Episode Five: The Heart of the Matter

The matter of the Heart and the Heart of the matter – episode five is live! 

The Heart is one of the few organs in the Western world that has as many metaphoric meanings as biological ones, how does it compare to the meaning of the Heart meridian in East Asian medicine?  Raymond & Billy talk about how the Heart fits into the cycle of the body and ways to take care of it on the emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical levels.

 

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[Music starts]

Raymond:

Healing with Raymond and Billy

Billy:

Healing with Raymond and Billy

[echo repeats, music fades out]

Raymond Johnson:

Welcome, everybody. Thank you. You’re listening to Healing with Raymond and Billy. This is Episode Five. I’m Raymond Johnson. I’m Shiatsu therapist and with me, as always, is my co-pilot on this adventure through healing. Billy Janes, Billy, how are you today?

Billy Janes:

I’m great, thank you.

Raymond Johnson:

If this is your first time listening, which that’s actually okay because even though we have a sort of broad stroke of where this podcast is going as far as a series of 12 episodes. They are essentially kind of standalone and they all sort of different pieces of the puzzle that you keep cycling through the cycles of the body and how the body works.

Raymond Johnson:

Billy is an acupuncturist. I’m a Shiatsu therapist. We both tend to see a lot of how a lot of our work I should say, our direct work with clients is through East Asian models and using Meridian channels and energy in the body. Before this episode, we started with the lung and the large intestine, that was Episode One and Two. And then Episodes Three and Four were the Stomach and Spleen. Now, we’re about to open the door into the Fire element. The first meridian we’re doing is the Heart.

Raymond Johnson:

The time for the Heart meridian comes at 11:00 AM. That’s correct. 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. We talked before about the cycle of how the body, the systems, how we have different cycles, our circadian rhythms and we lineup with different energy movements and … What’s the word I’m looking for? there’s a clock cycle of the body. This is the prime time. The prime time for the Heart meridian is 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. This is obviously solar time. It’s wherever you are in your time zone, and where your body is.

Raymond Johnson:

That’s probably a little bit why jet lag… This is an explanation of jet lag is that your body is used to the circadian rhythms of the sunrise, sundown and the clock in your time zone. When you travel really far away from that, it takes a while for all of our systems and all our cells and all our blood and all that stuff to get re-in tuned with everything around us.

Raymond Johnson:

The Heart meridian starts … Heart one starts right in the center, the tender center of your armpit. And then it’s going to travel down your arm and basically into the pinky. If you put a finger right in the center of your armpit, that’s Heart one. And then if you go to the corner of your elbow, the inner corner, where it’s more of the softer, tender side of your skin, this is the Yin side of your arm. There’s another Heart point there.

Raymond Johnson:

Then your wrist, usually on the inside of your wrists, you have a couple lines that are sore at the two creases. Another Heart point that gets used a lot is on the corner of your wrists. Not the side of the thumb, but the side with the pinky, and in between those two lines that crease on the rhesus. Is that five? I’ve forgotten already. The one that’s on the wrist. And then it ends at the tip of your pinky. That’s where the Heart channel is.

Raymond Johnson:

I remember in school when I was first learning about this channel, and talking about that point, at the end of your Heart channel, the squeezing your pinky is really good if you are having any type of a crisis. Anything from like your Heart is beating really fast to a panic attack, to even a Heart attack. I remember my teacher talking about like, now you don’t use these points in lieu of CPR, calling the ambulance, but maybe you do this while you’re waiting for the ambulance or while you’re riding in the ambulance. Which is you pinch the very tip of the pinky to stimulate it to the person who’s having a cardiac event. It can be a good point to stimulate.

Raymond Johnson:

I feel that I’ve gotten needled in that Heart wrist point a lot when I’ve gone to get acupuncture, Billy.

Billy Janes:

Yeah, the ones that are there are like four. They’re known as Heart four through Heart seven. Heart seven, the one at the wrist is that tonification point. It’s good for all sorts of Heart things; emotional and physical.

Raymond Johnson:

The Heart is referred to like the emperor of the organs, right? Is that correct? I feel like that was something they talked about. It’s the ruler of our being. Both the physical, emotional, mental, and our spirit. We think about it being in terms of responsible for all our blood and circulating it through the vessels. But we know that the Heart actually circulates a lot more than just blood, it circulates all these different energies.

Raymond Johnson:

There’s also the resonance of the physical, the beating of the muscle itself, and how that resonates and connects with other people. And then the Heart also houses what in Chinese medicine we call the Shen, it’s spelled S-H-E-N. Billy, how would you define Shen for people who are not familiar with this concept?

Billy Janes:

Well, I think in line with what you’re talking about, about the Heart thing, kind of this emperor, it’s, if you look at least from the Chinese medicine standpoint, we’re looking at all of the different energetic systems as kind of reporting to and supporting the function of the Heart. What you were just saying about the emperor, the Heart being the seat of our spirit, and all of the other energetic systems of the body, like we’ve talked about the spleen and the liver and the lung, all of those different systems work together to support the seat of that consciousness.

Billy Janes:

The idea of the Heart being this kind of ruler of the body, it doesn’t have necessarily such a central place in a treatment per se. We’re not constantly interacting with the Heart necessarily, but we’re constantly taking it into consideration when we’re looking at psycho emotional aspects or sadness and depression and grief and joy. Because one of the emotions related to the Heart is joy.

