Bodymind Treasures

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Chinese Medicine

“The Highway Conduit” and Orgasm

So what about this “orgasm” function that’s related to the Penetrating Vessel?  (See “The Penetrating Vessel and Protective Qi: A New York Story.”) Another story.


Whenever I have a chance I teach Chinese Medicine through theater because I teach bodyworkers and we like to experience things physically.  In one class I was demonstrating the interrelated functions of the twelve meridians and the eight strange flows (extraordinary vessels) by having students physically demonstrate how they connect. People playing the “twelve meridians” were in a circle in the order of the 24 hour cycle of qi. I’ve done this with water in paper cups, but this day we were in a space that had a large quantity of small pillows scattered around the room, so they were being passed from meridian to meridian to signify the qi. I then gave the group situations that would divert the qi and each “strange flow” demonstrated how it would help to restore balance. At one point, “Penetrating Vessel,” who was in the very center of the circle, began collecting the pillows from all the “meridians” until she had them all clutched precariously in her arms. In a giant burst of energy, she threw them all into the air and yelled “Orgasm!”  

And there you have it.

It’s pretty much the same function as in emergencies. It draws qi in to the center from all the meridians, only in this case, instead of rushing up or down it all gets “thrust” out in all directions so strongly that it “blasts through the kinks” in the twelve meridians.  Wilhelm Reich was such a great believer in the benefits of orgasm that he wrote a whole book about it. I think of it like a plumber’s helper that blasts water through the pipes with great force to dislodge the clogs.  And that’s why it feels so good and why you feel so relaxed after a good one.

Terrorism & Running Piglet Qi

More Highway Action

Image ID: Shutterstock 1830488852

After 911 I expected to find some depleted Kidney Qi in my New York clients, related to the fear generated by the terrorist attacks. But what I found was a lot of imbalance in the Pericardium. “Terror,” or “fright” in Chinese Medicine is one of the internal dragons – or endogenous causes of disease – and affects both the Kidney and the Heart. It is said to “scatter the Shen.” In a couple of my clients their fright had led to a susceptibility to panic attacks. 

One day when I was surfing through my favorite tome on Chinese Medicine, Deadman and Al-Khafaji’s A Manual of Acupuncture, I came across something called “running piglet disorder.” This was very intriguing. The disorder was caused by fear and fright and described as a situation in which “…qi is violently discharged and rushes upwards along the Penetrating vessel causing great agitation and anxiety.” Remember that the Penetrating vessel is intimately related to the Heart and Blood Vessels. It also says that it can be related to stagnant Liver qi turning to heat and rushing up.

I told a client about this description and about the Penetrating Vessel’s “fast lane” in danger function. (See “Protective Qi and the Penetrating Channel: A New York Story.) Over several sessions with lots of mindfulness on her part both in session and between sessions, we discovered that as a panic attack came on she would feel  the qi run up and then run down and then run up again, rather like a penned, frightened, squealing piglet looking for some way out. We concluded that this is precisely the long-term effectiveness of terrorist activity. In danger there is usually a source of threat that one can either fight – energy up to the head and shoulders – or run away from – energy down to the legs.  In this situation, one doesn’t know where to run or whom to fight and so the qi generated can’t be channeled into the sinews. It gets collected for action and stays trapped on the highway, unable to commit to fight or flight.

In her sessions, when she was calm, we worked on finding tasks for the gathering qi to give it something to do, rather than run up and down squealing.  I taught her the “Punching with Angry Eyes” exercise from Pal Dan Gum (The Eight Brocades form of Qi Gong) to direct it out through the face and arms. She decided that what she needed from her legs was grounding. In her mind’s eye she saw the Ents from the Lord of the Rings trilogy: the huge, living tree-like beings, slow moving because of their enormous roots and determined nature. With practice, her panic attacks began to diminish in severity and she was even able to intercede occasionally when she felt one might be coming on. Our most spectacular results came one day, however, when she arrived for a session in the throes of a panic attack triggered by an appointment with the dentist scheduled for later in the afternoon. Using her tools for moving the energy, and working with the Penetrating Vessel (most importantly St 30 and the master and coupled points – GB 41 and TW 5) we were able to calm the qi. It was the only time in her experience to date that she had been able to do anything but wait it out once a panic attack was in full throttle.

How Do They Know It’s Spring? (3/31/13)

 How Do They Know It’s Spring?


