Lies my Parents told me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 17)

This episode sees two maternal backstories coming into open conflict, that of Principal Wood, and that of Spike.  Principal Wood’s mother had been a Slayer, and was killed by Spike sometime in the era of Afros and Disco.  (Spike ended up with her coat as a trophy.)  Spike had a different experience of his mother:  Soon after his own siring by Drusilla, Spike decided to make his mother into a vampire.  He unleashed a demon, who is thrilled to be rid of Spike.  Before Spike kills her (Spike seems to be a chronic matricide, it seems), Spike’s mother has a monologue in which she describes William as ‘slithering from her’ when he was born, calling him a ‘parasite’.

I figure I should have at least one post in this entire show which mentions gestation and parturition in Chinese medicine.  Overall, Angel is a better show for that topic, given the series of strange pregnancies that Cordelia and Darla experience.

In terms of acupuncture, the EVs are typically the channels most associated with gestation.  This applies both to the formation of the fetus as well as to the mother’s conception of the baby and holding the pregnancy to term.  As for labour, acupuncture on the primary channels can be used to induce labour (these points tend to be contraindicated during pregnancy, though whether or not they are strong enough to induce a miscarriage is debated).  When a fetus is malpositioned, moxa is burned at the end of the Bladder meridian, averting a breech birth situation.

Physiologically, herbal medicine has more to say on the topic of pregnancy.  Formulas abound for treating everything from difficulty in conceiving, ‘restless fetus syndrome’, difficult labour, eclampsia, retained lochia, bleeding after childbirth, and difficult lactation.

When it comes to the Channel Divergences, the most appropriate channel to discuss within the framework of early life is the Gallbladder Channel Divergence, particularly as its trajectory mirrors the San Jiao mechanism which is lit by a baby’s first breath.  The trajectory of the front San Jiao mechanism, like the GB CD, encompasses all the mu points.  Mu points are where the post-natal (qi from breath and food) supports the prenatal.

As developed by the Nan Jing (Classic of Difficulties) school, the San Jiao mechanism along the back establishes the shu points of the BL meridian. Along the front, it establishes the three Dan Tian. This occurs when the umbilical cord is cut and the infant must depend on its own breath for survival. The front mu points follow the creation cycle; the back shu points follow the control cycle. Pathology will progress either along the creation cycle (and follow the Fu organs) or the control cycle (and follow the Zang organs).

In other words, as mentioned in last week’s post, mu points are where blood supports jing.  For this reason, the GB-LV CD, which deals with blood, follows the BL-KD CD, which uses jing to contain a pathogen.  By the time a pathophysiology has progressed this far, the jing needs to draw on blood to support latency.  Harnessing the energetics of the mu points is one way to accomplish that.

As a theoretical side note, vampires, when sired, are sired through blood, not jing.  If they were to have an equivalent of mu points, they would more likely be related to Stomach, and to points where body fluids or perception (both associated with the upper orifices) support blood.  Humans enter this world through taking their first breath with the Lung organ.  Vampires re-enter through the Stomach (or possibly SP — an organ of incomplete transformation).  I wonder, would their primary channels then begin with the ST and end with LI?

In any event, I am examining Spike’s birth as a human, and to do so a little bit of information about the Gallbladder CD trajectory is in order.

The channel trajectory begins with GB30 (Huan Tiao).  This is one of the star points of Ma Dong-Yuan, and is used in alchemical acupuncture.   It is the point which allows a person to jump to heaven.  In this capacity, it also helps release grief.  In that case, what is grieved for is allowed its redemption.  Forgiveness is often the resolution of mourning.

From GB-30, the channel progresses anteriorly to the margin of the pubic hair at CV-2 or CV-3, where it meets up with the Liver primary channel.  That meeting continues onwards to the next point in the sequence, GB-25, the KD mu point.   In terms of five-phase energetics, this is the point at which wood supports water, or thought of another way, at which LV blood supports KD jing.  In terms of external medicine, this is where the sinews (yang of yang) support bones (yin of yang).  This is where the GB gains its ability to master the bones, as indicated in the Ling Shu.

