Principles of Nei Dan Qigong

As was explained before, the method in which Qi is generated in the Dan Tian or Qihai and then guided by the mind to circulate through the entire body is called Nei Dan. The location of the Dan Tian is about one and a half inches directly below the navel. The name "Dan Tian" means "Field of Elixir" and is used by Daoist meditators. The name "Qihai" is used by acupuncturists and means "Sea of Qi." The Dan Tian is considered to be the original source of a person's energy, because the embryo uses the lower abdomen to circulate its supply of nourishment and oxygen from its mother. After the baby is born, it continues to breathe with emphasis on the lower belly for several years. But gradually the focus of breathing moves higher and higher in the torso, so that by late childhood, people think of themselves as breathing with their chests, and they have lost control of their lower abdominal muscles. In Nei Dan meditation, the practitioner returns to the embryonic method of breathing; at least the focus of breathing returns to the Dan Tian because it is considered the source of Qi circulation. The Dan Tian is also called the furnace or Huo Lu (k. )(relating meditation to Daoism's alchemical tradition) in which the fire or energy can be started.

An important Daoist classic is Tai Xi Jing or Classic of

Harmonized Embryonic Breathing. It emphasizes the importance of the Dan Tian and regulated breathing, and recommends the nurturing of the Dan Tian as if it were an embryo. This idea is sometimes portrayed in Daoist art by a meditator with a baby over his head.

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The embryo is conceived from the hidden or undeveloped Qi.

Qi is accepted through the regulated breath of the embryo.

When Qi is present, the body may live; When Shen (Spirit) abandons the body and the embryo disperses, death will follow.

Cultivation of Shen and Qi makes long life possible. Protect and nourish the spiritual embryo to build up Shen and Qi.

When Shen moves, the Qi moves; where Shen stops, the Qistops.

For life to flourish, spirit and energy (Shen and Qi) must harmoniously interact.

When the Xin (heart-mind) is tamed by Yi (wisdom-mind), not a thought goes or comes. (When thoughts are not going and coming), nature is free.

Intelligence in action is the only true path.

Through thousands of years of experience, Chinese meditators found that with practice they could retrain the abdominal muscles and regain a stronger flow of Qi. This exercise is called Back to Childhood (Fan Tong, ± ). Principally, when abdominal muscles are exercised, the nerves and Qi channels will accumulate the energy that has been generated by the exercise. This kind of energy generation and accumulation is called Starting the Fire or Qi Huo (& k. ). It is enhanced by concentrating the mind strongly on this activity. Later, it was found that in the Qi Huo exercise, the breathing must be coordinated in order to exercise the muscles efficiently and regularly. Also, this regular breath coordination helps the meditator to concentrate on the exercise. As explained in chapter 1, the mind can control Qi generation and circulation. Therefore, in meditation, you should concentrate your mind on the Dan Tian ® ) which is called "Yi Shou Dan Tian" ft ® ), or "The mind always stays with the Dan Tian."

Because it is a principle of Chinese meditation that the Dan Tian is the source of Qi circulation, beginning training is centered around this spot. The first thing to learn to do is to control the abdominal muscles, making them expand and contract at will, so that the lower abdomen rises and falls like a baby's. This Back to Childhood exercise can be done through frequent practice. Usually after one month of thirty minutes of daily practice, you can accomplish this control. With continued practice, the exercise will generate more and more energy. By keeping your mind concentrated on the Dan Tian, the energy will concentrate there. When the accumulated Qi is strong enough, you should be able to feel warmth in the Dan Tian.

This Back to Childhood abdominal exercise confers several benefits. First, the up and down motion of the abdominal muscles during deep breathing massages the stomach and intestines, and exercises the muscles holding the internal organs in place, and will increase their strength. This is the reason why deep breathing exercise can cure hernias, which are caused by weakness of the internal muscles. Second, exercising the abdominal muscles generates Qi not only for circulation, but also directly for the organs held and surrounded by these muscles. This Qi supply plus the increased blood circulation keeps the organs healthy. Finally, deep breathing uses the lungs to their fullest capacity, thereby strengthening and cleaning them.

