Let me put my cards on the table: I’m a Guizhi type to a T.
The textbook “effeminate bookworm.” I’m thin as a rail, tend to have cold hands and feet, and you can see my heart beating through my shirt from ten paces. Mine is not what you might call a robust constitution; in fact, I have reason to suspect that coffee is to me what methamphetamine is for most people (an unreasonably strong stimulant with the potential to destroy families and melt faces). I am, shall we say, sensitive.
So it might seem strange for me to be writing about being a warrior. I mean, who ever heard of a skinny bookworm Hercules?
All I can say is that when the call comes, you answer.
And if you spend enough time barking up the healing tree and sniffing out the straight and narrow path of the Heart, you just might find yourself on the steep switchbacks of the way of the Gallbladder.
It’s a curious pair: the feminine, receptive, immaterial Heart (xin) and the vigorous, archetypically masculine, active and very physical Gallbladder (dan). They sit opposite one another on the organ clock, the Heart residing at midsummer and heralding the return of yin, the Gallbladder occupying the winter solstice position and initiating yang’s return. The Heart is yin within yang, the Gallbladder yang within yin.
As polar opposites, these two organs have a lot in common; just swap black for white, masculine for feminine, and you transform from one to the other. As with yin and yang themselves, the Heart and Gallbladder are interdependent. And as a pair they’re central–the organ clock’s vertical axis runs from the Gallbladder at the bottom position through to the Heart at the top. The verticality of the image suggests the meaning of the Chinese word zheng, uprightness. Who must be more upright than the noble lord (Heart) on the one hand, and the footsoldier (Gallbladder) on the other? And their uprightness is interdependent: the footsoldier relies on the lord to guide his mission just as the lord depends on the footsoldier for her defense.
The Heart-Gallbladder axis is a two-way street, and it can be a slippery slope as well.
Ask my friend L, who discovered this after praying for initiation as a healer–the way of the Heart, she thought. That weekend, she was bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease. Since then, the narrative of her life has taken on the contours of an epic battle. As the spirochetes wage siege on her body, she has had to discover and draw on deep reserves of strength and resilience. In the process, she is finding that she is developing the determination of a warrior–pure Gallbladder energy–alongside the compassion of the Heart.
The moral is not only “be careful what you wish for.”
It’s that health is not something we can take for granted; often it’s something that must be fought for tooth and claw. Most often, though, the enemy is within us, in the form of negative habit patterns of (in order of increasing importance) action, speech and thought. In order to help lead others towards their highest health, which is no different from alignment with their destiny, we must first face our own obstacles to cure. And I don’t know about you, but in my experience these obstacles don’t budge easy.
As healers in training we are conscripts into the army of love, light and life; as such, we have to be what Chogyam Trungpa called “spiritual warriors.”
Whether you’re an effeminate bookworm or a barrel-chested titan, it takes the courage–the gall–of a warrior to grow into ourselves and put the healing mandate of our hearts to use. As the gongfu school where I’ve started training implies in their policy, whereby they only teach their system of tuina and craniosacral therapy to those who learn and practice their martial arts, if you want to come into the light, you must work through the dark.
In order to heal, you have to be willing to fight.
About Jonathan Edwards
I eventually found my way to Portland and NCNM’s Classical Chinese Medicine program and am now happily settled into the world of the 5 phases and 6 conformations. Alongside my focus on Shanghan Lun herbalism and Japanese meridian therapy, I continues to immerse myself in Western herbal traditions and mysticism, with a recent focus in Afro-Brazilian religion and plant spirit medicine. Learn more about Jonathan