Category Archives: Depression

Wood Work

Spring is here again. I know this not just from the calendar, the change in temperature, the blossoms on trees, lambs frolicking and all that. I know it from my bodymind.

To start with, I feel an irresistible urge to tend to my compost pile which has been languishing, cold and stagnant over winter. Yesterday I dug out tools from the shed and turned it all over into the sunshine to dry out and aerate. Getting into the mood, I weeded and fertilised the peas and garlic. Before long I’d lost track of time as I cheerfully tended to tasks I’d been shirking all winter. What was happening? Spring’s Wood energy was rising up my body, fuelling action.

Another way I know it’s spring is that my liver and gall bladder are talking to me again. I feel a slight pressure in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, my liver reminding me that I ate too much gluten and dairy when I travelled interstate last week. Chiming in is gall bladder, giving the occasional squeak as it squirts bile into the duodenum. These are the organs of Wood which can manifest symptoms when this Element isn’t balanced. For someone of a Wood constitution like me, these organs are particularly susceptible. They are a source of information for monitoring my health.

At a recent course I taught, one of the students was having a challenging time around these organs. During several treatments, he experienced a strong vibrating sensation in the upper right quadrant which we tracked to the acupoint Liver 13. This is the alarm point for Spleen but it also reflects the Liver itself. The student revealed that he was going through a significant stage, one requiring a pivotal decision about the fundamental direction of his work life. He also noticed that working on Liver points on another person triggered these same sensations in his own body. And when it came time to make a firm decision in the days after the course, the sensations became extreme.

The capacities of planning and decision making are the province of the Liver and Gall Bladder Officials respectively. This person’s physical symptoms were reflecting what was happening at the psycho-emotional level. And all of this was arising in the springtime when Wood energy is at its highest. There is a long tide which moves around the Five Element Cycle over the course of a year, the high tide passing through the corresponding Element of the season and pushing up against anything that isn’t harmonised. Like a high tide that strains boats whose anchors are too tightly set.

There are a number of other signals that can indicate that Wood is out of balance. These derive from the resonances of the Element. The following table shows some of these resonances of the Wood Element.

Season Spring
Climate Wind
Colour Green
Sound Shouting
Odour Rancid
Emotion Anger
Taste Sour
Sense Vision
Sense Organ Eyes
Yin Organ Liver
Yang Organ Gall Bladder
Tissue Tendons/Ligaments

These resonances are vibrations. For example, spring is the Wood Element vibrating as a season while anger is Wood vibrating as an emotion. When our Wood is out of balance, we may find that our bodymind shows the imbalance through these resonances. Here are some ways this might be revealed:

• Getting sick at the start of spring
• A strong dislike of wind
• Feelings of irritability or outbursts of anger
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Difficulty making plans
• Difficulty making decisions
• Aversion to or craving for sour foods
• Visual disturbances or other eye problems
• Easily nauseated by fatty food
• Congestion in the upper right of the abdomen
• Headaches, especially at the back of the head
• Neck and shoulder stiffness or pain
• Hip and outer leg pain
• Tight tendons
• Stiff joints
• Restlessness, can’t keep still

If you find that you have several of these conditions, your bodymind may be showing you that Wood is calling for attention. These symptoms can appear at any time, but they are more likely to show up in spring when the high tide of the Wood phase pushes up against things that are out of balance. The good news is that by addressing them in the spring, you will have the support of the ambient energy of nature. Here are some ways to work with your Wood.

Add more green foods to your diet: kale and other leafy greens, broccoli, peas and so on. The darker green the better. Eat more foods that are sour in taste: lemon, lime, grapefruit, sauerkraut and other fermented food.

Detoxify. The liver is responsible for cleansing the body of toxins. Doing a liver cleanse by eating simple foods and taking cleansing herbs will be well supported in the springtime. If you’ve been thinking of doing a gall bladder flush, then spring is the best time to do it.

