As you were (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 15)

This episode features the unexpected return:  Riley comes back to Sunnydale… with his wife.  Buffy meets the wife after Riley and Buffy together dispatch a rather neckless demon.  (Buffy accidentally killed the demon, which was supposed to have been captured alive.)  Meanwhile, Riley also finds the rogue Hostile (Spike) he’d been looking for in Season 4, but it’s his turn to be surprised:  he finds Buffy in bed with Spike. Riley has the option to kill Spike, if Buffy wanted — but Buffy says no.

Despite Buffy’s own lack of confidence in herself, having gone from Superhero to Burgerworker (the burger smell Buffy has acquired from work is referenced once or twice, while Dawn seems to have lost her appetite), Riley makes a pointed observation:  the wheel of her fortunes may be turning up and down, but she is still the same Buffy.  That simple statement seems to restore some of Buffy’s own sense of herself.  At the end of the episode, Buffy has found the strength to end her relationship with Spike, graciously calling him William, his human name.   (Halfrek also called Spike William in the previous episode — Halfrek having been the woman William-Spike was in love with before he became a vampire).

It can take years to get over someone — one year, two years, three.  Sometimes never in one life, as Halfrek demonstrated when she recognised William in last week’s episode, and after all those years (and the impossibility of them ever getting together now) primped her hair.  (I’m sure Halfrek might agree:  Better no guy than the wrong guy.  The question is, how do you know it is or was the wrong guy?)

Closure, the ability to consolidate one’s resources and direct qi to healing the body is sometimes necessary.  At a certain point, however, it is important to redirect qi to flow naturally between the emotions of life according to the harmony of the seasons.   Qi can all too easily get stuck.  Sometimes in the du mai, but mroe often in soft tissue:  the neck, as one closes up perception to the world; and in the diaphragm, as one holds one’s breath in anticipation of the next blow that might come.  Or perhaps some event has knocked the wind out of a patient — again, diaphragmatic paralysis.  Occasionally, trauma shows up in the pudendal nerve where the adductors meet the pubic ramus.  The sinews in a certain sense, represent simplicity in life.  As conduits of wei qi, the show us areas in which our automatic responses have become detrimental to the spontaneity of movement which characterises the sage.  All these will be touched on by today’s sinew treatment, as they must be freed before a sinew treatment will have its full effect.

What shall we diagnose?  Since Buffy killed a rather neckless demon by twisting its neck, I think this is an appropriate time to discuss something I’ve been leaving out: neck and sinew releases.  I’ve left it out because I rarely do it in an acupuncture session.  On the other hand, it is something I almost always do in bodywork — though it is sometimes the last thing to do, as the body makes its adjustments in posture from the ground up.

Why is the neck release important for sinew vessels?  Because the pathway of wei qi moves to ming men downwards from the lungs and tan zhong, and upwards along the du mai.  We’ve already discussed how the du mai can be released by cupping at Du-4 and Du-14, and blockages along the path can be rectified by thread moxa in the intervetebral areas.  The internal pathway of wei qi is released through the neck.  This can be done by the ‘Windows to the Sky’ points, or by actual sinew releases of the neck.  These sinew releases can be similar to chiropractic high-velocity thrust adjustments, or more subtle shiatsu and thai massage stretches.  The goal is to release the muscles of the neck, particularly the scalenes, omohyoid, and colli longus muscles.  Releasing the colli longus may have a positive effect on the esophagus and digestive system.  Remember, the digestive system functions through wei qi.  Digestion is an automatic response; wei qi lacks consciousness.

The deep front line of fascia has a strong relation to certain Tai Ji philosophies of movement.  In some styles of Tai Ji, all movement originates in the ming men, circling around the dai mai and upwards to the point Tan Zhong.  The arms and legs are like the ripples on a pond which come only after the ming men moves, like the rock which creates those ripples.  To achieve this freedom of movement, the kua, or inguinal region, must remain relaxed.  The ming men as it connects to the dai mai in the front and the back should be the focus of awareness, and the folding hinge of the diaphragm must be given priority when flexing and extending the spine.

