It can seem daring to open the door to healing. And yet cultivating peace of mind is actually not so strange or alien. It can help if we rekindle a memory of some quiet time when no outside pressures or worries were bombarding us. Such memories give us a clue about the mind in its true, peaceful nature, and can become the focus of meditation. If you can recall a peak experience when you felt whole and complete, it’s possible to bring the feelings of this recollection forward to the present. The key is to remember the image, in all its details, then expand the wonderful feeling in your mind. It could be an experience triggered by a religious experience or a meeting with a joyful person, as in the story I told about my visit with the Rinpoche when I was young. Tibetans often employ the memories of their spiritual master as focal points for spiritual training, for the culture breeds a deep respect for the truly wise teacher.
There are so many possible candidates for such a contemplation. It could be a visit to a beautiful garden, or being in mountains that are blanketed in snow, or experiencing the silence of vast open fields.
One memory that has inspired me over the years took place during the difficult escape from the political upheavals in Tibet in the 1950s. My companions and I were passing through Lhasa, the capital, when we came upon some farmers tailing after their horses and donkeys on the way to market. They were singing some folk songs in their simple, natural voices. The singing seemed to rise up from the primordial earth. It had a sky-bursting quality of sincerity. I don’t think any great professional singer could have surpassed the naturalness of those rough-hewn melodies sounding forth in that moment.
Perhaps my heart was more open to this beauty because I had just made a brief pilgrimage to the ancient, ageless monuments of a holy city. For whatever reason, this felt different than other music which I enjoy greatly. It touched a deep level of my mind, and awakened a state of heightened awareness in which any trace of fear or sadness melted in the air that rang with sweet voices. It is interesting, too, that this happened at a time of great change on a dangerous journey. So even during turmoil (or maybe because of it!), it’s possible to taste serenity.
Happy childhood memories are another doorway to tranquillity of mind. Some of the silly and simple experiences back then gave us more joy than any of today’s entertainments. I can remember at a very young age roasting sweet potatoes with some other boys in a small cave. It’s an utterly simple memory, but one that can fill me with a sense of warmth and freedom when I contemplate it. In childhood the mind tends to be fresh and clear, able to feel things nakedly and intimately, before being numbed and insulated by all the excitements and burdens that come later. A day seemed to last forever then, we often felt a greater sense of space in ourselves.
If you relax and think back to those days, you might be able to remember something inspiring. This can be like discovering a beautiful piece of thread and then pulling on it -- just coax the memory gently and then all the details of the experience may come back.
Focus on the positive feeling and rekindle it, as if you are returning to your old cozy home after a long and tiring journey. Allow the feeling to expand and blossom until it opens up your whole being as you are today.
It’s best to choose a very positive memory, or to focus only on the positive aspects of a memory. Stay with the warm feelings, rest in them until you feel complete in this contemplation. If a memory has some stain or darkness attached to it, it’s possible to bring healing to it by bringing the light of positive feeling and energy to it.
During a pause in your daily routine, it can help to recollect or touch any warm, spacious feeling. The open quality can ease stress, as sunlight in the daytime can melt away troubled nightmares.
Excerpted from: Boundless Healing, Tulku Thondup, Shambhala Publications