The vital center
Deep inside the abdomen exists our most profound source of feeling, intelligence and vigor. The Vital Center is called hara in Japanese, dantien in Chinese, and kanda in Sanskrit. In Eastern wisdom traditions, this important center is understood as the source of presence and potency in the human body. It is thought of as the meeting point of Heaven and Earth, the connection of past and future, and the origin of vital energy. In the field of biomechanics, it is referred to as the Center of Gravity (COG). In the study of physics, it is called the Center of Mass (COM).
The Vital Center is the basis of human life; the root of our digestive, immune, and reproductive systems. In our earliest prenatal days, each of us grew from a few tiny cells into a fully formed fetus. We were nurtured in utero through the belly-to-belly connection with our mother; her Vital Center working for the development of ours. She performed the functions of eating, breathing, and eliminating for us, then transferred the benefits through the umbilical cord. Until birth, mother was our direct connection to Nature. After birth, once the umbilical cord was cut, we began a new and direct relationship with the natural world. With our first few breaths, the Vital Center in our own body became truly active and autonomous. And for the rest of our lives the Center serves as our direct tether to womb of Nature. It is where we digest food, experiences, and emotions, where we hold our most private sentiments, and where the face of our true character resides.
Colloquial sayings like “I hate your guts” and “I have a gut feeling” derive from our intuitive cultural understanding of the fundamental importance of the Vital Center. Phrases like “belly laughter”, “I can’t stomach it”, and “it’s gone belly up” convey the sense that the Center is not merely a physical cavity full of important organs, but something of much deeper significance. When we say that a person is “centered and upstanding” we mean much more than the location of their Center of Mass, or the fact that they are merely situated in an upright position. What we mean to say is that such a person has themselves at hand, they know who they are; they are established in the truth of their own being and in contact with natural law.
The Vital Center is located about three finger widths below the navel. It sits directly on the vertical axis, halfway between the lower belly and the sacrum (closer to the spine than you might think). The Vital Center is where we actually are. It is the present moment in flesh and blood. Our thoughts may wander to distant lands, and at times we may feel lost, but the Center is always right here.
The state of our Vital Center determines the state of every aspect of our life throughout all Nine Spheres. This is why the importance of working with the belly cannot be overemphasized. The primary function of Radiant Awakening practice is to illuminate the Vital Center. In other words, through self-healing and self-observation we remove accumulated psycho-physical tension from the belly and reset our connection to the primordial source of life.