Billy Janes:

Also, the reverse when something happens traumatic, perhaps, the Heart kind of scatters. The way that you would imagine like birds on a telephone wire and then somebody hits the telephone wire, all the birds are going to scatter. That’s the feeling of shock in the chest is almost like birds are scattering.

Billy Janes:

The Heart is something that we’re constantly trying to work with to keep things kind of flowing and also keep the Heart calm and that the Shen is present and that there’s the Shen being the spirit and that there’s enough care and attention shown to the Heart’s functioning.

Raymond Johnson:

The Shen is … The same way that Chi is a word that describes energy, and blood even has a sort of a slightly different meaning within Chinese medicine and a certain type of fluid. Shen is also a substance of the body, I guess, is a way of saying it. It’s our lightest substance. Like Billy said, it’s our spirit. In Chinese medicine, actually different organs house different Shens? Is that a good way of putting it, Billy?

Billy Janes:

Yeah.

Raymond Johnson:

There’s the Shen of the liver is called, is that po or is that hun? I’m getting mixed up.

Billy Janes:

That’s the hun, yeah.

Raymond Johnson:

The hun, right. I always liked that it wasn’t so much that we have just one mono spirit per se, but that we have spirit within different energy systems and channel systems in our body that manifests in different ways. But our Shen in general is housed in the Heart. Even though you might have Shen that’s more like your Liver spirit or more Earth spirit, things like that. In general, your Shen is housed in the Heart. In that, there’s also some of your Shen that leaves your body when you sleep at night. That’s essentially dreaming. So, it’s part of the … I’d like to think of it as like how sleeping is our time to re-plug into the universal unconsciousness and things like that. I think of it as like that tether, and it’s that part of our spirit that goes out of our body, and often to the authentic channel, into the big cosmos channel of consciousness. And then when we wake up, that it gets pulled back into our body.

Raymond Johnson:

That’s why sometimes when we get woken up really quickly, it’s a little bit like, our spirit came in real hot, like slamming into the body. It’s a little bit of that, that shock and that coming back or whatever. There’s a condition that is whatever we’re just discussing, patterns of disharmony in the body. There’s a phrase that gets used a lot called Restless Shen. A lot of that is an imbalance. The symptoms that it causes are things like insomnia, specific things about not being able to fall asleep or not being able to stay asleep and things like that.

Raymond Johnson:

One way that we might look at it is thinking about, what’s going on with this person’s spirit, what’s going on with this person’s Heart, or also what’s going on with other conditions in their body that tend to manifest in the Heart channel? If I have a client that has anxiety disorders or panic disorders or PTSD, and they’re having these Heart symptoms, I know that this might be a clue that it could be that they’re activated, they’re having a flare up, they’ve been triggered, any of those terms that we talked about with those conditions, that are related to the Heart channel.

Raymond Johnson:

Anything related to anxiety and mania, but also joy, like Billy was talking about like joy, also, they all travel on the same channel. All the fire meridians in general. I did want to say, you may have noticed that I mentioned we have 12 episodes, because there’s 12 … We’re basing each one on the 12 primary meridians, but there’s only five elements. There’s two organs per element so far. We’re moving into the Fire. There’s actually four different meridians that are underneath the element of fire. There’s the main one, Heart, and then Small Intestine. And then there’s the supplemental fire ones, which are these meridians called Pericardium and Triple Heater.

Raymond Johnson:

Heart is actually the Yin organ, the Yin of the pairing between the Heart and small intestine. To me, it’s interesting to think about that dichotomy of the what is the Yin organ of the fire element? Fire element tends to be very young, it’s very active, it’s at our prime, we’re burning bright, all those things. But it’s also, Yin and Yang are relative terms. Much like even the elemental things are relative terms. You can’t actually say that anything is inherently Yin or is inherently Yang. Because it’s all about in relation to something else. It has to be when paired against something else.

Raymond Johnson:

The Heart is actually a solid organ. That also is like Yin quality. It’s something that sort of solidness versus the Yang activity tends to be things that are hollow. Also, that way that our Heart grounds us in our body by being the emperor. In some ways, that has to be the calm leader, and our body follows or follows its lead. You want your emperor to be a calm leader, I should say.

Raymond Johnson:

Obviously, things happen, and the Heart needs to jump into action, and needs to move fast and do things. Sometimes like you were talking about, we have a trauma. Accidents happen, that’s going to happen in life, you can’t avoid that. Sometimes … I was just reminded of this moment in school when someone was telling a story about someone had gotten in an accident. It was this convoluted story, but essentially, they fell and they hit their knee. At the end of this long story, they said to the teacher, meridian is what caused that accident. The teacher was all like, “Sometimes impact trauma is just impact trauma.” If you fall down sideways on the curb and you land on your knee weird, you’re going to mess up that joint because of gravity and pressure, and force. That’s what caused that accident, not your gallbladder meridian.

Raymond Johnson:

It is conceivable that two people could have the same fall, and they have two different injuries based on what their own personal constitution and issues are, and things like that. Certainly, that can play a role in how the injury manifests or how you want to go about helping heal the injury, but it’s not a cause of the injury per se.

Raymond Johnson:

I always just like to really reiterate that idea because I think a lot of times in this work because we are really looking holistically at the whole body and the physical body and the mind, body and the spirit and all these things, our histories and our stories. It can be really easy to oversimplify things. Then I think we start to get caught up in a very narrow story. And then we can also even start to victim blame ourselves and get caught in the cycle because you’re just saying, “Oh, this is my thing because of this in my body.”

