Do ya have a furnace that needs fanning?

‘Fanning the Furnace’ Guided Imagery Meditation Chi Kung

Tan Tien Breathing is also known as Fanning the Furnace Breathing, Lower Heaven Breathing, or Field of Elixir Breathing. These names refer to a type of ages-old guided imagery chi kung (chi kung/qigong means breathing in congruence with effort or in time with movement). The most common title that I’ve come to utilize is Fanning the (sparkling) Furnace.

In this tradition (Tao Chan/Ming Chia), it is said that there are two tan tien points/portals. With regard to the ‘real’ tan tien, it is located just behind the navel/CV-8 acupoint (also known as the sea of chi). This point is approximately two and one-half inches (two and one-half cun – e.g., personal thumb-widths – per one’s own body mapping) above the ‘circulatory’ tan tien/CV-5 acupoint (CV is the common abbreviation for the central vessel in acupressure/TCM/traditional Chinese medicine theory).

The real tan tien is viewed as the body’s central bio-electric energy (chi/qi) point or ‘furnace’ and the circulatory tan tien is as per its namesake, for circulating the bio-electric energy stored in the real tan tien: This so-coined energy is viewed as our ‘original energy’ which has an intrinsic association with our kidneys, where, in an healthy person, it additionally resides. It is also said that this is the energy which one is born with – and/or brought us into this existence – once again, all in congruence with traditional acupuncture/TCM theory).

The real tan tien is viewed as the place where our corporeal bio-electric energy is generally centered. Though through true effort, pertinent insight, and meditative witnessing/guided imagery, one can better and better learn to (QUITE healthfully) enhance this centering or storage of bio-electric energy/chi/ki/pranha – not unlike a ‘furnace’ or ‘field of elixir’ or ‘sea of chi’. Traditionally speaking, when one focuses one’s mind/attention/yi at this point & performs competent abdominal/diaphragmatic breathing, it is believed to substantively enhance the quality of one’s health and well-being (which is such that words do not adequately describe – it can only be better and better witnessed).

Such breathing, relaxation, and guided imagery congruent with the execution of competent ‘witnessing’ (versus thinking) during any activity or level of ‘being’ is the centerpiece of true meditation. Such is traditionally and particularly performed with the practice of chi kung, tai chi chuan, kung fu, and yoga – albeit it can be embraced and practiced with almost all activity (sedate or moving through life’s general activities).

This practice is viewed as a potent means by which to promote health/wellness/greater longevity, e.g., centering/lowering/sinking/concentrating one’s bio-electric energy – enhancing one’s furnace or field of elixir – building the strength of one’s energy so that one can learn to feel the sparkling energy at will (AND all-of-the-time). It can only be realized when combined with skilled diaphragmatic breathing: such skilled breathing is what can be coined as fanning the furnace.

Once one becomes quite skilled in this practice, one can learn to use/move it in fashions congruent with various traditional and more complicated types of guided imagery/meditation/witnessing – consistent with succinct manipulation for health/wellness/treatment purposes (inclusive of stimulation of acupoints for self-treatment and using one’s hands to stimulate/treat the acupoints using one’s fingers and hands – coined traditionally as chi kung an mo): Theretofore, as one learns to fan the furnace competently, one learns to employ the circulatory tan tien in order to move the energy in one’s various guided imagery/visualization practices. Please realize that these skills, are just that – skills. It should be quite obvious that these practices cannot be learned ‘overnight’.

This basic guided imagery utilizes either the advance or reverse breathing methods (as described below). Even though this type of meditative breathing guided imagery is considered a most basic technique, it does not mean that it is easy or of lesser importance, e.g., most students of the art will not go further along (to even more difficult techniques), which makes this technique all the more important. AND this technique is the foundation of all other types of traditional guided imagery visualization.

It can be misunderstood that the real tan tien can be so much more important than the circulatory tan tien. Albeit, like the real tan tien point, the circulatory tan tien is viewed as a very important point also – each complement the other, yin to yang – yang to yin. As stated, the latter’s purpose is to circulate chi but not store it (e.g., IT cannot store chi). By practicing pertinent guided imagery, one can ‘fan the furnace’ so-to-speak AND healthfully promote the circulation of chi. Through time and effort, one learns to practice both types of tan tien breathing – which as stated are meant to intrinsically complement one another. Therein, one can attain a nearer and nearer to impeccable state of stillness. In working toward this, remarkable levels of relaxation and lightness can be realized/embraced. All of this must be complemented by what is coined as ‘witnessing’ – learning to play the part of a less and less blemished witness in one’s guided imagery meditation. These practices cannot be entirely rationally understood – but at best being a witness without thought or expectations (thoughts which most often serve to get in the way).

