Excerpted from "Boundless Healing: Meditation Exercises to Enlighten the Mind and Heal the Body" by Tulku Thondup, with kind permission of Shambhala Publications.

Positive Perceptions

Pessimism can be so deadly. The habit of worrying about problems or seeing only the negative aspect of a situation hardly leaves any room for healing. When the mind becomes encrusted and rigid with this attitude, then everything that happens appears tainted by pain and negativity.

The mind can choose between positive and negative; it's all in the perception. A central practice in Tibetan Buddhism is positive perception. It's an approach that's been proven over the centuries to yield an amazing harvest of spiritual realization, as well as happiness and health in everyday life.

Try to reduce the degree of resentment toward the so-called unhappiness; that will be a big achievement. Change what you can to improve your situation, and don't worry about what you can't change. Be more accepting of things at this very moment.

Even if our lives are painful, we can find something to use as our focal point of healing, the best out of the worst situations, if we care to look for it.

Problems can become stepping stones on the path to freeing our minds. Even if we are not great spiritual masters, we can start by seeing small problems as acceptable. Try to see a difficulty as an interesting challenge. Then if you can solve it, or learn how to tolerate it, be sure to congratulate yourself on doing so. Feeling the satisfaction can bring a surge of joy, which has a positive ripple effect in the rest of your life.

A spark of peace and joy can be found in every situation, if we care to find and apply it. Even if we are having a hellish life, there will always be some moments of peace that we could certainly use as the source of healing. So, even if our lives are painful, we can find something to use as our focal point of healing, the best out of the worst situations, if we care to look for it.

Don't make happiness an obsession, like some object you simply must get hold of and keep. If you can relax the obsession about happiness just a bit, then spontaneously you might be happier.

Finally, when we deal well with a problem, it's important to acknowledge this to ourselves. In daily life or meditation, any time we heal some suffering we have felt, we must recognize this. By such recognition, the powerful energy of joy can flare up. That could be a great focal point for further healing

A Meditative View of the Body

Our physical body is a precious treasure. It's an amazing machine: elegant, complex, and beautiful. It is also ours for a limited time. Buddhism talks about the body as a guest house for the mind, and takes a quite realistic view of the body's aging and decay. Mind and body are together only for a while; all the more reason to treasure their true well-being while we can.

When we bring awareness to the body, doing so can call forth powerful positive energies. There are three reasons to meditate upon the body.

First, our own body is a very effective support in regaining the healing energies of the mind, since the body is so intimately connected to the mind.

Second, much of the time, the goal is to heal the ills of body. So, choosing the body as the object to be healed is practical. Meditation can be an effective remedy for these problems, depending on the skill of the meditator and the particular illness. It is also true that, compared to emotional problems, physical ills can be difficult to heal through meditation, especially for a beginner. But even if our physical ills don't go away, they can often be eased. At the very least, our minds can learn to better tolerate the woes of the body and carry them more lightly.

Third, by bringing healing energy to the body, we can also improve our lives. The mind, the main actor in healing meditation, is absorbed in positive healing energies. This loosens the grasping of the mind. It becomes easier to develop a more open and relaxed attitude toward problems, including how to get along better with others. Our focus here is to simply become more accepting of our bodies as they are.

In the West, the body tends to be worshipped unrealistically. Even "perfect" supermodels seem to worry that their bodies should be better than they are, ever more perfect, and never changing. In the East, the body tends to be viewed more as something filthy and unworthy. Asians are not friends with their bodies either. East and West, so much negative energy is attached to the body, and negative perception blocks the healing of body and mind. It's better to take a more balanced view, and by making a practice of meditating upon the body, gradually and after many sessions, you can go beyond attachment or resentment of the body.

Most of us are so attached to our bodies; we identify so closely with them. It can help in meditation to see our bodies as boundless, like the sky. We don't necessarily get attached to the sky. The sky is there, and when we think about it, we accept and appreciate it. If we began to see the body with something like this kind of relaxed appreciation, we could genuinely approach all of life with more enjoyment.

The healing meditations I teach focus on the technique of positive visualization. To that end, the mightiest weapons in our arsenal are the four powers of seeing, recognizing, feeling and believing.

