Kiiko Matsumoto is a fireball of Japanese knowledge with deft fingers that insert acupuncture needles with ease and assuredness for the benefit of students who lean expectantly on the edges of their seats.
She has authored a good handful of books and is internationally known for her scholarly work on Acupuncture. She interprets Chinese medical classics that the rest of us wouldn’t know how to access, let alone know how to read.
She chuckles throughout her classes – sometimes at sources only she cares to understand – smokes cigarettes with flair between breaks and tolerates no question she doesn’t find intelligent enough.
“Why you ask that question?” she demanded of me once, “No stupid question. Only good question. What you want to know?” and the sharp glint in her eye is an easy invitation to quickly reassess my needs before I open my mouth again.
I love her workshops because I get to hear more of the classic ancient texts in an environment that makes the knowledge applicable regardless of whether I am using a needle or my hands. Learning classic texts means learning how energy flows through the body in all its intricate forms. All this ancient information hasn’t even had a chance to arrive on our shores yet and it is the Chinese and Japanese masters of today that give us glimpses into vast systems of knowledge. The results of their treatments speak for themselves. The more you know of western and eastern sciences, the more you can see into the body, and the better you can treat.
One day, Kiiko was describing the pulse system. In Acupuncture, the human pulse is read in the same place as it is in Western medicine – on the radial artery on your wrist – but in Chinese medicine it is also read in three positions and at three depths of those positions, giving us nine different compartments in which to read distortion in the body. These different compartments represent three levels of the body – upper, middle and lower – and represent different meridians in those levels – Lung, Spleen and Kidney Yang on the right wrist and Heart, Liver and Kidney Yin on the left.
I have always wondered why the meridians are organized in that order, and this day she began explaining that it made sense that they lay on the parts of the wrist that they do, because that’s how the energy flowed in the body. ‘Of course’ she seemed to imply, like there was nothing more to say, and she turned to the blackboard and continued on with the workshop.
I had to ask. I sneaked my hand up carefully like a flower looking for sunshine on a cloudy day. I cleared my throat. I asked, “How is it that the energy runs that way in the body?” and she spun around and gave me that ‘stupid question’ look.
“Because that’s the life cycle of the body!” she said, almost rolling her eyes and then she looked at my face and laughed.
She walked to the board and drew what looked like a caduceus, or a double helix. Two lines that weave back and forth in a serpentine fashion that illustrate three levels – the upper, middle and lower parts of the body. She pointed to the first side at the top, on the left of the body. “Heart, right? Heart in upper left side of body”. I nodded.
She followed the helix to the middle section on the right side where it led to. “Liver, right? Liver in middle of right side of body”. Again, we nodded.
She continued the line of the helix back to the left side of the body at the lower portion of the abdomen. “Kidney. Lower body always refers to Kidney.”
She moved over to the Kidney Yang side on the lower right side of the body, up along the helix to the left side of the body in the middle, to the area where the Spleen and Stomach both lie under the ribs. She finished up at the top where she began and pointed out that Lung sits on the right side as Heart sits on the left, even though they both ‘govern’ the upper section – the chest.
And in this way, Kiiko Matsumoto taught me that there is a relationship between Chinese Medicine and the lifecycle that comprises the chakra system, even though there is no mention in the Chinese texts, as taught in the West at any rate, that refer to this ancient Hindu system. Without that link, it appears as if the meridian system and the chakra system are different, and yet, as we shall see, they are actually inextricably linked.