Lung: Meditator's Retreat Dis-ease

The most important aspect of retreat is to keep your mind happy
– Geshe Lhundup Sopa

“One’s practice should be free of looking for results. Even if one spends one’s entire life doing practice and has not a single experience, no results at all, that should still be a cause for great joy to have spent one’s life like that.” –Geshe Sopa

When I first met Lama Yeshe, I already had a daily watching-my-breath meditation and chi gong routine. I had some of the best mahamudra meditations I’ve ever had at that first course. Mostly, this was Lama Yeshe’s blessing. However, I noticed that as I dropped the breath and chi gong practice and focused only on Vajrayana practice, my meditations became less and less spacious and relaxed.When I added the factor of accomplishing so many mantra recitations in a certain amount of time, the meditation practice became a project to complete. I started DOING something and this brought up all my thinking work habits I had learned in school.

In the fourth grade I had a teacher who threatened every child with a beating if they didn’t do their homework and regularly beat kids every day in front of the classroom. I was never “paddled” but I certainly developed very tense work habits. I see now that whenever I have to do anything that is writing or thinking under pressure or thinking with the idea of producing results, I have to consciously relax the anxiety patterns that I developed as a child and was not aware of until a few years ago. With this interesting karma, when all the visualizations and mantras entered my meditation practice, it didn’t take long for me to develop a good case of lung.

Now, after years of meditating in Lama Tsong Khapa’s lineage of practice, I am learning to relax. For me meditating is like a music, dance and acting. When we pay attention to the great masters we can see they are totally relaxed and the art just pours out effortlessly from their inner creative treasure trove. We can do that, too, on our cushion. Like me, you may not realize it, but you may be tense in your muscles and mind most of the time. For me, all the years that I had to get up and be at school or work by 8 a.m. was a mildly traumatic experience every morning–and I pretty much stayed in that over-adrenalized state all day long. It feels good to be high on a mild stress rush all day; however, when we take that mind into the realm of meditation retreat, we get lung!

Meditation is more about being and less about doing. We are seeking to transform the way we be, while we do. What I have to offer here is just a bit of my experience.. I hope it can be of some benefit to other eager meditators.


Lung, is the Tibetan word for wind and is pronounced “loong”. In the context of meditation, lung could be translated as meditator’s disease or over-stressed nervous system . There are many different types of lung. I am not a Tibetan doctor so I can’t share textbook knowlege of lung, but I can share what I have learned in the last 25 years, 12 of which were in retreat. Lung happens to most every meditator, even very experienced meditators. It is similar to an athlete who strains a muscle and then has to rest for a while to let that muscle heal. Even professional athletes and dancers strain muscles sometimes. We meditators strain our nervous systems. Unless the lung is very severe, it is nothing to be afraid of or worry about, it is just a trade hazard that we can learn to work with and endure. Lung is one of the hardships of practice. Lung is our teacher because it is the feedback we receive when we are not meditating properly–or living a balanced lifesyle.

Generally, meditators’lung is congested chi in and around the heart chakra, we feel a pain in the chest or have heart palpitations. We can also experience “head lung”, which feels like a strained or tired brain; when we just cannot think or visualize any more without discomfort–the effort is almost painful. We all learn about lung when we attend our first Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist group meditation retreat. Either we get it, or we hear about it from our friends who get it. The mind rides on the winds and when the winds run unsmoothly, we feel stress.

When many people begin a retreat on a Tibetan Mantra Yoga Sadhana practice that involves visualizing complicated forms, reciting liturgy and reciting mantras, they discover after a week or a month that their minds actually become more agitated than they were before. They may experience pain in the chest or back pain, headaches; they may cry easily and anger easily, too. They may feel anxious, have panic attacks, or insomnia. Some people get depressed. Some people have delusional paranoia, or hear things, or feel strange sensations in their bodies. Others get indigestion, constipation or diarrhea. Lung is often experienced as negative attitude towards the practice (your mind and body want to stop!) so you get doubts about the practice, doubts about your Lama. You may find yourself with extreme negative thoughts. Lung can get so bad if it is not remedied and if the person continues the pattern that causes it, a person can become severely mentally disturbed. But that is rare. Mostly its a good case of negative mind or a nagging obsession that won’t go away. Sometimes lung manifests as aversion to meditating. You just don’t want to go back and sit on that cushion! For women, lung is not so unfamiliar because it can be similar to PMS–actually, PMS is just another type of lung, liver lung.

Anyone under mental pressure and strain experiences lung. Meeting deadlines at work, family stress and studying for final exams brings on lung. Everyone has their own style of lung. It’s a good idea to learn your personal pattern so you can know when to relax in your retreat. When you start to feel negative or can’t sleep one night or have indigestion, or uncontrollably growl at someone, then, you know it is time to rest, to back off on the intensity of your practice. Often there are signs that indicate lung is on the verge of breaking out into major symptoms. For me, I almost always have an anxiety dream based on the theme of the night before a final exam at university when I haven’t studied at all and I’m frantic. That tells me, “Time to slow down, Nyingje-la! “ When I used to start designing fashions in my meditation sessions while reciting a mantra, I knew it was time for a good long break and a walk.

When some of our wonderful Tibetan Masters first encountered people from modern industrialized societies, they were impressed with our level of education and intellectual acuity; thus, they assumed we would make great practitioners. They taught us advanced practices and soon saw us all get lung! I think this is rather like a figure skating master who discovers a group of ballet dancers and thinks they will make great figure skaters. The ballet dancers get out on the ice and try to dance and they all end up with sprained ankles and broken bones. We have these greatly activated minds, but they developed without any visceral awareness of the winds that carry those mind bytes. Our attempts at secret mantra practice are like the ballet dancer trying to figure skate who hasn’t first learned to skate around the rink before attempting a pirouette. If we want to be successful at these practices we have to find our “skating legs”, we have to learn to feel the winds. We do this by simple breath meditation and any type of hatha yoga or chi gong. Watching our breath and learning about our wind-mind before we add all the visualizations and mantras is like skating round and round the rink for hours and hours before we even try to turn around on the skates. I don’t know any western gelugpa pratictioner who hasn’t had lung and some of them will not attempt a long mantra retreat because of this lung experience. I wonder what happens when a ten year veteran of daily Zen or Kagyu shamata or Theravadan practice enters Vajrayana practice…my sense is there would be less lung.

Geshe Rabten thought all westerners have tsok lung (chronic heart lung). Gen Lamrimpa said to us, after he spent a year leading a calm abiding retreat for westerners, that he thought westerners could never learn to meditate because our minds are too fast because we grew up with machines and computers. In other words, we all have chronic low grade anxiety or tsok lung. Many of us have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in varying degrees…some mild, some really bad. It is so ubiquitous we think it is normal. There is an epidemic of depression and anxiety in America that is growing rapidly, even among children. Our lifestyle gives us lung. This same source of most of our health problems is also what causes us to have a difficult time in meditation retreats.

When we talk about lung, we must distinguish between acute lung and chronic lung. Acute lung comes from concentrating too hard on the mandala or reciting mantras too fast or working too hard in service at our jobs, or frustration in relationships.With rest and Tibetan medicine (if we can get it!), it goes away when we finish the retreat or stop doing what was causing our mental stress. Chronic lung, what Tibetans called Tsok Lung, is what in this culture we would label varying degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. This essay is concerned with acute lung that arises in meditation retreats. Chronic lung can be treated with herbs, diet, acupuncture, Tibetan Medicine and talking therapies. I would try these options before going to pharmaceuticals because these chemicals may only compound the imbalance in the long run. However, when symptoms are so intense people may need immediate relief. They could take pharmaceuticals for a short time, with the help of these supportive therapies and then slowly wean themselves off the pharmaceuticals. I would check with a Lama before taking any pharmaceutical chemicals. From what I have read and heard, they are dispensed way too easily and frequently, harm the body and mind in long term and are not necessary if a person is willing to change their eating habits, take herbs, go to an acupuncturist and/or a skillful psychotherapist–preferably a practicing Buddhist.


In 1991 in Dharamsala, Jetsun Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche told us that faith and intention are the main ingredients of tantric practice. This is so important. Not understanding this is a major factor in the production or lung in retreat. We just have to set our intention and then have faith that the practice is happening. We get too serious and try very hard to see all the details of the mandala and say 1000’s of mantras a day, thinking more is better—and expect immediate results! This gives us lung. Lama Yeshe told us a similar advice at The Six Yogas course at Vajrapani Institute. Lama told us to close our eyes and visualize the person next to us. You don’t have to reach out and touch that person, you just know she is there. That is how you visualize. Visualization is perhaps a mistranslation. Maybe viceralize-visualize is closer. It is a felt-sense as much as a visual sense. Close your eyes now and feel that you are in your room. Close your eyes and feel you are in the mandala, then gently remember how it looks. Visualizing is remembering, however your particular nervous system remembers…

In Tibetan Medicine, lung (wind) imbalance is related to attachment; bile imbalance is related to anger/aversion; and phlegm imbalance is related to ignorance. At first, it may not be so clear how unskillful meditation that leads to lung is related to attachment. If you think of attachment as the mind that wants, that grasps, that clings, and then check up while you meditate, you can see how a subtle version of grasping and clinging can abide with you as you focus on your meditation object. It comes in the form of wanting more clarity than you have, or wanting to finish up, or not wanting to finish. If you are in a neutral state of mind, and then think of something you want to do, you can feel a slight tightening in your chest, a little excitement or anticipation. Most of us think this is happiness, but, actually it is a state of grasping. This can cause lung also.