From GB-25, the next point is LV-13, the SP mu and the mu point of the solid organs.  LV-13 also drains into GB-26, Dai Mai.  Looking at the physiology from a spirit-point perspective, this is the point at which mulling and pensiveness drain into the EV which will pass those unresolved thoughts to future progeny.  It can work in the opposite direction, though too, as the GB is an organ of courage and decisiveness.  In Channel Divergence physiology, this is where the GB CD is trying to draw up yuan qi of Dai Mai.  If the Dai Mai is full (i.e. cannot hold more latency), the mu points then fill, and the mu points become the areas of the body in which latency is held.  The GB CD brings blood to Mu points to support jing in its holding on of latent pathogens.  This creates mu point sensitivity.  Japanese acupuncture systems often use mu points diagnositically, relying on this type of pathophysiological process.

From the SP mu point, the channel then goes to GB-24, the GB mu point.  This point allows the pathogen and the channel to enter the GB organ.  From there, the channel passes into the Liver organ at the LV mu point, LV-14.  LV-14 is the point where the LV stores blood.  (In primary channel physiology, the combination LV-8 and LV-14 can be very effective in treating blood-deficient insomnia.)

The channel then diffuses out of the Liver and into the Heart, reaching CV-14, the HT mu point.  The physiological relationship here is one of LV blood supporting HT blood, yin, and qi.  That support continues at PC-1, the next point in the trajectory.  There, the LV is supporting jue-yin blood.  PC-1 and LV-14 are effective points in helping the body to clarify blood, in terms of six-channel energetics.  For reference, PC-1 is not the usual mu point for the PC, CV-17 is.  CV-17, however, is not on the GB Channel Divergence trajectory.

From PC-1, the channel passes upwards to ST-12, the doorway through which pathogens pass inwards or move outwards.  The channel then meets up with ST-9, ‘Welcome to humanity’.  This is a sea of blood point, so again, the relationship at this window to the sky point is one of blood supporting jing.  The point combines well with GB-30, for releasing emotions and holding patterns to heaven.

After ST-9, the channel goes to the root of the tongue at CV-23, meeting with Yin Wei Mai along the way.  If the mu points have already been filled, or if one of the upper orifices is blocked, the GB Channel Divergence will find a place to keep the pathogen latent at the next point, ST-5.   To release that latency, gua sha both this point and the SCM.  Note that releasing the pathogen in this manner may move the pathogen into the ST primary meridian, prompting a fever.  The wise physician would make certain that the ST channel is tonified enough that it can move the pathogen upwards and outwards.

After ST-5, the channel passes through CV-24 and then to GB-1.  GB-1 treats  ‘Jie’, that which binds up the eyes.  The channel has an affinity for the upper eyelids.  It is the first Channel Divergence to go to upper orifices themselves, passing by the ears on the way.

Ordinarily, I would think of combining a GB channel divergence treatment with Dai Mai EV treatments, or possibly a San Jiao mechanism oriented treatment.  Earlier, I mentioned that the LI CD is the wei qi which lit the San Jiao mechanism.  That implies a physiological relationship between the LI CD and GB CDs.  The treatment counsel of gua sha on ST-5 and the SCM, with the resulting possibility of using the primary channel of the ST to move the pathogen outwards — often through the LI primary channel — again highlights this connexion.  The two channels can be combined in a treatment session if the patient has enough blood to support jing, and yang is in need of resuscitation.  I would then follow that combination of treatments with a plain and simple San Jiao mechanism treatment, presented in the chart below.

The chart below describes the sequence of wei qi entering the body to ‘light’ the San Jiao fire and move jing into the respective organs, beginning the cycle of self-sufficient generation in a human body.  To treat a person, first needle ST-12, then, while retaining needles at ST-12, needle LU-1.  Needle ST-25 next, and remove the needles from ST-12.  Needle GB-25 next, and remove the needles at LU-1.  Continue in this fashion until the trajectory is completed.

