Storyteller (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 16)

Andrew takes the driver’s seat in this episode, documenting the Slayer’s life and team for future posterity.  Buffy, however, figures out that Andrew is key to closing the seal of Danzalthar.  She takes him to the seal and makes him believe that she will sacrifice him in order to close the seal.  Buffy’s goal, though, was to get Andrew to recognise his mistakes and own up to them.  Andrew’s tears not only redeem himself, they also effectively close the seal.

The question of tears and the fluid mechanics of the Channel Divergences seems an appropriate topic to associate with this episode.  I’ve already traced the mechanics of several confluences as they seek to maintain the latency of a pathogen in the body.

The body first draws on the jing stored in the Extraordinary Vessels before moving onto the blood associated with mu-alarm points.  Jing is transmuted into blood through association with post-natal qi.  From there, blood supports the fluids of the Stomach which bathe the upper orifices and allow perception to enter the Heart.

The Stomach, according to the Ling Shu, masters blood; in the CD system, the Stomach pivots between blood and fluid.  Once Stomach fluid is formed from processing post-natal qi (derived from food), the thick fluid goes to the marrow and brain, and contributes to the yin of the heart in the form of sweat.

Somewhat simultaneously, the fluid is regulated by the San Jiao and Pericardium to ensure proper digestion and the proper circulation of heat in the body.  (I actually sometimes associate this function with the concept of agni-digestive or metabolic-fire in Ayurvedic medicine). The regulation of digestion allows fluids to support jing, closing a loop which began with the BL-KD Channel divergence.

From here, the Large Intestine, which the Ling Shu associates with thin fluids, together with the Lungs, manages what fluid and qi flows into the Primary Merdians and that which circulates along the Sinew Vessels.  The pivot in this case was provided by the SJ-PC CD association with the jing-well points of the body.  Sinew vessels begins there.  Although they rely on thick fluid to function, the sinew vessels circulate wei qi for exterior defence.  Thus, the CD cycle moves from the jing level outwards to the wei level.  The wei level also moves back to the jing level through the same set of physiology.

The return of qi to jing can be illustrated by highlighting another physiological process, focused on the back shu and front mu points.  In this physiology, the Gao Huang place a central role in supplying (via back shu and front mu) the zang-solid organs with jing.

Supplying the solid organs with jing allows the organs to have their proper emotional functioning.  In other words, if Andrew had been unable to cry, perhaps his Lungs had been exhausted of their jing and needed supplementation.  Once full, the organs can express the spirits contained within them, and can allow qi to enter and exit in the form of emotional experiences.  (The herb Huang Qin is good at supplementing LU jing and blood, by the way.)

The outer bladder line is most associated with emotions, in terms of point energetics in the primary meridian system.  Just as the primary bladder line is formed by the San Jiao mechanism as it ‘lights’ the jing stored in the Kidneys and begins to rise along the Du Mai, so also  alchemists say that the Chong Mai gives rise to outer bladder line.  Here, the Chong Mai transmutes jing into qi, which rises on the back using the san jiao mechanism.  In this case, though, the fire burns more intensely and pushes this qi out further, to outer bladder line.

The outer bladder line starts at BL-10, from which it both descends through the spirit points and ascends to the brain, impacting BL-1 and the Qiao Mai.  The trajectory of this movement is not dissimilar to the trajectory of the Spleen Channel Divergence.  Below, I have pasted in a chart describing the San Jiao mechanism of the Back Shu points.

Back Shu Points: San Jiao Mechanism of the Posterior Body. Needle with Yuan Source points.

Shu Yuan Associated Zangfu Element Description Resonance
Du-14   Yang meridians of hand and foot Heart Yang from Exterior heaven Crossing point of all yang meridians Resonates w/Du-4
BL-13 LU-9 Lungs Metal Exterior, what the cosmos/ heaven wants. Resonates w/BL-23
BL-14 PC-7 Pericardium Fire/ Water Minister Fire BL-22 Resonance
BL-15 HT-7 Heart Fire Sovereign Fire BL-21 Resonance
BL-16   Ge/ Diaphragm      
Du-4   Ming Men KD yang from Interior Preheaven Ming Men: Fate Gate Du-14 Resonance
BL-23 KD-3 Kidney Water What self, interior wants BL-13; KD-3
BL22 SJ-4 San Jiao Water/ Fire Minister Fire BL-14 Resonance
BL-21 ST-42 Stomach Earth BL-13, metal BL-15 Resonance
BL-20 SP-3 Spleen: Earth What society wants  
BL-19 GB-40 Gallbladder Wood Movement into world Action from conflict
BL-18 LV-3 Liver Wood Movement into world Action from conflict

Within the body, the Gao Huang is how the Kidneys (jing) connect to the Heart (shen).  Gao is the yin aspect, and concerns storage.  Huang is the yang aspect, and represents jing and blood (i.e. the emotions)  as they go to the Dai Mai while complicated by dampness.  Dampness, recall, is the burden of potential which has not been properly transformed.  In the case of emotions, that transformation can be through expression, or through integration and transmutation as the Heart finds meaning for itself in the unfolding blueprint of life.

