Depression is an all too common condition these days. Feelings of flatness, hopelessness, pointlessness or simply a feeling of being down and blue are some of the characteristics of depression. From the perspective of Chinese medicine, one of the causes of depression is an imbalance in the Wood Element arising from stagnation in the Liver Qi which can in turn be a result of suppressed anger. Since anger is the emotion that corresponds to the Wood Element, constricted anger can affect its yin organ, the Liver, resulting in a suppression not only of anger, but of vibrancy, aliveness, motivation and the willingness to move boldly through life.
When healthy, Liver Qi rises up from the feet and legs, through the groin and abdomen to the chest, empowering action and engagement with life. It is akin to the sap rising up a tree to nourish its branches and leaves. A common place for this uprising Qi to become stuck is in the chest at the last point (14) of the Liver meridian, Qimen, Gate of Hope.*
When Liver 14 becomes blocked, there can be constriction in the diaphragm leading to frequent sighing. There may be pain, distension and fullness in the chest as well as epigastric pain, nausea, reflux and vomiting.
At the psycho-emotional level blocked Qi at Qimen may result in an inability to see the way forward in life, feelings of gloominess, hopelessness and resignation. Opening the Gate of Hope can expand the horizons, allowing the person to see the limitless possibility that life has to offer. It provides support to meet the challenges of the world with zest and vigour, direction and purpose.
When Qi moves freely from here to the next point in the cycle, Lung 1, there is inspiration to aspire to greater things, support for the planning and creativity to express these aspirations in the world, and the strength and flexibility to carry them forward. All of these qualities are the gifts that are available to us when our Wood Element is in balance.
At the level of spirit, the spiritual issue of the Wood Element is finding one’s true path in life. What is the essential orientation and direction of your particular existence? What is the path through life that best expresses and unfolds your individual soul? Gate of Hope can support you as you ponder these existential questions.
* Gate of Hope is JR Worsley’s name for Liver 14; its traditional name is Cycle Gate since it marks the completion of the whole cycle of the meridian points which begins with Lung 1.
The point is located in the sixth intercostal space, on the nipple line, i.e. 4 cun lateral to the midline. First locate the tip of the xiphoid process which is the knob of cartilage that attaches below the breast bone. Move your finger across the ribcage until you are in line with the nipple. Then come up until you land in a rib space. On a woman, this is the rib space below the breast. The point will probably be sensitive. Hold the point with steady pressure for 2 to 3 minutes or until you feel the Qi moving freely. If the point is really stuck, try holding it in combination with Lung 1 which we learned in an earlier post. (See The Breath of Heaven, April 14, 2014.)