This blog post is taken from the manuscript of Lorie’s forthcoming book, Kigo: Meditations on the Spiritual Essence of Acupuncture Points Through the Changing Seasons to be published by Singing Dragon in late 2020.
Then, as the Autumn Equinox approaches, there is a day that whispers secrets in my ear, a day when I need to listen carefully in order not the miss the messages and melodies of this season. At the edges of the woods, I discover fantastically shaped mushrooms that have sprung up overnight from the damp lawn, moss and pine needles: dirty white puffballs, carbon black fringed inky caps and shaggy manes, crimson topped amanitas, sulphur-yellow chicken of the woods. As I pass the stand of black cohosh, honeybees erupt in buzzing clouds from the towering flower spikes, hauling their foraged clumps of pollen on their hind legs. And as I stop to watch the bees fly off to their hive, I hear a single, black cricket resume his sad love song from under the tin watering can.
Although the sunflowers are still bright and a bit over-blown and the cucumbers in the garden still clamor enthusiastically over the embankment, I can feel that the summer festivities are winding down, that despite the full display of flowers and fruit, everything has already begun to draw inward. The heat and yang activity of the previous months are dwindling, sinking, drooping and dropping down into the soil to be sequestered and stored in the seeds and roots of plants and trees until next spring.
There is an intimacy to the sunlight as it touches my bare feet in the grass, a new shy quiet to the morning. Making my way down to the vegetable garden to check up on the lettuce and kale, I turn to see my cat, Professor, following me silently along the path, her whiskered face gazing quizzically back at me from an inscrutable mystery, the secret language of the inner world of nature that is far, far older than words.
Stomach 44 – Nei Ting 內庭 is a point that touches us at the level of this mystery. The character nei 內 means inside, a secret place, the interior of a house or an inner chamber. It is also used to refer to one’s wife or her relatives who traditionally lived in these hidden, inner spaces. At times, nei is also used to describe a kind of wisdom that is hidden or esoteric such as the nei dan, the inner esoteric aspect of alchemy, as opposed to outer or common knowledge.
The character is made up of two parts. The lower part is the radical which means “to enter,” looks something like the doorway to a tent or hut (as well as like the little “V” between the second and third toe where this point is located). Enclosing ru 入 is an ancient graphic 冂 that was used to depict an area beyond the border of a known territory, a distant or empty space or void, an unknown place. The character ting 庭 is a picture of a house 广 covering a monarch, master or host 主 and the radical 廴 meaning “journey.”
The etymology of the point name reinforces our understanding of the intimacy and secret, esoteric nature of this point. In the poem, The Ode to the Jade Dragon, attributed to the 12th century Taoist sage and acupuncturist Ma Danyang, Inner Courtyard is included in the list of Danyang’s Eleven Heavenly Star Points.
On a physical level, as the Water point on the Stomach meridian, Inner Courtyard calls up the special qualities and capacities of Water—hidden-ness, calm, depth, renewal and smooth flow—that are sequestered in the Earth. Danyang describes the power of this point to drain heat from the interior, specifically the Stomach channel, harmonize the intestines, stimulate the appetite, alleviate the pain of toothache, clear skin rashes and staunch a bloody nose. He also emphasizes the psycho-emotional actions of the point. He speaks in particular of its ability to restore the righteous flow of qi and spread life-giving warmth back from the core of the body to the limbs when there is deathly cold hands and feet due to acute emotional or physical shock.
However, through a closer reading of the Ode, we discover that the unique spirit of this point is embedded in the etymology of the point name. Not only is the point said to calm the shen but Danyang also speaks of its ability to soothe the spirit when one is overwhelmed by noise, particularly when there is a “hatred of loud voices” and disturbing activity in the outer world. So, we turn to this point when a person needs the healing seclusion and quiet of the interior or when the medicine needed is found deep within the body or within a secret, cloistered space. The Inner Courtyard opens us to the space of calm and meditation, a place away from the world of words and chatter, a place where we can go to appreciate the nourishment of the Earth, the healing warmth of the Late Summer sunlight and the quiet peace of the inner gardens of the embodied soul. Indeed, Danyang tells us that through skillful needling, “a needle here means true awakening.”
Suggested Needle Technique: In the second section of the Ode, instructions are given for the activation of the Heavenly Star points. Although the points are not themselves secret, the activating of their deeper mysterious functions requires inner work and self-cultivation on the part of the practitioner. The meditation offered by Danyang is to imagine that needling these points is like “pouring hot water on snow.” When I reflect on this image as I open the spirit level of Inner Courtyard with a needle, there is no great, overt effort, yet great change is affected at the level of how a person feels inside. In needling this point, I must maintain an intimate connection to myself, my patient and the needle between my fingers. I bring the intention of touching a deeply introverted spirit with gentle kindness, of offering a very special kind of nourishment to the animal soul: the medicine of wordless presence.