Dan Tian, which literally means “cinnabar or red field” refers to focal points of the body that correspond to what the Taoist sages describe as the Elixir Fields. According to legend, the Dan Tian are “palaces of the Gods” in the body. The maintenance of freely circulating Qi through these areas was said to insure that the Gods would maintain residence in the body and enable the person to have a long and healthful life. If the circulation of Qi became obstructed, the Gods would depart ensuring disease and an early death. The Taoist concept of Dan Tian also roughly corresponds to the Indian concept of the manipura, or chakras in yoga philosophy.
The upper Dan Tian, located in the center of the forehead, corresponds to the physical functioning of the brain and sensory organs and to the psychological processes of thinking and contemplation. Buddhist teachers often instruct their students to center their mind in the lower Dan Tian, as an aid for control of thoughts and emotions.
The middle Dan Tian, located in the center of the chest between the breasts, corresponds to the physical functions of respiration and the circulation of Qi and blood. Psychologically it functions as the emotional and relationship center of the body. [or social interaction— or something more clear than just “interaction.”]
The lower Dan Tian, located in the lower abdomen between the navel and the public bone, corresponds to the physical functions of digestion, elimination and reproduction. Psychologically it functions as our sense of stability and balance and as the connection of our sexuality.
In speaking specifically of the lower of the three points, the term Dan Tian is often used interchangeably with the Japanese word hara which literally means simply “belly”. In Chinese and Japanese tradition, it is considered the physical center of gravity for the human body and by extension the seat of one’s internal energy (Qi). A master of calligraphy, swordsmanship, tea ceremony, martial arts or comparable disciplines is held in the Japanese tradition to be “acting from the hara”.
The Three Dan Tian meditation uses breath and concentration to activate the circulation of qi and blood through these areas.
Three Dan Tian Meditation
1. Close your eyes and place your awareness in the lower Dan Tian. Breathe into this area 5 times.
2. Inhale into the lower Dan Tian and imagine you are drawing qi into your body from the outside. Exhale and radiate the qi out into the universe. 12-36 times.
3. Inhale into the middle Dan Tian and imagine you are drawing qi into you body from the outside. Exhale and radiate the qi out into the universe. 12-36 times.
4. Inhale into the upper Dan Tian and imagine you are drawing qi into your body from the outside. Exhale and radiate qi out into the universe. 12-36 times.
5. Return your awareness to the lower Dan Tian. Focus the breath there and allow qi to accumulate. 12-36 times.
6. Slowly open your eyes. Rub the palms together vigorously until they are warm. Rub your body starting at the head, arms, chest, abdomen, lower back, legs.
By Lee Holden