Tag Archive for: anxiety

The Effortless Sleep Method

Can’t sleep? So many of us struggle with poor sleep, broken sleep or insomnia from a variety of inner, environmental and behavioral reasons. Aging is one of the most common, particularly in women over 40 and it can wreak havoc on one’s overall functioning. Believe me, I know, I’ve battled with this on and off for 10 years now. I use Tibetan, Chinese and Functional medicine, and it all helps. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is also known as CBTI and is more powerful than sleeping pills with no dangerous side effects.

However, if your insomnia is very severe and all herbs and supplements fail, there are times where the doctors may prescribe a short term of sleeping pills (2 weeks or so). This is a temporary stop gap to reset your system, as long as they are carefully monitored and slowly tapered and used only in the most urgent situations where strict CBTI fails. Please see our other articles about sleeping pill tapering. Here is a distilled compilation of recommendations from the foremost book, The Effortless Sleep Method (the author, Sasha Stephens is referred to as the Insomnia exorcist!), CBTI for Veterans and the book Prescriptions for Natural Healing.

Here is a summary of what Sasha says, please download her e-book or listen on Audible for details.

  2. NO NAPS

Achieve a solid base of sleeptime habits:

A. You are really tired and sleepy when you go to bed at night and
B. Make the bed be associated with being asleep and not with lying awake fretting.

A powerful mantra that removes pressure is:


Sasha Stephens

Veterans Tools


Install the App for free:


Sleep Hygiene

The most common cause of insomnia is a change in your daily routine. For example, traveling, change in work hours, disruption of other behaviors (eating, exercise, leisure, etc.), and relationship conflicts can all cause sleep problems. Paying attention to good sleep hygiene is the most important thing you can do to maintain good sleep.


1. Go to bed at the same time each day.

2. Get up from bed at the same time each day. Try to maintain something close to this on weekends.

3. Get regular exercise each day, preferably in the morning. There is good evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise.

4. Get regular exposure to outdoor or bright lights, especially in the late afternoon.

5. Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable.

6. Keep the bedroom quiet when sleeping.

7. Keep the bedroom dark enough to facilitate sleep.

8. Use your bed only for sleep (and sexual activity). This will help you associate your bed with sleep, not with other activities like paying bills, talking on the phone, watching TV.

9. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Relaxing rituals prior to bedtime may include a warm bath or shower, aromatherapy, reading, or listening to soothing music.

10. Use a relaxation exercise just before going to sleep or use relaxing imagery. Even if you don’t fall asleep, this will allow your body to rest and feel relaxed.

11. Keep your feet and hands warm. Wear warm socks to bed.

12. Designate another time to write down problems & possible solutions in the late afternoon or early evening, not close to bedtime. Do not dwell on any one thought or idea—merely jot something down and put the idea aside.

Do Not’s:

1. Exercise just before going to bed. Try to keep it no closer than 3-4 hrs before bed.

2. Engage in stimulating activity just before bed, such as playing a competitive game, watching an exciting program on television or movie, or having an important discussion with a loved one.

3. Have caffeine in the evening (coffee, many teas, chocolate, sodas, etc.)

4. Read or watch television in bed.

5. Use alcohol to help you sleep. It actually interrupts your sleep cycle.

6. Go to bed too hungry or too full.

7. Take another person’s sleeping pills.

8. Take over-the-counter sleeping pills, without your doctor’s knowledge. Tolerance can develop rapidly with these medications.

9. Take daytime naps. If you do, keep them to no more than 20 minutes, 8 hrs before bedtime.

10. Command yourself to go to sleep. This only makes your mind and body more alert.

11. Watch the clock or count minutes; this usually causes more anxiety, which keeps you up.

12. Lie in bed awake for more than 20-30 minutes. Instead, get up, go to a different room (or different part of the bedroom), participate in a quiet activity (e.g. non-excitable reading), and then return to bed when you feel sleepy. Do not turn on lights or sit in front of a bright TV or computer, this will stimulate your brain to wake up. Stay in a dark, quiet place. Do this as many times during the night as needed.

