Fire in the Belly: Solala’s blog for 8/4/2014









We talk a lot about the lower dantian in qigong training. Actually we use it also in meditation and nei dan (internal alchemy) practice as well. The lower dantian, while the first (if you count from the bottom) of three dantians, it is considered the foundation level. As in building a house, we have to start at the bottom, rather than at the top. Many people, on first learning meditation, want to start at the top and begin working with the upper dentian or third eye center and often get themselves into energetic trouble. To the Daoists, it is very important that one builds a foundation before beginning such practices. It’s like attempting to put the roof on before building the foundation. The center will not hold.

Of course middle dantian or heart center practice is very important. As a matter of fact, this is the center that women are often told to begin with. In Daoist tradition, woman are seen as not only energetically superior to men but are also spiritually superior as well. This is, of course, a generalization but many women have a much easier time opening their hearts to Source than many men do.

In any case, beginning with the lower dantian is always a good way to go. The lower dantian is also closer to our kidney center, which is where our jing is said to be stores. Jing, which we receive at conception, is the repository of our sexual energy. This can also be linked to the aging process. (Here again, women have a better deal than men since they don’t lose jing energy during sex, as men do. Go to any retirement center and you will see many more women there than men, who don’t usually live as long. Of course, this is a whole other subject. For more on this look at my book The Tao of Intimacy and Ecstasy.)

Good sexual energy doesn’t just mean good sex but also good reproduction and even a sense of vital health and greater creativity as well. And, since the kidneys are associated with the water element the lower dantian is also associated with water.

On the other hand, the middle dantian or heart center is associated with the element fire. In Daoist tradition, the heart is also the home of the mind. Most of what we think of as the cognitive mind is said to live in the heart center. In basic nei dan meditation we are taught to put the fire energy of the mind down into the water center of our lower dantian. This is often illustrated as a cauldron with the fire underneath the water.

What happens when fire is placed under water? The water turns to vapor, or qi, and rises. This is part of the process of transforming water or jing into qi or vapor. It is the beginning of a long process of transforming or transmuting jing energy to qi, qi to shen or spiritual energy and then shen to Dao – the mystical journey in Daoism.

But the lower dantian, the belly, is the place to start. In Chapter Three of the Daode Jing Laozi tells us that sages “empty their heart/minds and fill their bellies (dan tian).” What do they fill them with? With qi, with intention, with focus, with breath. By breathing slowly and deeply “from our heels” as Zhuangzi said, we fill our abdomen, allowing it (not forcing it) to expand when we inhale and contract as we exhale. (Of course there are other breathing patterns used in Daoist practice but this is the basic one). By building a strong foundation in our lower dantian, by bringing the fire of the mind into the water of the belly we are able to begin the process of transforming our jing, transmuting our qi and enhancing our shen – all steps in the long path of bringing ourselves back to our Source, to Dao.