colorful scarf

Originally uploaded by angelhead

A new client comes to see me. It’s always such an honor. In the first few minutes, she is showing me a funny side, a self-aware side. Now she is hiding how deeply it hurts, that thing she laughs about on the wei, surface, level, as if it were something breezy like a scarf she holds up to the wind. And it is–this end of it, the end that she shows me–the wei level of it. It’s funny, self-aware, breezy, colorful, and we laugh and smile about it together. We have formed an alliance about the wei-level of her uneasiness. I used to think the superficial level was less important than the deeper layers, but I no longer think so. It’s a doorway into what is. Although sometimes this wei-level doorway is not the best door to enter because it can be a place of personality, charm, and fascination. Like most humans, I can get lost there.

The other end, of course, the deeper end of personality’s colorful scarves is the distress of a soul. The other end, wrapped around her heart, is what she wants unraveled. Even when I am liking my client and her scarves so much that I forget that a shift towards health is not a pretty scarf, I vow to remember the importance of unraveling it.

The ying level of it is wrapped around this list-maker’s heart filling up what should be an empty void of big Shen with lists– with precise and particular details of what she should be doing during each and every moment of her day. These lists of obligations and responsibilities are elevated to biblical proportion. She follows lists like some people follow a religion or a guru. She is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. She smiles. She feels as if she does what she does for some entity looking over her shoulder, not for herself. This clear self-reflection from her warns me to consider three fundamental questions: First, is there an entity attached to her shoulder? A gui (ghost)? Second, will I make the mistake of collaborating with the pretty, scarf-wearing, colorful, laughing persona instead of with the faceless soul who is magnificent sans scarves? And, third, is the entity the personality, the pretty scarf?

Who is the client? Who called me and asked,

Please! Let’s unwrap this together?

Her smile implies,

It was me. I’m in control here.

And the laugh she wears like armor around the soft tissues of her upper torso adds emphasis. Yet, I touch the concave emptiness of her hara, which is why she has come to see me.

Breathe here, all the way down. Put your breath in your abdomen. Feel your breath deep inside you.

She looks surprised, as if she has just realized:

Yes, I have an inside. A core, a place deep inside me that is in communication with the world…even when I myself feel nothing.

I will see in these first few sessions how easily she can visit shen in her belly. Can she inhabit her abdomen? Can she hang with the blood/shen of the uterus, ovaries, and zang-fu? Or will she resist the deep, fear the blood, feel hurried as she races outward to the outer edges of the scarf which she holds in her hands, and on which she has written all the organizing lists for her day. She is a hand-person, someone who does, performs, makes lists, keeps things in order. Let’s see if she can sink into her abdomen, inhabit herself, the one who simply is. If she will sink and be and, perhaps stop smiling, just for a moment to acknowledge her unsmiling self, the self she is here to serve…. .

She is still smiling. It has been a few sessions now and I have no idea what to do. The needles have asked her repeatedly to inhabit the abdomen, to fall off the page of her appointment book into the timeless river of blood that she is. Still, she lies with her eyes open, the knowing smile upon her face. Who is she smiling at? Me but not me. She is just smiling, constantly. And her blood pulses remain obscure, hidden. Acupuncture will not be enough in this instance.

After a treatment or two I realized that I was aligning myself with the smiler not the hara. I had been distracted by the scarves and the way she smiled, knowingly, as if we were sharing a secret. But as I realized my first mistake, I made my second mistake. I shut down. I said to myself,

Don’t go there, where the smile leads. Close your mind to the smile and go deeper.

But I was only half right. I was right not to follow the smile into the world of everything fine and cheerful. But going deeper, following the hara, can never occur with my own mind closed. I do my best work from an empty mind, not a closed one. I work best when I am paying attention. I had made the mistake of thinking of her constantly smiling self as false, as a pretender, like a poor immigrant claiming to be a descendant of a Romanov… . So I dismissed her smiling claim as a delusion. But of course, as soon as I dismissed who she presents her self to be, I was no longer paying attention. Dismissal kills attention. Instead of dismissing her smile, I will accept it as a younger sister. I will honor the younger sister, and tuck her lovingly in bed so that older sister will emerge from the middle. Like the alien that bursts out of Sigourney (as Ellen Ripley) Weaver’s abdomen in ALIEN, it won’t be pretty. Older sisters are so often guardians of little sibling’s pain.

I can’t explain how not-knowing flows into knowing or how knowing fails to announce itself or explain itself or otherwise leave a trail which we can follow and learn from. But it’s true that sometimes not-knowing flows into knowing and sometimes knowing fails to announce itself or leave a trail by which we can reconstruct how we came to know. And it’s also true that sometimes I might as well be following dust floating on a ray of sunshine because I’m getting no closer to the light.

It’s winter here in Maine. Even though today is warm and rainy, and yesterday’s snow has melted, tonight’s deep freeze is coming and tomorrow we will awaken to 2 inches of ice–if the storm predictions are correct. So I have to ask myself, why did this Fire person with the constant smile choose this contracted, inward month to make repeated visits to an acupuncturist for a jump-start to ming-men, the gate of vitality? Because that little bit of winter in her hara was easier to ignore in the summer? Or maybe, winter is more congruent with her true self and the smile, the fire, the joy is a mask. Maybe winter’s movement towards healing means that directly treating the abdomen will be less effective than emptying the bladder meridian of its hypervigilance. Maybe sinking into the abdomen has been impossible because of the false fire running through her bladder meridian, encasing her in perkiness. Maybe this is an example of the intelligent body imitating what it needs (fire) but doesn’t have. While I’ve been pumping energy into the abdomen, it’s been leaking out the back shu points. Close the holes first. Then fill the bucket.

The first thing I will do next time she comes is feel the water points on the fire meridians, and the fire points on the water meridians, and do what seems indicated in that moment…

Sunset in Maine

Originally uploaded by alternativeperception

I am standing alone on the top of a hill looking West as the sun casts the last light of day through the trajectory of me and my slice of Earth. The light, parallel to the ground, passes directly through my skin, horizontally, a curious parallel energy exploring a like life-form. The light goes into me and comes out of me, the same yet different on the inside and out. I am not thinking, at least not with the left-brain. I am experiencing and becoming educated in a sensory, side-by-side warmth. This is so different from high noon, even more different still from high noon middle of the summer. This is western energy–lung, large intestine and metal energy. I cannot look into the sun, but I am next to it, warmed by it. I am almost under it’s shoulder. Such a good, safe place to be. I am under no obligation to trot into the heat of the day, busily going about my business, for the heat of the day has passed. I am under no obligation to make my way through the dark night, either. It hasn’t yet arrived. This is just this. Dying light. Perfect, albeit extremely transient. And it hits me, how easily one falls from perfection into the passing of perfection. The passing of perfection, ordained by twilight, written into the stars by Autumn, is a birth-right of all beings. I am an acupuncturist and I awoke Monday morning on the hill of dusk.

