The Bladder meridian: The Feelings of Urgency and the Power of Gazing Into the Abyss.
Hi folks, we’re back from winter break! We took time off that got a little extended – you may have heard about this global pandemic?! The conversation was recorded last fall, so there will be no mentions of current events. This episode begins our descent into the unconscious and Water element: we talk about the (Urinary) Bladder and how it relates to fluids in the body, our body’s sense of urgency and safety, fears, healing trauma, the power of storytelling, and peering into the abyss. We talk about how shiatsu therapists work the meridian versus how acupuncturist needle it, and how developing a touch sensitivity is both a practice and medicine available to everyone.
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Billy & Raymond repeating:
Healing with Raymond and Billy.
[Music Fades Out]
Raymond: Welcome everyone to episode 7 of “Healing with Raymond and Billy”. We have officially crossed the halfway threshold of this podcast, miniseries, or limited edition series however you want to sort of phrase it.
Raymond: How are you today Billy Janes?
Billy: I’m good, thank you. How are you?
Raymond: I’m doing well. I’m doing … At the last time I spoke with small intestines, I was sort of at the beginning of a sinus infection and I finally got crossed to the other side of that. So I’m feeling a little bit more myself. There is that moment where you’re like, “There are invaders in my body and I hope I win”. I know that literally they’re outnumbered but still you feel a little bit like “Oh gosh, I need to lay down.” But I should, you know, I don’t usually go for battle metaphors in general when it comes to healing, but sometimes it’s like in a small thing like this, like a cold or sinus infection, when I’m feeling a little bit feverish and dramatic, I tend to sort of bring it out a little bit. But it is interesting, I just read an article this week that was about a study done on how war and battle metaphors when it relates to cancer actually are shown to not only not be helpful to the patient necessarily, but that they may even be harmful, which is something that I’ve kind of been aware of for several years, just because I’ve had clients or friends or family who have dealt with cancer and lived with cancer and lived through cancer or lost or died from cancer. I had been trying to move away from these sort of metaphors as referring to a battle or a war, because I don’t want to encourage people to be at war with their own body, you know, it just feels very intense. I always saw it as for some people those metaphors work and for some they don’t. This study kind of showed that there actually seems to be a slight more tendency for them to potentially cause harm, at least enough for us to try and remove that rhetoric from our everyday language as far as cancer fundraisers and cancer education and things like that. We might start to see a larger movement away from that. So I thought that was an interesting thing I saw this week that is slightly related to our meridian today which is, the Bladder and the Bladder meridian is the first meridian of the water element. I was thinking about how the water element, the emotion that’s really associated with water, is fear and the different ways that fear sort of drives us. So I was reading a little something before our conversation today, reading up about the Bladder official and things like that, and there was this whole section about how all fear boils down to the fear of death. And so it was making me think about that buddhist meditation, honor own death, and things like that. So it’s interesting how the water element is about how that deep down fear is actually a part of us and how that manifests in the body and how we sort of work it. Billy Janes, how do you see the Bladder meridian and how does it fit within the cycle of the body and how you treat clients?
Billy: Well it’s interesting because often there’s two aspects, as I see it, to the Bladder channel. There is the actual functional part of how I use the Bladder channel and then there is more of the aspect of its role in the whole process of the chi cycle, or the hero’s journey or monomyth, and how that all fits together. So the physical aspect is one where if I’m working on somebody, I use the Bladder channel a lot to treat back pain because the Bladder channel runs from the inside of the eye, the inner corner of the eye, the canthus of the eye, which is kind of where your inner tear duct is. It runs all the way over the top of your head, basically almost about a couple finger width to the midline, all the way down your back along the paraspinals and that is often where people hold a lot of their tension from poor posture and stuff like that. So, often my needles will go in there or if I’m unable to access their back because they’re sitting in a chair in community acupuncture, I will use points on their feet to treat the channel as it goes up into the back. Also the Bladder meridian has points along the back that you can use to kind of activate the nerves that innervate the different organs. So, you know, there are ones that go to the Lung and the Heart and the Pericardium and into the digestive system, Kidneys and also Bladder, and so you’re able to really do a powerful effect on those deeper organs using a more superficial channel.
Raymond: Yeah. The Bladder, I mean all the channels are connected to each other and if you’re a talented and trained practitioner, you can reach almost everything from any point in the body. But, you know, it’s also good to sort of go where there have been time proven techniques as far as working certain channels for certain conditions and imbalances. So the Bladder channel, which as you started to describe, the ear goes over the head sort of the occipital, oh my gosh I’m having trouble with that word, where your head meets your neck and all the cervical skull muscles are, and then it goes down. And so it’s going down both sides like you said, it’s like three or four finger widths from the center line and then when it goes down your back, it actually splits again, do you use that secondary channel in the back?
