Microcosmic Orbit - 3 dantiens method

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Dan Cooney, modified 7 Years ago.

Microcosmic Orbit - 3 dantiens method

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
Ok, so here is an interesting method to establish the MCO by using the Bigua waxing and waning set of hexagrams:



I had to revise this to give a bit more of a conceptual introduction to the practice...



Traditionally, the microcosmic orbit has been taught and practiced by drawing qi up the governing vessel in the back and leading it down the conception vessel in the front. This method aims to abandon the idea of leading the qi and instead, build from the very basic fundamentals of breathing practices, and directly work with the 3 dantiens energy centers which will serve as the catalyst for the practice.



As the fundamentals of breathwork are performed, the signals of the body's breathing mechanics are streamlined and attenuated to a very significant degree - resulting in utter and complete stillness; the very essence of anapanasati. This is a very important practice point that must have a certain level of mastery attained by the practitioner if any strong energy moving practices are to be done. The energy is best integrated in utter and complete stillness, it is every bit a fundamental point as it is a safety mechanism for the energies raised.



After the fundamentals of breathwork are accomplished, embryonic breathing and then lower dantien breathing are utilized to develop the energy center of the lower dantien. I differentiate the two as such: embryonic breathing is works with the gut to develop more sensitivity so that the fundamentals of anapana may combine with the somewhat concentric circled nature of embryonic breathing, with the lower dantien point at the center. After proprioception is developed and the lower dantien begins to reveal itself more significantly, then the approach can be used to start working with the lower dantien itself - therefore when I consider lower dantien breathing, it is using one's intention to harmonize and work with the waxing and waning of the energy center itself along with the breath. Heat and light are two common manifestations of some success with working with the lower dantien.



Next in the process is locating the upper dantien, the niwan, at the pineal gland in the midbrain. By bringing the focus of awareness in to the niwan, a measure of energy is prevented from manifesting itself in the cranial nerves, how our senses extend themselves into the world. Dr Yang, Jwing Ming described the process as "condensing the shen at the upper dantien" and Luk's translation of Taoist Yoga described it has "fixing the spirit at the seat of awareness"...as if one is simply placing a lamp in an empty room. This technique must be done gently, there is simply no muscular action that may assist this process. Another good description touted by Drew Hempel is "finding the source of the I-thought" as this identification with "I" resonates at the seat of awareness. This technique may be employed to great effect as an added technique to anapanasati; when combined with lower dantien breathing the results are multiplicative and an eventual harmonizing of the upper and lower dantien takes place. Eventually one may wax and wane the two energy centers in unison to increase the process of harmonizing the two.



The third component is the middle dantien - the solar plexus, translating to the celiac plexus from which all of the lower zang organs - it innervates the stomach, spleen, kidneys, duodenum, liver, just to name some of the most significant innervations. One good and potent technique I used to develop this was via Yan Xin's 9 step method - after having established the fire at the lower dantien, an idea of a lotus flower at the solar plexus is used to further develop that energy center. Eventually, a similar waxing and waning of the energy center is accomplished, and harmonization takes place.





These 3 pieces comprise what fits into the larger framework of the microcosmic orbit. When we begin applying these 3 to the concept of the chinese Hexagrams, it emerges that the yin or yang lines wind up relating to what the energy centers are doing. The yin or yang line is a direct expression of the energy center in question. The method in this instance utilizes reverse breathing, and considers the hexagrams split into two trigrams - the lower (inner) being the inhale, the upper (outer,) the exhale. Relating to the beginning stages of Taoist Alchemy, the reasoning for the middle dantien being the solar/celiac plexus - for further reference see the nature of the cauldrons in works such as Taoist Yoga or Foundations of Internal Alchemy - so the middle dantien only equates to the heart center after the generative force and vitality have been fully restored and the 'mating of dragon and tiger' happens in earnest and the nature of the cauldron-configuration changes.