13. Succumb to maladaptive thoughts like: “Oh no, look how late it is, I’ll never get to sleep” or “I must have eight hours of sleep each night, if I get less than eight hours of sleep I will get sick.” Challenge your concerns and avoid catastrophizing. Remember that we cannot fully control our sleep process. Trying too hard to control it will make you more tense and more awake.

14. Change your daytime routine the next day if you didn’t sleep well. Even if you have a bad night sleep and are tired it is important that you try to keep your daytime activities the same as you had planned. That is, don’t avoid activities or stay in bed late because you feel tired. This can reinforce the insomnia.

15. Increase caffeine intakes the next day, this can keep you up again the following night.

Functional Medicine Supplement and Herbs


Functional Medicine Suggestions from Prescriptions for Natural Healing by Phyllis A. Balch CNC (Author)

I have also used this formula called SLEEP REMEDY and it has helped so much, it was made for Navy Seals!




Adapted from:


http://web.mac.com/jendanielle/Site/MentalHealth_file /Sleep%20Hygeine%20WORKSHEET.pdf



Reprinted from Mandala Magazine September, 2004 DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK

By Paula Chichester (Lhundup Nyingje), Retreat Advisor to Land of Joy

Ordained for the last 13 years, Ven. Paula has devoted 24 years of her life to Buddhist retreat practice. She bridges the culture gap to enable Western people to attain Buddhadharma realizations by leading inspiring retreats and by giving advice on the support for and environmental needs of retreatants.

“The most important aspect of retreat is to keep your mind happy…. Practice should be free of looking for results. Even if you spend your entire life doing practice and have not a single experience, no results at all, it should still be a cause for great joy to have spent your life like that.”—Geshe Lhundup Sopa

Lung (pronounced “loong”), or ‘meditator’s disease’, happens to almost every meditator, even very experienced ones. It is similar to an athlete who strains a muscle and then has to rest for a while to let that muscle heal. We meditators strain our nervous systems. Some of us already have a strained nervous system when we begin our meditation practice. Unless the lung is very severe, it is nothing to be afraid of or to worry about, it is just a trade hazard that we can learn to work with and endure. Lung is our teacher because it is the feedback we receive when we are not meditating properly – or not living a balanced lifestyle. Lung is the Tibetan word for ‘wind’. Generally, meditator’s lung is congested chi in and around the heart chakra. We all learn about lung when we attend our first Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist group meditation retreat. Either we get it, or we hear about it from our friends who get it. Lung literally means wind but we can translate it, in this context, as ‘mental stress’. The mind rides on the subtle winds of the body, and when the winds don’t run smoothly, we feel stress. When many people begin a retreat on a Tibetan mantra yoga sadhana practice that involves visualizing complicated forms, reciting liturgy, and reciting mantras, they discover after a week or a month that their minds actually become more agitated than they were before. They may experience pain in the chest or back pain, or headaches; they may cry easily and anger easily, too. They may feel anxious or have panic attacks or insomnia. Some people become depressed. Some people have delusional paranoia, hear things, or feel strange sensations in their bodies. Others have indigestion, constipation, or diarrhea. Lung is often experienced as a negative attitude toward the practice (your mind and body want to stop!) so you experience doubts about the practice, doubts about your lama. Lung can become bad if it is not remedied, and if the person continues the pattern that causes it, it’s possible to become severely mentally disturbed. But that is rare. Mostly it’s just a negative mind or a nagging obsession that won’t go away. Sometimes lung manifests as an aversion to meditating. You just don’t want to go back and sit on that cushion!

Anyone under mental pressure and strain experiences lung. Meeting deadlines at work, family stress, and studying for final exams all bring on lung. Everyone has their own style of lung. It’s a good idea to learn your personal pattern so you can know when to relax in your retreat. When you start to feel negative or can’t sleep one night or have indigestion, or when you uncontrollably growl at someone, then you know it is time to rest, to back off on the intensity of your practice. Often there are signs that indicate lung is on the verge of breaking out into major symptoms. For me, I almost always have an anxiety dream based on the theme of the night before a final exam at university when I haven’t studied at all and I’m frantic. That tells me, “Time to slow down, Nyingje-la!” When I used to start designing fashions in my meditation sessions while reciting a mantra, I knew it was time for a good long break and a walk.

