Tenzin Wangyal on Empowering the Body

The following article is from the Spring, 2012 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

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BY TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE

In this adaptation from Tibetan Yogas of Body, Speech and Mind, best-selling author Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche gives an invaluable teaching on transforming out experience of being embodied.

Even from our place in the pain body―that familiar, dense sense of egoistic identity formed by our conceptual, karmic, and emotional conditions―at any time we can find our way to a lighter sense of body.

Sitting in meditation is one method. Another is simply the way we attend to our physical body and our physical environment.

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In the Bon shamamic tradition, one approach to physical empowerment is to wear sacred objects on your body. A red or blue robe, a red or white hat, a turquoise stone around the neck or a mala (Tibetan rosary) around the wrist can remind practitioners of their more enlightened qualities.

Just taking a shower and dressing in a way that makes you feel good can be empowering. How you look is not essentially important―some people already feel so peaceful and comfortable in themselves that they have no need to rely much on their appearance. But most of us have been conditioned from an early age to feel that appearance is important. When the conditions of our physical appearance affect us, we need to pay attention.

By adjusting our physical circumstances, we are able to create an energetic dimension that supports the higher experiences of the mind and thus can be considered a kind of body. We can clean our house, decorate it with flowers, and add attractive lighting. We can add precious images and objects of devotion to our meditation area for another level of effect. The higher experiences of mind do not necessarily depend on our creating the right environment and the right energetic dimension, but they are supported by doing so. If I'm trying to awaken more joy in myself, I will have a harder time achieving it if I rely only on my mind. By decorating my house, I'm already creating a different level of energy and seeing myself differently.

Tantra is known as the path of transformation. Despite its emphasis on mind, through visualization practices, tantra offers a profound level of physical empowerment. In the ancient Tibetan Bon teachings of tantra, the body itself is seen as a palace of the divine, as a fundamental aspect of enlightenment. The divine abides as space and light in every distinct energy function of your body. Every cell, every sense organ, even' internal organ is associated with a deity. Not only- does blood flow through your veins, carrying oxygen and vital nutrients to all your cells, but the body also contains sacred winds of energy flowing through sacred channels of light bearing luminous spheres of awareness through all of your experience.

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Keep in mind, during visualization practice, it is important for the tantric practitioner to recognize, experience, and emphasize an actual shift in the physical dimension.

During tantric meditation one may visualize transforming into an enlightened deity such as the Buddha of Compassion or a loving goddess such as Tara or (in the Bon tradition) Sherap Chamma. The moment you feel such a transformation taking place, your self-image can change from that of a weak, angry person, heavy with ego, to that of a spacious, light-filled being who fully embodies the pure qualities of love and compassion.

Keep in mind, during visualization practice, it is important for the tantric practitioner to recognize, experience, and emphasize an actual shift in the physical dimension. You can draw special attention to changes that are felt in your flesh, blood, skin, bones, and internal organs―in every cell in your body. At the same time, you can bring a little more awareness to your body's connection with a deity's specific qualities.

This type of subtle shift in the physical dimension is an important element of the practice. Your body image has so much to do with your normal sense of identity. It affects your confidence, your mood, and how you relate to yourself and to your environment. Once you have formed a specific image of your physical appearance―whether you see yourself as too fat, too thin, too tall, or too old―you become conditioned by that image, and the image may become an obstacle to your open awareness. When you are less conditioned by the physical or energetic aspects of the body and more by its mind aspect, you can connect more easily with your inner wisdom and with your more enlightened qualities.

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