Category Archives: Meditation

Change

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus is famous for his declaration: Life is Flux. In other words, all things change. At the same time that Heraclitus was contemplating his navel, on the other side of the world, ancient Chinese philosophers were articulating a similar view from their observation of nature. In times ancient and modern, people see changes occurring on a daily, seasonal and annual basis. We notice changes in our bodies and minds as we age over a lifetime. Cultural shifts occur over generations. Nowadays we are constantly being called to adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic and by climate change.

Today, February 4th, marks a pivotal change in the course of the year. It is a cross-quarter day, the half-way point between equinox and solstice. Here in the southern hemisphere it marks the beginning of autumn, while in the northern half of the globe, spring is springing.

The ancient Chinese classic of medicine the Nei Jing states that the last 18 days of a season are the province of the Earth Element which provides a period of transition between four seasons with very different qualities. We have just spent the last two and a half weeks making the transition between summer and autumn, or winter and spring. This is a time when we are more likely to wobble in our health, especially if we are moving into a season whose Element is a challenge to us.

It is helpful to support the Earth Element at these times. A function of Earth is to facilitate transitions and to mediate. In this capacity it can help us to manage change by providing a grounded centre of orientation.

One of the buzz words to arise from 2020 is pivot. Governments, businesses, families and individuals have all been challenged to adapt to the constraints that the pandemic has wrought. Pivoting suggest a change of direction or orientation, a swivelling around to point in another direction. This same word of pivot can be applied to the Earth phase: it is the axis or fulcrum to which the other Elements orient.

In times of change when we are pulled away from our centre, wobbling like a spinning top, dizzy or giddy with the sudden reconfigurations of life, then supporting the Earth Element helps us to maintain a centre when all around is changing. We can use acupressure to support the Earth’s organs of Stomach and Spleen and to help reconnect us to centre. Some helpful acupoints that have been discussed previously include

Stomach 36, Earth point

Stomach 40, Connecting point

Stomach 25 Heavenly Pivot

Spleen 4 Connecting point

At a deeper level

 We come into this world as pure droplets of the Tao, dropping from the infinite into a world of time and space and limits. In our first years of life, we develop an ego structure in order to give coherence to living in this world. This egoic self becomes a fixed conglomeration of memories, ideas, beliefs and identities. It is a structure that is challenged by change, both external and internal. Change is challenging to the ego structure which regards itself as the centre of everything. Its very existence is threatened by change. For who are we if we are not who we thought?

The more we grow spiritually, and the more we can unhook from the delusion of ego, the easier it becomes to roll with the change, to swim with the stream. Practices that help us to de-couple from ego and support our Earth at the same time include meditation, movement meditation, belly breathing, microcosmic orbit circulation breathing, taiqi, qigong and mindfulness practices. Also we can enquire into our resistance to change. What is it that prevents us from flowing with the river of our life, a river that is constantly changing?

As Heraclitus put it, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”.

How Effective Is Self-Acupressure?

One of the most common questions I get from clients and students is, “Can I do this on myself?” The answer is, certainly! But as you might expect, it is not as effective as working with a skilled acupressure therapist. (I want to keep my job after all.) Even so, there are some things you can do to make self-acupressure an important and effective part of your health maintenance program.

With all my experience and knowledge, I cannot treat myself as well as another practitioner can. The main reason for this is that when you self-treat, you are trying to be both practitioner and client at the same time and so your intention becomes divided. As client you cannot fully relax because you are holding and focusing on the point; as practitioner you cannot bring all your attention to treating the point because you are trying to relax into it.

Another major reason that self-acupressure is limited is that it is almost impossible to see ourselves objectively. You can’t see your own blind spots. So when you try to diagnose your imbalance, you simply can’t see what you can’t see. Another practitioner is more able to view your case objectively and so may be able to choose points that will more effective for you.

When it comes to treatment of self or other, there are four levels of increasing depth at which we can treat:

  1. First Aid
  2. Symptomatic
  3. Diagnostic
  4. Constitutional

Self-acupressure is best suited to the first level, that of First Aid. Let’s say you are feeling bloated and nauseated after eating too much. Holding Stomach 36 will probably ease your condition. Maybe you have a headache with pain at the back of your head and behind your eyes. Gall Bladder 20 is a good choice for easing the pain. At this level of treatment we are choosing a single point for a single condition.

The second level, what I call the Symptomatic Level of treatment, is where you notice a range of symptoms and associations from which you recognise that a particular Element is calling for attention. Let’s say you have stomach pain and reflux, are feeling more fatigued than usual, and there is a build up of fluid in your lower legs and ankles. The Earth Element is clearly calling for attention. A treatment pattern that combines Stomach and Spleen points is probably going to treat you more deeply than simply holding Stomach 36. However, if you are doing self-acupressure, it can be difficult to hold points in combination because of the contortions you have to make. For example, holding Spleen 4 with the opposite Spleen 21 would be a good combination, but even Houdini might be stretched with this one.

The third level, the Diagnostic, looks at the interplay of all the Elements. In the above example, where the Earth is out of balance, I would be most interested in the mother Element which in this case is Fire, and the grandmother Element which is Wood. How are these other Elements involved, or even contributing to the Earth imbalance? While a practitioner can observe you objectively, you may not be able to see your own wobbles. This is especially true when working at the psycho-emotional level where our old patterns, beliefs and behaviours might obscure a clear view of ourselves.

