Him (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 6)

In this comical episode, Dawn, Buffy, Willow, and Anya all fall victim to a love spell associated with a letter jacket worn by a not-quite star quality football player called RJ. The letter jacket had previously affected Xander, when the football player’s older brother had worn the jacket. How the jacket’s effect moved from guys to gals was not explained…  but the switch seems to have even affected Willow.

A recurring word throughout the episode is ‘soul’.  In the opening sequence, Dawn asks Buffy what it means that Spike has his soul now.  Xander had a soul but he still stood Anya up, so having a soul doesn’t make a person ‘good’ or ‘not-hurtful’, she implies.  (Buffy just sips a soft drink, and Dawn rhetorically asks if that is some sort of ‘Zen’ answer to the question.)  Later, the spell-afflicted women of the Buffyverse talk about being able to see into RJ’s ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’.  Willow discusses his heart, which as noted in the previous episode, stores the ‘shen’ or spirit, and can be seen in a person’s eyes.  (The shen is seen in the expression of the eyes, not just the catchlights and clarity of the eyeballs themselves.)

Since the last post treated the relationship of the Heart to the Channel Divergences, and since the Heart stores the shen, or spirit, which is different from the Ling or soul, this post will set out to clarify the various spirits and souls treated in Classical Chinese medicine.

In the cosmological system within which Chinese medicine developed, a human person embodied a Ling, a soul. This very insubstantial yang soul (technically, the Ling is the yin aspect of the ‘Big Shen’) enters the person at conception, being attracted to the substantial jing involved in conceiving a child.  Herbs which help the Kidneys grasp Lung qi are used to aid in conception following this idea.  The soul then has three months to decide whether the particular lineage whose jing it has ‘bonded’ to will suffice it for working out a particular ‘curriculum’ of lessons and development in life. If so, it is born.  If not, it miscarries itself.

Actually, the Ling is sometimes described as a transcendent soul, and the more accessible ‘big shen’ is the focus of internal cultivation.  This idea reflects a yang and yin differentiation within the celestial world. The ‘big shen’ is still more yang than jing, however, and thus the two attract one another, just as the big shen and ling attract one another.

Once the jing begins to develop into an embryonic child, the big shen divides into the five spirits housed in the zang organs. The zang are said to ‘treasure’ the spirits, or act as a treasury in which the spirits are stored; this is why the zang organs are solid, and why spirit points are only associated with the outer bladder line points corresponding to zang, not fu organs. The five spiritual qualities are the ‘little’ shen stored in the Heart, which emerges from the union of qi and blood; the three hun stored in the Liver, who follow the shen but are called back to the body by the quality of its blood; the po, treasured by the Lungs but related to the bones and spine; the intent housed in the treasury of the Spleen; and the will (or will-within-the-will) embodied within the Kidneys.  The will-within-the-will is particularly manifested through the burning and transforming action of the Triple Warmer as it distributes the jing-essence whose prior lineage will furnish the curriculum of the big shen in this life. Finally, the jing-shen, the union of materiality and affect, is carried along by the marrow to the brain, and there in the ‘mudball palace’, a ‘celestial embryo’ is formed: the reconstituted big shen.  The brain in particular is said have a relationship with the intent and will in a similar manner to the hun having a relationship to blood:  As long as the will and intent are present, so also will be the soul.  When the will and intention to move through life depart, the soul will soon depart as well.  In this final aspect, alchemy has more to say than ‘medicine’ proper.

The various spirits interact with one another, though all are ‘subjects’ of the Heart shen. The hun in particular as said in Ling Shu Chapter 8 (‘Rooted in Spirit’) to follow the comings and goings of the shen. The hun, as reflective and pious, are the personality aspects of the person, and as such must help further the curriculum by attracting and repelling various other types of personalities in the world around oneself.   Ted Kaptchuk notes that when healthy, the Hun doesn’t want anything different from what is.  The character is composed of ‘ghost’ and ‘clouds’, the clouds which follow and follow from heaven in its turnings.  Dang Gui is particularly associated with the hun.

