Pause now, for a moment, and take a deep, deep breath. Feel it.
Breath is essential. And while we breathe all day and night all the time, we often miss how essential it is.
Without our ability to breathe we would cease to exist. So it makes sense that the lungs are the first channel on the primary channel sequence, making the lungs the beginning point for the flow of energy through our bodies.
Like anything in Chinese Medicine, when we discuss breathing, we are looking at so much more than just the act of taking in air to survive. We are looking deeper, at what it means to actually take a deep breath, the importance of breathing deeply and the true connection of the lungs to the mind-body as a whole.
One deep breath can tell you so much more
When you think about it, the air is filled with so much more than just oxygen. There’s a good amount of particles, germs, viruses, pollen and other things in the air around us. When we breathe we don’t get to choose what goes in and what stays out. So, metaphorically speaking there is an act of surrendering to it all, the good and the bad, and just taking it all in.
That’s what the lungs are all about. The lungs are about accepting what is, in the present moment, surrendering to it and taking it all in a deep breath. (Take a deep breath now, all the way to your belly button. Doesn’t that feel great?)
Missing the power of a deep breath
Obviously, we’re all breathing. But many times in my practice I’ll see people are not breathing deeply.
On the average, when a person breathes-in their breath gets stuck around the diaphragm, reaching only as far as the center of the chest, and even that sometimes can be painful.
I once had a patient tell me that he only takes deep breaths when he leaves the city, to avoid inhaling all of the pollution. So, because we don’t want to take in the pollution, the city, the outside, whatever it is in our present moment that we are trying to reject; we don’t want to take it in so we hold our breath.
But in our attempt at this control, we underestimate the power of the lungs and how powerful of a living filter they are. There is a whole system within us that works to keep what belongs and what serves us and lets go of anything that doesn’t. So the lung is not only about accepting our present moment and everything we cannot control but also about the mastery of letting go of what does not serve us. That’s the job of the lungs and the organs.
The breath of grief
As we will see when we talk about each of the primary channels, each has associations with emotions. Likewise our emotions can affect us physically.
The emotion associated with the lungs is grief.
Grief is a part of life. It’s natural to feel immense sadness and loss when those we love stop breathing and pass away. Sometimes, however, grief lingers, leaving us confused about how to let go and move on.
The lungs are very affected by grief and sadness so the longer these emotions linger the more likely you are to feel it in your body. You might have a persistent cough that started when somebody passed away or when sad news came into your life. You might even have pneumonia or some kind of bronchial infection because of a sad event.
The lungs teach us that if we don’t know how to let go and move on, issues can pursue.
The lung is about being present and surrendering and accepting everything that is right now, not escaping from it, not avoiding it, just accepting the moment, the way it is. It’s not only because oxygen is essential to daily life, letting go is essential to daily life. Letting go and being present is what the lung is about.
Next time you take a breath, see how deep it goes. Then let it go. Maybe it’s hard for you to take it in. Maybe it’s hard for you to let it go. But breathe easy knowing all is working as it should be.