To begin relating the concepts directly to the hexagrams, let us consider lower dantien breathing, hexagram 24::



There is a yang expression about the lower dantien as the reverse abdominal breath inhale is executed and then a relaxing yin expression on the exhale. Personally, I feel there should not be too much emphasis on constricting the front of the abdomen in learning reverse breathing since it places an unnecessary focus on the front. The fundamental breath mechanisms, from an internal energetic standpoint, are the diaphragm, psoas, and perineum - I came to this conclusion from deep longevity breathing as a result of my own practice - at some deep point, "the breath externally disappears" and this is the result of significantly harmonizing the breath mechanisms and calming the body to a very low consumption state where every process must become as streamlined as possible. Eventually one is able to breathe without moving the front of the abdomen - combine that with Dr Yang's notation that the 'false dantien' qihai point lies along the MCO route, thus qi generated there tends to into the loop and utilized.

Once such a calm, deep state has been reached, that bottom line is really no longer yang either - so the deep utter and complete stillness resultant of longevity breathing can be correlated to hexagram 2 - a perfect way to end most any energy practice:



This covers the most basic conceptual and safety mechanisms for the practice.
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Dan Cooney, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: MCO - 3 dantiens method bigua sequence

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
From YMAA's small circulation book there was a concept of "small-small" circulation which is a loop around the lower/middle jiao as a preparatory mechanism. Since the hexagrams are a direct expression of the energy centers, it proceeds by placing the awareness at the point in question and executing the corresponding hexagram expression. There is some simultaneity in the concepts - the awareness stays fixed at the niwan; the awareness performs anapanasati (this is where a well established pattern of the practice fundamentals carries forth so that not too much mental capital is used in performing anapana); lastly, the awareness is lightly placed at the point in question along the loop. No leading of qi is done, any flow that happens emerges from these fundamentals of focus of awareness, energy center waxing and waning, and light focus at the point along the loop that corresponds to the current piece of the progression being performed.



The first breath is still hexagram 24 at weilu, the first 'tricky gate.' The second, 19, at mingmen:




This is the only portion of the practice I have discovered where there is any leading of qi, and this is done as a resolving method of the lower loop - once the full loop is being done, there is no leading component. The qi is led from the mingmen to the front yinjiao point on the 3 yins inhale, with the exhale using the upper dantien to connect to the lower dantien on the exhale of hexagram 23 - 23 is where the prerequisite of harmonizing the upper and lower dantiens shines forth, it is akin to the concept in Taoist Yoga of 'driving vitality into the lower dantien'...there is further note on this below:



Completion of the small-small loop is back to hexagram 2.

This small-small practice also gives a simplified basis for working with the concept of yinyang expression a la the hexagram progression.


***The practice should only stop at hexagram 2 - and once the decision is made, continue doing hexagram 2 until one achieves utter and complete stillness. It is also highly recommended that the stillness be of at minimum the same duration or longer than one has put into the active part of the practice. That is a big reason why an important prerequisite is for the practitioner to achieve utter and complete stillness before attempting exercises that move energy - I've found this to be particularly powerful, so I wanted to make sure this point is stressed so that the energy may safely be worked with and then completed properly.***


Part of the efficacy of the small-small loop lies in that it familiarizes one with the yang phase of the middle dantien and it is also a great conditioning exercise for the lower and middle jiao. Not only that, but it also begins to familiarize on with utilization of the upper dantian in connecting the back and front aspects in part 3 of the small-small loop - you simultaneously "assert focus" at the upper while at the same time leading the qi from the mingmen (gv4) to the yinjiao (cv7) - the natural connection path where the conception, penetrating vessels and the kidney channel all meet at cv7. So in a sense this portion of the practice is also fortifying the kidneys by using a yin/yang dynamic between the mingmen point (yang) and yinjiao (yin), you are using your own circulation as a treatment in a sense. Further investigation reveals cv7 to be a regulating point - literally, yinjiao="Yin Intersection"; CV being "sea of yin channels", penetrating vessel "sea of blood" so in a sense this is fortifying all of these aspects.
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Dan Cooney, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: MCO - 3 dantiens method bigua sequence

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
The full loop:





I also made an animated gif that gives a more dynamic representation, broken down by trigram - the green waxes on inhale, wanes on exhale.







