Conversations from Clinic

The Triple Burner

Congratulations if you have managed to read about all nine meridians I have discussed over the past nine weeks.  This next one might be a bit of a leap conceptually. Up until now, all of the meridians have had actual physical organs related to them that fall under the influence of their associated meridian. The Triple Burner (also called Triple Heater, Triple Warmer or San Jiao in Chinese) is traditionally thought of as a purely functional concept with no tangible associated organ.  However, this understanding has been changing over the last few years as advances in technology have enabled scientists to observe and study the interstitium or the space between cells in the body. These spaces are filled with fluid and until recently, technology has required fluid to be drained from the interstitium to observe it. Since observing the interstitium in its functional state it can now be considered our largest organ with functions that are closely related to those of the Triple Burner namely transportation of fluid (lymph) via a complex and dynamic network of fluid filled spaces which also absorbs shock by cushioning the cells just as the supportive Fire meridians protect the Heart.

The Triple Burner is the third and final Fire meridian assistant to the Heart. Even though it is a Fire meridian, this helpful sentinel governs the waterways of our bodily kingdom. The ‘Three Burners’ is a way of describing the three main places in the body in which metabolic activity takes place – the chest (heart and lungs), the upper abdomen (stomach, spleen, liver, gallbladder and small intestine) and the lower abdomen (large intestine, kidneys, bladder and reproductive organs). The Triple Burner provides communication between all three regions and allows smooth passage of ki and fluid between them. It works in tandem with its yin partner, the Pericardium to manage clear boundaries as well as allowing us to open up for communication and connection as required.

The Fire element corresponds to consciousness or awareness so whilst consciousness could be said to permeate the whole body, the Fire meridians play a feature role. When the Triple Burner is functioning well in tandem with the Pericardium then we have both physical and psychological protection. Awareness of our own inner processes and of our environment work together guiding us in appropriate choices that neither confine us nor put us in danger. 

Signs of a well functioning Triple Burner meridian 
 Able to easily adapt to changing environments, physical and social Fluid moves easily around the body, not accumulating as oedema or puffiness under the skinGood peripheral circulationStable body temperature despite climate changes Self awareness – conscious of internal feelings and patterns as well as spatially aware of how you are physically interacting with others and your environment 

How can I support the Triple Burner? 

For an esoteric sounding meridian there are many practical ways we can connect with it.

  1. Skin brushing – using a soft bristled brush like a baby’s brush or one purchased specifically for skin brushing, stroke from the extremities towards the heart a few times before bathing to improve circulation
  2. Feldenkrais, awareness through movement sessions – this gentle form of body work is very complementary to East Asian medicine and can expand your range of movement, teaching  you to move with grace and ease 
  3. The performing arts – acting or dancing with others can be a fun way to develop your ability to both move and communicate with others as well as express your inner life. If you’ve always wanted to and never have, as soon as social distancing allows be brave and give it a go. 

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