Move. Wood likes to move so get plenty of movement. Walk, hike, run, jump, skip, ride, row, garden, build… whatever makes you feel good in your body. Make sure to stretch before leaping into action.

Shout! Sometimes when Wood is stuck, movement is not enough to dislodge the congestion. Shouting can discharge the energy that has been suppressed. Shout into the wind or in your car on the freeway. Don’t shout at others.

Explore your anger. Most of us learn from an early age that anger is a bad thing because it hurts others. But suppressed anger becomes stored in the body, specifically in the liver, and then starts to hurt us. Anger is seen as bad because it is equated with violence. But anger is not violence. It is the frustration that can arise from operating in a world of limits and boundaries. Try to understand why you are angry. Feel that anger without suppressing it and without venting it. The energy that you get in touch with can be powerful fuel for action.

Hold some acupressure points. Any points that relate to the Liver (LV) and Gall Bladder (GB) will be useful and are more powerful at this time of year. Here are links to some good points discussed in previous blogs:

Acupoint Some Uses
LV 1 Calms restlessness, agitation. The Wood point, it deeply supports the Element.
LV 3 Treats allergies, fatigue, nausea, eyes, irritability. Supports immune system.
LV 13 Promotes smooth flow of Liver Qi, relieves abdominal distension.
LV 14 For vomiting, rib pain, depression, hopelessness.
GB 1 Treats eye pain, migraines, lack of clarity.
GB 15 Treats headache, eye pain, confusion, lack of perspective. Eliminates wind.
GB 20 Treats headache, neck pain, irritability. Eliminates wind.
GB 21 Treats anxiety, irritability, hypertension, headaches, shoulder stiffness.
GB 30 For lower back and hip problems, sciatica, stiff joints, irritability, frustration.
GB 34 Master point for tendons and ligaments. Timidity, headache, hypertension.
GB 41 Relieves headache, sciatica, frustration, indecision.
BL 47 Supports psycho-emotional and spiritual aspects of Wood.
GV 16 Eliminates wind, treats headache, stiff neck, colds and flu, fever.

And finally, use the uprising energy of the Wood season to make plans for the future. See where you are going, map out your path, plan the stages of the journey, decide how to get there and take the first step. Your inner Wood will provide you with the gifts of imagination, creativity, vision, wise judgement, and motivation to help you on your path.

Go boldly!

For more suggestions on working with your Wood, see that chapter of my book
The Way of the Five Seasons.

Healing Trauma

Last month I wrote about the use of Acupressure for cancer patients, linking suggested points to previous articles. It was then that I realised that Bladder 43, the outer shu point of Heart Protector, did not have an article to link to. Therefore I’m reprinting the article from my book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’. This is such an important point for any condition related to the emotional heart. And as you’ll see, its uses range far and wide. You might say it is a point for being human.

Gaohuangshu – Rich for the Vitals – Bladder 43

It is the nature of being human that we are vulnerable. We inhabit fragile bodies and have delicate feelings. We are sensitive to many external stimuli from physical objects, and from what other people do and say to us. We are influenced, even if we don’t know it, by the thoughts and feelings of others. It is this vulnerability that gives us the capacity for deep contact with others and the world. But it also means that we are easily hurt.

Babies are born totally vulnerable. It is one reason they are so adorable. But soon the child develops a protective shell to shield her from the slings and arrows of life in the human realm. When these traumas of life are outrageous, egregious, and they penetrate the shell, it is the Heart Protector which absorbs the shock so as to protect the Heart. When the insults to the Heart are great, the Heart Protector is deeply injured. Therefore healing trauma requires healing the Heart Protector.

One of the best points for working with trauma of all kinds is the outer shu point of the Heart Protector, Gaohuangshu – Rich for the Vitals which lies between the shoulder blades and behind the heart.

This point exerts a strong influence over the official of the Heart Protector, especially at emotional and psychological levels. However, the point name itself refers to the Gaohuang, a region in the chest, whose influence is much wider and deeper than that of the Heart Protector alone.

