The Ancestral Channels, commonly known as the Eight Extraordinary Channels, treat the individual at the constitutional level. This means they can influence the expression of one’s genetic inheritance (epigenetics) and the subsequent unfolding of one’s story through the various stages of life. They came to the forefront of Chinese Medicine in the 11th Century, during the Song Dynasty, when a philosopher named Zhu Xi declared, in the midst of a fatalist worldview, that one's life is in one’s own hands. The basic message was that healing is often a choice.
The living metaphor of Chinese Medicine is perhaps truest in the Ancestral Channels. If someone is broken-hearted, we treat their body and spirit simultaneously; if their blood is invigorated, then they will feel less physical and emotional pain. If someone has bonding issues, we treat the meridian which develops when a baby initially bonds with it's mother. We talk about stress in terms of mind and body in Western Medicine as well; in fact, our very word for illness, "dis-ease", points to a condition that can be either emotional and/or physical.
The Ancestral Channels treat immediate physical symptoms, but their deeper gift is that they provide a weft of meaning with which we can meaningfully weave our lives. They can help us see more clearly who we are in a specific context or period of life. With this history and intention in mind, they might also be called The Channels of Self-Determination.