The myofascial correlates of this system follow the Deep Front Line of Tom Meyer’s Anatomy Trains, which I’ve referenced before:  the psoas and adductors (the ‘kua’ of the inguinal/ hip joint, which must remain relaxed during the horse stance in tai ji and most other martial arts), through the crura of the diaphragm (which, meeting the psoas is the point of awareness of the ming men meeting the dai mai, especially when the transverse abdominis is engaged) upwards to the pericardium and the fascia of both the posterior sternum and the anterior thoracic vertebrae, and onwards to the neck.  At the neck, the scalenes, omohyoid, and longus colli and capitus muscles lead the deep front line of fascia onto the cranium (masseter, temporalis).  Releasing the neck thus can have an effect on freeing the flow of wei qi that has become trapped in the interior.

Will a sinew treatment help Spike?  Will it alter Buffy’s own sense of desire?  Not necessarily.  The limits of wei qi are that although wei qi is autonomous, it can be brought under conscious control only through cultivation.  Ying qi and blood contain consciousness.  The herbal formula Gui Zhi Tang, because of its dual combination of gui zhi and bai shao, on the one hand, and da zao and sheng jiang on the other, harmonises the relationship between wei qi and ying qi, between desire and automatic response.  The other way to bring wei qi under conscious control, of course, is through the regular, attentive practice of qi gong, nei gong, or tai ji.

Sometimes, though, the ‘cure’ can come externally, and wei qi can lead ying qi back to the source:  Riley’s observation freed up the restraint, diaphragmatic blockage, Buffy was holding, letting the wei qi finally connect once again with her Ming Men, her gate of destiny.  Be careful of your words.  They do have the power to impact the flow of qi.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel you may benefit from the sinew releases of the neck, please see a qualified practitioner.  For massage therapists interested in these techniques, I would refer you to Tom Meyer’s Anatomy Trains, particularly his DVD and courses on the Deep Front Line specifically.

Happy Slayage!

I was made to love you (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 15)

The ‘B’ plot of Season 5 which will become the ‘A’ plot of Season Six enters in this episode.  Did anyone else notice how everyone seemed to be smiling much more than usual during the first two-thirds of the show?  Was this a set up for the final scene?

Warren, a former Sunnydale High classmate who went to a nearby Tech school, created a robot to love him.  She shows up in Sunnydale looking for the man she was made to love.  Meanwhile, Spike tries to get in good with the Scoobies by showing up at The Magic Shop, but Giles tells him to move on from his — whatever it is — that he feels for Buffy.  Although Buffy and the Scoobies eventually disable Warren’s robot, towards the end of the episode, Spike shows up and commissions the now famous ‘Buffybot’.  At the very end of the show, Buffy discovers her mother’s lifeless body.

So it seems Spike is still obsessed.  Perhaps our treatment in episode 14 wasn’t successful. Perhaps instead of obsession we should have treated Spike for excess sexual arousal, a Liver luo issue. (Clearly, we could have treated puffy Xander for ‘drum distention’ in this episode.)  Before I differentiate Liver and Spleen luo physiology, let’s look at the symptoms of Liver luo pathology a bit more closely.

In depletion of the Liver luo, symptoms include itching of the genitals; this can also be interpreted as ‘itching to get laid’ in colloquial speech.  In repletion, persistent erection is the key sign — a lack of satisfaction in terms of metaphorical interpretation, priapism (due to an overdose of herbs like Lu Jiao, for example) in terms of actual physical signs.  In counterflow of the Liver luo vessel, swelling of the testicles (and thus perhaps also vulvadinia) is the result.  This can happen in the case of ‘blue balls’ (or ‘pink ovaries’), or the orchitis can be comorbid with other conditions, such as mumps.  Spike seems to have a replete Liver collateral vessel.

Therefore, the luo point of the Liver, located one third of the way up the medial aspect of the tibia, at the notch, should be bled.  This point is called ‘Woodworm Canal’, and is today numbered as LV-5 (or LR-5 for people whose handwriting makes ‘V’ and ‘U’ look similar).

So what is the physiology of the Liver luo? What does it regulate, exactly, and how? In the case of the Liver luo, we see a convergence of an acupuncture system focused on the blood, emotions, and hun, with an organ system traditionally said to store the blood.  At night, the blood returns to the Liver, allowing the hun-ethereal souls-personality to wander about, while providing a yin anchor to which they can return.  The Liver is not ordinarily associated with reproductive functions in men, although the trajectory of both the primary channel and the collateral vessel both pass through the genitals.  Despite this trajectory, neither are associated with jing-essence (semen in men, menstrual fluid in women).

