Just my point: yin tang

09 September 2023 | Practice
Peter Firebrace
BAcC Fellow: Denmark
My point this time has something of a strange and unusual story. On the midline of the forehead between the eyebrows, directly on the pathway of the du mai governor vessel – between DU 24 Spirit Court shen ting 神 庭 in the hairline and DU 25 White Crevice su liao 素 髎 at the tip of the nose – it is not considered a du mai point.

Seal Hall yin tang 印 堂 M-HN-3 is always an extra point. Why is this? To hide it? To avoid overuse? To emphasise in a way its difference to standard du mai points? We can only speculate, but we do not know for sure. To me, it indicates that it is a special point and therefore needs some special study to understand its nature.

It is certainly an interesting area, at the centre of the brow – one especially full of meaning for Hindus, Buddhists and Daoists, who will often mark the point in particular ways. For Hindus, the area is part of their yoga tradition in India, going back two to three thousand years, in which they proposed seven chakras or wheels of energy within the body. This area is the sixth chakra. The Compendium of Shiva, Shiva Samhita, one of the classics of the hatha yoga tradition, writes:

The two-petalled chakra, called the Ajna, is situated between the two eyebrows. Within that petal, there is the eternal bija seed syllable, brilliant as the autumnal moon. This is the great light held secret in all the tantras; by contemplating on this, one obtains the highest success, there is no doubt of it.
Rai Bahadur Vasu translation

Contemplating the great light held within this place lifts one out of duality and into unity. Above the two eyes, the two ears, the nose and mouth, we are above duality and above the senses, reaching a more primal level of consciousness. This is sometimes represented as a third eye, an eye that sees beyond material form. It is also represented by a red dot – a bindi – to show that this area is active in the person wearing it.

For Buddhists many statues of Buddha have a concave dot – an urna – on his forehead to show his enlightenment and great wisdom. It is part of his serene and focused atmosphere, manifesting the purity of his mind.

White Tara

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, their supreme goddess of compassion, healing and long life, White Tara, is represented as seven-eyed, with an extra eye on her forehead, as well as on her two palms and her two soles, so she is highly aware of people’s suffering and able to help.

For Daoists this area between the eyebrows is the external area to indicate the location of the upper cinnabar field within the head. The text from the Map of the Cultivation of Authenticity Xiuzhentu 修 真 圖 provides the details:

The Mud Pill ni wan 泥 丸 is the upper cinnabar field, shang dan tian 上 丹 田. It is one inch and two tenths wide. This opening is the Empty Pass xu guan 虛 關 in which the spirit shen 神 resides. It is located right in the centre of the head when one penetrates it from the space between the eyebrows. If, from the Gate of Heaven tian men 天 門, one penetrates one inch inside the head, one reaches the Palace of Light ming tang 明 堂; if one penetrates another inch in, one reaches the Grotto Chamber dong fang 洞 房 and another inch in, one reaches the Mud Pill ni wan 泥 丸. Catherine Despeux French translation

Note here that the space between the eyebrows, the area of the point yin tang, is clearly the starting point for the journey to reach the centre of the head, the Empty Pass where the spirit resides. Hence it has a natural link with the shen 神 spirit and the heart and the stabilisation of any disturbance that may be affecting them. Interestingly here the yin tang area is called the Gate of Heaven tian men 天 門, showing that it is a way to open into that level of being, hence the key qualities of calmness, presence and detachment that yin tang offers to the patient.

This description reminds me of my visit to see the Buddhist rock-cut cave temples in Ajanta, Maharashtra state, India fifty years ago. Stepping from the bright light outside into the cave, at first I can see nothing, then slowly my eyes adjust and the Buddhas reveal themselves, carved into those mountain stone walls. At the back, a door is revealed and going in, another carved Buddha cave.

The same procedure, it takes time to adjust, not only to the lack of light, but also the lack of noise. It is quiet and still, undisturbed. I see another door that goes further in and following it, find a third smaller, darker, more intimate carved cave. Once settled it is easy to be there, at peace, one more meditating Buddha in the cave.

For me, this is the reality of the Daoist description of the upper cinnabar field in the centre of the head, the Mud Pill, the Empty Pass in which the spirit resides. Retired from the world, from form, from activities and things to a silent, stable, peaceful space within.

After this exploration of the special nature of the area between the eyebrows, let us return to the acupuncture side. The name of the acupuncture point at this key location is yin tang 印 堂. Yin 印 is a seal, a stamp, a mark, a print. To apply a seal, to mark, to print. A seal is a mark of authority and authenticity.

Tang 堂 is a hall, a main room, a palace. We find tang 堂 in BL44 Spirit Hall shen tang 神 堂 on the back in the heart area and in REN 18 Jade Hall yu tang 玉 堂 on the front, again close to the heart area. This third tang 堂 at the level of the eyes also links to the heart and emotional stability.

Yin tang 印 堂 is therefore a sealed or marked hall, a place known for its particular authoritative quality. To be or not to be on the du mai, that is the question. It makes no difference. It is on the pathway of the du mai, but it is not given its name. It has its own name and quality.

Yin tang is very useful in stress and anxiety, since it allows the patient to rise above disturbed, divergent and oppositional perspectives and is an extremely important point for patients in situations of continued conflict. This is not a denial, but the attainment of a new perspective. A useful combination is yin tang with GB 21 jian jing and KID 3 tai xi.

Interestingly yin tang has recently been used by medical teams in hospitals because it has been shown to decrease pre-operative anxiety levels effectively in patients undergoing surgery under general anaesthesia. Studies were made in 2016 in England (Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology) and in 2021 in India (Indian Journal of Clinical Anaesthesia), both showing positive results for the low-cost option of using a needle at yin tang to allay pre-operative anxiety without medication.

The point is also helpful in addiction where the patient is at the mercy of material, led on by the perceived benefits of the substance and in denial about the risks and dangers, even when they are obvious to everyone around them. It weakens the hold of desire. It is often used in combination with the NADA ear points in treatments for substance abuse.

Yin tang is of great benefit to restore proper sleeping patterns, regular, deeper, with less disturbing dreams and unscripted interruptions. In a sense it helps the patient to leave the world to which they are so strongly tied, to properly experience the temporary death of sleep, liberated, away, untied. A useful combination for this is yin tang with HT 7 shen men and KID 6 zhao hai.

The point yin tang restores a connection to the self, above the messy duality of desires and aversions, the glitzy attractions of sights, sounds, aromas, tastes and talk. It silences the three jabbering monkeys that distract and distress the heart. It calms the frenetic horse that plays up and pulls away, always hungry for attention, also a disturbance for the heart. It desensitises, bringing release and freedom.

Needling yin tang I feel stimulates the patient into a meditational state, beyond the senses, above the normal constraints and customary reactions to a place beyond. In the Daoist Inner Landscape Map Neijingtu 內 景 圖, Laozi, the old master, sits in this place between the eyes, calm, connected, his long earlobes and eyebrows reaching to the ground, smiling benignly, dressed in the robe of longevity to indicate his easy ability to reach old age intact and on form, one of the immortal sages, xian 仙, a man of the mountain.