Tag Archives: Breathing

The Spirit of Metal

As autumn enters its final weeks, we examine one of the most powerful points of  Metal, one which reaches into the very spirit of the Element.

Pohu ~ Soul Door ~ Bladder 42

6.19Po is the spirit of the Metal Element. Its character has two parts. The left part is the character for white, which is the colour of the Metal Element. The right part is the character for ghost or earthbound spirit. Po is therefore the spirit which is tied to the earth and the mundane.

The po is the corporeal soul (sometimes translated as animal soul) which enters the body at conception. In the first months after birth, the baby’s whole life revolves around this corporeal soul as it forms the foundation of a healthy body for the life to come. Of the five spirits, it is the only one that disappears when we die. As soon as the lungs exhale for the last time and the body dies, the po exits through the anus and descends to join the earth from which it originated.

During life, the po is utterly tied to the physical body and to time and space. Like animal instinct, it is concerned with immediate reactions to what is happening in each moment. It is about the here and the now. This instinctual part of us lives on its senses, alert to all sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures. It is our animal nature.

The po is paired with the hun, the ethereal soul which is the spirit of the Wood Element. While the hun roams the realm between the earth and the heavens, the po provides a counterpoint as the most physical and material part of the human soul. It could be said to be the somatic manifestation of the soul. It provides for clear and sharp sensations and movements and is involved in all physiological processes. Of all these processes it is especially connected to breathing which is its special province. In fact the po resides in the lungs and is particularly affected by sadness and grief which restrict its movement. Constricted breathing, holding of the breath and shallow breathing are all injurious to the Lung and to the po.

While the emotion of grief is the one most closely associated with the po, all emotions are ruled by it. It consists of the seven emotions (fear, anxiety, anger, joy, sorrow, worry and grief) which Jarrett neatly describes as the primal urges that facilitate the grasping of life.

Another function of the po is to anchor the heavenly aspect of our human nature within the density of the body. It may seem something of a paradox that the spirit which relates so much to our instinctual, animal side, is also paramount in connecting us to our spiritual nature. The po is concerned with balancing these aspects of our humanness, supporting us as beings of spirit who inhabit the bodies of animals.

Imbalance in the po produces a marked disparity between the heavenly and earthly aspects of human life. On the one hand there can be an obsessive attachment to material things and the accumulation of possessions, money and fame to the detriment of things spiritual. On the other hand a person may have his head in the clouds and be unable or unwilling to navigate the ordinary world of human existence. There may even be a withdrawal from the world in order to focus on the spiritual search.

Other possible outcomes of po imbalance are ongoing physical pain with no identifiable cause, migrating pain, extreme sensitivity to outside psychic influences and chronic health problems associated with emotions that are stuck.

A point that profoundly contacts and balances the po is the outer shu point of Lung, Pohu – Soul Door, sometimes translated as Door of the Corporeal Soul. It is a point that helps to resolve the spirit/animal paradox. It can access the spirit of Metal at a very deep level and serve to reconnect us with what we value in her life, with the preciousness of life itself and with our authentic being or essence. Moreover it supports us in valuing our essential spiritual nature.

All the longings that we feel are ultimately a desire to be reconnected with spirit, whether or not we are conscious of the underlying nature of our longing. Pohu supports reconnection with spirit, and thus can treat all feelings of longing and desire for spirit.

These attributes of Pohu are particularly helpful in supporting people in their quest to find spiritual meaning in life on Earth. Where depression, long-term sadness, resignation or lack of inspiration derive from loss of contact with spirit, this soul door offers support.

Location of Bladder 42



The outer shu point of the Lung, Pohu is located in the upper back, 3 cun lateral to the junction of T3 and T4. The point lies at the medial border of the scapula.



This is an extract from my book The Way of the Five Elements. This and its companion volume The Way of the Five Seasons, are now available for purchase. Singing Dragon Press.


Mother’s Embrace

Leap Day in Australia finds us at the beginning of autumn and the Metal Element. Before we drop down into the yin half of the year, let’s look at one final acupoint of the Earth Element.

Dabao – Great Enveloping – Spleen 21

5.17Hugs come in many forms: a light greeting, a supportive holding, an affectionate embrace, a passionate clinch, a mother’s love-you-to-bits squeeze. A loving, caring, full-frontal hug sees the arms enfold the other person, wrapping around the back and sides, while the two chests meet. What is common to all these hugs is caring. You enfold the other person in your arms in a caring embrace. You care for their well being. Such caring is the essence of the Earth Element.

The Earth qualities of caring, support and nourishment are amply demonstrated and demonstrably amplified at the acu-point Dabao – Great Enveloping which lies on the side of the ribcage. Imagine a mother embracing her child, arms wrapped around the little body, holding and squeezing with maternal love. The child’s entire upper body is enveloped, wrapped in mother’s love.

The character of Dabao includes a pictogram of a foetus in the womb to suggest something contained within, wrapped up or enveloped. A foetus receives holding, support and nourishment, all essential qualities of Earth.

Dabao transmits these essences by virtue of its role as the point of the Great Spleen Connecting Channel. This channel arises at SP 21 and radiates throughout the chest, through what are known as the minute collaterals, enveloping the chest with Qi and Blood, and supporting the Heart. The point relieves fullness, oppression and depression in the Heart area, bringing a feeling of freedom, openness, harmony and togetherness. It effects an internal, enfolding, motherly embrace.

