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!

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Dead Things (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 13)

A very nicely put together episode, which only gets richer with the second and third viewings.  With this episode, the season really begins to develop the arch-villains’ descent into crime and true villainy, moving from theft to murder and the struggle to conceal a body.  Warren has invented a device called  a ‘cerebral dampener’, which can make any woman (or maybe for Andrew’s sake, any person) a slave to the user of the device.  Warren uses it on his ex-girlfriend Katrina, who instead of walking away from Warren in disgust, now refers to him as ‘Master’.  What the Trio doesn’t realise is that the dampener’s effects are only temporary.

As for the Scoobies, Buffy isn’t around much these days, spending all her time working or visiting Spike.  The episode opens with Buffy and Spike having a post-coital real conversation.  Spike asks Buffy how she sees him, that is, ‘What am I to you?’.  Later he comes to Buffy in the Bronze and says, ‘you see them, but always end up in the dark with me.’  The rest of the episode follows up on Buffy and Spike’s relationship through the use of unintentional innuendos on the part of Buffy’s interlocutors.  Xander, for example, points out that Buffy looks pounded (just around the eyes).  Meanwhile, the other Scoobies are all preparing for Xander and Anya’s upcoming nuptials.  Dawn is learning how to waltz, but Buffy seems to be all two left feet.

The plot lines of the Scoobies and the Trio intersect after Warren accidentally kills his ex-girlfriend Katrina.  She came to her senses when Warren was about to make her give him a blow-job.  Karina calls Warren’s scheme for what it is:  rape.  As she walked up the stairs to leave the villains’ lair, Warren attempts to knock her out with a champagne bottle, but accidentally kills her.  Needing to dispose of the body, Warren then uses a combination of disguised Jonathan, the dampener, and a summoned demon to make Buffy think she killed Katrina.  The presence of this particular species of demon alters human perception of time.  Initially, Buffy was stuck in some sort of time-loop (again — clearly the Wei Mai remain a touch diseased in our Slayer), but once Buffy thinks she killed Katrina (‘I killed her’), the time loop stops.  (Spike helps.)  After a night of dreams and a good-bye to Dawn, Buffy goes to the police.  At the station, she overhears the identity of the deceased, and guesses it was Warren who set things up.

So an episode with some darker elements:  some direct talk with Spike at the beginning, Buffy with Spike at the Bronze, and Katrina calling Warren’s scheme for what it is — rape.  Then there’s the closing scene with Tara, who tells Buffy she’s come back normal, just with a slight molecular suntan — forcing Buffy to look at why she treats Spike the way she does, and choose between two options:  love, or simple usefulness.   (Again, Tara is perhaps my favourite character of the series; Amber Benson really gave the character a powerful presence).

Rape, resistance, and will are all themes treated in this rather rich episode.

Sinew Vessel Diagnosis

First, let’s treat a sinew vessel, get a simple diagnosis out of the way before digging deeper into the above themes.  As in last week’s episode, this week Buffy’s legs are once again not working.  She isn’t paralysed, though.  She’s just having difficulty learning the synchronised dance steps with Xander and Dawn.  Later Anya, Willow and Xander at the Bronze do some swing dancing, and again, Buffy doesn’t join them (she does get busy with Spike, though).  What sinew vessels control fully body coordination?

The Jue Yin channel is concerned with paralysis; its pair is Shao Yang, usually associated with external rotation.  Tai Yang impels a person forward; Yang Ming allows them to stop.  The Shao Yin and Shao Yang sinew vessels, though, are pivots, allowing the body to rotate to the exterior-yang or the interior-yin.  I would suggest that the Shao Yang sinew vessels coordinate whole body movement, slightly more so than the Shao Yin sinew vessel; twisting movements are almost always external rotations.  My reasoning process relies first on the concept, drawn from Tom Meyer’s idea of ‘anatomy trains’, of band of fascia which spirals across and around the body, allowing external rotation of the trunk (rather than just the limbs, which is a shao-yin channel trajectory).  From the splenius muscles of the neck, through the rhomboids, serratus anterior, external and internal obliques, to the TFL and glutues medius, this band of muscular is the external pivot which helps engage the entire body.  (For more on these fascial networks, see Tom Meyer’s Anatomy Trains.)  The idea can be critiqued by the physiological philosophy of Tai Ji Quan:  the body’s pivot is not an external spiral, necessarily; it is an internal hinge stretching from Bai Hui (Du-20) to Hui Yin (CV-1), and key to its ability to rotate is that the kua, the inguinal ligament and coxal joint, open up (via relaxing the psoas muscle and pudendal nerves).  That would be the domain of ShaoYin.