At one point, after GB-25, the San Jiao mechanism splits, moving both upwards and downwards.  The treatment can either retain the needles at GB-25 and progress through either downward or upward movements to meet at CV-12, or the treatment can move simultaneously through both upward and downward trajectories.  I have not used this treatment often enough to determine which is more effective.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have discovered that your mother is a vampire and you wish to sever your umbilical attachment to her in order to live your own life, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy slayage!

Point Organ Mu Element Explanation
ST-12 Earth The basin into which breath goes from the nostrils, to enter the interior of the body and travel towards navel, where umbilical cord has been cut.
LU-1 Lungs Metal Breath travels to navel from ST-12 via this point. Breath “fans” the “pilot light” of KD Yang
ST-25 Large Intestine Metal Breath establishes connexion between LU-1 and ST-25.
GB-25 Kidney Water Goes to Dai Mai and connects to lower back (BL23, Du-4). Energy moving to KD. From here, qi goes up and goes down.

Downward movement:

Upward Parallel:
CV-3 Urinary Bladder Water Qi is still in water Needle LR-14, GB-24 while retaining CV-3
CV-5 San Jiao Water/ Fire SanJiao links Water with Fire Retain CV-17, and needle CV-5
CV-4 Small Intestine Fire Retain CV-14 and needle CV-4

Upward movement:

Downward Parallel
LR-14 Liver Wood Water moves into Wood CV-3
GB-24 Gallbladder Wood From Wood qi moves to the centre and Fire – PC CV-3
CV-17 Pericardium Fire Energy comes inwards from nipples (GB-24) and up from CV-3. Wood into Fire CV-5
CV-14 Heart Fire Heart is sovereign of ZangFu CV-4

Back into centre:

CV-12 Stomach Earth Energy returns to earth, the centre and the influential point of fu organs Retain CV-12, and needle LR-13
LR-13 Spleen Earth Influential point of Zang organs San Jiao ends at Influential points of Zang Fu

Dopplegangland (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 16) Post Two

In this second post we will leave the awesomeness of this episode aside — and aside from the costuming and acting, it has some really excellent lines (especially Xander’s “Can you believe the Watcher’s Council let this guy go?”) — and focus on the human Willow.

After all, being a reliable doormat isn’t fun.

It is not at all uncommon to find patients who feel this way, and they aren’t always the quiet withdrawn types.  Like Willow, they can often be exhuberant, upbeat, and optimistic — even forgetting that they were treated like a doormat a few days beforehand, or making excuses for the person who ill-treated them.

While we may find the capacity for forgiveness and the sweetness of these people endearing, very often they are deeply hurt.  Like a bruised bone, the evidence isn’t on the outside or in the affect, and usually not in public sight.  Unlike those patients who have been hurt by an intimate relationship gone sour or who habitually seek out violent domestic relationships, these patients are experiencing a too porous external boundary.  (The previous examples have a too porous internal boundary.)

Treating this sort of situation with herbs will take a different approach from treating it with acupuncture.

In terms of herbal medicine,  boundary issues exemplify the state of a person’s blood, particularly their liver blood.  Just as the Liver is that which gives us the impulse to go out into the world, like seedlings bursting through the soil in springtime, so also post-natally it relies on a strong reservoir of blood.  If the Liver has too much blood, it may seek to relieve itself of that burden, and since it can afford to shed some blood, it is not afraid to become overtly aggressive.  These are the sorts of people who invade other people’s spaces, whether they are aware of it or not.  For those who continually shrink back, the issue is a lack of blood.  If they shrink back and begin to lessen themselves, then we see the body having depleted its reserves of blood so much it must begin to draw from Kidney essence to support its life.  (In this situation, we see the reverse process that the Channel Divergences follow: the first confluent pair of CDs deals with jing, and when that is exhausted, the body begins to make use of blood, which is the focus of the second confluence.)

