Micro-Cosmic Orbit: Pt 2

Exploring and Embodying Three Dimensions

In the previous post we explored the micro-cosmic orbit as a means to refine our focal attention (samadhi) through bringing our attention to specific points along the orbit and linking these points into lines, arcs and circles. As we work more deeply this way, we may discover that we can find these points at three levels. The first is out beyond the confines of the skin, in an ‘orbit’ in the energy field around the body. The second is directly on the skin, where an acupuncturist or shiatsu practitioner would apply needles or pressure. The third is in the interior of the body along the planes of fascia interwoven through the organs, blood vessels and nerves. When we can feel all three of these levels simultaneously, we are inhabiting our spherical energy field and can begin to fully realize the possibilities of having three dimensional/spatial sensitivity, perception and consciousness.

images-5The girdle vessel (Dai Mai,) the fourth vessel we use, is a latitude line and is essential in finding our three dimensional perceptual field. This yang vessel pairs with the yin ‘thrusting vessel, the vertical center axis, creating horizontal stability, and allowing us to rotate/twist. Rotation inherently builds the third dimension of depth ( A circle has length and width. To create a sphere you add depth. ) and is the gateway to cosmic awareness as well as a more vibrant embodied presence.

Rotation drives the whole manifest universe. In our solar system, the planets spiral around milky_waythe sun. In our Milky Way galaxy, the stars, including our sun, spiral around a center (probably a giant black hole! If you can find Sagittarius in the night sky, and you will probably have to wait until next summer, look through and imagine 26,000 light years off in the distance.) The earth rotates on its own axis creating weather patterns as well as a sense of day and night.

The spinning top (one of the oldest toys known to humans, found in archeological sites all over the world) demonstrates the cosmic principle in physics we are embodying. The faster it rotates, the more stable the vertical line. When the top slows down it starts to wobble and when it stops spinning, it falls over. To keep the rotation, you need to keep feeding it with energy. The bicycle uses this same principle, flipped 90 degrees. Another aspect we explore is the radius of the horizontal circle. Rotation pushes from the center outward (yang) in what is called centrifugal force. As this is counterbalanced by theGM2434B-1 yin centripetal (center seeking) force, we can change the volume of the energy field by playing with this ‘expanding – condensing’, yang – yin relationship.

In this top, the widest circle with the most outward thrust, the purple one, is below the center of the vertical axis. Lowering the center of gravity adds even more stability, which is why we emphasize the lower dantien in our breathing, movement and meditation practice. When we discover how to work with this principle in the energy field, our twisting poses can actually help expand the body. If we work muscularly, you will feel constricting in twisting poses.

SBK_1711254-24Traditionally the ‘dai mai’ girdle vessel surrounds the body at the level of the pelvis in the lower dantien. but we can move our attention to awaken other ‘latitudes’ of the body. To begin in the feet, stand with the right foot forward, the left foot back, as if you are about to move into a standing twist (without the forward bend), but haven’t yet begun. Before you move any further, imagine a spiraling coil of energy beginning below the floor (the Antarctic Circle) and traveling up the center. Notice how this mimics the girdle vessel. Now imagine the coils widening as they rise up from the base ( moving toward the equator), as the yang energy expands outward. The girdle vessel is very yang so this is quite natural. Feel the energetic volume expanding and condensing with the breath, but slowly expanding in overall volume

To awaken the front body-yin energy field, we can take the hoop forward to fully engage the arms and shoulders. Now imagine the hoops extends through the back body, receiving the rising spiral and expanding as the action of twisting. SBK_1711254-2SBK_1711254-9Most students eventually leave half of the body behind and end up contracting rather than expanding, especially along the spine column. Imagine the center of the spinal canal opening outward in an expanding circle/spiral, melting the tissue, feeling spaciousness, transcending the limitations of structure.SBK_1711254-4 (My front foot turns out much more than average to release the inner groin. Don’t feel you have to imitate this, but find out for yourself where openness and balance meet.) The hoop is moved to the front to expand the yin/organ/front body qi field and expand the ‘wings’ of the body, but also feel the back body softening and opening. This feeling can be evoked in sitting, lying and inverted twists as well. If you do not have a hula hoop handy, you can also use a thera-ball to find the volume.SBK_1711254-8


