The impending descent into the southern winter marks the start of a new cycle of articles. I’ve taken as my theme for the coming year the category of points known as the xi-cleft or accumulation points. It is an often-neglected set of points, and it seems like a good opportunity to pay attention to them.
These points were first discussed in the ancient text “Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion” by Huang Fu Mi in 282 AD, so they’ve been known for a while. There is xi-cleft point for each of the 12 primary meridians, and one each for the Extraordinary Vessels of Yin Wei, Yang Wei, Yin Qiao and Yang Qiao.
The Chinese word xi in this context refers to a cleft, fissure, crevice or hole. It is at this place where the Qi of the channel, having run relatively superficially up to this point, dives more deeply down into the energy body. The points are located between the wrist and elbow, or ankle and knee, with the exception of Stomach whose xi-cleft point lies above the knee. The points are located between the Five Element command points but are not Element points themselves. They can be used to support treatment of the command points.
The primary use of these points is to treat acute conditions (i.e. those that are of recent or sudden onset) and pain in the related organ. They are also good for clearing stagnation, for it is at these points where Qi and Blood can tend to stagnate. Chronic stagnation leads to accumulations of heat and toxins, which the xi-cleft points help to clear.
Classically, the xi-cleft points of the yin meridians are known for treating disorders of the blood. Lonny Jarrett adds that the points on the yang meridians can be used to treat pathological emotions and disorders of the spirit that are relevant to their related organ-official. Jarrett’s view is a modern revision which makes a connection between psycho-emotional suppression and physiological stagnation.
Over the next year I plan to write separate articles about the 12 xi-cleft points in their related seasons. In this way, we will be immersed in the qualities of the Element that is being expressed around us as we study the corresponding points.
The first of these articles on Bladder 63 will be in your mailbox soon.
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.
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.