Probably people don’t get lung who meditate for stress reduction purposes only and aren’t interested in attaining Enlightenment. We get lung because we are trying to DO something, trying to attain something, instead of relaxing and letting it happen naturally. Lung comes from forcing our mind beyond its capacity to stay relaxed while meditating. THE KEY TO GOOD MEDITATION IS A RELAXED MIND. Forcing the mind to concentrate only harms our development in the long run. This is very hard to learn because we don’t often know when we are forcing our mind–until we get lung! We are habituated to having a slightly grasping or excited mind when we do things, because this is often where we find the energy to do what we want to do; but this does not work for us when we want to meditate. We get lung from forcing our minds to stay on the meditation object when it is tired. We get lung from saying the mantra too fast and for too long. We get lung from forcing a visualization to be clear. We get lung from trying to keep the thoughts at bay instead of understanding that it’s okay for thoughts to come and go–we just don’t grasp on to them. What we are looking for is to stabilize on the mind (and its voidness) that lies below the thoughts. …No accepting and no rejecting… Thoughts are the waves on the ocean of mind…focus on the ocean, not the thoughts. I have often thought that meditating is like any other art form, from the view point of process. But meditating is much more difficult because you cannot see or hear what you are doing, so it is difficult to know when you are making a mistake. It’s rather like a blind man painting with his feelings. Lung tells you when you made a mistake; it is actually our teacher.

Another big cause of lung is this: “I’m not good enough! I have to work harder!” We are so serious about our practice! Yes, getting out of samsara and opening ourselves up more and more to experiencing the real suffering in the world with our compassion makes it all seem so grave and serious… but without joy and bliss and relaxation, we just get really bad lung! Try practicing the non-differentiation of samsara and nirvana and experience the bliss while our consciousness of suffering grows. We have to let ourselves feel bliss, joy, happiness, every day… Ever notice how playful Tibetan Lamas are? Most of us really have to cultivate allowing ourselves to let go and enjoy.

Many of us come from a culture where three factors interfere with our evolution towards enlightenment: (1) We are socialized by patriarchal tyranny that trains behaviors through negative feedback… “you are inherently bad if you don’t act the way I tell you to!”… with a threat of violence or rejection as the controlling discipline. (2) Christian Culture tells us we are born in sin, born bad and, therefore, we are uncomfortable with just being ourselves…(3)Puritannical laws that tell us that enjoying life–especially our bodies– makes us even more bad. As a result, we learn to censor our needs in order to survive in our families and communities. Our unallowed impulses to express many of our authentic feelings and emotions are relegated to our unconscious. Even the sense that we are bad goes into the what Carl Jung labeled our shadow–and thus evolves the low-self esteem that permeates our lives. The really troublesome outcome of this process is how un-allowed-to-be-known aspects of our psyche provoke and motivate many of our behaviours in our daily lives–and we can’t see it! So this unconscious part of self, our shadow, can contribute to making lung when we go on an extended retreat, (—and in all aspects of our lives!)

Tibetan Masters describe the process of meditation as being similar to training a wild horse. If you tether a horse to a short rope and try to beat it into submission, you will have a very difficult time taming that horse. But if you give it a large corral to run in and if you approach the wild animal with kindness and love, you can ride that horse in a short while. (Remember the movie, “Horse Whisperer”?) Most of us were trained by our parents and/or by our teachers with this first method. We think this is normal and that is how we generally relate to ourselves.

So, without realizing it, we use this same “beat or chastise into submission”approach to training our minds and the mind just does not respond. It gets uptight, tired, cranky and agitated. We have to learn to relax our minds and treat ourselves very gently. Kyabjr Ribur Rinpoche told us over and over again, ”.—- r–e–l–a–x —- .“This is the key to meditation without lung. Chagdud Tulku talks about two types of leisure: outer leisure and inner leisure. Outer leisure is having the time to meditate, inner leisure is having a mind that is relaxed and free of obsessive non-stop thinking. Lung is the result of no inner leisure. So, the key is to love ourselves and lighten up! Renunciation is not about denying ourself pleasure, it’s about waking up to the desire to train our minds to ride easy with any type of emotional grasping–and this only happens when can accept and love every aspect of our self-experience. Once we are comfortable with our selves, then compassion for others can grow.

Meditation comes when we give ourselves that huge corral so all the shadow feelings can emerge to consciousness; when make a conscious effort to not judge, to sit with our thoughts emotions and let them rise uncensored and just watch, ride the wave and let it go. When we cultivate a patient and loving watcher –the unconditional loving parent, inside that will let every pain that ever happened and is happening just be; when we sit with the energy and let it come up and out, then we can begin to stablize our spacious awareness of the mind. It is also really helpful to figure out what your particular karmic propensities and natural skills are… a good astrologer is a big help– so we aren’t forcing a square key into a round hole. Be yourself! There are some great books and great therapists out there these days..

Even if we are psychologically whole, retreat lung can still come as a tennis player can strain an elbow. It comes very slowly, after days of forcing concentration or reciting mantras too fast without being aware of it. By the time you realize you have lung, it’s very hard to dissipate without stopping the meditation altogether and resting the mind for a few days by engaging in fun and play. Lung seems to be just part of learning how to do Vajrayana practice. The more you practice, the sooner you catch the habits that lead to lung and therefore it beomes less and less of a problem. The more you meditate, the more you are able to perceive the texture of your mind, so you can see or hear the mistakes like an artist or a musician would. It just takes time on the cushion. Like any other form of discipline, it only becomes easy with a lot of practice…right effort: gentle, loving, relaxed, no expectation, no pushing effort. We need to remember that one of the four powers of Joyous Effort in Shantideva’s teachings on the Six Perfections is the power of rest. In America, resting is a sign of weakness. Rest is just as important as activity in manifesting any sort of production–like Winter before Spring. Some people feel guilty about resting…let that one go.. If resting is going for walks, making music, painting, cooking, sleeping, reading…do it.


“Relax….. grow yourself, love yourself, dear.” –Lama Yeshe

“Let it be…let it be..whisper words of wisdom, let it be…”–Paul McCartney

LEARN HOW TO RELAX. Make relaxation just as an important aspect of your awareness as what is going on in the mind. If you focus on relaxation, naturally less thoughts come up. Just allow yourself to breathe and relax for 5-15 minutes before you start any mental activity in your meditation session. Don’t push yourself, your body or your mind—more is not better and might is not right. It is true that we have a perfect human rebirth and must take advantage of every second, but we have to be some balance to our activity. The most important aspect of retreat is to keep ourselves inspired. Read the stories of Mahasiddhas, read your favorite books and meditate on bodhicitta with true inspiration. Remember all the topics of the lam rim and apply them to the thoughts that come up in retreat. For me, death and impermanence, the two bodhicittas and guru devotion are the keys to making retreat highly meaningful. Whatever comes up, find the aspect of the lam rim that works to transform the situation… and if the mind is still dark, just wait it out, it will

change, particularly when we remember that we are doing this for others. That has to be foremost in the mind.

If you sit down and your mind feels agitated, just sit with that and breathe into it. Ask yourself what is going on. Let that little child inside you, or your shadow, have a comfortable safe inner refuge so he or she can tell you what is going on deep inside. And just sit with those feelings and feel love for that voice inside that needs to be heard. Ask what she wants, needs, demands, and see if you can do what she needs to be happy. If it is the voice of your self-cherishing mind, rather than push it into silence or submission, try listening to her needs and work out some way to make her feel needed and consolled rather than silenced. If we work on this aspect on ourselves on our cushion, it gives us much less grief when we are relating to the rest of our life. It seems we can only learn to recognize self-cherishing if we pay attention. It is so sneaky, Any time I am unhappy, the cause is self-cherishing, but forcing it to go away only makes it come up stronger somewhere else. But if I cultivate a felt-sense of love for others and apply it to myself, self-cherishing melts.

Lama Yeshe told us once that when we are tired after a days work, instead of taking caffeine and forcing yourself to say all those daily commitments; relax on the couch and meditate on bodhicitta. The last empowerment Lama Yeshe gave at Vajrapani Institute was the Vajrasattva Initiation in the summer of 1983. Generally, the introduction for such an event is a 30-60 motivational talk. This time, Lama asked us to just sit there with him and meditate on non-conceptual Bodhicitta. So we sat for some time in silence with Lama.. maybe 30 min. I remember not too much was happening for me, but Lama, for sure, planted a seed. Now, when I remember bodhicitta, my heart feels like it is in love and a warm feeling flows through my body and my mind is as relaxed and happy as a clear blue sky. I think if we do enough of this practice before and after a mantra recitation session… we won’t get lung!

The Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche required his students to sit in shamatha meditation on the breath for many hours before they could begin Vajrayana practice. I guess it is still the policy in the Dharmadhatu Centers. I wonder if they get less lung because of this policy. I suspect so because they learn to use the tools of a meditator (mindfulness or remembrance of the object and the awareness that brings the mind back when it strays) on a very simple object before embarking on complex visualizations and mantra recitation. This is why I sit for some time relaxing with my breath and adjusting the posture before beginning a sadhana.

