Conversations from Clinic

The Gallbladder

If we were to divide the twelve meridians in to six yin yang pairs, the final stage of the meridian cycle is the Liver Gallbladder pair. This final stage is also about preparation to start the whole cycle over again. Traditional East Asian Medicine uses a cyclical framework to explain growth and progress rather than a linear one. We move through interconnecting cycles, deepening our experience of them over a life time rather than getting to an end point or a place of completion. One may consider death as the completion of a life cycle but in another way, as the body breaks down and returns to the earth and the spirit of the person lives on in those they have encountered during their lifetime, then death can also be viewed as a point along the continuum of a bigger life cycle that encompasses us all.

The spirit of the Liver meridian is referred to as the ‘hun’. The hun is what remains after we have passed away. It is also what was there before we arrived. Unlike the ‘po’, the spirit of the Lung that enters us with our first breath and departs with our last, the ‘hun’ is eternal.

All the other systems that we have discussed until now – establishing boundaries between self and other, receiving nourishment, listening to our own truth, staying safe and interacting with others – enable us to engage with the final stage which is one of action and implementing change. If we did not have this final stage then life would grind to a halt, the initial spark of energy finally running out of momentum and further action unable to be sustained. The ability to change direction, respond to random events and envision a future beyond the current situation is what takes us out of survival and in to living, manifesting our full potential. The combination of seeing where we want to go and deciding what steps are required to get us there is the purview of the Liver Gallbladder partnership.

The Gallbladder channel is a long meridian that runs down the side of the body to support our posture a little like the Bladder meridian that runs down the back and the Stomach meridian that runs down the front. These three meridians work together to keep us upright and facilitate ease of movement. In particular the Gallbladder channel allows us to twist and turn.

A flexible Gallbladder channel keeps us nimble and allows us to change direction rapidly. In martial arts, one moves off to the side or pivots sideways to quickly avoid an attack. Physical pain along the side of the body such as temporal headache, neck and shoulder stiffness, rib pain or tight hips can indicate a Gallbladder disharmony. Likewise, so can rigidity in thinking and an inability to change your mind easily. Conversely, the opposite can also be true. When someone can easily see both sides of a situation, it can be hard to make a decision and move forward with a choice. Sometimes these people can be hypermobile in their joints due to overly loose rather than tight tendons. This is also a Gallbladder disharmony.

How can I nourish my Gallbladder meridian?

  • There are no wrong decisions. Let this idea sink in and soften any hardness and judgement you may hold against yourself for decisions you have made that didn’t bring the result you had hoped for. Even not making a decision is a decision to remain with the status quo. All decisions propel us along to the next thing. Without making a decision, we cannot get any feedback as to what we want or what to do. Sometimes results that seem unfortunate end up leading us to great things.  Even negative feedback is useful information and how we respond to it determines our happiness.
  • Holding on to self criticism harms us, making us tight and eroding self confidence and is not useful for deciding what to do next. Forgiveness of ourself and others equals freedom and the ability to move forward.
  • Abandon the idea that your decision will provide you with a definite result. You cannot control the outcome only the decision.
  • Stretch your body. Twist your body. Yoga is probably the best stretch medicine although pilates, feldenkrais and dance class are all good. A supple body cultivates a supple mind.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Hamlet, Shakespeare

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