Empty Places (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 19)

The season climax gains momentum in this episode:  Buffy gets voted out as leader by the Potential Slayers and several Scoobies, including Xander.   Faith is unwillingly put in the driver’s seat. The decision will have fateful consequences for the Potentials, but will also allow Buffy the space she needs to work alone and obtain a mysterious weapon.  As this episode examines questions about leading and following, we will look at how to lead and follow qi, perhaps touching on entry and exit points, by examining the physiology of the Pericardium Channel Divergence.

The PC CD comes into play after the SI-HT channel divergence has run out of sweat and thick fluid to contain heat from entering the brain and marrow.  The San Jiao CD would have been activated to draw the heat away from the brain and into the body.  attempting to move the heat either to the digestive system (the internal domain of wei qi) or to the Kidneys (because the SJ conducts KD yang throughout the body).  At this point, the PC CD is called in to help move heat from the centre of the body out towards the jing-well points.  This is accomplished through engaging the energetics of ‘roots and terminations’, points along the PC CD which correspond to the terminations of channels originating at jing-well points.

The Pericardium Channel Divergence regulates heat in the vessels and blood.  Symptoms would correspond to wei qi in the blood:  ‘dry blood’, hemorrhagic disorders, disorientation to time and space with fever, reckless flow of blood.

The trajectory begins at PC-1, ‘Celestial Pool’, where the hun-anchoring blood gathers with shen.  From PC-1, the channel moves to three separate points:  CV-17, CV-12, and CV-23.

The first branch goes to CV-17, the lower confluence of the SJ-PC CD.  CV-17 is identified in the Jia Yi Jing as the termination of LV-1.  This means that the wei qi of the Liver circulates its energetics, which began at the jing-well root point, here.  Needling CV-17 will have an effect on the Liver channel.  LV-1 treats uterine bleeding; CV-17 is the mu point of the Pericardium, a Jue-Yin organ like the Liver.  This point is thus very powerful in clarifying the blood and venting heat outwards.  From CV-17, the channel trajectory then flows into the San JIao Meridian, implying that heat is dispersed throughout the three burners.

The second branch moves from PC-1 to CV-12.  This is the Root/ Termination of SP-1.  The wei qi of the Spleen thus concentrates its energetics here, and it should come as no surprise that this point is the beginning of the Lung primary meridian.  The Lung meridian relies on the post-natal qi given to it through the transformative capacity of the Spleen as it digests food.  This point is also effective at nourishes yin, that is, a person’s potential and resources in life.

The third branch goes from PC-1 to CV-23.  CV-23 is not only a Yin Wei Mai point, it is also the Root/ Termination of KD-1.  The wei qi of the Kidney concentrates its energetics here.  KD-1, remember, treats loss of voice — the connexion is to CV-23.  It also treats dizziness and infantile convulsions from heat.  Like CV-17 and CV-12, this point nourishes yin, in this case, the ability to rest in silence and experience the patterns of life which give rise to wisdom and insight into the ‘will behind the will’ which moves a person through life.

The Upper Confluence of the SJ-PC Channel divergence is at SJ-16.  Whether the channel passes through all nodes and then to this point, or whether the channel ends here after meeting up with the San Jiao meridian is a point of debate.  In any event, SJ-16 is a Window to the Sky point.  It is used to treat the shen when the patient exhibits depressive signs, especially when alternating with mania.  Alternating depressed affect and mania is a sign that the body is having trouble regulating heat and cold in the vessels, thus disturbing the shen.  The vessels house the shen-spirit; the blood houses the hun-ethereal soul.

The herbal formulae which treat PC Channel Divergence disorders are those which go to the blood level in the Warm Disease school.  Xi Jiao, Shui Niu Jiao, and even Ling Yang Jiao, combined with cooling herbs like Sheng Di Huang, Huang Lian, and Xuan Shen, are all appropriate.