These practices are coined as true skills, e.g., all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing consistent fanning the furnace through guided imagery meditation/witnessing, and true relaxation – altogether congruent with working toward true mastery thereof. The meaning of this ‘true mastery’ is enjoying such objective insight that one witnesses the truth – inclusive of, that the greatest blessing of all is that no matter how skilled one becomes, there is always room for improvement (most particularly on this Earth). Accordingly, it is learning to better and better play the part of an healthy conduit/diplomat between Heaven (OR just the heavens – whichever one prefers) and Earth…in harmony with better and better realization of true health.

Below find a most basic form of Fanning the Furnace guided imagery:

This is a form of mindfulness meditation guided imagery/visualization chi kung.

Herein, this guided imagery will be set forth for a standing position, but it can also be done in a sitting position – sitting on a chair/stool, or in a lotus sitting posture. At more and more skilled levels, it can be performed in most any setting in one’s daily life – which is a primary goal. It is traditionally set forth that there may be nothing more healthful.

This exercise is engineered to be practiced in a spirit congruent with the following question – How Much Gratitude Does One Need to be Healthy? (it is additionally practiced as a so-titled ancillary guided imagery which is a preparation exercise for most other types of guided imagery meditation in this tradition)

Stand with one’s feet almost together (called a ‘humble stance’), and bend one’s knees comfortably. Put one’s tongue against the roof of one’s mouth (connecting the Governing and Central Vessels – congruent with acupuncture theory – promoting of greater and greater homeostasis). Relax one’s face, shoulders, hands, and feet – it’s said, “if they’re relaxed, you’re relaxed.”

Realize that relaxation is a true skill – there is always room for improvement. Realize, we ALWAYS have some stress, no matter how relaxed we are. Be so relaxed that one is barely standing – in what we coin as a Swaying Willow demeanor. Gently roll the spine above the waist, forward and backward. This demeanor is much like a willow tree swaying in a gentle wind. Breathe in, all the way forward and backward, and breathe out in between. Constantly adjust one’s eyes so that one is always looking slightly above straight ahead, without focusing or staring – a ‘visual meditative demeanor’ (though it is done both with the eyes open and closed – begin with the eyes open).

Fan the furnace by getting the ‘engine’ of the (advance vs. reverse) diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing going. Breathe in, push one’s abdomen out, breathe out, pull one’s abdomen in. Pretend that one’s lungs are in one’s abdomen.

One of the greatest gifts one can allow oneself, is all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing – there is nothing more healthful. If one practices this breathing for five minutes twice daily, in 30 to 60 days most people will realize all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing. It greatly enhances circulation, and promotes the secretion of relaxing, pain killing hormones (empirically substantiated).

A minority of people benefit more from reverse breathing – breathing in pulling one’s abdomen in, and breathing out pushing one’s abdomen out. Unlike the former advance-style breathing, this breathing is more for people who tend to be more so lethargic/cold/less active, versus those who tend to be more so stressed/anxious/very active/warm. Advance breathing is also coined summer breathing, and reverse breathing is also coined winter breathing. The former cools one, the latter warms one. Both can be utilized for fanning the furnace guided imagery.

Be in a spirit of gratitude and true appreciation. Be all in the moment. A true appreciation of the miracle of the moment. Ask oneself, “How much gratitude does one need to be healthy?” Don’t continue to work toward thinking about the question, but endeavor to be in that splendid spirit.

Try not to think, just witness one’s breathing, relaxation, and subtle movement. Endeavor to play the part of a less and less blemished witness. If a thought comes to one’s mind, embrace it, see it for what it is, don’t hang on to it, just let it go – put all of one’s attention in just what one is doing.

Mindfulness meditation is putting ALL of one’s attention into just one, two, or three aspects of what one is doing at any given time. It is next to impossible to be upset, anxious, worried, depressed, sad, or frustrated, if one is not thinking such thoughts. This is a primary purpose of mindfulness meditation – it is the sword (h’uo t’uo) that cuts out internal dialogue and/or cyclical thinking – ideally all thought…BEING ‘light’. Thoughts are often ‘heavy’.

Using the above-stated criteria, move onto this variation of the Fanning the Furnace exercise: As one breathes in, imagine that one brings fresh energy in which strengthens the furnace behind one’s navel – not unlike a gentle fire or sparkling warmth. As one breathes out, imagine that the breath out fans the furnace…stronger and stronger, until one learns to feel the furnace. Learn to relax and witness this, versus think about it. Over time, one can learn to feel/witness the furnace at will, all-of-the-time. It is said that nothing is more healthful, combined with the proper breathing and relaxation.