Raymond: Okay, I was just making sure because every once in a while, in shiatsu I use some Masunaga extensions and I have to remind myself, “Oh wait, acupuncturists don’t use these”, but that’s one that you do use. So it’s split so you actually run down like four channels down your back all the way down to your glutes and then it runs through this little lightning but then back down to the center of your hamstring and down your calf and ends up going to the outside of your foot to the end of your pinky toe. So it’s kind of this amazing meridian that starts from your eyeball all the way down to your tiny toe and it has all those points like Billy Janes was talking about that are, are they shu points are those the ones on the back?
Raymond: So they’re really tapped into the, I always think of, the main matrix of the body or the main channels. But the Bladder channel is not as deep so you don’t have to go as far down into the organ, you can just literally touch it a little bit more lightly. With shiatsu, the way I was trained, we use hara diagnosis, which I think I’ve probably talked about in some of the earlier episodes, which is where I’m touching points on the abdomen that are connected to the organ center of a meridian. So the Bladder channel, which we just described, runs down the back but then the organ center happens just below your belly button, so I might touch that region on your abdomen in the hara and that’s sort of the Bladder center. But then there’s also a map of the hara on your back so you can sort of feel on a person’s back the same organ centers. Now the way that I was trained was that the hara on your front abdomen is very immediate, its very much like this is what’s going on in this person’s body right now, this what’s most jitsu, this is a very immediate snapshot of this person’s health and imbalance and constitutional strengths and all that good stuff. And then the back hara is where more older stuff, so you might find more history, so older injuries, older pathogens that had to be healed from, things like that, old traumas and what not. So when I’m doing shiatsu, the first meridian we’re basically taught in shiatsu school is the Bladder meridian, because it’s very simple to work because you’re on the floor, you’re on all fours, and you’re crawling and you’re just kind of using your palm to work down that muscle group on our back. It usually is a gentle peak up, it’s easy to rest your hands on those spinal muscles and work your way down the Bladder channel and then also work your way down the center of the back of the leg. Which always feels really good. I always forget how nice it feels just to have someone sink in right in the back of your hamstring, you know all those Bladder points that go right up to where your glutes meet. And even up into your hip and things like that, feels so good. So I do that. I tend to work mostly on the table nowadays because that’s what most of my clients prefer and so I will sometimes use my forearms a little bit more because then I can achieve a little bit more of that leaning in. But I also do just a lot of rocking so I sort of hold points at the joints and I work a lot of the channel that way. So even with the Bladder I will kind of hit points but a lot of it is holding it near the low back and the back of the knee. So there’s that area that’s at the top of the back of the knee and I feel like if you hit that and the low back, those are great fascial points, you can really feel the surfing of how the whole fascial thing connects your whole back and when I’m on the table and someone does that it’s always a “Woah”. It’s a really cool stretch that’s sort of a part of your body, especially because my pelvis has a sort of interior tilt or whatever that goes back so it feels kind of good to sort of stretch that out in that way. But then there’s also the point directly on the back of the knee that’s so good for general low back pain and I know that I’ve seen that needle a lot and had that needle and I also use it and stimulate that with shiatsu as well.
Billy: Yeah that’s that whole aspect of using the Bladder channel. It’s so interesting that the way that the Bladder functions in the body for draining, as we think of it, especially in the west here, about the Bladder just drains impurities. As it comes out, we’re like oh, I can kind of tell how hydrated I am or not because it’s fleshing out the stuff that the Kidney has filtered out. In our medicine, we talk about the small intestine as it separates out the impurities of our digestion, it sends that to the Bladder. And then the Kidneys, which we’ll talk about next time, they have this kind of heating mechanism between them, they call it the ming men fire, it’s this fire that is this, you know, flame that keeps the whole body systems running.That fire provides the Bladder with enough energy to be able to transform that stuff and then drain it out. So we talk about the Bladder, the Bladder channel, it’s on the back of the body, and you’re like “Oh that has nothing really to do with the Bladder”. But if you think of it as this system of being able to drain out any blockages or having a powerful moving effect of energy that make it stagnated from our bodies being stagnated or not moving enough or having posture, trying to fit into this modern world, then there is a real direct metaphor between, or a metaphorical link between the Bladder as kind of a way of living and transforming ourselves and working with energy and also our posture and how we may be crunching or needing it to be opened and moved through. That whole link is really about our autonomic nervous system. When you’re talking about moving down the body with massage and going from the back down to the hamstrings and that whole wave of reset.
Raymond: Right and even going down to the calf too, like all that stuff that stuff that’s down there.
Billy: Right and all the way down there to the outside of the feet. That’s helping the body to switch from that fight or flight mode into that rest and digest mode of relaxing and allowing the organs that need to do their job to be able to do it, like the heart to slow down, and all of those things happen so the body can get into a more healing state. And that’s one of the things that I really value about the Bladder, is that a lot of times when I’m working on people and I’m working on Bladder points, people have a really nice, relaxing response to it. Then those muscles that are tensed up are also able to open up and relax and then things are really able to flow in the body a lot better.
Raymond: Yeah. I can hardly imagine doing a shiatsu session without doing the Bladder channel in some expansive way, you know what I mean?
