky point, LI-18.  This point is also called ‘Shui Xue’, ‘water hole’, which in the case of the CD physiology, indicates the relationship of wei qi to fluid.

The LI CD continues upwards from this point, if the neck is not blocked.  From LI-18, the channel moves to LI-20 and ST-1, from where a pathogen can be expelled externally.  LI-20, of course, is located by the nostrils, and is associated with breath.  ST-1 is associated with taking in and digesting the sight of the world outside.

Points are needled deep-shallow-deep in order to tonify, or if the body has enough resources to expel a pathogen, needling can be done in a shallow-deep-shallow manner.  However, as mentioned above, at this point in a pathophysiological case, the body is very weakened.  Both fluids and essence need to be built up.

Several herbal formulas can be used to moisten dryness:  Zeng Ye Tang for thick fluids; Yi Wei Tang for ST fluids; Mai Men Dong Tang for sweat; Sang Xing Tang for thin fluids.  Because at this point the organs themselves are weakened, I would suggest using another Shen/ Hammer herbal formula for what they call “Organ system weak”.  A diagnosis of organ system weak can be indiacted when the entire pulse is slow and deep, and the left (HT-LV) side is feeble or absent. The formula consists of twelve herbs:

Shan Yao and Ji Nei Jin at 12g;

Dang Shen, Bai Zhu, Shan Zhu Yu, Fu Ling, Da Zao, Sang Ji Sheng at 9g;

Yuan Zhi, Yu Jin, and Bai Shao at 6g, and

Rou Gui at a dose indicated by the state of KD yang.

On the other hand, if a formula is needed for training purposes, several formulas can be taken both before and after working out.  I’ve already given a post-workout formula, however, so will not revisit it here.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one have been weakened by illness, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

Showtime (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 11)

In this initially calm episode, Andrew gets bored and suggests playing ‘Kevin Bacon’ with Dawn. The goal is simple: name an actor or actress, then see how few actors or films separate the named actor from Kevin Bacon.  There used to be a website that would do this for you, and Kevin Bacon is even connected by just two steps to several silent film stars.  The episode goes on to reveal that the First infiltrated the group of potential slayers by taking the form of Eve (a potential slayer, not Adam-and-Eve’s Eve, though the name is evocative of that story).  The Turok-Han that was released in a previous episode attacks the potentials, and Buffy dusts it off at a construction site.  She then rescues Spike from the clutches of the First.

In acupuncture, we can play the same Kevin Bacon game: Pick a point on a meridian, then pick another point on another meridian. See how few points you need to cross in order to get there. The secret is to use ‘jiao’ or ‘crossing’ points — points which are on more than one channel. The game becomes even more fun when you bring different channel systems into the picture…

Note this is point specific, not channel system wide — that will be explored in Episdoe 19.

(Raises theoretical question of what it means for a point to be named as belonging to a particular meridian, even if it lies on more than one — e.g. why is SP-6 named as a SP point, even though the KD and LV meridians cross there, too?)

Du-14 generally takes the cake for yang meridians, and CV-3 is a pretty good bet for transferring among yin meridians.  The Dai Mai circling all the meridians is another good one.  To make the game more interesting, we can say we’ll use only primary channels, no EVs.

The Lung channel does not cross any other channels, but LU-1 is also a Spleen point.  LU-1 is thus a quintessentially TaiYin point, governing the opening of the interior outwards.  The Lungs in Chinese medicine are responsible for exhalation (the Kidneys are responsible for inhalation):  opening to the outside.

The Large Intestine channel crosses ST-4, SI-12, and SJ-20.  The Stomach channel crosses the Large Intestine channel at LI-20.  Thus ST-4 and LI-20 are very YangMing points, closing to the interior:  the nostrils and mouth as entryways into the body.  The Stomach channel also crosses ST-12, BL-1, and GB-3 and GB-4.  As pathogens enter the body through the six stages, the pivot of ShaoYang to YangMing can be addressed by GB-3 or GB-4.  SI-12, on the other hand, is a TaiYang and YangMing point, and can address the exterior yang channels; it is especially effective at addressing wind conditions, and its point name reflects that:  ‘Grasping the Wind’.  It is also a point which encompasses the fu organs of digestion:  ST, SI, LI.

The Spleen meets the Lung channel at LU-1, and the Liver channel at LV-14.  The Lungs disseminate wei qi; the Spleen stores ying qi; and the Liver is responsible for harmonising the ying and wei.  Those two points would address the transformation of qi by the Spleen as it relates to blood (Liver) and qi (Lung).

The Heart channel does not cross any other channels, in keeping with the sacrosanct nature of the emperor.  Based on the full trajectory of the channel, however, three points might affect the HT channel, however:  BL-1, because the shen can be seen in the eyes; ST-9; and LU-1.

The Small Intestine meets the TaiYang Bladder channel at BL-1, BL-11, and BL-41 (at the level of the second thoracic vertebra).  It also meets GB-1 and SJ-22.

The Bladder crosses the Gallbladder channel at GB-6, GB-7, GB-8; GB-10, GB-11, GB-12; and GB-15, all on the scalp; and GB-30 at the piriformis muscle.

The Kidney channel meets the LV and SP channels at SP-6.

The Pericardium channel crosses the SanJiao meridian at SJ-1.

The SanJiao meridian, responsible for integrating the three burners of the body, pelvis, abdomen, and ribcage, crosses the SI channel at SI-12, SI-18, and SI-19; and the ShaoYang Gallbladder meridian at GB-1, GB-3, and GB-4.  SI-12, as noted above, treats the three levels of the digestive tract, and therefore it makes perfect sense for the SJ meridian to also meet there.

The Gallbladder channel meets with the Stomach channel at ST-7 and ST-8; with the Small Intestine channel at SI-12 and SI-19 (a Window to the Sky point); and the SanJiao meridian at SJ-17, SJ-20, and SJ-22.

Finally, the Liver channel meets with the Spleen meridian at SP-6, SP-12, and SP-13.

If anyone plays the Kevin Bacon acupuncture game, certain meridians will just never seem to meet up.  The famous four gates, LI-4 and LV-3, for example, never meet up through using only crossing points.  While the LI channel has multiple crossing points, the Liver, as a very Yin organ, really doesn’t cross any other channels but the Spleen.  Likewise, the Spleen really only meets up with the Lung, Liver, and Kidneys.  The Kidneys connect to the other yin organs.

Even if the two extraordinary vessels were brought in, using their points as primary meridian points, connecting the yin and yang channels is still difficult.  the Liver channel goes to CV-2, CV-3, and CV-4.  The Spleen goes to CV-3, CV-4, and CV-10.  The Kidneys go to CV-3 and CV-4.  The Du Mai meets all the yang channels at DU-14.  It meets the Bladder at Du-20.  Du-24 sees the Bladder and Stomach meridians cross, and Du-26 is another YangMing meeting point for the Stomach and Large Intestine channels.  The Du and Ren meet at CV-1 and CV-24.  The LI and ST meridians do cross at CV-24, seemingly the only time that a yin-oriented vessel meets with yang-oriented primary meridians.