Another way to look at this episode is to examine the ways in which the channel systems flow into one another, and the points at which several channel systems intersect.  The practitioner uses different needle techniques at these overlapping points, combined with points further on that channel’s trajectory, in order to affect the particular channel level.  Thus, the vibrating technique resonates with the yuan or jing level of the EVs and CDs.  The chiseling and shallow techniques are appropriate for sinew level channels (and plum blossom for cutaneous regions).  Lancets and blood letting relate to the luo vessels.  Needling with rotating relates to the primary channels.  Likewise, herbal medicine uses certain combinations of herbs to enter various levels of the body.  The CD system relies on herbs which go to both jing and wei qi levels.  Often a combination of two herbs, such as E Jiao, or Sang Ji Sheng, Di Gu Pi, and Sheng Di, with Sang Ye are used.

In terms of channels overlapping, above, I pointed out that the PC Channel Divergence connects with the LU and the start of the primary channel sequence, as does the LU CD itself.  The LU CD also interacts with the TaiYang level as a whole.  The SI CD interacts with the sinew vessels, while the GB CD connects up with mu points, eyes, and Dai Mai.  The LV CD connects with several luo points, though none of the luo points on the arms.  The BL CD is intimately related with the jing level and EV system.  Unlike Episode 11, which treated crossing points, this is how the channel systems themselves flow into one another.

In general, the EVs come to the surface with the BL-KD CD, and are filled by the Luo Vessel system.  The Luo Vessels are filled by the primary channels at the luo points, or occasionally through the fu organs.  The primary channels fill Luo points, channel divergences, and organ-shu points.  The primary channels are filled by the sinew vessels.  The sinew vessels can fill either primary channels or channel divergences.  The also connect with EVs at various points.  Together, the channel systems form a matrix within which qi and blood move to ensure the well-being and integration of the human organism with the world around it.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have suddenly begun to bleed uncontrollably, or are having a crisis of leadership, please see a qualified practitioner. 

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Seeing Red (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 19)

The season begins to reach its climax as we see Buffy begin to embrace a new role as peacemaker.  Xander remains upset with Buffy (for having slept with Spike, or having kept it from her friends) until the end of the episode; Willow herself is upset that she was never told by Buffy.  In these two cases, characters are upset because they feel they weren’t seen as trustworthy by someone they were close to.  We also see Anya’s lost wish, as she commiserates with a scorned woman, rather than aids her:  A scorned woman wished that Carl’s flesh would grow so fat he’d blow up.  The episode also happens to be where Amber Benson is added to the opening credits, which is a tip off (knowing Joss Whedon) about how the episode will end.  Until the end, though, we are entertained with some good film noir dialogue.

Did anyone notice the acupuncture models in the Trio’s hideout?  They’ve appeared before, but since that lair gets destroyed by swinging saws after Buffy enters, I thought I’d mention it now.

The SuperVillains had previously sneaked into a demon lair and obtain an item which allows them to become invincible.  Andrew and Warren plot to leave Jonathan behind at an opportune moment.  Warren, however, is consumed with his own thirst for power, and with the new item, he begins to exercise his new found invincibility.  Buffy manages to find the villains and destroy the item before Warren can wreak too much magical damage.  We are treated to a particularly involved fight scene, with injuries to the low back, a broken knee, and a particularly extreme external arm rotation.  Ultimately, however, Warren escapes using a jetpack.  Andrew tries to follow him, but blasts off into ceiling overhanging his escape route.  The jetpack fails, and Andrew falls back to the ground.  Jonathan is upset at this betrayal (although he is the one who told Buffy how to defeat Warren.)  Meanwhile, Warren decides to use a more mundane method to take out the Slayer, and in the process catalyses the events which will play out for the rest of the episode.

So what shall we treat?  I’ve treated Concussion previously.  I’ve already treated Heart Pain in previous episodes.  That leaves obesity — but Anya’s wish was not granted. Perhaps Carl was actually seeing his acupuncturist at the time, and Chinese Medicine staved off the vengeance demon’s curse?  Or we could treat some of the fight scene injuries:  meniscus tears, broken elbows.  I think I will treat the loss of arm function due to elbow injury, because it will also allow me to address the matter of trust from a wei qi perspective.

