According to the Taoist tradition, in the human body, in addition to physical organs and systems, there is a network of special "energy channels" through which the life force (Qi) circulates, as well as areas-centers that are able to store, accumulate and transform Qi. The term "energy channels" is in quotation marks, because this is not an exact translation of the Chinese term, one of the variants of which are such words as "meridian", "channel", "thread". It is not possible to make an exact one-word translation of this term, which would fully cover what it is.
In general, the human energy structure is quite complex, multi-level and multifunctional, so here we will consider it only in general terms in order to get a basic idea about it.
In the Taoist tradition, three main "energy" centers-areas (upper, middle and lower), called dantians (see the figure below), are considered. The word "Dantian" itself can be translated as "Field of the elixir", sometimes it is called the "cauldron", which is due to some of its functions. Each of the dantians is associated with a certain level of reality, so it would be a big mistake to consider them only as energy reservoirs. Each of them manifests the Secret Primordial (Tao) in their own way and, therefore, in the course of practice, understanding the true essence of the dantian and its spiritual comprehension is one of the most important points.
Now let's move on to a general consideration of the centers-regions:
The lower dan tian is located inside the body at the level of the qihai point, which is located approximately 3-4 fingers wide below the navel (see the figure below). It is she who is the “front door” to the lower boiler, because her name is translated as “sea of qi”. The “back door” of the lower dan tian is the mingmen point, which is located on the lower back directly opposite the navel. The name of this point is translated as "the door of life" and it is directly related to both the Dan Tian itself and the kidneys.
The Lower Dan Tian is closely connected with the physical reality, therefore its dominant function is responsible for the physiological state of a person. If it contains little energy, or weak, inert Qi, then physical health is disturbed and diseases of the internal organs are possible. Also, this energy center is a fundamental support for the middle and upper dan tian and therefore work with it must be thoroughly correct, because "the better the foundation, the higher the building can be built."
Therefore, at the initial level, they are engaged in building and forming the correct integral structure of the Dantian, perform “sealing to stop leaks” so that Qi does not dissipate, and also transform the ordinary Dantian into an alchemical center. This transformation of the ordinary Dan Tian into an alchemical one is an important stage in the practice of Nei Dan (internal alchemy), since the creation of an elixir (pills) of immortality is not possible in the normal state of this energy center.
Here you can give such an example: you can boil water on a conventional stove, but you won’t be able to melt the ore, because this requires a blast furnace. So here, during practice, after the transformation of the lower dan tian, it acquires new, more perfect properties, its “power” increases, and it becomes possible to form and melt a new, higher quality of energy in it – a spiritualized elixir. In the future, this elixir is used to nourish our Primordial Spirit (Yuan Shen) and awaken the True Nature. It is in the Lower Dan Tian that the fusion of Yin and Yang energies takes place.
The Middle Dan Tian is located inside the body in the chest, about 3 fingers wide above the solar plexus. It is the middle dan tian that governs the emotional sphere of a person, and working with it plays an important role in the ability to control emotions, feelings, and desires. He is also responsible for our personal strength. In the initial methods of improving the Heart Nature (Singun), work with the middle dan tian plays a very important role, since the cultivation of virtuous qualities (Te) depends on its proper functioning, which allows you to open the middle dan tian and penetrate into the sphere of the Primordial Spirit, therefore it is sometimes called " door to Heaven.
The Upper Dantian is located inside the cranial cavity and at the physical level includes the pineal gland (which is responsible for spiritual vision), the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus, and the thalamus. The upper center is responsible for mental abilities and intuition, and also plays a very important role in the spiritual development of a person. Of all the three dan tiens, the upper one has the most complex structure and consists of nine special centers called "palaces". The practical work with the nine palaces is very complex and subtle, so it is studied only at the highest levels of internal alchemy. And in general, any work with the upper center requires filigree work and a deep understanding of the ongoing processes so that you can realize the desired result and avoid deviations.
