Courageous Appreciation: The “Stance” Channels of Acupuncture
“A great deal of chaos in the world occurs because people don’t appreciate themselves.” Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa.
Many of us spend a lot of mental time in the past or the future: obsessing about what did or did not happen years ago, or what we hope (or fear) will happen tomorrow. We lose touch with the present moment; lose faith that we are okay right now. Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa says loss of the present moment, either from fear, anxiety or lack of trust in ourselves can create a feeling of alienation from ourselves and our world.
Alienation is often associated with modern life. 19th Century Sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote extensively about the effects of alienation in the modern world. Durkheim’s 1897 book Suicide presented the idea of “egoistic suicide,” resulting from a prolonged sense of not belonging. Alienation gives rise to feelings of meaninglessness and depression, writes Durkheim, potentially leading to suicide.
Not a very uplifting topic so far. But there is always the seed of hope in even the saddest of ideas. If alienation comes from feeling disconnected from ourselves and our world, we know how to work on it. We must reconnect.
Within Buddhist traditions, “sangha” is very important. “Sangha” means spiritual community: where people gather to practice and support one another as they reconnect to the present moment. We need the support of others as we rebuild our willingness and confidence to let go of the past and future so we may enjoy right now.
There are two important acupuncture channels on the body called the “Qiao Mai.” They are amongst the most stabilizing acupuncture channels. “Qiao” is often translated as “stance.” The “Qiao Mai” are channels that support one’s stance: towards oneself and towards the world. The first points on these two channels share the function of “stabilizing the spirit-disposition.” These points stabilize and clear agitation relating to our personalities and desires.
The “Qiao” Channels manifest through the muscles of the legs. One can assess the strength or weakness of each “Qiao” through the legs. I’ve noticed after Tai Ji practice how the posture and strength of my legs change. I have a tendency for tightness in the muscles of my outer legs and weakness in my inner leg muscles. This tendency causes my feet to point out away from my center, like a dancer practicing at the ballet bar. My posture is showing the imbalance within my “Qiao” Channels. I have excess energy in my “Yang Qiao” Channel, relating to focus on the outer world. Since the “Qiao” Channels balance one another, an excess in “Yang Qiao” will lead to a weakness in “Yin Qiao,” which relates to focus on the relationship with myself. This is not surprising. Healers often have a lot of energy directed towards others: trying to change the world; often at the expense of themselves.
Acupuncture treatment, as well as my Tai Ji practice have helped balance my “Qiao” Channels. After practicing this form of Chinese moving meditation, I notice increased strength in my inner thighs. I walk straighter, and my feet become centered. I also feel more in touch with myself, and less bothered by the external world. Tai Ji supports my stance and balance.
Balanced “Qiao” Channels are very helpful as patients work out fixations related to the past or future. Resolving traumas or disappointments from the past requires courage and strength of will. Often such material can be painful, frightening and disturbing. Our stance must be strong so we can withstand whatever comes up as we review and resolve the past. The same is true as we face our fears about the future.
In acupuncture treatment, working with the past and future can be addressed through the “Wei” Channels. “Wei Mai” can be translated as “Linking Channels.” The “Wei Mai” link the disjointed threads of time back together. Like the “Qiao,” there are two “Wei” Channels: relating to the yin and yang aspects of the body. “Yin Wei” relates to our emotions: the way events from the past have caused emotional disturbances. “Yang Wei” relates to unresolved events from the past that have weakened the immune function of the body, compromising our ability to protect ourselves from the external world.
It is easy to get lost in the past, or lost in anxiety and/or grasping relating to the future. It can color our perception of the world. We see things through the eyes of disappointment or fear, relating to events that have very little to do with the present moment. We may feel victimized or unsafe: have an inferiority or superiority complex. Rather than being in the realness of the present moment, we are somewhere else. Many of us are somewhere else much of the time. We frequently reject what is happening; fixated on what we think we want, or what we didn’t get in the past. We lack appreciation for ourselves and our present reality.
The “Qiao” Channels suggest we may lack appreciation for ourselves and the present moment, because we lack courage and will in relation to ourselves and the world. To work with “Yin Qiao” is to work with our relationship with ourselves as we are right now. “Yang Qiao” helps us accept and make friends with the present world around us. The “Qiao” connect us to the present moment: things as they are now. They address the fear and resistance which often blocks connecting to the present moment.
It is common in our culture to reject ourselves. Many of us have difficulty with ageing: we wish we could remain as we were, as young “beautiful” 25-year-olds. Or, we believe our happiest moments have past: filled with nostalgia for what has already occurred, or continually trying to recreate the happy moments of the past. From our lack of appreciation of the present, we miss it. We may feel discontented, frustrated, depressed or alienated. Our minds may be filled with chaos, causing us to be angry and unhappy. Our stance is off-balance. We lack grounding.
The cure is simple (not easy necessarily, but simple). We must reconnect and make friends with the present moment. We must strengthen our “Qiao,” to gain the will and courage to develop appreciation for right now: who we are, and our world as it is: right now.
Many spiritual traditions describe “enlightenment” as being able to continually see the world as a child: with wonder, newness and total acceptance. The child has great appreciation for the present moment: the wisdom of presence. Have you ever noticed the tremendous joy of a young child? We can all rediscover this state of presence and unconditional joy through courageous appreciation and willingness to accept things as they are right now.