In reality this moment is over 10 years in the making. In 2004 I met Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo, International Director of the Shang Shung Institute Tibetan Medicine School, on a little island in Venezuela, Margarita. I was there for my very first teacher training in Tibetan Yantra Yoga and attended a retreat afterwards with the great Dzogchen master and Tibetan scholar, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. The first time I met Gan-la (that is the honorary Tibetan term for your teacher, in this case Dr. Phuntsog) she was teaching traditional Tibetan dances to retreat goers. She was so compassionate and joyful, yet held such a firm integrity with how she held and shared her traditional culture.
A few days later I was more sick than I had ever been in my life with amoebic dysentery. Wow, that was a bummer. In the midst of this rather violent attack on my digestive system, I managed to crawl myself up to Gan-la’s talk on Traditional Tibetan Medicine and lie in the back of the retreat hall allowing her medicine-like words fall upon my weak ears. I was immediately taken by the depth of her knowledge in a system that seemed to encompass the entirety of holistic health and wellness science in perfectly systematic and intact form. What I didn’t know at that time is that less than one year later I’d be packing my Berkeley bags to go live in the tiny East Coast town Conway, MA to study and practice Traditional Tibetan Medicine under Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo for the next 7 years. Yes, Gan-la was just in the process of preparing the first ever full-time curriculum in Traditional Tibetan Medicine in the West that would parallel the rigorous studies she under went at the Tibetan Medicine college in Lhasa, Tibet.
Not only did Gan-la single-handedly prepare the curriculum and largely teach the 20 hours a week curriculum to my inaugural class of 7 students, but she managed to forge an official affiliation with the Mtsho Sngon Tibetan Medical College of Qinghai University in Amdo, Tibet where we would finish our program by completing internship in their hospital, take final exams equivalent to those their students take and receive official Menpa (Tibetan Medicine Doctor) diplomas. We made history!
Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt, Adam Okerblom, and I, as the founders of Sowa, are carrying on the history-making, path-carving tradition of Gan-la by opening up Traditional Tibetan Medicine knowledge in a simple form for anyone to benefit from. At a time when the health and wellness industry is booming, where meditation, mindfulness, yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and acupuncture are all household names, we feel that it is the ripe moment for Traditional Tibetan Medicine to finally open its treasure chest of health resources for the general public. Why? Because Traditional Tibetan Medicine systematically encompasses ALL of those things and more while offering a perfect balance of an integrative, holistic, scientific, spiritual and practical approach uniquely applicable for modern health needs.
Our intention is to make the rather deep science of preventative health care that Traditional Tibetan Medicine offers something easy for modern day people to apply to their daily life through our blog of simple health tips. With that in mind it should be understood that one of the most important points of Traditional Tibetan Medicine is that it is a system that understands each individual’s health requires a unique balance according to his or her own particular condition. While we can do our best to offer simple health tips, if you are concerned about your health it is always best to see an expert to create an individualized plan for you. With that said, there are many Tibetan Medicine doctors trained in India and Tibet who are living in the US and instead of practicing their fine art of healing, they are resorting to other forms of work because almost no one knows about this precious knowledge that they worked so hard to master. So in addition to checking out the services we are offering for your unique health and wellness needs, we encourage you to go out there and find your local Tibetan Medicine Doctor, either active or inactive, and ask them to support your health.
Sowa is our call to wake up the healing science of Traditional Tibetan Medicine in a concrete way for modern, western people and for it to become a major resource in the thriving health and wellness field. We are so excited to be at the helm of this tradition and look forward to collaborating with all of you for your unique health needs and to build partnerships of mutual collaboration for the benefit of all. Thank you for being a part of our journey to a more healthy and happy world. We are here to be of service to you.
This is the first inaugural post in a series from the three founders of Sowa. Stay tuned!
Photo Top: That’s my class with the Mtsho Sngon Tibetan Doctors on men tog(medicine identification and gathering in the mountains.) The center doctor is Aku Nyima, one of the most famous Doctors in Tibet.
Photo Left: Graduating our program at Amherst University Ceremony.