Raymond: I just feel like it’s so built in and it’s so effective for so much of what people are coming to shiatsu for which is exactly what you were talking about before that calming, that bringing up the autonomic nervous and really putting our body into that relaxed state, just like you were saying, and it does it so well, and so readily. And also you were talking about the placement of it on the body and why is it on the back of our body, and what I was sort of always taught metaphorically is the other thing about the Bladder is that it gives you impetus in life and pushes you forward and so thinking about how the Bladder channel on our back makes sense because our Bladder channel is what pushes us and gives us our fuel tank to kind of get through the world and move through the world. And also kind of gives us that sense of urgency which is sort of, we associate that in the western world with a Bladder like when we have to pee, when it’s really full, and that sense of urgency and that pushing us forward is the most acute version of that that happens in our body on a fairly regular basis. But there are other times where all of a sudden all these systems kick on and we’re like “Go, get yourself out of danger”, or even sometimes if the danger is “Get yourself to a bathroom because I’m sick” or “Get myself out of this room”, all these different ways that when the sort of spark lights up of fear and we need to do something to take care of ourself and moving forward. But even it plays out in just the everyday, what gets us out of bed and gets us to go to work and gets us to keep moving forward on things like that. And that’s also why our Bladder is so often depleted, because we’re often all doing a lot. We’re often all working multiple jobs and playing multiple roles and doing different things and always kind of going, going, going. And we don’t often get a lot of time and opportunity to really rest and restore our water element. So a lot of time, depletion doesn’t look like, like you hear the word depletion and you think of someone laying on a fainting couch and can’t move, but a lot of us are walking around with depletion in our Bladder but you wouldn’t know it because we’re just going, going, going. And I was reading our friend Lonny Jarrett, the book “Nourishing Destiny”. “Nourishing Destiny” is this giant tome, the inner tradition of Chinese medicine that I discovered when I went to shiatsu symposium like four years ago, I think, and then I convinced Billy Janes like “you should get it too and let’s do a book club” and I think we only made it to chapter 3 and we did not get much further. And I put it down for awhile but then what I started doing was I started picking it up and just reading certain sections at a time, I stopped just trying to read it from beginning to end. So I’ve been making my way through it sort of piecemeal and I did have a moment where I was all like “Oh I should look up the small intestine, maybe there’s more that we missed” and I looked it up and I was like “No, we covered that”. But anyway, there’s a little tiny section of that on the Bladder and that’s where the fear of death came up that made me think about that. But there’s also a section talking about an archetypal image of the Bladder channel and the relation to the constitutional, that sort of inner reserves that we’re talking about, that gas tank. If you imagine you’re driving a car on the highway and you pass an exit, and you decide not to get off at the gas station and you see a sign that’s like “Next gas station 30 miles” and you look down and you realize that the light has come one and there’s this moment where you’re like “Oh no, ok how much? Can I make it? Is it 30 miles? How much is it? When the light goes on, what does it mean? Oh no do I have cash? Oh I should’ve gotten gas”. This whole conversation starts in your head and you’re starting to fret about it and your car itself is running on empty, but from the outside, you’re still a car barreling down the highway, going 65 miles per hour, and maybe even you’re going a little bit faster because you’re nervous and you want to get to the gas station faster, so you maybe even bumped it up and you’re even going faster. And so I thought that was a really interesting way to talk about how people can be depleted in their Bladder meridian from going, going, going, but from the outside you would just never know at all.
Billy: So, you know, I think that how we’ve been talking about the whole aspect of these different meridians and how the chi flows into each other, we’ve been talking about this hero’s journey, or if you google monomyth you can see the breakdown of it, and basically if you lay the flow of the organs and the elements onto the mythical journey, by the time you’ve moved through the podcast, as we’ve talked, we’ve reached this water place. When Raymond is talking about water and this fear, this directly correlates with this place in the journey where the abyss occurs. So in this abyss state, it’s often shown in different stories throughout all cultures as this encounter with death, with water, with a place where, I don’t know, Luke Skywalker dies.
Raymond: Right, a drowning in a swamp.
Billy: Yeah, there’s this whole rebirth process but it happens after this hero is essentially killed. In The Matrix, it’s Neo. Neo loses, dies, and then is reborn. And so that I think, what this is doing here is it’s kind of slowing it down a little bit for us and expanding it out. Basically what happens with the hero’s journey when we get into the water area is that we’re dealing with somebody who is given an opportunity to look at what it is that they need to resolve to be able to move forward and sometimes that is represented by a large fear, that we might externalize as part of why we’ve gone on this journey, but actually is a reflection of the dragon that we need to slay inside of ourselves, that we’ve externalized. So in order to do that there’s this symbolic death that we have to go through in order to move forward. And in Chinese medicine, in the traditions that we are working within, the Kidneys and the associated pairing of organ, the Urinary Bladder; the Kidneys are related to fear, because they are so existential and ancestral and they carry all of this lineage and history, so essentially we’re carrying the fears and traumas and hopes and dreams of our ancestors. So the Bladder being apart of this Kidney-Bladder connection is really talking about transforming some aspects of impurities or purities from within our own water, from within our own gaze of the waters in which we see our reflection, facing that and transforming that to be able to get something useful from it to move forward. One of the things that happens is if the hero is not able to defeat that inner dragon, they can get caught in this place of fear and this place of existential dread, because they’ve given up on moving through the process of what that means to look at those things and instead they’re focusing on what’s happening outside of the world and how they can try to control those things versus going inwards and there’s this aspect of bitterness and dissatisfaction that then becomes the operating mode. So I found that really fascinating when building the link between the hero’s journey and the Bladder, because there’s this whole aspect of the Bladder when it’s in its extreme imbalance, it’s all about bitterness and grudges and jealousy and suspicion.