The Four Healing Powers of Mind

The four healing powers are positive images, words, feeling and belief. When we bring these qualities of mind to our meditation, the power to heal our mental, emotional, and physical afflictions grows stronger.

Positive Images: When we visualize positive objects, the exercise of our imagination engages and absorbs our mind. If we can maintain the images in our mind for some duration, the healing will be more intimate and effective. The mind tends to wander about, especially if you are new to meditation. Practice staying with the image as long as you comfortably can, and eventually your concentration will improve.
In daily life or meditation, any time we heal some suffering we have felt, we must recognize this. By such recognition, the powerful energy of joy can flare up.

Although visualization is a pillar of Tibetan meditation, many Westerners find it rather strange at first. Forming mental images is universal, even if we are not used to doing it as part of meditation. With few exceptions, we all visualize constantly in daily life. Most of the time, our minds are occupied with neutral images or negative ones. Instead, if we build a habit of seeing positive images, the peaceful nature of our mind begins to emerge and we give joy a chance to flourish.

One of the practices of Tibetan Buddhism is to visualize positive images at every opportunity throughout the day, except when practical business is being conducted. In your own life, you can bring meditation and its images and associated feelings into your life, during a short break at work, for example. This encourages the positive feelings to take hold.

Positive Words: Words can have great power, for good or ill. As thinking creatures, words and inner dialogues are constantly going on in our heads. We put labels on things and name them. It is our way of recognizing and confirming the quality of something.

Meditating upon an image is made all the stronger when we recognize it as positive, and even comment to ourselves on its positive nature. For example, if we are visualizing a flower, you might think about its positive qualities: "This beautiful flower is blossoming," or "Its color is spectacular, the whole atmosphere is radiant with its brilliance," or "The dew is dripping from its healthy, fresh petals," or "It is so pure, as if made of rainbow light," or "I wish everybody could enjoy such a feast for the eyes."

Sometimes just the conscious recognition of positive qualities is enough, without a label. But a label can help open your mind to an image, such as just simply saying to yourself: "It's beautiful," or "It's red." The point is to confirm in your mind the power of the positive. In this way, we begin to transform the negative mindset we have built up. We can choose positive or negative perceptions. Recognizing the positive can be a strong ally in transforming our minds, both in meditation and daily life.

Positive Feeling: The mind not only thinks and recognizes, it feels. If we involve our awareness of the positive qualities of an object through emotion, the healing of mind and body is much stronger.

For example, in meditation if we imagine a beautiful flower, we might just think in our heads, "How beautiful that flower is," but then the positive impression is a shadow of what it could be. Instead, open up to the flower on the level of feeling. Feel the enchanting beauty, the freshness of dew dripping from it, the clarity of its colors like immaculate light. Feel the qualities of the flower in your heart and body and celebrate it, instead of just thinking of it intellectually.

You can bring this same open-hearted approach to appreciating the beauty around you every day of your life. Opening yourself to feelings in meditation can bring more zest and enjoyment to everything you do.

Generally we need to feel our emotions; it's healthy to do so. But at times we may want or need to protect ourselves from harmful emotions generated by negative situations and images. To do this, try to deal with them at the level of thinking and intellect, rather than getting overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment. You don't necessarily need to allow negative perceptions to be driven deep into your heart at the level of feeling.

Positive Belief: If you do not trust in the power of your meditation to heal, its strength and energy will be weak. Belief gives the meditation a firm foundation; it engages the mind in a way that is effective and total.

This is not blind faith, but a faith and trust based upon knowledge that the healing power of mind can be fully called forth with the help of images, words, and feelings. We need to believe that we actually can improve our lives in this way. Even if meditation moves you one step forward, you can fall right back if you are always harboring doubts in your mind.

Intellectual and material-minded people like ourselves can find it hard to trust and believe in anything. We need to remember that the mind is a powerful source of healing, and that the purpose of healing meditation is to awaken our inner resources. We need to rely on the help of mental objects, and believe in the power of the mind.

The four healing powers are also applicable to daily life. We can see the positive in ourselves and around us, confirm this quality in our minds by recognizing it, rejoice in any positive or peaceful feelings, and believe in the healing power of this way of looking at the world. This approach to life can reap a great harvest of benefits.

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