A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to an ancient wellness practice called the Five Tibetan Rites. A series of five specific and repeated movements that target the body’s energy centers or chakras, the Rites are said to increase energy and improve the function of the endocrine system. The whole series, with each movement performed up to 21 times, takes less than 20 minutes.
According to historical accounts, the Five Tibetan Rites are over 2,000 years old and were introduced to the wider world by a British army colonel who lived in a Himalayan monastery in the early 1900s. Whether they originated with Tibetan lamas or not, a practice this old has likely been used and found effective by countless people over the millennia.
The guidelines say you can start small and gradually increase your repetitions (21 being the ideal number), so I did only a few repetitions at first and worked my way up to 21 over time. But the more I increased my numbers, the more I had trouble with the first Rite – spinning clockwise. I could barely handle it even when I spun three times around. The more rotations, the more nauseated I became. The first time I completed 21 rotations, I became so sick to my stomach that I could barely get through the other four rites. Instead of a terrific boost of energy, I ended up nauseated for the rest of the day, trying not to succumb to chemo flashbacks. Honestly I’m getting a little queasy even writing about this.
Maybe it would have made sense for me to stop doing the Five Tibetan Rites (surely some of you are thinking you would have moved on at this point). But I kept going back and trying again, still working to complete 21 of every Rite each time, hoping I would adjust the more I did them. I figured if the Tibetan monks say this will help a person live long and healthfully, and so many have benefited from it, and people swear by it, it must work for me too, right? Surely if I keep trying I will have a better experience and I will see the light, I thought.
A few days ago I tried again. Three or four spins in I felt the nausea coming on. But I kept going, holding in my mind what I read about 21 being a mystical perfect number. I nearly fell down after 21 spins and had to stand holding on to the wall for several minutes until I stopped feeling like the house was about to tip over and crumble. Then I slowly moved through the other four Rites. Dizzy and ill the rest of the day, I wondered why I had done this to myself.
Suddenly it occurred to me: Why not just leave out the spinning part? It doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t matter how many people it works for, it doesn’t matter how long it has been part of the Five Tibetan Rites, it doesn’t matter how many monks or lamas have gained years of life because they spun every day, I cannot stomach it. I could do the other four rites without spinning first, couldn’t I? I really like them. I feel the benefit from them. Why am I so hesitant to break the rule?
When we see choices that seem to work for others, especially large numbers of others, we often assume they should work for us. However, there is no guarantee any one thing, even something centuries old, will work for everyone. All we can ask of ourselves is to try something, evaluate what happens, and make the decision that works best for us, leaving judgment out of the equation. Sometimes that decision might mean changing an ancient venerated practice.
I tried, and I evaluated, and I’m keeping what works for me and discarding what doesn’t. I’m going to be doing Sarah’s Four Tibetan Rites from now on. Those of you out there who enjoy all five, more power to you. You have found the choice that works for you, and I have found the choice that works for me.
Yesterday, February 14, we went to a funeral for a man who died of cancer at 48 after fighting valiantly to live every minute of the eleven months since he was diagnosed. His wife, son, and parents had to endure a Valentine’s Day funeral and burial. It’s quite possible that what has always worked for them on Valentine’s Day, whatever that was in the past, might not work for them in the future. They may want to construct a different experience, tough to do in the face of the pressure to be happy and cozied up with someone you love on that day. I hope they know that whatever they need on future February 14s is ok, whether it is one “Valentine Rite” less, none at all, or something completely new.