The Lower Tan Tien

The Lower Tan Tien

Question (through email): I’m curious why most places mentions the lower Dan Tian (the main energetic center in the abdomen) to be 2-3 inches below the naval and not right behind. What do you think?

Thoughts: Hello, _____, thank you for writing and asking your question. I’ll start by saying the opinions vary on this answer, so you’ll want to look around for other opinions. It sounds like you have—good job taking responsibility for your own path!

I think of the lower dan tien as embodying the area of a large sphere, perhaps the size of an American volleyball or bowling ball. For anatomical reference, I think of this sphere as touching:

-the navel on the front

-the point called the gate of life (the ming men) between the kidneys on the spine in the back, 

-the solar plexus at the top, and 

-the area at the top of the pubic bone at the bottom. 

My chi kung teachers taught that the term tan tien translated to “the field of the elixir.” When viewed as a field, that means taking up a larger space—especially larger than the point of an acupuncture needle. In meditation, I like to see the lower tan tien expand and shrink with my breath. It can expand to the size of my aura, the room, or the house, and then condense back down to the size of a marble on the exhale. 

Finally, I guess we have to look at the goal. In acupuncture, the point is referenced below the navel—such as one and a half thumb-widths or three finger-widths, or on the acupuncture point Conception-4. In acupuncture the goal might be to stimulate the original energy from the outside. In meditation, the goal might be stimulate the original energy from the inside. The navel is the beginning of life from our mothers. Connecting to the navel seems to make sense in meditation. 

In summary, activating one’s ‘original energy’, (whether activated at the navel or just below the navel), can ignite a spark that can will turn on the body’s natural healing and adaptive abilities. Hope this helps; Best of luck! -Andrew

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