Have you ever experienced profound grief and sadness that caused you to shift your perspective on life? Although painful, processing grief is a natural part of being alive that everyone encounters at one point or another. Typically, you experience grief when you lose something dear to you, whether it’s a person, animal, career, or anything else that has significance in your life.
Even though grief can be difficult to experience, it has an important purpose. In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, grief is the process of making sense of transitions that challenge your expectations of reality. Although it’s impossible to avoid loss and grief, it is possible to understand how it works and move through it more gracefully.
In this blog, we explore grief from the perspective of Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong. We also share a five-minute Qi Gong breathing exercise to help you process grief in your own life.
A TCM Perspective on Grief
In Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong, the energy of grief is connected to the Metal Element and the lungs. When grief is present within you, your lungs shrink inward, causing your head to lower and your shoulders to hunch over your body.
The Metal Element and lungs play an important role in your body’s ‘purging’ process. In other words, when you’re sad, your body naturally tries to let go of old energy present in your body. This is why a lot of people let out a big exhale when something is troubling them. By releasing old or stagnant energy (noxious Qi) through the lungs, you can create space for healing and transformation. This is one of the reasons why the lungs are so important for immune system health and emotional processing.
The Lungs and the Metal Element automatically help us process grief and sadness, but there are a few proactive steps you can take to help the process too. One of these is taking the time to understand where your grief is coming from.
Understanding and Processing Grief
When grief occurs, it can be tempting to suppress or avoid the feelings that arise. Sometimes, people try to make themselves busy in an attempt to “escape” from feeling sad or depressed. In some cases, individuals may even turn to alcohol or other substances to bury their grief. While such behaviors may provide a short-term escape, they don’t help with processing experiences and releasing sadness.
One of the first steps to processing grief is to acknowledge its presence. If grief is present within you, try to take a step back and acknowledge where your grief is coming from. Sometimes, it might be clear, such as the loss of a loved one. At other times, the source of grief may be less obvious. For example, sometimes a person may experience grief when they move past a certain stage in life or encounter new limitations associated with aging. Even though a significant life event may not mark these experiences, they can still cause grief.
Once you’ve identified the source of your grief, try to sit with it and acknowledge its presence. In many cases, it can be helpful to take out a piece of paper or journal and write down how you’re feeling. Seeing your thoughts and feelings on paper is a wonderful way to truly acknowledge and honor the experiences you’re going through. Although this can be difficult at times, it will help you start to transform the emotional energy so healing can occur.
After bringing your feelings of grief to the surface, the next step is to release whatever old energy is present within you. Qi Gong breathing exercises are the perfect way to help with this process.
Qi Gong Breathing Exercise to Process Grief
Before beginning, we suggest that you read through the instructions one or two times so you can fully focus on the exercise once you start.
To do this exercise:
- Start by sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
- Try to relax your neck, shoulders, chest, and any other parts of your body that might be holding tension.
- Take a few deep breaths to further relax all parts of your being.
When you’re ready, take a long, slow inhale as you count to four. Try to make your breath smooth so you’re inhaling consistently for four seconds. Once your lungs are full, hold your breath and count to two. Then, release your breath slowly and exhale as you count to eight. When you get to the bottom of your exhale, repeat the same pattern for your next breath.
Again, the breathing pattern goes like this:
Inhale slowly for the count of four.
At the top of your inhale, hold your breath and count to two.
Slowly release your breath as you exhale for the count of eight.
All parts of your breath are important, but the exhale is what helps you release old energy. On your exhale, imagine old, stagnant Qi leaving your body. On your inhale, visualize rich, nourishing energy flowing into your lungs. Continue this visualization process throughout the practice—old energy leaving your body as you exhale and nourishing energy flowing in as you inhale.
Try to do this exercise for at least five minutes, although you can certainly do it longer if you prefer. When you’re ready to conclude, smile to yourself and take the transformative energy of your practice with you into the rest of your day.
Learn More Exercises for Processing Grief and Releasing Old Energy…
If you’re interested in learning more practices for processing grief and releasing stagnant Qi, be sure to check out our on-demand Qi Gong for Fall Workshop.
Fall is the season for processing and releasing sadness so you can experience transformation and healing. Just as trees let go of their leaves in preparation for winter, you can also learn how to release old energy in your own life.
In our Qi Gong for Fall Workshop, Lee teaches powerful Qi Gong exercises designed to boost your Lung Qi and the Metal Element. This helps you move through grief with more clarity and confidence, allowing you to find greater peace and acceptance in your life. Click on the banner below to learn more about the healing benefits of Qi Gong.