Coursing the Wind: Using Acupuncture to Navigate Chaotic Times
It’s easy to focus on all the scary, sad, shocking things that are happening now and only see negativity. It’s easy to become angry, depressed, alienated and very tired. It’s important to stay engaged and informed, but we must also stay sane and healthy.
Spiritually, we can see all that is happening around us as a major wake up call. Maybe even an evolution. Taking this point of view can help us put the world and its current events into a more empowering, workable context.
Our world is changing. Because of this many people are becoming afraid; reacting with resistance, selfishness and denial. Not only have our economic and social worlds been changing, our environment is undergoing major changes. Some historians have said the Syrian civil war, for example began because of climate change: a draught the government didn’t adequately address. These changes have awakened many latent aspects of society to create conflict and widespread suffering.
The Dalai Lama, who himself has had to weather major challenges in his own life, says if we wish to change the world, we first need to change ourselves. To better the world, we need to focus on bettering ourselves.
To start with ourselves is empowering. It can help us feel more in control. As we look at the world around us, and begin to reflect on that which disturbs us, we should also ask ourselves: what are the aspects of ourselves we are also having trouble with? Is there any relationship? In what ways are we refusing to adjust with or wake up to these changes? And more immediately, how is the call to change destabilizing and frightening us?
Ancient Acupuncture was seen as spiritual practice. To the ancient Taoists, life is a spiritual process. We need not believe in God, or any particular religious dogma to be on a spiritual path. Nor do we need to believe in anything in particular to practice acupuncture.
Within the Taoist tradition there is much discussion about working with change. At this point, for many of us, we would benefit most from learning ways to calm ourselves: ways to help find our grounding and center – to stabilize; to help our bodies and minds put things into perspective, so we can navigate the stormy waters.
Within acupuncture, the Gallbladder’s acupuncture channel is the most effective in working with the effects of change. The ancient Chinese liken change and its effects on the body to “Wind.” It’s easy to see why. Wind moves around. It shakes things up. It is unpredictable and chaotic. It makes us shiver and shake. It can knock us off balance. It can make us sick, unable to calm down or stand up straight. Wind is not easy to ignore. It demands attention. It can take over.
The Taoists acknowledged when we evolve spirituality, it often “stirs Wind.” It can bring out challenges, fears and disturbances – things we have kept latent, hidden or repressed in our minds and bodies. Many of us are currently experiencing an external trigger that is “stirring Wind” in our lives, bodies and minds. This is the way of “Wind.” It is the way of evolution. Sometimes we don’t have a choice. Change comes and we must adjust.
The Taoists use the image of a Dragon to describe the process of change in one’s spiritual evolutionary life. During challenging times of uncertainty we want assurance that things will be ok. We can often become so stirred-up and anxious that we need to utilize the medical strategy of “Ding,” which means to stabilize the mind, emotions, spirit and personality. We must call upon the mystical dragon: the Gallbladder!
Within Chinese medicine, Wind can bring upon many distressing symptoms: tremors, pain, coughing, wheezing, vomiting, anxiety, panic, numbness, paralysis, sensory disturbances, gas, flatulence, insomnia, depression, madness and many others. It can depress our immune systems, harass our minds and agitate our nervous systems.
In Chinese medicine, the Gallbladder is a very special organ. It is not ordinary. It is classified as one of the evolutionary organs (like the Uterus, Brain and Spine). Yet, it is even more special. The Gallbladder is described as the bridge between our ordinary daily life (the functions of our major internal organs like the Stomach, Lungs and Heart) and our evolutionary selves: our past, present and future. To work with the Gallbladder can be like having an out of body experience where we are able to view ourselves and our lives as a continuum in time. We are brought out of our small-minded present experience and allowed to see ourselves as evolutionary beings – what we have been, what we are currently, and who we will become. This is one of the main reasons working with the Gallbladder can be so calming, stabilizing and empowering.
The Gallbladder, like a Dragon is linked to the mystical. In a way, it allows us to travel amongst different dimensions: different incarnations of ourselves. It is an organ/channel that can both cool and warm the body. It goes into the brain and comes out of the brain. It stores precious substance as well as things we don’t want to look at; it also has the capacity to bring material out of hiding. It is an organ/channel with capacity to empower great change. Through the Gallbladder, we can decide on a very deep powerful level what we wish to hold onto and what we are ready to let go of – usually relating to our perception of reality and our sense of self.
The Gallbladder’s acupuncture channel travels to many important places in the body. Most importantly, it enters into the Gallbladder organ. The Gallbladder stores the precious substance Bile, which is able to break down stickiness in the body – material that lingers like fat, which often accumulates around the waist, the brain and joints.
The Gallbladder channel also travels into the “Belt Channel” – the area of the body that stores fat. It is an area which the ancient Chinese observed the storage of unprocessed and repressed material. This material acts like a parasite, stealing away vitality, hampering willpower, causing us to live in the past rather than the present moment.
The Gallbladder channel also goes into the brain: another area where unprocessed material can become latent. Old material stuck in the brain taints our perception of the world. We lose our ability to create endless possibilities, seeing the world through a film of bitterness rather than fresh.
The Belt area connects to the uterus, prostate and genitals: areas where we bring our present issues into the next generation. The ancient Chinese believed that which we cannot deal with in this life gets carried into either our next lives via reincarnation (via the Brain) or passed onto the next generation (via the Uterus, prostate and genitals). Using the Gallbladder acupuncture channel in treatment can access and influence all of these areas.
