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Tibetan Medicine and the Seven-Pointed Meditation Posture of Vairochana

March 25th, 2018 Posted in Meditation & Medicine

© 2018 Nashalla G. Nyinda, Menpa TMD

There are whole volumes of commentaries written about the chakras, channels and the way in which the subtle and gross bodily substances move throughout the human form. These translate most often as the winds, or sometimes you may have heard of them from Yoga as prana, or the vata. In the Chinese system they relate the movement of the winds to Chi or life-force. All Asian medicines agree that there is both a gross and subtle movement of life energy which effects the body, mind and emotional or spirit levels. Rather than a very detailed piece, this is a rather broad overview of these aspects of wind encountered both in Tibetan Medicine and meditation practice.

This is written to assist both beginning meditation practitioners cultivate the awareness to posture, as well as point out specifics for those who have cultivated a meditation practice for many years under the guidance of a qualified master. Some long time meditators may have instructions for advanced practices which have a direct relationship to the five rLung or winds. For advanced practices it is vital to relate to ones own gross bodily level. In this way, through body-mind awareness, the subtle levels are understood through the gross and vice versa, creating more stability and lasting changes internally on both the physical and mental levels. The more we practice meditation, the more these two aspects of gross and subtle merge.

On a very practical level, this is what all the popular concepts of “mindfulness” refer to. Not only is cultivating awareness during meditation vital to creating awareness in post-meditation, but they support one another. In a real sense, cultivating “mindfulness” as it is being presented today as a modern concept is as interdependent to any spiritual, simple meditation practice, breathing or yogic practice, as are walks in nature, doing the dishes, giving a presentation, or driving our car. The whole point is to cultivate awareness and mindfulness in every moment, not just in Yoga or meditation.

Watching ones mind, especially when we realize emotions and responses are brewing, is only one aspect. Yet it is also the direct result of cultivated awareness. Nurturing awareness of our mind as it effects our body and emotions is the point of learning to be more “mindful” and less reactive. Awareness of the movement of energy within the body and mind directly lead to this kind of presence. Through cultivation of such awareness, or mindfulness, we can change our physical, mental and emotional habitual patterns and tendencies. Our reactions and emotional responses do not necessarily come first, our awareness of the bodily sensation and emotions arising does. This is where we get less caught up in emotional and physical reactions and more clear about what we feel or sense. The health benefits to meditation are well documented. This in a real sense is why it has become so popular. Yet Buddhism has long known meditation brings increased mental peace, calm and health.

Posture plays a direct roll in aiding both clarity of mental focus and clarity of realization in meditation. It does this on both gross and subtle levels. When the mind stills, our energy can actually flow differently. Think for a minuet if we are experiencing a intense emotion. How we may not be fully present to our body other than the emotion, it takes over. Yet we may feel hot, or increased nerve system sensation, a increased heart beat, shortness of breath, sensations of numbness or cloudy mind. However as we may have heard, meditation can ‘clean’ our channels and things open internally. This makes room for further stilling of discursive thoughts and emotions.

Instead as the emotions and reactions arise we clearly see them emerge. We can watch them as an observer. This is sometimes just a brief moment before they fully take over our body or mental state. However over time, such moments increase. We are cultivating watching these habits and reactions with curiosity and non-judgement. This means we are becoming less controlled by them. On a very real level this awareness of thoughts and emotions coming forward in our system results in not getting tangled up in them. Rather we cultivate mindfulness in observing these reactions, emotion and thoughts with less involvement, more curiosity. This directly protects our bodies from stress hormones, blood pressure increases, and saying or reacting in ways that will not benefit us or the situation. Rather than being swept away by reaction, which can lead to many levels of mental anguish, those moments of space gives rise to options we previously did not know were possible.

By learning the basic mechanics of awareness through meditation as it relates your physical body, the more you cultivate inner awareness of the subtle and gross changes meditation can bring on the body, mental and emotional level. The more space or room to cultivate mindfulness we give to our everyday moments, the more frequent we begin to see different reactions emerge. This is when the magic happens. This is where we cultivate an inner peace that extends well beyond the meditation cushion. This is where the channels in the gross and subtle body are changed, cleaned and open.

The five primary winds and their functions:

Life Sustaining Wind – Srog aDzin rLung “Sok-Zin Loong”

སྲོག་འཛིན་རླུང་

Location - Crown of Head

Pathway – Pharynx & Esophagus

Functions – Swallowing, inhaling, sneezing, spitting, belching, clears perceptions of the sense organs and the mental constructs, governs and integrates the mind/body/spirit system. If this wind is disordered, a variety of physical or mental issues may arise. Specific examples mentioned within the Four Tantras include confusion, hearing sounds, hallucinations, one may easily lose balance or even experience loss of consciousness.

Ascending Wind - Gyen rGyu rLung “Gen-Gur-Loong”

གྱེན་རྒྱུའི་རླུང་

Location – Torso / Chest

Pathway - Nostrils, throat, and tongue

Functions – Speech, clear complexion, regulation of body color, stamina, clarity of mind and memory, awareness in general and the ability to focus and with diligence. Disordered states of this wind Malfunctions of this wind cause disorders of the upper part of the body, such as lung disorders, breathing difficulties, loss of voice, neck and shoulder pain, as well as headaches.