If you continue to practice for another two to three weeks after the Dan Tian feels warm, you will then feel the muscles trembling or tingling. It is the accumulation of Qi in the nerves and Qi channels which causes the muscles to be out of control. This phenomenon is called Dong Chu (fe® ) or Movement Sensing, in meditation. (As a matter of fact, the term "Dong Chu" is used in meditation for any kind of perceptible phenomenon caused by Qi flow, Qi redistribution, or Qi over-accumulation. The most common experiences are itching, tingling or twitching of isolated muscles, or uncontrollable shaking of the whole body). When the lower abdominal muscles begin to vibrate, it is time to guide and circulate the energy or Qi. Concentration at this moment is extremely important. You should be very calm and not get excited by the Dong Chu feeling. This phenomenon, however, does not happen to every meditator. For some, the first cycling cavities are already open and the Qi will move through them without Dong Chu happening.

Before going further, you should first understand the Qi circulation route or path. As mentioned earlier, there are two main vessels located on the front and back of the body (Figures 3-3 and 3-4). The front vessel is called the Conception

Yin Bridge Vessel
Figure 3-3. Course of the Ren Mai

Vessel (Ren Mai, ), which contains the Yin circulation. This vessel starts from the lower lip and extends down the front center of the body to the Sea Bottom cavity (Haidi, ) between the scrotum or vagina and the anus. In acupuncture this cavity is called Huiyin (Co-l)(Yin Intersection, frfl? ).

The vessel on the back is called the Governing Vessel (Du Mai, ) and contains the Yang circulation. It starts from the Sea Bottom or Huiyin cavity and follows outside the spine, passes up the back and over the top of the head and ends at the roof of the mouth. These two vessels are not connected at the top. To connect these two vessels, you touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth.

Bi (Daoist)

Suliao (Acupuncture)

Yuzhen (Daoist) Naohu (Acupuncture)

Shangbei (Daoist) Dazhui (Acupuncture)

Ming Men Mai

Mingmen or Jiaji (Daoist) Lingtai (Acupuncture)

Haidi (Daoist) Huiyin (Acupuncture)

Figure 3-4. Course of the Du Mai

Yuzhen (Daoist) Naohu (Acupuncture)

Shangbei (Daoist) Dazhui (Acupuncture)

Mingmen or Jiaji (Daoist) Lingtai (Acupuncture)

Haidi (Daoist) Huiyin (Acupuncture)

Tianlinggai (Daoist) Baihui (Acupuncture)

Bi (Daoist)

Suliao (Acupuncture)

Figure 3-4. Course of the Du Mai

Then the Yin and Yang vessels are connected and the circuit is complete. This tongue touch is called Da Qiao ) or Building the Bridge.

The tongue acts like a switch in an electrical circuit. If this bridge is not built, the circuit is not complete and the Qi circulation will be incomplete. Therefore, if you meditate either in Wai Dan or in Nei Dan, keep your tongue touching the roof of the mouth all the time. Of course, we all frequently touch

Position Tongue Gong Exercises
Figure 3-5. Tongue Position

the roofs of our mouths with our tongues during everyday activities. However, in meditation, a continuous circuit is important. The tongue should be relaxed and lightly touch the center of the roof of the mouth (Figure 3-5). If the tongue is tight, it will result in stagnation of the Qi flow. Also, the tongue should not touch the teeth, which will not connect the bridge efficiently, and may make you feel sleepy. On the other hand, the tongue should not be stretched to touch the back of the roof of the mouth. This will make the tongue muscles tight and sore and will also stagnate the Qi flow. If you create the tongue bridge properly, saliva will be secreted during meditation. Swallow this saliva to keep your throat moist. The place under the tongue where the saliva is produced is called the Tian Chi (Heaven's Pond, it ), or Long Quan (Dragon Spring, ii & ).