Having been on the hill, I am changed. It is autumn. Suddenly. Forget what the calendar tells you. It varies every year and in every place. I felt it on Monday, even though it was relatively warm, and weeks past the autumnal equinox. It was last-light-ish. On Tuesday, and again today I am seeing my clients differently than just last week, when Spleen 10, Sea of Blood, calmed the toxic blood of late summer, the garden dregs decomposing, rotting, overfull in the moments before they are recycled into the body/Earth. Now we are all beings with a relative ability or inability to resonate with the passing of perfection. While some can mine the ore-laden depths of its virtue, and remain true to one’s nature, others falter and cry out,

What is happening to me?

There is an upsurge in my practice of people for whom there are no answers, no objective tests that can accurately explain what is going on inside the deepest levels of being. This unrest, this passing of perfection calls some people to a clamoring of exhausted action, much like the growth of the tomato plants that are unable to bear more fruit or even to bring to ripeness that fruit which began it’s growth spurt in late summer but now finds only imperfection in the soil, and in the chill at night. Small green orbs that will never become red and juicy, my clients are standing in front of me, asking me to explain in terms of Chinese Medicine why they cannot express their tomato-ness, and instead have these stilted appendages.

How far from perfection we are!

All I have to offer, really, is love. Love for the tomato-that-will-not-be-a-tomato. Love for the tomato that will always be a tomato even if it is stilted in it’s growth, its development abruptly shortened by the passing of the light, the coldness of the night encroaching quicker every day. Love for the passing of perfection.

Love. And needles. Acupuncture needles.

The connective tissue of the human body is a crystalline lattice, an ordered compilation of planes and trajectories through which bioelectronic information transfers are initiated by pressure, tension and movement. Acupuncture needles initiate pressure, tension, and “de qi”, thereby transmitting through the medium of the connective tissue a directional impulse. And so we ask,

What is the direction we want?

Standing at the side of my clients these last few days, I have been standing on the western hill, absorbing the parallel light of dwindling day, knowing that we are all perfectly imperfect, and in the direction of that knowing is the direction I take.

In school acupuncturists learn the differences between perpendicular, transverse, oblique insertions, between going in the direction of the meridian and going against the flow. We learned to think of the trajectory of the acupuncture needle in terms of anatomy (deep insertions contraindicated over the lungs, for instance), and in terms of component parts (for instance, the first point on the Lung meridian is below the clavicle and the meridian travels in a particular direction down the arm to the edge of the thumb). All of that anatomical, component-oriented information is rational. It engages the rule-follower in us, who says,

This is how to needle Lung 1.

And we do it by rote. Pop the needle in along the same trajectory we used in school under the watchful eyes of our mentors. But each of us must make this our own. So says my favorite teacher of Classical Chinese Medicine, Jeffrey Yuen.

When standing in the twilight on the Western hill– as perfection’s passing enters us like the sun, and leaves us, changed and the same–we are not rational. The left-brain, God love it, sleeps for that moment in which we are the last light of the sun. Textbooks, even the esteemed classics, fade, themselves awash in last-light.

And in that moment, there is only one appropriate needle trajectory in acupuncture. The only direction is a longing for the center, a half-note in an octave, longing to return to the central tone. I’m sure others have other ways but the way I navigate through the central axis of an acupuncture point and find the trajectory which leads the way home is by taking the pulse, and using a light touch with my index finger to explore the energetic brokenness/wholeness that reveals itself as I explore different trajectories. I wrote here about needling Spleen 10 using this method of exploring pulse changes. Try it. Let your imagination go. See if you can come up with what the pulse feels like to you when light pressure on the crystalline lattice surrounding a particular acupuncture point causes a vibration in a particular direction. Is the change you feel more towards “whole” or more towards “broken?”

Concentric Circles

Originally uploaded by Hoot Owl

The days are crisp, and the nights even colder. We look up into vivid blue skies in Maine, as the kids head back to school with jackets they won’t need by noon recess. Each day darkness encroaches slowly but steadily, today just a bit shorter than yesterday. I’m almost always in wool socks again, except for mightily-cold toes in the ocean. The leaves are turning vivid reds, oranges, yellows. In this northern climate, the great harvest is coming to its end. We are trundling towards autumn on a crisp cool day, the clankety sound of aluminum snow shoes jostling to the front of the closet, just behind cleats and hiking boots. Mums, pumpkins and root vegetables rule.

Over the past month I drafted a few possible autumnal posts for this blog, touching on the Immune System, the balance between exterior and interior, taking in and letting go. But my writing never lifted out of my intention into a realm all to it’s own. The presence of me loomed too heavily in the words, like a stodgy old professor standing in front of a drowsy class of kids text-messaging under their desks.

And then today, it happened. It turned warmer again and Late Summer sang to me. And I was reminded that we aren’t quite there yet, not autumnal, not metal, not yet. I feel the left radial artery of my first client with my right hand, my first three fingers feeling the hard push of something insistent and ornery knocking on the door as if to say,

Get this Crap out of Here!

My client is a retired man in his 70s with hypertension, a bad-ass attitude, a gentle-side the size of Kilimanjaro, and two competing regrets: to have never found a heroic opportunity for hand-to-hand combat and to have ended up in a marriage that is short on skin-to-skin contact. When he comes in to the office from the world he perceives as hostile, he’s laying down the search for hand-to-hand, and thirsty for some ordinary, professional skin-to-skin. While still feeling the knock-knock of his pulse, I use the forefinger of my other hand to gently touch the man’s left thigh, just above the knee on the inside: Spleen 10, Sea of Blood. This is the point that answers the insistent knocking, and says

Yes, thank you, you found Me. I’m still here. Underneath this crap!

There is no life without blood. Blood is the warrior who travels the kingdom and picks up all the viral, fungal, cancerous enemies and loads them into it’s vessels and transports them away, away, away. Where do they go, these villains?

Where do blood’s burdens go? Lady Macbeth was right. There is only one way to go that is any good at all.

Out, out…!

Lady Macbeth felt so intensely guilty for orchestrating her husband’s death that she imagines the blood on her hands, which she washes furiously. It will not go away. She cries,

Out, out damn spot. Out I say!