When some of our wonderful Tibetan masters first encountered people from modern industrialized societies, they were impressed with our level of education and intellectual acuity; thus, they assumed we would make great practitioners. They taught us advanced practices and soon watched us all get lung! I think this is rather like a figure skating master who discovers a group of ballet dancers and thinks they will make great figure skaters. The ballet dancers get out on the ice and try to dance, and they all end up with sprained ankles and broken bones. We have these greatly activated minds, but they developed without any awareness of the winds that carry those mind-bytes. Watching our breath and learning about our wind-mind before we add all the visualizations and mantras is like skating round and round the rink for hours and hours before we even try to turn around on the skates.

Geshe Rabten thought all Westerners have tsog lung (chronic heart lung). After he spent a year leading a calm abiding retreat for Westerners, Gen Lamrimpa said to us that he thought Westerners could never learn to meditate: Our minds are too fast because we grew up with machines and computers. In other words, we all have chronic low- grade anxiety or tsog lung. It is so ubiquitous that we think it is normal. There is an epidemic of depression and anxiety in modern industrialized society that is growing rapidly, even among children. Our lifestyle gives us lung. This same source of most of our health problems is also what causes us to have a difficult time in meditation retreats.

When we talk about lung, we must distinguish between acute lung and chronic lung. Acute lung comes from concentrating too hard on the mandala or reciting mantras too fast or working too hard in service at our jobs, or frustration in relationships. Chronic lung can be treated with herbs, diet, acupuncture, Tibetan medicine, and talking therapies. I would try these options before going to pharmaceuticals because in the long run these chemicals may only compound the imbalance.

However, when symptoms are especially intense, people may need immediate relief. You might decide to take pharmaceuticals for a short time, with the help of other supportive therapies, and then slowly wean yourself off them. I would recommend checking with a lama before taking any pharmaceutical chemicals. It is my impression that they are dispensed far too easily, and they may harm the body and mind in the long term. If a person is willing to change their eating habits, take herbs, or go to an acupuncturist and/or a skillful psychotherapist, pharmaceutical medicines are most likely not necessary.


How and why we get lung

Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche told us that faith and intention are the main activities of tantric practice. This is so important. We get lung because we don’t know this essential ingredient. We get too serious and try very hard to see all the details of the mandala and to say thousands of mantras a day, thinking that more is better. This gives us lung.

In Tibetan medicine, lung (wind) imbalance is related to attachment; bile imbalance is related to anger/aversion; and phlegm imbalance is related to ignorance. At first, it may not be so clear how unskillful meditation that leads to lung is related to attachment. If you think of attachment as the mind that wants, that grasps, that clings, and then check up while you meditate, you can see how a subtle version of grasping and clinging can abide with you as you focus on your meditation object. It comes in the form of wanting more clarity than you have, or wanting to finish up, or not wanting to finish. If you are in a neutral state of mind, and then think of something you want to do, you can feel a slight tightening in your chest, a little excitement or anticipation. Most of us think this is happiness, but it is actually a state of grasping. This can also cause lung.

Those who do – and don’t – get lung

People who meditate for stress reduction purposes only and aren’t interested in attaining enlightenment probably don’t get lung. We get lung because we are trying to do something, trying to attain something, instead of relaxing and letting it happen naturally. Lung comes from forcing our mind beyond its capacity to stay relaxed while meditating. The key to good meditation is a relaxed mind. Forcing the mind to concentrate only harms our development in the long run. This is very hard to learn because we don’t often know when we are forcing our mind – until we get lung! We are habituated to having a slightly grasping or excited mind when we do things, because this is often where we find the energy to do what we want to do; but this does not work for us when we want to meditate. We get lung from forcing our minds to stay on the meditation object when it is tired. We get lung from saying the mantra too fast and for too long. We get lung from forcing a visualization to be clear. We get lung from trying to keep the thoughts at bay instead of understanding that it’s okay for thoughts to come and go. What we are looking for is to stabilize on the mind that lies below the thoughts. No accepting and no rejecting…the ocean, not the waves…remember?