In our interest of completing a mantra count, we usually go too long and have no energy left to meditate on divine pride and clear appearance for the dissolution process. This is a good way to get lung..End your session before you are tired and then sit at least five minutes in spacious meditation, just relaxing into the three circles of emptiness of bodhicitta dedication or relax at the dissolution time. Even though you want to get up, just sit and breathe into the mental tension until your mind is relaxed. One more mala round is not better! .Also, at the end, you can visualize your hollow body filled with five colored lights radiating out all the lung and blessing all the sentient beings and the environment.

Spend a little time everyday, if possible, relaxing your gaze by looking up at the sky or staring out at a long distance view and gently recognize emptiness. This really lets the lung out.

Learn to relax in all your actions. Meditation is play, not work. Relax: lie down or sit in a comfortable chair or do chi gong for a few minutes after your session ends. (This is advice from H.H. the Dalai Lama.)

Don’t force your visualization. Be satisfied with what comes.

Contentment is the key to a good retreat…cultivate contentment and a happy mind…meditate on the Innermost Jewels of the Kadampa Geshes everyday….The key to contentment is breathing with bodhicitta all the time; detach yourself from grasping on to experiences by a deep understanding of karma and let go of all notions of blame and shame. “Follow your bliss” as Joseph Campbell used to say. Find some little activity that brings joy to your heart, feeding the birds or the squirrels, or singing a song, or crafting a beautiful object… cook a nice meal..

“Set your re-set button” once a week, if not once a day…i.e., recreate until you feel grounded, open, joyful, clear and motivated. Find some little activity that brings joy to your heart, feeding the birds or the squirrels, or singing a song, or crafting a beautiful object… cook a nice meal, take a shower or a bath, paint a picture… Lama Yeshe loved to garden and found such joy in flowers. Maybe great yogis don’t need to do this, but until we have developed enough inner bliss, we have to create it somehow or else we just can get depressed in a long retreat…. but some of us are also fortunate enough to feel the bliss from the meditation right from the beginning. For me, it seems to come and go in a very long retreat… usually depending on if I am trying too hard or not! But generally, it is there enough to keep my enthusiasm going!

Retreat is not about how many sessions you do a day or how many mantras you do a day. Retreat is about experiencing your blissful, spacious, empty mind; familiarizing yourself with the lam rim; and cutting mundane conception. Retreat is about changing your habits of being, thinking, doing. The sessions, the mantras, the recitations are tools to facillitate that, so there’s no need to get caught up in being super strict if doing that prohibits or inhibits your inner experience. This doesn’t mean you can be lazy, it means you must listen to your body and grow your own wisdom. Lama Yeshe told us over and over again, to grow our own wisdom, listen to our bodies, take care of our bodies and minds, and that we know best what is going on inside of us. In an extended deity mantra retreat, only one full session of the complete sadhana is required to keep the retreat going.


There was a group of people who spent three years doing a deity retreat, but did not do the great mantra retreat. When I asked why, the answer was, “We were afraid of getting lung.” My experience tells me that the benefits of reciting millions of mantras far outweighs the downside of experiencing a little lung, or even a great lung… Lama Zopa Rinpoche commented to a friend of mine who was so concerned over the incredible hardships I have endured in retreat,”The benefits next life of enduring those hardships this life will be UNBELIEVABLE!” Ven. Losang Yeshe, who has been meditating at Land of Calm Abiding for ten years now told me, “I’ve come to realize that lung is just part of the territory.” Yes, that is right. It is just part of our learning process. Even old venerable geshes get lung sometimes.

If we cultivate guru devotion, we can know that what we experience is purification, that we will come out the other side as whole people. Sometimes the guru puts us in situations that bring up lung; we can learn to manage the lung and see it as our greatest teacher. We can also make offerings and requests to the guru to guide us through this experience. If we relax and listen in our meditation, the answers come. Sometimes the guru can come to us in a dream, and next day the lung is gone. If we can cultivate great faith in the guru, then lung is not such a problem,, we can make it through.

Group secret mantra retreats in the FPMT usually emphasize completing a certain number of recitations within a limited time frame. I’m not sure why we do it this way, maybe that was the tradition in the monasteries, but I know some people attend one of these retreats and have such a tough time it takes a year to recover or they never want to try again. Maybe now we need to take four weeks instead of three for these traditional 100,000 mantra retreats because there is great benefit in completing a nearing retreat of the 100,000 so you can do self-initiation everyday and this is probably worth a little lung in order to do that.

Lung isn’t such an grave issue for a month-long retreat, it will pass when you leave. However, when you are doing a long retreat, you have to be careful. The emphasis and the goal is to generate a relaxed mind that is sensitive to your energy state, (although this is ideal for a short retreat as well!) Energy sensitivity allows you to develop and maintain the open heart of bodhicitta and the awareness of wisdom at all times. This allows you to get close to the deity, which, after all, is the goal. If you get caught up in the outer aspects of retreat, such as keeping your tight schedule, saying a prescribed amount of mantras everyday, this may preclude that experience. We can learn how to tune into our body and work within the restraints that our nervous systems present to us. Everyone is different in this respect but most of us are totally out of touch with our bodies needs and subtle energies. I don’t think most Tibetan people were so imbalanced.

We have to really think about how the practice we do comes out of a culture that is nothing like our own. Tibetans had no machines. Their lifestyle was very slow and relaxed. They had no junk food, no white sugar, no coffee, no TV, no telephones, no computers, no commuting,, no freeways, no chainsaws….little stress. They did not keep strict track of time schedules. All these factors give us a very different base on which to practice. I believe we can and we must learn how to adapt these practices to work for us. This will happen when we learn to manage the tsok lung, our subterranean low grade anxiety that easily flips into depression. We can do this with exercise, diet, breathing, attitude shifts, purification, accumulating merit, guru devotion and love.

Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche told us once in Dharamsala in 1982 that the best way to do retreat is to abandon the eight worldly concerns: seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, seeking gain, avoiding loss, seeking fame, avoiding infamy, seeking praise and avoiding blame. When you get all caught up in finishing by a certain date, or doing so many mantras a day, that is a worldly dharma. And believe me, it ruins your retreat and gives you lung. I have had to work against this tendency in every retreat I have ever done. The mantra commitment and the lung actually teaches us to abandon the eight worldly dharmas.

A good lung prevention policy is to pay attention to your mind in the break times. If it is tired, not relaxed, can’t remember to do the break time awareness, then you are setting up for lung. Slack off in your sessions. You know how we joke about Tibetans being on “Tibetan time”? There is a great deal of wisdom here…when we follow the energy of the day, we go on Tibetan time, too, and there is a lot less potential for lung to arise. Of course in group retreats we must keep to the strict schedule, but not so when we are on solo retreat…

Our teachings tell us to do everything for others.. if we get lung, we can at least feel happy because we are getting lung in our service for all sentient beings. we can take on all their lungs and give them bliss!


Daily prostrations,–especially doing the 35 Buddhas Confession Practice before every session!– chi gong and yoga practice are GREAT preventative measures. Some sort of chi gong or yoga session has to be included in the daily routine. I know there are extensive hatha yoga type exercises in the Nyingma and Kagyu schools, maybe for Gelugpas, the debate court satisfied the need to move the winds through the body’s channels. Any form of physical exercise to relax the mind, body and winds(spirit) will probably work just fine. For me personally, Yogananda’s hatha yoga technique offers the foundation for a strong physical body, opens the channels, and trains the breath to maintain relaxation while doing any activity that is crucial to meditating without lung. I highly recommend this practice. The philosophical base is a bit different from Buddhism, but we can just learn the yoga techniques. They are excellent and what we need to become proficient meditators.

The “Five Tibetans” are excellent, not just for their lung prevention, you get a lot of action on your winds in just a small amount of time. For busy people, these are excellent because you get the benefit of an hour long yoga session in 10-15 minutes. All exercise routines can be overdone and then you don’t feel like exercising the next day. Start out small, with 15 minutes and add just a little every few days. Always rest a little while after you exercise and don’t eat right away, wait 10-15 minutes, the rest lets the chi circulate and heal before you move on to the next item on your agenda.

In Gloria Aronson’s book called Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing, she offers a little acupressure treatment you can do on yourself that is very effective in grounding out emotional upheaval. You simply tap eight places on your body for 30-60 seconds. It takes about five minutes. The eight taps is an excellent way to start a session and prevent lung. It clears away the emotional winds that make it difficult to concentrate that forces us to squeeze and get lung. The eight places are:

—the inner point on your eyebrows, tap both at the same time

—the outer corner of the eyes

—just below your eyes, on the top of your cheek bones

—one point just under the nose

—one point just under the lower lip

—just under the collarbone, two fingerwidths below

—four inches under the armpit

—the outer edge of your hands, tap your hand edges together like karate chops.

Please try it, you’ll be amazed at how helpful it is, also for opening up the lower chakras so you can breathe chi into your navel chakra. If you cannot relax and breathe into your lower abdomen while you sit, then you probably already have some sort of lung. Take time to learn to breathe into your navel chakra, also called the dan tien, or hara, the area below your navel. You can practice this lying down first, then bring it into your sitting posture. Use chi gong, the five taps, yoga, pray for help, whatever works to open up your lower chakras. It is very helpful to breathe into your secret chakra, the area of the perineum while you meditate, feel energy going right to the base of your spine. At first you may only visualize it, but with time it will go there. This keeps the energy down, and not flying around giving you distractions and lung from trying to stop the distractions. You can practice the inhale at the base of the spine, exhale at the heart. When you can do that, then you can try some vase breathing, but if you try vase breathing before you can naturally breathe into the lower abdomen and have it expand, you will probably just get more lung!