*Remember, this is all congruent with learning all-of-the-time diaphragmatic breathing and witnessing AND learning to truly relax. The diaphragmatic breathing complements witnessing and relaxation and vice-versa. These facets are intrinsically connected. They are initially learned separately, but are one or in harmony when realized at a skilled level.

**When one learns to feel the sparkling furnace at will, one moves onto moving the energy around the body in order to heal the body, and for general guided imagery purposes. Many complementary types of traditional guided imagery can be taught and are set forth in student handouts and in my blog posts. There are over a dozen guided imagery practices handed-down in this tradition.

***The ‘sparkling feelings’ have a truly significant association with the spine-tingling/sparkling feelings some experience in special (often sentimental) moments in one’s lifetime. Additionally (and not in any way to be in a spirit of being coarse), many people sometimes experience these types of feelings during urination. These feelings are completely in the realm of ‘sweet and innocent’, and not in any fashion sexual.

****The key is to learn to succinctly center/focus the so-coined energy at the furnace and strengthen it there – stronger and stronger and stronger, and learn to additionally use it, move it, in a splendidly healthful fashion congruent with tradition. This practice is traditionally complemented by the handed-down resonant healing/assertive Five Phases single and multisyllabic sounds.

*****Please know that all of the nomenclature/terminology utilized herein is just that, terminology – never meant to be misleading. It is said that “real truth can only be witnessed, not thought about or logically understood.” It is said that “the Way that can be told is not the eternal Way, the way that can be told is the mother of all things.” It is reflected in the madman screaming, “If the stars are not words, stop calling them stars.” Even so, we as human beings most often, at least in most settings, begin learning things by way of words. It can be a beginning, but at best not the whole or the end. – Dr Glen Hepker


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Wholeness: Is it just a concept or can it be more and more real? How important is true appreciation?

In these ages-old traditions, it is said that craving, desire, and fear of change, especially healthful change, are the root of most suffering. When we learn to better and better abbreviate clinging to our fear, desire, and suffering we can catch more and more common glimpses of what it is like to take genuine ownership of deeply healthful views…outlooks which in their practical application QUITE succinctly make the world a better place. It is SO much about learning to witness what it is like to be without our ‘walls of lies’ – to not be lost in the stagnicity of overt concern about the past or future. In learning to witness and take part in the living loving story of our lives (vs. just being a pawn to the story of our lives), we can better and better alleviate ourselves of the three portents (harbingers of all bad tidings) – hate, greed, and ignorance. It is ALL about being mindful and present, in a loving, selfless, altruistic awareness of what is genuinely important, i.e., a quintessentially resplendent light bright spirit of true appreciation of the miracle of the moment: This such splendid way-of-being allows us, enables us to genuinely embrace/deeply witness within ourselves a holistic oneness of the mind, body, and spirit. It allows us to lovingly embrace healthful change.

It is NOT about living for the moment, but living in the moment: If there is a Heaven, a key to the universe, even a sixth sense, they are rooted in true honesty, promoting of true happiness and true freedom…but most importantly, needing less and less to hide behind. It is a loving, selfless, and sweet and innocent sparkling spine-tingling/shivering appreciation – a glimpse of a so-to-speak existence where there is no time, no space, no distance – no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow. It is a glimpse of an existence where all is known – once again, nothing to hide behind.

It is a beautiful key to true health and true responsibility. It is a path of heart – a way of life more and more without unhealthful fear, unhealthful pride, and blind greed. It is SO much about being healthful conduits/diplomats between Heaven and Earth, aka True Appreciation! — Dr. Glen Hepker


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How important is mindfulness…objective insight?

An excerpt from my book, i.e., Chapter XII – “True Happiness: A Glimpse of Heaven”…

“Even though we are quite often moving quickly through our daily lives, we do have the wherewithal (if we choose to exercise it) to slow our sense of awareness down. We can actually get more done when our minds are more relaxed and we are less scattered in our thinking – thus able to better focus on, and truly embrace what we are actually doing – all-the-while elevating the likelihood that we can realize a deep and loving sense of true appreciation of the miracle of the moment (more and more and more…as we nurture this skill). This old handed-down saying presents a relevant point in a subtle, yet telling fashion, if one takes the time to explore its deeper meaning:

‘Go fast, one can only go fast – go slow, one can always go fast.’

