The Electric Slide: the 15th major meridian

On election night last week, I found myself dancing with a few hundred people in the middle of Baltimore Ave a couple blocks down from the clinic. The thumping and clatter of a pots-and-pans drum jam, the trolley drivers rhythmically honking their horns as if through a dense and receding fog, the return of ecstatic displays of public affection, these things made it all such a delicious contrast to seeing so many of these same people in the, shhhhh!, clinic. But, there wa a whole lot of healing going on. Talk about your swirling qi. I stood on a wall to take pictures of the throng. I imagined that I could see the major meridians lit up on everyone there. Lines of light undulating and intersecting. .

Yesterday, i was interviewed for a research project on how acupuncturists conceptualize and relate to the meridians. I didn't know what i was going to be asked, or even the purpose of the project. I just like talking about this stuff. And, i like and trust the person doing it. Victor and i tried to create a sort of community health center 5 years ago in a different Philly neighborhood.

Victor began asking me some basic questions about meridians. As we proceeded, I could see that my mind is really changing about acupuncture theory. I think that many CAPs operate with a belief that a lot of the theory we learned is irrelevant. It was lobbed at most of us in such de-contextualized chunks; and we've had to un-learn much in order to think as pragmatically as is necessary when doing community acupuncture. But, exactly because we're all treating so many people, and having to think flexibly, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to keep track of how we think about acupuncture theory, to come up with our own when necessary, or to find a less abstract relationship to it..

There have been hundreds of cross-breeding schools of thought in the history of the Asian medicines in which acupuncture has been central. Each of these have arisen out of very particular circumstances. Environmental and meteorological factors shaped different schools of thought, as did the prevailing philosophical and religious atmosphere. But, wherever acupuncture has existed within the lives of common people, the schools of thought and the resulting acu theories have always reflected social and economic reality. In any given time and place, what were the teachers trying to figure out how to treat? The cold damp conditions of warriors or farmers? The deficient conditions of people with scarce food? The virulent pathogens of overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions?

We get to work from theory that's not academic but rooted in what our work is really like, what the lives of our patients are really like.

Here are some of the questions Victor asked me and the thoughts that I had.

"Do you use the term "meridian", or is there some other way you refer to meridians?"  I realized i use a couple terms, the selection of which is quite subconscious, but the meanings of which are a little different. I use "pathways" at times to indicate the connections between these maybe abstract acupoints and the internal organs, the isolated functioning of which most of our patients have been trained to believe is responsible for their health. I use "channels" at times to indicate the more agrarian nature of meridians, where facilitating the flow and level of blood, fluids, and other nutrients is what we're doing with this therapy. In answering Victor, I realized that communicating with current and potential patients about what we're doing is fundamental to my word choice and to how I think about meridians.  

"How do you relate to the actual physical meridians within your clinic?" I feel along a theoretical map on the body using anatomical features as landmarks and feel for the point. "Do you always feel it?" No, I make believe I do a lot of times. I'm realizing how when you're treating lots of people and you're treating them many times you can just go ahead and know the meridians will respond. Points will find you if you don't find them. There will be some kind of feedback. Neither the diagnosis nor the point location have to be as precise as I was trained. There needs to be clear intent and an open heart. This is where we can try giving up the ego about our role and appreciate that we're just trying to help something along. The architecture of self-healing qi and of homeostatic yin and yang is already in place in the form of the meridians.

"What are the meridians?" Initially, I said something to him about connecting the qi of the universe with that of the internal qi of the body, and that they comprise ways in which we can access or send messages along this connection. This made me think about how in our community clinics, this "universe" is not some abstract cosmos but a room full of other people and these other peoples' meridians. So, he asked me, "do you believe in group qi?"

I thought about our clinic this week. It should be said that not only this neighborhood, but pretty much all of Philadelphia partied extremely hard on Tuesday night. Hundreds of people spontaneously broke into the electric slide on Broad street. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYheE2jJzhM) Everybody who could cried, screamed, laughed, danced, drummed, and otherwise released lifetimes of discouragement, rage, and and fear, not to mention poor self esteem. What happens to a body when, at least momentarily, the person within it stops feeling like a desperate, fearful, hateful, and lonely oppressor behind a huge war machine and starts feeling like a citizen of the beautiful world? Can I hear a Healing Crisis here? I'd be interested to hear from others, but I got more patients this week who were mighty confused. Because, despite being elated and relieved at the election, in the realm of physical symptoms, they were experiencing either an intense re-occurance of the old or some mysterious and dramatic incidence of the new.