When you can circulate the Qi through the two major vessels, you have completed Small Circulation (Xiao Zhou Tian, 'J* 01 ). Usually, if you meditate three times a day for half an hour with the right method, you can complete this circulation in ninety days. However, it is not uncommon to take longer. The time needed to accomplish Small Circulation depends on the degree to which you can concentrate, relax, understand the techniques and principles, and feel the

Qi flow. It is very important that you do not try to hurry the process, because this will make the circulation worse and might be dangerous.

You should understand that Qi is and always has been circulating all the time in your body. However, the Qi circulation can become stagnant or slow. This is because there are many knots in the vessels and Qi channels, where the channels are narrower or harder to penetrate. Usually, these knots are located at cavities. The main purpose of Nei Dan meditation is to open or widen these knots and enable the Qi to flow without stagnation. When Qi is stagnant and does not flow smoothly, you will soon feel sick and the related organ will become weakened. When the Qi channels are open, the arteries will also be open and will allow the blood to flow smoothly. This is because the arteries usually follow the Qi channels. For this reason, meditation is often able to alleviate high blood pressure.

In Nei Dan Small Circulation, there are three cavities or knots that are harder to pass through than the others, and might cause difficulties (Figure 3-4). These are called the San Guan, -S- M ) or Three Gates.

The first cavity is called Weilu (Tailbone, EL W) by the Daoists and Changqiang (Gv-l)(Long Strength, & & ) by the acupuncturists. It is located at the tailbone.

The second cavity is called Jiaji (Squeezing Spine, by Daoists. Jiaji is called Lingtai (Gv-10)(Spirit's Platform, $ &) by acupuncturists and Mingmen (Life's Door, ^ H ) by Chinese martial artists. The martial artists use the name Life's Door because a strike to this point can cause a heart attack and kill an opponent. (There is also a cavity called Mingmen (Gv-4) by acupuncturists which belongs to the Governing vessel).

The last cavity is called Yuzhen (Jade Pillow, itt.) by Daoists and Naohu (Gv-17)(Brain's Household, AS/*) by acupuncturists, and is located at the base of the skull. Further explanation of these three cavities will be given in the next section. These cavities offer the greatest resistance to increased Qi flow, and so are the three major milestones for judging progress in achieving Small Circulation.

While controlling the Qi as it circulates, you should be able to feel a flow of energy, following the guidance of your mind. However, you can also feel the back muscles beside the vessel expanding and tensing. This feeling of expansion will not happen when the Qi goes above the Jade Pillow cavity at the back of the head. Instead, you will feel only the energy or Qi flow, since there is no thick muscle on the head to feel. The usual feeling of Qi flow on the head is local numbness or tickling, as though insects were brushing the skull.

During meditation, you may find your body naturally swinging or rocking forward and backward. You may also feel a muscle jump or contract by itself. These are all symptoms of Dong Chu caused by Qi redistribution. All of this is normal, and you have nothing to be alarmed about.

Once you have accomplished Small Circulation, you can then try to master Grand Circulation, which circulates energy to the entire body through the twelve Qi channels. Usually, you will either concentrate only on your arms or only on your legs first, and then go to the other limbs. However, it is also common, once you complete Small Circulation, to practice guiding the Qi to the upper and lower limbs simultaneously and to imagine Qi expanding from the two main vessels.

In the next section, both Buddhist and Daoist meditation methods will be discussed. Before you start meditation, read this and the following sections repeatedly, until you are sure you understand them. If you are interested in knowing more about Nei Dan meditation, please refer to the books: The Root of Chinese Qigong and Muscle/Tendon Changing and Marrow/Brain Washing Chi Kung, available from YMAA Publication Center.

Continue reading here: Nei Dan Meditation Training

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