Vajrayana and PTSD

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Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:35 am

As a psychotherapist I've worked a lot with people who struggle with grief and trauma. Grief has always been a fairly easy vehicle for introducing people to the dharma. However trauma is another monster altogether. I'm not a big proponent of so-called trauma therapies such as EMDR or Brainspotting. They can be useful for people who experience active trauma ie flashbacks and body memories. However, for people with accumulated trauma, whose personalities have been formed based on their traumatic experiences, I find treatment lacks. I've wanted to talk to my teacher about the best way to address people who have gone through unimaginable suffering in this lifetime with practices they can do that will heal and transform them. I think it's important for people to be active in their healing process. In fact it is almost impossible for them to transform their suffering if they aren't. A lot of therapists use Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which is basic mindfulness packed into a pointless group of anagrams meant to help people self regulate. Doesn't do much for the somatic aspect though. As I develop my private practice I'd like to be able to suggest definite practices for my clients to engage in while I support and track their progress.

I mention Vajrayana because of the inherent power of these practices to transform affliction. Obviously the specific Inner and Outer Tantras would in no way be suitable for anyone with dehabilitating PTSD. But maybe some Chenrezig, Medicine Buddha, or Green Tara practices? Also, Yantra Yoga seems like a great resource to release trauma from the body. All of these practice of course would be through the guidance of a Lama. I simply would use their practice as a way of resourcing and transforming the psychological wounds.

What do you think?
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:50 am

Tonglen for other people with PTSD etc
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:02 am

Yes, i use Tonglen all the time! It does wonders for people who are stuck in the victim role.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Nemo » Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:54 pm

I think that was part of my own path. It is a huge endeavor though. It was basically being reparented by a Lama. Using long periods developing Bodhicitta in rather traditional and what would be viewed as highly unconventional ways. Then deliberately using love and accumulated mindfulness as leverage in situations that would cause the PTSD based spazzing out. As one gets better at dealing with the specific triggers they happen more and more often. Character and confidence then overpower ones personal demons.

I know a psychologist who has first hand experience with this. Send me a PM and I'll give you his email.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Sat Mar 23, 2013 7:18 pm

Nemo, thank you for sharing. What an amazing experience it must have been to have a Lama serve as an attachment figure for you. I'd love to hear more about your experience via PM if you wouldn't mind.

Any other insights to my original post kind dharma wheel board?
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:01 am

I know one person with PTSD. After trying a lot of different things during a long period of time she was advised to try a lower-body centered physical practice - yoga (hatha). No aerobics and no upper body workouts (although of course the hatha yoga is a great workout). Something that grounded her in the physical and gave her the sense she was literally putting roots down. In that instance it worked for that particular person.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Yudron » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:35 am

I bet a little Green Tara practice might help Buddhists with trauma. She promised to help the Eight Great Fears and the sixteen lesser ones.

http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... reat_fears

http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... sser_fears

Also, Riwo sang cho, or the careful visualization of the protection dome within one's personal sadhana of any deity might foster a sense of safety.

For a certain personality type, perhaps the more angry kind, practice of the wrathful yidam from one's own tradition might be useful--if one one has received empowerment, reading transmission, and teachings. for others it might be too wild, and trigger things.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Motova » Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:31 am

Yudron wrote:I bet a little Green Tara practice might help Buddhists with trauma. She promised to help the Eight Great Fears and the sixteen lesser ones.

http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... reat_fears

http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... sser_fears

Also, Riwo sang cho, or the careful visualization of the protection dome within one's personal sadhana of any deity might foster a sense of safety.

For a certain personality type, perhaps the more angry kind, practice of the wrathful yidam from one's own tradition might be useful--if one one has received empowerment, reading transmission, and teachings. for others it might be too wild, and trigger things.


I will most certainly vouch for Tara in regards to helping to treat trauma and PTSD. She's the perfect mother: supporting, nurturing, compassionate, and nonjudgmental. I know that all Buddhas are associated with these qualities, but there is definitely something special about Tara. She's the perfect being to take refuge in when times are tough, when it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and you have no one to turn to. You can't go wrong with bringing Tara into your life. :twothumbsup:

/Dylan
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Sun Mar 24, 2013 4:58 pm

Tara seems to be the way to go for yidam practice I guess. As far as physical stuff goes I'm sure for those who could, prostrations are an incredible resource as well.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:49 pm

The four powers could be used for guilt.

