Racism and Acupuncture – by Ann Cecil-Sterman

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June 20, 2020

Sorry to have been out of touch. It’s been very difficult to write anything since the murder of George Floyd (and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and so many more). Although there is much that warrants our thoughtful attention, everything other than racism in America seems almost frivolous. And there has been so much strong writing about it. To this growing collective of new consciousness I want to add a perspective coming uniquely from acupuncture.  What I’m suggesting addresses just one small slice of an extremely complex problem, but it’s an aspect that I feel acupuncturists can help with. If seven billion of us begin to discover and uproot our roles in systemic racism, change will be inevitable. Becoming responsive is a long-term, full community task. 

As acupuncturists, can we contribute in significant way? Racism is an energetic problem and we work with energy. It is so complex, systemic and toxic, with so many layers, we could think of it as a Divergent Channel issue, although what I’m recommending is something else, as you will see below. Since many readers of this blog are not acupuncturists, we should pause to discuss what we mean by the Divergent Channels. Chinese Medicine is the deep study of the extraordinary ways the body defends the free expression of the Heart, and from there the rest of the internal organs. The imperative to protect the Heart, and to provide resolute expression of our personal hearts is common to all people, all races, all genders, and all individuals, without exception.  

To preserve life, the body must respond as a pathogen begins to threaten survival. Pathogens include toxic or unexpressed emotions. The body creates a pathway (it creates a Divergent Channel) to lead any pathogen away from the internal organs to locations capable of holding it quiet. In this way, a slow, chronic disease is created in lieu of a terminal one.  The most common sites chosen to suppress these pathogens are the joints, making arthritis the most common of these life-preserving disease swaps. You can’t die of arthritis, but you can die of pneumonia or hepatitis, or pyelonephritis. When the divergence of pathogens is successful, no signs or symptoms appear.  But that can’t hold indefinitely; eventually the interior terrain of the joints is unable to hide the pathogen any longer. The pathogen leaks and the joints themselves become diseased; arthritis becomes apparent.

Racism is a pathogen. It’s a toxic interruption to the smooth functioning of humanity and a suffocator of humanity’s Heart. Oppression is a pathogen (in enormously complex ways) for both the oppressor or the oppressed. The entire human race is experiencing the re-location of these pathogens. They are being released from suppression and are coming up to the surface.  In acupuncture theory we say the pathogens have moved out of latency and are returning to the Wei Qi level (the level where they originally entered in the first place and were not repelled). Here they sit, right at the surface, ready to be expressed and transformed. 

When the expression and release is of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, the healing crises that occur are not pretty. There’s foul-smelling diarrhea, or dark yellow, putrid urine, or mucussy vomit, or stinky, greasy sweat, or copious yellow mucus coming from the sinuses—all serving to push the pathogen out effectively and perfectly. It can look disgusting, but it’s healing. The acupuncturist ensures that the resources needed to evacuate the pathogen are nourished, sustained, contained and directed to the surface to help carry the pathogen out of the body.

When the expression and release happens with pathogens such as racism and oppression, it’s also not pretty because these pathogens are deadly. As they are thrown to the surface for eradication, all turmoil breaks loose. It can be no other way. There’s outrage, anger, sadness, depression, collapse, anxiety, shame, guilt, violence. It can be unbearable, but it’s healing. The acupuncturist ensures that to help carry the pathogen out of humanity, the resources needed are cultivated. We “tonify” what’s needed so that the change can be sustained. 

That helps with the expression of the pathogen and enables the Divergent Channel actions to occur. The culture is now vomiting out its toxins. Wei Qi is doing its work. This work is underway and I hope it is unstoppable. 

In Chinese medicine Wei Qi is seen as a powerful protective force with no other agenda.  We need to let it work, but this moving Qi alone can not build new structure—Wei Qi reacts, it doesn’t construct. We don’t need to work the Divergent Channels since they are activated. We need to help with the next step. 

