What is Buddhism? While it is an umbrella term for various principles and practices all wrapped in a cultural layer, at its core, Buddhism is really about nature. All Buddhist methods have the same ultimate aim—to reveal our true nature of clearness and wisdom.
While enlightenment (the realization of our Buddha nature) may feel far away, I think we can agree that any incremental development in clarity and wisdom will improve the quality of our decisions and, therefore, our entire life. I propose that one of the most accessible and practical things you can do to move in this direction is to care for the openness of your spine. To understand how caring for your spine can improve your life, let’s explore principles from Buddhism and Tibetan Medicine.
The Tantrayana (Vajrayana) path of Tibetan Buddhism is one of the most direct paths to accomplishing this aim of knowing our nature. It functions like science in that it uses empirical evidence to validate a natural law. In this case, it uses direct experience in the body to achieve realizations of our fundamental nature. In other words, clear awareness isn’t just a state of mind; it’s an embodiment. And we already have everything we need to get there. Just run the experiment and get the results.
Tibetan Medicine is a subcategory of Tantrayana. Its principles were developed from the teachings given by the historical Buddha around 900 BC. Both fields are concerned with optimizing the health of the body and mind. While Tibetan Medicine addresses the functioning of the physical body, Tantra goes deeper and addresses the functioning of the subtle body. The subtle body informs and energizes the physical body, so it is definitely not separate.
In both Tantrayana Buddhism and Tibetan Medicine, there is a significant focus on the spine. Our spine is the root of our body. It is the main highway through which neurological communication, blood flow, oxygen and nutrients are transported. Blockages in the spine directly impair organ function and limit communication between the central nervous system and the millions of motor and sensory nerves of the peripheral nervous system. So it is clear why the spine is central in medicine’s sphere of concern.
Our spine is also the energy box of our body. It is like a battery. Not only does the current of energy need to remain unobstructed and flowing to be useful, the energy also needs to be recharged periodically so that it doesn’t completely drain. Movement is what promotes the smooth flow of the current.
The Subtle Body & Spirituality
When the spine is obstructed, we experience emotional imbalance, including heightened stress, fear and anger. When everything is flowing smoothly along the spinal column, we experience more calmness, focus and creativity. To understand how spinal mobility promotes a beneficial state of mind, we enter the realm of the subtle body.
According to Tantrayana, our subtle body is our channels, and the wind-energy and essences that move in them. Blocked channels means blocked wind and essence. There is a tremendously intimate connection between the wind-energy (Tibetan: lung) and consciousness, as well as between the essences and emotions. When the wind is stuck, the mind is stuck. When the wind and essences are flowing, the mind is clear, stable and happy.
The goal of Tantrayana goes far beyond health and happiness; its aim is enlightenment. So why is it concerned with the spine? The spinal column holds the key to deep spiritual transformation. Our body is like a map to higher dimensions. There are hidden doors, portals of energy, that when opened catapult us to new levels of awareness and ability. The most important of these hidden doors, or chakras, are along the spinal column. Therefore, cultivating openness in the body changes our consciousness.
So, now I’d like to ask you: How is the health of your spine? Is it limber and spacious? Or is it becoming hunched, crunched and compacted? If you want to live an optimized life with energy, focus and passion, it is imperative that you start with the spine.
There is no excuse for not caring for your spine! There are extremely powerful reasons to do so (whether you are motivated by boosting physical health, longevity, mental clarity, emotional stability, boundless energy or spiritual development) and there are efficient and practical ways to get the job done. If you are not regularly doing something to nurture your spine, then you are neglecting it at your own peril. Either way, a decision is being made. My goal is to motivate you to prioritize the health of your spine and provide you with the tools to take action.
A Practical Method
Tantrayana, being an experiential science, contains many great techniques. First, we build a solid foundation by strengthening our physical health with Lu Jong. Once physical blockages are addressed, we implement subtler practices, such as Tsa Lung (train the breath), Tummo and Bliss (train the inner elements of fire and water) and Rigpa (empty nature of the mind).
Lu Jong is a series of movements rooted in Tibetan Medicine. It is a comprehensive practice that systematically releases blockages in the spine, joints and vital organs. Its rhythmic movements combined with smooth breathing also calm and focus the mind. It is a very practical method for improving health and happiness. Lu Jong also trains our channels to be supple and open, which have profound spiritual benefits. This is how the body is a vehicle for self-transformation.
You don’t need to take my word for it. Come experience Lu Jong for yourself on Wednesday, June 22, 6 – 8:30 pm at ATMA. I will guide you through these effective movements, which are accessible to all ages and abilities. Who knows? Maybe you will be moved to become a teacher yourself and play a role in sharing this beneficial practice with others.
Remember this: Blockages cause suffering at the level of the body and the mind. By opening the blocks in the body (especially along the spine) and unraveling the blocks in our mind (self-limiting beliefs, habitual thought patterns), we reach a new level of optimization, a new perspective from which to conduct our life and fulfill our dreams. You have all the tools, you just need to decide and do.
See you June 22nd!
Farrah Garan teaches Tibetan movement practices that empower us to cultivate a calm mind, vibrant energy and an open heart, including Lu Jong Healing Yoga, Tog Chöd Sword Dance, and Tsa Lung Breathwork. She received the Tantrayana tradition from her teacher, Tulku Lobsang. Farrah also offers teacher trainings so that more can benefit from these practical methods. Contact her at: email@example.com.