A discussion for acupuncturists and interested persons, this is an excerpt from an unpublished book.
Acupuncture is generally considered to be a form of magnetic therapy. Most alternative therapies are magnetic, meaning that they work to influence energy in the physical body in order to have a healing effect. There is confusion here because true spiritual healing is outside this category and in the realm of what I would call consciousness. This transcends the physical body and Qi (energy) although working at a conscious level may well have physical effects. As acupuncturists we are not doing spiritual healing we are using acupuncture to influence the spirit via the Qi in the body. So from my perspective the process of bringing the body energy and the mind into balance will allow an opportunity for conscious presence (call it spirit if you prefer). It will allow a space for it to be experienced without the chatter of the mind and its incessant thoughts to occlude it. Clearly acupuncture has the potential to be a spiritual practice but the difficulty is in talking or writing about it. There is a tendency to waffle and when people make declarations about what spirituality is and how to find it they can get ridiculed, or worse. I still want to try though because it was the magic of acupuncture and its ability to touch upon the spiritual aspects of life that first attracted me to study it. As soon as someone said that body, mind and emotions were all related it made perfect sense and later I came to see there is a further dimension to this we choose to call spirit. I am in no doubt that acupuncture is one of many ways in which one person can help another to spiritual insights and a shift in consciousness. But when 5E (practitioners trained in 5 element acupuncture) speak of “treating at the level of the spirit” it does create a bit of controversy. Some people see it as disingenuous because it implies that other kinds of acupuncture don’t and that this is something you simply choose to do. If it really were the case that selecting a few “spirit” points could raise the level of acupuncture to a higher level we would all do it tomorrow wouldn’t we? But we may still be missing the point if we dismiss that idea altogether because as I have repeatedly said practitioner development through practice is key. It follows that if your training does not include any discussion of spirituality or a higher vibration of some kind you may be less likely to reach it. The intent is absolutely there in the origins of CM but sometimes it is hard to find in the syllabus of a typical acupuncture course. 5E does at least acknowledge spiritual treatment as its objective and it must be right to make some attempt at it. Working with or influencing spirit is happening all the time of course because it is never actually absent. I have heard of cases when people have been treated by someone with dry needling or prescriptive pain control acupuncture and felt a profound shift at the level of spirit. This shows that we cannot always predict exactly when and how treatments will work and upon what level. For example someone might make a simple diagnosis of Liver Qi Stagnation and treat it using Liv3. The Qi will move and free the Heart allowing the person to experience more of the joy of their spirit. Although most of the time that is as far as it goes we cannot discount altogether the possibility that such a treatment could set in train a sequence of events leading to a life changing transformation.
So although I have no conclusive evidence I am assuming that it is more likely we will touch the spirit if the practitioner has language, expectation and experience of that possibility. Furthermore it will happen even more frequently and powerfully if they have developed themselves spiritually (consciously). When I was a student at Worsley’s college we didn’t reference the classics of CM at all. He frequently spoke of spirit but in the context of his own interpretation through the five elements. This confirms what I have said previously about coming to a level of conscious presence through emotional feelings. Emotion is the doorway through which we pass in order to reach the spirit and there is no other obvious route. People like Eckhart Tolle who have made that journey often tell of the emotional trauma that had to be felt and transformed in order to do so. By understanding 5E conceptually and then more importantly feeling the spirit of elements for ourselves we can become more spiritually aware. People at the 5E college would speak of the spirits of the acupuncture points or the way in which moxa would influence spirit. But in my interpretation the points or moxa don’t themselves have spirit. You do when you use a theory and practice you can resonate with as a tool for your own spiritual development.
Although I think textbook TCM as taught in most colleges’ lacks the language of spirit to inspire students there is plenty in the classics and beyond to do so. I mentioned Claude Larre and there are many others like him who have used the philosophy of CM for inspiration. You may be doing your self-development through the elements, study of the classics or some other method altogether. But it’s your level of developing consciousness through that process that matters. If we wish to influence spirit we probably have to know spirit and we cannot do so until we move beyond the mind and allow it to resonate through our senses and with our feelings.