Raymond: Oh yeah, interesting. I was reading and thinking about that where it was talking about how the Bladder is sort of the voice for the Kidney, it’s the external connection and so if they’re not connecting and the Bladder isn’t properly listening and expressing what the Kidney wants, then the Kidney becomes secretive and paranoid. That was how they sort of described that.
Raymond: Yeah so it’s funny, and then you said that and I was like “Oh my gosh Billy Janes, are you looking through my eyeballs, at this book that’s on my table, through osmosis?”. I would not be surprised. There’s a reason you’re on this podcast. Finally let’s put those skills to good use.
Raymond: Oh my gosh. What am I wearing? Just kidding.
Billy: That’s a lovely sweater you’re wearing right now. Oh wait
Raymond: It’s not that cold.
Billy: I know.
Raymond: Oh my goodness, okay so, a secretive behavior. But what you were also saying that I was thinking about was we were talking about the fluids in the body and how the Kidney filters a lot of the fluids but then the Bladder is what takes them away, right, and that’s how we know that in the western whatever. In Chinese medicine there’s all these other different fluids, right? OR different sort of ways, or essences. So I sort of think of it as like the way in the Western world we have solid, liquid, gas, that’s the way you can see matter as to how it can manifest. I think of it as energy has the same scale, so energy can be really light and airy or energy, like chi, can be liquid or chi can be solid. I know that seems kind of strange because maybe people are like “I’ve never felt chi before” and it’s very subtle, but when you are engaging with it in these really fine tuned ways like we are, Billy through the needles and my through my hands, you start to pick up on these subtle differences. It kind of reminds me too of whenever I watch baking videos or watch people baking, I know it sounds weird, but the way people work dough and the way they talk about it and sometimes I’m watching it and I’m like “I do not understand. How did that change? How did it go from that?” and I don’t necessarily see it, like if you’re not used to working with it, it just all looks like a glob of stuff. Do you know what I mean? But if you’re a baker, you understand that it’s this living thing. And when I actually started to bake a little bit more myself, like I started to bake soda bread and stuff and I was like this is an entity and you’re having a conversation and sometimes it’s a fight. But if you approach it with care and humility, usually you come out on the other side okay. So I feel like that’s the metaphor of both baking and a shiatsu session. No I’m just kidding, I have a lot more confidence in my work as a shiatsuist than I do as a baker. But there’s a similar way of working the subtleties of the energies. So going back, that was a tangent, but let’s talk about…
Billy: Well I have two things to say. One thing is I feel like what you said about working with dough and I think this is also something important for our listeners to hear, because I feel like this is also an awareness most people innately have but that through the work that we do, becomes developed, and it’s something that you can develop as a sensory touch that is accessible to everyone and with enough experience, you can begin to differentiate different things. So one way that when I was actually taking a craniosacral class, they talked about this, and I felt like it this had huge crossover in so many areas of my life. When you’re palpating the body it can be very similar to putting a tablecloth over a table and closing your eyes and asking someone to stack an item on one corner of the tablecloth on the table and so then you start to pull very slowly on the tablecloth, you can essentially detect where the object is.
Raymond: Right, yeah.
Billy: And it’s almost immediate. If it isn’t immediate, do it a few times and then you will begin to know where things are.
Raymond: And the more you do it, the faster you’ll catch it and the more accurate you’ll get too, you practice it.
Raymond: I think that’s what people don’t realize too is that it’s a practice and just doing it over and over and over again. With shiatsu, there’s a little bit more room for error as far as like, I knew I could do stuff that was effective even before I could feel it in my hands, do you know what I’m saying? I was trained like, apply perpendicular pressure to this part of the body with this yen and this way and not too much and do that, and even if I couldn’t feel the channel in my body yet, the receiver was like “Oh that feels so good.” So that actually helped motivate me to keep me going. But then the more I did it, the more I started to develop that sensitivity. So that’s why they don’t let you needle people until year three or something like that, right?
Billy: Well the school I went to, they were like you’re doing it the first week.
Raymond: Oh my gosh!
Billy: Yeah so I was like um…
Raymond: You were like “Is this safe?”
