The Philosophy of Back to Zero™ - basic principles and defined terms as applied to acupuncture, and wellness

Tao - Acupuncture is heavily influenced by eastern philosophy – most notably, Taoism.  In a way, Taoism is kind of like an early physics in that it is based on the observation of nature and applying the rules of nature as a guide to all facets of life - including health and healing, the arts, political thought, martial arts, relationships, etc. The Tao is loosely translated as "the Way" or "the Way of Nature".  To follow one’s Tao is to follow a path that best resonates with, or fulfills one’s nature . . . when you follow a path that does not resonate with who you are at your core (your original nature),  joy and free flow is lost and dis-ease is likely.

Health and Spontaneity– The Chinese symbol (calligraphy) for health is the same as the symbol for spontaneity.  Likewise, the symbol for disease is the same as the symbol for stagnation.  The classical premise of acupuncture reflects this idea: “Where there is free flow there is no pain.  Where there is no free flow there is pain”. 

Wu Wei– a key concept of Taoist philosophy, wu wei  (woo way) is loosely defined as effortless effort . . . like water, taking the path of least resistance. This does not imply laziness or weakness, but rather reflects that when one acts in accordance with one’s true nature, actions seem effortless and not forced.  Taken further, if you are born to be a musician but force yourself to become an accountant, or vice versa, you set yourself up for frustration, unfulfillment and stagnate the expression of your best self.  When you pursue something you love, you are much more likely to excel and find contentment than when you put your time and energy into something you merely tolerate or dislike.

Defense Becomes the Enemy– This is a key concept to understanding my approach to acupuncture and the Back to Zero approach to wellness and wholeness. The idea is that our bodymind's defense mechanisms transition from being adaptive, short term protective mechanisms to becoming dysfunctional, maladaptive, ingrained parts of our makeup. This is happens in all areas - body, mind and spirit. For example, in response to a motor vehicle accident, muscles seize up and spasm in such a way that immobilizes the injured person’s back and neck (i.e. a whiplash). Immobilizing the spine is actually a defensive reflex to protect against further injury. However, the muscles tend to remain stuck, tight and spasmed long after the trauma has passed. This holding pattern easily becomes habituated in the bodymind causing pain, decreasing mobility, and limiting one’s quality of life. In other words, the defense (spasmed muscles) against the trauma (the actual whiplash event) has now become the enemy. Similar mechanisms operate in the mental / emotional realm and spiritual realm as well . . .

Holding Patterns– a person's holding pattern is basically the sum total of where they are stuck, for Acupuncture Physical Medicine purposes, the holding pattern is the sum total of a patient's myofascial constriction (or where muscles are tight, taut, and spasmed) rather than relaxed, supple and flexible.

Physical Holding Patterns - physical holding patterns, as written above, most noticeably manifest as rigid, hypertonic (i.e. spasmed) musculature. Holding patterns are a result of traumas, accidents, injuries, illness or stress.

Psychological Holding Patterns- all of us have neuroses or ego defenses.  Ego defenses can be thought of as automatic, unconscious thought patterns that we develop as a response to painful or anxiety provoking situations - while they may have helped to get us through painful or anxiety provoking situations at one time, when we adopt those behaviours/thought patterns as permanent ingrained, unconscious reactions they become neuroses and egoistic behaviors.  Thus, they have a restrictive influence on personality and cause suffering.  An enlightened person can be said to be free from Attachment and Aversion - that is to say, they have dropped ego . . . or at least gained enough awareness of their own ego to be able to detach from the neuroses brought on by their ego.

Spiritual Holding Patterns- Just like it sounds - when we live our lives in a way that does not resonate with our purpose, we become spiritually malaised. Many chronic pain patients have a spiritual malaise at the core of their issues - the pain may not have originally been a spiritual issue but if it is pervasive enough to limit one's freedom, the condition can evolve to one of spirit. Also, a belief that one's own spiritual beliefs are the only valid beliefs can lead to a spiritual holding pattern as well.

