How The Mind Heals
Do as much of this as is comfortable for you: just begin.
A summary of psychologist Daniel Goleman, who covers the Behavioral Sciences for The New York Times and who is author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence Bantam, 1995, interviewing Tulku Thondup as recorded in New Age Journal October 1996 pages 74-79 and 102-103.
This interview concerns the most recent book of Tulku Thondup Rinpoche: The Healing Power of Mind: Simple Meditation Exercises for Health, Well-Being, and Enlightenment (Shambhala, 1996). Healing pain and creating joy is achieved by using the power of the mind along with proper living, a positive attitude, and meditation.
Mind is the forerunner of every act, our acts reflect our thoughts and feelings. When we see and feel the events of our lives peacefully and positively, our life will bloom and blossom with joy. Even the pain in life is easier to accept. Pain can inspire us to better goals and set the cycle of healing in motion. We must begin with the mind and not the body. While Western medicine can offer miracles for healing the body - to become stronger, wiser and more peaceful we must heal the mind, the emotions and the spirit. This will heal not just this life, but futures lives too.
What is the mind and enlightenment? What are the different varieties of mind? There are two: "ordinary" and "enlightened" mind. The "ordinary" mind sees and experiences life with duality (good and bad), discrimination, emotions, pain, and joy all rooted in "the grasping at self." "Self" is what the ordinary mind sees. The "enlightened" mind is the true nature to seek, it is openness, oneness, peace, and all-knowing, unlimited by time, space or knowledge. The enlightened mind is what the mind truly is. Healing comes from being enlightened. We must avoid the petty and that which is not essential. It is crucial not to be caught in the passing seeming "realities" of life, but to live and behave in parallel/simultaneously/in concert with the all-knowing wisdom without limitations and not grasping at "self." Grasping or not grasping at seeming reality, your reality, your table, your beautiful table, my showing table is the root of sickness, both mental and physical. Meditation leads to freedom from grasping. See the meditation exercises in The Healing Power of Mind by Tulku Thondup.
Urgency is the enemy. There is always time to do whatever. The triggering of negative emotions is toxic to the body and is disease generating if these negative emotions continue. Certain states of mind are absolutely poisonous. If you are persistently negative, irritated, cynical, depressed, and anxious with "afflictive emotions", then this doubles your risk of major diseases by affecting both the immune system and the heart. Flooding the body with immunedepressing and disease-predisposing chemicals raises blood pressure and cholesterol, and leads to cancer, heart disease, etc. Negative emotions are due to grasping at what seems to be the reality of your life, what you think you own, or what you seek to avoid. To combat this you must "loosen grasping" and generate a positive, not a negative energy: Is it positive compassion or negative attachment, positive or negative pride, devotion or lust? Lust is held with a tight grip. Devotion has the same energy, but it is an opening drive like the opening of a flower to the sun. Devotion is healing, lust is disease. This is the beginning of emotional intelligence. It is an inside-out feeling, a giving instead of a pulling, a solidifying unification of the self. Find the openness and relaxation. Do not see yourself as special, better, or worse.
You need to understand the feeling and the energy of the feeling. For instance, when you become angry, an energy wakes you up and gives you strength. At that moment, instead of focusing on the reasons that you are angry, gently and thinkingly merge with the nature of that anger. The true nature of anger is peace - as the purpose of anger is to correct a situation back to peace and normalcy. Any anger is bad for spiritual healing. The mind must not be angry, the mind must be compassionate, powerful and peaceful. There must be no anger to chain you. You must learn to transform anger into something else entirely, into its true nature: peace. You must, for instance, express your anger or sadness in the proper fashion. It is even beyond being appropriately angry with the right person, to the right extent, at the proper time, for the correct reason and in the proper fashion.
So when you have sadness or anger "Don't say anything. Don't do anything. Just stand like a log." Then, when the sadness or anger has subsided, you can think what you should say or do, because when you are under the pressure of emotions, whatever you say is not you, but is your anger or sadness talking. Your emotion is speaking and it will be harmful, not helpful. But when the emotion has subsided, then you will be thinking with a clear mind. So that is "first aid or emergency aid" for negative emotions. When there is sadness think "I must have done something wrong in the past, so I am experiencing these karmic results. That means I am paying back my debt. How wonderful." This is reframing your experience so that whatever is negative is turned to a positive function. Say to yourself, "One of the reasons this is happening is because of something I did before in this or an earlier lifetime so I'm just paying back." (What goes around, comes around; that which has a front, also has a back) You can deal with something completely devastating by avoiding the luxury of allowing yourself to participate in what becomes the psychological tragedy of your current devastation. Do not let your devastation break down your ability to make sense of the world as a just and fair place so that the basic meaning of your life does not collapse.
That would make things even worse when it does collapse (when things go badly).
This concept is about taking responsibility instead of blaming (others). It can bring joy to know that you are not suffering for no reason or through someone else's doing, but instead we are clearing our debts. This joy generates more healing power. While this is "a" method of avoiding "collapse" it is not the only - but it is as good or better than other methods, so use this one.
