Monday, December 6, 2010

The body as map

I like to think of the body as a kind of map with the meridians as its roads. The individual acupuncture points are the landmarks placed at varying intervals along these roads, some close together, others more widely spaced apart. Some of the areas of the body more crowded with points can be regarded as our body’s villages and towns. These are the energetically bustling areas of the lower arms and lower legs, whilst those expanses punctuated only rarely by points, such as parts of the back, upper arm and upper thigh, represent the energetic equivalent of the sparsely inhabited areas of the earth, such as the deserts of Africa or the mountains of the Himalayas. To select points buried within the contours of such a widely varied landscape of the body is then the equivalent of trying to plot a course through the different regions of the globe. It is good to think of treatment and the individual point selections which go to form a treatment schedule in this way, for it is by keeping in mind the landscape of what we can regard as the human globe that we retain that sense of the whole which is essential to good practice.

Perhaps we could go further and think of each element as being one of the five continents on the human globe, with its two yin and yang officials as two countries on this continent. The routes connecting all the continents together are then formed by the meridian network, with its acupuncture points representing staging posts of various importance and size along what are effectively trade routes, the trading of different sources of energy from one area of the energy network to another. This helps us remember that any action anywhere on our body can never be regarded as an isolated action restricted to that one site of the body, but must be seen as having a domino effect, just as a single domino can topple the whole line as it responds to a knock.

I think this metaphor of the body as globe is a true one, for it not only emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything that happens on the surface of the body and deep within, but it is, importantly, also an appropriate representation of the circle of the Dao which encompasses all that is, and of the unbroken circling of the meridian network within us. Somehow the charts of the body with their seductively straight meridian lines make us forget the circular picture which is in truth how we should regard the body. The energies of the five elements do not so much weave us into the straight horizontal and vertical lines of the meridians our charts show, as draw every part of us into a circular movement, much like the 24 hours of day and night draw time into an ever-revolving circle of minutes, hours, days and years. If we can keep this sense of the circling of energy in our mind when working out our treatment protocols, this will prevent us from falling into the error of seeing treatment as forming a straight line, with only one way of getting from a to b. Rather, it should be seen as a circular action into which different practitioners will draw different treatments at different stages, but all supporting the circle of energy as a whole. Regarding treatment as something cyclical rather than linear supports my conviction that the order of point selections is not as important in the overall success of treatment as the boost to the energy given by a succession of treatments.

It is useful for each of us to develop a map of the body which is personally significant to us, and learn to accept that the selection of points we feel at ease with will always be personal to us, and need not, indeed should not, mimic another practitioner’s. We must not be frightened to own what we do in the practice room, each treatment decision we take, each way in which we treat our patients, all must have our personal stamp upon them because they arise from insights we have ourselves gained. This being so, I will be sharing with you in these blogs some of my thoughts about my own personal body map which I have developed over the years and which I hang metaphorically on the wall of my practice room to help me get my bearings.

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