The po, on the other hand, tend to work on disrupting the curriculum; or rather, they help provide the obstacles which will develop the shen’s capacity to rule in sublime tranquility, as befits the imperial office it holds in the person. The po, being associated with the jing, are also the ‘debts’ of a lineage which the person or the person’s shen has the capacity and destiny to rectify in this particular incarnation.  They do, however, provide the basic impulse of life and growth.  Ted Kaptchuk notes the concept of po describes what animates us, reflexively rather than voluntarily; the po are driven and instinctual, very complete, all encompassing, and related to basic aspects of survival.  Etymologically, the character is composed of ‘ghost’ and ‘white’.  The white in this case reflects the moon, and the earliest characters indicate the po are related to lunar phases — the phases of the moon indicating the proper times of planting, harvesting, and growth.  Hu Po is especially associated with the po; its name actually means ‘tiger’s soul’, but it is used not to promote aggression, but to centre the person.

RJ’s jacket works on the level of the hun:  although it seems to evoke libido, a po-associated reactivity and ‘impulse to survive’, in reality it strengthens one of the three worms in the blood which gnaw at the hun’s capacity for piety towards one’s friends.  This sort of libido is best treated through LV-5, ‘wormwood canal’, as I have had occasion to mention in previous episodes.  An alternate treatment might look at the relation of the Liver and Lungs, and harmonise those two organs, perhaps through the diaphragm or a formula which focuses on healing the ribcage (as the site or boney cavity in which the two organs interact).

A martial arts formula for cracked ribs includes dan shen as the imperial herb of the formula, qing pi, chen pi, mo yao, zhi shi, xiang fu, chuan lian zi, chai hu, and lu lu tong as deputies, and mu xiang and yan hu suo as assistants.  (Decoct, take 1 cup twice a day for three to four days.  Do not take if the rib has actually punctured the lung organ, or if there is internal bleeding, or if the person is pregnant or nursing.)  The formula clearly has more LV related herbs to move the qi and blood, but it includes chen pi, which goes to the Lungs, and chuan lian zi, which is used for removing parasites from the blood.

The little shen, stored in the heart, is  very space and time dependant.  Kaptchuk relates it to the Heart:  like the HT meridian, the shen concerns being present to do the right thing at right time in the right cultural context.  It’s image is of an altar and one of the ‘heavenly stems’.  Many herbs treat the shen, but the method of treatment depends on the aim:  to revive the shen, to anchor it, to calm it, to settle it, to promote it.  E Jiao can help ‘restick’ the shen; Fu Ling can help calm it; long gu can help anchor it.  Any herb which will treat both qi and blood, or rather help harmonise them, will impact the shen, as the shen emerges from their union.

The Big Shen or Ling is, again following Kaptchuk, the capacity for self-directed cultivation of virtue.  This capacity for self-cultivation is the combined capacities of each of the five ‘little shen’ working together.  Herbs listed in the Shen Nong Ben Cao as ‘increasing virtue’ are oriented towards nourishing the Ling.  Ling Zhi (Reishi mushroom) is perhaps the most well known.  (ReiKi is actually the Japanese translation of ‘Ling Qi’.)

Since I have treated the various spirits and wills of the body in previous posts, I will not spend time detailing treatments particular to each here.  If you or a loved one wish to pursue further study in concepts of Ancient Chinese Religion, I would refer you to the primary source material in the Huai Nan Zi, and to Christopher Schiffer or Livia Kohn’s research on the topic.  The article ‘Han Thanatology’, as well as works treating the Ma Wang Dui banners are other sources of information.

Happy Slayage!

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Bargaining, Part 1 (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 1)

At the close of the Fifth Season, Buffy sacrifices herself to close a portal which linked all hell dimensions to earth.  As Season Six begins, we see that without Buffy, the gang goes on.  With the aid of the Buffybot, the Scoobies continue their fight against the evils of the Hellmouth.  The gang doesn’t do too badly, though Giles is nearly choked to death by a vampire in the opening sequence.   Life continues with a fair degree of continuity, and Giles is shown keeping the regular training session with the slayer, in this case, the Buffybot, just as he did with Buffy.  In one scene, Giles instructs the Buffybot to breathe while imagining qi — although the Buffybot does not breathe.  The scene ends with the Buffybot asking Giles why he is still in Sunnydale.  Giles decides to leave for England, and so begins the slow unraveling of the gang that becomes the focus of Season Six.