Meeting points are most useful in primary channel treatments, when only three channels are needled at a time:  the channel in which the pathology originated, the channel in which the pathology is currently located, and the channel into which the pathogen will enter next.  Thus, a wind-cold condition which has transformed into wind-heat will next enter the body as interior heat.  The LU, LI, and ST channels will all be needled in such a case.  In this sense, meeting points can be used to guide qi through shorter meridian pathways back out into the exterior.  Meeting points can also be tonified with moxa in order to strengthen multiple channels simultaneously.

But how does the body know that a practitioner is needling, say SP-6, as a Liver point, and not as a Spleen point?  I would suggest that qi likes to take the shortest route between two points.  Thus, if the confluent points of a Channel Divergence are needled, rather than taking the primary channel pathway, the qi will circulate instead along the shorter or easier pathway of the CD.  Likewise with a point like SP-6:  although the repercussions may be felt along the SP and KD channels, if the only other channels being needled are LV and ST (let’s say the practitioner is working on nourishing blood), the body will respond according to where the qi is directed:  LV-14, LV-8, SP-6, ST-37 (and ST-38 or -36, perhaps) — all points related to blood on two meridians only.  I will discuss leading qi in more detail in a subsequent post.

When too many points are needled, the qi does not know where to go.  The result is that the qi goes ‘wild’.  While the four gates is effective for ‘reorienting’ the flow of qi within the meridians, Dr Hammer has developed a useful herbal formula to address the same condition.  The formula is rather straightforward:  Sang Ji Sheng at 12g; Dang Shen, Huang Qi, and Mai Men Dong at 10g; Si Gua Lou and Yuan Zhi at 6g; Wu Wei Zi at 2g; and Duan Mu Li and Duan Long Gu at 19g.  Note the Channel Divergence herbs of Sang Ji Sheng and Huang Qi, combined with the channel opening Si Gua Lou.  The CD effect is further strengthened by the Heart-oriented herbs Wu Wei Zi, Mu Li, Long Gu, Mai Dong, and the HT-orifice opening herb Yuan Zhi.  Decoct, and take until the qi has returned to a harmonious flow.

As always, these posts are meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you are in acupuncture or shiatsu school, get together with some friends and see how few points need to be needled in order to move from one channel to another.  Let me know how it works out!

Happy Slayage!

Bring on the Night (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 10)

Andrew has been captured by the Scoobies, and sits tied to a chair, unresponsive to all external stimulation.  According to Dawn, who wants to slap him, pour ice water on him, try boiling water on him, Andrew might be in a ‘fugue state’.   Meanwhile, Willow tries a simple spell, but the First highjacks Willow’s spell.  Willow’s own personality was nearly lost, as the First or Dark Magicks started to take over Willow’s will.  Even after the spell ends, Willow can still feel the evil inside her.

Elsewhere, in the basement of Sunnydale High, Buffy encounters Principal Wood, who is surprised to see her up and about.  Buffy tells Wood she got some cream for the oozing that was going on while she was sick.  For other people, ‘things are backing up’.  They receive news about the Watcher’s Council, and Anya theorises that all the stuffy repression of the British Watchers’ Council caused them to explode.  The weight of saving the world is beginning to fall squarely on Buffy’s shoulders alone now.  Despite that loneliness, she is told she should feel ‘no pressure’.

Technically, a fugue state is not a state of insensibility, but one of amnesia.  However, failure of the senses and sinews is a characteristic sign of the Heart Channel Divergence.  After the body has used up jing, blood, and Stomach fluids to contain a pathogen, the next humour available to the body is sweat.  At this point, the pathology has moved from being acute and has instead become a chronic condition.  Sweat is the yin and fluid of the Heart.  Physiologically, the sweat and vessels of the Heart support the wei qi of the arm TaiYang (SI) vessel, and the sinews themselves.  (The Heart controls the mai, or vessel-pulses of the body, while SI-10 moves blood into the sinews to nourish them.)  The Mai, being an extraordinary organ, are filled with yuan qi; thus, we see the relation of yuan qi and wei qi through the medium of the Heart Channel Divergence.  As the Heart begins to lose its yuan-level resources, it begins to close off the upper orifices; the shen can no longer peer out into the world, leading to failure of the senses.  As the sinews lose the blood and fluid which animate them, they, too, begin to fail.

The trajectory of the HT CD begins at HT-1, the emerging point of the Heart meridian, and a place well known as a source of sweat in the body (the palms of the hands, HT-8, is another well known sweaty area).  From HT-1 the channel then moves to GB-22, the lower confluent point.  In previous ages, GB-22 was a contender for the Great Luo of Spleen point; thus the point has a very close relationship with blood and jing.  The Great Luo of the Spleen is the last of the luo points before they pour into the jing-supplied Extraordinary Vessels.  GB-22 is also a good point for addressing ye-thick fluids, as it forms the ‘canyon’ which from which ye-thick fluid nourishes the marrow, bones, and brain.

From GB-22, the channel enters the heart and emerges at CV-17, the mu point of the Pericardium, or Heart Protector.  CV-17 is both where wei qi homes in and a place where both the Kidney and Liver circulate their energetics.  Again, wei qi and the previous humours are meeting here, and thus CV-17 can be a place where the pathogen can be redirected to another humour or channel.  From CV-17, the Heart Channel Divergence travels upwards to CV-23.  CV-23 is known for its ability to nourish yin; in a subsequent post, I will explore its relationship to KD-1.

From CV-23, the channel travels to the tip of the tongue (and thus an inability to speak or articulate the voice is a primary indication for using this ‘point’), before dispersing onto the face and closing at the Upper Confluence of BL-1.

At BL-1,  the channel has moved a pathogen upwards and can bring heat into the brain here (manifesting in mania, hysteria, brain fever, or a loss of senses); yet it also has the capacity to release heat trapped in the four limbs.  Thus, physiology and pathophysiology are closely entwined.  How the body deals with the pathogen at this particular point relies very much on the resources available to it:  can it draw on sweat to release heat in the four limbs?  Or is the body’s fluid depleted, in which case the next set of CDs the pathogen will encounter is the SJ-PC Channel Divergence.  The SJ CD begins at Du-20, at the top of the head.  The pathogen will have passed through the brain to that point and into the next channel set.

In terms of Herbal Medicine, this Channel Divergence is closely related to Ye-thick fluids, the humour of the Small Intestine CD.  The formula Zeng Ye Tang is used for ‘things backing up’, i.e. to relieve constipation, and could make a nice supplementing formula for a person with dryness of sweat.  I would add musk or Niu Huang to Zeng Ye Tang if I were attempting to revive someone’s senses, however.

