Rectify the Qi: Working Through Fixated States
“If you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of your fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.” Tao Te Jing, Chapter 57.
Taoism, the philosophy much of Chinese Medicine is based upon, has a counter-intuitive perspective on being a leader. We are all leaders. Some of us lead nations of people, some lead teams of people, some lead a family, and some of us only lead our individual lives. Regardless of our following, we all possess this responsibility to lead. Our lives are in our own hands.
The Tao Te Jing, the basic text of Taoism, frequently describes the ideal leader as one who allows, rather than one who controls. The leader is connected to “heaven,” basically acting as a channel between Heaven and Earth. It reminds me of advice by the Sufi poet Rumi: rather than trying to fill the heart with love, focus on removing all that blocks the heart from experiencing the love that’s already there.
It’s a common tendency for us to grasp and control in our lives. We have our desires. We want to be loved, we want a partner, a family, a certain type of career or lifestyle. We can become fixated on these desires; even work ourselves to exhaustion trying to achieve them. The acupuncture point “Palace of Toil” (“Lao Gong”: Pericardium-8) illustrates this tendency. This point is indicated for people who have become exhausted from their overwhelming desires. In such cases, illness is the result.
Many of us figuratively “bleed ourselves to death,” from our overwhelming desires and the effort we put into them.
The Tao teaches that grasping and control cannot lead to health and happiness. It teaches that the Heart has a tendency to fill easily, even though it is naturally empty. It suggests we focus on emptying our Hearts. From the empty Heart, comes endless possibilities and true connection and joy not predicated on externals.
This is quite counterintuitive to our Western cultural teachings. Most people would think it crazy advice to let go and let the world govern itself. But this is what the ancient Taoist sages suggest.
Clinically I see fixation every day in my acupuncture practice. Patients complaining of conditions from erectile dysfunction to depression to pain. The thing many of these people have in common is a Liver pulse that fails to feed the Heart with its blood.
Physiologically, the job of the Liver is to store the blood that is created in the Stomach. This stored blood goes to nourish the muscles. It also provides the Heart with energy to be expressive and animated about life.
The Liver is likened to a “general” in Chinese Medicine, who holds our strategic plan and vision. In a healthy nation, the general serves the emperor, which is the Heart. The Heart is our excitement in life: the expression of who we are through our words and actions.
When feeling the pulses on many patients, I find a Liver pulse that is tight and stuck. It fails to move up to the Heart. The general is fixated on his vision, acting like a military dictator, failing to serve the emperor. In extreme states of Liver stagnation, a military coup can occur within the body, creating a stroke. Milder states can lead to anger, depression, insomnia and neuropathy. Even describing this state makes me feel like screaming!
The Tao Te Jing says we need to “stop trying to control, let go of fixed plans and concepts.” This is key to health and happiness. However this is easier said than done for many of us.
The Liver and Pericardium acupuncture channels are very effective in helping people move through fixated states, overwhelming desires and excess control. They are channels with many points that are said to “rectify the qi.”
“Qi” is the Chinese name for the energy in the body, but it is also seen as relationship: between ourselves and the world, ourselves and others. There are some things we have a difficult time letting go of: certain things we feel we lack. Things we think we need. Things we are uncomfortable with. Disappointments or resentments from the past. We all have our stories, and many of us are married to these stories. To get through these fixations, we need to “rectify our qi:” to make right our difficult relationships.
I have great compassion for all of us who are “stuck.” We only want happiness and fulfillment. And somehow, we foolishly go about it in the wrong way, adding to our suffering instead of alleviating it. I feel like saying something to the effect of: “I’m not only president of the fixators club for human beings, but also a client.” But I do work quite diligently in “rectifying my qi,” and I have seen the relief it brings.
Acupuncture is spiritual work at its root. Whether working on a frozen shoulder or clinical depression, I am always helping my patients work with their spirit. Some are able to let go easily, others need to “rectify their qi” before the letting go process can begin. This is why I became a healer: to help others alleviate their suffering as I worked on letting go of my own. We’re all in it together. Blessings to all you fellow leaders. Let’s lead one another to freedom, health and peace.