Brazilian Toe Massage:

When my husband, Roger Munro, lived at Chenrezig Institute in 1980, he learned a healing technique called the Brazilian Toe Massage. It is very simple and very effective to balance the energy in two people. He heard that there are hospitals in Brazil that only use this technque for curing disease. I have never heard of it anywhere else. It is so simple, I thought to include it. It takes two people, so doesn’t work for solo retreat.

One person lies down on their back. The other person sits at that person’s feet, facing the first person’s feet. With the middle finger and thumb of the giver’s hands, he grabs the whole middle toe of the receiver. He holds this for five minutes. Next, leaving the finger on that toe, you transfer the thumbs to the next outside (smaller) toe, then put the ring finger on that toe and hold for five minutes. With the same transition, move to the little toe and used the little finger and thumb to hold that toe. Then, move to the second toe and use the index finger to hold that toe. Then, move to the big toe and use the index and middle finger to hold that toe. Each toe is held for five minutes. This balances the energy in both people. The giver can do hara breathing (breathing into the lower abdomen) while giving the massage, but it is not necessary. The receiver breathes naturally and relaxes. Sometimes you feel jolts going through the bodies, that is okay. The main focus for both people is to relax.

If can you sit in the vajra posture, this definitely helps to prevent lung. The mind seems to relax into peace and clarity simply from sitting in that posture. It is good policty to begin your practice by spending some time to adjust your sitting posture while you relax your mind by watching your breath or however you can relax your mind. If you can sit in the vajra posture, that is the best. Geshe Sopa told me to at least start out that way even if you can’t sit the whole session in vajra posture. It straightens out the winds so the mind is less distracted. Please note that not everyone has the anatomy suitable to sit in the vajra posture, so if that is your case, then just keep your spine straight with your head slightly bent forward to open up the area where the head connects to the spine… and check that the jaw is relaxed!!!


Eat a diet that promotes grounded, relaxed energy, that is soothing for the nervous system. This means a well-balance diet that is slightly yang and with plenty of protein. If you live on snacks and don’t take time to make a proper meal every day, this will steer you towards lung. For sure, if you don’t eat enough protein, and eat unrefined flours and lots of sugar, this is a certain recipe for lung. Chinese medical science observes that most people in the industrialized world have what they call liver congestion, spleen deficiency and kidney deficiency. Our organs are tired and over-worked. Just this alone gives us lung, so it is important to nurture these organs, also the heart.

Yams and orange vegetables and beef nourish the spleen/stomach energy. Green vegetables, pork and chicken nourish the liver. Black beans, all beans, black sesame seeds and fish nourish the kidneys. We also need to eat the Omega 3 essential fatty acids everyday that is found in flax seed oil and fish oils. Eating saturated fats like butter, coconut oil and ghee are also very good for preventing lung. Some seeds and nuts are good, but not too many and stay away from margarines and all processed foods with lots of chemicals in them. FAT IS GOOD FOR YOU! especially for your nervous system, just don’t eat too much. Fat does not make you fat, eating too many calories makes you fat. Especially if you are a vegetarian, you must get those good fats and plenty of protein in your body. Good whole grains are very good to eat every day. AND EAT ORGANIC! Drink lots of pure water everyday. Get a good water filter! Learn how to balance the pH, the acid/alkaline ratio in your body fluids. If you are too acid, the minds tends to be tight.

Get off caffeine. You can never find your real energy level or sensitize to it if you are charged up on caffeine and sugar. Gen Lamrimpa, an accomplished yogi who lived in the mountains above Dharamsala, made a point of telling us that he takes no caffeine and sleeps as much as he needs to.

For good energy without caffeine, you can make an herbal infusion of the nettle, oatstraw, chamomile. You can buy them in bulk. Get a quart mason jar, put a handful of the herbs in the jar, pour boiling water over it, cover it with a sweater or blanket over night and drink it throughout the day. If you take one to three drops of Gota Kola tincture two or three times a day, before your sessions, this deepens the concentration without straining. Also B12 anemia is a common ailment these days. If you are tired a lot, try taking sublingual B12. It has to be the kind that dissolves under the tongue, you can experiment with doses varying from 500 mcg to 5,000 mcg. Note that it comes in micrograms, not milligrams. Taking 500 mg of Vit C three or four times a day helps a lot in retreat as well. Lama Yeshe told us to take multivitamins and minerals because the food isn’t nutritious enough these days… and for sure stay away from genetically modified food… who knows what they will do to us.

Before starting a long retreat, or anytime actually, I would go to a practitioner of Chinese or Tibetan medicine, have your pulses taken, find out what organs need help, ask what foods to eat and what herbs to take to strengthen those weaknesses and reduce the excesses. Chi Gong will help immensely with this.


In our FPMT retreats, we just read our sadhanas. Tibetan and other English-speaking Tibetan and Zen communities chant their liturgies. I have often thought that this lack of chanting is one of the reasons we get lung. Chanting keeps the heart energy open. Chanting is not quite the same as singing. Chanting sounds come from down in your chest. You have to open your throat and your heart to get a good chant going. In the Anglican liturgies I participated in as a child, we alternated singing and standing and sitting and praying and listening. It’s a good method to keep people concentrated, alert and focused. The Tibetans do that, too, but somehow, when we westerners started doing Tibetan practices, we just sit and read. And we don’t even read out loud when we are at home. This can cause lung if we do practice this way 8 hours a day. One day we will be able to chant our sadhanas in our own language.


Because this is so important, I will say a a bit more about breathing. I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple breathing technique that is taught in the book Being Peace. Breathe in, “I am calm”. Breathe out, smile. Breathe in, “I am present”. Breathe out, “All is wonderful”. We can dispense with the words and just feel those ideas as you breathe…and smile!… We don’t try to hold the mind on the breath, or keep the thoughts at bay. The idea is to relax and notice when the mind is no longer focused on the breath, then, gently return attention to the breathing. OR, you may want to try square breathing (in four counts, hold four counts, out four counts, hold four counts) for a few minutes before you start, or the nine-round breathing if you know that one, or do the five minute taps. Experiment and find what works for you.

When we meditate with a relaxed mind, the thoughts of the past or future, hopes and fears, surface naturally. Let them come up and let them go with unconditional love for yourself; slowly your lung will go away when you relax and don’t judge yourself. Pay close attention to how you talk to yourself, how you relate to your wandering mind and how you feel about yourself while you meditate. This is very important. Are you harsh and judgmental or are you accepting, gentle and kind? We can be kind and precise about our actions simultaneously. For years, I didn’t even notice how I replaced my mind on the object. I just did it, the way I did everything else, out of touch with any feeling. When I became aware of the feeling it was rather cold and judgemental. It’s not: “you idiot!” but rather, “my dear kind little friend”.

Because we are not doing anything, other than breathing, we have the opportunity to get to know the mind, our basic tool and medium, before we add the thoughts, visions, and words of a sadhana. As soon as we start doing, we engage the mind so there isn’t much chance of seeing the patterns that cause the lung. As soon as we engage the mind in activity, we engage all those a priori attitudes about ourselves that govern our doing that we are unaware of — the military general takes control–. So if we stop doing, and simply breathe with awareness, we can get to know our way of being. Then, slowly those attitudes and the emotional traumas that created those attitudes surface to awareness. As they surface to awareness we can let them go by meditating on emptiness or compassion and get closer and closer to simply being without all this added baggage.

I feel like the best meditations come when it feels as if the perception of my experience is like a roll of movie film. When the movie camera is rolling the film so slowly that I can actually glimpse the space between the frames, and breathe into that space, dwell more and more in that space, there is where deep meditation comes. You have to slow down, catch the glimpse, and breathe it wider and wider.

There are two additional techniques you can add to the watching the breath that help to dissolve the discursive thought. The first is to expand the boundaries of your sense of self. Make your mind go out bigger and bigger to become all of space. Add some light if you can. Then your thoughts are no longer the central aspect in your mind. They just become little blip in the big space so they no longer have a strong charge. Discursive thoughts begin to become insignificant; they no longer grab your attention. The second technique, I learned first from Stuart Heller before I had met any Tibetan Lamas. He taught the process he called, “touch, accept and release” for healing energy blocks. I realized later in a long retreat that that was what I was doing with my mind. Touch those thoughts (don’t push them away), accept them and let them go. Ven. Pema Chodron explains it very well. She teaches to cut the story line and just sit with the energy. I find that very helpful because sometimes I see it’s the same neurotic energy pattern coming again and again on which I put different story lines. If I become aware of the energy pattern, where it is in the body, it may release in a chi gong or a meditation sesssion, then, no more neurotic thoughts. For me, this works better than simple applying sutrayana-style antidotes over and over again; although at times that is helpful, too.

When we learn to just recognize thought as energy; it has no more charge. When we see that different story lines arise from the same energy pattern coming up again and again; it is asking us to pay a little attention to this pattern. If we continue to drop the words and our emotional involvement with the drama, thinking this and that about the issue, and just sit with the underlying energy and feel it in our body; then, slowly the experiences, often the emotional traumas, that created those energies that create the attitudes and story lines surface to awareness. As they surface to awareness we can let them go and get closer and closer to simply being without all this added baggage. If we let them go with the feeling of love for ourselves and if we cultivate the feeling of spaciousness in our mind as we relax, relax, then slowly that is all that is left: love and space.