Some commentary:

I've found a handful of references around regarding this Bigua sequence. In following a natural logical extension from dantien breathing, establishing the upper dantien and discovering its waxing and waning - I knew there was something more to it, some pattern that would be useful. Much contemplation was already put into it by the time I was sitting waiting for a massage one day and picked up Steven Chang's book of internal exercises - flipping through, when I got towards the end, I knew what this was as soon as I saw it, although Chang's assessment didnt seem to really correlate to what I saw, but I had to buy the book just to study it further (the exercises therein are a great compilation of Dao Yin, incidentally.) I kept looking for further confirmation as I began growing my understanding of it. The pattern is also in Master Wu's Chinese Shamanic Orbit Qigong, which is an excellent practice also, the various mudras and such compliment this interpretation very well - but I didn't see it described this way there either. Also a reference on pg 78 of Wang Mu's Foundations of Internal Alchemy under the River Chariot section of refining essence to transmute into breath chapter. This also seems to correspond to the 36 ascents of positive fire and 24 descents of negative fire as found in Taoist Yoga. Other sources of information on the hexagram set were somewhat dry and analytical - but if you're interested in some of the old chinese and related drawings there are some at the link.

If one examines the hexagrams and correlates them to the points, the meanings are quite consistent, but perhaps I will expand on that in the future. The effects of this practice have been very unambiguous - it almost seems as though it is a prerequisite, to open the MCO - from there the "normal" method of inducing flow up the Du and down the Ren had tenfold the meaning once I had done a decent amount of this method - prior, it was as if I was stirring a bathtub of water with my pinky finger - then comparing sticking my entire forearm in to stir! Depending on the rate of breath, a single loop can take 5-10 minutes or more - so when first getting started with this, I would recommend 3 loops, then return to utter and complete stillness - then wait a day or three, the practitioner should be developed enough with the prerequisites so as to be able to know themselves well enough to know if they need more time to integrate, as sometimes the effects of a strong practice take some time to manifest. I've had times where I've sat down days afterward and still felt the flow from this looping. One of Steven Chang's other cautionary points on this practice was that one should be relatively free of significant energetic blocks, do not regard this practice lightly. Again, another reason why I tried to emphatically stress the prerequisites for this practice.

At any rate, I haven't invented anything here, merely putting already existing pieces of puzzle together from my own studies and intuition.

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Dan Cooney, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: MCO - 3 dantiens method bigua sequence

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
over a hundred views and no comments, questions? emoticon is this too complex, did I not explain thoroughly enough? I suppose I can be more explicit if need be, I didnt exactly spell out each action but thought the description of the fundamentals would be sufficient to carry one to understanding the whole loop.
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Mind over easy, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: MCO - 3 dantiens method bigua sequence

Posts: 216 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
This is really interesting stuff, although I'm a bit in over my head. I'd love to try some of this stuff. Here's a question I have about my experience with 1st jhana/nana of mind and body, and also in 2nd jhana or at the A&P... When I focus on breath and expand my sense of that through the body, I notice that on inhale, my right leg feels piti, and on exhale, my left leg feels piti. I noticed how odd that was, then began to play around with it, switching it up, moving it from arm to arm, using my head and feet, etc... it seems that I can get a lot of piti going in small isolated areas, like just in my foot, or even just a finger. is there a way to explain what kind of manipulation is going on here or what the uses could be? It seems indicative of the possibility of energy manipulation through the breath/awareness, which I know next to nothing about besides my experiences. And with all the energetic stuff that can happen in practicing vipassana, I'm sure that there is some overlap of what is going on with energy or sensations between traditions.
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D Z, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: MCO - 3 dantiens method bigua sequence

Posts: 346 Join Date: 9/18/11 Recent Posts
Dan Cooney:
over a hundred views and no comments, questions? emoticon is this too complex, did I not explain thoroughly enough?


Well I am very interested in tying energetic practices, but in your first sentence you say...

Ok, so here is an interesting method to establish the MCO by using the Bigua waxing and waning set of hexagrams:


I have no idea what MCO, Bigua, and waxing and waning set of hexagrams are. Most people on this board do not have a background in taoism.

Perhaps some broad overview, and preliminary practice descriptions would be helpful.
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Pablo . P, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: MCO - 3 dantiens method bigua sequence

Posts: 378 Join Date: 3/21/12 Recent Posts
Dan Cooney:
over a hundred views and no comments, questions? emoticon is this too complex, did I not explain thoroughly enough? I suppose I can be more explicit if need be, I didnt exactly spell out each action but thought the description of the fundamentals would be sufficient to carry one to understanding the whole loop.


