Practicing tai chi, meditating, doing qi gong, trying to heal, or trying to improve your strength seem like very different activities with very different goals. However, at their root they are all designed to move us from our current state into a new state. This can be from foggy to clear thinking, from injured to mobile, or from anxious to calm. Where does the energy to begin and sustain these transformations come from? The change is based in the improving, cleaning, and repair of tissue. For the meditation or intellectual goals, it’s dependent on clean and clear blood flow to the head. The organs and systems needed for change are located in an area of the body that Chinese medicine calls the ming men.
The ming men is an energy center located in the lower torso centered between the kidneys. It is so important to health and martial ability that it is called the Gate of Power, Center of Vitality, Gate of Destiny, and Gate of Life. It is associated with three acupuncture points: Governing Vessel 4 (Gv4), Conception Vessel 4 (Cv4) and Conception Vessel 5 (Cv5).
Do you have trouble sleeping? Read on. Want more energy? Keep reading. Are you interested in the explosive chi energy of the internal martial arts? This article is for you. The idea of a “gate” occurs in all translations and is probably the most suitable. Whatever your health or martial goals are, learning about and accessing the ming men point is the place to start.
Pro-tip: Learning about acupressure and meridian points can benefit your practice and can best be absorbed through continual learning on the topic over a period of time. Check out books and resources on Amazon that help expand your understanding and knowledge.
What is the Ming Men?
To get the benefit out of learning about the ming men we have to start with the difficult part of the conversation because the ming men isn’t an exact place but is more of a region of the body. Think of it as a collective area that includes the organs that act as filters, the blood vessels that act as highways for fresh fuel and the transportation of waste, the surrounding tissue that warms and tonifies the organs when pushed on, the inner spine that stabilizes the region, and the dantian or “lower energy center” that is right in front of it.
When this region is functioning well, it works like a happy city on a sunny day with traffic moving in all directions. When it isn’t functioning well, it is the same city with traffic jams and toxic congestion. Hopefully I have successfully painted a picture that is more like an ecosystem than an exact place but we can move away from metaphors to understand why this region is so important. If you blood is dirty, dehydrated and sticky from bad food or poor organ function, if you have not gone to the bathroom regularly and your organs are squished from the pressure of full intestines, if a weak lower back inhibits movement, how healthy, strong, happy, or clearly thinking can you be? There is definitely a lot to learn from the philosophy and esoteric explanation of the ming men. On the other hand, it just makes good sense to prioritize this area of the body since it is in charge of so much repair and waste removal.
Meaning of the Word Ming Men
In Chinese, all translations of the word “ming men” give us a sense of grandeur. The character ming (命) means life, command, fate, or order. The character men (門) means gateway or door but I also like that the character is used in part to describe and put order to science taxonomies (门). So put together, ming men (命門) unites two powerful characters to mean “gate/door – of/to – destiny/life/power.” Put together and we get: Gate of Power, Center of Vitality, Gate of Destiny, or Gate of Life.
Where is the Ming Men Located?
The ming men is located on the inside of the spine in front of the second and third lumbar vertebrae. It lies in the center of the body right between the two kidneys and is really easy to visualize if you think of where the two blood vessels branch off from the kidneys to join the massive inferior vena cava and abdominal aorta kidneys which supply blood to the organs and lower extremities. The ming men is a central intersection of several meridian highways running through the body. Right is front of the ming men is the dantian which is the lower energy center of the body. Collectively the dantian and the ming men are referred to as “the sea of chi.”
Similarities between the ming men and dantian
Both the ming men and dantian come into existence at birth. They are both near the navel. The region can be accessed collectively to build energy or collect energy from other areas of the body.
Differences between the ming men and dantian
|Located two inches below the navel in the center of the body.||Located two inches below the navel along the inside of the spine.|
|Represents post-natal energy||Represents pre-natal energy|
|Can act as a storage container to build up energy and send on to other meridian points||Can act as a gate to allow energy in or out, and to blend opposing energies that are being produced by the kidneys|
You can find your ming men by placing your fingers on the base of your spine and counting up two vertebrae with your thumb, you will be at the right height and just outside of the ming men. Mentally move inside your body to a position that is centered between the point on your back and your belly button, right in front of your spine.
Is the ming men an acupuncture point?
There is an acupuncture point also called Ming Men which is point 4 on the Governing Channel. (The Governing Channel is a highway of acupuncture points that runs along the back and you can read more about it here: Acupuncture Points of the Governing Vessel). However, this point should not be confused with being the entire ming men. Think of it more as the access point to tonify the energy and function of the region. It is important to know about this acupuncture point if you meditate because it is the point that you concentrate on to stim It is also the point that you concentrate on when meditating to stimulate the raw energy from the body and absorb energy from the environment.
Why is the Ming Men Important?
Many of us are familiar with the idea that martial and healing energy originate in the center of the body. We may also have heard the words dantian or hara to describe this region. This central area, the Sea of Chi, is often referred to as the dantian when actually it describes the dantian and ming men collectively. As mentioned in the post on the three dantians, there is more than one energy center and when referred to in general terms, the word “dantien” is used to describe the whole central region.