Billy: Right? But I think it was actually good in some ways, because it took away the intense mystery around it, but simultaneously, I didn’t know, and really there’s only one way to really know it’s through direct experience, a lot of these things, but I didn’t really understand that I could feel the levels of the body through a needle, I was like “What?”. But eventually you figure out, I feel through the way the needle is passing through the body, how tight tissues are, how the tissues change as I move through them and the density is affected, all those kinds of things, and then oh I can actually feel the channel with energy flowing through the needle. It sounds very spiritual or whatever but it’s really just physiological.
Raymond: Yeah, you could do the same thing, you could layer a bunch of blankets of different textures, like a cotton blanket, a quilt, a sheet, like sort of do five of that, and if you were, I mean this is a thought experience, don’t go ruining your sheets, but if you stick a knitting needle or a knife that could actually pierce all that fabric, as you’re going through, each one might require a slightly different amount of pressure or you might feel that it’s going to be harder to puncture the quilt than it was to puncture the sheet and things like that and the body’s no different, right?
Billy: So similar and I think that’s where some of the mystery can come out of the idea of sharing body work with other people that we know, is that there is a way in which touch is super important and being able to lay our hands on other people for healing is really important and through practice and becoming used to the body, that’s something that can have benefit. And then the other thing you were saying about the fluids in the body, in our medicine, they differentiate that there are different types of fluids, jin and ye, and that those have different thicknesses. Some are in the capsules of our shoulders, so they help provide a buffering, and those are pretty thick. And then other ones are kind of like sweat and that kind of stuff. What I work a lot with is turbidian fluids.
Raymond: Say more about turbidian fluids.
Billy: Turbidian fluids, my dear friends. So there’s this channel, it’s called an Extraordinary Channel, there’s eight extra channels that are a combination of these points and they’re actually known as psychic channels. One of the points on one of these psychic channels, psychic meaning they help treat emotional things in a special and different way than the normal channels. One of the points is called Kidney nine and what it does, it essentially goes up into the body and says “Hey you, body, you’re having a little bit of anxiety, you’re having a little bit of not feeling collected, because everything’s a little scattered and like kind of hanging out where it shouldn’t hang out. Let’s come one. Let’s collect you, I want you to collect yourself. Let’s bring everything together so it doesn’t feel so scattered.” and kind of is just like a little vacuum that pulls everything that’s been laying out there. That’s how I use that point and it’s really effective for anxiety, among other things. But it’s this idea that essentially if fluids stagnate for so long, it’s like if you put clean water into a puddle and then over time it just sits there and gets all funky, that can happen with us too, so this is part of the whole point of properly functioning Bladder, properly functioning Kidney, we need to have the Kidneys filtering stuff out, we need to get the Bladder eliminating, and that kind of proper flow is what keeps our fluids in the state that they need to be versus sitting around and not acting right.
Raymond: Right, not acting right.
Billy: You are not acting right.
Raymond: Speaking of turbid fluids, I mentioned I had recovered from a sinus infection and it had been a really long time since I had one, basically since I’d discovered neti potting and I think we’ve proselytized before, right? What was our motto though, it was “No amoebas 2019”. So anyway that’s what happened, probably the last time we talked about it was maybe the last time I neti potted and I had been neglecting it all sort of spring and summer and so I think that’s why I was very susceptible to it. So even though it was really terrible to be sick, it was really nice to know what to do with it and to neti pot, and sometimes the stuff that comes out of my head I was like oh my gosh, I was thinking about that puddle, that was something that was sitting in a sinus and was starting to collect and grow and become sentient and it needed to leave my body.
Billy: Sentient? Oh my god
Raymond: I mean, you know, it’s bacteria, right? I’m saying like what if they organized, Billy Janes? Like I understand, individually none of them are that powerful, but what if they realize their power and unite.
Raymond: So that’s what I mean. That’s what happens when I start to get a little feverish, I start to worry and I’m like oh no
Billy: They’re going to take over!
Raymond: We’re already a multiverse, right? With all our bacteria in our gut and things like that. Anyway, okay, so you were talking about the water element earlier as far as the unconscious and the metaphorical death and how it sort of fits into that cycle. And that just made me think a little bit too about going back to that five element circle that I described a few episodes ago and usually when I describe element theory, I always start with water and there’s a way that I feel like that’s kind of, probably just because we’re human beings we have a lot connection to water, but also just being earth beings, we first came out from water and things like that. So in the five element theory, you have the water that feeds the wood, the wood grows and then the wood becomes the tree that feeds the fire, so fire’s the next element, then the fire burns down to ash, which is earth and then the earth is the soil, but if you go deep down into the soil, that’s where you find the minerals and that’s the metal element and beneath that is the water table, so we come back to that water element and sort of thinking about it as water is that deep, deep underneath the earth, and how a lot of the other elements are sort of expression of that depth, and how that relates to what we were talking about with the Kidney and the Bladder. The other thing, we talked about fluids in it, but then there’s also the spirit associated with different organs and channels. And so I think we talked about shen before when we were on the heart episode. But with the Kidney the spirit element associated with it is the zhi. Did I pronounce that correctly? Zhi, the will. So that’s also what I was talking about earlier is that the Bladder is the expression of the Kidney’s will and so the Kidney wants something to happen then the Bladder is that young organ that takes the action and makes us actually do the steps that enact whatever it is that the will inspired it to do.
