Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meditation on the microcosmic orbit.

I am going to be introducing the meditation on the microcosmic orbit into my Qi Gong class over the next month, and so with this in mind I thought I would write an article on it, perhaps extending it to a series of two or three over the next few weeks. This way for those unable to attend or who are not in Singapore, you can try the meditation in your own time, by yourself.

What is the microcosmic orbit?
The microcosmic orbit in Qi Gong refers to the energy circuit composed of the major yang channel and the major yin channel or energy meridian in the human body.
The major yang channel runs from the perineum (the central point between the middle of the legs) up toward the coxyx/base of the spine. From the coxyx it runs up the spine and enters the skull at the base of the neck, continuing up the back of the skull to the crown of the head.
The major yin channel of the body runs from the crown of the head down the middle of the front of the face to the palette, and then from the tongue down the front of the neck, chest and abdomen down into the sexual organs. Finally it runs from the sexual organs to the perineum.
So, the yang channel runs up the back of the body, and the yin channel runs down the front of the body, connecting with each other at the crown and the perineum to form a loop or circuit of energy. This is why it is called the “orbit'', it is the major circuit of energy found within the human body,

The benefits of meditating on the microcosmic orbit.
The microcosmic orbit meditation is the Taoist equivalent of the meditation on the kundalini or chakras that one finds in other eastern traditions such as Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Like kundalini meditation it raises the energies contained in the lower energy centers of the torso (pelvis, abdomen) and cause them to rise up into the higher energy centers in the heart, brain and crown. By doing so it helps to transform and refine the energies both of our physical body and consciousness, resulting in improved physical health, greater mental and emotional balance, and, for those that wish it, access to deeper levels of awareness and spiritual insight.

The main obvious difference between the microcosmic orbit and the other aforementioned kundalini/chakra techniques is that, whereas the chakras are visualized in a straight line, with the energy rising and falling up and down that one line, the microcosmic orbit involves the visualization of a loop, up the back of the body and down the front, as already described.

In my personal experience I have found that the microcosmic orbit meditation is easier to work with in the sense that energy can move up and down the back and front of the body simultaneously without a problem, whereas with a single line of chakras energy either has to be rising or falling, as there is only one channel for it to move up and down.

Once you get proficient at both chakra and microcosmic orbit work it is actually quite easy to combine them both into a single functioning meditation. However, another good thing about the microcosmic orbit meditation is that is can be practiced very effectively in a simple, non-complex way, with only a little basic technical knowledge. So, it is possible to practice the microcosmic orbit meditation both as a beginner, but then if you want to learn more details about the energy channels and the energy centers that lie along its path, there is much available to study and develop on the subject.

Ok, so the remainder of this article I want to dedicate to explaining the practical technique of how to begin meditating on the microcosmic orbit. I'm going to call it the “Level One Microcosmic Orbit Meditation'' with a view to posting a couple of more advanced techniques at a later date.

Level One Microcosmic Orbit Meditation.
This meditation can be done seated or in the basic Qi Gong standing posture , the former is slightly easier regarding developing deeper concentration, but the latter encourages the flow of Qi through the body more strongly. The main thing is that your pelvis should be aligned in such a way that your spine and torso can rise in a comfortable and erect manner, supporting the head and neck, which should be in line with the torso.
It is particularly important to have your tongue connected to the roof of your mouth, the tip placed just behind the top front teeth. This enables Qi to flow down from the pallet of the mouth down into the jaw and neck effectively.

After having found a comfortable posture, the next step is to sink your center of gravity down into the belly, so that the upper body is nice ad relaxed.

Turn your attention to the natural process of your breathing, give a little bit of time for your mind and body to settle. If you like you can practice a few minutes of simple Qi Gong meditation forms such as the core body breathing, or the inner smile.

The basic visualization:
When you feel ready, imagine there is a circuit of energy and light, about 3cms in width (like a hose pipe perhaps) running from the perineum up through the spine and back of the neck and head to the crown. From the crown it descends down the front of the face, neck, chest and abdomen to the sexual organs, completing the energy circuit at the perineum.

Feeling and seeing the flow of energy:
Spend a little while seeing and feeling this energy circuit, feeling its presence. After a while notice that energy is gently rising up the back of the body along the energy circuit, from the bottom of the spine to the crown of the head. You can also feel energy and light gently descending down the front of the channel, down your head, neck and torso, into your sexual organs and from there to the perineum.
Spend a little while gently seeing, feeling and sensing this energy flow up and down the microcosmic orbit. The energy may seem to be flowing in a continuous, gentle way, or it may ebb and flow somewhat. Don't try and control it too much, just allow it to move naturally.

Enhancing the flow of energy:
You can enhance the flow of energy and light along the microcosmic orbit by combining it with the breathing. For example as you breathe in you can focus on energy rising up the back of the body and spine to the crown, and then as you breathe out feel light and energy flowing down the front of the body into the abdomen and sexual organs. Alternatively it may feel more natural to reverse this; breathing energy down the front of your body as you breathe in, and breathing it up the back of the body as you breathe out. There is no right or wrong here, it is whatever you feel most comfortable with!

More techniques for enhancing the flow of energy:
There are two further techniques that you can try that encourage the flow of energy up the back of the body.
Firstly gently tensing the muscles in the perineum, pelvic floor and anal sphincter helps to stimulate energy to rise up the spine.
Secondly rolling the eyes up into the back of the head helps draw energy up the spine and neck into the head.
You can experiment with these techniques, see which ones feel best for you. They should be practiced sparingly during the course of the meditation, as and when you feel the need to encourage the flow of Qi around the microcosmic orbit.

Concluding the meditation:
I recommend that you finish the meditation with just a few minutes of silence and pure relaxation, just to allow the energies in your body and in the microcosmic orbit to settle down and find their natural point of balance.

Click HERE to view the second article in this series.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, please do not reproduce without permission.


Unknown said...

What are your thoughts on a good method for developing into the Microcosmic orbit mediation? Are there any hazards people should try to avoid?

Toby Ouvry said...

Thanks for passing on the link to the yoga books sfauthor, Jeff, I will try and write a few thoughts on your question in an article on the blog this week

pursuitist said...

Toby, The link to the second article is broken. Is there another way? Thanks, enjoying very much.

Toby Ouvry said...

Pursuit list, I have fixed the link, just in case, here it is:

Nathan said...

Hi Toby,

I like the simplicity of your instructions, because I've found it difficult to follow Taoist instructions that use the Chinese Terms.

I've noticed that your method differs in that there isn't any emphasis placed on the area below the navel (dan tien). Are there any advantages/disadvantages to not beginning and ending at the dan tien? Thanks.

Toby Ouvry said...

Hi Nathan,
Toby here, glad you liked the article on the MO!
I normally finish the medi with a few minutes of silence and allow the qi to flow freely thru the body rather than trying to focus too exclusively on the lower dan tien as I feel that that way the energy in the body finds its own point of balance naturally. It just my preference based on personal experience. There is no reason why for example you could simply focus on the lower dan tien for the final part of the meditation whilst simultaneously resting in silence....