East Asian Taoism The Meridian System: Channels of Awareness Share Flipboard Email Print Print Collector/Getty Images / Getty Images Taoism Principles Origins By Elizabeth Reninger Taoism Expert M.S., Sociology and Philosophy, University of Wisconsin–Madison B.S., Mathematics and Women's Studies, Northwestern University M.S.O.M., Southwest Acupuncture College–Santa Fe Elizabeth Reninger is a Taoist practitioner of qigong, acupuncture, and tuina massage. She is the author of several books on spirituality, including "Physics, Philosophy & Nondual Spiritual Inquiry." our editorial process Elizabeth Reninger Updated May 11, 2017 Like a network of rivers nourishing a landscape, the meridians are the channels through which qi (chi) flows, to nourish and energize the human body. These channels exist within the subtle body. Though they may have a correspondence to the physical nervous system, you won’t find the meridians per se on an operating table! Collectively, the meridians form the matrix within which the physical body functions. They also act as a network of communication between the physical and the more subtle energetic bodies. How Many Meridians Are There There are twelve main meridians in the body, each associated with a particular element and Chinese medicine organ system. The meridians are typically listed in Yin/Yang pairs: Lung (arm-yin) and Large Intestine (arm-yang) = Metal ElementStomach (leg-yang) and Spleen (leg-yin) = Earth ElementHeart (arm-yin) and Small Intestine (arm-yang) = Fire ElementBladder (leg-yang) and Kidney (leg-yin) = Water ElementPericardium (arm-yin) and Triple-Warmer (arm-yang) = Fire Element (again!)Gallbladder (leg-yang) and Liver (leg-yin) = Wood Element Where Are The Meridians Located? The arm-yin meridians flow from the torso along the inner edge of the arms to the fingers. The arm-yang meridians flow from the fingers along the outer edge of the arms to the head. The leg-yang meridians flow from the head down the torso and along the outer edge or back of the legs to the toes. The leg-yin meridians flow from the toes along the inner edge of the legs to the torso. The qi in a given meridian is strongest during a specific two-hour interval of the twenty-four hour day. The way qi travels in this cycle through the meridians is referred to as the Meridian Clock. When this flow is balanced and harmonious, we experience physical and emotional well-being. When the flow is blocked, erratic or deplete, we experience physical or emotional dis-ease. Qigong and acupuncture are practices which help us to maintain a healthy flow of qi through the meridian system. Along with the twelve main meridians, there are what are called the Eight Extraordinary Meridians: the Du, the Ren, the Dai, the Chong, the Yin Chiao, the Yang Chiao, the Yin Wei, and the Yang Wei Meridians. The Eight Extraordinary Meridians are the first to form in utero. They represent a deeper level of energetic structuring and play an important role within the practice of Inner Alchemy. Acupuncture Points Along the path of the meridians, there are certain places where the energy pools, making the qi of the meridian more accessible there than at other places. These pools of energy are called acupuncture points. Each acupuncture point has a specific function, in relation to the Element and Organ System being accessed. The most powerful points tend to be at the ends of the meridians: at the toes, ankles, and knees; or fingers, wrists, and elbows. Very often, a symptom expressing in one part of the body will be alleviated by stimulating an acupuncture point that’s located in a completely different place on the body! This works because the point being stimulated lies on a meridian whose energy also passes through the injured or diseased part of the body – so the intelligence of a specific acupuncture point can be transmitted along the course of the meridian to the place within the body that is in need of healing. Origins Of Our Knowledge Of The Meridian System Who discovered the meridian system? It’s generally agreed that the source of our knowledge of the meridian system is three-fold: (1) information received in the deep meditations of the ancient sages; (2) the direct experience of the yogis, i.e. what they felt/saw within their own bodies; and (3) the empirical explorations of many generations of qigong and Chinese medical practitioners. Disruption Of Meridian System Function Via Man-Made EMF's Increasingly, we live in a sea of man-made EMF's, produced by our various electrical and WiFi devices. If we naturally have a strong constitution, or through our qigong practice have developed a strongly-balanced energy-body, then we may remain largely unaffected by the electromagnetic currents of our computers, cell phones and AC electrical grid in our homes. But for most of us, the field of man-made EMF's has disruptive, and potentially very harmful, effects upon our body's meridian system -- which is the "analog nervous system" that keeps our body/mind's self-healing mechanisms functioning properly. Instead of resonating -- via the acupuncture meridian and dantian/chakra systems -- with the Earth's electromagnetic field, we begin to resonate with various man-made EMF and WiFi devices, which interrupts the natural intelligence of our body's own electrical system. So -- what to do? I strongly recommend investing in some kind of EMF protection device. Two that I've reviewed on this site are EarthCalm's Nova Pendant and Infinity Home Protection System. All of EarthCalm's products are excellent -- the best EMF protection devices that I've come across, to date -- but you may find something that works even better for you, in preserving the integrity of your precious meridian system. By Elizabeth Reninger Suggested Reading: The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, by Ted Kaptchuk (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000).Between Heaven & Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine, by Harriet Beinfield (New York: Ballantine, 1991).