Meanwhile, with the help of Anya, Tara, and Xander, Willow tries to raise Buffy from the dead.  Willow is convinced that Buffy’s soul, her ‘essence’, is trapped in some unknown hell dimension.  It is the gang’s duty to rescue Buffy from such a fate.  She and the others gatehr ingredients for the spell, but the ritual is suddenly interrupted by a broken Buffybot leading a gang of motorcycling demons to the cemetery.  Willow and the others are left at the end of the episode believing her spell failed.

The season thus opens with some very metaphysical terms being thrown about, for which Chinese medicine has some rather different meanings.  Qi, soul, and essence, each mentioned in this episode, are discussed throughout Chinese medical and philosophical history.  The most appropriate acupuncture channel system to regulates all three, and which I will focus on for this season, is the Eight Channels of the Extraordinary Meridians.

Before we get to this episode’s diagnosis, however, a note on Giles’ concept of qi.  Giles instructs the Buffybot to imagine the air as qi, which he glosses as ‘energy’.  However, qi does not mean ‘energy’ as such in Chinese.  In fact, if you ask someone about the qi in Chinese, they will most likely initially think you are talking about the weather outside.  This common use of the word qi points to its intrinsic meaning in medicine:  qi is that which changes, both in the sense of effecting change and in the sense of that which undergoes change.  In this regard, qi is both material and metabolic.  When a herbalist or an acupuncturist regulates qi in the body, they are regulating metabolism, physiology, and the rate of change as a body adapts to variations in its environment.  The traditional character for ‘qi’ is that of a grain of rice exploding beneath whirls of steam:  the transformation of raw into cooked, earth into air or vapour.

Likewise, Chinese medicine would find Willow’s equation of Buffy’s soul with her essence to be somewhat curious.  In a certain respect, Willow is speaking in Greek concepts (ousia as essence and unseen, but tied to personality; and psyche as soul or mind, also linked to personality), while Chinese medicine uses a different sent ideas to convey its understanding of human life.  In other words, the issue is one of translation.  The word translated as ‘essence’ is jing.  It has a grain of rice as the radical, giving the impression that the grain which can grow into the plant is the ‘essence’ of the plant.  ‘Seed’ is not a bad translation, inasmuch as jing is manifest visibly in seminal fluid and menstrual blood.  The other part of the character appears in the word for ‘cyan’ or ‘blue-green’, as well as the character for ‘clear’ or ‘clarity’.  Jing is the clear portion of what grows into a person.

In contrast, describing the soul or spirit is a matter of getting more specific.  Four words can be translated as soul and spirit:  ling, shen, hun, and po.  Of those, ling and shen are the types of soul to which Willow likely referred.  The po are ‘corporeal souls’, the appetites of human life which lead to death and addiction.  Numbered at seven, they are buried with the corpse after death, and are thus sometimes called ‘bone souls’.  Clearly, those are not what Willow is talking about.  The hun or ethereal souls, three souls related to the personality and moral attainments in this life, leave the soul at death through the top of the head.  They are honoured as the ancestors, and after about three generations either dissipate or are reincarnated back into the lineage (depending on what tradition one follows).  It is possible Willow refers to them, but they are housed in the Liver, part and parcel of the blood and emotions which bring warmth and colour to life.  The shen, or spirit proper, is stored in the heart.  This is the soul which gathers the rest together.  It is the soul which experiences this life and changes because of it; it is the soul which imparts a mission to a life, and directs the jing to grow so that the mission can be accomplished.  This is the soul to which Willow seems to refer when she speaks about Buffy’s ‘essence’.  Together, as jingshen, essence and soul constitute the pattern a person is living out in life.  Jingshen manifests physically as marrow, which gathers in the cranium to form the brain.  The channels which address it, are the eight extraordinary vessels.

With those definitions in mind, we can now turn back to this episode’s diagnosis:  Shortness of breath.  Twice this symptom was shown.  First, Giles is nearly choked by a vampire at the beginning, and can’t breathe. Later, he tells the Buffybot to breathe. Difficulty breathing is often thought of as either a Lung (difficulty exhaling) or Kidney (difficulty inhaling) issue.  Of the extraordinary vessels, the Ren Mai is the most appropriate channel to treat.  Not only are its opening a coupled points LU7 and KD3, several points on the midline relate to the chest, diaphragm, and kidneys.  Thus, in addition to the opening point, I might add in CV-12 (the source of the LU meridian, which originates in the middle of the stomach), CV-17 (centre of the chest), and CV-6 (Sea of qi).

