Tag Archives: Relaxation

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Point

Dadun – Big Mound – Liver 1

horary-clockI’ve been holding my big toes this week.

On a recent trip to Sydney, I stayed in accommodation that was a toxic soup of chemicals: outgassing Ikea furniture, polished wooden floors and highly scented linens. This severely challenged my liver which had difficulty detoxifing the heavy load of chemicals. One of the effects of this has been waking up every morning at 1 am in a state of somatic agitation and unable to go back to sleep until 3 am.

This was a clear message that the Liver official was struggling because this time of day, 1 am to 3 am, is the time when the high tide of the wei Qi passes through the Liver. Ongoing disturbance of any kind at this time of day calls for treatment. One of the best points to use in this case is the Element of the Element point. Liver is the yin organ of the Wood Element so the point to hold is the Wood point of this Wood meridian. This point is Dadun, Liver 1 which is on the big toe.

In Five Element Acupuncture and Acupressure, this is known as the horary point, from the Latin word hora meaning hour. Treating the Wood point on a Wood meridian at the Wood time of day is a powerful treatment. When it is done in the Wood season of spring it is even more effective. And for a person of Wood constitution such as myself, it is like getting five bells up on a slot machine.

So when I’ve been waking at 1 am, I’ve been holding these points on my toes for a few minutes. The points have been quite sore which indicates a congestion of Qi and is confirmation that they need treatment. Last night I held the points when I woke at 1 am and was able immediately to go back to sleep for the first time in a week, indicating that the stress on Liver is lessening.

Gall Bladder is the yang partner of Liver. Its high tide is 11 pm to 1 am. Many people have difficulty going to sleep at this time. If this is a problem for you, then holding the Wood point of Gall Bladder at this time will help to calm the Woody agitation and assist in falling asleep. This point is Foot Above Tears Gall Bladder 41 which we looked at previously. You can read about it here.  Make sure you are in bed and horizontal by 11 pm. It won’t help much if you’re still watching TV.

Location of Liver 1



The point is at the lateral side of the corner of the big toe nail. Draw lines along the lateral border of the nail and the base of the nail. Where these lines intersect is the LIver 1.

Neck Release

Fengchi – Wind Pond – Gall Bladder 20

3.7I spend more time holding this point on my clients than any other and I use it in most sessions. This is partly because in my early training I learned a neck release that concluded with this point. In doing thousands of neck releases over the years, I have come to see how helpful it is for most people to have the upper cervical region released. Most people relax, some even fall asleep with this point. It is a great boon in our modern, stress-filled world.

What makes this such a significant point is that it is not only a Gall Bladder point, but also a meeting point with the Triple Heater meridian, Yang Motility Vessel and Yang Linking Vessel. By affecting two meridians and two vessels at the same time, this point has wide-ranging effects.

Its name Fengchi – Wind Pond tells us two things. Firstly it is like a pond or pool, lying as it does in the little hollow between the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid attachments at the occipital bone. Treating this point releases tension in these two important muscles of the neck, taking pressure off the cervical spine

Secondly, we learn that it is a pond that accumulates wind, the climatic condition of the Wood Element. Wind can penetrate the body from the outside as a pathogenic factor, collecting here before invading the body more deeply. This includes strong winds in nature but also draughts, especially from air conditioning. The most common symptoms of wind invasion are stiff neck and headache, but it can also cause sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat, fever, aching joints and facial paralysis. Fengchi treats these symptoms by driving out the wind from the place where it entered.

Wind can also develop internally as a result of disharmony in the Liver, producing symptoms such as tremors, tics, convulsions, severe dizziness and numbness. Fengchi also treats these conditions

More generally, it is perhaps the best point for clearing the head because of its effect on the sensory orifices, especially the eyes. It treats vision and eye disorders, dizziness, vertigo, deafness, tinnitus and sinusitis. It relieves pain in the head, neck and shoulders, particularly occipital headache.

The head is said to be the residence of the yang. Because GB 20 is a point of the Yang Linking Vessel which unites all six yang meridians and the Governing Vessel, it has a profound influence on rising yang. It causes any pathological Qi to descend and is therefore the preeminent point for headaches of all kinds and dizziness of any origin.

