What is the dantian and why is it important?
(part 1 of a 4-part series)
Key Topics: The Three Treasures, Cellular Purification, Samadhi, Kundalini, Chakras, Plant Medicine
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Usually when someone speaks of the “dantian” they are referring to the lower of three energy centers in the human body. Each of these centers are associated with different vital energies, collectively named, “The Three Treasures”.
Within Taoist philosophy and practice, these three centers are known to store and control life-force. They are:
The Lower Dantian: located approximately three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the belly button, this center generates “jing” energy - translated literally as “essence” in Chinese. It is considered the “superior ultimate” treasure.
Known as “the golden stove”, the lower dantian is considered to be the foundation of balance, breathing, rooted standing and full-body awareness in martial arts and Qigong. It is described as “the root of the tree of life” and seen as the original source of one’s internal energy (qi/chi) within Chinese, Korean and Japanese traditions. I like to call it “greater-mind”, “god’s-throne”, “center-of-the-aura”, “seat-of- the-soul”, “source-of-light”, “god’s-mouthpiece”, “sun-in-our-belly”, “hub-of-intuition” and the “power-center”.
Buddhist and Taoist teachers often instruct their students to focus on the dantian because it centers awareness in the greater mind of the universe, eventually activating samadhi or higher states of consciousness. Masters of Japanese arts such as tea-ceremony, swordsmanship and the martial arts are said to be “acting from the hara” - “hara” being Japanese for “belly”.
The reason the lower dantian is considered the most important of the three is because it must be open and activated before we can feel or sense the middle and upper dantians. It is the connection point [within the physical self] to universal life-force. When this gateway is shut-down or blocked (and for most of us, it is), we are unable to access renewable energy and instead take it from non-renewable sources within our body and environment, which causes depletion.
When this gateway is open however, we receive a transmission of energy directly from source which flows through our meridians and chakras until it touches every organ, muscle, bone, skin, our pineal gland, etc., uprooting and transforming stored contraction and fear along the way. The power of this expanding energy cleanses our channel of what we’ve inherited and absorbed at the cellular level - what I call the “Cellular Purification Process”.
Once activated, this energy travels from our center up through our chakra system, clearing the energetic pathways so the flow of life-force can properly access each of our cells. It keeps pushing until it reaches the top of our head. Once there, feelings of bliss, expansion and light pervade our entire body, mind and spirit.
This reconnection to an inherent state of openness and love is what we have come to call enlightenment or samadhi; with the process of being born, inheriting ancestral and global karma, suffering beneath it, dying ten-thousand times, connecting with the divine and transforming what is in the way of this natural divine state, to be the collective human journey of transformation.
This is another way of describing the source and rising of “kundalini energy”. In Hindu philosophy, kundalini is a powerful divine energy that lays coiled like a snake at the base of our spine or root chakra (muladhara). This shakti energy (divine feminine power) is predominantly cultivated through various methods such as tantra, asana practice, chanting mantras, meditation and pranayama breathing. I personally experience the two energy concepts (Taoist & Hindu) as varying slightly in function but ultimately pointing to the same source. One way of describing their connection might be to say that the lower dantian is the engine or generator of vital life-energy, while the kundalini awakened at our root (predominantly sexually), is the catalyst that ignites that engine. I personally find them mutually inclusive.
The Middle Dantian: Located at the level of the heart, this is the power center of emotion and thought in our physical body. It is associated with the health of our respiratory system and internal organs (particularly the thymus gland). Known as “the crimson palace”, this center generates vital “Qi” energy which translates literally as “air” and figuratively as “life-force” in Chinese.
Obviously our heart is the power-center of love; the stuff that all of creation is made out of. Love is the one and only healing force in the universe, so having an open heart is imperative for all aspects of health and well-being. Some of us struggle to feel love because our middle dantian hasn’t opened fully yet. We might sense and know that we love others and act accordingly, but it may be more of a knowing than a tangible feeling. Often the feeling of love is buried beneath our wounds - where it tends to stay for some time - because for love to be felt and allowed we must let it incinerate all that we’re holding onto that’s not love - a brave and vulnerable endeavor.
One of the main reasons we unconsciously avoid opening our lower dantian is because it pushes powerful energies up to our heart, which then manifest as love. This explains why deep connected love-making, the type that awakens kundalini energy, often brings us to tears of bliss. As the serpent rises to the heart level it floods the emotional body with light. Our heart may break open, memories may surface, visions may come, and without question, a cleansing of the emotional pain-body takes place. This is necessary for the kundalini or chi/Qi to clear the path as it pushes its way to the upper dantian and crown chakra (sahasrara).
The love we are capable of feeling and sharing is profoundly amplified when backed up with the power of our lower dantian. Again, our middle dantian is an energetic muscle that takes time to tone and strengthen, but it’s well worth the effort. The results are infinite in power and healing potential.
The Upper Dantian: is located between and just above the eyebrows. It is what we commonly call the “third-eye” or “ajna” chakra. This power-center is associated with the pineal gland and related to consciousness or spirit.
Known as “the muddy pellet”, this center generates vital “shen” energy which is the Chinese word for “spirit”, “god” or “deity”. It is within this center that shen or spirit is refined into the infinite void of pure consciousness.
When the vital life-forces make their way to the upper dantian, there is an explosion of energy in the brain which permeates all biological and energetic systems in our body, flooding them with light. This light is so powerful it silences ego-mind, allowing greater-mind or divine intelligence to infiltrate the complex functions of our brain. Once this vital intelligence from our lower dantian reaches our brain, we are awakened to the ultimate state of oneness in the universe.
This consciousness is often awakened on psychoactive drugs such as MDMA or with psilocybin mushrooms, DMT or plant medicines like ayahuasca or iboga. I suspect that the reason these trips are so intense and purifying is because these substances go straight to the brain-center first, blowing open our consciousness even if we haven’t built the underlying structure I speak of above. In a sense we must then play rapid catch-up - almost like stepping onto the top of the ladder with some force versus steadily working our way up one rung at a time. And for many, this is precisely the fast-track or earth-quake needed to crack open and heal deep-seated wounds.
There’s no question these methods are powerful and life-changing, I would simply like to add that simultaneously cultivating the dantians and kundalini energy in some form or fashion, can ground the wisdom and build the practical structure that allows for integration of powerful life-forces into everyday life. I would also like to note that I personally experience a noticeable difference in the state of oneness consciousness derived from plant or drug use versus what I access through tantric/meditative, (non-substance use) spiritual practices. For me, the latter feels weaved and integrated into all aspects of my body and life. There’s no background sense of separation from sobriety. I do not feel the “high” associated with substance induced altered states, but instead feel present, grounded, rooted, sober and awake.
• (1) Balfour, Frederic H. 1880. "Three Brief Essays", The China Review 9: 380-382.
• (2) Lu K'uan Yu (1970). Taoist Yoga. Rider. p. 10. ISBN 0-7126-1725-6. “This area is associated with the Sea of Qi.”
• (3) "Power Generation in Martial Arts: Axis, the Spine, and the Center". Full Potential Martial Arts. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
• (4) Cohen, K. S. (1999). The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing. Random House of Canada.
• (6) T’ai Chi Ch'uan and Meditation by Da Liu, page 92 – Routledge and Keegan Paul 1987
Jennifer Millar © copyright 2019. All rights reserved.