Category Archives: Breathing

Midwinter – Midsummer

Primordial Yin and Yang

Where I live, today is the shortest day. The winter solstice. The deepest, most yin point of the year, where shortening pivots to lengthening, contracting to expanding, closing to opening. Our prehistoric ancestors were well aware of this movement in the seasons, building stone circles to measure and celebrate the changes.

Just 10 days ago I was in Scotland in the northern hemisphere where our winter solstice is mirrored by their summer solstice, the polar opposite of our experience. It is difficult in the midst of winter to remember what it is like to be in the midst of summer. Travelling quickly between the two has given me some direct experience of the difference.

This annual passage from winter to summer and back is a profound illustration of the concept of yin and yang, a fundamental principle which underpins Chinese medicine. It is like watching the Earth breathe. In and out. Once a year. Breathing in, the Earth rises to the midsummer; breathing out, it falls to the midwinter. A rhythm whose mirror image plays out in the antipodes. A planetary pas de deux.

We humans are witness to this breath of the Earth but a few score times in our lifespan. Our Neolithic ancestors had even fewer views. Midwinter and midsummer rituals in their stone calendars expressed their awe of this rhythm.

We too can gain much from the observing and marking of these pivots in the year. The cycle of the year provides a template for other cycles in our lives, other movements between yin and yang. Shorter cycles of  month, day and hour; and longer cycles, of life stages and of generations. Being aware and present to these cycles within cycles provides us with guideposts in life. They remind us that change is constant. And at a deeper level, these cycles of time provide the context within which we experience each moment. After all, this moment which we are currently experiencing is all we really have. It is all we really are.

Photo: Maeshowe, neolithic burial chamber, Orkney. The entrance to the tomb is aligned to the midwinter sunrise

Water Element Meditation Practice

Last time I suggested a number ways that you can support the Water within. Here is a meditation practice that strongly invigorates Water by harvesting the Qi of the breath, storing it in the Kidneys and circulating it throughout the body.

Belly Breathing and Circulation Visualisation

Belly breathingThis meditation focuses on building the Qi in the belly centre and circulating that Qi around the Central Channel. It both cultivates and circulates Qi. The practice can be done alone or in a group. When done as a group meditation, the group field can powerfully strengthen the holding ground of Presence.

Find a comfortable sitting position. Bring your awareness to the hara, that place two fingers width below the navel and the same distance inside the body. Just notice the sensations in that area. Sensations of temperature or movement. Maybe there’s no sensation at all. Just notice what is there. Now as you breathe in, imagine you are drawing in the universal Qi, the heavenly Qi with your breath and bringing it down to that place in the belly. As you breathe out, imagine you are holding the energy that has been captured from the breath. Breathing in, drawing the Qi; breathing out, holding the Qi. Do this for a few minutes.

Now that the energy that has been gathered in the hara, allow it to fall like a slow waterfall downwards to the perineum, the soft place in the very floor of the pelvis. Then as you breathe in, imagine that the energy is being drawn up the spine and over the top of the head. As you breathe out, watch the energy move down the front of the body like a slow waterfall down to the perineum. Breathing in up the back and out down the front. You may see it as a ball of light, a ball of energy, maybe you feel it as a movement of energy, or maybe just watch and imagine in your mind that it is moving along that circuit. Do this for a few minutes.

As you finish the next cycle, bring your attention back to the hara and notice the sensations that are there now. Notice any changes in your body and mind.

When you are ready, open your eyes and come back into the room

If you do this daily throughout the winter, you will build a strong platform of strength and resilience that will power you through the spring and summer to come.

The Way of the Five Seasons

Book cover

 

The above is an extract from the the Water chapter of my latest book, “The Way of the Five Seasons”. You can purchase it now from Book Depository UK. For a signed copy, contact me at john@acupressure.com.au

A Fork in the Road

Lieque – Broken Sequence – Lung 7

6.11 It was Yogi Berra who advised: when you come to a fork in the road, take it! The Metal fork we are taking here lies on the pathway of the Lung meridian at the point Lieque – Broken Sequence. The break in the sequence refers to the fact that Qi exits the Lung meridian at this point, rather that the last point of the channel, and enters the Large Intestine meridian at LI 4 rather than the first point of that meridian.

The reference to forks doesn’t end here. The famous 12th century physician Ma Dan-yang, who included this point as one of his Eleven Heavenly Star points, described it as ‘a thunderhead splitting fire’. His description is derived from the fact that Leique was an ancient term for lightning which descends to earth in forked bolts. A look at the pathway of Lung channel at this point reveals a sudden deviation that resembles a lightning bolt.

As a significant point on the Lung channel, it treats respiratory conditions such as asthma, phlegmy cough, wheezing and difficult breathing. It is particularly useful for conditions of the nose, including loss of the sense of smell, nasal congestion, discharge and obstruction. Because of its capacity to expel wind, circulate the defensive Qi and stimulate sweating, it is often used in the early stages of colds and flu. For these its effectiveness is increased when used in combination with LI 4 and LI 20.

Not only is Lieque the exit point of Lung, but also the luo-connecting point which connects it to the Large Intestine meridian. This twin connection to its partner meridian makes the point doubly effective in treating conditions along the pathway of Large Intestine, including pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulder, throat and face. It also treats constipation and headaches, including migraines.

The emotion of grief is said to reside in the Lung and Lieque is helpful in releasing the oppression of grief and sadness that have been held inside. It helps to open the chest, improve breathing and can facilitate the release of grief by crying.

The influence of this point on Metal is only half of its story, for Lieque is also the master point of the Ren Mai (Conception Vessel). This vessel is an energy field covering the area from the perineum to the chin which unites all of the yin meridians. Lieque can release blocks throughout the Conception Vessel but has a particular effect on the chest, uterus, genitals and upon a wide range of urinary disorders such as difficult, burning and painful urination.

As the luo-connecting point of a yin meridian it has particular powers to treat psycho-emotional disorders. It assists in letting go of those things that are no longer serving us, making space for the new. It is also known for uncontrolled laughter and frequent yawning. And one final thing before I forget, it is noted especially for poor memory.

So if you forgot where you put that fork, try Lieque.

6.12Location of Lung 7

 

Located on the side of the radius bone, 1.5 cun above the wrist crease in a cleft between the tendons of brachioradialis and abductor pollicus longus. Use moderate, direct pressure.

 

 

News about the forthcoming book

Thanks very much to all who suggested titles. Your input is appreciated. My publisher and I have decided upon The Way of the Five Elements as a title.

Publisher: Singing Dragon Press (Jessica Kingsley Publishers), London

Publication date: 21 November 2015

Price: £14.99

Colour Hardback 240 pp.

Stay tuned for more news.