Saturday, August 13, 2022

22 - 31 Wood's two officials: the Liver and the Gall Bladder

When looking at the yin/yang pairings of the officials within each element, and trying to work out how each expresses this element in its own characteristic way, it is good to visualize the yin official as hidden deep within us, with its yang companion forming a pathway along which the yin official's energy can be drawn up from within the body to the outside.  It is useful here to remember that one of the main reasons why we only tap for Aggressive Energy on the yin AEPs (back shu points) is because the yang officials have this escape route to the outside which allows any Aggressive Energy to be released.  By contrast, AE remains trapped within the yin officials, and needs to be coaxed to the surface through the needles we place on their yin AEPS, since they have no escape route of their own to enable them to get rid of any AE which has accumulated.


It is always good to visualize this difference when thinking of the different qualities which the yin and yang officials give to the element.  The yang officials are much more mobile and active, the yin more static and reflective, a distinction which helps us define their differences a little more closely.  Nowhere is this contrast more obvious than in the relationship of the yin and yang officials within the Wood element.  There is a very obvious difference between how we plan things, which is the Liver's task, and how we then go on to decide which of these plans we will carry out, which is the Gall Bladder's task.  I have always visualized the Liver as taking on the role of a general sitting his tent on the field of action, with his maps spread out in front of him as he makes his plans, whilst the Gall Bladder is the officer in charge of the army deployed on the battlefield, tasked with carrying out the general's instructions.


There is a very clear distinction here between the Liver in his tent and the Gall Bladder actively fulfilling the plans of attack which the Liver has handed over to him.  This is a clear illustration of the yin nature of the Liver compared with the very yang nature of the Gall Bladder.  When we look at our Wood patients, therefore, we may gradually learn to differentiate between these two different qualities, which will eventually help us diagnose our patients as having either the Liver or the Gall Bladder as their particular guardian official. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

22 - 30 The guardian official

It was during a postgraduate seminar at my Leamington college all those years ago that I for the first time dared to share my use of the term "guardian element".  Before that, I used to call it the CF, meaning the Causative Factor of disease, as most people still do.  I have always thought that the term CF has a slightly negative overtone, which JR himself did not seem to agree with.  I remember very clearly him telling us that we should always visualize our patients as expressing the most positive qualities of their element, rather than regarding this element as a symbol of their imbalances.  And I like to hear the echo of the words guardian angel behind my coining of the phrase, because this is how I think of this element.  I see it as a protective force when we live our lives wisely in tune with its demands.


I have now decided to add a companion phrase, and call the yin and yang officials which together create an element our guardian officials.  I am only surprised that it has taken me so many years to think of this.


We know that we are each marked by the characteristics of one element, and that each element is formed of the close association of one yin and one yang official.   These two officials within the element also imprint specific characteristics upon us, making some people of that element have characteristics which are more yin in nature, and others more yang, reflecting the different qualities of their particular dominant official. This distinction further defines who we are, so that a Wood person, for example, will have a closer association with the characteristic qualities of the Liver and another with those of the Gall Bladder, making either the Liver or the Gall Bladder their guardian official.  


It is rarely clinically necessary to diagnose this further level of differentiation.  First of all because it is difficult enough tracking down a patient's element, let alone trying to perceive even more subtle differences within an element, and secondly because we rarely need to move to this deeper level of diagnosis from the point of view of treatment, since we treat both officials equally.  It is, however, interesting to try to recognise the different qualities which one or other official gives us, since this is a way of helping us understand more about the role of the individual officials within the cycle of the elements.


Occasionally, we need to think more closely about this, particularly in the case of Inner Fire and its yang official, the Small Intestine.  This is because we are taught to avoid treating the Heart, the Supreme Controller, more than is necessary.  It is regarded as a sacred organ, and we should where possible avoid interfering in its functioning by treating it.  Instead we should concentrate treatment upon its close yang official, the Small Intestine, making this an exception to the general rule that we treat both official pairings equally.


