Dirty Girls (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 18)

In this episode, the misogynist preacher-servant of the First is introduced.   He stops to rescue a potential slayer from the Bringers.  At first he appears to be a good guy, but we soon see his views of strange women are not predicated on an innocent until proven guilty attitude.  Ultimately, he has a message for the Potential to bring the Slayer.  That message is burned onto the Potential’s neck.  Later, it provides a clue which Spike and Andrew piece together at an old California mission.

This is also the episode in which Faith returns to Sunnydale.  She re-encounters Buffy in a cemetery after leaving the hospital where the Potential has been treated.  Acupuncturists must respect a patient’s choice of medical treatment.  Thus, Faith’s comment as she left Willow with the Potential, namely that Faith and Hospitals don’t really get along, encapsulates that idea quite nicely.  If a patient wants to combine systems of medicine, great.  If she wants one or the other exclusively, so long as she is educated about possible outcomes, fine.  Anthropological research shows that social support networks are among the most determining factors in health outcomes.  Why sabotage a support system when a person needs it most?

Overall, this was a difficult episode to diagnose.  I’m going to extrapolate from the neck burn, however, and discuss nodules along the neck and how neck blockages interrupt the full trajectory of the LU Channel Divergence.   The episode’s recurring image is of ‘Darkness inside’.  Can the LU CD be used to treat that?  Interestingly, one of the key herbs in a neck nodule formula, Xuan Shen, is precisely oriented towards ‘dark’ or ‘mysterious’ feelings in a patient’s life.

The Large Intestine – Lung Channel Divergence contains points which don’t appear if the neck is blocked.  This is particularly the case with the LI CD.  It is worth remembering that not all points are active on a person’s body at all times.  When points don’t appear, or are rendered unworkable, the source of this condition must be sought.  Sometimes, the points are just not active because the person never has trouble with the aspect of life governed by that point.  Other times, the points are not active because qi has become stuck earlier in the channel — or perhaps not enough qi is flowing in the channel to be ‘read’ by the practitioner’s fingertips.  If qi is stuck, phlegm nodules — showing up as ‘kori’ or as hard lymph nodes — often result.  While kori can be needled with a Japanese technique and lightly dispersed, lymph node swellings call for herbal treatment.

(Kori are found by lightly palpating the skin and feeling for hard or tense areas of skin and flesh (but no deeper than that).  Those areas are then needled with a #2 sized needle and rapidly twirled in a dispersing direction.)

A simple herbal treatment for nodules around neck is composed of three herbs: Mu Li, Zhe Bei Mu, and Xuan Shen.  If blood stasis accompanies the condition (indicated by a purple tongue and choppy pulse), add another shell herb, Wa Leng Zi.  If the LU pulse overall seems hasty or lacking in qi, add Huang Qin to tonify LU blood.

Lung Channel Divergence is the start of the primary meridian cycle (for humans, but as mentioned in the last post, perhaps not for vampires).  It is responsible for diffusing qi (wei and ying qi) into the vessels.  In contrast, the Lung organ diffuses qi into the body as a whole. It can be used to tonify qi in cases of LU qi deficiency.  The method in that case is to needle the selected points with a deep-shallow-deep needle vibration technique.

The LU CD trajectory is rather short.  It begins at LU-1, where the LU channel emerges onto the chest.  From there, it moves to GB-22, the canyon by which ye, thick fluid, supports marrow, bone, and brain.  Here, the LU channel can draw on body fluids to form wei qi, or draw pathogens out from the jing-organ (marrow, bone, brain, GB) level and bring those pathogens to the exterior.

From the ShaoYang GB-22 point, the Lung channel divergence then spreads to TaiYang.  This is an odd phrase; TaiYang could mean either the Small Intestine (sinew?) channel, or the Bladder (sinew?) channel, or both.  Either way, it spreads to the outermost channels to provide defence for the body.  In terms of point location, however, several options present themselves.  Since the channel needs a connexion to the heart, options include HT-1 and SI-10 (as in the SI CD); or possibly the TaiYang Bladder points BL-44 and BL-15 (as in the BL CD).  Another possibility is HT-9 and SI-1, as the start of the Arm TaiYang sinew vessels.

From the TaiYang level, the channel divergence then connects to the LI organ.  This could happen at ST-25, but it could also mean moving from SI-1 to LI-11, the he-sea point and binding site of the sinew vessel.

However, the Tai Yang aspect of the LU Channel divergence also branches to connect to the breasts.  This can mean either through JueYin (the LV goes to the genitals and breasts) or YangMing (ST-17 is at the centre of the nipple).  If the channel moves from LI-11 to ST-17, this would allow a connection from the Large Intestine to the breasts along the YangMing channel.

The Tai Yang connexion also branches to the Lung organ; this can occur at LU-3, or at LU-1.  From the Lung, the channel divergence moves to ST-12.  ST-12, in addition to connecting to the diaphragm, releases the neck.  Finally, the channel ends at another neck releasing point, LI-18.  LI-18 is indicated for throat conditions like goiter and scrofula — in other words, cases in which phlegm nodules begin to appear and congest the thyroid and lymph nodes of the neck.  Earlier, when examining the LI Channel Divergence, two points were not on that channel when the neck was blocked.  These two points can help release the neck and open up LI-20 and ST-1 in such a case.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one feel like you’ve been so depleted you’ve reached your last breath, or if you have mysterious lumps in your neck, please seek out a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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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!