More specifically to the Heart, Shi Gao is a good single herb to generate fluid when the Heart is too much yin due to the ‘big sweat’ aspect of Yang Ming disease.  Yu Ping Feng San and Mu Li San are also effective at astringing the surface to stop the leaking of sweat; however, neither is especially good at generating fluid.  In Yu Ping Feng San, Bai Zhu drains dampness, but it does also have a tonification aspect.  In Mu Li San, which is particularly good for addressing day time sweating, no fluid generating herbs are included, unless one substitutes honey-fried Huang Qi for plain Huang Qi.  The original formula for Yu Pin gFeng San, in fact, calls for honey fried Huang Qi.

Of course, to guide a formula to the CDs, a wei qi oriented herb (in this case, Huang Qi) and a yuan-qi oriented herb are added to act as envoys.  Ye Jiao Teng might work, but I’d add Sang Ji Sheng as well, for a trio of Huang Qi, Ye Jiao Teng, and Sang Ji Sheng.  Finally, E Jiao might actually be the best item to add to any of the above formulas.  Being skin, sweat, and essence combined, E Jiao is an excellent way to address the concerns of nourishing and astringing.

As always, this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are sweating so much you’ve lost your senses, please seek qualified assistance. 

Happy Slayage!

Never Leave Me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 9)

Now that Spike has taken up residence in the Summers’ household, the Scoobies debate what to do with him.  Anya suggests putting something sharp through Spike’s chest to deal with his sleeper-side.  Buffy, however, decided to take a few days off work, so Dawn lets Principal Robin know that Buffy won’t be in, giving as the excuse what TCM would call ‘sudden turmoil disorder’, or as Dawn said Buffy’s words literally were: ‘I have stuff coming out both ends’.

Meanwhile, the First, in the form of Jonathan, appears to Andrew, requesting more blood to open the seal.  Andrew is having regrets at killing his best friend, but Jonathan/ the First tries to reassure Andrew:  Jonathan has become one with hope and light, but without ulcers.  To reference Anya’s solution for Spike, ulcers sometimes feel like a sharp stab in the chest.

Treating ulcers with Channel Divergences will not be the topic of today’s post.  Instead, has anyone ever noticed Anya’s particular mannerisms?  Ever notice that when she’s human she has more wind-tremours than when she’s a demon?  Is this because Liver-anger can be channeled more successfully through a demonic jing-essence-body than a human one?  Regardless, both Anya’s facial tics and Buffy’s sudden turmoil disorder can be treated through the Bladder Channel Divergence.

The CDs treat form, not function, so what ‘form’ is being treated?  With regard to facial tics, the form is one of constancy.  A facial tremour is the inability of the form to hold itself in a consolidated manner.  Likewise with sudden turmoil:  diarrhea and vomiting are clearly representative of the body’s inability to consolidate what it has taken in.  The Bladder CD excels at consolidating form, in part because as the first of the Channel Divergence sequence, it draws on the body’s jing to contain pathogenic influences (the Bladder CD can also transform jing into wei qi to expel wind from the body through its ability to hold and consolidate yang qi).  Not retaining essence through over-sweating, leaking fluids and stool, or a consumption of essence (including De, or ‘virtue’, in Han and pre-Han dynasty HuangLao thought) are signs that the Bladder CD may be involved in the pathophysiology of a patient.

How does the Bladder Channel Divergence apply these functions physiologically, as revealed by the channel trajectory?

The Bladder Channel divergence begins at BL-40, the Doorway to the Earth point and first Confluence of the Channel Divergences, bringing together the Bladder and Kidney channels.  As mentioned earlier, this point connects to BL-23 and Ming Men, allowing the channel clear access to the jing-storing Kidneys.  The point also pushes wei qi to the gluteus, and from BL-30, the channel goes to BL-36.

The area of the body around BL-36 is a primary holding area for latency.  It stores trauma, whose release can be facilitated by gua sha or through needling GB-27.  Trauma homes in here for several reasons.  On the one hand, the point controls the body’s ability to discharge via the bowels:  trauma seeking an exit.  On the other hand, it supports the spleen’s ability to ascend qi, to move things back up:  trauma seeking integration.  In a way, this is the point where pre-natal qi as jing meets post-natal qi, where the ‘template’ for forming the body meets the components which need to be assembled.

From BL-36, the trajectory goes directly to the Doorways of the Earth points at Du-1, Du-4, and CV-4. These points were all discussed in the previous post.  Du-1 relates to consolidation and the emotional build-up of individuation; Du-4 to the blueprint of life and access to jing as well as to the Dai Mai (again, in an attempt to expel the pathogen). CV-4 relates to the balance of yin and yang in the body, and can draw up more primal resources to contain the pathogen, or to transform yin into wei to expel the pathogen.

From CV-4, the channel moves downwards, encountering CV-3 (top of pubic hair margin, technically), then penetrating the sacral liao at BL-32. CV-3 is the mu point of the Bladder organ (CV-4 is the mu point of the other TaiYang organ, the Small Intestine), and BL-32 is associated with hormonal balance in the body (the ye-thick fluids of the Small Intestine).  Both points treat urinary difficulty and incontinence, seminal emission, and pain in the lower trunk.  From the sacrum, the channel moves upward to connect with BL-28 (the shu transport point of the Bladder Organ).

From the cycle beginning at the Bladder Mu and moving to the Bladder Shu points, the channel then traverses the Hua Tuo points. The Hua Tuo points in particular are the terrain of wei qi; but as they are associated with biomedical nerve-roots, they also have an effect on how jing-qi is distributed to organs.  Pathophysiologically, they can be thought of as diverting wind to an organ, and then, to make the wind and cold latent, the Hua Tuo are the points through which the body sends jing to the organ in question.  The development of masses and tumours in those organs,or hormone disruption more generally, can both be explained in this manner.

At Du-11 (Shen Way), the channel wraps through BL-15 (HT shu point) and BL-44 (Door to the Shen) to CV-17 (mu point of the Pericardium) to form the external Bao Mai and connect with the Heart.  If jing has begun to degrade in phlegm, which is one way to think of cholesterol in the blood, the channel will utilise the Heart to ‘vapourise’ (Am: vaporize) the phlegm.  Psychologically, this wrapping of the vessel is the jing meeting the shen to form jingshen before it moves to the Sea of Marrow.

From CV-17, the channel goes to BL-10, the Window to the Sky point and upper confluence of the BL-KD Channel Divergence.  Some texts list the channel as stopping here; others theorise that it moves to the brain and from there to BL-1.  BL-10, in the context of the Bladder Channel Divergence, has the ability to descend excess yang in the head and draw it to the chest, to the most yang of the solid organs, the Heart.  BL-1, as one of the upper orifices, as the ability to release wind from the body.