Raymond Johnson:

A lot of times, the stuff … I think we’re in this work because it’s amazing how certain subtle changes can have this ripple effect, and have such this really positive ripple effect. But also to remember that the opposite can be true. Those little seeds can be planted and repeated and things like that. In general, it’s always about taking a step back and looking at the bigger story and the different stories and things like that.

Billy Janes:

Absolutely. I think that’s part of the whole metaphor of the Heart as being this bird in Chinese medicine. It comes from that idea of an observers, these metaphors are helpful for an observer consciousness to say, okay, we’re being provided this metaphor as a way of describing this organ. What is this metaphor of this bird that’s caged within our rib cage? How do we want to have a bird be within ourselves? What does it feel like when a bird is disturbed?

Billy Janes:

Some of those physical sensations, it’s new language in a way. When I was first experiencing sensations in my body that are emotions, I wasn’t really able to put a name to differentiate and describe what was happening within me. I think when I began to say, okay, well, this kind of scattering feeling in my chest when I’m in shock, or there is some sort of PTSD experience that I’m having, or I get hit by a car, something like that. I experience this feeling of fluttering birds in my chest, going from the inside and out across. That kind of scattering effect is very much an experience of shock. That is one of the experiences of the Heart.

Billy Janes:

Then there’s other ones like the bird is fluttering and is not calm and is maybe unable to really ground itself. You just feel this sensation of restlessness in the chest area. That’s also another part that’s associated with the Heart. Those metaphors are really powerful ways of being able to observe what’s happening and provide some kind of language for the location of those emotions, and how that’s related to our experience in the outer world. It’s trying to tie in the mind and the body together to build a cohesive understanding of what’s happening.

Billy Janes:

Whereas I think with matters of the Heart, especially for me, that’s been the confusing thing. I don’t know what’s happening. But to be able to tune into something physical and provide a name for what’s happening, that is I feel like, the start of me being able to process, okay, what is that feeling? What are my senses telling me?

Raymond Johnson:

Yeah. For me, your story had me thinking about times like, what did the bird in the cage in my chest feel like or how does it manifest? For me so often, when I’ve had in the past what I would label episodes of depression. Now, I see that they were lower case depression episodes versus people who have capital D depression in the sense of a neural chemical imbalance or things like that. I’m not so much prone to that per se when it comes to mental health stuff, but I’m obviously a human being who’s experienced grief. So, I’m very prone to little D depression in that sense.

Raymond Johnson:

The periods where that lasted for longer usually for me in my chest, is this feeling of heaviness weight on it, and thinking about it like there’s something in there that needs to get out, almost. Usually, in those periods, I was disconnected from my spirit, I was disconnected from my passions. I was disconnected from the things that brought me joy, and also helped me express my creativity. Some of it is just because that’s natural. When you’re grieving something, you stay home for a week or you’re busy with family stuff and recover, things like that. You don’t feel like doing those things that bring you joy. It’s natural to have those moments and those cycles, but we always just want to be moving and changing. We want to be in those cycles, and we want to experience those cycles. But then we also want to continue that wheel of life, continue to move and that we stay on it and keep riding around to the next cycle, right?

Billy Janes:

Absolutely. I think that’s the whole thing about [inaudible 00:21:17] alchemy is that idea that part of the reason why we have all of these different energetic channels that we’ve been talking about is that they’re on this pathway of how are we able to transform our emotions and ourselves, using this body as a vehicle to try to purify and gain an identification with the immortal spirit.

Billy Janes:

That whole process of transformation is really what we’re talking about when we talk about the body that’s like that gross subject. We’re talking about the Heart, it’s that gross or material kind of organ-

Raymond Johnson:

Right. You’re using that word more like the tangible sense, or do you mean, are you grossed out?

Billy Janes:

Sometimes.

Raymond Johnson:

You’re calling our body gross? But this is a body affirming podcast.

Billy Janes:

[both laugh]

Raymond Johnson:

Yeah, you mean more just like the literal tangible gross?

Billy Janes:

Yeah. Gross is often a term that’s used for material kind of things. I think that that’s that-

Raymond Johnson:

For the lay people listening to our podcast.

Billy Janes:

Yes. For the people who do not use gross in the way that I’m using it right now. The idea that our … That’s what we’ve been talking a lot about these different systems, that there’s the physical aspect, very physical, it’s related to our body, and these locations on our body, which are then energetically related to the organs. And then those also have this finer, lighter, more ethereal aspect of this emotional component or spiritual component.

Billy Janes:

Those different levels all exist simultaneously. The work of transformation is change in terms of how we relate with our body, but also how those systems interact with each other, and are able to move on that wheel as Raymond said, so that things don’t get stuck and stagnate, and not perform the way they’re supposed to.

Billy Janes:

When you were talking before about your experience of lowercase D depression, it made me think of my place that I go, which is not into perhaps that. But I tend to be more dissociative. It’s almost like that bird that is supposed to be living in that cage, and nurtured and held and grounded by the blood in the Heart. It actually gets so shocked from, I feel, a history that I have around trauma that it floats above me, and is just looking down kind of disembodied and a little dissociated.

Billy Janes:

That is also part of the Heart as well. That’s some of the work with the Heart aspect is about grounding that, and bringing it back into the body, where eventually when the body is a safe enough place for it to be and it can be experienced there. That’s also part of some of the work that we do with the Heart.

