By John Voigt
The Microcosmic Orbit is a qigong practice that dates back several millennia. It has many varying names and versions, but usually it is related to moving qi up the back, around the head, and down the front of the torso. Its Chinese name is xiǎo zhōu tiān (小周天) (small heavenly orbit). It was first popularized in the United States by Mantak Chia with the publication in 1983 his Awaken Healing Energy Through the Tao. It was further expounded upon in his Awaken Healing Light of the Tao, 1993.
A basic present-day version has its practitioner increasing and compressing the life energy (qi) in the lower abdomen (the dantian), and forming it into a small rotating ball of light; then leading this ball of light to the perineum, then cycling it up various energizing portals (often identified with acupuncture points) on the back, head, and down the front of the body, and again to the perineum from whence it continues these cyclic up-the-back and down-the-front movements. The practice ends with returning the qi to the dantian for storage and future use. It is suggested that at any one time it should only be practiced for approximately no more than fifteen minutes, unless advised differently by your teacher.
How to do the Microcosmic Orbit
[This is presented as one possible summary of the practice.]
1. Calm the mind with soft, quiet breathing.
2. Collect air in the mouth and gently swallow it several times into the lower abdomen (Dantian). [Note: air is one of the first definitions given for the word, "qi."] There compress it into the size of a small ball, and for several minutes spin it back and forth and then forward and backward.
3. Then lead it down to the Perineum called the Conception Vessel-1, (CV-1), or Huiyin, the "Meeting of Yin [channels]."
4. Then to the base of the spine at the Sacral Hiatus opening.
5. Lead the energy ball up the Governing Vessel channel (also called Du Mai) to the small of the back (Mingmen, the "Door of Life") at GV-4.
6. Continue up the back to a place opposite the solar plexus at approximately the level of vertebrae T-8/T-9.
7. Then to opposite the Heart "Chakra" between the shoulder blades.;
8. Then to the base of the neck at GV-14, Dazhui, the "Big Hammer."
9. Then to GV-17, Nao hu, the "Doorway to the Brain."
10. Then to GV-20, the Baihu or "One Hundred Convergences" [of yang channels] at the top of the head.
11. Then down to the "third eye" between the eyebrows, the Yintang or "Hall of Impressions."
12. With the tip of tongue between the upper front teeth and gum line, lead the qi down to the base of the throat.
13. From there bring the energy down to the center of the chest, the Conception (or Functioning Vessel, or Ren Mai), to CV-17, the Shanzhong or "Upper Sea of Qi."
14. Then to the solar plexus area, CV-12, the Zhongwan.
Source: tcmpoints.com. Used with permission.
15. Then to approximately an inch below the navel, CV-6, Qihai "Sea of Qi." This is an access point into the lower dantian.
16. Then to the Sex Center. In males this is the "Sperm Palace" located at the base of the penis and prostate gland. In women it is the "Ovarian Palace." - [Place both thumbs on the navel, and with the index fingers form a triangle. Under where the index fingers touch is the Ovarian Palace. Spread out your little fingers, and under the points where they rest are the ovaries. Source: Mantak Chia. Healing Love Through the Tao. p.102].
17. Then to the Perineum (CV-1) to once again continue cycling the orbit for about nine or more times. Then stop and lead and guide and return the Qi to the lower abdomen (the dantian).
Note: To further facilitate the movement of qi, one can physically sense, or just imagine it rising when inhaling, and descending when exhaling. Or if advanced in this practice and wanting to speed up the process, with eyelids closed, roll the eyes as if looking up and down.
To Finish: Men: Cover your navel with both palms, left hand over right. Rub the navel 36 times clockwise, then 24 times counterclockwise. Women should cover the navel with the right hand over the left. Rub the navel 36 times clockwise, then 24 times counterclockwise. Then stand and do a few up stretches, etc., and if the weather allows for it, take a pleasant walk in nature.
