Further Thoughts on the Sinew Channels

There is a great deal of reverence paid to the idea of innocence, and spontaneity. So much of our suffering is caused by over-thinking, by limiting our possibilities through judgement and preconceived notions. Healing requires space, light, and the belief in new possibilities. Often, in our attempts to “nourish” ourselves we in fact limit ourselves and loose the qualities of space, light, and new possibilities. And so, we might begin to believe in spontaneity as the ultimate solution. It certainly sounds very Daoist, and space, light, and new possibilities also seem to connote spontaneity, and letting go of cognitive, limiting thinking.

And yet, as humans we ultimately loose our innocence, our reflexive and spontaneous reactions, and in turn we become cognitive, emotional, and we make choices. The sinew channels seem to state that this is the natural consequence of being human and assuming the upright posture: the sinews home to the Pericardium and the last sinew is the Pericardium, which we might consider to be the ultimate representative of judgement and morality, of Ying Qi. After all, the Pericardium is that which constricts the Heart, that which limits our choices, that which created and conform to pre-existing patterns and notions and which separates self and from other.

Yes, as humans we cannot escape our tendency to be cognitive and judging, even though these are qualities that prevent us from taking part in the spontaneous nature of space and light, and which can prevent us from exercising new possibilities in life. The sinew meridians acknowledge that. The result of our interactions with, and explorations of, the world (natural and otherwise) are ultimately handed over to the Pericardium.

This is because to return to a state of spontaneity requires awareness, an awareness of the dangers of over-exercising cognition and judgement, an awareness of my over-eagerness to nourish my self as a separate-self entity, and of limiting myself through pre-conceived notions. The spontaneity we seek through spiritual cultivation is not the same as that found in nature or the innocence of a small child, though we can use that spontaneity as inspiration and its imagery is certainly a wonderful learning tool. The spontaneity we seek is one learned and exercised through awareness; it has become disciplined. Most of us have to learn, meaning exercise our Ying Qi, that we are not separate from the world, that we can trust the world, and that we can “go with the flow.” Though it may seem like a natural and obvious disposition, most of us need to learn how to extend ourselves and become one with the world. From this informed position is where “enlightenment” comes, and the possibilities of spaciousness and light are then truly limitless.

The most common practice used to cultivate what we might term “return to spontaneity” or “informed spontaneity” involves the observation of the breath. The breath is a natural and spontaneous process. It is not the breath (Wei Qi) that leads us to enlightenment. It is the awareness of the breath, observing the birth and death, how an inbreath becomes an outbreath and then an outbreath resurging as an inbreath, the breath’s full connectedness with all, that inspire enlightenment. This is ultimately within the domain of cognition, of Ying Qi, but it is about utilising Ying Qi to transcend the obstacles and separation created by Ying Qi.

This further leads us to the unique quality and importance of the diaphragm in releasing blockages and facilitating health. The sinews indeed end at the diaphragm (the arm Yin sinews convergence at G.B.22). The diaphragm is a muscle that moves without our awareness, yet can be observed with awareness as well as be controlled (consciously or unconsciously). It is the conscious awareness and release of the diaphragm that can create flow, spontaneity and liberation, while the unconscious (or even conscious) constriction of the diaphragm is reflection and facilitation of trapping our responses and creating blockages.

As humans we interact with the world through an upright position. Philosophically this already implies an adaptation process, from four legged to two. Physically it implies a process of adaptation from reliance on smell and taste to guide us into the world to a greater reliance on our eyes and ears. Our shoulders and arms are free of weight, our genital region is exposed, and our spine needs to carry our weight, so its curves need to be supported. We see all these in the Gall Bladder channel.

The Gall Bladder is both a Fu organ and a Curious organ. As a curious organ it represents survival. With the exception of the Kidney channel, the Gall Bladder channel has the deepest connection to the 8-Extra meridians, sharing 13 of its points with these meridians (G.B.35, G.B.21, G.B.13 through 20 with the Yang Wei, G.B.29 and G.B.20 with the Yang Qiao, and G.B.26 through G.B.28 with the Dai). It also has a deep connection with Wei Qi and wind, with more wind points on its trajectory than any other channel (G.B.20 – Feng Chi, the wind pool, and G.B.31 – Feng Shi, the wind market). G.B.39 is the influential point of the marrow, that is a the Jing, where our experiences are stored, while G.B.34 is the influential of tendons and movement, connoting Yang and Wei. Aside from the Lung Luo, the G.B. Luo is the only Luo which moves downwards, serving as a drainage vessel for our emotional baggage, transforming it so as to initiate change in the core self, the Chong (through ST42 – Chong Yang).