I start thinking of Spleen 10 as out-out-damn-spot. The light touch of my forefinger mellows the pulse, which now breathes like a baby. The kind of breath that has new mothers watching, listening, holding mirrors by baby’s nostrils, asking,

is he breathing? is he still alive?

Yes, this is rest. This is alive without the stampeding of the survivalist, sympathetic nervous system. This is parasympathetic. This is down-time. This is being, not doing, and certainly not running. No tiger at the heels here. Just breathe. Just rest. What a treasure trove of nothing. I insert a needle at the exact point where my finger had rested, pointing the needle in the exact trajectory in which my forefinger had pressed ever so lightly, like a feather.

Lady Macbeth’s guilt was a toxin knocking at her psyche, urging her to cleanse her hands. Were she here now, were my fingers on her pulse would I feel that bounding blood bursting at the seams, too full with toxic Crap, craving release of the load? Would a light touch at the Sea of Blood reveal the spirit underneath, in wait, still there, whole and perfect and still, being itself and nothing more? Maybe all the relentlessly scheming Lady Macbeth needed was a good cleansing of the blood?

My client is no Lady Macbeth. Like all of us, I’m sure he has his shame, his guilt, his regrets. They do not, however, haunt him as they haunted Lady Macbeth. He shows no urge to be cleansed, no need to over-wash. But the knocking at the door, the insistent rabble-rousing of his pulse, so quieted by Spleen 10 tells me that his Blood is carrying a toxic overload of some kind.

Blood is in the flowing, blood is in the flesh, blood is in the organs, blood is a whole dynamic interplay of solid and liquid manifestations of substantial nourishment and kick-ass cleansing. Blood is the nutritive aspects of food, and the cleansing potential of a great fire followed by a clean jet-stream of water to wash the debris away. Blood is therefore the best protection we have from the diseases of contemporary society, which as chronic and degenerative, are related to stress, toxins and deep, internal bio-dysregulation.

The acupuncture treatment delivers my client with the rabble-roused pulse to a place of no rabble, no scrap and scuffle. He is floating. The warmth of a far-infrared heat lamp beaming at the needles I’ve placed in Stomach 25, Heaven’s Pivot, allow this floating nothingness to be no big deal, a nothingness rooted to the middle of his body. Stomach 25 is the bodily convergence of heaven (qi) and earth (blood); needling it regulates qi and blood and eliminates stagnation. Lady Macbeth stops washing her hands.

My next client has cancer. She’s young and graceful and parries and side-steps and is emotionally ephemeral–darting only briefly in and out of her feelings. This is a condition she knows well, having used it to survive other life-threatening experiences in an abusive family of origin. But today she tells me that she took some steps over the past week to step through the emotional abyss she has jumped over and over for decades. She experienced a deep and exhausting exhumation of buried feelings and it was physically excruciating. The same kind of physical pain that she feels when her cancer cells loaded with chemotherapy swell and swell and explode and dissolve. Such symmetry is remarkable to us both. I feel her pulse.

Knock, knock.

It’s here, too. The little child who is just learning to use the potty holds her pants and stamps her feet when she feels the insistent knock, knock on the door. I touch Sea of Blood and am instantly somewhere else inside, under blood’s burden in the calm beneath the storm.

Here I am,

Says Sea of Blood. Back at the pulse all is calm except for the hard tap tap on the Liver pulse straining under chemo, straining under the presence of tumors some of which are dying off, others which hold on.

Come, Sea of Blood,

I say, bring your calm, to Liver blood. Cancer in the liver? Meet Liver 8, the He-Sea and Water Point of the Liver meridian. Just a light touch on Liver 8, Spring at the Crook, and I know this is the next point to needle today. Together little Spring and Sea of Blood call out,

Out, out damn spot!

Welcome back Gertrude, my next client of the day. I’ve written about Gertrude in the past. You can read about her here. She’s come a long way, but it’s forward, back, forward, forward, forward, back, and so on. She is looking for a house in which to live safely, an uncontaminated house. Her anxiety about toxic exposure is severe, her reactions instantaneous and her ruminating on the many possibilities of exposures and reactions is intense and automatic. But she is not running. Well, not for long. She comes back. Like a strawberry plant she is apt to make a run for it underground and pop up somewhere else, seeking, seeking. But she is beginning to have a sense of her own root, of her Sea of Blood, and she returns to it.

Leaving is good, new shoots are good. Those are Wood element activities in which she feels at home. But autumn is approaching now. The encroaching cold and darkness asks something different of us. We look inward, and those of us with homes begin metaphorically and figuratively to prepare the fireside hearth. Those, like Gertrude, without homes, feel out of sync, short of breath, dry, and cold. This is not a season of seeking outside of ourselves, like the Spring and Summer, but a season of growing repose and reflection. It marks the beginning of an inward journey to that part of our story which is still outside the warmth of the hearth. In health, this season propels us to take inventory and to gather the lost bits of our selves. It is hopeful. It is knowing how far off our orbits we all travel, at least some of the time, and knowing we can return home, where we do not wear masks, and where we are whole even in our brokenness.

Again I take up my post at the pulse, and feel the effect of the light, feather-touch of my forefinger on Spleen 10. Sea of Blood reveals itself here as invincible and inviolate once again. Deep and forgiving of ripples of guilt, shame, anger, fear. Remove the touch on Spleen 10 and a boat of toxins slides under my fingers. The pulse is knocking, hard, insistent, like a can of nails tumbling down the rungs of an aluminum ladder. In Gertrude’s blood there is a boat crammed full of sticky, icky toxins clamoring to be let out.

Let us out or we cannot be held responsible for what we do here!”

But Spleen 10 isn’t enough. The needles in Sea of Blood are drowned out by the voices of Gertrude’s sisters who insist that this whole Multiple Chemical Sensitivity trip is just grief, transmuted into an elaborate maze in which Gertrude wanders, obsessed with her own powerlessness and isolation. To which Gertrude says,

So what if it is!

To which Sea of Blood says,

I cannot be tainted. I am inviolate.

To which Gertrude says,

Then why am I drowning?

My next client has one of the thickest and most yellow coatings to his tongue that I have ever seen. He is a man of great responsibility who is studious about his obligations. Duty-bound and controlled by the needs and demands of others, he swallows spontaneity, the urge towards freedom and his growing rage, and those three things sit in his stomach and rot.

