Filling the Dan Tian
There are three key phrases within Qi Gong society that summarise exactly what we need to do in order to fill the lower Dan Tian with Qi. If we can understand the energetic mechanics behind these phrases, then it is possible to understand how Qi is built up within the lower Dan Tian. These three phrases are:
1 – Yi Shou Dan Tian (意守丹田) – ‘Guard the Mind within the Dan Tian’
Initially, when the Qi needs to be led towards the lower Dan Tian, we need to bring our awareness down to the lower abdomen. In actual fact, you don’t need to be all that exact. Bring your mind down to the lower abdominal cavity and you will find that the Qi begins to move. Here is the key, though: do not ‘lead’ the Qi with intention; the creation of a mental action in this way will cause the Yang Qi to begin dispersing. Yang Qi is ‘fragile’ in a way; though it has been built in the Huang of the body, it is quick to disperse. Instead of ‘leading’ the Qi with intent, simply lower the mind down towards the abdomen. Let is sink under its own ‘weight’. The Yang Qi will then be naturally led towards the abdominal cavity with minimal force being used. In this way, the passive action of ‘sinking’ the mind will be all the effort you require. The result of this will be that the vibrating sensation of the Yang Qi will begin to sink through the body towards your abdomen along with your mind.
This is where the skill now comes in; by moving your mind within the body, it will have e tendency to start generating thought. Do not allow this to happen. This is why it is said that the Yi needs to be ‘shou’ or ‘guarded’. The mind needs guarding from invasion by thoughts and mental action. Excessive thinking will disturb the Yang Qi and use it up; guard your mind, keep the senses sealed and maintain the relative stillness and stability of your awareness.
2 – Qi Chen Dan Tian (氣沉丹田) – ‘Submerge the Qi in the Dan Tian’
The Yang Qi should then be ‘submerged’ within the Dan Tian. What is the Yang Qi submerged within? Yin Qi is the answer. We have already seen how the field of the lower Dan Tian is formed from Yin Qi, and we shall return to this shortly. We now need to submerge the Yang Qi within the Yin Qi by bringing it into the lower Dan Tian field. This process is indicated within the Yi Jing by hexagrams Ji Ji (既濟) and Wei Ji (未濟). These two symbols are shown in the figure below:
Ji Ji and Wei Ji Hexagrams
Ji Ji shows Fire submerged within Water and is so-named ‘after completion’. The Yang Qi has been submerged within the Yin Qi field, and so our work is done with regards to the relationship between the two. Wei Ji shows Fire and Water before this process takes place and is named ‘before completion’. In this second symbol, the Fire has not yet been submerged and so they still need work. In this instance, the symbols for Fire and Water are used instead of Heaven and Earth (pure Yang and Yin) since our Qi is in an acquired state of being; it is distorted by our acquired mind and mundane thinking.
3 – Dan Tian Xi Qi (丹田吸氣) – ‘Dan Tian Inhales the Qi’
In order for the Yang Qi to be ‘submerged’ in Yin Qi, it first has to be drawn towards the lower Dan Tian field. We can begin this process by developing the Yang Qi within our Huang and then sinking the awareness down towards our abdominal cavity, but still, the lower Dan Tian will not yet take the Yang Qi within its interior. It is a curious thing that even though the Yang Qi will benefit us greatly by entering into the field of the lower Dan Tian, the body is resistant to this happening. This is why, in most cases, the first attempts you make at ‘storing’ your Yang Qi will be futile. There will be a ‘leaking’ of the Qi out of the abdominal cavity. It is as frustrating as trying to grasp at clouds.
This is where the character of ‘Xi’ comes in. This can be translated as meaning ‘to inhale’, but it also means ‘to suck’ (a literal breakdown of the character shows the action of ‘grabbing’ through the mouth).
The reason that the Yang Qi is ‘Xi’ towards the lower Dan Tian is because of the way that Yin and Yang relate to one another. Like two magnets, they are drawn to one another. If we wish to draw Yang Qi into the lower Dan Tian or ‘inhale’ it into the lower Dan Tian space, then we need to develop the Yin Qi qualities of the Dan Tian’s ‘form’. Through the development of Yin, we draw in the Yang that we have created through our absorbed awareness.
It should be noted here that the alternative phrase of Dan Tian Hu Xi (丹田呼吸) is sometimes used in place of Dan Tian Xi Qi. Dan Tian Hu Xi literally means ‘Dan Tian breathing’. Many have mistakenly believed this phrase referred to some kind of Qi Gong exercise whereby the Dan Tian expanded and contracted or something similar, but this is an error in understanding. The Dan Tian ‘breathes’ the Yang Qi in and out through the action of Yin ‘inhaling’ Yang towards its core. This is a manifestation of many of the alchemical directions of ‘immersing Fire in Water’, a common phrase within Daoist classics that has meaning on many levels. In the case of Qi Gong and Nei Gong, this is what it refers to. In the case of consciousness, there are further meanings for Fire and Water.
If you wish to read more around this subject then please refer to my book – ‘A Comprehensive Guide to Daoist Nei Gong‘ which is available from Amazon bookstores.