Activation of the Upper Dan Tian allows you to activate the dormant parts of the brain at the physical level, as well as expand the boundaries of your perception, and, consequently, the understanding of the Universe. The upper center is also the “home of the Primordial Spirit” (Yuan Shen), which means that awakening and revealing our Heart Nature through interaction and work with it will be the most correct and optimal. If the lower dan tian is filled with primordial qi and the elixir is smelted in it, and the middle dan tian is opened by cultivating true virtuous qualities (te), then the elixir will be able to rise up the central channel (zhong mai) to the upper dan tian and nurture our primordial spirit, allowing it to reveal everything its properties. There are also nine levels of Wisdom associated with the Upper Dan Tian, which manifests itself when we nourish the Yuan Shen of Primordial Qi in a state of deep Peace.
In our time, the fact that there are special "energy channels" through which Qi circulates is known to almost everyone who was interested in Eastern systems of self-improvement. Since Zheng-jiu therapy (acupuncture) went beyond China and spread throughout the world, knowledge about the meridians through which the “miraculous power of Qi” circulates has become public knowledge. Although, at the same time, some aspects of the practice of zheng-jiu therapy are still kept secret from the average layman, who is simply unable to understand this knowledge.
It is believed that it is the Taoist tradition that is the mother of acupuncture, and therefore only Taoist Masters have a comprehensive understanding of the complete system of "energy channels" and their functional features and capabilities.
According to acupuncture, there are 32 meridians, which are divided into Simple and Miraculous. Simple, called "rivers", there are 12 on the right side and 12 on the left. These meridians are associated with the following internal organs:
- lungs, large intestine, pericardium, small intestine, triple heater (manual channels);
- liver, spleen, urinary and gallbladder, stomach and kidneys (leg channels).
In addition, there are 8 wonderful meridians, called "lakes", as they are reservoirs for simple channels ("rivers"). When there is not enough energy in any simple channel, he turns to the Miraculous meridians for help, which, in turn, in case of a lack of Qi, turn to the Dantians, and, as a rule, to the lower one. This is one of the reasons why the lower center is considered the main one in relation to our physical existence.
Among the 8 wonderful channels, the following three are considered the most important:
- The control channel (Du Mai) , which runs from the coccyx along the spine through the top of the head and ends at the upper palate. He controls all yang channels.
- Functional canal (Ren Mai) , which runs from the perineum along the anterior midline of the body and ends at the tip of the tongue. He governs all yin channels. Together, the Du Mai and Ren Mai channels, through their closing, which is done by touching the tip of the tongue of the upper palate, form a closed circulation system called the Small Heavenly Circle (Xiao Zhou Tian). The circulation of Qi (elixir of immortality) through the Small Heavenly Circle is one of the most important practices in the Taoist tradition. This is a rather complicated practice, and in order to understand it, you need to have a lot of practical experience and wisdom. To master it, you need to receive oral instructions from the Mentor in order to know all the details of its correct implementation, features for men and women, possible deviations and errors. Well, and most importantly, understanding the spiritual aspect of the Small Heavenly Circle.
- The median canal (Zhong Mai) , which starts at the perineum and passes inside the body along the central axis through all three dan tians and ends at the top of the head at the point of baihui. (See Fig.) The middle channel is sometimes called the Penetrating Channel and it is through this channel that the soul, at a certain level, can go beyond the body, and is able to travel to other worlds for learning, and returns back. The same channel is used in the practice of "correct death" - it consists in the fact that at the time of death the practitioner collects his Qi, connects it with Shen and transfers his spirit to another, higher world, which corresponds to his level of development. The Zhong Mai channel keeps a great mystery in itself, and it participates in all higher alchemical transformations. Using the channel Zhong Mai, we can realize the great unity of the three forces - Heaven, Earth and Man, as well as realize the fusion of all possible levels of reality that dantians embody. This result will lead to a True deep understanding of oneself, the surrounding world and one's place in it, and will also allow one to gain both spiritual enlightenment and realize the highest result.
There are also special energy channels that are used only in the practice of Nei Dan (internal alchemy) - they are called intra-realchemical, and the location and methods of working with them were previously kept a big secret. But, since now is the time to "expand the Path", part of the methods of working with these channels is now being transmitted openly.