The capacity for the Gallbladder to deposit unresolved issues into holding areas of the body is important, as it can often allow us to deal with very difficult moments in our lives – buying us time. It acts as a coping mechanism, so traumas need not overwhelm us. When the wind is blowing too hard that we feel we are going to lose our minds, we need this capacity to repress. The Gallbladder helps us with that.
However, unresolved issues kept latent in the body longterm can often lead to degenerative or autoimmune diseases. This is why the other capacity of the Gallbladder – the ability to pull things out from places of hiding, is what makes it miraculous and very powerful – like a Dragon. More than any other organ/channel in the body, the Gallbladder is what empowers us to deal with the challenges of life – to truly resolve them so we can move on in our evolutionary process. This is what makes the Gallbladder the most powerful acupuncture channel for working with Wind. It has the capacity to return to us our vitality and potential.
As my Taoist teacher says: “Crisis gives us the opportunity to see something new.” However, we often need support during times of crisis. Gallbladder is the best channel to provide this support.
Ancient Taoist doctors recommended several important points along the Gallbladder acupuncture channel to ease the disturbances Wind can create in our lives. Of the 44 acupuncture points on the Gallbladder channel, there are nine special points that are especially helpful to work with when we feel a sense of instability in our lives.
We can work with these acupuncture points through traditional acupuncture treatment, by massaging or holding them, meditating on them, or by applying essential oils to them.
Acupuncture points are powerful – they are located on our own bodies, acting like buttons or switches that regulate our physical and mental functions. The more we get to know these points, the easier it is to work with them to adjust our body function. In time, we can come to learn which are our own “master points” – the points that have special resonance with what we are going through in our lives.
I will present the acupuncture point name as well as the medical abbreviation so you can easily look for the point location on the internet. For example, the point GB-1 “Virgin Child.” Doing a google search for “GB-1 acupuncture point” will allow you to learn more about the point, including location and more functions.
The first important point to know of the 9 special points is located on the abdomen in the 7th intercostal space of the ribs, directly in line with the nipple. The name of this point is GB-24 “Sun and Moon.” This point is said to “course the wind,” acting as a type of compass or navigating device when we feel lost. It has a strong effect on the eyes, as well as the clarifying capacity of the Gallbladder – both digestively and mentally. It treats many digestive symptoms, including acid reflex and nausea. It also has a strong effect on indecisiveness.
The next point also affects the eyes. It is located on the lower lateral leg, about 7 inches above the ankle. It is called GB-37 “Bright Light.” Physically this point treats fatigue, especially when we feel deficient or lacking in vitality. It also treats weakness in the lower limbs. Mentally it treats loss of hope, despair and confusion. This point is best when we feel so dispirited that we don’t want to engage, maybe because we don’t know what to do. This can often manifest somatically as heaviness in the legs, or cloudiness of the eyes.
The third point is GB-9 “Celestial Blueprint,” located on the head, one inch above and one inch behind the apex of the ear. It is next to another important point GB-8 “Leading Valley.” GB-8 treats toxicity in our environment. It’s an important point when our lifestyle or living situation feels toxic to us. GB-9 however is a point that reorients us to our spiritual and ancestral path. To the ancient Taoists, each of us is born with a destiny – tasks we must do, experience and transcend so as to evolve. Some of these tasks are inherited from our families, others are expressly given to us by our spirits. To become re-oriented to this type of direction in life can take us from feeling powerless, lost and resentful into a state of grace where we feel guided by something much greater than us: something mystical.
Within Taoist alchemical practice, acupuncture point combinations are often given in groups of three. Each trio of points represents a stage in our spiritual, evolutionary development. The above grouping of points along the Gallbladder channel consists of a point on the torso, a point on the legs and a point on the head. These three points should be stimulated in the order in which they have been presented. This alchemical stage is meant to help orient us back to a connection with our purpose in life. To the ancient Taoists, everything that happens in our lives has a purpose. It is all for our greater good. When we feel out of synch with a sense of direction in our lives, we can develop “rebellious qi,” – energy that moves chaotically in our bodies, often affecting our digestive or neurological systems. Digestive problems can rob our limbs and head of nourishment, leading to weakness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, sensory disturbances, headaches and even memory problems.
The point combination GB-24, GB-37 and GB-9 harmonizes our digestive function so as to stabilize our minds and emotions. It strengthens our vitality by ensuring enough nourishment gets channeled into the legs and head. It opens the sensory “portals” of the head so we can see things clearer, be less emotionally reactive. We are guided to locate our wisdom-minds to become an instrument of positivity in our own lives and the world.
Two effective essentials oils I would suggest for use on these three points are Rosemary and Vetiver. Rosemary is an oil that is very invigorating, best for those who experience extreme fatigue, digestive weakness and a sense of cold or frigidity physically or emotionally. Vetiver is more cooling and grounding – for those of us with anxiety, and the inability to relax.
We must first ground and orient ourselves with this opening acupuncture combination, then we can use this stability to break through the blockages in our lives. I will present the following two acupuncture combinations in future articles. Start with this trio.
The point of these three acupuncture point trios (9 points total) is to generate “Yang” energy – vitality and strength to help push us through a “healing crisis” or particular difficulty in our lives. The classic explanation of this type of acupuncture treatment is the return of our own vital power, which gives rise to a sense of excitement in life, so we feel we have the energy to face the challenge and see ourselves more as a hero instead of a victim. The first stage in such a treatment is stabilization. After that we will have the necessary vitality to begin the purification phase.