The name of LV-5, woodworm canal, does provide a clue.  The body is said to have three worms in it, as I’ve detailed in other posts.  The blood serves to contain them.  When the blood in the channel is not sufficient to keep them contained, the body begins to ‘itch’ with desire, greed, or ignorance.  The hun have a difficult time keeping the worms contained.  When replete, the implication is that the worms have multiplied to such an extent the blood has had to also increase to keep them contained — or the balance between them is disrupted to the point that they are not receiving the bare minimum they need to keep the physiology of the system functioning; they are not receiving their ‘satisfaction’.

The Liver luo, in other words, functions to provide the proper channeling of the three worms — into one’s lineage, if necessary.  The LV luo is the last before the luo vessels begin to empty into the extra-ordinary vessels.  This is the principle link the LV has with jing-essence, so it may be that a dysfunction in the LV luo is an effort to produce an heir to the lineage who will not inherit whatever pathology has been going deeper into the parent’s system…

For herbal treatment of Liver luo pathophysiology, we have many options to choose from.  LV blood is one of the most commonly addressed blood issues in the clinic. Any number of formulae can address it — but how to focus it on the LV luo, and disperse qi, wind, or blood from the genitals, while also taking a clue about worms from the point LV-5 is another matter.  Bai Tou Weng treats swollen or itchy testicles, and would therefore be a useful guiding herb for LV luo depletion and counterflow, as would Yin Yang Huo (but do not use Yin Yang Huo in cases of priapism).  When used over a long period of time, Bai Tou Weng tends to elicit anger, and has been used to treat Liver yang deficiency.

Wu Ling San with Wu Yao added treats blue balls, and thus is a good option for counterflow in the Liver luo.  Any of the above herbs can be added to Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan or Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang to move blood in the lower warmer.

I have not recently come across any specific herb to treat persistent erection, although I have encountered such properties in my reading.  In such a case, I might use herbs to relax blood vessels, and would consider a formula such as Gui Zhi jia Shao Yao Tang.  If anyone has other suggestions for such a case, please leave a comment below.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you know anyone with a persistent erection, or erection lasting more than four to six hours, please see a qualified health care practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!


This Year’s Girl (Buffy Season 4, Episode 15)

As if Adam were not enough to deal with, this is the episode in which Faith awakes from a coma and wreaks havoc, for a short time, in Sunnydale.  Meanwhile Riley struggles for clarity about his place in the Initiative.  A haunting soundtrack wafts in and out of the episode, binding the scenes together.

Despite the evocative music, Riley, Buffy, and Faith could all benefit from a little bit of acupuncture and herbal medicine philosophy.

Riley’s case is fairly straightforward.  Both the Small Intestine and Bladder organ systems are said to separate the clear from turbid, the pure from the impure.  While this can be read on a purely physical level of separating out liquids from solids, it can also be broadened to clarifying aspects of one’s life more generally. Both the BL and SI belong to TaiYang, and their ability to separate clear form unclear is tied to TaiYang’s role in opening to the exterior:  what should be kept, and what should be released?  What should be kept from getting in, and what should pass through the lived experience of the body harmoniously?  Note this is different from the ShaoYang’s pivotal role in decision making as such.  Riley is perfectly capable of executing decisions.  He can turn one way or the other.  What is lacking is clarity — Riley doesn’t like grey areas.   Physiologically, one could say that to reach the ShaoYang level, one must pass inwards from TaiYang.

From another perspective, though, because the LV jueyin is involved in clarifying blood, one might consider some LV-PC points, too.  After all, jueyin is the last stage before yin reverts to yang — to TaiYang, specifically.  Thus, the LV and PC have a mutual interaction with SI and BL function.  Both the SI and PC remove excess heat from the heart; both the LV and BL are engaged in processes of clarification.  The LV stills things for clear reflection; the BL expresses them outwards, while retaining what is essential.  The BL grasps, while the LV holds.

For Riley, I would use the points SI-5 — good for clarifying direction in life.  It’s name (‘Yang Ravine’) is indicative of bringing clear yang-transformative aspects  to the yin-turbidity of one’s thoughts.  As a river point (or more accurately, a ‘warp’ or ‘meridian’ point), it is said to ‘phase’ — it is the same character used in the term ‘five elements’ or ‘five phases’, except used as a verb.  They are said to promote proper movement of qi, and treat cases of change in voice.  In order to link it with internal consolidation of blood, I might pair it with either PC-8 or LV-2, both ying-spring points.  With PC-8, I would expect clarity to return to the heart.  Alternately, pairing it with BL-60, the jing-point of the BL channel, the focus would be on clearing the entire length of the TaiYang channel, particularly the head.

