Truckee River Near Lake Tahoe, California

Truckee River Near Lake Tahoe, California

Here at the Academy, we are preparing for holiday break. The clinic will be closed and the interns will get some hard-earned rest. While the end of the year is often a busy time of parties, friends and family, it’s also a time of ending, closing down, and quiet. The days are shortest, and nature is coming into stillness. This is the Water element, the time when nature is completing the year’s cycle of life.

Patients coming for acupuncture at this time of year sometimes talk about the contrast of two states of mind: the outward expansion of the year’s social grand finale, and the quiet inwardness at the darkest hours of the year. It’s no wonder that the holidays can raise so many emotions. It helps to remember that outside, nature is embracing the quiet of winter even as we are dancing and toasting the year to come.

This time of dark and stillness resonates with a point on the Kidney meridian: Kidney 21 or Dark Gate. Each of the body’s acupuncture points is said to have a “spirit of the point” — a particular gift held at that place, which a skillful practitioner can open at just the right time to help his or her patient receive this gift.

The spirit of Kidney 21 is all about passing through the darkness and quiet in order to rejuvenate for a new cycle soon to come. The Dark Gate is a passageway that takes us from our deep interior before we reconnect with the light of our lives.

In her book Characters of Wisdom, Debra Kaatz translates the name of Kidney 21 as “A Dark Hidden Secret Doorway.” It is, she says, a place from which we can “see deeply into both the light and dark of our lives.” She reminds us that according to the Chinese view of nature, we cannot have darkness without light and vice-versa. When the sun shines, it also creates shadows. You might even say that because we have shadows, we can truly see and appreciate the brilliance of the sun.

Kidney 21 can be used at any time for a person of the Water constitution who needs to be reconnected with the gift of the darkness. But for all of us, it is a reminder that darkness is, in fact, vital to our well-being.

In the spirit of the Water element and Kidney 21, we hope during this holiday season that you can wind down and appreciate the quiet of your own depth and darkness. It is the beginning of the return of the new year’s light.