Lung usually comes on very slowly, after days of forcing concentration or reciting mantras too fast without being aware of it. By the time you realize you have lung, it’s very hard to dissipate without stopping the meditation altogether and resting the mind for a few days by engaging in fun and play. Lung just seems to be part of learning how to do Vajrayana practice. The more you practice, the sooner you identify the habits that lead to lung, and therefore it becomes less and less of a problem. The more you meditate, the more you are able to perceive the texture of your mind, so you can see or hear the mistakes just as an artist or a musician would. It just takes time on the cushion. Like any other form of discipline, it only becomes easy with a lot of effort…right effort: gentle, loving, relaxed, no expectation, no pushing effort. We need to remember that one of the four powers of joyous effort in Shantideva’s teachings on the six perfections is the power of rest. In modern industrialized society, resting is a sign of weakness. Rest is just as important as activity in manifesting any sort of production.

Tibetan masters describe the process of meditation as being similar to training a wild horse. If you tether it to a short rope and try to beat it into submission, you will have a very difficult time taming that horse. But if you give it a large corral to run in and approach the wild animal with kindness and love, you can ride that horse in a short while. Remember the movie, The Horse Whisperer? We have to learn to relax our minds and treat ourselves very gently. Ribur Rinpoche tells us over and over again, “…r..e..l..a..x….”

This is the key to meditation without lung.

Lung prevention and management:

1. Don’t push yourself, your body or your mind – more is not better and might is not right. Whatever you do, do it for others!

2. Prostrate before sessions or do chi gong in the breaks. Twice a day is good, if you can.

3. Begin your session with a quiet time, calming your mind, tuning in to your energy. Breathe into your lower chakras and let the anxiety come out. Melt the tension with the experience of refuge. Soothe your inner child; listen kindly to its complaints.

4. End your session with five minutes of spacious meditation, just relaxing into the three circles of emptiness of dedication or relax at the dissolution time. Even though you want to get up, just sit and breathe into the mental tension until your mind is relaxed. Aim to end the session before you are tired. Also, you can visualize your hollow body filled with five-colored lights radiating out all the lung and blessing all the sentient beings and the environment.

5. Spend a little time every day, if possible, relaxing your gaze by looking up at the sky or staring out at a long distance view as you gently recognize emptiness. This really lets the lung out.

6. Eat enough protein and cut back on (not cut out!) all sweets. Eat a well-balanced diet, suited to your body type and health needs, i.e., study nutrition. Exercise six days a week.

7. Learn to relax in all your actions. Meditation is play, not work. Relax: Lie down or sit in a comfortable chair or do chi gong for a few minutes after your session ends. (This is advice from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.)

8. Don’t force your visualization. Be satisfied with what comes.

9. Contentment is the key to a good retreat; cultivate contentment and a happy mind. Meditate on the innermost jewels of the Kadam geshes every day. The key to contentment is breathing with bodhichitta all the time. Detach yourself from grasping experiences by a deep understanding of karma, and let go of all notions of blame and shame. “Follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell used to say. 10. ‘Set your re-set button’ once a week, if not once a day. That is, recreate until you feel grounded, open, joyful, clear, and motivated.


Advice about Lung from Lama Zopa Rinpoche

[Excerpted from a forthcoming book of selections of advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche to students on everything from specific practice questions to personal problems. The book will be on sale later this year.]

1. To a monk who has lung “I understand about lung. When one is bored and tired of doing prayers, one sees the prayer book, and lung comes. Things that are difficult and things that we don’t like bring lung. I don’t think that the things you really enjoy give lung. Do you agree? Sometimes when you do something with so much energy, sudden- ly the energy changes and then you change; you give up. For example, a monk worked so hard for a very long time with computers, even through the night; then it suddenly changed, and he couldn’t do it any- more. The energy just changed! “So in this case, something that you get bored with and don’t like will give you lung. Psychologically, the antidote is to accept. Whenever you encounter problems, rather than being unhappy about it, accept it as a result of past karma, then it no longer becomes a problem, or it is much less of a problem. Think especially of the benefits. Kadam Geshe Karab Gomchung said that even a small suffering in the present finishes heavy past negative karmas that cause us to be reborn in the lower realms, where we would experience suffering for many eons.

