Self-care is my thing. I love taking responsibility for my own healing. I’ll involve healers and physicians whenever needed, but what I will never, ever do is outsource my healing 100%.
That’s why I was originally drawn to qigong — because it empowered me to heal myself. And that’s why, all these years later, I’m so passionate about sharing it with others.
But healing is a messy business. I’d love to tell you that practicing qigong will solve all your problems, but I can’t do that. Unlike other qigong teachers out there, I am allergic to BS. Don’t believe the snake oil salesmen who try to tell you that qigong is all you need to cure yourself of anything and everything that ails you.
Don’t get me wrong — qigong is powerful. For me and many of my students, it is THE most powerful tool we’ve encountered, and believe me, we’ve tried everything! But just because qigong is the strongest medicine on the planet doesn’t mean that it is the only medicine you need.
I’m a huge fan of acupuncture, which is one reason I went to acupuncture college. But there are many other awesome therapies out there. To get the healing that you need, you may need to combine your qigong with chiropractic, myofascial release, talk therapy, Reiki, or some other form of healing.
Healing therapies can be pricey though. And in the age of COVID-19, it can also be problematic to visit a therapist.
What if there were a way to boost your healing that could be done from home and cost literally pennies per session?
And what if this method was a perfect compliment to your qigong practice?
Introducing Expressive Writing
I’ve journaled for decades. It’s how I process my thoughts and emotions. I sit down in the morning with a cup of coffee and I journal.
I love Natalie Goldberg’s books and I’ve even taken an online writing course with her. I’ve also used Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” method.
But when it comes to healing, nothing compares to Expressive Writing.
When I first learned about Expressive Writing, I dismissed it. The main difference here is that you are required to destroy your writing immediately after finishing.
That’s it? Destroy the entry — either by burning it or deleting it on the computer? Bah. What’s the big deal? It’s not much different than what I’ve been doing for years.
I was dead wrong. The first time I tried Expressive Writing, I was shocked at how powerful it was. And I’m not alone. It turns out that many people have a profound healing release after doing 1-5 sessions of Expressive Writing.
Sound interesting? Then keep reading.
Before I tell you how to use Expressive Writing, let’s talk about the science.
Currently, there are over 500 research papers on Expressive Writing on PubMed, the national database of research studies.
In other words, Expressive Writing isn’t woo woo; it’s evidence-based healing.
Dr. David Hanscom is an orthopedic complex spinal deformity surgeon and the author of Back in Control: A Surgeon’s Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain. This book is where I originally learned about Expressive Writing. If you are battling chronic pain, especially back pain, then I recommend his book.
Dr. Hanscom uses Expressive Writing with virtually all of his patients, even ones in severe pain who seem to be strong candidates for surgery. In many of these cases, the patients find immediate relief after just a few days of Expressive Writing.
It may seem strange for a spine surgeon to discourage his patients from surgery but that’s exactly what Dr. Hanscom does. Instead, he starts them on a holistic healing program that includes:
- Expressive Writing
- mindfulness meditation
- forgiveness meditation
- gratitude meditation.
Sound familiar? (For those who don’t know my work, I teach all of these techniques in my qigong programs, except for expressive writing.)
How it Works
The truth is that we don’t know exactly how Expressive Writing works. That’s why I call it “magical”. But I have my theories. Here’s what I think:
- It puts your thoughts where you can see them, thereby giving you much-needed cognitive distance.
- Destroying the writing is a symbolic gesture that seeps into your subconscious, allowing stuck emotions to start flowing again.
- Knowing that you will destroy the entry gives you the freedom to write things that, normally, you would not allow yourself to write. This can give you valuable insight into things that are still blocking you on a mental-emotional level.
- The process of connecting your thoughts with actual physical sensations (more on that soon) helps to create closure, allowing you to let go.
It’s important to remember that we do not need to know HOW something works in order to know THAT it works. This applies to both Eastern and Western therapies.
For example, the mechanism for aspirin was not understood for decades. This didn’t stop doctors from prescribing it because it was clear that, whatever the mechanism, aspirin works.