His stomach meridian is taught in the abdomen, sticky at numerous places on the shin, especially the crater at Stomach 40, as if a glob of phlegm attaches to it from the inside and pulls the skin down into this empty concave morass of swallowed crap. Sea of Blood seems to open up a door inside him and that strong current that was pounding at the door is now flowing, circulating.

There have been other clients today who I will not mention who showed the same striking pulse variations with and without a bridge to the Sea of Blood. Is this confluence an expression of the very real interplay between our bodies and our natural world? As Thea Elijah says,

This is real!

The observations of the seasons and of plants is not beneficial to us because of its symbolism but because all phenomenon–humans, plants, animals, seasons, included–gyrate, resonate, orbit and return on the same elemental trajectories. Maybe this really is late summer in my corner of New England, a time when it is only natural for the flow of Earth points to be especially evident. But why Spleen 10?

Perhaps I gravitated towards Sea of Blood today for my own reasons, not because of any great sensitivity on my own part to accessing my client’s healing. I stumbled upon it, out of my own inner drama and fascination with the Sea of Blood and the healing of my gut.

6 years ago I stopped eating all gluten and dairy because my breast-feeding infant developed severe itchy eczema in reaction to my diet. He remained gluten and dairy-free when he began solid foods. Over the years, either by accident or with intention we tested him periodically to see if the itchy rash returned, which it did. Last summer it took a few months but then returned. I too tested my reactions to gluten and dairy several times after my son had weaned, and always felt that my body was unable to properly transport the stickiness of these foods. This summer my son had no reaction and his good fortune has continued. So I decided to try it again myself.

This time it was different. I had no reaction. I’m now eating breads and yogurt and even cheese. Oh, how I love cheese! This exploration of my body’s resources and reactions has been fascinating. My spleen has been resplendent. And so I am in a very intuitive, sensory and personal understanding of my rich, adaptive, nutritive, and cleansed Sea of Blood. Once overloaded with toxins, unable to handle the heavy-damp, puffed up grandeur of gluten and dairy, my Sea of Blood is now able to feast and cleanse, feast and cleanse. A note to those interested in Celiac disease: I was never tested for Celiac because it seemed more important to immediately cease ingesting what I intuitively knew was hurting my child. (One has to be ingesting gluten to test the blood). Since celiac can be asymptomatic, while still damaging the small intestine, I intend to be tested at some point in the near future. To be sure. Until then, I’m presiding over late summer’s table with one finger on Sea of Blood, and the other hand at the pulse. Can you feel the rising of the Self within Blood, feel the natural state of being blood–quiescent and powerful in it’s depth? Can you feel the quieting of that which has been added, that which is non-self, non-blood, the quieting of the noisy passengers as they clamor to get off?

Out, out!

revolved side angle

Originally uploaded by Arielinha

The Maine coast is one of my favorite places in the country. I make my home here. This past winter seemed to last forever, giving pause to our devotion to this spit of earth. However, winter finally gave way to a stunningly beautiful spring and summer. Our devotion was renewed. Sometime in July, after a string of hot, dry days I noticed a sensation of heat in my lungs that came and went. Every once in awhile it seemed hard to draw a deep breath. The tip of my tongue was suddenly home to a cluster of red dots, the sign in Chinese Medicine of some lingering pathogen in the lung. I started to draw a connection between the poor air quality here (due to the winds of the Midwest carrying coal plant emissions and other pollutants our way), ozone warnings and the seeming surge of subtle lung issues in clients visiting for other, non-lung-related reasons, and the shadow of lung-heat I discovered in myself. I started asking myself the same question for every client who came through my door: How are her lungs? Is there a subtle sun-burn of the lungs (the American Lung Association description of ozone damage), a sub-clinical, incomplete murkiness to the exchange of gases that happens with every respiration in a toxic world?

At the ocean’s edge one day, my breath immediately deepened by the lap-lapping of the waves upon the sand, I closed my eyes and began a mental inventory of the acupuncture points on my upper torso. My mind was drawn to several points that were tense, rigid or gummy. As my mental eye probed the points, the rhythmic sounds of the tidal waters resonated within my body. If you’ve ever heard someone tune a guitar string using harmonics you’ve experienced the musical relief that arrives when a harmonic overtone slides into place and two strings reach a harmonic resonance. The ocean acted as my harmonic mentor, and I could feel the alignment of my internal waters with the ocean’s intelligent tone as I sat upon that lap of beach. Stretching began from somewhere deep inside me, a longing in the channels to be freed from the interference of stress and toxin (from which no one is exempt in this highly chemicalized culture).

When I moved into a stretch that was just right to expose the murky waters of an acupuncture point, I used my fingers and my breath to open the portal and release the stagnant flow. Lung 1, Gallbladder 21 and 24, Small Intestine 13. Spleen 21. A day at the water, a day at the office, a day at the water, a day at the office. Such is the rhythm of my summer.

I carried the rhythm of the ocean with me when I returned to the office the next day. I could not help but feel the pulses of my clients as manifestations of this oceanic fluid, and to navigate across the terrain of their meridians like a sailor or surfer looking for the best configuration of forces to access the heartbeat of the ocean that lives inside each person. As Emilie Conrad says in Life on Land, and I paraphrase,

We are water made flesh.

Consider these three examples of fluid resonance in the upper torso that has been unduly restricted by the compressing, rigidifying and gummy influences of stress, toxins or grief.

Pamela. I felt her meridians as if feeling for the rising and falling tide within a single drop of water. Where does the crest of her wave pattern reside in this moment, where the receding ebb? Her tissue felt nonfluid to the extreme. There was a tightness in the entire liver meridian from foot to rib. And the rib cage itself all the way to the clavicle seemed immobile. She is a breastfeeding mother, with a small, healthy preemie daughter. She nurses amid much scrutiny from self, doctors, and others of the child’s daily intake. They are all a-swirl in questions…how much did she get?….is that enough?….what if she doesn’t grow? Preemie culture is like a higher anxiety version of the already high intensity environment of any new family in a medi-technical landscape.

The constant scrutiny and attention to minute details (while in a blood deficient state post-partum) has dessicated her liver meridian and the entire rib cage which sits upon it like a stick-figure rider upon a wooden horse. My goal during treatment is to find the minute oceanic, tidal resonance that flows inside her thoracic cavity, to open the dams that are starving the rib-cage and making the job of milk-production so much more difficult than it need be for this stressed-out breast-feeding momma.

Gertrude. a 65 year old woman with Environmental Illness. She has a metallic taste in her mouth, burning in her head and sinuses, and floating stools. She lost everything, including community as she left her mold-infested home and began wandering in search of a clean environment and detoxifying treatments. She must remain isolated as much as possible from the onslaught of fragrances and chemicals that are found in any human company. She sniffed out my office before setting up her first appointment.

