By Dr. Tawni Tidwell
It is important to recognize that extended practice can proliferate and aggravate rlüng (lōōng). As we remember from our introductory blog post, rlüng are the coarse and subtle winds in the body upon which mind rides and psychophysiological movement occurs in the body. When extending your meditation practice hours, make sure to keep your rlüng balanced with nourishing foods, surroundings, and routines. Aggravated rlüng can exacerbate underlying physical and emotional conditions. During Tibetan medical school, due to long hours of recitation (5-6 hours per day), many of us developed rlüng imbalances, and there were a couple of students who had to leave the school for 6 months to a year to recover from psychic breaks, persistent headaches, skin irritations, boils, dizzy spells, upper stomach pain, and other cascades of symptoms.
Care-taking rlüng is important for supporting your practice. Across our Samye community, our team of doctors has had sangha members ask about the various effects they’ve experienced from extended hours of practice and its impact on the subtle channels. For example, frequent headaches and migraines, a steady increase in the flow of thoughts, a sense of restlessness, impulsivity and intensity, dizziness, shakiness, and so forth — despite, for some, over ten years of daily meditation practice.
Be Attentive to Aggravating Conditions
Rlüng proliferation and aggravation can occur any time we have excess mental or verbal activity; exposure to harsh, cold, windy environments; experience inordinate periods of stress and distress; sustain long periods without proper nutrition, or constant on-the-go running while eating poor quality un-nutritious food; experience blood loss; encounter times of minimal sleep or poor quality sleep; force or block normal bodily processes, and so forth. During these times of rlüng aggravation, it is important to make sure you are getting solid nutritious meals frequently throughout your day and not going for long periods without eating.
Eating frequently, and eating nutritious and rich, dense foods helps ground rlüng. Tsampa and organic grass-fed dri (female yak) butter are excellent in Tibet for grounding rlüng. In the West, warm mixed grains of spelt, amaranth, oat groats, and barley would be excellent with a touch of organic grass-fed cow butter or flaxseed oil. Bone broth soups with garlic and onion, caraway, cumin, ginger, and cilantro provide qualities to rebalance rlüng. In the West, making sure one has good solid proteins at each meal, can be a helpful approach.
Cold water fish helps warm the digestive fire and ground rlüng. Consuming red meat can be particularly important for rebalancing rlüng as well, but chicken, mutton, tofu, and kidney beans can be helpful too. It is important to minimize caffeinated beverages generally or at least have a milk/cream addition and/or raw honey in your coffee/black tea/green tea to counter the rlüng aggravating effects. Integrating clean oils is important for re-balancing rlüng. A dash of ghee is fantastic to add to meals. Warm organic nut or cow’s milk at night with 1/2-1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg helps balance the heart rlüng.
Self-care and Friends
Rlüng also responds well to warmth, dim candle lighting (like being next to a fire), fragrant wood incense/scents, pleasant music, and warm oil massage. You can do a self-massage using warm unrefined cold-pressed sesame oil with nutmeg and caraway mixed in. It is important to integrate time with close friends or dear ones to rebalance rlüng — long periods of solitude can continue to proliferate the rlüng, particular if mental activity is high.
The Author: Tawni Tidwell, TMD, PhD studied Tibetan medicine at Men-Tsee-Khang in north India and Sorig Loling Tibetan Medical College of Tso-Ngon (Qinghai) University in eastern Tibet with a year internship in gastroenterology at the Tso-Ngon (Qinghai) Provincial Tibetan Medical Hospital, graduating with a Kachupa-level degree in Tibetan medicine in July 2015. Tawni did her PhD in biocultural anthropology at Emory University, where she looked at the sensory entrainment processes for diagnostics in Tibetan medical education, graduating in 2017. In 2018-2019 she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, tracking pharmacology lineages across eastern Tibet, primarily in Amdo and Kham; and at the University of Vienna on a project researching concepts of “potency” in Tibetan medicine and Buddhist ritual literature.
Starting in August 2019, she will join the Center for Healthy Minds at UW-Madison as a postdoctoral researcher bringing a Tibetan medical and biocultural perspective to their research on wellbeing and healthy minds. She has maintained private clinical practices in Atlanta and Vienna, and will be shifting clinical work to Madison this summer. She sees a wide spectrum of conditions including cancer, metabolic, and neurologic disorders with particular attention to subtle mental and physical patterns that lead to chronic and persistent conditions. She works closely with patients on health practices that support their spiritual practice, and vice versa. Her approach looks at the natural cycles, internal and external, that support our body-mind’s compassion and wisdom, and treating through nutritional, lifestyle, medicinal and external therapeutic approaches that support an individual’s healing and flourishing. She is deeply indebted to the great kindness of her root teacher in dharma Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche, and that of her Tibetan medical teachers throughout my education.