“Wood gives us the ability to see beyond the obstacles with our “mind’s eye,” and the strength and flexibility to keep moving past them towards the goal.” 
I always marvel as daffodils and crocuses push up through the snow and bloom, just when the weather is changing enough to give them a chance to survive. What exquisite responsiveness to the smallest hint of light and warmth! We are just like the daffodils, when we pay attention. It’s the gift of the Wood element that allows us to sense the guidance of Shen, and like the plants sense the change in the light, we can notice those small stirrings that pull us to our highest vision, even before we can see it clearly. Wood grants the ability to move relentlessly through or around obstacles toward the sun and the light. We have all known and worked with people whose life experience should have them curled in a ball in the darkest corner, yet who keep moving, growing and spreading the power of their determination to all around them. They are the daffodils in the snow.
The movement associated with the balanced Wood Element is both strong and supple. The Liver and Gall Bladder meridians govern the tendons and ligaments, which stabilize the joints by holding them in place, and create movement of the bones by connecting them to the muscles. When there is too much Wood energy, the joints are tight and stiff; when there is too little, the joints and muscles are weak. The balance of strength and suppleness produces flow, like the movement of a gifted dancer or gymnast or our friend the house cat. The flow of the Water Element is different. Water flows because it doesn’t resist gravity. Without that outside force, it is still. The movement granted by the Wood Element has an inner direction and a purpose. Wood brings this gift of directed, smooth flow to the fluids in the body – the blood and lymph – and to everything that moves, including the voice, the feelings, the transmission of nerve impulses and the muscles.

Wood is also responsive to conditions. Watch children move seamlessly from one emotion to the other as they interact with the present moment. That beautiful responsiveness to life right now,  without reactions from the past is what we call “innocence.” This responsiveness to the present also allows us to make appropriate decisions in the moment. The Gall Bladder influences all the other organs of the digestive system by a simple decision:”yes” or “no.” If there are fats to be emulsified, it releases bile to combine with the digestive juices from the pancreas in the small intestine. If not, it doesn’t. The same function influences our mental and emotional decision-making. General Gall Bladder responds to the conditions on the field while keeping sight of the vision embedded in the plans made behind the lines by its partner, the Liver. The plans are based on the vision toward which we move, be it the taking of a country or the accomplishment of our highest goals. Wood gives us the ability to see beyond the obstacles with our “mind’s eye,” and the strength and flexibility to keep moving past them towards the goal.

We can remind ourselves of our innate daffodil-ness by asking:

  • “What moves me?
  • What is my vision for my life?
  • What makes things flow for me?
  • What motivates me?
  • If I could look around the obstacles in my path, what would I see?

May we embody the balanced Wood Element this spring by clarifying our highest vision. May we unfold, grow and flow purposefully toward that light with the suppleness and strength of the body, the emotions and the spirit.

Patience (8/9/15)


The Old Sage, Chapter 15joannawatermexico5

Can you wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you wait to move until the right action arises?

Yesterday, I saw a client who complained of acid reflux, and being in pretty good shape, not much else.  I did the assessment; the pulses that got my attention were the Earth element pair,  the Stomach (St)and Spleen (Sp) meridians, along with the Bladder (Bl) meridian.  All were very strong.  The Stomach/Spleen Shu (Associated) points in the back were quite tight as well.

My treatment plan seemed straightforward. I envisioned a good, thorough neck release using distal points with any tight local points, ending with Stomach (St) and segueing* from there to further locals and distals on the St. This would include Stomach 19 (Food Not Descend), which is a great self-help point for acid reflux. Then I would hold St 19 with the St Shu on the back, transitioning to hold the St Shu with Bladder (Bl) distals. (The Shu points are on the Bladder meridian.) Then I would hold more Bl local/distal combinations.  Great. I could give this protocol to someone else to do and the client would get a good session.

However, when I got to the Large Intestine (LI) points in the neck, one distal point was not enough to release the tension – reminding me that St and LI are often in cahoots, winding around each other like vines in a grape arbor. For instance:

  • The Qi leaves the LI and moves into the St in the 24 hour cycle of Qi
  • The LI TendinoMuscular meridian travels alongside the St through the jaw – often involved in the “holding on” feeling that creates tooth grinding and can be addressed with St 6 – the jaw point. Holding, grasping, are associations of the LI.
  • The Mu (alarm) point for the LI is St 25.
  • The Lower Combining (He-Sea) Point of the LI is St 37

So I needed to add some work on the LI to my perfect plan. But that’s what I love about doing bodywork. If I am thinking that I have all the answers, the responses of the body and mind of the client will often disabuse me of that illusion. When I am alert – and invite the client to be alert as well – they will reveal the intricate and wondrous layers of the issue at hand  in an order that  is appropriate for this client at this time.