Here are tools for active meditation. Visualization is really just having a notion or an idea of something in your imagination. The second tool is naming or thinking this is a "so-and-so or such-and such." This is thinking about what your imagining. The third tool is feeling. You must feel your images from your heart, whole body, the depth of your mind. You must evoke an open emotion with a positive feeling of what a "wonderful image" this is. This is the "presence of the living divinity of healing. Feel the great happiness, the warmth, the protection without all the intellectualizing. Stop cutting off your head from your heart. The fourth tool is believing. Trust, have faith in the secular/divine source of power. Allow/encourage yourself to receive the gift/blessing. In your mind think "this gift/blessing has the power to heal my problems." Believe that this process works, have faith in it. You must believe and visualize or you will undermine the whole process. The faith of belief is in and within your own ability. It is the unconscious mind and therefore the health of the body that faith affects. It is the unconscious mind that directly affects the emotional centers (which operate by the rules of the unconscious). You must have trust, not doubt.
Begin to use the four basic tools just mentioned above by relaxing. Meditation without relaxing brings more unrest and will not be helpful. Relaxation is a must before starting. The mind becomes clearer and more aware from relaxed meditation. Start by listening to your breathing.
Now begin by thinking of your whole body; slowly go through the body and how it is made up: with bones, and tissues - the whole body. Go through it part by part as if you are taking a mental tour of your body. Then see your body as made up of billions and billions of cells. There are so many cells that it is like infinite cells. Then see the whole body turned into light. Every atom of every cell is light, wisdom light in its true nature. See that your body is a body of light, then see that every cell is a cell of light. Then pick one cell and enter into that cell. Feel yourself at the size of an atom going into the cell, look around, see how vast it is. It would be like going into the sky, into space, no limits and no boundaries. Feel the vastness and spaciousness in this cell and see how beautiful it is, made of light and not made of blood as it was before. It is full of warmth, not cold, filled with blissfulness, joyfulness, warmth, peace, and health. It is not an unhealthy place. Visualize the source of the power you have. See the beautiful image of your teacher, your God or Buddha, saint or leader with compassion. Surrounded by hundreds of thousands, millions of other leaders or saints or Buddhas, a universe filled with saints or God or angels or loving teachers. Then see that you have billions of cells in your body with every cell having billions of angels and saints, Buddhas, teachers or God. Then imagine the waves of healing energy, of warmth and bliss coming from every cell that are shared with all the other cells, reconnected in harmony, the energies are restored, synergized in an amazing body of billions of angelic paradises.
Most of the time we are sick because we are disconnected. Somewhere there are blockages, probably because we are tense, narrow, and rigid and are thinking of ourselves by wishing, wanting or hoping. However when, you are not blocked or strapped you feel this amazing bliss, amazing power, amazing joy. Stay with that. Merge into that experience. Be one and whole, feel the oneness. Then you will have a higher awakening or you are at least sowing the seed of that meditation, of healing energy into the unconscious level of the mind as you merge into one.
Whatever concepts, feelings, duality (the item and its opposite) at least now they are all positive and the beginning of letting go. Western psychology maps the grasping and does not show the non-grasping. We do not show the ways of letting go. Truly the core of the underlying problem is the self, the notions of our self. But the solution to self is not found within the self. The reality of the self is in letting go, joining a larger frame. This is spelled out beautifully in Thoughts Without a Thinker by psychotherapist Mark Epstein. As you begin to loosen the grasp of self you begin to open up to more spaciousness, the emotions become less pressing, less of a burden, all of that thought is less compelling, less real, less defining.
The best healing is here at both the physical and the emotional level.
There are specific techniques for healing physical problems such that if you have a tumor, you could visualize light in the form of lightning and/or laser beam showers coming from the source of power to destroy or burn or wash it away. Such methods can totally cure, but at the very least suffering will be eased. Many things cannot be cured by changing your attitude, but you can live more peacefully with them. Changing your attitude about a chronic disease eases the suffering, reduces the intensity of the symptoms, improves the ability to function in the rest of your life and all of this is a very concrete payoff. Use the mind to visualize, use the notion of light, the ability to evoke a healing source of power in yourself - a new openness - seeing suffering as an opening to transformation, as a motivation.
Pain and difficulties are important to make us real, to make us realize our gifts and be aware of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It helps us to understand what other people have gone through and how people who experience problems come out better, kinder, gentler. This is the beginning of the essence of empathy, real compassion and caring with devotion and healing. Compassion is an opening process; there will be no border between you and me; we will be open to one another unoffended and without hidden agendas. Do not see people as good or bad, see them without conditions, this is opening and not grasping. But if you say "I like you because you are my friend," this is a condition.
These thoughts come from the hearts and minds of many kind teachers, from scriptures, from the experiences of fortunate and/or long struggling lives - others, yours, and mine. They are the right way of living, thinking, serving. They are the meditations on healing, treasures of wisdom that are tools for everyone. Most of this is common sense and universal wisdom for everyone.
Do as much of this as is comfortable for you: just continue.
H. Robert Silverstein, MD