Hi Dan,

I do have a Taoist background, but still your post was hard to read, so guess what was that for buddhists. At first, I thought you were just another taoist guru trying to promote his stuff and sell his services, but then I remembered your previous posts with your detailed experiences and advice, so I came to the conclusion that you're honestly trying to build up a coherent framework with the taoist stuff you've learned and discovered emoticon .

If anything would catch the attention of buddhists is answering first what would MCO benefit them in their meditation practice or daily activities. Below are some of the questions I would like to know:

1. Would following the energy flow in the MCO be a higher/deeper practice than anapanasatti? Please tell us your experiences on both.
2. Is this (1.) more of a samatha practice in the early stages (because of visualization) and later a vipassana one, or more like a samatha/vipassana combo right from the start?
3. Have you accessed jhanas 1-8 following the MCO? Stilling of thoughts/emotions/feeling-tones? Other?
4. How do you deal with craving/aversion regarding energy stuff?
5. How do the Three Characteristics reveal in a MCO practice? What about fruitions?
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Dan Cooney, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: MCO - 3 dantiens method bigua sequence

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
Thanks for the replies emoticon

I know how you guys feel in a way, I'm not entirely used to the terminology here and I dont "think in those terms" really, so I keep having to go back and google, wait, what's piti again, what exactly is vispassana again emoticon So its just a little additional effort to understand, then the knowledge gets put away again until next time I come across the terms.

MoE: I will write about my experiences with laogung & yongquan breathing to relate to that...a little later!

DZ: I attempted to go from a somewhat broad overview to prerequisites in the first post, the second was an additional preparatory practice, the third post is the full practice. For me the effects were unambiguously strong enough that I felt it was necessary to break it up a bit. The bigua hexagram set is that wheel that is the first picture, among the descriptions of it, it is also representative of the phases of the moon.

Pablo: haha, I am most certainly no guru, but I did have a couple good teachers and an inquisitive mind, I'm sure were I taught this by someone I would have been sworn to closed door secrecy on it...and I'm not trying to sell anything either, I'm just trying to make sure I can find this again if I need to, if you know what I mean emoticon To answer your questions:

-Anapana is a prerequisite for this. Imho you dont get to a good stage of lower dantien breathing until you have done your anapana work. I advocate a focused, rote method of anapana - I basically started out with YMAA's embryonic breathing material and worked at that until my breaths were well over a minute, brought the flow of air beneath the threshold of turbulence, the body having almost completely disappeared and I discovered a shining awareness back there somewhere...in a nutshell. Life has brought me in and out of the depths of the practice a good 6-8 times at least over the years and I have a bunch of phenomena that get reproduced every trip through the stages...it took me a good 3 months to get there once I basically knew the ingredients, but subsequent immersions of practice time dont take as long to get there since I've already ridden that bike.

-Shamatha also sounds like a prerequisite. Pretty much any of the 'visualization' I had done was in the initial stages of lower dantien breathing, a couple teachers showed me methods to more directly use the Yi to affect the waxing and waning of the lower dantien energy center - this is why the anapana prerequisite is so important, if you dont tame the noise then it is harder to identify a signal amidst the noise. So in doing LDT breathing once there is a bit of an energy-potential and one has become familiar with how to harmonize the waxing and waning of the potential along with the breath, one can simply "express the change in energy-potential" there instead of visualizing something happening there. I hope that makes sense - so these days when I do LDT breathing I feel it right at the energy center, no thinking, no visualization - the mechanisms have been streamlined and the signal of the energy potential noticeable enough that I do not need to contrive it. So then take that concept and apply it to each of the 3 dantiens and there you have how a hexagram relates to "breathing" - naturally each energy center has its own nature, or frequency, vibration, however you want to describe it, so that is also part of the combination of ingredients.

A synonym for "Vipassanā" is paccakkha (Pāli; Sanskrit: pratyakṣa), "before the eyes," which refers to direct experiential perception. Thus, the type of seeing denoted by "vipassanā" is that of direct perception, as opposed to knowledge derived from reasoning or argument


In this context, yes, that makes sense, I am trying to encourage a direct perception of the phenomena. I think by the time one is ready to practice this 3 dantiens mechanism, one should probably have gone past visualizing this and done enough signal to noise ratio enhancement that these energetic expressions are merely guided extensions of phenomena that already happen, one is just enhancing, adding amplitude via mindfulness, then the progression manifests the "turning of the wheel."

