Healing the Mind and the Spirit with Acupuncture   ~ by Neil R. Gumenick

As practitioners, we all face, on a daily basis, patients whose imbalance resides at levels deeper than the physical. In fact, trauma to the mind and spirit can itself be the cause of a myriad of physical symptoms. The ability of the body to heal is influenced by the strength of the mind and the spirit. In some cases, there may be no physical symptoms showing at all - just a desperation or resignation, hopelessness, despair, frustration; all symptoms of the mind and spirit in distress.

It is beyond the scope of this article to expound on the spirit of each acupuncture point or to teach the diagnostic skills of assessing color, sound, emotion, and odor to arrive at the elemental cause (causative factor) of a patient's disease. However, what I can give is an approach to studying the point names in the context of the elements that will bring their spirits to life. From there we can begin to recognize the exact point or points a patient is asking for - from the level of the mind and spirit. Having first touched the level, the subsequent work we do to further balance and harmonize and nourish a patient's energy will be taken in more quickly and effortlessly, and with dramatically better and more long lasting results.

I must emphasize that points are not chosen from meridians at random because the names sound good (and they really all do). We all would likely line up to receive treatment of any point having learned of its spiritual power. Every point on the body has a gift that we all would want, but perhaps the point that sounds so inviting to us all is truly needed by only one or two of us. The brilliance of the Classical Chinese practitioners was in developing a way of assessing the underlying element and meridians that were the root of the problem and on those meridians, the exact points that were needed. Developing our skills to make these assessments takes time, practice, and guidance, but herein lies the challenge to grow. Because each patient is a unique individual with unique mental and spiritual needs, the challenge for us becomes an ongoing process of self development - honing our senses and rapport skills to elicit exactly what it is that the body, mind, and spirit of the patient needs. Let us consider two elements, their mental and spiritual properties, and how several points can be used to touch these depths.

The element wood, associated with the springtime, manifests an energy of bursting forth, like new buds, surging forward and growing. Wood is a new beginning - a vision of a whole new cycle ahead. Out of the nature of this phase of life arises the official of Planning (Liver) and Decision- Making and Judgement (Gall Bladder). We cannot begin anything anew without internal order - a plan from which we can move forward with confidence. We cannot move forward without having exercised judgement and made the decision to do so. We make decisions and choices every second, consciously or not. When these Officials are not working with the strength that nature ordained, the mind and spirit suffer frustration and anger, hopelessness, the inability to move forward, to give birth to new ideas, to see our way clearly. The following two points give insight as to how we can use point names as a doorway into providing for a patient's spirit.

Gall Bladder 24 "Sun and Moon"
The Gall Bladder requires complete clarity of vision in order to decide on a course of action. All possibilities must be seen and considered. Out of balance, we may identify with one position and become inflexibly attached to it. We may see no appropriate choice at all. Nothing looks good. Indecision and frustration appear at every turn. We have lost our capacity for wise judgement. This point, when used at the right time, can enlighten us with the clarity that contemplates all positions fairly and impartially - allowing us to see by both the light of the sun and the moon that there is always a clear and correct path to take. From clarity, we can make accurate choices and act with certainty and strength.

Liver 1 "Great Esteem"
This is the first point on the meridian and suggests the beginning of spring growth. The energy is present, the plan formulated, the way is clear. How often do we see patients who simply cannot get a project started, cannot even follow our recommendations for their own welfare because of lack of self-esteem and confidence to carry it through? Any new undertaking is bound to be accompanied by uncertainties, risks, and possible obstacles in our path, but these must not thwart us in reaching our goal. It is our nature to grow, to begin anew, to take our first steps. "Great Esteem" grants us the confidence to surge forth with the boldness of Spring's power - to push ahead, give birth, and go for it!

