Finding Balance During Crisis: Acupuncture for Fortitude
Times of crisis and unexpected change can be jarring to the body and mind. The past several months have sent many of us into states of anxiety, depression, fear and shock. We’ve had to face uncertainty regarding our safety, health, finances and freedom.
In my acupuncture clinic I’ve seen many cases of physical pain (back pain, shoulder and neck pain), insomnia, anxiety and depression, digestive upset, asthma and panic due to the stressful circumstances we are all currently living through.
The acupuncture channels and points I’ve been using most on patients are from the Heart, Small Intestine and Spleen channels: points that work on the mind and our way of rationalizing and sorting through difficulty and change.
Most of us have never experienced a time where much of our lives seemed to stop, being interrupted by circumstances much bigger than ourselves. Many of us have been forced to stop working, forbidden from traveling, needing to mentally prepare to even leave the house for fear of getting sick.
The refocus of energy I’ve been offering my patients is learning to become present with the present circumstances so we use them to deepen our relationship with ourselves. It’s impossible to remain happy, calm and stable when are wishing for times from the past because we prefer them to the present. It’s even more difficult to adjust and ground into the present moment when we don’t know where we are going or what will happen. How do we remain in a place of uncertainty which we may not particularly enjoy, finding calm and peace within it?
The Spleen’s acupuncture channel is the root of the digestive energy in the body. It is also the organ system that provides the energy for focus, reflection and intention. It creates the boundaries for acceptance, as well as the capacity to see into what is happening and how things are changing. The Spleen helps us “rectify” the past through its transformative capability. It helps us contextualize through its transportive ability: helps us know and decide where to put things in our lives.
The Heart is a meditative channel. It strongly focuses impressions we’ve gathered from the external world and our accompanying emotional reactions, deep into the chest and gut. The Heart is the system in the body that helps us find meaning and purpose in our lives. It takes impressions and experiences from the outside world and helps us understand what these things mean to us. It is the system that helps us discover our own individual path in life. Within the Heart’s acupuncture channel are several points that teach us that challenge and adversity are part of the process of learning about ourselves. When life is running smoothly we often lack the friction necessary to show us who we are and what we want.
The Small Intestine channel is that which sorts through the confusions of life. It is amongst the most important channels for facing uncertainty and adversity. It is a channel that contends with toxins in our lives: toxic environments, toxic experiences and patterns. It also deals with pestilence, as we are all having to contend with now.
An issue I’ve been seeing in patients frequently is either anxiety raging out of control causing insomnia, hyperactivity and muscle pain especially in the shoulders, neck and chest. I’ve also been seeing depression and fear that is causing paralysis: people not knowing where to go or what to do, feeling overwhelmed and defeated by the current circumstances.
The acupuncture points on the Heart channel adjust the mind, spirit and emotions strongly. The points HT-7, HT-4, HT-8 calm the spirit by providing a soothing and nourishing effect due to bringing more blood into the chest to calm the heart. The points HT-6 and HT-9 reduce heat agitating the mind and spirit to create a sense of calm and relaxation. The point HT-5 directs the spirit to gather its energy and become enthusiastic about moving through the challenges and obstructions of life. It is a point of creativity and fortitude.
The point HT-8 is especially strong in treating agitation, anxiety or depression related to the loss of something in our lives. HT-6 is helpful when we feel we’ve been shocked or hit with an emergency. HT-7 is powerful when we feel cut off from the guiding influence of spirit, feeling alone and abandoned. HT-1 is a strong point to open the chest so we can gain better intuitive sense of where to go when we feel lost.
It’s important when addressing a person’s mental-emotional state to identify what is causing the agitation, anxiety or depression. This applies both to life circumstances, emotional reaction as well as physiological changes in the body: too much heat, cold, wind/agitation, toxins, phlegm-fluid accumulation or energy stagnation.
When we feel overwhelmed, or even defeated by an event in our lives, it is important to enter into a place of quietude where we are no longer reacting from fear. The Heart channel points help achieve this. The next step is to stabilize our habitual personality traits and actions so we stop behaving in ways that will make our situation worse. Points along the Small Intestine channel, like SI-3, SI-8 and SI-7 all stabilize the personality so we can enter into a meditative place of observation. To be able to navigate a changed reality, we need to be feel very grounded, calm, stable so we can observe and learn about the new reality and generate creative ways to move in it.
The points SI-16 and SI-17 on the neck are perception points that open the sensory portals of the head so we can see and hear the world differently. We can no longer operate on automatic pilot, we must come to recognize how things have changed and see how we can navigate.
SI-3 is an especially strong point to strengthen our willpower. It is a point that activates the entire spinal column so we feel the strength and power to create a new life or uphold our current one.
Both the Heart and Small Intestine channels soothe the sinews, muscles and joints of the body when they are painful. Stress, anxiety and fear can manifest especially in the neck and shoulders as well as in the low back. The Small Intestine points located on the scapula near the shoulders are very powerful in soothing inflammation that has accumulated due to emotional agitation. The point SI-18 on the cheek is able to soothe all the muscles of the legs.
HT-4 on the Heart channel is a point that is extremely calming for both the mind and the entire muscular system. The name of this point is “the soul’s path,” which relates strongly to agitation, pain or suffering related to acceptance of life and its changes. The purpose of the Heart channel is to get a person to start viewing their life and its challenges as a spiritual process where difficulties are fuel for the alchemical process of enlightenment and soul cultivation.
The Spleen channel can provide increased focus and ability to generate intention. Being the root energy of the digestive system, the Spleen can create greater amounts of energy, blood, fluids to feed our minds and finance our desires. It is the energy generator that feeds both the spirit-animation as well as the willpower. The power within the Spleen is its ability to reflect and create boundaries and context around a situation. In order to transform or change something positively we first need to be able to focus, reflect and create intention that is linked with both our willpower and spirit-path. When all of these elements are linked strongly, situations can be changed, new realities can be built and old worn out material can be eliminated.
The core strategy associated with the Spleen is “strength.” The way ancient Confucians saw the attribute of strengthening was to eliminate all of the factors that weakened the mind, body and spirit: all of the distractions. The capacity of the Spleen to focus and reflect allows the Small Intestine to strongly assess that which has purpose and value in our lives and that which is a distraction. These two organs together help us recognize and accept our true core strength and that which is weakening us.
Many people who’ve thrived in the current crisis did so due to their Spleen being strong. They were able to let go of distractions, focusing instead of what is solid in their lives. They used this time to spend time with themselves, reflect on their lives. The crisis became a type of spiritual retreat, rather than a time of torment.