Then, if we can do our sadhanas in that frame of mind, love and space will become bliss and void, our concentration will begin to develop and then we can actualize generation and completion stage practice. I don’t think there is any other way. This all takes time, but I cannot emphasize enough take the time to learn to feel love in your heart before you begin a sadhana. Taking refuge and generating bodhicitta is not just words to say. If we mix the feeling of refuge and bodhicitta while taking the time to watch the breath until the thoughts cease before you begin your sadhana and if we sustain that throughout the sadhana, then, the bliss comes and we get no lung. If the mind is too agitated to slow down after 10-15 minutes of watching the breath, that is totally okay and normal. Just get started anyway; usually, the mind will calm down by the time you get to the Dharmakaya meditation, because we have made the merit right there for that Dharmakaya meditation with all the practice of accumulation and purification that comes before the dissolution.

Experiment and find out method works for you. When you find a relaxed-body-breathing pattern, add the mantra recitation to that. Then you won’t get lung. Stay in your body, aware of your energy. Your breath awareness will do that for you. I also find it helpful to rest a bit after I have finished medtating on a long sadhana up to the section of mantra recitation. I may start the mantra recitation but I don’t care about what my mind is doing for five minutes or so. I just let the wild horse run around and rest for awhile before I gently focus the mantra recitation visualization.


We can do chi gong and eat right for years, but if we don’t shift the attitudes that give us dis-ease, particularly the mind that wants to do more, faster, bigger, better….and the underlying sense of low self esteem and shame that drives the bigger, better mentality…we will always have lung, always be ill. Contentment and acceptance with whatever is going on, relaxing more than you think you need to are key elements to successful meditation practice–and a happy life!

As you go through the visualizations and mantra practice, we do our best to keep the mind relaxed. This takes a good degree of awareness, which is why we beginners get lung. Hold the spaciousness of your mind. Don’t just zero in on the visualization. Remember the main ingredient is faith and intention. Just believe it is all there. If you are working on a visualization or concentrating on a mantra or the nature of mind, keep your mind relaxed. If you can’t relax and you can’t concentrate, just let go. Let the mind go completely for five or ten minutes, even while reciting a mantra, and then come back. In the beginning, you may experience very little spaciousness or concentration. Just focus on relaxing. If you focus on accomplishing and doing, it will just send you backwards. Don’t put all your mind on the object of meditation. Put about 1/4 of your mind on the object, 1/4 on relaxing your body and mind, 1/4 on awareness– attention to what your mind is doing with the object, and 1/4 on maintaining a sense of loving kindness towards yourself. This will give you the right effort. It’s a bit like driving a car along downtown streets while talking to a friend and paying attention to the children in the back seat. Mostly why we get lung is because we try too hard. We learn that trying hard or working hard gives us rewards in worldly pursuits, but it just doesn’t pay off in this activity. Quite often, the day after I’ve had a really concentrated relaxed day, the next day, my mind is agitated and full of toughts. This is lung. I just let go and realize that once again I concentrated too long or too hard. If I just relax that day and let my mind go abit wild in the session, I can concentrate again the next day; but if I force the mind, the concentration only gets worse and the lung deepens. Stop the session before you are tired. This is tricky but really essential!

We need to give our minds a lot of space. If we attend to our mindfulness with affection and love for ourselves, we begin to change the source of our lung. Don’t worry about the results of your meditation practice. Just focus on staying relaxed and centered. Don’t worry about what else is going on in your life, either. If your mind is racing, do the five minute tap. If that doesn’t work, stop your session, go for a walk, eat some grounding food and write out all those thoughts in your journal or sing your favorite song as loud as you want. Don’t sit there and try and force your mind to be still. This will only make your lung worse. It is only when we recognize our situation, accept it and embrace it with love, are we ever able to move through it. We all have to find our own style.

As you go through your sadhana, take time to rest. Stop at the obvious places and practice stabilizing meditation on what you just recited from memory or read. Relax, remember the space all around you, remember emptiness and bodhicitta, and then start again. Rushing through a sadhana will guarantee a case of lung. Reciting a sadhana without meditating on it may create imprints for future lives, but is much transformation going on? Is it going to go very deep and give us any realizations this life–which are the real imprints we are wishing for. It’s also not going to give us much inner satisfaction and so there will be less motivation to turn away from looking for happiness in outer, impermanent, worldly pleasures that are in reality only the suffering of change.

Do you remember what it’s like to play? That is the way we meditate best. Like a child playing in a sand box making elaborate scenes out of sand–totally absorbed and totally enjoying. It’s also good to have an activity to do in retreat that you find relaxing–some form of creative release that is fun and no work. Roger Munro taught me the fine art of a one-person party! Have one every day! Enlightenment is serious business but we can’t be too serious about it. When I find myself laughing at myself a lot in retreat, I know I’m in the right “head-space.”

Saraha, the great Indian Mahasiddha blessed us with the best six similies for good meditation ever:

the sun with no clouds in front of it–a brilliant sun

the flight of the garuda bird–no forcing

an ocean without waves–totally relaxed mind

child looking at temple murals–no squeezing the visualization

bird leaving no trail as it flies– let the thoughts come and go

best cotton thread, soft and strong–gentle but precise—–from Advice from a Spiritual

Friend, Wisdom Pub.

I keep these on the front page of my sadhana to remind me to remember them. And about those sadhanas….if you memorize them you will have much deeper meditations and can do them anywhere–especially at the death time-when you will most need it. They are intended to be meditated upon, not merely recited.


How we relate to people can be a great source of lung. As we develop more skill in guarding the mind with awareness, we catch our uncontrolled emotional outrage response addictions and dissolve them into space and transform them into love; and therefore, we experience less relationship lung. In the meantime, we just have to do the best we can to practice what we learn from the thought transformation teachings, be kind to ourselves when we make mistakes and apologize to others when we make mistakes. One thing I have noticed from working with the Eight Verses for Training the Mind and lojong in general is this: It is important to offer the victory to others, yes, emphatically yes, but that doesn’t mean that we let destructive relationship patterns continue or we don’t let our needs be known. This is what transforms thought training into co-dependence and I don’t think that was Geshe Langri Tharpa’s intention. In the emotional moment, yes, offer the victory. Later, analyze the situation and decide if it is beneficial to let it go, or is it important to talk about the issue with your co-worker or sex partner or friend or child or parent. We have to communicate, not just swallow poison—ours and theirs—.

Relationships can get very dry, stale, full of resentment and die out if we continue to offer the victory and never address a situation that is not good for anyone involved. You can only help someone if you are well yourself. So, if you can, arrange a meeting in a neutral environment and discuss your issues with “I statements” and avoid the “you did this and this and this”…rather, “I feel like this when such and such happens…” Maybe you need a neutral mediator. Sometimes the best action is to offer the victory. Some people aren’t ready to talk about their shadow issues or maybe it is simply not appropriate to do so. It depends on the person and how much you care about them or how important, in the big picture, is your relationship to that person or how important is a good relationship with that person to accomplishing a higher goal. You have to make sure your ego is not invested in the outcome. No power trips, please. The goal is harmony, not winning your view.

I am a total avid fan of Marshall Rosenburg’s system called Non-Violent Communication. There are workshops given worldwide now and I recommend them to everyone. It takes our mind-training texts just that one step further into the nuts and bolts of how to be skillful when communicating with ourselves and others. I highly recommend the study of Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication training. This is the speech aspect of our mahayana thought trainings, totally wonderful!

Daily breathing meditation is also essential if we want to develop the awareness of the mental process that can “put the on breaks” before we uncontrollably lash out at someone or lie or whatever we do that is harmful. If we are busy and think of our dharma practice as reading a bunch of sadhanas everyday, or reciting mantra commitments with no concentration; this does very little to develop our “mindfulness muscle” as Jon Landaw calls our awareness faculty. We may keep our commitments, which is very good, but are we developing our minds, are we becoming more skillfully virtuous?


I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in California, we are quite familiar with a phenomena called “road rage”: the irritability, agitation, impatience we feel in traffic jams. This is caused by the mental tension combined with the inhalation of the exhaust fumes on the highway. We get a similar experience in meditation if we are meditating in a toxic building. Many of our meditation gompas fill up with exhaust fumes from cooking gas stoves while we meditate, and/or they are made of toxic plywoods, painted in toxic varnishes and carpeted with synthetic carpets. There is nothing we can do about this type of lung except to make sure our personal meditation space is non-toxic. (see references).

If you meditate in a room that is not out-gassing toxic materials your mind will be less agitated and/or sluggish so your clarity and relaxation will come with much less effort. They may not come at all in a toxic room, you may just feel agitated or dull. I already mentioned about the fantastic experience I had at my first course with Lama Yeshe. One factor I realized years later, was that the course was taught at Grizzly Lodge, an old Boy Scout Camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It was built before 1930, made entirely of solid wood, probably Ponderosa Pine or Douglas Fir. There were no toxic chemicals outgassing in that building. My second course was the next year at Vajrapani Institute where they had just built a gompa out of plywood and covered the plywood flooring with a cheap carpet -the worst sources of formaldehyde poisoning in indoor environments. I had a very rough go of it. My mind was agitated the whole time. I was told it was lung. I think it had to do more with the poisons I was breathing every day on and off from 5 a.m. to midnight. I recognize that I am more sensitive than most people to this toxicity, but I see it to varying degrees in most everyone. Most people just think they have lung! I did. Ask the old folks at Vajrapani Institute about their first Vajrayogini Retreat they did in 1981 in their brand new “painted gompa” that was filled with outgassing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). The lung was outrageous! VOC’s aren’t the only cause for lung, but they are a “surefire” contributing condition.