Wonderful as these names sound, they will not be right for everyone. Another patient, at another time, may need Gall Bladder 37 " Bright and Clear" to illuminate the way or Liver 13 "Chapter Gate" to put closure on what has been and start afresh with a new chapter in life. Liver 14 "Gate of Hope" is an antidote for hopeless frustration and demoralization. How many patients come to us after being disappointed and discarded by other systems of medicine and have virtually lost hope? This point, like any of the others used at the right time, has the potential to literally transform a patient's life by engaging the spirit and possibly turn the course of disease.

The Fire element is associated with summer, the season in which that young energy that arose in spring expands to its maximum potential. In summer's heat we enjoy the blossoming fruition of the visions and plans we have made. It is a time of fullness and maturity, allowing us to give and receive warmth and love. By giving and sharing, we build our own fire and bring the warmth of the summer into the world. Out of the nature of this element arise its officials: Supreme Controller (Heart), and Separator of Pure from Impure (Small Intestine) the Heat Protector (Pericardium), and Three Heater (San Jiao).

Heart 1 "Utmost Source"
To the early Chinese, the Supreme Controller was akin to the emperor, heaven's representative on earth. The emperor, when healthy, manifests all the qualities we would want in a chief executive: Divine wisdom, radiance, fairness, enlightenment, unselfishness, and love for all. Within us, there exists such a "being" in the form of this official. When the Supreme Controller falls sick, the connection between the "Divine" in us and the "Divine" that created and sustains us may be broken. What greater despair could there than being alienated from this source? We can feel alone, isolated, spiritually cut off, uninspired, intensely anxious, fearful, empty, severed from life. "Utmost Source", used at the right time, can reestablish this connection and awaken us to the flow of life and love, that permeates all existence. What greater joy and relief could there be than this?

Small Intestine 16 "Heavenly Window"
Physically, this organ separates nutrients from waste in the food we eat, using the heat of fire to transform the energy of food and drink, retaining the clean and pure, discarding the impure. On the level of the mind and spirit, there can only be real joy and love in our lives when we are able to separate and discard the mental, emotional, and spiritual rubbish that assaults our senses daily. Sometimes, this pollution overwhelms us faster than we can process it and the wastes builds up. We begin to view the world as negative, hopeless, and evil. We become confused as to what is good for us and what is not. The cause of the problem may be that this window is "stuck shut". When the "Heavenly Window" is opened, using this point, light and freshness can enter and dispel that toxicity. We can begin to find within ourselves, and in all the things that fill our lives the pure essence that is at our core.

Understandably, these transformational experiences are ones that most of us would want for ourselves and our patients, but again, the cause of a patient's suffering in mind and spirit is unique to that patient. If, as in the above example, the fire element were not the primary causative factor and the small intestine not the cause of the presenting negativity, then opening this window by treating this point would reap no benefit. The treatment must be an accurate response to the need. This is not a matter of guesswork, as the patient constantly informs us in a myriad of ways of his or her need.

The restoration of joy, love, and laughter, which are the expressions of a healthy fire element may well depend on the use of other points on its meridians. Imagine a soak in the "Heavenly Pond" Heart Protector 1 or "Heavenly Spring", Heart Protector 2. These are more than places of warmth and relaxation. Imagine, slipping into the world's greatest natural pool or spring - hot, but not too hot - just right! With you is the lover of your dreams who not only loves you unconditionally, but accepts your love completely, and with whom you are totally comfortable and free to be just who you are. We all have such a place within ourselves. These points, for those of us who need them, can take us there. Yet, someone else may need a point such as "Outer Frontier Gate" Three Heater 5. Receiving love and warmth for ourselves alone is not enough. True joy comes from sharing of our abundance. Whatever comes in must be able to go out. This is the gate that allows our love to go out into the world. How many patients suffer from not being able to express outward? That suppression can itself be the disease that destroys relationships, family, work situations, blocks creativity, as well as producing the endless variety of physical symptoms that we associate with the Three Heater Official (San Jiao).

There are points that may be effectively used, regardless of the elemental cause, when we need to address the spirit directly. These include points on the Conception (Ren) and Governor (Du) Vessels, as well as certain kidney points on the chest and points on the outer bladder line on the back.

