Using the 3 Dantiens to find Enthusiasm

I recently went through a time at work where I really wasn’t motivated.  Projects I was part of took on a gruelingly slow pace.  Activities I would normally do without any real effort required coffee. And rather than be energized by what I was doing, I was really exhausted by the end of day.

At the time I can assure you that I came up with all sorts of excuses as to what the problem was, no of which were me (of course).

Looking back, the situation really hadn’t changed.  Same job, same tasks.  But how I related to it or enjoyed it was completely different.

You all know what comes next.  Doubt and frustration.  Should I change what I am doing?  Why is everything an uphill battle?  Should I still be doing this job?

It was at this time that I was reading up on the 3 dantiens because a student asked:

How are the dantiens different from Chakras? What are they for? and Why are they important?

3 DantiensQuick Overview of the 3 Dantiens

In the Chinese system, there are three power centers.  The Lower Dantien is central in the body and just below the navel.  The Middle Dantien resides at the heart, and the Upper Dantien is behind the center point between the eye brows inside the head.  Click here for more on the 3 Dantiens.

Using the 3 Dantiens to identify what gives you energy and how much you have.

Thinking about where the 3 Dantiens are, they are skillfully located in the thinking center (upper), feeling center (middle), and power center (lower).  For those of you familiar with meditation, this is also the order that we travel through when we are moving energy through our body.  We send energy up the spine into the head, down the front channel through the heart, into the lower dantien at the navel, and back up the spine again.

3 dantiensThis creates a perfect metaphor for digesting a problem at work.

We bring a problem up into our mind.  We think about it.  We react emotionally to whether we want to do it or “have” to do it, and then we “sum up” the energy or “dive right in” based on how we related to it emotionally.

E.g. We bring a problem into the Upper Dantien, move it down to the Middle Dantien and react to it, and then move it into the Lower Dantien to decide what kind of energy we need to complete the task.

Who doesn’t love tangible examples when we are talking about the esoteric??

Positive Situation

Negative Situation

Upper Dantien3 dantiens


I receive an email about returning to work with a client that I really like.  I think about the person, how to reply, and my mind automatically assumes the role of remapping out my schedule to make this happen.


A project is entering its seventh month and pretty much everyone is tired and has abandoned it.  I have to email people 2-4 times just to get a response.  I have meetings that go nowhere.  People recommit but nothing happens.  I am the one responsible for it and if I set it down I am continually asked what the status is.  It is always part of my thought process and on my list of “what I have to do.

Middle Dantien

3 dantiens


I am happy but a little bit worried about the time commitment.


I am frustrated at myself for not knowing how to proceed.  The amount of time and energy needed was completely underestimated and now I feel saddled with it and overwhelmed.

Lower Dantien

3 dantiens


My excitement gives me a burst of energy which I use to wrap up some other projects to dive into this new thing.


This project takes many early mornings, some weekends, and a near-illegal amount of coffee to complete.  Even when it is done there is no celebration.  Everyone is just relieved that it is over.

Studying the 3 Dantiens helped me see a clear difference between these two scenarios.  There were situations that seemed to produce their own energy and situations that reduced energy.  Yes, many and most activities are not on these extreme poles of the spectrum.  But wouldn’t it be great if we could spend more time on the positive side?

There was nothing I could do about the “negative” situations that I had already committed to, but here is what I did.

Assessing Old Activities with the 3 Dantiens

  1. I thought about everything that was on my plate and used the above criteria to identify if a task was giving me energy, neutral, or sapping energy.
  2. For the sapping energy group, I determined if it was emotionally draining or physically draining.
    1. This was actually the easy part. If I was mad about it or it was frustrating me, I realized that I could just turn that off because it was in my power (heart center).
    2. If it was just a lot of work (energy center) I could find time and energy to complete it and did get a tiny boost from getting through it.

Here is the big important part: I evaluated new tasks before I started them, did not over-commit, or at least was accepting of the situation and didn’t feel like I was being abused or taken advantage of.

Assessing New Activities with the 3 Dantiens

  1. I let my mind race with all the optimistic and great possibilities.
  2. If warning bells went off that I wouldn’t like it, not enjoy it, it didn’t align with what was important to my boss, then I shared this before the assumption was made that I would be a part of it.
  3. I evaluated what kind of energy I needed to get this done. Let’s face it.  We have to do things that may not be our favorite.  But by thinking about what was needed ahead of time, I was able to spread the tasks across many weeks so I wasn’t slammed at the end.  This never happened before because I was avoiding it.

Enthusiasm: from Greek enthous ‘possessed by a god, inspired’

So I thought about my work and why I was so exhausted.  “Thinking” about work  didn’t involve much action in negative situations until avoidance (feeling) caused so much delay that immediate action (energy) HAD to be taken. I wasn’t truly in control.

The body provides immediate feedback in the form of pains, fluttering, sweating…  If we weigh an opportunity with all three thinking centers we can activity  choose activities that will make us “possessed by a god.”  In less  ideal situations that we still have to participate in, we can determine how much thought, emotion, and energy are needed.

“When awakening happens, the heart has to open. I think that for realization to be complete, it has to really hit on three levels—head, heart, and gut—because you can have a very clear, enlightened mind, which you’ll know in a deep way, but your being won’t be dancing. Then, when the heart starts to open just like the mind, your being starts to dance. Then everything comes alive. And when your gut opens up, there is that deep, deep, unfathomable stability where that opening, who is you, just died into transparency. It’s become the absolute. You are That.”

Adyashanti, in Emptiness Dancing


Scott Prath

Scott has been practicing and teaching tai chi and qigong since 2000. He is a lead instructor for the Austin Chen Tai Chi Association. His interest in the internal martial arts began after traveling in India and Nepal, and he has since traveled to China to train. Scott has published over 100 articles on tai chi with a focus on research showing the benefits of practicing.

2 thoughts on “Using the 3 Dantiens to find Enthusiasm

    1. Glad you found it useful. We continue to debate and discuss applications of the information we encounter while studying the internal arts and hope to make sense for a larger audiences by applying it to real life. All our Best!

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