The next step is the creation of a paradigm that is entirely new. A complete restructuring. Restructuring of national and global societies, of financial structures, education, healthcare, of legal structures and policing, of so many things that are broken. How can we as acupuncturists help with the emergence and development of a new way of being, one that truly honors humanity? How can we help structuring for equality?

We can play a powerful role in this change no matter where we are, by performing long-term treatments for ourselves (importantly) and for others. We can also perform them remotely for all mankind rather than on an individual, as a contribution offered without judgment, to support the global change that is already happening. In my patients who are wanting to move forward  and who are confused, mute, angry, or eager to help change, I am working in this realm now.

If there is to be equality, we need to establish a clear stance—a global stance where each individual human being is in alignment with all others. This new stance would be free of the impact of the pathogens of racism and oppression. Both oppressing and oppressed postures (in all their varying subtle forms) need regulating during this time of global change. A realignment of all humanity is needed. How can we begin to help with something as overwhelmingly difficult as this?

The muscles that govern the stance—the alignment of the head, chest and pelvis—are called the Ancestral Sinews, also known as the Five Axes (plural of axis). The term Five Axes refers to five anatomical muscle groups: sternocleidomastoid, the diaphragm, the paravertebrals, rectus abdominis, and psoas. The interchangeable term Ancestral Sinews refers to the energetic component of those muscles. Chapter 71 of the Ling Shu says, “Wei Qi homes to chest and manifests as Ancestral Qi, [also known as Zong or Chest Qi]”. Da Qi, the Qi contained in the air, previously breathed by all the sentient beings of all time (the ancestors) is breathed in, transformed into Wei Qi which circulates in the musculature and then homes to the chest. That Qi, when it gathers to the chest, becomes Ancestral Qi and enervates the Ancestral Sinews. Its purpose at that point is to orient the head and torso toward Destiny. We breathe and become inspired to move the head, chest, and pelvis in the direction required for our fullest awakening and contribution. Then Ancestral Qi returns to the lower belly where it becomes the Yang Qi of reproduction. The subsequent generations (the next ancestries) continue carrying out the work of Destiny. Hence humanity evolves to be more unified as it does something that connects us all: breathing the air itself. If Ancestral Qi is not allowed to flow, evolution is restrained. 

When it finally emerges, the true human stance will universally reflect the fundamental truth of the equality of all. An alignment with the self and with all beings will manifest in the perfect tonicity of the Ancestral Sinews—they will be neither tight nor undercharged. The stance will be relaxed and natural, energized and magnificent. 

There’s a saying in Chinese Medicine that to change the form, you must change the function first. As we change the physical alignment of humanity, change in consciousness must and does follow. 

Many of us feel we are in a profession that has been stymied by this pandemic, but we’ve had the time to starting waking up and to work out what our first contribution—apart from our personal learning—could possibly be. I think we can play a major role in the evolution of a new stance, of a regulation in the stance of humanity as a whole. This would require a resetting of the Ancestral Sinews so that the stance of each individual is realigned for harmony and unity, equality and eventually, joy in all. 

Diagnosis:          Misalignment within Humankind
Treatment strategy: Regulate the Ancestral Sinews, to regulate the 
                    stance of all humanity.
Points:             GB-27, the Five Axes, master point for the 
                    Ancestral Sinews (use even technique).
                    BL-62, the Extending Vessel, opening point 
                    of The Yang Stance Channel(Yang Qiao Mai),to 
                    regulate tensions in the entire paravertebral region 
                    (also use even technique).
                    BL-10, the Celestial Pillar, to descend excess 
                    Yang from the head and to activate the release 
                    of the pathogens of racism and oppression (again 
                    use even technique).

Every treatment we do creates a ripple in the sea of humanity. And because positive change is expansive, it has more power than negative change (which contracts). We don’t need to needle everyone to stimulate global transformation. One person’s treatment becomes a powerful broadcast if the practitioner has their intention spread out like the light of the sun. Imagine what we can do with this power as we join forces. 

New York City

“Practice like nothing else matters because everything does.”

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