August 8, 2020
Even in the winter my children love to get out of their nice warm beds and walk around with no socks or slippers. About half an hour later, they complain, “Mum, my feet are freezing!” Then they hear the familiar refrain, “Were they warm in bed? Well, if you’d put socks and slippers on and hadn’t allowed them to cool down in the first place, they’d be toasty warm right now! Let’s try harder tomorrow…”
As we open back up and return to our offices, just as the bare feet didn’t need to become cold in the first place, perhaps we didn’t need to close down our optimism and confidence in our bodies in the first place. It was so interesting and dismaying to know that people were sitting at home just hoping that they wouldn’t contract the virus—as if when they did, it was a foregone conclusion that their body would simply submit to it and they would either surely die, or suffer debilitating effects. Since the sad losses of the people with weakened immune systems made the initial headlines, the general faith in individuals’ own immune systems evaporated, as many people simply cowered and waited for their dim fate to arrive.
So how can we fashion our practices to both educate and treat people with a view to being able to face with confidence the next challenge—whether it be milder or more severe than Covid? How can we open up with confidence? How can we restore faith in our immunity as we open up?
In acupuncture, this question brings us to the most rudimentary aspect of our practice—it all comes back to the Middle Jiao (burner), and in particularly the clear and clean functioning of the digestive tract. The middle Jiao—the Stomach in particular—is the origin of all fluids. It produces four divisions of fluids: thin pure, thin turbid, thick pure and thick turbid. The thin pure go to the sensory orifices, the thin turbid to the sinews, the thick pure to zang fu and the thick turbid to the curious organs. It’s the second class of fluids we’re interested here—the thin turbid fluids that feed Wei Qi. These are the fluids which, if plentiful, will help more than anything in the process of this major opening up of our offices, society, community, chest, eyes, throat, five limbs, exterior, awareness, expansiveness, and ultimately, our hearts.
The thin turbid fluids of the Stomach are distributed by the Spleen to the five limbs to irrigate the Sinew Channels—the commanders and protectors of the musculoskeletal system and the activators of the immune system. Without these particular fluids there cannot be a sweat or a sneeze; there cannot be efficient defecation or urination, even peristalsis. This is because thin turbid fluids are needed to support every function that Wei Qi governs. This includes the actions of the smooth muscle—the muscle of the gut, heart, uterus, prostate, bronchi, even part of the gallbladder. These fluids—the very essence of the immune system—are brought to the surface of the physiology they serve in order to push off pathogenic factors or to serve as a vehicle for their transport out of the body.
For example, if you were to eat a mouldy cashew at a dimly lit bar and swallowed it because you didn’t want to be rude in front of your prospective date, your gut, courtesy of Wei Qi, would excrete thin turbid fluids and at the same time churn the stomach in such a way as to expel the nut, hopefully through the mouth. At the same time, there’d be a sweat; the whole immune system being in gear activating a healthy immune response: the temporary rebellious state. Since politeness overrode the urge to vomit, Wei Qi would stimulate the excretion of more fluid lower in the intestines to usher said nut out the lower orifices, spiriting it away, leaving the gut flushed and ready for some real food, perhaps in a less distracting setting.
In the case of viruses, what we’re seeing is the excretion of the residue of the virus. Viruses exact change in the genetic code in the cell and the cell spits out the aftermath (waste product that is not usable). The aftermath, if not expelled, becomes toxic within the intercellular fluids, creating inflammation and organ damage. Failure to prepare and provide for the clearance of the aftermath of viruses causes the emergence of symptoms associated with a virus—if not well-cleared this toxic detritus may do more damage by stirring an inflammation storm than the direct damage done by the virus itself. We have trillions of viruses and viral snippets in our bodies, and since half of all human DNA is traceable to viral implantation, evolution itself has been courtesy of viruses, which incidentally are not alive but simply packages of instruction. We must be able to clean up after a viral infection in order to regain health. True hydration is imperative; the cornerstone of health.
Since the Stomach is the origin of all fluids, if what we put in our mouths is not at least partly fluid, we cannot generate an immune response with its flushing fluids in the first place. Plain water is vitally essential, but water alone will not suffice, because it is not held long in the digestive tract and is therefore not banked for deep, sustained, systemic use. We need the dense fluids of soups, stews, porridges, steamed grains, etc.
The acupuncture approach to the restoration of the immune system involves procuring and consolidating these fluids. The procuring happens through shopping, cooking, and at the meal table, while the consolidation can be assisted tremendously with the tonifying of some key acupuncture points. A simple treatment for this purpose could include three points that widen the stomach pulse at the moderate level, the level of its fluids. The points CV-12, ST-42 and TH-2 would all do that, and would magnify the treatment principle if used together. CV-12, the Central Receptacle, could well be called the “main bowl”, a bowl for the gathering of precious fluids for the central purpose of defending and clearing the body of threats to its integrity. This point is needled perpendicularly and turned clockwise a half turn. ST-42, Surging Yang, brings Stomach fluids up to the sensory orifices, but it also nourishes systemic fluids. TH-2, the Fluid Gate, is a master point of fluids, and like the others, its effect is felt systemically in the pulse right after insertion.
A more complex approach could be the fifth trajectory of Chong Mai. ST-30, The Sea of Food and Grains, ST-36, Three Leg Mile (the master earth point), ST-37, the Lower He-Sea of the Large Intestine (commander of thin fluids), ST-39, the Lower He-Sea point of Triple Heater, ST-42, Surging Yang, and SP-1 and LR-1to harmonize the middle jiao. This trajectory may be indicated if the patient has a long history of susceptibility to pathogenic factors with the inability to engender immune responses (sweat, sneezes, vomiting, or release through the lower orifices), or if the patient is elderly, a child, or has constitutional digestive weakness causing dehydration. When removing the needles, visualize covering and pressing the points with your finger (as was the Classical technique) to signal to the body that you want to retain these fluids for deep systemic hydration.
Once we’re stoked with the right fluids to support immune integrity, not only will patients feel stronger, they will feel intuitively that they have more capacity for immunity. This brings a quiet confidence and a lessening of the feeling that the outside world present threats that require panic and retreat. Even more exciting: patients will be more able to fully realize treatments aimed at opening up in a broader sense. As we open up the chest, neck, the sensory orifices, the five limbs, the exterior, the diaphragm, the lower orifices, digestion, and so much more, the entire musculoskeletal system will move with greater ease, given the abundance of Wei Qi offered. An expanded physiology elicits an expanded consciousness, and ultimately, the liberation of the central precious smooth-muscle, the heart itself.
New York City