This is all theory, however.  If we aren’t certain about which sinew vessel may be diseased and are tempted to just go straight to the EVs which integrate the meridians of the body, how do we determine what is going on?   If we want to treat Buffy using only the sinew vessels, rather than go right to the Wei Mai, and the pulse doesn’t give us a clue, what do we do?  The answer, of course, is channel palpation.  The practitioner should press along the trajectories of the channels, finding which one has points which elicit soreness or pain with only mild pressure.  That channel is then the one which should be addressed:  open Du-14 and Du-4 with some gua sha, needle the ‘ah shi’ sore points with a chiselling technique (no more than three points per side, otherwise you risk exhausting the person), and then some moxa or hot needle on the jing well point.  Reassess through range of motion exercises, and if problems persist, prescribe herbal medicine.  Mu Gua is excellent for relaxing tight muscles, while Chai Hu is the carrier herb for the Shao Yang channel.  For Shao Yin, I might think of yuan zhi, but combine it with Qiang Huo to direct its actions to the Foot Shao Yin, while opening up Du-14 and releasing the exterior.

Wei qi, the spirits, and time

In what ways do humans experience of time sequentially, from the perspective of Classical Chinese physiology?  I am going to think aloud, on this first pass through.  Beginning with the spirits, the celestial concepts towards which Han and pre-Han dynasty thinkers sought to pattern individual and social life on earth, is a sound methodology for a Classical approach.  Of the five spirits (po, hun, shen; yi-intent, and zhi-will), the po spirits are associated with automatic reflexes, unconscious reactions.  The Lungs, which contain the po, are an example:  breathing is automatic, though it can be brought into conscious control.  Even more to the point, wei qi is unconscious and automatic, governed by the Lungs and breath, perhaps, but unreflective.  The hun are responsible for perception, and are more reflective than the po, though the hun usually follow the shen-awareness, which is the true source of thoughtful reflection.   Ying-qi contains consciousness and emotion, nourished as it is by the blood and mai-channel-pulse.

The demon in this week’s episode seems to provoke the hun into following the po, by deranging Buffy’s perception away from awareness and reflection and towards automatic reflex.  All she could see or understand was what was happening next, but undifferentiated, disjointed, like the 7 po and 3 hun themselves.  In point of fact, Buffy only comes to see Katrina’s clouded eyes when Buffy is dreaming; sleep is the domain of the heart, the realm of the shen.  It was only then that the shen was able to start the process of linking reflection and perception back to the emotions Buffy was experiencing.

How could the spirits become separated like that,  and what implications does this have for understanding addiction?

Ying qi usually follows wei qi, just as supply lines typically follow military troops, rather than precede them.  So the demon did not unharmonise ying and wei qi; Gui Zhi Tang is not going to work in this case, nor is treating the Liver which harmonises the two qi.  Thinking about terrain is the place to look now.

Wei qi falls in the domain of the sinew vessels, the primary channels (which convey both wei and ying qi), and in part, the Channel Divergences.  The Channel Divergences connect the wei qi and jing levels of the body, usually by sequestering wei qi that has turned against the body by calling upon jing, blood, or body fluids (think auto-immune and inflammatory conditions).

However, wei qi also has an association with time.  The sinew vessels operate along a yearly pattern, with sinew vessels becoming active in turn month by month.  Wei qi also has a daily rhythm.  Wei qi enters CV-17 at night to protect the viscera, allowing for security while a person sleeps (LU-3, LU-1, CV-17 is one protocol for bringing wei qi to the interior at night to promote sleep).  In the morning, wei qi emerges at BL-1 with the opening of the eyes.  Wei qi is thus tied to sleep and vision, or more precisely, to the Sinew Vessels, time, sleep, and vision.

Wei qi homes to CV-17, PC Mu point, entry to HT, centre of chest which is the end point of some sinew vessels; yet it is stimulated with the opening of the eyes, and emerges at Bl-1, the meeting of Yang Qiao Mai and the end of the Tai Yang sinew vessel.  BL-1 is also the upper confluence of the BL-KD channel divergence, which connects the jing level with the wei qi level.  (Note Yang Qiao and Yang Wei meet at SI-10, a Tai Yang point.)

Wei qi relates to automatic perception.  It relates to the lower part of the brain, from Du-14 to Du-16 laterally to GB-12.  As an automatic response, wei qi plays a role in sexual perception and response — in the case of Warren and the Trio, trumping the role of blood and conscious-thinking through of consequences.  It is, in this regard, well suited to be the domain of the po-spirits, whose lifespan stretches really only to the grave; they have little investment in longer consequences than the immediate moment.  If automatic perception and response becomes a problem, the Sinew Vessels, because of their influence over wei qi, are well suited to addressing those issues.

