Diane Dalbey, PhD. is a BodyMind Therapist, specializing in pain and trauma. She studied medical QiGong in Los Angeles and at the International Medical QiGong Institute in Beijing. She teaches QiGong and often uses Medical QiGong in her private practice, as a partner to many other therapies. You can visit her website at DrDianeDalbey.com. Diane is also an advocate of healing through play and fun, which she shares on her blog, MyGemesis.com.
It’s important to remember that grief is a process. Grief needs time to heal. One of the kindest, most thoughtful things we can do as grievers is to focus on just today. Be present. Be grounded and aware of living inside our skin. Adopt a gentle daily routine. The regular practice of QiGong is one of the easiest ways to do this.
QiGong is a simple, ancient Chinese practice that pre-dates acupuncture. Qi means energy and Gong means practice. Its three main areas are: breath, movement and imagery. All the exercises involve gathering ambient energy or Qi all around us and directing it within our bodies. Concurrently, we release negative unproductive Qi, such as pain and sorrow, to create space for the incoming supply.
Anyone can do QiGong. There are thousands of QiGong exercises, some of which help reduce pain, suffering and even the anger that goes with the loss of a loved one. Others help fill the “hole in the soul” we often experience with grief. When we drift off into the past, or become drawn to a dread of the future, QiGong helps us be fully in the Now, which is where all our healing takes place.
You only need to do 10 to 20 minutes of QiGong a day and you will start to feel your body, mind and spirit become lighter and more whole again. You can do it alone, with a buddy or a group. These days, you could even do it on Skype. The more people doing QiGong together, the more powerful it can be.
QiGong Is Three Easy Pieces
You will find several easy QiGong exercises below, but first let’s get acquainted with this 5,000-year-old practice. The first part is breath. You breathe normally but with a bit more awareness and focus on coordinating breath with movement. The second aspect is movement of your arms and hands, legs and feet, torso, neck and head, usually while standing. If standing is difficult, do the movements seated, sitting up straight, away from the back of the chair. The third is imagery or holding a specific mental image while breathing and moving. Life-long QiGong masters are so adept, they can influence change by their mindset alone, proof that our thoughts are indeed powerful. It’s especially helpful to remember this when we’re grieving because we often feel overwhelmed by our negative thoughts and feelings and wonder if we’ll ever feel “normal” again.
Breathe On Purpose
Let’s look a little closer at the three aspects. When we are grieving, our breath can become shallow, limited to the area under collarbones, and remain so without our knowing it. Insufficient breath lowers blood oxygen and robs us of the energy and mental clarity we need to recover. It reduces the natural movement of the rib cage, spine and belly muscles, making us stiff and less agile. QiGong breathing reminds the lungs and respiratory tissue of how wonderful it feels to inflate with air. The old term for inhalation was inspiration, literally to be filled with spirit. If you tune in to yourself when you inhale fully, you actually do feel inspired.
In traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes medical QiGong, the lungs are associated with sadness, disappointment and grief. Naturally any healing practice excels when we address the lungs. They also remove waste, i.e. carbon dioxide, and help rid the body of emotional “waste” that can accompany recovery from a loss.
Start a Movement
The second aspect of movement also reminds us that we are alive and that it’s a good thing, especially when we strongly feel a loss, or feel “at a loss.” Movement is a natural part of life. There are the obvious places that move such as arms and legs, but our organs also move continually in a process called motility. Yet the shock and sadness of grief can sap our energy, our “get-up-and-go” or worse, it can drain our motivation. Grief can make us feel “out of body,” as though we’re not quite here. QiGong movement is respectful, slow and comfortable while engaging our awareness of being part of the world, how we occupy space and relate to people around us. It’s essential to have these grounding feelings as we navigate through a difficult life event.
Get the Picture
Imagery, the third aspect, is all about your specific mental picture, or image while doing the breathing and movements of any QiGong exercise. Each practice has its own imagery. Being a big fan of the healing power of play, I invite QiGong-doers to tweak their imagery whenever it points them toward their goals. It’s quite common to imagine unproductive qi as dark, smoky air leaving the body and healing qi replacing it as a soft white or golden mist. Imagery may include temperature, directing too hot or too cold qi out and more comfortable qi to come in.
Let’s Get Started
Now you’re well equipped to begin. Wear comfortable clothes that allow free movement and shoes that are easy to take off and on. You might look online for a QiGong class near you. Ask a friend to join you or go on your own. Give it a few visits and you will be pleasantly surprised by how it changes your outlook and how it feels to mindfully occupy your body.
In the meantime, here are three short videos showing QiGong exercises to help you get acquainted. The first is an introduction and the other two are specifically for grief, sadness and disappointment.
Introduction to QiGong with John Char
John Weiss, QiGong for Grief, Disappointment and Sadness
Bodyworker Seminars, White Tiger QiGong, Transmute Grief
Photo Courtesy K. Kendall