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Blood and Dao


I was discussing a case with a colleague and thinking out loud about why Blood stasis can be part of an anxiety presentation. Here are some thoughts about the deeper “Why” of moving Blood.

Blood – the Ying level – is about the present moment, the consciousness, the Primary channels, it’s what the Zangfu are doing right now.

When all is well, the Zangfu serve the present moment. There’s no detritus from the past, and no pressing “pause” on the present moment to dwell in a fantasised future. The consciousness senses the external world and, in a way, flows through the external world via sense perceptions. The energy of the external world – it’s vibrations of sound, light etc, flow through into the interior, meeting no impediment, touching the pure Spirit. There is a state of harmony between interior and exterior.

The body is a vessel for this harmonious flow. Whatever it needs is communicated via hunger, cold etc. When needs are met there are feelings of pleasure and a completion of the cycle of desire. This is the Zangfu serving the vessel to peacefully coexist within the present moment.

The present moment is the only state that exists – past and future are just imprints on the Blood (or deeper impressions on the foundation of Yuan Qi), creating memories and fantasies respectively.

From a Daoist perspective, the whole is perfect. The cosmos is perfect. It’s an unceasing flow of perfection and benevolence. When we become more and more fluid, we can accept the outer circumstances with more and more equanimity.


“This is the essence of Tao.
Stay in harmony with this ancient presence,
and you will know the fullness of each present moment.”

Lao Tzu
(trans. Timothy Freke, 1995)


When we help a person by nourishing Blood and moving stasis, we allow them to experience the perfection of the Dao.

So how does a person come to be outside of the experience of perfection?

Stasis happens in any moment when the vessel isn’t equipped to let the energy of the world in. Maybe the configuration of Yuan Qi at birth resulted in obstacles. Maybe something from the exterior was too overwhelming such as physical trauma or abuse. So the body creates stasis in the Luo vessels to siphon that vibration from the present moment, attaching it to the Yin medium of Blood, like locking it, freezing it. Using the Yin-stillness of Blood to contain the Yang-movement that could cause disarray.

As these locked places multiply, now when the world’s vibrations come to flow into this person, there are blocks and obstacles and the message doesn’t arrive well in their Centre. The person doesn’t perceive Dao’s perfection and doesn’t experience the world with harmony or equanimity. It’s as though members of an orchestra are sitting in different valleys – they all strike a note at the same time, but the waves of sound don’t harmonise and resonate together. There are interference waves, no matter which hill or dale you visit. Even though the music itself is beautiful, it can’t be perceived as such.

If the perception of the Dao is obstructed, then there can be a deep sense of “wrongness” about the world and a person’s position in it. Feeling unsafe and not held, feeling a sense of not belonging, jumpy because perceptions are not arriving harmoniously, temporarily creating a false sense of connection by worrying about things… these are manifestations of a blocked relationship of the exterior coming in. There may also be hopelessness, frustration, lack of clarity, lack of meaning or fear around the expression of the Spirit into the world, from the interior moving outward.

As Sean Tuten says, we ALL are walking around with Luo vessels, all the time (unless we are enlightened Daoist masters!). Life is challenging and we create Luos to protect the purity in the Centre, to protect the sacred.

If we have experienced challenges and hardship, then what’s stuck in our bodies is simply the wrapping paper of those experiences. We have already received the gift of growth, empathy, compassion, self-awareness, strength, determination, wisdom… we can toss out the wrapping paper without fear of losing those gifts.

Our role as practitioners is twofold:
1. Keep ourselves as fluid as possible, so that we may naturally carry out our sacred function in the world
2. Help our patients to become as fluid as possible, so that they may naturally carry out their sacred function in the world

Nourishing and moving Blood helps us, and our patients, to become full with this moment and to release the debris of the past.







Image thanks to Hitanshu Patel on Unsplash

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Chinese medicine practice and spirituality

Everyone has spirituality.

That’s not the same as saying everyone is religious.

