Healing Chöd: Do Nothing, Feel Everything

Posted on July 24th, 2013 by in Conscious Living

Healing_ChodIf you’re the kind of person who makes to-do lists (I am), you might feel that self-care—cooking healthy, practicing yoga, even meditating—is just another chore to check off your list  (I sometimes do).  So when a friend invited me to participate in an ancient Buddhist ritual that literally involves doing nothing, I was intrigued.

It’s called Healing Chöd, and it’s about as passive a healing process as you’ll ever encounter.  “Chöd” means “to cut,” “to release,” or “to go beyond” in Tibetan.  So what might this sacred ceremony help to release?  Anything from illness to suffering to karmic obstacles to spiritual growth.  “The main purpose is to overcome the root cause of all destructive emotions,” says Lama Migmar Tseten, a Tibetan spiritual  master who leads the Healing Chöd retreat at Kripalu.

My friend, Lisa, and I didn’t know what to expect, but we were game.  From Friday evening through Sunday morning, about 100 of us came to receive the healing during four 90-minute sessions.  Mats, pillows, and blankets covered the room.  Before the ceremony began, we were instructed to lie down and just be receptive.  That’s it.  No understanding required.  No thinking needed.  No meditation necessary.

“The best way is to remain awake,” says Lama Migmar, “but some people are so tired from all their emotions, they fall asleep and that’s OK.”  Apparently, the energy of the Chöd is still transmitted through the chants.

When Lisa and I went, two Buddhist nuns and the son and spiritual heir of a revered Buddhist saint led the ceremony.  They played drums, rang bells, blew horns, and chanted from 50 pages of ancient liturgy.  The sounds and mantras were supposed to pacify discord.  Lama Migmar, who says the Chöd is part of his daily meditation practice, emphasizes that the chants carry the power and blessings of loving-kindness from Buddha, the Enlightened One.

Purportedly barren women who’ve participated in the Chöd have later conceived; some claimed to have been cured of cancer.  Others have had visions.  Before the end of our final session, I overheard a woman describe some painful family dynamics that had shifted for the better in the mere 24 hours since our workshop had begun.

I can’t attest to such grand results.  Not surprisingly, my monkey mind raced from one random thought to the next during the sessions.  Am I not receiving the healing? I worried. But there’s no right way to experience the Chöd. “Everyone receives it differently,” notes Lama Migmar.  The point is just to relax and be open to the experience.

Whether I cut through my destructive emotions during that weekend is still unclear, but what was clear to me was that there’s something to be said for taking not just a physical but also a mental vacation from the merry-go-round of daily existence.  It’s so rare that we allow ourselves to stop rather than go.  To listen rather than speak.  To be rather than do.  And that in itself, for me, was healing.

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About Portland Helmich

Portland is the creator, host, and producer of the Kripalu Perspectives podcast series. She's also is the creator, host, and executive producer of What’s the Alternative?, a series of 52 half-hour talk shows about natural and alternative forms of healing the body-mind on Veria Living TV, a natural health channel on DISH, FiOS, and Frontier. For 15 years, Portland’s been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer. She's been an alternative medicine correspondent for Oxygen, a health reporter for The American Consumer on PBS, and was the creator, host, and executive producer of Journeys Into Healing on Wisdom Television. She produced for HealthWeek and Healing Quest on PBS and was a medical producer for WCVB-TV (Boston’s ABC News affiliate). She’s also covered the subject as a freelance writer for Body + Soul, Alternative Medicine, and Spa magazines. Portland currently lives in Boston and produces other natural health programming for Veria Living TV.
  • My Peace Of Food

    I would LOVE to experience this. Not many results when I search for local…practitioners? But I do know an energy “healer” and am hoping to get there with my husband. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but he’s much more willing to experiment with alternative healing methods than he is psychotherapy!

    • Portland Helmich

      I wouldn’t think there would be many results in searching for local practitioners because Healing Chod is an ancient Buddhist ritual, but if you can get your husband to dip his toes into it, good for you. It’s certainly “less in your face” than psychotherapy … and who knows what benefits you could receive. :-)