When Energy Runs Wild


I remember talking with an old Tibetan lama, the senior chant leader at Kalu Rinpoche’s monastery in Eastern Tibet. He described how, after his three-year retreat training, he ran into difficulty with energy imbalances when he practiced tumo, or inner heat. He returned to retreat to do a purification practice, reciting the associated mantra day and night for a year. During this period, he was unable to eat or drink anything more than a small ball of roasted barley and weak tea. He lost so much weight that he was reduced to skin and bones and his hair and fingernails fell off, but he just kept going. Then something happened. He was never able to say what changed, but his health recovered, he was able to eat more, his hair and fingernails grew back, and, afterwards, he was able to do tumo and other high-level energy practices that had previously been inaccessible to him.

This is a very dramatic example, but it presents a key point. All we can do is create the conditions for the various tensions and imbalances inside us to resolve themselves. The rest, as T.S. Eliot says, is not our business.

When we embark on the spiritual path, we have no idea what we will encounter. As our practice matures, the horse starts to run, but we don’t know where it is going. All we have is a commitment, a commitment to experience whatever arises. It is what Buddha Shakyamuni relied on when he sat under the bodhi tree. It is the essence of faith and it is the basis of compassion and awareness.

Move In The Direction Of Balance
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Hear a description of making adjustments to find balance from the fourth podcast in the A Trackless Path series.

In the course of our efforts, we will encounter difficulties and challenges inside us that we had no idea were there. The one additional principle, and this is perhaps the only principle that I know, is that it is best to move in the direction of balance. That direction is constantly changing and it requires faith, awareness, and compassion to sense what effort to make in each moment. The optimum condition for awakening is deep balance in every area of life and when we move to address imbalances in our own lives, increasingly, we bring about balance in the lives of others.


This article was originally published under the title “What to do When Energy Runs Wild” in BuddhaDharma, Winter 2011


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