The Energetics of the Torso
The San Jiao disseminates the Yuan Qi out of the Kidneys, and it is the San Jiao mechanism is that which creates the energetics associated with the front Mu and back Shu points.
Although the San Jiao does not have form we can say that it is represented by the vortex that moves from ST11 (Qi She – The Qi Abode) down to the navel (Ren8 – She Que – the Spirit Watchtower). Life begins with the first inhalation and the severing of the umbilical cord. It is said that at this time the child sucks on and swallows the “mud pill” the substance of Jing, which will now move down to the site of injury (Ren8) and down to reside in the Kidneys. This creates the San Jiao vortex.
Life begins with the breath, represented by Metal, and the activation of the Mu points, the pooling of Jing, is a trajectory that follows the creative cycle of the 5-Phases.
With the first breath and the swallowing of the mud pill, the throat and collar bone are activated, moving through ST11 (Qi She – the Residence of Qi) to the basin (ST12 – Que Pen: Empty Basin), the Qi Door (Qi Hu) to LU2 (Yun Men – Cloud Gate). LU2 is considered as the Mu point of the Lungs for this model (as it has been in ancient times). This is the awakening of the Yang, creating the first communication with the external world. Now the breath is drawn downwards to the navel and lower Dan Tian, going into ST25 (Tian Shu – the Heavenly Axis, also named Bu Yuan – Tonify the Original Source) the Mu point of the Large intestine and a point directly related to Yuan Qi and the Kidneys. Along this path is ST17 (Ru Zhong – breast centre), the nipple: that is where the infant is going towards once the umbilical cord is severed.
Once the first breath and exposure to the external environment has been fulfilled, the journey to our destiny begins. From ST25 the trajectory both ascends and descends. We now move from Metal to Water.
The descending trajectory moves down to the phase of Water, to the Bladder Mu point, Ren3 (Zhong Ji – Central Pole), the lowest Mu point, delineating the lower border of the Mu energetics domain, the origin of the 8-Extra vessels, and the confluent of the leg Yin sinews. Zhong Ji is the line between Yin and Yang in the Tai Ji symbol, it represents polarity and movement. As the lowest of the Mu energetics, this is where we begin to polarise towards Yang, and to create the Back Shu points.
The ascending path moves from ST25 towards G.B.25 (Jing Men – Gateway to the Capital). Here, the capital is a reference to the nipple, where post-natal nourishment comes from. Moving towards the ribs and then the breast, towards Yin and nourishment. This path will continue up to G.B.24 and Liv14 through the breast to Ren17 and then down.
Now we move towards Wood. The child learns polarization and differentiation. From the outskirts of the ribs, the Capital Gateway, we move inwards into the ribs proper, reaching G.B.24 (Ri Yue – Sun and Moon), the Mu of the Gall Bladder. The sun and the moon represent polarity and opposites: we need to learn to reconcile opposites in life, external and internal. (The Da Chang lists G.B.23 as the Mu of the Gall Bladder, putting the trajectory as moving further on the side of the ribs.) Then moving on to Liv14 (Qi Men – the Cycles/Peroidical Gate), the Mu of the Liver. Liv14 is the point where we learn to harmonise, move through, the cycles of opposites. It is part of the trajectory of the Yin Wei, our ability to link the various directions in life in its various stages.
From here we move to the nipple, and then on to Ren17 (Tan Zhong – Centre of Chest), the Mu of the Pericardium, moving on to the phase of Fire. Having learned to view polarity and harmonise, we now become conscious of our selves, of who we are. The Pericardium is that which creates the consciousness/awareness of one’s own self and self-related processes.
Below, the trajectory moves from Ren3 to Ren4 (Guan Yuan – Original/Source Gate) and Ren5 (Shi Men – Stone Gate), the Mu of the San Jiao. The Stone represents that which is hard, making us infertile (as the contraindication warns us), somewhat akin to the protective function of the Pericardium which through over-protectiveness can create rigidity. (When moving towards the Heart it is required that we move through the protective layer of the Pericardium, on the lower end, there is no specific order required within the Fire Mu points.)