This is why I am so grateful for the training in simple bodymind counseling processes that is part of Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure®. When the practitioner listens, the metaphors the client uses can be astoundingly accurate clues to the issues to be addressed. A few examples:

  • the client who initially neglects to mention that she is dealing with multiple deaths in the family, describes a “metal breastplate” that keeps her from joy. In Five Element theory, the “Metal Element”  includes the Lung meridian, and the emotion associated with it is grief; Metal is the grandchild of the Fire element, associated with joy; when Metal is too strong (grief), it “insults” its grandparent – Fire (joy).
  • the client with jaw problems who describes herself as “hanging on my the skin of my teeth,” and envisions the circus performer spinning from a leather strap clenched in her jaw. Many meridians converge around the temperomandibular joint (the jaw), but the “holding on” points to issues with the LI.
  • the client with fertility issues who describes a “wooden child’s choo choo train” traveling across her body in the exact trajectory of the Belt Channel (Dai Mai) – one of the extraordinary vessels.  The Belt is associated with these issues, as well as with  the Wood element.

Of course, the body isn’t really speaking just to me. It continues speaking to the client when I am not there.  My main job is to remind the client to listen. She really does have all the answers.

*(“seg- way”: In music and film: move without interruption from one song, melody or scene to another)

©2015 Deborah Valentine Smith

The Heart (4/30/14)

Monks laughingThe Nei Ching Su Wen (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine) likens the twelve organs to twelve officials in an ancient Chinese city-state, each one with their own talents and responsibilities for maintaining the functioning of the harmonious whole. But this was historically a feudal structure as well. The harmony was maintained by the rule of a monarch, to whom the officials were subject. This “ruler” among the officials is meant to be the Heart.

Feudal societies, whether in Asia or Europe, adhered to “the divine right of kings.” The monarch was meant to be directly in touch with the divine and therefore was responsible for leading the country wisely. In China, this meant being in tune with the Tao, which is, well, everything. The wise ruler responds appropriately to climate, relationships, physical and mental activity, etc., in the present moment, without distortion from the past or future. The wise monarch’s guidance, therefore, would keep the country in harmony with the needs of the time and create peace and prosperity.

On the physical level, Western Science says that there are two functions of the heart organ and cardiovascular system (which together comprise the Heart Official in Chinese Medicine): 1) The heart pumps the blood through the cardiovascular system, and 2) The function of the cardiovascular system is to transport blood, which carries oxygen, wastes, nutrients hormones, etc. to all the tissues of the body. In addition, at the microscopic level of the capillary beds, where the blood drops off nutrients and picks up waste from the tissues, there is a simple system of shunts that determines what tissue will be nourished at any given time. If the shunts close, the blood bypasses that local tissue and goes straight into the veins, to be carried back to the heart and distributed appropriately. So literally, the heart rules all the organs and tissues, by choosing the tissues and functions that will receive the blood that gives the energy to respond.

The story of King Arthur describes a monarch who earned the loyalty and love of his subjects because of his integrity and wisdom. His knights (officials) met at the round table where each was respected and heard, and though subject to the king, their love and respect for him secured their acceptance of his leadership.  Under his rule, the subjects were cared for, protected, and happy and the kingdom prospered. But when he was grieving for the loss of the two people who were the closest to his heart, he withdrew into himself and the kingdom was plagued by discord, poverty and famine.

The Neijing Suwen says, “The Heart is the Sovereign of all organs and represents the consciousness of one’s being. It is responsible for intelligence, wisdom and spiritual transformation. …Decision-making is the king’s job. If the spirit is clear, all the functions of the other organs will be normal. It is in this way that one’s life is preserved and perpetuated, just as a country becomes prosperous when all its people are fulfilling their duties.” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, A New Translation of the Neijing Suwen with Commentary, by Maoshing, Ni, Ph.D., Shambhala, 1995.)

The Heart also is the home of the Shen – or spirit and part of the Fire Element which has to do with warmth, light and expansion. The Shen is the unassailable original nature that is the expression, as a human being, of the great emptiness from which all things come and into which they return – the Tao.  When the Shen is not obscured, it directs and harmonizes all aspects of the body, mind and spirit appropriately for the conditions at hand and the person maintains balance and health.

So the highest job of the practitioner is not to tell people what to do, but to create the space for them to  listen to the wisdom of their hearts.

Dorothy said, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, and I don’t find it in my own back yard, I’ll know that I never lost it in the first place.

The task for all of us is to return home.

In my classes, students do a meditation – an inner dialogue – with each official as we are learning about it. We do this first, before left-brain “book learning,” so that we can listen better to the right brain. Here are some of the messages students have reported.

