Healing through meditation?

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Meditation is all the rage. The term is used frequently, sometimes incorrectly, and all too often treated in a very superficial way. Yet many people say it is beneficial for the mind, and even the body, with some claiming that it has the power to heal. The book “Meditation Saved My Life” recounts the story of Tibetan monk Phakyab Rinpoché, who found the power within himself to cure his gangrene. Needless to say, you should always seek medical advice and remain careful, but the subject is an interesting one.

In Tibet, when people fall ill, their first reaction is often to visit their lama, who will advise them on what meditation technique to pursue. The idea is not that medication will directly cure the illness, but that it can provide an ally against the disease and activate your strength of mind. Combating an illness also takes its toll on the nerves, and meditation can come into play to recharge your batteries and tackle any issues that might be sapping your energy. The illness should be accepted, but not seen as a foregone conclusion.

In the healing process, meditation works in two areas. The first of these is that when we meditate, the mind becomes peaceful, which leads to physical and mental relaxation. This creates a space in which energies flow more easily. Since body and mind are connected, it is indispensible for them to work in perfect harmony. The second area involves specific techniques to stimulate the healing forces. Obviously, you can’t just throw yourself into meditation and its different techniques; they require knowledge, preparation and practice.

The Tibetan monk Phakyab Rinpoché provides an interesting case. On 16 November 2003, while hospitalized in New York, he made the decision to stop his treatment. His diagnosis, however, was serious, involving “destructive necrosis” in his right ankle and tuberculosis of the bones in his vertebrae. The doctors agreed that the decomposition was too advanced to continue medication and that he required urgent amputation. Yet the monk would not change his mind. He didn’t agree with an amputation, considering that “cutting is not treating”. An answer to the letter he sent to the Dalai Lama confirmed his decision with the words, “Why are you looking for a remedy outside yourself? You have the wisdom inside that brings the force to heal. Once you are cured, you will teach the world how to heal”. Phakyab Rinpoché, who had been meditating since the age of 16, took three years to fully recover and walk again without a crutch. His doctors call it an “unexplained recovery” and a “miracle”. He regrets that they are so closed to the possibilities of meditation and the power of mind over body.

Further reading: “Meditation Saved My Life” by Phakyab Rinpoche and Sofia Stril-Rever, New World Library.