To contrast the Liver in this case with the image of Spleen as society:  Liver is the going out into the world, whether in society or not; it is the transformation of Jing-Essence into something more motile and impressionable (i.e. blood). Jing is a template in and of itself; it impresses its pattern onto post-natal essence derived from food. Blood, on the other hand, is produced from that template, but it is itself affected by the world outside. When it reunites with qi or jing or shen to become marrow, the impressions of one’s curriculum and the impressions of one’s experiences are brought together and flow into the brain, where they can support and provide residence for the yuan shen.  Interestingly, the French osteopath Jean Pierre Barral, approaching the viscera from the European tradition of visceral manipulation, notes that the liver “memorizes every element that goes into building our identity”  (Understanding the Messages of Your Body, p104).

Herbally, what sort of prescription would we choose? One which builds Liver blood, as Ted Kaptchuk has pointed out: Liver is related to boundaries. As Jeffrey points out, blood is related to resources. Together, LV blood are the resources with which one exerts one’s boundaries.  One could choose a simple Si Wu Tang (just make certain to dry fry the Bai Shao before adding it to the formula), or augment it with the addition of E Jiao for someone who has begun to give away too much of themselves; or for those who have been trampled upon so often they’ve become frozen, add some Tao Ren and Hong Hua to reinvigorate the blood.  A little Gui Zhi or Luo Shi Teng to open the collaterals and warm them wouldn’t hurt, either.

While one could easily lift the treatment principles of building blood and nourishing the Liver from the herbal protocol, acupuncture has other resources at its disposal through reflection on the names of acupuncture points.

Three points in particular bear names which relate to external boundaries and self-protection.  These three points are TW-5, Wai Guan (“Outer Gate”), GB-28 Wai Shu (“Outer Pivot”), and KD-7 Wai Ming (“Outer Life”).  KD-7 is more commonly known as “Recovering the flow”, and GB-28 Wei Dao can also be read as “Protect the path”.  (The alternate names are contained in Ellis, Wiseman, and Boss’ Grasping the Wind.)

Let’s take a closer look at these points.

TW-5, Outer Gate, was the first point I thought of in the context of boundaries.  Paired with PC-6, Inner Gate, it regulates the movement of exterior and interior.  Alone, it focuses the patient’s ability to discern whether a situation is something to keep outside oneself or allow it to be experienced — perhaps not as deeply and intimately as PC-6 — but nevertheless, being a luo-point and thus related to blood, it allows an experience to be had. We are not bleeding the point, but bloodletting to relieve rigidity of the sense organs — the indications of TW luo pathology — may serve a useful purpose in allowing someone to clearly see at the outset when someone is going to take advantage of them.

Additionally, it is a point on the ShaoYang channel, which is the pivot between the exterior yang meridians.  It also opens the Yang Wei Mai Channel, which we have discussed previously as dealing with integrating and consolidating the surface with the interior of the person.  Obviously, this is a trait clearly related to the name of the point.   However, since we are not needling other points on the Yang Wei Mai channel, we need not be detained by its dynamics.

The second point, GB-28, is also a ShaoYang point.  It’s common name is Protect the Way, that is, the path which someone is supposed to walk.  It’s other name, Outer Pivot relates both the to physical movement associated with ShaoYang — turning or twisting outwards — but also resonates with the ability to navigate through life’s choices.  It can help a person pivot to avoid being struck, as in Tai Ji — or in Willow’s case, to evade the antics of a Principal Snyder.

KD-7, Returning Flow, is so named because after the qi of the KD channel gets diverted into the Yin Qiao Mai (which deals with one’s view of the self), it returns back to the channel which in some ways is eminently representative of the self.  How you view yourself impacts who you are, and this is the point that can allow that view into your daily life.  Additionally, it is the jing-river point, and thus relates to pathologies of the voice.  The jing-river point on a channel which deals with one’s self therefore leads me to think of it in a similar vein as HT-5 — for person’s who have trouble articulating who they are.  In the case of HT-5, the difficulty lies in the tongue, in allowing the shen to speak; in this case, it is a matter of allowing the jing its space to manifest.  In other words, it concerns articulating what one needs to live one’s Outer Life — as the point is so named — rather than one’s inner life.

