P'o corresponds with the Metal Element and the Lungs & Large Intestine organs in Five Element Theory. P'o influences our general life energy on a fundamental level. The extreme emotions of P'o are grief, sorrow, or anguish. The conceptual thought of this Metallic Land is to embrace our instincts, holding onto what feels good to us, and letting go of that which no longer serves a purpose.
The synergistic state of P'o, or the Lungs, is openness, receptivity, and non-attachment. The deficient, or hypoactive, state of P'o is hypersensitivity, deprivation, self-pity, dejection, despondency, and oppression. The excessive, or hyperactive state of P'o is stoicism, defensive pride, selfishness, greed, jealousy, and envy. Let's look at how these chronic emotional states create imbalances in these meridians according to Chinese medicine.
The Lung Meridian
The Lung meridian controls the Qi and is the residence of P'o (corporeal/physical soul). The classics say, "The Lungs are in charge of the physical energy by 1) controlling the rate and depth of respiration and 2) absorbing pure Qi from the air and controlling the formation of the body Qi, or Zhen (Chen) Qi." The Lung meridian also leads the vascular system. The Lung expresses itself through the nose, the opening to the respiratory system, and the Lung controls the skin and hairs. "Because the skin separates the body from the environment, Lung functions include the separation of internal and external." The classics say,"The energy from the Lungs circulates through and warms the skin and hairs." The Lung meridian also helps us adapt to changing environmental conditions by influencing perspiration and regulating body temperature.
Traditional Lung Meridian Associations
Deficient symptoms include short, weakened breath, sweating spontaneously, cold, and upper back pain. Excessive symptoms include labored breathing, coughing with phlegm, sweatless fever, and upper back aches.
The Land of P’o and Extreme Emotions
The Land of P'o deals with what is mine. "This is the realm of instinct, sensuous desires and impulses--the primal forces of attraction and repulsion. P'o is the aspect of the psyche which is involved with the intake of life-giving energies or elements, and with the discharge of toxic or life-limiting ones. The respiratory system is the embodiment of this process; life depends on its rhythmic taking in of oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide." The function of the Large Intestine, which is the yang partner meridian to the Lungs, also illustrates this cyclic process. We are literally and metaphorically letting go of our s--t in this realm.
"In this psychic realm, the Self is refined through contact with the material plane, or with worldly desires." One general type of desire is to possess things. When we are healthy, these desires generate energy and lead us on to explore life. In a deficient, hypoactive state characterized by hypersensitivity, deprivation, self-pity, and oppression, however, we are blinded by our desires and caught up in their snare.
"Occasional disappointment is natural, and grief is a necessary response to deep loss, but excessive attachments open the door to unnecessary grief and agony. Therefore, the Taoists recommend moderation
in all things--including moderation!"
-Iona Teeguarden, The Joy of Feeling
"Thinking we have been deprived of something we need to possess, we feel oppressed and sorry for ourselves." We sink into self-pity and have envy for others who "seem to have what we are denied." The Taoist philosophy is to take all things in moderation, to travel light, and to live simply. Being in touch with our true desires through our innate self rather than being burdened by "a thousand cares about a hundred possessions" would be the essence of effortless living according to Chinese Medicine.
The Taoist Way avoids forcing anything, including our emotional self. Taoists are not saying we should suppress natural emotions like grief and disappointment, but perhaps a different perspective is in order. A healthy Lung meridian is in tuned with the natural rhythm of letting things come and go, breathing in the oxygen of life and discharging the toxic aspects of the psychic air. We cannot force such altruistic emotions as openness, receptivity, and non-attachment. Joy comes from living in the present and finding peace within the stillness.
Lung Meridian Imbalance in Five Element Theory
Rather than letting things come and go, we try to force change and hold onto everything in the extreme state of the Lung Meridian. Negative feelings and emotions are a natural way of life, but we become energetically deficient and deprive ourselves when we become absorbed with toxic, destructive thoughts. Not only are we wasting our energy, but we are striving against the natural state, creating resistance. We make room for healing, creative thoughts and feelings by staying open and non-attached to outcomes and by removing ourselves from expectations, which only lead to resentment. Of all the organs, the Lungs and Large Intestine most symbolize letting go.
Difficulty in letting go can manifest in depressed breathing and respiratory problems, or in problems of the colon (Lung's partner meridian). "Constipation, literally, is holding onto old shit; it can correlate with abdominal tensions designed to hold back hurtful feelings." Even a cold, sore throat and mucus (traditional Lung meridian associations) build-up could be a signal for us to stop, slow down, and take the time to feel.