We’ve already discussed how the arm jue-yin treats inverted cup syndrome because the channel disperses in the diaphragm, and how the movement associated with the jue-yin channel is paralysis.  I’ve also alluded to the physiology of wei qi as it enters the interior of the body at night to protect the organs.  The point at which it enters the body is CV-17, the mu point of the Pericardium.  The sinew channel of the Pericardium travels up the arm, binds at the inner side of the elbow, continues up the anterior aspect of the arm and then disperses both in front of and behind the rib cage — ending at CV-17 and BL-14.  Another branch enters through the axilla to bind at the Heart.  The channel trajectory illustrates how wei qi wraps around the emperor Heart to guard it from attack, particularly at night, when conscious guarding is unavailable due to sleep.

The  guarding of the organs at night by wei qi is unconscious and automatic in the same way trust in friends is unconscious.  Friends will not harm me.  We trust they will caution ourselves against potential dangers, and will not ambush us the way an enemy wishing to incapacitate us would do.  When friends do harm one another, the result is a disruption of the particular flow of wei qi in the PC sinew vessel.  Either the wei qi goes in to guard the interior organs and their spirit-affect functions (intention, will, freedom of personality/ hun) or the properly outward movement of their qi as expressed in emotion (joy, sadness, worry, anger, fear).  Trust and the free flow of wei qi are thus interlinked in ways which move beyond the consciousness of blood and ying.

For a sinew treatment to help restore the flow of trust by freeing blockages in the PC sinew vessel, first ensure yang qi is flowing freely in the Du Mai by cupping Du 4 and Du 14, while paying attention to any blockages in the upper thoracic vertebrae, where the sinew vessel wraps around.  Then release the orifices of the anterior neck, particularly around the vagus nerve and deep front lines.  Then palpate the channel and use okyu or thread moxa on the points which elicit tenderness.  Finally, needle or use thread moxa on the jing well point of the PC channel (PC-9).  If consciousness needs to be brought to the issue of trust and protecting the heart, needling the ying-spring point at PC-8 or bleeding the luo point at PC-6 is indicated.

If the lack of trust seems to be constitutionally related, or otherwise lodged at the jing-essence level (as can happen with betrayal in sexual relationships), use of the EVs as an adjunct is called for.  I’ve related the use of EVs in this regard earlier, but to repeat, Yin Qiao and Yin Wei Mai, including needling BL-1 and KD-8 (Jiao Xin, ‘Meeting Trust’) is useful.  CV-22, as a Yin Wei Mai point, or ST-9 as a Yin Qiao point, both also being Window to the Sky points, may also prove to be particularly effective points on those channels.

I’ve given a Chinese herbal formula for trust before, in Season 3, Episode 7; but from a North American herbal perspective, I would recommend the use of goldenseal.  Goldenseal, known for its ‘detoxifying’ qualities, increases the presence of oxytocin in the body.  Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the ‘bonding’ neurochemical.  It increases a person’s trust in appropriate circumstances.  By appropriate circumstances, I mean that it isn’t going to induce a person to carelessness in a dodgy part of town, or make people suddenly talk to suspicious strangers or recognisably harmful people.  It will, though, help a person lower their threshold for trusting friends again.  If frayed nerves and a high level of guarding are present, I’ve found that combining goldenseal with the Ayurvedic herb gotu kola and the widely used resin Myrrh, can be helpful.  Gotu kola is a restorative for the nervous system in Ayurveda; in TCM terms, it calms the shen and nourishes the Heart and Liver.  Myrrh, of course, is known for its blood invigorating properties and its ability to help regenerate the flesh in Chinese medicine; in Ayurveda, it is also known to be a purifying herb for the system.  The combination of these three herbs,  goldenseal, gotu kola, and myrrh, made as a steeped tea or taken in combination as a mixed-just-before-ingestion powder, may help put a person back on an even keel.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one find it difficult to restore your trust in people after a betrayal or other shocking event, please find an appropriate practitioner to help you heal.  (Acknowledging that a lack of trust can make this difficult, if not impossible.)

Happy Slayage!

Tough Love (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 19)

Dawn has been skipping school.  If Buffy cannot provide Dawn with a ‘stable’ home as defined by ‘them’ (social workers, presumably), ‘they’ will take Dawn away.  As Buffy and Giles describe the situation, Buffy needs to put her foot down with Dawn.  Buffy pleads with Giles to be the one to put his foot down.  She needs strong feet.  Meanwhile, Willow flies off her feet after Tara is brain-sucked by Glory.