Breathing toxic fumes alters the endocrine response system. Our hormones’ balance is altered. In men and women this produces symptoms like insomnia, irritability, fatigue, depression, diabetes…The EPA established in the 1980’s that the air inside a normal building in the USA is more toxic than standing in the streets of downtown Manhatten at rush hour. So, if we are looking to fine-tune our nervous systems to meditate on subtle minds, if we just want to be happy and not harm others, it is in our interests to keep the toxic chemicals out of the house–and out of the food and anything we put on our body.


There is nothing inherently holy about keeping silence, it is only a tool to help us in our meditation practice. When my husband, Roger and I did our first four year retreat, Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche advised us to generally keep silence, but to talk when it is necessary. That, to me, is very sound advice (of course!). If we talk every day, it is difficult to get into deep meditation because the mind is more gross. But, if we don’t talk when there is something we need to say or if the circumstance requires talking, then we can get lung if we don’t talk. But to talk is necessary only in a very grave circumstance. Talking can be a way to benefit others. Keeping silence can be another worldly dharma: ”I kept silence for four months…” can just be another ego trip and have nothing to do with transforming the mind, only a hindrance. Being stubborn can help us stay in retreat, but it can also give us lung if stubborn also means inflexible.

We have rules in retreats as guidelines, not as hard and fast rules. If you have to go out to the doctor or the dentist, then, go. Take care of your body. If your parents are dying, then do something that is appropriate. We westerners tend to take everything way too seriously and this doesn’t help us get enlightened at all. If you do have to leave a strict retreat for some reason, Lama Yeshe told us to blow out the boundary as we go out and bring it back in behind us as we come back in. If I have to leave, I offer a torma to the protector deity at the gateway of my boundary and make another offering when I return to strict retreat. You can also do a gek torma when you get back. Retreat is about cultivating wisdom and compassion, not about obeying rules with the fear that you will go to hell if you break them! Karmic results come from the motivation more than the actual action.


We tend to live our lives at a very fast pace so when we get up in the morning to do our daily practice or before we go to sleep, we tend to squeeze a certain amount of recitation into a certain amount of time. This is a certain recipe for lung. When I began my second great retreat, after a few months I noticed I had developed a bad habit when I attended Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche. I would jump right into my morning prayers the minute I woke up. I left not a second to let the dreams surface or to let myself cultivate a sense of bliss and void before arising as the deity. This is a great way to start the day off with lung! Jamgon Kontrul the Great taught that in retreat we must behave like we are recovering from a long chronic illness. In actual fact, we are in recovery from the disease known as samsara! Often in retreat, a lot of emotional stuff comes out and psychic change occurs in our being; this takes a lot of energy and we can be very tired. So, rest. Some traditions meditate and sleep in a meditation box. I have been told by lamas and abbots to sleep in a separate place from where I meditate, and to sleep well, lying down on a bed that is not on the floor. Accomplished meditators can sleep and meditate in one place sitting up, but for beginners, this can just make our bodies hurt and our meditations very sleepy.

How can we make evolutionary changes towards enlightenment in our fast-paced lives? If you can, take 5-15 minutes when you wake up in the morning to relax and feel bodhicitta, dedicate your day to helping others and rejoice. For me, it is extremely beneficial to lie in bed before I get up for 10-15 minutes. I remember my guru, remember death and impermanence, place my hands over the area below my navel and breathe into that area, watch my breath, fill up with chi, relax my mind,

feel love in my heart for all beings, generate bodhicitta, arise as the deity and rejoice and movitivate my day. I also review my dreams at this time. If I just jump up or just plunge into recitation, I forget the dreams and they are powerful guides, especially in retreat! I may do the dream recall as soon as I wake up, before I do anything else…It’s good to cultivate that state between sleeping and waking; it seems to be very fertile ground for healing and receiving messages from the inner and outer guru and from people in need.

The best thing to do is like Lama Yeshe said in his last teaching on Bodhicitta: “When we finish work we are tired and don’t have much energy left. So, when you come home from work, lie down comfortably and meditate on bodhicitta. It’s much better than rushing in speedily, throwing down a coffee and dropping onto your meditation cushion to try to meditate; your nervous system needs time and space. You can’t be rushing through traffic one minue and sitting quietly meditating the next. It is much better to have a quiet, blissful cup of coffee.

And don’t pressure yourself either; that too is very bad. Don’t punish yourself when you are too tired to meditate; ‘I should be meditating; I am bad.’ You destroy yourself like this. Be wise. Treat yourself, your mind, sympathetically, with loving kindness. If you are gentle with yourself, you will become gentle with others, so don’t push. We are dealing with the mind, not rocks and concrete; it is something organic. ”

This is the remedy. This is the best teaching on healing and avoiding lung. If you have specific commitments to do, you can read them while you rest when you are too tired to really meditate. I finally understood what Lama meant when he always referred to the process of transformation as organic when I cut my finger in retreat. It was a deep cut that needed four stitiches. As I watched my finger slowly heal, I thought: my mind can change only as fast as its nature will allow it to–it’s organic. I can’t force my mind to heal any more than I can force my finger to heal. I can only give it the conditions it needs and it will heal organically, all by itself. The trick to a good retreat is to stay relaxed and happy, do the practice without pushing and let the transformation come…there is nothing to be done…just a lot of practice to do.Like Gen Lamrimpa said, “You can’t force a flower to grow, you give the seed water and fertilizer and watch it grow…” So with our minds, we practice easily and be patient. When you get to the place where you can feel the deity in your being, you can feel pace and rhythm of practice, let your instincts take over. If you are in a constant state of refuge and guru devotion, there is a feeling to it, just let that guide you.






As with all “problems”, if we remember compassion for ourselves, the empty nature of self and the lung, and see the lung as merely an experience to work with and learn from, not as an obstacle, we can function and carry on and get over it. Our Jetsun Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche’s book, Transforming Problems gives us the tools we need and explains all of this, so there is no need for me to do that….As for the energetic side of it, sitting in meditation and simply breathing into a hollow body is good to clear out lung. The feeling may be one of great impatience, like you just have to get this sadhana over and done with as fast as possible, but, if you just sit with that feeling, before you begin and penetrate that impatience with your breath and the hollow body, the energy will relax…especially if you do prostrations before you sit.

Do something for other people that makes them happy, you’ll be amazed at how your lung goes away. If there’s no people around, do something for the animals, the spirits, the plants, the planet…Anything that opens the heart cures lung. This may be all that you need to do!

You can do all the prescribed actions to prevent lung, but still you may get it, but not as bad and it goes away rather quickly. This is because working with these subtle energies requires very sensitive adjustments in your concentration intensity and duration which varies every day as all the outer and inner influences on your winds fluctuate…the weather, your hormones, astrology, your diet, who you talked to, what you thought about, what you dreamed about, what toxic substances you inhaled, all influence your capacity to concentrate in your sessions. Consequently, each session is new and unique and even though you may be right into your awareness field and sensing your body, still you may just forget, get involved in the bliss or the visualization or the emptiness and just hold it one or two minutes too long…or something comes up and you start to work harder…anything can bring on lung. So then, what do we do?

The main cure for lung, according to Tibetan Medicine, is taking meat, alchohol and having sex. In other words, the cure for lung is to get really loose and relaxed and joyful and “let it all hang out”. Uptight people who suffer from “Serious Buddhist Syndrome” are very likely to have or to get lung. We have to take our karma seriously but we have to take it with a great deal of humour and fun and light-heartedness as well. Judging from the increasing proliferance of eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex in our culture, we can see that lung is everywhere! The more stress, the more lung. I think if the Tibetans had rock n’ roll bands and dance halls, going dancing would be one of the cures they recommmend. For me, it is a great one…take your favorite dancing music to your retreat with you!

Marijuana helps to relieve lung. Like alchohol, if it is used as medicine, occasionally, not everyday, when lung is very acute, it will back it off. There is much less danger in using marijuana to relax than alchohol because it doesn’t make one angry or violent and is much less destructive to the liver and kidneys. In small amounts, in can be very helpful medicine. Of course, if you can do without it, that is preferable, but I support the legalization of marijuana and the use of medical marijuana. It really helps people with chronic disease.

Tibetan Medicine has a great herb for lung, actually they have a few, but the one I am most familiar with is called Black Agar or sometimes Agar 35. It is a very black round ball of herb. If the Tibetans could market this worldwide, I think they could make enough money to buy back Tibet from the Chinese! It is a wonderful herb because it relaxes your mind and body and makes you blissful without the unpleasant side effects that come from drinking alchohol or smoking marijuana. You just get the relaxed blissful feeling, nothing else. You can probably order it from the Medical Center in Dharamsala, but it is better to go to a Tibetan Doctor for a total diagnosis.

If there are no Tibetan Doctors around, Chinese acupuncture and herbs can really help also.