I like her immensely. She’s an archetypal cowboy. In another life we could have ridden horses into the Western frontier, slept under the stars, foraged and hunted for our food, and protected one another from unscrupulous men. The intercostal tissues of her ribcage are also too hard, condensed. Where is the buoyancy of breathing flesh? How can the lymphatic system do it’s job in this environment? It’s like trying to run sap through a particle board instead of a living maple. I work on the same goal, loosening the energetic stillness of the ribcage. Opening the lungs, the heart, the lymphatic system, making space for the body’s fluids to resonate with the ocean’s cleansing biorhythms. I know a deep grief lies buried here.

Maya, a 62 year old woman whose healthy, vibrant partner died unexpectedly two years ago in a winter accident involving cold Michigan waters and thin ice. She described the fear of grief at work in her body, tightening her breath, her shoulders, lodging in the once flexible joints of her knees with wisdom and self-acceptance. She described the busy-ness she worked at for the last two years as a means of staving off the sense of her own drowning, her psychic parallel to the physical experience of her beloved.  She proclaimed her readiness to stop the busies. She radiates peace, a beautiful woman steeped in love like a good cup of tea is steeped in the finest leaves. Her love story continues in the patience she has given herself to heal slowly and at her own pace.

As I suspected the pulse of her lung was depressed, and the gall bladder meridian had a strangle hold on her torso. The meridian system is brilliant. When grief threatened the lungs, the gallbladder and liver meridians battened down the hatches, and kept determined, wooden eyes on the rigors of the daily schedule, freeing the body to go on living, in the comfort of the known and recurring obligations of job and chores. This wise woman has more than survived a tragic love story.  She has gestated herself for two years and now stands poised for birth, with a glad heart to welcome the butterfly she is becoming.

There are many acupuncture points both distally and locally that open the chest, nourish the lungs, clear heat and toxins, disentangle Qi from grief’s constraint, and engender fluid. I don’t think of these actions as attributes of points on paper, but as attributes of the living flesh. One must touch the points, feel their resiliency or lack there of and choose the points that are appropriate at that time. The point that feels wooden needs nourishment and a wood point on the same meridian will help as well. The point that feels dessicated needs nourishment as well, and perhaps the water point on the same meridian will show it’s own degree of need. Common local points that if constrained will impair lymphatic flow and respiration are Lung 1, Gallbladder 21, all the intercostal Kidney points, Liver 14, Gallbladder 24, Pericardium 1, Spleen 21. Distal points are so diverse as to be difficult to narrow down for the purposes of discussion, but certainly points on the arms and wrists, and lower legs corresponding to or in relationship with the meridians to which the active local points belong.

As I immerse myself in this work over the course of a hot, muggy, summer with ozone warnings as prevalent as the sun, I am aware of the synchronicity of both illness and healing that occurs in my office. If someone new comes through my door this summer without these subtle challenges to the lungs, I would be surprised. It is not an encouraging sign that one of our most tree-filled states in the country is unable to detoxify the chemical products circulating world-wide, released into the air by industrial processes and our dependence on fossil fuels. I am ending this summer by reading the book by Jared Diamond called Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. We as a society have not yet chosen to succeed. How much more time do we have?

Instructions for Life

Originally uploaded by pshutterbug

Does sickness live permanently on the bad end of the good-versus-evil spectrum? Or is it possible to be sick in a way that serves self, humanity or even cosmic interests? These are questions I’m continually pondering as I analyze the meaning of symptoms in myself or others, or when I feel the utter unfairness of that hammer-swing of disease diagnosis as it falls upon someone I know or love and cherish.

Whether it’s a viral cold, a heavy malaise with uncontrollable crying, wounded veterans, shattered minds, diabetes, or any other experience of the suffering that comes with this physical, social, cultural, tribal experience–is it important what we make of our symptoms? Does it matter if we see sin, redemption or unworthiness in our frail, human dance between wellness and disordered chaos? What if we truly had joyful hearts, would disease be unable to enter? So say the ancient Chinese sage-healers.

Maybe disease truly is an accident of nature, for which we can never be held accountable, except in our ability to let go gracefully of the smoke and mirrors that constitutes what we think of as our “health.” What if absence of disease were merely an anteroom, a fun house chamber of ignorance out of which we step at some point, into the room with the sign on the door that says simply,


Diagnosis is usually seen as the bad-news end of the health spectrum, just a step or two or three from the point at which we fall off the measuring charts into no body. Death. Is there any other way to look at it? I ask you again, do you think there can be a purpose in illness that serves some higher good? A purpose which would put illness somewhere other than the dreaded end of the spectrum. If we could find ways to put illness into the life-building, life-affirming, heart-expanding end of that spectrum, why would we hesitate? And indeed people do it all the time.

The phoenix rises from the ashes. We are cleansed in some primordial way necessary to our unique circumstances as a body on earth, weighed down as each of us are by the ancestors who came before us by the fire of sickness, while the intentionality of our recovery reaches back to the generations who have gone before, healing the past. Even when nothing rises, not the phoenix, not inspiration, or intention or any sense of purpose whatsoever, even then, when illness consumes us and we have nothing but a moment in which to be fully and utterly dying–even then, isn’t it perfect? How can such an experience be good or evil? It is what it is.

In the Chinese Medicine paradigm, relationships determine relative placement on any bipolar spectrum we could possible dream of. In relation to midnight, dusk is bright. In relation to noon, dusk is dark. So goes the first lesson of Yin and Yang encountered by the student of Chinese Medicine. We are repeatedly asked in our training to consider what we are considering in relation to a host of other phenomenon, theory, and experience. Nothing is. Everything becomes–the more you consider it, the more it becomes. It becomes what it is, not something set in stone but something relative, changeable, inspired by the trickery of the moment, which can do nothing but change, minute by minute.

Dr. Sharon Moalem has written a book called Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease. In it he looks at the evolutionary advantages of certain diseases. He started with a question based on personal experience of hemochromatosis. He wondered why evolution hadn’t long ago weeded out this iron-loading disease in classic survival of the fittest fashion? The answer he found, in short, was that whatever will kill you later but gives you an advantage now (and for long enough for you to reproduce) will stay in the gene pool.

The idea that disease can serve an evolutionary purpose reveals how little we know about health and sickness, or more generally about what is lucky or unlucky in a universe that continually surprises us with its interrelated flows of energy, potential and change.