The notions herein could easily be seen as haughty high-minded ‘stuff.’ Please know that this is not the goal. Life is difficult, and at times, it can seem to be a painless thing to simply allow oneself to ‘get stuck,’ versus trying ‘really hard’ to improve oneself. In these arts, The Five Virtues are viewed as a simple vehicle toward deep insight and philosophical and practical clarity and happiness when we most need it. Even so, nothing may be more difficult to answer to – particularly when seen as a vehicle toward our ‘true responsibility’ of making the world a better place:

1. Healthful Respect

2. Healthful Loyalty

3. Healthful Humility

4. True Honor

5. True Integrity

Getting stuck on the ‘plateau of not trying’ is a living death. In purely colloquial terms, ‘nothing is worth anything unless we are willing to keep trying.’

What would life be truly like if one could honestly say…

If in Heaven I have what I have now, I would be happy…in the spirit of perfect appreciation, remember the true and real import of warm-heartedness, compassion, and dignity…?” — Dr. Glen Hepker (Copyright 2011)


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Where are all the angels?

A question from a reader of my book and blog: When I look at all that is going on in the world, often so much negativity and difficulty, I wonder if there really are angels. To many this may seem like a silly question or concern. Nevertheless, I believe that some level of intrinsic goodness is all that has kept the human race going, vs. destroying itself. That said, I am deeply concerned about such a plethora of bad things happening all around the world: Maybe it is simply because modern technology allows us to know what is happening almost everywhere, even in real time. I know that the world has always had lots of bad stuff going on, but it seems likely to be worse nowadays. What are your thoughts?

Response: I believe that the most important thing in this and many regards, is that we learn to better and better embrace the notion that our most significant and primary calling (in having been placed on this earth), is to recognize and act upon the knowledge that it is our daily responsibility to make the world a better place. If this became the norm for more and more and more of us, oh what a different world it would be!

Quite humbly and respectfully, I believe it less important to concern ourselves with angels, i.e., in the most traditional sense...I believe it so much more important to be our own bright beautiful angels and diligently make the world a better place (AND doing so in a loving spirit of true appreciation and gratitude). This is not to in any way deny the existence of angels in the classic sense, quite the contrary. If angels do exist, then maybe they’d feel better about the whole thing if we took more and more true responsibility for our own well-being. Hence the old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Once again, please know I mean all of this quite humbly and respectfully. Having said that, I believe that, each day, I should ask myself, “Haven’t I already been given all of the wonderful gifts that I need?” How dare I selfishly think that I always need help, when I can do so much more for myself. Why do I choose to repetitively get stuck on stagnant plateaus (‘plateaus’ that can be like a living death)? Why do I not more appreciate all of the truly splendid blessings that have been offered/given to me? Why do I not recognize my responsibility to do the right thing for the right selfless sake?

Maybe it is important to recognize what might be the greatest of blessings on this earth, i.e., that there is ALWAYS room for improvement, greater and greater levels of insight and the practical application thereof…thus being more and more willing to embrace healthful change. In this fashion, it may be quite possible to become more and more healthful conduits between heaven and earth. At a minimum, can we at least acknowledge that the world might be a much better and different place if we at least take time to consider such notions…each day?

I believe in the ages-old notion that, “The primary fault of humankind is the notion that you are there and I am here.” I believe that a most likely means by which to prove it true, is to act upon it as if it is true. I believe that the closer we become to each other, the closer we will come to being our own bright beautiful angels.

I believe we all, to varying degrees, hide behind a wall of lies. In the arts that I teach and coach, an old saying sets forth, “If there is a heaven, a key to the universe, a sixth sense, they are rooted in true honesty, promoting of true happiness and true freedom…but most importantly, needing less and less to hide behind.” It may be much about true forgiveness and learning to witness truth beyond expectations and preset patterns of thinking…playing the part of a less and less blemished witness.

When is the last time you’ve embraced, experienced, genuinely sweet and innocent, light and loving fun? When is the last time you lived a moment, an hour, a day, with your spirit filled with sparkling spine-tingling/shivering appreciation and utter benevolence? A true lightness of being? Ever? Maybe such a lightness of being is consistent with being your own bright beautiful angel – so capable of making the world a better place, each and every day. Maybe we can thus learn to live life as a living loving art form. Maybe, just maybe, living loving true appreciation and gratitude, intrinsically in harmony with empathy, is the ‘magic elixir.’ — Dr. Glen Hepker


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How angry am I?

An inquiry from a reader of my book and blog: “How do you view anger and frustration, i.e, with regard to the dynamics of what you coin in your book as ‘true health?’ How does one deal with these most difficult of human characteristics – meaningfully and healthfully grow past them – learn to deal with them in a more and more beneficial way?”

