Author's Note: Special thanks to Rabbi Richard Hammerman for review of the Jewish content of this article.
The concept for Shokanten medicine comes from the final Shokanten lecture given by the late Dr.J.D. Van Buren when I was a student at the International College of Oriental Medicine (U.K.) in 1982. Shokanten means "Nine Continents" in Japanese. Nine Continents evolves from heaven creates Earth, which creates man. Each of these is further subdivided, creating the Nine Continents.
Shokanten medicine proposes that these Nine Continents are reservoirs of energy that regulate the physiology of man, which, in turn, regulates the psyche. Within this spectrum, the Eight Extra Meridians, yin/yang depression, the Celestial Stems and Horary Branches address issues relating to preconception and in-utero development, fire/water-blood/qi issues, and illnesses relating to energies present at birth.
The energy of heaven is downward, the energy of Earth rises up to meet it, and the union of heaven and Earth is man. Man stands between heaven and Earth. In mystical Jewish tradition, the Kabbalah also speaks of the union of heaven and Earth in the form of the Shekhina, a feminine name for God. There is another element here, one which is often overlooked. That is, man must connect back up to heaven to complete the cycle. In Judaism, we have a very strong tradition of this. Works like I and Thou by Martin Buber, A.J. Heschel's Man Is Not Alone and Between God and Man, as well as some of Rabbi Soloveitchik's works, all point to this concept.
In Judaism, the central core of prayer is Tefillah or the Amida; literally, "standing prayer." The Amidah creates a feeling of standing directly before God. It consists of words of thanks, praise, supplication and remembrance. One of the first blessings speaks of Magen Avraham; the Shield of Abraham.
In Magen Avot, part of the Friday night Sabbath eve service of Kabbalat Shabbat, God is referred to as "Shield of our Fathers" or "Magen David." This is the very distinctive Shield of David, which is composed of two triangles with the apex of each in opposing directions.
Indeed, in all religions, there is a giving back, sometimes of tangible items or just words of praise and thanks. Even nonbelievers connect back to heaven on a subtle level when a sunrise is admired or when the beauty of nature is enjoyed. It is wordless, yet present.
Magen David Treatment
The creation of Magen David treatment began in 1992. One day, one of my regular patients came in. I knew how the patient's pulses presented the health issues in general, and where we were in treatment. The pulses were unremarkable. The face appeared normal, yet something was not quite right. The patient was flying around with no connection to the Earth. Immediately, I thought of Spleen 6, San Yin Jiao.
During acupuncture college days, this had been referred to as an "incarnating point" to bring people back into their bodies, down to Earth. Being a group luo point, it unblocks, moves and creates communication. It is a meeting point of the Three-Leg Yin and strengthens spleen and liver yin. It increases liver yin, thereby softening the liver, and tonifies blood and qi. I needled Spleen 6 bilaterally, starting on the left side, as my patient was a male.
I wanted something else, something powerful - reinforcing Ren Mai 12 (Conception Vessel 12) was a very powerful centering point. It adjusts all fu organs, regulating qi. It is a point of concentration for spleen energy. It is the Mu point of the Stomach and San Jiao (Three Heaters). It receives energy directly from the secondary vessels of the Small Intestine, Three Heater and Stomach. The three needles were left in CV 12 for about 20 minutes. Within minutes, it was as if a ray of sunshine had found my patient's face. There was life, and he was present and smiling.
This then, was the first triangle. Bilateral needling of Spleen 6 (remember that spleen is fire energy, not fire element) created the base of the triangle, and CV 12 served as the apex. It was if the patient was being pulled through the apex and down into the base of the triangle.
The second part of this treatment was created in 2004. A former patient of mine had studied acupuncture and came to me asking for my help on a difficult case. He was a Vietnam veteran with a great deal of pain. We began by assessing his strengths and weaknesses, and which energies would make him feel better. This was done by charting his energies according to the Celestial Stems and Horary Branches. I wanted to use Favorable Generate and/or Same Equal energies. The points I chose were Lung 9 bilaterally and CV 5.