Billy: I love that. When we think about water, we think about the particles and then as the particles become a grouping you just see water, but water is such a great way of looking at particle waves and this idea of the building blocks of our universe. So there is this very deep place, and also just the unseeable darkness within the water and how you really can’t see down into the deepest part of the ocean and it brings up a lot of psychic fears. We’ve seen from Moby Dick and everything, there’s these places in our psyche of this
Raymond: Or me last summer when I was in a lake and I was real deep and I was like “Gotta get back on the boat!” I was like “It seems fun. My friends are frolicking, I’m gonna jump in!” and I was like “Oh no, I am not a strong swimmer and I’m scared and this is not for me.”
Billy: Right. There might be something in that water. What touched my leg! Ah!
Raymond: It’s too deep, it’s too deep. I can’t touch my unconscious. Not today, not today.
Billy: Not today lake, not today.
Raymond: Sorry, I had to interrupt you.
Billy: No, but that’s a perfect example because like what you said, we came out of water and it is a very deep, unconscious place and what is so far back there, you know. And so I think that, especially when we’re talking about water, it’s this abyss, it is that unconscious, it is pieces of sadness and depression and all of those things that lie there. If we peer over the edge of the abyss, it can be so terrifying to take a look that we might get pulled in and that’s where I think a lot of what we’re talking about is that there are ways of working with this energy that, you know, you can access a professional to help you move through some of those darker places in your life or you can get some sort of body work in a way that feels good and affirming and all of those things. Sometimes when we are in those places, our autonomic nervous systems have been overwhelmed by modern life, stress, trauma and it doesn’t know when to get out of the fight or flight mode and so this is one of the signs of maybe you are in this dark water place and here is some steps or some way of looking at it that might be helpful, in terms of moving through it. Because the idea is, especially in our medicine, is that we want to keep things moving. Movement is life, chi wants to move. When it stagnates, that’s when you get that place of not moving, the bitterness, in this case with the Bladder channel, it’s that place of “I’m not able to get out. I’m trapped here”. That kind of super relatable place I feel like we’ve all been through and it’s helpful now for me to have some kind of way of contextualizing it and I think that’s also what I’m hoping to provide here. When we have a larger view of something, it might be helpful for us to move through it versus when we’re in the trees and we can’t see the forest.
Raymond: Right. Yeah. And it sort of helps us, I feel like sometimes bringing new perspectives helps you rewrite the story and that’s definitely, I feel like, a piece of healing. There’s sort of the three points that come up a lot with PTSD recovery and trauma recovery, the three steps. So the first step is to get to safety, so get to a point where you’re out of the danger so there’s that step. The second one is the integration of story, and it can definitely help to talk to someone else about it, so that’s why it’s often encouraged to find a talk therapist because then you can have someone to talk it out with who can help you rewrite that story. But there’s also a lot of different ways and a lot of different cultural traditions that also fit that piece. I think a lot of times, that’s what a lot of art therapy is, is that people are having a conversation through their creative process to rewrite the story, and things like that.
Raymond: So, talk therapy can be so useful, I’ve had three amazing therapists in my life, two of whom definitely helped save my life in different ways and all that. But I could only go to a certain point for that full healing and that full figuring out my story and I had to include somatic things and I had to include going back and looking at my childhood, and even just my trauma that happened in my 20s and things like that, and really see how those had affected me in ways that I either didn’t know, or I just didn’t want it to be true, so I pretended that it didn’t affect me, because that seems like that’ll work. And it does work for a while, but kind of like that story I was telling, like at some point I’m driving down the highway and I’m driving really fast, at some point, I am going to run out of gas, and so even though it seems like I’m doing okay, and that is essentially what happened. At certain times in my life, I sort of burnt out and crashed out and that made me really reevaluate, how did I get here and how do I not get here again. The other thing I was thinking about too is that one way you might know that your Bladder channel or your Bladder meridian is pretty depleted is that if you’re one of those people that if you basically sit down and fall asleep within 5-10 minutes, then you’re pretty Bladder depleted. So if you find you can’t even watch TV, you can’t watch movies, you can’t read a book, because essentially the second you sit down on a comfy chair, or a couch, or whatever, you just immediately doze off, then that’s often a sign that you might be dealing with a little deficiency in your Bladder meridian.
Billy: I love what you were talking about your kind of going back and looking at your life and figuring out the story in a way, and I think that’s why this monomyth, or the hero’s journey, has been such a helpful framework for me, especially in the beginning, and why I enjoy sharing it with people. I think in trying to figure how to live my most authentic life and stumbling over myself, I thought, well I’m just going to write my own narrative, I see it all the time on self-help, they’re like “Write your own narrative, write yourself into a place of power.”, right?
Billy: So I’m like oh okay great, I’m going to be the writer of my life and really that is something that I think comes later in the journey.
