Grief and the Present, Past, & Future

Over the last year, following a bereavement in Autumn 2020, I learnt what you might call a technique that I thought was very relevant to both tai chi and qigong.

Not being in a very good place at that time, a friend, who was a counsellor, offered to give me a session to try to help me. I readily accepted, and what he suggested to me tied in so closely with what I do in Tai Chi and Qigong that I thought it was worth passing it on in case it was able to help anyone else.

As he was taking me through the exercise, I realised that what he was teaching me was almost identical to something that I do in my own classes, but with an additional slant.


In my case, and possibly in most cases, I found that grieving was making me constantly live in either the past or the future – memories, and thoughts about what might have been.

Staying in the present was almost impossible for any length of time, and everything I did, everyone I saw, everywhere I went triggered a memory, the thought of going anywhere I’d been before was almost unbearable, and any plans I might have had had become defunct and meaningless.


In my classes I do what I call a “grounding exercise“. This involves standing upright and ‘connecting’ yourself to the Earth/planet by gradually focusing on working upwards from the feet to the head.

First you relax the feet, then move upward through the knees, pelvis, etc. releasing your muscles, tendons, connective tissue and joints as you gradually work towards the head.


Mechanically, it’s about finding your vertical axis and alignment, whilst allowing yourself to be subject to gravity; as you do it, you’re learning how to relax your central nervous system, consequently de-stressing simultaneously. In many respects it is a mechanical exercise, but also has the additional aspect of your needing to relax the mind in order to get the most out of it.

The exercise that the counsellor taught me is so simple, that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before and made it part of the ‘grounding’ exercise.

Sitting or standing, you simply work through the five senses. Notice any of the colours around you, for example, which ones stand out most. There is no need to judge any of it, you just notice.


Can you hear anything around you? Once again, no judgement is necessary, no comment of any type, just notice. If it’s a conversation you can hear, you don’t need to listen to the words; perhaps you hear only the quality of the sound of the voices; it’s as though your listening ti the sound of the wind in the trees, or a stream passing over stones.

Can you hear anything around you? Once again, no judgement is necessary, no comment of any type, just notice. If it’s a conversation you can hear, you don’t need to listen to the words; perhaps you hear only the quality of the sound of the voices; it’s as though your listening ti the sound of the wind in the trees, or a stream passing over stones.

What can you smell? Perhaps nothing, but just notice. Again, no need to judge whether it’s a pleasant/not so pleasant smell.

Can you feel anything? If your hands are lying on your legs, maybe you only feel the fabric of whatever you’re wearing, but don’t forget that your whole body can feel, so perhaps you’re feeling the wind against your skin, or a tingling in your hands, or the splash of rain.

What can you taste? Just notice.

It’s as simple as that, and it brings you completely into the present because none of those things exist in the past or future.

What’s so good about this is you can do it anywhere , at any time.

#qigong #5senses #feeling #fivesenses #future #stayinggrounded #grounding #present #taiji #grief #balance #now #taijiquan #taichi #past

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