Let us first examine Lung 9. In the Western anatomical position, the arms are down by the side. In the Asian anatomical position, the hands are above the head. By correspondence, the head and the hands belong to heaven. Lung 9 is located on the radial side of the radial artery. When needled bilaterally, we have the base of the triangle. Lung 9 is a point of tonification. It is wood energy (energy not element), promoting growth in all directions. It opens the pulses and calms them. It is the Yu/Yuan point corresponding to the earth element. It is the reunion of arteries and veins, and works on increasing oxygenation.
This was paired with Conception Vessel 5, Shi Men, Stone Door, an important area for the concentration of energy which served as the apex of the second triangle. It is also known as Ming Men, the Gate of Life, as well as the Tan T'ien or Elixir of Long Life. This point receives energy from a vessel of the Three Heater; it is the Mu point of the main part of the Three Heater. According to what I had been taught, it was a specific point for "if the patient wishes to die." This makes complete sense because it is from here that yuan qi, the energy of the lower jiao, rises to help heat the body. My colleague began needling Lung 9 on the left side because the patient was male, followed by right-side Lung 9 and CV 5. After a few minutes, the patient began to smile and appeared lighter and happier. Pulses balanced, and needles were removed after 20 minutes.
It was as if the patient was being pulled up out of the depths through Lung 9, the first energy of man, to the Creator. Lung 9 is also part of the Shokanten protocol. It is the point that is palpated for the heaven of Earth, for the heaven of the middle jiao However, while it is diagnostic, it is not part of the Shokanten treatment protocol.
To date, these protocols have been used separately. One serves to bring the patient down to Earth and the other brings them up to heaven. While it is possible that circumstances may require using both, doing so at the same time compromises the simplicity and the elegance of just three very powerful points. Consider using one triangle for one visit, and the other triangle for the following visit.
I have used this treatment very successfully, except for one case. She was a new patient and had that characteristic of needing some "sunshine," as well as not being connected to the Earth. The reason why the treatment did not work is because she was new and I had not had ample time to create a foundation. I explain to my patients that I need to build a foundation with them. Like a foundation for a house, this must be strong. When a farmer wants to plant crops, he must first work the soil and make it ready. If there is no energy, there is nothing with which to work. If the patient is not eating correctly or harming themselves by an improper lifestyle, healing will not take place. No matter how wonderful the treatment, if the patient is not physically ready, the needles have nothing to utilize.
In conclusion, the Magen David treatment serves to reconnect the patient to heaven or Earth by opening up the appropriate gateways. It belongs to the broader topic of depressive states. On the one hand, we have the Spleen 6-CV 12 formation, pulling energy and the patient down to Earth. This appears to be needed when issues of not enough rest or adequate sleep are at the forefront. It is also needed when there is too much thinking and business that causes the patient to stop listening to heaven's voice and permits them to spiral away. We stop listening and follow the dictates of the heart, which is in constant search of new excitement and new diversions.
On the other hand, the Lung 9-CV 5 formation is needed when the patient is again not listening because there is no desire to hear. They cannot open up to heaven and allow themselves to reconnect. There is no desire to reach out and take another breath.
Metal or lung energy is the first energy of man because it is the lungs that take the first action - that first breath of air. Prayer is in the middle, with the constant acknowledging of our Creator and our appreciation of receiving the blessings of life for one more day. The sanctity of Shabbat becomes inviolable; where the body and the spirit become refreshed because of the presence of time and space to do nothing other than appreciate the beauty and wonder of it all.
Wendy A. Williams graduated from the International College of Oriental Medicine (U.K.) in 1982 and practices in Florida. While in England, she studied tai chi, ba gua and Chinese calligraphy. Contact her with questions or comments at www.shokanten.com.