Treatment and point selection vary by case, but all would include BL-40 and either BL-10 or BL-1.  In Buffy’s case, the points selected would focus on consolidating:  BL-36, CV-3 or Du-1 for diarrhea; CV-17 for vomiting.  Needles would be inserted in a simple ascending order:  bilaterally, beginning with BL-40, angled towards the head.  Needle technique would be deep-shallow-deep, with vibration at each depth.

In Anya’s case, the treatment goals are to expel the wind, so a looping order would be called for.  Points would be selected based on their ability to transform jing into wei or yang qi.  The needles on one side would be angled upwards until BL-10, whose needle would point to the paired BL-10 point on the other side of the body.  The other side of the body would be needled with needles angled towards the feet.  Finally, the jing well point of the Bladder would be needled.  Begin on the side of the body which has pain, needle the jing well point of the side which does not have pain or tics.

The herbal formula associated with this Channel Divergence is Da Cheng Qi Tang.  In Anya’s case, I would add Chi Shao, to move blood and expel wind, and increase the dosage of Hou Po, for a similar reason.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are suffering from sudden turmoil disorder, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

Sleeper (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 8)

The opening sequence for this episode ends with a scene of Spike digging a grave for the people he sired.  At the climax of the episode, they rise up from the dirt of a cellar and attack Buffy.  The vampires hold her still so that Spike can be the one to kill Buffy; but upon tasting her blood, his memories of killing humans comes back to him.  The episode closes with Spike brought to the Summers house to be watched.  (Technically, the episode ends with an axe being swung at England-based Giles by one of the Bringers.)  In the midst of the episode, references about rumours of Spike hunting are framed as ‘accusations from a pile of dust’, alluding to the vampire Buffy slayed in the previous episode.  She staked him; the body returned to the earth.  In this episode, we also see the First continuing to take the form of dead things, or at least things that had died, and were (presumably) buried at some point.

All these references to dust, dead people, and things rising from the earth make me think of a key aspect of Channel Divergences:  the channel trajectory often moves from points collectively known as ‘Doorways to the Earth’ and ascend to the ‘Windows to the Sky’.  This post, then, will look at the physiology of Doorway to the Earth points in more detail.

To begin with a list, the Doorways to the Earth generally include the six primary channel points of BL-40, KD-11, GB-30, LV-12, ST-30, SP-12, and the four Extraordinary vessel points of CV-1, CV-4, Du-1, and Du-4.  Their psycho-spiritual purpose is to eliminate what is no longer part of one’s ‘realised being’ or ‘authentic self’ (zhen ren).  They are thus used for draining out of heavy yin pathogens, and are often paired with yang-oriented Windows of the Sky points.  The pairing of Doorway and Window points serves also to ‘return to the self’:  after having transformed qi into shen and shen into xu (void), the person must return to him or herself and continue to live life.  The doorway points, all located on the lower body, also help ground a person; but this grounding is in what is essential to the person, that is, they clarify jing and yuan qi circulation.  In origin, they relate to the 12 earthly branches, while the windows to heaven relate to the ten heavenly stems.

That is is the general overview of the points.  How does each point serve these functions?  What differentiates each point with regard to their general applications?

Bl-40, ‘Middle Defence’ or ‘Wei in the Centre’:  Starting at KD-1, this point pushes wei qi into gluteus.  It is an important point in the practice of Tai Ji, as it helps spiral qi between the Dan Tian or Ming Men down towards the ground at KD-1.  Physiologically, it is the end point of a channel which emerges at BL-23, and is capable of opening the Ming Men (‘Gate of Fate’).   As one of Ma Dongyuan’s constellation points, it treats wind bi, spasms, and tremors.  Functionally, it is also known for treating diarrhea, lumbar pain, and numbness of lower extremities.  In other words, it strengthens the centre to enable the body to consolidate its qi.  If diarrhea is due to wei qi attacking the fu organs, it helps disperse the wei qi outwards; or rather, through moving yin into the hips and legs, it draws the wei qi out from the interior body.  BL-40 drains excess so that qi will not leak out (loss of qi often accompanies episodes of diarrhea, one reason for salt moxa at CV-8 in patients with recurring diarrhea).  Because BL-40 drains yin into the lower extremities, sometimes pairing it with a yang point like ST-36 will help prevent the legs from feeling too heavy.  Pairing the point with ST-30 will help regulate the flow of yin through the pelvis.

KD-11, ‘Curved Bone’:  This is a Chong Mai point, and therefore relates to blood and emotions in the person.  It treats dysuria, pain of genitals, pain in Dan Tian, and treats shriveled genitals.  In terms of yin or authenticity, it treats the pain of letting go and transformation.  It also enables a person to pass on his or her essence to others (e.g. progeny, disciples, students).  This ‘essence’ can include what is no longer his or hers, and in terms of the patient him or herself, enables the patient to recognise what is authentically part of one’s own life to work out and what is not.

GB-30, ‘Jumping Round’:  Another of Ma DongYuan’s constellation points, this point is associated with Yuan Qi when cupped.  From BL-40, wei qi gets moved to the gluteals at GB-30, enabling the patient to jump, to move to heaven.  This point gives renewal in the sense of deepening one’s breathing (the point treats asthma) in order to make those leaps of faith.  Functionally, the piont is usually used to treat atrophy of the lower limbs and  pain or numbness in low back.    Psycho-spiritually, the point is effective in addressing grieving, especially for the self.  When needled and moxa applied, the patient may sob and let go of loss; moxa brings warmth they look for.

LV-12, ‘Urgent Pulse’, treats hernia and bulging disorders.  Hernia is an accumulation of yin qi at the expense of yang qi.  It also treats pain in the external genitalia and in the lower dan tian.  Again, like KD-11, it helps a patient let go of the pain of transformation, particularly when this transformation entails delegating tasks to other people, future progeny or disciples.  The master who jealously guards secrets so that his or her disciples will never be better than him or her, or the official who will never let the assistants take on responsibility and grow into effective leaders — this point is for that sort of person.  But LV-12 is also, perhaps even primarily for, for the person who has taken on too much themselves, and their ability to actually get the work done is leading them to literally break at the seams.

ST-30, ‘Surging Qi’ or ‘Qi of the Chong Mai’, is the upper point of Grains and Fluids.  It is known for treating food toxicity, allergies, and indigestion — conditions in which wei qi has become stuck internally.  ST-30 ascends yin to the pelvis in order to cool the stuck wei qi.  A person who is having trouble digesting the experiences of life, feeling constantly on the defence against how they interact in the patient’s inner world — this is the point for them.  It will help bring an internal stillness to the person.

SP-12, the Gate of Chong, was addressed in the previous post.  As a point on the Sea of Blood, it gives an entryway into seeing how one’s emotional life connects with one’s ‘blueprint’ in life.  Alternately, it can help bring emotion back into that blueprint, for people who have become ‘burnt out’.  Again, yin is addressing yang at this point.

