Day 18 - Acupuncture and the Stomach and Joy
In my next life, I’m going to study Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and I’m going to have a box of needles by my bed, by my reading chair, in my car, and I’m going to stick myself every chance I get. I will be perpetually lit up.
I have used acupuncture in the past for everything from jet lag to fatigue to sacro-iliac pain. It cost $150 a session, and it was more if Nora thought I needed herbs to supplement her work. She was worth every penny.
I’m on a tighter budget these days, and so I have been going without acupuncture, but then I remembered there was a TCM school, Five Branches, down the street from where I live and that they had a clinic where the students could practice and clients like me could get work done at a sharply discounted rate.
I’ve been there twice now, and I am one happy camper. (An hour-long session is $30 and only slightly more if you get herbs!) I went to see what they could do about my aching left eye. One thing I love about TCM is that when the practitioner comes in to see you, they ask about things like your lifestyle, your eating habits, your poop (my favorite subject). They ask to see your tongue. They take your pulses. In TCM, they read up to 28 qualities in your pulse (https://www.dc-acupuncture.com/natural-medicine-therapies-modalities/how-pulse-diagnosis-works) and it’s a wonderful feeling, the practitioner’s fingers on your wrist, listening to your body’s song. You feel heard in a deep and unusual way.
The first time I went to Five Branches and told Omar about my eye, he asked whether I was getting enough sleep. I told him I often woke up in the middle of the night. He asked what I would do and I told him I would read. Because he was a student, after he did his intake questioning with me, he went to consult with his teacher to come up with a treatment plan.
The first thing he suggested when he came back was that I do something else aside from reading late at night. “You need to give your eyes a rest,” he said. Uh, duh. Only it hadn’t occurred to me. I use my eyes like I use my car: whenever I feel like it. He also suggested I get drops for dry eyes because he said that every time I blink when my eyes are tired I was basically scraping my eyes with my eyelid. Again, duh, but again that had not occurred to me.
Omar and his teacher had decided to focus on points on the stomach meridian. In TCM, the body is mapped out into meridians somewhat as a city is mapped out by roads (https://www.tcmworld.org/what-is-tcm/meridian-connection/). Along each meridian are points, about 400 in all, an acupuncturist uses to manipulate the Qui (energy) that flows along the meridians. (You don’t need a needle to access these points, however. You can use a fingertip, for example, as is often done in acupressure. Later in this post I’ll teach you two points you can access this way.)
Another reason I love TCM is because it connects the dots in ways Eastern medicine doesn’t. For example, TCM sees the stomach as doing more than just work on digesting the food and fluids we ingest (and pennies, if you’re money hungry). I’m going to pull in a quote here so I don’t make a hash of the retelling:
The stomach is called the “Minister of the Mill” and is also known as the “Sea of Nourishment.” Because it is responsible for providing the entire system with postnatal energy from the digestion of food and fluids, it is regarded as the “Root of Postnatal Life.” In addition to digesting bulk foods and fluids and moving them onwards to the small intestine for extraction and assimilation of nutrients, the stomach also extracts pure postnatal energy from foods and fluids, and in coordination with spleen energy it transports this food energy through the meridian system to the lungs, where it combines with air energy from breathing. This is a function of the stomach not acknowledged in Western medicine, which focuses only on the biochemistry of digestion and does not recognize the bioenergetic aspect…
The stomach influences the mental state; an excess condition can agitate the mind and cause mental symptoms such as mania or hypomania, confusion, severe anxiety, and hyperactivity (http://lieske.com/channels/5e-stomach.htm).
What?! The Root of Postnatal Life? I am an adopted person on a 93-day journey in part to deal with aspects of adoption trauma and I go for help with my tired eye and the practitioner is tapping into my root of postnatal life? I could not love this more.
I have to go run around the house a few times.
Okay. I’m back. Sweaty and a little calmer.
The reason I believe in meridians is that more often than not, when the needle is tapped into place on my body, I feel a buzzing or an electrical heat, gentle or sometimes not so gentle. Sometimes when a particularly potent point is accessed, it’s like the needle went into the socket of Anne and I jump. I love it. I’m so alive at that moment. I amenergy. It’s running through me, and acupuncture is clearing the blocks in the lines. It feels like when you walk into a dark space and throw all the switches to light the room. You feel so lit.
Some people hate the idea of needles, but the needles acupuncturists use are closer to hairs than the needles you are used to seeing. Often I barely feel anything when one is lightly tapped to connect with my skin.
The stomach meridian runs in its wild, zaggy way on either side of your body from behind the ear to a point between your second and third toe. That was the meridian both Omar and Thiago, the student who worked on me when I went in for a second time the next week, focused their work on.
Generally, after the needles are put into place, the practitioner leaves the room and lets you rest for a while—twenty minutes to half an hour is pretty standard. The second time I went, I was on the table resting for over an hour. Remember, these are students and they are still figuring things out. Thiago was figuring out how to work on more than one person at a time, and so I had plenty of time to experience what happens when your Qui is being stirred up.
At first it was all normal. I went into that weightless euphoria I generally feel when I get acupuncture. I stayed there for some time, and then it was like my consciousness left my body and fixed itself above my head like a giant eye (yes, if you come to California, you too can have this for $30.) and my body become an opening, a portal, for God or whatever you want to call it, universal awareness, to experience the world as I experienced it.
It was like my body became a window for something larger than me to see the world.
But it was so cool. It meant that my job was to keep my energy running cleanly so that this larger witness could love what I loved. It meant the energy in my body was a way into love.
This may well make no sense to you since it was such a personal experience, but it happened and I have felt happier and more grounded ever since.
You can bet a have a standing appointment every week now.
I’m sleeping better and my stomach feels peaceful.
Let’s do something together here so you can experience your stomach meridian. I’ll give you links to two YouTube videos that show two powerful stomach points, 36 and 44. When you look for them with your fingertip, feel for a point of deep sensitivity. It may even hurt when you press on it. If you have no stomach issues, you may well feel no pain at all.
You can work the points a few times a week for about two minutes at a time, but if you notice a soreness like a bruising that wasn’t there before you started accessing the point, give it a break.
I’ll write more about the stomach meridian in a few days and also tell you about the herbs I took home with me each appointment to boil and drink as a tea. There’s a lot to cover.
Stomach 36: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_qqhCdh5XU
Stomach 44: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5eFZSz0Rtk
(Note: I’m not a doctor and have never studied acupuncture so all of this could be malarkey.)
See you tomorrow.