2 0 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 7 - 2 Fa l l 2 0 2 1 4.3 Energy Channel Qi How can we understand the energy meridian lines that un- derlie the system of TCM? Meridian lines – Mai in Chinese, “channel” or “vessel” in En - glish – have a superficial component that runs just under the skin, and an internal component connecting to the organs after which they are named (Kaptchuk 2000, 106). The points accessed in acupuncture – called Jie in Chinese, literally meaning “node” or “critical juncture”– are all on the super - ficial component of the lines. The subjective experience of feeling the flow of energy in these channels varies greatly from person to person. As I’ve come to understand it, part of that may be because the meridian channels follow the path- ways of various kinds of energy in the body, depending on the depth and location. Some of the internal lines, deep within the torso, seem to correspond to clear functional relationships and dependen- cies between the organs (e.g. , the energetic or physiological connection between the kidneys and urinary bladder, the lungs and trachea, and the gall bladder and digestive tract). However, the origin of some of the other proposed energetic connections and relationships seem obscure – until you ref - erence embryology and how the fetus grows and develops in the womb (e.g. , the heart forms from a tube folding in on itself that originates from the mesoderm, together with the kidneys, thus creating the strong heart-kidney connection; Keown 2014, 142). Parts of some meridian lines seem to follow veins or arteries (blood energy). For example, the section of the stomach me- ridian line from the clavicle down to the top of the leg, fol- lows at first the internal mammary artery – passing through the nipple – then, at the junction of the ribs and abdomen, follows the superior epigastric artery followed by the infe- rior epigastric artery before joining the external iliac artery (Kaptchuk 2000, 114). Interestingly, the nipple is clearly associated with the gut and nutrition through providing the infant with breast milk. Other mammals – like dogs or pigs – have a chain of nipples that are located exactly along the path of the stomach energy line. In another example, the liv- er meridian follows the great saphenous vein from the inside of the foot, up the inside of the leg, and into the peritoneal space via the femoral canal (one of two fascial openings at the bottom of the peritoneum) to the organ itself (Keown 2014, 234). 4.4 Mechanical Force Transmission Other parts of the meridian lines follow fascial continuities. In the last few decades, a buzz of interest has developed around fascia – the connective tissue of the body (Lesondak 2017; Myers 2020). Previously it was seen as a kind of inert packing material and disregarded. Now it’s understood to have great functional import in the body and is full of senso- ry nerve endings. The work of people like anatomist Thomas Myers have shown that it’s possible to trace lines of continuous fascial connection through the body (Myers 2020). With these de- velopments, muscles are no longer seen as individual units acting independently, but as part of a network of connected tissue that transmit mechanical forces such as tension, com- pression, and torsion throughout the whole system. This type of holistic, interconnected arrangement has been described as a tensegrity structure , which is a term coined by Buckmin - ster Fuller in the 1960s (Swanson 2013, 34). It comes as no surprise to see that many of the myofascial lines of connection – anatomy trains as they’re called by My- ers – bear a striking correlation with the meridian lines of TCM – at least in the periphery of the body. For example, the superficial front line is co-located with the stomach meridian , the lateral line with the gall bladder meridian , and the superfi- cial back line with the bladder meridian (Myers 2020, 273). It’s become clear to me that one of the forms of energy that are transmitted along the meridian lines is that of mechani- cal force – tension, compression, and torsion. For example, if I extend my arm at shoulder height and stretch it backwards with the thumb facing front, I’ll be transmitting mechani- cal tension through the lung meridian line, which, from this perspective, closely corresponds to the fascial deep front arm line . However, because the whole fascial network is intercon- nected, changes in one part of the system will be felt across the whole system meaning, when something happens in one place, we might feel the consequences in seemingly uncon- nected and distant parts of the body, as often happens, when we receive acupuncture.