Getting Back in Synch: Acupuncture to Return to Normalcy, Regularity & Synchronicity
How do we restore a sense of normalcy to our lives? To our mind and bodies? After being in an altered reality for several months? For many of us, the pandemic altered our lives in major ways. As life begins to return to normal, albeit a “new” normal, we may find it challenging.
In Chinese medicine’s understanding of physiology, the Liver and Lungs are the organs (and acupuncture channels) that maintain our normal energy flow, regularity, synchronicity and healthy productive relationship with the outer world.
There are several popular (and simple) acupuncture treatments to restore regularity and synchronicity. The first of which is called “the Four Gates” treatment, using the “source” points of the Large Intestine (the active partner to the Lungs) and the Liver (acupuncture points LI-4 and LR-3): points located on hands and feet. I usually combine this treatment with another, which uses the same idea, but brings the outer stimulation (on the feet and hands) into the center of the body at the region of the chest.
Perhaps the most revered of all Chinese medical masters is Sun Si Miao, a doctor who lived during the Tang Dynasty in China (581-682 CE). He taught to restore synchronicity and regularity in the body, a special class of acupuncture points should be used, called the “Mu” points, which translates as “collection” points, or more popularly as “alarm” points due to their tendency to become tender and painful when out of balance.
Feeling “off” or out of synch can be as simple as having allergies due to inability to adjust to change in season or climate. Or it can be due to PTSD or changing life circumstances that we have difficulty adjusting to.
Clinically I’d suggest using the points on the hands and feet (LI-4 and LR-3) for situations due to relatively mild stress and/or difficulty adjusting to the climate or seasonal weather change. However, when the adjustment difficulty is due to a more serious situation, like a trauma or major life change, the points on the chest (the “alarm” points) would be preferable.
“Mu” (alarm) points are a special category of acupuncture point. They are said to connect energetically into the internal organs themselves, having very deep and widespread reach into the body. They resonate with the “Shu” points located on the back of the body, which also reach into the internal organs. However, the “Shu” points are often used to strengthen the body, while the “Mu” points help move and dissipate major blockages due to gathering of energy (Qi), blood and fluids.
However the energy source that both “Mu” and “Shu” points work with is deeper than blood, energy (Qi) and fluids. These points deal with “essence” (Jing), which is seen as the precursor to all other humors and substances within the body. When the “Mu” alarm points become activated and tender, this indicates the blockage may relate to a stagnation within the flow of one’s life in terms of destiny.
We know when a person becomes traumatized, it can seem as if their life stops or freezes. This can be seen as an expression of the “Mu” points. The flow of one’s Qi and Blood can become stagnated, but more seriously a person’s essence can also become stuck, making them feel as if their life is no longer moving forward. The person can become frozen in time, or in a painful experience. They may lose a sense of connectivity to their lives, families, friends and environment. This can be a very disorienting, even alienating experience.
The way the “Mu” points were taught to me were as a story of human development. They are said to be the first acupuncture points to formulate during the in-utero period of life.
There is a very poetic story of the development of a fetus. The fetus is said to “swallow” a “mud pill,” which is the image of the essence in its raw form: the destiny and code for the unfolding of a person’s life. It is also the code for the building and development of the body. When this “pill” is swallowed, it begins to disseminate its “essential code” into all of the internal organs through their “Mu” points, linking them together and starting the physiological process.
The process begins with the Lungs, as they are the organ that most interfaces with the external world, and goes deep into the Kidneys which represent the deepest internal aspect of the body: where the essence is ultimately stored. From there, the essence circulates through all of the internal organs, activating their function and “spirit” so life can be lived.
Life (and health) is predicated on flow. The ancient Chinese saw the body like a series of waterways. When water freely flows it will continually regenerate itself. Yet if it becomes stuck this can lead to dampness (flooding and cesspools), toxic overload, improper irrigation and ultimately disease and death.
Using the points LU-1: the “Mu” point for the Lungs, which is seen as the first acupuncture channel within the daily physiological flow of channels, and LR-14: the “Mu” point of the Liver, which is the last acupuncture point in the continuum, synchs the entire acupuncture channel system. The acupuncture channels run as follows:
Pericardium (the greater circulatory system)
Triple Heater (an endocrine functioning organ equivalent)
Sun Si Miao suggested using the first and last acupuncture points within the acupuncture channel continuum to reset the entire system. However it turns out the first and last points are “Mu” points, which suggest the entire movement and flow of the body’s physiology is governed by these deep reservoirs of essence.
To use the points LU-1 and LR-14 as a “Mu” point treatment therefore not only get the physiology of the body moving freely again; they also get a person’s life path (their destiny) moving once again.
Acupuncture, when practiced in its glorious classical form, tailors each session to the individual patient at that particular moment in time. This is why pulse diagnosis is the chief diagnostic tool used by the acupuncturist. It has the ability to measure where a person is in the moment: what their body, mind and spirit are doing and where they need assistance.
The tailoring is achieving through the addition of other acupuncture points, based on where the stagnation is located: which organ and channels are affected.
For example, there have been many patients I’ve recently seen who’ve reacted to the difficulties of the pandemic and the subsequent economic strife through acting out and becoming manic. They’ve felt the shock and pain of the disruption to their ability to build their lives through subtly abandoning themselves to live in somewhat reckless ways.
The acupuncture channel that relates to our ability to build and “construct” our lives is the Stomach channel. If we look at the names of the acupuncture points on the Stomach channel, there are several points that talk about construction and physical aspects of a building or a house: roof, beams, abode, door, storeroom, screen, window. Most of these points are located on the chest and abdomen, suggesting this is the part of the body where construction and renovation of our outer reality is formed.
The Stomach is the organ that begins the process of turning the raw material of food and drink into blood, body fluids, Qi and flesh. But it also helps us construct our lives in all aspects.
When the Stomach’s energy becomes damaged or “takes a hit,” it will initially go into a special holding vessel called the “Luo,” which relates to the circulatory system. When the Luo fills with stress the person isn’t able to metabolize, release or resolve it can lead to manic behavior.
When the “Luo” holding vessel overflows, it can lead to a sense of paralysis in life: confusion as to which direction to move. This can physically affect the lower limbs, but also affects one’s psychology and sense of motivation. They lose a sense of what they want to build and commit to in their lives. It can manifest as a type of depression or confusion.
The Stomach’s Luo Vessel is therefore used for manic-depressive tendencies. Often brought about by a trauma, stress or change the person is unable to deal with.
The acupuncture point to treat the Stomach’s Luo Vessel is ST-40 called the “Abundant Bulge.”
To boost and direct this treatment, I’d add the points GV-20 on the top of the head with ST-9 at the throat. I might also add the Large Intestine channel to help order and organize the person’s thoughts, so they can discern better what is good and bad for them.
When the condition has moved into depression and loss of motivation, I’d add the acupuncture points ST-42 and SP-3 on the feet: the “source” points of the Stomach and Spleen. If the condition has obsession-addiction and/or habituation complicating it, I’d also add SP-4 and KI-4: two more Luo points on the feet, showing the problem has moved from the Stomach deeper into the Spleen and Kidneys. All of these points are Luo and Source points.