Another key component awakened here is the Pericardium 8 point, PC-8 (or P-8) in the center of the palms. Analagous to the K-1 points on the feet, P-8 is a gateway between the inner and outer qi fields. The SBK_1711254-11Pericardium, the fascial connective tissue membrane surrounding the heart, arises embryologically from the same cells and tissues that create the diaphragm and liver. The ‘heart protector’ literally does this, on many levels. As someone with a well-armored heart, I am finding that opening and nurturing the heart protector so that is does its job with over doing it is awakening a level of sweet vulnerability that is both precious and scary.

SBK_1711254-12In acupuncture, the pericardium meridian is part of the JueYin channel and connects all the way through the femoral canal to the legs. For those of you who have been practicing ‘climbing the wall’ for the last few years, you can actually trace the whole fascial continuity of the Jue Yin. (Use imagination to fill in the blanks.) Rise up from K-1 (not the heels, even though they do rise on their own) (DFL for those of you who know Tom Myers’ ‘Anatomy Trains’ system) to P-8, passing through liver, diaphragm and pericardium.

You can also track the qi from P-8 back into the body horizontally, again using the wall.SBK_1711254-14 Using the tip of the  middle finger of your other hand (PC-9) to feel the connections, trace the qi from the the wall and P-8 into the area around the pec minor muscle and then go inside the body to the pericardiam itself, along with the liver and diaphragm. Use the breath and your imagination. Then go back and try the twistings shown above with these new perceptions.

SBK_1711254-20To continue our building of a three dimensional perceptual qi field, we can return to the thera-ball to provide sensation and visualization. I like the feel of my third chakra having organ support, so I find placing the ball there and using a wall creates a powerful presence on the inside. Embryologically speaking, this is the extemely yin yolk sac which becomes the entire gut body. The conception vessel points on the micro-cosmic orbit are stimulated by the ball, bringing sensation and perception here. The liver comes from the yolk sac, so I can use this position to also find the Jue Yin channel we explored above. Lying SBK_1711254-19over the ball in a forward bend creates a similar feeling, with even more yielding and softening to the yang back body erector muscles. By moving the ball to the sternum, I can activate a new set of points on the conception vessel and engage the inner tissues surrounding the 4th chakra

If I want to build up my back field perception, I use the ball from behind and awaken sensation on the yang Governing Vessel.SBK_1711254-16 Here I have dropped it a bit lower to find the sacral-lumbar junction and here I can feel the possibility of both lumbar flexion and extension, from S curve to C curve and back.  The very important GV-4 Qi gong Image‘gate of vitality’ is here The inner abdominal space also opens and the front back and center plane begin to become conscious. This becomes trickier as you move upwards towards the liver. You can place the ball anywhere and feel different points coming alive. Feel their inner as well as outer presence. Back support can also help open the front. I haveSBK_1711254-17been trying to open my throat more for my sax sound and using the ball (or any elastic support) helps soften and melt tight tissue.

SBK_1711254-21Fish body support, opening some Gall Bladder Meridian points is another way to use the ball. I am using the wall, but this can be done on the floor as well, with slightly different effects. All of these ways of playing with the three dimensional field are ways of awakening and establishing a dynamic energetic field, centered in your heart, and radiating out throughout the whole of the cosmos. When you are out in Nature, feel this. When you are out and about in the human sphere, feel how you respond. It is fascinating to see what happens.

Using the Microcosmic Orbit in Asana: Pt 1

20060131gntrailsfilmlight-1Boston Workshop Notes: October, 2017
Part 1

When the Tao’ists of old contemplated the night sky, they noticed the way the stars rotated around the north star, especially the constellations Ursa Major (the big dipper) and Casseopeia ( the mythological Greek queen on her throne. They noticed that this macro-cosmic orbit and its repeating cycles were replicated on the earth as lunar and seasonal cycles of weather and the movements of water, wind, soil (annual flooding, bringing fresh topsoil to the deltas) and heat. When they turned their attention inward, they discovered the human body also has cycles and rhythms (as above, so below). The mapping of what is now called the microcosmic or small orbit awakened links to both physiological and emotional health as well as spiritual awakening.