So, yes I "believe" in group qi. And, what I mean, I told him was this thing about how we're experiencing the world together. Most of the disharmonies our bodies exhibit stem from something that a huge number of other people have experienced. Yes, there are individual patterns of disharmony, but most of the time we're treating the effects of the same hurts and oppressions that countless others have experienced. Instead of a patient feeling responsible for his or her own solitary sickness and surrendering control of its treatment to an individual specialist, he or she gets to know that lots of other people are struggling with similar forces and that we get to heal together, and that our bodies know how to. We all knew there was something right about coming out into the streets and hugging and celebrating with one another. It's easier to cry and laugh when you're with other people, and the crying and laughing is healing. We've needed each other in this way for our whole lives, and the opportunity finally came. Similarly, we know there's something right about sitting together quietly. Other natural processes occur in this field of safety and trust. One can open something and let it free. And, it's dawning on me that channels work this way. And, it helps if the environment in which one comes to open up is somewhere between benign and really safe and welcoming. As acupuncturists we're hoping to help channels stay open to the universe so we want a universe the channels feel like opening up into.

So, where as I used to think of the meridians being treated as diseased and the acupuncture as healing, I now think of disease as arising from hurt, mostly oppression (loneliness, isolation, exploitation, discouragement, overwork, addiction – your basic estrangement from the tao) and the meridians as the architecture of of the pure goodness and connectedness of humans.

In the debate about acupuncture education and our opposition to the first professional doctorate, we can be clear that we're not suggesting the throwing out of theory but that theory gets to reflect the social and economic reality of our patients - and the reality of humans' creativity and goodness. We get to reclaim it for community acupuncture. We get to apply it to actually treating lots of people, together, and to the social nature of people, and then re-write it if we need to.

This story was posted on November 13 2008 by korbenp.

Comments

  • November 13 2008 at 6:01 PM
    lumiel writes:

    This is almost spooky, how these insights are coming.

    Lots of food for thought here.  Thanks, Korben.

      0 likes
  • November 13 2008 at 6:49 PM
    LarryG writes:

    Brilliant

    Like the art of Alex Grey, this draws me deeper with each viewing.  I’ll be reading this for some time.

    Thank you.

      0 likes
  • November 13 2008 at 8:50 PM
    Nora writes:

    Nice!

    I really like where you went with this, Korben.  Not to mention that video!  Emma Goldman never lied…

      0 likes
  • November 13 2008 at 9:33 PM
    Guest writes:

    Ah, Korben, You’ve done it again!

    You’ve gotten to the heart of the matter and connected so many ideas in such a poetic way.  And best of all, this piece is grounded in the reality of our lives and feelings. Keep writing, Korben.  I love your ideas!

      0 likes
  • November 14 2008 at 1:58 PM
    Marty Calliham writes:

    What Ann said!

    Marty

      0 likes
  • November 14 2008 at 6:33 PM
    korbenp writes:

    some photos of Baltimore Ave

    Here’s a link to some beautiful photos of that celebration, taken by one of our patients.

      0 likes
  • November 14 2008 at 7:10 PM
    andy wegman writes:

    What a moment of clarity.

    I’m fuklempt after reading this post.

      0 likes
  • November 15 2008 at 12:49 AM
    tatyana writes:

    i’m speechless…

    at the beauty of your words, brother… thanks.

     

      0 likes
  • November 15 2008 at 8:40 AM
    Guest writes:

    Thinking about meridians and CA

    I think about meridians much more in doing CA than I did doing TCM and private room acu. even though I’m busier and you would think I wouldn’t have the time.  Initially I thought this was because I use Dr. Tan’s balance method 99% of the time, but it’s more than that.

    TCM teaches us to first think of the 8 principles – interior/exterior deficient/excess, hot/cold, and yin/yang.  Then one can begin thinking of the 6 levels, 4 stages, 3 jiaos and/or the zang fu patterns as is appropriate.  None of this involves thinking of the meridians directly.  When it came to finally making a diagnosis and then a point selection, points were chosen mostly by their function.

    I use the basic balance method and many of the 8 and 12-point balances.  This method is totally dependent on the location of the problem, i.e which meridian the problem is on or near.  To choose the best balance for treatment, I have to consider all areas of complaint and see if they are related through one or several meridians.  I could choose extra vessel balances, balances that relate to the organs and/or the meridians (i.e. Jue yin, Shao Yang) or I could choose to balance all 12 of the major meridians.  Point selection using the basic balance method depends on what meridians are affected and how that meridian relates to the others.

    I also notice what meridians are actually affected by treatment.  I have long noticed, for instance, that the Jue Yin Shao Yang balance will effectively treat low back pain and sciatica that involved GB 30.  That the sciatica along the GB channel is treated is not surprising.  It does surprise me that the low back pain across both inner and outer bladder channels and the Du is treated with this balance.  Initially I added Ling Ku and Da Bai to the balance but later tried without it and the low back pain was still treated.