Raymond Johnson:

Yeah, I like that you brought that up too, the difference around dissociating. Because I think that’s also a lot of what I was doing too, that at the time. Especially, when I was in therapy 15 years ago, a lot of the language was more focused on just looking at depression and anxiety, and seeing that lens as two sides of the same coin.

Raymond Johnson:

I had symptoms of both. A lot of times whenever I do the checklist, it’s like, I’d always have enough to get these diagnosis, but it was always still maybe like 70%. There’s still a lot of the stuff that I was like, I don’t really experience that. It was only when I was in Shiatsu school is when I started to study PTSD explicitly. I was looking at it in terms of what is the Chinese medicine diagnosis of it? How does it manifest?

Raymond Johnson:

The little bit of research I found is that for the most part, there are four different imbalances that can happen in the body that can cause a certain set of symptoms that we in the Western world would label PTSD. It might be Liver stagnation. But the Heart Kidney connection was the big one that came up a lot with people who had experienced trauma. Because, those two meridians are very linked, they’re very much at the core of how our body operates, and we’ll talk about that more when we get to the kidney meridians too.

Raymond Johnson:

But I was thinking about this just in terms of when I work the Heart Meridian … Like Billy was saying, acupuncturists, there’s the points on the wrist that they’ll use. But I think only like once when I was having a really intense heat thing, I had a session where they actually stuck a needle in my armpit, in that Heart one point. But I feel like usually, people, there’s more about like Heart needs tonifying or it needs calming in that way. So, Shiatsu can be good for Heart meridian in that sense, because it’s a little bit more gentle to place my hand on it and I have a couple moves I do on that inner arm that are really tonifying.

Raymond Johnson:

But the Heart meridian also manifests in other parts of the body. Specifically, it runs up through the chest and the neck and then it’s basically the root of the tongue. Talking is something that is associated with fire in general and the Heart meridian, and the tongue, specifically. Which made me think about, I was like, oh, I’m so excited. I’m going to talk about my Heart crack, I’m not done with this episode.

Raymond Johnson:

What I mean by that is that the tongue is something that acupuncturists use a lot in their diagnosis. It’s this idea of when you go in when they’re doing an intake, you stick out your tongue and they’ll look at it. It’s sort of a map. Whatever they see on the map of your tongue can give them clues as to what meridian maybe is experiencing heat, where is there something that there’s phlegm, things like that or whatever.

Raymond Johnson:

On my tongue, I have a crack right down the center of my tongue. I remember when I was in school and I had my giant textbook by … What’s this name Giovanni-

Billy Janes:

Giovanni Maciocia

Raymond Johnson:

Giovanni Maciocia textbook. He’s written all these giant textbooks. Looking at all the tongue plates and I was like, oh, I have a Heart crack. Then shortly after I went home for the holidays, and I was sitting around the table talking to my parents, and there was something that when my mom was talking, and I caught a quick glimpse of her tongue. I was like, oh, it’s constitutional. We have the exact same Heart crack on our tongue that’s working. So, it’s really interesting to think about.

Raymond Johnson:

That’s why for the most part, I feel like you have these genetic constitutions or these illnesses that happen in your family that make you hyper aware. Like oh, I got to stay on top of that, because a lot of family members have that. I definitely have had a lot of family members who have died from Heart issues, congestive Heart failure, things like that, or whatever. It’s one of those where I’m like, oh, I got to make sure I take care of my Heart.

Billy Janes:

Yeah. The tongue is such a good reminder of those kinds of things. Because, if you look at your tongue pretty regularly when you brush your teeth and your tongue. I think too, you were talking about how, with acupuncture, you’ve only had like a needle in your armpit once, and some of the different ways that they needle with around your wrist. Some schools of thought are that you’re not even supposed to touch the Heart channel. Because it is such a tender and special place that it should instead being treated by using what we call the pericardium, which is the sheath that wraps around the Heart, which protects it from any kind of bacterial infection or anything like that.

Billy Janes:

Some people don’t even treat the Heart. They’ll instead and treat the pericardium to speak to the Heart. I just think, for me, that’s such a beautiful metaphor of the ethics behind treating someone’s spirit and the ways that we have to be careful and conscious around people’s trauma. Around things like boundaries, especially in spiritual matters, the world of the emotions. And that this Heart with its many chambers and its ability to interact with things outside of the body that are filtered into it and then transform it with air, with oxygen to oxygenate the blood and pump it to the rest of the body.

Billy Janes:

This chamber system relies on boundaries. To really honor those boundaries as part of that whole spirit relationship, and that to me just really makes me think about a meditation on the Heart as it’s appropriate to have boundaries to protect yourself. They are things that are in place and are really great. When we feel safe and properly protected, and our boundaries like our chest is there, our pericardium is there, our blood is pumping through, there’s sufficient stuff going on there to make us feel contained. That bird in there can feel comfortable and safe and can feel purposeful and protected and okay to move through the world.

Billy Janes:

That ability than for us to have that allows us to be able to expand it more and more and more to make our Heart larger, to be able to contain more things, to be able as one song that I listen to one of those dance songs. It’s like can your Heart be a pump for all human feeling? That I did. Our bird in our cage is connected with another bird in someone else’s cage, in their chest. Can we get all these birds singing together, and what is it like when we can recognize ourself in another person?

Billy Janes:

Those kinds of things and like how we interact with other people based on our boundaries and those special deep places. I just love that level of thought around it, that it does have such a larger implication for our connections with other people and with ourself.

