You are made up of cells that are made up of atoms that are made up of electrons and a nucleus and a LOT of empty space. This microcosmic world resembles the macrocosmic space prompting the suggestion that planets in the universe are the nuclei of something much bigger than us! And that we’re so tiny we live within the nuclei of this ginormous entity that we cannot see or understand yet feel intrinsically connected to – much like the atom in your body ‘feels’ it is connected to something bigger but cannot quiet see the shape of your nose or eyes or anything else in fact.
Taoism has a concept known as the Microcosmic Orbit that is an energy cycle within you. It uses two of the meridians along the center line of the body – the Governing Vessel which roughly corresponds with the spinal column and the Conception Vessel that runs down the front of the body. Both meet at the perineum, the Governing Vessel starting there and the Conception Vessel ending there.
The Microcosmic Orbit posits that as we inhale, we can draw up energy from the start of the Governing Vessel (GV) at the perineum and send it up along the meridian, over the crown of the head. Thereafter it begins its descend as we exhale, traveling along our Conception Vessel (CV).
During this cycle, the tongue should rest naturally against the lower teeth to aid in connecting the two meridians.
The exercise can be performed sitting, standing or practiced in the form of Tai Chi and QiGong. Normally, you would practice these or yoga to warm up the body and have it adjust to higher energetic flows than it might be used to before attempting the microcosmic orbit. It can be performed also at Shavasana.
The Microcosmic orbit is reputed to give higher energy to the practitioner as it encourages jing (Essence) to continue circulation rather than being lost through ejaculation or menstruation. The circulation of jing in this form . means more of it ends up as Qi, that lifeforce that flows through all of us. As the energy circulates, the practitioner is aware of the purification of the energy that takes place in the dantian (a ‘center’ below the navel that purifies qi and also creates it from Jing).
The concept of chakras within the body sits easily with the Microcosmic Orbit as the flow of energy touches all the chakras from Muladhara (Root chakra at the base of the spine) to Sahasrara (Crown chakra at the top of the head). A similar concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) speaks of the lower dantian below the navel being the ‘warming’ energy center, the middle dantian around the heart as storing our spirit and looking after the health of our internal organs. The upper dantian is around the third eye location.
One of the central concepts in TCM is that energy is always moving. It is never stagnant but ever changing between Yin and Yang. Our energy is no different and energy we take in from the universe (for example, from the air, the food we consume, the earth, the universe, conversations etc) we transform into other types of energy – our actions, words, thoughts, sweat, urine and so on.
The Microcosmic Orbit is slightly different in that we are trying to focus our thoughts on containing our energy rather than losing it as we do in everyday life. In this way, we build up a ‘memory’ or energy circulation that we can call upon when we require ‘extra’ energy.
In some ways it is similar to other orbital patterns we find in the cosmos above us;
- The orbit of moons around planets
- The orbit of the planets around the sun
- The orbit of the Sun around the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way
- The orbit of the Milky Way and Andromeda (our nearest galaxy).
Electrons also have an ‘orbit’ around a nucleus in an atom and it is these atoms that make up you, me, planets, stars and galaxies. Nature repeating itself from the smallest details within us right up to the largest galaxies!
All these systems keep the energy of the orbit relatively constant or with only tiny variations (or else the object would not be able to orbit – it would fall out of orbit if its energy (e.g. velocity) was too small or break out of orbit if its energy was too strong). Over time, of course, that will change but the point to take away is that the orbit is a relatively stable circuit of energy and that too, is the purpose of the Microcosmic Orbit.
Without these bodies having an orbital pattern, they would have crashed a long time ago. The Microcosmic Orbit should be practiced then as means of increasing vitality, longevity, health and also of bringing us spiritually closer with ourselves and by extension, with the greater cosmos.