Coming Apart: Re-establishing Strength, Integrity and Cohesion with Acupuncture
Much of what I see in my acupuncture clinic are people “coming apart.” To an acupuncturist this means losing access to our energy, vitality and internal resources. Not because of lack, but due to inability to access them. We become scattered. Our acupuncture channels which transmit and transport our energy, blood and fluids stop communicating with one another, or develop a block that dams things up. This can cause symptoms of weakness, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and emotional variability. It also causes diminished ability to heal and reduced metabolic capacity.
There’s an acupuncture point located on the Pericardium channel called “the intermediary.” This point represents blockage between acupuncture channels and organ systems, especially the Heart and Kidneys which leads to many disquieting symptoms. Manic depression, narcissism, grandiosity, a sense of unease often described as feeling haunted is treated by this point.
The Pericardium is seen in Chinese medicine as a system comprising the entirety of the circulatory system. It is not only the membrane that envelopes and protects the heart, it is also the heart’s complete network of communication. This makes the Pericardium acupuncture channel one of the best regulators of all communication within the body, especially where it concerns the blood, mind and spirit.
The classic symptom of imbalance within the Pericardium and Heart systems is “Fan Zao,” irritability and restlessness. This can be expanded to include feelings of misery, depression, uneasiness, disjointedness, depression and anxiety.
The method I use to diagnose and measure vitality in my patients is through Classical Chinese pulse diagnosis. On the radial artery of the wrists I can measure Qi (vital functional energy flow), blood, fluids, organic communication and toxic overload of all the major internal organ systems. The assessment I rely on most is the ability for each organ system to communicate with the other systems, showing they are able to fully achieve their functions and actions within body physiology.
When the Heart and Kidneys are not able to communicate we can experience insomnia, anxiety, depression, loss of enthusiasm. When the Lungs and Kidneys aren’t communicating this can indicate reduced respiratory and immune function. When the Spleen/Pancreas and Lungs are not exchanging this can show issues with metabolism. And so forth. Health is not only about the individual organs, but their ability to work together and support each other.
The acupuncture channels I utilize most in my acupuncture clinic are those that wrap the body, like belts. Most acupuncture channels travel vertically from the head to the feet/hands, or from the limbs to the head. However there are two special channels that wrap around the chest and waist. These channels are strongest at restoring communication between the various organ systems of the body. They are channels that restore unity.
The wrapping channels are called Da Bao and Dai Mai respectively. The word Bao means to wrap. Da Bao means “the Great wrapping.” Dai Mai means belt vessel. Da Bao wraps the chest, while Dai Mai wraps the waist.
The two wrapping channels have several functions. They consolidate energy and resources (blood, fluids). They also keep the other acupuncture channels in their proper place to maintain proper communication. They function as ditches and reservoirs, but mostly for pathology and problematic material that weakens and inhibits body function. When the body is unable to transform or discharge dampness, heat, difficult pathogens or experiences they can be placed into the ditch where they are kept latent and smoldering.
Da Bao is called “the Great Luo.” The word Luo infers both a type of network for communication as well as a holding vessel for problems. The Great Luo is associated with the Spleen system in Chinese Medicine. The job of the Spleen is to maintain boundaries, position and tone of the body. However it can also lead to habitation and accumulation of burdensome material, habits and thought patterns.
Dai Mai is associated with the Gallbladder and Liver, whose job it is to maintain normalcy and regularity of movement in the body. These two organs act as the time keepers of the body, ensuring things happen in the proper sequence and time. While Da Bao holds together the daily Primary Channels of the body associated with the internal organs, the Dai Mai holds together the Ancestral Channels, the Vessels of evolution and karma. Dai Mai also holds onto major life issues we’ve not been able to resolve.
The Primary Channels are involved in maintaining proper daily functionality of the body, while the Ancestral Channels manage the unfolding of a person’s destiny: the person’s life blueprint.