For herbal medicine, Ma Huang is the signature herb for difficulty breathing.  Either as Ma Huang Tang or combined with Gecko for Kidney-deficient asthma, Ma Huang opens the lungs, facilitates breathing, and promotes sweating.  Usually Ma Huang Tang is more suitable for robust individuals (like the Buffybot); at a smaller dose, however, Giles would be able to take it without exhausting himself further.

For this first treatment of the season, I’ve used only one Extraordinary Vessel (EV).  I will go through each individually, and then begin pairing them off to create more interesting treatments.  In addition to trying to stay within one acupuncture paradigm, I think I will try to prescribe herbal formulas according to one school of thought.  For this season, I’m going to try a warm-disease approach, particularly since Ye Tian-Shi elucidated a physiology by which pathology enters the EVs.  Hopefully I’ll find enough formulas!

As always, this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes.  If you or a loved one have died and you want to come back to life, or if you or a loved one have difficulty breathing, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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!

Living Conditions (Buffy Season 4, Episode 2)

Ah, the roommate from another dimension.  I’m afraid many of us have been there.  I mean, many of us have been in the position of having a roommate from another dimension, rather than having been to the dimension the roommate happens to be from.  Although, some roommates will just suck you into their world regardless of all your own attempts to maintain your hold on this reality…

In this episode, we learn that Kathy, Buffy’s first college roommate is a demon who escaped her dimension to come to Sunnydale as a student.  Through the use of an arcane ritual involving blood and a scorpion, she attempts to steal Buffy’s soul while Buffy sleeps.  Having Buffy’s soul means that Kathy will not be detected by her home dimension’s ‘missing child’ task force;  instead, Buffy the Soul-less one, will be taken back to the dimension Kathy affectionately calls ‘Nebraska’.  Buffy is only aware that she is having very strange dreams.  Buffy’s friends believe she is over-reacting, and begin to suspect she may be going slightly mad.

So what can Chinese Medicine do for Buffy now?  The ritual offers some clues, actually.  Scorpion, or Quan Xie, is used medicinally to extinguish wind (i.e. tremours, stubborn headache) and goes exclusively to the Liver channel.  The use of blood in the ritual, especially during dream-time, also points to the Liver.  At night, the blood returns to the Liver, where it nourishes the hun, the ethereal soul, and anchors those souls (usually numbered as three) to call them back from wandering about while a person dreams.

The hun can be thought of as that aspect of the soul which involves the person’s personality; it survives for about three generations after a persons death, having exited via the mouth (or the top of the head, depending on one’s tradition).  It is the soul-aspect of an ancestor that is honoured in the household shrines.  (The other aspects of the soul, the shen and the po have been treated elsewhere.  The po return to the earth with the bones, the shen departs to wherever it needs to go next.)

Therefore, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, the ritual being used by Kathy involves taking the hun from Buffy when they are most accessible — during sleep.  They are loosened from Buffy through the use of foreign blood.  In case Buffy’s own lack of blood should give rise to wind — when the vessels are empty of blood, they often fill with wind instead, sometimes leading to madness — a scorpion is used.

It’s all well and good to understand the mechanism of an illness, but what can be done about it?  In this case, I would say we need to anchor the hun by nourishing Liver blood.  For points, I would use BL-47, hun men (“Ethereal soul gate”) and BL-17, the shu point of blood.  I would also consider thread moxa on Du-26, not only a ghost point but also near the mouth from which the hun are being drawn out of Buffy.  (Used as a ghost point, the area is pricked in order to draw a drop of blood.)

