This morning I heard the unmistakable trill of red-winged black birds swarming in the swamp maples outside the bedroom window. Summer residents here in Maine, they are back early.
Is it global warming?
For that one first moment of this April day, I didn’t care. I joined in their joy as they gorged on plump pink leaf buds and celebrated their victorious return to the marsh.
Then I took a peak online at the NY Times. More disheartening headlines. December temperatures in the Arctic spiked 35 degrees above the historical average. Sea ice has dropped to its lowest level on record. The latest solution on offer is climate engineering, aerosol spraying clouds to make them more reflective.
I flip closed the cover to my iPad, lean back, and consider how to move into the day.
If, as the sage Lao Tzu says, “the great truth of Nature is Tao,” how do I find my Tao when the natural world is spinning into chaos, when the clumsy fingers of humans are attempting to reweave the intricate patterns of the divine?
I resist the pull of despair. “There is a time for slow-breathing and a time for fast-breathing, a time to be up and a time to be down,” the ancient sage counsels. I take a deep breath.
Yesterday, my friend and mentor, Zen monk and Vietnam veteran Claude AnShin Thomas, sent me an email from Germany where he is teaching meditation and peace-making. “About your referencing one of the things that I advocate,” he wrote, “that ‘our work is to do whatever we can to interrupt the cycles of suffering’ I will only add to this two very important words ‘in us.’ ”
As I remember AnShin’s words, something moves through me … a rush of qi expands my rib cage, releasing the knot of resentment in my chest and the tangle of thoughts in my mind.
Our work is to end the cycles of suffering. But that work can only begin – can only end – right here, right now, in me.
I teach in our Alchemical Healing Mentorship that words can serve as a well-placed acupuncture needle. AnShin’s words were such a needle, returning me to my Tao. This needle brings me back to my self in a new way. It helps me to hope and to believe that there is something I can do to make a difference.
I look out the window and see that it is spring. The world is once again miraculously renewed. A tiny seed of faith sprouts green in my heart. I step outside to begin another day of healing – for myself, for other beings, for the world.
Liver 14 – Gate of Hope – Qi Men
Although the name of this point is often translated as Cycle Gate, an alternative name is Gate of Hope. Liver 14 is a point of the Wood Element – of the Spring Season – a point of vision, liberation, and renewal.
The name of the point is composed of two characters. The character on the left – qi – refers to the passage of a period of time. It combines the picture of the moon with its monthly cycle of phases with a picture of a basket, a place of gathering. The character on the right – men – is a picture of a door or gateway. Together, these characters tell us that when we needle this point we are opening to a new cycle of time. We are opening to Spring!
When we needle this point, we open the door for qi that has been stuck, stagnant, or compressed. The joyful movement of the life force returns to our being just as green vitality returns to the world after a long, cold winter.
Liver 14 has two accepted locations, directly below the nipple in the 6th intercostal space or further down, directly below the nipple in a small notch at the inferior border of the rib cage. Both of these point locations are doorways that open a path of qi through the diaphragm (choose the one that responds most to touch and pressure on any given day).
When we move qi through qi men with a needle, a touch, an essential oil or, as AnShin did, with an appropriately placed word, the rib cage expands, the diaphragm releases. We take a deep breath of hope, possibility, and renewal.
This point has a strong harmonizing effect on the middle and upper burner, the diaphragm and the chest, the Liver, Lungs and Heart. As the Exit Point of the Liver Meridian, it supports the smooth flow of qi between the Liver and the Lungs. It makes room for the flow of emotion and transforms the chronic anger and frustration of the Wood Element into the inspirations of the Lungs and the joy of an opening Heart.
As a principal point on the Liver meridian, Gate of Hope is highly responsive to essential oils; however, these oils must be of high quality and free from rancidity. In my practice, I have found that Bergamot has a powerful yet gentle effect on this point. A drop or two of this potent, qi moving essential oil on Liver 14 relaxes and smoothes the energies of the Liver and Wood Element as it relieves feelings of tension, irritability, resentment and hopelessness. A caveat with this oil is that less is more! A drop or two is sufficient to create change … and don’t expose skin to immediate sunlight after application as the oil – like the chlorophyll of new spring leaves – is photosensitive!