Raymond Johnson:

Right. I love that too because it is just making me think about why I love resonance so much. In the sense of … I was thinking about how you’re talking about it’s about connection, but also boundaried connection. What I love about resonance, is it’s taking the natural tendency of our bodies to want to get in sync with each other, and for our body to get in sync with itself too.

Raymond Johnson:

You were talking about the Heart and the Pericardium does this, and the Lung. When you do these slow, long intentional breaths like happen in meditation or in yoga, it’s an opportunity for maybe all those organs have been pumping, but they’re all just like a little in sync. If you just think of it, or out of sync. Almost just like all these different members of instruments in a band. They’re all playing in the same song, and they’re almost there, but they’re not quite there. Taking a break is a moment where let’s all get back on the same measure, on the same note and together. That when we’re in the presence of other people, we have that same tendency.

Raymond Johnson:

If I’m in the presence of someone and they’re like, hold on, let me take a deep breath and they go. Then I’m just automatically like, “Oh, me too. Me too. Let me take a deep breath too.” That’s why I’ve always loved practicing meditation in groups and even practicing Dao Yin and other healing movements in groups too because it’s not so much about our bodies being in the exact same position as our energies are being channeled and moving in the same way, and our heartbeat is so much of that metronome that helps us get in sync, and that radiates in this way.

Raymond Johnson:

Then I was also thinking about when you were talking about both these pieces of the stories we tell. That’s the other thing that Heart is about too, it’s about our tongue and telling our story.

Billy Janes:

That whole aspect of we use it very literally to treat aphasia, which is where there’s something abnormal going on with the tongue’s ability to communicate language based on something going on with the brain. We will definitely use the Heart channel for that around the wrist. But there’s that like … That’s like what you would consider a very material or growth type of a concern and treatment. But then there’s that kind of more spiritual part of it, where it’s like, is it difficult for you to speak your truth about what you’re experiencing? Without judgment, without saying that you should be able to always express it?

Billy Janes:

There’s a lot of things going on about your safety, and how is that bird being cared for? That kind of work around self-expression, and things coming from the Heart, and maybe not everything in the Heart needs to come out is the other part of it. Sometimes things are meant for us, and that’s okay, too. That’s part of the whole boundary thing. Keeping a lid on the fire. Keeping what’s made for us to be able to churn and transform so that not everything ends up coming out at an inappropriate time, perhaps.

Raymond Johnson:

Right. Like you were saying the safety piece, for people who may be for a very, very long time had to keep that under wraps because it was not safe. It was not safe for them to be themselves for years, for decades, which is something that a lot of queer people, a lot of trans people a lot of non-binary we go through in various degrees.

Raymond Johnson:

I was also thinking about when I was in Shiatsu school, and one of the people who was in my cohorts who I adored. We went all through school together and learned together and practiced on each other in class and things like that. During one practice session, one of her diagnosis for me, she’s like, “Your Heart is so kyo” Which means deficient. She was feeling sunken.

Raymond Johnson:

In Shiatsu that sounds bad that she called my Heart deficient. But let me provide a little context. In Shiatsu, we do Hara diagnosis. The hara is basically the abdomen. We’ve been talking about the meridian channels. I’ve been painting you these pictures of them running down your arms and legs and things like. That they all end up in the center. There’s a map of all of those in the belly if you imagine a giant clock around your belly button, in that area.

Raymond Johnson:

In Shiatsu, a lot of times we’re using that, and it’s very powerful work because you’re really getting to those centers. It’s also a way to get a read on the situation. Someone comes in and they talk about what they’re feeling, and they talk about their symptoms, and they talk about what they’re going through and why they’re coming in for a session.

Raymond Johnson:

I might have an idea of certain meridians I want to check in on and work and give some attention to, but when I touch the Hara, that might give me a different picture, that’s just a snapshot of what their body maybe needs right that second. It might be some unexpected meridian. So, I’m usually going to check in with those as well.

Raymond Johnson:

When you’re doing that check in, you usually pick two meridians. You pick one that’s the most jitsu, which means excess, and the one that’s kyo, which means deficiency. Jitsu often manifests as hot or fullness or tightness. And then Kyo will manifest as maybe coldness or sort of a softness or a sinking in feeling. In school, we’re learning how do you figure out your hand to figure out these things? Because it does feel a lot about like, what am I doing? I’m just moving my hands around all this belly, and I don’t know what I’m feeling and things like that. There’s a lot of practice with that.

Raymond Johnson:

We have been practicing on each other. So, her diagnosis was about my Heart being very kyo. I had recently come out to her about being trans. It was in the context of, I think we were doing practice intake sessions with paperwork, and things like that. I had challenged … She made a joke about she was going through the intake form, and she’s like, “Oh, I guess I don’t need to ask you the question about are you pregnant? Hahaha.” I was all like, “Actually, why did you assume I don’t have a uterus?” She was like, “Wait, what?” Then I had to have a little moment. I was like, “Some men have uteruses, some women have penises?”

Raymond Johnson:

It just was a very quick outing. She was like, “Oh, wow, that’s so cool. I never thought of it. Thank you for telling me, whatever.” It wasn’t awkward or anything like that, whatever. But I do think that sometimes people, it can sometimes be tricky when you come out to someone, and they may be have a lot of simmering excitement and questions. I know it’s also a little bit of a thrill because they’re like, oh, I’ve reached a level of friendship with this person that they felt comfortable sharing with me.