The GB luo point can be used to relieve anger, as I have mentioned in earlier posts on the emotions and luo vessels.  So I will revisit one of the luo channels to treat here  a very physical issue of the body:  the feet.

All the luo channels have at least one trajectory of their own, quite apart from the channel that connects the yin-yang pairs.  These longitudinal trajectories typically run towards the trunk of the body.  The exceptions are the LU luo, which runs to the thumb, and the GB luo, which runs to the foot.  Both trajectories are reflected in the particular pathologies associated with the channel.  The LU luo treats hot hands and stretching (depending on repletion or depletion); the GB luo treats inversion and limpness (again depending on repletion or depletion).  The GB luo vessel ends around ST-42, where it will enter more deeply into the body.

In a previous post, I suggested ‘inversion’ is akin to ‘introversion’; here, however, I’d like to suggest a more material meaning.  Inversion indicates the foot is inverted, rather than everted.  Some might call it being ‘pigeon-toed’.  It can be seen where the tibialis anterior muscle has become tight and the fibularis or peroneal muscles stretched and rigid, causing the sole of the foot, when not weight-bearing, to point sideways towards the midline.  This is an excess condition of the Gallbladder Luo:  the channel and its associated sinews are provided with too much blood, allowing the muscle to stretch more than necessary; but also perhaps with a certain degree of stagnation preventing new blood from coming to the area to restore proper balance.  The treatment, then, is to bleed GB-37.  If limpness were also present, moxa would be added to the treatment, to bring yang qi back to the area and revive it.  I would consider needling or applying moxa to ST-42 as well, to keep the pathogens from moving more deeply into the body.

Herbal treatments for the feet include Dan Shen and Wu Jia Pi, both of which treat weak feet, and Tong Cao (Caulis Akebia) treats cold feet.   I would add Niu Xi to the formula to guide the herbs to the legs and quicken the blood in cases of stagnation.  These herbs tend to the Liver and Kidney channels; so a combination treatment with acupuncture to draw qi and blood from the yin pair of the GB may be more effective than just the herbal medicine alone, in this case.  Qian Nian Jian may also be added if the padding of the feet is causing pressure on the bones, leading to breaks in the skin.  Qian Nian Jian may also be prepared as a soak.

Soaking the feet, in fact, may be one method of hardening them.  The method of hardening the skin of the hands through the use of medicinal soaks is well attested in the external medicine used by martial artists.  Usually, the formulas are given sequentially, as the person begins to train up to more intense levels.  A good beginning formula can be found in Thomas Richard Joiner’s book, The Warrior as Healer.  The first external formula for use in training is called Fang Sou Yi, and consists of  Zhang Nao, Bo He, Bing Pian (9g each), San Qi, Yu Jin, and Dang Gui (6g each), and She Xiang (3g).  Cure the ground herbs in 750 – 1000 mL of vodka (not more than 80 proof).  Cure for at least three months.  Massage the liniment into the skin before and after practice.  After 6 to 12 months, when the student no longer feels tingling from the application of the formula, he or she is ready to move on to the next level.  This formula is for EXTERNAL USE ONLY.  (The Bing Pian and Zhang Nao — borneol and camphor — are toxic when taken internally at doses more than a few tenths of a gram.)

As always, these posts are for informational and educational purposes only.  If you feel your training and practice could benefit from the traditions of Chinese medicine, please see a qualified practitioner. 

Happy slayage!

New Moon Rising (Buffy Season 4, Episode 19)

This rather intense episode sees Oz unexpectedly return home to Sunnydale.  Oz’s return places Willow in the position of having to make a choice — to go back to Oz, or to remain with Tara.  The resulting choice to be with Tara leads Willow to ‘come out’ to Buffy.  The coming out theme is paralleled and played upon in Buffy and Riley’s discussion about ‘unconvential relationships’.  One might also argue the theme is also continued in Oz’s capture and the subsequent experimentation performed on him to try to figure out what he his — but I don’t want this to be a post about conversion therapy.

I will say that coming out’s a bitch.  So is being experimented on or being locked away because of what you are.  But, like Willow’s choice for Tara and her letting go of Oz, no less difficult to go through are break ups, with their ironies and the delusional dreams we tell ourselves about the future to make the pain hurt less.  To make ourselves think that some good byes are not forever.