As a result, there will be a happy life in the future. “Therefore, one should meditate, rejoicing in the suffering. Of course, as you know from thought trans- formation, you can use your problem to practice bodhichitta, use it for the ‘taking and giving’ practice — taking all sentient beings’ suffering in the form of pollution through the nostrils, taking it into the heart, destroying all the ego and the self-cherishing thought completely, so there’s nothing left. Do this a few times. At other times, think, ‘I’m experiencing this for all sentient beings.’ “By doing this, you collect skies of merit, and the body becomes like a wish-granting jewel. With this body, when you experience suffering for others with each taking and giving, many eons of negative karma are purified. Each time you come closer to enlightenment. This is the best practice, as you know! “You can also use the lung incense made by Tibetans, apply Tiger Balm, or take the Tibetan medicine, Agar 35, for life-wind sicknesses.”

2. To a student who could not sleep “People in the West think that if you do not sleep there is something wrong with you, but is it is only a problem if it is causing harm to your health; other- wise, it can be very useful. Maybe people who need to do clear light meditation need to sleep. Actually, my job is putting people to sleep, I think you know this! “If you can’t fall asleep, one method is to do prayers and read the Lam-rim. Maybe if you try to meditate for a long time you will fall asleep. For problems associated with lung eating meat can be very beneficial, and eating garlic and onion can help as well. Also, one can drink broth made from bones, boiling the bones in hot water [see Mandala June-July 2004 Tibetan Medicine]. “The best thing to do is the practice of the 35 Confession Buddhas, with prostrations and recitation. This may help because it purifies your negative karma and creates the cause for you to achieve enlighten- ment. You can do it in the morning or evening.”

3. To a student who said she had had lung for the past three years “Visualize the guru on your crown. Nectar flows from the guru’s heart down into your body, speech, and mind, purifying illness, spirit harm, negative karma, and obscurations (especially lung energy). As you visualize this, recite the guru’s mantra. “This method can also be used for any heavy sickness. While the guru is still on the crown of your head, make strong request with total reliance on the ‘ guru for this negative karma to be purified completely. Do this before absorbing the guru into the heart. “When you have strong lung, while standing, visualize an iron nine-pronged vajra at your heart, inside your body. This iron vajra is red-hot, blazing oneness with fire. Concentrate pointedly on that vajra. That is the main practice.”

4. To a nun was suffering from lung in the heart, and depression. Rinpoche recommended acupuncture and the following Tibetan precious pills: Moon Crystal, three a week for seven weeks, and Rinchen Jumar, four times a week for seven weeks. This completely got rid of her lung.

5. To a monk who had been experiencing serious lung while attending the Basic Study program. He had begun having difficulty studying, to the point that he requested permission to become a part- time student. He requested Lama Zopa’s advice as to whether he should remain at the study center and do part-time study, or work part-time. He also asked Rinpoche to recommend a practice for him to do. Rinpoche responded as follows: “Early in the morning, and at night, breathe in very strongly and then breathe out very strongly. Think that the lung has gone out as negative karma. Do this many times. Also do the physical exercises from the Six Yogas of Naropa. Chi Gong is also helpful.

“There is a special lung practice called Mani Hardun that Lama Tsongkhapa came across when he was studying and was manifesting the aspect of lung. He received the practice from an old Sakya monk. It may be difficult to find, but you could ask a geshe. A student received the transmission for this practice from Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and was cured just by receiving the transmission.”

LungTheMeditatorsDisease PDF






Over the years, I’ve consulted and mentored with a few experts in the field of anxiety, alternative medicine and functional medicine. These two doctors that helped when I’ve had questions or intermittent bouts of anxiety and insomnia had positive, encouraging and alternative views about anxiety. They offered treatments that do not involve taking anti-anxiety medicine, antidepressants or any type of allopathic medicine.

