Whatever problems come to us from beings or inanimate objects, if our mind gets used to perceiving only the suffering or the negative aspects of them, then even from a small negative incident great mental pain will ensue. For it is the nature of indulgence in any concept, whether suffering or happiness, that the experience [will be intensified by that indulgence. As] negative experience gradually becomes stronger, a time will come when most of what appears before us will become the cause of bringing us unhappiness, and happiness will never have a chance to arise. If we do not realize that the fault lies with our own mind's way of gaining experience, and if we blame all our problems on the external conditions alone, then the ceaseless flame of habitual negative deeds such as hatred and suffering will increase in us. That is called: "All appearances arising in the form of enemies."
Traditional Tibetan culture nourished a deep and powerful integration of spiritual and practical understanding, respecting both of these aspects of human nature and their potential for supporting health and healing. For example, all phases of Tibetan herbal medicine -- asking for help, searching for herbs, preparing medicines, diagnosing illness, prescribing treatments, taking the medicine -- all of them are carried out with a devotion to spiritual practices and training shared by the patient and the physician, their families, and the entire community.
The near universal appreciation of these spiritual practices stemmed primarily from their practical effectiveness in fostering basic sanity, compassion, and understanding -- progress on the path toward enlightenment -- but over time certain meditation practices were recognized as especially appropriate for emphasis by people troubled by physical or psychological illness, and those who want to help them. This page focuses on some of those practices.
Since the readers of this page are mostly going to be natives of Western countries, or countries that have been strongly influenced by it, we should note that for people steeped in Western culture, just about any form of Tibetan Buddhist meditation, or indeed any form of Buddhist Meditation at all, could be considered a healing meditation, especially
for stress-related illness. That's why sections on the mindfulness/awareness and tonglen practices are included on this page.
In traditional Tibetan culture, people lived close to the earth. There were no alarm clocks and no pagers, and to talk to someone you had to actually go to where they were and have a conversation. Nearly everyone had some sort of spiritual practice, and most people were practicing meditation every day. In that context, it made sense to single out certain practices as healing meditations. For us, though, any meditation practice that we actually enjoy doing is likely to have a beneficial effect on our health and longevity.
The Tibetans also used other spiritual practices that might not be called 'meditation,' but which were considered beneficial for fostering health and well being, and for healing illness. Building stupas, raising prayer flags, setting up large prayer wheels, and going on pilgrimages are good examples of practices that heal bodies and minds as well as spirits. Even Tibetan herbal medicine combines spiritual and physical healing. Physicians constantly repeat mantras (prayers) while gathering and preparing ingredients for the medicines, and while working with their patients. Moreover, some types of Tibetan medicines contain substances that are considered sacred. These other types of spiritually empowered healing are the topic of another page:
Just a couple of suggestions: First, spiritual shopping can be entertaining and possibly informative, but healing meditations won't really be much use until you settle on a method that seems promising, and stick with it for a while.
Second, with meditation, as with any skill involving coordination of mind and body, working with someone who has developed some mastery of the method and its application is highly recommended. On another page we give links for contacting a Tibetan Buddhist meditation center:
How to chose a center? Among the various schools and traditions of Buddhist meditation, different groups emphasize particular practices when working with beginners. Specifically, traditional Tibetan Buddhist centers tend to begin with visualization and mantra practices, while the Shambhala Centers, Shamar Rinpoche, and non Tibetan centers following the Zen and Theravadin traditions emphasize mindfulness/awareness practice with beginning students.