Raymond Johnson:

There’s a lot of human things to their reaction, I understand. But it can be a lot as a trans person to have to navigate that and put up boundaries or whatever. I think shortly after that when she had this diagnosis, and she had this great idea of like, maybe it’s because of you’ve had to deal with identity questions through your life or whatever. I was, so just shut it down. I was like, “If anything, my identity is stronger than ever.” I wasn’t ready to hear it. You know what, she wasn’t wrong. Because, in some ways what I’ve realized now later, because I was not able to be myself 100% for really the first 20 years of my life a little bit more, then I came out … All through my … I came out my early 20s and, and did a physical medical transition in my early 20s.

Raymond Johnson:

All through my 20s, and in my early 30s, it was this great chance to really explore and be all these things that I thought I was, and to try things out and try out these different parts of me and figure out who I was. Now that I’ve settled down a little bit as I’m moving into my fours, my decades, I’m realizing that oh, okay, but now to put all these new things into practice, I have to go back to all those lessons I didn’t really learn the first time in those first 20 years. there’s still that sort of like, there’s always this kind of going back and healing random stuff.

Raymond Johnson:

But I will say, it’s a lot, but also, I’m really glad that I did a lot of therapy early in my 20s and 30s, and that I’m a healer myself and I hang out with healer people and all that stuff. Because I feel like I have good tools to roll with it, come up. It actually starts to feel really good because you’re just like, something happens now, and then all of a sudden you have a memory of something from your past and you’re like, oh, this explains everything.

Raymond Johnson:

Those stories … Sometimes we hold on to a story, we don’t know why. Why do I think about that moment that happened a lot? Why is that stuck? And then suddenly something happens where you maybe unlock a missing piece or missing understanding. Sometimes that means the story changes. Sometimes what happens in me is that then I forget it. Sometimes, something that stuck with me, then once I work through it, then I can let it go, I can fully metabolize it. It’s that trauma cycle, it got stuck at some point. It didn’t fully resolved, but then you make that resolution.

Billy Janes:

Absolutely. I totally connected with a lot of that about the integration piece with I think, for in my experience, having had things happen in my life that were traumatic that caused some PTSD kind of things. Parts of me guts stuck. That idea of going back and collecting yourself, for me a lot of that was going back to very young age and being able to recall and remember, who was I before all of these events? And having specific event memories and figuring out how to take parts of myself along.

Billy Janes:

I think that Heart aspect of building compassion for myself, I think a lot of the time when I looked back at the parts that I left behind, there was so much shame. I left them behind because I was ashamed. When I look back and really go back into those moments, and those experiences, I find that I wasn’t receiving compassion from the people who were supposed to model that for me.

Billy Janes:

I didn’t know how to give myself compassion. What I did instead was I just was like, oh, that part of me is disgusting and unworthy of seeing the light of day. I-

Raymond Johnson:

It’s imperfect and you hide it away.

Billy Janes:

Yeah, and you look it away behind door after door and secret coded messages until it becomes obscure and lost. That process of recovery of unearthing those things and really look at them, believe me, dissociation, that’s part of the process I feel like of figuring out how do I live with those parts of myself? Also, how do I move forward?

Billy Janes:

I think a big part of my healing has been around, and through the use of therapy and with physical modalities to try to tie the mind and the body together. That’s why I recommend for any of our listeners who are wondering well how … You recognize, you hear yourself within our stories. How do I get to a place where I can build a relationship with those parts?

Billy Janes:

I think for me, and it sounds like for you to Raymond, a lot of that for us has been about getting some sort of talk therapy, engaging in some sort of body, mind modalities such as Shiatsu or acupuncture or a massage or some other type of Tai Chi or movement kind of. Even like a forest bathing kind of-

Raymond Johnson:

Billy’s working in a plug from my work.

Billy Janes:

I think your work is amazing. I think that there’s big implications for us to be able to have our nervous systems calm enough so that things can process in the background.

Raymond Johnson:

Well, that’s a lot of how I ended up … I basically moved to the mountains to heal myself. Obviously, there’s other parts of my story that are how I got here. There’s a lot of reasons why I came here. But I definitely can see myself in that old school narrative. Like, I lived in the city, and I had this rambunctious life, and I did all these things, and then it collapsed and fell apart, and I had a nervous breakdown and fled to the mountains and woods. Which isn’t exactly what happened, but sometimes it’s fun to pitch it that way. Because then you also get to be the redemptive hero.

Raymond Johnson:

That’s the thing. Even if you have a tongue and cheek way about it, because obviously there’s nothing is quite that neat. There’s not the bad guys and all that stuff in the same way. But that is what happened is I moved to the south, which culturally speaking just has a much slower pace of life, has much more relaxed than many of the big cities especially, the East Coast and things like that. Then, also moving to a smaller town and being in the woods.

Raymond Johnson:

When we first moved down here, we lived in a house that was in the forest. There was no lawn, it was just rhododendrons, we’re on the side of a mountain. It was this round house that was popping up like a little mushroom out from the dark side of the mountain. We very much lived on the Yin side of the mountain, which was nice because it didn’t get too hot in the summertime, but it also meant by the time we moved out after five years we felt like slightly moldy from living on the cavernous, whatever. That’s not a metaphor. Literally, our boxes and stuff all that … It’s nice to be in the sunshine now in the place that we call home now.

Raymond Johnson:

Being in the woods and really having … It was hard, that first year of unwinding, my nervous system was weird and strange, and it was a lot of just like sitting on a chair, on the deck amongst the trees just listening to the same song 10 times in a row or listening to the birds or just feeling weirdly panicky. Even though I’m in this environment.

