What does is mean to be “ Centered in Being ”? Many times we hear or use familiar expressions like “centered”, “losing your center”, or “left of center” without having a deeper understanding of its meaning. Being centered can be compared to living life in the eye of the storm; we are peaceful amidst the tumble and swirl of chaos, we are unshakeable and able to endure life’s experiences with fortitude. Centered in Being refers to dwelling in a state of emotional and spiritual equilibrium, where we are dancing with the present moment, engaged, adaptable, resourceful, and resilient. In contrast, not being centered makes us prone to distraction and easily blown off course. We are wobbly, unstable, inconsistent, and reactive because we are not seeing or perceiving clearly, our boundaries are fuzzy, and we can easily be pulled into drama and commotion (perhaps even starring in our own internal telenovela).
Where is the “center”? Taoists believe that the same energy that pervades all things, that exists in and nourishes the universe, is also present within the human body in the three energy centers called Dantian. Translated as “elixir field” or “sea of qi” (qi=energy), the three Dantian correspond to the main parts of the body collectively known as the three treasures; Jing (the lower Dantian) located two finger-widths below the navel, Qi (the middle Dantian) located in the center of the chest, and Shen (the upper Dantian) located between the eyes and back towards the center of the brain. Taoists teach that when you focus your awareness on the Dantian, you can simultaneously sense your entire body, from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head.
Shen, the upper Dantian, is the center of our wisdom mind which governs our mental and psychic energies. A tranquil mind of higher consciousness and knowledge can perceive the subtle vibrations and frequencies being emitted by the earth, other planets and stars (while an overactive or unstable mind filled with doubts, worries and fears rapidly consumes the body’s energy and vitality).
Qi, the middle Dantian, is the abode of the heart and is also referred to as the “seat of the Soul”. It is here, in the heart center, that the earthly energies of the physical plane blend with the subtle energies of the spiritual and celestial realms. The middle Dantian governs our emotional energies, in particular the human ability to give expression to feelings (especially human values such as love, compassion, and empathy).
Jing, the lower Dantian, is the center of our physical body and our vitality. It represents our connection to the earth, the center of gravity, our creative essence and reproductive forces. The lower Dantian governs movement, physical energy, strength, agility, and balance. It is said to be the seat of our original Essence, and our pre-birth connection to the heavenly realms.
How can I get centered? With practice, if you intently focus on seeing/sensing/feeling your own (or someone else’s) energy field, you can subtly sense if the energy is projecting forward or in front of the body, retreating behind the body, drifting off to one side of the body, or even arcing out from the side of the head. Practicing the following Qigong breathing practice, called the Microcosmic Orbit, helps to realign and center the energies of the mind-heart-body as one.
Microcosmic Orbit breathing practice:
- Stand or sit in a comfortable position.
- Allow your body to be relaxed, let go of any tension, especially around head, neck and shoulders. Relax your jaw and the muscles of the face.
- Rest the tip of your tongue gently on the roof of the mouth, just behind your upper front teeth.
- Practice the Inner Smile: think of something or someone that brings you joy, such as walking in nature, the feel of sunshine on your skin, or holding a baby. Feel yourself begin to smile gently, allowing your lips to feel smooth and full as they effortlessly spread to the sides and lift slightly. Feel the smile moving upward to your forehead until the forehead relaxes, then let the smile spread to your eyes and overflow into your body. Stay with this feeling until the entire body is relaxed and your are ready to move on.
- Breathe into the Jing/lower Dantian (just below the navel), feel your breath filling the space, imagine a sphere of energy or golden-white light building within the lower Dantian. Continue breathing slowly and consciously until the Dantian feels full and bright.
- With an exhale, move the sphere of energy or light down to to the center of the perineum or pelvic floor.
- With the next inhale, draw the sphere of energy or light into the base of the spine. Continuing with the same inhalation, allow the energy to flow from the base of the spine into the Shen/upper Dantian toward the center of the brain.
- With the next exhale, feel the energy flowing like a waterfall down the centerline of the face and torso into the Qi/middle Dantian, charging the heart and flowing all the way down back to the Jing/lower Dantian.
- This completes one round of the Microcosmic Orbit. Begin with one round, and observe how you feel before continuing with the practice.
- To conclude the practice and seal the Microcosmic Orbit, place your hands, one on top of the other, over your lower Dantian - men with the right hand on top, women with the left hand on top. Relax as long as needed and enjoy the feeling of tranquility and wellbeing.
Practicing the Microcosmic Orbit breathing exercise cleanses, strengthens, and energizes the Dantian, allowing the mind, heart and body to be in alignment with the Soul.
When the Soul-Mind-Heart-Body are functioning as one, we are truly Centered in Being.
With Gratitude & Love,