The Microcosmic Orbit Meditation
As humans we are the realm holders between heaven and earth, even our conception and growth in our mother’s womb is confounding how this miracle of life takes place to create a new being. Within each and every one of us holds the entire universe, we are the born microcosm of the larger universal macrocosm. This means that at all times we are directly connected to the universe at large, and hold within ourselves great power and wisdom at any given moment if we can learn to live in direct connection to source. One of my favorite meditations for connecting to the greater universe and bringing that energy into the body is the microcosmic orbit meditation , shared to me by my dear professor Dr. Kenneth Glowacki. It is an ancient Daoist practice that allows us to circulate and strengthen our connection to the universe, which drives a deeper internal harmonization within ourselves and each of the twelve meridians.
From the Chinese medical standpoint the ways that we acquire qi or energy is through our food and air. Each breath we take fills our lungs with qi that will then be disseminated throughout the entire body so that each organ has enough qi to perform its proper functions. When we take a breath in, we grab vital qi from the environment and bring it into the body to be used internally. So it is no wonder why proper deep belly breathing can be so calming, it physically tells our body that there is enough oxygen/qi to meet all of our cell’s demands. In stress we often forget to breathe or it gets cut short, physically we feel a sense of panic and it affects our whole experience. So having a practice that reinforces the importance of mindful breathing and living is key to living a peaceful, long life. Qi gong, Tai chi, meditations, and many other practices are all centered around the breath and can be thought of as “internal alchemy” because we are bringing a substance (qi/prana) in from the outside, introducing it to the body, and storing it energetically so that we can become like a bottomless trough of vital energy. The benefits of these practices are seen by the 90+ year old practitioners in China and all over the world who have been using these tools their whole lives to increase their vitality.
The microcosmic orbit practice is centered around two important meridian channels the Ren Mai (conception vessel) and the Du Mai (governing vessel). The conception vessel runs to the genitals and the front body, it is rightly named because in women this channel brings qi to our womb so that a child can be conceived. When a female body is ready for their menstrual cycle, the conception vessel opens and they get their first period. The governing vessel runs up to the head and along the back body. It holds the yang energy of all the channels which has to do with protection, strength, and expansive movement.
The Ren Mai begins at the perineum and runs midline to the bottom lip. The Du Mai begins at the top lip running midline down the back body to the perineum. Together they form a closed, continuous loop flowing into one another. In Chinese medicine everything can be related to yin and yang. In the case of the microcosmic orbit the Ren Mai represent the yin and the Du Mai the yang, these channels are storage houses of the yin & yang energies for the entire body and therefore strengthening these channels benefits each channel in the body. Repeating this meditation draws in both yin and yang energy to fill the stores so there is balanced, and adequate energy of each of the twelve meridians so they can be in harmony with one another. When the yin & yang of the whole is in balance then a healthy mind/body is possible.
Microcosmic meditation steps:
Be seated or standing – whichever is more comfortable, traditionally one is standing in horse stance (qi gong resting position) – with the back upright and head being pulled up as if by a string from the heavens.
The straighter the body, the clearer and more open the channels are to receive and flow energy
Inhale and imagine you are sucking in qi from the earth below you, pushing it up the front midline to the top of the head (you can imagine this energy cleansing your pineal gland at the center of your forehead)
If you perform this meditation in the morning it may be helpful to emphasize the inhale or rising of energy up the head to wake up. However, this sends energy upward and if you already struggle with anxiety, it may be more beneficial to focus descending the energy rather than rising.
Then exhale and visualize or have the intention of the qi flowing down the back body to be stored in the lower dantian (the space in the belly in front of Lumbar vertebrae L2 & L3)
If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety, insomnia, or restlessness it can be useful to focus and prolong the exhale, over-emphasizing the descension of energy rather than the ascension
Repeat this cycle continuously focusing the energy flow up the front and down the back with the breath, it can be done anywhere from a few minutes to hours- depending on where you are at
When you have finished lower both hands to the low abdomen and rest them atop each other.
You may feel a particularly warm sensation in this area, this is a sign that you have successfully grabbed and stored the qi.
A traditional sealing of the practice is to place your thumb on an acupuncture point for a minute or so – Large Intestine 1 is located on the radial side of the top border of the nail of the index finger.
Some of my most inspiring professors and healers I have come across perform this meditation often, if not daily. Of course everyone has their own spin on it, but at the core it is a powerful practice of filling up your own cup each and every day so that you can go out into the world and not feel like you are always running on reserve or looking to everyone else but yourself for advice. This meditation shows you that at any given moment, no matter what is going on, there is an opportunity to find empowerment within yourself as your own master of the universe.