When we first begin our Zhan Zhuang training we are told to settle into the posture and find our ‘center’ and hold our attention there. But then what? And what is our ‘center’ anyway and what does it do? And finally what can we expect by maintaining our focus there?
Well, not only is our center or ‘centerpoint’ actually our physical center of gravity, it is also a primary part of our body’s physical power generation. But before we can really fathom the importance of our centerpoint, we must first locate it accurately. Our centerpoint is found on a line halfway between Baihui point, GV-20 at the top of the head and the Earth point located on the ground, equidistant between the feet directly below the Perineum, (Hui Yin CV-1.) For the mass of humanity this point generally lies at the level of the navel in the dead center of the body. If you can accurately have your feeling-awareness traverse the Central Channel from top to bottom and then back up halfway, then this is all you’ll need. But for those just starting out and those desire who added certainty,’ we can draw a line with our feeling (and seeing) awareness from the navel through the body to its ‘mirror’ point, Ming Men GV-4 on the back. (Actually on the spine.) Our centerpoint is located halfway between the two. Remember when practicing this technique we find our centerpoint from back to front, not the other way around. (See Inside Zhan Zhuang – Pg. 124)
Another way to say it is; our centerpoint is located halfway between top and bottom, halfway between left and right (sides of the torso) and halfway between front (navel) and back. (Ming Men on the spine.) The intersection of those three lines specifically determines our centerpoint.
Now you might ask, “What about the Low Dan Tien (elixir field), so important to Tai Chi and the other internal arts, shouldn’t that be our point of concentration? Paradoxically the answer is yes. The reason for this is because after a long period of concentration in the Low Dan Tien, (generally several years) eventually the Dan Tien will ‘open’ and this opening will create a sense of expansion so as to also include the area from the navel through the pubic bone, back through the Ming Men point and down through Hui Yin. (The confluence of Yin.) So at the beginning for Zhan Zhuang the Low Dan Tien is the preferred starting point of focus although it is interesting to note that in traditional Taoist meditation the navel and the area behind it is used as the primary focus starting point.
In order to understand the importance of the Dan Tien we must realize that the human body is composed of more than just the physical tissue we can see and feel. In fact, there are a number of ‘energetic overlays,’ so to speak, which continually function both inside and also beyond the periphery of our body, 24/7. It’s just that we are generally not aware of them. But daily Zhan Zhuang training will slowly but surely change all that as it increases our perception and our ability to feel more deeply and subtly into our body in a holistic sense.
Of course if we examine the area of the Low Dan Tien in a purely physical manner we find muscles, Intestines, Bladder and other connective tissue. Clearly these elements by themselves are not capable or even designed to generate the kinds of energetic experiences many seasoned practitioners report. So what is it that we are actually working with when we one-pointedly focus in the Low Dan Tien? The answer lies in what some have termed the ‘energy-body.’ Think of the energy-body as a higher harmonic reflection of the physical body. While it is in fact a separate system, the energy-body is also co-joined with the physical body. (Here I speak of the energy-body in the singular sense although there is more than one, each operating at a successively higher harmonic and vibratory rate.)
We know from Chinese medicine that the Qi or vital energy travels constantly through the body, through the nervous system, along with the blood as Ying or nutritive Qi, through the organs, bones and glands and much more. In fact, every physical process throughout the body has its energetic counterpart. And this is the key to transitioning from experiencing purely physical feelings to what we might call ‘energetic feelings,’ that is, things functioning at a higher harmonic that we can subtly but definitely feel – only at a higher frequency or vibratory rate.
The idea of vibratory rates is of note. In terms of science, physicists are quite clear. Everything in our physical universe they assert, actually vibrates. And the speed at which things vibrate helps determine all the varying appearances, shapes and forms we see in our world. They have also proved that solidity itself (physicality) is actually an illusion, albeit a very powerful one. This has to do with our basic atom structures and the tremendous amount of space that exists between any nucleus and its various electrons. Building on these scientific realities, we can delve into the tangibility and purposes of the Low Dan Tien/Centerpoint or lower elixir field.
In order to better understand this let us examine the definition of the word ‘elixir.’
“Also called elixir of life. An alchemic preparation believed to be capable of prolonging life. A panacea; cure-all; sovereign remedy.”
From these basic definitions one can see the nearly infinite potential and possibilities of this internal elixir that we are cultivating.
One function of our Low Dan Tien/Centerpoint is as a focal point to draw in, accumulate and store Qi. Usually the first sensation we feel as this is happening is some form of warmth or heat. And as our ability to focus one-pointedly increases, so does the degree of heat. Eventually the Low Dan Tien region will feel quite hot. One example of this is Master Wang Shu Jin. It is said that before their frigid early morning winter training sessions, the students would gather in front of Master Wang and warm their hands as if warming them in front of a blazing fire. When asked about this and his other extraordinary abilities, Master Wang always credited the Qi.
Once enough Qi is accumulated, we become more consciously aware of another important function of the Low Dan Tien/Centerpoint. And that is as a sort of ‘power distribution-station.’ (Here it should be noted that this activity is going on 24/7 in order for the body to function properly as long as we’re alive.)
It is said that when the Qi becomes abundant enough it will overflow the bounds of the Dan Tien and travel throughout the body. This influx of vital energy has tremendous healing effects on the entire human system.
Another important thing about the Low Dan Tien/Centerpoint is its ability to function as a cauldron or ‘cooking pot.’ As we hone our skill of exclusive concentration, we bring to bear more and more of our total consciousness and this in turn creates the effect of ‘cooking’ the Jing-Qi, which further purifies and refines it. This practice eventually leads to various alchemical experiences, many of which are thoroughly outlined in the Taoist tradition. (The 3 Treasures – Jing, Qi and Shen) The interesting thing about Zhan Zhuang practice is that whereas the Taoists follow specific methods and procedures to illicit various experiences, many of these same experiences will occur spontaneously over the years of daily Standing Meditation practice.
Lastly, we can think of our Centerpoint or Low Dan Tien as a doorway which allows us to explore a whole energetic realm or structures, including linkage between the Central and Left and Right ‘Qigong Channels,’ the 3 Dan Tiens, the 14 Acupuncture Channels, the ‘Psychic Channels’ (Yin and Yang Linking and Heel Channels) the ‘Belt‘ Channels, the ‘Thrusting Channel etc. all of which have the potential of strengthening and transforming our physical systems, thus promoting health and vitality into old age.
One final note; in addition to the warmth in the Low Dan Tien described earlier, there can also be sensations of coolness, moving water, increased density, feelings of great ease and dimensional space within the Low Dan Tien/Centerpoint and then later throughout the entire body. All these experiences are a reflection of the Qi, but not the actual Qi itself. They provide our first definite links between the purely physical and the energetic, and act as confirmations that we are practicing correctly and that things are properly unfolding…