And having passed through the Pericardium we are allowed entry to the Heart, at Ren14 (Ju Que – the Grand Watchtower). We are no longer on bone, but deep in soft tissue of the body. The heart represents the realm of love and compassion. This is where polarity disappears, and I am able to look at others in the same way as I look at myself.
Finally we can move into the realm of Earth, down to Ren12 (Zhong Wan – Central Receptacle), the Mu of the Stomach and out to Liv13 (Zhang Men – Camphor Gate), the Mu of the Spleen. These are the influential points of the Fu and Zang: that is once the Mu energetics has been activated, the ribs have been engaed, the Zang Fu are activated.
This trajectory, connecting the Mu points from ST11 and the collar bone, through the phases of Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth, moving down to Ren3, and out to nourish the ribs, can be used therapeutically also. For example, if there is loss of Jing in the Kidneys (loss of the will power to live, or the atrophy and drying out of a kidney), one can enforce the trajectory by using needle directionality, so as to move Jing into the Kidneys. Starting with ST25, needling it out towards G.B.26, then G.B.26 towards G.B.25, the target, and preventing leakage further down the line by needling G.B.24 down and out towards G.B.25. (G.B.26 has been added here because it is on the trajectory, between ST25 and G.B.25, and as an 8-Extra point it also resonates with the Jing.) In a similar manner, one can disperse a Mu point, in cases where there is an over-accumulation of dirty Jing - as in fibroids, by using the points that follow that Mu point along the trajectory to help drain it. One can use palpation as a method of diagnosis, and determine the appropriate flow to be reinforced by massaging the points along the trajectory to determine which relieves the particular Mu point pressure pain.
From the lowest point of the Mu-energetics, Ren3, begins the movement towards the back to create the back Shu points. Although the back Shu points are created through the combustion of the Jing in the Kidneys and the Ming Men Fire, Ren3 still plays a part here too, as the cusp between Yin and Yang, the movement from Mu to Shu. We can in fact trace this physically within our own bodies. If you sit in a chair and slowly push into the legs, and attempt to stand up without tilting the body forward, maintaining the back straight, you can feel the movement being initiated in the lower abdomen, around Ren3. Then the gluteal region is being activated and then the movement goes up the back, all the way to the occiput. We can say that this movement is the activation of Yang, of movement, of Wei Qi up the back. As Yang Wei moves up the back, the obstacles it will encounter are the bone structures: the hips, the shoulders, and the occiput. Unsurprisingly all three areas represent immune (or Wei Qi) related areas. The area under the scapular spine relates strongly to, and treats, lung infections, and S.I.12, the point which “grasps the wind” is above that. Pain around the posterior iliac crest is commonly related to weak immunity, and can be treated by immune points. The area under the occiput is the traditional wind area, represented by G.B.20 (the wind pool) and other windows-of-the-sky (heavenly influences) points.
The back Shu points represent movement and transportation. Inherent in the movement of life is the conflict between what is external (the world) and the self. The Back Shu points reflect that. Conflict is represented by the control cycle of the 5-Phases.
At the bottom, we start with the self, represented by Water, U.B.23, the back-Shu of the Kidneys. We can say this is created directly from the moving Qi between the Kidneys, or that it comes from the movement of Ren3 (or both).
At the top, the influences from the world are represented by Metal, at U.B.13, the back-Shu point of the Lungs. We can say that these influences (Qi) have come in through the Wind Pool (G.B.20) down the Great Shuttle (U.B.11) and the Wind Gate (U.B.12).
The “mediating line” between the world and the self is the diaphragm, represented by U.B.17 (Ge Shu, the diaphragm Shu). The diaphragm is that which facilitates taking the world in to our selves, ending in the kidney area (lumbar region), as well as letting it out of the self.
