Maintaining the balance of temperature and life energy in the body is vital to our health, but we don’t need to know a lot to take care of it. Start with this one principle of energy that affects all others.
In my last blog post, we saw that natural health depends on and is affected by energy. This is the energy of life in everything, which, especially in the body, is sometimes called qi, chi, or prana. The peoples of most eastern and southern Asian countries have studied this energy and its effect on the body and mind for thousands of years. The traditional philosophies and practices that stemmed from these studies are vast and detailed.
This week, I’d like to tell you, or remind you, about one of the fundamental, yet simple, principles of how energy moves in the body. If you know this one principle, which stems from the traditions of my native Korea, you can evaluate the status of your own energy and take simple steps to correct it if it becomes imbalanced.
The One Principle to Rule Them All
This principle is called Water Up, Fire Down, or Suseung Hwagang in Korean. It describes a circular flow of energy from the top of the head, down the front of the body, and then up the back to the head again. When this flow of energy moves unimpeded in the right direction, a balance of warm “fire” (yang) and cool “water” (yin) types of energy is maintained. Fire energy flows down, keeping the belly warm. Water energy flows up, keeping the head cool.
The most fundamental cause of energy circulation in nature is temperature difference. When your body is normal, a great deal of blood flows around your abdomen, facilitating the activities of your internal organs, warming your belly, and making its temperature somewhat higher than that of your head. As a result, circulation happens automatically. Energy rising from your warm belly pushes water energy in your kidneys upward, cooling your head; energy coming down from your head receives the fire energy of the heart, and sinks and heats your lower abdomen, creating a balanced cycle.
The Energy Engines Turning the Wheel
Three energy centers help propel this cycle. Called dahnjons in Korean, they’re found in the lower abdomen (lower dahnjon), the center of the chest (middle dahnjon), and the middle of the head (upper dahnjon). The concept is similar to the chakras spoken of in the yogic traditions of India.
The lower dahnjon serves as a center of gravity in our body’s energy system. Just as a pyramid could easily collapse if its base isn’t firm, the middle and upper dahnjon centers could be unhealthy if the lower dahnjon is weak. When the lower dahnjon is activated, creating a hot furnace of energy in the belly, this energy pushes the water energy in the kidneys upward to the brain.
Activated by clear water energy, the upper dahnjon refreshes the entire brain, pushing any fire energy built up by excessive mental activity back down. It stimulates the fire energy generated in the heart, the middle dahnjon, down as well, completing the cycle in the lower dahnjon. All three dahnjons need to be clear of blockages and have enough energy in them in order for the Water Up, Fire Down energy cycle to be maintained.The entirety of our being is influenced by the process of water-fire energy circulation in our bodies. Click To Tweet
In essence, the entirety of our being is influenced by this process of water-fire energy circulation: the lower dahnjon regulates primal life force and physical health; the middle dahnjon regulates emotions, causing them to mature; and the upper dahnjon handles all mental activities, including insight and wisdom for life. So when these three energy centers are activated, we develop a warm belly, open heart, and cool head. If not, we end up with a cold belly, closed heart, and hot head. Thus, consistent development of these three energy centers makes body, mind, and spirit healthier—and that inevitably results in a higher quality of life as well.
Exercises for Maintaining Water Up, Fire Down
For someone without direct experience of energy, this description of the energy system in our bodies may feel abstract and complicated, making it difficult to grasp. When we sense energy in the body, though, it becomes as tangible as feeling our bellies rising and falling with each breath. Developing this sense is just like developing any other ability. If we understand the principles of energy and consistently cultivate our sense of it, we’ll be able to feel and strengthen energy centers we were never aware of before.
I believe that everyone should learn how to sense and apply energy for the health of body and mind, just as they might learn how to handle a ball, swim, or do calisthenics in a school gym class. But even if one can’t detect the subtle feeling of energy, the principle of Water Up, Fire Down circulation will help improve one’s health and quality of life. The heart of water-fire energy circulation is keeping the head cool and belly warm. So, by checking these we can determine whether we have good or reversed Water Up, Fire Down.
If we detect that our Water Up, Fire Down has become out of balance, we can recover that balance by breaking through blockages, supplementing energy where it’s lacking, and reducing it where there’s too much.
All the methods of training for Water Up, Fire Down energy circulation are about taking the time to connect with nature inside us, with the life within, with our true nature. We can recover that connection even by quietly sensing the breath entering and leaving the body, by moving our bodies vigorously, feeling the rhythms of our heartbeats and the pleasant stiffness of our muscles—by focusing on our vital phenomena in this way.
Although the knowledge contained in ancient health traditions is vast, every one of us can use what we were born with to support our own health simply and naturally.
- [Video] Ilchi Lee Keynote: Make a New Normal with Water Up Fire Down
- Ilchi Lee’s Brain Wave Vibration Method for Not Giving Up on Yourself
- Reflections on Water, Fire, and Temperature
- Ilchi Lee’s 2 Core Exercises for Mothering Yourself Every Day
- Take an Energy State Quiz