Response: Humbly and respectfully, I believe I need to ask myself many times each day…”What genuine effort am I making to control my anger? What level of honesty am I utilizing with regard to my attachment to hatred, pride, jealousy, greed, ignorance, frustration? Am I fooling myself? How deeply am I willing to look? How important is it to me to learn to objectively gauge my thoughts and actions…MOST PARTICULARLY in a spirit consistent with my responsibility in making the world a better place (i.e., versus a spirit of tearing it down)? Is the ‘key’ to unlock the door to such true health found in a loving sparkling spine-tingling/shivering ‘magic elixir,’ made up of splendid amounts of true appreciation and gratitude? Is it found in deeply embracing my comfort and discomfort equally? Is it found in learning to better and better ‘witness’ these dynamics in a less and less blemished fashion?”

Is this level of insight enjoyed by way of impeccably endeavoring to do the right thing for the right sake…without the need for selfish recognition or hidden agendas – no need for reward? Is this what ‘true health through true responsibility’ means? How much healthful faith does it necessitate? Yin to yang, how badly do I need to hide behind my ‘walls of lies’ – walls built with anger and frustration? How deeply do I want to embrace the notion that, “if there is a Heaven, if there is a key to the universe, if there is a sixth sense, they are rooted in true honesty, promoting of true happiness and true freedom – but most importantly, needing less and less to hide behind?

Can I stand the fact that no matter what, on this earth, there is always room for improvement, deeper and deeper loving and selfless objective insight? How badly do I want to avoid getting stuck on stagnant plateaus of living death…a living purgatory? How badly do I want to live my life as a “living loving art form,” versus living a life in which I take so much for granted? Once again, please remember that this is ALL meant in a spirit of humility and respect: We are ALL in the same common boat in this – our lives here. — Dr. Glen Hepker (Copyright 2011)



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The Lotus Flower Blossoms speaks…

The Lotus Flower Blossoms (as set forth in Chapter XV, i.e., “True Freedom” in my book, A Glimpse of Heaven: The Philosophy of True Health):

“There is a place where, wherever you are there, whatever you are doing…no matter what, in any given moment, there should be nowhere you would rather be. It is where you are right now – and you have the ability to so deeply and artfully appreciate your life and its living…to connect one healthful insight to the next, and make them all one…learning to witness this already-existing truth.

In the wilderness of our existence…a place of budding flowers about, about to unwrap in a showing of perfect appreciation for all to thrive upon, we are the flowers which can blossom again and again in each season of our deeper and deeper insights…all connected…each better and more healthful than before.

It is not unlike Heaven…and it can become Heaven, with enough insight and appreciation. It takes quite a few sparks, glimpses – spine-tingling moments…as a way-of-life which becomes more and more purposeful…more and more without time or space or distance. More and more there is less and less to hide behind.” — Dr. Glen Hepker (Copyright 2011)
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How crazy does it sound?

What if we were regularly reminded that we need to be at our best? What if we were regularly reminded that the world depends on us to be at our best? Who would remind us? What would this mean…and what would our lives be like? What would the world be like if it was true? Better? Worse?

AND of course, WHAT is it to be at our ‘best?’ In the ages-old health and wellness arts that I teach, coach, and endeavor to follow, it is first in learning to honestly display oneself with dignity, decency, goodness, and grace (REALLY TRULY figuring out how to mean it – no matter what). It is in endeavoring to do the right thing for the right sake – without the need for selfish recognition or hidden agendas. It is deep realization that we are all SO very much more in the same common boat than we often seem to think and act. It is supporting others in their healthful goals. It is in a living loving spirit of ‘true appreciation,’ deep gratitude for all of the gifts/blessings which we are given each day…each moment.

What would life be like if we recognized that it is genuinely a responsibility to make the world a better place…each day? Would the world be a much better and different place if an ever-evolving greater number of us recognized this as a ‘true responsibility?’ It CAN be up to each of us to decide what we believe the answer to be – and maybe that, unto itself, is the greatest of responsibilities.

Maybe just honestly answering these questions (each and every sparkling spine-tingling day) could provoke a REALLY TRULY healthful philosophical WAY OF LIFE – in a living loving spirit of gratitude! (Thus enabling us to better and better embrace healthful change – vs. fearing it.)

Could it be that this what is really needed, i.e.,’true health through true responsibility?’ Maybe it could be a life of true honesty, promoting of true happiness, and true freedom…but most importantly, needing less and less to hide behind. Maybe it would entail loving realization of common glimpses of Heaven – even transforming us into more and more healthful conduits between Heaven and Earth. Oh boy! — Dr. Glen Hepker
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