I am honored to speak at the Boston Shambhala Center to explore Sakyong Mipham’s notion that each of us is unconditionally healthy. First, let us stop to look at the words unconditional versus conditional. The conditional sense of health considers if we eat our salads and go to the gym a few times a week, then we are healthy. If we come down with hay fever or worse then we begin to believe that we are unhealthy. On the contrary, unconditional health is like the sky, vast and ever-present with no boundaries; the sky is ever present regardless of the changes in weather.
Healthiness is connected to a feeling of wholeness. We tend to recognize this feeling more when we are relaxed and our environment is peaceful. The way we connect to the unconditional nature of our healthiness is to recognize that it is always available to us regardless of the distractions we are facing at the moment. Chronic pain is distracting and constantly pulls our attention away from our conditional healthiness to a specific part of our body. That process of fixating our attention on pain or a diagnosis is incredibly natural for each of us to do.
In medicine, the double blind placebo trial is the gold standard for assessing a medicine’s effectiveness. As a reminder, in a double-blind placebo trial neither the patients know if they are receiving the tested drug or the placebo. Likewise, the doctors do not know who is receiving the tested drug or the placebo. In this process, both groups always see a change. The placebo group’s change is owed to their adjustment in mental attitude and thinking. While the tested drug’s measure of success is to outperform the placebo.
So the question becomes, what does it take for us to suspend our belief in our sickness and believe in our fundamental healthiness? The strange, yet clear part of this is we just do not know what will be gained or changed. The same process is fundamental to the process of learning to meditate. In meditation practice, we are learning to shift our attention from discursive habitual patterns about the past and future and hold them to the immediacy of our present moment experience.
I think it is fair to conclude, when we take medicine from a well-educated, well-intended medical professional, we receive the benefits of the medicine and the placebo effect. Our trust in these individuals helps us shifts our discursive thoughts about being ill, broken, or doomed to the possibility that we are healthy. In the words of Sakyong Mipham, we have “Unconditionally Healthiness” available, for each of us to experience at every moment.
Begin by closing your eyes and remembering a time when you felt particularly unhealthy. How old were you? Where were you living? What was happening in your life? Who were your friends? Now take note of the feeling and its non-verbal texture. Now please drop that memory and feeling and relax for a minute.
Now remember a time in your life when you felt particularly healthy. How old were you? Where were you living? What was happening in your life? Who were your friends? Now take note of the feeling and its non-verbal texture. Now please drop that memory and feeling and relax for a minute.
What is one thing you can do today to be closer to your remembered experience of unconditional healthiness?
Brandon Jellison, owner of Authentic Body Therapy, was invited to speak at the Boston Shambhala Center on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, at their Wednesday evening study gathering. Brandon spoke about Unconditional Healthiness, a theme from The Shambhala Principle by Sakyong Mipham. Please find below a partial transcription of this study.