torsdag 21 april 2011

The Governing vessel and Conception vessel: Du and Ren channels and different layers of energy-work in Chinese medicine and Daoism

Some of the meridians we have gone through lately are not common meridians. The main meridians that seen as ”meridians” are the 12 that are paired and linked to the internal organs – what are called the yin and yang meridians, some of which we´ve looked at here before. These are usually called jing. On top of these are the luo; a network throughout the body of small energy-flows, like a fine mesh and web nourishing everything with qi. Some acupoints are specifically linked to link: they are called luo-points, and aid the flow between one meridian or organ and another.

The two latest ones are not part of these, however. They belong to a group called the Eight Extraordinary meridians – the Eight Extras, for short. We will look at these later. Usually they are not part of the main sequence of meridians except for two: the Governing and Conception meridians, the Du mai and Ren mai, which are the channels we have looked at before Christmas and now on the course. The other six have no points on them, they are only reached from other meridians and are pretty special cases. The Du and Ren, however, have their own points directly.

The Du and Ren mai are the body´s two main yang and yin channels. The Du goes up the spine; the Ren down on the front of the body from the mouth to the genitals.

They are said to form earlier in the fetus than the 12 yin and yang meridians and the luo. They are the main systems for yin and yang energy as a whole in the person: Du, going up the spine, into the brain, up over the head and down to the mouth, governs yang energy. Ren, going from the mouth down to the genitals and passing all down the soft, yin front of the body, governs yin.

These two are linked to a huge number of procesess and treatments in the body. In some qigongs and in Daoist spiritual practice, they also form part of the work called the xiaojiutian, or the Small Heavenly Orbit, where the practitioner moves qi through them in a circuit, sometimes stopping at specific points for specific work there. This is a technique that has been much misunderstood in the West. It shouldn´t really be part of health qigong. It´s Daoist training for spiritual work. The older traditions will prepare and train the body and mind in various ways for a long time so that the orbit opens up softly and gently by itself before doing anything conscious with it. In many systems that have come in fragments to the West, the Small Heavenly Orbit is done forcefully, or simply with the person trying to push qi through a tense body and mind, a practice that is much riskier for both physical and mental health than the softer one.

The Du channel treatments focus a lot on health of the spine, health of Yang energy in the body, and the health of being upright – the zhengqi. It also has a major facet of the connection between spine, brain and heart. All the Eight Extras border Daoist work rather than Chinese medicine, and like in other parts of Chinese medicine, there are many treatments that can only be done by a person with enough energy and clarity in their system. The people who wrote them down had it, later practitioners might not. Sometimes they call treatments ”arcaic” or ”ineffective”, without knowing that they themselves simply don´t have enough qi or clear intent to pull them off.

The Ren channel treats yin of the body, and on it we also find the so called front mu points, direct gateways to some of the internal organs and their functions, points which are placed on the Ren channel itself and has a strong effect.

The Conception and Governing vessels are like midnight and midday, they are the polar axis of the body ...there is one source and two branches, one goes to the front and the other to the back of the body... When we try to divide these, we see that yin and yang are inseparable. When we try to see them as one, we see that it is an indivisble whole.” Li Shizhen, quoted from Deadman, A Manual of Acupuncture.

Various kinds of qigong and Tai Chi work the fascia and flows of the front and back of the body, including the channels. It´s generally seen as much more effective to have training that focuses on working the fascia, releasing it and relaxing it, rather than just working qi in the channels themselves: if the fascia is tense and not moving as one piece, the channels themselves will still be blocked, no matter how much one tries to move energy through them. In Daoist energy work, the Ren and Du are quite superficially placed. There are several further depths into the body with channels. Another one, next layer in from the Ren, and also one of the Eight Extras, is the Chongmai – the Thrusting Channel. But there are other flows even deeper than these, that form core work in classical Daoist work. Good training, however, will take the practitioner deeper in layers, letting the body open naturally, like a flower – much the same way a skilled acupuncturist will allow the system of a patient to open up too.