The two wrapping channels are linked together by another important channel that travels from the Xiphoid process of the ribs to the tailbone. It is called Bao Mai: the wrapping vessel.
The word Bao is special. It means to wrap, it is also the word used for the uterus, genitals and reproductive organs. The entire concept of Bao, wrapping and the channels associated with it are loaded with significance and meaning.
The image of “coming apart” can be a form of impotence: the inability to create and manifest. Dysfunction of the wrapping channels is associated with infertility and impotence. But it can be more subtle.
We create and recreate our reality every day. It is the Spleen that maintains the form of life, while the Liver and Gallbladder maintains its normalcy. To be “grounded” and “centered” are states that are maintained by the Spleen. The Liver supports this process, helping keep the regularity and focused vision of the Spleen via the interaction between the spirit-mind attributes of these two organs. The Spleen is associated with the Yi, described as the ability to be mindful, focused and aware. The Spleen is the power source of the digestive system. It is also so for the mind. To be able to take raw material like food and drink and transform it into form. Flesh and blood require a strong digestive system. The same is true for the mind and its ability to manifest our reality.
However the Spleen can become rigid and stuck, constantly recreating the same reality. When we are trying to conceive a child or create something new in our life, it’s necessary to be open to something new. When the Great Luo is filled with unprocessed material, such as disappointments, unresolved pathology, traumas or experiences this will block movement of the Spleen’s energy into the chest.
Physiologically the movement of the Spleen’s energy into the Lungs and Heart is important, from a digestive, respiratory and hematological point of view, but also for the mind and emotions. The Spleen transforms raw material (food, drink, experiences) and transports it into the Lungs where it becomes Qi (dynamic functional energy) and into the Heart to become blood. But there’s a mystical element to the chest also. The Heart “houses” the Shen: the spirit animation, which possesses a magical creative ability. The Heart is said to be a place where ultimate possibilities exist. The Shen “rides” on the blood, circulating to all aspects of the body to animate and manifest. It is the Qi of the Lungs that allows the blood to move. Philosophically this is like a meditation where the mind is allowed to release and surrender, allowing spirit to take over and magically manifest what it will.
When our Great Luo (the Da Bao) blocks the Spleen, we diminish our capacity to surrender and allow the magic of the Heart’s ultimate possibilities from manifesting. This process can be seen as it occurs on the body. Often it will manifest through spider veins along the ribs, showing the blood stagnation pooling around the wrapping channel.
Material from the chest, stagnating in the Da Bao’s Great Luo can become saturated until it overflows into the abdomen, filling the other wrapping channel Dai Mai around the waist. This can manifest as a paunch in the gut as heavy unresolved material sits in the basin of the waist and pelvis as Damp Heat. This material begins to dampen and extinguish the root Fire of the body located in the lower back, loins and genitals. This can cause many gynecological and prostate problems, impotence and infertility.
Philosophically material saturating the Dai Mai at the waist becomes “the seed” of our next incarnation, passed onto our offspring and/or subsequent lives. Ancient Chinese culture believed in reincarnation, and this is reflected in its medicine.
When material finds its way into the wrapping channels we become stuck, in a prison of suffering. The symptoms of the Da Bao around the chest when diseased is described as “pain occurring throughout the body.” Suffering that we cannot resolve. Symptoms of Dai Mai around the waist include a sensation of heaviness as well as gynecological and genital dysfunction.
The inability to rectify our difficulties and challenges causes various forms of chronic suffering, physical or mental-emotional (or both), eventually inhibiting our ability to create new possibilities. Fullness saturation in either of the wrapping channels will disrupt the communication between the Heart and Kidney which is the physiological basis of healthy mental health. This can cause anxiety, depression and a sense of not knowing who we are or where we are going. We lose the natural sense of feeling led by spirit and destiny.
To work with the wrapping channels can free us from the weight of our past. It frees our vitality allowing us to become more expressive and strong.