The other day after leading the Microcosmic Orbit meditation during Qigong class, I (Elise) am talking with a student who has been practicing Qigong for several years. She’s smiling broadly and comments, “I love that meditation. It feels so grounding and centering. But I noticed doing it that there were some areas where the Qi seemed to get stuck. When I felt that, I kept guiding the Qi with my mind and felt the stuck places open.” She has integrated well the old Chinese Medicine adage: Where the mind goes, the Qi follows. She asks, “What do the stuck places mean, and is there anything I should do about them?”
“You did just right to keep guiding the Qi with your awareness. You’ve been practicing Qigong for a long time now, and it shows! Just make a note of where any stuck place is located and continue guiding the Qi, as you did. Later, you can bring attention to any stuck area and explore what door, front or back, of what chakra is related” (for more on the Microcosmic Orbit and chakra influences, see our book, Chi and Creativity: Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist, © 2007, Blue Snake Books, pp. 224-234).
Our chakras, with their emotional intelligence and the sensations they generate are our teachers. A blockage in the flow of Qi in the Microcosmic Orbit; an area of darkness; recurrent physical symptoms like a headache or a knot in the stomach, constipation, or jaw tension – they lead us to what in our life is calling for attention. In Chinese Medicine this means not just physically, but energetically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well. Besides addressing the physical source of the ailment, one might ask of an occipital headache: What’s happening in my dream life, or, How is my imagination longing to express itself? One might ask of constipation: What am I holding on to that I no longer need? Of a knot in the solar plexus: How am I not being true to myself?
Later when Kaleo and I are reflecting about the student’s experience, I ask him, “Has there been an area for you that was more challenging to move the Qi through than the others when you’re running the Microcosmic Orbit?”
“Yes, I’ve felt that before around my chest, over the middle of the sternum, more to the left, around the left lung and the old rib injury I got surfing as a teenager.”
Kaleo shares his story of bringing healing to this area for himself through Qigong and self-hypnosis (from our book, The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal, © 2014, North Atlantic Books, pp. 183-183).
Kaleo’s Story: Dialogue with Grief
A few years ago, Elise and I were back in Hawaii visiting my parents. Mom, seventy-nine years old, was in her fifth year of Alzheimer’s, and Dad, at eight-six, insisted on being her sole caretaker. It touched me to watch them holding hands while they walked slowly, mom shuffling, in the local air-conditioned mall. Mom could no longer speak. Her eyes had an emptiness to them, and sometimes she didn’t even recognize me. I felt a deep sense of loss and grief.
Years later on the anniversary of her death, I’m in California, at home recovering from a bout with bronchitis. I’m lying comfortably on the futon, with my finger-pads pressing gently into the hollows of my shoulders (Lung 1 acu-points). Recalling how loss and grief triggered many episodes of bronchitis and pneumonia as I grew up, I dialogue with my lungs for healing.
Closing my eyes, I greet my breath, this old friend, who has been with me for sixty-five years. Its comforting rhythm lulls me into relaxation. My lungs invite me to enter. They’re kind of silvery gray. I recognize the grief. It’s dark, heavy, round-shaped, fuzzy on the edges, almost prickly. It feels very old.
My finger-pads sink deeper. They touch the grief, which thrives by sucking energy from the lungs, thus weakening them. I sense there’s lots of guilt, also, from my strong Catholic upbringing. The guilt is stifling, a yellow-green mucous. I ask the guilt and grief, “When did you first appear in my lungs?”
Whoosh! I’m in Hawaii, it’s four thirty in the morning, and I’m eight years old, in bed, hiding under the covers. My parents, in the kitchen, are screaming at each other. For months they’ve been arguing and threatening divorce. I fold my hands in prayer, “Jesus, please help me! What have I done wrong? How can I make things better?” Suddenly, an intense cold fear shakes my body. The floor is being ripped away from under me, and I feel myself falling helplessly into a black void as huge as the night sky.
My adult-self uses Gestalt dialogue to address the floor. I ask it, “How can I feel stability in my life?” The floor responds, “Be mindful of situations that drain your energy. Focus on what brings you joy, confidence, and groundedness.”
Now I turn to the void and ask it, “Why are you here?” The void responds, “I’ve existed for eternity. It’s up to you to find your way through me. Aim for the light.”
I turn to my eight-year-old child-self and reassure him: “I love you, your sincerity, your determination. Don’t fear. The path you follow leads to the light.”
My adult-self looks at the dark grief and asks it, “What do you want for healing?”
The grief responds, “Let go of the fear and guilt from your past. You’ve outgrown them. Practice your Qigong exercises, inner healing sounds, and meditation to cleanse and nourish your lungs and kidneys. Fill yourself with compassion for self and others. Remember, gratitude strengthens your Qi and your immune system.”
An understanding emerges. Loss, grief, and fear will always be there, but I have a choice. I can let them either bring me down or make me a kinder teacher, healer, and companion on life’s journey.
My breath beckons me back into my lungs. I stand and move in Qigong to massage and nourish my lungs. They also want to be cleansed and wrapped in white light. On inhaling, I visualize pure white light entering and filling my lungs. On exhaling, I make the sound of Hsss and visualize heaviness and dark grief leaving my lungs. The grief does not fight or resist but becomes smaller, softer, pinkish-gray, and pliant. With each breath my lungs feel healthier, stronger, clearer, and filled with pure white.
“Dialogue with Lungs,” collage-painting by Kaleo Ching