Intention– a specificity of focus behind an action. When one acts with intention, one  acts completely in the present moment - in zen, so to speak - no dwelling on the past or thinking ahead to future.  Actions taken with "intention" are clear, purposeful, and strong.  An acupuncturist or body worker will give much stronger treatments if he/she acts with a clear intention.  Likewise, a life lived with a clear intention that resonates with who you are, is a more fulfilled life. 

The microcosm reflects the macrocosm– the idea that similar forces that are at work on a larger scale (i.e. on the universe, the planet, a mountain) are also at work and similarly reflected on a smaller scale (i.e. on a community, a human being, a cell, an atom) and vice versa. As they say, "in small things, all things". 

Physical Discipline– is a practice that puts both order and spontaneity back into the body.  It develops suppleness, flexibility and strength, and should ideally also optimize structure and function.  It prods one towards health and wholeness. The obvious examples are the martial arts, tai chi, and yoga.  Playing Frisbee could be a physical discipline if intentionally made into one. 

Trigger Points – irritable tight tender points in a muscle that can refer pain, stiffness, and autonomic dysfunction.

Meridians– an energetic road map of the body for an acupuncturist. Acupuncture points are located on meridians.  An acupuncturist uses the meridians to navigate their way around the body.  A scientific basis for meridians is debated.  It is said that there is a higher bio-electric conductivity along the meridians and some acupuncturists and body workers think that the meridians may represent myofascial planes (ie planes of connective tissue surrounding muscles and organs). 

Enlightenment Practices– Hmmm, hard to define but generally one pursues enlightenment by seeking a state free from the constraints of ego, free from attachment and aversion, or to be in a constant meditative state. Enlightenment is said to NOT be something one GAINS but rather one is closer to enlightenment by SHEDDING the ego - which puts them closer to their original nature - i.e. who they are underneath the constant chatter of the mind. Those who pursue an "enlightened" way often will have:

  1. A physical practice - can be a physical discipline such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong.
  2. A mindfulness practice- Meditation, prayer.
  3. A dietary practice- which would involve eating clean - avoiding processed or refined foods, processed sugars or anything that mother nature did not intend to be ingested for health.

Adaptogen- is a term used by herbalists to refer to herbs that promote the bodies ability to resist the ill effects of stress. Some adaptogens are thought to have a balancing effect on the immune and endocrine systems and modulate the stress response.  Acupuncture can be said to act as an adaptogen, as do physical disciplines like tai chi and yoga.  Ashwagandha, astragalus, holy basil and rhodiola are examples of herbs considered to be adaptogens. 

Palpation - to palpate means to examine by hand, to gain information by touch. 

Myofascial constriction (Myo = muscle;  Fascia = Connective Tissue) refers to musculature in the body that is spasmed, shortened or taut dysfunctionally as a result of injury, trauma, illness or stress. 

Fascia- is a sheath-like connective tissue that surrounds and covers all the body’s structures, organs and muscles. 

Zero . . . Original Nature– think of this as who you were at birth before any ego defenses have developed . . . who you are underneath the constant chatter of the mind.  Your original nature is the empty theatre. . . the daily plays and performances that take place in the theatre are not necessarily reflective of your original nature . . . they are the chatter.

Character Armor– a concept from Wilhelm Reich, MD.  Reich famously and controversially developed the body-oriented style of “Reichian” psychotherapy. Character armour – similar to holding patterns – is said to represent ego defenses or neuroses expressed in the body as hypertonic, rigid musculature.  This concept was also further explored by Alexander Lowen, MD, a student of Reich.  Lowen developed a therapy called Bioenergetics.  Again, this work recognizes the manifestation of neuroses in the body. 

Ego Defense– Ego defenses can be thought of as automatic, unconscious thought patterns that we develop as a response to painful or anxiety provoking situations - while they may have helped to get us through painful or anxiety provoking situations at one time, when we adopt those behaviours/thought patterns as permanent ingrained, unconscious reactions they become neuroses and egoistic behaviors.  Thus, they have a restrictive influence on personality and cause suffering.

More to come . . . .


Do your work then step back.  The only path to serenity . . .