I am going to take a different tack here, one that is only different to westerners but not to the East. Yes the dantian and ming men can be talked about together. If a student is just beginning to wrap her mind around the idea that energy/power come from the center then this is a later discussion. However, independently the dantian and ming men have different purposes and therefore different powers. Simply put, knowing about both regions allows us to benefit from and increase the power of both. I am confident in the intelligence of most practitioners and it is time for us to advance collectively.
I am going to dive into three rabbit holes here so bear with me. It will all be clear in a second.
Rabbit Hole #1: Physiology
The Ming men is found (read- accessed, remember the gate thing?) at acupuncture point B23 smack dab between both kidneys. The kidneys are designed to filter and reprocess the blood. Blood is the transit system for toxins and minerals so anything good or bad that you do affects the blood. The kidneys effectively cleanse and rebalance the blood by staging toxins for waste elimination and sending the good stuff back into the veins.
Rabbit Hole #2: Chinese Medical Theory
In Chinese medical theory balance equals health. Each kidney is said to develop an opposing energy and it is between the two kidneys that these energies are blended. Not just any energy but the essence of energy. Think of it in terms of clay. The kidneys develop a pure, recently cleansed, pure source of energy that can be molded into any form of energy. The type of chi/energy that it becomes depends on your intention.
Rabbit Hole #3: Metaphysics
Every good rabbit hole/metaphysics reference necessitates an Alice In Wonderland pun but I am going to completely let you down here. When we get far out on the metaphysical ledge it is too easy to give up, think that we are not _______ (fill in the blank spiritual/connected/adept) enough to make tangible progress and just quit. However, you can reap tangible benefits from knowing about the ming men and here is how. When we begin meditating or trying to concentrate we are plagued by a restless mind (Is it trash night?, my shoes are tight, I want coffee…). Placing one’s attention on the lower back stops extraneous thoughts – false yang. Metaphysically, the ming men is the gate by which we enter no-thought and heighten our concentration.
How do I develop energy in the Ming Men?
The first steps in developing this energy consist of focusing ones intention. Mantak Chia in his book on the Microcosmic Orbit suggests taping something uncomfortable on acupuncture spots in the beginning to bring your mind to it. Eventually you can bring your mind to the ming-men without the tape and acorn. An additional way is to inhale into the belly while holding your abdominal muscles tight. Force the air into the small of the back and imagine it emitting from a small opening in the spine. I like this approach because this practice will eventually serve you when building the explosive power in fa-jin.
What are some practical uses of the Ming Men?
Who hasn’t heard of or craved work-life balance? This dichotomy is often misinterpreted as we are directed to take even more action to juggle our many obligations. I do believe that this illusive work-life balance is attainable but by doing less. Focusing on the center increases our enthusiasm for activities we enjoy, calms us in situations that are necessary but not necessarily enjoyable, and gives us a perspective to choose tasks that are actually important. The result is a net gain in energy. Try this: the next time you are commuting or caught in traffic think about pushing each breath down to your lower back. You will be refreshed, less stressed, and surprised when your exit comes so soon if you didn’t miss it entirely.
Creative individuals are balanced. Any experience that you have had where you are highly creative it is probable that you are outside of your own thoughts and drawing/writing/strumming without relationship to time or place. The ming-men drains the brain and stops it from running interference.
The ming men point is the one-two punch for sleeplessness. When my daughter was little and unable to sleep I would splay my palm on the small of her back and sit and think about my own lower spine. It was minutes before she would spasm and I knew she was diving off into fairy land. It works on adults and yourself too. Lay on your back with both palms resting on your navel. Think about your ming-men. If a work or stressful thought pops up, drag it down your spine and out the ming men. Wake up! I’m almost done.
What are some practice applications for using the ming men in tai chi?
The primary use of the ming men in qi gong and any martial art is to develop power and energy. Power originates in the kidneys and is transmitted throughout the body. This is true if you are building up energy to heal or storing energy in your lower back to strike (fa-jin). This transmission of strength requires a connection of all the connective tissues muscle, fascia, and alignment of bone. The center of this connection is the ming men and dantian. When your posture is correct, energy and movement can be properly transmitted outwards. Think of it like spider sitting in the center of a perfectly woven web that can transmit energy in an direction from the center.
Mobility of the lower back connects the upper body with your root or legs. One needs to be grounded so that a true assessment of the situation is possible.
Adapting to New Situations
This is both a theoretical and a physical idea. If you lower back is “soft” and responsive you can both transmit and receive blows by accessing the power of the legs. The next time you are pushed back and locked in your stance, ask yourself if you lower back is soft or locked up.
Knowledge of the ming-men quickens our progress in mental, physical, and internal development. Seeing the central “Sea of Chi” as its two integral parts, the dantian and ming men, allows us to more accurately focus on each area independently if we want to intentionally build energy to heal, balance, ground ourselves, or develop chi.
Further Reading: Find out how the Ming Men is connected to the body’s energy system and acupuncture system by learning about the series of points that run up the front of the torso (Conception Vessel) and down the back (Governing Vessel).
Tai Chi Basics is a participant in affiliate advertising programs like Amazon designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees and cover expenses.