Oppression, the deficient Lung meridian state, creates the feeling of a closed-down and guarded chest area, which leads to suppressed breathing, fatigue, and susceptibility to respiratory problems. Abdominal tightness related to the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians also restricts breathing and limits our ability to feel. "Physically, P'o is the Lungs, which do surround and affect the heart, which is the "residence" of the conscious spirit." Extreme, chronic emotions, therefore, not only affect the primary meridians associated with such emotional states, but trickle down and affect the bodymind meridian system as a whole.
Grief, Sorrow, and Anguish
When we experience loss, we may feel feelings of relief, but more often we may experience shock and disbelief. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and many of these emotions correspond directly with the Lung/Large Intestine meridians. Once the shock wears off, we usually become tearful and experience sorrow, grief, or anguish. “Sorrow implies a sense of loss and suffering. Grief is like acute sorrow, or a more intense emotional suffering caused by loss, and anguish suggests torturing grief."
Iona Teeguarden, founder of Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure®, goes on to say, "The suffering is not just emotional. The pain of grief is an aching in the chest, and the pain of anguish can feel stabbing. Not only the psyche, but also the body feels tortured. The torture is the pain of separation." Weeping and sobbing are inherently yang or active states, but the after-effect of letting go of these tears is sadness, energetic depletion, and exhaustion. The classics say, "Grief disperses the energy and consciousness, and leaves the body weak."
When we suppress our breathing, we may be defending ourselves against threatening emotions, like anxiety or grief. "It is also the most basic form of the most basic defense mechanism: denial. We learn to limit our breathing to defend against our feelings long before we learn to use the verbal form of denial, and well before we learn sophisticated defenses like rationalization and sublimation. Limiting the breathing is a bodily form of denial. It is a way of disappearing, a way of shrinking, by not revealing who we are and what we feel. Acupressure release helps us go through grief, partly by freeing the respiratory system so that we can breathe through the pain and tension.”
Anger and Anxiety
Anger, though not often acknowledged, accompanies grief and is one of the five stages of the grief process. Even though anger is a natural part of the healing response to loss, anger can also be a defensive mechanism if we feel misunderstood, not heard, or to blame. Perhaps we don't feel safe enough to express our anger or we feel guilty or push it to the side because it doesn't seem like an appropriate response, such as when losing a loved one. On the contrary, anger can be a healthy response and depression can be the result of holding onto feelings of anger or grief. Simply burying our feelings is yet another form of denial.
In relationship to Five Element Theory, Lung meridian imbalance may show up as "an internal feeling of heaviness, or of being oppressed and weighed down. This feeling is symptomatic of a grief reaction; other indications are fatigue, hollow or empty feelings in the chest or abdomen, and feeling like there is a lump in the throat. There may be anxiety symptoms like agitation, insomnia and autonomic nervous system hyperactivity. Depression is likely and anorexia is possible in extreme cases."
Anxiety may also stem from loss or the fear of loss and from an inability to accept the flow of change. Change feels like a hindrance, rather than a rebirth. Anxiety shows up in different ways in different meridians. Anxiety of the Lungs would show up as fear of the unknown and the inability to respond appropriately to change. "Anxiety is a response to the threat of change." In relation to P'o, anxiety has to do with the basic insecurity of life--the fact that everything changes. Anxiety of the Heart and Lung meridians are part of a vicious cycle that is created by anxiety about symptoms of anxiety. These may lead to "difficulty breathing, choking or smothering sensations, chest pain or discomfort, tingling in the hands or feet, feelings of unreality, sweating, hot and cold flashes, dizziness or unsteadiness, faintness, trembling or shaking.”
Deep breathing (Hara breathing), acceptance of change and consciously eliminating the toxic thoughts and feelings from our bodies are all excellent tools. Building self-esteem allows us to trust that we will be okay, especially through times of extreme loss and sorrow. We learn new ways of dealing with anger and allow ourselves to experience anger as a natural, and even healthy part of the healing process. We let go of limiting and degrading self-images and self-talk. We release distressing feelings by allowing them to transform into openness and non-attachment by working through them, not suppressing them.
Living naturally, in a way that is natural to ourselves and conducive to letting things work out in their own natural process is "wei-wu-wei." The Taoists describe this state of neutrality as finding the joy of what is and be open to whatever may be unfolding. The Taoist perspective is seeing the self and others as interconnected to all of life, and this openness and acceptance creates a new way of living, where we can breathe easy and let go of our compulsion to hold onto people and possessions.
Lu 9, Lung Source Point, or "Bigger Abyss" is located on the crease on the inside (volar side) of the wrist on the radial (thumb) side in the depression below (distal) to the thumb where the pulse of the radial artery can be felt. Lu 9 is the meeting point for blood vessels and meridians, "disperses wind," "transforms mucus," regulates the Lungs, insomnia, claustrophobia.