We can use this the mapping of the human energy field in our explorations of embodied wisdom through yoga/asana practice. Yoga begins by refining the capacity to pay attention. In his commentary to Patanjali’s very first sutra, I.1, Vyasa states “yoga is samadhi”; that “samadhi is a natural attribute of the mind-field or chitta”; but not when the mind-field is disturbed, dull or distracted. Only when the mind field is “ekagra” ( one pointed,) or dissolved in stillness is it said to be yoga. The mental alchemy is the transforming the disturbed, dull and distracted mind states to ones of mindful attention, focused attention and dissolved in stillness.

6 Possible Qualities of Attention:

Disturbed, Dull, Distracted, Openly Attentive (Mindfulness), Focused Attentive (Dharana/Dhyana/Samadhi),  Dissolved in Stillness/Emptiness/Awareness/Drashtuh Svarupe

Open Attention in Action:

Every moment we are engaged in the world around us is an invitation to mindful attention. Driving a car, having a one on one conversation, being in a group environment such as work, shopping or school; these are opportunities to discover the ‘relational fields’ of overlapping energy where our wounded-ness and creativity can both awaken from a place of love, compassion and wisdom. Here, we meet the world as it is, as it arises moment to moment and the ‘inner and outer’, or,  the subjective and objective realms of reality can find integration and the realization of wholeness. Staying present does not mean ignoring past and future, but recognizing they are also arising now. Then we don’t ‘get lost’ or forget, through disturbance, dullness or distraction.

Directions of Focused Attention:

Yoga begins when the mind-field is not just brought to the present moment, but can stay there effortlessly. (Otherwise it is distracted.) The complement to mindful attention, a more global state of awareness, is focal attention or dharana/samadhi. Here attention tunes out everything but a very specific information stream or mental process. It may be an algebra problem in your homework. Or a thesis for a paper. Mediation begins with bringing attention to the breathing process. Us somanauts use the ongoing stream of sensations and perceptions coming form the body to both refine attention and also deepen the capacity to feel and know what is happening. What are some of the ‘seeds’ of attention that can help you cultivate one-point awareness?

Outer objective reality: What is happening around you, locally, globally, cosmically? The present moment offers many possibilities, but also many distractions. You need discipline and passion to keep your focus.

Inner subjective reality: Our thought patterns, emotions, prana/qi flow, dreams, and imagination are all possible entry points to cultivate a refined focal attention.

Subjectivity itself: A little more advanced, but Awareness, or any and all words that point to this, such as: Emptiness, Stillness, Silence, Buddha Nature, etc. Attention dissolves into Pure Awareness with no object of attention.

Four Dimensions of Spatial Consciousness

When we use our embodied energy field, as in asana, to harness attention, we have some delightful geometric possibilities to explore. As asana explores our spatial dimension very deeply, we can use geometry 101 as guide. Geometry describes 4 basic spatial dimensions, and we can call ‘Time’ as the 5th

Zero Dimensional: a point, bhindu, ekagra citta, acupuncture ‘cavity’. A point has no length, no height, and no depth. Thus 0 dimensions. It is a highly concentrated state.

One Dimensional: link two points to get a line. It can be straight or curved (arc), bound or unbound.  It has length, but no width or depth.

Two Dimensional: close the lines to form surface area: geometrical, ie circle, triangle etc, or irregular. Length and width, no depth.

Three Dimensional: volume: spheres, cubes, pyramids, and many other options: length, width and depth.

Four Dimensional: all of the above, moving and changing in time

Focused Attention on Prana/Qi flow with Microcosmic Orbit (General Principles):

Qi gong ImageBringing attention and staying on key points, using imagination to assist with sensation/perception

Linking the points in small arcs/lines through root and/or crown chakras

Bringing attention to the 2 dimensional field dynamics of circles, especially the microcosmic orbit.

Bringing attention and staying on flow through the volume, using the center axis.