Most acute lung cases can be cured without doctors and medicine; just not as fast or as easily. Rest more, hike to a long distance view, sing more, enjoy more, etc…Eat strong foods. Beef and lamb are the surest, direct cure for lung. Geshe Denpa Dargye, the glorious geshe at Osel Ling, used to ask for beef fat when he had lung. The fat heals the nervous system. I know this is a bone of contention with vegetarians. Many Tibetan Lamas remind us that more sentient beings are killed in the production of one lettuce than are killed in meat production. They also tell us that by eating meat, if we pray for the animal, this is more beneficial because they animal has already been slaughtered. If we didn’t ask for that, in actuality, we are helping that being by eating its flesh. It’s just up to the individual, but I have seen vegetarians who eat predominately white pasta, dairy and sugar and have such bad lung…but maybe in the long run there is some benefit to this…

If you are a die-hard vegetarian, you may want to know that the fat in peanut is similar to the fat in beef that gives lung relief. Butter and ghee are pretty good, too. But, take care in eating peanut butter, it is very hard on the liver and that, too, can give you an agitated mind. Ven. Max Redlich told me once that toast with butter, honey and nutmeg is a good lung cure. If you can’t eat toast, you can put the other ingredients on rice cakes or on oats you toast in a dry, oil-less frying pan or in the oven. It still tastes good.

Taking a supplement of the B vitamin, inositol, has greatly helped my nervous system to stabilize. All the B vitiamins are necessary for good nervous system function, we use up our B vitamins when we meditate. Vitamin C helps, too. If you are restless at night, take a calcium/magnesium supplement before going to sleep or try the amino acid 5-HTP at bedtime. 5-HTP is what the body uses to make seratonin, so if you are depressed or anxious you might want to try that also.

Adequate calcium in the diet is also necessary for a calm nervous system. Dairy products, tahini and all the greens of the cabbage family (collards, kale, broccoli) are high in calcium. Spinach, chard and beet greens actually decrease the calcium absorption because they are high in oxalic acid so they aren’t so good to eat. You need magnesium and Vit. D to metabolize calcium. If you take a supplement, the ratio of Ca to Mg is 2 to 1. Some people say sunbathing with coconut oil on the skin helps lung, maybe this has something to do with Vit. D and calcium absorption.

If your lung manifests as exhaustion, then support the kidneys and adrenal glands. Withania tincture is excellent for that, as well as black sesame seeds and black beans. If your lung manifests as impatience, anger and irritability, then support the liver with diet. Cut back on fats, eat greens and take dandelion root tincture if you tend to run hot and milk thistle if you tend to be cold. If your lung manifests as obsessive thinking and the wild elephant mind, then support your spleen by cutting out sweets and eating yams, sweet potatoes, and winter squash, butter and corn. Prickly ash tincture is good for the nervous system, particularly when the digestion is affected by overwork or anxiety.

Because yams and winter squash nourish the spleen, they are good for promoting concentration. Sweets, especially white sugar, not only make you agitated but they weaken your spleen which will make concentration difficult, which will cause you to strain and develop lung. Even though chocolate contains caffeine and sugar, sometimes a little chocolate combined with a good hike is a great lung cure! Everything in moderation….You can get chocolate that is made with grain malt or dried cane juice instead of refined sugar; this is better for lung because you get the heart opening effect of the chocolate without the overkill buzz of sugar.

Also, supporting the adrenal glands and your kidney chi is really good for all meditators. When your adrenals are stressed, the mind is much more nervous and agitated, the winds run rough, you have lung. Licorice root helps the adrenals. The life force wind is centered in the kidney/adrenals. When that is weak, our whole wind system runs rough, our brains can’t concentrate well, so we strain and get lung. When we have low adrenal function, it is really important to eat a good meal in the morning, (dinner for breakfast) and rest as much as the body needs. You may want to try the actual adrenal gland supplements in the health food store, although I’m told it’s not good to take this over long periods of time. But sometimes we need to take these natural hormone replacements just to help the body have the energy to heal itself. If you do take hormones, take supportive herbs and food simultaneously. After some time, 6 months to a year, you can wean yourself off the hormones gradually. One week you cut out Sunday’s hormones, in two weeks you cut out Saturday and Sundays hormones…like that until you no longer take any of them.

I have found that flower essences are really helpful for meditators. They work very subtly to remove those emotional habits that we work so hard to transform. Take the flower remedies and they just go away by themselves. They can be extremely powerful healers. I have found that the Desert Alchemy essence Fairy Duster settles a restless mind. There are many more for concentration so check them all out. See the references section for the books. I use a pendulum dowser to ask which ones to take, and then read what the books say about it and make my decision based on the pendulum’s results and what the book says.

Julia Graves has discovered that Asparagus flower essence helps to clear energy blocks in the central channel and Weeping Cherry helps to relax muscles along the spine.Harebell for blocks in the head area, Glory of the Snow for tight throat chakra; Black Cohosh for dark energy in the pelvic area; Calendula for leaking pelvic energy and Trillium for controlling the bliss…white for feminine energy and maroon for male. Retreat time is wonderful to experiment with flower essences–but you need at least three-four weeks to see the change. Flower remedies in the bath are a very good way to take them as well. Clean the tub before hand, put in 8-15 drops and soak for 25 minutes.

Homeopathic remedies can help also, such as Calmsforte, but everyone is unique… you have to experiment and see what works for you. Kali Phosphoricum or Biochemic Phosphates (Schussler Cell Salts) for mental strain work well for me. Valerian root herbal tincture can help (this is herbal valium). Passion flower tincture relaxes muscle tension that comes from mental stress. This is really good for lung, especially when the lung manifests in tight neck and shoulder muscles. Drink the nettle, oatstraw, chamomile tea. Take a bath with lavender or chamomile. Make a really strong chamomile tea, about 2 liters, and add it to your bath water. You will sleep so well!!!

Daily hard aerobic exercise cures lung, especially exercising the arms and chest to clear out the heart and pericardium meridians. This is probably one reason why Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche advises to begin every meditation session with Prostrations to the Thirty-Five Buddhas. Not only does it fortify and clarify the winds, it purifies the karma to get lung! Regular chi gong practice is the best prevention, but if you already have lung, it will help cure it, too.

Sometimes lung comes in the form of a really sore back. A bath is very helpful. Get your back hot in the shower or in the tub and then rub your upper back and chest with one of those long handled Chinese bamboo back scratchers. In the shower or bath, get your back warm, then rub behind your heart, and whole back quite vigorously until the skin turns bright red. Rub your chest, too. Lung is congested chi in the heart chakra area. This gets the lung out. Lie on a MA ROLLER regularly and this type of lung is less likely to occur. (A MA ROLLER is a piece of turned wood about the size of a rolling pin that has ridges in it that massage the muscles on either side of your spine as you lay down on it.)

Apply pressure or moxa to acupuncture point P6, located about one inch above your wrist in the middle of the palm side on your arm. You’ll find the sore spot. You can also apply deep pressure for 1-2 minutes a day on sore points on your palms.

I sing for a half an hour or so when I have lung. That always gets it out. Have fun with your prayers, sing them and chant them. Find some way that is within your retreat boundary to HAVE FUN. Have a one-person party every day.

Take time to gaze into long distance views and just space out. Then meditate on emptiness. We just have to let go, let go, let go…

CURING CHRONIC LUNG OR PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

When we live in fear and anxiety for long periods of tme, especially as children, we have lung all the time. “Normal childhood” traumas grow up into neuroses. If there is intense and/ or on-going physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or we experience a war, or a natural disaster, or some heavy violence, then we have PTSD. This is why many people take anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs these days. Can PTSD be cured so we don’t have to rely on anti-depressants? Some people can, but it takes consistent devoted therapy, either self-therapy in retreat or with a group or with a professional. Peter Levine has developed a bodywork psychotherapy that is effective for curing PTSD. Thich Nhat Hanh does great healing work with Viet Nam Vets just by talking about the trauma, letting it out in a healing environment, where it’s all okay to have been abused or have been the abuser…Abusers are just as traumatized. A newer therapy called BodyTalkSystems that works with the energetic memory of the system can help quicker than acupuncture or talk therapy.

Some of the flower essences can be extremely effective such as the Desert Alchemy, Coral Bean. When working with flower essences, you need to study the remedies, and, if you can, dowse the remedies with a pendulum to figure out which ones will work for you because it is totally individual. Some remedies work in a month, some take many months. The homeopathic remedy, Stramonium, is also good for some people

It’s all up to karma, but, I’m almost certain the original trauma must be revisited and new reactions have to come in relation to those traumas. The actual memory may not have to surface, (although in many cases it will), but the physiological imprint, the traumatic energy, has to be touched and released. The reason I say almost is I am sure there are cases of PTSD cured by faith-healing and prayer, but even then, something, an energetic response or a memory or both, has to come out or shift. For many of us, the trauma may not be a specific event, but simply an ongoing stress that lasted throughout childhood. It may even be the tonsillectomy you had when you were seven. If we pray for help, guidance will come.

If you wish to heal your trauma karma, you have to want to do the work, no can give you a pill to make it go away. It is very helpful to meditate on karma and realize you created the cause somewhere so you can begin to forgive the perpetrator. Meditate on compassion so you can identify with the samsaric suffering of the perpetrator and understand they are also trapped in their karma. And it is very important to do purification practices to purify the more subtle cause of your PTSD, to do accumulating virtue practices to create the cause to find the right healer and the right medicine, and to make requests to the Guru-Deity to guide you towards healing.