As a health and wellness coach, I of course, cannot advise people to either take medicine or not, and please never discontinue your prescribed medicine without a doctor’s careful supervision. My personal choice is to work with the propensity to have anxiety in a holistic, whole-person way, and these are invaluable tools irrespective of your medication usage. Every small change helps; I suggest making just a few incremental changes when we are trying to change a hardwired habit or propensity. This list of 12 steps came as a summary and mind/body suggestions from one of my excellent Mind/Body Medical Doctors here in Boulder Colorado, and I personally have benefited from these suggestions and resources so wanted to share them with you:



A New Way of Thinking About Anxiety

The Mind/Body doctor wanted to emphasize that anxiety and insomnia is a very common problem, and not a psychiatric disease. Anxiety, as far as he is concerned, is a normal brain responding in a very common way to experiences it has had. He said that it was very important to understand that we are not broken and we do not have a “disorder” that has to be “fixed”. He noted that people who suffer with this, have some brain circuits that developed outside of our conscious awareness, and we can work towards self healing.

He states: “I think we do ourselves a grave disservice when we call anxiety a “disorder”. It is a physiologic condition (not a psychiatric “illness”) characterized by increased adrenaline, cortisol, histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. We may be having these symptoms more frequently than we would like, but this is not a disorder or a disease. Diabetes and appendicitis are disorders/diseases and can be treated medically, but anxiety is a condition that has been shared by almost everyone on the planet, so let’s not call it a disorder. Now that we understand how your own brain (autonomic nervous system) is causing your symptoms, we can take some steps to change the patterns your brain is running.” Bradley D Fanestil, MD.

Suggestions for Education and Treatment

1. Watch this TED Talk by Johann Hari. His book has way more great information and he usually recommends that EVERYONE with anxiety or depression read his book called “Lost Connections”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB5IX-np5fE&t=873s From his TED Talk: “If you’re depressed, if you’re anxious, you’re not weak, you’re not crazy, you’re not in the main a machine with broken parts. You’re a human being with unmet needs.”

2. Watch this TEDx Talk by Tim Box about anxiety. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZidGozDhOjg

3. Or this TED Talk by Kelly McGonagle about stress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU&t=360s

4. Consider reading “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” by Claire Weekes MD

5. Read this blog by David Hanscom MD (author of “Back in Control: a surgeon’s roadmap out of chronic pain“. Also, internet and podcasts.

*If we have issues with anger (not everyone does), here is a podcast where David Hanscom is interviewed about anxiety and anger: https://vidalspeaks.com/podcasts/emotional-healing/dr-david-hanscom-anger-and-forgiveness-episode-84/

6. We might talk more about the power of mindfulness and meditation in the future. There is a LOT of scientific evidence that brain chemistry, brain circuitry and even brain VOLUME changes with mindfulness practices.

Active Mini-Meditation

For now, he recommended that we start doing an “active mini-meditation” – for just 3 seconds – multiple times per day:

A. Drop your shoulders.

B. Do a three second “active mini-meditation”, drop your shoulders and then take one slow deep breath in and out through the nose.

C. Repeat throughout he day, when needed.

7. If we have been told we have ADD or ADHD, consider reading  Scattered Minds by Gabor Mate.

8. Watch this 4 minute Gabor Mate video clip:

9. Watch this TED Talk by Phil Borges, director of the movie “Crazywise”-

10. Try expressive writing – ok to not continue with it if we do not perceive any benefit, but just try it for 2-3 days and see if we notice any less tension in your system or any other benefits. After that, we can decide if it is something we want to continue regularly or not at all or just on certain days.

11. Commit to engaging with the idea that we can take control over our own nervous system.

Mind Body Medicine is a form of Self-Care, and requires for us to do some work.

Our symptoms are in no way our fault. Instead they emanate from neural circuits in the brain that began outside of our conscious awareness. But even so, there are ways to rewire these neural circuits so that we can feel better. Medications and procedures might temporarily blunt symptoms, but only YOU can change the neural pathways that your brain is running, so he insists that we start educating ourselves.

12. Education, education, education. Look at the suggested videos, start reading books. We should learn as much as we can about new neuroscience in order to understand how our subconscious brain (our Autonomic Nervous System) is running alarm signals and to start believing that we can get control over it, and heal completely.