In terms of acupuncture, the Gao Huang have a relationship to BL-43 (Gao Huang Shu) and BL-53 (Bao Huang Shu).  BL-53, of course, is a point on the Dai Mai.  A relationship of the Gao Huang, often translated as ‘membrane source’, and Dai Mai is sometimes made through the associated physiological structures of the messentery or peritoneum.   The Dai Mai points which bring together the GaoHuang, jing, blood, and emotions are GB-41, LV-13, GB-26; and GB-28 for yin emotions or GB-27 for yang emotions,

However, in relation to the outer bladder line, CV-15 and Du-1 (Bao Mai), plus SP-21 (Da Bao), and the outer bladder shu-spirit points can be used to release and drain their respective emotions. This is because jing qi, or KD qi, gives rise to a zang’s ability to generate and express an emotion. Therefore one must treat both the KD and the affect-organ.  KD qi, of course, can be affected through several different Channel Divergences, as I hope I have made clear in this and previous posts.  Key is finding the ‘pivot point’ which connects each to jing and blood.  My purpose in bringing up the Gao Huang here is to indicate how spirit points can be incorporated into a CD treatment.  In terms of Chinese physiology, it also provides a bridge to herbal treatments.

Herbal medicine has several formulas to treat the Gao Huang.  Most famous is ‘Reach the Membrane Source’ Da Yuan Yin.  The herbs in this formula are Hou Po, Cao Guo, Bing Lang, Bai Shao, Zhi Mu, Huang Qin, and Gan Cao.  Of these, Hou Po, Cao Guo, and Bing Lang are the essence of the formula.

Cao Guo is warm and drying and goes to the SP, but also reaches the blood level to keep malarial disorders at bay.  Bing Lang kills parasites, moves qi, and also treats malarial — think ‘latent’ or ‘cyclical’ conditions.  Hou Po alleviates wheezing, treats focal distention, moves qi, and disperses accumulated phlegm.  The Gao Huang are sometimes associated with fat as it collects around the viscera.  Fat is sometimes thought of as phlegm or dampness in modern Chinese Medicine.  This formula, then, could potentially be used today to help up-regulate the body’s system and draw out hidden disorders of flora in the body causing erratic movement in a person’s metabolism.

As always, this post is for informational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one feels emotionally exhausted, and believes that Chinese Medicine may help replenish your ability to feel and express emotion, please see a qualified practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!


Hell’s Bells (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 16)

Finally, the big event the season has been building towards:  Anya and Xander’s wedding.  After showing us Anya’s happiness and hope, we are taken on a tour of Xander’s nightmares, and his imposition of that nightmare onto Anya.  Of course, Xander’s own family has its share of blame, as does Anya’s past.  After all, it was a fellow demon who decided to ruin Anya’s wedding day — waiting nearly a century to exact his revenge.  Still, he would not have been so successful had not Xander’s own character weaknesses allowed an opening.  But how can character flaws be treated with sinew vessels?

One place to start is with Xander’s family.  Xander’s family all seem to have an ‘elbow problem’ — i.e. they down shots too readily and too frequently.  Elbow conditions are clearly able to be treated with sinew vessels.   One could also call the Harris family problem ‘inverted teacup syndrome’, a term the Jia Yi Jing uses to refer to diaphragmatic problems treated with the arm tai yin and arm jue yin sinew vessels.  Ordinarily, ‘inverted cup syndrome’ typically involves symptoms similar to asthma.  Lucky for me, Xander’s little cousin (the one who states she’s bored by the wedding) uses an inhaler. So we will treat ‘inverted cup syndrome’ with the sinew vessels.