  • The official said, “I bring the kingdom into balance by considering the needs of all subjects. Breathe more deeply, with awareness, to enhance the riches to be distributed. BE well; BE wise; BE happy.” The emphasis was on being rather than doing. The gift was glasses to see joy more clearly.
  • The Official was both male and female, dressed in royal blue with the oak leaf as a symbol. I was told to meditate and quiet myself more for balance.
  • The main guidance was not in words, but it was “Eat when hungry, sleep when tired.” It was very restful.
  • The Heart Official did not have a body, but the message was, “Peace, be still. That’s the place you need to work from and spend more time in.” The gift was a stone, to remind me to be still.
  • The Heart Official was a white rock prism. All colors came out of it. It handed me a treasure box with a scroll inside that said “Remember to have gratitude.”
  • [The Heart Official] was a little figurine of a sacred deity. It said, “You already know. You are me.” It had little ruby teardrops. It was just precious. It asked me, “What is your true self?”
  • The Heart Official said, “Remember your connections. You are love and you are loved. Never have any doubt about that.”
  • The Heart Official says, “Follow the Peaceful Path, but hold true to your convictions.”
  • The Heart Official was the Happy Buddha. He said, “To be truly happy with yourself, you must follow your heart.” He told me that love holds the world together and advised me not to take on all the everyday stresses. “Calm your own Shen, which is housed in your Heart.”
  • The Official said, “Follow your heart more. Purpose and fulfillment are linked to longevity.”
  • A crystal chime spiraled into space and light. “Take things lightly. Think how things are light. Bask in the silence to let it nourish you.”
  • The Heart Official was a horse and he said, “Don’t be afraid to work me, but don’t hurt me.” Then it reminded me of the emotions that go with it: “Keep good spirit.”
  • The Heart Official was a Rasta man playing drums. “You have to enjoy the work you do. Keep a constant rhythm; be one with it. Don’t have too much on your plate; don’t do too little, then too much. “When I asked for a gift, I heard the drum really loud and, “Do it in harmony and with compassion.”
  • When I asked for advice about how to keep the heart working and in good condition, it said, “Huge love and faith keep it going.”


  1. Find a position in which you can be comfortable and alert. Begin by observing your breath through several cycles.
  2. Imagine that with each inhale you are bringing golden light into your heart.
  3. As the heart fills, imagine the gold light spilling over until it  the rest of your body is filled with joy and peace.
  4. Imagine sending that light, joy and peace wherever it is needed in the outside world.
  5. Remember that outside and inside are one.
  6. Thank your heart.
  7. Return to normal breath and follow your next exhale out to the world.

©2014 Deborah Valentine Smith

Helpers (4/30/14)

The Old Sage, Chapter 2.Devon & Dragonfly

We like to hear praises about our children,

But “good” or “bad,” we love them, because we know their souls.

This is the same place we aim hold for those we serve in our practice:

“Strong” or “weak,” they rest in the heart.

Looks or attitude; grace or intelligence are different for each one;

We hear about accomplishments and shortcomings,

But there is no grading system here.

How can you compare one soul to another?

It is our job to offer a means to insight and nourishment.

They may remember who they are and thrive,

But it’s not up to us.

Only the soul knows the way home.

Though we will always want to know how it’s going,

It’s not about us.

©2014 Deborah Valentine Smith

*Thanks to Marge Mendel for “Devon and the Dragonfly.”

A Qi Story (4/9/14)

Western Body, Eastern MindQi plain shutterstock

A Qi Story

Except for it being a foreign word, Qi is not really exotic. It’s just energy. Everybody talks about it all the time: what it does, the different kinds, what happens when there’s not enough of it or too much of it. But the mystery is that nobody can say what “it” is, exactly, even though it is the basis of Western Science and of Chinese Medicine. Western Science says:

  • It is what makes things (matter) move (mechanical energy)
  • It is stored in the bonds between molecules (chemical energy).
  • It is the movement of charged particles (electrical energy).
  • It travels in waves (radiant or electromagnetic energy). (Lately we’ve discovered that those waves can also act like particles, without notice. So…?)
  • It is either in action (kinetic energy) or stored (potential energy).

Continue reading “A Qi Story (4/9/14)”

More About What You Might Find Here (8/4/15)

dvsheadshotgerald.My plan is to post something here at least twice a month. Each posting will have one or more of these parts:

  1. A verse from my book-in-progress, Guidance from the Old Sage. My favorite book on Taoism is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, so don’t mistake this for another scholarly translation of the Tao Te Ching. It is just I what heard the old sage say when I asked about my own life, my family, or working with other people. I fully embrace my imperfect interpretations, because even though flawed, they have given me insight, perspective and peace. Regarding terminology, I read “The Great Mother” and “The Tao” as other names for “The Great Mystery” of Native Americans, “The Emptiness” of Buddhism ,” and the Judeo-Christian “God.” Whatever words we use, “it” is formless, full of compassion, gives birth to all things and, when you get right down to it, can’t be named. I’ve mainly called it “Love.”
  2. A piece from another book-in-progress, taken from my anatomy and physiology course by the same name, Western Body, Eastern Mind, Integrated Anatomy & Physiology. This will be on some aspect of Chinese Medicine from the perspective of Western Science. Or vice versa.
  3. Teaching Stories about people, acupressure and Chinese Medicine that I use to illustrate stuff in teaching.
  4. Short, easy Meditations  for the reader.

©2015 Deborah Valentine Smith

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