    When I think of Jingei pulse diagnosis I then wonder if GB 41 and GB 40 are perhaps not so different since LR 3 and GB 34 (paired source point and He Sea point of the diseased channel) are contained in the balance.  Perhaps I’m treating the root diseased channel when I do the Jue Yin Shao Yang balance on someone with a pulse of 1.5 :1 HR less than 80.  I will probably never really know for sure but I find it fun to consider.

    I have been doing the extra vessel balance quick and dirty balance for a variety of problems and notice that many times people mention their sinuses and nose clearing.  The location of the arm points can almost explain this but noticing these sorts of things has sent me back to the books to look at channel theory.

    I actually have a lot more fun coming up with a treatment in CA.  I  tended to use the same “big” points in TCM style acupuncture.  In CA I ask the client to show me where each complaint is, then consider how to balance it and then how to round out the treatment.  If, for instance, I want to further encourage the circulation of qi Dr Tan recommends needling only yin points on one arm, yang on the other arm, yin on the leg below the yang arm and the other leg yin points.  Since I now know at least several approaches I can take for any given constellation of problems, I often use one type of treatment for a few times and then change to another treatment.   I ask the client after that which one she/he prefers.  I often ask them which one they intuitively prefer if they have no clear preference.  Thus, I learn how the different balances/treatments affect them so that I can apply that to other clients.  They learn to pay attention to how they feel and how acupuncture is affecting them.  In addition to being very helpful to people, this is a very interesting job!http://www.pocacoop.com/images/blog_uploads/smiley-smile.gif

      0 likes
  • November 15 2008 at 3:22 PM
    Guest writes:

    If you understood the

    If you understood the internal connections, you would understand why “the low back pain across both inner and outer bladder channels and the Du is treated with this balance.” I recommend studying classical Chinese acupuncture theory so that you understand these internal connections. By understanding them, the balance method can be used more effectively.

      0 likes
  • November 16 2008 at 10:13 AM
    ellengrover writes:

    Korben,

    I don’t know when you have time to bathe!

      0 likes

Add your 2 cents!

You must be logged in to comment on the blog.


Who Likes This:

-- placeholder --

Who's been POCAing lately.

  • bluejena commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, November 29, 2019
  • Carolineaviva commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, November 27, 2019
  • Bob W commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, November 26, 2019
  • bluejena commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, November 26, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Sunday, November 24, 2019
  • crismonteiro commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Saturday, November 23, 2019
  • crismonteiro commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Saturday, November 23, 2019
  • StillpointCA commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, November 22, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'Shift Happens' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, November 21, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'What Went Wrong with Acupuncture in the West? A Theory' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, November 13, 2019
  • jaxrogers commented on the blog post 'Loan Forgiveness' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, November 04, 2019
  • WillC commented on the blog post 'How to Succeed in CA Without Really Trying' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Sunday, November 03, 2019
  • WillC commented on the blog post 'Loan Forgiveness' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Saturday, November 02, 2019
  • OpenSourceEverything commented on the blog post 'POCAfest Marin Keynote: Chronic Pain and Endurance, by Jeff Levin of SOAP' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, October 16, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'POCAfest Marin Keynote: Chronic Pain and Endurance, by Jeff Levin of SOAP' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, October 09, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'POCAfest Marin Keynote: Chronic Pain and Endurance, by Jeff Levin of SOAP' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, October 09, 2019
  • ChrisRogers commented on the blog post 'POCAfest Marin Keynote: Chronic Pain and Endurance, by Jeff Levin of SOAP' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, October 03, 2019
  • ewolfk commented on the blog post 'Come to Marin POCAfest September 27-29!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, August 16, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'YOUR COMMENTS, PLEASE!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, August 15, 2019
  • crismonteiro commented on the blog post 'YOUR COMMENTS, PLEASE!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, August 13, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'YOUR COMMENTS, PLEASE!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, August 13, 2019
  • catemax commented on the blog post 'Dear Prospective Punk (from a Recent Grad and New Punk), or Why We Need POCA Tech' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, July 26, 2019
  • joanneo commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, July 08, 2019
  • Bob W commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, July 02, 2019
  • melissa commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, July 01, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, June 26, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 25, 2019
  • melissalac commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 25, 2019
  • zedmunds commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • engerin commented on the blog post 'Student Circle at POCA Tech -- Guest Post by Shelby and Sonya' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 17, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 14, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • Presence_CA commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 10, 2019
  • Presence_CA commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 10, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • teatree commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • teatree commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • janisx commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • janisx commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • Arene commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Cynthia Marie commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 29, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, May 24, 2019
  • Bob W commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • Laura commented on the blog post 'I Am Closing My Clinic -- Guest Post by Michelle Rivers' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, May 21, 2019