CV-1, ‘Meeting of Yin’:  This is a ghost point, ‘ghost hide-away’.  As such, it treats certain types of psychological symptoms.  These symptoms often take the form of rapid or disconnected thoughts; ideas which are difficult to grasp, or a train of thought designed to keep a person from actually thinking through the root of a problem (i.e. a ‘ghost’ is trying to throw people of the right track).  It is an area of concentrated yin, being on the lowest part of the trunk of the body.  CV-1 also treats local symptoms, like  vaginitis, retention of urine, hemorrhoids, and nocturnal emissions.  It regulates the inflow and outflow of essence in a person’s body (emissions, urine).  It also treats wind in the lower body (vaginitis, hemorrhoids) through its ability to bring yin to bear in the region.

Du-1 has two names, ‘Gate of Po’ and ‘Long Strong’.  It is the place where the po-spirits exist the body at death (or every seven years).  It connects with lower orifices to treat an excess or lack of peristalsis and an inability to consolidate.  As the Luo of Du Mai, it functions to treat the spine as a whole, whether manifesting as stiffness or a shaking head.  It treats the emotions as they relate to individuation, being able to raise one’s head and gaze directly out at the world.  It allows that solidity by securing the yin at the root of the trunk, firmly grounding the person in his or her body.

CV-4, Gateway to the Origin:  This commonly used point is known for its ability to benefit the yin, nourish and stabilise the kidneys.  Less well known is is function of restoring yang, through which it is able to regulate the qi of the body.

Du-4, Doorway to Destiny:  Awareness of this low back point is essential for proper movement, and as such, it is emphasised in most martial arts training.  A powerful point, Ming Men nourishes yuan qi and the kidneys.  it is the place from which the Triple Warmer mechanism begins to raise up the yuan qi to irrigate the shu points of the body’s viscera.  Original qi (yuan qi) is drawn up from here, dispersed to nourish the kidney organs (the kidneys store the essence, but they still need an externally-received nourishment from that essence), then upwards to the Spleen, Liver, Diaphragm and blood, Pericardium, Heart, Lungs, and the Orifices of the Brain.  The hollow organs are interspersed throughout this pathway, and also receive nourishment from the Ming Men.  As the Doorway to Destiny, it is the place where a person begins to see how his or her lineage meets his or her particular ways of being in the world, and what areas of life will need the strongest resources in order to meet those challenges and goals.

Spike, of course, was busy closing up any doorways to the earth, so that he would not be found out.  Had Buffy not entered the scene and one by one addressed the dead things that were latent in those holding zones, they would have acquired too great a number and ultimately overwhelmed her.  Our Slayer, however, had an idea already of what her authentic self was:  a warrior, a strategist, who knew just which resources were the strongest and in need of saving.  The inadvertant offspring of Spike were quickly dusted, and Spike himself brought inwards, to the Summers’ household.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one is being attacked by things long buried, please seek qualified assistance.

Happy slayage!

Conversations with Dead People (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 7)

This composite episode follows our characters through several non-interacting plotlines.  Dawn, at home alone, microwaves a marshmallow and is confronted by the ghost of her mother.  Willow, studying late at the library, converses with the ghost of Cassie, discovering at the end that the ‘ghost’ was, in fact, the First Evil.  Buffy gets psychoanalysed by a former classmate turned Dartmouth psych major, before slaying him.  Andrew and Jonathan uncover the Seal of Danzalthar, and Andrew sacrifices Jonathan to open the seal.  Finally, Spike gets his feed on in a series of scenes which have no dialogue.  In combination with the soundtrack, those scenes highlight the actor’s craft of physicality:  we know what is going on without a word being spoken.

I have to admit, this was initially one of the most difficult episodes for me to diagnose.  However, among the Channel Divergences is one which fits all the plot lines quite nicely:  The Spleen Channel Divergence.  In fact, I have not started thinking of it as the ‘psychoanalytic channel divergence’.

Ordinarily, the channel, like the Stomach CD, treats blood and food stasis (think of Dawn’s marshmallow dinner), especially as its trajectory passes through the ST mu point at CV-12 (where Andrew stabbed Jonathan).  However, because the Spleen CD also connects the Chong and Yin Wei mai, it has the capacity to treat not only problems with post-natal qi, but pre-natal qi as it is expressed in the external world through form (the First as Cassie’s ghost) as well.

How is the Spleen CD ‘psychoanalytic’?  The answer is found through examining the trajectory of the channel.

It begins at SP-12, Chong Men (‘Pulsing Gate’ or ‘Gate of the Chong [mai]’).  This is the point at which the Chong Mai emerges from the interior.  The Chong Mai, as noted in the previous season, is the sea of blood.  Blood includes the emotions, anything ephemeral which has taken on form and substance as part of one’s identity.  The Chong Mai accesses the emotions as they have been passed down through a lineage.  When the Luo Vessel system has reached capacity, the overflow of pathogens, including emotional ones, are ‘drained’ into the Extraordinary Vessels.  Thus, the start of the channel is much like the start of psychoanalysis:  What happened to you in childhood?  what did you receive from your parents?  Who’s fault was Buffy’s parents’ divorce?

From SP-12, the channel moves to ST-30, the first confluence of the ST and SP Channel Divergence.  This point is called ‘qi chong’, and is the transporting point of grain and fluids.  How are the early emotions embodied in the Chong Mai going to affect how the person takes in the resources of the world?

From ST-30, the next points on the channel are CV-12, CV-14, and CV-17.  These points correspond to the Stomach, Heart, and Pericardium.  A person ‘digests’ experiences at ST-12, where Jonathan got stabbed in the gut, right after his own ‘digestion’ of his high school experiences was completed.  The Heart mu point helps orient a person’s own emotional heritage to time, place, and context at CV-14, while CV-17, where vampires get stabbed, is responsible for clarifying the blood and emotions in order to protect the heart and further the heart’s destiny in life.

The channel emerges at CV-22 before progressing upwards to CV-23, both of these being Yin Wei Mai points.  The Yin Wei Mai is responsible for continuity in one’s life.  How do the experiences gained in the world at CV-12 to CV-17 reflect the early formation at SP-12 and ST-30?  How do they show up in a person’s posture?  How has a person behaved inwardly with respect to early patterns, such that contingency plans are always made?  What new burdens have accumulated, as a result of the early emotional patterning affecting one’s path in life?

From CV-23, the channel goes on to ST-9, Ren Ying (‘Human Pulse’ or ‘Human Prognosis), a favoured spot for vampires to engage with their victims, as Spike does towards the end of the episode.  Spike does not recall what he did; as a Window to the Sky point, memory and memory loss can be treated here.  However, its usual application is for thyroid problems.  Thyroid issues often show up as Heart fire or Stomach fire issues (think of Dawn’s marshmallow, or the microwave blowing up).  If Heart fire were the issue, the point would work nicely with CV-14; with Stomach fire as the chief symptom, CV-12 would be a good pairing.