Consider a little book called Zen Shorts. It was written by Jon J. Muth. I read it to my children. In it, Stillwater, the Panda, tells Michael, a child, a story about good luck and bad luck and how it’s not easy to tell the difference when you take a longitudinal view of how one seemingly good-luck event can have repercussions down the road that are decidedly bad-luck, and vice versa, and on and on into perpetuity. The seemingly bad may ultimately cause more good, while the seemingly good may ultimately lead to more bad. Panda takes things in stride, and like Michael, we realize we understand less than we thought about how our lives have unfolded, or will unfold. And we may question the good/bad values we have placed on our experiences.

In the story that Stillwater tells Michael, a farmer’s lone horse runs away. The neighbors come and say,

Such bad luck!

The farmer says,


The next day the horse returns leading 3 wild horses home. The neighbors again:

Such good luck!

The farmer has the same reply.


Later in the story the farmer’s son rides one of the wild horses, is thrown off and breaks his leg (Bad luck? Maybe). The next day the army comes to gather all the young men for war but the farmer’s son is passed over because of the broken leg (the neighbor’s rejoice in the farmer’s good luck).

Is it bad luck to be sick? If we take a longitudinal view of experience over time what could come from being sick that may not in fact be all that bad? Let’s consider one group of people we commonly see in acupuncture offices. They have a long history of problems. The problems are diverse clinical or subclinical functional issues that have not risen to the macro/visible level of organic disease as contemplated by the technology in our hospitals and MD offices. When that’s the case, and there isn’t a pill or a surgery to fix it, even the most reluctant will often seek care from a different kind of practitioner. Most of these folks would say to me (if I asked),

Hell, yes! It’s bad luck to be sick! No one can figure out what’s wrong with me. I’m not myself, I can’t do what I used to do, I’m hurting, this, this and this is wrong, and they make me feel like I’m crazy!

Acupuncture ensues. Shifting happens. Lifestyle choices are examined and changed. Diet improves. Exercise is up, smoking is down. People start to get better. Way better. Was the sickness bad luck or was it “a lucky break,” something that led to a better alignment of internal resources? Dr. Moalem’s work supports some classical Chinese Medicine principles–if you’re willing to take his work and put it in the context of a different paradigm. The Chinese Medicine principles are:

  • The role of environmental factors (including lifestyle, climactic and toxic influences) on the development of disease.
  • The concept of latency and the Extraordinary vessels.
  • The Chinese Medical Consciousness of Interrelatedness between systems within the human body, between humans (social systems) and between humans and environmental systems.

It takes a lot of work to understand Chinese Medicine; the education is rigorous and often times seemed merciless in both its redundancy and its tendency to undergo a sort of collapse into paradox the deeper we thought we, as students, would get into “understanding.” After working as a full time acupuncturist for a decade, I think the brilliance of Chinese Medicine isn’t that it’s hard to understand and an intellectual challenge but in it’s return again and again to the paradoxical, to the fact that disease unfolds as strangely as humans develop, with unique twists and subplots that we do not, and perhaps will not, understand completely. The brilliance of Chinese Medicine is in standing in the light of the unknown we are not frozen like deer in the headlights. Instead we move through not knowing, reaching for another layer of the unfolding, and another and another. Chinese Medicine gives us ways to interpret human experience of health and disease in the face of the paradoxical. Through listening to the pulse, palpating the abdomen, the meridians, feeling the thump-thump of an acupuncture point grasping a needle acupuncturists are given an opportunity to follow the trail that an illness makes across a body. No two trails are alike. Western medical diagnostics may register the same diseases on many different people. But the thump-thump tells an acupuncturist only about this person, in this moment, and what expands or contracts her health right now.

In Survival of the Sickest, Dr. Moaolem discusses the link between the rapid climate change of the historical era known as the Younger Dryas, during which the temperatures dropped drastically over a short period of time, and diabetes. Being really cold for a long period of time may have favored people with diabetes, allowing them to live long enough to reproduce. He discusses the probability that excess iron in the blood as in hemochromotosis favored male survival during the plague. When the body has chronically high iron levels, it initiates a selective iron lock-down, keeping iron away from certain cells, including macrophages. Without iron, macrophages were actually more effective immune system cells, all because iron actually feeds the plague. Who knew?

The book also looks at high cholesterol as a climactic response to low sunlight (cholesterol is important in the manufacturing of Vitamin D). It looks at the evolution not only of humans, but of viruses, which we tend to think of as things we are engaged with in battle. Dr. Moalem posits that much of our DNA is actually viral in nature. Read the book! It’s cool.

Dr. Moalem points out that the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is an outgrowth of our battle mentality and suggests that knowing how evolution changes things can teach us to develop health strategies based on meeting evolutionary needs of the bugs. In other words, the natural evolution of bugs favors survival and reproduction of the bugs. This is the evolutionary goal of all creatures great and small. So what if we find ways to influence that evolution away from methods of ensuring pathogen survival that are harmful to humans? Can you say win/win? This is an astounding, refreshing, radical idea for science, and at the same time completely resonant with the concept in Chinese Medicine of external causes of disease (climactic, toxic, and lifestyle). The approach to an externally-contracted disease in Chinese medicine is to release it, drain it, or change it. It can be a longer process than the big pharmaceutical hammer of some drugs but it will not make super-bugs that are resistant to treatment down the road.

A friend of mine, Michael Kelly, has done a video called Leading from the Emerging Future. You can look at it here. (Sorry, haven’t figured out how to actually paste the video here…). The idea is that the rapid growth of technology is in a state of discordance with the tendencies of humans to become entrenched in the familiar. We are habitualized beings. The risk is that we will not adapt. We will be outpaced by ourselves and lose harmonic resonance with the earth. Michael urges us to learn the art of change as if our lives depended on it. If we do not lead from the emerging future, we will be done in by it.

Perhaps this is the key to finding the heart of sickness as it impacts individuals, families, friendship networks, towns, whole cultures, our planet. Sickness asks something different of us. We cannot go about our business in the same way anymore. We are challenged to lead from that which emerges rather than from our habits. When we or someone we love is sick we feel the edge of darkness, it breaths on our necks and we walk in it. When my father was dying in his last days he called out in semi-delirium,

I don’t have the instructions. Where are the instructions!