Inverted cup syndrome is mentioned several times in the Jia Yi Jing.  In Scroll One, chapter 5, a syndrome called ‘xi ben’, ‘inverted cup’ is discussed as resulting from a liver organ which presses upwards on the heart, tensing the flanks below.  (This can be treated easily enough through manual therapy with visceral osteopathic techniques developed by Jean-Pierre Barral.)  Scroll 8, Chapter 3 elaborates on the syndrome, describing its etiology as an accumulation in the lung, but localised to the right lateral costal region (by the liver).  If untreated, it leads to shortness of breath, qi counterflow in the lungs (i.e. coughing), and aversion to cold.  It can last for several years, becoming a chronic condition.  In this case, qi gong and herbal medicines are indicated.  It can be transmitted to the Liver, though not in the spring.  CV-14 and SI17 are both recommended.

Earlier, however, in Scroll 2, chapter 6, two sinew vessels are said to treat inverted cup.  My edition of the Ji Yi Jing ( :76n167) has a footnote explaining, “The Tai Su explains, ‘The inverted cup is the diaphragm and although the sinew channel does not penetrate the viscera and bowels, it is dispersed throughout the diaphragm’.  Thus disorders within the sinew channel may result in symptoms of diaphragmatic dysfunction.”  Those symptoms include chest pain, lateral costal tension, and spitting up of blood.

So, I would treat Xander’s father and cousin using the arm sinews.  Usually arm sinew vessels are indicated for chronic conditions.  Asthma, of course, is generally considered a chronic condition with periodic acute episodes — and so is alcoholism.  After releasing yang qi along the Du Mai, and checking that the neck is fully released so that wei qi has an unobstructed pathway through the interior and exterior of the body, I would palpate the channels and needle three ah shi points with the chisel technique.  I would then burn thread moxa at either at the tip of the thumb (by the nailbed) or middle finger.  In Xander’s father’s case, I would combine the sinew treatment with tonification of the associated primary channel, at the ying-spring point.  Clearly, his problem has gone interior, and even passed on to his lineage — and thus resides at the jing level.  I might therefore combine the ying-point (PC8) with the shu/ source point (PC7) and perhaps the associated shu point on the back (BL-14).

As for an Extraordinary Vessel treatment, straightforward Yin Qiao-Ren Mai treatments are often effective for asthma, using the functions of the opening-coupled points for those vessels, LU-7, KD-6.  The Lungs take in qi and send it downwards, where the Kidneys grasp it; the Lungs then raise the qi to disperse it outwards, moving fluids and breath in the process.  If I were to add any points along the CV channel, they would be chosen according to more specific differential diagnosis:  CV-22 for opening the throat; CV-12 for food induced asthma; CV14 for diaphgram problems (the ‘inverted teacup’ mentioned above), CV-18 for LV attaching LU type asthma.  KD-2 is a Yin Qiao point which could help strengthen the Kidney yang (KD-2 as a fire point), or the Yin Qiao point ST-12 can be utilised for its connection to the diaphragm, if that is an issue.  Thus, LU-7, CV-14, ST-12, KD-6 would make a simple combination.

However, I think Xander would make a better candidate to treat with the extraordinary vessels.  Xander has let his fears get to him, by not speaking them to the person he most needed to have hear them.  His choice not to communicate his fears destroyed the relationship, and the rest of this season and the next plays out the consequences of his silence.  The choice not to speak is an action, which speaks louder than words, but which also leaves open false interpretations and miscommunication, as Buffy and Riley learned in Season 4.

Xander’s fears, which he never spoke until it was quite late (but not too late — Anya was willing to work with him, but he refused the partnership she offered), involve time, his lineage and potential progeny, and his own individuation.  This is Yang Wei and Du Mai.  I would needle the Du Mai first, to bring his individuality and sense of self outwards to meet time, letting his confidence in making his way in the world (as himself, as a husband-to-be) inform the way he integrates the external and internal worlds which he inhabits.

The points I would needle are right SI-3, followed by the Du Mai points Du-5 (Dark Gate, the place where fears and depression are held), Du-15 (Mute Gate, also a Yang Wei point, allowing a crossing over to that vessel), the Yang Wei point GB-13 (Root of Spirit), and close with SJ-5 (Outer Gate).  The combination of Du-5 and SJ-5 should be particularly effective as two ‘gates’ — the hidden or mysterious gate, and the outer gate — are paired:  Xander passes through his hidden fears and crosses the threshold to the outer gate of married life, facilitated by actually speaking his fears and darkness, Du-15.

