Why Chinese Medicine?
So, I’m not into political posturing. I don’t think that Chinese medicine actually has that much to do with the Chinese. Well, it has something to do with the Chinese. I mean only in so far as they had the original perceptions of life energy flow that were articulated in this way. Beyond that, it has little to do with the Chinese, and much more to do with the perception of life energy flow for all human beings.
The ancient sages articulated a comprehensive mapping of the surface of the body correlated to all the various life functions that need to be performed on a daily basis. That is the brilliance of Chinese medicine. In ancient, early history, sages and masters sitting in contemplation of how things worked put together a complete system of evaluation of the ebb and flow of all things in nature.
What strikes me about this system is that the Chinese weren’t the only ones to see things in these ways. Acute observation of the nature of life and all things in the living ecosphere has been a part of every culture in history. Some use microscopes and telescopes to focus the vision on a very narrow and precise range of activities. Others broaden the lens, step back and take in a wide range of phenomenon and look for the correlations.
I would put Chinese medicine in the latter category to start, and then discover how it narrows down the field, step by step, to put together a complete picture of the workings of life on this planet within the greater context of the movement of our planet through the heavens. Seeing the patterns at the core of all activity, the interconnections and interactions of all things, is the core of Chinese medicine.
For myself, as a bodywork therapist, working with issues of body, mind and spirit through healing touch, movement and inquiry, the Chinese medicine map has been my key tool for deriving insight, seeing patterns and making artful and creative interventions to bring about greater harmony where dissonance has settled in.
Like a concert musician tuning their instrument, Chinese medicine identifies the strings and the keys of the body mind spirit, and supports the tuning up of the vibrations of each string, so that when the tones emerge they reveal a beautiful melody with intricate harmonies.
Examples of this ancient perceptual approach to harmony arises in every session I give. I was recently working with a client who reacted with great sensitivity to a point that I contacted just below her knee. When I pressed upon the point between the superior heads of the tibia and fibula, just below the knee joint, she almost jumped to the ceiling. And I was not pressing that hard either!
She went on to tell me that she has had this particular pain for many years. No chiropractor, orthopedic physician or physical therapist could explain it, or find anything “wrong” with the tissue in this area. Well, for those of us versed in the meridian map of Chinese medicine, we know very well that this point on the body is called “Leg Three Miles,” point number 36 on the Stomach meridian. It has to do with promoting stamina and endurance.
Without laboring my client with the theory, I simply asked/stated that this point is about endurance. Enduring this, enduring that, handling whatever arises, day after day. And as I acknowledge her for her long journey and deep need for stamina and endurance (she’s a single mom of two teenage daughters!) it was like a thousand light bulbs went off in her consciousness. She actually began to cry for all that she has had to endure.
Chinese medicine, in its brilliance, had given me an interpretation of the use of this particular point. And to my client, she thought that I was psychic, and she had an instant breakthrough regarding this long standing pain in her upper shin.
Interestingly enough, I was also drawn to work the area below her inner ankle. Again, this was a tender point and the site of long standing trauma. My client had been a gymnast in her youth. You could just see her tumbling down the mats, and over the apparatus, flying through the air in somersaults and sticking her landings, repeatedly giving insult and injury to her ankles, not to mention her knees, hips and entire body.
But all that external physical repetitive stress aside, while working with the energies at her inner ankle, I was drawn to make a statement describing her personal stance toward life. “This is me. Take it or leave it,” I suggested. And immediately she once more exclaimed, “Oh my God! How did you know? That’s my mantra!” Indeed, how did I know?
Once again, perhaps I’m somewhat psychic. We all are, to a certain extent. And I’ve had thousands and thousands of hours interacting with clients in the treatment room over three decades. But all that aside, simply put it is the beauty and power of the Chinese medicine model. In their brilliance the ancients saw that the inner ankle is reflective of the deepest, inner truths that one holds about oneself. The inquiry goes like this. “Who am I today?” And this inner inquiry can lead to a stance toward life based on who you know yourself to be.
So you see, I don’t need to be psychic to make such inquiry. I simply need to know the point, and what the ancients have described as the function of that point. Knowing that function, I can help my clients craft empowered and creative responses to their life challenges, equipped with valuable personal insight from the patterns of their bodily pains and sensations.
