In our lives we physically hold lots of things. A worker in a factory holds certain tools; a gardener holds a hoe; a tennis player holds a tennis racket. That's all okay as long as we don’t strain our muscles and we know when to let go. The Lung and Large Intestine Meridians, which represent the Metal element, have the very basic function of taking in the life giving forces, holding them, and letting go of what is not needed any more.
On some occasions, life asks or demands that we hold on longer than we would like to. But often we hold on out of ambition or pride. We exercise or work longer to have a new car, a better sound system, a faster this, a greater that. The Lung and Large Intestine Meridians (in the psychic land of P’O) have also to do with taking in, and with possessing things.
“Unfortunately this natural behaviour is distorted and has expanded the realm of desires beyond our self felt needs.” ∗
∗The Joy of Feeling: Bodymind Acupressure, by Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, Japan Publications, Inc., Tokyo and New York, page 60.
When we neglect the messages of our body, we tend to develop physical problems. For a simple example, our muscles get tight. When we hold on too long, we may start feeling pain in the arms and shoulders, and the muscles may get swollen and hot. In extreme situations, we may get tendintis and bursitis. [See accompanying release example for elbow problems.] Lung and Large Intestine points on the arms may be very painful. Traditional associations of imbalance in these meridians also includes: cold limbs and hot palms, difficult breathing and chest congestion, excessive sweating, upper backaches, sore throat and tiredness.
Other situations in life demand another kind of holding on – for example, holding on to a job, a project, an idea or certain ideals. We can hold on too long to certain ideals and desires too long, just like we can hold on to certain tools for to long a stretch of time. We can hold on to a “tennis racket” too long, until we get a “tennis elbow.” ∗
We can hold on to a certain lifestyle or ideal until we are in debt, living in unforgiving separation, or suffering physically, like from tendonitis.
The real question is what keeps us “holding on” like this? To find the answer we have to look deeper into what our personality or ego is. Our personality, with all its conditioning and desires, is part of the collective consciousness and unconsciousness, which we “breathe” in through our parents, teachers, television, religion, etc. This varies depending on the different social and cultural climates in which we have grown up. Our personality is just the outer shell, but not that which we truly are. Part of becoming conscious is to realize exactly this. The balanced state of P’o, -of the Metal element- is openness and non-attachment. This begins with accepting the earthy quality of reality, including accepting our conditionings, attitudes and defenses as they are. It is an art not to reject them, but to face them and feel them. This acceptance brings self-respect, acknowledgment and empathy. It opens the door to that self which we truly are.
The problem is that our personal and collective ideals of how we should be are often in deep contrast to what our inner reality is. Let’s take a few examples.
We should be “happy” and “nice.” So when we feel sad or angry, we repress it. We should be “independent,” strong” and “cool,” so we hide our neediness, vulnerability and dependency. We often hide our strong sexual feelings, too, because as kids we learned they are “dirty” or animalistic. Our spontaneity and creativity might also have collided at home with the walls of our parents’ living room, or at school with the drill of memorizing facts – so as to become controlled and usable members of the working force. The new age generation has its own brooding climate for conditioning, with ideals like being “open,” “meditative,” “understanding” or “unconditional.” So we learn to hide being worried, closed or just “pissed.” We suppress feelings like jealousy or bitterness, with the ideals of “acceptance,” “compassion” or "being loving."
If we hold on to the ideals and we don’t allow reality as it is, then we might feel “stuck,” “paralyzed,” “numb,” “spaced out,” “tired,” “dead” or “anxious.” Or we might simply become sick. Because of the emotional repression, we become judgmental and sarcastic, blaming and condemning others as well as ourselves. We fight inside and outside. Through rationalizing we might feel “above it,” but in reality the black holes of our psyche are widening - leaving our inner child, with its feelings and longings, starving. I think that one of the biggest illusions we can have is to think that we are already open-minded, conscious and accepting.
Yet, acceptance is the key. This doesn’t mean “taking on stoical attitudes or emotional restraint,” but rather accepting our ego and our desires, ideals and attachments. “In other words it begins with traveling through – not skirting around – the aspect of the psyche called P’o.” An accepting awareness is the first practical step in the alchemy of transformation.
∗The Joy of Feeling: Bodymind Acupressure, by Iona Marsaa Teeguarden, Japan Publications, Inc., Tokyo and New York, page 69.
Listening to body functions and responses helps us make a real energy shift toward openness. Sometimes we simply need to stop, sit down, feel in our bellies, feel the restrictions in our chest, take the space to breathe, trust spontaneous body movements, and finding different ways to let the “lid off” and expose the hurt feelings, so we can forgive ourselves and others. Through accepting and allowing hurt feelings – like the grief, sorrow and anxiety which relate to P'o – we can feel “reborn” and open again. This energetic movement liberates Shen and brings us in contact with our real needs, so that we can be who we truly are. The mysterious powers of P’o bring back the preciousness of light – the light of consciousness, which is also the lightness of our body and being. As we know, light is the antidote to darkness. It is also the antidote to fear. The Taoists say: “If the breathing is light, the heart is light...The heart cannot be influenced directly. Therefore the breath energy is used as a handle...” ∗
∗Richard William translation, The Secret of the Golden Flower, 1931, 1962; Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., N.Y., pg. 41.
The defense mechanisms usually involve unconscious restriction of breath, as well as the tightening of related muscles along the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians in the hands, arms, shoulders, neck, chest and belly. Just by touching these areas, we often get a pretty good impression of the energetical, physical and psychological state of a person. The following general treatment for arm problems and lung and large intestine meridian could be specifically adapted depending on the individual state and need of a person.