My herbal formula prescription would be a variation of Ma Huang Tang.  It treats aversion to cold and several Lung-organ associated conditions, including asthma.  It is also effective at releasing diaphragmatic constraint, particularly in ‘excess’ tending individuals.  How does this relate to alcoholism?  I’m using a Kanpo body types when looking at Xander’s father.  Xander’s father has a body type which is robust and could use some exterior releasing, venting herbs.  He clearly has some cold things to say, and perhaps is using alcohol, with its hot and blood moving properties, to dislodge whatever cold may be affecting him.  Perhaps, since Ma Huang is difficult to obtain in some countries, a substitution could be made with Ai Ye, which warms the blood to stop bleeding (emotional hemorrhaging).  Perhaps combine it with Yan Hu Suo, which moves the blood and qi and alleviates pain.

As always, these posts are meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are suffering from asthma or an inability to express your fears to those in your life, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

The Body (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 16)

This is the episode in which Buffy finds her mother’s body. The lack of a music soundtrack still strikes me, and was a brilliant move on Joss’s part.  I was also impressed by the camera angles and jerky filming in the opening scenes.  The script allowed each character a chance to express different aspects of the confusion and slow movement that follows news of a death. The acting skills of all who participated in the episode were solidly carried through.

Although vomiting featured in this episode, both at the dinner table and after Buffy finds her mother’s body and awaits the paramedics, I will not give an acupuncture prescription for this episode.  The physiology behind Buffy’s vomiting is concerned with the role that the Stomach plays in assimilating experiences as well as food. If an experience is too much to handle, then like having too much food, the Stomach qi will rebel, causing vomiting. Treating it at the time in happens, in a situation such as portrayed in this episode, is not generally appropriate.

However, I will note that the luo vessels in general are effective in treating counterflow conditions of the primary channels.  The physiological mechanism for this regulation relies on the transverse luo vessels, the vessels which connect same-phase (or same-element) yin-yang paired channels together.  Thus, if the Stomach channel were experiencing counterflow, moving upwards towards the face instead of downwards towards the feet, the point ST-40 siphons off the qi into the Spleen channel; the normal movement of the Spleen channel is to ascend to the face.  Likewise, if a person is experiencing counterflow of the SP channel, in which qi is moving downwards at a rapid pace (as in diarrhea, the SP qi failing to ascend), needling or bleeding SP-4 will siphon the downward moving qi into the Stomach channel, where it can once again ascend and restore proper equilibrium.

As for herbal medicines for this episode — since full treatment is not advised — a simple wu wei zi tea may help calm the nerves, or settle the shen. However, even that, I would be hesitant to give someone who never drinks it, since the flavour may become associated with the time period. It is for this reason, perhaps, that certain cultures developed drinks which are only consumed when things are really, really bad.

As always, this post is for educational purposes only. If you feel Chinese medicine could help you, please find a qualified practitioner.  Celebrate life as it is lived.

Who Are You? (Buffy Season 4, Episode 16)

At the end of the previous episode, we saw Buffy and Faith fight, with Faith pulling out a magical device at the last moment and linking hands with Buffy.  In this episode, we learn that Buffy and Faith have switched bodies.  Faith now inhabits Buffy’s body, while Buffy is trapped within Faith’s.  Both come to understand the other a little bit more as a result.

Not before a little bit of havoc and revenge has been wreaked by Faith, though.  In particular, Faith decides to sleep with Riley.  Riley picks up that something is amiss, particularly afterwards, when he tells Buffy’s-body-inhabited-by-Faith that he loves her.  Faith-inhabiting-Buffy’s-body, not expecting any such talk after sex, jumps up and becomes very agitated.  ‘What just happened meant nothing’, she declares.

Given Faith’s own background, such behaviour is not unexpected.  After all, towards the end of the episode, Faith-in-Buffy’s-body gives Riley the brilliantly delivered line, “I can’t use you.”  In terms of acting technique, the ambiguity of that line was very psychologically perceptive of Faith’s character.  She cannot use Riley in a fight, because he is injured; but more broadly, she cannot exploit him, and he isn’t out to exploit her.

Leaving aside the philosophical-medical considerations emerging from the slow melding and changing of Faith’s personality to match her Buffy body, the overall pattern of Faith’s interaction with Riley made me think of dissociative disorder, particularly as it applies to sexual interactions.  Simply put, dissociation during sex is when one person simply ‘checks out’ and goes somewhere else mentally, avoiding the impact of what is actually going on.  Often this habit is developed as a result of sexual exploitation of some sort, though it need not be.  Nor does it necessarily need to be confined to the bedroom.  Sometimes people will check out of other difficult situations.

A colleague once asked for ideas of how to address these symptoms from a Chinese Medical standpoint.  This episode presents the perfect opportunity to explore those ideas further.