Having said all that, there are certain points many people consider to have particularly profound spirit effects. To discuss, feel and use these is a way we can begin to develop spiritually. Most of these points tend to be on the chest, neck, head and back, so they are not really points I would include for easy acupuncture. Some of them have names (translations) alluding to their spiritual nature or element. The only problem is that one can become overwhelmed by all the information and end up thinking that every point is magic. Which potentially it is of course, remember the Sp3 back pain story?
Here are a couple of examples and dare I say that even reading this also has a theoretical potential to initiate a shift in consciousness. The first example of a point considered by some to have a particularly powerful effect on the spirit would be Ki24 on the chest. It is commonly used to resurrect a dying or disconnected spirit in someone who is suicidal or giving up on life. A human being is a reflection of spirit as it expresses itself through the physical body. You cannot live very long once that spirit is lost and in such a case it may be vital that it is rescued before this happens. I buy into the idea myself since this was part of my training and I use this point quite often. There is a particular sense of satisfaction as one feels the Qi connecting the Kidney meridian running into the chest directly with the Heart. This invokes a feel for what we know of the role and functions of the Heart and Kidney and the Jing and Shen connected by Qi. If you read what some authors say about Spirit Burial Ground (Ki24’s name translated) there are inspiring and convincing explanations for its profundity. The point can re connect and anchor the spirit in the Heart enabling the person to look to life once again. Consequently I have a genuine belief and faith in this point, I have used it many times and now it is part of my being and part of my practice.
But of course many books simply list Ki24 as a good point to move Qi in the chest. I sometimes wonder if I had been taught that a different point was profound for the spirit, say Ht3 that also connects fire and water. How I would be getting on with that now after 25 years. What I’m saying is that one-day you may wish to use Ki24 but while we are keeping it simple do not fall into the trap of thinking that without access to the “Spirit” points you cannot influence people at this level. Actually you could choose almost any acupuncture point and spend time studying every possible aspect of its nature. Then you could meditate on the point, tell stories about the point and make that point your own. In time it would become a special point for you because acupuncture is a creative process and not constrained by anything outside of yourself. Who knows, it may be that you would never feel the need to use the points others call spirit points.
Another point of interest is Liv14; this is not an easy point either because it is on the ribcage. It is also worth noting that there are alternative locations for it depending upon your training and your intent. In the cycle of Qi through the meridian system Qi is said to come to Liv14 and then move through the chest to Lu1. This is quite a common block and in terms of moving stuck Qi through the Heart, Lungs and chest the combination of these two points together can be great. If you put a retained needle into Liv14 with even technique first, and then do an in/out needle with good Qi sensation on Lu1 you can really get Qi to move. This can have a profound effect on the Heart, Lungs and Liver and influence organ function and elemental nature. So it may be that someone has improvement in physical symptoms such as ease of breathing, reduced sweating or easing of chest cramps. But it may also be that they experience an improvement in their creative inspiration, their ability to communicate or their clarity of mind as well. According to some sources the translation given to Liv14 is Gate of Hope. This is an appropriate concept for an official concerned with movement, vision, change and the future. So this is a point to move the spirit in a case of being stuck or depressed, it is helpful to break out of stagnation of the spirit for someone who is spiritually hope-less.
If you want your easy acupuncture to work for the spirit this is what I suggest to get started. Stop, because wanting anything is your ego and it is in the way. The message of the Buddha was simple and profound “do not have any desire in this world”. You don’t have to do anything to invoke spirit just know that it can never be absent. As you sit with someone and make a diagnosis see if you can observe compassionately and without your own needs or beliefs intervening. Since spirit permeates all levels it is there in everything so a person with an obsession about food or even a sprained ankle may need help at a level of spirit. Simply knowing and then reading about the points you are considering, or discussing them with others will have an effect on your practice. In fact reading or meditating upon what the points mean to you is your practice. As is anything else that allows you to enter into any form of present state awareness around your acupuncture. There are many options here and 5E students do a lot of observing nature and the seasons and colours as part of their training. You may prefer to do some other form of meditation, it really does not matter what it is so long as it’s bringing you out of your thoughts and your mind. This is subtle, it’s not so much that you need to learn or know more but that you will initiate a shift in consciousness. You don’t do spiritual treatments by banging your head and trying hard or by intellectualizing you do them by “being” with the patient. This is an exercise in not doing and in stillness and calm as you practice. You cant desire that your patients get more conscious you can only be with them as they do.