This function of moving Qi and Blood extends throughout the body because Dabao controls all the luo-connecting points. We have looked at a number of luo-connecting points so far and seen how these points balance the yin and yang of their Element. In SP 21 we have the Great-luo point, the mother of all connecting points. In this role it treats the whole network of connecting channels and their Blood, thereby nourishing the whole body. In this way, it treats muscular pain that moves throughout the body as well as looseness of the joints.

Another major function of Dabao is as the exit point of the Spleen meridian. From here, the Qi moves into the entry point of Heart meridian at Heart 1 – Utmost Source, which lies in the centre of the armpit. Here is another way that Spleen nourishes the Heart, through the wei-qi cycle. Spleen 21 needs to be open in order to serve the Heart and Heart 1 needs to be open to receive the nourishment.

When Qi becomes blocked at points of exit or entry, an entry-exit block occurs and poses a significant impediment to effective treatment. The Spleen/Heart block is one of the most common of these blocks. Symptoms of such a block can include fullness of the chest, palpitations, pain in the ribcage, pain in the armpit, skin eruptions at or between the points, appetite disorders, fatigue and depression.

Something I have discovered through bodywork is that by holding both SP 21 points simultaneously, a gentle myofascial compression is created. When this hold is maintained for about three minutes, the fascia of the whole ribcage begins to unwind, contributing greatly to the effect that SP 21 has on freeing the Qi of the chest.

This can be done by using gentle pressure with the palms over the points, a hold which often feels very comforting to the recipient, like a supportive, caring embrace.


Location of Spleen 21



On the very side of the ribcage, below the armpit, in the seventh intercostal space (some sources locate in the sixth intercostal space). It lies roughly at the level of the xiphoid process at the base of the sternum. The point can be held with moderate, direct pressure or with the palm as suggested above.



Want More Points?

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Resurrecting Spirit

As we come to the end of a cold, wet winter in southern Australia, many minds are turning towards spring. Before we leave the winter and the Water Element, let’s have a look at a powerful spirit point of the Kidney meridian.

Lingxu – Spirit Burial Ground – Kidney 24

2.17The character Lingxu is made up of two parts, ling meaning spirit, and zu meaning an old burial ground or a wild wasteland. Ling depicts three shamans dancing, supplicating the spirits for rain.[i] The character for doctor or healer also contains the image of a shaman. All of this puts me in mind of Kaptchuk’s description of JR Worsley, father of the modern Five Element tradition, as the greatest shamanistic healer he had ever seen.[ii]

Worsley’s background predisposed him to regard healing as more than just working with the physical and emotional aspects of a person. His acupuncture work retained the aspects of spirit that were excised by the Chinese communists when they created what they called Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in the 1950s and 60s.

Most texts of TCM pay little regard to the esoteric aspects of the Kidney points of the upper chest, utilising them simply for physical conditions related to respiration, chest pain and vomiting. In the Five Element tradition, these points can be used to deeply touch a person at the level of spirit. Perhaps the most powerful of these is Lingxu – Spirit Burial Ground.

Lingxu, K 24, lies in the middle of a string of points that begins with K 22 Walking on the Verandah and ends with K 27 Store House. These points lie in the region of the heart and are a reminder of the significant relationships between Kidney and Heart, Water and Fire, jing and shen. K 22 is the exit point of the Kidney channel, where Qi moves to Heart Protector in the Wei Qi cycle. The remaining points on the meridian represent a mysterious journey of spirit into the darker regions of the human spiritual experience. “The spirit burial ground can appear as a dark foreboding place to those who have not cultivated the virtues of faith, wisdom and reverence for the will of heaven.”[iii]

One of the most profound uses of this point is to treat what is known as a spirit block. This is when the person’s spirit had become disconnected in some way from the bodymind. When it appears that a person’s spirit has died; when his life appears as a dry and barren landscape, lacking in direction and meaning; when the structures of the ego-self have obscured the True Self to such a degree that connection to True Nature has been lost, Lingxu has the capacity to restore a person’s connection to source.

The struggles of the spirit described here recall the notion of the dark night of the soul, first stated in a poem by 16th century Christian mystic John of the Cross. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. This journey through darkness to the spiritual light can be seen as an explication of these Kidney points of the chest, and of K 24 in particular.

In treating this point, the intention of the practitioner will determine the level of the client’s being that is addressed. If the practitioner uses the point with the intention of clearing a cough and improving breathing, the effects will be restricted to the physical level. There will be a very different effect when the intention is to revive a person’s spirit and his connection with the Tao.

[i] Ellis A, Wiseman N & Boss K, Grasping the Wind, Paradigm 1989, p. 380
[ii] Eckman P, In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor, Cypress 1996, p.173
[iii] Jarrett L, The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, Spirit Path 2003, p. 452

2.18Location of Kidney 24

Located in the chest at the side of the sternum, the point lies in the third intercostal space and 2 cun lateral to the midline. Note that in males it is one rib space above the level of the nipple. Use direct, moderate pressure.


This is an extract from the forthcoming book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’ by John Kirkwood, Singing Dragon Press. Publication date November 21st, 2015. You can now pre-order this book at Fishpond, Book Depository and other online booksellers. (108 days to go!)