First, we could look at the situation as primarily one concerning consciousness and attention.  Consciousness is associated with the shen-spirit.  Attention can also be associated with the shen-spirit; but it can also be associated with the gathering power of the Spleen, and referred to as yi-intent.  The shen is anchored to the body by the jing, and emerges from the union of qi and blood.  If consciousness is departing, this is a form of a rupture between the yin aspects of the body — jing and blood — from their partnered yang aspects — shen and qi.  The treatment approach, therefore, would seek to anchor the shen in the jing, or the qi in the blood.

Typically, sticky herbs like shu di, e jiao, gui ban jiao or even lu jiao jiao (which is a bit more on the yang-tonifying side) could be used.  The stickiness reflects viscous jing.  Something yang and light in nature would reflect the shen; perhaps fragrant chen xiang would be a good choice.  I personally prefer the use of Lu Jiao Jiao in this instance, because it already reflects the presence of yang-shen within sticky-jing oriented substances.  Being the essence of an antler, which is the outward expression of life, and which requires great amounts of both qi and blood in the springtime, I feel it adequately captures much of what we are trying to accomplish.  (Sang Bai Pi would work similarly.)  However, Lu Jiao Jiao does not clarify consciousness.  In some ways, it doesn’t so much bring consciousness back to the jing as much as it causes the jing to express itself outwards consciously.  To augment this effect by engaging the spleen, I might add either Fu Shen — a very consciousness clearing herb, relieving people of the burden of potential (i.e. dampness unable to become physiological fluid) — or Gan Cao, which helps bring people back to centre.  Ren Shen also has this centring effect.

Another approach would be to relate the yang-oriented shen to qi, and look at how qi is anchored in the body.  We know that the ancestral qi gathers in the Lungs, and that the Kidneys grasp Lung qi.  Therefore, something which helps the Kidneys anchor the qi may prove useful.  In such a case, I would think of the formula Ren Shen Ge Jie Tang.  This formula is mildly yang-tonifying, and is often used in cases of asthma.  I have also heard of it used when couples are trying to conceive.  The concept there is that the Kidneys, or jing, will grasp a Ling-soul to enable conception to occur.

If the qi is weak, the po may rage out of control.  This gives rise to addictive disorders.  Someone who is both a sex addict and checks out during sex would likely need to have both jing and qi tonified.  The above formula, with the addition of one or two qi-tonifying or qi-circulating ingredients may be useful in such cases.  I would consider adding Shan Yao (to astringe essence) or Wu Wei Zi (to astringe LU qi and generate essence) with a herb like huang qi, which tonifies qi but also constrains the exterior.

A third way to look at the issue is to consider the path of the Liver channel, and the role that  LV channel blood and mai has in influencing the genitalia.  The Hun, stored in the LV and in Blood, follow the Shen, which are stored in the Mai-vessels.  This is the place of the Pericardium, as we noted in the previous post, but also of the Chong Mai, which disperses into the Chest.  In this case, I would use acupuncture and lead the shen from the chest down to the LV channel.  Perhaps I would combine a Ren Mai with a Chong Mai treatment, beginning with LU-7, followed by CV-17, CV-15, KD-15 (Uterus Gate), KD-13 (Qi Cave), and Closing with SP-4 — if I chose to use that particular trajectory of the Chong Mai.

The place of the pericardium is interesting to consider in this respect.  The Pericardium is likened to the Confucian ministers, whose responsiblity it is to ensure the Emperor be in the right place and perform the correct rituals at the proper time. If consciousness is not present when it should be, this can be seen as the fault of the ministers, in this case, the Heart Master Collateral, or PC meridian.  PC-6, a luo mai point having a relation to the blood, and called ‘inner gate’ to reflect its relationship to letting certain emotions in to consciousness and the heart, CV-17 (mu point of the PC), and CV-15 (mu point of the HT) are all useful points in this regard.  If a person is also emotionally stuck, I would add the he-uniting or he-sea point of the PC to the prescription, since he points are useful in cases of blood stagnation — and in cases of pathology due to previously poor intake (usually thought of as dietary) choices.

Note Buffy puts her hand to CV-17 after returning to her own body:  the Heart was finally back in its proper place, regulated through the Pericardium — in this case, PC-8, where the magical device was held.

Finally, someone who is facing challenges with intimacy, wandering from person to person — this issue is the flipside of the episode  ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ (Season 4, Episode 18), and will be treated then.

Until that time, please remember that these posts are for entertainment and educational use only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese Medical approaches to your life, please see a qualified practitioner.  If you are interested in bodily memory, by all means search using the terms ‘heart transplant’ and ‘bodily memory’.  Happy Slayage!