Here is a further introduction to the practice: "Micro Cosmic Orbit Mantak Chia." YouTube.
Benefits of the Practice
It is said to … develop a strong and healthy body … enjoy life and live long.… Encourage success, understood as good relationships, enjoyable work, and the creation of wealth. Livia Kohn. Introducing Daoism. p.211.
Concerning health and well-being it is said to bring about … peace of mind, higher awareness, emotional balance, more radiant health, better sleep, stronger immunity, increased psychic and intuitive powers, and most importantly, an increased capacity to heal. Source: consciouslifenews.com
From a spiritual perspective, practicing the microcosmic orbit could help in building a foundation which might lead to success in Inner Alchemy (Neidan)—i.e., the Taoist art and science of gathering, storing, and circulating the energies of the human body, which over time can lead to what is called Daoist Immortality.
Different sources may posit different energy portals, often with different names. Nevertheless, they are the entry points to potentially open, receive, and direct qi to clean, enhance and correct excesses or deficiencies found in the energy networks and functioning systems of the bodily organs. (Note: As an example of what such acupoints can accomplish see https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com
The Macrocosmic Orbit
In Chinese it is dàh zhōu tiān (大周天 ), the "Large Heavenly Orbit." It has many different variations. It is an excellent corollary and complement to the microcosmic orbit and may be practiced at the conclusion of that Daoist inner-exercise; and (after extensive practice) it could even be done at the same time. It aids in opening and bringing more flowing qi into the legs, arms, torso.
Here is one possible version of it: Move qi from the dantian down to the perineum, then spin the qi left and right, right and left around the hips, then in the same way, around both knees. Then from the perineum lead the qi down the back of both legs, around the bottoms of the feet, up the front of the legs, into the front of the hips then to the back of the hips, then up the interior of the torso to the shoulders, then (best done lying down with raised arms), to the outer arms and then down the inner arms, into the chest and flowing down the torso into the hips, and once again down each leg. Continue this orbiting about nine or more times. Then stop and guide the qi back into the lower abdomen (the dantian). Conclude by rubbing the lower abdomen (dantian) as in the above microcosmic orbit.
Both Microcosmic and Macrocosmic Orbits, [or any other qigong], can possibly be dangerous when learning it or practicing it without the direct supervision of an experienced and ethical teacher; especially since there is a possibility that, as with these Orbits, the qi may get trapped in the head (or in any other place in the body) and trigger mental or physical problems, often called "Qi Deviations."
Disclaimer: The information in this article is to be used at the reader's discretion and liability. Such information is not meant to heal or rectify any health problems. The author and the publisher are not responsible for any harm or injury that might take place by following any of the instructions presented herein.
It takes perhaps a year—or more likely several years—with correct instructions and practice to fully do these meditations; then qi should be able to be quickly circulated by only using mental intention—(in Chinese Yì - 意, pronounced "E" in a descending tone. It means "thought-think," an idea, desire, a wish, expectation, anticipation.
About that, Mantak Chia told my teacher, "It takes a long time to wire a house, but after that all you need to do is flick a switch and the lights come on."
Mantak Chia, Awaken Healing Energy Through the Tao: the Taoist secret of circulating internal power. Aurora Press, 1983.
Mantak Chia. Healing Light of the Tao: Foundational Practices to Awaken Chi Energy.
Destiny Books, 1993/2008.
The Macrocosmic Orbit With Details. awakeningtimes.com
Universal Healing Tao. Master Chia will you open Microcosmic Orbit. kupdt.net.
Brian Witten. Microcosmic Orbit Meditation. bodybybrian.com
Dr. Yang, Jwing-ming. Qigong Meditation: Small Circulation.YMAA, 2006.. A large portion of the text is given on the publisher's website at no cost.
Micro Cosmic Orbit Mantak Chia. YouTube.
Damo Mitchell. Scholar Sage Podcast #12 - Going Micro-Cosmic. YouTube.