Expressive Writing — How to Do It
Now let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of practice. Here are my instructions, which I’ve compiled from a few sources, as well as my own experience.
- Write down your thoughts/emotions. These can positive, negative, or a combination both.
- Try to write in a meditative state. You can use the 2-Minute Drill before writing to help you get into this state.
- Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Just get your pen or fingers moving, and then keep them moving.
- Remind yourself that you are free to write ANYTHING because you will destroy the entry soon.
- Connect actual physical sensations with the narrative. In other words, don’t just tell what happened, but how you FELT about what happened.
- When you’re finished, immediately destroy the entry. If you’re writing on paper, this means using a paper shredder or burning (be safe!). If you’re using a digital device, make sure to empty the trash after you delete it.
- Destroy immediately means just that. Do NOT spend time ruminating on what you wrote. Don’t even reread what you wrote. The goal is to let go, not hang on!
- Write once or twice a day for 5 to 15 minutes.
- If your mood plummets after writing, stop for a few days. Although this is a sign of healing, it can take time to process the emotions. Qigong will help with the processing.
- Consider this a lifetime practice similar to brushing your teeth. There is no beginning or end point.
Some Tips to Get You Started
I’ve already mentioned that this type of writing is a bit different than your regular journal or diary writing. Somehow, Expressive Writing goes deeper. If you aren’t accustomed to writing about your deep-seated emotional blockages or unhealthy beliefs, then it might help to have some simple prompts to get you started.
Here are some prompts that will help you get your Expressive Writing juices flowing:
- What’s been nagging at you lately?
- If you had to guess which emotion is stuck, what would it be?
- What keeps you up at night?
- What’s something that you’ve never told a single soul?
- What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
- In what ways are you too hard on yourself?
- What are you afraid of people finding out about you?
- Who have you not forgiven yet?
- What apology would mean a lot to you?
- What might your pain be trying to tell you?
Pick one of these prompts and then write for 15 minutes. Don’t worry if you end up writing about something different than when you started. Remember — this isn’t a college essay and you’re going to destroy it anyway!
Why It Pairs So Well with Qigong
If you do a few sessions of Expressive Writing, you’ll quickly discover that it’s an emotional process. If you commit to this process, you’ll experience at least one emotional catharsis within a few weeks. According to qigong theory, this kind of emotional catharsis can be HUGE.
Our goal with qigong is the smooth flow of qi through the meridians. When the qi flows smoothly, then we will be happier and healthier.
Stuck emotions block the flow of qi. These blockages can remain in your system for years or even decades.
Here’s a powerful example. I once had a student who had a difficult relationship with his father. Let’s call him Jesse.
Jesse told me that he didn’t shed a tear when his father died, not even at the funeral. Obviously, this is unhealthy. This is an energy blockage.
I did a private session with Jesse and opened some vital points. Because he had never grieved his father’s death, I decided to open some energy points along his Lung Meridian. (In qigong theory, the emotion of grief is associated with the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians.)
When I touched the final energy point in the meridian, Jesse immediately broke into tears. It was as immediate as if I had flipped a light switch.
I mention this because it’s a good example of how emotions can get stuck for years or decades, even if we practice qigong. Jesse was a dedicated qigong practitioner for years before this, but it wasn’t enough to break through. He needed to do a private session with me to open the blockage.
You don’t need to do a private session with me in order to clear your old blockages. And let’s be honest, you probably can’t afford me anyway. (I charge high fees for private sessions because they pull me away from my primary work, which is helping groups of people.)
Instead, try Expressive Writing. But there’s one problem: Your old excuses won’t work here because:
- Expressive Writing is not expensive
- Expressive Writing is not physically challenging
- Expressive Writing doesn’t require a lot of time
To get the best results, I recommend that you combine Expressive Writing with qigong. If you’re already practicing qigong, then simply add Expressive Writing to your daily routine.
If you don’t know qigong — then what are you waiting for? Go get my free COVID program, silly.
And if you try Expressive Writing, please let me know how it goes. I would love for you to comment below with your experiences. Best regards, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.