As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel that Chinese medicine may help give you the resources to change how you are being treated by others, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!  (Or Happy Hexing!)

“When She Was Bad” (Buffy, Season 2)

I had forgotten just how much I liked the soundtrack in this series. When I rewatched this first episode of season 2, I was struck by the improved camera-work. The scene of Buffy dancing with Xander at the Bronze was quite well done, with Willow and Angel both framed in the background.

So, after a summer away in L.A., Buffy returns to Sunnydale. Her father described her as seeming “distant” all summer, while Willow spelled out Buffy’s behavioural change more explicitly for Giles. (Unfortunately, Xander heard Willow stutter the ‘H’ and thought she was talking about Buffy being a “bitcah”.) Even Cordelia calls Buffy out on her personality pathology, while Cibo Matto performs “Sugar Water” at the Bronze.

The following discussion is purely for theoretical and entertainment purposes.

Buffy’s problem is simple: she was killed by the Master and then she finds out that his bones were stolen for a resurrection ritual.  She never had a chance to express her grief.

In 5-phase terminology, this is a clear case of metal, with its inward-moving, constrictive qi overacting on the outward expression of wood. LU controlling LV, in other words. To support this diagnosis, I would point out that the very physical activity Buffy engages in with a sledgehammer at the end of the episode clearly allows LV yang to express itself through the tendons (and put all the Master’s effort at Bone Marrow washing and breathing to nought).  This finally allows the LU qi to release itself from the self-contained, closed network of the 5-phase cycle as grief.

In other words, I’m arguing that the emotions are the lass of qi from its internal circulation within the body. Grief allows the exterior release of metal’s dynamic, just as anger siphons off the LV qi. Otherwise, anger would too readily damage the heart through overwhelming it with too much yang qi. In the case of grief, if it is transferred to the Kidneys all at once, it may damage the person’s sense of self and their ability to express themselves in the world. In Buffy’s case, the excess metal energy when to constraining Wood, leading to her bitchiness throughout the episode.

The 5-phase treatment with acupuncture would be very simple: LV-8, KD-10 (note how this combination not only tonifies the child via tonifying the mother, it gives the Kidneys additional resources to cope with an influx of LU qi); LU-9 would then be dispersed. I would not think of using Luo vessels in this case, since Buffy’s grief isn’t simply repressed; it is impacting the overall qi dynamic of her body and life. Since it has already affected another organ, why not address the two together through a five phase treatment?

In the case of herbal prescriptions, I would use Sang Ye as the emperor herb. Sang Ye releases the exterior. When the exterior is clear, what is on the interior can come out. Sang Ye also goes to the Liver and Lung channels, which we have already identified as being imbalanced. In fact, I would be prone to add Sang Ye to those cases of grief which is present, known, and yet unable to quite resolve itself. (I would distinguish this grief from that caused by disappointment — use Pang Da Hai or Ku Shen — on the one hand, and depression — use Xuan Shen — on the other.)

The formula I might think of using is a combination of Sang Xing Tang and Sang Ju Yin. Interestingly, this formula is traditionally used at the start of the school year. Perhaps Buffy was simply psychologising her corporal ills (i.e. warm-dryness injuring the Lungs) or she simply wasn’t somatising her emotions well enough. I see benefits in describing pathology in either direction.

I would use Sang Xing Tang as the base, removing Dan Dou Chi and adding Jie Geng. The combination of Xing Ren and Jie Geng will help clear the throat, and allow Buffy to talk about what is going on with her (without getting all uppity in the process). A little Bo He will help the process along. The Sha Shen in Sang Xing Tang will help disperse any phlegm which might keep Buffy from seeing what is going on with her, while the moistening Li Pi and Zhe Bei Mu will provide the moisture necessary for grief to be expressed in tears. Lung dryness, after all, can be thought of as grief without water.

The above discussion is for entertainment and theory only.  Please find a qualified practitioner if you or a loved one believe Asian medicine may help resolve grief or chronic irritability at one’s colleagues.   (It may be that they are trying to give you the grief you need to express.)

Happy Slayage!