Tag Archives: Heart

Summer Solstice

For our northern hemisphere readers, here’s a link to the previous Winter Solstice article to make you feel hemispherically synched.

Today is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere, the middle of summer and the point at which the year expands to its limit. It’s as if the Earth has taken a long, deep breath in and can expand no more. After today, the yin half of the year begins, and the long slow exhalation propels us towards the winter solstice in 6 months time.

Correspondingly expansive movements of the body include spreading the arms wide and opening the heart centre to give of ourselves and to receive the world. The Heart is the primary organ of the Fire Element whose summer season this is. The Heart, Emperor of our personal kingdom, beats ceaselessly for our whole life, maintaining the steady drumbeat of our personal world.

Another expansive movement is to raise the arms up and out. You often see this movement at festivals and sporting events where whole stadia of people signal their excitement by raising their arms to the heavens and shouting with joy. Showing their armpits to the world with abandon.

UTMOST SOURCE

Speaking of armpits, I want to spend some time here introducing an important acupoint which lies deep in the armpit, an area rarely exposed but kept protected by our arms at the sides. In the modern world most of us don’t raise our arms up high very often unless it’s in the shower or to reach for something on a high shelf. We rarely climb trees or hang from branches as did our primate ancestors. This point is rather secret and somewhat intimate.

The point is Jiquan Heart 1, known variously as Summit Spring, Utmost Spring and Supreme Spring. But I like Worsley’s translation of Utmost Source, because it echoes the nature of the Heart and its resident spirit the shen. Shen is our connection to utmost heaven, the heavenly light that resides within the heart of each one of us.

The Heart Qi arises from the organ of the Heart, passes through the Lung, and emerges in the armpit at Jiquan like a spring bubbling out of the ground. The Qi then travels along the inside of the arm, heading for the little finger as the Heart channel is mapped out through its 9 points.

When the Heart and its channel are open and balanced, there is connection to our True Nature which doesn’t have to do anything. The Heart’s calling is not to do but to be. In the metaphor of the Emperor, his task is simply to sit on the throne and hold the space from a place of stillness. This is a great teaching for us to emulate in our often turbulent times. Holding space, holding stillness, holding presence. Just being.

Back to the armpits, Heart 1 is a common place for Qi to become blocked. In the Wei Qi cycle of the 12 meridians, the previous point is Dabao, Spleen 21 Great Enveloping. Where a channel of one Element moves into a channel of another Element, there is a greater tendency for Qi to become blocked. These are known as Entry-Exit blocks (though the pedant in me would argue for Exit-Entry blocks). Here, where the Earth energy of Spleen moves to the Fire energy of Heart, we find the most common of the Entry-Exit blocks. These blocks are usually diagnosed on the pulse. In this case an excess Spleen pulse and a deficient Heart pulse would indicate a block. But physical and psycho-emotional symptoms can also point to the possibility of a block.

At the physical level, possible indications of this block include pain or constriction in the lateral ribcage or in the armpit, difficulty raising the shoulder, palpitations and shortness of breath. Surgery or injury to the area can also be a cause. Constriction in the flow of lymph to the lymph nodes in the armpit is another. Recently I’ve had a cluster of cases of severe lymphoedema in the legs, and I’ve found that in most of these cases there was a Spleen-Heart block.

At the psycho-emotional level, this block may stem from difficulty in allowing the nourishment of the Earth Element into the Heart. There may be sadness, anxiety, mental restlessness or disconnection from the joy of life.  It may indicate challenges with intimacy or betrayal that have closed the emotional heart. Eating disorders which stem from deep dissatisfaction with one’s life might also be indicators of this block.

If you suspect there is a block in the Qi flow at Heart 1, hold the point with sustained moderate pressure for a few minutes until you feel the subtle Qi flow and that the point is open. Also hold Spleen 21 in the side of the ribcage until you feel the open flow of the subtle energy there. Treat both sides

In Qi Gong practice and in some meditation practices, practitioners are advised to stand or sit with enough space in the armpit to ‘hold an egg’. This allows free flow of Qi through the armpit and along the Heart meridian of the arm. We can take note of this and avoid long periods of holding the arms tightly to the sides.