Herbally, Riley might benefit from Qu Mai, Xuan Shen, and Bi Xie or Fang Feng.  Bi Xie helps retain clear fluids, while flushing out pathogenic water — Fang Feng releases the exterior and is specific for damp patterns; Qu Mai drains heat from the Heart through the SI and BL; Xuan Shen can be used for those going through a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.  I would consider adding Xi Xian Cao.  Together the four herbs retain yin and consolidate blood in the LV; expel heat and clarify the SI; and release the exterior to purge dampness.

Buffy could use some Zhi Mu, whose name means ‘Remember Mother’ — but not in excess, since used over time it can actually injure the yin.  Faith diagnosed Buffy as having a ‘better than thou’ LV-LU excess of virtue, in which the LV’s benevolence meets the LU’s justice assimilated too closely to a sense of self (KD) or projected outwards towards society in general (SP).  To clarify these relationships more exactly, a pulse diagnosis would be helpful.

Finally, there’s Faith.  Her wildly unsettled shen makes me think that HT-8 or PC-8 would be a good bet for her — and interestingly enough, the device which Faith uses to switch bodies with Buffy covers both those points.  What is the nature of those points for the channels on which they appear?

As Wang and Robertson note in Applied Channel Theory, ying spring points in general mildly tonify yin-blood and clear deficient heat, and are used when changes in a patient’s complexion can be observed.  They clear deficient heat by bringing up the yin to regulate the yang; in the process affecting the complexion.  They can be used to generate the associated yin-fluids of the organ.  The general name of PC-8, Ying Gong (‘Ying-qi palace’) broadly reflects this idea.  Needling technique should reflect these qualities, and a gentle, shallow insertion, followed by light twirling will engage the nature of the point and its functions.

Yin channel ying-spring points are fire points.  As such they can also tonify both the fire- and earth- associated channels and organs.  They tonify the fire-related organs by bringing to bear more substance to anchor the fire and upwards movement of those organs, much like a flame is anchored to a glowing coal.  They tonify the earth-associated channels by moistening fire so that it can transform into earth; or to use the analogy again, they provide some yin-substance to form that coal which will ultimately transform to earthy-ash.  More to the point, the movement of fire is upwards; Faith had stated she feels like she’s stuck in tar pits and sinking deeper every day.  Spontaneous and unfettered movement in her life was disrupted, and something whose nature upbears would restore that movement.  (I might consider Ge Gen Tang for her case.)

HT-8, as a fire point of a fire organ can be seen as the natural ‘home’ of the Heart — and thus also of consciousness.  Its name, Shao Fu (‘Lesser Fu/ Storehouse’), as Ellis, Wiseman, and Boss point out, is reflective of this capacity.  PC-8, on the other hand, is associated with ghosts — it is named both ‘ghost cave’ and ‘ghost road’ in other texts.  A perfect entry point for a magical device that seeks to replace a body’s normal consciousness with an alien one.

PC-8 and HT-8 together on Faith also have a role to play when we turn from point energetics to the spiritual qualities these two channels, as channels, govern.  The Heart governs the Mai, which store the Shen (affect, consciousness); the Hun (personality) is stored in the Blood, which is stored in the jueyin LV — and the PC is the jueyin channel which gives the Hun access to the Heart and the residence of the Shen.  JueYin Men, the ‘spirit point’ of the PC, located on the lateral bladder line, can be thought of as that gate.  In this episode, however, we see that another crossing point would be to thread a needle through these two points — the Ghost Cave (‘ghost’ shares the same signific radical with ‘hun’) and the Shen’s lesser residence.

Turning to an overall diagnosis or etiology for the case of Faith, she has two pathological sources for her unsettled shen.  First, Faith was continually dumped or engaged in a competition of exploitation — by her family, by a watcher, by her father figures, and Buffy… Second, she was in a coma for months.  Both factors could possibly have led to cold in PC and HT, constricting its proper expression, and ultimately turning to a very severe, though likely deficient (from loss of blood, movement, etc) heat.  I have treated one person who was in an induced coma with these two points, and suddenly his presence was much more clear and cognizant, at least while the needles were in.  I only did that treatment on him once; would that I could have repeated it as a regular treatment, to see how long those effects would take in order to effect a lasting change.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel Acupuncture or Chinese medicine may be helpful to you or someone you know, please seek out a qualified practitioner.  Happy slayage!