Finally, if I were particularly keen on discerning where the hun are located during the day, I would consult with some of the Dunhuang manuscripts on iatromancy, which detail how the hun move from point to point following the waxing and waning of the moon.  (See Lo and Cullen 2005, Medieval Chinese Medicine.  Routledge.)    The Qianjin yaofang notes that the renshen is located in the navel at age 19; and then moves to the heart.  The Wuwei manuscripts from Gansu locate the shenhun in the heart at that time, moving to the abdomen (which I take to mean CV-12, the ST mu) the following year.  Since Buffy is 19 at the time of this episode (using the Chinese system of counting birth as ‘1’, and the end of the first year of life as age 2), I would want to address either CV-12 or CV-14 as well.  Note the scorpion seems to be crawling upwards from these areas, past the pericardium-mu point of CV-17, and towards the mouth during Buffy’s dreams.

For herbal medicines, I would use Xi Xian Cao, steamed in wine (jiu zhi Xi Xian Cao) together with Ba Zhen Tang.  Xi Xian Cao (herba siegesbeckiae), can help the Liver bank blood and experiences.  it calms the spirit when there is a tendency for it to rise or not be contained, and is specific for physically restless insomnia.   The Ba Zhen Tang is simply present to nourish the blood overall, and to ensure that the po remain anchored to the presence of qi.  I might think of also using Gui Zhi Long Gu Mu Li Tang for a similar purpose, the gui zhi and bai shao, or the sheng jiang and da zao combinations acting to harmonise the qi and blood (as wei and ying qi), and thus maintain the balance between hun and po, hopefully preventing Buffy from going mad and becoming dominated by the sometimes perverse po.

In the end, of course, Buffy gets her soul back, and Kathy is banished — well, taken by her father — back to the dimension from whence she came.

As always, this post is to entertainingly illustrate the ways in which Chinese medical theories can be applied to various situations.  If you feel that Chinese Medicine may benefit you, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

Surprise (Buffy, Season 1)

I barely remember my seventeenth birthday.  I can recall my sixteenth and my eighteenth, and even my nineteenth.  But the seventeenth seems a remote memory.  I do remember finding an early 20th century cake recipe and trying that out (it was quite moist, and kept well).  Obviously, not as eventful as Buffy’s 17th birthday.  But then, my birthday is during the summer, hers during the school year.  I was always mildly jealous of people who celebrated their birthdays during the school year.

While Buffy was busy sorting through nightmares and falling in love, Ms Calendar received a visit from an apparently long lost uncle.  It seems she had gotten distracted from her family duty — to watch Angel and make certain he never forgets what he did to her people.

Lineage, filial piety, and one’s destiny are all intertwined in Chinese medicine.  Particularly since the Song dynasty, when the Confucian morality of filial piety was incorporated into the framework of five phase theory, and the Ming dynasty, when the “Ming Men” or “Gate of Destiny” school of thought became dominant.

Ming men is actually a somewhat difficult term to translate, and calling ming “destiny” doesn’t quite convey the full force or nuance of the character.  Ming is the mandate of heaven, the pattern of life which you unfold physiologically and socially.  Destiny is achieved usually by living out the term of your life, which may be longer or shorter than those around you.  It is intimately bound up with jing, essence, as well as with your lineage.

Lineage can be a powerful factor in a person’s medical profile, and Ms Calendar is no exception.  Usually, this lineage is conceived of as physical and familial:  parent to child, grandparent to grandchild.  But not always.  The fully realised person can choose his or her own lineage, and if a soul has fulfilled the task of its lineage, it will no longer incarnate in that family.  Likewise, if a family’s remaining tasks are not suitable to the curriculum a particular soul must learn, it will not incarnate in that family.  Usually, however, a soul returns to the same family until its karma is worked out.  “It” referring to either the soul or the family.

So what does this have to do with acupuncture and herbal medicine?

The highest work of medicine is the cultivation of destiny.  Since Ms Calendar seems to have gotten distracted from hers, it is time that we bring her what aid she needs.

Earlier, we had diagnosed Jenny Calendar with heart shock.  Did we perhaps misdiagnose her?  I don’t think so.  I think our previous diagnosis did not go far enough.

Shock to the heart can affect its communication with the Kidneys.  The Kidneys store ming men, the fire of the gate of life.  For destiny to manifest itself, the shen of the heart must be in good communication with the jing of the kidneys.

Our first treatment settled the heart enough that we can now focus on bringing its fire into the water of the kidneys without disturbing them.