Judith Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery, is a book I recommend to everyone, even if you think you don’t have PTSD. When you read the book you see how many people you know have these symptoms, including you. It really helps to understand your personal mandala and the state of our planet and why wars must be stopped. She cites that the one out of ten men who don’t come out of war combat with PTSD are the ones whose main thought during the battle was to save his comrades’ lives, not his own. This is a bit of proof from the scientific world of the great power of cherishing others more than the self. She also documents that the people who cure themselves of PTSD do it by helping others who have suffered the same trauma.

I heard of another therapy that is working very well to cure PTSD. A therapist takes the person back to the original trauma…and this can sometimes take some digging when denial has been used to shield the memory. The therapist encourages the person to talk about the trauma and really feel it again. As the person is talking, (or crying) the therapist gently taps on the person’s palms, alternating right and left palm every few seconds for 3 to 10 or 15 minutes depending on what is coming out of the patient. This distracts the brain and re-wires the memory so the traumatic effect on the nervous system is eliminated. I think it must take a skilfull therapist because you have to know how long to tap on the palms to erase the memory. But, there are stories of remarkable recoveries… and it is so easy.

If you have this type of Tsok Lung, there is no reason to despair or think you can’t meditate. You can work with it and heal it if you put your intention and faith in that direction. What I have given here is just what we have done…you will find other things as well. If we remember that our primary practice is to purify negativity, accumulate positive karmic potentials, make offerings and requests to the Guru-deity, anything is possible. We just have to imagine ourselves as the deity and point our feet in that direction, step by step, slowly, joyfully, mindfully, we can get to the space where we can really be of benefit to other beings. However, please only go into retreat under the advise and care of a qualified teacher.


In long retreats, due to the blessings of the Guru-deity, we discover a state of being that is conducive to maintaining awareness all day long. This is the goal. It is relaxed, open, attentive and blissful. This is the same state that will nurture the immune system. We can use that inner awareness as your guide to determine what to eat, when to meditate and for how long, when to exercise, when to rest or sleep. (I have learned to use a pendulum to ask questions to my inner guru and this works for me.) More importantly, we learn to pay attention to what takes us out of that state of being. We learn to manage all our activity to maintain and grow that awareness. It’s like the adept river guide who steers the boat down the river effortlessly because she uses her intuition, knowledge and experience to stay in the river’s central current. In this case, we use our intuition, knowledge, and experience to stay in the center of our being.

This state allows us to remember to motivate and dedicate all our activities with bodhicitta motivation; to remember the subject/object emptiness; to remember the illusory nature of what we experience via our six sense organs; to remember divine pride. Then, we can reap the most benefit from retreat because we are constantly creating the cause for enlightenment.

Retreat is about the 24 hour experience, not just the 8 or 9 hours you spend on your cushion.

We just have to remember that our nature is to suffer, lung is natural, it comes with the body. So, let’s be light and humorous about our predicament. Our lam rim practice gives us the rocket fuel we need to traverse the path to enlightenment, but there will always be ups and downs and occasions to suffer until all the causes for suffering are extinguished in our mindstreams. So, relax and take it easy, work steadily with faith and aspiration– as karma permits– discover ways to feel joy in every day. Joy has to be cultivated for most of us. Discouragement and doubt, our greatest obstacle, come up when we are tired. So take it easy…We CAN do it! Years ago, through Ven. Tsen-la’s kindness, I told Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche that I couldn’t practice lojong. Rinpoche said, “How many years have you been in samsara?…and how many years have you been practicing lojong?” We need a lot of patience, isn’t it?

Constantly reflect on the kindness of the sentient beings who are the cause for our enlighenment. Constantly reflect on their unavoidable suffering. If we keep the sentient beings, our dearest friends, every one of them, in the center of our hearts; with the deep wish to bring them the greatest happiness and joy, we can overcome any obstacle. Cherishing others, doing ton len however we can, is our best friend and best protection.

How we come out of retreat is very important also. If we come out too fast, even if we did not get lung in the retreat, we could get it in the re-entry phase, be very gentle with yourself. Don’t talk too much especially!

I offer sincere regrets if I have misrepresented anyone’s ideas of if I have given any misinformation or made any big mistakes.

Completed on the 28th moon day of the fourth month in the Iron Snake Year. June 19, 2001. Edited in July, 2006. Paula Chichester, aka Ven. Lhundup Nyingje

May this little writing be of some benefit to all beings. May all beings experience the precious Bodhicitta and may the have temporal and ultimate happiness in all their lifetimes. May all wars, famines, disease, natural and manmade disasters and human, animal and planetary exploitation stop right now. May all wonderful conditions flourish and may enlightened leaders prevail.



These are the innermost jewels of the Kadampas. By merely keeping them in the heart, the fortress of delusion collapses, the ship of negative karma disintegrates and one will reach the very blissful ground of remedy. Therefore,if one has these ten innermost jewels, one will achieve liberation and enlightenment quickly and without hardhships; and, by the way, one wil lattain the happiness of this life and the happiness of all future lives.

I request the posssessor of the mighty one, the kind Gurus, the direct and indirect Gurus, please bless me to give up this life, as did the holy beings who came before me.

By seeing sickness, old age and death, the unequaled son of Tsetsang (Prince Siddhartha) felt great sadness and then abandoned his reign of the kingdon. At the end of six years, having lived the autere life of an ascetic, on the banks of the great river Naranza, he became fully enlightened. Reflect on the nature of the uncertainty of death just like the life stories of the previous holy beings who reflected on impermanence and death, who felt great sorrow, who gave up this life, who practiced in solitary places and who achieved enlightenment in one life. Reflect on the nature of the uncertainty of death like this. Why shouldn’t I give up the activities of this life? Home, field, house, relatives, food, wealth—all of these do not allow pure Dharma practice to arise.

Except for the needs for survival–the three robes, begging bowl, and so forth–, I won’t keep gold or jewels or anything extra, not even one piece, for myself. At that time, wealth, family, friends, (cats and dogs, too) will not benefit me. Furthermore, there will be the suffering of separation from them. By reflecting in this way, I should give up seeking the means of this life.

I should entrust the depths of my attitudes to the Dharma.

I should entrust the depths of the Dharma to the beggar.

I should entrust the depths of the beggar to death.

I should entrust the depths of the death to the cave.

I should proceed will with the uncaptured vajra. (By proceeding with the vajra mind that does not change from renouncing this life, I practice Dharma without being captured by the beloved ones.)

I should definitely leave behind the vajra without shyness. ( This means: Leave behind worldly concern. Whatever people say about me, good or bad, I won’t change my mind when I go out into the world with renunciation for this life.

The transcendent wisdom vajra should accompany me. (I should equalize Dharma and my life and not transgress the commitment to renouncing this life I live in.)

I should attempt to be out of line with the human beings. (I should be out of line with worldly human beings who are attached to this life.)

I should keep the lowly position, wearing ragged clothes.

I should reach to the line of dogs and achieve the line of devas. (Accept the loss of food, clothing and reputation. No matter how much hunger, thirst and other hardship happens, I will bear it to practice Dharma. When one gives up the works of the mundane world and completes one’s practice in solitary places, one achieves the Supramundane Deva of the Devas, which is enlightenment in this life.)

In short, the impermanence and death will come soon. Now is the time to give up this life. Due to the compassion of the Guru and my own virtue, may I be able to give up the work of this life.

If one recites these words verbally and reflects on their meaning, one will be able to give up quickly the works of this life completely.

(This text was composed by the highly attained lama, Tsokdrig Rangdrol. It was translated by Kyabje Thubten Zopa Rinpoche on the 23rd day of the first month of the year of the Earth Rabbit, March 10, 1999, at Kacho Dechen Ling in Aptos, California, USA. Commentarial assistance by Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche is in the parentheses. Translation assistance was offered by Ven. Tsenla and Ven. Nyingje. lightly edited by Nyingje May all beings benefit.



Jensen and Vanderhaeghe, No More HRT, Menopause, Treat the Cause. Quarry Health Books 2002. available from Even though this book is primarily for middle aging women, the information about how to make your body healthy, how to support your liver, kidneys, digestion, how to work with stress, what to eat, etc.,is the best I have ever seen for men or women of all ages.


Baker, Elliott and Banta, Prescription for a Healthy House, In word Press

Dadd, Debra Lynn, Home Safe Home, Tarcher Putnam

Hartley and Marks, Rousseau and Vasley, Healthy by Design

green building guide:


Kaminsky and Katz, Flower Essence Reperatory, The Flower Essence Society, 1986

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Bradshaw, John, Reclaiming and Rechampioning Your Inner Child,

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Levine, Peter, Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, North Atlantic Books 1997

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—————Banished Knowledge, Doubleday, 1988.

Preece, Rob, The Alchemical Buddha, Introducing the Psychology of Buddhist Tantra. Mudra Press, 2000

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Richo, David, Shadow Dance, Shambala Books, 1999

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Horricks,…Getting the Love You Want


Chia, Mantak and Maneewan, Cultivating Female Sexual Energy, Healing Tao Books, 1986.

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Element Books Ltd., 1993.

Pharmaceutical DRUGS:

Cohen, J.S., Overdose..very informative book on the use and misuse of pharmaceuticals, what they do to you etc…if you take pharmaceuticals, or go to a conventional allopathic doctor, this book will help you stay informed so you don’t get even more sick by taking their “cures”.


*Aihara, Herman, Acid-Alkaline, ….

Enig, Mary, Know your Fats, Bethesday Press

Fallon, Sally, Nourishing Traditions, New Trends Press,

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Kim Le, The Simple Path to Health, Rudra Press, 1996