-8 jhanas...forgive me if the descriptions I am finding right now sound somewhat like a mishmash, but most of it sounds familiar and the extent they manifest really depends on how good my present level of practice is. I'm sure in some hardcore sense I have not reached the pinnacle of any but have accessed most. So stuff like stilling thoughts, if you relate to some of my other writing about the reactions of the cranial nerves and such, does have direct physical correlations - that's why bringing the focus of awareness in to the niwan is basically "arresting the energy potential that the cranial nerves extend out into the world through the senses" and when practice well enough it manifests a very quiet, calm, clear mind.

-Seeing and knowing the true nature of craving and aversion is really the only way to get past them. I had already done other practices in the past that brought about such a response, the best way is just to stay diligent and realize the true nature of the phenomena in question and not let the monkey mind convince you its ok to ignore what you already know.

-3 Characteristics....the 3 marks of existence? I think if one is investigating them then one will find their signature....if one isnt, one won't necessarily but they may also arise spontaneously...pardon if it also sounds like pre and post requisite but not necessarily an integral component of this practice.

So how would MCO benefit - I've found that one isnt ever fully able to separate mind vs energy, there is always a component of one in the other. I've also noticed that the depth of meditation, lengths of breath, ability to stay in deep states, are also dependent on how streamlined, harmonious, settled, the practitioner's mind/energy/body is. For example when I do a longevity breathing practice, I almost always start out with a period of physical anapana to calm and settle, then move on to lower dt breathing to refined, enhance, grow the energy potential like turning a prayer wheel, then settling into a longevity breathing framework, the additional energy cultivated absolutely helps how deep the session is, how long the focus of awareness can be maintained, how long the body remains comfortable. Spending time working on streamlining and harmonizing the physical enhances the energetic - and so long as the energy remains good and strong - the limbs dont bother you, the breath stays deep, the mind stays settled. In some of my best stages of practice I'd sit down and I couldnt really discern if I had been sitting for 20 minutes or two hours, but that requires a pretty diligent practice and at that point I was getting the feeling that the rest of my life was starting to impinge upon my meditation, it made me want to disappear into the woods to practice, but of course I have a little much going on in life to abandon it, right emoticon I dont think I got to MCO-benefit yet, haha...so I related how establishing a good energy potential allowed for sessions of greater duration and depth - so the mco is helping take that energy potential and propagate it to the rest of the body. I was looking for some description of Nan Huai Chin talking about the qi in the microcosmic...I'll post it if I can find it, but this practice produced what he described and it also set the stage for being able to experientially feel the MCO doing it "the normal way" via a single inhale-exhale up back down front. Also if you relate to any taoist alchemy books, when the generative force becomes full and vibrates in the lower dt, doing the microcosmic orbit helps propagate the potential of the generative force throughout the body, basically permeating the body with this coherent energy potential.

Thanks again for the feedback, I will continue working at this to try and make it a little easier to understand. If there are further questions, by all means, ask emoticon
Adam Immanuel Lichtenthäler, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Microcosmic Orbit - 3 dantiens method

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/31/13 Recent Posts
Hello,
Which books could you recommend for me to understand the theory and history behind these concepts?
Thanks

Adam
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Dan Cooney, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Microcosmic Orbit - 3 dantiens method

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
History...I am sure there are some good books on taoism, i ching out there. I dont know the origins of the hexagrams, they are very old. I wouldnt necessarily expect the history to reveal a ton, though.

Theory...check out YMAA embryonic breathing and perhaps also the small circulation book. If I think of some others I will post 'em.
Adam Immanuel Lichtenthäler, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Microcosmic Orbit - 3 dantiens method

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/31/13 Recent Posts
thanks allot!
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Dan Cooney, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Microcosmic Orbit - 3 dantiens method

Posts: 61 Join Date: 10/22/12 Recent Posts
Just giving this a bump since I wrote up some updates to hopefully make things a little more clear emoticon

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