“We’ll always have Paris.”

I’ve treated Oz before, in B2.12 (Bad Eggs), B2.14 (Phases) and B4.6 (Wild at Heart).  In New Moon Rising, we discover that Oz found a way to control, or rather, integrate and make peace with the wolf within.  I suggest alternatives to the word ‘control’ because ‘control’ is perhaps not the right word for this case, given the close themes of an inner, unchosen self being expressed in Oz as a werewolf, and Willow’s coming out to Buffy as gay.  In my Wild at Heart post, I promised an examination of making peace with oneself for this episode.  Making peace with oneself, then, will be what I examine today.

First, though, the foundations must be laid.  We’ve addressed self-cultivation recently, in the Jonathan Superstar post from Season 4, as well as in the Phases post from Season 2.

Willow and Tara

It seems the treatment we gave Willow back in Season 2, during the first Hallowe’en of the Buffy series, seems to have positive ongoing effects.  That treatment was designed to help her become comfortable with expressing herself.

When we turn to coming out, we could continue with the same treatment.  Physiologically, however, one might think of the the Shen, stored in the person’s heart and charged with expressing the pattern of destiny in this life.  In such a case, the ShaoYin aspect of the Heart’s communication with the Kidneys comes into play, inasmuch as the shen works hand in hand with the will-within-the-will. The will-within-the-will or zhi, was explored in a previous post; it is relevant here because that will is governed by the Kidneys and can be interrupted or disrupted by fear.

Coming out is also very much tied to jing, to sexuality, to the lifecourse, and to choosing a mate (creating ‘fictive kinship ties’ in social anthropological terms).  In the case of homosexuality and coming out, I would note that the Kidneys usually cycle jing (the lineage of one’s ancestors) in order to perpetuate a lineage (as more jing; that is, Kidney fire — ming men — impels the person toward combining his or her jing-lineage with another person’s jing).

In the case of homosexuality though, we have an example of jing being channeled into social reproduction.  (I am reading into Classical Chinese Medicine here, since in ancient times it was expected that one would procreate regardless of sexuality.  For more on that topic, see the book The Passions of the Cut Sleeve by Bret Hinsch (1990).)  Social life is represented by the Spleen and its transformation of food into post-natal qi and flesh.  The relationship between the Kidneys and the Spleen is usually treated in terms of Kidney yang supporting Spleen yang.  The directionality of this support can go the other way also, which we usually frame as ‘Earth controlling Water’ — Confucian morals channeling the expression of individual identity within a lineage along very specific lines .

A person having trouble coming out may express several different physical pathologies.  The first might be Earth over-controlling Water, in which case KD water would need to be strengthened.  One could also say that the real problem is that external influences are entering into the person too easily, and the exterior needs to be secured so that jing is not dispersed.  This is the pathology we will examine in more detail.  The third option would be to ensure that the HT and KD are communicating with one another, and that the ST/ SP yang — which pivot that communication through the diaphragm — is being supported by the KD.  We will return to this themes in a moment.

For Oz:

Meditation and moon phases.

It is apparent that Oz’s struggle is with keeping the inner wolf from manifesting outwards; for him, the struggle is somewhat the opposite of Tara and Willow.  Oz must keep things in.  We know herbal medicine is not necessarily a one way street.  Herbal formulae can work both ways — in Oz’s case, to keep the exterior cool and human-like; for Willow, to secure her sense of self from any potential changes blowing in from the outside.

The formula to do this is Mu Li San.   The formula is composed of mu li, huang qi, fu xiao mai, and ma huang gen.  Usually, this formula is used for excessive sweating, either during the day or at night, and heart palpitations.  Mu Li itself is used for fright palpitations, fullness in the chest, and thirst due to mental vexation and fright.  It also secures the essence, anchors the spirit, and softens hardness through its salty nature.  Zou Shu (according to Dr Huang Huang’s zhang Zhong-jing’s Clinical Applications of 50 Medicinals) suggests Mu Li be used “for yang that does not return to yin and fails to transform qi” causing generalised vexation that does not localise in any particular area of the body.