Power of Regret
Acknowledgement you've done something you shouldn't have, understanding why it was bad.
Power of the Remedy
Reciting Sutras (particularity the Confession chapter from the Sutra of Golden Light), making images, bowing before them and so forth.
Power of the Determination
Determination never to commit the act again, even at the cost of one's life.
Power of the Object
Going for refuge to the Three Jewels and relying on them to protect your vow.

A nice little prayer:
“All the harmful deeds I’ve done and ordered done, I now confess. May they not bring harmful results. May I not experience suffering.
Let me become close to you. Sage, please become my refuge. Make me without regret and at peace, and thus pacify my harmful karma.”
-Arya Sanghatasutra Dharmaparyaya eng pg. 33
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:00 pm

That's very beautiful Konchog1!

Keep these resources coming.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Motova » Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:19 pm

To be honest, I don't have any experience with Vajrayogini. However, apparently she's regarded as the Goddess of Trauma - so something to look into?

http://resources.tsemtulku.com/buddhas/ ... ogini.html

:namaste:

/Dylan
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby BuddhaSoup » Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:26 pm

Sherab, an area of my interest is the research being done by Dr. Richie Davidson at U Wisconsin Madison on meditation and PTSD. http://vimeo.com/42824198
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Yudron » Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:44 pm

I've been reflecting on this. I have an elementary school friend who is apparently suffering greatly from PTSD. I don't know her, but she is a devout Christian and is a FB friend. Yesterday, I got a FB post that she is buying chicks to raise for eggs, meat and fertilizer. So, she is making the intention to kill them eventually. I don't know how one can recover from PTSD when one is setting up the causes and conditions for more trauma, from the karmic consequences of killing.

So, I think part of the picture is to be very diligent not to harm sentient beings, but to help sentient beings instead. Specifically, saving the lives of animals destined for slaughter. Releasing appropriate worms from a bait shop, for example, with prayers for them from one's tradition... which could be a simple as OM MANI PADME HUNG.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:55 pm

Motova wrote:To be honest, I don't have any experience with Vajrayogini. However, apparently she's regarded as the Goddess of Trauma - so something to look into?

http://resources.tsemtulku.com/buddhas/ ... ogini.html

:namaste:

/Dylan

That's wild. I've never heard of her being called that before, nor does it really elaborate in the article. I would love to research that more.

BuddhaSoup wrote:Sherab, an area of my interest is the research being done by Dr. Richie Davidson at U Wisconsin Madison on meditation and PTSD. http://vimeo.com/42824198

Thanks for the video. Meditation IMO is the cornerstone of successful PTSD treatment. Self regulation takes a lot of work and effort. Probably the biggest gift meditation bestows for people with PTSD is the renewed sense of safety when going inside. If I ever go for my PhD I would like to focus on using one of the aforementioned yidams as the focus of treatment. So a person doing a Green Tara practice is ultimately revealing the compassionate wisdom inside themselves through the projection/belief that the yidam is actually healing them. This is why yidam practice I would think would have a higher success rate than basic samatha or vipassana practices. Don't get me wrong without them the yidam practice would be difficult to carry out, but I think it would the the client's belief and faith in the power of the yidam that would eventually heal primary and secondary symptoms in a quick and profound way.

Yudron wrote:I've been reflecting on this. I have an elementary school friend who is apparently suffering greatly from PTSD. I don't know her, but she is a devout Christian and is a FB friend. Yesterday, I got a FB post that she is buying chicks to raise for eggs, meat and fertilizer. So, she is making the intention to kill them eventually. I don't know how one can recover from PTSD when one is setting up the causes and conditions for more trauma, from the karmic consequences of killing.

So, I think part of the picture is to be very diligent not to harm sentient beings, but to help sentient beings instead. Specifically, saving the lives of animals destined for slaughter. Releasing appropriate worms from a bait shop, for example, with prayers for them from one's tradition... which could be a simple as OM MANI PADME HUNG.