From ST-9, the channel goes to the Middle of Tongue.  (This could include the previously mentioned point, CV23).  Typically, this trajectory would imply the channel can treat  wind-phlegm blocking the tongue, possible trouble with verbal association, or again, poor memory (Yin Wei’s task of ensuring continuity of self).  Spike’s memory is poor; Buffy is only now beginning to open up, after an initial diagnosis was made at ST-9.  Jonathan also found his ability to express what he had digested earlier and how he now integrated it into his all too short life.

Finally, the upper confluence and end of the channel is at BL-1.  This point is the famous meeting point of the Yin and Yang Qiao Mai, the place where one’s view of self and the world meet.  It is the point at which the earliest emotions, and how they have influenced one’s assimilation of the external world into a coherent identity, are brought to ‘light’ to be seen.  From here, the person is enabled to change his or her viewpoint, either of the self, or the world, or both, in order to approach the world differently.  In the process, the inherited emotions or tasks embedded in the ‘curriculum’ or ‘blueprint’ of the Chong Mai are resolved, and the person is free to make his or her own choices in life.

The Spleen Channel Divergence is thus one of the most powerful treatments available to acupuncturists, treating those pathologies which consume us from within, whether autoimmune digestive disorders, or feelings we about people in the world when we were little.

Needle technique in this case is a shallow rattling technique, followed by a deep rattle, and a third, shallow rattling.  The idea is that one is stimulating the external wei qi to come to the defence of deep jing- or yuan-qi, in order to chase the pathogen back outwards to the surface of the body for final expulsion.  Treatment is three days in a row, followed by three days off, for a total of nine treatment days (or 18 days total).  The patient is then reassessed.  Point selection along the trajectory varies by what exactly is being addressed, but at a minimum the lower and upper confluences should be needled.  In the case of deep psychoanalysis, I would begin with Chong Men, SP-12, and then move to ST-30, and on upwards.

As always, these posts are meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you would benefit more by psychoanalysis by needle rather than psychoanalysis by vampire, please seek out a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

 

Him (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 6)

In this comical episode, Dawn, Buffy, Willow, and Anya all fall victim to a love spell associated with a letter jacket worn by a not-quite star quality football player called RJ. The letter jacket had previously affected Xander, when the football player’s older brother had worn the jacket. How the jacket’s effect moved from guys to gals was not explained…  but the switch seems to have even affected Willow.

A recurring word throughout the episode is ‘soul’.  In the opening sequence, Dawn asks Buffy what it means that Spike has his soul now.  Xander had a soul but he still stood Anya up, so having a soul doesn’t make a person ‘good’ or ‘not-hurtful’, she implies.  (Buffy just sips a soft drink, and Dawn rhetorically asks if that is some sort of ‘Zen’ answer to the question.)  Later, the spell-afflicted women of the Buffyverse talk about being able to see into RJ’s ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’.  Willow discusses his heart, which as noted in the previous episode, stores the ‘shen’ or spirit, and can be seen in a person’s eyes.  (The shen is seen in the expression of the eyes, not just the catchlights and clarity of the eyeballs themselves.)

Since the last post treated the relationship of the Heart to the Channel Divergences, and since the Heart stores the shen, or spirit, which is different from the Ling or soul, this post will set out to clarify the various spirits and souls treated in Classical Chinese medicine.

In the cosmological system within which Chinese medicine developed, a human person embodied a Ling, a soul. This very insubstantial yang soul (technically, the Ling is the yin aspect of the ‘Big Shen’) enters the person at conception, being attracted to the substantial jing involved in conceiving a child.  Herbs which help the Kidneys grasp Lung qi are used to aid in conception following this idea.  The soul then has three months to decide whether the particular lineage whose jing it has ‘bonded’ to will suffice it for working out a particular ‘curriculum’ of lessons and development in life. If so, it is born.  If not, it miscarries itself.

Actually, the Ling is sometimes described as a transcendent soul, and the more accessible ‘big shen’ is the focus of internal cultivation.  This idea reflects a yang and yin differentiation within the celestial world. The ‘big shen’ is still more yang than jing, however, and thus the two attract one another, just as the big shen and ling attract one another.

Once the jing begins to develop into an embryonic child, the big shen divides into the five spirits housed in the zang organs. The zang are said to ‘treasure’ the spirits, or act as a treasury in which the spirits are stored; this is why the zang organs are solid, and why spirit points are only associated with the outer bladder line points corresponding to zang, not fu organs. The five spiritual qualities are the ‘little’ shen stored in the Heart, which emerges from the union of qi and blood; the three hun stored in the Liver, who follow the shen but are called back to the body by the quality of its blood; the po, treasured by the Lungs but related to the bones and spine; the intent housed in the treasury of the Spleen; and the will (or will-within-the-will) embodied within the Kidneys.  The will-within-the-will is particularly manifested through the burning and transforming action of the Triple Warmer as it distributes the jing-essence whose prior lineage will furnish the curriculum of the big shen in this life. Finally, the jing-shen, the union of materiality and affect, is carried along by the marrow to the brain, and there in the ‘mudball palace’, a ‘celestial embryo’ is formed: the reconstituted big shen.  The brain in particular is said have a relationship with the intent and will in a similar manner to the hun having a relationship to blood:  As long as the will and intent are present, so also will be the soul.  When the will and intention to move through life depart, the soul will soon depart as well.  In this final aspect, alchemy has more to say than ‘medicine’ proper.

The various spirits interact with one another, though all are ‘subjects’ of the Heart shen. The hun in particular as said in Ling Shu Chapter 8 (‘Rooted in Spirit’) to follow the comings and goings of the shen. The hun, as reflective and pious, are the personality aspects of the person, and as such must help further the curriculum by attracting and repelling various other types of personalities in the world around oneself.   Ted Kaptchuk notes that when healthy, the Hun doesn’t want anything different from what is.  The character is composed of ‘ghost’ and ‘clouds’, the clouds which follow and follow from heaven in its turnings.  Dang Gui is particularly associated with the hun.

The po, on the other hand, tend to work on disrupting the curriculum; or rather, they help provide the obstacles which will develop the shen’s capacity to rule in sublime tranquility, as befits the imperial office it holds in the person. The po, being associated with the jing, are also the ‘debts’ of a lineage which the person or the person’s shen has the capacity and destiny to rectify in this particular incarnation.  They do, however, provide the basic impulse of life and growth.  Ted Kaptchuk notes the concept of po describes what animates us, reflexively rather than voluntarily; the po are driven and instinctual, very complete, all encompassing, and related to basic aspects of survival.  Etymologically, the character is composed of ‘ghost’ and ‘white’.  The white in this case reflects the moon, and the earliest characters indicate the po are related to lunar phases — the phases of the moon indicating the proper times of planting, harvesting, and growth.  Hu Po is especially associated with the po; its name actually means ‘tiger’s soul’, but it is used not to promote aggression, but to centre the person.

