More Highway Action

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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.