A lot of people have unconscious tendencies to repeat the trauma, or symbolic violent actions like in your friend's case. That's why PTSD is so difficult. It's like a skipping record, but a lot of the time people are unable to figure out where the skipping is coming from, or how to shut off the record player.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby BuddhaSoup » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:30 pm

Thanks for the video. Meditation IMO is the cornerstone of successful PTSD treatment. Self regulation takes a lot of work and effort. Probably the biggest gift meditation bestows for people with PTSD is the renewed sense of safety when going inside. If I ever go for my PhD I would like to focus on using one of the aforementioned yidams as the focus of treatment. So a person doing a Green Tara practice is ultimately revealing the compassionate wisdom inside themselves through the projection/belief that the yidam is actually healing them. This is why yidam practice I would think would have a higher success rate than basic samatha or vipassana practices. Don't get me wrong without them the yidam practice would be difficult to carry out, but I think it would the the client's belief and faith in the power of the yidam that would eventually heal primary and secondary symptoms in a quick and profound way.


Thanks for this comment, Sherab. You raise a very interesting point about the yidam practice and it's use in treating PTSD. I did some quick research on yidam practice as I confess I was not conversant with it. It strikes me that incorporating these protector or healing visualizations could be of real benefit. I try to follow what Dr. Davidson and others are doing with contemplative science, as it is simply interesting to me how meditation practice(s) can be identified to provide benefit for people struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other clinical issues. I will look with great anticipation for that Ph.D. dissertation when you write it!
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:51 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
Thanks for the video. Meditation IMO is the cornerstone of successful PTSD treatment. Self regulation takes a lot of work and effort. Probably the biggest gift meditation bestows for people with PTSD is the renewed sense of safety when going inside. If I ever go for my PhD I would like to focus on using one of the aforementioned yidams as the focus of treatment. So a person doing a Green Tara practice is ultimately revealing the compassionate wisdom inside themselves through the projection/belief that the yidam is actually healing them. This is why yidam practice I would think would have a higher success rate than basic samatha or vipassana practices. Don't get me wrong without them the yidam practice would be difficult to carry out, but I think it would the the client's belief and faith in the power of the yidam that would eventually heal primary and secondary symptoms in a quick and profound way.


Thanks for this comment, Sherab. You raise a very interesting point about the yidam practice and it's use in treating PTSD. I did some quick research on yidam practice as I confess I was not conversant with it. It strikes me that incorporating these protector or healing visualizations could be of real benefit. I try to follow what Dr. Davidson and others are doing with contemplative science, as it is simply interesting to me how meditation practice(s) can be identified to provide benefit for people struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other clinical issues. I will look with great anticipation for that Ph.D. dissertation when you write it!


Meditation has been a cure all for centuries. Our culture is now starting to legitimize it. I am very, very, very far off from a Ph.D, but one can dream :)
Check out Dan Siegel and his books. He even did an audiobook recently with Jack Kornfield.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby BuddhaSoup » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:05 pm

Thanks! Found this: http://youtu.be/ArVTV4CQduM
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Spirituality » Tue Apr 23, 2013 10:01 am

There are guru-yoga practices - on the Dalai Lama for instance - that can be done without an empowerment.

Personally though I think it's very tricky to do these things with people who aren't Buddhists.

Perhaps the simple Buddha 'nectar rain' meditations stripped of specifically Buddhist connotation is something to try? Having them visualize a bright white light and having it cleanse them and enter them?

I agree that such a positive meditation may - unlike Tonglen, which reminds them of their negative emotions and patterns - help strengthen the positive patterns and build a basis for happiness. For those capable of the visualisation, that is.
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Re: Vajrayana and PTSD

Postby Sherab Rigdrol » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:15 am

It's interesting when working with non-Buddhist clients, or at least non-spiritual. I usually try to present the dharma in terms of common sense. Most people respond positively to it, especially tonglen. So many people want to be compassionate. It's almost a roundabout way to get someone to feel compassion for themselves when they can't-- by giving compassion to others. 8-)
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