Chinese lesson: ming
Ming 明 is often found together with the character shen 神 to create the phrase shen ming 神 明 – the radiance of the spirits, illuminated wisdom, clarity of consciousness.
Chapter 7 of the second century BCE text the Huainanzi suggests that the dao is the source of shen ming, and the Zhuangzi, in its argument against the excessive use of logic, constantly urges us to use ming 明 – our enlightened intuition.
Artwork by Sandra Hill
In describing the various functions of the zang fu 藏 符, Neijing Suwen chapter 8 tells us that the heart is the ‘lord and sovereign’ – jun zhu 君 主 – of the body, and that shen ming shines from the heart. If the spirits – shen 神 – are able to settle in the heart, if they are not disturbed by too much emotional turmoil or anxiety, they are able to give clarity of mind and wise discernment – ming 明.
This ‘spiritual clarity’ is said to be seen in the eyes, which shine with life, and this is reflected in the name of Bladder 1 jing ming 睛 明, the brightness of the eyes. But jing ming 睛 明 also suggests a clarity of vision, and as in English, to see clearly is also to understand. The clarity of our perceptions affects our ability to understand what we are seeing and hearing, and to translate that in a way that is beneficial for life.
All the yang channels, apart from large intestine, meet at BL 1 jing ming, and it is also the meeting point of the du mai – governor vessel – and yin and yang qiao mai – motility vessels. The ability to have clear perception is enabled by the yang channels and particularly the du mai 督 脈, which, according to the Neijing, has the function of bringing pure clear yang to the upper orifices and the brain. This effect of the du mai is also seen in the alternative name of DU 23 ming tang 明 堂, the hall of radiance, light, or enlightenment.
At this midsummer time of extreme light and heat Suwen chapter 2 warns of going too far, the need to avoid extremes, staying grounded and tempering the light. DU 23 is one of Sun Simiao’s 13 ‘ghost points’ and can be used in mania and literally getting too far out. In order to obtain the brilliance and illumination suggested by ming 明, the yang of the sun energy is tempered by the yin of the moon. In order to experience clarity of consciousness, the heart responds to the open expansiveness of midsummer energy, but also requires the calm containment of the yin.