I like to paint and I’ve noticed many interesting parallels between painting and emotions.
For instance, to express a spontaneous quality, I’ll work quickly, applying thick strokes of vibrant colors in one application. This reminds me of the strong primary emotions of anger, fear, sadness, happiness, disgust and surprise, because they appear in a flash and demand urgent attention.
More often though, I’ll use layers of thin paint to create depth and luminosity.
In many ways, that’s similar to how we experience feelings.
When strong emotions get thinned out with our thoughts, they become feelings, which have the capacity to enhance one another and build up over time.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s believed that the body’s organs store emotions and feelings as positive or negative energy, and that having the right balance of these energies is crucial to our health.
Positive emotions are cultivated and excess negative emotions are seen as toxic energy that needs to be released to protect the body from disease. Qigong is an ancient practice of energy (qi) cultivation (gong) that’s rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
I was introduced to a form of qigong meditation called the Six Healing Sounds, about five years ago when I attended a course by Grandmaster Mantak Chia. It’s a calming and energizing practice that combines the healing power of abdominal and vibrational breathing with smiling, visualization, touch and gentle movements to restore emotional balance. Imagination plays a big part in the practice, which appeals to the artist in me.
I love how the different organs house different emotions and have their own seasons, elements, sounds and colors. While it’s best to sit down and meditate on each organ in the right order, I really like that it’s also effective if I only have time to focus on just one organ.
And, whatever I may be doing I can always take a minute to smile and press the reset button on my mind with a few cleansing qigong breaths.
Although a simple practice to learn, there are numerous and complex scientific reasons behind what makes the Six Healing Sounds effective at combating stress. Many of those reasons have come to light in recent years through advancements in brain scanning, which, for example, has proved that smiling, even when we don’t feel like it, stimulates a chemical reaction that reduces stress and supports the immune system.
Neuroscience has also shown that thoughts of gratefulness and compassion calm the nervous system, protect the heart and open the brain up to more insightful thinking. And, as well as having a calming effect, deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen rich blood in the body which is needed for energy and healing and it boosts the lymphatic system, helping it to get rid of toxins.
A person’s inner-world is like a canvas painted with emotions and feelings and the beauty lies in how they are balanced. Artists often mix a touch of gray into their paint to reduce the intensity of pigments. In a similar way, a little emotional darkness helps to keep us grounded. Without some fear, for example, we would behave recklessly.
But how do you get rid of too much fear, or fear that stays on long after you need it?
Because it’s a calming practice, the Six Healing Sounds helps to put some distance between you and your feelings. It enables you to step back from the canvas of your inner-world so you can decide what to keep, what to make more of and what to wipe away.
The body’s own healing systems are put in motion to support you in creating a balanced and more harmonious inner-picture.
Lisa Spillane has a master’s degree in Education and is passionate about making qigong meditation more accessible.