Monitoring subjective experience

Resting in Pure Subjectivity (drashtuh svarupe)

Specific Practices While Sitting:

Breathing into the lower dan tien, the lower diamond in the diagram above. Feel the volume of the pelvis up to just below the navel and fill with breath. Feel the pelvic bones moving with the breath like the ribs do. Abdominal breathing (yin/yin, soothing, quieting the illus3mind): fill on in breath, empty on out breath. Reverse abdominal breathing (yang/yin, energizing, activating): empty on in breath, fill on out breath. Explore how  different these two are and learn how to apply them in your daily life. Begin and end all Microcosmic orbit practices in the lower da tien. It awakens the cooling yin water element, grounds the energy into Mother Earth, quiets the mind and builds a strong energetic foundation for your life activities.

Refining the points and arcs of the lower dan tien: While sitting, bring your attention to the CV-1 point in the very center of the perineum. Inhale and exhale through this point, feeling it becoming elastic. Stabilize your attention here. Very tiny micro-movements of the sitting bones back and forth can help you find the center. This is the meeting point of all the yin vessels and a key place in the body to awaken.

Then, find CV-6, on the front body, below your navel. Visualize it out in space as well, like on the hula hoop seen below. This will help activate the whole energy field and help the body stay relaxed. Now, inhale into CV-1 and then imagine the exhalation traveling in an arc up to CV-6. Inhale into CV-6, imagine the exhalation traveling in an arc back to CV-1. Or Inhale from CV-1 to CV-6, exhale return. Or inhale from CV-6 to CV-1, exhale return. Then stay with CV-6, inhaling and exhaling for several breaths until you can find and stay with the point. In actuality, you may find yourself in CV-5 or CV-4, which may be easier to feel, for you, but feeling the arc and the end points is all that counts.

Repeat the above practice, this time going from CV-1 to GV-4 at the back body, exploring one point at a time, traveling back and forth, etc.

Repeat the practice connecting the four points of the thrusting vessel (Chong Mai) as shown above, CV-1, CV-12, CV-22 and GV-20, tracking up and down. This is the chakra line, or mid-line of the body and traces its origin, along with the Conception vessel (Ren Mai) and Governing Vessel (Du Mai),  to the earliest moments in embryological development. Pause at each point for several breaths so it becomes familiar and easier to find. Remember, an acupuncture ‘point’ is actually a ‘cavity or cave’, meaning the action takes place in empty space, both outside and inside the body.

Four Point Breathing: Connect CV-1, CV-6, CV-12 and GV-4 in a square or diamond shape. In Tao’ism, 4 is implies a whole cycle, such as the annual (four seasons,) or daily (midnight, sunrise, noon and sunset.) Or connect CV-1, CV-17, GV-20 and GV-9, (root, crown and heart). Be creative.

Specific Practices While Standing:

images-3Activating K-1:

Once we are on our feet, we want to integrate the limbs with our Micr-cosmic orbit. (Ideally the limbs are engaged while sitting, but it is easier to find them standing.) In tasasana, find the K-1 points on the soles of the feet and engage them. Kidneys are the most yin of the yin organs, governing the water element, so feel them linking to CV-1, the seat of the yin and feel the support coming into the pelvic floor, and the whole micro-cosmic orbit.

Finding Planes (two dimensions): Using the support of the legs, feel the micro-cosmic orbit as a surface bisecting the body into right and left. Fill in the space inside the circle with attention/energy/light/qi, and let your body feel a part of the disc. Soften the tissue and let it respond. In this plane, try bending forward slowly and returning, tadasana-uttanasana-tadasana and feel how the body responds. Does it contract along the yang/back or collapse along the yin/front? Beginners collapse the front. Intermediate students contract the back to prevent the collapse of the front. Use the field of energy created by the plane/energy disc to keep both the front and back body open and vibrant (sattvic). Minimize, as best possible, or course, the collapsing/tamasic and contracting/rajasic habits.

Using the information coming from any of your favorite poses, create your own personal map of the micro-cosmic orbit. Mine has some major gaps. If I use a clock as an image,Clock Face--Hours with GV-20 at 12 and CV-1 at 6, 1 – 5 at the back, 7 – 11 at the front, I have pie shaped blockages between 2 and 3 and 10 and 11 in my energy field, and in the flesh. I try to open them up, and back they go into dullness and confusion. It’s a process.