Jiquan is a spirit point that connects our consciousness to the universal consciousness; it aligns our personal heart with the heart of the universe; and it promotes emotional warmth and connection to others through the Heart. In this season of celebration and family gatherings, it’s good to keep our hearts open.

Maypoles in November

I’m a little late in getting this blog to press. The La Nina weather pattern has delayed the hot weather that normally foreshadows the entrance of summer, affecting the normal rhythms of nature that propel me to write.

The southern hemisphere summer and its associated Fire energies begin to make themselves known at the point midway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. This “cross quarter” day is November 7th. In the northern hemisphere, the equivalent date is May 5th. At least as early as the 14th century, and probably earlier, folk in northern Europe celebrated May 1st as the herald of warmer weather and the first hints of summer. The Gaelic people of Scotland and Ireland celebrated May Day as the festival of Beltane which translates to “lucky fire”, an interesting echo of the ancient Chinese view of summer as a resonance of the Fire Element.

One of the features of these May Day festivals was dancing round the Maypole. In this traditional dance, people would wrap ribbons around the pole by weaving in and out of one another in the dance. The celebrations would probably include drinking and cavorting which might lead to more intimate contact between the participants. We know that Maypoling was banned by the Puritans in 17th century England because of these “ungodly” activities, but was reinstated by Charles II, the merry monarch who was well known to enjoy all of these associated goings-on.

With the advent of modern psychology in the shape of Sigmund Freud, the Maypole acquired another symbolic reference: the phallus. Of course, Freud saw phalluses under every bush and every bed, but most historians agree that the Maypole was not one of them. Rather it was symbolic of the central point of reference of the four directions.

Here in Australia in modern times, we celebrate the arrival of summer in similar ways. It is the start of the cricket season, the annual signal that summer is here. (Coincidentally, cricket commentators refer to the stumps as poles.) Other summery events are barbeques and other outdoor parties which can stretch into the night with the later and later sunsets. It is also the start of the festival season when crowds of people get together – more socially distanced now of course, but still in groups. People begin to wear fewer clothes and show more flesh, casting some minds to closer contact.

Celebration. Fun. Dance. Playfulness. Socialising. Relationships. Sexuality. All of these are resonances of the Fire Element and ultimately of the Heart. Summer is the time when the Fire and Heart energies come to fore, like an instrument in a jazz band taking its turn to play its solo. Nature is encouraging us to pay attention to these Fire Element aspects of ourselves, that we may further flourish as humans.

I’ll be back in six weeks when we reach the zenith of the Fire Element, the summer solstice. In the meantime, go ahead, play with Fire!

Flashback to some earlier Fire blogs

Light Your Fire!

Fun Fun Fun

Hypertension

I’ve been watching some World Cup matches lately, following the Australia and England teams through their tense encounters. While I haven’t been measuring my blood pressure, I am sure that it was elevated during the games, especially in England’s penalty shootout with Colombia. Excitement, anxiety, anger, fear, worry, shock – all of these emotions have an effect on blood pressure. It is well known that the anxiety of having your blood pressure taken by a doctor tends to elevate the reading.

Hypertension is the long-term elevation of blood pressure, a condition that poses health risks. One of its features is that it has no symptoms, so we can be in danger without even knowing it. Another complicating factor is that there is no clear agreement about what is a dangerous level of blood pressure. Broadly speaking, normal blood pressure is between 90/60 and 120/80. * Above 140/90 is considered hypertension, while anything over 180/120 is considered severe and requiring immediate attention.

Long-term hypertension causes damage to the arteries, with the risk of rupture (aneurysm). This includes possible rupture of the blood vessels of the brain, leading to stroke. The heart is also affected by hypertension with risks of coronary artery disease and possible heart failure.