Dang Gui is an excellent herb for issues with time and wei qi, particularly when combined with He Shou Wu.

Extraordinary Vessels, the spirits, and time

If someone could remind me to return to the idea of the EVs, Spirits, and Time, I’d appreciate it.  Tara and Buffy have a conversation in which Tara describes Buffy’s essence as poured back into her body, but the basic cellular make-up was different only in shade — like a ‘sun tan’.  In Chinese medicine, one might rather say, the Ling is the same, but the jing was altered somewhat; which has repercussions for the shen (and thus destiny).  A different nuance must play itself out in her life from now on.

Finally, Buffy reveals her relationship with Spike to Tara.  ‘You always hurt the one you love’ and ‘It is in the nature of humans to destroy what they love most’ are two proverbs which come to mind in Buffy’s situation.  What does Chinese medicine have to say regarding destiny and causing pain towards loved ones?  I’m not sure Chinese medicine or philosophy does have anything to say to this; and the role of the physician is often focused on how a patient receives the environment, rather than how the patient acts within it.  The actions within an environment are the specialty of self-cultivation, a topic I’ve taken up earlier in the series.

As always these posts are meant to be thought provoking means of exploring Chinese physiological concepts.  If you think you may benefit from Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy slayage!

Blood Ties (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 13)

Tired of everyone around her keeping things from her, Dawn decides to break into the magic shop, escorted by Spike.  Finding the Watcher’s Diary kept by Giles, Dawn discovers she’s the Key.  As Giles phrased it,  “The Key is not directly described in any known literature but all research indicates an energy matrix vibrating at a dimensional frequency beyond normal human perception.  … Only those outside reality can see the Key’s true nature.”  Dawn wonders aloud what ‘outside reality’ means.  Spike suggests run of the mill lunatics, but Giles diary adds that  “the key is also susceptible to necromanced animal detection, particularly those of canine or serpentine construct… The monks possess the ability to transform energy, bend reality…”

Rigidity of sense perception is a trait characteristic of the Triple Heater luo vessel, hinted at by the name of its point, ‘Outer Gate’.  The seven upper orifices of perception are sometimes referred to as ‘gates’, but the point also refers to how people let in — or allow out in the form of attention — certain perceptions, while blocking other perceptions.

In the Jia Yi Jing, fullness of the TH luo is indicated by hypertonicity of the elbows:  the person cannot bring things in towards them, nor can they push things near them away.  Depletion of the TH luo, on the other hand, is seen in cases of a complete loss of the use of the elbow:  the person cannot regulate how far or close something should be to their bodies (or perceptions).

Thus, if anyone wants to see the key, they must simply work with the Triple Heater collateral.  This can be done through bloodletting at TW-5 and along the trajectory of the luo mai (as it curves around the forearm to pour into the chest), or, as hinted at by the monks, through meditation, transforming the qi and blood of the meridian and bending it to conform more closely to the jing-shen of the person meditating.  In other words, blood-personality must conform to the essential template of the person as granted by the lineage, but it must also work towards and follow the curriculum necessary for the shen to move freely and spontaneously.  These two aspects are seen in how the material aspect of blood, derived from post-natal qi (in the form of food), is stamped with the red colour, which Han dynasty physicians likened to the seal of the shen within the Heart; and the spiritual component of the Hun-ethereal spirits carried by the blood, which by their nature come and go with the shen, following it around.  If they do not follow the shen, the hun are in rebellion.

I would not, of course, recommend the sort of bloodletting that Dawn takes upon herself in this episode, when she asks her mother and Buffy if the blood flowing from her arms is ‘real’.  Only a few drops obtained from a lancet and wiped away with alcohol, until the blood returns to a solid red colour, is sufficient.  In case of depletion, follow the blood-letting with some moxa on the point.  This will also help stop bleeding (although if bleeding is excessive, use charred jing jie or burnt human hair to clot the blood).

In terms of herbal medicine, not many herbs enter the Triple Heater channel, although several formulas work with the mechanism of the Triple Heater as a whole.  Individual herbs which can be used as envoys include Chai Hu, Xiang Fu, Zhi Zi (and Shan Zhi Zi).

Of the above herbs, Zhi Zi has a particular affinity for the blood. However, it can be quite cold. On the other hand, Xiang Fu is well known for its ability to regulate menstruation and relieve menstrual pain. Therefore, it, too, could potentially function as a blood/ luo related herb.  Xiang Fu is also said to treat ‘cold’ anger, and thus is a more warming herb is needed, I would select Xiang Fu.  (For Glory, I would select Zhi Zi, as she needs a little cooling down and stabilisation.)

