Detox and the Return to Innocence: Clearing Toxins with Acupuncture
There’s a term commonly used within acupuncture treatment known as “the healing crisis”: a rather dramatic name for a common, often mild occurrence. This “crisis” is perhaps more palatable when called a “detox period.” The crisis usually manifests as cold or flu-like symptoms, diarrhea or phlegm expulsion, or a short period where symptoms get worse before improving or disappearing altogether.
Many conditions that afflict the body-mind-spirit are the result of stagnation and accumulation. Some illustrative examples of this are: allergens getting stuck in the eyes, ears and nose. Otherwise known as seasonal allergies, food sensitivity or other allergic triggers. The problem is usually not due to any external factor, but rather to unresolved stagnation within the body, usually the head, throat and digestive system that causes hypersensitivity.
Issues involving the ear, nose, throat, eyes and head are often the body’s attempt to keep an unresolved condition contained within the body to prevent it from spreading. The immune energy keeps the condition stuck in the head to prevent it from moving into the interior of the body where more serious harm could result. The body experiences an inflammatory immune reaction as it repeatedly tries to expel and/or contain the condition.
The same process can occur with psycho-emotional material as well. An experience occurs, and the body is unable to brush it off and let it go. The experience and the thoughts or emotions created from it become stuck in the chest. Agitation, restlessness and chest tightness result. The body tries to bring the emotions and thoughts up to the tongue to be released through the voice. Yet, if that fails, the unreleased energy moves back into the chest. The body will continue to try and release the stuck emotions via bringing it to the shoulders, maybe to the skin, and then to the ears and mouth: manifesting as physical and/or mental-emotional symptoms. If the issue is still not able to be released, it can move into the lower back, ribs, and finally stomach and intestines. Just like the example with allergies, similar stuckness can occur with unreleased emotions and thoughts.
When something is stuck it creates pain. Stuck energy also contributes to the accumulation of blood and fluids: a fibroid, weight gain, nasal polyps, acne: these are all examples.
Healing becomes the process of letting go of stuckness, as well as expelling the accumulations that have occurred as a result. This is often achieved through the detox process of the healing crisis.
Acupuncture treatment works in two main ways: through building the strength and resources of the body so a full release can be achieved. Both the allergies that continually manifest in a low-grade manner, as well as the emotional holdings that progressively manifest as psycho-somatic symptoms are the result of an underlying insufficiency of energy and fluids to fully expel whatever is stuck. Perhaps the immune system has become taxed from the diet, or a person is caught up in guilt that has depleted his ability to let go of the past. Both of these scenarios can contribute to the creation of an insufficiency of energy, preventing the body from fully letting go and expelling a physical or mental-emotional pest.
Acupuncture, as it has been taught to me, owes its power to its ability to treat the individual. It does not treat diseases: it treats people who possess certain symptoms and imbalances. The treatment focuses upon the unique condition of the patient. Two persons complaining of wheezing will most likely be treated in totally different ways. Even though they possess the same symptom, they are two different people, with two different stories that have caused their symptoms. Perhaps one man’s wheezing comes from a physical weakening of the kidney energy from longterm use of steroidal medications. And perhaps the other’s wheezing comes from longterm unresolved fear or grief disturbing the harmonious relationship between his lung and kidney energies. Different points and different strategies will be used for each case, always based on the individual.
Once the patient’s energy has been strengthened, he will begin the process of the release. It may take the form of a fluid release: nasal discharge, urination and sweat in the form of a common cold. Perhaps it will come out through the bowels. Or maybe it will be released through emotional discharge: crying or instant understanding of the issue.
I write this blog entry from inspiration I have received this week. I have been home all week with a cold. My nose has been runny, my head has ached, my throat was sore, and I’ve been urinating constantly. Interestingly, these cold symptoms have also been joined with a great deal of emotional release as well. Did I catch a cold from someone around me? In this case I don’t think so.
I have been receiving acupuncture treatment weekly for quite awhile, understanding that a detox period was coming. During my week of detox many insights and memories arose. A new understanding of past disappointments, a rectification with the past occurred. Also, a sense of renewed innocence, hope and excitement sprung forth quite surprisingly. Who knew a cold could be such a sacred experience?
Perhaps one of the nicest things about a cold is the body’s demand for calm and rest. It can be very difficult to allow a full release of “the baggage” when one’s life is filled with the busyness of daily responsibilities and distractions. The body is wise. It knows what it needs. When one has made the decision to let go of the junk, the body will create a situation for this to occur.
Of course, retreating from the world for an entire week, laid up in bed with a messy cold could cause many people great frustration, perhaps even a sense of depression. Many people just keep going, refusing to acknowledge that anything is happening.
I’ve always seen acupuncture as a spiritually-based healing method at its root. It is no mistake that most spiritual disciplines require stillness and quiet reflection as pre-requisites for developing inner clarity and freedom. Within the spiritual “medical” treatment that is acupuncture, the healing crisis is the body’s call for attention and focus as release is occurring.
The clearing of accumulations and stagnations can be seen as a return to innocence. The Buddhists often describe the enlightened state as the ability to see the world as a baby sees it: full of wonder, as if seeing it for the first time. Think if it: fluid being released from the nose, mouth and eyes: quite a physical metaphor for clearing from the organs of perception anything blocking the enlightened state of experiencing the world.