Working with these alternative doctors and both Mind/Body and Functional Medicine, has been invaluable to me over the years as part of my healing process. The doctor that I went to, Bradley D Fanestil, MD. was actually covered by insurance, as a lot of policies are now honoring alternative medicine like chiropractic, acupuncture, preventative medicine, wellness medicine and even Reiki healing. Dr. Fanesil, met with me for almost two hours awhile back and he was so excited about his craft and his understanding of the bio-mechanics of anxiety. He passionately wants to impart to all of us, how these issues are hardwired into our autonomic nervous system and, according to him, are not considered a mental illness. Anxiety and insomnia are natural, common and normal responses to trauma, stress, adrenal fatigue and certain life experiences. With a few small mindfulness techniques, education and self care, over time, he believes that we could heal and restore our systems completely.


Photo by Los Muertos Crew from Pexels

Including: four stages of wind disturbance along the spiritual path

(a special contribution by Segyu Choepel Rinpoche)

By Carolyn Chan

A grasp of the three humors: wind, bile, and phlegm, (tib. rlung, mkhrispa and badken), and their relationship to the development and functioning of the body-mind, underlies any understanding of Tibetan medicine. Good health which also includes mental and emotional wellbeing, depends on their balance, and because each person is different, the point of humoral balance varies from person to person. In western societies, the balancing of rlung has been problematic, with the modern high performance, furious paced lifestyle proving fertile spawning ground for numerous rlung disorders, many conveniently labelled “stress related”.

Over the past year I have had many chances to observe rlung disorders up close, as three of my close friends manifested symptoms and suffered terribly for many months. (Names changed to protect identity). Debra, after an unpleasant medical diagnosis, spiraled uncontrollably into anxiety, sleeplessness, panic attacks and rapid weight loss. Though her diagnosis pointed to something potentially serious, it was at a curable stage, and she planned to start treatment right away. She said she knew all this, but couldn’t seem to help herself. Then there was Linda, whose daughter had taken up a new set of friends and been in trouble twice at school. Linda like Debra, became anxious, sleepless, and full of fears that left her incapable of even simple tasks such as driving to the supermarket or clearing her mailbox. Both said they knew the root of the problem was their own minds, but neither were able to control the irrational thoughts which persisted. Ray was different, he had been experiencing a sharp stabbing pain on his right side for over a month. His doctor had sent him for a battery of medical tests and scans which turned up nothing, leaving him with the suggestion that it “must be muscular”. This was unhelpful to Ray who had been trying to sleep nights sitting up in a chair for a month. I told him about “drang rlung”, the cold abdominal wind, and though a cynic about all things esoteric, he dutifully followed instructions. After a few days his pain started to move, sometimes to his side, then to his back, till it gradually lessened and went away after another long month.

It was painful watching my friends suffer through these disorders. I learnt the big lesson that once a rLung disorder takes hold firmly, it is very difficult to displace and requires vast knowledge and understanding of the nature of rlung and its effects on the body-mind, to successfully treat at its root. My rudimentary knowledge of Tibetan medicine coupled with even less experience was not enough. I realized that while more obvious gross physical wind symptoms such as Ray’s pain, or the shrinking, drying skin and crooked arthritic joints of the elderly can be easily discerned, what is not obvious but just as painful, is the suffering of the mind caused by a rlung disorder.

It was with a view to learning more about the ubiquitous rlung disorder and its subtle effects on the body-mind that I spoke recently with Segyu Choepel Rinpoche, holder of the Tibetan Buddhist Segyu lineage of the Gelug school. Rinpoche has an extraordinarily rich, colorful background and is considered an expert in Transpersonal psychology as well as the healing traditions of his homeland, Brazil. With his deep roots in Tibetan Buddhist traditions and great personal interest and expertise in “treating holistically rather than specifically”[1], Rinpoche was naturally drawn to Tibetan medicine[2]. Rinpoche is very approachable, with a warm dimpled smile and kind twinkling eyes that see everything, including the questions you really want to ask. A razor sharp intellect quickly organizes his answers into bite size pieces to be chewed and digested by novices, such as myself. While I was particularly interested in Rinpoche’s perspective on rlung disorders in western society, I had the extreme good fortune of receiving much more, as Rinpoche shared his insight and knowledge of rlung disorders commonly found on the spiritual path. Rinpoche says that while rLung disorders are found in the general population, he observed some time ago that there seems to be a disproportionately higher incidence occurring in dharma centers. It is his opinion that the reason for this is because on top of any psychological problems that may be present in an individual, Vajrayana practices may further disturb the person’s rLung, as “spiritual practices go to the core of neuroses”.

tsa lung

According to Rinpoche, there are four stages of wind disturbance, which can take place along the spiritual path.