RJ’s jacket works on the level of the hun:  although it seems to evoke libido, a po-associated reactivity and ‘impulse to survive’, in reality it strengthens one of the three worms in the blood which gnaw at the hun’s capacity for piety towards one’s friends.  This sort of libido is best treated through LV-5, ‘wormwood canal’, as I have had occasion to mention in previous episodes.  An alternate treatment might look at the relation of the Liver and Lungs, and harmonise those two organs, perhaps through the diaphragm or a formula which focuses on healing the ribcage (as the site or boney cavity in which the two organs interact).

A martial arts formula for cracked ribs includes dan shen as the imperial herb of the formula, qing pi, chen pi, mo yao, zhi shi, xiang fu, chuan lian zi, chai hu, and lu lu tong as deputies, and mu xiang and yan hu suo as assistants.  (Decoct, take 1 cup twice a day for three to four days.  Do not take if the rib has actually punctured the lung organ, or if there is internal bleeding, or if the person is pregnant or nursing.)  The formula clearly has more LV related herbs to move the qi and blood, but it includes chen pi, which goes to the Lungs, and chuan lian zi, which is used for removing parasites from the blood.

The little shen, stored in the heart, is  very space and time dependant.  Kaptchuk relates it to the Heart:  like the HT meridian, the shen concerns being present to do the right thing at right time in the right cultural context.  It’s image is of an altar and one of the ‘heavenly stems’.  Many herbs treat the shen, but the method of treatment depends on the aim:  to revive the shen, to anchor it, to calm it, to settle it, to promote it.  E Jiao can help ‘restick’ the shen; Fu Ling can help calm it; long gu can help anchor it.  Any herb which will treat both qi and blood, or rather help harmonise them, will impact the shen, as the shen emerges from their union.

The Big Shen or Ling is, again following Kaptchuk, the capacity for self-directed cultivation of virtue.  This capacity for self-cultivation is the combined capacities of each of the five ‘little shen’ working together.  Herbs listed in the Shen Nong Ben Cao as ‘increasing virtue’ are oriented towards nourishing the Ling.  Ling Zhi (Reishi mushroom) is perhaps the most well known.  (ReiKi is actually the Japanese translation of ‘Ling Qi’.)

Since I have treated the various spirits and wills of the body in previous posts, I will not spend time detailing treatments particular to each here.  If you or a loved one wish to pursue further study in concepts of Ancient Chinese Religion, I would refer you to the primary source material in the Huai Nan Zi, and to Christopher Schiffer or Livia Kohn’s research on the topic.  The article ‘Han Thanatology’, as well as works treating the Ma Wang Dui banners are other sources of information.

Happy Slayage!

Selfless (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 5)

Anya’s vengeance demon activities have returned to their old verve, and she wreaked justice upon a fraternity with a spider demon which had a particular taste for ripping out men’s hearts. Buffy goes to take care of the situation, and puts a sword through Anya’s chest.  Vengeance demons aren’t killed that way, though, and the sword through Anya’s own heart hurt, but did not kill her (technically, the swordthrust looks like it would have pierced the aorta, not the heart, but maybe vengeance demon anatomy is different from human anatomy).

Vengeance, however, is no longer so captivating to Anya. After her break up with Xander (who in my opinion is a total asshole and deserves his own heart slowly eaten out while he remains fully conscious), Anya reverted to the state in life she was in before she met him.  She couldn’t make it that way again, but neither did she have a business in the human world to return to, the Magic Box having been destroyed by Willow. That business was her ‘human’ side, and while not based on Xander’s presence, was very much tied in to their relationship dynamics.  Anya decides to ask D’Hofferan to reverse her vengeance wish, which demands the life of a vengeance demon.  Anya accepts the cost, expecting to be wiped out of existence, her dilemma solved.  Instead, D’Hofferan executes Halfrek, leaving Anya virtually friendless.  In the end, Anya asks Xander, ‘what if there is no me?’ — a question many ask when the pain of a break-up does not subside, despite attempts to ‘make it’ in the world outside.

While Anya may not have lost herself, she is no longer in touch with her own heart. Xander did a more exacting job of extracting it than any spider-demon could have hoped to match.  (In the side plot, we also see Spike’s own heart-wrenching manipulation by the first evil, who appears to him as Buffy, trying to comfort him and soothe him to her side, knowing his heart is the key to his soul.)

So what do we do? Again, I will defer actual treatment with the CDs to talk about a unique aspect of the Channel Divergences, and draw out the implications of that aspect for understanding the physiology of the CDs.  The unique aspect is that unlike any other channel system, all the Channel Divergences go to, or through, the heart.  Other individual meridians within the other channel systems (EVs, luo mai, primary channels, sinew vessels) may go to the Heart, such as the heart and small intestine primary meridians, but here all the channels of the Channel Divergence system connect with that organ.

To review some of the functions of the Heart in Chinese Medicine, in terms of how its qi is used in treatment:

The heart ‘vaporises’ phlegm.  In contrast to the Kidneys which soften phlegm, or the Lungs which expel it, or the Spleen which transforms it, the Heart just causes it to disappear.  Phlegm is a clouding of potential, so that beyond being burdensome out of unfulfillment, it thickens and becomes difficult to realise.  This can happen paradoxically because desire to succeed is frustrating potential (heat thickening phlegm), or more frequently because cold reception to one’s talents congeals one’s potential.  In both cases, the phlegm can be seen as a type of bi-syndrome inasmuch as it is a blockage caused by heat/cold combining with damp/phlegm in the face of change/ wind.  The CDs, as mentioned already, are particularly effective for treating bi-syndrome.  One could posit this is due to their unique relationship with the Heart.

The Heart stores the shen. The shen is here to direct the rectification of a lineage through the body and life of the patient.  The shen has its own lessons to learn and its own destiny to fulfill.  In their capacity to treat form, rather than function, the CDs may be useful for phlegm nodules.  Looked at another way, CDs treat blockages to the realisation or embodiment of the function of one’s spirit, that is, of one’s ‘curriculum’ in life.  For this reason, CDs are sometimes used when a patient presents a very confusing case.  Often the issue is a blocking of the expression of a patient’s joy in being able to effect their destiny or spirit’s inner knowledge of who they really are.

The Heart controls the mai.  ‘Mai’ can mean vessels, and thus by implication, the luo mai and the mai which undergird the extraordinary vessels are controlled by the Heart.  I’ve earlier mentioned how the luo mai embody emotions, and how the EVs deal with existential or ‘karmic’ issues in a person’s life.  Here, the Heart and CDs are again involved in regulating the relationship of perception, reception, and feeling to the form of one’s life.  ‘Mai’ also means pulse, and perhaps therefore the ‘pulse’ of life can be regulated by the CDs as well.  Is someone burning the candle at both ends?  On too fast a track?  Stuck?  Going at an excruciating pace?  Perhaps a CD treatment is called for.