Billy: Really the beginning part is looking back at your journey and trying to figure out, how do I contextualize it in a way that feels real and honest and also can put a perspective on what I’ve been through. So for me, a lot of that was doing art, so I did a lot of writing, I did a lot of art, and kind of taking all of those pieces and creating something that felt cohesive and real. I think the interesting part is, as time moves forward, history also revises itself, so the ways that I had wrote the things in my past also shifted over time as I grew into and observed those things. That whole idea of story and how that relates to the body, I think especially as a bodyworker, but our listeners may also see this as well is that the body tells a story and you can have somebody laying face down and as you look and feel their body, you can feel the story of what’s going on in their life. That’s where I feel the Bladder channel is really powerful is that it encompasses such a large portion of the body and so many profound moments of storytelling can be found in the Bladder channel, even the parts of the Bladder channel, it runs down the center of the back but there’s some that run on the outer part of the back, those are called the spirit points. So the Bladder channel has not only this very physical aspect to it, but it also has the spiritual aspect to it and you can work with it and penetrate at deeper levels. I feel like that’s also the power of storytelling, is that we can tell a story, but we can tell the story again and again, over time, and allow it to be revised.
Billy: It can tell and give life and movement and it can be absolutely life giving. So I feel like that’s a wonderful way of really using that idea of the fluidity of our histories and also our present and working with the storytelling, as the body does.
Raymond: Yeah. So I gave the first two points, but I realized I didn’t say the third, when it comes to the recovery steps. So safety is one, two is telling the story, and three is actually connection and I also think of that as reentry into the world, sort of like, trauma is often thought of as a way that we feel separated from the world because something happened, an act of violence in some way separated us from someone which makes us feel separated from just the larger world. And we have to reintegrate into our own body and reintegrate that body back into society and figuring out who do you trust and how do you trust again and how do you find your place and things like that. So I feel like a lot of times the recovery process is bouncing between two and three, that’s what I was thinking about when you were talking about how you rewrite the story but then new information comes along or just a few years pass and our relationship to the feelings of an incident change, and things like that. There’s all these different ways that you can get insight or decide to let things go, or just decided to change it, and I kind of love doing that. One of my favorite things for people is helping write dating profiles and cover letters and artist bios and things like that, because I just love like “Give me some list of accomplishments” and then I write it up and people are like “Dang, I sound fancy” or “I sound professional” and I’m like because you are!
Raymond: I love being able to use my words and just because I’ve read a million bios in my life, so I just feel like I can churn out that language pretty fast and I sort of know how they sound like or whatever. So it’s a nice gift to have and I like offering that to people. I think I even do that in my shiatsu clients a little bit too. I was thinking about this too, I need to come up with a better post session spiel, because I think I tend to be very much like “You’re doing great, sweetie! Have a wonderful life! I love you, go home!”
Raymond: I don’t like to diagnose people in that way. I’m working from a very anti pathogenic model, which is like boosting what’s working in their body. So my sessions are probably 50% tricks of the trade, like I almost feel like I’m an hvac cleaner for the body, I just sort of hear the channels, like I was saying, I almost always work the Bladder channel and nowadays, I almost always work shao yang, I almost always work that Triple Heater / Gall Bladder. Because that one, I talked a little bit about last episode, as far as there’s different ways you can pair up the meridian and then they have different fancy names, so we haven’t actually gotten to triple heater or gallBladder yet, those are episodes TK, but if you pair them together it’s called, shao yang. It’s the connected channel that runs down the side of the body and it connects the top and the bottom and the front and the back, so it’s a nice one that I feel, kind of how we were talking about the Bladder hits a lot of things, I feel like the shao yang also hits a lot of things.
Billy: Oh yeah.
Raymond: So a lot of times I’ll just be like, especially if this is a person’s first time coming in, I’ll sort of default to that. Because I know it’s going to do powerful stuff and then I can also be palpating as I go, because not only are they primary channels, so it’s a back and forth, so not only are they so primary that I feel like I can do good healing by pushing and doing shiatsu and stimulating points, but if I’m listening, I can also receive a lot of information while I’m working it as well. Then I’ll sort of fine tune and we’ll move to different areas or different channels, based on either what the body is telling me or combined with what they come in telling me, like if they come in telling me they’re going through certain things, then I’ll have in the back of my mind, “Oh, check on the lung meridian”, you know, things like that. So it’s sort of a dance of here are my typical things I do, because I really do think of myself as a housecleaner, you know what I mean? Like you can go in and do a basic clean of anyone’s house, you can wipe down the bathroom and clean the toilet and put all the dishes away, and you know which areas of the house are probably the most dirty and you can do an okay job, but the more you spend time in a space, the more you get to know it and the more you know, “Oh that’s that vent that always gets clogged” or whatever, so you can kind of do a better job. I feel like that a lot too, so when someone comes in for the first time, I know that my shiatsu session is going to do, like you know, I’m going to clean their house, but the people who come to see me every couple weeks, or every month, who I’ve been seeing for years, those are the ones that I feel like I can do so much with their body, because I know exactly where things tend to collect or whatever. I mean I still have to make sure I don’t fall back too much into just assuming I know best, because I want to make sure I’m alert, because our bodies are always changing and new things are coming up and things like that.
