Those of you who follow the Monday Morning Tips, are familiar with my interest in the Three Dantiens and their importance to one’s Tai Chi practice – the lower dantien (physical center), middle (emotional center), and upper (mental/spiritual center). This information is available through my writings and videos.
What I want to share with you today is a simple yet profound exercise to work with this principle. There are two parts to this – first standing, then moving. I recommend first reading through the standing part all the way through and then do the exercise. Then read through the moving part and then do that one. Once you get the idea, it is very simple, yet will offer you so many benefits.
Assume a comfortable, shoulder width stance (Wu Chi Stance). Breathe naturally using belly breathing. Eyes closed or shades (eye lids) half closed. Now feel how you feel. Take your time.
Next, concentrate your attention and breath on the lower dantien (area just below your belly button). Take three or more breaths. Feel how you feel.
Next, concentrate on the middle dantien (center of the chest – heart area), and breathe into this area. Feel how you feel.
Next, concentrate on the upper dantien (between the eyebrows in the center of the skull), breathe into this area, and feel how you feel.
Next, repeat this into the middle dantien, breathe and feel.
Next, repeat this into the lower dantien, breathe and feel.
After this process, take a few moments to see how you now feel. Did you notice any difference in feelings when concentrating on the three dantiens? Was one dantien easier or more difficult to get in touch with? Did you enjoy this exercise or not so much?
You are now going to do this exercise again, but instead of standing, pick out one movement from your form, any one. I usually start with Ward Off Left just because it begins from Commencement – a standing posture.
Do the movement and feel how you feel.
Repeat the movement, but concentrate on moving from the lower dantien. How does it feel? Do this again.
Now do the movement and concentrate on moving from the middle dantien. How does this feel? Any difference? Repeat.
Do your movement and concentrate moving from the upper dantien. How does this feel? Any difference? Repeat.
Back down to the middle again. Then the lower. How did each feel and do you notice any difference?
The purpose of this exercise is to become aware of how your focus and awareness of your three dantiens affects your movements. There are reasons for, and results from, changing ones focus from one to another. People tend to operate primarily from one energy center or another. Some are very physical, others emotional, and others more mental. Of course, one would like to think that they are balanced, integrating all three, but it is my experience that is not so. Most people share that they feel more comfortable in this exercise moving from one center more than others. This will help you evaluate which center you use more than others. The more you use it, the easier it is to get your focus there.
In Tai Chi practice, we start developing the physical body by concentrating mostly on the lower dantien. I call this center the “me” center. Becoming aware of oneself. After this center gets integrated and strengthened, one moves up into the middle center which affects one’s interactions with others. This center is called the “us” center. In Tai Chi, we now have the student do partner exercises and forms, learning the give and take of society.
Finally, the student spends more time meditating while moving, using intention or will power, to direct the moves. The student is now in the upper dantien – the “all of us” center.
This exercise can help the teacher and students evaluate where they are primarily focusing and where they desire to head in their studies and life. I hope you enjoy this little journey, use it and share it.