Herbally, I would use a two medicinal formula as a base:  Huang Lian and Rou Gui.  This combination is said to “lead the fire back to its source” — anchoring the heart fire in the kidneys.  However, we want to make certain that Ms Calendar is able to hold herself together at this time, and so I would add Shan Yao, which tonifies the kidneys and astringes them (and thus consolidates the mission of her lineage).  I also want this mission to manifest itself in her life again.  In other words, I want to work on the outward manifestation of minister fire.  It is currently not manifesting outward because of an emotional shock; therefore, I would work on the Pericardium channel.  Chuan Xiong is a blood invigorating medicinal which goes to the Pericardium.  Since the PC is also known as the Heart Master, it is often pictured as the Confucian scholar who tells the emperor how to order his house.  For Ms Calendar, it will help her order her mission in life.  I might consider adding Shu Di Huang to strengthen the connection of Chuan Xiong (a blood herb) with Shan Yao (a kidney, and thus in some way, a jing herb).

If one wants to try a traditional formula, Huang Lian E Jiao Tang might work nicely, for similar reasons.  The E Jiao serves a similar purpose as Shan Yao in the smaller formula I presented above.

As for acupuncture, how do we cultivate destiny?

Ordinarily, I would immediately go to the jing level and think of working with the Extraordinary Vessels.  Using primary meridians, I would think of the Kidney and Triple Warmer channels.  Luo Vessels, I would think of bleeding the Wei Mai or Du-1 and CV-15, to clear out old emotional habits.  Divergent channels, I might think of the first confluence — BL-KD, since not only do these go to the heart, they also are linked to jing.  The divergent channels, in fact, can be quite powerful in this regard, since they all go to the heart, the residence of the shen.

Why one chooses a particular channel system over another, however, is important to clarify.  Luo vessels clear the emotions; CDs access the heart; EVs move jing and help it to unfold; primary channels bridge the interior and exterior worlds.

In other words, no one set of points is applicable in all cases.  For Jenny Calendar’s case, since she does not need to see her destiny — it is already revealed and opened to her — and merely needs to reconnect to it, I would choose three points, a combination of primary and extraordinary channels:  KD-1, Ren-17, Du-20.

KD-1, bubbling well, accesses the qi of the Kidneys quite directly, as it is a jing-well point.  It can be viewed as a point which helps allow the jing to bubble up from within the person.

Du-20, the meeting of the hundred spirits of the body, can be seen as the highest level of one’s development, the place where heaven enters into one’s body, and the place from which the soul (“ling”) returns to heaven.  As such, it has a relationship to that mandate of heaven.

Ren-17 is the mu point of the Pericardium.  As such, it relates to how one orders one’s life.  By needling this after KD-1 and Du-20, we are bringing the jing qi and shen qi into relationship with this proper ordering.

Together, these three points should access the jing level and orient towards expressing the heavenly mandate in a well ordered manner.

As always, the concepts described in this post are for theoretical purposes only.  If you feel that Asian medicine may help you nourish your destiny, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

“The Puppet Show” (Buffy, Season 1)

I always like shows which feature creepy and murderous dummies. Alfred Hitchcock had a great one, in which the puppeteer fell in love with his dummy. That was creepy.

The puppeteer in this episode, however, meets a somewhat untimely end, although not the end he might have been expecting. Instead of death by brain cancer, his brain was harvested by a demon which needed to eat the heart and brain of a human every seven years in order to retain its human form. I seem to recall Anne Rice writing about vampires who ate the heart and brain of their predecessors. I think this was in Queen of the Damned.

Why a demon would want to retain the form of a high school student is somewhat beyond my comprehension. I’m sure Anyanka would have some rather interesting points to make in this regard.

The deceased’s dummy, it turns out, had a mission: to slay all these seven-year itch demons, after which his soul would be able to move on (and out of the creepy puppet body). He had already disposed of six. His last mission lay at Sunnydale High. Instead of (over)killing the demon with a guillotine and kitchen knife, however, he might have tried a different approach.

I think the diagnostic signifiers are the combination of seven years, heart, and brain.