The Gaohuang or Vital Region, is an area in the chest about four body inches in diameter, lying between the centre and base of the sternum, and extending laterally to the pathways of the Kidney meridian.

When there is illness that is caused by deep heartbreak, betrayal, abuse, shame, or isolation, this vital region is deeply impacted and the effects go deep into our being. Jarrett sees this as a place where deep karmic issues and conflicts reside, and where dark family secrets live. Chronic or incurable disease is said to lodge here.

Classical texts observe that Gaohuangshu deeply nourishes and calms the Heart as well as Kidney and Spleen. The action of this point was considered so great that it was said to strengthen the original Qi and treat every kind of deficiency. Sun Si-miao, the famous 7th century physician, went so far as to say that there is no disorder it cannot treat.

Gaohuangshu is a great tonic point for the physical body, treating exhaustion and general deficiency, increasing stamina and supporting all the organs. It brings warmth and strength and increases blood circulation.

At the emotional level, the point brings warmth when a person is emotionally cold and shut down. It helps to dispel depression and mental negativity. When someone has little capacity for intimacy and humour because they are too depleted or vulnerable, this point lifts the spirit.

Location of Bladder 43

Gaohuangshu, is located between the shoulder blades, 3 cun lateral to the midline, at the level of the junction of T4 and T5 and at the medial border of the scapula. It is approximately half way down the scapula. Use firm, direct pressure. To treat yourself, lie on a tennis ball or other object that presses into the point. Arrange the pressure so you can be as relaxed as possible. Having someone you trust hold this point can be very healing.

Building for the Guest

 

Zhubin – Guest House – Kidney 9

PregnancyA recent seminar on Acupressure for Pregnancy puts me in mind of the importance of Zhubin – Guest House, a powerful point on the Kidney meridian. Kidney 9 helps to sustain the mother through her pregnancy, and there is a Japanese tradition of using this point to support the foetus in the womb, especially in the 3rd, 6th and 9th months. One of its names is Building for the Guest which envisions the creation of a welcoming, comfortable environment for the closely related being who inhabits the inner guest room for nine months.

This is one of a category of points known as the xi-cleft or Accumulation points. In this case, it is the xi-cleft point of the Yin Wei Mai, one of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels. Xi-cleft points treat acute conditions, namely those of sudden and recent onset; in addition these points of the yin meridians and vessels are supportive of Blood. The Yin Wei Mai is very important because it unites all the yin meridians as well as the Conception Vessel (appropriate in this case), thereby making it tremendously supportive of overall yin. The condition of pregnancy is one that is emblematic of yin and so is well supported by Kidney 9.

Another of its merits is the treating of manic mental disorders such as bipolar. Among the evocatively descriptive conditions it can address are raving fury and cursing, vomiting of foamy saliva and tongue thrusting. While we may not often encounter such displays, we are often confronted with milder versions of this agitation. Zhubin is an excellent choice for profoundly calming the mind, clearing oppression of the chest, vague anxieties, depression, nightmares and palpitations.

This range of symptoms implies its usefulness when the Heart and Kidney are in disharmony, when shen and jing are disconnected. When the knowledge of how to be in the world is undermined by exhaustion, Zhubin can conjoin the shen of the Heart and the jing of the Kidney to empower the person to stabilise, settle and be nourished. Then the power of the Water Element can appropriately direct the energies to confront the problems of life.

While most of us are rarely in the state of pregnancy (and at least half of us never are!), we are continually conceiving of notions for our lives, gestating them in mind and heart, before birthing them into the world. Guest House is the perfect place to support the gestation of our creations.

Location of Kidney 9

Kidney 9

 

 

On the inside of the lower leg, 5 cun above the tip of the inner ankle bone and 1 cun behind the back of the tibia. It lies on a line drawn between Kidney 3 and Kidney 10.