All Pervasive Wind Khyab byed rLung “Kap-Je-Loong”

ཁྱབ་བྱེད་ཀྱེ་རླུང་

Location – Heart

Pathway – Runs through and pervades the entire body via the blood vessel channels

Functions – Governs all body movements, muscle functions: walking, stretching, lifting, movement, contracting. The opening and closing of orifices and verbal, mental and physical functions rely upon this to function well. The manifestation of a disordered state for this particular wind results in loss of balance, stress and anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations and discomfort or disease, shoulder and back pain presenting as a mixed wind disorder in including blood circulation diseases.

Fire-Accompanying WindMe mNyam rLung “May-Nyam-Loong”

མེ་མཉམ་རླུང་

Location – Stomach *Note: Traditionally the text only states ‘stomach’ I assert however that as in the case of the other three digestive powers, this may also include the duodenum*

Pathway – Runs throughout the alimentary canal

Functions – The primary function is regulating the digestive system. By separating nutriment from waste, it aids in the digestive process and ripens the successive objects of harm (feces, urine, and sweat). In a disordered state, you see both acute and chronic digestive disorders, constipation, low metabolism, poor absorption, and a variety of indigestion states found in combination with other energies, primarily Bad kan (earth and water) disorders.

Downwards Voiding WindThur Sel rLung Wind “True-Sil-Loong”

ཐུལ་སེལ་རླུང་

Location – “Secret Chakra” Area / Anal canal / Urethra / Vaginal canal

Pathway - Large Intestine, urinary bladder, reproductive organs, and thighs, rules the body functions below the navel.

Functions – Facilitates the function of holding and releasing feces, urine, sperm, menstrual fluids, fetus and placenta. Malfunctions of this wind demonstrate as lower body blood circulation disorders, lower abdominal disturbances, particularly in the reproductive function and abdominal organ prolapse.

Position For Meditation -

Seven-Pointed Meditation Posture of Vairochana

Each of the five rLung (winds) relate and balance by the seven-pointed posture. The posture helps calm excess circulation of one type of wind, and supports the settling of mind.

1. Legs crossed *in vajra (full lotus) position or crossed sitting.

2. Hands in meditation mudra, left hand under right at the level of the groin.

  • These first two postures work directly with the functions of the Thur Sel rLung Wind ཐུལ་སེལ་རླུང་ the Downwards Voiding Wind.

3. Spine and back straight (as if vertebra are a stack of golden coins, just as is described in yoga practices) to allow the flow of the wind more easily.

  • This third posture regulates and harmonizes the Me mNyam rLung མེ་མཉམ་ Fire-Accompanying Wind.

4. Jaw relaxed, tongue against pallet.

  • This works with our Srog aDzin rLung སྲོག་འཛིན་རླུང་ Life Sustaining Wind.

5. Head chin tilted very slightly forward and down (to open the throat and straighten the back of spine).

  • The chin tilted elongates the neck and very clearly will help work with our Gyen rGyu rLung གྱེན་རྒྱུའི་རླུང་ Ascending Wind.

6. Shoulders level and relaxed, scapula’s (wings) laying down the back.

  • Khyab Byed rLung ཁྱབ་བྱེད་ཀྱེ་རླུང་ All Pervasive Wind is nicely balanced with the shoulders relaxed, allowing for the energy to the arms and the legs to flow more freely.

7. Eyes slightly open, gaze directed downwards or twelve or so inches ahead fro the tip of the nose.

  • The gaze is very important for calming the wind, or preventing stupor. In placing the gaze at the appropriate location for your primary energy the Srog aDzin rLung སྲོག་འཛིན་རླུང་ Life Sustaining Wind is assisted in remaining in its own location.

It is important to know your bodies limits and comfort level. It is neither important nor helpful to suffer in pain if there is a limitation to sitting on the floor or in full lotus (legs crossed) posture. The pain will distract you and that is not good for developing or cultivating calm or stillness! Rather you can adjust as needed, use cushions under your feet or knees, or sit in a chair. You will not hamper your path to enlightenment – promise!

Yoga is the perfect adjunct or preliminary to meditation practice. In the Tibetan medical tradition yogic practices are an integral part of the path of meditation. Not only does it open up the gross and subtle channels, help purification through breath and movement, but helps release physical muscular tensions which can lead to discomfort while sitting in meditation. Even just 5 minutes of stretching before you do meditation and the nine-fold breath purification can greatly enhance your bodily and mental comfort during meditation.

Images credited: 1-3

1: https://www.danielwise.net/meditation/ 2: H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang on the subtle effects of meditation posture and 3: https://www.qi-journal.com Illistrated by Michael McKee

Seeking a qualified teacher or meditation instructor to help you realize and work with the more gross and subtle aspects of the winds and channels is imperative.

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