This is the classic Taoist meditation method for refining, raising, and circulating
internal energy via the 'orbit' formed by the 'Governing Channel' from perineum up to head
and the Conception Channel from head back down to perineum. Activating the Microcosmic
Orbit is a key step that leads to more advanced practices. Taoists believe that
microcosmic orbit meditation fills the reservoirs of the Governing and Conception channels
with energy, which is then distributed to all the major organ-energy meridians, thereby
energizing the internal organs. It draws abundant energy up from the sacrum into the
brain, thereby enhancing cerebral circulation of blood and stimulating secretions of vital
neurochemicals. It is also the first stage for cultivating the 'spiritual embryo' or
'golden elixir' of immortality, a process that begins in the lower abdomen and culminates
in the mid-brain. This is probably the best of all Taoist methods for cultivating health
and longevity while also 'opening the three passes' to higher spiritual awareness.
Taoists often refer things in symbolic languages. (See the section on Human anatomy
from the Taoist perspective for a description of the symbolism used in referring to
the human anatomy.) 'Opening the Three Passes' is another name for this meditation method
and refers to the three critical junctions which pave the way for energy to travel up from
the sacrum through the Governing Channel along the spine into the head.
- The first step is to still the body, calm the mind, and regulate the breath. With this
settled mind, sit alone in a quiet room, senses shut and eyelids lowered. Turn your
attention within, and inwardly visualize a pocket of energy in the umbilical region;
within it is a point of golden light, clear and bright, immaculately pure. Focus attention
on the navel until you feel the 'pocket of energy' glowing in the umbilical region. The
breath through your nose will naturally become light and subtle, going out and in evenly
and finely, continuously and quietly, gradually becoming slighter and subtler. When the
feeling is stable and the energy there is full, use your mind to guide energy down to the
perineum and back up through the aperture in the coccyx.
Steadily visualize this true energy as being like a small snake gradually passing
through the nine apertures of the coccyx. When you feel the energy has gone through this
pass, visualize this true energy rising up to where the ribs meet the spine, then going
through this pass and right on up to the Jade Pillow, the back of the brain.
Then imagine your true spirit in the Nirvana Chamber in the center of the brain, taking
in the energy. When this true energy goes through the Jade Pillow, press the tongue
against the palate. The head should move forward and tilt slightly upwards to help it.
When you feel this true energy penetrating the Nirvana Chamber, this may feel hot or
swollen. This means the pass has been cleared and the energy has reached the Nirvana
- Next, focus attention on the Celestial Eye between the eyebrows and draw energy forwards
from the midbrain and out through the point between the brows. This may cause a tingling
or throbbing sensation there. Then the center of the brows will throb - this means the
Celestial Eye is about to open. Then move the spirit into the center of the brows and draw
the true energy through the Celestial Eye. If you see the eighteen thousand pores and
three hundred and sixty joints of the whole body explode open all at once, each joint
parting three-tenths of an inch, this is evidence of the opening of the Celestial Eye.
This is what is meant when it is said that when one pass opens all the passes open, and
when one opening is cleared all the openings are cleared.
You may wish to stay and work with this point for a few minutes, before letting energy
sink down through the palate and tongue into the throat to the heart. This may feel as
though there is cool water going down the Multistoried Tower of the windpipe. Do not
swallow; let it go down by itself, bathing the bronchial tubes.
Then the vital energy will bathe the internal organs and then return to the genitals.
This is what is called return to the root.
From the heart, draw it down through the Middle Elixir Field in the solar plexus, past
the navel, and down into the Ocean of Energy reservoir in the Lower Elixir Field, where
energy gathers, mixes, and is reserved for internal circulation. Then begin another cycle
up through the coccyx to the mid-spine behind the heart and up past the Jade Pillow into
- Breathe naturally with your abdomen, and don't worry whether energy moves up or down on
inhalation or exhalation; coordinate the flow of breath and energy in whatever manner
suits you best. However, if you reach the stage where you can complete a full Microcosmic
Orbit in a single breath, it's best to raise energy up from coccyx to head on exhalation
and draw it down from Upper to Lower Elixir Field on inhalation.
If you practice this way for a long time, eventually you can complete a whole cycle of
ascent and descent in one visualization. If you can quietly practice this inner work
continuously, whether walking, standing still, sitting, or lying down, then the vital
energy will circulate within, and there will naturally be no problem of leakage. Chronic
physical ailments, Taoists believe, will naturally disappear.
Also, once the inner energy is circulating, the breath will naturally become fine, and
the true positive energy of heaven and earth will be inhaled by way of the breath and go
down to join your own generative energy. The two energies will mix together, both to be
circulated by you together, descending and ascending over and over, circulating up and
down to replenish the depleted true energy in your body.
This true energy harmonizes and reforms, so that the vital fluids produced by the
energy of daily life again produce true vitality. When true vitality is fully developed,
it naturally produces true energy, and when true energy is fully developed it naturally
produces our true spirit.
If you have any physical problems or discomforts in a particular section of your body,
focus your energy at the pass closest to the discomfort and let it throb there for a
while. This will help heal and rejuvenate the injured tissues. For example, if you have
pelvic problems, focus energy on the coccyx pass; for lower-back pain focus on the lowest
lumbar vertebra just above the sacrum; for upper-back and shoulder pain focus on the fifth
thoracic vertebra, and so forth.
This meditation may also cause the head to rock or the body to tremble, which, Taoists
believe, are signs of progress.
Time: Thirty to forty-five minutes, once or twice a
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