With another client, I was honored to meet the complex concerns of aligning action with inner truth. Here I was grateful for the Chinese medicine technology of understanding the relationship between the Liver and the Heart. You see the Liver is the channel that relates to visionary action. And the Heart is the organ wherein one’s deepest truths are held. It stands to reason that in order for one’s visionary action to be satisfying, it is best to align it with one’s deepest truths. Yet, this was not easy for this particular client. There was a disconnect.
As I explored with him the nature of his condition we found many jagged memories of difficult interpersonal interactions. His biography was littered with confrontations with loved ones, some violent, some simply neglectful. These memories were painful and many. And Chinese medicine teaches us that memories are held in the Blood.
Extend that to the Liver and the Heart functions, and we can see the problem. The Liver detoxifies, and nourishes the Blood. The Heart circulates the Blood. If the Blood is filled with toxic memories and experiences, then the Liver will be overworked, and the Heart will not be all too interested in circulating that toxic soup around the body.
It’s essential for the Liver to be supported to clarify and nourish the Blood, so the Heart has an ample supply of healthy fluid to circulate around the body to support all life. Utilizing the sensitive points of Liver and Heart on the body, the big toe, ankle, calf and inner thigh, and the sensitive area on the arm under the bicep and along the ulna to the pinky finger, and giving the client exercises to move these channels, I helped him learn to support the purification of his memory-filled Blood, and gently pump his Heart. The challenges that this client faces were given an airing and a path to healing.
Again, Chinese medicine taught me, “To nourish the Blood you must move the Blood. And to move the Blood you need to nourish the Blood.” In this case, helping the client to come to terms with the insults and injuries of his life, and to lift out of victimhood and into empowered co-creator of his life, with point work, meridian stretching, breath-work and right mindfulness, we discovered a path to move and nourish his Blood. And we brought greater personal truth and clarity to the creation of his taking satisfying visionary action in his world.
These are just three examples from thousands in which my work has been supported and informed by this brilliant system of awareness and understanding. Beginning with my introduction to Yin and Yang as a model for understanding how the energy of life moves, to the intricacies of the meridian map of the body, I have been inspired and supported time and time again with the wisdom and sophistication of this vast system of life.
So again, I ask, why Chinese medicine? Because this brilliant system masterfully traces the intricate harmony and balance of all life functions, in nature and in the three tiered awareness of body, mind and spirit in human life. There is simply no other system in the world like it. It maps the intricate correlations of mind and spirit into full embodiment through acu-points and meridian channels of life energy circulating throughout the living body.
The best part is, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a master physicist to put these principles of life to work for you. In my career life, I have created several study guides that share this vast system in a highly accessible manner. And right now, my entire collection of educational materials is on sale as a set. If you want to add the power of this masterful system of awareness and understanding to your healthy lifestyle choices, I urge you to consider adding my highly accessible materials to your health and healing library today!
This inspiring work has provided with me with profound and insightful support in my clinical practice for more than 30 years, and it is my deep honor to bring it to life in clinic and classroom, books and charts and video lessons. I encourage you to take the step today to get started in deepening your skill with these incredible tools, to help you create your own best, most-realized life, for yourself, your family, your clients and the world!
Thank you so much for subscribing to our email notifications. We hope you’ll stay in touch, and we look forward to serving you for years to come. Some of our future articles include “Calling in Wise Allies,” “Stages of Awakening Healing Energy” “Nourishing the Starving Inner Being,” and “Gods of Plenty, Gods of Destruction, the Path to Balance.” Keep your eyes open for these and many more articles on healing and growth in the days and months to come. I hope to see you in person or online in class or clinic in the near future!
Matthew Sweigart, AOBTA®-CI
HeartMind Healing Arts
The current complete Sweigart HeartMind Shiatsu Collection of publications is now available as a set at a special price! With your order, you will receive Pathways of Qi, Touching Ki, HeartMind Shiatsu Meridian Chart (large), the HeartMind Bodywork Harmonizing Heaven and Earth DVD with Companion manual, and Elemental Meditations. The total retail value for this collection is $221. For a limited time, you can purchase the entire collection for just $157!
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P.S. In my next live class, I’ll be leading a one day workshop Touching Qi from Surface to Source, with the Eastern Medical Therapies Education Center in Boston, MA, March, 15th! For those on the East Coast, I’d be happy to see you! Check out more information on the program here! https://www.facebook.com/