Grief and the Body II

Grief and the Body II

Grief and the Body Part II

There is something so tragic and fascinating about a global outpouring of grief. Even more so when you see it through a Chinese medical lense. This pandemic is a respiratory disease, the rate and scale of its spread a testament to how connected we all are. It has caused us to isolate from each other and even yearn for connection. All of these are the domain of the Lung in Chinese Medicine. 

There are 5 spirits pertaining to the 5 yin organs, a consciousness that presides over the metaphysical duties of each organ just as the physical organ is in charge of certain tasks. Each of the Heart, Lung, Spleen, Liver, and Kidneys has a spirit but for purposes our focus is the Po. The Po, or animal soul, is the spirit of the Lung and has to do with connection or lack thereof. The emotion that is processed by or, if not processed, has the ability to injure the Lung is grief. Grief is caused by a loss of connection. You love someone, feel connected to them, how could you love them if not?. If they die or leave or even can’t be reached, that connection is severed, lost, suspended. And you feel it.

How can that do physical injury to the Lung? Leon Hammer, M.D. has written extensively on the meeting of Psychology and Chinese Medicine. In his book Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies he describes the physical impact of grief: 

“The posture of the sad person is common knowledge: head down, eyes focused on the ground, the back bent forward and the chest depressed: this bearing gradually “kills” the circulation of Qi in the chest. Since the Lung makes the Qi, which is the driving force of the energy and Blood circulation throughout the body, it has to work harder and is slowly weakened.” 77 DRRF

The transformation of physical disease to emotional manifestation and back again is not outlandish in a Chinese medical model. Emotion is one of the preeminent internal causes of disease. What can we do about the external causes of this global pandemic? Many true, solid practices that have already been covered at length elsewhere. The point is that there is much we can do on an internal level. Much that, with this global outpouring of grief, we are being called to do.

Forced into stillness and isolation we are immersed in our inner world. The question is, can we use it? To look inward, to ask of our Lungs, what is there to grieve? The world, certainly. Lives lost, struggle, pain, etc etc. Absolutely. But even aside from that and below it may be a voice that has tried to get through before. A feeling or sensation in the body that we dread or avoid. What has it come to teach us? About the world and about ourselves.

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