Here, I want to engage the properties of Mu Li San in order to keep the heart and kidneys secure.  This is achieved by calming the spirit — calming the fright (KD) which comes from not knowing how others (SP) will react to you (HT) or your appearance.  Fear and fright can lead to nocturnal emission because the fire of the Heart, in the form of the shen descending to harmonise with the jing, disturbs the water of the Kidneys, which cannot contain that fire.  Thus Mu Li, rather than the two herb combination of Rou Gui and Huang Lian, are used.  (Huang Lian, though focuses on the centre of the chest to calm anxiety, and Rou Gui on the Kidneys.  The three together would not be a bad prescription, actually, though I would be sure to add Huang Qi to secure the exterior as well as the interior.)

Huang Qi of course, secures the exterior, boosts the qi, and strengthens the centre.  In other words, Huang Qi strengthens the SP and ST, raises the yang qi (from KD through ST and SP; from SP/ ST to upper orifices, governed by the HT and bathed in the pure yang fluids of the ST).  Huang qi is one of the key herbs in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a formula which can also be used to calm the spirit.

The other two herbs are Fu Xiao Mai, which calms the shen and floats outwards, and Ma Huang Gen, which restrains sweating.

I would consider removing the ma huang gen, as this concerns sweat.  However, sweat is the yin of the Heart, and for communication to occur smoothly between the HT and KD, not only does KD yin in the form of jing need to be secure, but so does HT yin, in the form of sweat (and sometimes also as HT blood, which can be nourished by suan zao ren).  What we are trying to do is harmonise ShaoYin, in both its water and fire aspects.  Ma Huang Gen, along with Mu Li, helps to harmonise the water aspect.

In a previous post, I gave a formula which can help allow one to look at one’s shadow side and not recoil:  Gou Qi Zi,  Ju Hua, He Shou Wu.  Rather than use He Shou Wu, which in the prior case was specific for making peace with one’s place in the cycle of ageing, I might decide to pick an ingredient from Mu Li San to secure the exterior while strengthening the centre and the interior.  Thus, another formula I might consider for longer term usage in Oz’s case is Gou Qi Zi, Ju Hua, and Huang Qi.  (Maybe even Mi Zhi Huang Qi, honey-fried to augment its tonic and satisfying properties.)

So much for herbal recipes to make peace with oneself.  Note, the above formulae are specific for certain forms of self-peacemaking, but not necessarily for making peace with unresolved grief.  If Oz experiences such grief, I would want to turn to other formulas.

The use of acupuncture to make peace with oneself?  Inasmuch as I should give a treatment different from using the Yin Qiao Mai, I might consider a luo vessel approach.  The luo point of the Gallbladder concerns redefinition and seeing options.  The Gallbladder is also the extraordinary organ of transformation, a ‘magic organ’ as it were.  Therefore, I would bloodlet GB 37, Guang Ming or ‘Bright Light’.  “In the case of vacuity there will be atonic limpness and inability to sit up.”

I would also burn several cones of moxa on GB-37 after bloodletting, and perhaps also three cones on LV-3.  Before bloodletting and moxa’ing GB-37, I would bloodlet the luo points on the KD and San Jiao meridians, since these meridians deal with the constitution; or I might choose the SP and PC luo points, since these concern living out one’s life (PC) in society (SP).

For any ongoing grief Oz might feel, having lost a dream of being with Willow again, I might mix PC-6 and SJ-5 (to secure the inner and outer gate), before continuing to bloodlet GB-37.  If Oz’s pain was particularly acute, I would use SP-21, the Great Luo of the Spleen instead of SP-4.  SP-21 treats unbearable pain.  I would also consider GB-22, which is the ancient location of SP-21 as a possible addition or combination with GB-37.

Following up on the above treatment, which would be administered every other day for about ten days, I would use the combination of Du-20, KD-1, and CV-17 to bring the patient entirely back to centre.

Looking ahead to Seasons 8 and 9, it would seem that Oz does make peace with himself, eventually, residing in a monastery and engaging in the practices of tranquility. He is responsible for teaching Buffy and crew how to conceal magical natures from being discovered.

Before he found such peace, however, Oz had to face Willow, and say goodbye.

As always, these posts are for educational purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.