“The lung is the source of inspiration – it creates the open space, the emptiness within which new ideas and emotions take shape.” – Harriet Beinfield & Efram Korngold, Between Heaven and Earth
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Lung organ system governs the reception, movement, and expiration of qi, the circulating force behind the entire function of our bodies. Through the inhale we bring in the pure qi and release the impure through the exhale. This involuntary, repetitive action acts both as a cleansing process and a means of establishing the rhythm by which the body flows. The Lung’s yang partner, the Large Intestine, aids the process by evaluating what nutrients are of value to the body, and what can be eliminated.
This process of discernment, purification, and release has both physical and emotional implications. When the Lung qi is weak, we are most susceptible to sadness or grief, however, grief consumes the lung qi, creating a cyclical pattern of emotional injury. When the lung qi is strong, every new inhale contains boundless possibility and every exhale is an opportunity to release and move on from the past. Every cycle of inspiration, dissemination, and expiration allows us the opportunity to escape from the limitations of our thoughts and to truly exist in the moment.
To honor the spirit of the season, I offer you this simple, breath-based meditation.
To begin your practice, lie down on your back with a rolled up blanket or bolster underneath your knees. Let the legs roll to a position where they feel comfortable. If the neck is uncomfortable or the chin is jutting toward the ceiling, place an additional folded blanked underneath your head.
Rotate the arms so that the palms and inner arms are facing the ceiling and the chest feels broad and open. If the shoulders are hunched away from the floor, draw each shoulder blade slightly inward and downward until you feel the chest broaden.
Once the body is comfortable, take one hand to the chest, one hand to the belly. Close the eyes softly. Relax the facial muscles completely. Let the bones feel heavy against the floor. Let the muscles soften around the bones. Feel the rise and fall of the chest and abdomen as you breath in and out.
Observe the rhythm of the breath and where it is moving. Notice when you inhale if you tend to fill the chest, or the belly, or both. Notice when you exhale where you deflate. Notice the thoughts as they wander in. With the breath as your template – momentary and impermanent – see if you can invite the thoughts to pass through just as fluidly as they enter.
Start to deliberately slow the breath down, making each inhale and each exhale as soft and long and smooth as you can. Try to match the length of the inhale and exhale, never gasping for breath, but letting the flow be even and steady.
Start to move the breath with more intention. Filling up completely, breath in through the nose, down into the chest, then the upper belly, the mid-belly, the low belly, all the way down to pelvic floor. Exhale just as deliberately, emptying first the low belly, then the mid-belly, the upper belly, the chest, and all the way out the mouth. Every inhale a rebound of the exhale. Every exhale a rebound of the inhale.
Imagine something you would like to create more space for in your life. Simple, genuine, true. When you inhale, imagine how it will feel when this desire begins to manifest. Invite that sensation in, in through the nose, the chest, the upper belly, mid-belly, low belly, all the way down to the pelvic floor.
Choose something you’ve been holding on to that is no longer relevant to your present. When you exhale, release it out through the low belly, mid-belly, upper belly, chest, and throat.
Create a word, or mantra, for the thing you wish to bring in and the thing you wish to release. Repeat these words in your mind with each inhale and each exhale, opening up to the future by releasing the past.
Stay with the technique for as long as you are comfortable. When you feel ready, let the breath fall back into it’s natural rhythm. Feel the body completely relaxed, light with possibility, unencumbered by the mundane. Be with this feeling.
Start to deepen the breath, reconnecting with your physical body. Notice the weight of your bones. Notice your fingers and your toes. Notice sensation on the skin.
Stretch the arms up and overhead and take a full body stretch like you are just waking up to a brand new day. Bend the knees and roll gently over on to your right hand side. Pause. Then press yourself up to sit.
Join the palms together at the center of the chest. Touch your thumbs to your sternum, tapping into that inner oasis of quiet, simplicity, and clarity. Then bow your chin to your chest, bowing toward the wisdom of your intuition, your heart’s voice, your wise advisor with all the right answers to all of your most important questions. The farthest we ever need to look is within.