It has a powerful effect on the brain, bringing clarity to the eye and mind and enabling a clearer view of the world. It clears confusion, strengthens concentration, aids memory and supports the making of good judgements and decisions. If you can’t see the wood for the trees, Wind Pond will help to broaden your perspective.

Location of Gall Bladder 20

3.8Below the occiput (the ridge at the back of the skull) and midway between the midline and the mastoid process. The point lies in the hollow formed by the origins of the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles, approximately 1.5 cun lateral the occipital hollow (GV 16). Apply direct pressure or angle towards the opposite eye. An effective method is to cradle the person’s head in your hands and apply pressure with the middle fingers to both points simultaneously. This has the effect of applying a gentle stretch to the neck and has a relaxing effect upon the whole spine.




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. (48  days to go!)

Mind Your Heart

HeartThe Chinese ancients saw the body’s organs as having functions far beyond their physiology. They saw the twelve organs as if they were twelve “officials” in a court, each with a ministerial role and a complex set of functions. They described the functions of these officials much more in terms of mind and spirit than physiology.

From this perspective, the Heart official is akin to an emperor who sits on the throne and holds the kingdom together simply by being himself. When the emperor is wise and moderate and all his ministers are taking care of business, then the kingdom functions harmoniously.

The Heart and its functioning are uniquely essential to life but are also very sensitive to disruption. Because of this, the other three Fire officials (Small Intestine, Pericardium and Triple Heater) act like an inner cabinet to the emperor. They take on the job of protecting and supporting the Heart, which they do in their various ways, monitoring communications from the Heart to the world and from the world back to the Heart.

Mind and Heart as One

The spirit of the Heart is shen. One modern authority, Giovanni Maciocia translates shen as mind; indeed the ancients saw no distinction between heart and mind, unlike the usual western view that mind is equivalent to brain function.

When the heart-mind is settled and protected, the shen resides there quietly. However, shen is easily disturbed by shock and trauma which can cause it to fly away like a flock of startled birds. When the shen leaves the Heart, the connection with spirit is lost and the person may feel apathetic, depressed and separated from themselves and the world. Others may see emptiness, vacancy and lifelessness in their eyes.

On the other hand, disturbance to the shen can result in hyper-excitement, a kind of false joy that appears ungrounded and unreal. Insomnia, restless activity, uncontrolled speech and even mania can be some of the manifestations of such disturbance to the Heart.

In choosing points to treat the Heart, we must be very careful to respect its delicate sensitivity. Some acupuncturists do not even use needles on the Heart meridian, preferring instead to treat it indirectly through Pericardium. Heart must be treated gently, treasured and honoured like an infant king.

One point that is safe to use is Shenmen – Spirit Gate. It is the gateway into the innermost chamber of the Heart. At the same time, it provides a gateway through which the Heart can express itself in the world. As the source point of the Heart meridian, it treats the organ directly, strengthening and stabilising it. The point will balances the Qi whether it is deficient or excess.

Shenmen soothes the mind and spirit, easing anxiety, sadness, depression and mania. It helps to mend a broken heart. It calms the physical heart, treating such conditions as pounding, palpitations and arrhythmia. Shenmen assists with memory and mental capacity; it helps with conditions of speech and the tongue including excessive speech; and it helps when there is insomnia and restless sleep, calming the heart and mind to allow for peaceful rest.

In the west we refer to the eyes as the windows of the soul. The perspective of Chinese medicine is that the eyes are windows into the heart-mind. The quality of the shen is seen in the eyes. When the shen is healthy, the eyes are alive with a “thereness” that makes intimate contact with the world while at the same time the person is in contact with himself. Spirit Gate helps us to move towards this way of being in the world.

Location of Heart 7

HT 7The point lies on the inner wrist crease, towards the ulnar (little finger) side and about one-fifth of the distance across the wrist. Feel for a hollow at the base of the pisiform bone. Apply gentle pressure for two to three minutes or until you feel the Qi moving. Hold the left side first, then the right. Tune into yourself as you do this. Treat it as a little meditation on your heart.