But everyone has a set of beliefs – deep guiding principles – that create their foundation of what they feel life is all about. These beliefs also lead to a person’s expectations of what happens to the mind after death, their own sense of life purpose, their opinions about things in the world that appear to be good or evil… even if the person says that they don’t have any beliefs whatsoever, it’s actually not possible for a human being to take a neutral stance.

Does this matter for Chinese medicine practice?

It depends on what kind of practitioner you are. But I’m guessing that if you’re on this site, reading this post, that it probably does matter to you – in some way.

Maybe you’re quite agnostic yourself, but you’re empathic and caring too. Your patients may be grappling with life’s big issues, and drawing on their spiritual or religious frameworks to make sense of things. Maybe you’d like to create space in the treatment room for this exploration, but aren’t too sure about how to do this in a way that’s safe and appropriate for both patient and practitioner.

Maybe your spiritual practice is extremely important to you, and serves as your guiding light through life, in good times and bad. You can feel how deeply this impacts your sense of wellbeing on many levels. Maybe you would love to be able to share this level of wellbeing with your patients, but can’t imagine how to do so without using language that could alientate or offend.

I’ve been interested in the human expression of spirituality for many years. I’m fascinated by the rich diversity of symbols, traditions and meaning-making. And within this diversity, I’m struck by the core themes that recur throughout time and across cultures. These are core themes within teachings and practices that seem to simply make humans feel and act in a more contented and harmonious fashion.

I started practising Chinese medicine right after handing in my psychology dissertation. My dissertation was on the language used by non-religious people to express what they defined as their personal spiritual experience. That was an amazing exploration.

Then I opened my Chinese medicine practice and spent my days in the treatment room with people describing their life’s journey, their struggles and their celebrations.

For many years I felt this invisible barrier that prevented me from being able to hold space for appropriate conversations that really touched into a person’s deeper sense of themselves, and their reasons for being here. Somehow, even though the standardised Chinese medicine that I’d learnt at university included things like emotions and so on, it was still, in hindsight, quite a medicalised model of human experience.

It wasn’t until I started exploring what can be called Classical Chinese Medicine, starting with Dr Yaron Seidman’s Hunyuan Medicine, that I began to develop a clinically-relevant language of embodied, natural spirituality.

This theme of embodiment had surprised me when it emerged in my interview-based thesis research. Most of the research participants talked about physical sensations when describing their unique spiritual experiences, and used phrases like knowing things “in their bones” to describe a sense of absolute certainty. There was a sense that they were not being influenced by external ideas, but rather it was something personal and sure because they could feel it.

And within these very personal experiences was the admission of a sense of wonder and mystery. It took some time to journey with people to that place of innocence. Many of the participants had built up a fairly thick skin around their tender, unique ideas of life and the universe – but given the time and the space, they softened into their own story. And once they understood that I respected their intellectual stance and reasons for choosing their own personal philosophy, then they allowed me to share their innocent sense of wonder at life and its sometimes mysterious strangeness.

Our culture has a lot of language for the Yang aspect – the visible. And Chinese medical philosophy has a rich treasure trove of symbols, metaphors and analogies for the hidden aspect of everyday life. Yin. Mysterious. Hidden, yeilding. Dense, stopping. Dark, feminine. The interplay of Yin and Yang being life itself, this language of Yin and how we directly experience it through the physical body, in our ordinary daily movements, is often a revelation for our patients.

Yin is life’s mysterious beauty, hiding in plain sight.

Once a patient has an embodied, everyday understanding of the mystery that is an essential part of their nature, with an appreciation of the cycles of life and ancestry that create their present experience, they can’t help but to open up effortlessly into their own, personal, real, embodied spiritual truth. In their own way. At their own pace.

This exploration has deepened further with my experience in Jeffrey Yuen’s lineage. With acupuncture as the starting place, as taught by Ann Cecil-Sterman and Sean Tuten, the description of the channels, the body’s creation story, the epic myth of self in the world that is our life’s curriculum – all of these deep ideas are woven into discussions of runny noses and period pain.

It is seamless, because it’s Chinese medicine.






Image credit:

Mustafa Elkhnati