From U.B.13 (Metal) we move down towards the diaphragm, and move to its controlling (conflict) phase, the phase of Fire, through the Pericardium and Heart Shu. Below we see the same idea of moving through the conflict upwards toward the diaphragm, moving from Water (U.B.23, back-Shu of the Kidneys), to that which controls Water (Earth), and then to that which controls Earth (Wood). And thus we move from U.B.23 to U.B.21 and U.B.20 the back Shu points of Stomach and Spleen, representing the Earth phase, and then to U.B.19 and U.B.18, the back-Shu points of Gall Bladder and Liver, representing the Wood phase.
The Large Intestine and Bladder, as excretory organs, are placed at the bottom. The Small Intestine represents our last chance to separate the pure from the turbid, to cleanse ourselves of karma, and thus it relates to the Gate of Po, and is therefore placed below, near the anus. The San Jiao Shu (U.B.22) can be seen as representing Fire and thus the conflict between Water and Fire as the movement goes up from U.B.23 to U.B.21. Alternatively, it can be viewed as part of the self, as in this case the San Jiao is what disseminates the Yuan Qi out of the Kidneys.
Su Wen 58 adds 12 Shu points on the chest, Kid22 through Kid27 bilaterally, wih only U.B.17 mentioned as a Shu point on the back. Kid27 can be seen as the Master point of all Shu points: this is derived from its name Shu Fu, Transportation Exchange Place/Mansion. When we view the notion of transportation (Shu) points as representing conflict, imbalance between interior and exterior, the self and the environment, the terrain of this struggle is the chest and the diaphragm, and hence Su Wen 58 mentions the front Shu points and the Shu point for the diaphragm. If one were to utilise these points then Kid22 (Bu Lang) would represent the Kidneys or Water, Kid23 (Shen Feng) would represent the Earth organs, Kid24 (Ling Xu) the Wood, Kid25 (Shen Cang) the Fire, and Kid26 (Yu Zhong) would represent the Lung and Metal phase.
The mutual reflection of the back and front can be seen in other aspects also, with Ren15 (Jiu Wei – Dove Tail) and the tailbone being the axis. The xyphoid process can be seen as a mirror image of the tailbone, and hence the Luo of the Ren is at Ren15 while the Luo of the Du is at DU1. DU1, Chang Qiang – the Long Endurance/Forcefulness, begins the image of the spine as a ladder to be climbed in the process of our lives, until we reach the top, the head/brain, the place that accumulates all our experiences and memories. It is said that we are given 7 Pos (earth bound souls) in our life time so as to experience the earthly life (these experiences are then “reported back” and join the Hun, the collective/ancestral consciousness). Each Po is expressed and tries to resolve its lessons during one cycle of 7/8 years. Then the resolution of that Po’s lesson is hopefully achieved and the next Po’s issues (as dictated by its “karma”) are being put forward in our lives.
The Pos are said to reflect on the spine, starting at DU2, moving on to DU3 and so on until all 7 Pos are experienced. By DU9 (Zhi Yang) we are (hopefully) free of the attachments to the physical issues in life, and can now become more Yang, and express the lighter, spiritual, potential of our lives, and so the upper thoracic spine represents our spiritual growth free of attachment with names such as Ling Tai (DU10 – Spirit Tower) and Shen Dao (DU11 – Spirit Path), which is presumably the pillar of our lives (DU12 – Shen Zhu – Person’s Support). On the front a similar process occurs with the Po moving along one point with each 7/8 year cycle, this time down from Ren15, reaching Ren8 (Shen Que – Spirit Watchtower) once the seventh and last Po has found its resolution.
In looking at the name point progression up the Ren channel we can learn much about the process of life. The Ren (Human) represents the human ability to take on the burden/task of life. In looking at the channel we see that the process of life is about alchemical transformation of the Jing into Shen by the use of the Qi (relationships, interactions), of spiritually accumulating experiences, of taking in the world, individuating our perception of the world, and of projecting our individuality back to the world. The channel also describes some of the obstacles inherent in human life and those which prevent us from smoothly going up this route. The Ren represents the passage of Jing (the rice that represents life essences – cinnabar) through the transformation of Qi (relationships).