First, seven years.  This particular demon clearly operates on a regular cycle, one which corresponds to the female cycle of seven years.  Although the Nei Jing indicates that women’s lives unfold along a seven year, and men’s lives along an eight year cycle, for some people, these lives can be shorter or longer.  What is important is that a clear pattern emerge.  This cyclical unfolding results from the triple warmer mechanism manifesting what is contained in prenatal jing, outwardly moving the most simple forms of yin, yang, and blood in a person.  In other words, the triple heat mechanism is in a certain sense determining how much the resources of the Ren, Du, and Chong Mai come into the world at any given cycle of life.  The San Jiao acts as a sort of guard to the treasure room, or even financial officers, permitting only a certain amount to be withdrawn at a time.

The cycles of seven therefore point us to three areas:  the jing, the Triple Heater mechanism, and the extraordinary vessels.  Also involved in this process of unfolding one’s life according to cycles are the Wei Mai.  Specifically, I would think the Yang Wei Mai is active in this situation, since it’s role is to integrate the exterior (“human high school student”) with the interior (“seven-year itch demon”).  Conveniently, TH-5 is the opening point for the Yang Wei Mai.

The eating of the Heart and Brain present their own twist on this diagnosis.  The Heart is the residence of the little shen, usually translated generically as “spirit.”  According to one interpretation, this little shen comes about after a ling, or soul, merges with the mixing of the jing of one’s parents.  The ling separates into five spiritual entities, termed the yi (intent), zhi (will-within-the-will), shen, hun (ethereal souls), and po corporeal souls).  (The hun and po are also considered to be plural in number, bringing the total fracturing to thirteen.)  The goal of the person’s life, according to the ancient Chinese alchemists, is to reunite these fractured entities into the Yuan Shen, the Original Spirit.  The organ which houses the Original Spirit?  That would be the Brain.

These seven-year itch demons, then, are consuming the fleshly residences in which the Little Shen and the Big Shen are stored.  It seems that their jing needs to unite with some shen in order to maintain an external appearance.  The treatment principle, therefore, is to keep the yin (jing) from separating from the existing yang (shen).  If this can be achieved, the seven-year itch will be relieved, and at least a few Sunnydale students will not die needlessly (this week).

The acupuncture treatment I might give would be to combine a Yang Wei Mai treatment with a Triple Heater Channel Divergence treatment.  A bit unorthodox, since I like to keep my channel systems separate, in general.  My reasoning for combing the two is this:  The Triple Heater Channel Divergence symptoms are concerned with yin and yang losing their ability to harmonise; treating the TH CD can help push the yang aspects of physiology back to the jing level.  The TH CD begins at Du-20, which is where the hun leaves at death, where the hundred spirits meet, and in some texts, is a point on the Yang Wei Mai.  It has a downward trajectory (to the heart, so, unless the demon is eating hearts because its previous heart has begun to decay, we should be in the clear.)  We activate the wei mai to engage its role in the seven year cycle and harness the energy of the TH mechanism through the opening point, TH-5.  The points I would use are:  TH-5, SI-10 or GB-20, Du-20, TH-17, CV-12.  I would use a deep needling technique for the TH-5, SI-10, and GB-20 points.  From Du-20 onwards, I would use a deep-superficial-deep needling technique.  The Yang Wei Mai treatment protocol can be continued daily with rosemary oil.  Unfortunately, EV treatments usually take three months to show results, and CD treatments can take three weeks.  That means the demon should really have planned ahead.  That whole, “I’m going to use the body of a high school student” has its drawbacks — frequent lack of forethought being one of them.

For an herbal treatment, I would be tempted to try Ren Shen Ge Jie San (Ginseng and Gecko powder).  At first glance, this formula does not meet the treatment criteria.  It is not used to consolidate yin and yang.  It has no sticky ingredients to make the shen adhere to the jing.  It doesn’t even include the heart and brain of the gecko from which it is made, using only their skin or tails.  However, sometimes infertility is due to the jing being unable to grasp the shen.  Physiologically, this is analogous to the Kidneys being unable to grasp the Lung qi.  This formula does exactly that — augments the Kidneys to grasp Lung qi.  It also contains Sang Bai Pi, which is used in Channel Divergent treatments, usually with the addition of E Jiao.  That would be the one modification I would make to the formula.

As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you have a seven-year itch which might receive benefit from acupuncture or herbal medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!