Which of the three herbs would also help rigidity of the sense organs in particular,  and what is the physiological effect of each herb? Chai Hu treats the qi, but brightens the eyes. Because it weeds out the old to make room for the new, it allows for seeing new options — perception is widened through taking away extraneous and unhelpful patterns of previous ways of looking at the world.  Zhi Zi drains heat, which in the Buddhist traditions of herbal medicine is roughly synonymous with desire.  Thus, Zhi Zi may free up perception because it takes out egoism and greed from the way a person sees or senses the world. Xiang Fu, as mentioned, is used for cold anger, the sort of anger that is set and unmovable.  With the return of suppleness, qi, and thus perception of alternative ways of expression that anger, can progress.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel you would benefit from the traditions contained within Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

The I in Team (Buffy Season 4, Episode 13)

Here’s a difficult episode in which to find something to diagnose.  Spike has found a new place to call home, a rather spacious crypt.  He makes it clear to Giles that he’s not interested in helping the gang and appears clearly bored by Giles’ efforts to discuss any ‘higher purpose’ in the new script of ‘neutered puppy’ he’s been given to play by the powers that be.  Unfortunately for Spike, his desire to cut his ties with Buffy and hangers-on comes to nought when Spike gets shot with a tracer by Riley’s men. Spike then runs to the Scoobies to have the tracer removed, but it is deeply embedded in his skin and the small set of impromptu surgeons — Willow, Anya, Xander, and Giles — have trouble extracting it.  Eventually the Scoobies remove the tracer and flush it down the toilet, just in the nick of time, much to the chagrin of Riley’s squad.

Western herbal medicine has several drawing salves which can pull toxins and splinters from deep within the skin to the surface, at which point they can be removed.  A frequently used base for such salves is white pine tar.  Chinese medicine also uses pine tar, referred to as Song Zhi, in external plasters.  The Shen Nong Ben Cao notes that Song Zhi treats all types of sores, flat abcesses, itchy scabs, and and eliminates wind and heat.  As such, it makes a good medicinal to help ward off further infections, soothe redness and itchiness, and resolve pus.  Just be careful to shave hair off the area of application first, especially if the pine resin is covered by a bandage.  Otherwise, when the bandage is removed, the patient will also experience the joys of a wax job added to their usual treatment…

Not all sores which are deep rooted are due to the entrance of an external object.  Among those which are due to other factors are ding chuan, “clove sores.”  The famous Tang dynasty physician Hua Tuo limited clove sores to the head, and claimed their etiology was rooted in emotional factors, drunkenness, indulgence in rich and sweet foods, and excessive sexual desire.  The colours of the sores correlate with the five elements, and each has a separate formula for treatment (often containing, as many of Hua Tuo’s formulas do, various heavy metals such as lead and mercury).  Black clove sores, for example, begin by the ear and cause tightness of the jaw.  Hua Tuo recommends soaking Tu Si Zi and Shi Chang Pu in wine and then applying the tincture to the sore.  Supplementation with another formula to nourish the Kidneys — black clove sores are rooted in the Kidney — is then recommended.  For reference, white clove sores develop on the right nostril and are rooted in the Lungs; cyan, rooted in the Liver, develops on the eyes and causes blurriness of vision; yellow on the gums, and is rooted in the Spleen; and red under the tongue, causing difficult urination and difficult speech, and is rooted in the Heart.

Since Spike would develop a clove sore due to external injury, however, we needn’t go into Hua Tuo’s prescriptions in more detail.  Instead, Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin, ‘Five Ingredient Drink to Eliminate Toxin’ is one formula which can be used to resolve what are currently called clove sores.  This prescription is composed of the toxin clearing herbs jin yin hua (unopened honeysuckle flower), pu gong ying (dandelion leaf), zi hua di ding (violet leaves and flowers), ye ju hua (wild chrysanthemum), and tian kui zi (semiaqualegia root), with the addition of a small amount of rice wine to the decoction.  I might add Huang Qi to the formula, which also treats hard to heal sores, partially because its focus is on the exterior and wei qi.  Huang qi thrusts outwards, moving toxins to the surface in cases of ulcerations.  In combination with Jin Yin Hua, it can also nourish the blood to expel wind toxins which have accumulated and begun to fester into fire toxicity.

Acupuncture in such cases might focus on addressing the underlying complaints — heat in the blood, wind in the skin — though herbal medicine, both internal and external, is preferred.  It would be interesting to see if treating the cutaneous region of the opposite side of the body using a plum-blossom or seven-star needle would be effective.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you have a non-healing sore and wish to treat it with herbal medicine, please seek out a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!