Overall, the implication of the CD trajectory through the heart is the idea that the heart-shen-mai mediates between jing-essence-lineage-destiny and wei-defence-exterior-change.  If the body cannot defend against some pathogen or some entity which is capable of damaging the body, the CDs are called in to raise that lineage-destiny to in an effort to sequester the harm.  However, in the process, the resources to embody and pass on that destiny (jing), or to feel it (blood), or to find satisfaction (fluids) in it, is used up.  Burn out is a Channel Divergence issue.

When the Heart is thought of as the Self, we can then treat Anya’s search for herself.  I would suggest going through each of the CDs in sequential or reverse order.  Let each elemental pair find its way back to the Heart, to remind Anya of how her form is capable of living out her character.  In this regard, the Channel Divergences become the key channel system for the confluence of internal and external alchemy.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or loved one are suffering from burn-out or blockages from insults to the form of your character and desire, please seek a qualified practitioner.  As always, Happy Slayage!

Help (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 4)

Welcome to Buffy’s first week of actually interacting with the students! In this episode, we are treated to a variety of student problems, from the real and serious (a student whose older brother has joined the Marines during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2002) to the surreptitious (a student who says he thinks he’s gay proposes that Buffy go on a date with him to disprove his feelings) and the amusing (Dawn sees her counsellor to complain how Dawn’s older sister steals her clothing). The principle focus, however, is on Cassie, a beautiful girl who writes poetry, creates art, speaks eloquently, and has a sincere presence. She also ‘knows’ things, and something she knows is that she will die the following Friday. The rest of the episode sees Buffy and the Scoobies trying to untangle the mystery of how she’ll die.

(Willow uses the term ‘pre-cog’ to describe Cassie, a reflection of high school and college abbreviation of terms like ‘pre-cal’ for pre-calculus, or here, ‘pre-cognitive’. However, I like to think of the term as being analogous to Pink Floyd’s ‘Brick in the Wall’ — a ‘cog in the machine’. Cassie is ‘pre-cog’ in that she hasn’t been molded to fit the machinery of society yet.)

Unfortunately, although Buffy manages to disrupt a demon-summoning group of students, and even catches a crossbow bold before it strikes Cassie, Cassie still dies. It turns out a heart condition ran in her family. The final scene shows the Scoobies on the couch, mourning the death of this beautiful girl. Buffy asks the question, ‘What do you do when you can’t help?’

That will be the topic of today’s post. How does Chinese medicine know when it cannot help, and what does the practitioner — or patient — do then?

First, I want to stress that this post is not about how Chinese medical practitioners know when to refer their patients to biomedical or other medicine practitioners for treatment.  Rather, the focus is just within the scope of the Chinese medical tradition’s diagnostic and prognostic paradigm.

In some medical traditions, learning how to identify what diseases and conditions can be treated and which are terminal is the first lesson a medical student studies.  The quintessence trantras of Tibetan Medicine, for example, put it as the second lesson, after a cosmological introduction to the medical tradition.  (‘The whole world is a garden of medicine if prepared properly’, is the short version of that cosmology.)  Chinese medicine, though, has its references to death as a prognosis scattered throughout its medical texts.  In general, however, the the patient’s pulse, hara, and shen tell the practitioner whether the patient will live or die.

The most commonly understood pulse pattern indicative of death is a separation of yin and yang.  This happens in terminally ill patients as they approach their final days.  However, Cassie would not have had such a pulse; rather, in her case, the Heart or Pericardium pulses would have felt different.  In Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, an area on the wrist just to the side of the HT pulse is related to diagnosing the quality of the heart valves.  The practitioner in this case, could make note of it, send the patient for biomedical measurements, and then work as part of a team to address the underlying issue.

With hara diagnosis, even if a patient has stopped breathing or is turning blue, if a stirring near the umbilicus can still be felt, there is hope the patient will live.  The ‘moving qi’ between the kidneys is still active, and can still deliver the necessary qi to the organs and spirits of the patient.  If this moving qi is absent, the prognosis leans towards death.

The shen, or affect, is also a means for assessing whether a disease can be treated.  If the shen and qi does not correspond to the patient’s bodily form, the Jia Yi Jing states, the prognosis is death.

So what happens if the patient is going to die and medicine can not cure them?  Is there nothing medicine can offer besides pain-killers?  (As a side note, Chinese Medicine avoids the use of opiates as pain-killers, and instead relies on qi moving medicinals like Yan Hu Suo, Wu Ling Zhi, and San Qi, none of which impair mental functioning.)

In Cassie’s case, she is resigned to dying early; but this does not mean she gave up on living, nor did she try to rush her life experiences before their proper time.  In a moving monologue, Cassie tells Buffy that Cassie would like to fall in love, go backpacking, see the Mona Lisa… but she knows it will not happen.  She knows she must live her life as it comes to her, and right then, she was in high school, dividing her time between her parent’s houses.  She was cultivating the life she had then.  Her self-cultivation took the form of introspective poetry, expressive artwork, and an online gallery in which to feature it.  She cultivated a world that would outlive her.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in these posts, the highest calling of Chinese Medicine is on the cultivation of destiny.  If a technique allows a person to continue completing their relationship obligations to family, to themselves, and to the world; if it helps them honour or hone their talents, even when life is ebbing away, Medicine still has a place.  For many, that place is called hospice care.  Acupuncture has a place here.  Points used to comfort the dying include BL-62, CV-17, Yin Tang, and Du-23.  PC-6, HT-5, and LU-7 are also useful to open the heart and free the tongue, to work through grief into acceptance.  ST-25 (Heavenly Pivot) and various Kidney points are also commonly used to move the metal-qi of death into the stillness of water.

In the past, most people died through the metal meridian:  Lung conditions and Large Intestine (dysentery, cholera) conditions were rampant.  Now, people die through other meridians, often HT and PC for men; PC and LV for women.  Following five-phase and six-channel theory, expression through Tai Yang and out into the world (and proper closing off of some outer-worldy factors), or a movement to experience joy would be recommended for PC and LV cases (as, for example in various gynecological cancers).  A gathering to earth and society is the energetic movement to aim for in cardiac cases.  This was how Cassie herself achieved the serenity — a sad serenity, to be sure — that she did.  She focused on friends, even when she knew some, like Dawn, had initially become friends with her just to keep an eye out or get more information.

It is the role of the practitioner to know and understand when each of these movements is the next step on the patient’s path, and to arrange for support in guiding the patient there as necessary.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one feel that Chinese Medicine may provide a means to helping make peace with life and death, please see a qualified practitioner.

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