In Chinese Medicine the extraordinary vessels (EV) have the ability to make latent an influence, experience, or toxic phenomena that would overwhelm the primary channels were it not siphoned off through the EVs. This ability is the point of connection between genetics and Chinese Medicine. I have inherited my father’s call for instructions. But my gifts are different than his. He was a social scientist. Statistics, norms and deviations were his comfort foods. For me, the walk in the dark is it’s own reward. I am willing to stand in the emerging future without instructions. Statistics mean nothing in the face of one illness. Because in the face of every illness are the eyes of a magnificent soul. As for norms and deviants, it’s all in the perspective. It’s never solid or absolute. One person’s normal is another person’s craziness. Like the walk I took in the woods with June 30 years ago I am willing to go forward without sight, to feel my way like a galactic octopus through the experience of sickness in the community that is mine, that is me, and us. Survival of the sickest isn’t just about genetic advantages of diseases. Survival of the sickest is also about practicing the art of leading from the emerging future. It does not come with instructions.

A few reflections on the practices that influence my practice of acupuncture…

Before I was 30 I loved spinning kicks. It was the loss of vision, I think, the inability to track my movement through space with my eyes that I liked so much. Without clear vision there is nothing so clear as the sense perception that rises from the belly like a cyclone. With the extension of a side-kick added to that spinning momentum the boundaries between self and target find each other effortlessly, like rain finding a puddle.

To create the same sensation my dojo friends and I would play a game we called ‘drunken monkey.’ Two of us would stand facing one another, and we would begin turning around, faster, and faster. Someone would call the count,

One, two, three, go!”

(in Japanese, ichi, ni, san, hut!”). On the word go we would stop spinning and move drunkenly towards one another, blurry-eyed and low in our stances, and we would spar. We’d get in a few moves in that altered state before our eyes would dominate again and our vision would climb at least in part out of the belly and into the head. We would try not to lose the sense of moving from our center, following the inevitability of our movements and of our partner’s movements. Sometimes we’d get in the zone and continue sparring with eyes that were clear but not dominant. When we could sustain it, it was a real high. That state of being in which eyes are open but not dominant is a state of heightened awareness. We called it ‘soft focus.’

My martial arts practice made me feel like a kid in a new world. Even training full-out for 10 years, obtaining black belts in two styles, and teaching others did nothing to change that feeling of exhilaration, awe and appreciation for something beautiful and larger than me. I may have been strong, flexible, eager and possessed of a fighting spirit, but still I gawked at the edges of this world aware of how little I understood it. What if I walked around every day with my mind in my abdomen, with the heightened kinesthetic knowing of a ‘drunken monkey?’ I did not then nor do I now glamorize blindness as some sort of guaranteed entrance to higher perception. But there’s a fine line between using one’s visual abilities to one’s benefit and becoming stuck in the way one sees. Drunken monkey was the 2nd experience in my life to teach me that my eyes (read ‘way of seeing’) could actually lessen my access to energetic intelligence.

The first experience was when I was in high school and I had a recurring dream that I could not open my eyes. I would strain to get my lids to open but as I did so my eyeballs would roll back in their sockets making it impossible for me to see anything, and causing me to strain even harder. These dreams left me with a strong sensory-memory of the physical struggle I engaged in while I slept.

A good friend of mine, June Wolfman ( may God bless you, wherever you are) suggested that we go up to the cliffs. They were rocky precipices on the Hudson River with a view of the George Washington Bridge. There was a good bit of woods between the road and the cliffs. She offered to blindfold me up there and lead me through the woods. Kind of her, eh? In fact it was brilliant. The point was for me to let go of my panic around not seeing, to give into the blindness, to retrain the sensory-memory from one of physical struggle to one of relaxed acceptance. It worked. Something new opened in me. In some ways puberty had turned me into a removed observer rather than a participant in my own life. After walking blindfolded in the woods I embarked on a long journey home to myself.

The process of discernment which led me to study the traditional healing arts of Chinese Medicine was tied up in my martial arts practice, went further back to the blindfolded walk in the woods, and those things carried me through the years of overwork and over-study that characterize medical school . ( I’m amazed at the intelligent reflections of my friend Eric Grey who is in his last year at NCNM and blogs at Deepest Health. I am only now, 10 years out of school, able to reflect on my evolution as an acupuncturist and to write about this magnificent medicine).

Some of the things I bring from the martial arts to the acupuncture table (literally) are stance, breath, soft focus, and that kinesthetic abdomen-driven falling into the point like rain into a puddle (or spinning side-kick to its target).

I don’t kick anymore. Nor do I spar. But I still practice soft focus away from the office in two forms of movement practice. In the first, I practice belly rolls, undulations and circles, hip drops and shimmies. I follow my belly’s movement to it’s inevitable resolution into a flow of more movements, letting the belly lead, not the mind. I’m older, wiser and fleshier. Belly dancing suits me now more than sparring.

Rosina-Fawzia-Al-Rawi, in her book Grandmother’s Secrets, wrote,

We dance to become one with a rhythm that was here before us and will remain after we are gone.”

It stands to reason that dancing makes me a better acupuncturist. The most profound difference between Chinese Medicine and Western medicine is that Western medicine has not evolved a theory of health, or a way of identifying parameters of wellness, except in terms of absence of disease. On the other hand, Chinese medicine from the start has had a theoretical understanding of health as a balance of energetic forces, and a methodology to gauge minute alterations in that balance. I believe that the balance we know as health is

…a rhythm that was here before us and [that] will remain after we are gone.”

If we are lucky–if we are healthy–we get to ride that wave. It almost makes me want to take up surfing. From spinning kicks to belly rolls to riding under the breaking curl of a wave…What do you think? As for my old bones braving the cold Maine waters, that’s why they make wet suits, eh?

The 2nd movement practice I engage in to heighten the sense of moving with a soft focus from the center of my being is harder to describe because it is something new and experimental and collaborative. It involves a collaborative listening, following, leading, empty space, a group of people, martial arts and dance. Our focus most recently has gone so soft that we are motionless, but we wait. We wait for the pulse, for the rhythm, the knowing to take hold of one of us, or all of us, which will move us to the next level of understanding. We are patient, aware of an abundance of time in which to let the underbelly of our undertaking to surface. It feels luxurious to be in this place. We have watched our weekly meetings focused on collaborative movement (drawing on martial arts, dance, and spiritual practices) devolve into motionless stillness. A pregnant pause. We have no idea how our shared intention will evolve. I only know that this practice, even as it seems to have ceased to be, is evolving, and that the stillness in its wake is part of my evolution as an acupuncturist.