Beginning with Ren1(Hui Yin), the meeting of Yin essences, Jing, and physicality, we move on to the Curved/Secret Bone (Ren2 – Ju Gu) where we can gather the Yin (in that curve) before ascending it up further. Zhong Ji (Ren3 – Central Pole or North Star) is where the ability to reproduce life comes from and to release Yang. This is the centre of the human cosmology, where all channels start (the Ren, Du, and Chong – the mother of all meridians), and where transformation (Fu - bladder) takes place.
We now pass through Guan Yuan (Ren4 – Source/Origin Gate): passing through here allows for the possibility of the Yuan Qi, the pre-given, to be expressed in the post-heavenly life. Now we can start to experience the fire of life. Shi Men (Ren5 – Stone Gate) represents condensation of essences (as if into a stone) but also the possibility of passage and transformation as it is the Mu point of the San Jiao. At Qi Hai (Ren6 – Ocean of Qi) we arrive at vastness (the ocean), manifestation of Yang, and the source of the Huang: the envelope that protects the Qi and deep circulation. The Jing is only useful through the circulation and activation of the Qi, otherwise it is inert. Before we move on to the next level, where Qi, rather than Jing, is predominating, we recharge our ability to collect the Yin: this is Yin Jiao (Ren7 – Yin Meeting).
We now welcome the spirits, our life’s animation, at Shen Que (Ren8 – Spirit Watchtower). This is where, by having good and nourishing essences we can attract the spirits. But there is also a barrier here, as this is also a point on the Dai channel. We now have separation of Water and Fire (water as represented by the Jing, and Fire by the animation of our lives), and we need to be able to separate the pure and the turbid, which is represented by Ren9, the Dividing Water (Shui Fen). We move on to the three receptacles, the 3 cavities that represent our ability to receive what comes down from Heaven (and made available through the transformative power of the earth). These are Ren10 (Xi Wan – the Lower Receptacle), Ren12 (Zhong Wan – the Middle Receptacle), and Ren13 (Shang Wan – the Middle Receptacle). Ren11 (Jian Li – Standing Miles) represents our ability to create the basic units of life (Li is a village, or a field on the earth). These all represent the assimilation of the world and how we bring the world to our heart, at Ren14. Our ability to be in harmony with what we take in before we pass it on to the heart as an experience (Shen – something that is now part of our spirit) is guarded by the last barrier before coming to a bone: Ren14 – the Mu point of the Heart. Ren 14 (Ju Que – the Powerful Watchtower) also represents a sword protecting the heart, the sword of understanding we hope. However, as in the case with the other Que – Ren8, this is also a representation of a major potential obstacle, the diaphragm.
Next comes Jiu Wei (Ren15 – Dove Tail) representing the protection offered by a bird’s wings. It is also the Luo of the Ren, and as a Luo point it also allows passage: we can allow things to move out in case there is too much protection being exercised. Sun SI Miao calls this point Shen Fu (Spirit Exchange Place). Finally we may arrive at the Heart, the emperor, a destination that might seem to be our ultimate goal. We reach the Palace at Ren16 (Zhong Ting – Central Palace). But here, again, we encounter more layers, more protection: this is merely the central yard where people gather for an audience with the emperor, not quite the emperor’s residence. Here we are ready to encounter the influences of the Heart. The character for Ren17 (Tan Zhong – Central Altar, usually translated as the centre of the chest) suggest that one may enter through a double fence if they are illuminated and inspected by the sun: a representation of the Heart Protector, the Pericardium, whose Mu point this is.
All the essences have come up to serve the spirits, and we are now at the point of virtue. This is Ren18 (Yu Tang – Jade Reception Hall). Jade representing virtue. The Heart has the perfect ability to receive all of life (in this journey from the lower and middle Jiaos) and to express all virtues. And now we finally arrive at the residence of the Great One (the Tai Yi, the supreme unity): the Purple Palace, Zi Gong, or Ren19.