Once having reached the spirit and given it what it needs using these or other points for their spiritual connotation (and many points have a variety of potential uses) we must anchor the treatment by supporting the elemental causative factor. This is often done through the use of source or other command points, transfers of energy, etc.

Treatment of the mind and spirit is an ongoing process, always dictated by the needs of the patient. Having filled those needs during any given treatment session does not absolve us from having to consider what the next steps will likely be. This is the basis of treatment planning. Rarely, if ever, are treatments repeated although some points may be used again, but in new contexts, combinations, and circumstances. Having successfully moved a patient from stage "A" to stage "B" in the process, we do not need to retrace those steps. Instead, we consider he movement from "B" to "C" and so on, as the journey toward health continues.

The following are examples of points used for their spiritual connotations. In using the points in this way, we are not treating the Conception or Governor Vessels, kidney or urinary bladder channels per se. We are treating the mind and spirit directly.

Governor Vessel 12 "Body Pillar"
Like the central pillar or tent pole to which all guide wires are attached, this pillar maintains our internal strength and uprightness. The mind, body, and spirit are built around this pillar. If it is weak, crumbling, or leaning to one side, the slightest jarring or force can break it and the entire structure will collapse. How many patients come to us who have broken under stress, who simply cannot take the everyday blows, who crumble at the lightest instigation? Imagine the fear, anxiety, and depression that this could produce. Using this point, we can literally straigten, strengthen, and restore the integrity of the pillar and therefore the whole of the body, mind, and spirit.

Conception Vessel 8 "Spirit Deficiency"
This point, which is forbidden to needle, treated with moxa on the umbilicus filled with salt, is used when the spirit is present, but tired, deficient, nearing the bottom of the tank. There is a lack of energy, vitality, and determination, a feeling of being almost unable to go any further.

Urinary Bladder 39 "Spirit Hall" (in some texts, this point corresponds to UB44).
This is the hall of spirit, its place of dwelling. It is the place within us where we are truly at home, a place of quiet, rest, recharge and inspiration - a place to gather our reserves and replenish our spirit. How many patients are disconnected from this place within themselves - unable to relax or rest, the mind jumping all around, spiritually homeless, unsettled, searching and wandering in every direction? This point, used at the right time, can settle the spirit in its home where all of its needs can truly be fulfilled.

Kidney 24 "Spirit Burial Ground"
While the foregoing examples of points dealt with various ways of strengthening, adjusting, and empowering the spirit, there was an assumption that the spirit was present (however imbalanced) to receive the help. In some cases the trauma to the body, mind, and spirit has been so severe or so chronic that the spirit virtually resigns and is, in effect, dead and buried. We see this resignation in patients in whom there is no spark or essence present. They may be present in body. They may be able to converse and interact mentally, but it is as if there is just a shell, with no inner will to carry on, no passion or vitality. Truly, there can be no greater tragedy than this loss. Without spirit, there may be existence, but there can be no life. With this point, we can actually resurrect and restore the spirit itself.

To include the needs of the mind and spirit in our medicine, whatever its particular approach or style, is to be more truly "holistic". What we share as practitioners is the love of helping those who are sick and, hopefully, the growing realization that the body, mind and spirit within all of us are one interconnected whole.

~ The translation of points names used in this article are taken from The Meridians of Ch'i Energy: Point Reference Guide by Professor J.R. Worsley and is available from Redwing Books.

Featured in the Winter 2000 edition of the California Journal of Oriental Medicine

Professor Neil R. Gumenick is Founder and Director of the Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture, which offers approved Continuing Education in this unique system of medicine. He holds three degrees and an advanced teaching credential from the College of Traditional Acupuncture (U.K.) awarded by Professor J.R. Worsley, with whom he personally studies to this day. Neil has maintained a private practice for 22 years in Santa Monica, CA and has been a Professor at Emperor's College and SAMRA University.

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