This brings me neatly to another important question, which is how we make our choices about selecting points other than command points, those points which are often called spirit points.  As I have often written, all points should be recognized as having their own spirit, but in general parlance the term appears to be given to any point which is not a command point.  I have often thought that this is perhaps one of the most discussed, but least understood areas of five element practice, precisely because by calling some points spirit points we appear to assume that they have a more profound effect than those that are "merely" command points.  This is a misconception which bedevils five element practice.  In the right hands and with the right understanding command points can effect the most profound treatment of all, whilst spirit points, in the wrong hands and with the wrong understanding, can have very little effect at all.


I see non-command points as being able to offer specific qualities, often associated with the names they have been given over the centuries, which can add to what the officials on whose meridians they lie are there to offer.  Often we may use one point on one of the two guardian officials, rather than choosing points on both, as we do with command points or Associated Effect points, for example.  The selection of non-command points has often come to be regarded as a somewhat mysterious area of expertise, which I think it should not be. Different practitioners will choose different points, often having a long-term preference for a few, usually because they have learnt about them at some point from a more experienced practitioner, as I have done.  Or perhaps a fellow practitioner will tell me about a point they have used, either one I have never used, or, as happens, one I have forgotten about over the years, and I will be glad to welcome such points back into my repertoire of point selections again.  This is, after all, how we widen our range of points, although having observed JR Worsley recommending points for the many hundreds of patients I saw him with I can confirm how beautifully simple were always the treatments he recommended for our patients, suggesting the same small range of points for each element. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

22 - 29 Earth's two officials: the Stomach and the Spleen

The Earth element has a unique quality which helps define its position at the centre of the circle of the elements.  It is the only element whose yin and yang officials are paired so closely together that part of their meridian pathways run almost in parallel to each other over the upper part of the body. The yin and yang pairings of the other elements spread themselves over the outside aspect of one or other limb (the yang official) and the inside aspect of the limb (their yin official).  This holds true for the two Fire yang officials (the Small Intestine and the Three Heater) and the Metal yang official (the Large Intestine) over the outer aspect of the arm, and for the Wood yang official (the Gall Bladder), the Metal yang official (the Bladder) and part of the Earth yang official (the Stomach) over the outer aspect of the leg.


In the case of the Stomach official, however, both Earth's yin and yang officials combine to run closely together up from the lower abdomen to the chest, where surprisingly it is the Stomach which passes over the breast, having a point on the nipple itself (one for obvious reasons not needled, but nonetheless there described in all the point reference charts).  And surely the nipple can be regarded as the most yin aspect of the whole body, for it is there to draw nourishment up from deep within a mother's body to feed a child.


I have always felt that this helps illustrate Earth's rather ambiguous role at the centre, where it is there to give but cannot do this until it has itself received sustenance.  So I regard its two officials as interlocked more tightly together than any of the other yin/yang pairings.  They are both closely associated with the physical processing of food (the Stomach) and passing on the results of this process around the rest of the body (the Spleen), but we may tend to forget the important role they play at the deeper mental and emotional levels of our being. For they are the powerful controllers of our thought processes.


It is no coincidence that one of the important points on the Stomach meridian is St (XI) 8 Head Tied, a lovely point to help the Earth element release all those jumbled thoughts which Earth people often describe as being locked in their heads.  When the Earth element is out of balance, its imbalance often shows itself in its speech, which seem to churn over the same thoughts time and again, as though, as I like to put it, "it can't swallow them".  And this is how I describe this, because I have noticed that when my treatment releases Earth's blocked energy, often by needling XI 9 or unlocking an entry/exit block such as a LI/St (X/XI) block, and allowing it to flow smoothly again, I have seen my Earth patients physically swallow and immediately stop talking, sometimes in mid-sentence.  It is as though at long last their Stomach officials have cleared the blockage and are now able to pass their thoughts on to the Spleen to carry further.

It is good to remember that the Earth element's emotion is also described as not only "sympathy", which is our ability to experience others' emotions, but also by the word "thoughtfulness".  Being thoughtful has a very positive connotation, for it not only emphasizes Earth's connection to thinking but also its positive association with looking after another person in a careful and caring way.