Raymond Johnson:

It reminded me of meditation retreats. I’ve done a lot of meditation retreats, and I’ve done a lot of meditation as a Zen temple with community in the past. I think people have this idea of going on retreat is relaxing. But instead it’s like the most terrifying and hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life. It’s really hard to sit in a room still, alone, quiet with your thoughts. Your brain is just like screaming at you. Your body is screaming at you because you’re uncomfortable, all these things. It’s a little bit like mental push-ups, or we’re strengthening your spirit in that way.

Raymond Johnson:

I wanted to circle back real quick because you used the word dissociating a couple of times. I just want to clarify what we mean by that. Because it’s definitely a symptom of trauma and PTSD. I think sometimes when people hear dissociating, what they’re actually maybe picturing is like catatonic. That’s not really what it means. Dissociating just really means checking out from what’s going on around you at the moment.

Raymond Johnson:

We do it all the time. We actually need to do it because our brain needs time to rest. We do simple little dissociatings all the time. We know you’re driving home from work, and you blank and next thing you know, you’re at your exit and you don’t really remember how you got there. You were basically driving while dissociated. When you’re lying in bed at night and you’re scrolling through your feed mindlessly, and all of a sudden you’re like, oh snap, it’s after midnight, I got to go to sleep. You were probably disassociating for that hour because you were just so plugged in, to the dopamine circuits.

Raymond Johnson:

When you end up watching the TV marathon, all that stuff like that. A lot of the things that I think that we label, laziness, or symptoms of depression or things like symptoms of anxiety, even. Dissociating is just this larger category of people being like, I can’t be here right now. So, I’m going to check out. It could be that I’m just going to go into dreamland. It could be I’m going to stare at my phone, it could be that I’m going to eat junk food and watch porn for four hours. I could be I’m going to drive to the casino. There’s a lot of different ways that it can manifest in these different behaviors that are basically really just trying to escape what you’re feeling in your body in that moment.

Billy Janes:

Absolutely.

Raymond Johnson:

On a minor scale, like when you’re driving home, your body’s just tired from a day of work. It’s just like, it just needs a little light dissociation to get home. It’s about recovering. But the bigger dissociations are also about recovering. The problem is, is if they manifest in something that can start to cause issues in other parts of your life.

Raymond Johnson:

For example, I was dissociating, but I was sitting in a cabin in the woods, and I had food and I had people around me, and I wasn’t … You know what I mean, versus if you’re dissociating with behavior that can cause other issues, smoking several packs of cigarettes a day, gambling addiction, anything like that. Anything that crosses that line from like, self-medicating into self-problem creating.

Billy Janes:

Absolutely. I think, like the dissociation that is being talked about here too, is that it’s a psychological defense mechanism. Sometimes we need to have that defense mechanism. It’s a healthy way of us being able to, check out and allow things to process in the background. But for some of us, it was a defense mechanism of something that helped us to survive from trauma a long time ago, and we’re currently using it. It might be causing problems in our relationship, or our life. That piece right there for me was I think, largely what I’m talking about is, I would feel like I’d be gone for a week or two and then come back and be like, whoa, what’s been going on?

Billy Janes:

I think that within the community that we’re talking about with their queer and trans, non-binary people, this is something that other people, you might be experiencing this as well and be like, oh my gosh, what’s going on? That’s part of that. Like Raymond said, there’s different levels and uses for it. It is a useful technique that our psychologies generate naturally.

Raymond Johnson:

Once you are aware of it, then you can see when you’re doing it sometimes. Maybe you don’t do anything about it. You’re just like, you know what, I need to dissociate right now. Or maybe you’re just like, I’m just going to set a timer and then see how I feel then. We do that sometimes like if something stressful is going on. We generally have no phones in the bedroom rule. But if sometimes if something intense has gone on and after we’ve talked it out at that time, we’re both like, okay, time to associate, stare at our phones for a while. We recognize we need a little bomb. We talked it out. We did what we needed to do with whatever it was that we’re processing together. And then we also just needed to have, like you said, a little bit of that background finishing, unwinding type thing.

Raymond Johnson:

It’s the equivalent I feel like I always grew up watching the rerun of some sitcom that was always showing late at night, you always watch just something. But now like that, before going to bed while brushing your teeth to unwind your brain. So, it’s story time.

Raymond Johnson:

Well, I think we’ve covered a lot about the Heart except for maybe, is it time for…..Billy’s Herbal Corner??

[theme song plays]

Billy Janes:

Sound bite. Let me see. Is that a good sound bite of me slurping?

Raymond Johnson:

Yes. I was like, wait, what?

Billy Janes:

Perfect because I’m sorry I didn’t hear you when you announced it was Billy’s Herbal Corner, because I was too busy sipping on Hawthorn Berry Tea.

Raymond Johnson:

Oh, Hawthorn berries, yes. Oh, yeah, now, I want to find something comically radio sound effect.

Billy Janes:

I tried to deliver, but I think we may need a little sound help in there.

Raymond Johnson:

We’ll boost it up.

Billy Janes:

Yeah, Hawthorn berry which is also known the Latin name is crataegus [inaudible 00:56:01] which is just the crataegus family. It’s a little Hawthorn berry that you can buy either as an already pre-made tea, or you can buy the dried berry, which is what I do. It’s super calming, it’s great for anxiety. If there’s something stressful going on, or you’re having one of those moments of your Heart feeling scattered or whatever, it’s a really great tea to sit, sip, be grounded by its little sweet, it’s a little earthy.

