How wise the ancients were simply by observing human nature! The 3 main chi storage and transformational areas in the body called the 3 dan tiens (also tan tien) are also the 3 places in the body that science has found neurons or "brain cells." The neural connections we usually associate only with the brain (upper dan tien) are also found in the heart (middle dan tien) and gut (lower dan tien).
In Chinese, the words "dan tien" mean "elixir field." When I hear the word "elixir" I think this is where the magic takes place. It's a field meaning a general area not a specific point like an acupuncture point. In the past, science led us to believe that neurons or neural cells and neural connections existed only in the brain. So we think of our brain as the only information processing area of the body. However, once we understand that neural connections also exist in the heart and gut (nuerogastroenterology), we get much deeper insight into not only our own natural physical, emotional and mental health but also into human evolution and where we are as a species.
Lower Dan Tien: There's certainly no doubt that our focus in infancy and as a species was purely on survival. We needed to first take care of the body: eat, drink, eliminate, be safe to sleep, restore, grow and eventually to reproduce. The needs of an emerging species are the same: eat, drink, grow, rest, reproduce. This is the energy associated with the lower dan tien, the survival brain. From a functionality viewpoint, as infants we must access this area to find our center of gravity and stand upright in the world. It's no accident that this center of gravity (the lower dan tien) is also where tai chi teachers of the past have focused energy awareness in order to maintain physical balance, to survive, while moving in the world. The energy here is grounded, rooted in survival of the body on the physical plane. The energy needed to begin life is immense and we cannot deny that the desire for sex and food that come from this area of the body can rule us at times more than logic.
Middle Dan Tien: As we mature into life and hopefully as a species too, we put more awareness on the middle dan tien or brain: the heart. Once we've grown into and can use the body, we become aware of and work on our relationships with others, first with our parents and then with possible mates. We cannot focus on healthy relationships until our body's physical needs are first met. The energy of love is quite powerful and very different from the survival energy of sex. If we are not taught otherwise, we may confuse the emotion of love with the reproductive energy we've known up to this point and deny ourselves the myriad other forms of love our heart can experience.
We have all felt the chi movement of energy at this middle brain and sometimes allowed it to rule us, totally ignoring the common sense of the brain. We have felt the energy of heartbreak here despite no physical cause for this pain. We have hopefully also experienced the intense energy of love bursting our hearts wide open in this physical area of the body, despite no physical cause for this sensation of elation. This is chi moving in the middle dan tien, the energy of thought, emotion and intention in our hearts. It does indeed rule our thoughts and actions sometimes. Developing a relationship with this brain is essential to knowing how we relate to ourselves and others emotionally. After all, modern science has now proven that the more we let our emotional love flow, the healthier our physical hearts are AND the healthier our brains are, as all 3 brains constantly exchange information.
Upper Dan Tien: With any luck, we grown older and begin to develop more of our mental capacities at the upper dan tien or the brain we most associate with neural activity. We grow our educations, careers, hobbies and for many of us, conscious spiritual development through knowledge (whereas before it was only through feelings of the sacred and holy). The energy of the head area is quite powerful, so powerful it is often the most difficult for people to control. Maybe you've said the words, "I need to just get out of my head!" On the other side of that coin, to simply hold one continuous, sustained thought is very difficult for 10 minutes and even more so for the months and years sometimes required to develop something complex. We have all felt the chi distortion of brain fog here as well as extreme mental clarity when all our thoughts are organized, synchronized and flowing efficiently together.
In order to have optimum balance physically, emotionally and mentally we align these 3 brains/dan tiens within the physical body. When we have good postural alignment and our head is over our heart and our heart is over our gut, we move better, breathe better, have better organ functions, clearer thinking, fuller respiration and we even look more centered. When the energy in our gut tells us the same thing as our emotions and our logic, decisions are made from all levels of our being.
This is how we are also evolving as a species. As we emerged from our basic, primitive survival selves we had a very powerful connection to the need to compete just to live. We worked hard as a species to satisfy those basic survival needs and we have succeeded. There is enough food, clothing, housing, water and educational materials for every single human on the planet to easily survive and thrive now. But that primitive brain still rules dominates the systems that were established back when we needed to simply survive. Those competitive systems now harm us instead of serving us.
Physiologically we saw this in human evolution when the industrial revolution brought tools that made us flex forward at the waist: the cornucopia of washboards, factory lines and organized fields to pick. All of these activities put our middle and upper brains out of alignment from our survival brains when we bent over hours and hours using them. I remember it was more common in the past to see people stooped forward from the waist than it is now. My maternal grandmother had this from years on a canning factory line. We were still focused on survival, the lower dan tien ruling us with our hearts and heads out of alignment with the gut from the physical bend at the waist.
As our technologies have evolved, we see fewer misalignment of middle and lower dan tiens. Now our tools are easier to use, less labor intensive and don't require us to bend over at the waist, bracing our bodies into our work. Now our hearts or middle brains are coming into better alignment with our survival based lower brains. Our species is also evolving into more heart-centered relationships. It's common knowledge now that to survive in business is more about the relationship you have with your customers than anything else. We can purchase the same goods and services from multiple outlets now instead of just one, so retailers have to develop better customer experiences to keep shoppers coming back. This new alignment is slowing coming into place but many are holding it back by staying stuck in old survival mode beliefs and thought patterns, withholding love.
As our hearts continue to be better aligned with our survival brains, our species will establish more humane, loving systems that recognize competition is no longer needed to survive and we will lovingly share all the advances of survival our forefathers have given us. We already have enough food, clothing, water and shelter for everyone on the planet; we simply lack the loving will to share as a species.
We see how our new technologies have changed the alignment of our brains and energy centers. No longer do we bend at the waist like factory workers, now we have extreme forward head postures instead. Our heads are literally sticking our in front of our hearts throwing our physical selves out of alignment. Let's be honest, studies have shown that as a species we're losing IQ points, not gaining them. That's right we are literally getting dumber as a species; it wasn't your imagination. Several recent intelligence indicators have pointed out this devastating fact. Today we have all the survival tools we need, interconnection to the whole world through the internet to find the loving support we need but our mental health is way off balance with more people on anti-depressants than ever before.
Indeed, we are evolving as individuals and as a species together. Our modern technologies have given us miracle-level tools to use while at the same time developing problems within our physical selves and the relationships between our 3 brains. Armed with this new information, we can choose to evolve ourselves wisely. I choose to continue using the time-tested bio-technologies of the ancient wisdom masters who've proven they understood more of the whole human picture than even modern physics. By simply observing human nature and human movement, ancient Taoists developed the knowledge of the 3 brains and how to use them in alignment with each other for better harmony of body, heart, mind and spirit.
As we move in alignment/awareness together, the entire human species evolves into the divine creatures we are capable of being: caring for one another physically, emotionally and mentally. We are finally starting to become fully human, thriving together instead of surviving alone trying to beat out the "other guy." We are evolving into a better version of ourselves where our 3 brains work in harmony balancing us from within so as individuals our balance creates better harmony throughout our world. We are the solution each and every day. Balance yourself and balance your world.