It’s no wonder that doctors are quick to prescribe medications that will lower blood pressure, but these also have side effects. Ways to lower blood pressure by lifestyle changes include losing weight, lowering fats and sugars in the diet, eating more fibre, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and exercising regularly. Reducing the stressors in your life is key, and you can help this by mindfulness practices, meditating, practising Qigong or Tai Chi. And of course, getting Acupressure treatments.

Early in my career I discovered the power of Acupressure treatments in general, and the use of Gall Bladder 21 in particular, to lower blood pressure. A client regularly monitored her BP before treatment, after treatment, and when she got home. The reading was always lower at the end of the session, but even lower still when she got home after driving on the California freeways!

Since then Gall Bladder 21 has been my favourite point for hypertension, but there are many more. A quick look at my primary references, Deadman and Jarmey, show these 26 points as indicated for hypertension:

Meridian Element Points
Lung Metal 7
Large Intestine Metal 4, 11, 15
Stomach Earth 9, 36, 40, 41
Spleen Earth 6
Small Intestine Fire 3
Kidney Water 1, 6
Heart Protector Fire 6, 8, 9
Triple Heater Fire 5
Gall Bladder Wood 20, 21, 34, 43
Liver Wood 2, 3
Governor Vessel 14, 16, 20, 26

I was interested to note that 16 of these 26 points are in the 51 Point Palette in my Level 1 Five Element Acupressure course, meaning that they are quite common points with other uses. You might also observe that two-thirds of the points are on yang meridians, and that many of the points are used for reducing yang or to descend Qi. This of course addresses the nature of the condition which is one of excess yang.

It doesn’t make sense to use all of these points. For a start, it would make for a very long session and probably too much treatment. When treating, I find it most powerful to use point combinations, a focal point with one hand, while the other hand holds several other related points in succession.

Drawing from the points list above, here are some suggestions for some point combinations that I use often in the treatment room. Most of these points link to previous articles. For the others, consult your point location book or internet search.

Note that Large Intestine 4 and Spleen 6 are forbidden during pregnancy. If you are  treating a pregnant client, omit these points.

Focal Point Related Points
Large Intestine 4 Large Intestine 11,  15;  Lung 7
Stomach 36 Stomach 40,  Spleen 6
Kidney 6 Kidney 1,  Lung 7
Triple Heater 5 Heart Protector 6,  8,  9
Gall Bladder 21 Gall Bladder 20,  34;  Stomach 36;  Large Intestine 4
Liver 3 Spleen 6,  Gall Bladder 34
Governor Vessel Small Intestine 3 + Governor Vessel 14,  16,  20

How do you choose which pattern to use? One way is to consider the person you are treating. Which Element and emotion is presenting? If the person is someone who is predominantly angry, who gets outraged at injustice, or alternatively suppresses anger, then focus on the Wood points of Gall Bladder and Liver. If the person is a caretaker, constantly putting the needs of others before self, or if obesity is a problem, then treat the Earth points of Stomach and Spleen. Or maybe the person is showing their Metal, hanging on, perfectionistic, grieving or suppressing grief, then treat the Metal points of Lung and Large Intestine. If the person’s predominant emotion is fearfulness or conspicuous absence of fear, focus on Water points of Kidney. Or if the person is over-excited and chaotic or heart-broken and joyless, focus on the Fire points of Small Intestine, Triple Heater and Heart Protector. Points of the Governor Vessel will be helpful for everyone.

It is best if you can receive treatment from someone else. That way you can relax into the treatment, focus on your breathing and generally slow down. If you are treating yourself, some of these combinations will be awkward if not impossible, in which case treat the points individually in the order suggested.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to help reduce blood pressure in a natural way that can support a medical approach.  Good luck to your team in the World Cup and hold points during penalty shootouts!

 

* BP is expressed as a measurement with two numbers, with one number on top and one on the bottom. For example, 120/80 mm Hg. The top number refers to the amount of pressure in the arteries during the contraction of the heart muscle (systolic). The bottom number refers to the pressure between heartbeats (diastolic).