But the Ren channel does not stop here. The purpose of life is not to merely turn our essences/physicality into spiritual experiences of the Heart. We need to do something with those experiences, to express and distribute our life’s experiences and understanding. If we fail to do so, we will go nowhere and be stuck in an internal process that fails to interact with the world, going nowhere. And so, having reached the Purple Palace and having encountered the Tai Yi, we arrive at Ren20 (Hua Gai – Flower Cover/Canopy), representing both the flower – the blossoming of our heart, the achievement of having arrived here – and the suggested next step, moving out into the world, giving to the world the fruit of our true heart: a canopy or umbrella has an outward and spreading motion. More spreading and outward motion is suggested by Ren21 (Xuan Ji). Xuan Ji is an astronomical instrument that allows us to look out into the heavens , looking around the sphere of the heavens from our point of observation. Because all sextants fix themselves by use of the north star, Ren21 relates to Ren3 (Zhong Ji – the north star), indicating that good expression, circulation, and distribution of our life’s experience is related to a good centre and good essences.
On the way to nourish the head, the face, and the orifices, that which will aloow for expression as well as further reception, we encounter Ren22 (Tian Tu – the Celestial Chimney). The sternum represents the assimilation of our life experiences by the Heart, and its expression. Ren22 is the phonetic expression of what has already taken place in the sternum: the smoke bursts out of the chimney. As a chimney it can be a major clearing point for the whole chest. Ren23 (Lian Quan -–Spring of Integrity, often translated as Angular Spring) relates not only to the integrity of our speech through the root of the tongue, but also to how we stand up, how we view the world by standing on our feet (Kid1 – Yong Quan: the character Quan relates Ren23 to Kid1). The final point we encounter is Ren24 (Cheng Jiang – Receiving the Gravy), where we receive not only the essences of foods, but also the results of our life journey, and conserving what is already inside, that which has been alchemically transformed along this journey up the Ren. And now the Ren moves up to its final destination of expression: the eyes (ST1 – Cheng Qi – Receiving Tears).
The Ren describes the rite of humanity in transforming Jing to Shen, assimilating the world (represented by the receiving of food in the Middle Jiao), expressing the Shen (experiences) by opening our heart and allowing the experience to become part of ourselves, then to move on and to become what expresses us as individuals to the world, and to affect further interaction and perception of the world (mouth and eyes).
The Ren channel also describes some obstacles in this journey. The two obstacles indicated are at Ren8 and Ren14. Both represent a passage from one Burning Space to another, and both carry the character Que, watch tower or legislative post, in them. The character Que, indicates a high tower from where one would watch for the movements of the enemy and post notices regarding such movements. Anatomically they represent the diaphragm and the Dai. (The primitive Dai channel is a horizontal line going across G.B.26, SP15, ST25, Kid16, and Ren8.) Also the Heart and genitals (the Dai represents our genitals), two of our life aspects that we need to watch over to ensure that they are open in a manner that is real and represents our true selves.
Through the connection to the chest and diaphragm, Ren15 can be said to represent the diaphragm and heart protector. Through the Dai and genitals, Ren8 can be said to represent the Liver. Thus these two watchtowers are a representation of Jue Yin: our ability to differentiate, to decide what we wish to engage our heart with. These two points (and their associations) represent the obstacles of physical attachment (Dai) and emotional attachments (Heart), and the ability to let go of those when we keep good guard of them. When we watch over the muck of our physical and emotional lives, that is when we can bloom as a lotus.
Another way to look at the connection between the diaphragm and the Dai/genitals is through the Dai and Bao vessels. The Dai is said to circulate horizontally at the level of the navel (and then also below reaching to the genitals). The Bao Mai is an extension of the Dai Mai, and circulates vertically between Ren15 and DU1 (the Luo of the Ren and Du). These are the only looping channels (unless we take the Ren and Du to constitute one channel comprising the microcosmic orbit), with Bao Mai representing the ability of Kidney/Water to communicate with Heart/Fire (with similar connotations as those described for the two Que points). The physical symptoms associated with the Bao Mai are Running Piglet Qi, a sensation of energy surging upwards in the torso.