Billy Janes:

It’s a super powerful herb. There’s so many things. I could go on and on and on about it. It has quercetin in it.

Raymond Johnson:

Oh, you know I love the quercetin. I’ve had Hawthorn in tincture form, and I was trying to think about what the formula was based on. I believe it was, it was a Heart healing grief potion that was the motion for it. But I love how it tastes in tincture form. So, I’d try this tea as well.

Billy Janes:

It’s amazing. As tincture form, it’s really great for hypertension. People who have hypertension is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be caused by various things. It can be caused by stress, it could be caused by different changes within the Heart vessel where-

Raymond Johnson:

Just genetic predispositions, I think some of us just tend to have.

Billy Janes:

Exactly. I think only 10% of the population who has hypertension is actually impacted by salt intake. The rest of people are like, whoa, what do I do to help with my hypertension? One of the ways that you can do it, which is now being recognized by Western medicine, is to take small doses of Hawthorn berry every day, usually in tincture form. Over a period, I think of three months or so of taking this regularly, people are seeing improvements in so many different things like with coronary artery disease, with LDL, which is elevated serum cholesterol.

Billy Janes:

It also helps for people who have shooting pains in their chest, any kind of chest discomfort, hernia pain. It also is used traditionally within Chinese medicine for when you eat too much meat, and you have this lump sitting in your belly.

Raymond Johnson:

Yeah, food stagnation, yes.

Billy Janes:

Yes, exactly. But it’s also just amazing for just digestion in general. It’s antibacterial. If there’s any kind of intestinal infection. But you can also take it for tapeworms internally or you can use it externally on your skin for boils and all kinds of stuff. You just have to be careful if you’re taking Viagra or any type of Heart medications or you have acid reflux, those are the only kinds of things you need to look for.

Billy Janes:

But generally, it’s pretty safe and effective and calming. I use it in my anti-anxiety tinctures for soothing the Heart and keeping everything nice and calm.

Raymond Johnson:

A lot of times, obviously, if you have an herbalist, you can work with, it’s good to chat with them more. But you can also go and do some research, go do some reading and plant friends, it’s nice to just pick one that you can start to work with and learn how it works and maybe try it in small doses and see how it affects your body. That’s what I like about herbal medicine is that it’s a little bit different from Western medicine. It’s not that sort of take these three times a day for a week.

Raymond Johnson:

I think a lot of times people do that, because we’re accustomed to that. But you can work with it in a lot of different ways. It’s about thinking about, including plants as part of your community care plan where you think about, we were talking about forest bathing earlier, and that’s about going out into the woods. It is about being in community in a different type of way with the trees and with the forest floor, and the energy of it. I always like herbal medicine for that way too, where it’s about connecting to it in different ways. It’s like a step between eating food as medicine and then just taking a pill that you don’t even know what it is. It’s in between those things that we take.

Raymond Johnson:

All right, did we cover everything? Yeah, I think we covered absolutely everything and we’re done forever with this podcast.

Billy Janes:

Its been great.

Raymond Johnson:

Was nothing else. You’ve reached the end of all the podcasts. Congratulations you made.

Billy Janes:

Congrats.

Raymond Johnson:

At least until next episode, when we’ll be back talking about the Small Intestine! Billy Janes I’d love to send you an email. Maybe some listeners want to send you an email. What’s the best email address to send you an email?

Billy Janes:

If you have any questions about what we’ve talked about today or need resources or anything like that, you can send me an email at info@janes J-N, as in N-E-S acupuncture.com. Acupuncture is spelled A-C-U-P-U-N-C-T-U-R-E. I’d be happy to help you out. What is your email?

Raymond Johnson:

Oh, I can be reached at mountainzenshiatsu@gmail.com. I do own mountainzenshiatsu.com, I just don’t have an email attached to it. If you wanted to read more about Shiatsu, you can do that. Shiatsu is spelled S-H-I-A-T-S-U. Shiatsu. It’s not Shih Tzu like the dog. We’re also both on Instagram. You’re @BillyJanesLAC, is that right on Instagram? I’m @Mountainzenshiatsu on Instagram.

Raymond Johnson:

I also make music under the name Purple Fluorite, and I just put out a couple of albums last month. That’s going to be one of the songs that I haven’t chosen yet, but you’re about to hear that as my voice fades out, that song will fade in. It’s available on all the places where you like to stream; iTunes, Spotify, Title, et cetera, et cetera. You can also go to Bandcamp and download it. There’s bonus tracks if you go to Bandcamp and download it there [inaudible 01:02:57]

Raymond Johnson:

I put out two albums. I have my fire side and my waterside. But my fire side is still pretty chill. It’s like, down tempo, electronica, smooth jazz is my fire side. That’s the album called Close Movements. It has a really awesome cover art. I want to give a shout out to Sage Waring who’s the artist who made this really great print that I just fell in love with. I was basically like, “Can I buy a copy of it and use it for my album cover?” Sage Waring is an artist you should support. They have an Etsy shop. That’s really great.

Raymond Johnson:

My second album is called Underwater Cellotron. That one is actually kind of chill ambient music that I’m using for my Shiatsu sessions. You’ll recognize the album cover because it has a jellyfish on the cover of that one. So, check it out. Let me know what you think. Once you’ve recovered from reaching the end of the Podcast Universe, we’ll see you next time for more of the next Podcast Universe. Thanks for listening to Healing With Raymond and Billy. See you next time, bye.

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