The channel course corresponds to some of the muscularly tight, supporting areas of our bodies, enabling our upright posture, such as G.B.30, G.B.21, G.B.20. The Gall Bladder is the decision-maker. It is that which makes decisions as to how to respond, how to adapt, and hence must show the ability to make the adaptive process towards the upright posture outlined above. It has an intimate connection with the areas that are involved in this change: the eyes and the ears, the shoulders and arms, maintaining the curvature of the spine by supporting the rib cage (from the side, where there is no other bone structure), and the genitals.

The first points on the Gall Bladder channel indicate that the process is about being able to take the world in. G.B.1, Tong Zi Liao, the virgin hole, is about virginity, to be able to see the world as if it is the first time, without pre-conceptions. G.B.2, Ting Hui, the hearing convergence, is about hearing the world. G.B.3, Shang Guan, the upper gate, is the gate that opens the upper orifices, opening up our perception and sensory organs. Now that we have seen, heard, smelled, the world, we can move out towards it and G.B.7 through G.B.12 are G.B. points which are also Tai Yang points, but all the while knowing that this movement out towards the world is about bringing it in, to the brain, at G.B.13, Ben Shen, the spirit root.

The points of G.B.13 through G.B.20 are all Yang Wei points, by location they are clearly brain-related points: they link and support the Yang as it enters the brain, the seat of marrow. The point names remind us of opening up to the world, nourishing the upright, and supporting the spirit (G.B.16 – Mu Chuang, the window of the eyes/soul, G.B.17 – Zheng Ying, nourishing the upright, G.B.18 – Cheng Ling, supporting the Spirit).

But we must also ensure that the brain is not being bombarded and overwhelmed by all this information that we bring in. And so we encounter the brain emptiness point (G.B.19 – Nao Khong), and then the wind pool (G.B.20 – Feng Chi) as a place where we can still take out what has not been assimilated, what is agitating the brain. Now the arms can be free to engage with the world (up to now it was through the sensory organs), through G.B.21 (Jian Jing, the shoulder well) which opens up the hands, allowing more Wei Qi and interaction with the world. Taking in what we receive from these interactions at G.B.22, the meeting of the arm sinews. Supporting our Yin, our ribs, and reaching the domain of the Kidneys, of essence, at G.B.25. Whatever accumulated experiences that are brought inwards, to the Yuan/Jing level through the Kidney Mu, and are not absorbed and harmonised, will be accumulated on the Jing level, unresolved, and manifest in the Dai channel (G.B.26 through G.B.28). These will affect how we stand up to the world (Yang Qiao, as represented by G.B.29 – Ju Liao, the squating hole: it is the Qiao, the heel that moves us out of squating), and this stance is physically supported by the buttocks and G.B.30, Huan Tiao, circle (or continuous) jumping: that which will allow us to jump and which opens up the legs, from where the last external channel path moves on down the leg.

The Gall Bladder represents Shao Yang, hesitation, and dampness, but we can also see that it represents the struggle to become Yang, to become clear, to transcend and transform the murky stuff of life. Not only is the bile considered a pure fluid which transforms dampness and phlegm, the channel moves through some of the tightest spots of our body, and many of the point names indicate burying old stuff, moving towards Yang. So while it accommodates those things that are suspended (Xuan, as in G.B.5, G.B.6 and G.B.39) and the Dai channel which represents our accumulations, it also aims at the clear Yang (G.B.14 – Yang Bai, G.B.34 – Yang Ling Quan, G.B.35 – Yang Jiao, G.B.38 – Yang Fu, and G.B.37 – Guang Ming, bright light) by offering burial grounds for the old stuff with points like its Yuan-Source point, G.B.40, Qiu Xu, the burial hill, and G.B.34 – Yang Ling Quan the Yang burial mound spring. The Xi-Cleft point, G.B.36, tells us what accumulations are, Wai Qiu, outside mound: it is stuff we have collected from outside of ourselves, that is not truly who we are, and which we nonetheless insist on holding on to. The two points, at the top and bottom of the channel which are named falling tears, or facing our tears, G.B.15 and G.B.41, perhaps give us an idea of what must be done in order to transform muck to clear Yang.

(It can be argued that in today’s world of emphasis on the written rather than the spoken word, and the predominance of computers, the G.B. channel’s emphasis on the ear should be replaced with circling around the eyes, and meeting the Tai Yang around the eyes. This is possibly very true, however, the eyes are accommodated not only at G.B.1 and G.B.14, but also in the back of the head at G.B.19 and G.B.20 which are vision related areas and which meet the Tai Yang.)

The Gall Bladder is the go between the Yang back which no longer faces heaven and the Yin front which no longer faces earth. It mediates outer and inner. It is through this angle that we view the Gall Bladder’s intimate connection with the sinews. The association of the G.B. domain with the sinews must be looked upon with the understanding that the G.B. can represent an aspect of Wei Qi but from a different domain, from the domain of Ying Qi, of the regular meridians. This shows us the principle that within each of the levels and its meridian networks there are always present the other levels, that they are not separate entities, but interacting and inter-supporting.