Correct action will bring up places where your energy field is blocked. the challenge is to meet these with patience, wisdom, lightness, and with what Pema Chodron calls ‘discomfort resilience’. Awakening is not about eliminating problems, but seeing them as opportunities to deepen your compassion and wisdom.

Another way to work with clock is to take points opposite each other and work with them simultaneously. 12 and 6 give us crown and root chakras, or GV-20 and CV-1. Feel the yang energy pushing them away from each other while the yin energy is pulling them together. If I rotate the whole circle 2 hours, I can create a similar polarity with CV-17 and GV-4, or GV-9 and CV-6. This links front and back, upper and lower, yin and yang. You can also be the minute hand moving in a circle through the points. Explore both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. Make up your own ways to play with this.

fish bodyLateral Plane: If we rotate the orbit (clock)  90 degrees we find ourselves in the lateral plane. Crown and root chakras, GV-20 and CV-1 still involved, but we are no longer on the micro-cosmic orbit.  Here we can activate points on the Gall Bladder Meridian on the side body with our fish body poses like trikonasana and ardha chandrasana.

According to Daniel Keown in ‘the Spark in the Machine, theGBmeridian gall bladder is the organ that governs the lymphatic system, a key aspect of the fluid body.

In part two of this post, we will see how the gall bladder points can also be used to give us our sense of volume when we add the girdle or belt vessel (dai mai) and offer some insight on how these ‘vessels’ relate to the organs and meridians. In part three, we will look at how all of this fits into the Tao’st view of spiritual evolution.


The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be namedimgres
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

(Chapter 1, Tao te Ching, by Lao T’zu, translated by Stephen Mitchell)


Adyashanti: “Taking the One Seat”

a77870a1-f2d4-4909-bd57-a1391fba71a0Adyashanti continues to astound me with the depth and clarity of his realization and his ability to give a voice to the most profound dimensions of our historical moment. My far less articulate teaching flows from the same source, so it is always exciting for me to see his latest insights. This quote comes from an introduction to an on-line course he is offering in November and I have included information on this below. If you click on the link that follows, you will also find a ten minute introductory talk. The bold typeface comes from Adya. The word for seat in Sanskrit is ‘asana’, so ‘Taking the One Seat’, to me, describes the ultimate expression of asana; not just doing postures, but fully inhabiting this incarnation, at every level and layer of reality.

“Deep spiritual experience is characterized by an apparent, and at times baffling, paradox. While realization reveals the unity and non-separation of all existence, we simultaneously experience ourselves as individuals leading particular human lives. Ultimately the experience of reality lies at the dynamic confluence of the universal One and the human one, the experience of no separate self and what I call spiritual autonomy.

Spiritual autonomy, or what might be described as the soul (if understood more as a function than as a thing), is not a given. The spiritual autonomy that the soul affords is generally hard won and comes at the expense of many deeply ingrained ideas and beliefs about what life is and how it works. It must be nurtured and developed in the grist of daily living, which is to say that it must be lived, not simply realized. Spiritual autonomy is an invitation to step up to our incarnation, to say yes to it, and to realize our own potential, both for ourselves and for the sake of all beings.

But before the soul can be realized and lived, it must be brought to the surface of consciousness, nurtured, and chosen to be one’s own. Only then does it begin to reveal a deeper sense of meaning and direction in one’s life. While the ground of being may be completely beyond both meaning and purpose, the individual expression of that ground is given direction and oriented to the world through the prism of meaning. By bringing to light how the ground of being functions through the individual, we discover a degree of spiritual autonomy that allows and challenges us to what in Zen is called “Take the one seat.” Taking the one seat is to fully occupy this very life — our individual life and all of life — as the ultimate ground of being. To do so is the expression of enlightenment itself.”

Taking the One Seat
Spiritual Autonomy and the Soul’s Discovery of Meaning
Early Bird Price (Sep 20 – Oct 10) $150 USD
Regular Price (Oct 11 – Nov 5) $175 USD

4-Week Online Course

November 8-29, 2017,

Wednesday Evening Live Video Broadcasts
6-8pm Pacific Time

Register at