The deepest level of treatment is at the Constitutional Level where treatment focuses on points of the Element that is at the core of our energetic structure. It can be particularly difficult to self-diagnose our Constitution. It’s hard enough to do it for someone else. If you know your Constitutional Element, then you can focus on the points of that Element, but it is not possible to sink deeply into the treatment when you are focused on doing the treatment

So far I’ve been pointing out the limitations of self-acupressure. But that is not to say that you can’t get some very good benefits from working on yourself. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of a self-acupressure treatment.

Choosing the right point

While holding any acupoint at all will make a positive intervention into your own energetic structure, the more closely you can match your symptoms and conditions with appropriate points, the better the results will be. My book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’ is useful because it describes the locations and related conditions of 54 powerful points. It also has a good index to match points to conditions. In addition, each point comes with a list of related points so you can make your work more effective with point combinations. If you don’t have my book, simply go online and search for your condition + acupressure and you will come up with many suggestions. You could begin with a keyword search of this blog site.

Finding the point accurately

An acupuncturist who is inserting a needle needs to be accurate within 1-2 millimetres; but when using finger pressure we have more latitude as the pressure is exerted over a wider area. Even so, the more accurate you are, the more powerful the treatment will be. While a point location book will give you a picture or an anatomical description, this is not the point itself. A map is not the territory. What you must search for is the feeling of the Qi of the point. Feel for the pulsing, waving, whooshing, tingling vibration that is the sensation of the movement of Qi. This is how you will know you have the point. If you don’t feel this, try moving your finger slowly around in a small circle, looking for that feeling. It may take time for you to develop this skill, but be patient and the Qi will come to you.

Being present with the point

Do your self-treatment when you are in a quiet, restful place. Doing it while watching TV or chatting to someone will not make for effective outcomes. As you hold the point, send your mind down into the point. The Japanese symbol for an acupoint (tsubo) shows a vessel with a long neck and a little lid over it. Sustained pressure will remove the lid and allow your intention to go down into the depth of the point and influence the Qi. Treat your session as a meditation.

 

Noticing the effects

Observe what happens as you hold the point. Be as present as you can with the physical sensations, and any emotions, thoughts or memories that might arise. Just be with them without judgement or a need to change anything. You might notice energy moving in other parts of your body and perhaps other points calling to you for treatment. Don’t rush to treat elsewhere, but wait until the point you are holding feels complete before moving on. You will find one level of release after two or three minutes, but sustained holding will go to deeper and deeper levels of release.

Concluding the treatment

After you’ve finished your work, sit or lie with the effects. Notice what has changed. Notice what has not changed. You might hold your hands over your belly centre (Conception Vessel 6) as you contemplate your treatment. And when you do get up, try to take the new awareness of yourself into your daily life.

I wish you well in your explorations.

 

Eyes Turn Inward

Jingming – Bright Eyes – Bladder 1

Looking inwardWinter is here. While it might not feel like the deep of winter just yet, the seasonal calendar marks the start of winter as May 6th, the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. The ambient energy of the Element of any season is strongest at its beginning. Right now Water is in its flood. Time to catch the wave.

Winter and Water invite us to go within. Indeed the fundamental movement of the Water Element is inwards. This means turning our gaze from the outer to the inner. Of course most of us need to earn a living so we cannot totally retreat from the world and hibernate for three months. But if we are to live in accord with the seasons, our predominant focus during winter will be on our inner terrain.

The acupoint  Jingming – Bright Eyes, first point of the Bladder meridian, is one that can help us make this inward turn. Traditionally it is used for physical problems of the eyes and is very good for tired eyes, redness, pain, itching and excessive or deficient lacrimation of the tear ducts. It helps with blurred vision, visual dizziness, colour blindness, photophobia and near sightedness. And when eye problems are the result of an external pathogenic invasion, by cold, wind or heat, this point is ideal.

Jingming has an influence far beyond its role as a Bladder point. It is like Grand Central Station in that many other channels and vessels pass through it. It is a meeting point with Small Intestine, Stomach, Gall Bladder and Triple Heater meridians; it is also a point of the Yin and Yang Motility Vessels. And as the entry point of Bladder meridian, it receives Qi from the Small Intestine exit point SI 19. Therefore when we hold it, we are having an effect on many energetic pathways.

You have probably seen a person take off his glasses and place thumb and forefinger to the inner corners of the eyes as a way of soothing tired eyes. This is the body’s innate intelligence at work to touch points that are needed at the moment. And you may have noticed people adopt this same posture when going within to ponder a problem.

Which brings us back to the notion of the inner eyes, for it is here that the deeper power of the point can be mined. Jarrett refers to its capacity to ‘empower the accurate perception of truth’, suggesting we can turn our bright eyes to the conceptual level of seeing what it true. This requires inner reflection and examination, things that are profoundly supported by the deep yin of winter when there is less going on in the outer world to distract us.

The more we can plumb these inner depths, contemplate the fears, dark memories and traumas that have been secreted in our inner cupboards and hidey holes; and the more we can clarify and perceive what is true about our nature, the greater will be the strength and clarity of purpose and vision that will sprout with the spring.

 

Location of Bladder 1

BL 1

 

 

Medial (inside) and superior to (above) the inside corner of the eye. Use light pressure. The little finger is good for this point because of the proximity to the eye.