In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a popular notion called lungta (Tibetan) or windhorse (English). The central image of windhorse is a powerful horse that can fly through the air, representing strength, vitality, and energy that can meet and transform obstacles.
The image of a flying horse is a cross-cultural and ubiquitous archetype found in various places and times. It represents the “force” that we can harness to face all kinds of life challenges — personal, communal and even societal.
A very wonderful second generation Tibetan lama, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, once mentioned that he felt that there was an almost all-pervasive, low-level depression that many westerners suffered from — a difficulty in finding the energy to counter the draining and stressful quality of our modern lives. His comment resonated with me.
A significant number of friends and colleagues are taking anti-depressants to counter this kind of depression — it seems that psychiatrists recommend them fairly easily these days. Of these friends, most feel that the anti-depressants are helping them get through the difficulties in their lives and helping them cope and feel better about their day-to-day situations.
Without getting into a discussion of the merits of these medications (which I feel totally unqualified to comment on), I think it could be interesting to see what other approaches might be helpful for those of us who are feeling somewhat down, somewhat low in energy, somewhat “under” the challenges we face. Obviously physical exercise, yoga and such can help stimulate endorphins and create a feeling of well-being, but that alone doesn’t seem to completely address the kind of low-grade depression many people appear to be facing these days.
In Tibet, and other more traditional cultures, there are ceremonies, rites, and shamanistic rituals to restore spiritual energy and vitality. Our modern scientific mind might look at this kind of approach as primitive and outdated, but maybe we should look again.
The idea of raising our spirits, raising our windhorse, rousing our energy — both individually and collectively — goes back thousands of years. In the modern world, we can get in great shape, take every vitamin and supplement known to man, have an amazingly high standard of living, a great job, good relationships and an astounding level of material comforts — and still feel that there is something missing in our lives.
Maybe we can mix some of the wisdom our ancient cultures with our unprecedented modern knowledge and create the ground for happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
For me, understanding windhorse and certain traditional practices intended to boost the life force have been very potent. The essence of these kinds of practice is learning how to bring our awareness to this very spot, this very moment we are living in. Having gathered and focused our awareness in this way, we can radiate out a natural feeling of unconditional goodness and confidence to our surroundings.
These kinds of practices can cut through layers of doubt, fear, and hesitation, and invite the magic of our world and the melody of circumstances to manifest right then and there. It is actually possible to galvanize our energy in this way, even in the midst of challenging circumstances. Many traditional cultures have had some form of raising windhorse or something like it.
Going into further specifics here would be beyond the course of this blog post but if you’re interested in exploring this topic further, I’m going to recommend “Shambhala: The Sacred Path of The Warrior” by Chogyam Trungpa — particularly all the references to windhorse.
Interested in an online course on the foundations of mindfulness meditation and it’s practical application to your day-to-day life? Click here for information about David’s online course “Meditation For Everyday Life”.