Billy: I think that’s such an important part of the work that I do with my patients is when I’m first in there with them, I try to engage in deep listening, because a lot of healing is about being witnessed and to really whatever it is that’s happening to them. So I have to go into diagnostic mode and like how am I going to figure out how am I going to treat this at an emotional level, at a physical level, how do I hit all those levels.
Billy: Then at the end, a lot of times what is being called for, and this is why in a lot of our schools we may have learned some kind of neuro linguistic programming or ways of being able to use language to help move people forward and help them to figure out what direction they want to move, but about taking the context of where they’re going in this journey, where they are and how to get to the next place, I feel like is also part of the medicine as well. So those are things I keep in my head, so a lot of what we’re talking about here are the tools that are in my toolbelt that I can be able to offer, but people also offer this through tarot readings.
Billy: There are so many ways. We have the benefit of also being able to work with the body and being able to access that physiological structure, but there’s so many ways in which what we are doing is also being done in these powerful other traditions.
[“Billy’s Herbal Corner theme” starts playing]
Raymond: Do you have any herbs for the Bladder meridian? Is that something that you ever really do?
Billy: I mean, yeah. Oftentimes, when I have patients who are having Bladder issues, we haven’t really talked about urination today specifically, but generally when I have people who have Bladder issues, I will talk with them about the magical effects of cornsilk. Cornsilk is wonderful.
Raymond: Oh my gosh, okay.
Raymond: It’s not just for your doll’s hair.
Billy: Oh my god, really?
Raymond: You can tell, I was apparently raised real country.
Raymond: I was like oh is that some Mississippi coming out?
Billy: That’s amazing. Oh my god.
Raymond: Funny. I love that. I love those deep cultural things that people are like “What?” and you’re like “My bad, did I say something?”.
Billy: Totally. I had this whole visual of it and it’s pretty amazing.
Raymond: I feel like that’s sort of what the cabbage patch dolls were trying to emulate.
Billy: Oh interesting.
Raymond: Like they were the fancy, polyester version. But I also could just be conflating some weird stuff from my childhood mind, so anyways, sorry. Tell me about cornsilk as medicine, Billy Janes.
Billy: Oh yeah. So basically, the cornsilk the whole thing is you make an infusion out of it, so you buy a your regular corn with the husk, you take off the husk, you grab the silk, you throw it into a little, mason jar and then add boiling water, you allow it sit for a time and then you drink it. So usually people who have issues with spastic Bladder or any discomfort or possibly UTI or anything like that, I will recommend that they have cornsilk.
Billy: In its actual form because it has saponin, soap-like benefits to it that if you took the tincture, you would get some of the benefits of the medicine, but it’s really best to have it in that form.
Raymond: Works better to have as an infusion. Yeah.
Billy: Yeah and it’s pretty inexpensive to get and widely available. Some grocery stores, they just husk them and that’s it, so I’m sure you could just go into a grocery store and take some corn silk, like who’s gonna stop you boo.
Raymond: I know that’s true. Bring your own little bag, and then pocket a little corn silk on the side.
Billy: That’s right, you heard it here.
Raymond: I think they’ll be okay.
Billy: Or just put it on your doll and they’ll never notice.
Raymond: Tie it as a bowtie, put it on your bootleg wooden horse.
Billy: And ride it out of the grocery store.
Raymond: Your old ass, countrified, creepy ass, haunted doll. Southern gothic shit.
Raymond: Oh man, but yeah, I’d never heard of that. That’s cool, I’m going to try that.
Raymond: I was thinking if you didn’t have an herb, we would basically play the Billy’s herbal corner theme and we’d both go “Hydrate” and that would be it, that would be our advice for Bladder.
Billy: Maybe we could do that and then add like sike.
Raymond: We’ll just do it now.
Raymond and Billy Together: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
Raymond: Hydration is queer culture. Honor your queer roots.
Billy: What? Oh my god. That’s the first time I’ve heard that, it’s brilliant.
Raymond: I didn’t come up with it, but the second I read that I was like yes.
Billy: Yes that’s amazing. Hydration is queer culture.
Raymond: And I have to say, I think it helps remind me to drink water, I just feel like, oh god, I gotta represent.
Raymond: I gotta honor myself and my people. I gotta drink this water for my people.
Billy: Do it for my people.
Raymond: You know what, whatever it takes, right?
Billy: Yes. Speaking of the ancestors.
Raymond: That’s right. Oh my goodness. Oh this was a wonderful conversation about the Bladder, the Urinary Bladder, the UB, that’s more how it shows up on acupuncture charts, we just call it the Bladder. Next week we’ll stay with the water element and talk a little bit more about the Kidney. So thank you all for listening and we’ll see you next time.
[Outro Music Plays]
Transcription by firstname.lastname@example.org