1.    Prior to spiritual practice.
Person recognizes their own emotional disturbance or psychological imbalance and goes to the dharma looking for solutions. The disturbance may manifest as unhappiness, depression, anger and aggression, and basic inability to deal with situations encountered in daily living. There is inability to control winds in the channels and blockages are present in their most gross form.

2.    Early in spiritual practice.
Person starts dharma practice and feels different, calmer, and is happy to have found a way to calm emotional disturbances. Spiritual practices create movement of the winds, in some cases it may increase the winds. The channel blocks remain and disharmony and agitation of the winds continue. The practitioner is however learning how to calm the mind and mental afflictions so there are less bouts of anger, craving, jealousy, etc., and the wind disorder manifests at a more subtle mental level as depression, agitation, insomnia, “spaciness”, and psychological angers.

3.    Seasoned spiritual practitioner.
After some time and effort in the practice, the person’s reaction to the practice is noticeable in resultant behavioral changes that have been incorporated into daily life. For example, the person has become more patient, kind, and compassionate in dealing with others, and because of these changes and knowledge gained, may even become sought after as meditation or dharma teachers. However, even with long spiritual practice that include purification practices, subtle blockages can remain. These blockages become more subtle, continuing to agitate the mind at a mental level, and the disorders above in #2 can persist in more subtle or hidden manner. It becomes difficult to eliminate these subtle blockages as due to prolonged spiritual practice the mental condition is very strong.

4.    Advanced spiritual practice
Where a practitioner is very advanced in spiritual practice, blockages can still exist, but they will exist at an extremely subtle level. They will therefore be very silent and very deep blockages. At this level the only way to uproot the blocks will be through a process of transmutation to the completion stage of complete enlightenment, where the rLung flows freely and easily through the body channels (tsa), “tsalung therapy”.

Experienced Doctors of Tibetan medicine are able to identify and calm the disturbed winds of the more gross types of wind disorders, using the tools of diet, behavior, medicines and external therapies. However, as practitioners advance in spiritual practice, channel blockages can become increasingly subtle. Where subtle blockages exist, practitioners may seek Tsalung trulkhor therapy (rtsa rlung ‘khrul ‘khor), which can restore natural channel function by cleaning the channels and removing blocks. Tsalung therapy is an advanced body-mind healing practice in Tibetan Tantric yoga meditation, where by tradition, its practice is restricted to only highly qualified Tantric practitioners.
Rinpoche is of the opinion that many western doctors do not understand the nature of the disorder, and therefore do not address the winds, ending up only treating the symptoms. Doctors of Tibetan medicine who are capable of diagnosing and treating the disorders effectively, are simply not available.
I am extremely grateful to Rinpoche for sharing his views on rlung disorders on the spiritual path. I believe this insightful breakdown can be most helpful in understanding the type of wind disorder present, and the most effective therapy to be applied. It seems obvious to me, that Doctors of Tibetan medicine with their long experience of dealing with rlung, should be considered as experts in this field. They are capable of rendering invaluable assistance to people living in western societies where rlung disorders are becoming increasingly commonplace.


[1] Since 2003, through Juniper Foundation in California, Rinpoche has been fulfilling the instructions of his root teacher Kyabje Lati Rinpoche (1922-2010), which were to, “…focus on the west, make the essence of Mahayana Buddhism available and accessible to the people over there”.

[2]Rinpoche recalls in 2010, his serendipitous encounter with an advertisement for the TME 3 year online course, which was just about to start. Rinpoche completed the 3-year course and is currently enrolled in the Advanced TME online course. Rinpoche speaks openly of his “pristine admiration”, for his teacher of Tibetan medicine, Dr. Pasang Y. Arya, and the ability with which he is able to “translate, update, and transmit Tibetan medicine in its true form to the west”.



Photo by Shashank Kumawat from Pexels
Photo by KoolShooters from Pexels