The Breeze Generator

Originally uploaded by Spheres57

For many days I could not think of what to write. I could not even think. I was so busy at work, and then I took a week off to be with my kids during their school vacation. The weather was glorious. The problem was that in my free time, when I might write, or think, I was loathe to do anything but merely be present in the sunshine with my children. But a voice inside worried a bit, and could sometimes be heard in the distance like the peepers singing through the night,

what are you going to write next?

I was adrift in something experiential rather than intellectual. Was this burnout? It was a void. No thoughts. An aversion to thinking. Thoughts seemed too precise and finite and limiting. My mother and husband complained that I was not letting them know what I was thinking or planning. What thoughts? What plans? Was I fully in the moment, expanding into the world around me like a galactic octopus feeling its way across the sky? Or was I merely flirting on the outskirts of forgetfulness? Am I a middle-aged woman with shifting hormones, or crossing into an early dementia?

And then my kids went back to school and I went back to work. My son turned 6. I started attacking the backlog of paperwork in the office. I did another home visit to my 90 year old client.

There was a new bright yellow swallows’ house perched high on an olive green pole in his yard. Daffodils beneath the swallow palace looked pale in comparison, and they leaned away from the wind like the ghost of my grandmother (and countless other old ladies) stooped over shopping bags on the streets of New York.

I walked to his bedside where he was waiting. While he is not bed-bound, even lying there his breath was short and labored. On my way in his daughter had said,

His back is sore, but otherwise he seems OK.

Just outside the window at the bird feeders that I had watched during previous visits, there was one Redpoll, 3-4 American Goldfinches, one Red-Winged Blackbird, and a bunch of Chickadees. The room was very warm, and a humidity control unit purred in the corner covering us with white noise. It was like being in a snow globe. Incredibly quiet, and suddenly floating down and swirling around me, were thoughts of my father and stepfather, each of whom died of cancer in my presence. My father died 10 years ago and my stepfather died 29 years ago (if the timing of their deaths sounds backwards, it’s not: My parents were divorced a long time ago and my stepfather was part of my life from an early age).

My father was a lifelong amateur birdwatcher. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone utter the word, Redpoll, except for him. They used to come to his feeders. I can still hear him telling me over the telephone about his avian visitors. It’s quite possible that I hadn’t seen a single one of these small reddish finches since my father died. My 6 year old is very interested in birds. His favorite movie is The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. He would like nothing more than if we filled the house with parakeets and Blue-headed Conures.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for your patience. The title of this post about acupuncture points, in-between spaces and non-linear time grows out of these rambling discourses on my experiences of late. Like all my posts, this is not a scholarly exposé into the nature of reality. It is merely a chapter in a book written in the language of my experience as an acupuncturist and a collaborator in a life I view as cosmic as well as terrestrial. Let me gather the threads I’ve teased out thus far: it started with a few weeks of hard work, followed by an extremely sunny vacation in which I happily crawled like a galactic octopus in a thought-free void across a celestial/sensory experience in which I was averse to thinking. That led me to the birthday of my bird-happy 6 year old, and then to a visit to an older client where his declining breath, and the presence of a Redpoll and other birds reminded me of my fathers.

When my stepfather died my mother and I had been watching his breath stop and start for some time on the old green-flowered couch. We held his hands. Each time his breath caught in a pause too long, I knew that another breath would come. And then his last breath came and I knew not to expect another one. The knowing came not from observing his body as I had been doing before with the intensity of a dentist at work. When he breathed the last breath my attention was immediately drawn from his body to the air around us. It changed. It expanded. The molecules of the air separated and space expanded. Nothing changed and everything changed. Everything looked the same, and everything looked completely different all at the same time. It was a profound experience of an extraordinary, expansive space emerging from the ordinary. It was like a hidden passageway suddenly made visible. I thought

this must be why they call it ‘passing’.

Time was restored to its ordinary ticking and the molecules of air regained their sober density and closed tightly upon themselves. I looked out the living room window at the large conifer tree that scratched my bedroom window (which was directly over the living room) every night, like a protective sentry. I was not yet clobbered in grief. I was stunned.

Help me remember this,”

I said to the tree, as if addressing my closest friend. Only then did grief erupt within me, seizing me from the gut and causing me to curl momentarily into a fetal position as if I had just been kicked.

About 10 or 15 years later, I was flooded with memories of Hans’ death. I brought them with me everywhere I went. I relished them. It went on for a few days. I spoke to my mother on the phone. She still lived in the same house where Hans had died. In the course of our conversation she casually mentioned that the tree that had brushed up against the house for so many years, scratching on the windows of the living room below and my old bedroom above, had been taken down. A few days before.

This is the world in which I live. Isn’t it fabulous! A world in which trees are friends and time is not marching from point A to B but spiraling upon itself, returning to the same point over again but at a different level. Time is a Jackson Pollack painting, not a John Singer Sargeant.

Flash forward again– I was standing in an overly warm bedroom with the white noise going and the birds outside, slowly running my fingers along the lateral edge of the fibula of my 90 year old client, feeling the meridian there. And all of it came together for me: I understood what I was looking for, crawling the celestial universe of the body for active acupuncture points.

The anatomical landmarks that most of us use to begin our orientation towards any given point are the places on the body where we have attached specific meaning. Bones, tendons, muscles. These familiar structures are agents of movement, thus of ‘doing’. Acupuncture points, in contrast, have no meaning in linear time–they do not take us from point A to point B in space like our joints and tendons do. Acupoints are the spaces in-between. They are agents of nothing–spiraling pools of non-linear time. To take my friend Kimberly Ann out of context, they are the hole in the donut.

George Soulié De Morant wrote,

The word for acupuncture points has not always been the same. In ancient times the ideogram that represented them consisted of the elements “flesh-submission-assent,” giving the idea of “command of the flesh.” …The modern term, used since the thirteenth century, is xue, which means “entry of cavern; hollow…”

To me “flesh-submission-assent,” gives another idea: that of a spiritual being as a co-creative (assenting) collaborator in the experience of having a physical body (flesh). It gives the idea that moving from the more expansive space and non-linear time of spirit into the mortal flesh requires submission, which I understand as a kind of forgetting. Is the task of being human merely to resonate at the frequency of our assenting being, even while housed in this body which forgets our roots in spirit? But I’m no scholar.

If this were true, perhaps, the difficulties we have seen in attempts to align acupuncture to medical models such as the Randomized Controlled Trial (written about here and here), are bound to fail not because we haven’t yet figured out the right study design to accommodate the uniquely individualized approach of Chinese medicine, but because acupuncture is not first and foremost a medical treatment aligned with precise, physical outcomes, but actually is at its heart a spiritual experience that occurs on a cellular level.